Review: The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

The Invisible Boy The Invisible Boy
by Trudy Ludwig

ISBN-13: 9781582464503
Published: October 8, 2013 from Alfred A. Knopf
Purchased by my school
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party… until, that is, a new kid comes to class.

When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine.

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The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig is a sweet book about what it means to acknowledge others. I love reading this one to my students early in the year as we often refer to it as conflicts arise in the classroom. Every year, a student makes connections to the beginning of the book when it talks about students who talk loudly, or misbehave, or are silly, etc. taking up most of the teacher’s time and other students not being noticed because of it.

Students notice how Brian is faded and colourless in the beginning, but slowly changes to full colour as he is “seen” by Justin. We have discussions around how it only takes one person to make another feel happy and confident, and included. We talk about reaching out past our current friends to find someone knew, who they may not have thought to play with.

It’s a powerful story with beautiful illustrations and definitely belongs in every classroom!

Waiting On Wednesday: Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar

Waiting On Wednesday New

“Waiting On” Wednesday was originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine and is being continued through Can’t Wait Wednesdays at Wishful Endings.

Star Daughter Star Daughter
by Shveta Thakrar
Publication date: August 20, 2020

The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. Pretending to be “normal.” But when an accidental flare of her starfire puts her human father in the hospital, Sheetal needs a full star’s help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago.

Sheetal’s quest to save her father will take her to a celestial court of shining wonders and dark shadows, where she must take the stage as her family’s champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of the heavens–and win, or risk never returning to Earth at all.

This gorgeously imagined YA debut blends shades of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and a breathtaking landscape of Hindu mythology into a radiant contemporary fantasy.

Review: Home Made Summer by Yvette van Boven

Home Made Summer Home Made Summer
by Yvette van Boven

ISBN-13: 9781617690150
Published: May 14, 2012 by Harry N. Abrams
Received at Book Expo America 2012

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In a small change of pace, I wanted to take a look at a cookbook today! Now, cookbooks are a funny thing for me because I don’t love to cook. In fact I often try to avoid it and always end up making the same kind of meals over and over again because they’re easy, quick and simple. But I love to bake and I love cookbooks. I always look through them and dream about all the meals I’ll make and then…never do. Home Made Summer has taken me 8 years to review for precisely that reason. I picked this gorgeous cookbook up at BEA 2012 because during an initial flip through the pictures were beautiful, the recipes well laid out and I saw some foods I thought I’d love to try. At home, the book ended up on a shelf and wasn’t touched. Why? Seafood. A lot of seafood. Many of the main course recipes call for some form of seafood and I don’t eat fish. Or shellfish. Nothing from the sea. I didn’t dive deeper into the book, until this year (thank you quarantine) when I was cleaning out my recipe books and decided to browse this one again before deciding if I should donate it. I’m so glad I did (and didn’t donate!).

Peach tartMany of the main course recipes still intimidate me, either because of their use of seafood or some more obscure ingredients that I feel must be more prevalent in European grocery stores than Canadian ones, but the desserts – oh the desserts! Remember how I just said I don’t like cooking, but I love to bake? Oh I love to bake, and this cookbook has some beautiful sweet recipes in it. First up was the peach tart. This is honestly the most simple pie I have ever made. No pie pan needed, no finicky crust or complicated filling. All you need is a food processor, peaches, sugar and a pan. The crust is made directly in the food processor and chilled for half an hour. The peaches are sliced, mixed with sugar and left to sit for half an hour. Then you roll out the dough, pour on the peaches, fold up the sides of the dough and bake. So simple! And amazingly delicious. I have a new pie crust recipe now! This one is perfect. I’ve included a picture of my second tart, with some sprinkled icing sugar on top (and served with vanilla ice cream). Just made my third peach tart tonight! As my fiance said after the first one: “We could have been having this the whole time we’ve lived together? What other cookbooks are you hiding?”

