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Junie B. Jones Stupid Smelly Bus Tour Coming to Nashville

  • Posted on June 11, 2013 at 6:11 AM



DON’T MISS IT! I Can’t WAIT!!!! 

 Celebrate the TENTH ANNIVERSARY of the tour,

which brings literary favorite Junie B. Jones to 15 cities across the country!

Come Along for the Ride!

WHAT:                                  Live performance and “Bookstamping”

The Junie B. Jones® Stupid Smelly Bus is bringing the star of the bestselling Junie B. Jones® book series to meet her fans JBJ_BusTour_Logo_2013_round (2)in 15 cities across the country.  Book retailers will host events at which Junie B. will share her hilarious antics through a live, theatrical performance based on Barbara Park’s bestselling Junie B. Jones®series.  Events also include free Junie B. souvenirs for kids and an official “book stamping.”  This event is recommended for children ages 5 and up.

Launched in the summer of 2004, Junie B. Jones and Mr. Woo have spent almost every summer traveling the country in their hot pink bus bringing everyone’s favorite first grader Junie B. Jones to life. With an original script written by award-winning author Barbara Park, Junie B. Jones and her bus driver, Mr. Woo will be entertaining new readers and established fans alike.  The Junie B. Jones® series is one of the most popular among kids, and has sold over 55 million print, audio books, and eBooks to date.

JBJ Symbols copyright Marcia CirielloWHO:                                    Featuring Nicole Acevedo, as Junie B. Jones, Karlo Ceria, as Mr. Woo and produced by G. Wayne Hoffman, this event brings the bestselling Junie B. Jones® series to life!

WHEN/WHERE:          Sunday, June 23rd at 2:00 PM

Nashville Children’s Theater (Co-sponsored by Parnassus Books)

25 Middleton Street, Nashville, TN 37210

For more information, call the store at (615) 953-2243

Monday, June 24th at 11:00 AM    Barnes & Noble 1701 Mallory Lane, Brentwood TN, 37207

Learn more at           

Admission information:  The Junie B. Jones® Stupid Smelly Bus Tour events are free and open to the general public unless otherwise noted.

The Junie B. Jones® Stupid Smelly Bus Tour is sponsored by Random House Children’s Books

Nonfiction Monday is here in PracticallyParadise

  • Posted on June 9, 2013 at 11:34 PM

nonfiction.mondayIt’s back! Practically Paradise is happy to host Nonfiction Monday June 10, 2013, after a long break from blogging. I had a backlog of books to read and will be sharing those titles with you frequently from now through the summer. Today we have links to posts written by bloggers around the kidlitosphere. If you’d like to add a post, you can submit information on the google docs form or simply post it in the comments below.

Here’s a title that I am excitedly planning for purchasing in the fall with a publication date of  Nov. 1st:Hey charleston!

Hey, Charleston! The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band by Anne Rockwell (Author) and Colin Bootman (Illustrator). Lerner books, 2013. $16.95 Hardcover, Jacketed. $12.95 eBook. Ages 7–11 HC: 978-0-7613-5565-6 EB: 978-0-7613-8843-2. 32 Pages

I couldn’t wait for this title so reviewed it from NetGalley after reading this description:

What happened when a former slave took beat-up old instruments and gave them to a bunch of orphans? Thousands of futures got a little brighter and a great American art form was born.

In 1891, Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins opened his orphanage in Charleston, South Carolina. He soon had hundreds of children and needed a way to support them. Jenkins asked townspeople to donate old band instruments—some of which had last played in the hands of Confederate soldiers in the Civil War. He found teachers to show the kids how to play. Soon the orphanage had a band. And what a band it was.

The Jenkins Orphanage Band caused a sensation on the streets of Charleston. People called the band’s style of music “rag”—a rhythm inspired by the African-American people who lived on the South Carolina and Georgia coast. The children performed as far away as Paris and London, and they earned enough money to support the orphanage that still exists today. They also helped launch the music we now know as jazz.

Hey, Charleston! is the story of the kind man who gave America “some rag” and so much more. If you visit the website, you can download and fold a two-sided bookmark to accompany this book.

Since I live in Nashville, Tennessee, which is the home of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, stories about the effect music has on children’s lives means a great deal to me. This historical description of the beginning of jazz is interesting musically, but the perseverance of Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins is what cries out the most. The illustrations are filled with energy and movement. The dancers inspire movement. Be prepared to play some rag and dance the Charleston to fully engage with your story time listeners. This is a great pick and I cannot wait to share the print version with my students.

