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Love
Author: Matt de la Peña
Illustrator: Loren Long
Published January 9th, 2018

Summary: From Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long comes a story about the strongest bond there is and the diverse and powerful ways it connects us all.

“In the beginning there is light
and two wide-eyed figures standing near the foot of your bed
and the sound of their voices is love.

A cab driver plays love softly on his radio
while you bounce in back with the bumps of the city
and everything smells new, and it smells like life.”

In this heartfelt celebration of love, Matt de la Peña and  illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.

Kellee’s Review: I sat here for a long time trying to figure out how to put into words how I feel about this book. I just can’t, but I will try. 

Let me give you some history. At ALAN in 2016, I believe, Matt was a speaker, and he shared how he’d written a poem about love to share with his daughter when the world didn’t seem so loving. Matt’s daughter is approximately Trent’s age and she’s his first just like Trent is, so I completely understood his feelings–the reality that we’ve brought children into this hard world. When Matt read his beautiful words, I cried. It was beautiful. At the end of the poem, he let us know it was going to be a book, and I had very high expectations.

Then at NCTE 2017, I heard that Penguin had a finished copy. I thought that there was no way that the book could live up to what I expected. But then I read it. And I cried again. I, probably rudely, found Matt right away, maybe interrupting a conversation he was having with someone else, to tell him what a beautiful book he and Loren had created. Matt’s poem had been about love, but the book is about LOVE. Love in the sense that every one needs to start thinking about–love between every person. Empathy. Understanding. Tolerance. Unity. Love for all humans.

And as I read it over and over (after I was lucky enough to receive a copy), I couldn’t think of a kid I didn’t want to share it with. I wanted to share it with my son to talk about how much I love him and how he should love all of human kind; I wanted to share it with my friend who is a 2nd grade teacher, so she could share it with all of her students; I wanted to share it with my students, so we can discuss about the love and acceptance found in each spread and each word; and I am so happy to be sharing it here with all of you so that it can be in every person’s life.

Also, please read this amazing article by Matt de la Peña: “Why We Shouldn’t Shield Children from Darkness” from Time and Kate DiCamillo’s follow-up “Why Children’s Books Should Be a Little Bit Sad” where she answers a question de la Peña posed in his article as well as this Twitter thread from Sayantani DasGupta where she explores the need for joy in the darkeness! It truly embodies my parenting and teaching philosophy: that although kids are kids, they are also humans and future adults; life should be about being real and about happiness.

In the end, I want to just thank these two amazing men for writing this phenomenal book that I so feel is needed so badly right now, and thank you for including nothing but truth within it including inclusion of all types of people and children and situations and cultures and races and ethnicities, etc.

Ricki’s Review: I am really looking forward to seeing Matt de la Peña next month during his tour! This book is absolutely stunning, and we will certainly be purchasing many copies to give as baby shower gifts. The entire text simply emanates love. It is honest, poetically, and it treats children as the intelligent people that they are. The illustrations are simply marvelous and the words dance across the page. I simply don’t have the words to share how absolutely beautiful this book is. When I think of this book, I think about a warm, cozy house and two little boys on my lap. And these little boys make me feel love, love, love.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’ll talk about one scene specifically, which happens to be my favorite.

As soon as I saw this scene, I wanted to show it to students and have discussions with them. How does this scene make them feel? Who is the family? What are they watching? What clues did they use to answer these questions?

Then I would add in the word that accompany the scene:

“One day you find your family
nervously huddled around the TV,
but when you asked what happened,
they answer with silence
and shift between you and the screen.”

And I would ask them how these words change the inferences they made about the spread.

Lastly, I would ask them why this stanza would be in a poem about love, how it fits with the theme, and what it represents.

Another idea that I brainstormed with my friend Jennie Smith are:

  • Recreate my experience by sharing the poem first with the circumstances I shared above. Then reread the poem to them but with the illustrations.
    • After the first read, you can also have them make their own illustrations analyzing the words then compare/contrast the choices that Loren Long made with what they did.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did the author and illustrator include tough scenes in their picture book about love?
  • Which scene represents love the most for you?
  • Which scene are you glad they included?
  • How does the poem differ with and without the illustrations?
  • What different purposes could this poem of love be perfect for?

