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Rescued
Ape Quartet #3
Author: Eliot Schrefer
Published April 26th, 2016 by Scholastic Press

Summary: They grew up together. Now they have to escape together.

Raja has been raised in captivity. Not behind the bars of a zoo, but within the confines of an American home. He was stolen when he was young to be someone’s pet. Now he’s grown up and is about to be sent away again, to a place from which there will be no return.

John grew up with Raja. The orangutan was his friend, his brother. But when John’s parents split up and he moved across the country, he left Raja behind. Now Raja is in danger.

There’s one last chance to save Raja—a chance that will force John to confront his fractured family and the captivity he’s imposed on himself all of these years.

About the Author: Eliot Schrefer is a New York Times-bestselling author, and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Award. In naming him an Editor’s Choice, the New York Times has called his work “dazzling… big-hearted.” He is also the author of two novels for adults and four other novels for children and young adults. His books have been named to the NPR “best of the year” list, the ALA best fiction list for young adults, and the Chicago Public Library’s “Best of the Best.” His work has also been selected to the Amelia Bloomer List, recognizing best feminist books for young readers, and he has been a finalist for the Walden Award and won the Green Earth Book Award and Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. He lives in New York City, where he reviews books for USAToday.

ReviewI think out of the three Ape Quartet books published so far, this is the one that is going to hit closest to home for many. It will make many readers uncomfortable and want to make a change. First, it takes place in the United States unlike Africa like the first two. Second, it really digs into an issue that is still very much prominent here–animal injustice.

I find Schrefer’s writing to be so beautiful yet so easy to read. He can pull you into his stories and makes you feel for not only his human characters but also his animal characters. He does such a tremendous amount of research for all of his books and with this one it brings the injustice of Raja alive.

I am a sucker for ape books. I find apes to be the most fascinating animals, and orangutans may be my favorite because they have these amazing eyes that just show me that they are so intelligent and deep thinkers. They are also introverts; I think I just relate to them in that way. This book brings orangutans to life through Raja.

As evident from Schrefer’s status as a two-time National Book Award finalist, his books can be used as a mentor text for just about any aspect of writing that you are looking for: characterization, imagery, voice, conflict, etc. Read any of his books, and you can pull out so much to discuss and use within the classroom. Additionally, there are some amazing ape books, including Schrefer’s other Ape Quartet books, that would make for an amazing lit circle opportunity or text set.

Review originally posted here on May 13, 2016.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Last year, our whole-class novel unit was done using Hurt Go Happy and included a trip to Center for Great Apes. This year, I had a completely different type of novel planned, but my students begged to read more about apes (and visit CFGA again). After looking at all of the available ape books, I decided that Rescued was perfect for the standards I wanted to teach and also included orangutans instead of chimps, and orangutans are the other great ape at CFGA. After setting up a Donors Choose and getting funded (THANK YOU ALL DONORS!), Eliot Schrefer also so kindly contacted me and offered to send even more copies of Rescued to my students–wow! So much kindness! Now that we had a plethora of copies, I wanted to share the love, so I contacted my South Carolina middle school teacher friend, Jennie Smith, to see if she wanted to read Rescued with us and collaborate some how. I was so happy that she said yes!

The Unit

Because I do love whole-class novels, but I also don’t like how a whole-class novel can also ruin a book with too much time spent on one book with way too many assignments during the unit. To try to fight this, I planned the unit quite simply:

