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Hazardous Tales: Raid of No Return
Author and Illustrator: Nathan Hale
Published November 7th, 2017 by Abrams Books

Summary: A top secret mission needs volunteers.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States joined World War II. And soon after that, young pilots were recruited fro a very secret – and very dangerous – raid on Japan. No one in the armed forced had done anything like this raid before, and none of the volunteers expected to escape with their lives. But this was a war unlike any other before, which called for creative thinking as well as bravery.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales are graphic novels that tell the thrilling, shocking, gruesome, and TRUE stories of American history. Read them all – if you dare!

About the Author: Nathan Hale is the #1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales. He also wrote and illustrated the graphic novel One Trick Pony. Hale lives in Provo, Utah. Learn more at hazardoustales.com.

Praise: “Harrowing and no detail is left out . . . Hale’s tendency to incorporate character commentary, infographics, and fun facts will draw readers. Give this title to readers interested in action-packed graphic novels.” — School Library Journal

Review: The Hazardous Tales series is the series I use when kids say that nonfiction is boring AND when teachers say that graphic novels aren’t complex because this series, and this book, is complex, interesting, well crafted, funny, and just everything you’d want from any book, much less a nonfiction graphic novel.

And I am so happy to have a World War II Tale because so many students ask for it, and this is a new story for me, so I know it’ll be new for my students as well. Also, I think this specific mission will lead to many discussions because the idea of volunteering for a deadly mission is something that so many of my students struggle to understand because it isn’t something that they need to even consider, so to look at these men’s decision-making and willingness to fight for their country.

Other Hazardous Tales reviewed in the past here on Unleashing Readers: Alamo All-Stars and The Underground Abductor.

Hazardous Tales tip: I recommend starting with the first book, One Dead Spy, then you can read any of the others in any order.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’ve written in the past how I would incorporate this series as well as written a teaching guide for the first six books, but I wanted to allow another voice to share the brilliance of Hazardous Tales, so today my colleague, Kaleigh Gill who teaches 8th grade U.S. history, who started reading the series this summer and has read almost the whole series! I wanted to let her share why she loves the series and how she pictures it being part of her classroom:

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales opens up a world of American stories that are often overlooked. With multiple books focusing on big topics, like the Revolution, Civil War, Alamo and Westward Expansion, Hale is able to give students (and teachers!) an engaging and realistic depiction of the experiences of American heroes and villains. With his humorous and relatable characters, he is able to connect with young readers on an unprecedented level in regards to nonfiction novels.

One of my favorite attributes of Hale’s series is the way he inserts side stories filled with background information and informative detail on corresponding events and individuals. He has the ability to make these often dull stories, come alive with his animated and entertaining illustrations. His stories are sure to captivate readers of all ages and interests.

Every history teacher in the United States should read this series! Even if you feel you wouldn’t have enough time to teach the entire book, it would be a great visual to provide students when discussing certain topics or figures. Some excerpts in this series would only take about 5-10 minutes to read aloud and discuss with your students, but would definitely leave a lasting impact! This series has even inspired me to design lessons based around historical texts for young readers and has also ignited my love of history again. Leaving these books to simply sit in my classroom library, would be a huge waste for my curriculum and more importantly, my students. Not only will it give insight into little known stories of America’s major events to enhance instruction, but it will intrigue students to dive deeper into historical texts that they would typically overlook.

Teaching Guide for Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #1-#6:

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did these soldiers volunteer for a mission they knew nothing about and that they knew was very dangerous?
  • Why do you think the part of World War II in the South Pacific isn’t spoken about as much as the European front?
  • How did the planes have to be changed up to be successful for the mission? Why?
  • Trying reading the book the way it was written then switch it up and read one plane’s story at a time–which way did you enjoy better?
  • How did this mission change the course of the war against Japan?

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Read This If You Love: History, Graphic Novels, Other Hazardous Tales books

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Maximillian Villainous
Author: Margaret Chiu Greanias
Illustrator: Lesley Breen Withrow
Publication Date: August 28th, 2018 by Running Press Kids

Summary: A humorous and important book about learning to follow your heart and proving that kindness can outweigh villainy any day.

Maximillian Villainous is a monster who doesn’t have the heart to be a villain. His famous family pulls pranks on the likes of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, and Max spends his time undoing them. So when he brings home a bunny to be his sidekick, Max’s disapproving mother hatches a plan. She challenges Max and the bunny to become a devious duo; otherwise . . . the bunny hops. If they want to stay together, Max and the bunny have no choice but to go against their nature. They blunder into villainy with comical effect until Max discovers that embracing his good heart may just be the key to pulling off the most devious deed of all and winning his family’s acceptance.

