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Colorado State University

Dr. Ricki Ginsberg


This course focuses on adolescence and the reading, analysis, and understanding of young adult literature. Some of the themes we will explore include: the body and mind, culture, (dis)ability, gender, grief, intersectionality, race, sexuality, and social class. Because the course is designed primarily for future English teachers to prepare them to examine issues of adolescents/ce, we will also consider supportive practices for teaching young adult texts critically in the classroom. This course will allow us the time and space to (re)consider our perspectives of adolescence. The reading and coursework is designed to be both rigorous but rewarding.


Required, Whole Class Texts:

Alexie, S. (2007). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. New York, NY: Little, Brown.

Farizan, S. (2013). If you could be mine. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin.

Nelson, J. (2014). I’ll give you the sun. New York, NY: Speak.

Roskos, E. (2013). Dr. Bird’s advice for sad poets. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Saenz, B. A. (2012). Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Schrefer, E. (2012). Endangered. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Sepetys, R. (2011). Between shades of gray. New York, NY: Speak.

Shusterman, N. (2007). Unwind. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Thomas, A. (2017). The hate u give. New York, NY: Balzer + Bray.

Woodson, J. (2014). Brown girl dreaming. New York, NY: Nancy Paulsen.

Yang, G. L. (2006). American born Chinese. New York, NY: First Second.

Zentner, J. (2016). The serpent king. New York, NY: Ember.

Literature Circle Group Text (Disability and the Body):

You will select this text during the first week.

Anderson, L. H. (2009). Wintergirls. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Draper, S. (2010). Out of my mind. New York, NY: Atheneum.

Van Draanen, W. (2011). The running dream. New York, NY: Ember.

Palacio, R. J. (2012). Wonder. New York, NY: Knopf.

Gemeinhart, D. (2015). The honest truth. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Stork, F. X. (2008). Marcelo in the real world. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Lindstrom, E. (2015). Not if I see you first. New York, NY: Poppy.

Sloan, H. G. (2013). Counting by 7s. New York, NY: Puffin.



  1. Analyze and critique a wide range of adolescents’ literature across genre and form (as evidenced in the reading portfolio, classroom discussions, and Book Bistro conversations).
  2. Examine research and theories of adolescence through a range of scholarly sources and (re)consider our own assumptions (as evidenced in the discussion of the Youth Lens and in the Scholarly Journal Article critique).
  3. Evaluate the purpose of literature that is written explicitly for adolescents and the value of using this literature for classroom instruction (as evidenced in each course requirement, particularly the Leading a Class Discussion assignment).
  4. Explore the ways in which adolescents’ literature can be highly political in nature (as evidenced in the selected required texts and the focused discussions and classroom activities in weeks 14 and 15).


The outside work for this course adheres to the instructional time equivalent to the federal credit hour definition of 2 hours of outside work for each contact hour. As such, you can expect to do approximately 5 hours of outside work each week. Much of this time will be dedicated to the course reading (required and free choice). I will not accept assignments after they are due. Please wait 24 hours to dispute a grade.

1.   Free Choice Reading Portfolio (25%)

You will be required to read a total of 3,000 pages of books written for and about adolescents.

The portfolio will reflect this work and must include:

  • A cover sheet listing the books and total number of pages that you read. If you prefer to keep track by hand, feel free to print the book log available on Canvas. At the bottom of your cover sheet, please include a signed honor statement that indicates that you read all of the pages that you list on this page.
  • A one-pager for each of the books that you read. Examples of one-pagers will be provided in class. The only requirement is that the one-pager must fit on one side of a piece of paper. Please complete these one-pagers as you read. You will be showing them to your peers during Book Bistro meetings.

Selecting texts:

  • Select texts from a variety of authors, forms, genres, subjects, and marketed age levels. Do not read over 1,000 pages of the same author, genre, or form.
  • Do not read a classic text unless it was expressly written for adolescents. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye were written for adults, but The Chocolate War and The Contender were written for adolescents. Check with me if you are unsure whether a text is traditionally considered to be a YA text.
  • Do not read books that were written for adults (Crichton, Grisham, King, Steele, etc.). You may, however, read books that are very popular, free choices among adolescents (e.g. Books on the Alex Awards lists).
  • Consult adolescents, librarians, the adolescent literature collections at the Morgan Library and 322 Eddy, ALA Award lists, and other published listings of texts. The Fort Collins libraries have great collections. Ask your peers what they are enjoying, and share books with each other. I will make ever attempt to flood you with books that you might be interested in reading, and I will bring a rolling classroom library to most classes.
  • ENJOY what you are reading. I typically use a 50-page rule. If I am not enjoying a book after 50 pages, I put it down. Please use whatever system works for you and keeps you reading. You can (and should) count the pages of unfinished books toward the 3,000-page requirement.

2. Class Participation (20%)

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of your participation in class. You are expected to read the entire required texts before you come to class. I am not a fan of reading quizzes, but I need to know that you are doing your homework. As such, you will complete a reading quiz at the beginning of many classes. If you are late or absent, you will miss this assignment for the week. Your literature circle presentation will also be included in this grade.

3. Leading a Class Discussion (in pairs) (15%)

You will sign up with a peer to lead an hour-long discussion of one of the required texts. You and your peer can decide how to structure the class time and activities. You do not need to focus your discussion on the weekly topic listed in the schedule. The only requirements are: a) you will give a 5-minute reading quiz at the beginning of the hour, and b) you will lead a discussion of the reading for some portion of the time. You and your peer will grade the reading quizzes and return them to me the following class.

