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Reading Non-Fiction Books Are Not as Horrible as You Might Think! by Lorenza M. (7th grade)

At the beginning of the year, Mrs. Moye announced that our next unit would include reading an informational non-fiction book. I was a little disappointed because in my mind non-fiction meant huge, boring books that my dad likes to read. However, I was proven wrong.

Our first task was to choose the book we wanted to read. We had countless books to pick from that covered a vast variety of topics. I’ve always been interested in medicine and the human body, so I chose The Book of Blood.

In the weeks to come, I became obsessed with my book. I learned more from reading that book than any anatomy lesson I’ve ever had in science. I also made it my life’s goal to tell all my friends and teachers the nastiest facts about blood.

Our final project for the unit, after we finished our books, was to created a presentation about the topic we learned. From watching my peers’ presentation, I learned about plenty of topics I had no knowledge about, and it was super fun sharing what I’d learned with my class.

Reading a non-fiction book taught me never to judge a book by its genre, and neither should you! The book I read for this unit was one of the best and most resourceful books I’ve ever read, and I plan to continue reading non-fiction books even if I don’t have to.

Dos and Don’ts When Picking Out a Book by Clara A. (8th grade)

DOs

  • DO get out of your comfort zone!
    • Reading different genres exposes you to different situations, types of characters, and points of view. Plus, you won’t know if you like a certain genre if you have never tried it.
  • DO ask someone for recommendations.
    • There are many books in the world. You won’t read them all, so ask for help. Your friends probably know great books that you’ve never heard of.
  • DO read the next book of the series as soon as possible.
    • If you read the 2nd book of the series a long time after reading the 1st book, it may be very confusing if you don’t remember the 1st book.

DON’Ts

  • DON’T judge a book by its cover!
    • While the saying may be cliche, it is true. Saying a book is bad because it looks bad is similar to saying a jacket does not keep you warm just because it has a bad design on the front. It just isn’t right!
  • DON’T not read a book just because you don’t know the author.
    • If you don’t read Long Way Down because you don’t know Jason Reynolds, then you are missing out on a great book. And that is just one example. There are many authors you don’t know that have great books.
  • DON’T judge a book by its movie.
    • There are so many great books with horrible movies (ex. City of Ember). Many directors have to change the book’s details, and this ends up making the movie worse than the book! Trust me, books are always better than the movie!

If You Liked… by Tulsi M. and Stanley T. (8th grade)

  • If you like Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan, you’ll love The Young Elites by Marie Lu.
  • If you like Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, you’ll love Warcross by Marie Lu.
  • If you like Scythe by Neal Shusterman, you’ll love Renegades by Marissa Meyer.
  • If you like Rescued by Eliot Schrefer, you’ll love Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby.
  • If you like Heroes of Olympus by Rick Riordan, you’ll love Magnus Chase by Rick Riordan.
  • If you like The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, you’ll love Dear Martin by Nic Stone.
  • If you like the movie Tarzan, you’ll love Rescued by Eliot Schrefer.
  • If you like the movie 9/11, you’ll love The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner.
  • If you like the T.V. show Steven Universe, you’ll love Upside Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Emily Jenkins, and Lauren Myracle.
  • If you like the T.V. show Star Wars: The Clone Wars, you’ll love Star Wars: Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston.

Thank you to my wonderful students, Lorenza, Clara, Tulsi, and Stanley, for sharing your advice!

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Fox + Chick: The Party and Other Stories
Author and Illustrator: Sergio Ruzzier
Published April 17th, 2018 by Chronicle Books

Summary: Fox and Chick don’t always agree. But Fox and Chick are always friends. With sly humor and companionable warmth, Sergio Ruzzier deftly captures the adventures of these two seemingly opposite friends. The luminous watercolor images showcased in comic-book panel form will entice emerging readers, while the spare text and airiness of the images make this early chapter book accessible to a picture book audience as well.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Activities for The Party and Other Stories include:

How to Read a Graphic Novel

Reading a graphic novel differs from reading prose text because readers must infer everything outside of the dialogue they are given and what is presented in the illustrations.

First, using Fox + Chick discuss the differences with your class between a picture book, a chapter book, and a graphic novel. Make sure to point out the parts of a graphic novel like speech bubbles show what the characters are saying, panels (each square), and the gutter (the space between panels). Then discuss how to read a graphic novel (typically read left to right, top to bottom).

