Review: Piper Green and the Fairy Tree

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Piper Green and the Fairy Tree
by Ellen Potter

My Rating:

Note: Piper Green and the Fairy Tree will be released on Tuesday, August 4th by Random House Children’s. A link to preorder is included at the bottom of this review.

According to the Random House website, “there are three things you should know about Piper Green:
1. She always says what’s on her mind (even when she probably shouldn’t).
2. She rides a lobster boat to school.
3. There is a Fairy Tree in her front yard.”

From the first page of Piper Green and the Fairy Tree, Piper’s spunky character and unique way of thinking instantly draws in the reader. Piper is a second grader who has a lot going on: she’s separated from her big brother after he goes to a different school, she has a new teacher who she doesn’t know anything about, and nothing seems to be going just right. One day, she decides to skip school and she ends up having some adventures with a Fairy Tree in her front yard instead.

My favorite thing about this book was the strong character Piper Green plays. She’s quirky, fun, and complex all at once. She wears her brother’s monkey earmuffs 24/7 because she misses him. Children can relate to the way she explains her feelings and observations about the world around her. She’s digs beneath the surface when considering her emotions, which makes Piper Green a great choice for students who are seeking a way to express their own emotions. While Piper is a role model, she’s not perfect, and students can learn from the mistakes she makes while coming to terms with what upsets her.

Piper’s penchant for deep thinking leads to some fantastic passages in this book. She addresses concepts like friendship in ways that will make sense to children, but that will also make them think. For example, her friend Jacob has an ability to understand and empathize with Piper, and she explains this talent in terms of his ability to listen.

Another great aspect of Piper Green is the humor. I found myself laughing out loud reading this book! Both Piper and her little brother explain things in hilarious ways, and Ellen Potter’s writing style is enjoyable and humorous for children and adults alike.

This is a great read for 2nd-4th grade readers, and it will be released this upcoming Tuesday, August 4th! I’m sure Piper Green will become a favorite of many girls and boys for years to come.

Classroom Connections

  • Students can use this book to practice making inferences. At the beginning of the book, we don’t know why Piper is upset, but we are given a valuable clue when she talks about the empty chair at the breakfast table. Students can practice using these clues to predict what may be upsetting piper.
  • In the book, Piper and her friends have to define themselves for a class project. Using the definitions in the book as examples, students can define themselves. For example, Ms. Arabella (proper noun) is defined as a woman with blond hair and green eyes. She is also defined by her favorite things. Students can work to define themselves, which can be used as either a vocabulary lesson or a lesson in identities.

Book Information
Title: Piper Green and the Fairy Tree
Author: Ellen Potter
Illustrator: Qin Leng
Publisher: Random House Children’s
Release Date: August 4th, 2015
Price: US $14.99
Source: NetGalley – Advanced Review Copy

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Random House

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this text from Random House Children’s. All opinions in this review are my own!


Review: Penelope Perfect

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Penelope Perfect
by Shannon Anderson

My Rating:

Note: Penelope Perfect will be released in August 2015 by Free Spirit Publishing. A link to pre-order is included at the bottom of this review.

When I was a kid, a lot of unnecessary worries preoccupied my thoughts. I used to think through every “what if” and worry about the outcome of every situation. Now that I’m an educator, I see this same anxiety every day in various classrooms. Although this anxiety can come in many forms, children often show it by trying to be a perfectionist. Penelope Perfect explores what happens when one perfectionist has a day that goes horribly wrong.

In Penelope Perfect, we are introduced to Penelope through illustrations of her life with text explaining her habits. For example, Penelope follows her exercise chart every morning and sharpens six pencils when she gets to school. She wakes up at the same time every morning and goes to bed at the same time every night. When a power outage alters her routine, Penelope must figure out how to make it through her less-than-perfect day. Along the way, she learns some lessons about how to be herself and stay flexible.

One thing I loved about this book was the illustrations. Penelope’s world really comes to life in front of you, and kids can see their own world reflected in the pictures. The illustrations also do a great job of showing just how unsettling a change in routine can be; straight lines and organized pictures give way to movement, chaos, and more dramatic images. The illustrations do a great job of contributing to the story, and for readers who rely on visual cues, Katie Kath’s beautiful images do the trick.

