Refugee by Alan Gratz


Over the last few nights, I have had the pleasure of listening (for free) to Alan Gratz's audiobook Refugee on my Epic app. I heard of both his book and the app for educators while listening to a Scholastic podcast, On Our Minds hosted by Suzanne McCabe Scholastic Editor-at-Large.

I had a difficult time shutting off the reading each night, as I heard the powerful stories in this timely piece. Three different children, three different countries, three different time periods, and one common status between them - REFUGEE. Each child trying to make their way to freedom from their home country; Josef fleeing from Germany in the 1930's to Cuba, Isabel escaping Cuba in 1994 to the United States, and Mahmoud running from Syria in 2015 to the Europe Union (EU). 

Each journey (based on true historical events and people) heartbreaking from the beginning to end; as they endured the pain of their home country failing them, experienced difficulties gaining access to the country in which they seek asylum as refugee, and as they embarked on their final destination in their new living situation. 


This book is a must read for ALL children and adults to gain knowledge of past refugee stories and empathy for current ones. I was brought to tears many times as I related these historical events to modern times. It was eerie to see the many similarities and I became frustrated with how we are not learning from the mistakes of our past! The purpose in studying history is to make better decisions in the present. Yet, here we are with news of those seeking asylum at the United States border being tear gassed and refused of assistance. We must ask ourselves, why does this horrifying cycle continue to go on?

The book is concluded by an author's note which includes the historical facts present in the stories told and a call to action in which people can take to help end this cycle. In addition, there is a discussion guide for students grade 3-8 created by Connie Rockman on the scholastic website, pre-reading and post-reading activities and questions for discussing key ideas and details, craft and structure, and integration of knowledge and ideas throughout the book.

I have a rating system I use for those books I have read and reviewed on my blog, you may check it out here. I have given this book five coffee cups, I love it a latte!
I read this book as a part of my #ReadtheRainbow Reading Challenge, inspired by Donalyn Miller's#BookaDayMy goal is to read at least one children's literature book from various genres every weekday and share my thoughts here on my blog. Please feel free to subscribe or connect with me on social media to follow my journey through the books I read. Until next time ...

How to Catch a Bear Who Loves to Read by Andrew Katz


Another book in which I have found a BFF character, I think Julia and I would make great friends. She too loves reading, hugs, and adventures. She is a little braver than I am, setting up a plan to catch a bear. Making several attempts throughout the book, she is very persistent in making her dream a reality. I think the bear Julia finds would also make a good buddy, his library in the forest is absolutely astonishing! Doesn't the idea sound amazing? Sitting down and reading with a big live bear... I think, for now, I will cuddle with a stuffed teddy bear or two. 

What animal would you like to read with?


From the publisher: Julia has many friends in the forest by her house. She climbs trees with Scotty the squirrel, plays hide-and-seek with Abigail the groundhog, and has farting contests with Frieda the skunk. Julia dreams of meeting a bear, a bear she could play with and hug. But no bear has ever shown its snout. One day, inspired by a book she’s reading, Julia brings honey (the perfect bear snack) into the woods. The next day, she tries bringing blueberries. But to her great surprise, it’s not just sweet smells that can attract a bear! So begins a thrilling quest that will bring Julia to new corners of the forest—and of her heart. Introducing a spunky young heroine with a nose for books, How to Catch a Bear Who Loves to Read invites children to share their love of reading—and of bearnormous hugs—with Julia. 

I have a rating system I use for those books I have read and reviewed on my blog, you may check it out here. I have given this book five coffee cups, I love it a latte!

I would like to thank NetGalley and Chouette Publishing for this Advanced Digital Copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I read this book as a part of my #ReadtheRainbow Reading Challenge, inspired by Donalyn MillerMy goal is to read at least one children's literature book from various genres every weekday and share my thoughts here on my blog. Please feel free to subscribe or connect with me on social media to follow my journey through the books I read. Until next time ...

Storytime: True Friends by Duba Kolanovic


True Friends by Duba Kolanovic is a beautiful journey between unlikely friends of a fox and a goose. The goose has been left behind as his flock has gone South for the winter and fox becomes his BFF (best fox friend) lending a hand to getting him reunited. A story about discovering true friendship and helping others. 