 4. Book Bistro Participation (10%)

You will participate in five scheduled Book Bistro meetings. You will be in charge of leading one of these meetings and inspiring conversation around the books that the members in your group are reading. You will sign up to lead the meeting in the beginning of the semester.

5. Scholarly Journal Article Critique (in pairs) (10%)

Working in pairs, you will read and critique a scholarly journal article about young adult literature or adolescence. I will help find this article. You will present your findings, complete with a handout, to the class. Your presentation should last between five and ten minutes and can include discussion.

6. Final Exam (20%)

You will design a project for the final exam that meets your personal and professional needs and passions. I will provide suggestions from previous courses that I have taught, but I recommend that you design a project that you will find exciting. We will dedicate some class time to help you determine, workshop, and independently work on this project, but you will complete most of the work outside of class. You will present your project during the university-sanctioned final exam time. The exam is scheduled for Monday, December 11, from 4:10pm-6:10pm.

7. Graduate Students Only (10%, overall grade calculated out of 110%)

In an effort to help you organize and synthesize your thinking about your Master’s thesis or project, you can choose to write five annotated bibliography entries (choose a combination of the require texts—novels and articles—for this course plus texts of your own choosing.


You can design a similar project tailored to your needs. Please see me early in the semester to discuss this course requirement and to solidify your choice. This work is due to me on December 3, 2017.

 8. Honors Credit Only (10%, overall grade calculated out of 110%)

Those who seek honors credit will be required to read five advanced reader copies (galleys) of texts within (not in addition to) their 3,000 page required. They will complete five book reviews in the form of blog posts. If these students choose, I can publish these blog posts on, and this work can be featured as publications on their resumes. Please see me if you are seeking honors credit.

 Grade Overview

  1. Free Choice Reading Portfolio (25%)
  2. Class Participation (20%)
  3. Leading a Class Discussion (in pairs) (15%)
  4. Book Bistro Participation (10%)
  5. Scholarly Journal Article Critique (in pairs) (10%)
  6. Final Exam (20%)

As per University policy, I use +/- grading. Calculations on a 4.0 scale are:  A+ = 4.0; A = 4.0; A- = 3.667; B+ = 3.334; B = 3.00; B- = 2.667; C+ = 2.334; C = 2.00; D = 1.00; F = 0.00



Attendance Policy

Attendance is critical for your success in this course. I expect you to be punctual. Absences beyond two per semester will result in a grade deduction of ½ grade, as this is equivalent to over a week of missed classes. For instance, if you earn an A in the course but miss three class sessions, your grade will reduce to an A-. You will also miss reading quizzes, which will impact your grade. Please see me with any concerns about your attendance. Excused absences will not count against your grade, and these will include participation in University-sanctioned activities, as well as participation in religious holidays and observances. If you will be absent for an excused reason, please see me in advance of class or email me at least one day in advance.

It is respectful to email me prior to class if you will be absent. This will help me (and your peers who are presenting) adjust class plans and groups accordingly. Please do not sign up to present on a day that you anticipate you will be absent for an excused purpose.

Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

The course will adhere to the Academic Integrity Policy of the Colorado State University General Catalog and the Student Conduct Code. Do not plagiarize. Any student who plagiarizes or cheats on any assignment in this course faces penalties that may include an F on the assignment or an F in the course.

Cell Phones and Computers

Please remember to turn off your cell phone before coming into class. That means no text messaging during class. Please be respectful about your computer use and do not surf the internet or check emails while in class. Abuse of this policy will result in a lower classroom participation grade.

Safety, Reporting and Resources:  

CSU’s Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Stalking, and Retaliation policy designates faculty and employees of the University as “Responsible Employees.”  This designation is consistent with federal law and guidance, and requires faculty to report information regarding students who may have experienced any form of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, relationship violence, stalking or retaliation. This includes information shared with faculty in person, electronic communications or in class assignments.  As “Responsible Employees,” faculty may refer students to campus resources (see below), together with informing the Office of Support and Safety Assessment to help ensure student safety and welfare. Information regarding sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, relationship violence, stalking and retaliation is treated with the greatest degree of confidentiality possible while also ensuring student and campus safety.  CSU’s Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Stalking, and Retaliation policy designates faculty and employees of the University as “Responsible Employees.”  This designation is consistent with federal law and guidance, and requires faculty to report information regarding students who may have experienced any form of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, relationship violence, stalking or retaliation. This includes information shared with faculty in person, electronic communications or in class assignments.  As “Responsible Employees,” faculty may refer students to campus resources (see below), together with informing the Office of Support and Safety Assessment to help ensure student safety and welfare. Information regarding sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, relationship violence, stalking and retaliation is treated with the greatest degree of confidentiality possible while also ensuring student and campus safety.

Any student who may be the victim of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, relationship violence, stalking or retaliation is encouraged to report to CSU through one or more of the following resources:

  • Emergency Response 911
  • Deputy Title IX Coordinator/Office of Support and Safety Assessment (970) 491-1350
  • Colorado State University Police Department (non-emergency) (970) 491-6425

For counseling support and assistance, please see the CSU Health Network, which includes a variety of counseling services that can be accessed at: CSU Health Network (  And, the Sexual Assault Victim Assistance Team is a confidential student resource that does not have a reporting requirement and that can be of great help to students who have experienced sexual assault. The web address is: Sexual Assault Victim Assistance Team (


If you are a student who will need accommodations in this class, please do not hesitate to make an appointment to see me to discuss your individual needs. Accommodations must be discussed in a timely manner prior to implementation.   A verifying letter from Resources for Disabled Students may be required before any accommodation is provided.


