Thursday, August 19, 2021

Benefits of Author Classroom Visits


Join professor and author, Anthony Manna and me for our second episode where we discuss the benefits of author classroom visits.

Episode-2-School Visits: An author visit can help students learn how a budding or veteran author deals with constructive criticism and suggestions for improving their writing craft.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

20 Back To School Recommendations

                                            Image by Kidaha via Pixabay

It’s taken me over two decades, (yes, I know I’m dating myself), but I’ve compiled a list of my absolute favorite Back-to-School Read Alouds.

Every September, I eagerly pull them off the bookshelf and read them to my new students.

Some titles focus on a classroom procedure or a social skill I want the children to learn; others are just plain fun.

                                    Image by OpenClipart-vectors via Pixabay

A high-quality picture book has certain characteristics that set it apart from others.

Picture books comprise certain essential elements: characters, plot, language, and pictures.

The author’s approach to each element can make or break a story.

The 20 books I’ve compiled achieve the high standards I expect for my classroom library.

(For further reading about Picture Book Elements, please click here.)


Back To School Book List:

1. David Goes to School By David Shannon

2. A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue By Julia Cook

3. My Mouth Is a Volcano By Julia Cook

4. Decibella By Julia Cook

5. I Just Don’t Like the Sound of No By Julia Cook

                                              Image by asi24 via Pixabay

6. Chrysanthemum By Kevin Henkes

7. The Kissing Hand By Audrey Penn

8. If You Take a Mouse to School By Laura Nemeroff

9. Back- to-School Rules By Laurie Friedman

10. The Name Jar By Yangsook Choi

                         Image by Kidaha via Pixabay

11. How Full Is Your Bucket? By Tom Rath

12. Llama Llama Misses Mama By Anna Dewdney

13. Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready For Kindergarten By Joseph Slate

14. A Letter from Your Teacher: On The First Day Of School By Shannon Olsen

15. This School Year Will Be the Best By Kay Winters

                               Image by Please Don't Sell My Artwork AS IS via Pixabay

16. Interrupting Chicken David Ezra Stein

17. You Get What You Get By Julie Gassman

18. Hands Are Not or Hitting By Martine Agassi

19. Words Are Not for Hurting By Elizabeth Verdick

20. Voices Are Not for Yelling By Elizabeth Verdick

 What Back-to-School books do you read to your class? 


Saturday, July 31, 2021

5 Ways To Connect With Students Before September


Happy New Year! It’s almost that time again: back-to-school season is few weeks away.

Many of us are still savoring the lazy days of summer. For those of you who’d prefer a head start on prepping for September, let’s discuss a few ways to connect with your kiddos early on.

If you’re one of the lucky few who gained their class lists—CONGRATULATIONS! I’d love to learn how you achieved that.

                                     Image by jacqueline macou via Pixabay

1. Drop your prospective students a postcard introducing yourself and some of your favorite summertime endeavors. Give them a glimpse into your personality.

If, like me, you’re in the dark about who’s on your roster, sit pretty and relax.

Or take some leisure time to browse the dollar stores, Target, Walmart, Lakeshore, Teachers Pay Teachers, Amazon, Etsy, and US Toy Company for a few essential items.

2. When you finally receive your class list, mail your students a welcome message

Introduce yourself, a few tips on what the children can expect this year, and if you have one, a photo of you with your class mascot.

                              Image by Kranich17 via Pixabay

3. Is your Google Classroom set up? If so, invite the kiddos to join and play get-to-know-you games. 

Ask Would You Rather questions, post jokes, or do a daily poll on a specific topic such as, “Who plays baseball?” “Who enjoys going to the beach?” The possibilities are endless.

You could also ask more specific questions like, “What movies did you check out this summer?” “Who’s your favorite superhero?” “Who’s the oldest in their family?”

(Be sure to inform students you’ve invited them to your Google Classroom in your welcome letter.)

Cult Of Pedagogy has some remote Ice Breaker Games for Zoom that look fun.

