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Fountains of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Published: October 1, 2019 by Philomel Books

GoodReads Summary: A portrait of love, silence, and secrets under a Spanish dictatorship.

Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming promise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of an oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography–and fate–introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War–as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of difficult decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

Includes vintage media reports, oral history commentary, photos, and more.

My Review: This book rocked me. It is so beautifully written, and I felt so lucky to be able to share it with others at NCTE this year. Because I have so many teaching ideas for this book, I am organizing this post a bit differently and focusing on many more teaching tools than usual. I hope that the information below helps other teachers use this book in their classrooms. It is so worthy of being read, studied, and loved.

Inquiry to Consider the Complexity of The Fountains of Silence:

The Connection of People: Ana, Daniel, Rafa, Fuga, Julia, Puri
“Some friendships are born of commonality. Others of proximity. And some friendships, often the unlikely ones, are born of survival” (p. 53).

Place as Character
The Castellana Hilton Madrid and Madrid
“After all, a hotel is a house of secrets” (p. 171).
“Madrid’s soil is untender, strong, and enduring like many who walk upon it” (p. 457).

Gender Norms
“Estamos más guapas con la boca cerrada. We are prettier with our mouths shut” (p. 240, 243, 300).

Social Class
“What lies outside the country’s borders is untouchable for families like hers” (p. 47).

Family Responsibility
“Julia needs the wages to feed her family and pay their debts” (p. 63).
“The family business needs you” (p. 82).

Human resilience
“It’s warrior skin, very strong” (p. 113)

“There is a category of unspeakable things, a dark drawer where inexpressible truths live in exile” (p. 240).

“Ana is tired of silence, tired of unanswered questions, and tired of secrets. A girl of patched pieces, she dreams of new beginnings. She dreams of leaving Spain” (p. 24).

Fountains of Silence
Analysis of the power of the title. Whose stories are heard? Whose are silenced?

Culminating Project Idea: Multigenre Inquiry Project
The Fountains of Silence is story which uses layered writing to illuminate the fear and terror that people experienced under Franco’s fascist regime. The novel reveals the brute strength and resilience of the people during the time period. Select a time and place in history to research. Consider researching a time and place which is deeply connected with your own story. Read the narratives of the people and develop a multigenre project which reflects your learning. You might include fictional narratives of stories you create, nonfiction excerpts that you find in your research, a photo essay which includes photos you find in your research. Whatever the final form, your culminating project should include various types of writing and media and demonstrate your knowledge about the time and place you selected to research.

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The Treacherous Seas
Author: Christopher Healy
Published November 5th, 2019 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: After saving New York by thwarting Ambrose Rector’s dastardly plot to control the minds of everyone at the 1883 World’s Fair, Molly Pepper and Emmett Lee thought they’d have it made. They were heroes, after all. But if someone saves the world and there’s no one around who remembers it, did it really happen?

Now Molly, Emmett, and Molly’s mother, Cassandra, are left to prove themselves once again. And they aim to do it with an achievement that no one could ignore or forget: winning the race that has captured the attention of the world, to be the first people to find the South Pole. But despite their one-of-a-kind ship, their can-do attitude, and the help of a determined young journalist named Nellie Bly, the path to the Pole is not without its challenges—or its terrors. It is the path Emmett’s father took when he led an expedition to Antarctica on behalf of Mr. Alexander Graham Bell—the expedition in which Mr. Lee and his entire crew were killed. Does death await our heroes on these treacherous seas?

About the Author: Christopher Healy is the author of the novels A Perilous Journey of Danger and Mayhem #1: A Dastardly Plot, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, its two sequels, The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle and The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw and the picture book This Is Not That Kind Of Book. Before becoming a writer, he worked as an actor, an ad copywriter, a toy store display designer, a fact-checker, a dishwasher, a journalist, a costume shop clothing stitcher, a children’s entertainment reviewer, and a haunted house zombie. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and a dog named Duncan. You can visit him online at

Check out my review of Book #1 here!

