Jennifer A. Nielsen visited my school on December 4th, 2018, and today her newest book comes out (Deceiver’s Heart, Traitor’s Game #2!!!!), so I thought today would be the best day to share about the amazing experience she brought to my school and the superb person she is!
Jennifer was kind enough to have a very packed day with us! She did an assembly for each grade level where she shared that the secret to being a writer is asking questions:
- Do you have stories? Do you have dreams? If you have dreams, your brain is creating a story. Are you curious? You can be a writer.
- Writers do these things: Collect stupid facts but don’t collect stupid. Ask Questions. Gain knowledge. They write. They work to get better. They keep trying.
- There are two types of people: One who says they are good enough. You’ll be passed by people who won’t quit until it’s great.
She also gave us a sneak peek of the Resistance book trailer that went live the next week!
Every group of students (at over 375 each) were captivated by her stories, her humor, and her truth.
During each grade level’s lunch period, she also was kind enough to eat lunch with students who had read two or more of her books. During this time, they could get their books signed and ask exclusive questions.
This lunchtime experience was so inspiring to these students! They still talk about what she shared and (as you’ll see in the last photo below) they helped write a quite hilarious story with her that was cracking everyone up:
- Story in her head is like an itch that she can’t reach. She is happiest when she is writing because she is reaching the itch.
- Story is everywhere. Everyone carries story with them. Just ask questions and tell the story.
- She starts a story with the character in action. Helps the reader and writer get into the character’s head and puts the character into immediate trouble.
- When she was younger, she didn’t know writing was a choice for something you could do.
Then Jennifer even stayed with us for the evening for another quick presentation, book signing, and cross-curricular events that tied her book into all the subjects.
All in all, the visit was life-changing for our HCMS students.
After the visit, I had my students write letters sharing how the event affected them:
- Thank you so much! You have made a great impact on my life. I have never liked writing but your story about when you were in 6th grade made me realize that I can do what I put my mind to do. -Olivia M, 6th grade
- I love reading your books because when I read your books it is so good that I read for hours without stopping. When I found out you were coming I got excited because I wanted to find out more about the author who wrote my favorite books. You taught me never to give up and to keep going for my dream no matter how long it takes. Your books have inspired me to create my own book and to be a writer in the future. -Jacob K, 6th grade
- The things you said during your visit made me realize I’ll never get better if I don’t try. -Georgia B, 6th grade
- I loved your assembly. Your stories were hilarious and you inspired me to write down my ideas. -Emily B, 7th grade
- Thank you so much for visiting us. It was amazing and super fun. Your presentations were incredible and I loved the stories you told. They were sad but so interesting. Your tips for writing were so helpful and I plan on taking them to heart whenever I write. Your encouragement was inspiring. “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it. (Benjamin Mee)” -Duda V, 7th grade
- Your books are amazing, the plot twists were breath-taking, and your books are meaningful and are powerful. -Molly N, 7th grade
- I’m a huge fan of your books and it was a dream come true to meet you! I enjoyed making a story with you during my lunch time, and I will always remember your visit. -Mariana S, 8th grade
- If you were here to inspire, you hit it on the dot. -Julia R, 8th grade
- Thank you for not quitting and showing us that just because you fail once, or twice, or even hundreds of times, we should keep on trying. -Lorenza M, 8th grade
- Everything that you said just inspired me to do something that would forever make the world better. -Jordan K, 7th grade
- Thank you for all the words of wisdom and encouragement to write, and for that I’ll always be grateful. -Monika A, 7th grade
- You are such a beautiful soul, and I am in denial that I had the chance to meet someone like you. -Amy C, 7th grade
- You were right – stories are everywhere!.. You are funny and kind, and I love how you add little bits of yourself into your books. -Maelynn A, 7th grade
And I’ll end with this beautiful work. My friend, who teaches 8th grade ELA, had her students do a 6 word reflection with a visual to summarize either how they felt or what they learned:
Thank you so much, Jennifer, for coming to HCMS and inspiring my students in ways that are life-changing!
What If…? Then We…: Short, Very Short, Shorter-Than-Ever Possibilities
Author: Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Illustrator: Fred Koehler
Published February 19th, 2019 by Boyds Mills Press
Summary: Two polar bear friends have a thrilling adventure as they imagine solutions to a variety of possible situations; their story will show readers how to create their own tales in response to the question “What if…?” in this ingenious picture book.