Delightfully fun and irreverent, Maximillian Villainous is an empowering story about embracing one’s true self and finding acceptance. Up and coming illustrator Lesley Breen Withrow brings the characters to life with bold and colorful illustrations in a style reminiscent of Richard Scarry.

About the Creators: 

Margaret Greanias was inspired by her children’s love of the Despicable Me movies and all things Minion when writing Maximillian Villainous, her debut picture book. She lives with her husband, three children, and a fluffle of dust bunnies in the San Francisco Bay area.

Lesley Breen Withrow is the illustrator of several picture books, including You’re My Boo by Kate Dopirak and Bunny Bus by Ammi-Joan Paquette. Her artwork can also be seen on many products, including stationery collections and children’s games, toys, and apps. Lesley lives on beautiful Cape Cod with her family, a couple of crazy cats, and her daughters’ large and ever-growing collection of stuffed animals.

ReviewMaximillian’s story primarily focuses on someone being different than their family and how expectations set by others in the family may not fit what another person excels at. As a teacher, I wish I could read this book to so many people because I really struggle with parents and educators expect a kid to be a certain way because they know a sibling or a family member. That isn’t how it always works. I think this same theme could be used to talk about how expectations have to be differentiated in general, so I could actually see this story being used to talk to evaluators, leaders, etc. to talk about why Maximillian needed a change of assessment instead of the same as everyone else. Underlying, the message is that we can’t expect anyone to be anyway. Let them show you who they are and accept and love them as they are.

And all of these deep messages are within a funny story with fun illustrations about a monster who loves his bunny even though he is expected to be a villain.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Theme, theme, theme, theme!!! The author does a fabulous job writing a funny book that is just so perfect for talking about a lesson. The characterization of the Villainous family vs. Maximillian will allow for some fun compare/contrast and character trait activities as well. And this book definitely needs to join the empathy and community building read alouds–it will lead to some wonderful discussions and acceptance. Finally, I would love to see it used with teachers as a coaching tool to discuss the need to differentiate. Sometimes the directions we give need to be tweaked just a bit for certain kids, and we’ll get to see brilliance.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How is Maximmillian different than the rest of his family?
  • How does his family react to his differences?
  • What does Maximillian prove by the end of the book?
  • How did Maximillian manipulate the situation to show his worth?
  • Have you ever been in a situation where you felt that something was unfairly expected of you?
  • What is the message of Maximillian’s story?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Monsters vs. Kittens by Dani Jones, Normal Norman by Tara Lazar, Misunderstood Shark by Ame Dyckman

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**Thank you to Running Press for providing a copy for review!**

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Amal Unbound
Author: Aisha Saeed
Published May 8, 2018 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Goodreads Summary: Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when—as the eldest daughter—she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens—after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal—especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

Ricki’s Review: I read this book in one sitting. I’ve been thinking about it almost daily since I’ve read it. It’s an unforgettable story about a girl’s courage to survive. I don’t know her age, and although I suspect that the book is targeted by marketing teams for middle graders, it is quite simply a must-read for everyone. The book provides layers upon layers of themes and issues to consider. It made me think about privilege, freedom, education, and bravery, in particular. Amal is inspiring, and I greatly admire her courage in the face of adversity. When I was reviewing this book on GoodReads, I noticed that every one of my reader friends rated the book highly, and I am not surprised. Amal’s story is one that will stick with all readers. 

This is an important book. This is a book that will make your heart race. This is a book that I will read again and again.

Kellee’s Review: This story affected me much in the way that Sold, A Long Walk to Water, Rickshaw Girl, or Queen of Water did. As we fight for so many injustices here in America, there are unimaginable things happening to humans in other places around the world. Often somewhere like Pakistan seems so far away, but then you read a story like Amal’s and you see that the gap between you and her is not that big and we all just want happiness in our life. Amal’s strive for knowledge and willingness to help others are traits that make her unforgettable mostly when paired with the bravery she shows throughout this book. Amal’s story will truly help readers look through windows (and possibly mirrors) and have to face the privilege we do have and the injustice others face. 

On top of the very important theme and amazing main character, the story of Amal Unbound is heartwarming as well as heartbreaking and heart wrenching. And there is a truly suspenseful part also! The story is definitely one that will keep kids reading while also doing all of what I said above.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers could use this book as a read aloud, close reading/analysis, lit circle/book club, or classroom library text. It is rare that Kellee and I designate a book with all of these categories, but it’s a very adaptable text. It might be interesting for teachers to use this book as a whole-class read but using book groups. The groups could select a theme to study (e.g. education) and read other fiction and nonfiction related to the theme. This might allow for rich discussion across groups where they share their findings and teach each other.

