The Space Walk by Brian Biggs

Happy book birthday to The Space Walk by Brian Biggs. This clever book introduces us to Randolph Witherspoon, an astronaut that gets bored while in space and wants to take a walk. When he ventures out on his own, a comical adventure ensues.  This book is a combination of text and wordless pages, and is a fun read aloud. Thank you to Penguin for sharing a copy with us to review!

What does a six year old have to say about The Space Walk? I loved this book. I thought it was so, so funny when he went outside and saw the alien, and took pictures with the alien. I liked that I could read the words and make up the story on some pages.

What does a three year old have to say? I do imagination. 🙂 

Order your copy of The Space Walk today!

Dory Fantasmagory: Tiny Tough

Arrrrgh, mateys! Dory Fantasmagory is back in Abby Hanlon’s latest book, Tiny Tough. We’ve been big fans of this series since the first one came out about five years ago. They are the perfect read aloud for younger kids, or for a first series for a beginning independent reader. Thank you to Penguin for providing us a copy to review.

Dory’s vivid imagination reconnects us with Mrs. Gobblegracker, Mary, and Mr. Nuggy as she once again navigates her feelings and place in the family. This time around, she imagines herself as a pirate, which helps her deal with her imaginary monster getting a new friend, feeling like a baby at home, and friendship issues at school.

My first grader loves the Dory Fantasmagory series and can easily relate to the characters and problems throughout the story. Preorder your copy today!

Looking for a fun family night activity? We do a lot of themed nights based on books (ok, and movies, too). The pirate theme of Tiny Tough lends itself to so many fun activities! Dress like a pirate night! Talk like a pirate night! We’ve done pirate night at our house…tacos for dinner and dress up! Have a little extra cardboard around the house? You can easily make pirate swords for your little swashbucklers.

About the Author

Abby Hanlon has taught creative writing and first grade in the New York City public school system. Inspired by her students’ storytelling and drawings, Abby began to write her own stories for children, and taught herself to draw after not having drawn since childhood. She lives with her husband and two children in Brooklyn.

My Jasper June

I knew I’d like this book before I even read it. There is something about Laurel Snyder’s writing that captivates me, connects me, and pulls me in.

My Jasper June did just that.

After one incident changed her family a year ago, Leah has struggled with the day to day distance growing between her and her parents. When she unexpectedly meets Jasper, her life changes. Together they both hide from their personal demons in a magical world they create and within each other they find the friend that they both needed. This strong bond is challenged when real life creeps back in.

A wonderful book that we think you will love! Thanks to Walden Pond Press for sending us a copy to review.

About the Author…

Laurel Snyder is the author of picture books and novels for children, including National Book Award nominee Orphan Island and the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner Charlie & Mouse. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she currently teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. She lives in Atlanta with her family and can be found online at www.laurelsnyder.com.

Check out the teaching guide or enter to win a copy on twitter or instagram!

Books Can Inspire To Help Those Around Us

June is Adopt-A-Cat Month! And if you know us, you know there is a book recommendation coming. Max Attacks by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Penelope Dullaghan, is a fun book that makes you think of all those feisty felines and what they do best…attack! Whether your a cat person or a dog person, we hope you can agree that there are so many animals out there that need help.

We have a lot of wonderful animal shelters and rescues in our area, and we teach our own children that they can help these animals. They’d prefer to adopt them all, but we find other ways to help out.

Last summer our kids held a lemonade stand and donated the proceeds to the shelter. People were more than generous in their donations, and it was meaningful for my daughter to walk in with a jar of money to give directly to the shelter.

Most shelters also have a wish list on their website, which can include anything from used bath towels to newspaper to baking soda. These are inexpensive and easy ways to help, and make for feasible options to include your kids in the donation process.

As we kick off summer, our bucket list continues to grow. But woven into the parks we want to visit, or activities we want to do, are the ways that we can teach our kids to be good humans and help others. When we finally get some warmth and sunshine, you’ll find us on our bike path, holding a tall glass of lemonade with your name on it.

