On the Come Up
Authors: Angie Thomas
Published: February 5, 2019 by Balzer + Bray
GoodReads Summary: Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.
On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.
My Review: After reading this book, I promptly went into my course syllabus for next semester and swapped out another book to include this one. There are so many things that I love about this book. In particular, I really liked how this book tackled the issues of violence against and the assumptions stereotypically made of black females. There are only a few other recent books that tackle these issues, and they are critically important. I get incredibly frustrated by assumptions like “aggressive black female.” Angie Thomas deftly addresses these assumptions and provides a variety of angles for readers. Bri, the narrator, is incredibly strong, and I admire her greatly. I will never have a daughter, but if I did, I would be so proud if my daughter turned out to be like her. This book just feels different from any book that I’ve read. It offers something different that is going to make for great classroom conversations.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I am going to be using this book in a Social Movements and Collective Action course. I will be using it with other texts to talk about the history and currency of the #blacklivesmatter movement. I am very excited that this book exists in the world, and I know that my students will love it.
Discussion Questions: How does the author craft dialogue? What might other writers learn from her work?; What messages does the text reveal? Which messages are less obvious but implicit in a reading of the text?; What connections does this text have with the world today?
Flagged Passage: “There’s only so much you can take being described as somebody you’re not.”
Read This If You Loved: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas; All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely; X by Ilyassah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon; The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon; How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon; Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles; Audacity by Melanie Crowder; The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
“Why Mix Fantasy and History?”
The Ghosts of Ordinary Objects series is a bit hard to categorize. Set in a small Appalachian coal mining community in 1942, both Bone’s Gift and the newest book, Lingering Echoes, mix history with a bit of folklore, mystery, and fantasy/magical realism. Just as her little […]
“Why Mix Fantasy and History?”
The Ghosts of Ordinary Objects series is a bit hard to categorize. Set in a small Appalachian coal mining community in 1942, both Bone’s Gift and the newest book, Lingering Echoes, mix history with a bit of folklore, mystery, and fantasy/magical realism. Just as her little community is being changed by World War II, Bone Phillips (12) is going through some changes of her own. She’s coming into her Gift, as her Mamaw calls it. Many people in her family have special ability, or Gift. Bone’s is the ability to see the ghosts—or stories—inside ordinary objects. And she needs to use her Gift—which she’s none too happy about—to solve a few mysteries. Why mix fantasy, mystery, and/or magical realism with history (or vice versa), particularly with middle grade readers?
Lately, I’ve been asked this question a lot! My answer has a few parts. First, these are the kind of stories I love. I adore stories that mix genres, such as fantasy and history (or even alternate history) Think The Book Thief, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Night Circus, The Discovery of Witches, or the Golem and the Jinni. When I was much younger, I devoured everything Anne Rice or Chelsea Quinn Yarbro wrote. And I started those books for the magicians, witches, and vampires but stayed for the history–much like today’s middle grade readers do.
Secondly, several teachers and librarians have told me they appreciate these series for this very reason. Many kids might not pick up a straight historical novel—but they would devour one that had a mystery, fantastical, and/or scary element. In Lingering Echoes, for instance, Bone has to use her Gift to solve the mystery of an object—in this case a jelly jar—that has a power all its own. All around her, though, World War II is being waged on the home front as well as in battlefields far away. Hopefully, readers will come for the fantasy and mystery and stay for the history!
But, finally, fantasy isn’t just something to draw the readers in. For me, fantasy (and science fiction, too) is essential to what I like to read and write. Fantasy explores and evokes a sense of wonder, which we all desperately need. Children are born with that sense of wonder, a mixture of curiosity and awe about the world. As we get older, though, we tend to lose that sense. And that process of de-wonderfication (just made that up!) starts in the middle grade years. (At least, I think it does.) So, I like to mix fantasy with history (and vice versa) to remind readers (and myself) that magic can even be found in the ghosts of ordinary places, past and present.
Note: On my website, I have a number of lesson plans and activities as well as historical info for teachers and librarians: https://www.angiesmibert.com/blog/?page_id=1861
Read about Bone’s Gift at http://www.unleashingreaders.com/?p=15806.
Summary: Bone has a Gift. When she touches certain objects, images wash over her, and she sees stories—the joyful, surprising, or even terrifying events that occurred as someone gripped those objects.