I really like how the book includes discussion and comprehension questions at the end to lead a conversation after the story is told. In addition, the author shares two activities: writing postcards home and making a Fox or Goose bookmark. 


Image: Amazon.com

From the publisher: 
When Fox meets a goose who has been left by her flock, he decides to help her catch up with her migrating friends. Fox and Goose go on an epic journey through the city and across the sea, to return Goose to her flock. Once the chase is over, Goose realizes how much fun she's had with her new friend. Sweet animal characters and stunning watercolor artwork combine for an endearing story.
I have a rating system I use for those books I have read and reviewed on my blog, you may check it out here. I have given this book four coffee cups, cool beans!
Reviews PublishedThank you to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group for providing me with this Digital Advanced Reader Copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I read this book as a part of my #ReadtheRainbow Reading Challenge, inspired by Donalyn MillerMy goal is to read at least one children's literature book from various genres every weekday and share my thoughts here on my blog. Please feel free to subscribe or connect with me on social media to follow my journey through the books I read. Until next time ...

Courageous Conversations About Race by Glenn Singleton


Alongside my IEA cohorts, we are reading Courageous Conversations About Race by Glenn Singleton as a book study for our Human & Civil Rights Committee. I am one chapter in and I am excited to be reading this book. I believe it is so very important to be an educator that thinks of creating a culturally responsive classroom. The questions and activities in this book, alongside the discussions that I will have through Google Classroom with committee members, will help build a strong foundation towards achieving equity in my future classroom.

Chapter 1 Breaking the Silence: Ushering in Courageous Conversation About Race begins with the following quote by W.E.B. Dubois (1949)
Of all the civil rights for which the world has struggled and fought for 5000 years, the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental. We must insist upon this to give our children the fairness of a start which will equip them with such an array of facts and such an attitude toward truth that they can have a real chance to judge what the world is and what its greater minds have thought it might be!  
Each week, we have one chapter to read and a few questions to complete to start the discussion. I will be sharing my answers with you each week as I read the book, in hopes that they will start a conversation about the chapter's main ideas. The following are this week's questions:

  1. What do you need to know and be able to do to narrow the racial achievement gap?
  2. To what degree have you demonstrated the will, skill, knowledge, and capacity to understand issues of race as they relate to existing achievement and opportunity disparitities? 
In order to narrow the racial achievement gap in my future classroom, for my students. I need to know that the color of the skin has an effect on my student's ability to succeed and I need to intentionally act upon this knowledge toward creating a learning environment for ALL students to achieve personal success. 

Personally, I have committed to creating a culturally responsive classroom for all of my students, no matter what color, religion, culture, gender, social class, or ability. In this commitment, I have intentionally chosen books for me to read to help assist me in what I need to know to succeed; as well as those for my classroom library that future students will read (mirrors, windows & sliding glass doors). I purposefully select conference sessions that will help me gain knowledge in the areas of diverse literature, equitable lesson planning, Racial Institutionalism, LGBTQ+, and more. In addition, I have obtained a spot on the Human & Civil Rights Committee and was asked to attend the 2017 Women & Minority Leadership Conference; to assist the work of the Idaho Education Association toward reaching the goal of achieving equity in our schools. With all of this information gained, I have chosen to be the active voice, sharing within my circles at home, school, church, social media, and community.

Your turn, What do you need to know and be able to do to narrow the racial achievement gap and to what degree have you demonstrated the will, skill, knowledge, and capacity to understand issues of race as they relate to existing achievement and opportunity disparities? Please share in the comments below.

Please feel free to subscribe or connect with me on social media to follow my journey through the books I read. Until next time ...

Days to Celebrate: A Full Year of Poetry, People, Holidays, History, Fascinating Facts, and More by Lee Bennett Hopkins


We have just finished Thanksgiving here in the United States, where most people celebrate this festivity with family and friends. Next month, is Christmas month.. full of holiday cheer for EVERYONE!  SOME. Christmas is a holiday celebrated all over the world, yet all of those in the United States do not celebrate it. Whether it be religion or culture we need to respect that of our students. In addition, Christmas is celebrated by those for different reasons. Some are celebrating the birth of Jesus; whereas others are celebrating Santa's arrival in town with lots of presents. 

