Freaky Monday by Mary Rodgers & Heather Hach - Book Review

Freaky Monday is exactly what you think it is: a new novel by the author of the classic Freaky Friday, a novel that’s been read and viewed by a generation. The author, Mary Rodgers, gives us the same switcheroo as executed wonderfully in her classic. However, this time the switch happens between a bright, but aloof, student and her wacky, unconventional teacher. Both stand at important events when the switch happens and they learn to appreciate not only their own lot in life, but the lot of the other.

Writing a sequel or companion piece is always an uphill battle. If the original work is a classic, the hill looks more like a mountain. While Freaky Monday is a pleasant enough tale, with several moments of amusing plotting, it’s really just an attempted mimic of the original. The pop culture references have been updated (which might only serve to date the story later) and the protagonists fit modern ideals, but it’s all a bit tired. Freaky Monday suffers from not being a unique enough concept. If the author had chosen to really change the premise, sort of how she did in Freaky Friday's sequel, A Billion for Boris, perhaps it might have worked better. But, while the author is a fine writer, the story failed to engage this reader to the degree the original did.

However, there's certainly some students out there who might not have read, nor seen, the original. Since the writing and execution are still fine, they may enjoy the updated pop culture setting and humor of this one. As far as comparative study goes, they're probably far too close for that sort of lesson to work.

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Genre: Speculative Fiction. Age: 9-12. Pages: 192.

Themes: Overcoming Adversity, Humor, Empathy
Thank you to Harper Collins. Read from an advanced copy.
Publisher: Harper Collins. Date: May 2009.
ISBN-10: 0061664782 / ISBN-13: 978-0061664786

Buy Freaky Monday Here

Author Mary Rodgers lives in New York City whereas co-writer Heather Hach (no photo, sorry) lives in Hollywood, California. It must have been a stretch co-writing this novel (awful pun, I know). The first Freaky book has been made into two movies. Ms. Hach wrote the screenplay for the second one.

© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for

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My Favorite Picture Books

Oh, the drama. The worry. The pinched brow, lost in deep thought. The putting this post off until the last moment hoping that wisdom would flood my soul and enlighten my keyboard. School Library Journal’s Elizabeth Bird asked me (well, all of us) for my top ten list of picture books. How!?! Just ten? And in order?

My initial list was forty-two. I had to devise a system to order them, to determine which was the most important. Important? To whom?

To me. These are my PERSONAL favorites (with reasoning duly noted):

1. Where the Wild Things Are: written & illustrated by Maurice Sendak
I did name this site after it, after all! The message is so much sweeter when it’s subtle. Look for this one to win. We all see its genius, even if Sendak cannot.
Favorite passage: “and it was still hot.”

2. Olivia: written & illustrated by Ian Falconer
I love this girl. I collect this girl. The epitome of girl power!
Favorite passage: “ When they’ve finished reading, Olivia’s mother gives her a kiss and says, 'You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.' And Olivia gives her a kiss back and says, 'I love you anyway too.'”

3. Possum Come A-Knockin': written by Nancy Van Laan & illustrated by George Booth

Great rhyming tale about a family from my neck of the woods. I LOVE to read this book aloud with my Hoosier twang in full glory.
Favorite passage: “ And I was just a sittin’
And a lookin’ out the winder
When I saw what I saw
Scoot up the old oak tree.”

4. Elizabeth and Larry: written by Marilyn Sadler & illustrated by Roger Bollen

Why is this one is out of print!?! It's soooo timely, cute and heartwarming. I just can’t understand. An amazing, witty story of acceptance and friendship.
Favorite Passage: ”They talked for hours over tea and told each other things they had never told anyone.”

5. Dogzilla: by Dav Pilkey
Way before he diverged into potty town, Pilkey made a spoof movie (in book form) filled with puns. Great teaching tool. Funny clever, not funny stupid. Makes you forgive underpants.
Favorite Passage: “The Big Cheese tried to catch up to the hot dog with all the relish he could muster.”

6. Toot & Puddle: I'll Be Home for Christmas: written & illustrated by Hollie Hobby
One of my favorite Christmas songs made even better by two adorable pig friends (one’s an adventurer, one’s a homebody). Can you tell I have a thing for pigs?
Favorite Passage: “ Toot told his friend of his adventure and how he finally got back to Woodcock Pocket. ‘I loved the sleigh ride,’ he said. ‘ It felt like we were flying.’ ‘I wonder who the driver was,’ said Puddle.”

7. Escape of Marvin the Ape: written by Caralyn Buehner & illustrated by Mark Buehner
A surprise ending, an ape with manners & charm, hidden cats & bunnies! This simple book is anything but.
Favorite passage: “Feeling rather hungry, Marvin stopped for a bite. ‘Ah, the Jungle Fruit Platter,’ said the waiter. ‘An excellent choice!’”

