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The Free Press WV

►  Mel B dumps water on Simon Cowell on ‘America’s Got Talent’

Simon Cowell has been left all wet by a joke he made at the expense of fellow “America’s Got Talent” judge Mel B.

Cowell was giving his appraisal of an act that had a technical mishap during Tuesday’s live shows when he said it reminded him of Mel B’s wedding night, because it had a lot of anticipation but “not much promise or delivery.” The former Spice Girl flashed a shocked smile before dumping a cup of water on Cowell midway through the joke and storming off stage.

Mel B was back in her judge’s chair for the next act.

The singer filed for divorce from husband Stephen Belafonte in March and won a restraining order against him in April after accusing him of emotional and physical abuse. Belafonte has denied the allegations.

►  Farm Mark Twain bought for his daughter on market for $1.8M

A Connecticut farm once owned by Mark Twain is for sale for $1.8 million.

The Connecticut Post reports the 18.7-acre property in Redding is next to Twain’s country home, known as “Stormfield.”

He bought it for his daughter, Jean Clemens, in 1909 and named it “Jean’s Farm.” But Clemens died soon after. Twain died five months later, in April 1910.

The real estate agency, William Raveis, says the house includes five bedrooms and four bathrooms. The property also includes a movie theater, saltwater swimming pool, fish pond and a barn built in the 1860s that includes an extra apartment.

It calls it a perfect Connecticut gentleman’s farm.

►  Latino coalition: CBS diversity progress is part of new push

Latino leaders meeting with top CBS executives last week were braced for a confrontation over a protracted scarcity of Latino actors and stories on the network’s prime-time shows.

“We said, ‘That’s it, no more’” in preparing for the encounter, said Alex Nogales of the National Latino Media Coalition.

Instead, the coalition said in a statement Tuesday it found CBS has made “record commitments” to improved representation of Latinos, which Nogales said has galvanized the group to demand more from other networks.

“We’re going to be very militant from here on out. ... The next target is Fox,” he said, with a meeting to be requested next week. Letter-writing campaigns and boycotts could be among the tools employed to push broadcasters to act, he said.

Fox didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nogales said that what he and fellow coalition member Thomas A. Saenz learned from CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves and other CBS executives proves change is possible.

Without releasing specific numbers per its agreement with CBS, the coalition said the network has doubled the number of Latino writers and cast members since 2016; agreed to order scripts from Latinos or with Latino themes, and will hear additional pitches from 10 Latino writers or producers.

One example of a Latino newcomer to CBS: Wilmer Valderrama, who joined the cast of “NCIS” last season as agent Nick Torres.

When he and Saenz left the meeting after seeing more recent, encouraging data, Nogales said, they shared the same thought: “‘Man, if we had known we were going to get all these good things, we would have asked for more.’”

Saenz is the president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, while Nogales heads the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

In a statement, CBS called the meeting “very positive” and said it looked forward to continued progress and collaboration.

At a Television Critics Association meeting earlier this month, CBS executives were questioned about other diversity issues: Its new fall shows that are largely topped by male stars, as well as the departure of Asian actors Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park from “Hawaii Five-O” over their reported demands for pay equal to the show’s white stars.

The push for ethnic diversity came after the four major networks, ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, fielded a fall 1999 slate of new shows with only white stars. The Latino coalition joined with black, Asian-American and American Indian civil rights groups to demand small-screen ethnic diversity.

Change has come in fits in starts, with African-American actors and producers making greater strides than other minorities. But in 2015, an Associated Press analysis of regular cast members on prime-time comedies and dramas found casts at three of the four networks were still whiter than the nation as a whole.

Networks must realize they can no longer relegate Latinos, a group that represents 18 percent of the U.S. population and has economic clout, to relative invisibility, Nogales said.

“People get their information from TV and film. If Latinos are absent or depicted as lesser than others, that’s the way we’re going to be treated,” he said.