Week 1           What is Adolescent Literature? and Introductions

08/21   Introductions, Select Literature Circle Texts

Read: The Youth Lens article and the Book Bistro article

Watch: “The Danger of a Single Story.”

Begin: Your choice reading. Anticipate reading about 150 pages of choice per week, and you will be successful.

08/23   Histories and Definitions of Adolescents’ Literature

Resources for Finding and Using YA Literature

Draw table numbers for Book Bistro, Sign up to lead class.

Read: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian


Week 2           Identity Part I

08/28   Discuss The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

08/30   The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Read: American Born Chinese.

Bring: All of your book pages thus far to share in class.


Week 3           Identity Part II


09/06   American Born Chinese

Book Bistro #1

Read: The Serpent King


Week 4           Family and Friendship

09/11   The Serpent King

09/13   The Serpent King

Read: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe


Week 5           Sexuality

09/18   Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

09/20   Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Read: I’ll Give You the Sun


Week 6           Negotiating Death and Grief

09/25   I’ll Give You the Sun

Research project proposal due

Bring: All of your book pages thus far to share in class.

09/27   I’ll Give You the Sun

Book Bistro #2

Read: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets


Week 7           Mental Health

10/02   Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets

Bring: One text that you’ve loved and enjoyed this semester.

10/04   Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets

Midway Book Talks

Read: Between Shades of Gray


Week 8           Adolescents Across Time and Place: Part I

10/09   Between Shades of Gray

10/11   Between Shades of Gray

Read: Endangered


Week 9           Adolescents Across Time and Place: Part II

10/16   Endangered

Bring: All of your book pages thus far to share in class.

10/18   Endangered

Youth Lens looking across all texts???

Book Bistro #3

Read: Brown Girl Dreaming


Week 10         Adolescents in the “Real World” (Nonfiction)

10/23   Brown Girl Dreaming

10/25   Brown Girl Dreaming

Read: Unwind


Week 11         Adolescents in the Imagined Worlds (Fantasy and Science Fiction)

10/30   Unwind

11/01   Unwind

Read: Literature Circle Text


Week 12         Disability and the Body

11/06   Literature Circle Text of Choice (See first page of syllabus)

Bring: All of your book pages thus far to share in class.

 11/08   Literature Circles

Book Bistro #4

Bring: Anything you need for your literature circle presentation.


Week 13         Disability and the Body

11/13   Literature Circle Presentations

Read: If You Could Be Mine

11/15   No Class (Ricki at NCTE) – Independent Reading and Work on Final Project


Thanksgiving Break; No Class; November 20-24, 2017


Week 14         The Politics of Adolescence

11/27   If You Could Be Mine

11/29   If You Could Be Mine, Skype with Sara Farizan

Read: The Hate U Give

Graduate Students: Paper Due Next Class


Week 15         Adolescents as Agents

12/04   The Hate U Give

Bring: Your completed Reading Portfolio

12/06   The Hate U Give

Book Bistro #5


Week 16         Final

12/11   Final Exam Presentations



Thank you to Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek for hosting the Picture Book 10 for 10 (#PB10for10).

The rules are simple:

What:  10 picture books you can’t live without
Hashtag:  #PB10for10
Who:  Anyone who is interested—educators, authors, media specialists, librarians, parents, and book lovers.
When:  Thursday, August 10, 2017
Where:  All posts will be linked on the Picture Book 10 for 10 Google Community Site.

Our 2017 Topic: Favorite Picture Books to Use in the Secondary Classroom

Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles (Aladdin, 2005).
(Ricki’s Review  |  Kellee’s Review)

Ricki: This book is beautifully written and the characterization is wonderfully done. I enjoy reading this book to discuss the intricacy of picture books and their application within units. This books reminds older students that picture books aren’t just for young kids.

Kellee: I feel that this picture book portrays a part of the Civil Rights Movement that most kids don’t know about unless they’ve been explicitly talked to about it. Freedom Summer gives me a way to start the conversation.

Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall (Greenwillow, 2015).

Ricki: We use this book when we talk about identity. I love reading this text aloud and then asking students about the author’s purpose. Many think that he is discussing disability and others argue that he is discussing gender identity. The interpretations remind us how texts give different interpretations, and this is a very good thing.

Kellee: Identity is something that everyone is struggling with in middle school, and I loved reading this book with my students and listening to their conversation about the crayons. When they begin to connect it to human identity, some really fascinating discussions break out.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulsen, 2012).
(Ricki’s Review  |  Kellee’s Review)

Ricki: I love to read this book on the first day or on any day that I am noticing classroom tensions. What I love about this book is that it teaches kindness without being didactic. The story goes beyond the theme of kindness and reminds readers about regret. This is a beautiful book that earns its place in classrooms of all levels.

Kellee: I begin every year with this book, and my students make kindness goals for the year to help ripple kindness throughout the school.

Locomotive by Brian Floca (Atheneum, 2013). 

Ricki: I love to show this book right before a research project/paper. It shows an example of high quality research and reminds readers that a lot of research is required in order to present a high quality product.