“What if . . . we got lost far, far, far away, and couldn’t find our way home? Then we would become the bravest explorers in the world.” So begin the adventures of two intrepid polar bears. Traveling on a ship imagined from an iceberg, the bears encounter magnificent sights and scary situations. When a city made of crayons melts, the bears use pencils to create a beautiful gray world. When all the words in the universe disappear, the bears invent their own language. When something really big and really scary happens, they whistle and hold hands until it’s not as big or scary anymore. And when they find their way back home, they’re ready to imagine a thousand more possibilities.
This companion title to the Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book One Day, The End. is ultimately a book about imagination, friendship, and finding possibilities in the smallest moments.
Review: Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Fred Koehler are a super team! I love so many of their books without each other and their books together are only that much more special. Their imagination will take readers on adventures through places they’ve only dreamt of and will help them realize that their imagination can take them anywhere they can dream of. This newest book by the duo not only promotes imagination but also grit, courage, resilience, and friendship. These two polar bear cubs go on a fantastical adventure which will leave the readers wanting to know what is going to happen next. This book is full of possibilities in story that will be adored by so many readers!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: WRITING MENTOR TEXT ALERT! Two ideas: 1) Have students write and illustrate their own “What If…? Then We…” stories. 2) Have students illustrate the words in the original text showing what else the words could mean.
- What if? Then We!
- What other adventures could this story have been telling?
Read This If You Love: One Day, The End by Rebecca Kai Dotlich; The Knowing Book by Rebecca Kai Dotlich; Super Jumbo by Fred Koehler; Penguin books by Salina Yoon
Don’t miss the other Blog Tour stops:
Monday, 2/11 Simply 7 Interview
Tuesday, 2/12 Storymamas
Wednesday, 2/13 Librarian in Cute Shoes
Thursday, 2/14 Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook
Friday, 2/15 Miss Marple’s Musings
Monday, 2/18 Bridget and the Books
Tuesday, 2/19 Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
Thursday, 2/21 KidLit Frenzy
Friday, 2/22 Unleashing Readers
Book Seed Studio
**Thank you to Boyds Mills for providing books for review and giveaway!**
It’s Not Hansel and Gretel
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Edwardian Taylor
Anticipated Publication: March 1, 2019 by Two Lions
Goodreads Summary: In the fairytale mashup, Hansel and Gretel talk back to the narrator, refusing to play their roles.
About the Creators:
Like Hansel and Gretel, Josh Funk doesn’t like being told how stories should go—so he writes his own. He is the author of a bunch of picture books, including the popular Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, illustrated by Brendan Kearney, and recently; How to Code a Sandcastle, illustrated by Sara Palacios; and Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience & Fortitude, illustrated by Stevie Lewis. He 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 has worked as a visual development artist and character designer in the game and animation industry. He illustrated the picture book Race!, written by Sue Fliess and the chapter book Toy Academy: Some Assembly Required, written by Brian Lynch. He lives in Texas with his partner and their four dogs. Learn more about him at www.edwardiantaylor.com and follow him on Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter @edwardiantaylor.
Ricki’s Review: When I brought this home, my sons squealed. My two-year-old ran into his room to grab It’s Not Jack in the Beanstalk to prove that he saw comparisons between the two books. We’ve had this book for a couple of weeks, and I’ve read it numerous times. It’s very fun to read aloud, and the story offers so much for teachers and classrooms (see below). The book makes me laugh, and I love the addition of adult humor to keep me as entertained as my children. When I teach my college course of Teaching Reading, we talk about picture books that are transferable to secondary classrooms, as well. This picture book would serve as a great mentor text within middle and high school classrooms. It is wonderfully conceived and cleverly written.
Kellee’s Review: As a huge fan of fairy tale retellings, I love when authors come up with a new and unique concept around the tales that we all know and love, and Josh Funk has done just that again taking the hilarity of It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk to a whole new level! The addition of a second character to interact with the narrator made the humor double the fun. And don’t think that this is just a normal Hansel and Gretel story with a twist, it is a Gretel and Hansel story with a twist! I love that Josh Funk could take something we know and love and still surprise us–that shows talent and a book that is going to be loved for a long time!
Side note: I was lucky enough to receive two copies of this book, so I shared one with Trent’s classroom, and I have been told it is the book he picks up each day! Here is a picture of him reading it to a classmate by using visual cues.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book offers so many opportunities for students. To support writing, students might use this book to retell a fairy tale of their own or as a mentor text to add humor to their work. To support reading and speaking, this book would be wonderful to use for readers’ theater! And just for fun, teachers might turn this book into a scavenger hunt! Every page has a plethora of well-known characters, and they are fun to find!
