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That Inevitable Victorian Thing
Author: E. K. Johnston
Published: October 3, 2017 by Dutton

Guest Review by Kaari von Bernuth

Goodreads Summary: Set in a near-future world where the British Empire was preserved, not by the cost of blood and theft but by effort of repatriation and promises kept, That Inevitable Victorian Thing is a novel of love, duty, and the small moments that can change people and the world.

Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendent of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history two centuries earlier. The imperial practice of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage like her mother before her, but before she does her duty, she’ll have one summer incognito in a far corner of empire. In Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir apparent to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an unusual bond and maybe a one in a million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process —just like the first Queen Victoria.

My Review: The futuristic setting of this novel that wasn’t a dystopia was very intriguing to me. Most of the futuristic novels that I’ve read have featured dystopian societies, so it was refreshing to have something that worked. I really enjoyed the multiple perspectives from the different characters, and became personally invested in their lives and experiences. I’d find myself hurting for Helena as she struggled to reconcile her identity, and rooting for August to do the right thing. In some way, all of the characters have to struggle to come of age and develop their identity based on who they want to be. 

However, I wish that this novel had placed a little more effort on the ending. While the rest of the novel had dealt with realistic challenges that an adolescent might face, the ending seemed rather contrived, and less realistic like the rest of the novel. The solution proposed at the end of the novel is not a solution that an adolescent in current society could replicate and learn from, which was disappointing.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book poses great questions about racism (or rather the eradication of racism), as well as questions of morality. It also would be great for discussions about the influence that society can have on your life verses the influence that you decide for your life. I think that this book would be a great addition to a classroom library for kids to enjoy, or a book to be used in a reading circle. It’s engaging and could lead to interesting discussions, especially about the futuristic government and setting of the novel, and the aforementioned topics of racism, morality, and societal influence vs self. However, I do think that other novels cover these topics in a better way, which is why I wouldn’t recommend it for large classroom discussions.  

Discussion Questions: Is this novel a utopia? Dystopia? Does it fit either criteria?; How is race approached in this novel? Is there racism in the society?; What is the role of colonialism in this novel?; What is the role of the Computer? Do you think this is a good advancement?; What does the computer lack?; What morality questions does this novel pose?

We Flagged: “The Computer is sufficient if you want to know your future without taking into account your soul. I don’t mean in the eternal sense, but in the worldly. The Computer can tell you if your genes are prone to carcinoma or if you might be six feet tall, but it cannot tell you if you will enjoy dancing or if you will prefer cake to pie. I would argue that the latter is more important in terms of a long and healthy relationship” (p. 254).

Read This If You Loved: Matched by Allie Condie; Delirium by Lauren Oliver; The Luxe by Anna Godbersen; The Selection by Kiera Cass

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  RickiSig

**Thank you to Kaari for reviewing this book!**

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I read so many wonderful books this year, that I decided that I needed two posts to highlight them!
Today’s post will focus on middle grade and young adult novels that I read this year and loved.
Each title will have a publication date listed as these are all favorites I READ in 2017 though they may have been published before or are coming out in 2018.

Favorite Fifteen Middle Grade Novels

 

 

Posted by John David Anderson (2017)
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate (2017)
A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold (2017)

 

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling (2017)
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown (2016)
Stealing Our Way Home by Cecelia Galante (2017)

  

Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart (2017)
Refugee by Alan Gratz (2017)
House Arrest by K.A. Holt (2015)

  

Knock Out by K.A. Holt (2018)
Alex Rider: Never Say Die
by Anthony Horowitz (2017)
Ethan Marcus Stands Up by Michele Weber Hurwitz (2017)

  

FRAMED! by James Ponti (2016)
Patina by Jason Reynolds (2017)
Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood (2012)

Favorite Fifteen Young Adult Novels

 

 

Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson (2016)
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (2017)
The Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu (2011-2013)

  

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (2016)
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (2017)
The Border by Steve Schafer (2017)

  

Scythe by Neal Shusterman (2016)
The Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman (2007-2014)
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (2017)

  

Dear Martin by Nic Stone (2017)
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017)
Little Monsters by Kara Thomas (2017)

  

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten (2013)
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley (2016)
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (2016)

Favorite of the Year

 

March: Book One, Book Two, and Book Three by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell
(2013-2016)

What were your favorite middle grade and young adult novels that you read in 2017?