So how does an educator, respect all of these perspectives in December and throughout the year?

In my Social Studies Methods and U.S. History Methods for Teachers classes, I have come to the conclusion that the best way to honor all religions and cultures in the classroom is by learning about them! Whether the religion or celebration is represented in the classroom, I think we have a unique opportunity in the classroom to purposefully draw attention to such celebrations all year long. When a person is educated on a subject, they can draw from the experience when they come in contact with it in their home, school, or community. Rather than think it is odd that their new classmate does not celebrate Christmas or believes that one who celebrates Nights of Radishes is strange; students will understand diversity and the importance of respecting others beliefs and traditions.

I purposefully checked out a few books to assist me in planning these Days to Celebrate throughout the school year. The first one is Days to Celebrate: A Full Year of Poetry, People, Holidays, History, Fascinating Facts, and More by Lee Bennett Hopkins. In this beautifully illustrated, informational book we can find that; 365 (366) Days a Year, every day is a day to celebrate. Providing holidays from a variety of calendars around the world and some fun recognized days along the way that children will enjoy. 


Image: Amazon.com
Educating our students about different religions, cultures, and celebrations does not have to be a huge unit plan with many lessons and activities. A simple picture book read, a small discussion during your morning meeting, or something that you can integrate into social studies, math, reading, or science lesson. In what ways have you incorporated daily celebrations into your classroom? Please share in the comments below. 
I have a rating system I use for those books I have read and reviewed on my blog, you may check it out here. I have given this book five coffee cups, I love it a latte!

I read this book as a part of my #ReadtheRainbow Reading Challenge, inspired by Donalyn MillerMy goal is to read at least one children's literature book from various genres every weekday and share my thoughts here on my blog. Please feel free to subscribe or connect with me on social media to follow my journey through the books I read. Until next time ...

Three Thanksgiving Reads for the Upper Elementary Classroom


I recently borrowed seven books about Thanksgiving from my local library, I will be sharing three with you that are engaging and historically correct. I do not wish to share books that are not appealing to our students nor provide stories in which share incorrect information about our past, the clothing styles of Pilgrims, or the wrong headdress of Native Americans.


First, a biographical picture book of Sarah Josepha Hale - a woman who did not take no for an answer. Sarah Gives Thanks by Mike Allegra is an incredible story of a persistent woman who persuaded Abraham Lincoln toward the declaration of the National Holiday, Thanksgiving. For more than thirty years, she wrote letters to presidents, legislature, and other government officials; as well as wrote editorials for magazines to create a much needed holiday of thanks. The end of the book includes an authors note which gives more information about Sarah Josepha Hale and the various other accomplishments she made throughout her life. 


Second, Celebrating American Holidays: Thanksgiving by Barbara Balfour & Jordan McGill. This non-fiction book tells the history of Thanksgiving and provides crafts for students to complete based on what they learned: 

  • History, Pilgrim Puppets (I would recommend allowing children to use bright color clothing in addition to black)
  • Holiday, Draw Sarah Josepha Hale (I recommend reading this section after the reading of the first book, Sarah Gives Thanks)
  • Celebrating Today, Garland of Thanks
  • Cornucopia, Creating a Cornucopia of Candy (great treat snack or gift for the family on Thanksgiving Break)
  • Turkey, Making a Pumpkin Turkey (good use of leftover pumpkins from Halloween)
  • Cranberries, Making a Cranberry Wreath 
  • Poem of Thanks, Write a Short Poem
  • Pumpkin Pie, Making a Pumpkin Milkshake (another good use of leftover pumpkins).
When you have access to the book, you are provided with a website and code to gain more knowledge about Thanksgiving. Once you have entered the code, it will have you verify a random word or phrase from the book, to make sure you have the book with you. Here are a few of the outside resources the book shares:


Last (but not least), Turkeys, Pilgrims, and Indian Corn: The Story of the Thanksgiving Symbols by Edna Barth. This is another informative book for kids that would make an incredible read aloud. There are 18 short chapters that would make good reading for one a day or choose a few to read over the week before Thanksgiving break. I really enjoyed learning about all of the symbols that we relate to Thanksgiving and why they are included in our celebrations.
I read these books as a part of my #ReadtheRainbow Reading Challenge, inspired by Donalyn MillerMy goal is to read at least one children's literature book from various genres every weekday and share my thoughts here on my blog. Please feel free to subscribe or connect with me on social media to follow my journey through the books I read. Until next time ...

