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Framed: A T.O.A.S.T Mystery
Author: James Ponti
Published August 26th, 2016 by Aladdin

Summary: Get to know the only kid on the FBI Director’s speed dial and several international criminals’ most wanted lists all because of his Theory of All Small Things in this hilarious start to a brand-new middle grade mystery series.

So you’re only halfway through your homework and the Director of the FBI keeps texting you for help…What do you do? Save your grade? Or save the country?

If you’re Florian Bates, you figure out a way to do both.

Florian is twelve years old and has just moved to Washington. He’s learning his way around using TOAST, which stands for the Theory of All Small Things. It’s a technique he invented to solve life’s little mysteries such as: where to sit on the on the first day of school, or which Chinese restaurant has the best eggrolls.

But when he teaches it to his new friend Margaret, they uncover a mystery that isn’t little. In fact, it’s HUGE, and it involves the National Gallery, the FBI, and a notorious crime syndicate known as EEL.

Can Florian decipher the clues and finish his homework in time to help the FBI solve the case?

Review: I love mysteries; specifically mysteries with kids who solve things that adults couldn’t figure out. They are so much fun to follow along and try to figure out with the characters. Florian is one of the best kid detectives that I’ve read. His use of TOAST, the Theory of All Small Things, is so admirable and is something that kids could definitely learn from since they so often ignore the small things and focus on the obvious. I could definitely see games and activities being created for classrooms that use the TOAST theory. Or kids will play the type of games that Florian and Margaret played as Florian was training Margaret in TOAST: making inferences about the people around them, in stories, or with mysteries. I could see pairing TOAST with books like You Be The Jury

I also really enjoyed the mystery that James Ponti set up for us. I could predict part of it but other parts came as a total surprise to me. I am always in total awe of an author’s ability to craft such a complicated mystery and how it all comes together. I also loved that the story was mutli-faceted and will teach the readers as well as entertain them.

And I am so happy to say that Framed is on our 2017-2018 Sunshine State Young Reader Award list for both 3rd-5th grade AND 6th-8th grade! Congratulations, James!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to the mystery games that could be played using TOAST, reading aloud Framed, and having Framed available to students to read, there are lots of opportunities in the book to discuss art and art history. Since both of Florian’s parents work in the museum business and the mystery of the book focuses on an art heist, there multiple times where art comes into the story including discussion of impressionism (specifically Monet, Renoir, and Degas) and even stories of Van Gogh and Gaugin.

Discussion Questions: Did you figure out the mystery before it was revealed? Was there any foreshadowing now that you know the reveal?; What did you learn about art while reading Framed?; How could you use TOAST in your life?

Flagged Passages: “‘You want me to teach you TOAST?’

‘Toast?’ she asked. ‘You’ve tasted my cookies, which are…epic. Don’t you think I know how to make toast?’

‘Not that toast,’ I said. ‘TOAST stands for The Theory of All Small Things. That’s how I read people and places. The idea is that if you add up a bunch of little details, it reveals the larger truth.’

‘And where did you learn this theory? Philosophy class? Spy school?’

‘I…invented it…I guess.’

This made her laugh. ‘You invented TOAST?’

‘It’s based on some things I learned from my parents,’ I said. ‘But I pull it all together and came up with the name. So yes, I invented it.’

‘You said your parents work at museums, right?’

‘My father designs security systems, and one day he explained that the key to his job is finding the tiny flaw or inconsistency that the bad guys can take advantage of.’

‘Like the saying that ‘a chain is only as strong as its weakest link’?’

‘Exactly,’ I said. ‘And my mother’s an art conservator. She restores old paintings and says the best way to understand a painting is by finding the smallest details that tells you the whole story, like the smile on the Mona Lisa.’

‘And this led to TOAST?’

