September 25, 2016

Our month ends with one more special visitor to HMS. The Red Sox organization has developed a new reading program assembly where they send their mascot, Wally, out to schools to talk to students. Fifth grade teacher Mrs. Toman was able to leverage her connections with the organization to secure a visit this upcoming Thursday afternoon.  We are very lucky! Many thanks to Mrs. Toman!


photo from the Boston Red Sox

In honor of Wally’s visit, I’d like to start by showcasing a 2017 RICBA nominee.  If you’re looking for a list of books for your child to read, you probably want to start with this.  The goal is for students to read as many books on the list as possible. However, students are eligible to vote in February if they read at least 3 books.


Growing Up Pedro: How the Martinez Brothers Made It from the Dominican Republic All the Way to the Major Leagues, (2015)

by Matt Tavares

Goodreads summary: Before Pedro Martinez pitched the Red Sox to a World Series championship, before he was named to the All-Star team eight times, before he won the Cy Young three times, he was a kid from a place called Manoguayabo in the Dominican Republic. Pedro loved baseball more than anything, and his older brother Ramon was the best pitcher he’d ever seen. He’d dream of the day he and his brother could play together in the major leagues—and here, Matt Tavares tells the story of how that dream came true. In a fitting homage to a modern day baseball star, the acclaimed author-illustrator examines both Pedro Martinez’s improbable rise to the top of his game and the power that comes from the deep bond between brothers.

Watch the Growing Up Pedro book trailer.

This next book is on our HMS Mock Caldecott list.  Some students read and discussed it last week and some will discover it this week. Inside the book jacket there is a detailed step-by-step as to how the illustrator created it. We are all in awe of the painstaking process it takes to create each picture.


The Secret Subway, (2016)

Words by Shana Corey, Pictures by Red Nose Studio

Goodreads summary: From an acclaimed author and a New York Times Best Illustrated artist comes the fascinating, little-known—and true!—story of New York City’s first subway.

New York City in the 1860s was a mess: crowded, disgusting, filled with garbage. You see, way back in 1860, there were no subways, just cobblestone streets. That is, until Alfred Ely Beach had the idea for a fan-powered train that would travel underground. On February 26, 1870, after fifty-eight days of drilling and painting and plastering, Beach unveiled his masterpiece—and throngs of visitors took turns swooshing down the track.

The Secret Subway will wow readers, just as Beach’s underground train wowed riders over a century ago.

Watch The Secret Subway book trailer.

Check out Red Nose Studio’s website and in particular the animation. Fascinating!

The next book I’d like to highlight is from a series my nephews introduced me to two years ago.  The Creature from My Closet series is a hybrid series (chapter books with pictures interspersed much like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series).  Main character Rob’s parents give him lots of books that he does not read. Instead, he tosses them in his closet that used to be his science lab.  One day a creature comes out that is a combination of a monster and a book.

The series titles consist of Wonkenstein, Potterwookie, Pinocula, Katfish, The Lord of the Hat, and Batneezer.


Batneezer, (2016)

by Obert Skye

Goodreads summary: For the first time, Rob Burnside knows when his closet is about to open–but he’s not prepared for what emerges. A mash-up of Ebenezer Scrooge and Lego Batman, this new visitor’s unusual antics are only one of Rob’s problems. While enduring visits by the ghosts of books past, present, and future, Rob learns some shocking news: A battle is brewing, and his school needs a hero. What he gets is so much more (Spoiler alert: All the creatures from past books come visit!)

Obert Skye doesn’t let his fans down in the hilarious final installment in the Creature from My Closet series.

Watch the Wonkenstein book trailer.

Watch the Pinocula book trailer.

This next book by Kate DiCamillo is on the “watch list” for a 2017 Newbery award.  I’m not sure about you, but I will read anything Kate DiCamillo puts out into the world.


Raymie Nightingale, (2016)

by Kate DiCamillo

Goodreads summary: Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.

Watch the Raymie Nightingale book trailer.

This next title is the most looked-at book that never gets checked out of the library. Students are very curious but are embarrassed to actually take it out the library door.  You may consider quietly buying one so your child can read and learn in the privacy of his/her own home.  Holiday gift idea?


The Human Body Book: An Illustrated Guide to Its Structure, Function, and Disorders, (2013)

by Steve Parker

Goodreads summary: Revealing and detailing all aspects of the body, from the secrets of DNA to the functions of every major body system, this all-in-one encyclopedic guide is packed with accessible health and medical information. Includes a 45-minute interactive DVD.