Tomás and the Library Lady by Pat Mora (Knopf, 1997). 

Ricki: This is a great book to start a conversation about being culturally responsive to other people. The library lady is very sensitive to Tomás, and the book makes readers want to be better people. My bilingual education teacher read this to my class, and I think of it often. I always enjoy reading it aloud.

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds (Candlewick, 2003).

Kellee: I love to participate in Dot Day because it truly shows kids the range of what art is and the importance of creativity. I use The Dot to introduce this discussion then every student makes their own dot that symbolizes them.

Ricki: This is a fantastic book to discuss imagination. I show this book when I am trying to kickstart ideas about projects. Because I make strong attempts to allow a lot of flexibility in projects, this book is great to simply inspire students to examine ideas differently.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña (Putnam, 2015).
(Kellee & Ricki’s Review)

Kellee: I wrote a whole post just on using this book with my middle school students because students really found the depth and beauty in this amazing picture book.

Ricki: This book reminds us that picture books are anything but simple. I love to use this book to talk about themes and hidden messages in writing. Then, we apply this idea to our own writing. Reading this book reminds us to look at writing more deeply.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywelt (Philomel, 2013).

Kellee: This is another superb crayon text that uses the idea of crayons being expected to act or do one thing really stunting the creativity and identity of the crayons. Also, the book is written in

Ricki: This book is funny, creative, and cleverly written. I’ve had students use this book for readers’ theater, and their performance was hysterical. Each student took the time to memorize their speech, and we talked about all of the qualities of a good speech.

Normal Norman by Tara Lazar (Sterling, 2016).
(Kellee & Ricki’s Review)

Kellee: I love the discussions of normal that this book brings up. You’ll notice, a lot of the picture books I read with my students discuss identity and kindness because picture books are such a perfect way to get conversations about tough subjects started. Norman shows us that what you think is normal may not be what another person thinks is normal, and being abnormal doesn’t mean anything is wrong.

Ricki: This is a great book to talk about what it means to be “normal.” I love to use this book to kick off discussions that queer the concept of normalcy.

Dear Dragon by Josh Funk (Viking, 2016).
(Kellee & Ricki’s Review)

Kellee: I am going to use Dear Dragon in my classroom for the first time this year! I want to get my student pen pals, and I am going to use Dear Dragon as an introduction to the idea. I’m not sure how I’m going to execute the pen pals yet, but there is also the theme of first impressions and judging based on looks that is perfect for our discussion on themes!

Ricki: Yes, Kellee! I have yet to use this book, but it would be a phenomenal text to start a student pen pal program! You might also use this book to talk about expectations and judgment.

What are your favorite books to use in the secondary classroom? 

Don’t forget to check out all of the other #PB10for10 posts by visiting the Google community site or searching on Twitter!



“Creepy Crawley Science” 

S.T.E.M. (or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) might not sound interesting to you. But, did you know when you play with Legos you’re using a form of engineering to create something?

And, who isn’t interested in flying cars, robots, and undersea ships? Well, those things are simply science, technology, engineering and math set in motion.

It’s all about finding easy ways to use these complicated disciplines to create new opportunities with common components…and some not so common ingredients, like spider silk.

Believe me, these teeny-tiny creatures create silk that can be used for breathtaking breakthroughs.

Spiders . . . ?

Yes. Spiders. I know you might think these eight-legged creatures sound more creepy than creative but did you know that spider silk is one of the strongest substances around? Well, it is. Scientists even call spider silk a “wonder material”.

I’m talking about that sticky stuff you sometimes walk through in the garden that sends shivers running up your spine.  Walking through a spider web immediately sends you searching for those little, unwelcome visitors which might be hiding in your hair. And, it’s stronger than steel and super flexible.

For decades scientists have been searching for a convenient way to harvest that silk so they would be able to use huge quantities.

It’s true. They have.

But, as you might expect, very few people want to become spider farmers simply to spend their afternoons walking up and down spider-infested rows to collect sticky webs dangling from trees, stuck to shrubs or clinging to bushes.

So what’s the answer to this scientific conundrum?

Well, you might want to read this article to find out more about sustainable spider silk: in

And if you think that’s interesting, you really might enjoy reading Irma the Inventor and the Vampire Spiders.

How many kids do you know who can build robotic spiders out of scrap metal, develop a substance that’s stronger than steel, or crash a cyber-wizard’s computer from an undetectable monitor? Well, that’s Irma. Still, all she really wants is to make some friends and blend in for once, but no matter how hard she tries, Irma always seems to stand out.

This laugh-out-loud middle grade novel encourages readers to explore the STEM fields while never losing its sense of fun.

Irma the Inventor & the Vampire Spiders
Author: Kim Kasch
Published August 21st, 2017 by 50/50 Press

About the Book: 

How many kids do you know who can build robotic spiders out of scrap metal, develop a substance that’s stronger than steel, or crash a cyber-wizard’s computer from an undetectable monitor? Well, that’s Irma. Still, all she really wants is to make some friends and blend in for once, but no matter how hard she tries, Irma always seems to stand out.

This laugh-out-loud middle grade novel encourages readers to explore the STEM fields while never losing its sense of fun.

About the Author Kim Kasch: 

I grew up in a family with 9 kids and grandma living in the back bedroom. Not surprising that I have a few stories to tell, especially since we only had 1 t.v.

