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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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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

National Geographic Kids: What Would Happen? 
Author: Crispin Boyer
Published July 11th, 2017 by National Geographic Society

Summary: Ever wondered what would happen if some cool or crazy things were possible? Like what would happen if: you got sucked into a black hole; dinosaurs still existed; humans could fly; you could communicate with dolphins; or you could dig a hole through to the center of the Earth?

Get ready to explore all kinds of scenarios that would or could happen if the world was just a slightly different place. Each scenario is examined with real scientific, historical, and cultural facts in mind. This out-of-the-box book encourages readers to cultivate a better understanding of the world as it is – and as it could be!

ReviewA favorite book of mine and my husband’s that we read years ago was Why do Men have Nipples?, and we really loved getting answers to questions that you may not even know to ask yet are really intriguing. What Would Happenis the middle grade equivalent! So many interesting questions are answered! Do you want to know about global warming? Honeybees? Time machines? You will find answers in this book. Each question’s answer is set up to give the reader background knowledge, potential outcomes, extenuating circumstances, etc. to fill in any blanks and curiosities there may be. And as with all National Geographic books, the photographs are superb!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I love that so many of the National Geographic books touch on such a variety of topics, but also in the books that are like What Would Happen?, the information only touches the surface. This book would be a perfect jump start to passion or inquiry projects. What do students want to learn more about? They can start by reading the spread in What Would Happen? then research more to prepare a presentation about everything they learn.

The book also definitely has a place in libraries: school, classroom, and home. It is a wonderful book filled with questions that kids will love to learn the answers to!

Discussion Questions: Every page in this book has a discussion question!

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Getting answers to burning questions

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Karen from Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

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Listen: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing
Author: Leda Schubert
Illustrator: Raúl Colón
Published June 13th, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press

Summary: 

Listen.
There was nobody like Pete Seeger.
Wherever he went, he got people singing.
With his head thrown back
and his Adam s apple bouncing,
picking his long-necked banjo
or strumming his twelve-string guitar,
Pete sang old songs,
new songs,
new words to old songs,
and songs he made up.

In this tribute to legendary musician and activist Pete Seeger, author Leda Schubert highlights major musical events in Mr. Seeger’s life as well important moments of his fight against social injustice. From singing sold-out concerts to courageously standing against the McCarthy-era finger-pointing, Pete Seeger’s life is celebrated in this book.

Praise for Listen

★“Schubert and Colón ably demonstrate one of their book’s final assertions: ‘there really was nobody like Pete Seeger.’”—Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“A rousing tribute to a singular musician and activist who ‘walked the talk.’” —Publishers Weekly

“This inspiring picture book biography about one of America’s greatest folk heroes is sure to get a new generation of children singing.” —School Library Journal

“An inspiring and heartfelt tribute to, as Schubert calls him, a ‘true American hero.’” —Horn Book

About the Creators: 

Leda Schubert holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in the Writing for Children and Young Adults and was a core faculty member until 2012. She is the author of many award-winning titles, including The Princess of Borscht, Ballet of the Elephants, and Monsieur Marceau, winner of the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction. Leda lives in Plainfield, Vermont, with her husband and two dogs. To learn more, and to download a curriculum guide, visit ledaschubert.com.

Raúl Colón has illustrated several highly acclaimed picture books, including Draw!; the New York Times-bestselling Angela and the Baby Jesus by Frank McCourt; Susanna Reich’s José! Born to Dance; and Jill Biden’s Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops. Mr. Colón lived in Puerto Rico as a young boy and now resides in New City, New York, with his family.

Kellee’s Review: Schubert’s narrative of Seeger’s life is so lyrical and poetic–it is a song accompanied by beautifully textured, light illustrations that bring the biography to life. I can tell that Schubert is a fan of Seeger because she told his story with gentleness and love honoring a man that is truly an American hero.

The more I read about Pete Seeger, the more I am intrigued. I have heard about Pete Seeger my whole life, but it wasn’t until I read Stand Up and Sing by Susanna Reich that I truly learned about HIM outside of just knowing his music. I truly wish that Pete Seeger was still around to help us in our current time. His story has shown me that one person can make a difference, that good can win and be honored, and that music can bring people together. I loved learning even more about Seeger through Schubert’s picture book.

Ricki’s Review: Like Kellee, I didn’t know a lot about Pete Seeger until I read this book. I love reading texts that teach me more about a person. I didn’t realize that he traveled with Woody Guthrie! Too cool! Pete Seeger was a social activist, and his songs urge us to take action. This book will encourage readers to learn more about the singers that they listen to.