Flagged Passages: *psst!* Matt may have told me this is (one of) his favorite spreads:

Read This If You Love: Love. (But seriously, read this. Period.)

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

Maya Lin: Thinking With Her Hands
Author: Susan Goldman Rubin
Published November 7th, 2017 by Chronicle

Summary: In the tradition of DELICIOUS, WIDENESS & WONDER, and EVERYBODY PAINTS!, this is Susan Goldman Rubin’s extensively researched and very accessible biography of civic activist Maya Lin, most famous for her design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is one of the most famous pieces of civic architecture in the world. But most people are not as familiar with the reserved college student who entered and won the design competition to build it. This accessible biography tells the story of Maya Lin, from her struggle to stick with her vision of the memorial to the wide variety of works she has created since then. Illustrated extensively with photos and drawings, the carefully researched text crosses multiple interests–American history, civic activism, art history, and cultural diversity–and offers a timely celebration of the memorial’s 35th anniversary, as well as contributing to the current, important discussion of the role of women and minorities in American society.

Activities include: 

Pre-Reading

  • Building Historical and Scientific Background Knowledge: To better understand much of Maya Lin’s extensive work, background knowledge of certain historical and scientific events are needed. Before reading Maya Lin’s biography, separate the class into five groups and assign each group one of these events:
    1. Vietnam War
    2. Civil Rights Movement
    3. Chinese-American Immigration
    4. Endangered and threatened animals
    5. Lewis and Clark’s expedition and the effect on the Indigenous People of Washington State

    Have each group create a timeline using an interactive timeline creator that showcases their event chronologically.  Within the timeline, the students should not only have important dates but they should incorporate visuals, the impact of each event on history/science, and any other supplemental information/media that will increase the knowledge of their event.

    Students then will present their timelines to their classmates to allow for all students to possess knowledge of all five historical and scientific events before beginning Maya Lin’s biography.

Post-Reading

  • Symbolism: Unlike traditional minimalists, Maya Lin uses symbolism in her work. Begin with working with students on symbolism within familiar stories they know. Show students What is Symbolism? at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Vwek28P9Gk then read the Story of William Tell (http://www.mainlesson.com/display.php?author=baldwin&book=fifty&story=tell) and discuss what the apple symbolizes. After this discussion tell students that symbolism in art is the same–symbolism is when a piece of art or an aspect of a piece of art represents something more than its literal meaning.Then, have students analyze her pieces of work for symbols within them. Students should then create a symbolism T-chart showing their found symbolism.Some examples:
    The ark shape of the Riggio-Lynch Chapel Symbolizes that the chapel is a safe place just as Noah’s Ark was.
    The water on the Civil Rights memorial Symbolizes the justice rolling down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream mentioned in “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Cumulative Writing Assignment: Legacy
    Maya Lin states, “You need to see me whole as an artist. What I’m doing is art, architecture, and memorials.” Have students write an informative essay explaining how Lin has fulfilled her legacy as an artist, architect, and memorial designer. Have students use evidence from the text, as well as other provided resources if you choose, to support their claim.Other resources:
    http://www.whatismissing.net/
    http://www.mayalin.com
    http://www.biography.com/people/maya-lin-37259
    http://www.theartstory.org/artist-lin-maya.htm

Discussion Questions include: 

  • From a young age, Maya Lin did not like the color red. Why does she not like the color red? What does red represent to her? The color red was included in the Museum of Chinese in America, however. Why was the color included in this project even though Maya Lin does not like it?
  • After completing the Vietnam War Memorial, Lin felt like she was boxed in as a “monument designer,” and refused many invitations to complete more memorials. Why do you think the Civil Rights Memorial was the work that she finally agreed to complete?
  • Maya Lin’s message of sustainability (avoiding the depletion of natural resources to maintain a balance within nature) reaches us through not only her What is Missing? project but through many of her other pieces of work. She states, “A lot of my work is not very glorious. If I succeed, you may never know I was here.” How did Maya Lin’s message of sustainability come through her works?
  • Susan Goldman Rubin’s chapter titles are very specific word choices. Looking at the titles (Clay, Granite, Water, Earth, Glass, Celadon, Dunes and Driftwood, Wood, and Memories), why do you believe the author choose these words to title each chapter?

