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“A Recipe for Storytelling: Take One Real Life, Add a Spoonful of Fantasy, and Stir”

 

Late last summer, after I’d turned in the manuscript for the third Blood Guard book, The Blazing Bridge, I mentioned to a longtime friend that I’d finished the trilogy. “That’s great!” she chirped; “now you can write a real book.”

Excuse me?” I replied and made a face like this

She explained. To her mind, fantasy adventure for middle-grade graders is mere “escapist literature,” and it doesn’t count as real—not like stories about normal people. “You had a rough childhood,” she said. “Why not write about that?”

But as far as I was concerned, I was already writing about my childhood. Only in disguise. Because even though fantasy literature on its surface is about another world, at root it is always about this one—the world we live in. Otherwise the stories would have no hold on us at all.

Not to get maudlin, but when I was growing up, my family—like many families—fell apart. There was never enough money; my older brothers were always getting into trouble; my dad turned out to be a not-so-good guy; and my parents divorced—which forced my mom to move us kids around from one home to another to another as she tried to find us an affordable and safe place in the world.

In a very different form, that material made its way into the Blood Guard books. A feud between two parents. A discovery that a father is someone other than who his children thought him to be. A constant need to uproot one’s life and relocate. All of these things were drawn from actual life, but transformed into backstory for an action adventure tale. Why? Because these novels were for the twelve-year-old me as much as anyone, and that kid liked his stories to move. The magic, the action, the jokes—those are the spoonfuls of sugar that make the medicine go down. (The “medicine” in this case being the ugly truth that my dad was, in fact, a very bad guy.)

Twelve-year-old me wouldn’t face the truth about my dad for years. But I might have done so a lot sooner … if only I’d been able to if I’d been able to read about it in a fantasy novel.

 

About the Book: Ronan Truelove’s best friend, scrappy smart aleck Greta Sustermann, has no idea that she is one of the thirty-six Pure souls crucial to the safety of the world. But Ronan’s evil father has figured it out—and he’s leading the Bend Sinister straight to Greta. If they capture her, she’ll suffer a fate far worse than mere death. But to get to Greta, they’re going to have to go through Ronan first.

Standing with Ronan are plucky hacker Sammy; witty, unkillable Jack Dawkins; and a sharp-tongued woman named Diz, who drives a dangerously souped-up taxi. One breathless close call after another leads to an ugly showdown: Ronan alone against his father, with the fate of Greta, his friends, and the entire world hanging in the balance. Will Ronan be able to rise up and prove once and for all that he has what it takes to join the Blood Guard?

By turns heart-stopping and hilarious, The Blazing Bridge brings the Blood Guard trilogy to a surprising, clever, and altogether thrilling conclusion.


About the Author: Carter Roy has painted houses and worked on construction sites, waited tables and driven delivery trucks, been a stagehand for rock bands and a videographer on a cruise ship, and worked as a line cook in a kitchen, a projectionist in a movie theater, and a rhetoric teacher at a university. He has been a reference librarian and a bookseller, edited hundreds of books for major publishers, and written award-winning short stories that have appeared in a half-dozen journals and anthologies. His first two books were The Blood Guard and The Glass Gauntlet. He lives with his wife and daughter in New York City and can be found at www.carterroybooks.com or on Twitter @CarterRoyBooks.

 

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Thank you, Carter for this inspirational post! And thank you, Barbara from Blue Slip Media, for connecting us with Carter!

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An Adaptation: Better Than The Original? by John Powers

I am not an MG writer. My work is with the stage and movies. My usual arena for subject matter is recent American history and horror. In addition to creating original stories, I have adapted existing texts: speeches; books; transcripts. I had chosen these works because something within them resonated with me, and I felt it would resonate with others.

I am pretty ruthless as an adapter. My first task is to cut away what I consider the unnecessary narrative and to focus on the dramatic and emotional story. I then take a second pass at the text, which at this point is more like surgery. I am focused on creating and sustaining dramatic momentum, the effect of quickly “turning the page.” Once that is done, the challenge begins: focusing relentlessly on what resonates with today’s readers and viewers.

Who should care about the rabble-rousing speeches of Mary Jones (a.k.a. Mother Jones) during a West Virginia coal strike? What do we care about the efforts of poet Amy Lowell to promote the works of then little known writers Carl Sandberg and Robert Frost? Are the doubts and obstacles facing the novice Zane Grey of any importance to us in the age of Instagram and Snapchat?