I spent my days reading and, later, trying to create another world where I could escape all those brothers and sisters-and grandma-by writing. Maybe that’s why I love books so much. Well, that and the fact that I was near the end of that long sibling-chain and never had the clout to pick the t.v. shows we watched. But I’d run home after school to catch the last fifteen minutes of Barnabus Collins in Dark Shadows…

I still love to run or maybe I should say, I love to wog (a cross between walking and jogging).

Here in Portlandia, I love Halloween themed runs – where people don costumes and run. It’s a lot of fun…and I know those two words don’t always go together: fun…and…run. But here, in the damp days of fall, I think it is.

And, with all those Halloween themed runs, I guess Dark Shadows had more of an influence than some people might think. Even today my favorite author is Stephen King. My all-time favorite book is Salem’s Lot, which might have something to do with Irma the Inventor and the Vampire Spiders 🙂 

Sorry to be so long-winded but did I say I love to write, and talk, and knit, and sew, and bake… I could go on but I’ll stop by saying, I hope you’ll stop by my blog, send me a tweet, or check out my Facebook page. I’ll be sharing news about new books over there.

Thanks for listening and, hopefully, reading 🙂

Join me on Twitter or stop by and see what I’m pinning on  Pinterest and, if you read Irma the Inventor and have a question or simply want to share a comment, please feel free to send me an email. I love connecting with readers.

Amazon Author Page


Enter to win a STEM prize package and a copy of Irma the Inventor and the Vampire Spiders!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you, Kim, for this science-rific guest post and giveaway!


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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!

If you haven’t noticed, nonfiction texts have really been stepping up their game recently! Some of my favorites from from Animal Planet and Time, Inc., so I wanted to share some new series that are coming from them. 

Animal Planet Chapter Books

Book #1: Sharks
Book #2: Dinosaurs
Book #3: Bugs
Book #4: Snakes

Summary: Engaging narrative nonfiction is paired with tried-and-true kid-friendly subjects in a popular chapter book series from Animal Planet and Time Inc. Books. All books in the series feature plentiful full-color photographs, illustrations, and a kid-friendly design. Sidebars such as “Meet the Scientists,” “In Your News Feed,” and “Fact File” pages highlight interesting aspects of each creature profiled and keep readers up to date on the most current research. Packed with information for thrill seekers and animal lovers alike, these are the perfect books for new readers who are ready to take a deeper dive into their favorite subject.

A companion fiction series, Animal Planet Adventures, is also available.

Animal Planet Adventures

Book #1: Dolphin Rescue by Catherine Nichols
Book #2: Farm Friends Escape! by Gail Herman

Summary: Animal Planet Adventure chapter books present fiction and nonfiction within a familiar narrative format to bring the best of the animal world to young readers. Perfect for reluctant, challenged, and newly fluent readers, the new series combines fun animal mysteries with cool nonfiction sidebars that relate directly to the stories. Each book contains 100 full-color illustrations and photographs.

Animal Planet Adventures Curriculum Guide

Animal Planet Animal Bites

Animals on the Move
Baby Animals
*Newest titles!*

Farm Animals
Wild Animals
*Reviewed October 5th, 2016*

Ocean Animals
Polar Animals
*Reviewed April 27th, 2016*

Summary: The Animal Bites series provides emerging readers with the perfect bite-sized guide to the animal world. Each book contains more than 200 striking photographs, easy-to-understand graphics, and maps. Fun “Just Like Me” call-outs show the ways in which animals are similar to young readers–sharks rely on their senses of sight and scent to learn about their world, for example, just like kids do. “Info bits” boxes highlight quick facts about a species’ home, size, and classification. Each book contains a glossary, a page of resource where kids can go to learn more about animals, and a great list of activities to try, from making a bird feeder to moving like a baby rabbit or tern chick.

A portion of proceeds from the sale of books in the Animal Bites series benefits the principal partners of Reach Out. Act. Respond. (R.O.A.R.), Animals Planet’s initiative dedicated to improving the lives of animals in our communities and in the wild.

All Recommended For:

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 “How Do You Engage Restless Fourth Graders During the Last Weeks of School? With a Good Book, Of Course!”

This spring I was asked to fill in for a fourth grade teacher on maternity leave. I was excited to get back in the classroom, though a little nervous about taking over during those last hazy crazy days when students have already checked out and are dreaming of spending their homework-free vacation at the swimming pool or doing some other activity that doesn’t involve sitting still and listening to the teacher.

When I stepped in during April, most of the weeks were full of to-do lists with structured plans already in place. But once the end-of-year testing was completed, I was left with three weeks to fill. I was told I should continue the math lessons according to the manual, and should do some project-based learning to cover the science unit on matter.

But what was the best use of time during the language arts block? The director said I didn’t need to continue with vocabulary or spelling units. We had finished Junior Great Books, and there wasn’t a reading workshop set in place. So how was I going to keep my restless students engaged and involved for the last three weeks of school? The answer was simple: by reading an amazing book.

Luckily, I found a worn-out set of Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, one of my all-time favorites and a novel I had taught to sixth graders for many years. Since the students in my class were reading above grade level and this was a Jewish Day School, I felt the difficulty and content would be appropriate for fourth grade.

