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2021 is in the books, and I am here to celebrate my favorite books read during the year!

I’m excited for this post because I haven’t done one in a bit since I was on an award committee, but this year I can celebrate!

Here’s a summary of my year in books

Here are my favorites separated into picture books, middle grade, young adult, early readers, kid lit, older nonfiction, and graphic novels/manga!

  

And there they are! 

👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏

I, obviously, recommend these books wholeheartedly, but they are just 50 of so many amazing books I read in 2021–check out my READ bookshelf on Goodreads to see these & more!

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The Troubled Girls of Dragomire Academy
Author: Anne Ursu
Published October 12, 2021 by Walden Pond Press
Happy book birthday!! 🎉

Summary: If no one notices Marya Lupu, it’s likely because of her brother, Luka. And that’s because of what everyone knows: Luka is destined to become a sorcerer.

The Lupus might be from a small village far from the capital city, but that doesn’t matter. Every young boy born in Illyria may possess the rare ability to wield magic, to protect the country from the terrifying force known only as the Dread. For all the hopes the family has for Luka, no one has any for Marya, who can never seem to do anything right. But even so, no one is prepared for the day that the sorcerers finally arrive to test Luka for magical ability, and Marya makes a terrible mistake. Nor the day after, when the Lupus receive a letter from a place called Dragomir Academy — a mysterious school for wayward young girls. Girls like Marya.

Soon she is a hundred miles from home, in a strange and unfamiliar place, surrounded by girls she’s never met. Dragomir Academy promises Marya and her classmates a chance to make something of themselves in service to one of the country’s powerful sorcerers. But as they learn how to fit into a world with no place for them, they begin to discover things about the magic the men of their country wield, as well as the Dread itself — things that threaten the precarious balance upon which their country is built.

Praise:

A wonderful and inspiring feminist fantasy.” – Kirkus, starred review

“An accessible, timely school story with a rather Transylvanian flavor to its fantasy setting. Ursu explores girls’ conditioning in timidity and shame in a male-dominated world and, ultimately, envisions a hopeful, female-determined future of magical ability.” – Horn Book Magazine

“A suspenseful tale woven with secrets and magic, with a gasp-worthy twist at the end, The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy is everything I love about fantasy. Spell-binding.” – Christina Soontornvat, Newbery Honor-winning author of A Wish in the Dark

“Anne Ursu practices her own brand of sorcery—the ability to craft wondrous, magical stories that are unlike anything you’ve ever read. Another extraordinary tale from a remarkably talented author.” – Erin Entrada Kelly, Newbery Medal-winning author of Hello, Universe

“A thoughtful and incisive story of lies told to control people and the complicated girls who ask questions, push back, and keep fighting.” – Tui Sutherland, New York Times-bestselling author of the Wings of Fire series

“It’s no secret that Anne Ursu is a gifted storyteller. The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy is intricately plotted and compulsively readable, with characters who will stay with you long after you stop reading. I could not put it down.” – Aisha Saeed, New York Times bestselling author of Amal Unbound

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy manages the particular magic of being both a true fantasy novel and a clear-eyed reflection of the here-and-now. Bighearted, generous, and outstandingly original, this is a story only Anne Ursu could write.”- Elana K. Arnold, award-winning author of The House That Wasn’t There

About the Author: Anne Ursu is the author of the acclaimed novels The Lost Girl, Breadcrumbs, and The Real Boy, which was longlisted for the National Book Award. The recipient of a McKnight Fellowship Award in Children’s Literature, Anne is also a member of the faculty at Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She lives in Minneapolis with her family and an ever-growing number of cats. You can visit her online at www.anneursu.com.

Review: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” -Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

This book is a loud cry for all the times females have been told they were trouble or too loud or had too many opinions or talked too much or asks too many questions or is too bossy or… or… or… Because of the patriarichal nature of our society, many girls will hear these thrown at them over and over again because in society’s eyes, it is our job to comply. Marya lives in a society that her job is to not only comply but to also fade into the background, so many of those who read will automatically connect with Marya’s plight and her personality trait of wanting to push back. Marya doesn’t want to just be in the background.

I do not want to share much more about the book than what the summary includes because it was such a pleasure to read–I am envious of all of you who get to read it for the first time! Anne Ursu’s ability to craft a fantastical world that is easy to imagine, write lyrically yet precisely, and create this narrative filled with twists, turns, and a protagonist you will be rooting for lends itself to just a fantastic read. This will definitely be one of my favorite reads of the year!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Walden Pond Press has shared a teacher-created educator guide with discussion questions, classroom activities, and extensions!