 
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Children of Exile
Published September 13th, 2016 by Simon & Schuster for Young Readers

Children of Refuge
Published September 12th, 2017 by Simon & Schuster for Young Readers

Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix

Children of Exile Summary: For the past twelve years, adults called “Freds” have raised Rosi, her younger brother Bobo, and the other children of their town, saying it is too dangerous for them to stay with their parents, but now they are all being sent back. Since Rosi is the oldest, all the younger kids are looking to her with questions she doesn’t have the answers to. She’d always trusted the Freds completely, but now she’s not so sure.

And their home is nothing like she’d expected, like nothing the Freds had prepared them for. Will Rosi and the other kids be able to adjust to their new reality?

Children of Refuge Summary: After Edwy is smuggled off to Refuge City to stay with his brother and sister, Rosi, Bobo, and Cana are stuck alone—and in danger—in Cursed Town in the thrilling follow-up to Children of Exile from New York Times bestselling author, Margaret Peterson Haddix.

It’s been barely a day since Edwy left Fredtown to be with his parents and, already, he is being sent away. He’s smuggled off to boarding school in Refuge City, where he will be with his brother and sister, who don’t even like him very much. The boarding school is nothing like the school that he knew, there’s no one around looking up to him now, and he’s still not allowed to ask questions!

Alone and confused, Edwy seeks out other children brought back from Fredtown and soon discovers that Rosi and the others—still stuck in the Cursed Town—might be in danger. Can Edwy find his way back to his friends before it’s too late?

ReviewOne thing you can always guarantee when you read a Haddix book is that it will suck you in and will be super unique! The Children of Exile series did not disappoint. I will admit, it is really hard to review either of the books without spoiling. The summaries above both did a really great job, but everything that happens after that suspense-building summary happens would spoil something for you. But I will promise you these things:

  • You will be on the edge of your seat and not be able to figure out what is going on for 90% of the first book.
  • You will be disgusted by the treatment of the children once they are returned to their parents.
  • You will want to help Edwy and his friends so badly throughout the entire second book.
  • You will have to stop reading when the reveal happens in the first book just to process it. Then you’ll reread. Then you’ll text someone who has read it.
  • You will want to know more than book 2 tells you, so we’ll all be waiting impatiently for #3.
  • You will realize that these books are actually a bit older and darker than they first seem.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Like other Haddix books, you will find the best home for these books in the hands of kids. They are going to be talking about these books after they read them!

Discussion Questions: Discussion questions are available on Haddix’s website.

Flagged Passages: “‘Remember to be good little children!’

Good little children, good little children, good little children…

I saw children crying and clinging to their Fred-parents’ legs. I saw men yanking babies from their Fred-parents’ arms. I turned my back to my own Fred-mama and Fred-daddy — maybe to grab them as hard as I could — but the crowd surged just then, pushing Bobo and me up the stairs. I couldn’t see my Fred-parents anymore. I hadn’t even had a chance to tell them a proper good-bye.” (Children of Exile, Chapter 3)

“I’d been counting on being able to run fast enough no one caught up.

‘Good,’ an oily voice whispered in my ear. ‘Now you understand that screaming is useless.’

‘No, I was just–‘ Before I could add deciding what to scream next, a thick hand slid over my mouth. It smelled of onions and sweat and mud and, I don’t know, maybe puke as well.” (Children of Exile, Prologue)

Read This If You Love: Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, Tesla’s Attic by Neal Shusterman, Masterminds by Gordon Korman, Spillzone by Scott Westerfeld

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters for providing copies for review!**

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Emily and the Spellstone
Author: Michael Rubens
Published June 13th, 2017 by Clarion Books

Summary: This summer, comedy writer and YA author Michael Rubens makes his middle grade debut with Emily and the Spellstone, a hilarious and accessible fantasy about growing up and coming into your own.