I nodded. ‘Even though their jobs are incredibly different, they both rely on the idea that tiny things can be hugely important,’ I explained. ‘Once I even used TOAST to help my dad catch a criminal.'” (Approximate Loc 221 in the ebook)

Read This If You Loved: Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett, Heist Society by Ally Carter, Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach, Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz, Loot by Jude Watson, Nickel Bay Nick by Dean Pitchford, Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand, Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson, Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher, A Girl Named Digit by Annabel Monaghan,

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**Thank you to the author for providing copies for review!**

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The Fourteenth Goldfish
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Published: April 5, 2016 by Yearling

A Guest Review by Kelsey Iwanicki

Summary: The Fourteenth Goldfish follows the story of Ellie, an 11-year-old girl, who is currently struggling to find her passion, especially following the gradual drop off with her one and only friend, Brianna. However, everything changes when her mother brings home a quirky and crabby 13-year-old boy, Melvin. Ellie notices striking similarities between Melvin and her seventy-something year-old grandfather until he comes clean and tells her that they are in fact the same person. Melvin has worked on developing a drug to reverse the signs of aging, which has successfully worked on himself.

As Ellie and Melvin get closer, they also form an unlikely friendship with a goth student, Raj. Together they give Melvin advice about being a teenager, such as giving him acne medicine and hair elastics. They also help Melvin eventually, after a few failed attempts, steal the same compound that reversed his age. Melvin’s original plan was to steal the gene so he could share it with the world and receive the Nobel Peace Prize. However, Ellie persuaded him not to on the grounds of moral ethics and how scientific impacts can be both positive and negative. Due to this, Melvin flushes the compound down the drain and starts to tour the country. Thanks to her time with her grandfather, Ellie is able to discover his passion in science and also gain a few friends along the way, Raj and Momo.

Review: What I liked most about this book was its quirkiness, mostly exemplified through Melvin. Although the relationship between Ellie and Melvin is untraditional, you can also get glimpses of a typical relationship between a grandfather and granddaughter is like, one that isn’t usually written about. The majority of characters are nontraditional, such as Raj, who is explicitly written as goth; Ellie, a girl scientist (although this is becoming more popular, usually boys are the ones in the STEM fields); and Melvin, as a grumpy 13-year-old.

What I didn’t like about the book was the build-up. Although they failed multiple times at stealing the compound, there was no suspense for when Melvin actually succeeded. Rather, he just came home one day with it. The climax actually was when Ellie had a self-realization that science has both positives and negatives, which honestly was kind of a let down because the plot had focused around getting the compound from the lab. Ultimately, it was a good theme because Ellie realizes there are good and bad things with any passion.

All in all, I did like the book, I think it could appeal to students who are interested in science and realistic fiction books.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book should definitely be included in a classroom library for independent reading because I think it would appeal for students because it is a little quirky and has some interesting characters. It could also prompt some interesting discussions for literature circles because students could discuss the ethics behind using a compound to reverse aging.

A teacher could also use it as a read aloud for a few reasons. It would be interesting to consider the other perspectives of characters such as Melvin or Melissa, Ellie’s mother. Additionally, they could talk about the character traits and what makes Melvin and Ellie such strong characters. Or, they could talk about science and ethics behind what scientists release.

Discussion Questions: If you had a compound that could reverse aging, would you take it? Why or why not?; If you discovered a compound that could reverse aging, would you deliver it to the public? Why or why not?; What do you think will happen to Ellie and Brianna’s friendship? Ellie and Momo’s?; What do you think the side affects are from taking the compound? / What do you think happened to Melvin?; Put yourself in Ellie’s shoes, how would you feel if your grandfather attended the same school as you?; What is the importance of the fourteenth goldfish?

Flagged Passage: “Average people just give up at the obstacles we face every day. Scientists fail again and again and again. Sometimes for our whole lives. But we don’t give up, because we want to solve the puzzle” (p. 47).

Read This If You Loved: El Deafo by Cece Bell; Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt; Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper; Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin; Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

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Thank you, Kelsey!

RickiSig

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Nonfiction Wednesday

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

Hazardous Tales: Alamo All-Stars
Author and Illustrator: Nathan Hale
Published March 29th, 2016 by Abrams Books

Summary: “Remember the Alamo!” That rallying cry has been a part of Texas lore for generations. But who were the ragtag group of adventurers behind the famous slogan, and how did they end up barricaded in a fort against a Mexican army? Who survived, who died, and how? This sixth book in the bestselling Hazardous Tales series tracks the Lone Star State’s bloody fight for independence from the Mexican government. It features the exploits of the notorious Jim Bowie, as well as Stephen Austin, Davy Crockett, and other settlers and soldiers who made the wild frontier of Texas their home—all told with the inimitable style and humor for which Nathan Hale is known.

