Polo Cowboy by G. Neri - a short review

When I finished Ghetto Cowboy I wanted to know more and I quickly looked up more information on the true story behind these novels. I imagine most adult readers did the same. But for kids, they just want a sequel – and now they have one – and it’s a good one! 
The story picks up where Ghetto Cowboy left off so readers are going to want to read it first to get the full back story of how Cole became a Ghetto Cowboy. Cole is a little older and much wiser in Polo Cowboy. He doesn’t want to go back to the way he was in the past, so knowing how he was is important to understand his further growth. This is a more mature story and includes a new female character that adds to Cole’s world (and growing up).                                                          

Much like Ghetto Cowboy, the polo depictions in Polo Cowboy are based on a real Philadelphia black polo organization. I think the fact that these entities exist not only help to ground the story, and make kids curious, but are an excellent opportunity for social studies discussions. I highly recommend both titles for classroom and library purchase in upper elementary and middle schools. 

Student readers who enjoy realistic fiction, coming of age, horses, and/or historically framed settings will enjoy this series.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
 Age: 10-14
 Pages: 288
Thank You: LibraryThing
Advisory: Some bad language, but not much and not too gratuitous 
Publisher: Candlewick
 Date: October 2021
 ISBN: 978-1536207118
 Themes: Coming of age, friendship, perseverance, 
 Character: Genuine and realistic
 Plot: Slow to start, must have read previous novel to fully appreciate.
Originality: Based on facts, but not much like it out there
Believability: 100%, very relatable
Diversity: Great representation of black organizations

Buy Polo Cowboy Here 

--------------- That's all folks! ---------------
Note: Website contains paid links

 © 2007-2022 Dr. Cheryl Vanatti, education & reading specialist writing at www.ReadingRumpus.com 

Nonfiction Biography Picture Books Extravaganza!

To Life!

It seems like more and more picture book biographies are springing up every year! This is not only GREAT for the rich diversity they add to children's literature, but also because so many children adore nonfiction. I remember there being so few quality nonfiction choices for my students when I started teaching (in the 90's people, I'm not THAT old yet).

Here's a round up of a few from the start of 2019...

What if Everybody Thought That? by Ellen Javernick with illustrations by Colleen Madden - a mini review

What If Everybody Thought That?
Publisher's Synopsis: "What if everybody were more thoughtful before they judged someone? If you see someone in a wheelchair, you might think he or she couldn’t compete in a race. But…you might be wrong. What if you see a child with no hair? Do you think she is embarrassed all the time? How about a kid who has a really hard time reading? Do you think that means he’s not smart? You might think so. But…you might be wrong. With clear prose and lighthearted artwork, this companion book to the bestseller What If Everybody Did That? explores the preconceived notions we have about the world and encourages kids to be more thoughtful."
My Two Cents: Third in a series intended to make kids think about their actions,

Astronuts Mission One: The Plant Planet by Jon Scieszka with illustrations by Steven Weinberg

Astronuts by Jon Scieszka
Publisher's Synopsis: “This laugh-out-loud, visually groundbreaking read launches a major new series by children's literature legend Jon Scieszka. Featuring full-color illustrations throughout, a spectacular gatefold, plus how-to-draw pages in the back, it's an outer space adventure that demonstrates a giant leap for bookmaking and a giant leap for any kid looking for their next go-to series. AstroWolf, LaserShark, SmartHawk, and StinkBug are animals that have been hybridized to find other planets for humans to live on once we've ruined Earth. So off they rocket to the Plant Planet! Will that planet support human life? Or do Plant Planet's inhabitants have a more sinister plan? AstroNuts Mission One is a can't-put-it-down page-turner for reluctant readers and fans ready to blast past Wimpy Kid.”

My Two Cents: I'm not sure that little old me has much to add to discussions of this great new title

Filigree's Midnight Ride - a mini book review

Filigree's Midnight Ride 
Publisher's Synopsis: "Join Filigree, a five-pound Pomeranian, as he stows away on Paul Revere’s midnight ride in this first book of the At the Heels of History series, inspired by important events and told through the eyes, ears, and noses of dogs.

Filigree may be a small puff of a Pomeranian but he has a big, brave heart. As the Revere family dog, he’s ready to do his part to help the American colonists stand up to the British soldiers. But the other dogs, like Jove, Sam Adams’s Newfoundland, and even the Revere cat, Anvil, think Filigree is a joke. The Reveres’ daughter Frances is the only one who believes in him.

When Frances’s father, Paul Revere, leaves home on a secret mission, Filigree and Frances know they have to help, no matter how dangerous it might be. Will a pint-sized pup just be in the way, or can Filigree prove that even a very small dog can fight for freedom?"

My Two Cents: Filigree's Midnight Ride is the first book of the At the Heels of History series, a fun premise where dogs tell historical tales (kinda' like the Wishbone Adventures series). Aside from that great angle,

Pirates Don't Go To Kindergarten! - Talk Like A Pirate Day is coming September 19th!...

Pirates Don't Go To Kindergarten!