Flagged Passages: Chapter 1: The Girl in the Coop

There were few women pictured in the great tapestries of Illyria–besides the witches, of course. The tapestries depicted moments of heoism, epic battles of good and evil, of powerful sorcerers and brave noblemen protecting the kingdom from the monsters that had threatened it through its history.

That is not to say that girls and women did not matter to Illyria: behind every great tapestry was a woman who wove it, just as behind every great sorcerer was a wife to tend to his domestic affairs, a governess to teach his children, a cook to warm his gullet, a maid to keep his fires lit.

And behind every boy who dreamed of being a sorcerer was a mother who raised him to be brave, noble, and kind. And perhaps that boy even had a sister, who right before the Council for the Magical Protection of Illyria finally visited his humble home to test him for magical gift, made sure the chicken coop was clean.

Read This If You Love: Kingdom of Secrets by Christyne MorrellRaybearers by Jordan Ifueko, A Tale of Magic by Chris Colfer, The Spinner of Dreams by K.A. Reynolds, The Trouble with Shooting Stars by Meg Cannistra

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Other Blog Tour Stops:

October 12 A Nerdy Bibliophile in Wanderlust
October 13 Read Wonder
October 14 Nerdy Book Club
October 15 A Library Mama
October 16 Maria’s Mélange
October 17 By Singing Light
October 18 Bluestocking Thinking
October 20 Insatiable Readers

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**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for review!**

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Susie B. Won’t Back Down
Author: Margaret Finnegan
Published October 5th, 2021 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Summary: This funny, big-hearted novel about a young girl’s campaign for student council president is told through letters to her hero Susan B. Anthony.

Susie B. has a lot to say. Like how it’s not fair that she has to be called Susie B. instead of plain Susie. Or about how polar bears are endangered. Or how the Usual Geniuses are always getting picked for cool stuff over the kids like her with butterflies in their brain. And it’s because Susie B. has a lot to say about these very important things that she’s running for student council president.

If she’s president, she can advocate for the underdogs just like her hero and fellow Susie B., Susan B. Anthony. (And, okay, maybe the chance to give big speeches to the whole school with a microphone is another perk.) But when the most usual of Usual Geniuses also enters the student council race, Susie realizes this may be a harder won fight than she thought. Even worse, Susie discovers that Susan B. Anthony wasn’t as great as history makes it seem, and she did some pretty terrible things to try to help her own cause. Soon, Susie has her own tough decisions to make. But one thing is for sure—no matter what, Susie B. won’t back down.

Praise: 

“Susie is energetic, breathless, enthusiastic, and genuinely, charmingly funny.” —Kirkus Reviews

A Junior Library Guild Selection

About the Author: Margaret Finnegan is the author of the middle-grade novels Susie B. Won’t Back Down and We Could Be Heroes. Her writing often focuses on themes on inclusion, hard choices, and being true to yourself. She also makes a really good chocolate cake. To learn more, and to download free discussion guides, visit MargaretFinnegan.com.

Twitter: @FinneganBegin
Instagram: @finneganbegin

Review: Happy book birthday to Susie!!!

This book has so much in it! I was highlighting away as I read–both as a recreational reader and as a teacher (see more in Teachers’ Tools!)! I love that it is an epistolary novel, specifically writing to Susan B. Anthony, because it gives us insight into Susie’s school, home, and her inner thinking. The discussions throughout about heroes, fairness, and history is done in a very age-appropriate way but also doesn’t sugar coat anything. I love that Susie has a “butterfly brain” and went to reading lab but is proud of it. The talk about how all brains are different made my heart sing! And on top of all of this, the story itself is so on point for coming of age and how popularity, personalities, and more really start to affect kids starting in about 5th grade.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I am in love with Mr. Springer’s hero project! The way he made the project cross-curricular, interesting, interactive, and included choice just makes it such an amazing project! And there are definitely parts of the book that will work as mentors/exemplars to share with students if you have them do their own hero project including some of Susie’s letters and the Voting posters. Also, the author created a mock Susie B. News to show one of the activities for the hero project: https://www.margaretfinnegan.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/The-Susie-B.-News.pdf.

The author also shares some activities in the publisher-created discussion guide!