So when Bone’s best friend, Will, brings her an object unlike any other Bone has encountered, he asks her to tell him its story. It’s the jelly jar he inherited from his father—the same jelly jar his father clutched during the coal-mining cave-in that killed him.
Bone only has to put her hand near the jar to feel the strange power in it, to see flashes of her friend—who has been mute for as long as she can remember—talking with his dad. And when Will opens the empty jar, sounds float out.
This jar isn’t just a witness to history; it’s something more, something dangerous. Could it have a Gift of its own? In this second haunting installment of The Ghosts of Ordinary Objects series, Bone must use her wits and her Gift not only to uncover the truth but to make sure Will isn’t sucked away by long-forgotten memories.
About the Author: Angie is the author of the middle grade historical fantasy series, Ghosts of Ordinary Objects, which includes Bone’s Gift (2018), Lingering Echoes (2019), and The Truce (2020). She’s also written three young adult science fiction novels: Memento Nora, The Forgetting Curve, and The Meme Plague. In addition to numerous short stories, she’s published over two dozen science/technology books for kids. Angie teaches young adult and speculative fiction for Southern New Hampshire University’s creative writing M.F.A. program as well as professional writing for Indiana University East. Before doing all this, she was a science writer and web developer at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. She lives in Roanoke with a goofy dog (named after a telescope) and two bickering cats (named after Tennessee Williams characters), and puts her vast store of useless knowledge to work at the weekly pub quiz.
This series is really a fascinating look at a the past with a dash of fantasy! Thank you, Angie, for this look into your creative process!
“Fostering Kindness and Empathy Through Literature”
Kindness, at its very essence, is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Of course, these are all qualities we should all strive to exhibit, but as much as we’d like to think that kindness is something inherent in our society, quite the opposite […]
“Fostering Kindness and Empathy Through Literature”
Kindness, at its very essence, is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Of course, these are all qualities we should all strive to exhibit, but as much as we’d like to think that kindness is something inherent in our society, quite the opposite is true.
Many studies suggest human nature drives us to be competitive instead of kind. It makes sense, since ultimately our very existence is tied to one simple goal: survival based on competition for resources. Our planet has a finite number of these life-sustaining resources so it seems obvious that, as a species, we would do whatever was necessary to make sure we secure enough of those resources for our own survival.
Unfortunately, kindness is actually quite counterintuitive to that.
Because let’s face it, if there are only three apples but four hungry people, what would compel anyone to share with someone else?
The answer, of course, is empathy.
Those people who recognize their own hunger in others are more inclined to share than those who don’t.
Although we are driven to survive through competition, we are also wired to empathize with one another. Empathy is a learned behavior, though the capacity for it is inborn. Think about empathy as an innate ability that needs to be developed. This quality is what ultimately gives us our humanity, but empathetic responses don’t just happen spontaneously. They need to be fostered, and because they aren’t necessarily our ‘go-to’ reaction, this is especially true for those of us who are wired for self-preservation.
Research shows people who value friendships, their social connections, and are embedded in their networks are more likely to display empathy than those who consider themselves outsiders. There’s a caveat to this, of course, and it’s that these empathetic people are inclined to reserve their kindness for the friends who are most like they are. While they show great consideration for the friends they understand, there’s often a limit when it comes to extending that kindness to those they see as “other.”
I believe, if we want to encourage empathy, the first step is to stop dwelling upon these differences and focus instead on those things in life which makes us the same. In essence, we need to embrace the common human experience.
Love, loss, friendship, fear … these are all things every human experiences in life. When we realize that, regardless of age, color, religion, or socioeconomic status, we are all far more alike than we are different and begin to celebrate those things that bind us instead of belaboring the minutia tearing us apart, we’ll be able to achieve our purpose in life – which is to care for one another and to be kind.
This begins with feeling vested in the lives of other people. When we focus on our differences, it’s difficult to experience empathy. However, when we realize just how tethered to one another we truly are, we can begin to see through the veil which separates us and imagine other people’s lives as mirrors of our own.
I firmly believe that simple exposure to other people’s stories through literature will inevitably foster empathy and the capacity for kindness. Because, let’s face it, we all tend to be kindest to people who are most like we are, but if we can see ourselves in people who are different from us and understand that most human experiences are largely universal, we’ll start choosing kindness over competitiveness in our everyday lives. Books are tremendous tools in our arsenal for fostering kindness among the diversity of our world.
