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“Behold the Power of Books!”

Talking to kids about hard topics is tough. When your little one, or a little one you know, is going through a tough time, it can be challenging to talk to them about what is going on in their life. Many kids are embarrassed about it, and are afraid of speaking up. What can we do as parents, educators, and creators to help kids with difficult things in their life, whether they are issues with a turbulent household, bullying, or the loss of a loved one?

Behold the power of books!

The folks at www.stopbullying.gov say that the best way for educators and staff to help kids impacted by bullying is through creative writing and artistic works. By introducing students to books that cover difficult topics, it can be easier to talk to them about what is going on in their life, and easier for them to speak up. Having characters in works of fiction that are relatable is important to a lot of readers, and seeing someone who is going through a tough time, just like them, can help kids come up with creative solutions to their troubles. We are Teachers has a great list of books that have anti-bullying messages, Parents showcases books about divorce, and What’s Your Grief has a whopping 64 books for kids on death and grief. The resources are out there, and by putting these books in classrooms and libraries, we can open the conversation with kids about the tough things.

My favorite approach to these kinds of topics is in the books that do not directly say in the title that they are about the topic. Diverse experiences should be written into every character, and these kinds of struggles make young protagonists much more interesting. By having characters experience the everyday struggle and deal with things that almost all kids deal with, this allows us as educators, adults, and parents to more freely talk about the issues with little ones. By continuing to stay involved in our kids’ lives, we can help put a stop to the problems that they deal with, or, at the very least, lessen the blow that the difficult times often bring.

What are your favorite books about tough topics for kids? Have you ever utilized fiction to talk to your students about emotional topics?

About the Author: Elaborate storytelling is something that has entertained humankind since its start, and Cassidy’s goal is to take the words on the page and forge them to life, like a star being born. Using a variety of media, Cassidy uses her hands to weave magic on the canvas and visualize elements extant before only in dreams. By utilizing an expressive and traditionally-inspired quality in her work, Cassidy brings worlds and characters of all sorts into existence.

Cassidy Dwelis currently resides in Colorado, and has earned a BFA in both Illustration and Game Art. Cassidy writes Middle Grade, Young Adult, and New Adult fiction, and is currently acquiring her MA in Publishing. Cassidy’s dream is to help others bring their imagination to life, through the art of storytelling.

Braidy von Althuis and the Dastardly Djinn
Publishes October 30th, 2018

About the Book: “He should have known this would happen. Wishes in movies and books seemed to go bad, so why would this one be any different?”

Ten-year-old Braidy von Althuis misses his family dearly. Ever since his father, his aunt, and his uncle went to look for Gran in Europe, the house has been quiet and lonely. Even worse, Braidy’s cousin Blockhead is miserable after a breakup. Braidy wishes more than anything that he could do something to make his cousin happy.

His wish is granted by a mysterious djinni, but the wish does not solve all his problems. Something is wrong with Blockhead, and Braidy learns a dark secret about his family that changes everything he knew. Will Braidy and Blockhead be able to undo the djinni wish, or will Braidy spark a war that may change the world as he knows it?

Braidy von Althuis and the Dastardly Djinn is a story about identity, self-worth, consent, and responsibility.

Thank you, Cassidy, for this post reiterating what we truly believe!

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Garbage Island
Author and Illustrator: Fred Koehler
Published October 9th, 2018 by Boyds Mills Press

Summary: Mr. Popli, the mouse mayor of Garbage Island, is always at odds with Archibald Shrew, a brilliant but reckless inventor. When Garbage Island, their home in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, splits apart, they are trapped together in Mr. Popli’s houseboat, desperate to find their way back home. At first, they only argue, but when they face a perilous thunderstorm and a series of predators, they begin to work together and recognize – in themselves and in each other – strengths they didn’t know they had.

About the Author: Fred Koehler won a Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award for his illustrations for One Day, The End. He is the author-illustrator of How To Cheer Up Dad, which received three starred reviews, and he is the illustrator of This Book Is Not About Dragons and Puppy, Puppy, Puppy and Flashlight Night.  He lives with his children in Lakeland, Florida.

Visit the Garbage Island Boyds Mills Press page to view an interview about his inspirations and what’s coming next!