Teaching Guide with Discussion Questions and Activities from Abrams by ME!, Kellee Moye: 

How to use this guide

  • For Alamo All-Stars, opportunities to have discussions and complete activities across different content areas are shared. In the “Fun Across the Curriculum” section, these activities and discussion questions are split into subject areas and are written as if they are being asked of a student.
  • At the end of the guide, Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards are listed that can be met when the books are extended using the activities and discussion questions.

Fun Across the Curriculum

  • Language Arts
    • The title page and the cover show two different illustrations of the Alamo. Compare and contrast the illustrations. Using information from the text, when is the cover illustration from, and when is the title page illustration from?
    • Why would Alamo All-Star need two narrators, Nathan Hale and Vincente Guerrero, while all of the other Hazardous Tales books only needed Hale? How would the story have differed if only Hale had narrated the book? What about only Guerrero?
    • On page 10-11, Guerrero uses the metaphor of a set table to describe Texas in the 1820s. Why does he use this metaphor to describe the state of Texas at this time?
    • On page 18, Hale uses another metaphor of an explosive barrel to illustrate the situation Austin and his settlers were in. How does an explosive barrel and Austin’s situation relate to each other?
    • After researching cholera (science section), look at Hale’s personification of the disease on page 37. Why did he choose this creature to embody cholera?
    • Many different events and problems caused Santa Anna’s army to be able to easily defeat the Texans at the Battle of the Alamo. Create a cause/effect graphic organizer showing the correlation between different events leading up to the Battle of the Alamo and the fall of the Alamo.
      • For example:
    • Much of what happened at the Alamo during the infamous battle as well as stories about Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie have become an American legend. What is a legend? Why has some parts of the story of the Alamo become a legend and not a complete factual part of history?
    • Throughout the book, Hale includes direct quotes from primary sources. How do these quotes enhance the story? How are primary sources more reliable when sharing historical events than secondary sources?
  • History/Social Studies
    • The page of Texas on the end sheets shares the different battles during the Texas revolution. Using Alamo All-Stars, convert the map into a timeline by graphing each battle on the date/year they were fought.
    • Using the text feature on pages 10-11 that shared the 1820s Texas settlers, answer the following: how did each settler threaten each other? Why was Texas such a treacherous place at this time? Who was the rightful settler of Texas?
      • Then, split the class up into 8 groups and assign a group of settlers to each group of students. They then should research the group, and determine how they ended up in Texas, why they felt they deserved to stay in Texas, etc.
    • Page 12 defines a filibuster and gives an example of one. What other famous filibusters have happened in history? Use the Wikipedia article “Filibuster (military)” and its resources to learn about other filibuster expeditions. Unlike the James Long Expedition, were any successful?
    • Throughout the book, Mexico goes through different types of governments: a monarch (inferred from p. 16), a republic (mentioned on p. 17), and a despotic (mentioned on p. 40). Compare and contrast the similarities and differences of the different types of governments.
    • Page 88 shows one of the many flags that have flown over Texas. Using the Texas State Historical Information article “Flags of Texas” and the Flags of the World website, learn about all of the different flags that Texas has flown. Why have so many flown over Texas? Where does the phrase “six flags of Texas” come from?
    • On page 104, Santa Anna compares himself to Napoleon. How are the two men similar? How do they differ?
    • On page 113, Hale jokes, “Don’t feel bad. Everyone forgets about Goliad.” Why do you think the Battle of the Alamo is remembered by so many while the massacre at Goliad is not?
    • Why are Travis, Seguin, Bowie, and Crockett pictured on the front of Alamo All-Stars? Is this who you would consider the all-stars of the Alamo? If not, why not? If so, what did they do to deserve that title? Is there anyone else you would consider an Alamo all-star?
  • Science
    • Cholera killed tens of thousands in the summer of 1833 including Bowie’s wife and her family. What is cholera? How does it spread? Why did Bowie’s family try to travel north to escape it?
    • On page 47, Noah Smithwick was quotes sharing that one member of the Gonzales army had a nose bleed; however, he used scientific terms such as nasal appendage and sanguinary fluid. What do these terms mean?
  • Math
    • On page 31, Rezin Bowie mentions that they were outnumbered 14 to 1 during the battle. Using the illustrations and clues in the “Jim Bowie and the Lost Mine” section to determine how many men were on Bowie’s side and how many men they fought and defeated.
    • Santa Anna’s army outnumbered the Texans by a large amount. Using the information shared about the number of men in each side of the battle, determine an approximate ratio of the battle.
      • After you estimate using Alamo All-Stars, research the actual number of men at the battle and determine the ratio. How close was your estimate?
  • Foreign Language (Spanish and French)
    • Throughout the text, different Spanish words are used, many of which can be defined using context clues or connecting to the English language because they are cognates with a word you already know. Look through the book, and try to define all foreign language vocabulary. Some words throughout the book:
      • El Gran Libro Enorme de la Historia Mexicana (p. 6)
      • ejercito de las tres garantias (p. 9)
      • empresario (p. 12)
      • mucho (p. 16)
      • viva la revolución (p. 21)
      • fantástico (p. 31)
      • Dios y libertad (p. 36)
      • alcalde (p. 45)
      • fandangos (p. 72-84)
      • voy a firmarlo (p. 98)
      • mes amis (p. 103 | French)
        • Which words were easier to define? Why were they easier?
  • Music
    • At the Battle of the Alamo, both Santa Anna’s army and the Texas army played music (p. 91). Research to determine what music was played at the battle. Why would they play music while preparing for a battle?