2013 Comment Challenge

  • Posted on January 13, 2013 at 8:07 PM

Who have I visited and commented on lately during the 2013 Comment Challenge?

  1. Madigan @ Madigan Reads
  2. Lori Norman @ StoryQuill: A Writer’s Blog
  3. EMU’s Debuts which really helped me appreciate how long it takes to get published
  4. Redpeffer‘s blog on everything parent from craft to nature to education and anything else that takes her fancy.
  5. Pragmatic Mom with Education matters covering parenting, children’s literature, and education. Loved the post on Girls Who Dare to Fly.
  6. Storied Cities reviews of decidedly urban illustrated and chapter books for children. Loved Laundry Day and noticed it was on several bloggers “best” lists.
  7. Green Bean TeenQueen A Teen and Tween Librarian’s thoughts on books, reading and adventures in the library.
  8. Cathy Mealey reviewed A Sailor’s Life for Me! by Richard Platt. Illustrated by Stephen Biesty. USS Constitution Museum, 2012. Suitable for: Ages 7-12 with the Themes/Topics: Nautical history, shipboard life, USS Constitution, War of 1812. Hmmm! It’s hard to locate good titles for the War of 1812.
  9. Visiting Myra, Fats, Iphigene @ Gathering Books was dangerous since I couldn’t resist signing up for the The Award-Winning-Books Reading Challenge.
  10. Perogies & Gyoza continues their adventures in books & bilingualism with their picturebook top 10 list. I am embarrassed whenever I see how many books I haven’t read yet. How about you?

What is the 2013 Comment Challenge?  For the next 21 days visit and leave comments on five different kid lit blogs daily. The kidlitosphere lists gives lots of blogs to check out. Thanks to Lee Wind, M. Ed. the Official Blogger For the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators and the Mother Reader blog for sponsoring this challenge.

Award Winning Books Challenge

  • Posted on January 11, 2013 at 8:11 PM

awb2013_purpleI officially declare myself a participant in the 2013  Award-Winning-Books Reading Challenge. Fortunately, as long as I read titles from Junior Library Guild and blog about them, I have a really good shot at reading the most current award winning books out there. To participate you do not have to only read 2013 titles, but I love making every challenge more difficult. The challenge runs from January 1st to December 30th, 2013. There are  four levels of participation:

  • Level 1 (10 books or less) – Bronze Medal
  • Level 2 (11-25 books) – Silver Medal
  • Level 3 (26-35 Books) – Gold Medal
  • Level 4 (over 35 books) – Platinum Award

Guess which level I intend to hit? You’ve got it. I’m going for Platinum. Go try it yourself. Even if we only reach Gold, we’ll be better bloggers, teachers, librarians, etc.

Talk up Nonfiction Monday

  • Posted on October 29, 2012 at 12:01 AM

Nonfiction Monday is here in PracticallyParadise and I hope it’s something everyone will be talking about today and tomorrow. Please submit your links using the Google form here, by emailing me, or by leaving a comment. I’ll check in throughout the day and we’ll build an excellent post together. For now, let me share two of the titles I had to “talk about” during our presentation on Sprouting Readers Through STEM. Both focus on birds and how they communicate, but there are differences

Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird by Stephanie Spinner. Illustrated by Meilo So. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. ISBN 978-0-375-86846-7 A Junior Library Guild selection and excellent true story of Irene Pepperberg’s work with an African grey parrot named Alex – short for Avian Learning Experiment.

Author Stephanie Spinner (who I have enjoyed since her fiction series with Jonathan Etra Aliens for Breakfast) creates this narrative nonfiction tribute to researcher Irene Pepperberg and her parrot Alex. She includes a note thanking the brilliant work of people like Roger Fouts; Francine Patterson; and Irene Pepperberg, Cynthia Moss, Temple Grandin, and countless others. Scientists, researchers, and those amazing people who can communicate better with animals help all of us open our eyes to the possibilities of closer relationships with our pets and animals in the wild.

Meilo So’s illustrations dazzle through the use of color ink, watercolor, gouache and colored pencils. Alex and Griffin, African grey parrots, are drawn so expressively that each illustration speaks to us. Still, the text is what sold me on this true story. I could not resist reading this completely through every time I opened the cover. Do I show my age when I think about Irene Pepperberg going into a pet store to purchase Alex in 1977 when I was still in elementary school? To think of the knowledge we have gained about animal communication during my life-time is amazing! Through the combined efforts of Stephanie Spinner and Meilo So, Alex speaks to the reader. His personality, his quirks, his larger-than-life story are all conveyes through a symbiotic relationship of text and picture.