Praise: 

“In this series opener, a mouse and a shrew find themselves unlikely allies as they unite to save Garbage Island. The clever pairing of opposites adds humor, making the gradual emergence of friendship…all the sweeter. Dramatic black-and-white illustrations highlight key action. Exciting, fast-paced adventure and unexpected friendship in a “trashy” venue.” –Kirkus Reviews

“This adventurous tale is packed with action, examples of creative thinking, and ingenuity. Use this as an introduction to STEM thinking, a science fair project, a lesson on ecology, or simply read it for the enjoyment the story provides. This book will appeal to the adventure seeker, animal lover, explorer, and just about everyone else. A must-read for readers ready to strap in for a great ride!” – School Library Connection, starred review

“(With) fast-paced action and danger… this entertaining animal adventure stands out… because of its strong characters and an underlying message of environmental awareness.”–School Library Journal

Review: I love Archibald Shrew. He actually reminds me of Tinkerbell, specifically from the movie Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure. Archie is a genius; he just is a genius that sometimes makes a mess when he is creating or may forget something essential if he’s brainstorming or might put him or someone else in danger if trying something new. But he is just so gosh darn lovable! From the very first page when we meet him, and he’s trying out his bicycle invention. Archie is obviously just ahead of his time. And while Mr. Popli starts off as a bit of a stern, uptight character, he is forced to see what is most important through this journey. Lastly, Merri. She is a special character who I connect with so much. She tries so hard to take care of everyone. She is never not helping or doing something; everyone can rely on her. But she also feels a lot of pressure to be a caregiver in so many different ways; so much that she pushes herself way too hard sometimes. It is because of these three characters plus the plot arc of Mr. Popli and Archie’s nearly always perilous adventure that this book is hard to put down. I know this is going to be one that Trent and I will read when he is a bit older: so much to unpack and just so entertaining!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: There is an Educator Guide available:

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did Mr. Popli change over the course of the book?
  • What did the egg teach Archie and Mr. Popli?
  • What are the differing character traits between Archie, Mr. Popli, Merri, and Edward? Similarities?
  • How does Archie effect the other characters at the beginning of the book? The end?
  • What part of the book surprised you?
  • How does the book promote environmental awareness?
  • Which of the opponents was the biggest foe for Archie and Mr. Popli? Explain why you think that foe was the toughest?

Flagged Passages: Chapter 3

“A week into his punishment for the sea-cycle incident, Archie had taken to his new routine with all the enthusiasm of a one-armed starfish. During the day, he did everything that was asked of him, but the work made him hungry, and the hunger made him grumpy. And still, his yearning for his workshop rose in his throat each evening like the moon in the sky.

Merrie had come to visit Archie each night at the Watchtower. She was the only bird left on Garage Island. He was the only shrew. In many ways, they were kindred. But Merri was an outsider because of her species. And she was sure that Archie was treated as an outsider because of his actions. If she could get him to see that, perhaps his life could improve. Her attempts to convince him turned into another argument.” (p. 30)

Read This If You Love: Anthropomorphic stories like Redwall by Brian Jacques, Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel, Seekers series by Erin Hunter, Mez’s Magic by Eliot Schrefer, Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart, An Army of Frogs by Trevor Pryce;Fiction that promotes environmental awareness; Plastics Ahoy! by Patricia Newman

Giveaway!:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t Miss Out on the Other Blog Tour Stops!: 

Mon 10/1           Always in the Middle
Tue 10/2             Miss Marple’s Musings
Wed 10/3           Inkygirl
Thu 10/4             Storymamas
Fri 10/5               Teen Librarian Toolbox
Mon 10/8           Librarian in Cute Shoes
Tue 10/9             KidLit Frenzy
Wed 10/10         Middle Grade Book Village
Thu 10/11          Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook
Fri 10/12             Middle Grade Minded
Fri 10/12            Unleashing Readers

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**Thank you to Boyds Mills for providing copies for review and giveaway and for hosting the blog tour!**

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The Astonishing Color of After
Author: Emily X. R. Pan
Published: March 20, 2018 by Little, Brown