Emily is fed up with her frustrating family and the clique-filled hallways of elementary school. All she wants for her twelfth birthday is a cell phone, but of course her tech-obsessed older sister had to go and get carpal tunnel, so now Emily isn’t allowed to have one. Worst birthday ever. As she stomps off down the beach to get away from it all, she stumbles across a strange stone that seems to speak to her, and looks oddly like the cell phone she desperately wants. What Emily doesn’t know is that this weird rock is actually an ancient Spellstone, and only she can unlock its powers. What could go wrong?

Rubens’ whimsical wordplay and delightful prose bring this unpredictable adventure to life. Monsters and magic will inspire readers’ imaginations, while Emily’s more terrestrial troubles like mean girls and annoying little brothers will resonate with anyone who has ever been new or felt out of place in their own family. According to Booklist, the quick pacing, playful narration, and high stakes are plenty to keep reluctant readers and young fantasy fans engaged.” With a diverse cast of supporting characters and a spunky heroine, this wacky romp is a perfect summer read.

About the Author: Michael Rubens is the author of two YA novels, Sons of the 613 and The Bad Decisions Playlist, and one novel for grownups, The Sheriff of Yrnameer. A correspondent and producer for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, he has also been a producer for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. His writing has appeared in places like The New Yorker’s Daily ShoutsSalon and McSweeney’s. He lives with his family in Brooklyn. Visit his website at www.michaelrubens.com.

Review: It is obvious that Rubens writes comedy for a living. Emily’s story is a perfect mix of laugh out loud moments, puns, and crazy adventures with monsters and evil. And unlike other books this reminded me of, Rubens has created his own monsters and villains instead of using an established mythology which means it made it really hard for me to make predictions, so I was on the edge of my seat (LAUGHING along the way) the entire novel. As soon as I finished, I went on Twitter to make sure all of my middle grade teacher friends knew about this one because I think that fans of Riordan’s books are going to really enjoy this one.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Primarily, I picture this book in classrooms/libraries for independent reading or being used in classes during lit circles/book clubs. However, there are some really funny read aloud parts that could definitely be used to discuss humor, word choice, puns, and voice. It would also be lots of fun to make up apps that could be on Emily’s Spellstone.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did Emily change from the beginning to the end of the novel? What plot points were key in her character development?
  • Find examples in the book that show Emily’s and Gorgo’s sense of humor.
  • How do you think Emily feels by the end of the book about being a Stonemaster?
  • Were there any signs throughout the book to indicate that Gorgo was going to make the decision he did?
  • If all of the humorous passages were eliminated from the book, how would that change the tone of the book? How does the word choice the author chose help make the tone what it is?
  • Why were the Venomüch family included in the story?

Flagged Passages: “Emily lay as still as she could, not daring to move, barely daring to breathe.

There was something lurking in the darkness.

She couldn’t hear it or see it, but she could feel it, the sheer foulness of its presence.

It wasn’t Gorgo. She knew that. This was something else. Something far worse. . . . . .

‘There was. . . something in my room last night.’

‘Ah, right. I thought I felt somehthing. Some sort of shade or spirit, probably sniffing around after the Stone.’

‘Why?’

He shrugged. ‘Dunno. Maybe someone sent it. Or maybe it just showed up, drawn by the Stone,’ he said. ‘You’re about to say ‘why’ again, aren’t you?’

‘Yes. Why. Why would that thing be drawn to this stone?’

‘Because it’s a Stone. They’re incredibly powerful, Stones are. Powerful and rare. A Stonemaster can use them to work great magics. That’s a very ancient relic you have there. Well, sort of modern ancient. The first Stones were massive. You’ve heard of Stonehenge, right? Well, thos are really old-fashioned. You couldn’t move them anywhere. The one you have, though, it’s portable, or, uh. . .’

‘Mobile?’ said Emily.

‘Right!’

‘A mobile. . . Stone?’

‘Precisely!’

‘A mobile Stone for casting spells.’

‘Right again.’

‘It’s a Mobile. Spell. Stone.’

‘You seem fixated on that.’

‘It’s like a mobile cell phone.’