I introduced the book in the usual way: studying the cover, giving some author background, finding out what students knew about the Holocaust, doing a quick map study. The real fun began when I told the class we were going to hold Reader’s Theater each day to read and act out the chapters together. I set up some ground rules:

1) You may turn down a part if you don’t want it

2) We will rotate the parts each day

3) If you participate, you must try your best to read loudly and with expression

4) You should act out any motions described by the narrator

5) Anyone who does not take his/her part seriously will be replaced by another student for the day

Each day, I made a list of props that would be helpful for the next day’s reading and asked for volunteers to bring them in. Students began bringing in other props that they thought of as well. I used name cards to randomly draw parts until all students had been chosen. Sometimes I swapped out partway through a chapter, depending on the length.

I made up Rule #1 since some students did not want roles for the opposite gender, and I wanted to allow them the choice of just following along if they did not want to be onstage. (This would also be helpful if you have a classroom of varied reading skills so that everyone has the option of participating.) I began by reading the part of Narrator but about halfway through the book I chose others to read the part.

I included Rule #5 because I wanted the students to understand and respect the seriousness of the story. I had to give a few warnings and remind students of their goals, but I only had to replace a student once for talking in a silly voice during a serious scene. This was a learning experience for everyone as it led to journal responses and a discussion about what it would feel like if you were woken in the middle of the night by Nazi soldiers looking for your best friend.

We covered two chapters each day, one with Reader’s Theater and one read silently. Students kept journals where they wrote predictions along with other responses each day. Sometimes they responded to specific prompts; sometimes they wrote from the point of view of a character; sometimes they picked out the best descriptions and drew pictures to match. We started each day with a swapping of journals and a brief discussion in small groups. We finished the book in a little over two weeks, leaving the last week for final activities that included group murals, A to Z picture books, character interviews, and quiz bowls.

During the last few weeks of school, there were unexpected interruptions: extra practices for the end-of-year musical performance, an invitation to watch another class’s PBL presentations, a guest speaker. We may not have gotten to journal entries each day, but through it all, we never skipped the day’s reading. Students came in talking about the book in the morning, wanting to play with the props and act out parts.

No one can deny that it’s hard to hold a student’s attention during those hot last days of school when fourth graders are already looking at themselves as fifth graders and students are ready to escape the four walls of the classroom and run barefoot through the grass, the sun beating down on their shoulders.

But as I discovered when I taught fourth grade this year: if there was one time where I captured the attention of all of my students, it was during reading time. So if you want to beat the I’m-ready-for-summer-vacation blues, find a good book and read it from start to finish during the last weeks of school. Lois Lowry wove a spell over my students and made them forget that school was almost out. For an hour each day, we were transported to a different time and place where the challenges the characters faced became challenges of our own. This is the power of the well-chosen word; this is the magic of books.

About the Book:

Sunny Beringer hates her first name—her real first name—Sunflower. And she hates that her mom has suddenly left behind her dad, Scott, and uprooted their family miles away from New Jersey to North Carolina just so she can pursue some fancy degree. Sunny has to live with a grandmother she barely knows, and she’s had to leave her beloved cat and all her friends behind. And no one else seems to think anything is wrong.

So she creates “Sunny Beringer’s Super-Stupendous Plan to Get My Parents Back Together”—a list of sure-fire ways to make her mom and Scott fall madly in love again, including:

Send Mom flowers from a “Secret Admirer” to make Scott jealous and make him regret letting them move so far away.
Make a playlist of Scott’s favorite love songs—the mushier the better—and make sure it’s always playing in the car.
Ask them about the good old days when they first fell in love.

But while working on a photo album guaranteed to make Mom change her mind and rush them right back home, Sunny discovers a photo—one that changes everything.

Sunny’s family, the people she thought she could trust most in the world, have been keeping an enormous secret from her. And she’ll have to reconcile her family’s past and present, or she’ll lose everything about their future.

Review from Atlanta Journal Constitution: “Much as she did in her 2015 debut “Extraordinary,” North Carolina author Franklin delivers a moving and realistic story (with subplots, such as one that involves protesting the luxury fur business). “Sunflower” shines with emotion, convincing dialogue and relatable characters.”

About the Author:

Miriam Spitzer Franklin has taught elementary and middle school students for over 20 years in public, private, and homeschool settings. She is passionate about reading, writing, figure skating, and animal rights and environmental causes. She has coached her daughter’s Odyssey of the Mind team for the past five years and loves to see creativity in action! Her debut novel, EXTRAORDINARY, was published by Skypony Press in May 2015 and her second middle grade novel, CALL ME SUNFLOWER, was published by Skypony in May 2017.

Thank you to Miriam for this wonderful post!


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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!

March Trilogy
Author: John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
Illustrator: Nate Powell
Published 2013, 2015, & 2016 by Top Shelf Productions

Summary: Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One: Begins with John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Book Two: After the success of the Nashville sit-in campaign, John Lewis is more committed than ever to changing the world through nonviolence – but as he and his fellow Freedom Riders board a bus into the vicious heart of the deep south, they will be tested like never before. Faced with beatings, police brutality, imprisonment, arson, and even murder, the young activists of the movement struggle with internal conflicts as well. But their courage will attract the notice of powerful allies, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy… and once Lewis is elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, this 23-year-old will be thrust into the national spotlight, becoming one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement and a central figure in the landmark 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Book Three: Fall 1963, the Civil Rights Movement is an undeniable keystone of the national conversation, and as chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis is right in the thick of it. With the stakes continuing to rise, white supremacists intensify their opposition through government obstruction and civilian terrorist attacks, a supportive president is assassinated, and African-Americans across the South are still blatantly prohibited from voting. To carry out their nonviolent revolution, Lewis and an army of young activists launch a series of innovative projects, including the Freedom Vote, Mississippi Freedom Summer, and a pitched battle for the soul of the Democratic Party waged live on national television. But strategic disputes are deepening within the movement, even as 25-year-old John Lewis heads to Alabama to risk everything in a historic showdown that will shock the world.

Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1950s comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

Review: No matter what I say in this review, I am not going to give this trilogy justice. I mean, Book Three won the National Book Award, Sibert Medal, Printz Award, Coretta Scott King Award, YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction, and the Walter Dean Myers Award. And it had SIX starred reviews, Book Two had FOUR starred reviews, and Book One had FIVE starred reviews. That is FIFTEEN between the three! And they all deserve whatever praise or recognition they have received.

John Lewis’s story included many aspects of the Civil Rights movement I did know about; however, it gives insight into these events that no one else could give us as Lewis is the last of the March on Washington speakers to be with us. It also addresses aspects of the movement that are not taught in history books because it is ugly. Our history is ugly, but that is exactly why it needs to be talked about. There were times when reading where I had to put the book down (especially in Book Three) because this truth was harder to read than just any fiction I’ve encountered. These were my tweets as I was reading (read bottom to top):

But it is because of the shocking nature of our history that we must speak and read and learn about it. We are supposed to keep moving forward, and the only way to make sure we know which way that is, is to learn about what was in the past. John Lewis, with the help of his co-writer Andrew Aydin and the illustrator Nate Powell, have given us a gift with these books. A gift of a look into the past through the eyes of an insider.

I’d also like to share how amazing it was to see John Lewis at ALA Annual in Chicago! I had the honor of hearing him speak twice: once at the Coretta Scott King Award breakfast and once in the Library of Congress pavilion. I also got to shake his hand (though the picture didn’t come out–boo!), thank him, and get my book signed by him and Nate Powell. I am still in awe of the experience!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: PLEASE put these in classrooms! U.S. History teachers, use these as your resource for teaching about Civil Rights. ELA teachers, use these as a nonfiction text in any unit. Anyone with a library for young adults, please put them in your collection. Everyone, read these with a young adult or get them to a young adult. Learning about John Lewis’s truth is how we keep history from repeating itself.

Discussion Questions: 

March Book One Teaching Guide

March Book Two Teaching Guide

March Book Three Example Lesson Plan

Flagged Passages: 

Here are three passages I took photos of because it shocked me how relevant they are to our society today. They may not be the best representation of John Lewis’s narrative; however, they do show the beautiful format and artwork as well as touch on some of the events in Book Three.

Read This If You Love: Just read these. I promise.

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall 


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Eighty More Favorite Books From Ten More of Kellee’s 2016-17 Middle School Students

(Don’t forget to check out the Seventy Favorite Books I shared last week!)

Favorite Sci Fi and Fantasy Books from Ariana M., 6th Grade

1. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

This is by far my favorite fantasy book series of all time!

2. Young Elites series by Marie Lu

This is a great book. It is interesting that the main character is not necessarily good.

3. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This is the most sci-fi book I’ve read. It is a twisted fairy tale.

4. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Her grace is killing–what an adventure!

5. Delirium by Lauren Oliver

In a world where love is a disease… You can see why I love this book!

6. Black Mage series by Racheal E. Carter

My second favorite fantasy series of all time.

7. Storm Siren by Mary Weber

Best independent woman ever!

8. Slave, Warrior, Queen by Morgan Rice

A roman style fantasy where a slave becomes a hero.

9. Gone series by Michael Grant

Intense! There’s no other word to describe it except amazing.

10. Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Had me crying from page 1, but it was really good.

Favorite Sci Fi and Fantasy Books from Samuel B. (1-5) & Sevian M. (6-10), 7th Grade


1. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

This book is my favorite graphic novel because of all the craziness!

2. The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

This book is amazing with the action and story. This is my favorite book.

3. The Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack

My second favorite series because of the plot and cool action.

4. The Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi

This series was one that’s just great to read because it just sucks you into it and you cannot stop reading them all.

5. The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

This series is one of my top five because I read it over and over. I like it for the Greek mythology.

6. Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

I like it because IT IS STAR WARS!

7. Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland

This is my favorite book series! My favorite book is Escaping Peril. 

8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

It is an interesting story and has lots of adventure.

9. Divergent by Veronica Roth 

It is so mysterious and suspenseful.

10. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

This book has a lot of action and suspense, and it is one of my favorite books to read.

Favorite Dystopian Books from Emily P., 7th Grade

1. Bot Wars by J.V. Kade

This book is so amazing and interesting! Some sappy parts made me keep reading for hours on end!

2. Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

This book is so hilarious, and if you love sci-fi, you will love this book.

3. Maze Runner by James Dashner

Maze Runner is so amazing. It is written very detailed, and you’ll want to read the whole series to learn about the characters and setting.

4. The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey

I cannot stress this enough: This book is so addicting! This book is one of the best dystopian books out there.

5. Divergent by Veronica Roth

This thrilling book is so fast paced and great! This book is so amazing!

6. The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

This book puts a new perspective on testing anxiety, and it is very action-packed.

7. The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke

This aquatic adventure book is so interesting and caught my attention immediately.

8. The Eighth Day by Dianne K. Salerni

This book is so good! The setting and something unique makes this book impossible to put down.