I will be sharing Alex the Parrot with my third and fourth grade students to give them a glimpse of the life of scientists and researchers who devote years to their studies. Often the experiments we perform with students provide nearly instant results. Television shows like CSI and NCIS solve their scientific puzzles within an hour. Yet, the reality is science takes time to develop theories and test for results. Alex the Parrot is one of my favorite titles this year and goes very well with the next title I share.

Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why by Lita Judge. Roaring Brook Press, 2012. ISBN 978-1-59643-646-6.  The author’s note at the back of this book starts:

I’ve always been fascinated by bird talk. Even as a little girl, I liked to walk in the woods and hoot until an owl hooted back. As I watched birds, I asked myself, What do their calls and songs mean? When scientists watch birds, they ask the same question. They observe bird behavior to find the meaning to their calls, songs, and other forms of interaction. 

Author Lita Jude’s grandparents were ornithologists or scientists who studied birds. Lita’s love of birds and lifetime of observing them shows in her choice of birds and simple, lyrical descriptions. Bird Talk is an example of well-researched  and beautifully illustrated nonfiction. There is a beauty in the balance of white space, multicolored text, and soft joyfully inspiring illustrations of birds. Each bird is grouped according to purpose of communication and then identified in the back with 2-3 sentence descriptions, habitat and range. I was pleased to see Alex the parrot included and Irene Pepperberg’s book listed as one of the references.

One aspect of Bird Talk that appeals to me the most is how the double-page spreads alternate between an illustration of one type of bird and a simple statement or question with pages listing three examples and a paragraph each of explanation. This enables me to share Bird Talk with a wider range of students. Will this help inspire future bird-watchers and ornithologists? Absolutely.

Check out these excellent nonfiction blog posts. They are definitely worth talking about.

* The Nonfiction Detectives share Seymour Simon’s Extreme Earth Records on the Nonfiction Detectives blog. I can think of wonderful STEM and Common Core State Standards connections already. 

 * Abby Johnson shares Zombie Makers on the blog Abby the Librarian Just in time for Halloween, Abby has a review of a super nonfiction title! I can’t wait to get my hands on this title after reading her review. 

*  Tara at A Teaching Life shares a wonderful new book about the history of Tuberculosis in Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the never-ending search for a cure.   Jim Murphy’s nonfiction is a sure winner. 

 * Alicia at The LibrariYAn blog shares Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, a great biography of a woman who has overcome many challenges to become a highly successful entrepreneur and advocate for individuals on the autism spectrum. Temple Grandin was recognized in the books I reviewed today, too! She is amazing. 

* Shirley at SimplyScience shares Busy as a Bee by Thea Feldman. This early reader describes bees and their activities in a fun nonfiction book. We need more early readers as engaging as Busy as a Bee. I appreciate Shirley’s making the connections to the National Science Standards and Common Core.

*  Roberta at Wrapped In Foil shares Infinity and Me. Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford is an exciting and lovely new picture book that makes the difficult abstract concept of infinity accessible to children.  ∞ is an amazing symbol and concept. This title impressed me with the mathematical explanation and the illustrations. Are we thinking Caldecott possibility?

* Lynn Rutan at the Bookends: Booklist Online Youth Blog. Cindy and Lynn are reviewing the National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry. What a great combination of poetry and the highest quality animal photographs we’ve come to expect from National Geographic. I can understand Lynn’s inability to give up this review title. I have several review copies from National Geographic that I just cannot resist keeping. It’s only when I attend conferences like TASL and get mobbed by desperately-seeking-nonfiction-librarians that they are able to pry them from my hands. 

* Jeanne Walker Harvey features on True tales &  A Cherry On Top Vivaldi’s Four Seasons — a fascinating picture book biography of Antonio Vivaldi. I’m adding this title to my list of musical narrative nonfiction to purchase. Glad to hear there is a CD in the book. Every time students pick up a book with a CD in it, they ask me if it’s “Sposed to be there” and are thrilled when they get to take them home to listen with family. This will be a pleaser. 