Discussion Questions: What story does the narrator want to tell? How does it get interrupted?; There are two parallel sides to this story. Which did you believe? Do you think that the parents really lost Hansel and Gretel? Why or why not?; How do the author and illustrator add humor to the story?
Read This If You Loved: It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk by Josh Funk; 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
**Thank you go Blue Slip Media and Two Lions for providing copies for review and giveaway!**
Author: Gregory Funaro
Published February 12th, 2019 by HarperCollins
Summary: Deep within the enchanted woods in the town of Watch Hollow stands the once-grand Blackford House, whose halls hold a magical secret: a giant cuckoo clock that does much more than tell time. But when the clock’s gears cease to turn, an evil presence lurking among the trees begins to come out of the shadows.
When Lucy and Oliver Tinker arrive in Watch Hollow, they have no idea that anything is wrong. A mysterious stranger has made their father an offer that’s too good for him to refuse. All Mr. Tinker needs to do is fix the clock at Blackford House and fistfuls of gold coins are his to keep.
It doesn’t take long, however, for the children to realize that there is more to Blackford House than meets the eye. And before they can entirely understand the strange world they’ve stumbled into, Lucy and Oliver must join forces with a host of magical clock animals to defeat the Garr—a vicious monster that not only wants Blackford House for itself, but also seeks to destroy everything the Tinkers hold dear.
About the Author: Gregory Funaro grew up in Cranston, Rhode Island, and wrote his first story, The Ghost in the Window, in the fourth grade. He considers this to be his finest work, but unfortunately it has been lost to time. Following high school Greg majored in theatre at the University of New Hampshire, and after various acting gigs, received his AM in Theatre Arts from Brown University and an MFA in Acting from the FSU/Asolo Conservatory. He began his literary career writing thrillers for adults, but switched to children’s books after the birth of his daughter. His first book for Disney-Hyperion, ALISTAIR GRIM’S ODDITORIUM (2015), was a New York Times best seller and an Amazon Best Book of the Month, and his second, ALISTAIR GRIM’S ODD AQUATICUM (2016), received a Kirkus STARRED review. Look for WATCH HOLLOW and THE MAZE OF SHADOWS, coming from HarperCollins in 2019/20. Greg also teaches drama at East Carolina University, and is busy working on his next novel.
Follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@GregoryFunaro) and visit his https://www.gregoryfunaro.com/ to learn more about his books and him.
Review: I am so glad that Harper allows Gregory Funaro to continue expanding his creative tendrils because every one of his books I read, I am intrigued by how he crafts a story, the voice he gives his characters, the point of view he decides, and the surprises he gives me throughout the reading. With Watch Hollow, I love how Lucy and Oliver obviously have a voice even though the book is in third person, the way he ties everything together from the slightest mention at the beginning of the book to huge events in the end, and I love that I cannot predict what is going to happen.
And not only is the story crafted well, the plot is one that is going to suck in our readers that are always looking for spookiness. It is just the right amount of weirdness, supernatural, creepy mansions, unknown creatures, and magic. The characters are also crafted really well which gives the readers someone to connect with.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Gergory Funaro’s fantasy is so different than the traditional fantasy books, and his stories will fascinate readers who may not be sure if they like fantasy because of the twist, turns, and intelligence in his narratives. Not only should his books be found in all libraries, classroom, public, and school, but it would also be an interesting to have an in-class book club focusing on different examples of fantasy and have students, at the end of the clubs, discuss what made their books fantasy and look at the wide variety within the genre.
- How did the inclusion of illustrations throughout the book help with your understanding of the plot?
- What does the animals quick acceptance of Lucy show you about her personality?
- What were your initial assumptions about Mr. Quigley?
- What did the inclusion of the crow from before they went to Blackford House tell you about the kids?
- Once you find out the truth behind the house, what clues can you find when you go back through the book?
- How did the third person limited point of view switching between the two siblings affect the narrative?
- How did the author use imagery throughout the book to engage his readers?
- How does the author set the Gothic and dark mood in the story?