Teaching Guide Created by Me (Kellee): 

You can also access the teaching guide through Chronicle’s website here.

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Miguel and the Grand Harmony
Author: Matt de la Peña
Illustrator: Ana Ramírez
Published: October 10, 2017 by Disney

Summary: This jacketed picture book pairs Newbery Winner Matt de la Peña and Pixar artist Ana Ramírez with the highly anticipated Pixar Studios film, Coco. Featuring a beautiful original story based on the characters of the film, as well as vibrant stylized artwork, this title is sure to appeal to readers of all ages.

Disney*Pixar’s Coco is the celebration of a lifetime, where the discovery of a generations-old mystery leads to a most extraordinary and surprising family reunion. Directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) and produced by Darla K. Anderson (Toy Story 3), Disney*Pixar’s Coco opens in U.S. theaters November 22, 2017.

Review: Matt de la Peña. Let me count the ways I love this man. He writes stories that come alive and dance off of the pages. This story is no different. This story beautifully depicts the power of music. It reminds readers to pause and listen to the music around them. This would be a beautiful book to pair with Last Stop on Market Street. Both books remind children to slow down and look at their surroundings. We can find beauty all around us.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: This text reads like an extended poem. I would use this book at any age level to teach students about poetry. High schoolers would find beauty in its complexity, and younger readers might use the book as a mentor text to form their own poetry.

Discussion Questions: How does the author use words with intention?; What do you notice about the ways in which the phrases work together on each page?; How does Miguel grow?; Where do you see music in your everyday life?

We Flagged:

Read This If You Loved:  Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham

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All My Friends Are Fast Asleep
Author: David Weinston; Illustrator: Magali Le Huche
Published September 5, 2017 by FSG

Summary: After tossing and turning in his bed, a little boy embarks on a nighttime quest to find a cozy place to rest. He visits one animal friend after another, from a lark in its nest to a mole in its hole. But while all the animals he meets are happily dozing off, this tuckered-out wanderer remains wide-awake–until he finally finds the perfect spot to lay his head.

From David Weinstone, the popular children’s musician and creator of the Music for Aardvarks program, comes All My Friends Are Fast Asleep, a rhythmic, cheerily illustrated bedtime story sure to smooth the way to sleep for young insomniacs everywhere.

Ricki’s Review: I love books that feature a different animal on each page. This book is different from others that I’ve read because it explores the different ways in which animals sleep. My son enjoyed reading this with me, and he demonstrated each of the animal’s ways of sleeping. It was very fun and interactive. The illustrations are simply lovely. They pop off the page and lure the reader to want to turn the page to see which animal is next. We had a lot of fun with this book—we enjoyed stopping on each page to discuss the animal together.

Kellee’s Review: One of Trent’s favorite board books is A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na which has a little owl that ventures out to visit other animals and they are all sleeping. We talk about the differences between all of the different animals and how different they sleep. All My Friends are Fast Asleep elevates this conversation and will be a great ladder up from the board book. In this book, the young protagonist is having trouble sleeping, so he goes and visits animals to try to sleep how they are to see if it’ll help. In the end, he realizes that the best way to sleep is in his bed, but we, as the reader, in the end have learned about many different animals’ sleeping habits. Additionally, the book ends with guitar chords to accompany the book to turn it into a song–how much fun!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to pick one animal in the book and research other aspects of that animal’s life. Or, students could find other animals in the wild and draw additional pages of this book. They could compile those pages into a sequel!

Visit www.allmyfriendsarefastasleepbook.com for a free download of David Weinstone’s musical version of the text!

Discussion Questions: Which is your favorite animal page? Why? How is this animal different from all of the other animals in the book?; Why does the boy end up in his bed at the end of the night? What other animals could he have found?

We Flagged: “It’s time for bed and overhead / the moon has risen high / but I can’t seem to fall asleep, / no matter how I try.”