Goodreads Summary: Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

My Review: I just finished discussing this book with my class, and they loved it. It is a bit of a longer book and moves somewhat slowly, but even my students who didn’t finish it in time insisted that I should use it again next year. The writing is absolutely stunning. Pan depicts humanity in ways that are very powerful. She integrates color and emotion to connect readers to the characters. We had two one-hour class periods to discuss this book, and there were so many things to talk about. Discussion was easy, and students made meaningful connections with the book. This book is simply unforgettable. I recommend it highly and hope it wins some awards in January!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: My students said that they Googled the colors within the text as they read. We spent a lot of time talking about the colors as an effective writing tool. I asked students to think of a moment in their lives that they’d be willing to share. Then, I asked them to attach a color with the moment. They shared beautiful stories of working at drive-ins, meeting their SOs, visiting places with friends, etc. The colors they attached with the images were fascinating and made the stories come alive.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the author incorporate magical realism in the text? Is it effective?
  • Did Leigh and Axel’s relationship feel realistic to you? Why or why not?
  • Which scenes are beautifully written, and how do they demonstrate excellent writing?
  • Should we forgive Leigh’s father? Why might he make the decisions he makes?

We Flagged: “Once you figure out what matters, you’ll figure out how to be brave.”

Read This If You Loved: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner, When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore, Miles Away From You by A. B. Rutledge, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Recommended For:classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

  RickiSig

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“Things Sure Were Different In My Day”

I caught myself saying something the other day that I never thought I would say to my children, and I’m still reeling from the sheer horror of how those words felt as they spilled out of my mouth. In my defense, my kids had been complainingin high-pitched, whiny voices that could crack the most ardent sainthow bored they were. As I looked around at their toys, their bikes, their swing set in the backyard, their books, their tablets, without even thinking I said, “How can you girls be bored with so much stuff to do? You should be grateful for all this entertainment because things sure were different in my day.”

That’s right, I said the dreaded phrase: THINGS SURE WERE DIFFERENT IN MY DAY.

The girls looked at me like I was a dog walking on my back legs. I could almost see them trying to calculate what “in my day” looked like, their eyes blinking and squinting as numbers and Greek symbols flashed above their heads like a cartoon. Maybe they saw cavemen walking around in mammoth-skin skinny jeans, or those old-timey gangsters hanging out in saloons with cigars dangling from their lips drinking kombucha teas from Starbucks. It had to be some strange, foreign amalgam of their own reality and the reality they could only assume their screamy old mom came from.

But the truth is, my day was very different. My childhood was arguably simpler. There was no online shopping or Prime deliveries and certainly no social media. Kids “in my day” were not as connected as kids are today, with information at their fingertips. This makes our children much more knowledgeable, and this is great for learning and exploring. Whenever we have a science project or a social studies report due, my girls and I head to the web. We have found loads of practical and fun information. It is also very easy to stay in touch with our friends and family. For anyone who has moved and left behind people they care about, social media can be a wonderful tool to preserve friendships. But as with all wonderful things in this world, there are disadvantages, too. Our tightly connected and information-saturated world means our kids know a lot more about tough realities.

This difficult knowledge hit home when my oldest child’s class practiced emergency protocols. She often would come home and tell me what she would do when “code red” was activated. Her demeanor was calm and even happy as she described the role she would play. One day she happened to see coverage about a school shooting. The reporter spoke about the different ways that students and teachers worked to save the lives of their fellow classmates and staff. The actions they described, such as barricading doors and hiding in closets, were similar to what her class had been practicing. I could see her brain making the connections, and this led to inevitable questions and a very difficult conversation. While this was something I never wanted to talk about with my little girl, it was a conversation that was necessary. Children are exposed to and must face difficult realities.

Difficult Realities for Developing Kids

Kids begin to develop their own identities almost as soon as they are born. They say “no” to gooey green baby food and later wear black lipstick to their grandma’s 80th birthday party. Or maybe that was just me? Regardless of the black lipstick, healthy emotional, physical, and spiritual development is rooted in the development of one’s identity. Difficult circumstances such as school violence, bullying, and even divorce can destabilize or strengthen their identity.

In my science-themed middle grade book, Quantum Quagmire, I cover the topic of divorce. Serafina Sterling learns her best friend, Tori Copper, is going through a difficult time when she starts to lose interest in her most beloved hobbies, bug hunting and pizza eating. And what’s troubling Tori is more difficult for Serafina to understand than cold fusion: Tori’s parents are getting a divorce. 