The author and illustrator bring great life to this book. It is very clear that they were inspired by his music, and the book truly comes alive. This is a book that teaches kids about an important man in our history and the power of music. It also reveals a lot of information about American History. I highly recommend this book to parents and teachers.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation & Discussion Questions: A fabulous curriculum guide can be found here created by Leigh Courtney, Ph.D. and includes discussion questions and activities.

Example discussion questions:

  • Pete Seeger said, “Participation. That’s what’s gonna save the human race.” What do you think that means?
  • Pete Seeger found himself in trouble with the government at one point in his life. Which group questioned him? Why were they interested in him?
  • Encourage students to study the illustrations in Listen paying particular attention to the drawings of people in the story. Discuss what the people’s actions and expressions tell you about Pete Seeger’s impact on those who listened to his music.
  • Many view Pete Seeger as an American hero. Discuss why people might regard Seeger as an important figure in American history. Read aloud President Obama’s statement about Pete Seeger, made upon the musician’s death, found in the final timeline entry at the back of the book.

Some examples of activities include cause and effect, research, vocabulary, and some fun music activities.

Resources: Leda Schubert provides some great links to recordings and videos of Pete Seeger here.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Stand Up and Sing! by Suanna ReichWhen Bob Met Woody by Gary Golio, Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow by Gary Golio

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing the book for review!**

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Flashlight Night
Author: Matt Forrest Esenwine
Illustrator: Fred Koehler
Published September 19th, 2017 by Boyds Mills Press

Summary: Flashlight Night is an ode to the power of imagination and the wonder of books. Three children use a flashlight to light a path around their backyard at night; in the flashlight’s beam another world looms. Our heroes encounter spooky woods, a fearsome tiger, a time-forgotten tomb, an Egyptian god, a sword-fighting pirate, and a giant squid. With ingenuity, they vanquish all, then return to their tree house–braver, closer, and wiser than before–to read the books that inspired their adventure.

“Delicious language . . . ingenious metamorphoses . . . a rousing read.” – Kirkus Reviews, Starred review

About the Author: Matt Forrest Esenwine’s poetry has been published in Highlights as well as in anthologies selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Carol-Ann Hoyte, and J. Patrick Lewis. He lives with his family in Warner, New Hampshire. Visit mattforrest.com.

About the Illustrator: Fred Koehler is and author-illustrator. His debut picture book, How to Cheer Up Dad, received starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and BCCB. Fred has a background in advertising and lives with his two spirited kids in Lakeland, Florida, where he loves boating, camping, and the great outdoors.

Review: Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine and Fred Koehler takes the reader on an adventure that truly illuminates the power of imagination. Esenwine’s poetic language is lyrical and filled with imagery and when accompanied with Koehler’s beautifully detailed pencil illustrations, the story comes to life.

I was so lucky to be able to spend some time with Fred at ALA and learn all about his adventures to find just the right inspiration for these illustrations. He went on some amazing adventures to Great Britain where he hiked and visited sites all to ensure that his illustrations were perfect for Matt’s story. He also showed us a time-lapse video of his pencil drawing one spread for the book. Yes, hand drawn with pencil. Beautiful and so impressive!

And this story is going to be loved by kids of all ages because of the fun adventures and parents will love the promotion of imagination. For example, this story made Trent want to go exploring, and Trent loves flashlights, so he loved the idea that a flashlight at night can bring about a how imaginative world!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would love to see what kids could come up with if given the opportunity to write about what their flashlight “showed them” when they go on an adventure around their house or outside. It would be a really fun activity for students to take and print photos of different places around their house and outside their house then write narratives about their adventures around these places and what is “actually there” if they explored with their flashlight.

Some other elements that could be discussed with Flashlight Night are: compare/contrast between what is there and what’s in their imagination and imagery/descriptive language including figurative language.

Discussion Questions: What are some different cultural influences you see in the adventures the kids went on?; What are the differences between reality and their imagination?; What descriptive language did the author use to help add imagery to the story?

Time Lapse Video of the Creation of One of Flashlight Night‘s Illustrations: It took Fred 30-35 hours per spread to create the amazing world the children explore throughout the book.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Journey Trilogy by Aaron BeckerThe Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson, Noisy Night by Mac Barnett, Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth by Ellie HattieDad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko, The Night Gardener by Terry Fan, My Pen by Christopher Myers, The Night World by Mordicai Gerstein, Lenny and Lucy by Philip C. Stead

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Don’t miss the other stops on the blog tour!