  • Each week the students were given a focus question on Monday that they could think about all week then answer on Friday.
    • These focus questions are how we collaborated with Mrs. Smith’s class as well. My 1st and 2nd period posted their answers on Padlet and Mrs. Smith’s students would also post. The kids would then respond to each other.
    • Focus questions:
      • 1. What’s a big idea that’s emerging that’s worth talking about?
      • 2. Is there a passage that struck you as important in developing a character or a conflict in the reading so far? Share the passage and explain.
      • 3. What incident up to this point has had the most impact on the plot? How so? What did the characters’ response to this incident teach you about them?
      • 4. There are many who argue that Great Apes are human-like, including the lawyer who will take apes as plaintiffs to demand rights. What are some examples in this section of Raja showing how close to humans he truly is?
      • 5. How did the characters (specifically John’s mom, John’s dad, John, and Raja) change throughout the book? What other narrative elements helped shape their final persona? Find a piece of dialogue and a specific incident in the book that is evidence for your analysis of the character.
    • The idea of focus questions was something I got from a talk by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle at NCTE 2017.
  • Because of one of the standards the unit was focusing on, we also looked at narrative elements, specifically dialogue, setting, and conflicts. Here is my scale for the unit:
  • Throughout the unit, I would also stop to have students think about certain text-dependent questions. I tried not to do this too often to not slow down the narrative; however, I loved seeing my students’ thinking. We would then discuss these questions, but I like allowing my students to write answers first before discussing because it allows them to get their thinking organized. (I shared some of these text-dependent questions and an example of a student’s answers below.)

The Field Trip

Once again I was lucky enough to bring my students to the CFGAs. All students were able to attend this year, and they were so kind to donate to the Center goodies for the Apes–it always fills my heart to see the empathy in their hearts!

I have gone to the Center for Great Apes for years, and sadly this is the first year it rained. Luckily, we were able to get in a 90-minute tour to see the amazing animals who inspired Schrefer’s novel. To see more about the Center, the apes they’ve saved, and the amazing work they do, please visit http://www.centerforgreatapes.org/.

Author Virtual Visit

After reading Rescued, I was so happy to be able to give my (and Jennie’s) students an opportunity to interview Eliot Schrefer about the book. Each student wrote down at least one question they had for Eliot then in groups, the students chose their favorites, then based on these choices, we broke it down to 5 per class equaling fifteen interview questions altogether:

  • Why did you start writing about apes in the first place? And how did you decide on the order of publication for the Ape Quartet? 
  • Do you like writing realistic fiction like Rescued or fantasy like Mez’s Magic better?
  • Will you continue to write about apes now that you are done with the Ape Quartet? 
  • While the titles of your other books, Endangered, Threatened, and Captured, inspire a feeling of fear, the title Rescued inspires hope. Did this change in connotation of your title mark your different opinion about orangutans?
  • Were you ever stuck in between two decisions while writing the book? When? 
  • Who do you think the antagonist of the book is?
  • How did you come up with the whole “Raja bites off John’s finger” scenario? 
  • How did you come up with the concept of Friendlyland? 
  • How did you come up with the character traits for each character (Ex. Gary being a bad father)? Did you base them off people you know or knew? 
  • Can you tell us more about the corruption happening in Indonesia which allows palm oil companies to be able to keep burning down forests even though it is illegal? 
  • Do you feel that apes should be treated like human beings and given the same rights such as due process, land, etc. like the lawyer in the book? 
  • Was it hard for you to decide what would happen to Raja at the end of the book or did you know that you wanted Raja to be released into the wild instead of being kept at the sanctuary?
  • Do you have a favorite sanctuary or zoo you’ve visited? Have you visited the CFGA?
  • You used the word “merantau” which means “hitting a dead end and leaving one life to live another elsewhere” which pretty much sums up the theme of the book. Where did you come across this word? 
  • What writing tips can you give to students who want to be a writer?

We then did a Google Hangout with Mrs. Smith’s class and Eliot Schrefer on May 25th after school:

Some of my favorite answers/quotes from the visit were:

  • Realistic fiction allows for a shifting antagonist.
  • Wanted to help people realize that orangutans aren’t stuffed animals come to life.
  • I don’t have characters first. I have stories first then make the best characters for that story.
  • Apes should not be kept against their will.
  • I used the idea of merantau to develop the plot.
  • Advice: For any artistic pursuit, I encourage you to think of the long range range view. It is risky to put all expectations of self in one basket. Focus on the joy you feel when doing the art. Remember what brings you joy! And do research, take advice, and read.