These are questions that I have asked and answered in adapting existing texts for contemporary audiences. We cannot bring back great people who have passed, but by working closely with their texts we can breathe life into their creations. We can do it in a way that enables contemporary readers and viewers, particularly young ones, to emotionally connect with the values and ideas that these people fought to express.

For example, the Pentagon Papers is a frequently referenced document. But who knows anything about it? In working with the 7000-page text for a stage production, I grew to think that it is the most important work in the American language. I saw how it revealed the American character in depth, as it traced 23 years of a 30-year war. It was our Iliad. Yet who today would read a 7000-page document about a lost war?

In adapting the Pentagon Papers for readers, I sought to tell the story in the most concise and comprehensive manner. I drew excerpts from the four-volume Gravel edition of the Papers, and I grouped them into brief, distinct chapters. The result became a quick page-turning experience that a reader could consume in one or two sittings. In addition, I included links to on-line resources, such as articles and historical videos, to broaden their knowledge.

The key to finding success with the work, however, was in making it resonate with people, particularly young people. I did that by relating this previous “endless war” with the current one. In particular, I directed the adaptation toward millennials, whom I felt would be continually trying to make sense out of the situation we currently are in and would be asking could there ever be an end to it.

In another example, I discovered a little known work by L. Frank Baum when I was creating a solo performance for the stage about his life in early Hollywood. I was struck by the vivid imagery of the world and characters that he created in Sky Island, and I was surprised that it had not been exploited further.

Baum, an early feminist, considered it one of his best stories, and yet it had migrated into the land of forgotten treasures. I had my ideas of why: it was unnecessarily long; the main “earth” characters were no longer relatable; and there was no dramatic momentum.

In my adaptation, I titled the work Queen of Sky Island to give it a central focus and to assert Baum’s feminism; I wanted the reader to know from the outset whose journey this was and what was the desired goal. I also cut the length of the original text in half, eliminating tangential episodes that pulled focus away from the hero. Also, I also drew the hero as an assertive, impulsive girl striving to bring her broken family back together, and I surrounded her with new companions: an almost angel-like boy and a disabled veteran.

I left in place the vivid characters and the key actions that Baum envisioned on his island in the sky. Now, all the elements of the story are working to focus our attention on this young hero’s choices that put her and her companions at risk in this bizarre, unearthly world; and we witness her dig deep within herself to both save their situation and to bring lasting justice to this morally compromised world.

Without question, much of Queen of Sky Island is about visual imagery, but in my adaptation I have found something that will resonate with young readers; they will relate to this contemporary hero who at times is stubborn and violent, but who is also caring and heroic. She grows immensely during a brief course of time, from a selfish child to a selfless queen.

Creations age quickly in our new world, but there are invaluable elements within these creations that should be sought out like precious gems and placed in new jewelry settings. Adaptations are not better than the originals; they are different; they aim to preserve the best and carry it forward to resonate in the hearts and minds of new generations.

 

About the Author: John Powers (a.k.a. J-Powers) is the author of Queen of Sky Island (Amazon, Smashwords 2014, Audible 2016) and Pentagon Papers: Recently Abridged Edition for the Millennial Generation (Amazon, Smashwords 2012). He lives in the harbor area of Los Angeles with his wife and three millennial stepchildren. Find him at powerplayz.com


About the Book: Queen of Sky Island is a coming of age story charged with fantasy, heroic adventure, and vividly imagined new worlds. It is a 21st century adaptation of a story by L. Frank Baum, the creator of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

As reconceived and adapted by John Powers (a.k.a. J-Powers), Queen of Sky Island reveals a young girl, Tara, who in her determined search for her military father becomes trapped on an actual island in the sky where she leads one other worldly army against another. Tara’s faithful companions on this perilous adventure are Bobo, a brave young boy who possesses a flying umbrella, and Sgt. Rik, a resourceful disabled veteran who looks after Tara and her mother at their sea cliff cottage on the Earth. Through miscommunication, Tara and her companions arrive at Sky Island, a bizarre land divided between wildly different pink and blue territories. They are unfairly taken prisoner by the Boolooroo, the selfish and mean-spirited leader of the Blue people. Facing a horrible punishment known as “patching,” Tara and her companions escape and run for a thick fog bank that separates the two territories. With help from an unusual creature, they cross through the dense fog, and they are taken to the queen of the Pinkies. After surviving a near fatal test in this new realm, Tara shows what she is made of and rises to lead the Pinkies against the Blues in an attempt to defeat the Boolooroo.