Discussion Questions: 

  • In what ways did Amal show courage? Did you agree with all of her actions?
  • What is the role of education in this book?
  • Which characters stood out to you? What made them three-dimensional?
  • What is the role of family in the text?
  • What do you think the author’s purpose(s) might be?

We Flagged: “If everyone decided nothing could change, nothing ever would.”

Read This If You Loved: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed, Sold by Patricia McCormick, A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, The Queen of Water by Laura Resau, Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams, Diamonds in the Shadows by Caroline B. Cooney, Shabanu by Suzanne Fisher Staples, So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba

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Daring Dreamers Club #1: Milla Takes Charge
Author: Erin Soderberg
Illustrator: Anoosha Syed
Published June 5th, 2018 by Random House

Summary: When you follow your dreams, the possibilities are endless!

Milla loves nothing more than imagining grand adventures in the great wide somewhere, just like Belle. She dreams of traveling the world and writing about her incredible discoveries. Unfortunately, there is nothing pretend about the fifth-grade overnight and Milla’s fear that her moms won’t let her go.

Enter Piper, Mariana, Zahra, and Ruby. Together with Milla, they form the Daring Dreamers Club and become best friends. But can they help Milla believe she’s ready for this real grand adventure?

Diverse, talented, and smart–these five girls found each other because they all had one thing in common: big dreams. Touching on everyday dramas and the ups and downs of friendship, this series will enchant all readers who are princesses at heart.

About the Creators: 

ERIN SODERBERG lives in Minneapolis, MN, with her husband, three adventure-loving kids, and a mischievous Goldendoodle named Wally. Before becoming an author, she was a children’s book editor and a cookie inventor and worked for Nickelodeon. She has written many books for young readers, including the Quirks and Puppy Pirates series. Visit her online at erinsoderberg.com.

ANOOSHA SYED is a Pakistani illustrator & character designer for animation. She received her BFA in illustration at Ceruleum: Ecole d’arts Visuels in Switzerland, and now lives in Canada. Visit her online at anooshasyed.com.

Praise: 

“Though core issues of identity, independence, and teamwork ground the novel, Disney Princess devotees will likely be the most charmed. —Publishers Weekly

“I cannot wait to “hear” the stories of all the other girls! Brava Erin SD for kicking off a new series for the younger MG set! Positive messages for kids! —Goodreads Praise

“Young readers will be able to relate to the story, there is a positive message, and the characters provide a model of friendship, showing how friends work together and support on another. Loved meeting these girls!” —Goodreads Praise

ReviewI know that at first this book may seem like a book that only Disney or Princess lovers would like, but it is so much more than that! So please do not judge this book by that idea! Instead you will find a story about girls who find a deep friendship within each other after being placed in a group at school together. With the guidance of an amazing educator, they look deep within themselves and join as a group while still celebrating their individuality.

Now, as someone who DOES love Disney and Disney princesses, I loved the angle that this book took! After the first assignment by their group teacher, the girls are asked to write about a princess who they connect with. Milla and her friends are using the strengths of the princesses as inspiration to build their own strengths. For example, Milla feels like her life is very sheltered, and she loves to write, so she finds inspiration in Belle. Ruby, who is athletic and prides herself in her strength, first struggles to connect with a princess but then she realizes that Mulan is a person that is very much who she would like to be. And each girl does her own reflection (written in her own words in a journal format).

This first book focuses on Milla, but we get to know all the girls through the inclusion of the journals and from Milla’s point of view. I assume that future books will also be in different points of view to allow readers to get to know more in depth each of the characters. I look forward to future books to see where Piper, Milla, Mariana, Ruby, Zahra and Ms. Bancroft go next!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I love Ms. Bancroft! And I think that how she had the girls introduce themselves and her first assignment that she gave the Daring Dreamers Club would be wonderful activities in a classroom:

  • “I’d love for each of you to introduce yourself and share one of your big dreams.”
  • “I want each of you to think of a princess you connect with or feel inspired by and explain why. Dig deep and really think about your answer.”

Since each of the girls’ answers are shared in the book, they would be a great thing to share as well.

In addition, this book is going to be LOVED by realistic fiction fans! I cannot wait to share it with my students.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which of the five main characters do you connect with the most?
  • If you had to choose a princess you connect with, who would you choose?
  • Do you think Milla went about getting her moms to trust her correctly?
  • How does Ms. Bancroft inspire the girls? How is she different than the last music teacher?
  • What is one of your big dreams?