Discussion Questions: These were the first five of the text-dependent questions I asked during our reading of Rescued as well as an example of a student response (color coded for RATE. R=restate, A=answer, T=text evidence, E=elaborate/explain).

  • What can you infer about John and Raja’s relationship based on the first section?
  • Why does John feel like he needs to go see Raja before he leaves?
  • In the Q&A, the author says he “realized that a captive ape’s situation was similar to the plight of a kid during a divorce, getting swept along by the needs of powerful parents, at risk for being seen for what he represents instead of as a child with his own needs” (p. 251). How are John’s and Raja’s situations similar after the divorce? How are they different?
  • Do you agree with the choice John and his dad are making? Why or why not?
  • Why do you believe the author is beginning each part with a memory of Raja’s?
  • How did the author foreshadow this scene (on pg. 99) earlier in the book?

Flagged Passages: “My telltale heart, the one I’d left behind.” (p. 38)

Read This If You Love: Eliot Schrefer novels: Endangered and ThreatenedHurt Go Happy by Ginny RorbyHalf Brother by Kenneth Oppel, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine ApplegatePrimates by Jim Ottaviani

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StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson
Editor: Shelby Alinsky
Published March 20th, 2018 by National Geographic Children’s Books

Summary: Now abridged for YA audiences, this beautifully illustrated companion to celebrated scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s popular podcast and National Geographic Channel TV show is an eye-opening journey for anyone curious about the complexities of our universe.

For decades, beloved astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has interpreted science with a combination of brainpower and charm that resonates with fans everywhere. In 2009, he founded StarTalk, the wildly popular podcast that became an Emmy-nominated talk show on the National Geographic Channel in 2015. Tyson’s pioneering book takes the greatest hits from the airwaves to the page in one smart, richly illustrated compendium for young adult readers. Featuring vivid photography, thought-provoking sidebars, enlightening facts, and fun quotes from science and entertainment luminaries like Bill Nye and Josh Groban, StarTalk reimagines science’s most challenging topics–from how the brain works to the physics of comic book superheroes–in a relatable, humorous way that will attract curious young readers.

Praise: “Most notable throughout the book, as on the original television show, are the connections between science and creativity, art, and wonder. Educational and entertaining, this will engage loyal followers and recruit new fans.”—Booklist

ReviewThis book is everything you would think a book by Neil deGrasse Tyson named after his National Geographic Channel’s late-night talk show and his podcast. Tyson mixes culture, creativity, and science in a fun and interesting way that will suck in readers of all kinds in.

I loved the structure of the book! The mix of Tyson’s answers to science-based questions, fun facts about the topics, extension activities, and all sorts of other fun text features! And the topics are so interesting! Split into space, planet earth, being human, and futures imagined, the text looks at so many interesting topics including going to Mars, evolution, Superman, and Bigfoot!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I love texts like this because they can be used for research or as interest starters or just for fun! This book is perfect for classroom libraries, school libraries, and as a class resource!

Discussion Questions: Almost every page has a discussion question!

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: To learn, Science, Astonomy, Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Where’s Halmoni?
Author: Julie Kim
Published October 3rd, 2017 by Little Bigfoot

Summary: Where’s Halmoni? is a picture book in a graphic novel style, which follows the story of a young Korean girl and boy whose search for their missing grandmother leads them into a world inspired by Korean folklore, filled with mischievous goblins (dokkebi), a greedy tiger, a clever rabbit, and a wily fox.
Two young children pay a visit to Halmoni (grandmother in Korean), only to discover she’s not home. As they search for her, noticing animal tracks covering the floor, they discover a pair of traditional Korean doors, slightly ajar, new to their grandmother’s home. Their curiosity gets the best of them, and the adventure begins when they crawl through and discover an unfamiliar, fantastical world. As they continue to search for their grandmother and solve the mystery of the tracks, they go deeper into the world of Korean folklore and experience their cultural heritage in unexpected ways, meeting a number of Korean-speaking characters along the way.