Thank you, John, for this thought-provoking post!

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Ellie Ultra: An Extra-Ordinary Girl
Author: Gina Bellisario
Illustrator: Jessika von Innerebner
Published September 1st, 2016 by Stone Arch Books

Summary: Ellie is super excited for first day at Winkopolis Elementary School. After spending her whole life being homeschooled by super-genius inventor parents, she can’t wait to hang out with normal kids and learn normal things. But Ellie soon learns that her super powers make her stand out in a not-so-super way. Can she save the world and fit in with her new friends? Or is blending in the one thing this superhero can’t do?

Review: What a fun new early chapter book! I am so happy to see that group of books expanding to include so many diverse types of stories, diverse genres, and diverse characters. Ellie Ultra is just one of a few early readers with POC as protagonists that I’ve read recently (Juana & Medina and Bea Garcia are the others). And, especially right now, it is so important to have a diverse selection of characters for readers to relate to! Ellie is also different because it is sci-fi! It is a wonderful intro to the world of superheroes mixed with the widely understood topic of starting new things. This, and its sequels!, are going to be a book that many young readers are going to enjoy!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Ellie Ultra is going to be a wonderful addition to any early ed classroom library and as a read aloud. The after back matter of Ellie Ultra has a glossary, discussion questions, and writing activities for the classroom (more below).

Teacher and library section on Gina Bellisario’s website: http://www.ginabellisario.com/for-teachers-and-librarians.html

Discussion Questions: When was a time you had to do something new that you were worried about? What did you do to overcome your worry?; When was a time that something didn’t go as well as you’d hope? How did it turn out?

Two examples from the back matter:

-Ellie’s superhero cape is super special to her–she had to wait months to get it. Talk about an object that is special to you, What makes it so important?

-Ellie is worried that she wont fit in at her new school because her superpowers make her different, but our differences are what make us unique! Write a paragraph about what makes you special and unique.

Flagged Passages: “She [Ellie] had been counting the minutes until she could attend Winkopolis Elementary School for as long as she could remember. But first, she’d had some important things to learn at home, with her parents as her teachers.

In kindergarten, they’d taught her death-ray safety. In first grade, she’d learn how to stump an evil mastermind. And in second grade? That year they’d quizzed her on every super-villain in Winkopolis. Naming their weaknesses counted for extra credit.

It hadn’t been ordinary school, but Ellie’s parents weren’t exactly ordinary. They were super-genius scientists who worked for a special group called B.R.A.I.N. Ellie wasn’t sure what B.R.A.I.N. stood for–only the actual members knew that–but she knew the group squashed super-villains, just like she did. After all, Ellie was a superhero!” (p. 10-11)

Read This If You Love: Superheroes, Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale, Lola series by Christine Pakkala

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**Thank you to Gina for providing a copy for 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!

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The Book of Heroines: Tales of History’s Gutsiest Gals
Author: Stephanie Warren Drimmer
Published November 8th, 2016 by National Geographic Children’s Books

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The Book of Heroes: Tales of History’s Most Daring Guys
Author: Cristpin Boyer
Published November 8th, 2016 by National Geographic Children’s Books

The Book of Heroines Summary: Everybody needs a role model! Discover true stories of superstars, war heroes, world leaders, gusty gals, and everyday girls who changed the world.

From Sacagawea to Mother Teresa, Annie Oakley to Malala Yousafzai, these famous females hiked up their pants and petticoats or charged full-speed ahead to prove that girls are just as tough as boys…maybe even tougher. Complete with amazing images and a fun design, this is the book that every kid with a goal, hope, or dream will want to own.

The Book of Heroes Summary: Everybody needs a role model! Discover the true stories of superheroes, rebels, world leaders, action heroes, sports legends, and many more daring dudes, all of whom played their part to make their mark, make a contribution, and make the world a better place.

