A Horse Named Steve

A Horse Named Steve by Kelly Collier is all about a horse who wants nothing more than to be exceptional. And he thinks he’s found a way to be extraordinary when he finds a gold horn lying in the forest. Ol’ Steve fastens the horn to his head and struts around, showing off his new look to all of his friends.

Pretty soon, other animals are tying odds and ends to their heads in an effort to be exceptional, just like Steve. But what will Steve do when he discovers that his gold horn, the item that made him unique and wonderful, has gone missing? Will he mourn the loss of his horn, or will he find a new way to be “exceptionally different?

I love the central message in this book. “Dare to be rare!” In a world that seems to want everyone to look and act like everyone else, that message is needed more than ever. I tell my students on a regular basis that normal is boring and that they should embrace what makes them different. A Horse Named Steve helps me to spread the word in a new, fun way.

This wonderful book, with hilarious words and pictures by Kelly Collier, will be released on April 4th. It is a must-add to any library that serves children.

Rain Reign

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin was a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.

Fifth grader Rose Howard loves homonyms, prime numbers, rules, and her dog Rain (whose name has two homonyms). Rain is the one of the few gifts Rose’s father has ever given her, and their bond is a strong one. When nearly everyone else–including Rose’s father–gets irritated by Rose’s obsessions, Rain is always there to provide a comforting and calming presence.

Comfort and calm is something that Rose will sorely need in the days to come. Hurricane Susan is making a beeline for Rose’s small Massachusetts town, and her precious routines will be tossed to the winds. The power goes out, creeks turn into rivers, bridges are washed out, trees fall…and Rose’s father lets Rain out of the house without checking on her return.

When the storm finally passes through, Rose realizes that her dog is missing. Did she forget her way home in the horrible storm? Was she carried downstream by the powerful currents? Where is Rain? Rose doesn’t understand how her father could have let this happened, but she’s determined to find her beloved dog…even if that means letting go of her routines.

Rose searches high and low for Rain. She enlists the help of her uncle, her teachers, and even her classmates. Rose does everything humanly possible to find her dog, but how will she handle it when she finds more than she was looking for? Will her world be thrown into yet another storm, and how will Rose–a girl who needs routine and consistency–deal with the fallout? How will she handle the many changes to come? Read Rain Reign by the brilliant Ann M. Martin to find out.

Rain Reign is a phenomenal book with wide appeal–to students, educators, and parents of autistic children.

Rain Reign is also a great book for students who have fondness for word and number play. This could even come into play in language arts or math lessons. Class studies of this book could include looking for homonyms that weren’t mentioned by Rose or finding prime numbers out in the “real world.” And don’t even get me started on how this book could be used to illustrate character’s voice. Read one chapter, and you’ll see that for yourself.

If you’d like to promote Rain Reign in your library or classroom, feel free to use the book trailer below.

EIEIO: How Old MacDonald Got His Farm (with a Little Help from a Hen)

EIEIO: How Old MacDonald Got His Farm (with a Little Help from a Hen), written by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Matthew Myers, is a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

EIEIO is a new take on an old favorite. Many kids may know the tale of Old MacDonald and his farm, but how did he get that farm in the first place?

As it turns out, it all started because Old MacDonald didn’t like to mow the lawn. First he got a goat to help him out, but that didn’t totally solve his problems. Luckily, things started to change with the help of Little Red Hen, a brilliant bird who knew a little something about ecology.

Old MacDonald and his hen began to transform the yard, but it wasn’t a pretty process! It involved hard work, mud, trash, poop, worms, and, finally, lots of seeds. Those seeds, planted in raised beds, eventually grew into vegetables that Old MacDonald enjoyed and shared with his neighbors. What began as a simple lawn turned into a wonderful organic garden!

EIEIO is a good book for introducing the concept of plant ecology and organic gardening to young readers in a fun and familiar way. I can see it being an especially great read-aloud in the spring, when many gardens are being planted, or as part of Earth Day celebrations.

Feel free to use the book trailer below if you’d like to promote this book in your classroom or library!


Spork, written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, is a charming book about what it’s like when someone–be they kitchen utensil or human–is trying to find their place in the world.