Books give us the opportunity to experience life through other people’s stories which often promotes understanding. When we spend 300 pages getting to know a person and their story, we’re more inclined to imagine ourselves in their shoes and empathize with them.
The empathy we develop through reading will inevitably breed kindness in the real world. The connections established inside the stories make it easier to identify and honor the fundamental truths behind our differences.
And when we understand and embrace our differences, kindness becomes our default setting.
About the Author: “Masterful character development and story lines woven with the common threads of human experience make Amalie’s novels relatable to both young and old alike. Her ideas are born from the passions of her own heart which she uses to share her vision of the world with her readers.”
USA Today Bestselling author Amalie Jahn is the recipient of the Literary Classics Seal of Approval and the Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal for her debut novel, The Clay Lion. Her latest novel, The Next to Last Mistake, is a character-driven YA contemporary about cows, the power of female friendships, and finding your place in the world. She is a contributing blogger to the Huffington Post and Southern Writers Magazine, as well as a finalist in the 2015 Kindle Book Awards. A TED speaker, human rights advocate, and active promoter of kindness, she lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children, and three extremely overfed cats.
About the Book: The Next to Last Mistake speaks to the beauty and richness that fills life when we cross race and culture to find common ground, forge new friendships, and challenge our own world view. Amalie’s novel speaks to a deep need in today’s America and will inspire young readers to reexamine the relationships in their lives.
Tess Goodwin’s life in rural Iowa is sheltered and uncomplicated. Although she chooses to spend most of her free time playing chess with her best friend Zander, the farm-boy from next door, her skills as a bovine midwife and tractor mechanic ensure that she fits in with the other kids at West Hancock High. But when her veteran father reenlists in the Army, moving her family halfway across the country to North Carolina, Tess is forced out of her comfort zone into a world she knows nothing about.
When Leonetta Jackson is assigned as her mentor, she becomes Tess’s unexpected guide through the winding labyrinth of cultural disparities between them, sparking a tentative friendship and challenging Tess to confront her reluctant nature. As the pieces move across the board of her upended life, will Tess find the acceptance she so desperately desires?
Thank you to Amalie for this post that truly embodies much of what we believe about how reading can help change the world!
Bat and the End of Everything (Bat #3)
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Illustrator: Charles Santoso
Published March 26th, 2019 by Walden Pond Press
Summary: Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat) has been the caretaker for Thor, the best skunk kit in the world… but the last day of third grade is quickly approaching, and Thor is almost ready to be released into the wild.
The end of school also means that Bat has to say good-bye to his favorite teacher, and he worries about the summer care of Babycakes, their adorable class pet. Not only that, but his best friend is leaving for a long vacation in Canada.
Summer promises good things, too, like working with his mom at the vet clinic and hanging out with his sister, Janie. But Bat can’t help but feel that everything is coming to an end.
National Book Award finalist Elana K. Arnold returns with the third story starring an unforgettable boy on the autism spectrum.
About the Author: Elana K. Arnold grew up in Southern California, where she was lucky enough to have her own perfect pet—a gorgeous mare named Rainbow—and a family who let her read as many books as she wanted. She is the author of picture books, middle grade novels, and books for teens, including Damsel a Michael Prinz Honor Book, and What Girls are Made of, a finalist for the National Book Award. She lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. You can find her online at www.elanakarnold.com.
Praise for Previous Titles in the Series:
“Comfortably familiar and quietly groundbreaking, this introduction to Bat should charm readers, who will likely look forward to more opportunities to explore life from Bat’s particular point of view.” -Kirkus Review, Bat #1
“A winsome blend of humor and heart, vibrant characters, and laugh-out-loud dialogue, Arnold’s narrative also gracefully explores life through the eyes of a boy on the autism spectrum.” -Booklist, Bat #2
Review: Bat is dealing with the school year ending and while everyone else is excited, Bat knows that the end of the school year means the end of his time with Thor, Babycakes, Mr. Grayson, and even his best friend for the summer. For a kid that struggles with change, this is a mighty big change that he is going to have to deal with (the book begins with 4 days until summer begins). A transitional period like this can be hard for any kid, and Bat’s struggles with these changes is one that many a kid will connect with.