From Abraham Lincoln to Sitting Bull, Stephen Hawking to Galileo, these cool guys had the boldness, bravery, and brains to meet the challenges of their day. With a fun design, engaging text, and high-quality photographs, this is ultimate hero guide and keepsake for 21st century kids .

Review: As I’ve stated over and over, I am so impressed with all the new National Geographic Kids books that I have encountered over the last couple of years. With this text, I specifically found the way that the publisher/authors structure the texts makes them so thematic-based thus accessible and informative. The books also have something for everyone as so many different types of heroines/heroes are featured from scientists, historical heroes, political heroes, and more! I cannot wait to put these in my classroom and find out how to use them with students!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers will find this book irreplaceable! It has so much information to fit into so many different units, connect with so many different texts, and relates to so many parts of history. These texts could also be used as the basis of a inquiry project where students use these texts as previews and they choose a theme or a hero/heroine and complete a research/inquiry project around it or maybe even create a text set around the theme or the person.

Discussion Questions: Which heroine/hero do you think changed history the most?; If you were to take part in an inquiry project about one hero/heroine, who would you like to learn more about?; Why did the author/publisher choose to structure the text in the way they did? What other structures could they have chosen? Which do you feel would have had a bigger impact?

Flagged Passages: 

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Read This If You Love: Biographies, History, Women’s Rights, Science, Animals, Mythology

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

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Hundred Percent
Author: Karen Romano Young
Published August 9th, 2016 by Chronicle Books

Summary: The last year of elementary school is big for every kid. Christine Gouda faces change at every turn, starting with her own nickname—Tink—which just doesn’t fit anymore. Christine navigates a year’s cringingly painful trials in normalcy—uncomfortable Halloween costumes, premature sleepover parties, crushed crushes, and changing friendships. Throughout all this, Tink learns, what you call yourself, and how you do it, has a lot to do with who you are.

This book marks beloved author Karen Romano Young’s masterful return to children’s literature: a heartbreakingly honest account of what it means to be between girl and woman, elementary and middle school, inside and out—and just what you name that in-between self.

“A lovely, lovely tale full of warmth, humor, and intelligence.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Perfectly captures the emotions of middle schoolers and their evolving friendships and familial relationships.”—School Library Journal, starred review

“Romano’s characters jump off the page in a thoughtful and realistic look at what it means to be on the precipice of adolescence.”—Publishers Weekly

“A brilliant and irresistible book about the sharp pains and joys of real life. Karen Romano Young is a writer like no other.—Rebecca Stead, Newbery Award–winning author of When You Reach Me

“Karen Romano Young must be twelve. There’s no other way she can possibly know what she knows about sixth grade in all its weirdness and glory.”—Annie Barrows, New York Times bestselling author of the Ivy & Bean series

“Karen Romano Young has an unerring feel for the shifting alliances and uncomfortable intrigues of sixth graders.” —Ellen Wittlinger, Printz Honor–winning author of Hard Love

Review: The blurbs for Hundred Percent state that the book delves into the true emotions and experiences of a sixth grader, and that it does. It actually is so realistic that it will make adults, myself included, a bit uncomfortable. Thinking back to sixth grade, it was the time where everyone was figuring out their identities: social, emotional, physical, sexual. Hundred Percent captures this. Tink is trying to figure out who her friends are, if it is worth liking boys, how to deal with changes all over the place, and so much more. I do know that there are parts of the book that some adults will be uncomfortable with their students/child reading if they are the same age as Tink. For example, there are derogatory terms used such as slut/slutty and horny skank, a lip syncing scene to “Honky Tonk Women,” and a discussion of what “sleeping together” is. Although this may be a bit uncomfortable, the more I think about the more I have come to realize that these conversations are definitely happening between 6th graders, and we can’t, as the adults in their life, pretend like they are not (though I still don’t know why the teachers let them choose “Honky Tonk Women”). With all this being said, I still think this text is for our most mature sixth graders, but those students need Tink’s story. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to a classroom library book, the text could be used within the classroom during a creative writing unit. The prose of Hundred Percent is lyrical and beautifully written. Karen Romano Young is able to take the most mundane of thoughts or activities and make them sing on the page. Because of this, some parts of the story could definitely be used as a mentor text for writing.