►  Nielsen’s Top 20 programs for August 14-20

Prime-time viewership numbers compiled by Nielsen for August 14-20. Listings include the week’s ranking and viewership.

1. “America’s Got Talent” (Tuesday), NBC, 13.44 million.

2. “America’s Got Talent” (Wednesday), NBC, 10.89 million.

3. “Game of Thrones,” HBO, 10.24 million.

4. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 7.80 million.

5. “Big Brother” (Thursday), CBS, 6.48 million.

6. “Big Brother” (Sunday), CBS, 6.33 million.

7. “Big Brother” (Wednesday), CBS, 6.28 million.

8. “American Ninja Warrior,” NBC, 5.90 million.

9. “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS, 5.88 million.

10. “CMA Fest,” ABC, 5.740 million.

11. “NCIS,” CBS, 5.737 million.

12. “NCIS: New Orleans,” CBS, 5.33 million.

13. “Marlon,” NBC, 5.20 million.

14. “Bachelor in Paradise,” ABC, 5.102 million.

15. “Hollywood Game Night,” NBC, 5.098 million.

16. “Big Brother” (Friday), CBS, 5.06 million.

17. “Celebrity Family Feud,” ABC, 4.96 million.

18. “Bull,” CBS, 4.89 million.

19. “The Wall,” NBC, 4.87 million.

20. “Saturday Night Live Weekend Update in Primetime,” NBC, 4.86 million.

Arts & Entertainment News

The Free Press WV

►  ‘America’s Got Talent’ and ‘GOT’ rule Nielsen ratings again

Viewers continued to play peek-a-boo with “Big Brother” last week. The Nielsen ratings company says CBS’ voyeuristic reality show landed four editions among the top 16 slots.

But NBC had the week’s most-watched programs: two nights of “America’s Got Talent,” drawing 13.4 million and 10.9 million viewers.

Right behind, with 10.2 million viewers, was HBO’s red-hot “Game of Thrones.”

Overall in prime time during this sleepy summer week, NBC averaged 5.1 million viewers. CBS was runner-up, followed by ABC and Fox.

Fox News Channel remained the week’s most popular cable network, averaging 2 million viewers in prime time. ABC’s “World News Tonight” topped the evening newscasts for the 12th week in a row.

►  Billy Joel dons Star of David jacket during NYC show encore

Billy Joel wore a bright yellow Star of David on the front and back of his black suit during an encore at Madison Square Garden.

The “Piano Man” didn’t comment from the stage on his attire Monday. But his performance came more than a week after a rally by neo-Nazi and other groups in Charlottesville, Virginia, ended in deadly violence against anti-rally demonstrators.

Earlier in the show he alluded to it being a difficult summer. Joel joined with Patty Smyth in taking a swipe at the Trump administration. Photos of fired officials appeared on screen as Smyth sang her hit, “Goodbye to You.”

Joel’s ex-wife, Christie Brinkley, and their daughter, Alexa Ray Joel, attended the concert and praised Joel on social media. Many of his relatives died in the Holocaust.

►  Mark Wahlberg tops Forbes list of highest-paid actors

“Transformers: The Last Knight” star Mark Wahlberg has outmuscled Dwayne Johnson to become Hollywood’s highest-paid actor in the past year with a transforming income of $68 million, according to Forbes magazine.

The former rapper known as Marky Mark beat out “Baywatch” star Johnson, with $65 million, and Johnson’s “The Fate of the Furious” co-star Vin Diesel, worth $54.5 million

The rest of the top five, released Tuesday, includes Adam Sandler, flush with a Netflix deal, at No. 4 with $50.5 million and Jackie Chan with $49 million.

The top 10 actors banked a cumulative $488.5 million — nearly three times the $172.5 million combined total of the 10 top-earning women.

All the data is from between June 01, 2016, and June 01, 2017, before fees and taxes.

►  George and Amal Clooney donate $1M to fight hate groups

George and Amal Clooney are donating $1 million to fight hate groups.