And although Bat’s stories are primarily character-driven, Arnold does a great job giving Bat hiccups along the way to move along his story.
But do you know what my favorite thing is about Arnold’s writing in Bat? Her imagery. Bat is so in tune with his senses and Arnold does a great job writing about what Bat is hearing, seeing, smelling, touching, and tasting which allows readers to be drawn into Bat’s world and also help understand Bat’s point of view.
I am a pretty big fan of Bat’s books–I love their quiet strength and the compassion within the pages. And this book really is everything I wanted from the final book in the series. If you don’t listen to anything else I say in this review, just go pick up the first Bat book and sit down and get ready for a purely enjoyable read.
Flagged Passages: “Chapter One: An Offer
How do you say good-bye to a friend?
That’s what Bixby Alexander Tam (known to everyone as Bat) was thinking about, sitting with Babycakes, the class rabbit, in the pen at the back of Mr. Grayson’s class. It was the first Monday in June. In four days, the school year would end, and Bat would have to say good-bye.”
“Chapter Two: A Perfect Plan
Soon the classroom was full of noise and color and smells and movement as Bat’s classmates poured inside.
Mei, who sat in the desk to the right of Bat’s, smelled like strawberries today.
‘You smell like strawberries,’ Bat said.
‘I got a new shampoo,’ Mei said, smiling. ‘Do you like it?’
‘Yes,’ said Bat.
‘Thank you,’ said Mei, which was a weird thing to do–to thank someone for liking something.
But Bat knew that what he’d said made Mei happy. ‘You’re welcome.’
All around him, kids were laughing and unzipping their backpacks and scraping back their chairs and tapping their pencils. It was the last week of school, after all. Everyone was excited.
Well, almost everyone. Bat was not excited.”
Read This If You Love: Rules by Cynthia Lord; Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper; The Categorical Universe of Candace McPhee by Barry Jonsberg; Rain, Reign by Ann M. Martin; How to Speak Dolphin by Ginny Rorby; Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina; Stella Diaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez; Wonder by RJ Palacio
Don’t Miss the Other Blog Tour Stops!
March 26 Nerdy Book Club @nerdybookclub
March 27 Kirsti Call @kirsticall
March 30 Read Now Sleep Later @frootjoos
April 1 Bluestocking Thinking @bluesockgirl
April 2 The Book Monsters @thebookmonster
April 3 Educate*Empower*Inspire…Teach @melissaguerrette
April 4 Librarian’s Quest @loveofxena
April 5 Novel Novice @novelnovice
Unleashing Readers @unleashreaders
Lit Coach Lou @litcoachlou
**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy of the text for review!!**
The Last Last-Day-of-Summer
Author: Lamar Giles
Published: April 2, 2019 by Versify
Summary: The Hardy Boys meets The Phantom Tollbooth, in the new century! When two adventurous cousins accidentally extend the last day of summer by freezing time, they find the secrets hidden between the unmoving seconds, minutes, and […]
The Last Last-Day-of-Summer
Author: Lamar Giles
Published: April 2, 2019 by Versify
Summary: The Hardy Boys meets The Phantom Tollbooth, in the new century! When two adventurous cousins accidentally extend the last day of summer by freezing time, they find the secrets hidden between the unmoving seconds, minutes, and hours are not the endless fun they expected.
Otto and Sheed are the local sleuths in their zany Virginia town, masters of unraveling mischief using their unmatched powers of deduction. And as the summer winds down and the first day of school looms, the boys are craving just a little bit more time for fun, even as they bicker over what kind of fun they want to have. That is, until a mysterious man appears with a camera that literally freezes time. Now, with the help of some very strange people and even stranger creatures, Otto and Sheed will have to put aside their differences to save their town—and each other—before time stops for good.
About the Author: Lamar Giles is a well-published author and a founding member of We Need Diverse Books. Lamar has two novels forthcoming in 2019: his debut middle grade fantasy The Last Last-Day-of-Summer (Versify / HMH) and his fourth YA thriller Spin (Scholastic).
Lamar Giles is a two-time Edgar Award finalist in the YA category, for his debut YA thriller Fake ID (HarperCollins, 2014), and his second YA thriller, Endangered (HarperCollins, 2015). His third YA thriller, Overturned (Scholastic, 2017) received this glowing New York Times review, and was named a Kirkus Best Book of 2017. You can see the book trailer for Overturned here. FAKE ID has been optioned by Sony Pictures.