Translations to Korean text in the story and more about the folktale-inspired characters are included at the end.

About the Author: Julie Kim is an author and illustrator living in Seattle, WA. She has published with Cricket Magazine, Scholastic, and Mondo. Where’s Halmoni? is her authorial debut.

Praise: “Julie Kim has created a visually stunning world that effortlessly infuses Korean text (Hangul) in rich, expressive art.”Cybils Awards, winner

“For its jaw-dropping art, encouraging bilingual attitude, and conscientious portrayal of Korean culture, Where’s Halmoni? is a perfect choice.” —School Library Journal, starred

“A sophisticated mélange of urban households, traditional Asian landscapes, vibrant color schemes, cultural details, subtle visual jokes, [and] pitch-perfect dialogue… This book is an excellent choice for either the picture-book or graphic-novel collection.” —Booklist, starred

“Kim’s bright, expressive illustrations are a delight…an accessible, diverse title for a broad readership.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred

“The sibling banter is believable and delightful, [and] Kim’s panel sequences teem with energy.” —Publishers Weekly, starred

ReviewThis book is a piece of art. The way that Kim combined traditional Korean folklore characters, including giving an explanation about each of them in the back; realistic sibling relationships; an adventure with beautiful settings; and her amazing artwork lent to the creation of a very special book. There is so much to unpack including homage to traditional Asian art styles, inferring opportunities, introduction to Korean folktales, and inclusion of Korean language. This book will be perfect as a read aloud with discussions, lit circles looking at folktales, or as an independent book for your adventure or graphic novel fans.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Where’s Halmoni? and its back matter are a perfect addition to a folklore unit including a discussion on how authors fracture/retell/modernize folktales in all cultures.

And P.S. a whole discussion/lesson could be done around the end pages!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did Kim intertwine traditional Korean folktale characters into her story?
  • What do the end sheets tell you that the rest of the story did not?
  • What clues were there at the beginning of the book that ultimately they would encounter a tiger and a fox?
  • How could you infer that Halmoni was their grandmother?
  • Before reading the translations of the Korean in the back of the book, use the context clues and try to guess what the characters are saying.
  • Would you consider this book a picture book or a graphic novel? Why?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Retellings and new takes on folktales

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**Thank you to little bigfoot for providing a copy for review!**

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The Space Race: How the Cold War Put Humans on the Moon
From the Nomad Press Inquire and Investigate Series
Author: Matthew Brenden Wood
Illustrated by: Sam Carbaugh

Summary: What do you see when you look up at the night sky? The potential for amazing discoveries and scientific advancement? During the 1950s and 60s, some people also saw a place that needed to be claimed.

In The Space Race: How the Cold War Put Humans on the Moon, middle school students will explore the bitter rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union that served as fuel for the fire that catapulted rockets into the great unknown of the next frontier-space. While Neil Armstrong will always be remembered as the first person to set foot on the moon, the people and events behind this accomplishment populate a fascinating tale of politics, science, technology, and teamwork that resulted in what might be the greatest accomplishment of the twentieth century.

About the Author: Matthew Brenden Wood is a math and science teacher with a passion for STEAM education. He is also an avid amateur astronomer and astrophotographer. Wood holds a bachelor’s degree in astronomy from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

Author Guest Post: 

“Take a Trip to the Moon!”

What pops into your head when you think about the Space Race? Most people probably think of Neil Armstrong’s famous line, “That’s one small step…” Or perhaps they think of the sound of Sputnik’s beep as it circled the globe. But that’s only a part of the amazing story of a race that started more than two decades before Neil and Buzz left their bootprints in the lunar dust, even before President Kennedy declared that the United States would send people to the moon and return them safely to Earth.