Head on over to our Instagram account, @storymamas to enter to win a copy of Max Attacks! Thanks to Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy with us.

Happy National Pet Day!

It’s National Pet Day! Whether you’re a dog love, a cat person, or prefer pets with gills, today is the day to celebrate those companions we can’t live without.

We’ve partnered with Penguin to share some recent books about some clawful cats. Be sure to check out our instagram and twitter pages for giveaway info!

Flubby by J.E. Morris – My emergent reader at home instantly gravitated to these two books. Adorable illustrations, accessible text, a cat with a personality…what’s not to love? The repetitive and decodable text make this book series perfect for your early reader.

Think you have a mischievous pet? You haven’t seen anything until you read Klawde – Evil Alien Warlord Cat by Johnny Marciano and Emily Chenoweth. Told from alternating points of view, we’re introduced to Raj, who has just moved from New York City to Oregon, and Klawde, an evil cat who was banished from his own country to planet earth. The two become friends, and Raj eventually learns that his new cat can talk. Throughout the book, they learn to navigate their new homes and the trials that come with being somewhere new. This funny series will attract your pet lovers, your science fiction readers, and any kid who loves a quirky, funny book. There are currently two Klawde books that are out, with the third being published in October.

Molly Mischief: My Perfect Pet by Adam Hargreaves, is a book that is relatable to almost every kid out there. Molly has a pet mouse, but decides she wants a pet that is bigger and better…perhaps a rhino, or an elephant. In the end, she realizes that her small pet mouse is the perfect size and the perfect pet for her.

Big or small, scaly or furry, pets have become a huge part of who we are. Give them a big hug today as we celebrate National Pet Day!

Got a Panda Problem?

Thank you to Penguin for providing a copy to review. All opinions are our own.

Happy book birthday to The Panda Problem by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Hannah Marks! We loved reading this book and laughed out loud throughout. The narrator is convinced that every story has to have a problem, but Panda thinks otherwise because he doesn’t have a problem. As the narrator and Panda go back and forth in hilarious banter, Panda realizes that he might be the problem.

As I read this aloud to a giggling group of third graders yesterday, I thought about how I could further use this book in the classroom. The first two ideas that came to mind were to introduce the components of good story telling, and to introduce dialog.

In my experience, a lot of my students love to write stories, thinking that the length in pages equates to the quality of the book, or that simply telling all about a character rivals a best seller. When I teach my students about the parts of a story, I always emphasize that the character(s) need to have a problem that they eventually solve. This book would be a great intro text for teaching this skill.

I also thought this book would be great for teaching students about dialogue. The narrator and panda talk with each other throughout the entire book in a fun, entertaining way. This played a large role in making the book what it is, which is an important lesson for students to learn for their own writing.

Whether using this book in the classroom, or simply reading aloud for fun, we highly recommend having a copy of The Panda Problem in your library!

About the Author…Deborah Underwood has worked as a street musician and at an accounting firm but for years has been a full-time writer who occasionally plays the ukulele. She is the author of several picture books, including New York Times bestsellers The Quiet Book and Here Comes the Easter Cat, as well as Monster & Mouse Go CampingInterstellar Cinderella, and Bad Bye Good Bye.

About the Illustrator… Hannah Marks is a self-taught illustrator and designer, who often gets her best ideas after eating cake. She lives in England with her husband, three children, a bonkers cat, two gerbils, and a teeny-tiny Roborovski hamster. The Panda Problem is her U.S. picture book debut. Find her on Twitter @Hannah_Marks, on Instagram at hannahmarks_, and on Pinterest at hannahemarks.

Horse Meets Dog…Readers Meet Tim Miller

 

The storymamas are huge fans of Tim Miller’s talents and our kids can’t get enough of his Moo Moo books!  You could imagine our eagerness to read Horse Meets Dog, the new book he illustrated by author Elliot Kalan, and we appreciate the f&g copy sent to us by Harper Collins.

When Horse meets Dog, he thinks that he is a tiny horse, and similarly when Dog meets Horse, he thinks he is just a big horse.  The whole book is the two of them going back and forth in comedic fashion, trying to show each other that they are correct.  You’ll love the funny banter between the two animals and the wonderful illustrations!

