Review: The Most Magnificent Thing

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The Most Magnificent Thing
by Ashley Spires

My Rating:

I have been hearing great things about The Most Magnificent Thing since in was released in 2014, so I’m so thrilled to have finally gotten my hands on a copy! The Most Magnificent Thing absolutely lives up to its reputation of being a great fit for elementary school classrooms.

The Most Magnificent Thing tells the story of a little girl (and her adorable canine assistant) who set out to build the titular “most magnificent thing.” Along the way, the girl makes a lot of mistakes. Her mistakes make her stronger and she continues to try to reach her goal. While the plot is simple, the messages are clear and profound.

This book is not a try, try again book. It doesn’t buy in to the traditional wisdom that if you just keep trying the same thing over and over, you’ll eventually reach your goals. Instead, it’s a try and learn from it book. It teaches children the power of reflection and the meaning of growth. The narrative allows kids to see that learning from mistakes is a good thing, and that mistakes themselves aren’t so bad.

In addition to having a great message, The Most Magnificent Thing tells its story using vivid language and excellent illustrations. This book certainly deserves a place on classroom bookshelves, especially during units on STEM or when students are enhancing their growth mindsets.

Classroom Connections

I can see this book being used in literacy, math, writing, science, and more. The ideas are endless!

  • The book makes great use of vivid verbs. Students can do a word hunt for vivid verbs that they can use in their own writing. Tinkers, fiddles, wrenches, adjusts, and tweaks are just a few!
  • Many of the books I read for my 3rd graders are written in past tense. The Most Magnificent Thing is a great example of writing in present tense, and can be used as a mentor text for other writing in that form.
  • The book introduces the concept of reflection, including observation of mistakes and generation of new ideas. This book will absolutely find its place in classrooms where teachers are introducing or reviewing what it means to have a growth mindset.
  • I wish I had found this book a few weeks earlier so I could have read it to kick off our engineering unit! Students can see how the girl implements different steps of the engineering design process. Then, students can use the same design process to create their own “most magnificent thing”!

Book Information
Title: The Most Magnificent Thing
Author: Ashley Spires
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Release Date: April 2014
Price: US $16.95
Source: Edelweiss – Review Copy

Find this book on:
Kids Can Press

Disclaimer: I received an Review Copy of this book from Kids Can Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!


Teaser Tuesday: When Penny Met POTUS


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly post challenge hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat. Each week, I’ll be posting a teaser from my current read!


This week, instead of sharing a teaser from a book, I thought I’d share a trailer! (That counts as a teaser, right?) I’m currently reading When Penny Met POTUS – a new children’s book from Rachel Ruiz.

My friends know that things I love include children’s books and politics. I lived in Washington, DC for four years and loved it. This book combines both of those things! I’m reading an advanced review copy from Netgalley right now, and I love how the book introduces the concept of “POTUS” in a fun and engaging way. Enjoy the adorable video about the book below!

Trailer for When Penny Met POTUS:

Do you have a Teaser Tuesday to share? Comment below and I’ll be sure to take a look!

Friday Five: Gifts for Book Lovers

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In my family, April is the start of birthday season. We celebrate over twelve birthdays between April and September, so I’m already starting to think about the gifts for my loved ones (not to mention my friends who are graduating and celebrating other life milestones). Since I spend an embarrassingly high amount of time looking at amazing gifts on Pinterest, I thought I’d share five of my favorite gifts for book lovers.

Phone Case
from Chick Lit Designs

It is seriously taking every single ounce of willpower I have not to spend money from this month’s budget on this Secret Garden phone case from Chick Lit Designs. With a card holder and pocket inside the case, this gift is adorable and practical. Not to mention it has the name of the book on the spine, and a quote from it on the back. (The quote from The Secret Garden is one of my favorites: “She made herself stronger by fighting with the wind.”) The Secret Garden is super meaningful to me because my aunt played Martha in the original Broadway cast of the stage version, and I met my boyfriend when we both performed in the play at my high school.  Chick Lit Designs also has cases for Mary Poppins, Cinderella, Gone with the Wind, Pride and Prejudice and more… Beyond adorable!