4. Make a brief classroom reveal video and include a teaser tour that students and parents can watch. You know the kids are dying to see what their new classroom looks like.

Leave the most exciting feature (student gifts, the classroom library, etc.) for the first day of school. This will build anticipation for the big day.

                                Photo by Peter H via Pixabay

5. Throw an End of Summer or a Back-to-School Eve Zoom party! Create a few fun slides to share, pass along arrival expectations, or just chat for a few moments.

Any positive connection made will help mitigate those first day of school jitters, for you and your students.

However you greet your students this September, I hope your Back-to-School experience is fun!

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Pirate Princess Book Review


Author: Alva Sachs

Illustrator: Patricia Krebs

Publisher: Three Wishes Publishing Company

Released: July 22, 2020

Format: Hardcover

ISBN: 978-0979638053

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 4 Lemon Drops 

A celebration of imaginative play at its finest.


Book Summary:

Madison is unhappy. She and her friends’ plans to play outside washed away with the rainstorm. Luckily, Madison’s mother suggests that she invite her friends to their house for the day. Mom even promises to make everyone a special lunch.

The salvaged play date quickly turns into a day full of extravagant fun only a creative group of children could dream up. Grabbing hold of a few laundry baskets that transform into pirate ships, the gang embarks on an extraordinary sea voyage to an island where they find hidden treasure.


The Pirate Princess celebrates imaginative play at its finest. It proves how lively and fruitful a youngster’s creativity is when allowed to flourish unhindered by electronics. Take away your child’s video games, switch them out for a few laundry baskets, and watch where their imaginations take them. 

Krabs’ illustrations are warm and folksy. They add a pleasant down-to-earth element that pleases the eye and puts you in the mood for a child-oriented adventure.

I also appreciated the interactive elements at the end of the book. It encourages each reader to draw a Treasure Island Map and a picture of themselves as a pirate. It’s a warmup for their own pirate experiences.

That being said, I have one teeny criticism I’d like to discuss. I was a little let down when we didn’t get to see what was inside the pirate chest, after traveling with the characters and patiently waiting for them to open it.

I’m guessing this was intentional to encourage children to speculate as to the chest’s mysterious contents, but all the same it disappointed me after all the buildup. I even checked to make certain I hadn’t skipped a page when I read the book.  

I give it 4 Lemon Drops!

 Classroom Connection: 

Targeted Vocabulary: mateys, masts, telescope, perched, compass 

The Pirate Princess is an excellent book for a dive into the endless possibilities of imaginative play. It would make a great companion story to any fairytale or pirate unit. After a reading, convert your dramatic play into a pirate ship and let your kiddos imaginations go wild.


Pirate Theme Pinterest Board

About The Author:

lva Sachs was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. After receiving her Bachelor of Science from University of Illinois, and Master's of Education from Northern Illinois University, she taught elementary school for sixteen years. She now resides in Calabasas, California with her husband, Paul, and their Schnoodle, Sadie.

Reading to her classes over those years were some of Alva's most treasured memories. Her love of teaching and raising her own three children led her to follow her dream to write books for children.

About The Illustrator:

Multimedia artist Patricia Krebs talks about life: the complexity of humanity, the connections within ourselves, each other, and to the Earth. Krebs's mixed media pieces combine collage, ink and acrylic on canvas. She then playfully combines gestural painting and line drawing with detailed photos, small pieces of text and three-dimensional objects.

Patricia Krebs grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Throughout her young life she attended art institutions where she participated in group classes of music, art, puppetry, drama, literature, dance and movement. She went to an arts High School and a College of Fine Arts and obtained three degrees in Art, including one in Contemporary Visual Arts from the National University of Art (UNA).

Along with her formal education, Krebs studied guitar and singing lessons at the Walter Malosetti Superior School of Jazz. She moved to Los Angeles in 2001 to work as a full-time visual artist and musician.