Discussion Questions (from the publisher-created discussion guide): 

  • Describe the way that the author organizes the story. How does this format help to connect the worlds of Susie B. at home and at school?
  • Why does Susie B. call Chloe and her three R’s (Rachelle, Rachel, and Rose) “fakey fakes?” In contrast, Susie B. has Joselyn Salazar as her best “spark.” What connects these two as friends?
  • Each of the characters copes with the social scene at school differently. How does Soozee Gupta manage to not be alone at lunch? What is your opinion of her social strategy?
  • Susie B. wrangles with the idea of fairness and justice. She believes that they are two different things. What do you think is the difference between being fair and being just?
  • What do you think is the most important lesson that Susie B. learned in this story? Give reasons for your opinion.

Flagged Passages: Chapter 1

Dear Susan B. Anthony:
I have very bad news for you. You’re dead. Really dead. Like, over one hundred years dead. Like, right now, you are dust and bones in the cemetery of your old hometown, Rochester, New York.

Sorry.

You are probably thinking, What the heck? If I am dead, why are you writing to me?

Congratulations! Even though you are dead, you are not forgotten! You are still remembered for being a brave and determined defender of women’s rights, especially women’s suffrage. That is the fancy name for women voting, even though I think suffrage should be the name for not being able to vote, because it sounds like the suffering you would have to go through if everybody thought your voice didn’t matter one speck.

Since I am also a brave and determined defender of all the rights of all the people, I thought you would like to know that I am thinking about you.

Plus, Mr. Springer is making me.

Mr. Springer is my fifth-grade teacher. Every year he assigns this thing called the Hero Project. All of his students have to choose a personal hero. They can choose anyone they want, as long as the person is dead. Mr. Springer used to let kids choose living heroes, but then the live heroes kept doing horrible things and ruining everyone’s projects. Luckily, dead heroes can’t surprise you like that. We are going to do a bunch of research and assignments on our heroes and basically use them to learn stuff about language arts, history, and even math and science. Mr. Springer is always trying to find sneaky ways to get us interested in what he’s teaching.

Read This If You Love: Twins by Varian Johnson & Shannon Wright, How to Win a Slime War by Mae Respicio, Kids Under the Stairs series by K.A. Holt, Friends Forever by Shannon Hale & LeUyen Pham, Five Things about Ava Andrews by Margaret Dilloway

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

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Inviting Student Wonder in the Diversity of the World’s Languages

When I was a child, I read my way through the Golden Book Encyclopedia. In the volume for E, I became entranced by the entry on Esperanto, a language created in the late 19th century to be a universal language that could be shared by speakers all over the world. How wonderful it would be, I thought, if everyone in the world could speak the same language! I was wild to find a way that I could start learning Esperanto myself.

As the years went by, however, I began to appreciate the amazing diversity of the world’s languages; I no longer valued the search for one single language everyone in the world could speak. When I learned that Earth’s treasury of languages was becoming increasingly endangered by the forces of globalization, I thought how I would have felt if I had known this as a child. Just as, decades ago, I had wanted to learn Esperanto to promote universal understanding, today I would have wanted to learn an endangered language, to save it from utter extinction. This was the seed from which my recent verse novel, The Lost Language, grew.

In the book, my protagonist’s mother is a linguistics professor who does field work to study endangered languages and document their vocabulary and grammar. When my protagonist, Betsy (AKA Bumble), tells her best friend, Lizard, about this, Lizard asks, “What if instead of WRITING about dying languages, like your mom, you and I SAVED one instead?” The girls choose the endangered language of Guernésiais, a distant cousin of French, spoken by just a few hundred remaining speakers on the Isle of Guernsey, in the English Channel between France and England. Lizard and Bumble decide that if they can learn Guernésiais, and teach it to other kids at their middle school, at least a few more people in the world will know this language and be able to speak at least a little bit of it. Of course, this is not how languages in the real world get saved, because language is inextricably tied up with a culture, and a people, and a place. My two characters learn this in the course of the story in a devastating way.

But I hope the book will inspire young readers to become interested in learning about the wealth of the world’s estimated 7000 languages, 40 percent of which are currently endangered through globalization, as young people choose to speak languages that allow them to participate more fully in life outside of their small communities. The website the girls use in The Lost Language is based on the Endangered Languages Project website (endangeredlanguages.com), which features a map of the world where students can click on different countries to learn which languages are endangered there. The website offers resources on how to learn some 3450 endangered languages.

Here are some questions to spark student discussion.