Extension activity: Discuss with students why an author would choose to write their story as a graphic novel versus a chapter book or picture book.

Then, to show how inferences have to be made between panels, use pages 2/3 to page 4. As a reader you can infer that Chick continued walking to the house shown on page 2/3 even though the illustrations don’t show each little step. Also, between the first two panels on page 4, the reader can infer that Chick had to wait a bit even though the panels don’t show it.

After reading the story, have students show how they use inferring to comprehend the story by:

K-1st: Retell the story including inferences made between panels and what the illustrations show.

2nd-3rd: Rewrite the story as a narrative including inferences made between panels and what the illustrations show.

Conflict and Resolution

Conflict is the problem with a story or part of a story while the resolution is how that problem is solved. In each of the chapters in Fox + Chick, there is a conflict and a resolution. Each chapter gives an opportunity to learn these narrative elements.

For chapter 1, “The Party,” as a class, determine the conflict and the resolution.

For chapter 2, “Good Soup,” have students determine the conflict and resolution in pairs.

For chapter 3, “Sit Still,” have students determine the conflict and resolution independently.

Character Traits

Character traits are all the aspects of a character’s behavior from how they act to what they think.

Before reading: As a class, list the character traits the students assume a fox and a chick are going to have. How will they act? What type of personality will they have? How are they going to interact with each other?

After reading: Independently or as a class, have students complete a character trait activity on each character. Have students answer the following questions then place their answers into a graphic organizer:

How did the character act in the story?

What feelings did the character portray in the story?

What words would you use to describe the character’s personality?

See the Teaching Guide Created by me (Kellee) for even more activities and discussion questions! 

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

Recommended For: 

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In continuing the reflections shared on Friday, here are some students’ reflection posts on taking Advanced Reading with me:

Favorite Activities in Mrs. Moye’s Class by Daniel U. and Ian B. (6th grade)

  • Book Trailers: We made a whole presentation about a book we read and liked. Mrs. Moye gave us recommendations of where to make the presentations and helped us prepare to type our ideas and thoughts about the books. We also added images and music, and we presented it to the class. It was a fun experience making the presentation and watching all of them and learning about new books.
  • In-Class Book Clubs: Mrs. Moye gave us a choice of what book we wanted to read with a group then set up dates for our book club meetings where we talk about the book. In between meetings, we write questions to discuss with our group. This was great because you get to socialize and get to read a great book and discuss it with others.
  • Passion Research Project: We made a presentation about a topic that connected to Rescued, the book we read. We used different websites to get our information that we turn into a presentation with images. Then we presented it to the class who jotted down facts and new things that they learned from each presentation.
  • Affixes: We learned how to use different word parts such as prefixes, suffixes and roots, and how to use them to define unknown words by breaking down words. This makes passages easier because the different meanings of word parts help us understand words that we may not know. When we break them down while reading, we can figure the passage out.
  • Novel Study: We read Rescued by Eliot Schrefer as a class, answered questions about the book, and we did focus questions every week while we were reading. Then we went on a field trip to the Center for Great Apes!

Why I Decided to Stay in Advanced Reading for Three Years by Maria N. (8th grade)

I decided to stay in Mrs. Moye’s class for all three years of middle school because not only is it a great learning experience, but it is also fun. Mrs. Moye’s class has taught me things that I didn’t learn in other classes and that made me feel very smart. Word parts were also a need to know in her class, and they helped so much when I didn’t know a word on tests. Her class was also fun because we got to laugh, smile, and cry over amazing books. I made friends that I will forever be thankful for. I not only made great friends, but these friends like books just like I do. Mrs. Moye gave us many book options that my friends and I could read, including reading the same book if we wanted to or we could read books that are completely different. So many options. I am so thankful for Mrs. Moye’s class.