The teaching guide, along with the other books in the series, can also be viewed at: https://www.scribd.com/document/326377929/NathanHale6-TeachingGuide or http://www.abramsbooks.com/academic-resources/teaching-guides/

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The Sweet Spot
Author: Stacy Barnett Mozer
Published March 25th, 2016 by Spellbound River Press

Summary: When thirteen-year-old Sam Barrette’s baseball coach tells her that her attitude’s holding her back, she wants to hit him in the head with a line drive. Why shouldn’t she have an attitude? As the only girl playing in the 13U league, she’s had to listen to boys and people in the stands screaming things like “Go play softball,” all season, just because she’s a girl. Her coach barely lets her play, even though she’s one of the best hitters on the team.

All stakes now rest on Sam’s performance at baseball training camp. But the moment she arrives, miscommunication sets the week up for potential disaster. Placed at the bottom with the weaker players, she will have to work her way up to A league, not just to show Coach that she can be the best team player possible, but to prove to herself that she can hold a bat with the All-Star boys.

Review: I wish I was Sam. I love baseball, but like most girls, softball is really the only option. I right away had a direct connection with Sam because she was living a dream I had when I was younger. But I also know how hard it is to cross gender barriers. As a “tomboy” you are constantly questioned and made fun of, so to be so out in the spotlight, Sam definitely feels she needs to prove herself. As a female, there are so many moments in this book that seem too real and really made me angry: she is called emotional just because she is passionate, people act as if she is fragile and can’t take care of herself, and her talent is constantly questioned. And when she stands up for herself, she is told to take a joke or calm down. Even outside of the scenario of playing baseball, these are things that woman are going to here–from males and other females! 

But in addition to this too-real reflection of life, Sam’s story will hit home with anyone who has tried to do something that others thought they couldn’t. Or anyone who has been somewhere that they don’t fit in. Or anyone who has been underestimated in general.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to adding this title to any library for middle school students, I also envision Sweet Spot as a lit circle or book club title. It has so much to talk about, and it would definitely fit in with other books that have the big idea of an underdog. It could also definitely be paired with Zootopia!

Discussion Questions: What stereotypical statements do characters say to Sam throughout the book? How does she overcome these assumptions people made about her?; Sam is called emotional; however, if a boy was acting the same way as her, how would he described in the sports world? Why do you think there is a double standard?; How is Sam’s experience at baseball camp different than what she expected?; How does Mike grow throughout the book? How does Sam?

Flagged Passages: “Laughter and chants fill my ears as I step up to the plate.

‘Is that a ponytail?’

‘Easy out!’

‘Go back to softball!’

I take a deep breath and clear my head. It’s not like I haven’t heard it all before.