Lamar is a contributor to the YA anthology Three Sides of a Heart (HarperCollins, 2017), the editor of the We Need Diverse Books YA short story anthology Fresh Ink (Random House 2018), a contributor to the forthcoming YA anthology Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America (HarperCollins / Balzer & Bray 2019), and a contributor to a forthcoming We Need Diverse Books middle grade anthology The Hero Next Door (Random House 2019). He has published several short stories for adults. You can see tv interviews with Lamar here, and here, and here, and in a truly fun “Fun Facts” short interview, created by HarperCollins.
Lamar Giles — About the Book: “I’ve spent a lot of time talking with kids and their parents as I’ve crisscrossed the country on my writing journey,” says Giles. “Parents are looking for books to ignite a love for reading in their children, and kids are looking for fun books. I swore that if I ever had the chance to put a book full of words I’d written in the hands of a young reader they’d be the kinds of stories that drew them in willingly, entertained them, opened portals that they’d get lost in for hours. Every day I approach the blank page hoping I can write the One Book that makes all the difference in some reader’s life. I hope that The Last Last-Day-Of-Summer is that book for at least a few children.”
“The Last Last-Day-of-Summer reminds me that all children deserve to exist in magical spaces where their imaginations and familial bonds will them into heroism. Every single child should have the freedom to be one of The Legendary Alstons. And I, for one, am grateful to Giles, and this brilliant story, for that reminder.”
– Jason Reynolds, author of Newbery Honoree Long Way Down
“The legendary heroes of this legendary book are already legendary when the story begins! From there things can only get legendary-er!”
– Tom Angleberger, author of the Origami Yoda series
“Lamar Giles has written an instant classic – readers won’t want their time with the Legendary Alston Boys of Logan County to end.”
– Gwenda Bond, author of the Lois Lane series
Ricki’s Review: Can I go on an adventure with Otto and Sheed? This pair is full of excitement, and it made me want to leap into the book to join them in their sleuthing. I loved the concept of freezing time, and I giggled as they interacted with characters who were frozen in time. This book will set children’s minds into imaginative wonder, and it will spurn creativity. Objects are personified in exciting ways, and it just tilts reality on its head. I don’t read a lot of middle grade texts, but this one was particularly fun. I am looking forward to reading this to my sons when they are a tiny bit older.
Kellee’s Review: What a fun book! Let me count the ways: 1) robots; 2) time travel; 3) mysterious evil person; 4) giant platypus-like creatures; 5) flying cars; 6) giant fly paper; 7) monsters trapped in mirrors; 8) frozen time; etc. etc. So much is going on in this book that makes it so engaging. Take all of this and pair it with a cousin team who solve mysteries in their slightly-off county that now have the fate of everyone they know and love on their shoulders, and you have a book that is going to be a favorite!
I also would love to talk about the theme! However, I cannot talk about the theme. (I know–a tease!) The theme is part of the big reveal at the end. But I want to vaguely say that it is a theme that so many kids need to hear and we, as adults, need to talk to them about. (Though–even with this important theme, the book’s main pull is its just pure, fun adventures!)
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might use this book to encourage students to shift reality in a bit. They might begin by brainstorming possibilities of objects to personify in the world or constants to disrupt (e.g. time). This allows for very creative and fun storytelling possibilities!
The text is also a wonderful one to practice prediction and spotting foreshadowing! As you read the text aloud, have students stop you when they think they have spotted a clue to the mystery and also make predictions between chapters about what is going to happen (don’t forget to check the predictions!).
- What was your favorite part of Otto and Sheed’s adventure?
- How are Otto and Sheed alike? Different?
- How do you think these comparisons/contrasts help make them a good team?
- After each chapter make a prediction. Check your predictions throughout the book.
- What events in the book caused other events to happen?
- Look particularly at how time traveling affected the timeline.
- What literary devices did Giles use that were particularly effective for you?
- This book contains a fast-moving plot and exciting adventure. But it also contains depth in its themes and lessons. What did you learn? What would you apply to your own life?
“‘Well, hello, young men!’
