The worst-case scenario survival handbook: Junior edition, by Borgenicht & Epstein, Ill. C. Gonzales

August 31, 2011

Want to laugh?

Want to be grossed out?

Just open up this book!

The Skinny

The Worst-Case Scenario Handbook is for kids ages 9-12. It offers humorous and sometimes gross advice on the many perils of childhood. Every chapter revolves around a theme, such as “Survival skills for your social life”, which is then divided into small sections including different scenarios, such as “How to survive farting in public”.

Who will love this book?

Kids who love humor, the “gross factor”, and practical advice will love this book (some grownups will like this as well!). The titles of each scenario alone can draw the attention of readers, even those who are reluctant to pick up a book. The illustrations are colorful and slightly exaggerated for maximum laughter. Behind the humor and gross aspects, kids can also find trivia, helpful information on self-confidence, being bullied, doing well in school, and how to survive getting into trouble with grownups.  The practical advice is down to earth and believable.

This is one of those few, well-rounded books that has the capability of appealing to a very large audience.

What questions might you ask to get kids talking about the book?

  1. What methods have you tried to calm down an angry parent? Has any of it worked?
  2. What should you do when you get into trouble at home? Why?
  3. Have you ever felt you needed advice and did not know who to ask? What kind of advice were you looking for?

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CHLA conference and author interview

June 6, 2010

It’s time for another conference!

The Children’s Literature Association is hosting their annual conference this week in Michigan:  Children’s Literature and Media. Here is the description, taken from their site: 

Many texts from various media now constitute children’s culture: novels, picture books, and poetry as well as video games, text messages, Facebook, television shows, and films. It is important that we expand our understanding of these child-oriented cultural forms and media platforms. Doing so expands the way we define and analyze children’s culture and, hopefully, provides new critical tools by which to understand children’s books. This conference, the 37th Annual Children’s Literature Association Conference, therefore seeks to illuminate the broader electronic children’s culture within which children’s literature exists and thus highlight the multivalent, dialectical relationship between literature and other media written for younger readers, viewers, and consumers.”

I’ll be tweeting the conference. The “official” hashtag is #chla10.
If you’re interested, feel free to follow me: @pm_rodriguez

Shameless self-promotion –> And if you’re attending, come join us, Thursday, June 10th, concurrent session 5: Prisca Rodriguez and Brian Trutschel, University of Florida: “Beyond Electronic Media: Dynamically Engaging Young Readers in Multi‐modal Environments”. 🙂

Author interview –>Finally, as part of the presentation, the fabulous Annie Fox agreed to an interview on her thoughts as to how electronic media has affected  the way children engage with reading and how it has impacted her as a reader/author. She also talks about choices she made about the format of her Middle School Confidential series. It’s an interview you don’t want to miss! (It will be available on the blog this Thursday, June 10th)

I hope you join the conversation in the blog and on Twitter. If you’re on Facebook, you can also join the CHLA unofficial page.

Have fun with children’s lit!


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Printable designs for the classroom

April 30, 2010

The designer over at Bonet Graphic Designs is doing some amazing graphics for school use. You can purchase them, print them and use them as many times as you want (personal and school use)! So far she’s got images for student desk nameplates (here and here) and  stickers and will post lots more in the coming days and weeks.

Check it out!

Link to her blog

Link to her web-page

Click here to follow her on Twitter


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Middle School Confidential: What’s Up With My Family?, by Annie Fox

April 29, 2010

Rating: 5/5

The word “family” evokes many feelings; some happy, others nostalgic.

Sometimes we would like to think it stops at that. In reality, happiness and nostalgia are also accompanied by anger, worries and problems that plague every family, which range in scope and intensity. Some can hang these negative feelings in a closet and put on a happy face in the morning as they walk out the door. Others carry their feelings tucked under their clothes—an uncomfortable fit that is difficult to hide—or buried deep in the pit of their stomach, struggling to claw their way out. Still others constantly work through their problems and grow as individuals and as a family.

That’s just us adults. Imagine how these problems affect kids.

