Family Money


Family Money
By William Whitehead (Author) and Mark Beech (Illustrator)

Booktalk: How does a family get and spend its money? Just time for the back-to-school spending, this book looks at many of the expenses families have and how money is spent on utilities, services, health, food, transportation, and more. The concepts of budgeting, borrowing, spending, fiscal responsibility, and financial literacy are discussed in an easy to understand, accessible manner.


Money Talk
How many times have you heard your dad or mom say there’s just not enough money to do this or that? They just can’t afford it! The subject of money and how it’s spent is always around because it’s money that buys everything a family needs. And this matters to you in a lot of ways.

Why do families talk about money so much?
Very simply–it’s money that decides the comfort and the way in which you live. Money gets talked about a lot because whether there’s enough or not enough, everyone in the family seems to need some.

Six Traits Mini Lesson

Trait: Organization This short excerpt from the first page of the book has a chapter title and a subhead (both shown here in bold). These nonfiction text features help organize the ideas in a book.

The chapter title shows readers an overview of the topics that will be discussed.

Money Talk

Under the chapter title, the topic is introduced:

How many times have you heard your dad or mom say there’s just not enough money to do this or that? They just can’t afford it! The subject of money and how it’s spent is always around because it’s money that buys everything a family needs. And this matters to you in a lot of ways.

The rest of the chapter will add more details. These details are divided into smaller sections. Each small section of text will also have a title, called a subhead.

Why do families talk about money so much?

This subhead asks a question. The text below the subhead answers the question, giving the book a “question and answer” organizational pattern.

Very simply–it’s money that decides the comfort and the way in which you live. Money gets talked about a lot because whether there’s enough or not enough, everyone in the family seems to need some.

Find more booktalks with writing mini lessons on the Writing Lessons blog.

Nonfiction Monday

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Symphony for the City of the Dead


Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson. Grades 9+ Candlewick Press, September 2015. 464 pages.

Did you know that 27 million Soviet citizens died during World War II, more than the total dead of all other nations combined? And a chunk of that huge death toll came from the Siege of Leningrad. Leningrad (now called St. Petersburg) is one of Russia’s largest cities, and during WWII, the Nazi army blockaded the city, cutting off all supply routes. Rather than risk the lives of German soldiers, the Nazis let Leningrad slowly starve and freeze to death.

When you have no food, no fuel, no way out, and the temperature is 40 below, what keeps you alive? What do you have to cling to? One thing the citizens of Leningrad had was music.

Is a symphony enough to save a city? Shostakovich thought it might be.

This is an amazing book and I can’t stop singing its praises. It’s at once a fascinating biography of a man growing up under Stalin’s Great Purge, a riveting World War II action story, and a testament to the power of music.

Visit my blog for a book talk, review, and readalikes of Symphony for the City of the DeadThe book will be out on September 22 – don’t miss it!


Brain Games

Brain Games

written by Jennifer Swanson

2015 (National Geographic Kids)

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Your brain is the most complex supercomputer on the planet. It’s a compass, a storehouse, and a time machine all rolled into one.

My youngest daughter enjoys the television show Brain Games on the National Geographic Channel. It’s a reality show that uses interactive games to teach you about the brain. With the success of this show and Pixar’s Inside Out, a lot of people have the brain on the brain. But do you know how the brain works? I have some basic knowledge, but not much beyond that. With this kids companion to Brain Games, I can be an expert. It is a thorough treatment of all the connections and functions that our brains have. Understanding the science of the brain is a challenging matter, but author Jennifer Swanson makes it easier by introducing sections with games that are what you would see on the television show. This gives you a connection for the hard science that follows in the section titled What Exactly is Happening. Pretty neat trick. You also get fun facts that illuminate the information presented. For example, in the section on neural pathways and how the brain makes our senses work, you learn in a sidebar how king snakes can hear sounds by feeling vibrations in their jaws. I also understand my two dogs much better now that I have read the sidebar about the importance of smell to my canine critters. Another engaging section of the book are the brain breaks. Appearing at the end of each chapter, these are mostly visual cranium contests that students will enjoy. I would put individual brain breaks on a SmartBoard and have the class try and solve them. Two more challenges are also included with the back matter.

When a student talks about their brain hurting, you can now ask “Left side or right side?” “Your hypothalamus or your frontal cortex?” If you want to be a true brainiac, pick up a copy of Brain Games.

#kidlit101 Nonfiction Board Book


It’s the first day of school here, so I am starting a new #kidlit101 series on my Writing Lessons blog. I’ll be updating the Writing Children’s Books class that I used to teach at SMU and turning it into a book. Each week the #kidlit101 series will examine a new book in a different genre: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. As the weeks go by in this fall semester, we’ll grow with our young readers and move up from board books to YA, the books for young adults. Let’s begin . . .

What is a Board Book?

Board books for babies are named for their appearance. The pages of these first books are printed on thick boards with rounded edges and UV coating. Babies explore their world by tasting it. Yes, they put everything in their mouths. A UV coated book with thick washable pages (and no sharp edges) is a perfect match for this age.

Book Page Names

Board book pages are not usually numbered, so let’s use the printing terms to talk about what goes where. The front of a sheet of paper is called a leaf or a recto. In a book this sheet of paper is bound as the page on the right. The right hand page is the recto page.

The back of that page is the reverse, so it is called the reverso. Over the years that term has been shorted to verso. When a book is open, the page on the left is called the verso page. Together, the verso page (on the left) and the recto page (on the right) make up a book spread. A book spread is two facing pages.

Nonfiction Board Book

Most board books for babies are nonfiction books. They don’t have a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Instead, these board books have page after page of pictures with labels.