Otto spun at the sound of the new voice. Sheed hinged up at his waist, shielding his eyes with one had and squinting into the sunlight. The approaching silhouette was string-bean slim and taller than most, thanks to the stovepipe hat propped crookedly on his head. He stepped quickly, his skinny arms and legs whipping him forward with almost boneless ease. Tipping his head toward them, the hat’s brim slashed a shadow across his face, dividing it diagonally, leaving a single crystal blue eye, half a nose, and a split grin visible.
‘Who are you?’ Sheed said, getting his feed under him.
Otto, shorter and wider than his cousin, gravitated to Sheed’s side. Both of them angled slightly away from each other for a better view of their flanks, in case something dangerous tried to sneak up on them Maneuver #24.
‘I’m a fan!’ The man offered his hand. ‘You two are the Legendary Alston Boys of Logan County, correct?’
Otto relaxed. ‘Yeah. We are!’
‘You all dispersed the Laughing Locusts before they devoured the county crops!’ he said. ‘You solved the Mystery of the Woman in Teal!’
Sheed stiffened. ‘How do you know that?’
‘Doesn’t everyone in Logan County know you two?’
Yes, Otto thought, proud of their reputation, they do!
Sheed, always a killjoy, said ‘You’re not from Logan County.'” (Chapter 2)
Read This If You Love: The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly by Rebecca Ansari, The Night Door by Frank Cammuso, The Explorers series (#1, #2) by Adrienne Kress, Watch Hollow by Gregory Funaro, Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Taking Cover: One Girl’s Story of Growing Up During the Iranian Revolution
Author: Nioucha Homayoonfar
Foreward by Firoozeh Dumas
Published January 1st, 2019 by National Geographic Children’s Books
Summary: In the mid 1970’s Nioucha Homayoonfar’s French mother and Iranian father made a decision that would change her life forever. At the age of five, Nioucha and her parents moved from Pittsburgh to her father’s homeland of Iran, at the time a modern, bustling country where people from different religions co-existed peacefully and women and men alike pursued the highest level of education and professional opportunities. A new school, new language, and new friends took some time to get used to. But none of that compared to the changes that Nioucha experienced during and after the Iranian revolution of 1979. Once the Ayatollah took control, full robes and head scarves were required, religion classes became mandatory and boys were no longer allowed to interact with girls. Her life continued to be filled with family, friends, pop music and even her first boyfriend (although both the music and the boyfriend were strictly prohibited), but Tehran had become barely recognizable as bombs were dropped on her neighborhood, loved ones and even Nioucha herself were kidnapped, acquaintances were executed and day by day, their freedom was chipped away.
Publishing in time for the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution, Taking Cover reveals the extraordinary story of Nioucha’s struggle to adjust, to understand and to figure out her place in the world while unrest and oppression swirled around her. Additionally, this title is a unique blend of coming-of-age storytelling and history. Coupled with a thought-provoking forward by New York Times best-selling author Firoozeh Dumas (Funny in Farsi) Taking Cover encourages readers to take a deeper look at the importance of protecting religious, political, and social freedoms while Nioucha’s vivid descriptions of Iranian life — the food, the smells, and its customs — exposes readers to a country and culture rarely written about.
Review: Generally, our system of history education and media focus do not set up Americans with great global information which is evident in the many nonfiction and historical fiction books I’ve encountered in my recent lifetime that have taught me so much about the world. This is one of those books.
This memoir does a special thing in being a beautiful narrative that at its heart is about a young girl growing up but is also addresses the true prejudice against women in Iran as well as teach some basics about the Islam faith and the Iranian Revolution. It is hard to balance these objectives but Taking Cover does it really well which makes it perfect for middle school readers because the story will engage them while they are exposed to a time period and place that they may know little about, as I did.
Side note: Is anyone else really impressed by the vivid memories that some have of their childhood? That is another thing I took away from this book–I remember a lot less than others! Excerpts from the memoir would be wonderful as a mentor text about writing about memories using imagery.
Side note: I would love to do a memoir book club with diverse voices including Taking Cover! I was thinking Born a Crime (the new young reader edition), Hey Kiddo, Open Mic, and March Book One-Three. What other titles do you know of that would fit this idea?
Educators’ Guide provided by the publisher:
Flagged Passages: “CHAPTER 1: Fury 1986 (Part 1)
Javabe ablahan khomooshist. -Persian Proverb
Silence is the best answer to fools.