When I was still a middle school teacher, I witnessed many students suffering due to family problems they were ill-equipped to deal with. Those who felt they could confide in a grownup would share concerns like: “My dad hates me because he’s having a new baby with a lady who is not my mom”; “My sister got pregnant and she’s just sixteen”; and “My family is worried I might end up in jail.”
While it is helpful to talk to these children and send them to a guidance counselor who can begin to work with the child and family, it is important for kids to learn about others who are dealing with similar issues. Many kids feel constantly talked down to by adults and family members, so they are more open to shared experiences and plans of action suggested by other kids their own age.

In her third book in the series, Middle School Confidential: What’s Up With My Family?, Annie Fox once again provides this vicarious experience for children, where they can find questions and advice from other kids from various backgrounds who also struggle with family problems. The book again incorporates a magazine-like design and beautiful graphic novel-style illustrations by Matt Kindt, which are always a visual treat. New, reluctant and returning readers of this series will easily be attracted by this style, as it encourages the reader to scan, choose and interact with any page in any order. The quizzes, character conversations and kids’ quotes invite the reader to form part of a conversation and constantly explore ways to actively participate and work effectively in a family.

What’s Up With My Family? simply and straightforwardly states some of the most annoying, problematic and emotionally difficult family situations, such as Mateo’s case, whose family will not stop asking questions and invading his privacy, to the child who is forced to only interact with other children from his family’s culture. As always with this series, the rose-colored lenses are tossed in favor of reality, which every child can appreciate. There is no lecture, nor does it speak down to the reader. The text is a safe place to ask, wonder, reflect and look for more information on family issues.

Annie Fox delivers valuable, practical advice on family relationships with real life examples that tug at the heartstrings. I highly recommend this book to children, families and educators. Though its intended audience is middle school children, all families can find some comfort and friendly advice between the pages of this book.

Amidst the questions, confusion, anger and fuel-ish thoughts in the family, the need for things to change is always at the forefront. For this to happen, there is one concept from the book that should be pervasive. As Annie Fox writes: “It has to start with you.”

Check out her site here.

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Middle School Confidential: Real Friends vs the Other Kind, by Annie Fox

February 28, 2010

Rating: 5/5

Middle school is a time for new experiences, new environments and new friends. But it is also a time where the meaning of friendship gets complicated. Suddenly old friends are not so friendly anymore and new friends don’t act in ways a friend should act.

Friendship is one of the most important aspects of middle school life, but what makes a true friend? How should kids handle the difficulties in making, maintaining and losing friendships?

In her second book in the series, Middle School Confidential: Real Friends vs. the Other Kind, Annie Fox delivers another powerful, helpful and entertaining book for kids. Jack, Abby, Mateo, Jen, Chris and Michelle are entering another stage in their lives and it all begins with a seemingly simple question: what exactly do we mean when we call someone a friend?

To answer the question, Annie Fox does not step in to preach, comfort or give a straight answer. Instead the characters and information sent in by real kids serve to create a guide of questions kids can ask themselves when evaluating their friendships. The characters are faced with many problems that threaten to break apart their friendship, including a new friend who has ulterior motives, a budding romance that gets bossy, a friend who stopped eating and more.

Ultimately, the book encourages readers to make informed decisions on their own. Kids can appreciate this straightforward, no-nonsense way of dealing with a problem. There are no easy solutions, but the book is full of possibilities, which is exactly what kids need to handle their problems with friendship.

The format is the same as in the first book, with a magazine-like design coupled with graphic illustrations by Matt Kindt. Reluctant readers could easily be attracted by this style where they can flip to any page in the book to get the information they need without having to read the entire book. This alone encourages the reader to keep flipping the pages until the book has been read from cover to cover.

Some of the sections of the book include: Friendship Dilemmas;  I Wasn’t Such a Good Friend; Don’t Add to the Garbage; Apologies; What’s a Friend Supposed to Do?; so-called friend; and Making New Friends. One of my favorite sections is the “Labeled and Judged Files”, where real kids share their experiences jumping to conclusions and making snap judgments only to find out that they made a mistake by judging a book by its cover.