Christopher Healy’s Nerdy Book Club post was hilarious and also focused on research–don’t miss out on it!

Educators’ Guide:


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t Miss out on the Other Blog Tour Stops: 

November 6    Nerdy Book Club

December 2    Bluestocking Thinking

December 3     Novel Novice

December 4    Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

December 5     The Book Monsters

December 6    Maria’s Melange


**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for giveaway and for hosting the blog tour**

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Ginny Rorby is the author 6 MG/YA novels: How to Speak Dolphin, Lost in the River of Grass, 2013 winner of the Sunshine State Young Readers Award, Hurt Go Happy, 2008 winner of the Schneider Family Book Award, The Outside of a Horse, Dolphin Sky, and Freeing Finch (2019). Ginny is a past director of the Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference and its current president. She can be reached at and at

Today we are lucky to have her on Unleashing Readers to answer some questions.

All of your books combine human and animals into stories that build empathy for both. Why do you combine both instead of focusing on just one or the other? 

To me, our treatment of each other extends to our treatment of animals. I think we are losing our appreciation of the natural world and its systems. We only care about what we learn to care about. If I can help young readers connect with even a fictional animal of another species, they will be richer for it, a better person and, hopefully, grow up tuned into the needs of all beings.

When planning a book, what do you usually have first: a topic, a character, a story, or something else? How do you get from that to a final book? 

Almost without exception, the animal character comes first. Dolphin Sky came from the tragic conditions of three captive dolphins at roadside “attraction” in Florida. Hurt Go Happy was based on the equally tragic story of Lucy, a sign language using chimpanzee. The Outside of a Horse was the result of two newscasts, one on the slaughter of horses (100,000 annually) and a second about the horses used to pull the caissons at Arlington National Cemetery helping Iraq war veterans deal with PTSD. Lost in the River of Grass is an exception: it is based on the true story of my husband sinking his airboat and having to walk out of the Everglades, but it also shows the main character’s initial fear of the wildlife she and Andy encounter and her growing appreciation of the beauty of a natural place. How to Speak Dolphin was purposed to me by Scholastic. Even though it was about a sister with an autistic little brother, the fate of the dolphin became my first consideration. Once I’ve been driven to distraction by the plight of an animal, I try to create a character with issues compatible the story, which is always about how healing a relationship with an animal can be.

Many of your books focus on very tough topics such as abuse of children or animals. Why do you feel that this topic is so important to write about? 

I’ve always believed the abuse of animals and children is linked. A person capable of abusing a dog or cat, or any animal, is surely capable of abusing vulnerable humans. To write about it is to expose it. To expose it may empower a child to seek a safe adult, or to speak up if they know a friend who is being abused. Beyond that, my goal is to have young people look deeper into the plight of animals. When they go (heaven forbid) to SeaWorld, I want them to hate seeing a whale in captivity, or a dolphin forced to jump through a hoop for our amusement. When I was 6 or 7, my mother took me to a circus in Orlando. One of the elephants being herded past in a parade of animals, toppled over and died. To this day, I’ve never been to a circus. Thankfully, six decades later, the outcry over forcing elephants to perform, has finally resulted in change. And we seem to be slowly coming to our senses about whales and dolphins in captivity. There are still thousands of animals in confined situations compelled to perform for our amusement, or caged in labs being experimented on. The emails I get from young readers show me I’m getting my message across. I can’t ask for more than that.

Tell us about your newest book and how it came to be. 