The path to the moon started at the end of World War II, as the United States and Soviet Union eyed each other warily across what became known as the Iron Curtain. New and fearsome weapons such as the atomic bomb and the Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile were front-page news as both nations looked to outdo the other.

The West viewed the Soviets as a backwards nation, lagging far behind in technology, education, and industry. However, everything changed with the launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957. People around the world marveled at the feat, and a new fear of communism swept across America. How had the Soviets beaten the Americans into space? What would they do next? How would the United States respond?

The launch of the world’s first artificial satellite was the firing of the starting gun in the race to the moon—it was also a new, dangerous development in the early days of the Cold War. Not only did the Soviets have a rocket that might carry a person into space, but that same rocket could carry an atomic bomb to any place on Earth. Suddenly, the United States was behind, and needed to catch up—fast. The race was on.

I wrote The Space Race: How the Cold War Put Humans on the Moon to take kids on the journey through the Space Race and the backdrop of the Cold War. For kids interested in history, it’s a look at how the relationship between the United States and Soviet Union shaped the world we live in today, from North Korea and Cuba to Russia and China. For those interested in space, it’s a window into the early days of space exploration and the incredible accomplishments on the way to the moon.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Here are some activities to get your kids thinking about the space race!

FIRST-PERSON ACCOUNT

The Cold War and Space Race were very important events in history. People around the world lived through the struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union, and millions tuned in to witness humanity’s first steps on a different world. Do you know someone who lived through these events?

  • Interview a family member or friend who experienced the Cold War and Space Race up close.

Questions to consider include the following:

  • How was life during the Cold War different from today?
    • Did it affect their everyday life?
    • Were they ever afraid during the Cold War? Why or why not?
    • Did they watch the moon landing? How did they and their friends and family react?
    • How did it feel to watch such an important moment in human history? Did they know how special it was at the time?

To investigate more, present their story however you think best represents their experience. You could write an essay, create a presentation, film a documentary—it’s up to you!

SPLAT!

Protecting an astronaut from the dangers of space travel is a difficult task. The early spacecraft used by both space programs were small, cramped capsules designed with only one thing in mind—bringing the passenger back safely to Earth. Can you do the same? Here’s your challenge: design a “space capsule” to protect a raw egg from the forces of gravity!

  • Assemble the materials you have on hand. What can you use that could protect an egg?
    • Design your space capsule. How will you use your materials? What is the best way to protect your “eggstronaut”?
    • Assemble your craft and test it (you can try using a hard-boiled egg first) by dropping it from shoulder height. Make any changes needed.
    • Try dropping your capsule with its passenger from differing heights. How does your design hold up? What is the biggest drop your eggstronaut can survive?

To investigate more, challenge others to a contest. Compare your strategies and designs. What materials and ideas work best?

Find more resources in the free classroom teaching guide!

Thank you so much, Matthew & Nomad Press!

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Be A King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrator: James E. Ransome
Published January 2nd, 2018 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Summary: You can be a King. Stamp out hatred. Put your foot down and walk tall.
You can be a King. Beat the drum for justice. March to your own conscience.

Featuring a dual narrative of the key moments of Dr. King’s life alongside a modern class as the students learn about him, Carole Weatherford’s poetic text encapsulates the moments that readers today can reenact in their own lives. See a class of young students as they begin a school project inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and learn to follow his example, as he dealt with adversity and never lost hope that a future of equality and justice would soon be a reality. As times change, Dr. King’s example remains, encouraging a new generation of children to take charge and change the world . . . to be a King. 