The couple announced Tuesday that their Clooney Foundation for Justice is supporting the Southern Poverty Law Center with a $1 million grant to combat hate groups in the United States.

George Clooney says in a statement Tuesday that they wanted to add their voices and financial assistance to the fight for equality.

Clooney said, “There are no two sides to bigotry and hate.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors the activities of more than 1,600 extremist groups in the U.S. and has used litigation to win judgments against white supremacist organizations.

Last month, the Clooney Foundation announced a $2 million grant to support education for Syrian refugee children.

Arts & Entertainment News

The Free Press WV

►  What’s in a (book’s) name? Everything!

People who say there are no shortcuts are always late to meetings, right?

They’re also wrong.

Of course there are shortcuts. Otherwise, why are there back roads to avoid the traffic on Interstate 80? Why is there a 10-items-or-less line at the supermarket?

Shortcuts are awesome and I found one.

It’s almost like a license to print money: Piggy-back on the success of others.

That’s the secret. That’s the shortcut.

Today, I announce the launch of my new series of novels, which will actually be the same novel I published a few years ago (look me up on Amazon!), but under different titles. Rather than trying to write something new, I’m going to use the success of others to reach readers who might not otherwise read the brilliantly titled “Not Quite Camelot.“

I may adjust the plot slightly so that the new title makes sense. Maybe.

Seem silly? You won’t think so when you see “Hairy Potter: Book 8” at the top of The New York Times’ best-seller list! It will have a minor character who is covered with body hair and makes ceramic pots. See? He’s a hairy potter and he would fit in “Not Quite Camelot.“

If you think people won’t fall for it, you’re mistaken. Because people watched both “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Webster.“ They watched both “The Addams Family” and “The Munsters.“

The original can be copied and improved. My idea isn’t to “steal” other people’s ideas, because it’s my idea. My novel. The titles will just be like others.

Notice that I put the word steal in quotation marks in the previous sentence, which means that if this ever goes to trial, I’ll deny everything. It was in quotation marks!

My plan doesn’t stop at “Hairy Potter.“ I have several other titles under which I plan to release NQC (we authors often refer to our books by their initials, except for something like “Case Review: Andrew Peterson,“ for obvious reasons).

I will release a book called “The Da Vinci Core,“ because I’ll add a scene where the protagonist finds an apple core that’s shaped like Leonardo Da Vinci. It’s the Da Vinci core.

For readers who love the classics, there will be a version called “A Tale of Three Cities,“ which people may misconstrue as a sequel to the Charles Dickens classic. That’s not my fault. The fact that the main character in my novel lives in three cities during the course of the plot seems like a great reason for that title.

Some readers may be intrigued by the version of the novel called “Loleta,“ which perhaps brings to mind the novel “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov. Again, not my fault. My novel will include a brief passage where the characters are in the small farming city of Loleta in Humboldt County. An honest mistake . . . by the reader who buys my novel!

Of course, the end game is to move into territory owned by the best-selling, most-owned book in history.

One version will be called “Brad’s Interesting Book, Literary Excellence.“

The fact that it will be called “BIBLE” on the front isn’t my fault. Maybe the reader should have looked inside before spending hard-earned money!

Don’t blame the author. Celebrate the author! He wrote the BIBLE!

►  Cosby hires Michael Jackson’s lawyer for sex assault retrial

Bill Cosby has hired Michael Jackson’s former lawyer to represent him at his November retrial on sexual assault charges in Pennsylvania.

Cosby’s spokesman announced Monday that the 80-year-old comedian is bringing in Tom Mesereau to lead a retooled defense team. Lawyers from the first trial in June had said they wanted off the case.

Mesereau won an acquittal in Jackson’s 2004 child molestation trial. He has also represented boxer Mike Tyson, actor Robert Blake and rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight.

Mesereau will be joined by Sam Silver, who represented now-imprisoned former U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania in a corruption case, and former federal prosecutor Kathleen Bliss.