Flagged Passages: “Milla loved reading and writing just about anything, but there was nothing she enjoyed more than creating adventures for herself. In Milla’s stories, she was always a brave hero without fears or worries of any kind. One of the things Milla most loved about writing was that she was totally in charge and got to make all the decisions about what would happen on her adventures. The only limitation was her imagination, and her imagination was vast.” (p. 6)

Read This If You Love: Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin, Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson, Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol, Whatever After by Sarah Mlynowski

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**Thank you to Sydney at Penguin Random House for providing a copy for review!**

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The Day You Begin
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrator: Rafael López
Publication Date: August 28th, 2018 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Summary: National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and two-time Pura Belpre Illustrator Award winner Rafael López have teamed up to create a poignant, yet heartening book about finding courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone.

There will be times when you walk into a room
and no one there is quite like you.

There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.

Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.

Kellee’s Review: A beautiful book about the power of differences while also acknowledging the challenges that feeling as if you don’t fit in cause. I loved that the story was not exactly narrative but instead of a snapshot into multiple kids’ lives to help show different examples of differences. We are all unique and that is what makes this book and our world beautiful!

Woodson’s lyrical language with Lopez’s collage and colorful illustration makes this book a piece of art that is going to bridge gaps, help students think about others, give readers a mirror and a window, and build empathy in all that read it.

Ricki’s Review: A great many kids and adults will find solace in the text. The writing and illustrations are stunning. Every once in a while, a book comes around like this one. It is simply magical. I don’t often purchase bound copies of my F&Gs, but I knew I needed to pre-order this one after I read it. It is a great book for teachers to read on the first day. The emotional impact is powerful. Everyone has felt excluded at some time or another, and this book digs deeply into that emotion and pushes readers to analyze that feeling and push through it to find strength and resolve. I am having a difficult time conveying the power of this book. I promise you will love it.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Building classroom community around kindness and empathy is essential in building a safe, trusting environment for our students, and this text will be a perfect addition to any text set you have that focuses on these topics. In addition to these social-emotional impacts, the text allows for talks of theme, mood, and author’s intent.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is one way that you feel very different than most people around you? How could people support you? How could you support others who feel different?
  • What examples of people’s differences did Woodson highlight in the story?
  • What was the mood for the first large portion of the text?
  • What is the theme of the book?
  • Why do you think the author felt compelled to write this book?
  • Why are differences important in our community? Nation? Classroom?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Each Kindness by Jacqueline WoodsonI Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoët, Normal Norman by Tara LazarAdrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell, What Can a Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers, Pink is for Boys by Rob PearlmanCome with Me by Holly McGhee, We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio

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Masterpiece Robot and the Ferocious Valerie Knick-Knack
Author: Frank Tra
Illustrator: Rebecca Evans
Published April 17th, 2018 by Tilbury House Publishers

Summary: Masterpiece Robot pays tribute to the power of a child’s vivid imagination, which can transform a suburban autumn backyard into a futuristic battleground and Laura’s lively siblings into unwitting but enthusiastic participants in a fight for a planet’s survival. We begin in Laura’s bedroom where she is struggling to find her way into the story she wants to write, and we end there with Laura putting the finishing touches on her triumphant tale.

When Laura―a.k.a. Masterpiece Robot―heads into the backyard with her little sister Molly―a.k.a. Sidekick―her active imagination places them instead on patrol around the perimeter of a dystopian city, guarding against super villains. Then older sister Amber―a.k.a. Valerie Knick-Knack―throws handfuls of fallen leaves at them, unknowingly initiating a battle for the ages.

This one is such a fun read, and one kids will definitely relate to! It also lets adults relive those childhood memories where ordinary things – such as a pile of leaves, or a large cardboard box – can turn extraordinary with just a bit of imagination. The transitions back and forth from suburbia to dystopia in this story within a story are deftly rendered with contrasting palettes. The rollicking interactions of the sibling heroes and villains make Masterpiece Robot pure fun to read.

About the Author & Illustrator: 

A child of Vietnamese immigrants, FRANK TRA proudly calls Wichita, Kansas home. Frank attended the University of Kansas to wrestle and write comic books. While there, he also earned a Doctorate in Pharmacy. He has been a cancer pharmacist for the last ten years. Frank’s writing credits include two graphic novels and several comic books. Masterpiece Robot is his first children’s book. Dr. Tra resides in a quiet neighborhood with his wife, Katy, and their six children: Amber, Laura, Roman, Molly, Tommy, and Isaac. He spends his spare time writing, fishing, and coaching his high school wrestling team.