Friday, 9/15  Jama’s Alphabet Soup

Monday 9/18 KitLit Exchange/The Loud Library Lady

Tuesday 9/19 Penny Klostermann Book Blog

Wednesday 9/20 Unleashing Readers

Thursday 9/21 KidLit Frenzy

Friday 9/22 Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook

Monday 9/25 Librarian in Cute Shoes

Tuesday 9/26 Nerdy Book Club

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**Thank you to Boyds Mills Press for having us be part of the blog tour!**

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It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Edwardian Taylor
Anticipated Publication: September 19, 2017 by Two Lions

Goodreads Summary: A fresh take on a young Jack who is not keen on climbing any beanstalks and would much prefer to tell his own story.

Ricki’s Review: This book is hysterical. My four-year-old and I love reading it. (I am not entirely sure he understands that it is a fairy tale retelling, but he still adores it.) Every night, it is the first book he picks to read together. The book has an unnamed narrator who insists on telling the traditional “Jack and the Beanstalk” story. Jack has other plans, though. He and the giant decide that they don’t want to follow the traditions of the story. As you can see below in the flagged spread, Jack pushes back on the tale. I laugh every time I read this. My favorite part is the appears of Cindy (Cinderella), who invites Jack to her ball. Josh Funk is an incredible author, and I will read anything that he writes. This is a fantastic book for teachers to use in their classrooms.

Kellee’s Review: Trent loves the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. They must read it at his school because he knew the whole story, and I think it is hilarious that he argues with me about what is happening in the book. We’ve talked about how this is a different Jack story but he, like the narrator, just really wants Jack to do what he is supposed to. I love the way that Josh Funk has broken the 4th wall and has the narrator talk to the characters; it is such a unique way to twist the fairy tale and makes it so hilarious. I look forward to reading this to Trent and students for many years.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Most obviously, this book would be great to kick off a unit on writing fairy tale retellings. It teaches students to break the mold and repurpose stories to add humor and intrigue. It would also be fun to pair this story with other fairy tale retellings to ask students: What did the authors do to revision the stories? How are they successful?

Check out a book trailer, collector’s cards, and more at https://www.joshfunkbooks.com/stuff-for-kids

Discussion Questions: How does Jack break our expectations?; How are Jack and the Giant different from the narrator? Who did you find yourself rooting for?; How does the author add humor to the story?; How is the text structured to help the reader follow both the narrator and Jack?; What other fairy tales could you retell?

Flagged Spreads: 

Giveaway:

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Read This If You Loved: Dear Dragon by Josh Funk; Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast by Josh Funk; Whose Story is This, Anyway? by Mike Flaherty; Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett; A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

Recommended For: 

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About the Author and Illustrator:

Like Jack, Josh Funk loves telling his own stories. He is the author of the popular picture books Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast and itssequel, The Case of the Stinky Stench, illustrated by Brendan Kearney; Dear Dragon, illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo; and the upcoming How to Code a Sandcastle illustrated by Sara Palacios in partnership with Girls Who Code. Josh lives in New England with his wife and children. Learn more about him at www.joshfunkbooks.com, and follow him on Twitter @joshfunkbooks.
Edwardian Taylor currently works as a visual development artist and character designer for TV and animation feature film. His work can also be seen in mobile games, films, and commercials. He is the illustrator of the picture book Race!, written by Sue Fliess. Edwardian lives in Texas with his partner, their three dogs, and seven chickens. Learn more about him at www.edwardiantaylor.com, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @edwardiantaylor.

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**Special Thanks to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for Providing Copies to Review*

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

Marti’s Song for Freedom | Martí y sus versos por la libertad
Author: Emma Otheguy
Illustrator: Beatriz Vidal
Published July 17, 2017 by Lee & Low Books

Summary:

Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crece la palma,
Y antes de morirme quiero
Echar mis versos del alma
.

As a boy, José Martí was inspired by the natural world. He found freedom in the river that rushed to the sea and peace in the palmas reales that swayed in the wind. Freedom, he believed, was the inherent right of all men and women. But his home island of Cuba was colonized by Spain, and some of the people were enslaved by rich landowners. Enraged, Martí took up his pen and fought against this oppression through his writings. By age seventeen, he was declared an enemy of Spain and forced to leave his beloved island.