Featured Author and Illustrator of the Week


Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann

It is a thrill to have another wife-husband creative team joining the array of talent at the Rhode Island Festival of Children’s Books and Authors at Lincoln School in Providence on Saturday, October 15th. They will be speaking about their craft and signing books at the festival.  We will be raffling off free admission tickets the week before the event. Click on both their names to learn more about them.

September 18, 2016

This week we have a special visitor coming to HMS on Wednesday and Thursday courtesy of our tireless principal Mrs. McGee and a Barrington Education Foundation grant.  We are thrilled to welcome Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author of the Lunch Lady graphic novel series, the Platypus Police Squad series, co-author of Comics Squad: Recess!, many picture books, and his latest fan favorite, Jedi Academy: A New Class.

Jarrett J. Krosoczka likes when schools celebrate School Lunch Hero Day to recognize all those lunch ladies who work so hard behind the scenes to provide lunches to hungry students all over the country.  Usually it is celebrated in May, but with Jarrett’s visit, we will celebrate School Lunch Hero Day on Thursday, September 22nd.  Our very own lunch ladies, Ms. Liz and Ms. Antonietta, will get some special star treatment this Thursday!

Last week I highlighted Jedi Academy: A New Class. This week I’d like to highlight the latest  and last book from his Platypus Police Squad series.  This series is comprised of books that I call “hybrids” which are chapter books with pictures throughout, much like Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.


Never Say Narwhal (Platypus Police Squad #4) (2016)

by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Goodreads summary: From Jarrett J. Krosoczka comes Never Say Narwhal, the final installment in the hilarious, high-action illustrated middle grade series featuring two platypus detectives, perfect for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, and Jarrett’s own Lunch Lady series.

Frank Pandini Jr. is the mayor of Kalamazoo City, and everyone is celebrating—everyone except for Zengo, O’Malley, and Cooper, who can’t seem to close a single case. To make matters worse, a mysterious hulking shadow has appeared in waters around KC. Could this spell the end for the Platypus Police Squad?

Watch the Platypus Police Squad series book trailer.

The students of our school are crazy about The Land of Stories fantasy series by Chris Colfer.  I’m happy to report we are adding the latest title to our library catalog this week.


An Author’s Odyssey (The Land of Stories #5) (2016)

by Chris Colfer

Goodreads summary: In the highly anticipated continuation of the Land of Stories series, Conner learns that the only place to fight the Masked Man’s literary army is inside his own short stories!

When the twins and their friends enter worlds crafted from Conner’s imagination, finding allies no one else could have ever dreamed of, the race begins to put an end to the Masked Man’s reign of terror. Can the twins finally restore peace in the fairy tale world?

The RI Children’s Book Award nominee list is a great way to steer your child/student towards a great variety of titles that have been vetted by teachers and librarians in our state.  Students who read 3 titles or more before February will be eligible to vote for the 2017 winner.  This book opened my eyes to what a student could possibly be going through without teachers knowing.  Written by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, author of Small as an Elephant, this title is worth a read. I listened to an audio version through the public library this summer in the car.


Paper Things (2015)

by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Goodreads summary: When forced to choose between staying with her guardian and being with her big brother, Ari chose her big brother. There’s just one problem—Gage doesn’t actually have a place to live.

When Ari’s mother died four years ago, she had two final wishes: that Ari and her older brother, Gage, would stay together always, and that Ari would go to Carter, the middle school for gifted students. So when nineteen-year-old Gage decides he can no longer live with their bossy guardian, Janna, Ari knows she has to go with him. But it’s been two months, and Gage still hasn’t found them an apartment. He and Ari have been “couch surfing,” staying with Gage’s friend in a tiny apartment, crashing with Gage’s girlfriend and two roommates, and if necessary, sneaking into a juvenile shelter to escape the cold Maine nights. But all of this jumping around makes it hard for Ari to keep up with her schoolwork, never mind her friendships, and getting into Carter starts to seem impossible. Will Ari be forced to break one of her promises to Mama? Told in an open, authentic voice, this nuanced story of hiding in plain sight may have readers thinking about homelessness in a whole new way.

Watch Five Questions with author Jennifer Richard Jacobson.

This book is another 2017 RI Children’s Book Award nominee.  There were no book trailers available for this title so a fifth grader last year (now in the middle school) created a book trailer for the students of HMS to view. Pretty amazing, right?


Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (2015)

Words by Jonah Winter, Pictures by Shane W. Evans

Goodreads summary: An elderly African American woman, en route to vote, remembers her family’s tumultuous voting history in this picture book publishing in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

As Lillian, a one-hundred-year-old African American woman, makes a “long haul up a steep hill” to her polling place, she sees more than trees and sky—she sees her family’s history. She sees the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and her great-grandfather voting for the first time. She sees her parents trying to register to vote. And she sees herself marching in a protest from Selma to Montgomery. Veteran bestselling picture-book author Jonah Winter and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Shane W. Evans vividly recall America’s battle for civil rights in this lyrical, poignant account of one woman’s fierce determination to make it up the hill and make her voice heard.

If your child loves dogs, this book will let him/her experience life as a dog. Last spring author Victoria J. Coe came to Barrington Books for a Fenway and Hattie book signing. We were delighted when she walked us through some point of view exercises that let us get inside the mind of a dog.  You can try some of these exercises yourself on her author website.  I’m excited for students to get their hands on this book, especially now that we know the next one in the series comes out in January! We are adding another copy to the library catalog this week. Teachers, if you read this aloud to your students you can arrange a free Skype author visit with Victoria J. Coe before January.


Fenway and Hattie (2016)

by Victoria J. Coe

Goodreads summary: Fenway is an excitable and endlessly energetic Jack Russell terrier. He lives in the city with Food Lady, Fetch Man, and—of course—his beloved short human and best-friend-in-the-world, Hattie.

But when his family moves to the suburbs, Fenway faces a world of changes. He’s pretty pleased with the huge Dog Park behind his new home, but he’s not so happy about the Evil Squirrels that taunt him from the trees, the super-slippery Wicked Floor in the Eating Room, and the changes that have come over Hattie lately. Rather than playing with Fenway, she seems more interested in her new short human friend, Angel, and learning to play baseball. His friends in the Dog Park next door say Hattie is outgrowing him, but that can’t be right. And he’s going to prove it!

Watch the Fenway and Hattie book trailer.

Featured Author and Illustrator of the Week


Anika and Christopher Denise

We are proud to share our town with this literary power couple. Anika and Christopher Denise have collaborated on delightful picture books such as Pigs Love Potatoes, Stella and Bella Come Home, and Baking Day at Grandma’s.  Anika just released the wildly popular (and perfect for Halloween) Monster Trucks this summer complete with a book trailer created by a Hampden Meadows student. Christopher has illustrated many other books including Firefly Hollow and his latest, Lucy’s Lovey, being released September 27th. Anika and Christopher Denise will be attending the Rhode Island Festival of Children’s Books and Authors at Lincoln School in Providence on Saturday, October 15th. They will be speaking about their craft and signing books at the festival.  We will be raffling off free admission tickets the week before the event. Click on both their names to learn more about them.

September 11, 2016

We have an exciting couple of weeks to look forward to at Hampden Meadows School!  On Thursday author Mike Lupica will join us for a visit.  His new book for children ages 8-12 is released on Tuesday, September 13th. He will do a book signing at Barrington Books on September 15th at 7pm for the parents out there who would like to meet him as well.


Last Man Out

By Mike Lupica

Goodreads summary: When the Brighton Bears suit up on game day, 12-year-old Tommy Gallagher is the toughest kid on the football field. And the bravest. After all, his father Patrick is a Boston firefighter–one of Boston’s bravest. Tommy’s dad taught him everything he knows about football–and life.

Yet even Tommy isn’t strong enough for what happens when the sirens ring and, for the first time, they’re racing away from the fire. “First man in; last man out” had always been his dad’s motto . . . yet he never said anything about leaving in an ambulance. Now Tommy’s biggest battle has nothing to do with a football field.

Set in New England, home of the Patriots’ football dynasty, Mike Lupica shows off his trademark knack for spinning a tale that’s equal parts sports action and heart. Last Man Out is a thoughtful tribute to the bravery of firefighters and the need we all have to live up to the level of our heroes.

September 13th is a pretty special day in the kid lit world.  In fact, it’s a day graphic novel fans have been patiently waiting for: Raina Telgemeier’s latest graphic novel is released! The library has pre-ordered 3 copies but I know we will need more.



By Raina Telgemeier

Goodreads summary: Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister’s sake – and her own.

Watch the Ghosts  book trailer.

If you’re looking for a fun book signing, Josh Funk will be at Barrington Books this upcoming Saturday, September 17th at 1pm. A master at rhyming, he has written the delightful picture books Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast and Pirasaurs.  On September 6th his latest book was released.  Shh, don’t tell him but it’s my favorite one yet.