REBECCA EVANS worked for nine years as an artist and designer before returning to her first love: children’s book illustrations and writing. Her children’s books include Someday I’ll Fly; Friends in Fur Coats; The Good Things; The Shopkeeper’s Bear; Naughty Nan; Amhale in South Africa; Vivienne in France; Mei Ling in China; Marcela in Argentina; Tiffany in New York; and Tatiana in Russia. She lives in Maryland with her husband and four young children, shares her love of literature and art regularly at elementary schools, teaches art at the Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts, and works from her home studio whenever time permits. Rebecca’s boundless imagination enjoys free rein at www.rebeccaevans.net.

ReviewI love this book! I love the story, I love the spread of imaginative play, and I love the humor! It is so smart how the author and illustrator told both stories: the literal and the imaginative, and both stories are developed and fun to read together AND separately. This made for a quite complex book which is also really appealing to kids (and parents/teachers). I’m also a big fan of the artwork in the book. The illustrator did an amazing job changing the style just a bit for the imaginative and the reality but also kept her signature style in both. The illustrations definitely added to the narrative making this book a must get. I also loved that this is a sci-fi picture book because not many exist.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: There are a few different ways I envision this book being used in a classroom. First, I would like to say that it’s best would be in a read aloud with a conversation around the reality versus imaginative. There is also some great word choices and vocabulary throughout. Lastly, the reality has very little narrative, so students could write the story of what is actually happening. The discussion questions shared below will also lead to some great activities and discussions.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What character in real life was the imaginative characters?
  • Compare and contrast the reality and imaginative story.
  • How did the illustrator change her style for reality versus sci fi?
  • Think of a chore that you do at home. What could you imagine you were doing when you are doing your chore?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Zathura by Chris Van Allsburg, Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Not a Box by Antoinette Portis, Going Places by Paul and Peter Reynolds, Weslandia by Paul Fleishman, and other books that promote imagination and creativity

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Fox + Chick: The Party and Other Stories
Author and Illustrator: Sergio Ruzzier
Published April 17th, 2018 by Chronicle Books

Summary: Fox and Chick don’t always agree. But Fox and Chick are always friends. With sly humor and companionable warmth, Sergio Ruzzier deftly captures the adventures of these two seemingly opposite friends. The luminous watercolor images showcased in comic-book panel form will entice emerging readers, while the spare text and airiness of the images make this early chapter book accessible to a picture book audience as well.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Activities for The Party and Other Stories include:

How to Read a Graphic Novel

Reading a graphic novel differs from reading prose text because readers must infer everything outside of the dialogue they are given and what is presented in the illustrations.

First, using Fox + Chick discuss the differences with your class between a picture book, a chapter book, and a graphic novel. Make sure to point out the parts of a graphic novel like speech bubbles show what the characters are saying, panels (each square), and the gutter (the space between panels). Then discuss how to read a graphic novel (typically read left to right, top to bottom).

Extension activity: Discuss with students why an author would choose to write their story as a graphic novel versus a chapter book or picture book.

Then, to show how inferences have to be made between panels, use pages 2/3 to page 4. As a reader you can infer that Chick continued walking to the house shown on page 2/3 even though the illustrations don’t show each little step. Also, between the first two panels on page 4, the reader can infer that Chick had to wait a bit even though the panels don’t show it.

After reading the story, have students show how they use inferring to comprehend the story by:

K-1st: Retell the story including inferences made between panels and what the illustrations show.

2nd-3rd: Rewrite the story as a narrative including inferences made between panels and what the illustrations show.

Conflict and Resolution

Conflict is the problem with a story or part of a story while the resolution is how that problem is solved. In each of the chapters in Fox + Chick, there is a conflict and a resolution. Each chapter gives an opportunity to learn these narrative elements.

For chapter 1, “The Party,” as a class, determine the conflict and the resolution.

For chapter 2, “Good Soup,” have students determine the conflict and resolution in pairs.

For chapter 3, “Sit Still,” have students determine the conflict and resolution independently.

Character Traits

Character traits are all the aspects of a character’s behavior from how they act to what they think.

Before reading: As a class, list the character traits the students assume a fox and a chick are going to have. How will they act? What type of personality will they have? How are they going to interact with each other?

After reading: Independently or as a class, have students complete a character trait activity on each character. Have students answer the following questions then place their answers into a graphic organizer:

How did the character act in the story?

What feelings did the character portray in the story?

What words would you use to describe the character’s personality?

See the Teaching Guide Created by me (Kellee) for even more activities and discussion questions! 

You can also access the teaching guide through Chronicle’s website here.

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