Library Embosser
from Horchow

Oh my gosh, as a frequent lender of books (and also as a teacher) I am in love with this book embosser from Horchow. This helps you keep track of your books, and it somehow seems really classy in comparison to sticker bookplates (although I love those, too)! This would be perfect for a teacher or that friend who lends books to your whole social network. This could also be a great gift for newlyweds as they combine their lives and their libraries.

Tote Bag
from Out of Print

For Christmas this past year, my grandmother gave my aunt this gorgeous Nancy Drew tote from Out of Print. I’m not sure that I hid my jealousy well. (Side note: if you love books, go follow Out of Print on Instagram as soon as you can.) These totes are the perfect gift for book lovers who are on the go!

Book Coasters
from Out of Print

I can think of so many friends who would love these book cover coasters from Out of Print. They are perfect for book clubs. They also come in three other sets: one with a sci-fi theme, another with punk rock authors, and as an adorable library card set.

Book Shirts
from Litographs

Litographs is a super cool company. At first glance, the image above just looks like a cool print on a t-shirt. But if you look closer, you’ll notice that the grey color is made up of 40,000 words from A Little Princess. Now you can wear your favorite books as clothes. (Also, the shirts are hand-pressed in Cambridge, MA, so if you’re a Bostonian like me, you’re supporting a local business!)

Need more suggestions?

My amazing friend Madeleine over at Top Shelf Text made a list of great books as graduation gifts, and also shared these adorable book totes from Barnes & Noble.

Any other book products you love? Comment below – I’d love to check them out!

Review: The City of Ember

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The City of Ember
by Jeanne DuPrau

My Rating:


I first read The City of Ember when it came out in 2003, and it is a story that has stuck with me over the years. Most recently, I read the book as a read aloud to my third grade students. I can say that this book is absolutely kid-approved!

With an engaging storyline and well-developed characters, The City of Ember is a great example of dystopian middle grade literature. Students are enraptured by the story, which follows two children named Lina and Doon who live in an underground city with failing infrastructure. The problem is, nobody knows that the city is underground. Mysterious instructions from the city’s builders were supposed to be passed down by the mayors until the right time, but (as my Teaser Tuesday showed a few weeks ago) a corrupt mayor ruined the plan. Now, hundreds of people are living in an underground city with no knowledge of the outside world.

I absolutely love the dramatic irony that is present in this text. My students knew that Ember was underground, but the main characters do not. My students were literally shouting out, wishing they could tell Lina and Doon what they were missing! This is a fascinating effect to use in children’s writing, and DuPrau includes it masterfully.

Another highlight of this book is the flaws in the main characters. Both Lina and Doon have flaws that interfere with their journey. Imperfect protagonists are instrumental in teaching children that all people have their flaws, but we can all work to overcome our weaknesses and turn them into strengths. Lina and Doon are relatable characters. Children can feel a strong connection to the two, and to their progress during their journey.

The City of Ember is an engaging text for read aloud to 3rd grade or up, or independent reading for 4th to 6th grade. Even for adults, the riveting storytelling makes Ember a great read.

Favorite Passages

On anger:
“The trouble with anger is, it gets hold of you. And then you aren’t the master of yourself anymore. Anger is.”

On resiliency:
“People find a way through just about anything.”

Classroom Connections

DuPrau’s use of English language conventions along with creative writing make The City of Ember a great fit for language study. Here are a few suggestions for use in the classroom!

  • DuPrau uses adverbs regularly throughout the text. During our read aloud, students would raise their hand whenever they heard a new adverb, and we would add it to a list. Adverbs can occasionally be tricky to find in children’s literature, but DuPrau includes them successfully and models them for children.
  • Similes made by Doon and Lina drive much of their conversations on values and feelings. Students can come up with their own similes to describe different parts of Ember, the comparisons between dark and light, and more.

