Tuesday

Eraser by Anna Kang with illustrations by Christopher Weyant

Publisher's Synopsis: "Eraser is always cleaning up everyone else’s mistakes. Except for Ruler and Pencil Sharpener, none of the other school supplies seem to appreciate her. They all love how sharp Pencil is and how Tape and Glue help everyone stick together. Eraser wants to create so that she can shine like the others. She decides to give it a try, but it’s not until the rubber meets the road that Eraser begins to understand a whole lot about herself."

My Two Cents: Honestly, those little pink erasers have always been a forgotten tool in my classroom; the idea of a little under-appreciated eraser is quite on point! 
Time for school supplies = colorful pens, shiny new crayons, sharp pencils, full glue sticks, and white stacks of crisp paper. Eraser is a very creative idea, executed wonderfully with fun puns and engaging illustrations. It's a great opportunity to teach that mistakes are not only acceptable, but expected - teachers give you a special tool for them after all!

Monday

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier

Publisher's Synopsis: "It's been five years since the Sweep disappeared. Orphaned and alone, Nan Sparrow had no other choice but to work for a ruthless chimney sweep named Wilkie Crudd. She spends her days sweeping out chimneys. The job is dangerous and thankless, but with her wits and will, Nan has managed to beat the deadly odds time and time again.

When Nan gets stuck in a chimney fire, she fears the end has come. Instead, she wakes to find herself unharmed in an abandoned attic. And she is not alone. Huddled in the corner is a mysterious creature—a golem—made from soot and ash. 

Sweep is the story of a girl and her monster. Together, these two outcasts carve out a new life—saving each other in the process. Lyrically told by one of today's most powerful storytellers, Sweep is a heartrending adventure about the everlasting gifts of friendship and wonder."

I'm just going to say it plain and simple...........  I LOVED Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster! There is just so much right about this tale: excellent writing, well-blended mix of history and fantasy, alternating perspective chapters, an endearing protagonist and her sweetly innocent monster. ALL of it is near perfection for the age range. I am even going to go out on a limb and name it a Newbery contender. 

Wednesday

The Affective Jacob's Ladder Reading Comprehension Program

I was given a copy of Affective Jacob's Ladder Reading Comprehension Program Grades 4-5 through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers. This was my first exposure to this particular reading curriculum which was developed by the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary. There are many grade ranges in the series, but this book appears to be the first that aims to broaden a student’s affective/social-emotional intelligence whilst also increasing reading comprehension (as appears the sole target of other books in the series). As full disclosure warrants, I must mention that my scholarly experiences do not lean toward the gifted/talented student; I have MUCH more experiences with struggling comprehenders. However, I must argue that many of the strategies employed by teachers of such labelled students are good strategies for ALL students, and I found that to be the case with this curriculum.

 This is a very mixed review. I liked the curriculum, found it to be a useful tool, but there always seemed to be a qualifier as I was writing what I liked about it.

Tuesday

Toaff's Way by Cynthia Voigt

Publisher's Synopsis: "Meet Toaff: a lovable squirrel, and new standout character, searching for a place to call home in this gem of a story by a Newbery Medal-winning author. Toaff is a small squirrel full of big questions. Why must I stay away from the human's house? Why shouldn't I go beyond the pine trees? Why do we fight with the red squirrels across the drive? His sister shrugs--that's just the way things are. His brother bullies--because I said so. And the older squirrels scold--too many questions! Can Toaff really be the only one to wonder why? When a winter storm separates him from his family, Toaff must make his own way in the world. It's a world filled with danger--from foxes and hawks and cats to cars and chainsaws. But also filled with delight--the dizzying scent of apple blossoms, the silvery sound of singing, the joy of leaping so far you're practically flying. Over the course of a year, Toaff will move into (and out of) many different dreys and dens, make some very surprising friends (and a few enemies), and begin to answer his biggest questions--what do I believe and where do I belong? Master storyteller Cynthia Voigt offers readers a rich and rewarding story of finding one's way in the world."

My Two Cents: I think maybe Kirkus reviews hit the nail on the head best when describing Toaff's Way as, "A brilliant, bushy-tailed bildungsroman." This coming-of-age story has A LOT of great stuff going for it: inviting chapter transitions, suspense, new and interesting creature characters, changing seasons to change the setting, cute little drawings, and an extremely likable protagonist. It is a super read-aloud choice for 1st - 3rd grade, but I think strong 2nd grade, and average 3rd - 4th grade readers will also enjoy this title for independent reading very much.