Read This If You Loved: Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley; Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise BrownGoodnight Songs by Margaret Wise BrownA Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na, I’m Not Sleepy by Jonathan Allen, Hoot & Honk Just Can’t Sleep by Leslie Helakoski 

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**Thank you to Kelsey from Macmillan for sharing these books with us!**

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I love bilignual picture books because it gives access to literature to our students who are still learning English. Books specifically from Arte Público Press also are so good at making sure a variety of kids are represented in their books which is so heartwarming because I know so many ESL students do not see themselves in books. Another positive of bilingual books is for learning Spanish also. I hope Trent gets into a dual language program for elementary school, so bilingual picture books will be perfect for him and his classmates. Here are some of my new-to-me favorite bilingual picture books from Arte Público Press!

Growing Up with Tamales | Los tamales de Ana 
Author: Gwendolyn Zepeda
Illustrator: April Ward
Published May 31st, 2008

Summary: My name is Ana. Every year, my family makes tamales for Christmas. This year, I am six, so I get to mix the dough, which is made of cornmeal. My sister Lidia is eight, so she gets to spread the dough on the corn husk leaves. I wish I was eight, so that my hands would be big enough to spread the dough just right–not too thick and not too thin.

And so the years pass, and Ana turns eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen. But every year, big sister Lidia is always two years older. Ana envies her elder sibling and wishes she could do what Lidia does: put just the right amount of meat inside the tamales and roll them up; steam the tamales without scalding herself with the hot, hot steam; chop and cook the meat for the tamales without cutting or burning her hands.

When she turns eighteen, though, Ana knows she will keep making tamales and she will be able to do all of the steps herself in her very own factory. When Christmas comes around, Ana will deliver tamales to all of her customers around the world, in delivery trucks that say Ana’s Tamales. And maybe Ana will even let Lidia work for her.

Gwendolyn Zepeda’s rhythmic prose is combined with April Ward’s bright illustrations to create an affectionate and amusing story about sibling relationships that introduces an important Hispanic holiday tradition — making tamales!

Praise: 

A Charlotte Zolotow Award Highly Commended Title

ForeWord Book of the Year Awards Finalist

Tejas Star Book Award Finalist

My Thoughts: I love the focus on seeing ahead to the future in this book. Although Ana is a bit jealous of her older sister, she can look to the future and see that she is going to be able to accomplish everything her sister does, and she has such high ambitions even past what she knows is coming. I also loved the inclusion of family. Tamales are obviously a tradition and something that is important to Ana and her family so much that the process is passed down. It is always so touching to see a great family unit in a picture book.

Esteban De Luna, Baby Rescuer! | Esteban de Luna, ¡rescatador de bebés
Author: Larissa M. Mercado-López
Illustrator: Alex Pardo DeLange
Published May 31st, 2017

Summary: It’s a bird…it’s a plane..it’s Esteban de Luna!

With whimsical illustrations by Alex Pardo DeLange, Larissa M. Mercado-López’s first bilingual picture book, Esteban De Luna, Baby Rescuer! | Esteban de Luna, ¡rescatador de bebés, features a kind and compassionate boy who learns how to be a superhero in an unexpected way.

Esteban wears his green cape every day. He wears it to breakfast. He wears it to the park. He even wears it to the grocery story. The only problems is that it doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t help him fly or become invisible. He decides to sell it.

Just then his mother tells him they’re going to the park, so Esteban puts his cape back on. At the park, he sees a baby doll on the swings. Suddenly a story blows in, and Esteban’s mom calls him to run home. If Esteban leaves the doll, it will get wet and dirty. So he wraps the doll in his cape and ties it back on. “Don’t worry, baby! I’ll save you!”

On the way home, he jumps over puddles and walks under awnings to keep the baby dry. At home, he wears the doll in his cape as he plays and does his chores. That night — with the baby clean and dry — the boy feels like a super hero. He will not sell his cape after all. “From now on, I am Esteban de Luna, Baby Rescuer!”

This charming bilingual picture book for children ages 4-8 will generate dialogue about what it means to be a boy while broadening the definition of masculinity to include tenderness and caring.

My Thoughts: Such a cute book! It does so much to promote imagination and play which always makes me so happy. I love that Esteban gets a baby in this book! So often boys are steered away from playing house or playing with dolls, but I really believe that pretending with dolls really builds caring and empathy with kids and we shouldn’t take that away from our boys.