Thursday, July 22, 2021

Benefits Of Author Classroom Visits

Join professor and author Anthony Manna and me for our first discussion on the importance of author classroom visits. Author visits provide long term educational benefits to students and the community.

Episode 1 School-Visits:

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Extended School Year Fun


I've never taught Summer School!

I'm a tad nervous. I mean what kid likes Summer School? When I was a child, just considering the idea brought on chills of horror.

I subscribed to the tenet all students believe, Summer Break must not be trifled with. You know the mantra, “No more pencils! No more books! No more teacher’s dirty looks!”

With this refrain in mind, I'm writing lesson plans and trying to pepper in extra doses of fun.

If all accords to my master plan, here's what we’ll be doing in my Summer School Classroom:

*Desk Pets: Obviously! They're so darn cute and the kiddos love them!! FYI: Desk Pets are 3-D erasers. Teacher Marissa Begay introduced them on Tik-Tok and they’ve taken the world by storm.

*Random Volleyball: Every so often we'll take a minute (or two or three) to pass around a beach ball.

*Pool Noodle Drumming: In addition to Desk Pets, this is another terrific and entertaining thing I discovered this school year!

                                            Image by Ashley Ladroma via Pixabay

Pool noodle drumming uses pool noodles to drum on the desks while dancing to music. (As per the photograph above, there are many clever ways to use foam noodles.)

Virtual students can drum on a table at home and use pencils or whatever else they can find that’s gentle on the furniture. (With parental permission, of course.)

I must send a shout out to #KentHamilton who makes Cardio Desk Drumming videos on YouTube. Best thing ever!!

If you're searching for something super-duper fun to do with your kiddos, I highly recommend checking out his channel.

*Teachers Pay Teachers resources: I’ve been hunting for engaging curriculum related worksheets for the children to complete.

*Scouring Pinterest and adding loads of neato ideas to my Summer Time board. Oh my gosh, there are so many!!

                                                 Image courtesy of

I’d love to hear your Summer School Fun suggestions. Please comment below!

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Daddy Donkey and His Little Son Book Review


                                                           Available on Amazon

Authors: Vedika Agrawal and Kunal Das

Illustrator: Creative Concepts

Publisher: Independently Published

Released: February 9, 2021

Format: Kindle, Paperback

ISBN: 979-8706543822

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 4 Lemon Drops

Love is love, no matter what!


Book Summary:

Louie’s son, Zozo, is a little different from the rest of Louie’s herd. For starters he’s a lion cub, but Louie adopts him anyway, showering the cub with love and protection.

After rescuing the solitary cub, Louie brings Zozo home and soon deals with Zozo’s disruptive behavior and carnivorous diet. As you might expect, the other donkeys aren’t fond of Zozo or his preferred source of food—meat.

Afraid they will end up on Zozo’s personal dinner menu, the other donkeys try to get rid of him, but Louie saves his son, until the cub’s mother returns for him.

Many years later, a much older Louie is rescued from a pack of foxes by a mighty lion. The two recognize each other and father and son have a happy reunion.


Daddy Donkey and His Little Son is an adorable tale that demonstrates how family transcends societal boundaries and unites us. In a child-friendly way, Agrawal and Das, have introduced youngsters to the concepts of compassion and unconditional love.

Diversity is another important topic addressed in the story. Louie looks passed Zozo’s differences and sees only a helpless cub in need of help. As our world becomes more interconnected, children (and adults) must accept and embrace the mixed bag that is humanity.    

I appreciated the activities and the World’s Best Dad certificate at the end of the book. Parents and educators will find the extension activities enjoyable. They’ll also make a great Father’s Day gift.

I give it 4 Lemon Drops!

Classroom Connection:

Targeted Vocabulary: outskirts, different, adamant, herd, mischievous, transformed, amusing, defensive, tactics, revenge, frequent, cautions, mighty

Daddy Donkey and His Little Son is tailor made for a thematic unit on family, interracial families, and adoption. It might be nice to send the book home through a Classroom Lending Library and ask families to take a picture of themselves with the book. These photographs can be displayed on a bulletin board or a quilt style display.  