Flagged Passages: “Tink could have cried, but instead she smiled. She was thinking about the moment when she’d held the dishpan down to the surface of the water and turned it sideways to let the lobster slosh out of it. Its clause had sprung wide open, as if it was looking for something to grab on to. The Sound was so cool and blue and clear. She hung over the water to watch the lobster sinking down into the gloom. Back where it belonged again, back home like Tink. She felt like–like crying, but also laughing, like smiling through a storm, like an ambassador of lobsters. She wondered: Does an ambassador ever forget that the foreign land he’s learned so much about isn’t the place he’s from?” p. 55

Read This If You Loved: Truth or Dare by Barbara DeeStill a Work in Progress by Jo KnowlesThe Secret Hum of Daisy by Tracy Holczer

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**Thank you Chronicle Books for providing a copy for review!**

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Lights, Camera, Action! (How Movies Can Engage the Students in English Class)

I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last week in my hometown of Millstadt, Illinois, where I’ve presented to four local schools about my journey to MONSTERVILLE’S creation. Most recently, I spoke at an assembly at Millstadt Consolidated School, my alma matter (for K-9), and I was touched and humbled that both teachers I credited in my Acknowledgements came for the presentation.

While home, my parents and I watched a DVD (converted from VHS) of my brother and I opening Christmas presents. He was five, and I was nine. During that video, I screamed (with joy) while opening a huge box of books. Meanwhile, my brother Bryan never looked up from his assembly of a toy gun. He couldn’t have cared less that there were no books in his pile of presents.

Watching that video highlighted for me something we as educators, writers, book enthusiasts, etc., cannot ignore – not everyone is a reader. My brother is a very smart person – he is now a computer programmer and can do all sorts of “tekkie” things I have no grasp of – but Bryan would never scream with joy over meeting Stephen King. (That is beyond my comprehension).

I watched that video prior to my assembly at MCS. When it was done, I was scratching my head – what would I do to make the Bryans of the audience care about a presentation celebrating books?

My solution was to make the assembly not just about books, but creative expression. I’ve always been visual – I’m very much interested in film-making, so when I write, I think of how the scene would unfold in live action. And I would say I love movies almost as much as I love books. So I focused my presentation on the creative process generally – how books and movies are structured similarly (as evidenced by Blake Snyder’s wonderful SAVE THE CAT – this is a book that discusses the “beats” a screenplay must follow for solid structure, and almost all of his advice translates to writing), and where ideas come from (like how Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children came to be because his editor suggested that he take the strange photos he’d collected and use them to “cast” for the story that was waiting there). All the kids – not just the readers – seemed completely engaged by this approach. By discussing movies and books as creative outlets, I had them hooked.

To that end, here are some exercises meant to interest the “non-readers.” These are gleaned from MONSTERVILLE, as my main character, Lissa Black, is fascinated by the world of film and sees her world through the lens of a camera. To her, each component of every day is a movie scene and a chance to be creative, even though she’s not really a reader. She’s more visual.

First, as an exercise, have kids read a book that has been made into a movie. It can be anything. Don’t make them answer any specific questions about the book. Instead, have them do a report about why they preferred one over the other, with examples (maybe the book was better in the sense that the movie didn’t do justice to one particular character, and maybe the movie was better because it cut a plot line that bogged down the main story). This exercise will give kids a sense of how a work is structured to be engaging and have emotional impact, and they’ll learn about what works to that end and what doesn’t.

Second, have kids take an ordinary conversation they’ve participated in or witnessed and turn it into a dialogue or a scene. (I do this in MONSTERVILLE- Lissa’s friend’s brother Scott is obsessed with Call of Duty, and that’s how Lissa gets the idea for the play she writes. It’s an exaggerated, funny version of how she perceives Scott). This will show kids how they can make ordinary scenes funny or interesting, which helps in writing stories (and makes the process more fun).

Third, have kids watch a movie and write down how it follows the beats to Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT. (I can’t stress enough what a wonderful – and fun – writing tool that is for young writers). Here is a table I’ve compiled, which lists the sixteen beats and has a space where the student can fill in where it happens in a movie. This is fun because kids will realize that no matter the type of movie (action, comedy, drama), it follows the same structure. Books have a similar structure, too – I now use SAVE THE CAT for all my projects!

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Fourth, for a writing project, require the outline to have more pictures than words. This will force kids to really visualize how their story will play out, as well as prevent them from getting bogged down in too much detail. Want an example? Here’s what I used to write MONSTERVILLE! (This is the board game the kids use to navigate the world of Down Below once Lissa’s sister is taken).