  • Do you think it would be a good thing if everybody in the world spoke the same language? Why or why not?
    • Possible answers for why this would be a good thing might include: it would be easier to understand people and avoid miscommunication, and so easier to work together for common goals. Possible answers for why it wouldn’t be a bad thing might include: it would be boring! Why would we want to have sameness instead of diversity?
  • Do you think there are any endangered languages in the United States? Which languages might be endangered here and why?
    • The Endangered Languages Project website reports 167 endangered languages in the USA, primarily Indigenous languages, lost through deliberate attempts to force assimilation of Indigenous people by extinguishing Indigenous culture, including both religion and language.
    • One reason to preserve languages is that each language has some words or expressions that convey something difficult to translate into any other language. For example, in German, there is the word schadenfreude, which means “pleasure in somebody else’s misfortune.” In Japanese, wabi-sabi means “finding beauty in imperfection.” The French verb flâner means “to wander aimlessly in a city.” Is there anything you think there should be a word for in English that isn’t a word now? Can you create a new word for it?
  • Which language or languages would you most like to learn? Why? Would it bother you if you had to stop speaking in your own language, the language you grew up with, and start speaking in a completely different language? Of course, learning a language is not easy! But even if you could learn the new language effortlessly, what do you think might be lost by speaking only the new language now?

Publishing October 12th, 2021 by Margaret Ferguson Books

About the Book: Betsy is the one who informs her best friend, Lizard, that thousands of the world’s languages are currently threatened by extinction; Betsy’s mother is a linguistics professor working frantically to study dying languages before they are lost forever. But it is Lizard who, gripped by the magnitude of this loss, challenges Betsy, “What if, instead of WRITING about dying languages, like your mom, you and I SAVED one instead?”

As the girls embark on their crusade to learn as much as possible of the near-extinct language of Guernésiais (spoken on the Isle of Guernsey, off the coast of France), their friendship faces unexpected strains. With Lizard increasingly obsessed with the language project, Betsy begins to seek greater independence from her controlling and charismatic friend, as well as from her controlling and charismatic mother. Then tragedy threatens Betsy’s life beyond what any words can express.

Written in verse, The Lost Language takes its characters on a quest both to save the words of a dying language and to find the words to save what may be a dying friendship.

About the Author: Claudia Mills has published over 60 books for young readers, including the middle-grade novels The Lost Language, Zero Tolerance, and Write This Down, and several chapter book series, most recently Franklin School Friends and After-School Superstars. Her books have been chosen as Junior Library Guild selections, named Notable Books of the Year by the American Library Association, translated into half a dozen languages, and nominated for dozens of state readers’ choice awards. She has written all her books between 5 and 7 in the morning while lying on the couch and drinking hot chocolate.

Thank you, Claudia, for this great conversation starter with students and for introducing us to your new book!

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The Beatryce Prophecy
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Sophie Blackall
Publishing September 28th, 2021 by Candlewick Press

Summary: From two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo and two-time Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall comes a fantastical meditation on fate, love, and the power of words to spell the world.

We shall all, in the end, be led to where we belong. We shall all, in the end, find our way home.

In a time of war, a mysterious child appears at the monastery of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing. Gentle Brother Edik finds the girl, Beatryce, curled in a stall, wracked with fever, coated in dirt and blood, and holding fast to the ear of Answelica the goat. As the monk nurses Beatryce to health, he uncovers her dangerous secret, one that imperils them all–for the king of the land seeks just such a girl, and Brother Edik, who penned the prophecy himself, knows why.

And so it is that a girl with a head full of stories–powerful tales-within-the-tale of queens and kings, mermaids and wolves–ventures into a dark wood in search of the castle of one who wishes her dead. But Beatryce knows that, should she lose her way, those who love her–a wild-eyed monk, a man who had once been king, a boy with a terrible sword, and a goat with a head as hard as stone–will never give up searching for her, and to know this is to know everything. With its timeless themes, unforgettable cast, and magical medieval setting, Kate DiCamillo’s lyrical tale, paired with resonant black-and-white illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall, is a true collaboration between masters.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ guide I created for Candlewick Press for The Beatryce Prophecy:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about The Beatryce Prophecy on Candlewick’s page.

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“Point-of-View Flip as a Way into Creative Writing”

I’m a big fan of the “point-of-view flip” activity for young writers. That’s where students are asked to retell an existing story (or scene or chapter) from a POV other than the one presented in the original. This exercise can be done with a short and simple tale like The Three Little Pigs (e.g., the wolf’s first-person POV) or with more advanced texts. I like this literary workout because, besides being just plain fun, it can help writers grow their skills. Here’s my thinking:

It’s hard to write creatively, from blank, on demand. That’s why I always hated assignments like, “Write a story from this week’s spelling words.” It’s why I’ve never gone to writers’ retreats, where I’d be put up for a random week not of my own choosing and expected to produce. I can no sooner schedule my creative juices than I can schedule the rain. I suspect that many students feel the same way.