My final three books will not feature personal photos because I no longer own them. My children have taken them, along with my heart, into adulthood. I am choosing them purely for  personal reasons; only remember them as emotion and not as writing or illustration.

8. Just Grandma and Me: written & illustrated by Mercer Mayer
For my oldest son (age 27). He loved all the Little Critter books and records (yes, little 45s were included with the books in the 80's & I can still sing the accompanying song!) I chose this particular one because as Grandma & Critter sit on their beach towel, a crab runs up and clicks his claws. I can still picture my son's surprise-filled toddler face every single time that crab appeared.

9. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales: written & illustrated by Jon Scieszka
For my daughter (age 25). She loved this story for its play on fairy tales and rollicking silliness. She liked being ‘in’ on the joke and was never a happily-ever-after sort of gal. She read it into teen-dom and, in fact, may still be reading it while attending veterinary med. school.

10.Moon Mouse : written & illustrated by Adelaide Holl - (also out of print). For my youngest son (age 21). He was enamored with the moon from birth. His first word, after Mama & Dada was, “Moon.” I think he really thought that one day he might climb a ladder to the moon himself!

As I planned this post I fell in love all over again. Thank you, Ms. Bird, for this great idea!
© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for

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Every Human Has Rights: A Photographic Declaration for Kids - Book Review & Discussion Questions

The idea for Every Human Has Rights: What You Need to Know About Your Human Rights grew out of National Geographic’s involvement with a group of statesmen, The Elders and an online writing project through ePals. The book is based on The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a 1948 United Nations document illustrating 30 rights and freedoms that all humans inalienably possess. The declaration was written in the wake of WWII with the hope that the unimaginable things that had happened would never happen again.

There are three things I'd like to discuss about Every Human Has Rights: What You Need to Know About Your Human Rights: the textual layout, the writing, and the ideas as applied to the classroom.

Each section of Every Human Has Rights: What You Need to Know About Your Human Rights contains a simplified statement of one of the thirty articles of the declaration, an ePals contest winner’s poem, and captioned photographs illustrating the right/freedom. It is a visually pleasing and learning conducive layout that works wonderfully. The end includes an appendix of great resources and especially enjoyable mini-biographies for each of the ePals child poets.

Where Every Human Has Rights: What You Need to Know About Your Human Rights falters is with the writing. The captions for the photographs are most times unbiased, but there were a few that seemed controversial to the point of being antagonistic. Examples? A young black man gaining respect by joining a gang? Free Cuban education held up without acknowledgment of brainwashing within that education system? Violence against women in US is COMMON? Using a wall of graffiti as an example of speaking out in a community? These poor examples could have easily been rewritten and I wondered why, considering all the people involved with this book, they weren’t better edited.

That being said, Every Human Has Rights: What You Need to Know About Your Human Rights offers tremendous potential for classroom use. Each declaration is a lesson waiting to happen, a fantastic discussion lingering on the lips as you read. There are so many dynamics (political, cultural, legal, personal) to ponder with secondary students. While an upper elementary student might be able to begin considering human rights, the depth of understanding needed to consider the ideals advocated in Every Human Has Rights are best left for secondary students.

Even though there are some faltering moments requiring extra discussion, I think most dedicated educators, willing to provoke in-depth discussions with their students, will find Every Human Has Rights: What You Need to Know About Your Human Rights a great addition to their classroom.

Recommended for elementary libraries and secondary libraries and classrooms.

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Genre: Nonfiction. Age: Middle Grades & High School. Pages: 48.
Themes: Dignity, Equality, Life, Freedom, Safety, Respect, Justice, Protection, Privacy, Movement & Refuge, nationality, Marriage, Property, Religion, Expression, Assembly, Social Security, Democracy, Work, Leisure & Health, Education, Participation, Peace, Responsibilty, Future.
Thank you to The Picnic Basket.
Publisher: National Geographic Children. Date: November 2008.
ISBN-10: 1426305117 / ISBN-13: 978-1426305115
Buy Every Human Has Rights: What You Need to Know About Your Human Rights Here

Here are some discussion questions I wrote while reading the book. They are divided according to the book format:

1. Dignity: What is dignity? How do we strip others of their dignity? How does the poem relate to dignity? (discussion of women’s rights)

2. Equality: What does one do to earn respect? Can you use force to gain respect? How is religion tied to equality? Gender? Etc…. (discussion of racial & religious rights)

3. Life: What does it mean to be free? To be safe? How can the Cuban government, a dictatorship, use education as a way to suppress the people? (discussion of government power vs. will of the people)