‘Not sure what you’re talkinga bout, but if you say so.’ (p. 55, 69-70)

Read This If You Love: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, Guardians of the Gryphon’s Claw by Todd Calgi Gallicano, Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Tracy at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

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“There’s No Such Thing as Pantsers”

Like every other profession and hobby, creative writing has developed its own lingo or jargon writers share with each other; these are phrases that non-writers would neither understand nor care about. Thank NanoWrimo – the month-long writing contest that takes place every November – for coining one of these terms a few years ago to describe writers who never do any planning for their stories. Imagine deciding to compose your very own novel or short story, sitting down at your favorite typewriter or laptop, starting on a blank screen and just going. No thought. No worry. Perhaps not even a developed idea…

That is the essence of being a Pantser: a writer who doesn’t think, he just writes. Maybe the inspiration came from a dream, or a conversation.  Maybe there was nothing but a “Once upon a time.” This theory begs to know where the greatest stories of humanity actually come from: the head or the heart? My theory, however, is that Pantsers don’t exist. Even if a writer cracks his knuckles and begins with nothing, once he’s finished his first draft and knows the story and characters a bit, he’s invariably going to proofread, re-tool, and revise his work. Any narrative needs drafting as part of its process. Whether or not you, as a writer, plan at the very beginning (before you start on page one, line one), or you start planning using your first draft as the catalyst, none of us can write without it. Everyone’s a Plotter (the opposite of a Pantser).

Why is planning so important? 

There are many reasons. To compose a story that could speak to millions of people isn’t an easy task. It takes a very delicate blend of art and science. The art, comes from the heart, but the science… science is the product of the mind. I would say that 80-90% of my time is spent in the pre-writing phase. I am a plotter with a capital P. I’m also a drafter, as much as I wish I could crank out that flawless first draft (nobody can). Planning can take many forms and has many benefits, some of which will seem obvious to you and some not-so-much. The type of planning you do is also a direct correlation to what you intend your final product to be.

My personal background is in writing for the screen. I went to college for audio/video production and minored in screenwriting. There are some really great ‘how to’ books I can recommend to teach novelists how to craft that perfect character arc or story arc or secondary plot thread – all of which have their roots in motion picture writing. Let’s face it: screenplays were born out of novels, but that doesn’t mean that novelists can’t learn a thing or two from screenwriters.

Which brings me to my first point about planning. Planning gives the writer the ability to stand back and see the story as a god would, as one big picture. Screenwriters are taught to use corkboards and notecards in their planning. Each card is a scene and the board is divided up into the typical (and formulaic) three-act structure: set-up, rising action, resolution. This simple exercise, which I have used for both my screenplays and novels, helps the writer to visualize the arcs. Where will this scene fit best in telling my tale? Is that scene even needed? Once he’s staring at his board with all the scenes displayed, a writer can ask himself: does this scene advance the plot, subplot, or character development at all? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then the scene is kept. If it’s no, then it can be scrapped (and to use an industry term: to the cutting room floor).

Planning your story arcs is essential in creating the emotional and logical experience that writers want, need, and expect their audience to get. It doesn’t matter if that audience is sitting in a dark room watching the screen, or curled up in their bed turning pages. But what is a story arc? If you know, great. If you don’t, a story arc is comprised of beats, or plot points. Different events throughout the course of a story have to happen to move the plot forward, or drive the character onto becoming the protagonist the writer – and reader – want him to be. And by planning, the writer can see all possible scenes, brainstorming as many as he wants before choosing the perfect one.

The first plot point is also known as the inciting incident (at least in the screenwriting world). No story – in literature or on film – is complete without one.

Would Luke Skywalker been able to destroy the Death Star without R2-D2 and C-3PO taking that escape pod to Tatooine?

Would Romeo and Juliet have ended up dead (to add a bit of high culture to this mix) if Romeo had never crashed the Capulet’s party?

Of course, the inciting incident is only one instance where planning is needed, but each act in the three (or five) act story structure has major plot points. Writers must plan them to do their stories justice and take the reader along on a wondrous journey.

Planning is important in a single, stand-alone novel, however it couldn’t be more essential when writing a series. Series contain multiple story and character arcs, A plot threads, B plot threads, even C plot threads (truly they can be infinite) that span each book individually, but also continue strands across multiple books. Two great examples of writers who plant seeds for future books as part of their pre-writing stage planning are Stephen King and J.K. Rowling – and it’s no accident that they are two of the most successful authors of all time. If you want to see how to plant ideas for future books in a series, just read Harry Potter and The Dark Tower (in fact, King literally has been planting seeds in all his books, even the non-DT works, for decades).