Martí traveled the world, speaking out for Cuba’s independence. But throughout his exile, he suffered from illness and homesickness. He found solace in New York’s Catskill Mountains, where nature inspired him once again to fight for independence.

Written in verse, with excerpts from Martí’s seminal Versos sencillos, this book is a beautiful tribute to a brilliant political writer and courageous fighter of freedom for all men and women.

Praise: 

“A sensitive and poignant tribute to one of Latin America’s most important historical figures.” – School Library Journal, starred review

“A moving account of [Marti’s] crusade for justice.” -Publishers Weekly, starred review

“A timely story that will inspire many to fight for equality and sing songs for freedom.” -Booklist, starred review

“Spotlights a steadfast hero and brilliant writer still worth admiring today.” -Kirkus reviews, starred review

“A direct and approachable introduction to the life and works of Cuban poet and freedom fighter José Martí.” -Shelf Awareness, starred review

About the Creators: 

Emma Otheguy is a children’s book author and a historian of Spain and colonial Latin America. She is a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, and her short story “Fairies in Town” was awarded a Magazine Merit Honor by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Otheguy lives with her husband in New York City. This is her picture book debut. You can find her online at emmaotheguy.com.

Beatriz Vidal is an award-winning painter, illustrator, and teacher. Her work has appeared in well-known publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Woman’s Day, and the New Yorker. Her artwork has also been featured on PBS programs and in numerous exhibitions around the world, including the International Exhibition of Illustrations for Children in Italy and the Society of Illustrators in New York. Vidal divides her time between New York City and Buenos Aires, Argentina. You can visit her online at beatrizvidal.com.

ReviewThis beautiful bilingual biography deserves all the praise it is receiving. The beautiful pieces of art that accompany the poetic verses turns this picture book biography into a piece of art! I also loved that not only is Martí’s biography in Spanish and English, but so is the author’s back matter.

I also am so glad that I learned about José Martí! I didn’t know anything about the Cuban war for independence and emancipation from slavery. Cuba has such an extensive history that is not taught here, so this story definitely fills a gap in history education. While the story teaches primarily of Martí’s life, the back matter goes deeper into Cuban independence and reading both is definitely going to pique interests to learn more. I think this book would pair nicely with books about our Civil War to compare the United States to other countries’ fights for freedom.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Emma Otheguy was kind enough to share an activity guide for the text. All of the activities come in Spanish and English and can be downloaded at http://emmaotheguy.com/my-new-book/.

Activity 1: “José Martí wrote many letters throughout his life. He wrote about things he found beautiful or interesting, and also about injustices, and how he though they might get better. Write a letter to a friend, a relative, or an elected official about something you’re passionate about. It can be anything you care about, whether it’s helping your neighbors, caring for animals, or respecting the planet–just share how you feel. Then cut out your letter an mail it.” Followed by a outlined letter for kids to feel out.

Activity 2: “Did you know that José Martí was a poet, and that is poetry book Versos Sencillos was written and published right here in the United States? If you ever hear the song Guantanamera you’ll notice words from Marti’s poetry in the song! Read the first stanza of Martí’s poem, then fill in the blanks to create your own poem.”

Activity 3: “Read the book and solve this crossword puzzle”

Activity 4: “As teenagers, José Martí and his friends wrote and published their own newspaper, La Patria Libre (the free homeland), supporting Cuban independence. Can you create a newspaper? Fill out the boxes with the latest news.” Includes a place for Read All About It, Letter to the Editor, and an illustration.

Discussion Questions: How did José Martí play a part in Cuba’s fight for independence?; Did his age when sent to America surprise you?; Why is Cuba such a mix of culture?; How did the author use José Martí’s own words within her biography of him?; If you were to write to your government about an injustice you see in your country, what would you write about?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Margarita Engle’s books, Henry’s Freedom Box  by Henry Levine and other biographies about the fight for emancipation in the United States, Nonfiction picture book biographies

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Emma Otheguy for providing a copy for review!**

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“Cap’n Rex’s Steps to Writing a Fictional Picture Book”

Today, author Henry Herz joins us. His picture books include: MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES, WHEN YOU GIVE AN IMP A PENNY, MABEL & THE QUEEN OF DREAMS, AND LITTLE RED CUTTLEFISH.  His latest, just out from Sterling, is CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW. The protagonist, Cap’n Rex, has agreed to offer advice about how to get classrooms excited about a writing assignment, and some of the other things they will learn along the way. Please welcome, Cap’n Rex.