Three Questions About Your Work…

The illustrations in Horse Meets Dog really make the story!  What was the collaboration like between you and author Elliott Kalan?

Hello Storymamas! Thank you so much for your interest in the book and for having me as a guest! (You’re welcome…and thank you for stopping by!)

The collaboration between Elliott and me making HORSE MEETS DOG was pretty straight forward. Elliott wrote it before I ever laid eyes on it, and then I got to do whatever I wanted; my favorite kind of collaboration! Although I toiled over the illustrations more than anything else I’ve done so far, the visuals themselves came easy to me because Elliott’s writing is so funny it draws itself. In that sense the collaboration was a breeze and a lot of fun!

What is your process for creating illustrations?

My process is basically this: 1) Read manuscript and let whatever visuals come to mind rise to the surface intuitively.

2) Take note of those impressions by scribbling tiny thumbnails in margins of manuscript.

3) Go at character sketches in a same way, drawing the first thing that comes to mind and then refine until you’re satisfied.

4) Storyboard thumbnail first impressions to see how everything looks together.

5) Next, see how you can smoosh everything into constraints of pagination limit. Nix what isn’t necessary and give prime real estate to the most important moments. At the same time, think about overall balance of book as a whole. How can you give it rythem throughout and differentiate things so that the reader can experience the unfolding of story in the most impactful way.

6) Be open to feedback from Editor and Art Director! Nothing is better than the opportunity to hear their input to broaden your thinking and shed light on things you may not have seen (Dana Fritts and Donna Bray were wonderful to collaborate with, and we had a lot of fun untangling some riddles in the pagination together early on).

7) Make rough sketches for finishes from thumbnails. Basically roughing out the ideas on a larger scale.

8) Then I make finished drawings with ink and brush on a lightbox working from roughs. I rarely draw each composition whole, but do it in fragments. For example, I’ll do a piece of Dog’s ear, then the snout, then the body and so forth. I do this because I’m rarely satisfied with each drawing as a total because I make a lot of mistakes. So, to cope with my sins I  build a collection of fragments for each composition and then stitch everything together like a collage in the computer.

9) Finally, I add the color digitally!

We are huge fans of your work!  What can we expect from you next?

Thank you so much! I feel incredibly lucky to be making books, and it means the world to me that you don’t hate them!

What’s next? Well, I can’t tell you because it’s still top-secret, but I can at least share that it’s partly inspired a former student of mine who wore cat ears to class every day.

Three Questions about Tim Miller…

If you weren’t an illustrator/author, what would you be and why?

I would draw and paint things that I like to look at because that is the one thing that makes me feel most connected to everything.

What is one book you’ve read that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?

Most recently it’s Jon Agee’s The Wall in the Middle of the Book. I’m in awe of it, and can’t stop thinking about how brilliant he is at realizing the potential of the art form.

What is one item in your refrigerator that tells us about you?  

Eggs. Other than that the fridge is currently empty.


Many thanks to Tim Miller for the interview!  We had a chance to meet him this summer at Nerd Camp and appreciate the support he’s given us.  You can get your own copy of Horse Meets Dog today, and can learn more about him on his website.

How We Got to Now Blog Tour

Thank you to Penguin Publishing for providing us with a copy of the book to review.  All opinions are our own.

There are six innovations in our modern society that were not invented overnight, but rather took many years and many minds to create.  How We Got to Now takes a look at those six areas:  glass, cold, sound, clean, time, and light.  In a non-fiction book perfect for middle to upper grade readers, author Steven Johnson captures the reader’s attention through engaging narrative text and authentic photographs.

Each chapter is a walk through history, with snippets of time periods and inventions that led to the world we live in today.  From physician John Snow’s discoveries about the spread of cholera, to Clarence Birdseye developing flash freezing for food. 

I loved how the book was divided into not only the chapters explaining the six innovations, but within each chapter were sections about the different time periods and inventions.  The photographs and captions throughout the book helped breakup the text-rich pages and provide amazing visuals to further comprehension .