Dear Dragon

Words by Josh Funk, Pictures by Rodolfo Montalvo

Goodreads summary: George and Blaise are pen pals, and they write letters to each other about everything: their pets, birthdays, favorite sports, and science fair projects. There’s just one thing that the two friends don’t know: George is a human, while Blaise is a dragon! What will happen when these pen pals finally meet face-to-face?

Watch the Dear Dragon book trailer to see someone you know!

Last year our principal Mrs. McGee, wrote a grant to get more graphic novels in the hands of our readers and to have Lunch Lady series author Jarrett J. Krosoczka come to our school for an author visit.  He will be visiting us next Wednesday and Thursday. We will celebrate our own HMS lunch ladies, Ms. Antoinetta and Ms. Liz, on School Lunch Hero Day next Thursday, September 22nd.  Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s latest book just came out in July.  We will need multiple copies of this as well.


Jedi Academy: A New Class

By Jarrett J. Koroczka

Goodreads summary: Victor Starspeeder is psyched to be starting school at the Jedi Academy. His sister, Christina does not share an enthusiasm for Victor’s newfound educational path. She’s horrified that her annoying baby brother will be there to cramp her style.
While Victor means well, his excess energy leads him to spend a lot of time in detention with the little, green sage, Yoda. Yoda wants to channel Victor’s talents, so he makes the young Padawan join the drama club. Victor is not pleased. “Learn to control your anger, you must! Successfully manage their emotions, a good Jedi can. Box step and jazz hands … hee hee … young Padawan will!”
Victor will have to make new friends, get on his sister’s good side, learn to use the force, and hope the year’s drama club performance (“Wookie Side Story”? “Annie Get Your Lightsaber”?) goes off without a hitch!

I’ll admit I’m not a huge fantasy fan but my nerdy friends are absolutely IN LOVE with this book and I cannot wait to read it.


The Girl Who Drank the Moon

By Kelly Barnhill

Goodreads summary: Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.

The acclaimed author of The Witch’s Boy has created another epic coming-of-age fairy tale destined to become a modern classic.

Featured Author/Illustrator of the Week


Charise Mericle Harper

Charise Harper, best known at our school  for the Just Grace series, will be attending the Rhode Island Festival of Children’s Books and Authors at Lincoln School in Providence on Saturday, October 15th. She will be speaking about her craft and signing books at the festival.  We will be raffling off free admission tickets the week before the event. Click on her name to learn more about her.

September 4, 2016

It is hard to believe it is the 15th anniversary of 9/11.  As adults we can remember that day so vividly. However, the students we have in front of us had not even been born. They have only known life after 9/11. Here are some titles, both fiction and nonfiction, to help students at this age understand that time in our history.


Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story

by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Goodreads summary: From the critically acclaimed author of Anything But Typical comes a touching look at the days leading up to the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and how that day impacted the lives of four middle schoolers.

Ask anyone: September 11, 2001, was serene and lovely, a perfect day—until a plane struck the World Trade Center.

But right now it is a few days earlier, and four kids in different parts of the country are going about their lives. Sergio, who lives in Brooklyn, is struggling to come to terms with the absentee father he hates and the grandmother he loves. Will’s father is gone, too, killed in a car accident that has left the family reeling. Nadira has never before felt uncomfortable about being Muslim, but at her new school she’s getting funny looks because of the head scarf she wears. Amy is starting a new school in a new city and missing her mom, who has to fly to New York on business.

These four don’t know one another, but their lives are about to intersect in ways they never could have imagined. Award-winning author Nora Raleigh Baskin weaves together their stories into an unforgettable novel about that seemingly perfect September day—the day our world changed forever.

Here is a review of the book and a link to his interview with author Nora Raleigh Baskin by teacher Patrick Andrus.


14 Cows for America

by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez

Goodreads summary: In June of 2002, a ceremony begins in a village in western Kenya. Hundreds of Maasai surround an American diplomat to bestow a gift on the American people. The gift is as unsought and unexpected as it is extraordinary. A mere nine months have passed since the September 11 attacks, and hearts are raw. Tears flow freely as these legendary warriors offer their gift to a grieving people half a world away. Word of the gift will travel news wires around the globe. Many will be profoundly touched, but for Americans, this selfless gesture will have deeper meaning still. For a heartsick nation, the gift of fourteen cows emerges from the choking dust and darkness as a soft light of hopeand friendship. Master storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy hits all the right notes in this story of generosity that crosses boundaries, nations, and cultures. An afterword by Wilson Kimeli Naiyomahthe Maasai warrior at the center of the storyprovides additional information about his tribe and their generousity. Thomas Gonzalezs stunning paintings are saturated with rich hues of oranges and browns and blues and greens, which capture the nobility of the Maasai people and the distinctive landscape of the African plain.