Praise: 

“While the book is accessible as an inspiring primer on social justice and taking action, it also challenges more sophisticated readers to make connections between the art, the text, Dr. King’s life, the civil rights movement at large, and the continuing struggle to affect change . . .This book is sure to spark discussion and empower readers of all ages.” –  Starred review, School Library Journal

“Thoughtful paintings of moving scenes are paired with brief, motivational reflections that evoke all the sentiment and fervor of the American civil rights movement.” –  Foreword Review

“The book manages to make essential lessons in civic responsibility accessible to the very young reader.” –  Booklist

“The historical scenes, painted in Ransome’s signature thick, saturated style, are infused with a powerful sense of narrative.” –  Publishers Weekly

“The use of rich, realistic paintings with pencil detailing for King’s life contrasts with the brighter, simpler drawings for the contemporary children, giving a physical reminder that his work is ongoing.” –  School Library Connection

ReviewI am so happy that a book like this exists! It makes a beautiful connection between King’s history and how the same concepts can (and should!) drive us today. The book is very young kid friendly and is a great scaffold to talk about Dr. King or about kindness; however, it could also be used with older kids to infer and go deeper into the lyrical language Weatherford uses. I also loved how Ransome’s illustrations changed between King’s biography and the more contemporary school narrative.

P.S. As a teacher and a person who believes in kindness and equity and acceptance and friendship, I am so happy to see conversations like this happening so freely now! My students and I speak about injustice and prejudice and equity so often now when it would have been a stigma just a few years ago to even mention race or other social justice issues. It is important to talk about race in a non-prejudicial way with children to allow them to learn and grown and reflect. Sadly, it has been through horrific injustices that has gotten us to this point, but hopefully with our future generations having these types of conversations starting at such a young age, these injustices will stop.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Have students look at each school spread (or split up the spreads between groups of students) and ask them to connect the ideals happening in the spread with something that King spoke about. This idea can also be used with the King spreads because it does not explicitly state what historical event each spread is representing, so students could look through King’s story and try to match each illustration and words with an event in his life.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What was Dr. King’s dream?
  • What are some ways you can fulfill this dream?
  • Although he was speaking of a much larger issue than a classroom, how can King’s ideals be transferred to how we treat each other in the classroom?
  • What events of King’s life were portrayed in the illustrations?
  • What other ways could you BE A KING?
  • Why do you believe the author wrote this story?
  • What is the author trying to teach the reader?
  • How did the author structure the story to reach her purpose and theme?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Stories of MLK, Jr.’s life, Books (historical fiction or nonfiction) about the Civil Rights MovementEach Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson,

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How to Code a Sandcastle
(How to Code with Pearl and Pascal #1)
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Sara Palacios
Foreword by Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code
Published May 15th, 2018 by Viking

Summary: From the computer science nonprofit Girls Who Code comes this lively and funny story introducing kids to computer coding concepts.

Pearl and her trusty rust-proof robot, Pascal, need to build a sandcastle before summer vacation is over, and they’re going to do it using code. Pearl breaks the big we-need-a-sandcastle problem into smaller steps, then uses conditionals, loops, and other basic coding concepts to tell Pascal exactly what to do. But building a sandcastle isn’t as easy as it sounds when surfboards, mischievous dogs, and coding mishaps get in the way! Just when it looks like the sandcastle might never work, Pearl uses her coding skills to save the day and create something even better: a gorgeous sandcastle kingdom!

Kellee’s Review:  Through books like the Secret Coders series, Two Naomis, and now How to Code a Sandcastle, I’ve slowly begun to learn more and more about coding, and I find it fascinating! If I was a kid now, I would be so excited to have books like these to introduce me to coding. How to Code a Sandcastle is special because it takes coding, which is a tool that is primarily not taught until middle school or later, and makes it accessible to younger kids helping them build their coding vocabulary and knowledge at a young age. My son at age 4 now knows a basic idea of what coding is which is such a great foundation! Bravo Josh and Brava Sara for producing such an essential and gosh-darn funny book for kids.