Still not convinced that planning is important? Think about the horcruxes in the Wizarding World… The very first one was revealed in the second book in a seven book series. Rowling didn’t wing her writing. Her seeds were intentionally planted. She knew what horcruxes were before she started typing line one, page one. The rest of us, her loyal readers, didn’t find out until book six! But we didn’t need to know. She did.

The second reason to plan is more about spring cleaning. The more ideas you get out of your system early in your drafting, the more bad ideas you get out of your system. You can easily put together a dozen versions of the same scene, chapter, or character sketch. And all that brainstorming churns the waters of ideas. Sooner or later, the writer will hit the nail on the proverbial head, and get the perfect idea for some aspect or another of his work.

So if you want to clear away bad ideas, take a step back and look at your book(s) from a 3rd person omniscient perspective, then I cannot recommend planning more. Pre-writing is necessary to crafting a well thought out, logical, and emotional story filled with three-dimensional characters that your audience can relate to and keep them furiously flipping pages until the wee hours of the morning.

You can follow Justin Lantier-Novelli on Twitter: @jlnovelli. Find him on Goodreads, Facebook, and Amazon. His debut middle grade fiction novel, Don’t Mess with Coleman Stoops, is available in paperback and for Amazon Kindle.

About the Book: Coleman Stoops just had his twelfth birthday, but he’s not getting popular anytime soon. The kids in his grade call him “Stoopy”. He hates the cruel nickname almost as he hates himself for always managing to accidentally play into it. The clothes he wears, the hobbies he loves, and the way he behaves in school all contribute to his eternal low ranking as the butt of everyone’s jokes. Coleman’s a dork, a dweeb, a nerd. He’s the fool of the school.

So when the most popular kid in his class, B. Bradford Woffington III, approaches him with a proposition and a potential girlfriend, Coleman can’t help ignoring his instincts as they tell him not to trust “Trey”. He accepts the boy’s offer and begins the social and physical grooming that will make him fit for dating – gasp! – a real, live girl. No matter what happens though, Coleman can’t shake the sneaking suspicion that there’s something Trey isn’t being completely forthcoming about. What isn’t the most popular kid in school telling him?

Thank you, Justin! Planning is something all teaches struggle with students understanding, so this post is going to be so helpful!

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Dragonfly Song
Author: Wendy Orr
Published October 27th, 2017 by Pajama Press

Summary: The whispers say it’s not true that the Lady’s firstborn died at birth. They say it’s worse—the baby was born with an extra thumb dangling from each wrist. If she’s not perfect, she can never follow in her mother’s footsteps.

Nobody but the old wise-woman knows what truly happened to Aissa, the firstborn daughter of the priestess. If they saw the half-moon scars on the servant girl’s wrists they would find it out, but who would look twice at lowly, mute No-Name? Then the soldiers of Crete come to the island, demanding children as tribute for their god-king’s bull dances as they do every year. Aissa is determined to seize this chance to fight for her own worth and change her destiny once and for all.

Lyrically written and refreshingly unpredictable, Dragonfly Song is a compelling Bronze Age fantasy that suggests a fascinating origin for the legend of the Minotaur and his dark tribute.

“As mesmerizing as a mermaid’s kiss, the story dances with emotion, fire, and promise.” -Kirkus Reviews, starred review

More information about Dragonfly Song: http://pajamapress.ca/book/dragonfly_song/

About the Author: Wendy Orr was born in Edmonton, Canada, but grew up in various places across Canada, France, and the USA. She studied occupational therapy in the UK, married an Australian farmer, and moved to Australia. She’s the author of many award-winning books, including Nim’s Island, Nim at Sea, Rescue on Nim’s Island, Raven’s Mountain, and Peeling the Onion.