Here is the book trailer for 14 Cows for America.


Seven and a Half Tons of Steel

by Janet Nolan, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez

Goodreads summary: There is a ship, a navy ship. It is called the USS New York. It is big like other navy ships, and it sails like other navy ships, but there is something special about the USS New York. Following the events of September 11, 2001, the governor of New York gave the Navy a steel beam that was once inside one of the World Trade Towers. The beam was driven from New York to a foundry in Louisiana. Metal workers heated the beam to a high, high temperature. Chippers and grinders, painters and polishers worked on the beam for months. And then, seven and a half tons of steel, which had once been a beam in the World Trade Center, became a navy ships bow. This powerful story reveals how something remarkable can emerge from a devastating event.

Here is an interview with Janet Nolan, author of Seven and a Half Tons of Steel.


Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey

by Maira Kalman

Goodreads summary: The John J. Harvey fireboat was the largest, fastest, shiniest fireboatof its time, but by 1995, the city didn’t need old fireboats anymore. So the Harvey retired, until a group of friends decided to save it from the scrap heap. Then, one sunny September day in 2001, something so horrible happened that the whole world shook. And a call came from the fire department, asking if the Harvey could battle the roaring flames. In this inspiring true story, Maira Kalman brings a New York City icon to life and proves that old heroes never die.


America is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell

by Don Brown

Goodreads summary: One of School Library Journal‘s Best Nonfiction Books of 2011
One of Horn Book‘s Best Nonfiction Books of 2011

On the ten year anniversary of the September 11 tragedy, a straightforward and sensitive book for a generation of readers too young to remember that terrible day.

The events of September 11, 2001 changed the world forever. In the fourth installment of the Actual Times series, Don Brown narrates the events of the day in a way that is both accessible and understandable for young readers. Straightforward and honest, this account moves chronologically through the morning, from the terrorist plane hijackings to the crashes at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania; from the rescue operations at the WTC site in New York City to the collapse of the buildings. Vivid watercolor illustrations capture the emotion and pathos of the tragedy making this an important book about an unforgettable day in American history.

If you would like a comprehensive list of 9/11 books take a look at my friend Mrs. Knott’s blog post.



The Dot

by Peter H. Reynolds

Goodreads summary: With a simple, witty story and free-spirited illustrations, Peter H. Reynolds entices even the stubbornly uncreative among us to make a mark – and follow where it takes us.

Her teacher smiled. “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.”

Art class is over, but Vashti is sitting glued to her chair in front of a blank piece of paper. The words of her teacher are a gentle invitation to express herself. But Vashti can’t draw – she’s no artist. To prove her point, Vashti jabs at a blank sheet of paper to make an unremarkable and angry mark. “There!” she says.

That one little dot marks the beginning of Vashti’s journey of surprise and self-discovery. That special moment is the core of Peter H. Reynolds’s delicate fable about the creative spirit in all of us.


International Dot Day is celebrated around the world on September 15ish. Mrs. Mendez, our art teacher, is doing a Dot Day project with the fourth grade.  We will create bravely and connect with students who are celebrating Dot Day in other parts of the country that week.

*Fun Fact: You can visit the Blue Bunny Bookstore in Dedham, MA, which is owned by The Dot author Peter H. Reynolds. It is less than an hour drive from Barrington and a LOT of authors and illustrators do book events there.  If you go, be sure to get your picture taken in front of the blue bunny statue!

*Fun Fact: Peter H. Reynolds publishes a magazine with submissions entirely by student writers ages 5-12.  To learn more, click this link to HUTCH magazine. And please keep me posted if your child submits an article for the magazine!

Featured Author/Illustrator of the Week


Bryan Collier

We are so lucky to have Bryan Collier attending the Rhode Island Festival of Children’s Books and Authors at Lincoln School in Providence on Saturday, October 15th. Bryan is the recipient of six Coretta Scott King awards as illustrator as well as four Caldecott honors! He will be speaking about his craft and signing books at the festival.  We will be raffling off free admission tickets the week before the event. Click on his name to learn more about him and his incredible work.