I knew I was in trouble when the white jeep made a U-turn. Driven by the Zeinab Sisters (or the Black Crows, as I called them), it raced toward me and screeched to a stop.
My mother was pushing my brother in a stroller. She had already crossed the street, but I’d lagged behind. So when the ‘Moral Police’ pulled in front of me, I was all alone. Their job was to ensure that all women and girls dressed in a manner dictated by Islam. To set an example, these four were covered head to toe in black chadors, and some even wore gloves.
The Black Crow sitting in the back seat jumped out and grabbed my arm without saying a word. I caught my mother’s eye just as I was being pushed inside the jeep. Maman stood helplessly, screaming across the traffic for the Crows to let me go.” (p. 11)
Read This If You Love: Memoirs, Learning about unreported history, Expanding your knowledge of the world
**Thank you to Karen at Media Masters Publicity for providing the book for review!**
The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly
Author: Rebecca K.S. Ansari
Published March 5th, 2019 by Walden Pond Press
Summary: Charlie O’Reilly is an only child. Which is why it makes everyone uncomfortable when he talks about his brother. Liam, his eight-year-old kid brother, who, up until a year ago, slept in the bunk above Charlie, took pride in being as annoying as possible, and was the only person who could make Charlie laugh until it hurt.
Then came the morning when the bunk, and Liam, disappeared forever. No one even remembers him—not Charlie’s mother, who has been lost in her own troubles; and not Charlie’s father, who is gone frequently on business trips. The only person who believes Charlie is his best friend, Ana—even if she has no memory of Liam, she is as determined as Charlie is to figure out what happened to him.
The search seems hopeless—until Charlie receives a mysterious note, written in Liam’s handwriting. The note leads Charlie and Ana to make some profound discoveries about a magic they didn’t know existed, and they soon realize that if they’re going to save Liam, they may need to risk being forgotten themselves, forever.
About the Author: Rebecca K.S. Ansari is a former ER doctor. The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly is her first book. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, four sons, and some seriously massive pets.
Praise: “As puzzle pieces click into place, The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly reveals that it’s stories—and family—that make us whole. A deeply satisfying and beautiful book.” —Elana K. Arnold, National Book Award finalist and author of The Question of Miracles
Review: Read the flagged passage below… I’ll wait…
Welcome back. Those are the first few paragraphs of the book. Wow, right?! One of my favorite beginnings ever, and I was so excited to share it with anyone who would listen (I tweeted it, I read it to my students, I read it to anyone!) And yes, the rest of the book lives up to the expectations of that amazing start.
I was so impressed with the crafting of this novel, specifically as a debut novel. The author combines narratives, adds twists and turns, and keeps you guessing throughout the novel. The direction you think the novel is going to go is ever changing so predictions are impossible to make. All of these aspects made for an enjoyable novel that, as the name suggests, is a puzzle waiting to be put together.
Rebecca K.S. Ansari also did a wonderful job threading different big ideas throughout the book: acceptance, guilt, friendship, hope, trust, depression. Different sections of the book highlight these different big ideas and could be used for great discussions. The book also, as you can see, deals with some really tough and dark big ideas, but I think this narrative will give many students a jumping off point for talking about some of the struggles and ideas in Charlie’s story.
And the characters in the book are well-crafted and multi-dimensional. Each character has a full story that is developed to allow the reader to truly get to know the world that Charlie is adventuring in. I specifically loved the friendship between Charlie and Ana–an unexpected friendship that was built on trust, believing, and support.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions:
Publisher-Created Educators’ Guide
Read This If You Love: The Real Boy by Anne Ursu, The Lost Girls by Anne Ursu, Midnight is a Place by Joan Aiken, The Grave by James Heneghan, Kit’s Wilderness by David Arnold
Don’t Miss Out on the Other Blog Tour Stops:
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March 12 Bluestocking Thinking @BlueSockGirl
March 13 A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust @bethshaum
March 14 Maria’s Mélange @mariaselke
March 15 Unleashing Readers @unleashreaders
March 18 March Middle Grade Madness at Word Spelunking @wordspelunker
March 29 Writers’ Rumpus @kirsticall
**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for review and giveaway!!**
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