Why I Decided to Join This Class in 8th Grade by Haruna R. (8th grade)

I decided to join this class because I heard a lot of good things about it. When I heard that it was about reading books, I got more interested in it. I also knew a lot of my friends were in it, and they told me there are so many books to read. When I first came into the class, all I saw was books. I saw so many series that I love, and we got to check out books with no specific due date. Mrs. Moye is very flexible about turning in and grading work. She also makes the class fun. I like to read books as a class and in book clubs. We also had a field trip to The Center for Great Apes which was a great experience, and we could connect the book we read to the field trip. Mrs. Moye has read so many books, so whenever I read a book, I could talk to her about it. I could also ask questions about the book. Mrs. Moye also recommends books and talks about books she has read, so we can read it if we want. There is never a time when I ran out of books to read. Mrs. Moye encourages us to read and tells us about books that she enjoys. We use Goodreads to keep track of what we read and what we want to read. You can discover new books on the website, too, and can even narrow them down by genres. Overall, Mrs. Moye’s reading class has been wonderful, and I will miss it very much!

Why I Didn’t Leave Advanced Reading by Amanda C. (8th grade)

When I saw my schedule the summer before 7th grade, I was so upset to see that I was taking a reading class. I hated reading! It was boring, and there was never any good books to read. When the first day of school rolled around, I was dreading the very though of going to first period. I assumed that I was probably going to get assigned a whole book to finish by the end of the week. The teacher was probably mean, too. But I was wrong. Mrs. Moye turned out to be so sweet and had such a passion for reading. And no, I didn’t have to finish a book by the end of the week. In fact, Mrs. Moye let her students read whatever they wanted. She had a huge classroom library with every kind of book you could think of, including books even SHE hasn’t read yet. We got to do research projects, make book trailers, and we even had a debate unit! I had a lot more fun in her class than I thought I would. And while we did all of these things, the most important thing I did was find a love for reading. By loving to read, my vocabulary has gotten so much larger, and I’ve found some great friends through reading and the class. I’m going to miss walking into Mrs. Moye’s class every morning because her classroom is somewhere I feel safe and joyful. Thanks for everything, Mrs. Moye! <3

Thank you to my wonderful students, Daniel, Ian, Maria, Haruna, and Amanda, for sharing the joy you got from my class! I have the same joy teaching you all! XOXO

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Another school year is in the books! This was a special year. I’ve now been teaching advanced reading for 3 years, so there were 5 kids who were in my class for all 3 years of this elective. I’ll never forget all of my students, but these 5 will always be special because of that.

End of Year Survey

At the end of each year, I give my students a survey to help me grown and learn as a teacher but also for them to reflect on the year. Here are some answers from the survey:

I need to reflect on this one because most of the kids who chose the same or less are 8th graders. I saw a huge drop for my readers between 7th and 8th grade. Why?

Does my classroom library benefit students? How did it benefit you this year? 

  • I think that your classroom library does benefit students. It benefited me because there’s a lot of books. So many different types books makes it easier for me to find something that interests me. It also benefited me because having books in your classroom makes it easier to find books when I can’t buy some or can’t go to the school or public library.
  • I think that it does because students are able to have a wide selection of books.
  • Yes! Your classroom library benefited me this year by allowing me access to multiple books. It exposed me to multiple genres, authors, and adventures.
  • I definitely believe that it benefits students because since you’re usually here and we can kind of get some help on what to get by telling you our interests and things that we like to read about. Then you can help us find a book and it makes students feel like they have somewhere to go when they’re wondering what book to read.
  • Yes, by having a reading class that has an actual private library is very good for getting students to read because of this easy environment to get to books. By having this library situated right in the classroom allowed me to instantly check out another book anytime I’m done with one, allowing me to read more and more instead of having to plan about when to go to the library and having that planning becoming potentially postponed resulting in less reading.

What would you say to someone that says that a classroom library is a waste of money?

  • I would say it is not. It’s not because the teacher is helping students and providing them with books to help them in their classes.
  • It is really not. Being a in classroom full of books pushes the students to read more. Also, since the library is inside the classroom all the books are titles students are interested in.
  • It’s not a waste of money it is a preserve of knowledge.
  • I think that a classroom library as cool to have because kids have interesting books right at their fingertips since it’s in their classroom.
  • I would say they have to learn to appreciate the love of reading kids have because without a library in a classroom kids will have a harder time being encouraged to read.
  • I would, politely, tell them that they’re wrong. Classroom libraries help people get books easily. Students can find things that interest them in classroom libraries. Besides, you learn things while reading books.
  • I would have said that it doesn’t matter, the more books the more learning. The learning can improve students in their language.