Freeing Finch, my most recent, had two beginnings. I wrote the first iteration about an abandoned dog and an abandoned (at least in her own mind) child. It didn’t quite hit the mark. Two years ago, our local orthopedic surgeon and acquaintance with whom I’d aligned over attempts by our local hospital to close Labor and Delivery, came out as trans, had confirmation surgery at age 70, (Kate’s surgery ) and changed her name to Kathryn. I was stunned but supportive. I have many gay friends but had never met anyone transgender (that I knew of). I sent Kate a congratulatory email and received back a note of gratitude. I then mustered my courage and said I’d like to learn more. She recommended I read Becoming Nicole. By then, Katie Couric had visited Kate and Linda, her wife, of 47 years, to interview and include them in a special she was doing on transgenderism. A year later, Kate and Linda were featured in Katie Couric’s National Geographic special, the Gender Revolution.

Before I rewrote Freeing Finch, I had no dog in the fight. I’m straight, cisgender, widowed, childless, white, and a lapsed Episcopalian. I grew up in Central Florida during the civil rights era but was too young and self-centered to truly notice what was happening. We certainly weren’t in the thick of it. My saving grace has turned out to be that I detest injustice.

Since Kate’s focus has been to educate the uninformed, I continued to pepper her with questions, read many of the available books, interviewed transgender acquaintances, and watched Jazz Jennings grow up on YouTube.

I remembered the book I’d written years before about an abandoned dog and a young girl whose mother died, leaving her to be raised by her recently remarried step-father. The abandonment theme reminded me of the stories I was reading about families turning their backs on gender-questioning children.

It’s the 21st century. Gender is a rainbow spectrum. Let’s educate ourselves and move on.

Thank you so much, Ginny, for sharing your writing process and inspirations!

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The Trouble with Shooting Stars
Author: Meg Cannistra
Published: August 20th, 2019 by Simon & Schuster for Young Readers

Summary: Twelve-year-old Luna loves the nighttime more than anything else. It’s when no one gives her “that look” about the half mask she has to wear while healing from a disfiguring car accident. It’s also the perfect time to sit outside and draw what she sees. Like the boy and girl from the new family next door…zipping out of the window in a zeppelin and up to the stars.

At first she thinks she’s dreaming. But one night the siblings catch her watching. Now Luna spends her nights on adventures with them, as they clean full moons, arrange constellations, and catch jars of stardust. She even gets to make a wish on a shooting star they catch.

But Luna learns that no wish is strong enough to erase the past — as much as she may hope to.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ guide I created for The Trouble with Shooting Stars:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about The Trouble with Shooting Stars on Meg Cannistra’s Cake Literary page.

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Beverly, Right Here
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Published: September, 2019 by Candlewick Press

Summary: Beverly put her foot down on the gas. They went faster still.
This was what Beverly wanted — what she always wanted. To get away. To get away as fast as she could. To stay away.

Beverly Tapinski has run away from home plenty of times, but that was when she was just a kid. By now, she figures, it’s not running away. It’s leaving. Determined to make it on her own, Beverly finds a job and a place to live and tries to forget about her dog, Buddy, now buried underneath the orange trees back home; her friend Raymie, whom she left without a word; and her mom, Rhonda, who has never cared about anyone but herself. Beverly doesn’t want to depend on anyone, and she definitely doesn’t want anyone to depend on her. But despite her best efforts, she can’t help forming connections with the people around her — and gradually, she learns to see herself through their eyes. In a touching, funny, and fearless conclusion to her sequence of novels about the beloved Three Rancheros, #1 New York Times best-selling author Kate DiCamillo tells the story of a character who will break your heart and put it back together again.

Revisiting once again the world of Raymie Nightingale, two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo turns her focus to the tough-talking, inescapably tenderhearted Beverly.

View my post about Raymie Nightingale and Louisiana’s Way Home to learn about the two companion books to Beverly.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ guide I created for Beverly, Right Here:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about Beverly, Right Here on Candlewick’s page.

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“Why We Need International Books in the Classroom”

After finishing college, my husband and I packed two suitcases each, sold everything else that we owned, and bought plane tickets to Japan. Our plan was to teach English for a year or two and then move back to Tennessee, but we wound up loving life abroad so much that we lived outside Tokyo for almost five years.

