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!

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.

Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish

According to Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld…….

This wonderful new book about making the most out of your birthday will be released next Tuesday, February 12th. Penguin books was gracious enough to send us the F and G to read and share.

This book is is adorable! It takes you through the 10 rules the authors have picked to help any reader have a successful birthday. With humor spread through the text and pictures, this will surely have readers of all ages laughing and hoping their birthday isn’t too far away to celebrate.

“Rule #5- There must be signing. Traditionally the “Happy Birthday” song. Sung happily and loudly and definitely off-key. ”

I am so excited to use this as my new go-to birthday book present! Also, it can be used in the classroom to talk with your kids and students about birthday traditions.

“Rule #9- You must blow out the candles in one single breath. Unless you are a camel…..” (Page turn…)

I also envision this as a great book for reading and writing in the elementary classroom. Using the part mentioned above, I can see how it helps kids with predictions, inference, or even for writing. Kids can practice personification, but still using real facts.

This one is a winner! Please preorder now!

This Has Our Heart

Today, January 31st we celebrate National Inspire Your Heart with Art Day. Penguin Publishing has kindly given us a copy of My Heart to use to inspire our young children to celebrate how special our hearts can be. If you haven’t read this gorgeous and heartfelt book you need to immediately read it! Corina Luyken has a true talent for creating the reader with an experience as you move through the pages of her book.

My Heart tells readers that it is ok to feel different things, to be closed to ideas and people and open your heart when you are able and ready.

After reading and discussing the book with 5th graders I had them each help decorate our clear “open” heart. Each student came up with whatever was in their hearts at that moment and decorated a small square that would be placed on our group heart.

My “open” heart. I was able to cut out the center of a heart using chart paper and then laminated it!

Students were so excited to show off how they represented what was in their hearts. Some very literal “I have lemon squares on my mind” to a student drawing an abstract design and described it as a beautiful ocean scene.

Hard at work using sharpies since we used clear contact paper

Once we finished our squares we put them on the heart and taped the heart to the window. The students felt proud to see their work displayed, and how it came out so well together. We all left with our hearts full.

Admiring our heart
The finished product

Just Try It Wyatt – Author Interview & Review


One of my favorite parts of Storymamas is interviewing authors and illustrators. It is always fascinating to hear the evolution of the book and the inspirations for creating the characters or story. I also love to hear more about their lives. Since we are three people, it is often hard to meet in person due to being in various locations, so many interviews have taken place using video technology or email exchanges. When a local author in my hometown outside of Detroit reached out to me and wanted to meet me and talk about her book, I jumped at the chance. Kelsey and I met at a coffee shop and talked all about literacy and our passions for what we do. Kelsey Fox is the author of the book Just Try It Wyatt.

Just Try It Wyatt is a book about a fox named Wyatt who is stubborn and doesn’t want to try anything new. When all the things he knows and likes aren’t available, Wyatt becomes annoyed and sad. Will his frustrated lead him to try something out of his comfort zone? And if he does, will he like it?
What is great about the story is it is relatable to everyone who reads it- kids, parents, teachers; we’ve all either been Wyatt or known someone like Wyatt. Kelsey has done a wonderful job of creating an engaging story around this difficult concept. I think the way Wyatt acts and feels throughout the book will help strike conversation around this idea of not being afraid to try something new. Preschool and primary classroom teachers can benefit from using this book as a resource in their classroom. Parents of young children can also get a lot out of it with their kids. I’ve started to refer to Wyatt when I’m encouraging my 3 year old son to try new foods.

Another great addition to the book is the true facts about the red fox in the back of the book. Many times I’ve had kids ask questions about animals in books and I have not known what to tell them at that moment, and we’ve had to find another resource to figure it out. Kelsey was thoughtful and has added information to the back of her book.

Something else that is so special about the book is Kelsey. I know I can’t meet ever author out there (although we would love to), but hearing her talk about how this book is a labor of love for her, the countless hours she’s put into writing, rewriting, editing, and finding how to publish, is inspiring. I loved listening and learning about how much she has learned in the business and how much she still wants to find out. She shared with me that she needed to redo most of the book, illustrations, books size, paper weight, just so that stores would even consider putting it on their shelves. It was wonderful to meet her and hear her talk about her book. And so I hope you will take a chance with a book you might not have heard of before and Just Try It!

Kelsey was kind enough to answer our Storymamas questions. Three questions about the book and three about the her.

3 ?s about Just Try It Wyatt

What three words would you use to describe your book?
Educate. Entertain. Inform.

What was your inspiration for creating the book?
As a teacher, I understand that we want stories to correlate with a greater lesson we’re trying to teach our students. I sometimes found it hard to find the perfect book to teach to, so I wrote my own. My plan is to create an entire series that teachers can use the first few weeks of school about good character and being a part of a classroom family!

Can you tell our readers about your choice to self publish and what are some of your big take-aways after going through the process?
Deciding to self-publish was such a hard choice to make. There are pros and cons for both self and traditional publishing paths. Self-publishing allowed me to have more control and creativity throughout the whole writing process. I also am able to have my book out to the public practically years before if I would have went to a large publishing house. My biggest take away is that self-publishing is very hard work! You’re your own editor, formatter, publicist marketing manager and everything in between! You need to be a go-getter and dedicated. Even after meeting with two publishers, I choose to self-publish and have been 100% happy with my choice!

3 ?s about You

If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be and why?
If I was not a writer, I would like to be a farmer. I like animals and gardening. I have a small urban farm now where I grow all my family’s vegetables in the summer, can them in the fall and raise chickens year long. It would be great to live in the country and have lots of land.

What is one book that has stuck with you since you’ve read it?
When I was growing up I love the Little House on the Prairie books! My mom introduced me to them and I was hooked! Reading about someone who went through so much, but lived to tell the tale amazed me. I think that may be why I enjoy memoirs so much today.

What is one item in your fridge that tells us about you?
I always have coffee in my fridge! It’s a staple in my diet. As a mom, teacher, wife, and writer, I am always on the go and need that pick me up to help me with my busy lifestyle. I would like to think that means I am a go-getter and am up for any challenge!

To learn more about Kelsey, please follow Wyatt on Facebook and Twitter!

Voices in the Park

Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne is one of my favorite books to teach with!  Every year, my students are mesmerized by the illustrations and love to see how the different points of view are woven together.

I use this book teach point of view.  This year I used it to introduce a short writing unit that we are going to do between Thanksgiving and winter break which focuses on looking at a person from different points of view.  I divided the students into four equal groups and spread the groups out in the room and the hallway.  The book is told from four points of view, or voices, so each group was assigned to a different voice, and they were given a file folder with a copy of each illustration from their voice.

The students had time to look at all of their pictures and share what they saw.  After enough time for discussion, they were instructed to put the pictures in what they thought was a logical order, coming up with a story about what was happening as they worked.  When the groups were finished writing down their stories, I put the pictures up on the board in their order and they took turns telling their stories to their peers.  One of my favorite parts of this activity is when at this point, they realize that “their” characters are in someone else’s story, too.  After each group had gone, I gathered the students on the rug and read aloud the text.

I love this lesson for so many reasons.  The conversations at all stages are organic and each year I do this activity, there has never been a student disengaged on the sidelines.  The book provides an authentic discussion on how the point of view of the story can make such a difference, even with a plot as simple as going to the park.

If you haven’t had a chance to take a look at this book, I highly recommend you do.  I do this lesson each year with third graders and love teaching it every time!