After a reading, students can complete the “All About My Dad” activity for Father’s Day.


Families Theme Pinterest Board

About The Authors:

Dr. Vedika Agrawal is an engineering doctorate from IIT Delhi, India with an inclination towards children's literature. With a good understanding of kids' way of learning, she has written several children storybooks with an aim to imbibe reading habits and values in children through the magic of books. She is also a quick learner and a sharp critic. She has a unique ability to give the raw stories, the shape of a masterpiece. Other than writing, she likes playing sports.

Dr. Kunal Das is a pediatric oncologist and stem cell transplant physician by profession. His art of telling children stories inspired the compilation of stories in Doon Tales. He is a patient listener and an avid writer. He penned down many stories for children and enjoys writing novels in Hindi as well. He can explain any topic in interesting narratives and has the art of engaging children in that subject. Apart from writing skills, he is a good painter, a good orator, and an excellent professional in his field. He lives in Dehradun, a beautiful green city at the foothills of the Himalayas.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Tommy's ABCs Book Review


Author: JRenee Heinerman 

Illustrator: Marianna Flores

Publisher: Fabulicity Lifestyle Creations

Released: April 02, 2019

Format: Kindle, Hard Cover, Paperback 

ISBN: 978-1732418660

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 4 Lemon Drops


Words matter! A positive self-image alphabet for young learners! 


Book Summary:

Tommy had a rough day at school. He arrives home after being laughed at for playing basketball poorly during physical education class.

 His mom teaches him a new game that changes his negative self-talk to a more positive refrain. By the end, Tommy learns an important life lesson about the healing power of words.


A cute story that teaches children the value of self-worth and positive self-talk. The illustrations are colorful and add a pleasant component to the story.

I appreciated the open discussion questions and related activities at the end of the book. Parents and educators will find the extension activities meaningful when speaking with their kiddos about how to react to challenging situations.

I give it 4 Lemon Drops!

Classroom Connection:

Targeted Vocabulary: stupid, embarrassment, terrible, whimpered, qualities, dedicated, eager, trait, daredevil, quest, victorious, zest

Tommy’s ABCs is great for an All About Me unit as well as a lesson on feelings and kindness.



About The Author:

JRenee Heimerman's desire for personal improvement started at an early age. During middle school, she began to struggle with depression, so she started searching for ways to make life more enjoyable. She discovered that material things and possession and possessions only provided temporary happiness.

Through her stories, JRenee hopes to teach children, as well as the adult reader, the skills to having a happier life. She shares an alternative way of thinking and provides activities to reinforce the lessons.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Tangled: A Story About Shapes Book Review


Author: Anne Miranda

Illustrator: Eric Comstock

Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

Released: June 25, 2019

Format: Kindle, Hard Cover

ISBN: 978-1481497213

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 5 Lemon Drops

A circle of events leaves a group of unsuspecting shapes twisted up inside a jungle gym and searching for help.


Book Summary:

A happy little circle gets caught up in a jungle gym. When her friend triangle tries to set her free, he suffers the same fate, as do an ellipse and a gang of big-hearted pentagons.

A straight and narrow line devises a clever solution that involves an abundance of ingenuity and a little teamwork. She, a prism, and a sphere, work together and in no time at all the jungle gym is heaved up and the shapes are free!


What a marvelous celebration of math, science, and out-of-the-box thinking! Anne Miranda has penned another story young readers will enjoy again and again.

The perky rhyming pattern is catchy and fun; it begs to be read aloud. The various fonts throughout the book draw the eye and add an attention-grabbing element youngsters will appreciate.

A well-rounded cast of characters introduces a broad range of shapes not ordinarily seen in a children’s picture book. There’s also a shape gallery at the end, for readers to get to know the shapes even further.