Cosby’s first trial on charges he drugged and molested a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004 ended in a hung jury.

►  Review: ‘The Room of Fire’ is a dark and violent book

“The Room of White Fire” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), by T. Jefferson Parker

Roland Ford is a private investigator who excels at finding missing people. He’s also a former police officer, an Iraq war combat veteran and a widower who is tortured by the loss of his wife, who comes to him now in waking dreams.

Dr. Briggs Spencer is a psychologist who made millions teaching the CIA how to effectively torture suspects. He is atoning for it now — or so he says — by operating a chain of quality hospitals for the mentally ill. When a troubled Air Force veteran named Clay Hickman escapes from one of Briggs’ hospitals, the psychologist hires Ford to track him down.

“The Room of White Fire,” the first of a planned series of Roland Ford novels by veteran thriller writer T. Jefferson Parker, initially unfolds like a standard private eye novel. But as Ford digs deeper into the case, he discovers that everyone, from the hospital staff to Hickman’s parents, is either lying or has been lied to about the young man’s military record.

Hickman, it seems, knows a dark secret about America’s war on terror, and powerful and dangerous people are prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure the secret is never told.

As Ford searches for both Hickman and the truth, Parker deftly builds the tension from suspense to menace to an overwhelming sense of dread. The result is a fast-paced, beautifully written thriller.

Although “The Room of White Fire” is a dark and violent book, it ends on the hopeful note that even in these complicated times, a single man with courage and integrity sometimes can still make a difference. ___

Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”

►  Tyler performs ‘Total Eclipse’ during cruise

The Latest on the total solar eclipse crossing the U.S., from Oregon to South Carolina (all times EDT):

4 p.m.

Some cruise passengers have watched the solar eclipse as Bonnie Tyler sang her hit, “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

The Welsh singer was backed on the ballad by Joe Jonas’ band, DNCE, during a Monday afternoon performance in an outdoor theater on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas.

“Total Eclipse Cruise” left from Florida on Sunday, sailing through the Caribbean toward St. Maarten on Monday, when the moon passed in front of the sun. A total eclipse was viewable in a narrow band across the sea.

“Total Eclipse of the Heart” topped the Billboard charts for four weeks in 1983. Spotify says streams of the song have increased by 2,859 percent in the U.S. and 827 percent worldwide during the past two weeks.

— AP writer David Fischer


3:40 p.m.

The crickets and other animals grew noisy as it got darker at the Nashville zoo, but when the sun was totally blotted out, it was the humans who drowned out the animals, clapping, “oohing” and “aahing” for more than the nearly two minutes the total eclipse lasted.

And then once the light returned, the show began.

The two juvenile giraffes, Mazi, a 6-month-old, and Nasha, a 3-year-old, raced in circles as the people stared. About 20 feet away, some of the rhinos were doing their best imitation of running after heading toward their pens when it got dark.

Teresa Morehead, of Indianapolis, says she was surprised to see the animals running. She says the rhinos were more confused than anything.

— AP science writer Seth Borenstein


2:55 p.m.

John Hays drove up from Bishop, California, for the total eclipse in Salem, Oregon, and says the experience will stay with him forever.

It was his second eclipse. He experienced one in Guatemala about 27 years ago. He saw Monday’s eclipse from a deck overlooking the Willamette Valley and the foothills of the Coastal Range.

Hays says he liked it because he had a clear view across the entire landscape.

He says he will never forget that “it was 10:30 and it became night.” He says “just watching the light become silvery, and the temperature drop, that was also a pretty amazing thing.”

— AP writer Andrew Selsky


2:50 p.m.

The first total solar eclipse to sweep the U.S. coast to coast in nearly a century has come to an end in South Carolina.

Americans across the land watched in wonder Monday as the moon blocked the sun, turning daylight into twilight.