Serafina turns to her friends and science to try to figure out how to prevent the divorce. Using the scientific method, trial and error, and one disastrous release of a dangerous class pet, Serafina realizes her beloved science has reached its limit. Or has it? In the end, Serafina is able to understand a very important quantum principle and use it to help Tori accept the inevitable split. Serafina and her friends realize that while they may not be able to prevent a divorce, they have the tools to understand and accept the difficult reality.

The purpose of this book was not only to convey one of my favorite quantum concepts, quantum entanglement, but to also help kids navigate through difficult realities they may face. Especially in today’s information heavy world.

 Change versus Acceptance

We all have some control over our lives. Where we live. The job we have. What’s for dinner? We can’t, however, control the weather, what our neighbors are like, and who our bosses are. Kids have even less control. They can’t vote. They can’t get their own place. And they can’t understand what they can and can’t change without some guidance.

In Quantum Quagmire, I emphasize the importance of acceptance. Serafina and her friends try to reunite Tori Copper’s parents. When those efforts fail, her mother helps her understand that sometimes bad things happen in a person’s life. Serafina was able to take these lessons and help Tori accept the change. More importantly, she helped her see that even though her parents would not be living in the same house anymore, they would always be connected as a family. 

Sugarcoating is Good. Perspective is Better. 

My hope is that my entire Serafina Loves Science! series helps lay the groundwork for difficult conversations with children. Our kids will face a lot of challenges and failures in their lives, just as we have “back in our day”. Their relative success or failure in life will be the result of how well they can navigate, recover, and later thrive because of those bumps in the road.

When my oldest daughter recently lost her front tooth and was concerned she would “look weird” in class, I tried giving her a sugarcoated answer. I told her that the little hole in her face was “cute” and that at least she had a very handy soup strainer until her grown-up tooth came in. Those answers seemed to placate her for about 10 minutes. But as I stared at my gap-tooth seven-year-old, with her arms folded tightly across her chest and her brows pinched into a tight knot, I realized she was onto my bogus mom answers. I took a deep breath and tried to put it into perspective for her. I told her that, in my day, I also had been self-conscious about looking like a piano missing a lot of keys, and that her friends probably felt the same way. I listed some of her friends who also were missing their front teeth. She seemed to respond to this and even gave me a hug.

While having a missing tooth isn’t as difficult as divorce or school violence, the method of providing perspective remains. Kids are smart, and they are growing. Providing them with truthful, honest, and loving guidance can make a difference. It certainly did for Serafina and her friends!

Serafina Loves Science
Cosmic Conundrum
Quantum Quagmire
Published by Absolute Love Publishing

Series Summary: Serafina Loves Science! is a middle grade fiction series that focuses on 11-year-old Serafina Sterling. Serafina is just like other kids who have to deal with issues like annoying older brothers, cliques at school, and parents who restrict her use of noxious chemicals. But she has a secret … Serafina loves science! Her passion for all things scientific helps her make new friends and figure out the old ones, understand her family, invent new devices for space travel, and appreciate the basic principles of the universe.

Cosmic Conundrum Summary: See Kellee’s review from Friday!

Quantum Quagmire Summary: Serafina suspects something is wrong when her best friend, Tori Copper, loses interest in their most cherished hobbies: bug hunting and pizza nights. When she learns Tori’s parents are getting a divorce and that Tori’s mom is moving away, Serafina vows to discover a scientific solution to a very personal problem so that Tori can be happy again. But will the scientific method, a clever plan, and a small army of arachnids be enough to reunite Tori’s parents? When the situation goes haywire, Serafina realizes she has overlooked the smallest, most quantum of details. Will love be the one challenge science can’t solve?

About the Author: Cara Bartek, Ph.D. lives in Texas with her husband and two daughters. The Serafina Loves Science! series was inspired in part by her career path and in part by her two little girls. Her hope is to make this world a more equitable and opportune place for her daughters one silly story at a time. Visit www.carabartek.com.

Thank you to Cara and Absolute Love Publishing for sharing this awesome outlook into the changes in childhood in the 21st century and how Serafina deals with these changes!