Book Information
Title: The City of Ember
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: 2003
Price: US $7.99
Source: Classroom Library

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Random House

Review: Outdoor Math

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Outdoor Math
by Emma Adbåge

My Rating:

Note: Outdoor Math will be released on April 1, 2016 by Kids Can Press. A link to pre-order is included at the bottom of this review.

During college, I spent four months in a first grade classroom in Copenhagen, Denmark. While I was abroad, I lived with a Danish host family and tutored at the Copenhagen International School. I absolutely loved my time in Denmark, and it was fascinating to get hands-on experience with Scandinavian education philosophies. One think we could absolutely learn from here in the U.S. is the Scandinavian emphasis on learning through play. That’s why I was so excited to review this new title, Outdoor Math, from Swedish author Emma Adbåge.

The original Swedish cover of Outdoor Math, from

Outdoor Math gives a variety of strategies for incorporating math work into outdoor play. While I don’t think many students would pull this book off a shelf on their own (simply due to the word “math” in the title), I think this book could be a great resource for parents and teachers to use with children. Any opportunity to incorporate outdoor play into math lessons or math review helps children to lessen their math anxiety. I’m also a firm believer that movement can be an important part of learning, and kinesthetic lessons stick with children for a long time.

Outdoor Math incorporates strategies for reinforcing addition, time, multiplication, shapes, division, and more. For example, children may measure the length of worms using a ruler, create shapes using long rope, create patterns with acorns and leaves, and more. In addition to the different ideas suggested in the book, Adbåge has included resource pages that explain math operations using concrete examples.

Perhaps the most useful page in the book is the index, which sorts the different activities by math skill. This page will be a great resource for teachers and parents who would like to find activities that support certain teaching points. While some of the activities are unique to a certain season (like creating fractions using snow), many of the activities can be used year round, in a school yard or a backyard.

Classroom Connections

This book is a great fit for the 1st to 3rd grade age bracket. There are many ways this book could be used in the classroom.

  • Since so many of the activities require teamwork, this book could be used as a team building activity at the beginning of the year. Each group could be responsible for learning how to play one of the games. Then, students could “jigsaw” and meet with students from other groups to share out the various games and play them together.
  • These games could be incorporated throughout the year as introductory lessons to new concepts. This could help students ease their anxiety about new units of study, and instead get them excited about learning something new.

Book Information
Title: Outdoor Math
Author: Emma Adbåge
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Release Date: April 1, 2015
Price: US $15.95
Source: NetGalley – Advanced Review Copy

Find this book on:
Kids Can Press

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Kids Can Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Friday Five: Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2016

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There are so many exciting books coming out in 2016! Four of these are children’s books, and one takes me back to my childhood. From an inventive scientist to a beloved children’s book author, the subjects of these books are sure to captivate children and adults alike.

Ada Twist, Scientist
by Andrea Beaty

Andrea Beaty is one of my favorite authors of all time. My third graders are always commenting on my love of Rosie Revere, EngineerWe have probably read the book 5 times in my class this year, and students often chose to re-read it during independent reading. I even dressed up as Rosie for halloween this year! Long story short: If you haven’t read Rosie Revere, Engineer yet, get on it! My class also loves Iggy Peck, Architect: another story from Beaty that addresses the same themes of perseverance and scientific discovery. My whole class can’t wait to hear about the next student from Lila Greer’s classroom at Blue River Creek: Ada Twist, Scientist! The book will be released on September 6th, and yes, I already preordered it.


Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White
by Melissa Sweet

When I was a kid, I loved reading biographies. Although fiction was my first love, I also enjoyed reading about real people and the real, incredible things they accomplished. E.B. White accomplished some incredible things, and I can’t wait to see his story come to life in this new book from Melissa Sweet. I recently read this interview with Melissa Sweet about her research and writing, and it sounds like she this biography is going to be cherished by all who loved White’s books. (Not to mention, in researching this title, I discovered that Melissa Sweet has the coolest website ever. I mean, THIS quote on the front page is amazing!) Some Writer! will be released in October 2016.

Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony
by Ellen Potter

Last summer I got my hands on the first two books in the Piper Green series by Ellen Potter. I reviewed Piper Green and the Fairy Tree on the blog, and the sequel completely lived up to the first book. Piper Green is a spunky young girl who children can relate to. I can just tell that she is going to be a favorite of young readers (girls and boys!) for a long time to come. I can’t wait for her next adventure to be shared with us on August 16th!

What Are You Glad About? 
What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem
by Judith Viorst

Okay, so  What Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About? was already released in February… but since I haven’t picked up a copy to read yet, I’m including it with the books I’m looking forward to! From the author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, this book of poems addresses the different emotions that children go through. I love this teaser: “Did you wake up this morning all smiley inside? Does life taste like ice cream and cake? Or does it seem more like your goldfish just died And your insides are one great big ache?” I also love the fact that the book is in memory of Elaine Konigsburg. ❤

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I & II
by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany

I feel like this one just goes without saying. I grew up in the Harry Potter generation, and as an educator, I see the effect the stories are having on a new group of young readers. So many of my friends hated reading until they picked up a Harry Potter book, and I think it’s because of the incredible world J.K. Rowling was able to create. Although I’m trying to keep my expectations low to avoid the disappointment that inevitably comes with sequels and continuations, I can’t wait to see what’s next for the Harry Potter universe.

Are there any 2016 releases you can’t wait to read? Feel free to share in the comments below!


Teaser Tuesday: The City of Ember


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly post challenge hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat. Each week, I’ll be posting a teaser from my current read!

Today, my class finished our latest read aloud: The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. We’ve read some amazing books this year, and my class was afraid that no book could top Holes or The Invention of Hugo Cabret. That is, until we opened this book.

The City of Ember is a dystopian novel that definitely paved the way for Divergent and The Hunger Games, except without all the violence. Instead, it takes a look at the darkness and light inside every person. Taking place entirely underground, The City of Ember is an engaging and fascinating read for grade 3 and up.

Teaser from p. 2 of The City of Ember:

“So the first mayor of Ember was given the box, told to guard it carefully, and solemnly sworn to secrecy… Things went as planned for many years. But the seventh mayor of Ember was less honorable than the ones who’d come before him, and more desparate. … The box ended up at the back of a closet, shoved behind some old bags and bundles. There it sat, unnoticed, year after year, until its time arrived, and the lock quietly clicked open.”

Do you have a Teaser Tuesday to share? Comment below and I’ll be sure to take a look!

Review: Water Wow!

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Water Wow!
by Paula Ayer and Antonia Banyard
Art by Belle Wuthrich

My Rating:

Note: Water Wow! will be released in April 2016 by Annick Press. A link to pre-order is included at the bottom of this review.

A goal of mine for this blog is to review more nonfiction titles for children, especially since so many of my students love nonfiction books! We just finished our Water Cycle unit at school, so I’m so excited to take a look at Water Wow! from Annick Press Ltd.

Water Wow! is the type of book that will captivate students who love interesting facts. The book includes many pictures and graphics that make tricky water cycle concepts more concrete. Additionally, the text is clear and engaging.

I can absolutely predict which page of this book would be my students’ favorite. The “Extreme Weather” page includes fun facts about the driest place on earth, the only active undersea river, and more. Students would love seeing these pictures and sharing these fun facts.

With fascinating facts and detailed images, Water Wow! definitely deserves a place on classroom bookshelves.

Classroom Connections

There are many ways this book could be used as a resource in the classroom!

  • Before or during units on the water cycle, this book could be used for finding fun facts and activating student interest.
  • This text could be used as a mentor text for informational writing. Students could use the table of contents as an exemplar for how to organize ideas in a way that makes sense to readers.
  • In reading, this book could be used for a “scavenger hunt” of finding text features. The book includes headings, maps, captions, photographs, paragraph separations, and more.

Book Information
Title: Water Wow!
Authors: Paula Ayer and Antonia Banyard
Illustrator: Belle Wuthrich
Publisher: Annick Press Ltd.
Release Date: April 2016
Price: US $12.95
Source: NetGalley – Advanced Review Copy

Find this book on:
Annick Press Ltd.

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Annick Press Ltd. in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!