Fall Mixed Up by Bob Raczka


I first placed this book on my hold list at my local public library in September, this is a really popular book as I just picked it up at the library this weekend! I am extremely glad it finally arrived.

Fall Mixed Up would be a great read aloud on the first day of fall. I absolutely loved all of the holiday mishaps and the disordered familiarities from this time of year. My daughter and I giggled through the entire reading as we saw flying squirrels, bears gathering nuts, and geese hibernating for the winter. 

Image: Lerner Publishing Group
After reading, I would have my students go back to each page and sort out the various discrepancies they found and then start a discussion about what really happens when Fall begins.

I have a rating system I use for those books I have read and reviewed on my blog, you may check it out here. I have given this book four coffee cups, cool beans!


I read this book as a part of my #BookaDay Reading Challenge, inspired by Donalyn Miller. My goal is to read at least one children's literature book every weekday and share my thoughts here on my blog. Please feel free to subscribe or connect with me on social media to follow my journey through the books I read. Until next time ...

September 11th: 5th Grade Discussion Board Lesson

Background Information: Seventeen years ago New York City experienced the unforgettable day of September 11th. Adults who lived through it will always remember the events that unfolded, but many young children don't know a lot about 9/11 or fully understand how the day changed this nation and so many lives.  Many educators struggle to discuss the events with children, and it can be daunting to find books that engage children, help them to understand such a pivotal point in history, and serve as a starting point for discussion. Fortunately, we have a fictional account about 9/11 specifically for children, ideal for the next generation. Nine Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin presents 9/11 in an accessible way for young readers without being too heavy.  Instead they are presented in a thoughtful and meaningful way, and is a welcome addition to children's literature. (9/11 for Educators)
Students have read the story in literature circles (groups of 4). They have had meaningful conversations about the four individual characters and about the events that took place on 9/11. Now as a connected group of 4 students they will go a little deeper and experience this pivotal moment in history through activity and discussion board.
Discussion Board Post:


Over the last few weeks, we have read Nora Raleigh Baskin's book Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story in our literature circles. Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story is the story of four kids in various cities who experience 9/11 on contrasting levels. These four middle school kids fifth graders in Ohio, California, Pennsylvania, and New York City start out on 9/10 wrapped up in their own individual challenges at home, from one dealing with an absentee father to another grieving for a lost one. They have no idea that they are all about to come together as a result of 9/11, as their families and communities are affected by the tragic events
The story began with four young characters from four different states at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport, each one with a unique story of conflict. But on September 11th, everything changes. The book concludes with the first Patriot Day at Ground Zero, exactly one year later, where the reader is re-introduced to each character. The concerns each character had in the days leading up to the events of 9/11 have diminished or disappeared altogether as each character’s thoughts are about what happened on 9/11.
YouTube Video: Alan Jackson - "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)" 

  • First, I want you to interview a family member or someone else that you know that was at least 18 years of age on September 11th. I want to know where they were located, how old they were, and what they remember about that day. I also would like you to ask them about their life before this day and how things may have changed afterwards. Take good notes, record the interview to help you remember their story, and then write a review of the interview in 200-250 words in the discussion board below. { Note: Please let me know right away if you are having difficulties finding this person.}
  • Second, you will read each of your literature circle group interview reviews (4) in this forum. Take note of how this day changed the life of the individual similar to how the characters in the book did. 
  • Third, I would like you to respond to each of your group members post using the RISE feedback we have used on our classroom blog. In addition, please add a comment about what their story taught you about September 11th or relate it to what you have read in the book Nine, Ten.
  • Last, if a group member asks you a question or causes you to respond, please reply to him or her and continue the discussion.
I read Nine, Ten as a part of my #BookaDay Reading Challenge, inspired by Donalyn Miller. My goal is to read at least one children's literature book every weekday and share my thoughts here on my blog. Please feel free to subscribe or connect with me on social media to follow my journey through the books I read. Until next time ...