“Oliver hung back in the doorway as Lucy and their father stepped into a cavernous, darkened foyer. Rectangles of dim dusty light filtered in from the rooms on the other side, and Oliver could just make out a wide staircase dissolving up into the gloom at the far end of the foyer…
Oliver pushed up his glasses, stepped inside, and set down his suitcase. His eyes had adjusted a bit, but with only the daylight streaming in, the foyer was still dim–in part because the walls were paneled three-quarters high in dark wood. To his left, he spied a shadowy parlor filled with antique furniture; to his right, a dining room with a long table. There were a handful of paintings on the walls, and where there was no paneling, the paper was peeled and gray…” (Chapter 4)
**Thank you to the author for providing a copy for review!**
The Lost Girl
Author: Anne Ursu
Published February 12th, 2019 by Walden Pond Press
Summary: When you’re an identical twin, your story always starts with someone else. For Iris, that means her story starts with Lark. Iris has always been the grounded, capable, and rational one; Lark has been inventive, dreamy, and brilliant—and from their first moments in the world together, they’ve never left each other’s side. Everyone around them realized early on what the two sisters already knew: they had better outcomes when they were together.
When fifth grade arrives, however, it is decided that Iris and Lark should be split into different classrooms, and something breaks in them both. Iris is no longer so confident; Lark retreats into herself as she deals with challenges at school. And at the same time, something strange is happening in the city around them, things both great and small going missing without a trace. As Iris begins to understand that anything can be lost in the blink of an eye, she decides it’s up to her to find a way to keep her sister safe.
About the Author: Anne Ursu is the author of Breadcrumbs, named one of the best books of 2011 by Publishers Weekly and the Chicago Public Library, and The Real Boy, which was longlisted for the National Book Award. She is also a member of the faculty at Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Anne lives in Minneapolis with her family and an ever-growing number of cats. You can visit her online at www.anneursu.com.
“The Lost Girl is a jewel of a book—hard, bright, sharp, and precious. It reminds us of the boundless and subversive power of sisterhood and the inherent magic of girls.”—Kelly Barnhill, Newbery-Medal winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon
“I raced through The Lost Girl, breathless. And when I was finished, I found myself full of hope. It’s a beautiful, riveting, important book.”—Laurel Snyder, award-winning author of Orphan Island
“When the world makes no sense, I read books by Anne Ursu. When the world makes all the wrong kinds of sense, I read books by Anne Ursu. If you crave a story with the wit, wisdom, and magic to unriddle the world, then you need to read The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu.”—William Alexander, award-winning author of A Festival of Ghosts
“A beautiful, timeless tale of love conquering darkness in the midst of mystery and the angst of change. A must-have for any middle grade collection.” School Library Journal (starred review)
“This suspenseful mystery offers a story of empowerment, showing how one girl with the help of others can triumph.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“National Book Award nominee Ursu laces her story with fairy-tale elements and real-life monsters, while taking great care to cast girls in an empowering light and as authors (and heroes) of their own stories.” Booklist (starred review)
Review: Anne Ursu has a way of telling what seems like an ordinary tale and adding twists and turns that the reader does not expect but once you are on the narrative ride she has created, you never want to get off! And although I am always skeptical of magical realism, she does it in a way that just makes her books seem like realistic fiction that just happens to be bit magical, so it is hard not to buy in. In The Lost Girl, the story also is fascinating in the way that the author plays with the narrator/point of view as well as how she shapes both girls equally as the story moves between their narratives and shows the strengths and weaknesses in both. It is impossible to tell who the lost girl is and who is the ones saving because both sisters feel like they play a part in saving the other. I’m still thinking about responsibilities, love, and protection long after the book ended. You are going to love Lark and Iris and will root for both of them until you turn that final page.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: There are readers who need this book. There are kids that don’t feel like they belong in this world or kids who feel like they don’t mesh with others their own age or kids dealing with a huge change in their life. These are the kid who will need this book. They need the lost girl to guide them.
- Which of the twins is the lost girl?
- How did the crows play a part in the story?
- Without the magic in the story, how would everything have been different?
- What mistakes does Iris make in her decision making once the girls enter 5th grade?
- What lesson are the adults trying to teach the girls?
- How did the Club Awesome girls turn out differently than Iris assumed? What does this tell you about them? Iris?
- How are the sisters alike? Different?
Flagged Passages: “Once upon a time, there were two sisters, alike in every way, except for all the ways that they were different. Iris and Lark Maguire were identical twins, and people who only looked at the surface of things could not tell them apart. Same long busy black hair, same pale skin, same smattering of freckles around the cheeks, same bright hazel eyes and open face.