4. Freedom: Why do humans use another human as a slave? How can a human break free from the bonds of slavery? (discussion of child labor)

5. Safety: Do you think violence is ever a means to en end? How do the works of people like Ghandi and King show that nonviolence can be used as a method for change? What is the difference between ‘punish you too severely” and a fair punishment for criminals? (discussion on violence & preying on the weak)

6. Respect: Why do we sometimes forget to see each other as all human? How can one human hurt another human without remorse? What is the difference between feeling prejudice and acting to harm someone based on that prejudice? Is there a difference? (discussion on the Holocaust & genocide)

7. Justice: How do money, power and influence affect a legal system? (discussion of criminals and cruel & unusual punishment vs. safety of public)

8,9,10,11. Protection: Why must a society have rules? Who decides the rules? What is a fair trail? Why is ‘innocent until proven guilty’ so important to a fair legal system? (discussion of a fair legal system & recent developments with DNA testing)

12. Privacy: What is slander? When does the public safety and security override personal freedom? Does having security cameras help to solve crimes? Does having security measures make you feel safer? (1984 example, discussion of Patriot Act)

13, 14. Movement & Refuge : Why would a person need to move? Why would a person ask to leave their country? Does a person have the right to return to a country if he/she has broken its laws? What is globalization? How is it affecting economies and people’s ability to obtain free living? (discussion on globalization, refugees and a world market)

15. Nationality: What is a national identity? Why are people proud of their country, sometimes even when their country does things to be ashamed of? Why do people like displaying flags and cheering for sports teams? (discussipn of patriotism, community and culture)

16. Marriage: Why do humans seek a mate? What is an arranged marriage? Is this cultural practice an infringement on an individual’s right? Who has the right to get married? (discussion on gay marriage & cultural customs of marriage)

17. Property: What are squatter’s rights? Does the government have a right to evict someone if they need the land for the good of all? Who should be able to own property? (discussion of female land laws & environmental issues and laws vs. personal property)

18. Religion: Why do people fight over religion? Why do you think it’s so important for people to believe that their religion is the ‘right’ one? Should religious views have a place in government? (discussion of separation of church & state)

19, 20. Expression & Assembly: Why is it important for people to be able to say what they feel? When does law enforcement have the right to intervene in a demonstration? Should there be laws governing morality in art? (discussion on freedom of speech, freedom of the press)

21. Democracy: How does politics sometimes lead to an abuse of power? How does a democracy help to dissuade abuse of power? Why do you think people want to run for political office? Can one vote really make a difference? What if you lost that right to vote, have your opinion counted? (discussion of various forms of government & what constitutes a free and fair election)

22. Social Security: Do we have a responsibility to take care of our fellow citizens when they are unable to care for themselves? What constitutes being unable to care for one’s self? At what point is someone abusing the social system? (discussion on social services, mental illness, addiction, responsibility to the infirm & small)

23, 24, 25. Work, Leisure & Health: Why do we have a minimum wage? What is workplace discrimination? Why is time away from working important to humans? In a country as wealthy as America, why do we still have hungry citizens? (discussion on sexual harassment & broken healthcare system)

26, 27, 28. Education, Participation, Peace: Why is it important for a person to have an education? Why would a government (the people) want everyone to have an education? Why would they NOT want it? Why is a peaceful existence important to humans? What must it be like to live in fear? Why is it important for everyone to be able to participate in the human experience?(discussion on free vs. private education & humans with disabilities equality & peace vs. fear)

29. Responsibility: How can we make our needs known without infringing on another’s needs? Why should we protect the rights of others? (discussion on free will vs. egotistical taking of so much as to negate rights of another & difficulty between pride and accountability)

30. Future: What are the many ways that someone can have their future stolen from them? How can someone steal the futures from themselves? What does inalienable mean? Which things are inalienable? (discussion on self-worth and goal setting)

Easily 3 weeks of social studies discussions in one book!

A final personal thought and one more discussion activity: I was listening to an NPR show where the guest was speaking about human suffering in various parts of the world. A caller phoned in to say that we should first help the poor people here in the United Sates. This caused a debate as to who is really poor. After all, Americans have many blessings that other countries lack: everyone gets an education, there’s places to get free food, drinking water is safe,...... This was the question nagging me as I finished Every Human Has Rights: What You Need to Know About Your Human Rights. At what point does degree of suffering trump suffering? Isn’t a person in need the same? Why must it be quantified? How does our ‘one tiny drop’ make a difference? This would make an excellent high order thinking discussion for high school students. An educator could start it off with this:

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” - Mother Teresa

Every Human Has Rights - Campaign Highlights from Every Human Has Rights on Vimeo.

Want to get involved? Here's the Every Human Has Rights Site
© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for

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