Do you like how the classroom library was organized? Explain.

  • Yes because it was very quick and easy to find a book by just looking up the last name of the author.
  • I liked how the classroom was organized because it made things easier to find. For example, if an author wrote two series that are completely different genres it would be much harder to find because they wouldn’t be in the same place. But since you organized it in alphabetical order you could see all the different series written by the same author.
  • Yes because I can find books by my favorite author or genre.
  • Yes, it’s because not only is there a system given to us to find books of our interest, we could also stroll around the class searching for books that are there in a shelf organized by genre and finding books that we mostly likely wouldn’t find as fast in the systems.

What do you think the benefit of taking advanced reading is?

  • It helps me read more and it makes me be a completely different (in a good way) person.
  • You can find authors that you can follow for the rest of your life.
  • I think the greatest benefit of taking advanced reading it that we are really pushed to read more, and that improves our progress in language arts and all other subjects.
  • You’re vocabulary definitely expands because once you read enough books, you start to see a bunch of new words and you’ll get to learn what they mean as you read.
  • It helps with close reading and deeper thinking.
  • The benefit of advanced reading is that you get to read more for pleasure.
  • You learn more and it helps you become a better reader and writer and helps you a lot, I believe, in the real world.

What have you learned about yourself through the assignments in this class?

  • That I can do more than what I am capable of doing. I’ve learned a lot about myself for the past 3 years in this class.
  • I have learned that I need to stay more focused, and that I should pay attention to the news more often about other countries.
  • I learned that I actually enjoy non-fiction books even though I don’t read them often. When we did the non-fiction unit I enjoyed learning about animals and the Titanic.
  • I learned that nobody is perfect and that we should always strive to be a better person instead of flawless.
  • I have learned that I still have a lot of books I can’t wait to read.
  • I’ve learned about myself that I am a bookworm. I didn’t think I would be, but I am.
  • I’ve learned that I can be a very determined and hardworking person. 
  • Some things that I have learned about myself through the assignments is that I could do many things that I really didn’t enjoy in other years and now I do them nearly everyday now. Also I learned about things that I didn’t think I was good at and now that I know how to use them they are easy to use.

What was your favorite assignment or activity we did in class? Why?

  • The Rescued book was my favorite because of what Raja had went through, how it has to do with real events, and the Center for Great Apes.
  • Book trailers because I was able to tell people about a book that i really like and recommended it to many people.
  • I’d say book clubs because we get a chance to step into an unfamiliar genre that we aren’t used to reading but we get to read it along with our classmates allowing us to discuss details about the book, identifying the facts of it whether the book is more interesting than we think.
  • I think the nonfiction unit we did was very fun because it showed me that there are interesting nonfiction books and that not all of them are just boring facts.
  • My favorite assignment we did in class were word parts because it helped me a lot when I’m reading other books with a hard vocabulary.

Favorite Books My Students Read This Year

My students read A LOT this year! 1,514 books read by 41 students in my Advanced Reading class. That is an average of 37 books per student! I am so proud of them!

Here are the titles they listed as their favorites on our end of year survey
(click on either image to enlarge):

If you don’t have any of these, you definitely should get them:

Top Checked Out Books from my Classroom Library

Yearly, starting with 2012-2013 (and excluding 2013-2014), I have shared the most popular books in my classroom library:
2012-2013
2014-2015
2015-2016
2016-2017

From 2011-2013, I taught an intensive reading class with students who had not been successful on the state reading test; however, since 2014, I switched to teaching advanced reading, an elective that students choose to be in (and I still get to work with my striving readers through being reading coach–a win/win!). Students from all intervention reading classes as well as my class use my classroom library.

1. Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
2. See How They Run by Ally Carter
T3. Ghost by Jason Reynolds
T3. Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
T3. Take the Key and Lock Her Up by Ally Carter

 

T6. All Fall Down by Ally Carter
T6. The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart
T8. Drama by Raina Telgemeier
T8. The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
T10. Double Down by Jeff Kinney
T10. Smile by Raina Telgemeier
T10. Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm

T13. House Arrest by K.A. Holt
T13. How to (Almost) Ruin Your Summer by Taryn Sounders
T13. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
T13. Prince of Elves by Kazu Kibuishi
T13. Scythe by Neal Shusterman
T13. Swing It, Sunny by Jennifer L. Holm
T13. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
T13. The Girl in the Well is Me by Karen Rivers
T13. The Stonekeeper’s Curse by Kazu Kibuishi

Happy summer to all of my fellow teachers, and here’s to another awesome school year in the books!