A Is For Autumn by Robert Maass is Janet Squire’s contribution with her blog All About the Books with Janet Squire.  Beautiful photographs of fall themed activities in one alphabet book are perfect for this week. Thanks for sharing this. 

* Jennifer at Jean Little Library blog has a series of folktales today from Child’s World and I encourage you to read her reviews. My favorite line from her blog post is “the…moral of the tale? “The Frog King teaches us to speak in a soft voice when playing in a space shared with other people.” Um…ok…that’s right kids, use your library voice or THE CROCODILE WILL EAT YOU.”  I’m still rolling on the floor laughing.

* Amy @ Hope Is the Word reviewed the two newest books by Steve Jenkins:  Just a Second:  A Different Way to Look at Time  and The Beetle Book.  Amy states “The information in both of these books is presented in a kid-friendly way, with lots of details presented visually beside the appropriate illustrations so there are not huge blocks of text to overwhelm the reader.  These are the sorts of books to pore over again and again.”  I have loved every Steve Jenkins’ title I’ve read. I loved The Beetle Book, but I will confess that I wasn’t tempted by Just a Second until I read Amy’s review. Thanks for sharing. 

I would like to encourage all of the participants of Nonfiction Monday to TAKE TIME on TUESDAY to TALK. Leave a comment or message on the blogs mentioned here – even if it’s a simple one-liner. 

Nonfiction Monday is here in Practically Paradise

  • Posted on July 15, 2012 at 12:01 AM

Today Practically Paradise hosts Nonfiction Monday. Since I am working with my teachers and staff for inservice training on project-based learning and integrating nonfiction into our STEM units Mon-Wed, I decided to deploy Mr. Linky to help me out. Be sure to leave your link to your specific blog entry and a comment below. I’ll go back to add more graphics during our breaks throughout the day.

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Practically Paradise celebrates ELECTRICITY today. Can you feel the vibrations in the air? The fourth graders at my school use a science kit to explore electrical circuits. When I unpacked the Heinemann series It’s Electric!, I was buzzed to discover these four titles listed:

  • Using Electricity (received)
  • Making a Circuit (received) 
  • Using Batteries
  • Conductors and Insulators
I was so excited I would have jumped up and led the Electric Slide – that is if I ever danced, which I don’t; I have never mastered the easy steps I watch others take doing the Electric Slide; and I’d much rather play with electrical circuits than dance.
Heinemann (now a division of Capstone) has produced a series of books on electricity that is truly elementary. There is no mention of amps and ohms here. Instead in 32 pages you will find clearly written descriptions of electrical circuits and the basic science involved in electricity. The examples are specific and child-friendly. The captions are clear and diagrams streamlined to focus on the key features of circuits. These are up-to-date and modern looking. In Using Electricity there is mention of LED lights and compact fluorescent lamps, but none of the incandescent lightbulbs being phased out. The font is larger sized with plenty of spacing so reluctant readers will not hesitate to read this series.
It definitely meets the needs of elementary students studying electricity and explains in very concrete terms systematically how electricity is produced and transmitted to homes. Students will learn much more from this series than from a chapter in a textbook. Making a Circuit is an absolute must in every elementary school library.

I have spent the majority of this summer participating in inservice training with my STEM faculty. We’ve studied project-based learning, engineering in education, science kits training, inquiry based learning, Common Core Standards for States, intergrating technology, using formative assessment to drive instruction, and STEM inquiry. One of our sessions occurred at the Adventure Science Center in Nashville, TN.

My favorite part of the day was exploring the Elenco SNAP circuit boards. These are so easy to manipulate. I didn’t worry about making mistakes as much and felt free-er to try new ways of connecting circuits. When my sons were in elementary school, we had to teach them how to solder circuit boards for them to make science projects. I loved these snap circuit boards so much that I “snuck” back in to take a picture.

Our leader through these sessions demonstrated how to lead inquiry-based learning for our Science curriculum. Each activity we participated in enabled us to experience being the learner, to use the various strategies of inquiry and collaboration, and helped us focus on the correct usage of techniques for learning.

Back to the series of books It’s Electric! I immediately put them in the hands of the fourth grade science teacher and said, “Tell me what you think and how we can use these.”  Now, before you do the same thing, you should know that teachers frequently have no idea what you want them to tell them about the books when reviewing. You may expect them to say things like “I love this.” “I’ve got to have this.” “I really like this approach.” or maybe “It’s too difficult.” Those would be good starting places. Instead, you usually get answers like  “It’s good. Do we own this?”  I usually follow-up pinning them down and ask if I were to purchase more copies, how many would you use and would it be every title in the series? Or, I’ll ask them “Could we use this title as a starting point for research on this lesson?” or “Would this help fill in the blanks the kit leaves?” and always I ask “Will you share this?”