With the POV flip exercise, students don’t have to pull characters or plots out of thin air. Those elements are already there, freeing students to focus on the craft of show-not-tell, dialogue, pacing, etc.

POV flipping shows writers how much hinges on POV when telling a story. After publishing four novels and several short stories, I’m more certain than ever that POV is among the most pivotal—and challenging—determinations to make in the writing process.

Take, for instance, my new upper-MG/early-YA novel, Ripped Away, which is set in Victorian London during the Jack the Ripper spree. I wrote my first draft in the third-person perspective of a boy growing up in London during that time. Something wasn’t right though. This POV didn’t feel immediate enough, intimate enough. So I rewrote the book in the first-person POV of that same character. It was an improvement, but I still wasn’t satisfied. Something was missing.

Eventually, I understood that the book wanted a narrator with a modern voice and contemporary sensibilities, because that’s how the tale would best resonate with readers. So I re-wrote it again, and that’s how Ripped Away became a time-travel fantasy.

When I think about how different the book would be if told from yet a different viewpoint—that of another character, or several other characters, or even an omniscient narrator—I see that Ripped Away could have been many stories. It took time and effort to discover the best POV for the story I wanted to tell, and it was well worth the investment. If students get the chance to experiment with viewpoint through the POV flip exercise, I think it will help them choose the right POV when they do create their own original text.

The flip activity keys students into POV in their reading. You can’t play around with viewpoint in your writing without it seeping into your awareness of what you read. I know several readers who actually use POV as a guide to selecting their leisure reading. Some insist on female first-person POV, others on third-person limited, yet others on multiple points of view. My own daughter goes for first-person stories that are told from the distance of time—an older adult looking back on his or her youth. I, for one, am drawn to the first-person peripheral narrator, like The Great Gatsby’s Nick Carraway. Throw in a dash of unreliability, and I’m hooked. I also like books that skillfully mix it up—part first-person, part third-person, and a sprinkling of second-person for added intensity.

So who knows? Maybe we can get kids to read more by guiding them to stories with the POV they prefer. And kids who read more—anyone who reads more—will be a better writer for it.

Coming February, 2022

About the Book: Ripped Away is based on the real experiences of Jewish immigrants to London during the Jack the Ripper spree, when xenophobia ran high.

In the story, a fortune teller reveals that classmates Abe and Mitzy may be able to save someone’s life…and then she sweeps them to the slums of Victorian London in the middle of the Jack the Ripper spree. To get back home, they’ll have to figure out how the fortune teller’s prophecy is connected to one of history’s most notorious criminal cases. They’ll also have to survive the outpouring of hate toward Jewish refugees that the Ripper murders triggered.

Vernick’s purpose in writing Ripped Away is to illuminate this episode in history, as well as to inspire readers to contemplate possible responses to intolerance. National Jewish Book Award-winning author Anne Blankman calls Ripped Away “an engrossing adventure. From the moment Abe and Mitzy are swept back in time to the infamous Jack the Ripper, readers will clamor to find out what happens next.”

Book Trailer: 

About the Author: Shirley Reva Vernick is the author of four novels for young readers. The Blood Lie is an American Library Association Best Fiction for Young Readers pick and a Sydney Taylor Book Award honoree. Remember  Dippy won the Dolly Gray Literature Award from the Council for Exceptional Children. The Black Butterfly is a Junior Library Guild selection. Ripped Away will be released February 8, 2022 by Regal House Publishing.

Shirley is a graduate of Cornell University and an alumna of the Radcliffe Writing Seminars. When not creating stories, she mentors incarcerated individuals with their writing via the Prisoner Express program.

Please see www.shirleyrevavernick.com for more.

Thank you, Shirley, for your wonderful creative writing activity and for sharing your book–we cannot wait until it is published!

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Bow to Win a Slime War
Author: Mae Respicio
Published September 14th, 2021 by Wendy Lamb Books

Summary: Two kids face off in an epic battle to see who can sell the most slime, while navigating sticky situations with friends and family.