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Ah. Summer is here! That means teachers are going to nothing for the next nine weeks, right?!
NO! Here are just some of the things we’re up to this summer during our “free” time.

(We ended up combining our lists because there was a lot of overlap; some are for one of us but most are for both–it turns out that we do a lot of similar summer prep!)

Attend the Future Problem Solvers International Competition

Write common final exams for the school district

Plan curriculum and write syllabi

Attend the American Library Association Annual Conference

Blog!

Read for pleasure

Read professional books that we never get to all year

Read all of the journals we’ve gotten all year and have not had time to read

Write teaching guides

Answer emails for questions about summer reading and course-related questions

Go into school when test scores come in to analyze them

Meet with counselors to help with reading and language arts scheduling

Meet up with teachers who want to chat about curriculum or books before the start of the school year

Professional Learning Community pre pre-planning days

Host a Summer Book Club

Start planning for NCTE and ALAN presentations

Leadership Team meetings planning for pre-planning

See past students who are in town for the summer from college

Take part in Twitter Chats with my PLN for e-PD

Go to doctor and dentist appointments

Go to the bathroom whenever we want (Ricki admits that this has become possible year-round now that she teaches college)

Submit a book proposal

Read dozens of books seeking new material for course adoption

Write manuscripts for publication (Publish or perish at the college level, right?)

Meet with colleagues to plan and streamline college courses

Write dozens of letters of recommendation for preservice teachers seeking jobs

Review for academic journals

What are you doing this summer during your “free” time? 

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Rescued
Ape Quartet #3
Author: Eliot Schrefer
Published April 26th, 2016 by Scholastic Press

Summary: They grew up together. Now they have to escape together.

Raja has been raised in captivity. Not behind the bars of a zoo, but within the confines of an American home. He was stolen when he was young to be someone’s pet. Now he’s grown up and is about to be sent away again, to a place from which there will be no return.

John grew up with Raja. The orangutan was his friend, his brother. But when John’s parents split up and he moved across the country, he left Raja behind. Now Raja is in danger.

There’s one last chance to save Raja—a chance that will force John to confront his fractured family and the captivity he’s imposed on himself all of these years.

About the Author: Eliot Schrefer is a New York Times-bestselling author, and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Award. In naming him an Editor’s Choice, the New York Times has called his work “dazzling… big-hearted.” He is also the author of two novels for adults and four other novels for children and young adults. His books have been named to the NPR “best of the year” list, the ALA best fiction list for young adults, and the Chicago Public Library’s “Best of the Best.” His work has also been selected to the Amelia Bloomer List, recognizing best feminist books for young readers, and he has been a finalist for the Walden Award and won the Green Earth Book Award and Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. He lives in New York City, where he reviews books for USAToday.

ReviewI think out of the three Ape Quartet books published so far, this is the one that is going to hit closest to home for many. It will make many readers uncomfortable and want to make a change. First, it takes place in the United States unlike Africa like the first two. Second, it really digs into an issue that is still very much prominent here–animal injustice.

I find Schrefer’s writing to be so beautiful yet so easy to read. He can pull you into his stories and makes you feel for not only his human characters but also his animal characters. He does such a tremendous amount of research for all of his books and with this one it brings the injustice of Raja alive.

I am a sucker for ape books. I find apes to be the most fascinating animals, and orangutans may be my favorite because they have these amazing eyes that just show me that they are so intelligent and deep thinkers. They are also introverts; I think I just relate to them in that way. This book brings orangutans to life through Raja.

As evident from Schrefer’s status as a two-time National Book Award finalist, his books can be used as a mentor text for just about any aspect of writing that you are looking for: characterization, imagery, voice, conflict, etc. Read any of his books, and you can pull out so much to discuss and use within the classroom. Additionally, there are some amazing ape books, including Schrefer’s other Ape Quartet books, that would make for an amazing lit circle opportunity or text set.