But Iris and Lark had no patience with people who only looked at the surface of things, when what lay beneath was the stuff that truly mattered.
Because the girls were identical, but not the same.
Iris was the one who always knew where she’d left her shoes. Iris was the one who could tell what the collective nouns were for different animals and that Minnesota was home to the world’s largest ball of twine. Iris always knew when her library books were due.
Lark always knew when their parents had been arguing. Lark could tell you what the consequences for stealing were in different fairy tales, and that the best bad guys had interesting back stories. Lark always knew which books she wanted to check out from the library next.
No they were not the same.” (p. 1-2)
Read This If You Love: The Real Boy by Anne Ursu, Watch Hollow by Greg Funaro, The Explorers by Adrienne Kress, Wishtree by Katherine Applegate, The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner
Don’t miss out on the other stops in the blog tour!
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1: Teach Mentor Texts
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 2: About to Mock
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 3: Novel Novice
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 4: Maria’s Melange
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 5: A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 6: Bluestocking Thinking
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7: Kirsticall.com
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8: Unleashing Readers
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 9: Book Monsters
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 10: Fat Girl Reading
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 11: Word Spelunker
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 12: Nerdy Book Club
**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for review!**
Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine
Author: Jonathan London; Illustrator: Andrew Joyner
Published: December 18, 2018 by Two Lions
GoodReads Summary: Join Duck, Hippo, and their friends as they uncover their secret valentines!
It’s Valentine’s Day, and something curious is going on. As the birds tweet their love […]
Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine
Author: Jonathan London; Illustrator: Andrew Joyner
Published: December 18, 2018 by Two Lions
GoodReads Summary: Join Duck, Hippo, and their friends as they uncover their secret valentines!
It’s Valentine’s Day, and something curious is going on. As the birds tweet their love songs, Hippo and his friends Elephant, Pig, and Turtle each receive mysterious, unsigned Valentine’s Day cards. Hippo wonders if his is from Duck; Elephant and Turtle think theirs are from Pig; and Pig dreams that hers is from Turtle. The cards tell the friends to come to the park at four o’clock to meet their valentines—so they’ll find out soon enough! As the clock ticks away, the friends wonder—and dream—about their valentines and make special preparations. But when they arrive…SURPRISE!
This Valentine’s Day might not go exactly the way they expected, but one thing is certain: being friends with Duck and Hippo is always a special treat!
Ricki’s Review: Valentine’s Day is coming up, and this book will surely drum up the excitement! I brought this book out during my night-time reading session with my kids, and my 5-year-old shrieked, “More Duck and Hippo! Yay!” Duck and Hippo are a beloved duo that are on their way to becoming a classic pair like Frog and Toad. Kids in the current generation recognize them and love them. Adults are starting to recognize them, too! I am just waiting for more Duck and Hippo stuffed animals to appear in stores! One thing I loved about this book is that it focused on friendship. Each of the animals is particularly excited about which friend sent the valentine. There is so much joy as they guess who the secret valentine might be and head toward the park. Readers who are experienced with the Duck and Hippo series can make great predictions while reading the book. Others will just be excited as they turn the pages! This would make a great read-aloud for classrooms on Valentine’s Day because the focus isn’t on commercial items but friendship and neighborly love.
Kellee’s Review: In this fourth installment of the Duck and Hippo series, the author continues to teach important lessons to the readers that they may not have thought about. Too often Valentine’s Day is focused on the commercial: How many cards did you get? Did s/he get you a gift? etc. etc. But really, the point of the holiday is to spend time with those you love. And like other stories with unexpected friendship, Duck and Hippo show that opposites attract and first impressions aren’t always correct. In addition to the story, the illustrations add a whole other layer to the story by taking the shared emotions that were written and showing them. Together, the story and the illustrations tell a story that kids will easily connect to and love.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Valentine’s Day is often a day of parties in elementary schools. To move away from the commercial focus of the holiday, teachers might use this book to foster a secret valentine’s day party. This would be great fun!
There’s more fun with Duck and Hippo in the free downloadable activity sheets (including a learn-to-draw page!): https://www.andrewjoyner.com.
Discussion Questions: Who did you predict the secret valentine would be?; What do each of the animals think?; What were their reactions when they arrived at the park?; Is there someone in your life who might enjoy a secret valentine?
The fourth book in the Duck and Hippo series is a sweet way to celebrate Valentine’s Day! Check out the trailer!