More information about Wendy Orr: http://www.wendyorr.com/

Author-Created Activity Guide:

  • Art: In Chapter 2, Aissa and the potter’s daughter make ‘circles of flowers
    in a ring of stones.’ Later, Aissa makes patterns of flowers and shells for the fishers’ goddess (the first in Chapter 9) and patterns of rocks and her small treasures for the goddess in her sanctuary cave. Patterns are used in some religions and meditative practices; Indian or Tibetan mandalas and Navajo sandpaintings are probably the best known now.
    To draw a mandala: http://www.art-is-fun.com/how-to-draw-a-mandala/
    Ideas for mandala-type patterns using fresh flowers: http://twistedsifter.com/2014/07/flower-mandalas-by-kathy-klein/
    Make your own patterns with sea shells, flowers, pebbles, leaves, seeds, or other natural materials. Glue them into place on card, or photograph them.
  • Writing: In Chapter 24, Aissa learns to write on the clay tablets used for taxation records. The writing she used was called Linear B, and was a combination of a ‘syllabary’ – each symbol representing a syllable of a word – and ‘logograms,’ which are symbols of whole words. These tablets were supposed to be temporary, but were baked into pottery when the palaces burned down. Have students make their own clay tablets using real clay or as in these instructions: http://www.ehow.com/how_12110304_make-egyptian-hieroglyphics-tablet.html
    For some of the Linear B logograms: http://www.omniglot.com/writing/linearb.htm
  • Time Capsule: Without written historical records, interpreting archaeological finds can be very difficult. Put together ‘time capsules’ of small items – e.g. a birthday card, Barbie doll, shopping list, old iPod, CD… Break the class into small groups and have them use the items to ‘interpret’ questions such as this society’s religion, dress code, and social structure.

Author-Created Discussion Questions: 

  • Like The Hunger Games, Dragonfly Song draws on the Greek myth of Theseus, in which seven youths and seven maidens are sent as tribute from Athens to Crete, to be eaten by the monstrous half-man, half-bull Minotaur. However, Dragonfly Song looks back to the possible origins of the myth in Bronze Age Greece, and the palace of Knossos in Crete. The bull was obviously a very important symbol, probably even a god – even though the real animals would be sacrificed to their god – and there were many scenes, on paintings, vases, and gold jewellery, showing young acrobats somersaulting over the backs of bulls. What if these acrobats were part of a payment to Crete in return for protection by – or from – their powerful navy? If so, the tribute would have come from as far as the Minoan navy reached. Discuss the power of myth – why have some stories lasted for thousands of years?
  • Discuss how the physical setting of Aissa’s home is a metaphor for the grimness of her life there. (e.g. The island is rocky, poor and isolated; buildings are dark, built of rock or burrowed into the side of the mountain.) What about the springtime when she develops new strengths after being cast out of the servants’ kitchen?
  • In the Bull King’s palace, the buildings are awe-inspiring, filled with light and extraordinary art. The culture appears to be obsessed with beauty – but is there a darkness underpinning it?
  • Dragonfly Song is set in the Bronze Age, but the ordinary people of Aissa’s island still use stone tools as well. Why do you think that would be?
  • In the prologue, The Firstborn Daughter, what are the clues to tell us that this is a matriarchal society? How does it differ from a patriarchal society? The Mosuo of China are an example of a matriarchal society in the present day. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoTrARDa8BU
  • Chapter 8 mentions that the chief killed the last lion for his cloak when he married the Lady. Why might he have wanted a lionskin cloak rather than a deerskin? Why do you think the islanders didn’t worry about conservation and keeping all their native species alive?
  • In Chapter 9, the servants are ‘screaming with joy at their game of hate.’ Why do you think the author described bullying Aissa as a game? How does bullying Aissa make the servants feel?
  • Aissa is an ‘elective mute’ because there is nothing physical or intellectual preventing her from speaking. However, that doesn’t mean that she could speak if she wanted to: Mama’s command, ‘Stay quiet, still as stone till I come back,’ is buried so deep in her subconscious, and is so mixed with the trauma of the family’s death and disappearance, that Aissa can’t simply decide to start talking, even when she’s safe. Would she have been more accepted by the other servants if she could talk? How might it have changed the story if she had regained her speech after singing the snake away from Luki? Do you think she could have regained her speech if she had been treated kindly after being rescued? Do you think that meeting Mama again was the only reason she regained her speech, or might it have been partly because she’d faced death in the bull ring, and was safe now? A real-life example of a child choosing to become mute after trauma is Maya Angelou’s story (summarized in Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls).
  • Discuss the book’s structure with the students. What was their reaction to the combination of free verse and prose?
  • Wendy Orr says that using free verse made it easier for her to access and portray Aissa’s emotions. Have the students choose an emotion, e.g. rage, grief, or joy – and write about it in free verse. Next, have them write a short story using the ideas and images that arose from the verse.
  • Why do you think the author chose to write in free verse rather than rhyming, like the children’s rhyme in Chapter 10?
    Here comes rabbit, hippity hop
    See his ears flap and flop;
    Here comes hedgehog, curled up small
    Roll him over like a ball.
  • Wendy Orr says that she normally writes in silence, on the computer, but found that the verse sections for this story had to be written by hand, playing the album Agaetis Byrjun by the Icelandic band Sigur Ros. Experiment with playing different types of music as the students write verse.
  • For useful images and links, see the Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/wendyorr1/dragonfly-song-bits-of-background-and-teaching-ideas/