Review originally posted here on May 13, 2016.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Last year, our whole-class novel unit was done using Hurt Go Happy and included a trip to Center for Great Apes. This year, I had a completely different type of novel planned, but my students begged to read more about apes (and visit CFGA again). After looking at all of the available ape books, I decided that Rescued was perfect for the standards I wanted to teach and also included orangutans instead of chimps, and orangutans are the other great ape at CFGA. After setting up a Donors Choose and getting funded (THANK YOU ALL DONORS!), Eliot Schrefer also so kindly contacted me and offered to send even more copies of Rescued to my students–wow! So much kindness! Now that we had a plethora of copies, I wanted to share the love, so I contacted my South Carolina middle school teacher friend, Jennie Smith, to see if she wanted to read Rescued with us and collaborate some how. I was so happy that she said yes!

The Unit

Because I do love whole-class novels, but I also don’t like how a whole-class novel can also ruin a book with too much time spent on one book with way too many assignments during the unit. To try to fight this, I planned the unit quite simply:

  • Each week the students were given a focus question on Monday that they could think about all week then answer on Friday.
    • These focus questions are how we collaborated with Mrs. Smith’s class as well. My 1st and 2nd period posted their answers on Padlet and Mrs. Smith’s students would also post. The kids would then respond to each other.
    • Focus questions:
      • 1. What’s a big idea that’s emerging that’s worth talking about?
      • 2. Is there a passage that struck you as important in developing a character or a conflict in the reading so far? Share the passage and explain.
      • 3. What incident up to this point has had the most impact on the plot? How so? What did the characters’ response to this incident teach you about them?
      • 4. There are many who argue that Great Apes are human-like, including the lawyer who will take apes as plaintiffs to demand rights. What are some examples in this section of Raja showing how close to humans he truly is?
      • 5. How did the characters (specifically John’s mom, John’s dad, John, and Raja) change throughout the book? What other narrative elements helped shape their final persona? Find a piece of dialogue and a specific incident in the book that is evidence for your analysis of the character.
    • The idea of focus questions was something I got from a talk by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle at NCTE 2017.
  • Because of one of the standards the unit was focusing on, we also looked at narrative elements, specifically dialogue, setting, and conflicts. Here is my scale for the unit:
  • Throughout the unit, I would also stop to have students think about certain text-dependent questions. I tried not to do this too often to not slow down the narrative; however, I loved seeing my students’ thinking. We would then discuss these questions, but I like allowing my students to write answers first before discussing because it allows them to get their thinking organized. (I shared some of these text-dependent questions and an example of a student’s answers below.)

The Field Trip

Once again I was lucky enough to bring my students to the CFGAs. All students were able to attend this year, and they were so kind to donate to the Center goodies for the Apes–it always fills my heart to see the empathy in their hearts!

I have gone to the Center for Great Apes for years, and sadly this is the first year it rained. Luckily, we were able to get in a 90-minute tour to see the amazing animals who inspired Schrefer’s novel. To see more about the Center, the apes they’ve saved, and the amazing work they do, please visit http://www.centerforgreatapes.org/.

Author Virtual Visit

After reading Rescued, I was so happy to be able to give my (and Jennie’s) students an opportunity to interview Eliot Schrefer about the book. Each student wrote down at least one question they had for Eliot then in groups, the students chose their favorites, then based on these choices, we broke it down to 5 per class equaling fifteen interview questions altogether:

  • Why did you start writing about apes in the first place? And how did you decide on the order of publication for the Ape Quartet? 
  • Do you like writing realistic fiction like Rescued or fantasy like Mez’s Magic better?
  • Will you continue to write about apes now that you are done with the Ape Quartet? 
  • While the titles of your other books, Endangered, Threatened, and Captured, inspire a feeling of fear, the title Rescued inspires hope. Did this change in connotation of your title mark your different opinion about orangutans?
  • Were you ever stuck in between two decisions while writing the book? When? 
  • Who do you think the antagonist of the book is?
  • How did you come up with the whole “Raja bites off John’s finger” scenario? 
  • How did you come up with the concept of Friendlyland? 
  • How did you come up with the character traits for each character (Ex. Gary being a bad father)? Did you base them off people you know or knew? 
  • Can you tell us more about the corruption happening in Indonesia which allows palm oil companies to be able to keep burning down forests even though it is illegal? 
  • Do you feel that apes should be treated like human beings and given the same rights such as due process, land, etc. like the lawyer in the book? 
  • Was it hard for you to decide what would happen to Raja at the end of the book or did you know that you wanted Raja to be released into the wild instead of being kept at the sanctuary?
  • Do you have a favorite sanctuary or zoo you’ve visited? Have you visited the CFGA?
  • You used the word “merantau” which means “hitting a dead end and leaving one life to live another elsewhere” which pretty much sums up the theme of the book. Where did you come across this word? 
  • What writing tips can you give to students who want to be a writer?