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When the Moon Was Ours
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Published October 4, 2016 by Thomas Dunne

Goodreads Summary: To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

My Review: This book appears again and again on English department lists for courses about gender and sexuality. After I saw it for the dozenth time, I realized that I had to read it. I loved it so much that I adopted it for my course, and my students read it along with three other texts when we talked about gender and sexuality as they pertain to adolescence. I will admit that a few of my students had difficulty with the magical realism of the book, but overall, they found this book to be incredibly powerful and recommended I continue to use it in the course. There is so much to discuss, and it offers beautiful insight. I attach so many emotions to this book, which proves how much I cared deeply for the characters and content. If you missed this one, you should read it. I promise it will be different than any other book that you’ve read.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The third of my class that read this book developed a great activity to inspire their peers to want to read it. They asked the students: “If an egg could cure your heartsickness, what color would it be? If a flower grew from your wrist, what type of flower would it be? If you could hang a moon from the trees to help you sleep at night, what would it look like? Or, pick another object to connect with.” We had a lot of fun discussing the great possibilities.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why is this book used often in college English courses? What makes it so impactful?
  • What does this book teach you about people, places, life, and quite frankly, humanity as a whole?
  • There are a very many magically realistic objects in the text. If you examine them closely, what does each mean? For example, why are glass pumpkins growing in the town?

We Flagged: “Miel was a handful of foil stars, but they were the fire that made constellations” (p. 12).

Read This If You Love: Magical realism, books that make you think, books that push binary traditions of gender

Recommended For: 

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RickiSig

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“Shedding a Light of Understanding on Kids Who Are Different”

Growing up in an average American household, I never gave much thought to what it was like to be different or out of the norm. My education was homogenous: Catholic grade school, Catholic high school, even a year at a Catholic all-girls college. I married a nice, Catholic boy and raised three wonderful children. Life was what I understood it to be—simple. Oh, I had challenges, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Then my two beautiful, incredible grandchildren were born to my youngest child, and all that changed. The oldest started exhibiting quirky movements that turned into compulsive movements. She also started to have explosive outbursts, especially when things didn’t go her way—everyday things like what color shoes to wear.

It soon became obvious that there were issues. After visits to numerous doctors, Madison was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, and the bottom fell out from under us. We fell into the unknown, and our ordinary life became extraordinary, but not in a good way.

I watched as Madison and her family coped with her physical and vocal tics. I watched as Madison cringed into herself at restaurants after she made a scene, feeling that “everyone was staring at her.” I learned to understand, if only in a small way, what it means to be different.

Which brings me to my novel, DIFFERENT. Izzy, the protagonist, is modeled after my granddaughter. It’s not her story, but it is her life. I’ve watched her cope over the last 15 years, often folding into herself when she felt people were judging her. She’s a beautiful person and a troubled one. She doesn’t like to talk about her TS. She doesn’t want pity. She wants to be accepted as normal.

I don’t have any answers here. I don’t live in the world of a teacher, and my parenting days are mostly given over to advice for my children—when asked. But I do know this. I do know that I’m not so quick to judge the child having a tantrum in the restaurant or the man walking down the street talking to himself. I do know that teachers have it much harder than I did when I taught second grade many years ago. And parents have many more challenges than I did when my kids were growing up.

What I hope is that my novel will help teachers and parents understand the world of the child who is considered different. That these kids have the same goals, desires, needs that a “normal” child has, only with some extra challenges thrown in. And I truly believe that, given the chance, these “different” kids can excel. They even can come to see that everyone has challenges and that they aren’t so different after all.

I’ve also come to believe that children, while sometimes unkind or thoughtless, are quick to accept the quirkiness of others, at least when they are young. Mostly, they are curious. It is only when they begin to become aware of their differences that they start to act judgmentally. I believe that’s a self-defense mechanism. It is my hope that these students can come to see some of themselves in Izzy. The struggle to be accepted. The desire to be “normal.” That Izzy’s struggles can be their catalyst for their own self-acceptance.

If you would like to share your experience with Tourette syndrome or invite me to speak with your organization or classroom, I would love to hear from you. Contact me at https://janetmclaughlin-author.com/.