For much of my time in Japan, I worked at an international elementary school, where I taught children from all over the world. My classroom was made up of students from Sri Lanka and Denmark and Korea, Canada and Sudan and Poland. Along with a typical American curriculum (math, P.E., language arts, etc.), I was responsible for making sure my class of 15-20 ESL students learned how to speak and read and write and listen in English—a second (or third) language for almost all of them.

It was a challenge, of course, not only to communicate, but to create an environment where everyone felt comfortable celebrating their differences. Unfortunately, sometimes the American textbooks themselves complicated this problem. (Think of how often things like currency and sports and apparel are referenced just in simple math worksheets.) Finding educational resources that represented the diversity of the students in my classroom—even just a fragment of it—was difficult.

Because of this, more often than not, I turned to literature to address the diversity gap in my classroom’s curriculum.

For my students in Japan, bringing books with an international setting or international characters into the classroom helped to make everyone feel more welcome. Though we were a mix of varied beliefs and colors, traditions and clothing and languages, the books we read helped us learn about each other, which in turn created a more respectful and joyful environment.

But this sort of magic isn’t reserved for an international classroom.

Now, back in the U.S., I teach college English in my home state, and I have my students read texts written by diverse authors from all over the world. Though I occasionally teach a special course composed of all international students, the majority of my classes are largely composed of white Americans who’ve never left the country. (As of 2018, over 75% of the students at my university were white and less than 2% came from outside the U.S.)

In my international classrooms in Japan, the diverse books that I brought to our shelves provided ways for my students to see themselves and their peers in the stories we read. Now, for many of my students, however, such texts require that they learn about cultures with which they’re completely unfamiliar. This forces them to see the world through perspectives they’ve never encountered and, ultimately, open both their minds and their hearts.

Bringing writing with international settings and characters into the classroom, especially writing by diverse authors, is beneficial at any grade level and to any group of students. It teaches readers of all ages that the world is bigger than what’s outside the window—and that people are still people, wherever you go.

The Story That Cannot Be Told
Author: J. Kasper Kramer
Published October 8th, 2019 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

About the Book: A powerful middle grade debut that weaves together folklore and history to tell the story of a girl finding her voice and the strength to use it during the final months of the Communist regime in Romania in 1989.

Ileana has always collected stories. Some are about the past, before the leader of her country tore down her home to make room for his golden palace; back when families had enough food, and the hot water worked on more than just Saturday nights. Others are folktales like the one she was named for, which her father used to tell her at bedtime. But some stories can get you in trouble, like the dangerous one criticizing Romania’s Communist government that Uncle Andrei published—right before he went missing.

Fearing for her safety, Ileana’s parents send her to live with the grandparents she’s never met, far from the prying eyes and ears of the secret police and their spies, who could be any of the neighbors. But danger is never far away. Now, to save her family and the village she’s come to love, Ileana will have to tell the most important story of her life.

About the Author: J. Kasper Kramer is an author and English professor in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her debut novel, The Story That Cannot Be Told from Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, published on October 8th. You can find her online at and on Twitter @JKasperKramer.

Thank you so much for this guest post looking at how perspective and a worldly view shape outlook!

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Weird Little Robots
Author: Carolyn Crimi
Illustrator: Corinna Luyken
Published October 1st, 2019 by Candlewick

Summary: When two science-savvy girls create an entire robot world, they don’t expect the robots to come alive. But life may be a bit more magical than they thought.

Nine-year-old Penny Rose has just moved to a new town, and so far the robots she builds herself are her only company. But with just a bit of magic, everything changes: she becomes best friends with Lark, has the chance to join a secret science club, and discovers that her robots are alive. Penny Rose hardly remembers how lonely she used to feel. But then a fateful misstep forces her to choose between the best friend she’s always hoped for and the club she’s always dreamed of, and in the end it may be her beloved little robots that pay the price.