(One question though that bothered me though: What about the poor kid that lost the baby?!?! They must be so sad!)

The Little Doctor El doctorcito
Author: Juan J. Guerra
Illustrator: Victoria Castillo
Published April 4th, 2017

Summary: The doctor is in! A young boy’s visit to the clinic with his grandmother leads to a career aspiration.

In Juan Guerra’s engaging bilingual picture book, The Little Doctor El doctorcito, a young Salvadoran boy dreams of becoming a doctor who speaks both English and Spanish so that patients like his beloved grandmother aren’t afraid to visit the doctor.

Salvador raced home from school to share exciting news with his abuela, he made an A+ on his science test! But at home, he learns that his grandmother needs his help. She is going to the doctor and wants her grandson to interpret for her. Abuela is nervous because she has never been to a doctor in the United States. In El Salvador, she either saw a curandera or drank té de manzanilla when she felt sick.

When he learns that none of the physicians speak Spanish, the boy realizes that he is completely responsible for making sure the doctor understand his grandmother — and that he understands his instructions! But in spite of his help, the visit does not go well. The doctor rushes in and out. He doesn’t listen to Abuela. And he tells Salvador that she should not eat so much Mexican food! Abuela is so upset that she threatens not to take the medicine the doctor prescribes! What can Salvador do to help her?

Paired with lovely, colorful illustrations by Victoria Castillo, this book for ages 4-8 will encourage kids to think about their own futures as well as the role their culture can play in helping the community.

My Thoughts: I love (yet am saddened–I’ll explain) that a Salvadoran doctor was compelled to write a book to show the hardships many kids face as their parents/grandparents use them as translators. It must be so hard for both parties: to be an adult and have no schooling or any way to learn English AND to be a kid who does know English and have to be an adult so young because of translating needs. I hated how mean the doctor was in the book, but I know that it really helped with the point of the book–more doctors for our immigrants are needed either ones who know Spanish or are sympathetic. And I’m so happy that Juan became a doctor–shows kids the lack of limits in the future no matter your heritage.

Dalia’s Wondrous Hair El cabello maravilloso de Dalia
Author: Laura Lacámara
Published May 1st, 2014

Summary: Butterflies in your beehive?! A girl’s imagination grows into a garden in this bilingual picture book.

In Dalia’s Wondrous Hair El cabello maravilloso de Dalia, author and illustrator Laura Lacámara delights children ages 4-9 with her vibrant illustrations and an imaginative story about a girl’s fanciful encounters with nature in this bilingual picture book.

One night, while Dalia slept safely wrapped in her mother’s cool silken sheets, her hair grew and grew. By the time the rooster crowed, her hair had “grown straight up to the sky, tall and thick as a Cuban royal palm tree.” Her mother was amazed and wondered what her daughter would do with her wondrous hair.

As Dalia looked at the flowers blooming in the garden, an idea sprouted inside her. She decorated her hair with leaves from the forest and mud from the marsh. Her mother was puzzled and could not imagine what she was. “Are you a leaf-crusted mud-tree?” she guessed incorrectly. That night, while Dalia slept safely cocooned in her mama’s sheets, something stired and unfolded. When the rooster crowed, the girl ran outside and everyone watched in awe as she carefully unwrapped her towering hair. Could it be? Is Dalia a…blossoming butterfly tree?!

In this whimsical bilingual picture book, Dalia’s hair becomes a magical force of nature, a life giving cocoon. Bonus features include a guide for how to create your own butterfly garden at home, as well as a bilingual glossary of select plant and animal species native to the island of Cuba.

Praise: 

Américas Award Commended Title

Named to the Tejas Star Reading List

My Thoughts: Whimsical is a perfect adjective for this book! Dalia is so free spirited and throughout much of the book, you have no idea why she is doing what she is doing. You are as puzzled as her mom. But the ending is beautiful and all of Dalia’s intentions are clear.  Her hair really is wondrous!