Strawberry ShortcakeThe second recipe I tried is one of my all time favourite desserts: strawberry shortcake. I love strawberry shortcake so much. I like it with biscuits, I like it with pound cake, I like it as a cake, I just like it all ways. So of course I had to try Yvette van Boven’s version. And it’s my new fav. The biscuits (scones) are slightly crunchy on the outside like a traditional tea biscuit but the inside is almost like a cake. They are delicious! Served with whipped cream and sugared strawberries this dessert is a must have for any BBQ, party, Friday afternoon – you know, whenever. I’ve made this twice so far this July. This recipe is simple as well; the dough uses a food processor and the strawberries are just sliced and mixed with sugar. I wish I had thought of using a food processor for simple doughs before this; it’s a time saver.

My fiance wants to try the beef stew recipe, and I’m excited to attempt the pumpkin fritters. So while I haven’t found a ton of recipes in this book to try, the breakfast and cake sections, as well as the drinks, have some winners and there are a couple mains that I think are worth an attempt.

As for the layout of the book itself, the pictures are beautiful and the anecdotes that accompany the recipes are fun. I did find the background colour of some of the handwritten recipes hard to see – for example the strawberry shortcake recipe is “handwritten” on a dark red background with black font. For someone with bad eyesight like myself, it’s a bad combination. I wrote it onto a recipe card so I wouldn’t strain my eyes each time I want to make it. Some of the recipes have very small, crowded font, like for the eclairs and macarons. Overall, this is a beautiful example of a cookbook, with a fair range of recipes. Especially if you enjoy seafood, vegetables and cake. And who doesn’t like cake?

Review: A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold

A Boy Called Bat A Boy Called Bat
by Elana K. Arnold

ISBN-13: 9780062445827
Published: March 14, 2017 by Walden Pond Press
Purchased by me from the Scholastic Book Order
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises — some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat’s mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter.

But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he’s got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet.

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A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold is a sweet story about a boy and his skunk. Yup, his skunk. Bat’s mother is a vet, and brings home a baby skunk to look after. Bat is enthralled and sets out to convince his mom that they should keep the skunk instead of send it to a wild-animal shelter.

I loved this little family. Bat is a great narrator; as a person on the autism spectrum he has a unique way of interacting with the world and people around him (especially with his sister, and classmates) that shines through in his narration. Bat uses all of his incredible research ability and love of animals to learn about skunks, reach out to an expert, and convince his mom that a baby skunk can have a future as his pet.

My students and I had thoughtful conversations about wild versus domestic animals, skunks, research, and Bat himself. This was a perfect book to read as a lead in to our animal research projects – the duo who chose skunks was particularly invested in their project! A Boy Called Bat is a fun and interesting read aloud, and has two sequels that continue Bat’s story: Bat and the Waiting Game and Bat and the End of Everything.

Saturday Spotlight: Marie-Louise Gay

Saturday Spotlight

Marie Louise gay Marie-Louise Gay is a Canadian children’s book author and illustrator living in Montreal, Quebec. She has written and illustrated over 20 books for children and her website (http://marielouisegay.com) includes overviews of each of her stories, videos, resources for teachers, printables, and more.

I was very fortunate to hear her speak last October at a Professional Development conference on literature; she offered wonderful insight into her process and how teachers can encourage writing in the classroom. For today’s spotlight I am going to highlight my favourite Marie-Louise Gay books to use in the classroom: Mustafa and the Stella and Sam series. I’ve been using the Stella books for the last four years, but Mustafa is a new addition to my mentor text collection.

Mustafa Mustafa is a beautiful picture book about a young boy who moves to a new country from a home very far away. The illustrations tell the story as much as the words do, and start “before” the story begins. Mustafa’s story is about loss, hope, friendship and new beginnings. This is a perfect picture book for children to connect to who speak a different language, who have moved to a new place or who are refugees. It also helps children who have not experienced these things to connect with their peers who have, and their experiences. My students and I have had fantastic conversations about what the see in the illustrations, about how everyone is different and how we should treat others, and the amazing connections they are able to make to Mustafa and his journey.

Stella There are six Stella books and three Sam books in this lovely series about a brother and sister exploring the world around them. Stella is Sam’s big sister, and she knows everything! As they explore, Sam asks Stella all the questions. Stella answers them – whether she knows the “right” answer or not. Stella is brave, outgoing and adventurous; Sam is cautious, curious and while less outgoing then Stella, he still follows her. These books are perfect to use in lessons about questioning and imaginative writing. We always have great discussions about Stella’s answers to Sam’s questions!