Pardon Me!

Pardon Me! by Daniel Miyares was a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

A little yellow bird sits alone on a rock in a swamp. He won’t be alone for long, though. One by one, a heron, a frog, and a turtle politely ask to join him. The little bird really just wants to be left alone, but he begrudgingly allows the others a bit of space. That changes when a fox comes along…

The little bird finally snaps. He wants everyone to leave him alone! He doesn’t realize, however, that the fox is trying to give him a very important warning. Being grumpy could land this little yellow bird into a huge heap of trouble!

Pardon Me!, while not ideal for read-alouds, is sure to charm fans of I Want My Hat Back, This Is Not My Hat, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, and other books with rather unexpected endings. It is a very quick, surprising read that will delight young and older readers alike. The illustrations are vibrant and beautifully capture the overall mood of the book.

Pack of Dorks

Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel was a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.

Lucy is pretty secure in her status as one of the most popular girls in the 4th grade, but her best friend Becky convinces her that kissing Tom Lemmings at recess will really make her cool. Lucy reluctantly agrees, and that action may just cost her dearly.

After the ill-fated kissing incident, Lucy quickly finds herself moving from the top of the heap in 4th grade to the bottom. Tom is no longer her boyfriend, Becky is being mean to her, and the other kids are laughing at her. And her situation at home isn’t much better. Her new baby sister has Down Syndrome, and Lucy’s parents are totally focused on the baby. They don’t seem to care at all about Lucy anymore. She feels all alone and doesn’t know who she can turn to.

Lucy eventually finds an ally in quiet Sam Righter. The two share a table at lunch and work together on a class project about wolves. Through this project, Lucy compares the behavior of wolf packs to the treacherous world of school life. She looks at the actions of alphas, lone wolves, and how the weak or different are treated in wolf packs. The similarities between wolves and the kids in her world are striking, and Lucy thinks about how she could form her own pack. A pack of dorks.

As Lucy learns more and more about wolves and grows closer to the other outsiders at school, she also thinks about her own behavior. Maybe she was not-so-nice in the past. She doesn’t want to be that way anymore, and she really doesn’t want her little sister to be the target of bullies just because she’s different.

Can Lucy change her ways and become the person she wants to be? Will her “pack of dorks” be able to stand up to the bullies that torment them? Will Lucy find her place at school and within her own home?

How will Lucy’s home and school situations be resolved? Find out when you read Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel!


In addition to being an excellent book for addressing topics like bullying, respecting differences, and handling conflict, Pack of Dorks is also great for teaching the concept of voice. Lucy’s voice in this book is engaging and authentic, and many readers–no matter their ages–will respond to that. This wonderful book would make an excellent read-aloud in upper elementary and middle grade classrooms.

Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla

Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla, written by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by G. Brian Karas, was a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

This wonderful book introduces young readers to the moving story of Ivan, a gorilla who was captured by poachers as a baby and sold to be an attraction in a shopping mall. Eventually, Ivan, with the help of concerned citizens and animal welfare activists, was moved to Zoo Atlanta where he lived out the rest of his days.

Those who’ve read Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan already know much of Ivan’s story. This picture book both gives a closer look at Ivan’s early years and serves as a springboard for reading more about Ivan and how gorillas and other animals are treated around the world.

Ivan is an excellent book for read-alouds with children who are learning about animals and those who are beginning to think about issues like animal rights and habitats.

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do

Lou can do almost anything. She can be an adventurer, run really fast, build fortresses with her friends, and rescue animals. Lou is pretty sure she’ll have a thrilling job one day; she may even be a pirate.

But when her friends want to make the tree outside into their own personal pirate ship, Lou isn’t so sure about this adventure. She’s never climbed a tree before, and she doesn’t exactly want to start now. She tries to get her friends to reconsider this plan, and, when that doesn’t work, she comes up with any excuse she can think of to stay out of that tree.

Eventually, though, Lou realizes that maybe it could be fun to climb the tree and join her friends. Can she possibly get up there without actually having to climb? Probably not. It looks like she’ll have to learn to climb. It won’t be easy, but Lou is a determined young lady. She may not achieve her goal right away, but she’ll keep trying.


The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do, beautifully written and illustrated by Ashley Spires, is a wonderful book for anyone, child or adult, who’s ever been afraid of doing something. In Lou’s case, of course, it’s climbing trees, and she goes through some very realistic thought processes in trying to avoid this task. (I totally get it. I’ve never climbed a tree in my life, and I don’t intend to start now.) Substitute anything fearful for Lou’s issue with climbing trees, and all readers will be able to relate.

This book, which comes out on May 2nd, is perfect for emphasizing concepts like courage, perseverance, encouragement, compassion, handling failure or challenges, and using one’s imagination. It is a must-add to any library that serves children.

Masterminds

The town of Serenity is a lot like Mary Poppins–“practically perfect in every way.” There’s no crime, no poverty, no conflict of any kind. Every backyard has a pool, and no one really wants for anything. Sure, it’s kind of boring sometimes, but that’s to be expected in a town of only thirty kids. Serenity is almost completely closed off from the rest of the world, and most of the residents like it that way.

Most of them.

One day, Eli Frieden and his best friend Randy decide to do a little exploring outside of city limits. They don’t make it far before Eli is doubled over with some weird illness and rushed back to town. When Eli wakes up, he learns that Randy is leaving Serenity to live with his grandparents. Eli doesn’t really know what’s going on, but he’s sure that Randy isn’t telling him everything…and he’s right.

Eli begins to do a little digging, and he discovers that Randy wasn’t sent to live with his grandparents. But if that’s true, where did his best friend go? Why the big secret? What exactly is happening in this small, seemingly perfect town?

Eli enlists the help of a few friends in his quest for answers, and they begin to uncover the horrible truth about their town. Nothing is what it seems in Serenity, not even their own families. What does all this mean for Eli and friends? And what is the town’s strange connection to some of the most vicious criminals in the country?

Can a bunch of kids find out what’s going on, escape the lies surrounding them, and find help in the world outside of Serenity? Discover the truth for yourself when you read Masterminds by Gordon Korman!

Here Comes the Easter Cat

Here Comes the Easter Cat, written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Claudia Rueda, was a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

Cat thinks it’s time to give the Easter Bunny a bit of competition. While the Easter Bunny is hopping around delivering eggs, Cat will hop on his motorcycle and give boys and girls some chocolate. He’s not prepared, though, for just how tiring all his preparation is. Cat is ready for a nap.

Imagine Cat’s surprise when he learns that the Easter Bunny doesn’t get naps. He has to do all that work with no rest? Well, that simply will not do. When the exhausted Easter Bunny comes by to deliver eggs to Cat, Cat takes it upon himself to help his tired new friend.

Will Cat give up his plans for Easter domination? Or does he now have even loftier ambitions? Find out when you read Here Comes the Easter Cat!


I’ll be reading this book aloud to my K5 students this week ahead of our Spring break/Easter holiday. I hope they find it as charming as I do, and I hope it tells them a little about being kind, problem-solving, and, yes, having lofty ambitions.

Here Comes the Easter Cat may lead young (and older) readers to explore even more “substitutes” for holiday or other famous figures. What if, instead of Cupid on Valentine’s Day, we had a porcupine or something? The possibilities are as endless as the imagination.

If you’d like to promote this book to your young readers, feel free to use the book trailer below:

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.