These pictures help the children learn language skills. As they “read” these books over and over again with their caregivers, infants see these common objects and hear their names. As they grow from infants to toddlers, children learn to say they names they hear and that leads to the recognition that print has meaning.


My First ABC (My 1st Board Book)
By DK Children

The alphabet is a common topic for very young nonfiction books. This nonfiction board book, My First ABC, is illustrated in the signature DK style with full color photographs on a white background.

On the book cover the title is placed above the photograph of a shiny red apple. And unlike the spelling used here (and the one used in the cataloging) the letters in the title are all lower case. So it reads: my first a b c (without any commas).

Inside the Book


The first spread inside the book is devoted to the letter A. This is the standard “one idea per page” pattern used in nonfiction for younger readers. The letters Aa are in the upper left, using the Western left to right and top to bottom reading pattern.

Under the Aa, there are three full color photos with labels on the left (verso) page. The first is the traditional apple from the book cover. But the other two photos are not traditional at all. The second photo shows two brown acorns on a twig. The third is an abacus with a hundred beads. The colors of the abacus beads change in each descending row just like a color wheel, adding another element for parents to talk about as children grow older.

On the facing (recto) page there are three labels: airplane, ants, and armadillo. The airplane is quite large, but the page is not to scale. The line of ants marching underneath the airplane takes up almost as much space on the page. At the bottom of the page is an armadillo.


On the next book is the next letter of the alphabet. Under the Bb on the left (verso) page, there are four full color photos with labels:


And on the right (the recto) page are five full color photos with labels:


Like the Aa page the photos on this Bb page show objects from real life in many colors and sizes. And so it goes as the pages turn from Aa to Zz. With one letter per book spread, there are lots of new photos to show.

Give Me Five!

Each book has different goals. There are different criteria for books at each age level, in each genre, and for each topic. What goals did this book meet?

My First ABC (My 1st Board Book) by DK:

  1. Has one idea per page
  2. To teach the alphabet
  3. With bright full color photos
  4. Of everyday objects a child knows
  5. And new objects to learn about

Now It’s Your Turn!

Is this the right genre for you? Consider your goals and your skill set. A nonfiction board book names items in the real world. The words in these books act as labels. They help children learn new words. If you are a photographer or an illustrator, this genre may be a place to showcase your skills.

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

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Ballerina Dreams: The Story of Michaela DePrince

This week at Wrapped in Foil blog we are featuring children’s books about African-American ballerinas.

Today’s pick is Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Dancer (Step Into Reading, Step 4) by Michaela DePrince, Elaine Deprince, and illustrated by Frank Morrison.


Left an orphan in war-torn Sierra Leone, Michaela suffered bullying because she had a skin condition. While still at the orphanage, however, Michaela found a photograph of a ballerina in a magazine and it made such an impression on her that she carried it with her wherever she went. After Michaela and her friend Mia were adopted by Elaine DePrince and moved to America, her new mother recognized Michaela’s interest in ballet and arranged for her to start dance lessons. Now Michaela dances with the Dutch National Ballet.

The book is illustrated with a mix of period photographs and Frank Morrison’s warm, creative paintings.

Ballerina Dreams is a marvelous introduction to biographies for young readers. It is a must read for aspiring dancers, as well.

Be sure to visit Wrapped in Foil for an additional review of Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina, Michaela’s memoir for older readers.

Plus, check out Deborah’s previous review and activity suggestion here at Nonfiction Monday.


Special Non-Fiction Monday: Blog Tour The Early Cretaceous


The Early Cretaceous: notes drawings, and observations from prehistory by Juan Carlos Alonso & Gregory S. Paul. Ancient Earth Journal series. 112 p. Walter Foster Jr./ Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc., September 1, 2015. 9781633220331. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

I am thrilled to participate in the blog tour for this special book. I had the opportunity to send questions to Mr. Alonso for a Q & A. If you are looking for a unique addition to the dinosaur collection in your library or classroom to inspire either budding young paleontologists or artists, look no further.

Hop on over to Proseandkahn for the interview (my first), my review and links to the next stop on the tour, the book trailer and a giveaway!

Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles


Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles
by Susanna Reich (Author) and Adam Gustavson (Illustrator)

Booktalk: In 1957 in Liverpool, England, a young lad named John Lennon and his band played music at a local church fair. In the audience was Paul McCartney, who liked what he heard and soon joined the group. Paul’s friend George Harrison kept showing up at rehearsals until the older boys finally let him in. Eventually they found the perfect drummer, Ringo Starr, and the perfect name: The Beatles. Four ordinary boys growing up amid the rubble of postwar England found music to be a powerful, even life-saving, force and became the bestselling band in history.

Snippet: John attacked the guitar, strumming as fast as he could. He didn’t give a fig about wrong notes. With some of his mates, he organized a skiffle group called the Quarrymen, pounding out souped-up folk songs and some rock and ‘n’ roll. They had no idea how to play, but they loved making noise–lots of noise! Rehearsing in Mum’s bathroom, the sound bounced off the tiles. Bam, BOOM, bam, BOOM!



Listen to the The Quarrymen sing Buddy Holly’s song, “That’ll Be The Day” on July 14th, 1958.

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

Blog Tour for Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles

Monday, August 17 Booktalking

Tuesday, August 18 Shelf-Employed

Wednesday, August 19

Thursday, August 20 Elizabeth Dulemba

Friday, August 21 Maurice on Books

Tuesday, August 25 Kidsbiographer’s Blog

Wednesday, August 26 Gail Gauthier

Thursday, August 27 Tales from the Rushmore Kid

Friday, August 28 Alphabet Soup

Visit each blog tour stop!

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