About the Author: Janet McLaughlin is the author of Different and the Soul Sight Mysteries series, including “Haunted Echo” and “Fireworks.” She has been involved in the communication field most of her adult life as a writer, editor and teacher. Her love of mysteries and the mystical are evident in her novels. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Florida Writers Association. She lives in Florida with her husband, Tom, and along with her writing, enjoys playing tennis, walking, traveling, and meeting people.

https://twitter.com/Author_Janet
https://www.facebook.com/authorjanetmclaughlin/

Published September 12th, 2018 by Absolute Publishing

Thank you to Janet for her thought-provoking post and for sharing her book!

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Orphaned
Author: Eliot Schrefer
Published September 25th, 2018 by Scholastic Press

Summary: Before humans, and before human history, there were the apes.
Snub is a young gorilla, living in the heart what will eventually be known as Africa. She is jealous of her mother’s new baby . . . and restless in her need to explore. When a natural disaster shakes up her family, Snub finds herself as the guardian of her young sibling . . . and lost in a reshaped world.

Snub may feel orphaned, but she is not alone. There are other creatures stalking through the woods — a new form of predator, walking on two legs. One of their kind is also orphaned, and is taken in by Snub. But the intersection of the human world and the gorilla world will bring both new connections and new battles.

In his boldest work yet, two-time National Book Award finalist Eliot Schrefer shows us a riveting, heartbreaking early encounter between ape and man — told from the ape’s point of view. It is a journey unlike any other in recent literature.

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.

Praise: “Scientific accuracy paired with lyrical, subjective language describing the young gorilla’s impressions of her surroundings and bodily needs make this book an imaginative, eloquent evocation of a little-known era in prehistory from an animal’s viewpoint. A plausibly authentic account skillfully avoiding risk of excessive anthropomorphism.” – Kirkus Reviews

Review: What a fascinating book! Orphaned is so different than Schrefer’s other novels but in a way that is new and so well done. Where Endangered, Rescued, and Threatened were about humans interacting with apes in a contemporary setting, Orphaned is about apes interacting with early humans in a pre-historic setting. There is no book like this! And it is done beautifully.

When we visited virtually with Eliot Schrefer he shared with us that the story was originally told in prose but his editor, David Levithan, pointed out to him that apes, though intelligent, would not think the way that Eliot writes prose. That their thoughts would be focused on immediate needs and would lack in descriptive and fluffy language. He then completely rewrote the story in verse and WOW! Snub’s voice is perfect.

While I originally thought that the point of view and setting would make the story a challenge, but it was the contrary–it made it just that more interesting!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: What a great mentor text for point of view and setting! Have students write a story with an animals main character in an interesting setting. Then have them change from prose to verse to hone in on the point of view of the animal and make sure they are including the setting as a main aspect of the story.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the inclusion of the ape “language” help with the realism of the story?
  • Why do you think the author included the illustrations of what apes were currently in the story at the top of the page?
  • How did the change from prose to verse storytelling impact the way the story was perceived?
  • How do you think the early humans perceived the gorillas when they interacted with them?
  • How does the point of view shape this story?
  • How did the eruption change the life of the gorillas and early humans?
  • How are gorillas and early humans similar and different?

Flagged Passages: 

Central Eastern Africa
600,000 Years Ago

Until this time, gorillas lived by the millions in a broad band of jungle across Africa. Then a series of volcanic eruptions, many times more foreful than any the modern world has experience, occurred in the Great Rift Valley. The shift in landscape allowed tribes of early humans to travel south into this area for the first time. 

It would be the first meeting between ape and human.

Part One: Home

Rock. Nut.
Snub looks between the two, thinking.
This tree keeps its nuts high in its branches–
a fallen one is a lucky treat.
She imagines rolling the inside nugget in her mouth,
biting its oily flesh.
Tongue between her teeth, brow scrunched,
she raps the rock on top of the nut.
It does not crack.
She licks the rock.
The rock tastes like rock.
She licks the nut.
The nut tastes like dirt.
Snub twists the woody halves.
They will not part.
Opening nuts is Mother’s job,
but Mother let Snub go off alone.

                                                                              mrgh. 

Fresh fury surges.
Snub hurts the nut, aiming
at a pair of magpies.
It goes wide and disappears into the foliage.
Worthless nut.
Snub looks to see if anyone has
been impressed by her rage.
But this only reminds her:
Her family is not here.”

Read This If You Love: The Ape Quartet books #1-3, Early humans, Gorillas

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