Pirates Don't Go to Kindergarten! is a cute take on the transition from one grade to the next, Pre-K to K in this case. New Kindergartener Emma wants to stay in her pirate themed Pre-K classroom with her pirate Pre-K teacher. The kindergarten is space themed and Emma will have none of that! She knows the pirate lingo and trusts the pirate captain; she's not so sure about that new teacher. Great illustrations add to the telling with a play on reality/imagination done well. Some pirate lingo may need specific vocabulary instruction (see below) and lends this tale to first and second grade reads as well.

Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Estby Dagg - Book Review

Sweet Home Alaska
If good historical fiction is supposed to make us wonder about the people who lived during various points in history, then Sweet Home Alaska is certainly good. It had me, instantly upon closing the last page at 1:00 am, researching the Matanuska Valley Colony. I don’t have a vast knowledge of Roosevelt’s New Deal specifics, I just know that the vestiges can be seen in our public spaces and government programs.

A Word About Authentic Texts Used As Mentor Texts

Authentic Texts Are Best!
It occurred to me today that I assume those        reading my ramblings on Reading Rumpus simply know how to use authentic literature as mentor texts. That was an assumption I made whilst teaching preservice teachers last year - and it was a poor one. Therefore, I thought I should spend a moment talking about selecting authentic literature for instructional use and how most of my full book reviews (not the mini-reviews) include some sort of authentic text teaching ideas, even if I haven't explained HOW to use them as such.

SumoKitty written and illustrated by David Biedrzycki

“Fall down seven times; get up eight” is one of many witty quotes that highlight the central theme of SumoKitty written and illustrated by David Biedrzycki. Written as an ode to tenacity, SumoKitty is both witty and instructive for young folks facing adversity. The humor is subtle, played out through a big, strong sumo wrestler being afraid of mice while his friend, the Kitty, gets a little too comfortable, forgetting the job of a cat.

Between humor and wit, SumoKitty is a tale completely filled with new vocabulary opportunities, both English and Japanese. Children will love learning all the Japanese sumo wrestling terms while expanding their English vocabulary. Contractions are a prominent feature within the written structure and offer older children a chance to practice their usage.

Max Attacks by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Penelope Dullaghan - book review & teaching ideas

I'm a dog person. Sorry cat folks. My adult children have five cats between them, and I appreciate my grandcats, but I own two doggies: Jebediah Peabody. & Annie Roo.

Here they are:

Nighttime Symphony by Timbaland with art by Christopher Myers and Kaa Illustration - mini book review

Publisher's Synopsis: "The sounds of the city at night create a lively lullaby in this melodious bedtime story from superstar producer and musician Timbaland, Caldecott Honor–winning illustrator Christopher Myers, and Kaa Illustration!
As a little boy gets ready for bed, the sounds of a wild storm echo around him, lulling him to sleep. From the crash of thunder to the pitter-patter of raindrops to the beat of passing cars, the music of the city creates a cozy bedtime soundtrack."

My Two Cents:
Nighttime Symphony is more than another sweet, lyrical bedtime story, it is an ode to fatherhood.

If I Was the Sunshine by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Loren Long

Publisher's Synopsis: "A breathtaking picture book about the relationships we share from New York Times bestselling storytellers Julie Fogliano and Loren Long in the tradition of The Runaway Bunny and Guess How Much I Love You....
Through clever, thought-provoking verse and warmly evocative art, New York Times bestsellers Julie Fogliano and Loren Long explore the awe-inspiring nature of relationships, love, and connection."

My Two Cents: If I Was the Sunshine is one of those books that begs you to pick it up. The typography, the pastel colors, the title….  All done with an artistic swoosh that begs you to grab it. That’s what I did as soon as my library acquired it. And, I am glad.

Where the Heart Is by Jo Knowles - mini book review

Publisher’s Synopsis: "It’s the first day of summer and Rachel's thirteenth birthday. She can't wait to head to the lake with her best friend, Micah. But as summer unfolds, every day seems to get more complicated. Her “fun” new job taking care of the neighbors’ farm animals quickly becomes a challenge, whether she’s being pecked by chickens or having to dodge a charging pig at feeding time. At home, her parents are more worried about money than usual, and their arguments over bills intensify. Fortunately, Rachel can count on Micah to help her cope with all the stress. But Micah seems to want their relationship to go beyond friendship, and though Rachel almost wishes for that, too, she can’t force herself to feel “that way” about him. In fact, she isn’t sure she can feel that way about any boy — or what that means. With all the heart of her award-winning novel See You At Harry's, Jo Knowles brings us the story of a girl who must discover where her heart is and what that means for her future."

My Two Cents: Where the Heart Is by Jo Knowles is a solidly written realistic tale told from the viewpoint of a young girl struggling to figure out her own sexuality against the backdrop of her parent’s financial struggle. Typical middle grade feelings , worries, and even some joys fill the pages. Many tweens will find this a good read and appreciate the writer's firm grasp of middle grade concerns. Where the Heart Is is rightfully getting lots of good bibliophile buzz.