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton


It is a great college class, when your 400 level professor uses a picture book to teach a concept. I was absolutely thrilled! It would have been quite delightful had he read the book to the class, but he mentioned it nonetheless. So, I went to the library and picked up the copy of Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel to read it myself (I am 99.9% sure I am the only one that did that).

Goodreads says:

     A modern classic that no child should miss. Since it was first published in 1939, Mike     
    Mulligan and His Steam Shovel has delighted generations of children. Mike and his trusty
    steam shovel, Mary Anne, dig deep canals for boats to travel through, cut mountain passes
    for trains, and hollow out cellars for city skyscrapers -- the very symbol of industrial
    America. But with progress come new machines, and soon the inseparable duo are out of        work. Mike believes that Mary Anne can dig as much in a day as one hundred men can dig
    in a week, and the two have one last chance to prove it and save Mary Anne from the scrap
    heap. What happens next in the small town of Popperville is a testament to their
    friendship, and to old-fashioned hard work and ingenuity.

I have actually never heard of this story; however, I am glad that I was made aware of it so I could. A response to the Industrial Revolution and the use of new tools vs old tools. I think, this is an incredible story of how these machines and people can be repurposed in such a way that made them a valuable member of the society without being anti-technology or anti-progressive.

This picture book plot resonates with how I believe society should choose to go along with the times rather than putting its foot down and trying to stop the advancement of technology. Engineers, scientists, managers, etc have been put in place to work to make things more efficient and more effective for the communities that would benefit from them. Yet, when given a chance to use them, people hesitate to the changes that need to take place in order for them to work.  What a great way to share new possibilities and growth with our students! 

I have a rating system I use for those books I have read and reviewed on my blog, you may check it out here. I have given this book four coffee cups, Cool Beans!


I read this book as a part of my #BookaDay Reading Challenge, inspired by Donalyn Miller. My goal is to read at least one children's literature book every weekday and share my thoughts here on my blog. Please feel free to subscribe or connect with me on social media to follow my journey through the books I read. Until next time ...

Deduce the Politics of Dr. Seuss


I have been super busy these last few weeks, but I am still reading and using picture books everyday! The following is from a mini-lesson I completed in my Teaching History Methods class. Common Core State Standards: 

  • 5.SS.1.1.2 Discuss significant individuals who have been responsible for bringing about cultural and social changes in the United States.
  • RL.5.7 Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g., graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem). 
The idea of the lesson is to scaffold the ability of understanding political cartoons and how they inform or call others to action in response. First students will be introduced to political cartooning then use of Dr.Seuss books as examples. Book one & two will be given to students and books three & four will be discussed as a think/pair/share {time permitting}. In the end, students will create their own political cartoon based on the lesson, using their own thoughts of injustice in their world.


We have discussed using primary sources, pictures, art, statues, and sculptures are incredible ways to better understand history, making our textbooks come alive! In this lesson, we are going to see how cartoons and comics are used to help people share messages that are very important to them, through the art of political cartooning.


Modern American political cartoons have been around since the nineteenth century. The increase in newspaper and magazine circulation in the 1800’s provided a rich environment for the rise and use of political cartoons. People with minimal reading abilities can understand and relate to a format that communicates powerful ideas in a humorous,light-hearted manner. Through the use of analogy, irony, symbolism, and exaggeration the cartoonist expresses the themes and problems of their time. 



We know Dr. Seuss as a successful children's cartoonist and author, but he also was a successful political cartoonist, creating a parody of current events during World War II for a progressive newspaper. Theodor Geisel drew over 400 cartoons for this New York newspaper, while he was the chief editorial cartoonist (1941-1943). Many of these cartoons were directed towards the war, Adolf Hitler, and Japan.



What is your favorite Dr. Seuss book?