Totality — when the sun is completely obscured by the moon — lasted just two minutes or so in each location along the narrow corridor stretching all the way across the U.S., from Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. It took about 90 minutes for total blockage to cross the country.

Two-hundred million people live within a day’s drive of Monday’s path of totality. So towns and parks along the eclipse’s main drag have welcomed monumental crowds. The last coast-to-coast eclipse was in 1918.


1:50 p.m.

Northwest cities not quite in the path of totality also enjoyed the solar eclipse.

Boise is not in totality. But birds quieted down briefly when 99.5 percent of sun was blocked. And some neighborhoods erupted into applause and hooting as residents cheered the show from their yards.

In Portland, hundreds gathered at Tom McCall Waterfront Park to see the rare celestial event. Some office workers stood on rooftops, and small crowds gathered on the sidewalks, looking skyward. Some expressed surprise that even a sliver of sun can prevent a city from falling into darkness.

Within minutes, traffic resumed on what had been eerily quiet downtown streets.

— AP writers Rebecca Boone and Steven DuBois


1:40 p.m.

After staying behind the clouds, the sun in Nashville moved into the clear to happy staring crowds at the Nashville Zoo.

Louisiana State University chemical engineering major Tiffany Lastinger told her physics major friend, “Oh my God, Katie, look.”

The sun resembled a Pac-Man character.

Her friend, Katherine M. Nugent, studies astrophysics but was watching a group of rhinos and giraffes. The two plan to enter their observations in the iNaturalist app.

Nugent says it’s “really cool to see how different animals react.”

— AP science writer Seth Borenstein


1:20 p.m.

The first total solar eclipse to sweep the U.S. coast to coast in nearly a century has begun in Oregon.

Americans across the land are watching in wonder through telescopes, cameras and protective glasses Monday as the moon blots out the sun and turns daylight into twilight.

Totality — when the sun is completely obscured by the moon — will last two minutes or so in each location along the narrow corridor stretching from Oregon to South Carolina.

Two-hundred million people live within a day’s drive of Monday’s path of totality, and it will take about 90 minutes for totality to cross the country.

Towns and parks along the eclipse’s main drag have welcomed monumental crowds for what promises to be the most observed, studied and photographed eclipse in history.


12:50 p.m.

Les and Mary Anderson will mark their 13th eclipse with hundreds of amateur astronomers who have descended on Casper, Wyoming.

The couple from San Diego is attending Astroncon, which is organized by the Astronomical League.

The Andersons met on a photography field trip at Yosemite National Park and went to Mexico for an eclipse in 1991, the year before they got married.

In Casper, they joined a friend they met during an eclipse in Aruba in 1998.

Mike O’Leary was ready Monday with a camera outfitted with a homemade eclipse filter. He says seeing an eclipse is “like nothing else you will ever see or do.”

— AP videographer Peter Banda



Both of South Carolina’s political parties are trying to capitalize on the eclipse in fundraising campaigns.

In an email titled “‘Eclipse’ the Democrats!” the South Carolina Republican Party on Monday asked donors to contribute $20.18 toward the party’s efforts to “keep Democrats TOTALLY in the dark” in next year’s elections. Republicans now hold all statewide elected offices and control both chambers of South Carolina’s Legislature.

In a message of their own, the state’s Democratic Party sent supporters links to recent political articles in several outlets reminding them of work ahead of the party.

The party told supporters, “Nobody go blind today, there’s too much work to do for Democrats all across the state!”

— AP writer Meg Kinnard


11:40 a.m.

Eclipse viewers, many of them slathered with sunscreen, are streaming into the noisy Nashville Zoo hours early to see both the eclipse and animals’ weird reactions to it.

Zoo spokesman Jim Bartoo says people were camping out at the zoo entrance at 6 a.m., three hours before the gates opened and seven-and-a-half hours before totality.

Paulette Simmons of Nashville came to the zoo after a doctor’s appointment, saying she decided on the location because she wanted to see how the animals reacted.