The Runaway Piggy El conchinito fugitivo
Author: James Luna
Illustrator: Laura Lacámara
Published November 30th, 2010

Summary: In the classic tradition of The Gingerbread Man, James Luna’s piggy cookie leaps off the baking tray in Martha’s Panaderia and takes the reader on a mad dash through the barrio, past Lorenzo’s Auto Shop, Nita’s Beauty Salon, Leti’s Flower Shop, and Juana’s Thrift Shop. Each person the piggy encounters is greeted by his high laugh and the repeated refrain: “Chase me! Chase me down the street! But this is one piggy you won’t get to eat! I ran away from the others and I’ll run away from you!” The cochinito fugitivo avoids being eaten by the long line of people chasing him . . . until he meets a crafty little girl named Rosa!

Children and adults too will delight in the clever piggy’s escape from Martha’s Panaderia in this entertaining retelling of a familiar story set in a colorful Latino neighborhood. A recipe to make Mexican gingerbread pig cookies is included in both English and Spanish.

Praise: 

Named to the Tejas Star Book Award List

My Thoughts: What a fun retelling of The Gingerbread Man! I think this book a perfect pairing with a community unit in an early education classroom. While it is a fun story of chasing a piggy cookie, it also shows so many different aspects of Martha’s neighborhood and gives another type of community to see and learn about 🙂

Grandma’s Chocolate El chocolate de abuelita
Author: Mara Price
Illustrator: Lisa Fields
Published November 30th, 2010

Summary: Abuela’s visits from Mexico are always exciting for young Sabrina, who can’t wait to see what’s in her grandmother’s suitcase. “Abuelita, do you want to play a game? Let’s pretend that I’m a princess,” Sabrina says. “Okay,” Abuela says, “but a Mayan princess should wear a beautiful dress called a huipil.” And she pulls out the traditional garment worn by Mayan and Aztec women.

Sabrina has lots of questions about her ancestors. With her grandmother’s help, Sabrina learns all about the cacao tree, which was first cultivated by Mexico’s indigenous tribes. Today, the seeds give us chocolate, but years ago they were used as money. And Moctezuma, the Aztec emperor, liked to eat chocolate poured over bowls of snow !

Sabrina discovers that “chocolate is perfect for a Mayan princess.” And children will agree as they curl up with a cup of hot chocolate and this charming bilingual picture book that depicts a loving relationship and shares the history and customs of the native peoples of Mexico.

Praise: 

Winner, International Latino Book Award

Honor Book, Paterson Prize for Books for Young People

Winner, San Diego Book Award

Named to the Tejas Star Book Award List

My Thoughts: Anyone who has a grandmother visit knows the warmness that comes with her visit, and Sabrina’s visit with her grandmother from Mexico is no different. Through the visit, Sabrina asks many different questions about her ancestors and Mexico, and her grandmother tells her about cacao trees which have a huge history in Mexico. As grandmother’s visit ends, you feel as sad as Sabrina!

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**Thank you to Eloisa from Arte Público for sharing these books with me!**

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Guardians of the Gryphon’s Claw
Author: Todd Calgi Gallicano
Published August 29th, 2017 by Delacorte Press

Summary: A new action adventure series set in our famous national parks! Enter the world of the Department of Mythical Wildlife, where our protagonist, Sam London, is tasked with protecting legendary animals that secretly live amongst our treasured wildlife.

Haunted by a dream of a mythical gryphon, Sam London uncovers an ancient secret that will change the way he sees the world forever. Recruited by Dr. Vance Vantana, an eccentric zoologist and park ranger sent by the government, Sam is whisked away on an adventure that takes him to the farthest reaches of the globe. Along this journey, Sam learns an incredible truth: mythical creatures are real and living among us in our national parks. A special department in the U.S. government ensures that their existence remains hidden. 

But Sam’s dream is an omen that the secret may now be in danger. Someone seeks the power to expose these creatures and overthrow humankind–and that power can only be found in a magical talisman known as the gryphon’s claw.