9. Eye of the Storm by Kate Messner 

Eye of the Storm is an action book with huge tornadoes ripping through a city. And there is a secret!

10. Stung by Bethany Wiggins

Bees with a lethal virus are ravaging through the world. This book is placed in a ruined setting, making this book amazing!

Favorite Fiction-Action Books from Lucas D. & Aiden S., 7th Grade

1. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I recommend this book because of the plot. I like it because you think you know what is going to happen but then you get surprised.

2. Nightmare Escape (Dream Jumper #1) by Greg Grunberg

I like how this book takes place in someone’s dream, but what happens in the dream is more realistic than a normal dream. I highly recommend this book.

3. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

This book has so much action because of the killing and rivalry throughout the story.

4. Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

Insignia is a story about a boy who plays video games for money. I recommend it because the whole story is about a war that takes place in outer space, and the boy who plays for money is drafted into the military.

5. Giants Beware by Jorge Aguirre

This book was very adventurous, and the main character has the drive to KILL! (Dun, dun, duuuuuuuun!)

6. Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

Firefight is a book about people who gained amazing powers, and a random star showed up in the sky. There is a group called the Reckonners who try to eliminate different superhumans. This is why I recommend this book.

7. Rutabaga by Eric Colossal

Rutabaga is really funny but also includes many adventures. His pot is his best friend, and the pot helps Rutabaga. As he travels around the land, he finds challenges like giants spiders and a mother dragon.

8. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

I recommend the Harry Potter series because it is full of mystery and also lots of fights. Harry potter is trying to take down the most evil wizard of all time, so there is no limit to the action.

9. Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke

Mighty Jack buys beans from a mysterious vendor, but what he doesn’t know is that the plants are killing machines! As he wanders through his garden, he discovers a growing darkness.

10. Nnewts by Doug TenNapel

As a child who could not walk yet, Herk was defenseless against his intruders because his dad was away. This begins the action.

Favorite Mystery Books from Nicholas F., 7th Grade

1. Masterminds by Gordon Korman

I picked this book because I like how kids find out something and keep going until they solve all of it.

2. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I picked this book because I like how peopel are stuck in a maze and trying to get out, and no one knows why they are there.

3. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

I picked this book because I like how Harry Potter is finding out more and more as the books go.

4. Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

I picked this book because I like how normal people find out they have something special about them after years of not knowing.

5. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

I picked this book because I like when people are saved but still decide to fight their enemy.

6. Frenzy by Robert Lettrick

I picked this book because I like how kids just go into a forest and find out that every animals is crazy and eating humans.

7. Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry

I picked this book because I like when kids find something and know it is dangerous but want to keep going to find everything out.

8. Crossover by Kwame Alexander

I picked this book because I like basketball and how the characters find out things about his parents that he never knew.

9. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate 

I picked this book because I like how you don’t know what is going to happen to Ivan, but it is a happy ending.

10. Holes by Louis Sachar

I picked this book because I like how even though the character was forced into a camp with no water, he keeps trying to escape.

Favorite Books Series from Edwin C., 6th Grade

1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

I loved these books because of its humor and how I could relate to it.

2. Geronimo Stilton by Geronimo Stilton

I loved this series as a kid because of all the adventure and comedy.

3. Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell

I loved this series because of all the drama that happens in the books.

4. Magic Tree House by Mary Pop Osborne

May people, including me, love this series because of the history.

5. Dr. Seuss books

How can you not love Dr. Seuss books!

6. Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi

I loved this series because of the mystery.

7. Bone by Jeff Smith

I loved this series because of the action.

8. Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson

I loved this series because of the inclusion of Disney and the mystery and action.

9. Smile and Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

I loved these books because of their comedy.

10. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I loved this book because it was sad and touching.

Favorite Book Series from Brad D. (1-5) & Chris G. (6-10), 8th Grade

1. The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

This is an awesome series. Riordan gets the reader’s attention and the books stay climactic throughout which makes the series interesting, and it keeps you reading it nonstop.

2. Loot series by Jude Watson

This series by Watson is really great, and I recommend it to everyone. It has many ups and down moments, and it keeps getting better and better.

3. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Rowling created a magnificent series with Harry Potter. She build this series by adding crazy and fantastic ideas that made the series be well-loved!

4. Unwind series by Neal Shusterman

This series has had a lot of success, and it is breathtaking! It is about a dystopian world that has many massive problems that cause a huge wave.

5. Dark Life series by Kat Falls

This series is fantastic! It has a lot of adventure and deep water moments. The best thing is you cannot predict what is going to happen.

6. Chronicles of Nick series by Sherrilyn Kenyon

This is an amazing series–one of the best I’ve ever read. Join Nick on his adventure to keep himself from becoming something very deadly.

7. The Maze Runner series by James Dashner

This series is great! It has a couple of good movies, too, but we all know that the books are always better. See if you can escape the maze…

8. The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan

Flanagan made this magnificent series. I like this book because it is very different from most books I have read because it takes place sometime before the dark ages.

9. Magisterium series by Holly Black

This is an interesting series I read about a boy named Callum who has been told his whole life, by his father, that magic is evil. He wasn’t wrong.

10. Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer

This is a book about a boy genius who discoveres things that could change the world because he made a very dangerous deal that could destroy everything he loved.

Thank you Ariana, Sevian, Samuel, Emily, Aiden, Lucas, Nicholas, Edwin, Brad, and Chris!

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