The flamingo lagoon is one of the most popular locales, with the birds expected to roost and get noisy when the sun darkens.

Ninety minutes after the zoo opened, the pathways were clogged with people.

— AP science writer Seth Borenstein


11:30 a.m.

Baseball fans in more than a half-dozen cities are heading to ballparks to watch the solar eclipse as teams look to cash in with game-day viewing parties.

Minor league teams from Oregon to South Carolina have scheduled games Monday to coincide with the total eclipse as it streaks across the United States.

In Nebraska, the Lincoln Saltdogs will wear special eclipse jerseys and stop their game to watch the full eclipse at 1:02 p.m. The team says it has sold tickets to buyers from as far away as the United Kingdom and Germany.

Other teams hosting events include the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, Idaho Falls Chukars, Bowling Green Hot Rods, Nashville Sounds, Greenville Drive, Columbia Fireflies and Charleston RiverDogs.

No big league games are scheduled to coincide with the eclipse.

— AP writer Grant Schulte


11:25 a.m.

Forecasters say it looks like a big chunk of the nation on the path of the total eclipse will get clear viewing for the sky show.

National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Burke says about 70 percent of the area on the 70-mile path stretching from Oregon to South Carolina is likely to have clear skies when the moon moves in front of the sun.

Burke says it looks good for the Pacific Northwest, the Northern Rockies, Tennessee, Kentucky, and into western South Carolina.

The toughest areas are coastal South Carolina, eastern Nebraska, north and central Missouri and Illinois. Burke says those areas will have thick clouds and have to dodge pop-up thunderstorms.

Astronomers say clouds and rainstorm make it difficult to see the classic image of the blotted out sun.

— AP science writer Seth Borenstein


9:45 a.m.

With just hours to go before a total solar eclipse would reach the Oregon coast, people were streaming into the fairgrounds in Salem, Oregon, to view the spectacle Monday morning.

The sound of Taiko drummers filled the air during a pre-eclipse show at the fairgrounds. Less than 50 miles north in Portland, Oregon, eclipse experts, contest winners, an astronaut and members of the media were boarding an Alaska Airlines charter flight to fly two hours southwest in to intercept the eclipse about 10 a.m. PDT.

Meanwhile, thousands of eclipse tourists were gathered in the tiny town of Weiser, Idaho. Among them was Agnese Zalcmane, who traveled to the western United States from Latvia so she could be in the zone when the moon’s shadow completely covers the sun.

— AP writer Gillian Flaccus


3 a.m.

Americans with telescopes, cameras and protective glasses are staking out viewing spots to watch the moon blot out the midday sun Monday.

It promises to be the most observed and photographed eclipse in history. The main drag will stretch along a narrow corridor from Oregon to South Carolina. Millions of eclipse watchers are expected to peer skyward, and they’re hoping for clear weather.

It will be the first total solar eclipse to sweep coast-to-coast across the U.S. in 99 years.

7 Books That Will Help Ease The Back-To-School Transition

The Free Press WV

“Fall Is For School,“ by Robert Neubecker (Disney-Hyperion)

A brother and sister approach the end of summer differently – the girl is excited for school to start and the brother would rather just stay home. Even after describing the new subjects they’ll be studying and things they’ll do, the boy is adamant about not going to school: “I am going to play all day!/It doesn’t matter what you say.“ His sister responds: “Recess is for playing games:/We’ll run and jump and climb!/Let’s go right now and join the fun./You really must not whine!“ The sister’s enthusiasm never wanes and eventually the brother – seated at a chair and surrounded by friendly students in a cheerful classroom – discovers his sister was right all along. Bright, bold, detail-laden drawings paired with singsong rhymes create a perfect “turn-that-frown-upside down” story.

“Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten,“ by Candice Ransom; illustrated by Christine Grove (Doubleday Books for Young Readers)

A colorful, soft watercolor illustration on the cover hints at the gentle nature of this tale. Amanda Panda loves the color brown, running fast and building with blocks. A girl who adores pink and sparkly things, and who seems to be perfect, tries to befriend Amanda on the first day of kindergarten, but Amanda attempts to evade her. Deciding kindergarten is a bust, she sneaks into her older brother’s second-grade classroom, only to realize that the chairs are too big and the vocabulary words are too hard. Then, to her surprise, Amanda sees her nemesis has wound up in the same room after getting lost. Will Amanda help the girl? It’s a sweet story about the power of kindness and getting past first impressions.

“Tinyvillle Town: Time for School,“ by Brian Biggs (Abrams Appleseed)

The residents of Tinyville – from a teacher choosing his best sweater to wear, to kids lacing their sneakers and filling their backpacks, to a crossing guard checking her watch for the kids to arrive – are excited for school to begin. The smiling principal is nearby, checking on everyone: “Bubba, where are your shoes?/Here, Anna, you can borrow my pencil. Bring yours tomorrow./Owen, return that library book you borrowed last year.“ The book takes readers through a day at school through the eyes of Ellie, who is new to the neighborhood. We see her get acclimated to the school’s activities and make a friend. The bustling Tinyville, shown in boisterous colored-pencil and India ink illustrations, is as much fun to visit as the neighborhoods made famous by Richard Scarry.

“Second Grade Holdout,“ by Audrey Vernick; illustrated by Matthew Cordell (Clarion Books)

Who wants to leave the comfort of first grade for the unknown of second grade? Not the kid in this story, an unnamed boy who appeared in the author’s earlier book, “First Grade Dropout.“ The boy tells us how he had so many good times in first grade, and, importantly, was in the same class as his best friend. So he decides he’s staying with his first-grade teacher: “If I stick with her in good old room 101, I could be Lakeview Elementary’s smartest-ever first-grader! They might even have medals and certificates for that. Maybe a crown of some kind.“ His resolve tightens when his friend’s sisters tell him all sorts of dreadful things about second grade, like being required to spell “platypus.“ Soon, though, he and his friend discover the girls are pranking them. Funny and relatable, this book will make kids laugh out loud.

“How To Get Your Teacher Ready,“ by Jean Reagan; illustrated by Lee Wildish (Alfred A. Knopf)

In a twist on teachers explaining everything about the classroom and what lies ahead, in this book, it’s the kids who are the experts. “Show her your favorite spots in the room./If she asks, “Why don’t I have a cubby?“ point to all the drawers in her very own desk.“ Cute and charming illustrations, along with lively, humorous text, make this book something your kids will want to read and reread throughout the school year.

“K is for Kindergarten,“ by Erin Dealey; illustrated by Joseph Cowman (Sleeping Bear Press)

As the first day of kindergarten approaches, kids can read about what to expect, and discover related activities. Each letter of the alphabet offers a starting point for a rhyme and things to do. “F is for all the smiling faces/of the new kids that you meet./Some may ride the bus to school./Some might live right down the street.“ The corresponding page asks: “Do you live close to your school or far away? How will you get there? By bus? By foot? Make a chart of all the ways students might travel to your school.“ The snappy rhymes and thought-provoking challenges offer a chance for parent-child bonding and a way to build excitement for the big day.

“Here Comes Teacher Cat,“ by Deborah Underwood; illustrated by Claudia Rueda (Dial Books for Young Readers)

Cat is summoned to work as a substitute teacher for Ms. Melba at Kitty School. But Cat isn’t interested. Mainly he’d just like to nap. In this book – the next entry in the warm and funny series in which an unseen narrator talks to Cat and Cat responds by holding up signs – he (reluctantly) steps up to the challenge. His ideas, though, are different from what usually goes on in the classroom: He gathers the kittens for a loud music-group session incorporating guitars, drums and a trumpet; builds a fish-spouting fountain; and turns art time into a chance for paw-painting on the walls and floors. It’s all in good fun, though, and kids will think it is just purrfect.

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