Not every kid wants to spend their weekend reading books. Sometimes, there needs to be a hook, or maybe something visual to engage them. Movies – and the process of film-making – can be that tool. If you think outside the box, students will, too!

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Monsterville: A Lissa Black Production
Author: Sarah S. Reida
Published September 20th, 2016 by Sky Pony Press

Summary: Beware what lurks beneath your bed. . . . It could lead to a monstrous adventure.

Thirteen-year-old Lissa Black is miserable when her parents force her to move from New York City (the perfect home for an aspiring writer/director/actress) to Freeburg, Pennsylvania, nowhere capital of the world. There’s nothing to do there, except play her little sister Haylie’s favorite new game, Monsterville, and hang out with her new neighbor Adam.

But when a walk in the woods lands her face-to-face with a swamp monster hungry for brains and then a Sasquatch that moos, even Lissa can’t call her new home totally boring. With Adam’s help, she catches the culprit behind the drama: a shape-shifting goblin who’s fled from the monster world of Down Below.

And what do you do with a creature that can be literally anything? Make monster movies, of course! Lissa is convinced that Blue will be the secret to her big break.

But when Haylie goes missing on Halloween, Lissa, Adam, and the monster must venture Down Below to stage a rescue—and face the real Monsterville, which is anything but a game.

Monsterville is a fusion of The Boxtrolls, Jumanji, and Candyland, weaving together friendship, family, and monsters into a funny fantasy-horror brimming with heart from a great new middle grade voice.

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Visit Sarah S. Reida’s website (which includes movie trivia, tips and resources for teachers, and film-making information) at: http://www.lissablackproductions.com. Her debut middle grade book, MONSTERVILLE: A LISSA BLACK PRODUCTION, can be found on both Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com.

Thank you Sarah for this activity to bring film into the classroom!

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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!

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Strange, Unusual, Gross, and Cool Animals
Author: Charles Ghigna
Published October 11th, 2016 by Animal Planet

Summary: Animal Planet presents the ickiest, stickiest, blobbiest, and oddest animals in the world!

Did you know that an archerfish can spit water up to 16 feet? Or that the giant weta is the world’s largest and heaviest insect? Animal Planet’s fascinating exploration of animal oddities introduces young animal lovers to some of the most astonishing, gorgeous, and obscure animals in the world-including some brand new discoveries! Packed with more than 200 vibrant photographs and fun facts about animals with unusual behaviors, strange appearances, and remarkable stats, this deluxe gift book is perfect for reluctant readers or anyone who loves totally gross and amazing animals.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of books in the Animal Bites series benefits the principal partners of R.O.A.R. (Reach Out. Act. Respond.), Animal Planet’s initiative dedicated to improving the lives of animals in our communities and in the wild.

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Review: I love learning about weird animals because it is so amazing to see what mother nature has made out there! This book shares with the reader some of the weirdest! Trent and I love to sit and look through the pages and look at the cool animals! 

What I really like about Animal Planet texts is that they have a variety of spreads throughout the text and include really interesting information but also beautiful photographs. This text has four types of spreads: Gallery, a spread that explores a theme; Featured Creature, a spread that focuses on one animal; Creature Collection, a spread that compares and contrasts a group of animals; and Macroview, a spread that shows tiny details of small animals.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to being an amazing text to have in classroom and school libraries, this text is a wonderful way to begin inquiry projects. When I teach my central idea unit, for my final assessment I ask my students to write their own nonfiction text with a clear central idea and supporting details. Many students choose animals for their nonfiction text, but it is usually the same offenders: dolphins, cheetahs, and dogs, so it would be really nice to have this text to jump start the brainstorming process.

Discussion Questions: What type of features do some animals have the help them protect themselves from predators?; Which animal did you think was the oddest looking?; Which animal do you think is not that odd looking?; Which animal would you like to learn more about?

Flagged Passages: 

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Read This If You Loved: Pink is for Blobfish by Jess Keating and other nonfiction picture books about animals, Animal Planet & National Geographic nonfiction such as Real or Fake?, Ocean Animals, Awesome 8, Animal Atlas, or the Animal Bites series    

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**Thank you Charles Ghigna and Animal Planet for providing a copy for review!**

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