Spork doesn’t exactly fit in. His dad is a fork, and his mom is a spoon. He’s both and neither at the same time. He tries to be more spoon-ish, but that upsets the forks. When he tries to be like the forks, the spoons get mad. Spork just can’t win. Spork wonders if there are others like him in the kitchen, those who don’t really match anything else…those who are never picked to be at the table.

One day, when Spork is feeling particularly low, a strange, messy “thing” arrives and throws the kitchen into chaos. Neither the spoons nor the forks can handle this being, but Spork thinks he might have what it takes. He could be just right for the job.

Read Spork to learn how one little utensil finally finds his way to the table.

Spork is a great picture book to emphasize the importance of individuality, diversity, tolerance, and acceptance. I think it would be especially relevant in the hands of students from multiracial backgrounds. Spork, in it’s own special way, shows readers that everyone has their own unique place in the world and that they don’t need to be just like everyone else.

The paperback version of Spork, published by Kids Can Press, will be released on April 4th, 2017.

The Rookie Bookie

The Rookie Bookie by L. Jon Wertheim and Tobias Moskowitz is a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.

Mitch Sloan is the new kid at school, and he doesn’t have the best luck when it comes to fitting in. At his old school in California, he was bullied for being a nerd. He doesn’t want the same thing to happen here in Indiana, so Mitch tries out for the football team and attempts to tone down his love of math, money, and correcting people.

One person who seems to connect with Mitch immediately is Jamie, a girl who loves sports as much as Mitch does. She examines strategy just like he does, and he finally feels like someone finally gets him…and he absolutely does NOT have a crush on her.

One day, Mitch and Jamie take their love of sports to the next level, and they bet on a pro football game. Mitch uses his love of strategy and statistics to skew the bet in his favor, and, though Jamie is upset at first, an idea begins to take shape. What if they can get other kids at school to bet on some games? Mitch and Jamie could serve as middle-men–or bookies–and make a little money with no risk to their own wallets. What could possibly go wrong?

Pretty soon, kids are lining up at Mitch’s locker to make bets and receive their winnings. Mitch and Jamie are making money, their “customers” are having fun, and Mitch feels what it’s like to be popular. He kind of likes the feeling, even though he wonders just how many of these people are really his friends.

Eventually, this business begins to spiral out of control, and Mitch and Jamie find themselves in more trouble than either of them have ever been in. (Who knew that operating a middle school gambling ring was against the rules?) Can their friendship recover from this huge mess? And can they find a way to redeem themselves in the eyes of their parents, their classmates, their teachers, and the whole school?

Answer these questions and many more when you read The Rookie Bookie!

Dog vs. Cat

Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall is a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

Dog and Cat are both going to live with Mr. and Mrs. Button. Unfortunately, these two very different pets have to share a room. Everything starts out okay, but it doesn’t take long for them to start annoying each other.

Dog is messy, chatty, and likes to sniff everything. Cat is neat, quiet (except at night), and claws everything in sight. They decide to divide up their room, but that doesn’t end well, either.

When there’s a new arrival in their home, Dog and Cat realize they must put aside their differences and figure out how to deal with the situation–together.

Will Dog and Cat be able to find common ground? Will this new arrival change everything? Find out when you read Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall!

Dog vs. Cat is a charming book that will appeal to readers young and old. Young readers will enjoy the story of how Dog and Cat are different and eventually come together. Older readers will delight in the fun little details in the illustrations. With any age group, Dog vs. Cat is a wonderful read-aloud and is perfect for discussions about perspective, working together, and appreciating differences.

I created the book trailer below to promote Dog vs. Cat in my own library. Feel free to use it in yours!

El Deafo

El Deafo by Cece Bell is a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.

El Deafo is both a graphic novel and a memoir. It truly is Cece Bell’s story. This story–which depicts young Cece as a rabbit–tells of how she lost her hearing and adapted to the world around her. It shows her difficulties fitting in as well as her triumphs. It’s hilarious at times and heart-breaking at others, and anyone who sees himself/herself as different will relate to Cece in some way.

But you don’t really need me to tell you about this book. Let’s hear from the author herself…

I think El Deafo is a great book for introducing a variety of concepts. Some of those may include:

  • telling stories in a variety of formats
  • exploring the relationships between art and writing
  • memoirs
  • accepting/celebrating differences; tolerance
  • empathy
  • self-confidence
  • handling conflict

To learn more about this amazing book and author Cece Bell, visit her website.