Praise: [A]uthor Crimi infuses this unassuming transitional novel with compassion, humor, and a refreshing storyline in which girls organically weave a love for science into their everyday lives. Illustrations by Luyken add to the guileless sensibility. A contemplation on the magic of friendship told with sweetness, simplicity, and science.—Kirkus Reviews

**BEA Middle Grade Book Buzz Book

About the Author: Carolyn Crimi enjoys snacking, pugs, Halloween, and writing, although not necessarily in that order. Over the years she has published 15 funny books for children, including Don’t Need Friends, Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies, Where’s My Mummy?, There Might Be Lobsters, and I Am The Boss of This Chair. Weird Little Robots is her first novel.

For more information, and to download a free classroom guide for Weird Little Robots, visit her website. and Twitter @crims10.

Review: Thank goodness books like this exist out in the world. I cannot wait to see what this new generation of kids are like as adults now that they all have these amazing stories of smart girls to read. Even the characters who fit a certain stereotype for Penny Rose ended up proving her wrong. This book shows that there is more to everything than anyone can imagine: more to science, more to friendship, more to imagination… What a fantastic world that Penny and Lark’s story can be told!

And the story itself is one that is fun to read. Not only do you get to read about robots, engineering, ornithology, and even decorating, but the book includes a story that many kids will connect with: do you abandon one to join the others even if the one is your best friend and the others is giving an opportunity that is hard to refuse. That is something that everyone faces more than once in their life. And told in a lyrical and a bit quirky narrative, the story is just fun to read.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: A Classroom Guide for Weird Little Robots can be found on Carolyn Crimi’s website!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What do Penny Rose and Lark have in common?
  • Why do you think Penny Rose made the decision she did about the secret society? Did she regret it in the end? How could she have dealt with it differently?
  • If you were going to build a little robot RIGHT NOW, what items are in your backpack that you could use? Use these items and sketch out a plan.
  • How could Penny Rose have helped her other robots communicate with her?
  • Why do you think the robots waited to communicate?
  • What did the different members of the secret society show Penny Rose, and the reader, about judging others?
  • Create your own conversation starters. Then, in class, group with 2 other people and use the conversation starters to chat. Rotate.
  • What did Penny Rose’s one decision the turned her back on Lark cause?
  • Penny Rose finds her way through the woods just by listening. As a class create an obstacle course that has different sounds throughout it and see if students can navigate through using only their hearing.

Flagged Passages: “First though, Penny Rose would need a detailed plan. She went up to her bedroom, sat on her bed, and turned on the lamp she had made last year from an olive oil can. A stack of notebooks sat on her nightstand: her New Inventions notebook, her Robot Drawings and Descriptions notebook, and her To-Do List notebook. Her most secret notebook, Conversation Starters, was at the bottom of the pile.

She picked it up, found a clean page, and wrote a quick list of Possible Conversation Starters:

  1. “I think binoculars are fun.” (Lark seems to like binoculars.)
  2. “The sun seems strong today.” (Lark often wears sun goop. First determine if the sun does, indeed, seem strong.)
  3. “Sunglasses are very wise.” (Lark wears sunglasses.)
  4. “Do you like robots?” (It is unknown whether or not Lark likes robots, but it is probable that she does since most people do.)
  5. “Yesterday was my birthday. Would you like some leftover cake?” (This seems like a good bet, unless she has allergies or is gluten-free or vegan or something.)
  6. “What is in that metal box?” (This might be too nosy, although if you’re going to carry something so mysterious, you should be prepared for questions.)

Penny Rose looked over her list. She considered what her father said about Lark not hearing before. She decided she would speak loudly.

Penny Rose tore out the page and tucked it into the tool belt she wore in case she happened upon interesting items for her robots.” (Chapter One)

Read This If You Love: Ellie Engineer by Jackson Pearce, Ada Twist by Andrea Beaty, Marty McGuire by Kate Messner, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, The Last Panther by Todd Mitchell, Frank Einstein by Jon Scieszka

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

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