“A fun-filled start to a series that is sure to keep lovers of Rick Riordan running to the shelves.”-SLJ

“A death-defying, globe-spanning adventure, packed with creatures out of folklore and myth….[Guardians of the Gryphon’s Claw is] a solid series opener and debut for Gallicano, who stocks his story with engaging characters, human, and otherwise.”-Publishers Weekly

Review: I could not stop raving about this book as I read it! I tweeted about it, talked to everyone I saw about it, and even mentioned in a couple of IMWAYR posts. You know why? Because it is so much fun, the plot is so well-crafted, and finally my fans of Riordan’s mythological adventures are going to finally have a book that they’re going to love has much as his books. However, I don’t want you to think this is a Riordan copy-cat. It is a totally unique adventure with mythical creatures. I loved the combination of mythologies from different cultures, humor!, the new explanation of mythical creatures living with us yet hidden among us, and the inclusion of national parks in Sam’s story.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Guardians of the Gryphon’s Claw will be a perfect new addition to mythology units in middle school to share along side Percy Jackson and other Riordan words. Gallicano even included a glossary of the mythical creatures that will be a wonderful asset to classrooms. However, I feel that primarily the book will be found in students’ hands.

Discussion Questions: What do you think the cliffhanger means?; What character traits does Sam posess that helped him in his adventures?; Which mythical creature would scare you the most? Which mythical creature would you want to have in your house? Which mythical creature would you want to hang out with?; Do you think Phylassos did the right thing in hiding his identity? About getting Sam London involved in the adventure?; Discuss Chriscanis and his journey in the book.; How did Sam’s story fit the Hero’s Journey?

Flagged Passages: “The flapping of the creature’s massive wings sent up a swirling column of dust that blanketed the plateau and rose hundreds of feet into the air. In Death Valley, these whirlwinds of dirt were often called sand augers — twisting, dust-filled tornados that fed off the desert floor as they moved across the landscape. Sam had forgotten about this part of the dream and closed his eyes and covered his mouth a moment too late. When he heard the wings slow and felt the haze begin to settle, he cautiously opened his eyes. They instantly stung from the dissipating cloud of dust, and he coughed as particles of desert sand forced their way into his throat. But it was all suddenly worth it–the stinging, the coughing, the lying, the possible grounding for eternity–for what he saw standing before him was truly extraordinary. Phylassos had returned.”

Read This If You Love: Mythology, Mythical Creatures, Adventure

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**Thank you to Random House Children’s Books for providing a copy for review!**

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Who doesn’t love The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie? The book is incredible, thought-provoking, and complex. This year, my college students are reading it, and we plan to explore identity as it pertains to the novel. I wanted to generate critical, innovative teaching ideas for the book. It was my goal that students would have fun exploring the text while also thinking deeply about it. I would love for others to share what they’ve done with this book!

A few ideas/strategies:

1. Ask students to draw themselves as split between identities. 

This idea feels a bit obvious, but it really allows students to connect the concepts of the text with their own lives.

2. As a class, discuss racial melancholia. 

Racial melancholia is a mourning or a psychological haunting that might result from a feeling of estrangement from American mainstream “whiteness.” Scholars show that individuals describe (or are unconscious of) their realization that fully assimilating is impossible, given aspects like physical appearance. Essentially, these individuals experience a profound sense of dejection as they realize they may always be perceived as the Other. There is a lot of scholarship that analyzes racial melancholia in Asian Americans, and students might read some of these articles and consider how Junior and Rowdy may be experiencing racial melancholia.

3. Discuss reservations today.

Show articles about reservations today. Consider whether they may not be sacred places for some—as they are essentially sites of cultural genocide.

4. Research reservation schools today.

Ask students to research reservation schools today. This article is particularly relevant to the text.

5. Consider the hero’s journey.

A quick Google Images search generates some great diagrams. Have students study and critique the diagrams and consider whether this journey is present or absent in Alexie’s text. They might consider how the journey is relevant to both Junior and Rowdy.

6. Watch videos that feature Sherman Alexie. 

There are many videos on youtube that feature Sherman Alexie. His words are very powerful, and he discusses the realities that face Native Americans today. Here’s one of my favorites:

 

7. Some discussion questions and considerations about tribal identity

  • What bothered you in the book?
  • Where did you struggle to understand the perspectives within the text?
  • Can discomfort or anger increase our understanding or meaning?
  • Does Junior’s tribal identity help or hurt him?
  • What must Junior do to further his education and imagine possibilities for the adulthood that he doesn’t see on the reservation? Join the historical oppressors.
  • Is it possible to leave the sadness of your home and not betray who you are?

 

I’d love to hear from you! What have you done to enrich your understanding of this text?

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