Alex Manalo and his dad have just moved back to Sacramento to help out with their extended family’s struggling Filipino market. While Alex likes helping in the store, his true passion is making slime! He comes up with his own recipes and plays with ingredients, colors, and different bumpy or sparkly bits, which make his slime truly special. A new friend encourages Alex to sell his creations at school, which leads to a sell-off battle with a girl who previously had a slime-opoly. Winner gets bragging rights and the right to be the only slime game in town.

But Alex’s dad thinks Alex should be focused more on traditional boy pastimes and less on slime. As the new soccer coach, Dad gets Alex to join the team. Even though he hates sports, Alex gives in.

Alex is battling on multiple fronts–with his new friends at school, and with his dad at home. It will be a sticky race to the finish to see who oozes out on top.

Praise:

“Oozing with fun.” —Kirkus Reviews

★ “A well-written story of family and friendship. Slime aficionados and newbies alike will enjoy the recipes for slime at the beginning of each chapter. Highly recommended.” —SLJ, starred review

About the Author: Mae Respicio writes novels full of hope and heart. Her debut, The House That Lou Built, received the Asian/Pacific American Library Association Honor Award in Children’s Literature and was an NPR Best Book of the Year. Mae lives with her husband and two sons in the Bay Area suburban wild, where they love hiking, hanging at the beach, and some good old-fashioned family slime time. Visit her online at maerespicio.com.

Review: Happy book birthday!!!!

How to Win a Slime War is definitely about slime, but it is about so much more.

It is about family. Alex and his dad have a lot of changes happening in their life and they are figuring out how to deal with it all. The kid characters aren’t the only characters that need to grow and change.

It is about friendship. Alex is starting at a new school, which means leaving his best friend, so he has to figure out how to fit into a new place. It is so much fun to meet all of his new friends with him and navigate the new environment.

It is about passion. And also about how passions of kids are not always what the parent wants it to be.

It is about entrepreneurship. Alex wants to be a business owner when he grows up and is already talking about it. He has been to conferences and has so many great ideas.

It is because of all of these different aspects that I found the book so engaging and a book that many people will find connection with Alex and his story.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book will find the most success in classroom, school, and public libraries in the hands of students; however, I could definitely see a teacher using aspects in their classroom: both the slime science aspect and the business/entrepreneurship.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did each character grow and change throughout the book?
  • Why was Alex so hesitant about the changes in the Manalo Market? How did Alex and his father end up combining some of the new ideas with honoring Lolo & Lola’s market?
  • How was Meadow more than what meets the eye?
  • How did Alex’s science teacher add extra engagement to her classroom?
  • How do you feel about schools banning things that have become popular?
  • How does Alex use what he has learned about business when it comes to selling slime?
  • Alex got really good at soccer but decided not to keep playing. Why did he make that choice, even after becoming successful? Is there anything you have been good at but you ended up not liking?

Flagged Passages: Chapter 1

The world has plenty of twelve-year-olds who’ve accomplished amazing things, like:

Hoisting 308 pounds in one clean lift.
Inventing a braille printer from a Lego set.
Making millions of dollars from candy that’s good for your teeth.

I wish I could add myself to this list, but I can barely lift a fifty-pound bag of rice, when I play with Legos I usually lose the pieces, and when it comes to candy–especially my favorite kind, with an edible wrapper–I’d rather eat it than sell it.

I do have one hobby I’m not bad at: Making slime.

I’m stellar at slime challenges. This morning my best friend, Raj, and I are doing one final face-off before my dad and I move from San Jose to Sacramento. It’s our way of saying goodbye.

I lay out the ingredients, a couple of bowls, and some fat wooden stirring sticks. Raj sets my laptop on the kitchen counter, raises the volume, and cues up a video: Slime Time Soraya’s 30-Second Challenge!

He rubs his hands together. “I’ve been waiting the whole week for this!”

We’ve done all her challenges except this one, which we’ve been saving for a special occasion.

“Okay, Slime Squad!” Slime Time Soraya says on-screen. “Today we make . . . classic slime! Your goal: mix as fast as you can.”

“Challenge accepted!” Raj says back.

“Who makes good slime in thirty seconds?” I say. “Art takes much longer than that.”

Raj smiles slyly. “You’re not the only one with skills, Alex.”

Read This If You Love: Kyle’s Little Sister by BonHyung JeongMe and Banksy by Tanya Lloyd Kyi, Hello From Renn Lake by Michele Weber Hurwitz, Pippa Park Raises Her Game by Erin YunRescue at Lake Wild by Terry Lynn Johnson

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

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