Comstock’s retro-inspired illustrations are comical and capture the characters’ emotions. Their simplistic style is effective in showing children shapes are fun and not that complicated.

I give it 5 Lemon Drops!

Classroom Connection:

Targeted Vocabulary: geometric, circle, triangle, square, rectangle, ellipse, cone, star, cube, point, pentagon, trapezoid, parallelogram, line, prism, sphere, polygon, tetrahedron

Tangled: A Book about Shapes has numerous applications in the classroom: mathematics (geometry), science (levers), art, and literacy.

Mathematics application- For beginners, the book can present simple shapes; for advanced students, a focus on the more complex shapes can be done.

Science application- A lesson on levers is ideal. Materials for the levers can be added to the science and block centers.

Art application- After a read-aloud of the book, students can design various pictures formed from different shapes or make shape collages.

Literacy- Focus on the rhyming words in the story.


Let’s Learn Shapes Pinterest Board

About The Author:

When Anne was a little girl, she loved rhymes, especially the ones her mother and grandmother used to recite to her. Now that she’s all grown up, she enjoys writing them.

 One such rhyme was "to market, to market to buy a fat pig, home again, home again jiggity jig!". But no one ever told her what happened to the pig when it got home.

She always wondered, so she wrote a funny book about a frazzled shopper who brings home one very naughty pig and a host of other uncooperative animals from the market. 

Of course, they make a big mess. What, oh what will she do? You'll have to read the book to find out! To Market To Market, illustrated by the amazing Janet Stevens, has been translated into Korean and is still enjoyed by kids all over the world.

Another wildly popular selection is Glad Monster, Sad Monster, a collaboration with Caldecott Award-winning illustrator Ed Emberley.

This colorful monster book, complete with tear out and storable masks, has been translated into French and Spanish and is used world-wide to help children identify and cope with their feelings. It's well-loved by parents and teachers alike.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Read Across America Reading List

                                         Photo by Katerina Kuchereno via Pixabay

Read Across America Day 2021 is almost here!

In years past, educators spent the day celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday and reading his books.

When I taught, it was one of the most anticipated times of the school year. It introduced a month-long author study of Dr. Seuss that included book related art activities, snacks, and literacy lessons.

                                      Photo by Wokingham Libraries via Pixabay

Because of Dr. Seuss’ racist roots, many teachers are scouting for alternative books to read to their students.

There’s a vast market of children’s books to choose from, but one facet that’s generally forgotten is self-published authors.

In my modest opinion, self-published authors are an untapped resource full of rich educational opportunities. Many have supplemental resources for their books and welcome classroom visit invitations.

                                              Photo by christ Poe via Pixabay

Self-published aka Indie Authors authors are an enthusiastic bunch of writers who adore children’s literature as much as schoolteachers.

How do I know this? Well, I’m a former Pre-K Head Start/Kindergarten teacher who reads, writes, and reviews picture books.

I’m friendly with many self-published children’s authors who are passionate about their work.

Here’s a list of my award-winning books (Yes, I’m shamelessly plugging my books because I believe in them.) along with those I’ve read or reviewed specifically with educators in mind.

I seek out Indie Books that will improve classroom libraries and lesson plans.

Reading List And Links:

The Kamyla Chung Series & Teddy Bear Tea By Ellwyn Autumn

FREE Educational Resources on Teachers Pay Teachers

The Bella and Mia Adventure Series By Amelia Griggs

Let’s Meet On The Moon & Places We Have Never Been By Lauren Ranalli

I Wish I Was A Brownie & Snack Attack By Marsha Casper Cook

The Mr. Inker Series & Special Memory By Christina Francine

Fairy-Tailed Wish By Megan Pighetti

I Can Do Hard Things and Listening To My Body By Gabi Garcia

The Orphan: A Cinderella Story From Greece By Anthony Manna

The Freckle Fairy & The Belly Button Fairy By Bobbie Hinman

I’m A Messterpiece By Lauren Eresman

Children Are Like Cupcakes & It Is Okay To Cry By Ansaba Gavor

If you have any books to add to the list, please comment below.