Read This If You Loved: The other books in the Duck and Hippo series (like this one!); Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems; The Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel; Pug Meets Pig by Sue Lowell Gallion
**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip for providing copies for review!**
Waiting for Pumpsie
Author: Barry Wittenstein
Illustrator: London Ladd
Published February 21st, 2017 by Charlesbridge Publishing
Summary: In 1959 the Boston Red Sox was the last team in the Major Leagues to integrate. But when they call Elijah “Pumpsie” Green up from the minors, Bernard is overjoyed to see a black player on his beloved home team. And, when Pumpsie’s first home game is scheduled, Bernard and his family head to Fenway Park. Bernard is proud of Pumpsie and hopeful that this historic event is the start of great change in America.
This fictionalized account captures the true story of baseball player Pumpsie Green’s rise to the major leagues. The story is a snapshot of the Civil Rights Movement and a great discussion starter about the state of race relations in the United States today.
About the Author: Barry Wittenstein has tended bar, driven a taxi, worked at CBS Records and CBS News back in the day, spent a decade writing music and lyrics, toiled six years as a web editor and writer for Major League Baseball, and three years as a substitute elementary school teacher. He could be Walter Mitty’s brother.
Barry loves to write narrative nonfiction picture books. He is the author of Waiting for Pumpsie and The Boo-Boos That Changed the World. In 2019, he will publish two more nonfiction picture books—Sonny’s Bridge, about the legendary jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins; and A Place to Land (with illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney) about how Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his “I Have a Dream” speech. He is currently working on a YA novel. He lives in New York City with his wife. To learn more, and to download free curriculum guides, visit his website: https://onedogwoof.
“A grand slam” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Bernard’s conversational narration creates a warm bond with readers from the get-go, and although Wittenstein and Ladd never sugarcoat instances of racial prejudice, the story’s moments of triumph sound the loudest notes.” — Publisher’s Weekly
“This uplifting account of a family and the integration of Boston baseball will be inspiring to many youngsters.” — School Library Journal
“This picture book contributes to children’s understanding of America’s past, while telling a good story”— Booklist
Kellee’s Review: This story was one that is new to me, and as a baseball fan and interested in social justice history, I found it so fascinating! Like the author’s note suggests, the history of baseball integration has been skewed in its telling over time because it does seem to those ignorant in the history that Jackie Robinson started up, fought the racial prejudice, then everyone was integrated; however, Pumpsie’s story shows us that this false truth is far from the truth. I really love that the author took something he did not know about and wrote a book to share the story with an audience.
The author and illustrator told Pumpsie’s story from the point of view of a young Red Sox fan named Bernard and his anticipation for a Black baseball player on the team he loves and how one player can change the morale of fans.
Ricki’s Review: This is a wonderful book. My family is divided (half Yankees fans and half Red Sox fans), and yet, no one seemed to mind that this story featured Pumpsie, a Red Sox player. He isn’t one of the more famous, well-known Red Sox players, but he truly should be. This book gives careful insight into Pumpsie, his career, and his struggles, and readers will see layers of topics—even beyond baseball and equity. The illustrations and dialogue bring readers right to the stadium and field during the time period. My older son had a lot of questions as we read the book, and it felt good to navigate such a richly complex text with him. This is a must-have for libraries. It offers great themes to be discussed in the classroom setting, and students will be interested in this piece of our history. Also, it makes for a great read aloud. We were roaring right along with the stadium. 🙂
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: There are so many different ways that this story can be integrated into a classroom setting! First and foremost, it is a fantastic read aloud. The narrative will suck students in and will lead to some great discussion. Additionally, it could be used in equity discussions when looking at the history of the fight for equal rights. Lastly, I can definitely see this picture book being an asset in a baseball history book clubs/lit circles.
- Why was Pumpsie’s debut so important to Bernard?
- How does Pumpsie’s story change how baseball integration is traditionally told?
- How does Pumpsie’s story fit into a bigger story of Civil Rights in the United States?
- Other than baseball and equity, what other topics does this text touch on?
- Who did the prejudice man in the stands represent within the larger world?
Read This If You Love: I am Jackie Robinson by Brad Meltzer, Henry Aaron’s Dream by Matt Tavares, Baseball Is… by Louise Borden, Barbed Wire Baseball by Marissa Moss, Something to Prove by Robert Skead, Silent Star by Bill Wise
**Thank you to Blue Slip Media and Charlesbridge for providing copies for review and giveaway!**
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