I also loved that the book portrayed Penelope’s family as mixed race, with an African-American mother and a caucasian father. I think it is so important for all children to be able to see their own experiences reflected in children’s books, and while the text doesn’t mention race, students can relate to Penelope’s family through the illustrations. The other characters in the book are portrayed as being very diverse, including the teacher and the other students in Penelope’s class.

Although the illustrations in this book were great and the story has a fantastic message, the rhyme scheme was a little clunky for me. While I could imagine using this story as a read aloud during a classroom lesson on emotions and feelings, I had to read the story outloud twice before being able to fall into the rhyme scheme. I felt like I had to anticipate how the next few sentences were going to go in order to figure out what words to emphasize. This is something that can be avoided with practice, but it does prevent the book from reaching a 4- or 5-star rating.

Overall, this book would be fantastic for students who struggle with perfectionism in their day-to-day lives. Teachers and parents alike could use this book to start conversations about perfection and how mistakes, change, and failure are okay. I give the book a strong 3 stars for its great message and excellent illustrations.

Classroom Connections

The Advanced Review Copy of Penelope Perfect I received included 5 full pages of valuable suggestions for using this book in the classroom. Strategies suggested include:

  • Students writing skits about unexpected situations and how to deal with them
  • Sharing stories of famous people who struggled with failure before becoming successful
  • Posing “what if?” situations that allow students to think through worst case scenarios in order to develop strategies for dealing with them

As a classroom teacher, I would suggest this book for independent reading to students who may benefit from the message in the story. I would also use it to discuss failure and success with my students.

Book Information
Title: Penelope Perfect
Author: Shannon Anderson
Illustrator: Katie Kath
Publisher: Free Spirit Publishing
Release Date: August 15th, 2015
Price: US $15.99
Source: NetGalley – Advanced Review Copy

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Free Spirit Publishing

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this text from Free Spirit Publishing. All opinions in this review are my own!

Review: The Astronaut Wives Club

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The Astronaut Wives Club
By Lily Koppel

My Rating:

Even though my favorite genre for adults is historical fiction, I do love some nonfiction every once in a while. Last summer, my favorite read was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, and Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a go-to for me. That’s why I was so excited to pick up a copy of The Astronaut Wives Club, especially since it has recently come to ABC as a television series.

The book tells the story of the women who supported astronauts like Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and John Glenn as they explored the “final frontier” in the 1960s and 70s. The Astronaut Wives Club is formed as a support network for the women as they navigate raising children, supporting their husbands, and dealing with the press. Lily Koppel allows the reader to visualize the “Death Watch” get togethers that were held when the men went into space, the group workouts at the local gym, and the lavish parties with presidents and celebrities. We learn about the great moments in the women’s lives, as well as the moments that lead to tears and heartbreak.

It’s difficult to summarize the book because it is told more as a series of vignettes than as one cohesive story. Unfortunately, this seems to be a common criticism of the text according to reviews on Goodreads and other blogs. Since the story moves so rapidly from situation to situation and person to person, it’s challenging to keep track of how the characters develop as the story unfolds. Since this is a nonfiction text, the plot isn’t expected to be linear, but while I was reading I found myself wishing that each woman’s story had been discussed in its own chapter. It was easy to mix up the characters and forget what had happened to them earlier in the story. Additionally, it was hard to get insight into the feelings of certain characters. Perhaps more images or quotes from Koppel’s interviews would help readers connect more deeply with the women in the book.

Although the book was hard to follow, it did have its strengths. Women like Joan Aldrin, Betty Grissom, Marge Slayton, and Rene Carpenter had absolutely incredible stories, and Lily Koppel certainly captures some of the “behind the scenes” events that occurred during the Space Race. The real life experiences of the wives are this book’s strongest asset, as the stories are interesting and were untold until now.

If you’re interested in the Space Race, the 1960s, women’s rights, or nonfiction in general, you may enjoy this read. I’m looking forward to seeing it come to life as a television series this summer!

Book Information
Title: Astronaut Wives Club
Author: Lily Koppel
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Year: 2013
Price: US $23.00
Source: My Local Library (Find yours!)