If you’d like to connect with some of these authors, please join my Facebook group for authors and educators, Lemon Drop Learning. 

Happy Read Across America Day!



Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Broccoli Rob Book Review

                                                                   Available On Amazon

Author: John S. Armstrong

Illustrator: David Miles 

Publisher: Heartland Publishing LLC

Released: August 15, 2020

Format: Kindle, Paperback, Hard Cover

ISBN: 978-1735432007

Reviewer: Ellwyn Autumn

Rating: 5 Lemon Drops

Broccoli Rob follows the story of one shy, little vegetable who finds his courage and overcomes stage fright.



It’s been days since the sun has shone on the garden where Broccoli Rob lives. Hoping to draw the sun out, Broccoli Rob sings softly to it. He’s much too quiet for the sun to perceive, so the clouds remain.

Broccoli Rob realizes he can’t carry this task out alone. He enlists the help of his friends to sing along with him. Rosy Tomato and Carlton Carrot consider his idea crazy, but wise, old Poppy Cornstalk thinks they should give it a try.

At first, the song doesn’t work. No one can hear Broccoli Rob. After reassurance from Poppy Cornstalk, Broccoli Rob raises his voice, and the sun responds by beaming on them.


From the clever title to the charming illustrations, everything about this book is adorable. Children and parents will appreciate the positive messages of accepting others’ ideas and pushing through your fears to meet your goal. Broccoli Rob shows children that instead of hiding their talents, they must use them for the benefit of all. Mr. Armstrong definitely did.

David Miles’ illustrations are cozy, comforting, and warm—a bushel of joy. I love the characters’ cute little faces and large round eyes. I know youngsters will delight in them too.  

I give it 5 Lemon Drops!

Classroom Connection:

Targeted Vocabulary: encourage, secret, discouraged, confident, respected, wisdom, apologized, embarrassed

Broccoli Rob is an excellent source for an All About Me theme or a lesson on positive self-esteem. It would make a fine addition to a classroom library or the book bin of a student who requires a little confidence.

The book can also promote a classroom community. The characters in the book model how to accept fresh ideas and implement them.

After a read-aloud of the book, students can draw or write about a skill they’ve mastered or would like to learn. You may even want to put on a talent or art show to honor everyone’s achievements. Don’t skip the refreshments following the exhibit. A vegetable tray is perfect!  


About The Author:

John S. Armstrong lives in Downers Grove, Illinois with his wife, Allison, and daughter, Madison Leigh. He has a passion for writing children's books. John's passion aims to encourage parents to engage with their children in early reading practices. Evidence shows daily reading sessions in early childhood helps promote focus, imagination, comprehension, and concentration.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

2020 Lemon Drop Literary Book Awards


I’ve taken all the Independently Published books I’ve reviewed from 2020 and awarded one a Certificate Of Excellence In Literature for its educational value.

When I review a children’s picture book, I strive to keep students, teachers and the rigors of lesson planning in mind.

A few of the questions I ask are: How will this book translate into the classroom? How will it help teachers meet their lesson plan objectives? Is it engaging and fun? Did I enjoy reading it and most importantly do I want to read it again?

Congratulations, Ansaba Gavor! In my humble opinion, Children Are Like Cupcakes, has met all the criteria to earn a place on my virtual classroom bookshelf!

This year I'd also like to recognize two authors who've created two wonderful educational learning series that also belong on my virtual classroom and home bookshelves.

Amelia Griggs' The Bella And Mia Adventure Series and its companion workbooks Bella And Friends Learning Series. Each book is adorable on its own; combined they're a complete set of learning fun with an extra scoop of sweetness!

Robin Woods Prompt Me Series. I've been using her Prompt Me Novel for my own story development and my characters are coming to life more than ever before!

Thank you, ladies, for all you do to help children and aspiring writers achieve their full learning potential.