Don’t Miss Out On the Rest of the Tour!

October 22: Unleashing Readers, Activity Guide and Discussion Questions http://www.unleashingreaders.com/
October 23: YA and Kids Book Central, Book Playlist http://www.yabookscentral.com/blog/
October 24: Log Cabin Library, Guest Post http://logcabinlibrary.blogspot.com/
October 25: The Children’s Book Review, Character Interview https://www.thechildrensbookreview.com/
October 26: Bluestocking Thinking, Review http://bluestockingthinking.blogspot.com/
October 27: Charlotte’s Library, Interview http://charlotteslibrary.blogspot.com/
October 28: A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust, Interview http://www.foodiebibliophile.com/
October 29: Writers’ Rumpus, Guest Post https://writersrumpus.com/

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Thank you to Wendy Orr for her fantastic activities and questions!

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Landscape with Invisible Hand
Author: M. T. Anderson
Published: September 12, 2017 by Candlewick

Summary: National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson returns to future Earth in a sharply wrought satire of art and truth in the midst of colonization.

When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth – but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Can it really be called an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? As it turns out, yes. With his parents’ jobs replaced by alien tech and no money for food, clean water, or the vuvv’s miraculous medicine, Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, have to get creative to survive. And since the vuvv crave anything they deem “classic” Earth culture (doo-wop music, still-life paintings of fruit, true love), recording 1950s-style dates for the vuvv to watch in a pay-per-minute format seems like a brilliant idea. But it’s hard for Adam and Chloe to sell true love when they hate each other more with every passing episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he’s willing to go – and what he’s willing to sacrifice – to give the vuvv what they want.

Review: 

  • Futuristic, dark satire that is an unusual, intelligent social commentary
  • Forces readers to think deeply about their personal, social, and political lives
  • Somewhat non-linear story with an interesting layout: each chapter has a title that corresponds with the artwork created by the main character
  • Stylistically, Anderson chooses every word with intention. The text is a 149-page novella that features chapters that can be taught instructionally as vignettes.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:  Teachers might ask students to begin by looking closely at the text for short passages that they find particularly interesting or inspiring. Students might write a one-pager that a) unpacks the passage they chose, and b) examines the passage through the lens of a topic that they find particularly interesting and relevant. For example, they might connect a passage to the following topics which are relevant in the text:

Art

Automation

Capitalism

Classism

Economy

Entrepreneurship

Existentialism

Extraterrestrial Life

Health Care

Immigration

Love

Politics

Poverty

Sickness

Nostalgia

Unemployment

After the students have written several one-pagers and explored a variety of topics, they might select one topic that interests them most. They can research scholarship about the topic and look across the entire text for relevant passages.

Sample research paper topics:

Examining economic disparities and classism within Landscape with Invisible Hand

Finding the soul: M.T. Anderson’s treatment of love and art in Landscape with Invisible Hand

Discussion Questions: Do you think M. T. Anderson had a purpose for writing this text?; What kind of social commentary does this text offer?; What does it tell us about love? Society? Humanity?; How does Anderson use art to enhance the story?; How is the text structured? How does this enhance your reading?

Flagged Passage: “We are tiny figures, faceless, pointing at wonders, provided for scale, no lives of our own, surveying the landscape that has engulfed us all.”

Read This If You Loved: Feed by M. T. Anderson; Books by Scott Westerfeld; The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

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Thank you, Candlewick!

RickiSig

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