We then did a Google Hangout with Mrs. Smith’s class and Eliot Schrefer on May 25th after school:

Some of my favorite answers/quotes from the visit were:

  • Realistic fiction allows for a shifting antagonist.
  • Wanted to help people realize that orangutans aren’t stuffed animals come to life.
  • I don’t have characters first. I have stories first then make the best characters for that story.
  • Apes should not be kept against their will.
  • I used the idea of merantau to develop the plot.
  • Advice: For any artistic pursuit, I encourage you to think of the long range range view. It is risky to put all expectations of self in one basket. Focus on the joy you feel when doing the art. Remember what brings you joy! And do research, take advice, and read.

Discussion Questions: These were the first five of the text-dependent questions I asked during our reading of Rescued as well as an example of a student response (color coded for RATE. R=restate, A=answer, T=text evidence, E=elaborate/explain).

  • What can you infer about John and Raja’s relationship based on the first section?
  • Why does John feel like he needs to go see Raja before he leaves?
  • In the Q&A, the author says he “realized that a captive ape’s situation was similar to the plight of a kid during a divorce, getting swept along by the needs of powerful parents, at risk for being seen for what he represents instead of as a child with his own needs” (p. 251). How are John’s and Raja’s situations similar after the divorce? How are they different?
  • Do you agree with the choice John and his dad are making? Why or why not?
  • Why do you believe the author is beginning each part with a memory of Raja’s?
  • How did the author foreshadow this scene (on pg. 99) earlier in the book?

Flagged Passages: “My telltale heart, the one I’d left behind.” (p. 38)

Read This If You Love: Eliot Schrefer novels: Endangered and ThreatenedHurt Go Happy by Ginny RorbyHalf Brother by Kenneth Oppel, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine ApplegatePrimates by Jim Ottaviani

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StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson
Editor: Shelby Alinsky
Published March 20th, 2018 by National Geographic Children’s Books

Summary: Now abridged for YA audiences, this beautifully illustrated companion to celebrated scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s popular podcast and National Geographic Channel TV show is an eye-opening journey for anyone curious about the complexities of our universe.

For decades, beloved astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has interpreted science with a combination of brainpower and charm that resonates with fans everywhere. In 2009, he founded StarTalk, the wildly popular podcast that became an Emmy-nominated talk show on the National Geographic Channel in 2015. Tyson’s pioneering book takes the greatest hits from the airwaves to the page in one smart, richly illustrated compendium for young adult readers. Featuring vivid photography, thought-provoking sidebars, enlightening facts, and fun quotes from science and entertainment luminaries like Bill Nye and Josh Groban, StarTalk reimagines science’s most challenging topics–from how the brain works to the physics of comic book superheroes–in a relatable, humorous way that will attract curious young readers.

Praise: “Most notable throughout the book, as on the original television show, are the connections between science and creativity, art, and wonder. Educational and entertaining, this will engage loyal followers and recruit new fans.”—Booklist

ReviewThis book is everything you would think a book by Neil deGrasse Tyson named after his National Geographic Channel’s late-night talk show and his podcast. Tyson mixes culture, creativity, and science in a fun and interesting way that will suck in readers of all kinds in.

I loved the structure of the book! The mix of Tyson’s answers to science-based questions, fun facts about the topics, extension activities, and all sorts of other fun text features! And the topics are so interesting! Split into space, planet earth, being human, and futures imagined, the text looks at so many interesting topics including going to Mars, evolution, Superman, and Bigfoot!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I love texts like this because they can be used for research or as interest starters or just for fun! This book is perfect for classroom libraries, school libraries, and as a class resource!

Discussion Questions: Almost every page has a discussion question!

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: To learn, Science, Astonomy, Neil deGrasse Tyson

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