Ricki’s Review: Josh Funk does it again and again and again. He creates highly engaging books that are so teachable! This is my first book in the Girls Who Code series, and it most certainly won’t be my last. It makes coding quite fun and offers an engaging introduction to children. I don’t know anything about coding, and I had fun learning the vocabulary with my son. After we read the book, we went through again and reviewed all of the new words that we learned about coding. The educational value of this book is very high—it is a great first dive into STEM, it could be used to teach step-by-step instructional writing, and it’s an incredible and hilarious read-aloud! Thanks for this wonderful new text for our classrooms, Josh!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Like we shared above, How to Code a Sancastle is a wonderful foundation for learning about coding and would be an awesome read aloud in an elementary classroom as students are first being introduced to coding maybe on the “Day of Code” or before a computer course. It has a lot of introductory vocabulary and ideas that won’t overwhelm young children but will instead make them curious. Alternatively, it is also a great example of step-by-step instructional writing mixed with a hilarious narrative, so it would be a great mentor text for these writings.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did Pearl feel she needed to bring Pascal to build a sandcastle?
  • How did Pearl fix mistakes when she made them when coding Pascal?
  • What cause and effect relationships do you see in the story?
  • What problem and solution relationships do you see in the story?
  • How did the author include step-by-step instructions within the narrative while also keeping the story going?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Secret Coders series by Gene Luen Yang, Girls Who Code books, The coding references in Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Twenty Yawns by Jane SmileyOn Gull Beach by Jane Yolen

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A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
Author: Atia Abawi
Published: January 23, 2018 by Philomel

Guest Review by Rachel Krieger

Summary: In a country ripped apart by war, Tareq lives with his big and loving family . . . until the bombs strike. His city is in ruins. His life is destroyed. And those who have survived are left to figure out their uncertain future.

In the wake of destruction, he’s threatened by Daesh fighters and witnesses a public beheading. Tareq’s family knows that to continue to stay alive, they must leave. As they travel as refugees from Syria to Turkey to Greece, facing danger at every turn, Tareq must find the resilience and courage to complete his harrowing journey.

But while this is one family’s story, it is also the timeless tale of all wars, of all tragedy, and of all strife. When you are a refugee, success is outliving your loss.

Review: This book is astonishing. In a world where people like to avoid talking about awkward things or situations that make us sad, this novel is completely, unapologetically honest. With every horror that Tareq experiences, you will find yourself crying with him, hoping with him, and loving with him. You will wish you could be with Alexia helping these people to find new lives. It is impossible to read Abawi’s story without reflecting on your own life, wondering what destiny would write about you.

If you know nothing about the refugee crises happening all over the world, this story will give you a glimpse into the lives of people struggling every day. Although it only looks into the lives of a few refugees, it gave me an idea of how different the life of a refugee is to my own. Atia Abawi’s story will make you reflect on your own humanity and actions, changing the way you think about the world and your own privilege.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: This is the perfect book to start a discussion about the situation in Syria. Since it is so essential to address current events regardless of the sensitive nature of those events, teachers should start conversations about this war-torn region. There are many young adult novels that address immigration, however, this one specifically follows the process of that immigration. It would be very beneficial to have students read a book like this and a book like American Street to look at very different stories of immigration with a few similar characteristics. This book in conjunction with others about immigration could be the perfect opportunity to discuss the idea of the danger of a single story.

This novel also offers a very interesting twist on narration. Since destiny is the narrator of this novel rather than one of the characters, there are small parts of the story that reflect broadly on war and humanity. It could be interesting to have students think about how this odd source of narration changes the story. They could even experiment with their own unique narrators, discussing how these odd points of view add or detract from stories.

Discussion Questions: What does the perspective switch add to the novel? Do you think a book like this is likely to encourage people to support this cause? How does Destiny as the narrator change this story? How would this story change if Tareq was a woman?

We Flagged: “Making it to Germany ended Tareq’s crossing and escape from war, but his new life as a refugee is just beginning. There are millions of Tareq’s, Susans and Fayeds, all in search of safety and kindness. I hope you will provide that warmth, be that helper, do what you can to make that world a better place. Because when I meet you—and I will—there will be reckoning. There always is.”

Read This If You Loved: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Supetys, American Street by Ibi Zoboi, Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

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