We bloggers and librarians need to be skilled in asking teachers and parents more specific questions to better help our readers while reviewing books. What questioning strategies do you use when asking opinions about new books?


June Carnival of Literature

  • Posted on June 28, 2012 at 11:59 PM

Forget running away to join the carnival, I ran off to enjoy the American Library Association’s Annual conference held this year in beautiful sunny California. I was privileged to hear the 12 authors speak at the ALSC Nonfiction Blast and couldn’t wait to help out hosting this for Anastasia Suen after her hard work of organizing the Nonfiction Blast. After their talk, the authors staged a formal more serious photo,  but I preferred this one I caught when they let their guard down.

This month on the carnival we have posts from bloggers who didn’t run away but are still celebrating life in our Carnival of Children’s Literature including:


  • Jeanne at True Tales & A Cherry On Top asks “Who doesn’t love pandas? Mrs. Harkness and the Panda tells the captivating story of the American adventurer who introduced the world to Pandas.” I, too, loved this book and wrote about it during National Women’s History Month. Illustrator Melissa Sweet was autographing during ALA, but I was busy in Council so missed out on my chance to tell her how much I loved Mrs. Harkness and the Panda. Fortunately I did find Julie Cummins’ book Women Explorers to add to my must read list.
  • Tara at A Teaching Life chimes in: “I’ve reviewed two non-fiction books and one fiction title I plan to use in my classroom.” I found far more on her blog and marvel at her participation level. 
  • Jeanette at SpeakWell, ReadWell writes this month about how “A rat, a pigmy goat and a darling puppy helped my students review a new book by Sue Fliess. Take a look and see them in action!” I took my pet rat before to read to preschoolers so I loved seeing her pictures. My favorite had to be the goat reading along.
  • Lisa at Shelf Employed shares “A review of George Bellows: Painter with a Punch!” The name George Bellows rang no bells for me, but when I saw the illustrations of boxing, I recalled those paintings and reproductions I’d seen of the Ashcan School of painting. Sounds like an excellent addition to middle school biography and art collections.
  • Lisa at Shelf Employed also shares from the ALSC blog “a post to encourage communication between school and public librarians.” I need to go back and share about the success of Nashville Public Library’s collaboration with Metropolitan-Nashville Public Schools called “Limitless Libraries”.  Be sure to leave your comments.
  • Shirley at Simply Science writes about The Science of Soldiers. She says “This book presents the wide range of technology used by today’s military to aid the soldiers as they perform their jobs.” Sounds like a perfect book for our STEM Magnet Middle School Cluster. I love the integration of technology, science and the military from Shirley’s description.
  • Diane at Practically Paradise (Hey, that’s me) praised Space Exploration: An Illustrated Timeline  While at ALA, I visited the NASA booth to gather more materials for teaching my teachers and students that space exploration is alive and well at NASA. We were able to discuss the recent Chinese space craft docking at the International Space Station with a female Chinese astronaut aboard, too.


Early Literacy


  • Erik at Kid Book Ratings states “This is the first book I have reviewed in quite a while that has earned my highest rating…”  I was intrigued to read about The Donut Chef and hope you will, too. Some of my teacher colleagues recently confessed to wanting to quit teaching and open donut and cupcake shops, so I know they’ll appreciate this. 
  • Nichole at Just Children’s Books celebrates the app announcement that  “Reading Rainbow was relaunched and I was there to hear about it direct from LeVar Burton! Fun stuff!”  I’m envious. 


Book Projects


  • Carmela Martino and her co-blogger April Halprin Wayland at share a terrific interview with poet David Harrison featuring a giveaway of his book COWBOYS.
  • Anastasia at Booktalking interviews Kristy Dempsey. She shares “In this interview, author Kristy Dempsey shares the story behind her new picture book Surfer Chick. Illustrated by Henry Cole, this rhyming picture book is a fun read for the hot, hot summer!”
  • Corine at interviews Tarie Sabido “to give readers a glimpse of Filipino kidlit and ya lit.” I learned so much about Filipino bloggers and have added traveling to the  Filipino Reader Conference this August 18 to my “wishlist of places to go when I win the lottery. “