We recommend this book for 5th grade and up!

Author Bio:  Steven Johnson is the popular, bestselling author of Wonderland and How We Got to Now, among other adult books. He was the host and co-creator of the PBS series How We Got to Now and has written for many blogs and publications, including TIMEWiredThe New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

Meet Jane Goodall

 

*A special thanks to Penguin for generously giving The Storymamas a review copy of the book.  All opinions are our own.

I am Jane Goodall by Brad Meltzer is one of multiple books in this engaging picture book biography series.  The reader meets Jane Goodall when she was a young child, and it chronologically tells the story of her life.  Illustrator Christopher Eliopoulous uses cartoon images that appeal to the reader and help make the words come to life.  We love that it reads like a story and includes comic-style speech bubbles, which entice most young readers.

When you take a look at this series, you’ll find the rest of the biographies are about people in the world that kids are eager to learn about!

Here are some ideas for using this series in the classroom:

-Biography projects.  This series is great on its own, or if working in a higher grade, they could be used to differentiate for readers that aren’t quite ready for a chapter book.

-Persuasive writing.  I am Jane Goodall is a great book to read aloud to kickoff a persuasive writing or petition unit.  My students were inspired by her work with chimpanzees and then wrote about their own passions.

-Teaching non-ficiton reading strategies. This narrative non-fiction series lends itself well to note making, and the timeline at the back of the book is a great text feature to point out.

We hope you enjoy this series as much as we did!

 

 

Life According to Og the Frog

Thank you to Penguin Young Readers for the advance copy of Life According to Og the Frog.  All opinions are our own.

Meet Og the Frog.  Due circumstances out of his control, he finds himself in Mrs. Brisbane’s room as a class pet.  But much to his surprise, there is already a pet that resides in room 26; the infamous hamster, Humphrey.  Humphrey squeak squeaks, Og boing boings, yet the two find a way to communicate with each other and become friends.  Your students will love getting to know Humphrey’s friend in this new chapter book by Betty G. Birney.  We know that Og loves being able to call Humphrey his friend, so it got us thinking about why it would be great to have a frog as a friend!  Are there any reasons you would add to the list?

1. You can finally win the long jump contest.  We’ve all dreamed about being a superstar in some fashion or another, so now’s your chance to be a champion long jumper.  With a little help and training from Og, you’re sure to win first place.

2.  You can finally get immunity to pesky warts.  Afraid of looking like a witch?  Scared to get a big wart on your toe?  Hanging around a frog all the time will build up your immunity and you’ll be wart free from here on out!

3.  You can learn all about the birds and the bees.  Or, eh, the tadpoles and the frogs.  It’s a science lesson every day when your best friend is a frog.

4.  You can save on your exterminator bill.  Og LOVES chirping crickets, and chances are, you don’t.  Are some of them finding their way into your basement, or keeping you up at night when your windows are open?  Having a frog around will help eliminate those noisy little critters and you’ll be feeding your friend at the same time!

5.  You might have just found your prince charming.  It’s not everyday that you find yourself friends with a frog.  And once the two of your have been friends for a while, some thoughts might creep into your mind.  What if this frog is really my prince charming?  Should I kiss him?  Do I even believe in this stuff?  If you really have to wonder if you believe in that magic, you might take a few steps back because you’ve just admitted to having a frog as a friend.  But we aren’t stopping you.  Go ahead and kiss the adorable fella!

6.  You finally have your “in” to meet Kermit.  Who doesn’t want to meet that adorable little guy?  And now with your frog best friend, you’ve got your connection.  Enough said!

Og the frog is ready to be your friend on July 3rd, when Life According to Og the Frog hits bookstore shelves.

Author Bio – Betty G. Birney has won many awards for writing for television, including an Emmy, three Humanitas Prizes, and a Writers Guild of America Award. In addition to the Humphrey series, she is the author of The Seven Wonders of Sassafrass Springs and The Princess and the Peabodys. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, where her parents grew up as neighbors on Humphrey Street.