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Review: Rosie Revere, Engineer

Rosie Revere, Engineer
by Andrea Beaty

My Rating:

When I picked up a copy of this book a few months ago in a museum gift shop, I never thought it would become such a large source of inspiration for me in my day-to-day life. I wanted to share it as my first review on this blog because it is a powerful book in every way: it engages readers, tells a strong message, and draws you in through beautiful language.

Rosie Revere, Engineer tells the story of Rosie, a second grade student who loves to invent and create. Rosie tries to forget that love after one of her inventions is laughed at by her family. Eventually, her great-great-Aunt Rose (who adults may recognize as Rosie the Riveter) gives her cause to create a new invention. Rosie questions whether she has the skill and talent to build such a machine, but steps past her fear and creates a new contraption to help her Aunt Rose fly. When she tries it out, things don’t quite go as planned – but Aunt Rose steps in to teach Rosie some valuable lessons about failure and how to bounce back from it.

I loved this book because it has a very strong lesson that gets across to students: finding what you love and embracing your passion means trying over and over again. However, the strong lesson of this book is only strengthened by the beautiful language used to tell the story. I’ve included some of my favorite quotes from the book below so that you can see just how memorable Beaty’s words are.

Another great asset to this book is its illustrations. David Roberts creates pages kids can investigate for hours, discovering more and more within the drawings. Take a look:

Favorite Passages

On wondering:
“But questions are tricky, and some hold on tight,
and this one kept Rosie awake through the night.”

On never giving up:
“Life might have it’s failures, but this was not it.
The only true failure can come if you quit.”

On first tries:
“Your brilliant first flop was a raging success!
Come on, let’s get busy and on to the next!”

Classroom Connections

This book is very well suited to the 1st to 3rd Grade age bracket, although it can be used in later grades as well! I read this book to my third grade students as we started working on our science fair projects this year. Much to my surprise, many of the students had already read the book at home. Of the students who had read it, many said it was a favorite of theirs. My students soon fell in love with Rosie and her perseverance. Throughout the science fair, students were okay with failing because they knew they were learning from it. The lesson this book taught them was so powerful that some of the girls who hadn’t previously shown an interest in science said they wanted to be like Rosie. Students started inventing things at home and telling me stories of their creations and ideas. Just reading the book once as a quick read aloud made a huge impact on the learners in my classroom.

Other suggestions for using Rosie Revere, Engineer in your classroom include:

  • Introducing the historical figure of Rosie the Riveter. The book includes lots of meaningful information about the history of women in aviation with a look into Aunt Rose’s journal. A historical note at the back of the text tells a little bit more about Rosie the Riveter. When used in conjunction with other texts, this book can do a great job of tying up the lessons Americans learned from Rosie the Riveter as an icon.
  • Use of strong adjectives. One of my favorite sentences reads: “He laughed till he wheezed and his eyes filled with tears, all to the horror of Rosie Revere, who stood there embarrassed, perplexed, and dismayed.” This book is a great example of how to use adjectives other than “happy,” “sad,” “angry,” and others to describe feelings, and could be used as a mentor text for the writers in your classroom.

Book Information
Title: Rosie Revere, Engineer
Author: Andrea Beaty
Illustrator: David Roberts
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Year: 2013
Price: US $16.95
Source: Personal Collection

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Hello world!

Thank you so much for visiting Miss Magee’s Reads. I’m so excited to share my reading discoveries with you via this blog. I’ve been reading book blogs for years and years, and I’m so happy to finally be creating my own. (I have to give a lot of credit to my friend Madeleine over at Top Shelf Text – she’s given me a lot of inspiration!)

Before I post my first review, I wanted to share a handful of my goals with you:

  • I want to discover books that empower both girls and boys. I love strong female characters of all ages, and those are the type of characters that little girls need to read about. As a teacher, I also recognize how important it is to find books that can empower boys with interest in reading, and I’m looking forward to finding those as I read.
  • I want to think deeply about how we can use books to change the world. Whenever I read a children’s book, I want to keep my mind on how I can use it in the classroom. How can I use a book to get a child to where they need to be, or where they want to be?
  • I want to remember to read for fun sometimes, too. That’s why I’ll be sharing some “Books for Grown-Ups” on this blog as well. First up: The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel.

If you’d like to subscribe, visit the sidebar on the right to receive email updates about my posts. You can also follow me on Instagram for a peek into my reading world. Thank you so much for reading and supporting me on this next adventure!