Horton Hears a Who! is said to have many political and social messages, focusing on the powerless. One of which, Dr. Seuss addresses the social issue of conformity. Conformity involves people changing their beliefs or behaviors in order to fit in with a group. Throughout the book, Horton stands out from the rest of the jungle animals. He is very different, and Horton refuses to conform. The key political struggle during Dr. Seuss's lifetime was the struggle against fascism, where strict conformity was a cultural and political requisite. Asking immigrants from other countries; as well as, Native Americans to be more American. Forming this melting pot and taking on the American Identity that we have spoken about in weeks before. 



The story of the Sneetches is about yellow bird-like creatures, some have green stars on their stomachs, and others without. The "in" crowd are those who have the stars and they look down on those who do not have it. One day, a man named McBean comes to town with a machine to give those without a star, a star, with a “star-on machine” for the cost of three dollars. The original Sneetches with the stars are angered because they no longer have a way to show that they are better than those without. McBean comes up with the solution in the form of a star-off machine that will take the stars off the stomach of the Sneetches for the cost of ten dollars. This way, they can differentiate themselves once again and regain their superiority. This gets out of hand with all the Sneetches changing back and forth from having a star and not having a star to the point that, "until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew / Whether this one was that one or that one was this one / Or which one was what one or what one was who." Both groups quickly run out of money and McBean leaves town. After he leaves, the Sneetches come to realize that neither the "plain-belly" or "star belly" is superior over the other. There are clear lessons of anti-discrimination (which is hostility or prejudice to those of the jewish faith) and anti -racism(hostility or prejudice of someone different than you) throughout the story, with even the star implying a political message. It was inspired by the yellow Star of David that the Jews were required to wear on the clothing to identify them to the Nazis.


The Cat in the Hat was written as a challenge in 1954 in response to an article in Life magazine that claimed that widespread illiteracy was caused by children being bored with books. Watch first 37 seconds of video.


Questions for open discussion for large group using Think/Pair/ Share strategy.




Dr. Seuss wrote The Lorax in 1971.

Do not be fooled by its pictures, it's a serious one.
The Lorax is all about what we can do
to keep our trees green, our lakes and skies blue.



Let's meet the players: the Once-ler does shine

an inventor, he is, who messed up big time.
And so he confesses to a special young boy
about the Truffula forest, the one he destroyed.

It turns out it was his own careless fault,

His own greedy deeds caused this assault.
But don't worry, readers, someone rebelled,
The Lorax (the star!)—he protested and yelled.



This fuzzy guy said, "don't be so commercial!"

(You know what that means—it's a bit controversial.)
So the Lorax is now iconically green,
reminding us how to keep our earth clean.


Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax appeared in the 1970s at the start of the environmental movement, just before the first Earth Day, April 22nd of that year. 
In addition, the message implies we need to be taught about the environment and how to live in a sustainable way in order to preserve what we have. The children need to learn about how to live without degrading the environment, so that future generations have a clean place to live. This is shown in The Lorax by the Once-ler educating the small boy about the dangers of pollution, the wearing down of the environment, and by giving him the last Truffula seed so that new ones can be grown.


I end, with one of my favorite quotes and one of Dr. Seuss’ Call to Action. This is often a hope for political cartoonist, not only that one would be become aware of an issue, but one would also want to act in regards to his or her message.

Activity: Using information from lesson and class discussion. Students will choose an issue they are passionate about (no math, longer recess, no peas in the cafeteria) and then create a story or cartoon which illustrates their standing (call to action or informing others). Students will share with class in an art walk.


Reflection: My colleagues were intrigued by the use of Dr. Seuss in the classroom, I think it could be used from K-12 for students to understand new concepts. If reading is not the main goal of the lesson then we should be using materials that all students can understand in order to teach the new material. This eliminates barriers for English Language Learners and students with lower reading levels.

I read these books as a part of my #BookaDay Reading Challenge, inspired by Donalyn Miller. My goal is to read at least one children's literature book every weekday and share my thoughts here on my blog. Please feel free to subscribe or connect with me on social media to follow my journey through the books I read. Until next time ...