Like Annie states in this book, never forget that “the most important part comes from inside”.

Check out her site here.

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Off to another conference!

January 26, 2010

I am off to another conference!

The 14th Annual Holmes Partnership Conference is being held this weekend in South Carolina. Presentations will address the issues associated with closing the achievement gap. Keynote speakers are: Pedro Noguera, Terry Peterson, Jennifer Murphy, and Melissa Watson.

I am looking forward to meeting other Holmes scholars and participate in discussions. I also plan on Tweeting about interesting information and resources, so if you are interested, I’m @pm_rodriguez.

If you are attending this conference and are wondering what presentations to go to, I’d be delighted if you attended our presentation on Friday from 1:15-2:30pm: Closing the gap: Engaging technology in academic societies. Dr. Lowery and I will talk about engaging students in hybrid and online courses in a way that integrates synthesis, analysis, image, sound, text and speech. We seek to promote social justice through cultural processes including: representation, identity and production.

We are sharing the 75 minute time slot with another presentation titled 21st Education: University Parternships Integrating Technology to Support Teachers and Increase Student Achievement, presented by Natalie Dopson, aJan Daugherty, Marisa Salazar and Wanda Wade from the University of Central Florida.

I’ll blog about the interesting information I learned when I get back. Have a great week!


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NCTE 2009 – Back from Philly (Part 2)

January 6, 2010

This post is long overdue! Here are the final highlights of my trip to The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE’s) annual convention.

Critical and Inclusive Classrooms for All Students: Reflections from Two Educators, by Mary Cowhey and Sonia Nieto: I am a fan of Sonia Nieto’s work, so I made sure to attend this presentation and had the opportunity to talk to her and take a picture! (Geeky moment over, I promise.) They talked about creating multicultural learning communities at all academic levels. Ms. Nieto stated that multicultural education should be anti-biased, anti-racist and pervasive. Educators should think of multicultural education as basic education for all, creating multicultural learning communities with dialog, collaboration, negotiation, and willingness to rethink ideas and practices. Mary Cowhey then provided an example from her classroom. She talked about beginning a conversation with something as simple as your clothes tags to see where they were made. She stated that learning through activism confronts privilege and challenges the status quo. They then suggested a free article that offers a different spin on the question: how to close the achievement gap? It’s titled “Learning to Roar”, which can be found at

Books for Children Luncheon: Brian Selznick: I couldn’t attend the “lunch” part of this luncheon, but I managed to sit in the back and watch Mr. Selznick speak. His presentation was funny, thoughtful and he did the best reading of “Where the Wild Things Are” that I have ever heard.

Middle Level mosaic Workshop: Be The Book!: There were quite a few presenters here, my favorite being Jeffrey Wilhelm, author of “You Gotta BE the Book” (check it out and you’ll see what I mean).

Between each presentation we were treated to short chats with different authors, where they spoke about their books, their writing lives and some times their personal lives. I was lucky enough to chat further with Kathleen Duey, (we’d started chatting earlier in the day in the halls of the convention center when she commented on how my “Spanglish” reminded her of home), author of “Skin Hunger“; the awesome T.A. Barron, author of  the Merlin series, who stated his mother was his favorite English teacher; and Kate Messner, author of “The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.”

Other highlights: As always, NCTE conventions are full of booths where you can get teaching resources, new children and YA books, meet authors and much more.

Some of my favorite booths included:

  1. World of Words: They are interested in building bridges between cultures and provide many opportunities for educators to find authentic international and multicultural children and young adult literature. Check out their site for more information. You can also follow them on twitter.
  2. Classical Comics: Anyone who knows me knows that I love incorporating visual literacy in my classroom. I jump at the chance to use comic books, manga and graphic novels. When I found this booth I was utterly delighted. Like other companies, they adapt classical literature into graphic novel form. Unlike other companies, they create three versions of the novel, using the same images, but changing the reading level! I wanted to get my hands on many of the titles but, alas, it was not meant to be. Check out their website for more information. You can also follow them on twitter.

That’s it for the NCTE highlights. Thanks for reading!


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