Arrr! It’s a pleasure to be aboard, me lasses. I may be a long-in-the-tooth dinosaur pirate, but I’ve a mess o’ experience teaching wee sailors how to write fictional picture books. It keeps ’em from getting bored on our long sea voyages. There be seven steps on my map to the buried treasure of children’s literacy. Read on, if ye dare!

  1. Form crews – Arrr, there be nothin’ like a little friendly competition to inspire performance. Arrange yer students into teams o’ four. Have each team pick a name. Some o’ me favorites arrr Mystery Marauders, Biography Buccaneers, and Paranormal Pirates. But, I may be biased toward piratey appellations. Each team’ll be writing their own picture book. Savvy?
  2. Define the details – Have each team parley among themselves to figger out the story elements listed below. This here be a bonus learning opportunity to teach them some writing concepts.
    • Main character – What is the main character’s name, race/species, gender, title/role, and personality traits?
    • Other characters – Do the same for yer other characters. Limit yerself to no more than four characters in all.
    • Theme – If yer story will offer a lesson for the reader, what is it? Fer example, do unto others as you’d have others do unto you, or think outside the box.
    • Goal/obstacles – Stories are more fun if there’s tension. What goal is the main character trying to reach (in my case, it’s usually booty). And what obstacle(s) must he or she overcome to reach that goal? One tried and true formula is: try-fail, try-fail, try-succeed. That makes victory all the sweeter, me buccos.
    • Time frame – Will yer story take place in the past, present, or future? How far back in the past or into the future?
    • Setting – Where will your tale unfold? On the high seas? In yer backyard? On Mars? In an ant hill?
    • Genre – Will yer tale be fantasy, science fiction, mystery, historical, comedy, romance, horror, tragedy, or somethin’ else?
    • Point of view – Does it work better if the tale be told by the main character or by a narrator?
    • Tense – Should the tale be told in the present tense, as if it’s happening right now? Or, would it be better described in the past tense as something that’s already happened?
  3. Tell yer tale – Fictional picture books can have anywhere from zero (it’s true!) to 1,000 words. Aim fer about 500 words. Since there are often fourteen two-page “spreads”, that works out to an average of 36 words (three to four sentences) per spread. Picture books are usually written fer three to seven year-olds. So, make sure yer word choices are suitable for younger readers. Not too many syllables per word or words per sentence, or ye’ll walk the plank! Now yer teams can write their first draft of the manuscript.
  4. Time fer inspection – Just as dinosaur pirates have their work inspected by their handsome T-rex captain, yer young writers will need some guidance. Pair up yer teams. Have each member of one team read the other team’s story. Then, they offer feedback, alternating between things they liked about the story and things in the story that didn’t make sense or didn’t seem to help the story. Team members should not defend their writing. Just listen politely and take notes.
  5. Swab the deck – Just as a ship’s deck needs cleaning, so too does yer writin’. Now it be time for the teams to use the feedback they received to revise their story and make it seaworthy.
  6. Draw yer pictures – Now it be time to paint a pretty picture. A spread can be completely filled with a single illustration. Or, it can contain two to four smaller spot images. The latter is often used when the story pace has quickened. Give each team fourteen 11”x17” pieces o’ paper. Each team will divide their revised manuscript text up across the fourteen spreads. Then they’ll draw or paint pictures that help describe what is happening.
  7. Celebrate – Treats and grog (non-alcoholic) fer all when the stories be done! Each team takes turn reading their yarn to the class. Stories can be posted on the mainmast fer later parental enjoyment. What fine little writers ye arrr!

Cap’n Rex & His Clever Crew
Author: Henry L. Herz
Illustrator: Benjamin Schipper
Published August 1st, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books

Shiver me timbers! It’s the DINOSAUR PIRATES!

Meet Captain Rex and his band of buccaneers. These dinosaur pirates sail the seven seas in search of buried treasure, but whenever they hit an obstacle—like a giant shark or pea-soup fog—the crew members are quick to say they can’t overcome. To this, Captain Rex just glares with teeth bared and says, “CAN’T YE?” And, somehow, the crew always comes up with a clever solution.

A delightful story about using one’s creativity and individual strengths to solve problems. It will encourage kids everywhere to think and say, “I can!”

Learn more about CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW and author Henry Herz at www.henryherz.com.

We Thank Ye fer Today’s Post, Cap’n Rex & Henry!

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