The pitcher motions for the fielders to move in, then goes into his wind-up, making a big show of the ease at which he will strike me out. I bite my lip and focus.

The ball comes in. I judge the timing and location of my swing–then swing a bit lower.

‘Strike!’

I take a step back and pretend to be upset. The hooting gets louder, but this time it’s easy to ignore. Out on the mound the pitcher grins. He looks around, nods at his team, and I can almost hear the ‘told you sos.’ I may have to slam the next one right at his…

‘Time out!’

Uh, oh.

Coach Duncan storms out to the plate. I give him my best, what’s up? look. The way he glares at me, I know he isn’t buying it.

‘Sam, what was that?’

‘What do you mean, Coach?’

Coach’s bulky face reddens. A drop of sweat slides down his nose. Gross.

‘Do I need to remind you that it is the bottom of the eighth, the score is 0-0, and there are two outs? Stop fooling and play ball.’

‘Bout time you let me,’ I grumble. My batting average is better than the boys on my team. Yet even today, in the 13U Championships, he kept me warming the bench until I fielded last inning.

‘You know what I mean,’ he says. He moves to go back to the bench, then stops and comes closer so only I can hear his next words.

‘And Sam,’ he says. ‘Target this guy, and there’s no way I’ll recommend you for the travel team.'” (p. 1-2)

Read This If You Love: Baseball, Coming of Age Novels, Boy Who Saved Baseball by John Ritter, Ghost by Jason Reynolds, Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

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And don’t miss out on book 2: The Perfect Trip

Published March 24th, 2017

Although I am not going to share the summary (SPOILERS!), I will tell you that it is a wonderful sequel to Sam’s story. Although the conflict is a bit different than the first, it really gives you more insight into Sam and Mike’s families and Sam’s struggle with proving herself.

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Posted
Author: John David Anderson
Published May 2nd, 2017 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: From John David Anderson, author of the acclaimed Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, comes a humorous, poignant, and original contemporary story about bullying, broken friendships, and the failures of communication between kids. In middle school, words aren’t just words. They can be weapons. They can be gifts. The right words can win you friends or make you enemies. They can come back to haunt you. Sometimes they can change things forever.

When cell phones are banned at Branton Middle School, Frost and his friends Deedee, Wolf, and Bench come up with a new way to communicate: leaving sticky notes for each other all around the school. It catches on, and soon all the kids in school are leaving notes—though for every kind and friendly one, there is a cutting and cruel one as well.

In the middle of this, a new girl named Rose arrives at school and sits at Frost’s lunch table. Rose is not like anyone else at Branton Middle School, and it’s clear that the close circle of friends Frost has made for himself won’t easily hold another. As the sticky-note war escalates, and the pressure to choose sides mounts, Frost soon realizes that after this year, nothing will ever be the same.

Critical Praise: 

“Written with understated humor and fine-tuned perception, Frost’s first-person narrative offers a riveting story as well as an uncomfortably realistic picture of middle school social dynamics.” — Booklist (starred review)

“Anderson dives into the world of middle school with a clear sense of how it works and what it needs. Kids, and the rest of the world, need more books like this one.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Anderson captures the tumultuous joys and pains of middle school with honesty, creating characters with whom readers will find common ground and insight. Words have lingering and persistent power, Anderson makes clear, but so does standing up for others and making one’s voice heard.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Acute observations about social media and school life and a smart, engaging narrator make this a journey well worth taking. Readers might even want some Post-it notes to mark the good parts.” — The Horn Book

About the Author: John David Anderson is the author of Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Sidekicked, Minion, and The Dungeoneers. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wife, two kids, and perpetually whiny cat in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at www.johndavidanderson.org

Review: First, I must start with stating my awe with Mr. Anderson. I have read four of his five books and each is stellar. But what really makes him stand out as an exemplar author to me is that he has tackled three different genres in his five books and each one was just as good as the others. Ms. Bixby and Posted are realistic fiction, Sidekicked and Minion are superhero sci-fi, and Dungeoneers is high fantasy. How impressive! Now onto my review of Posted

There are books that I read that just feel true to me, and Posted fits that. As a middle school teacher, I could picture all of the characters as true middle school students and know that so many readers will connect with someone in the book. Although some of the adults in the book fit a typecast of teachers (they are probably pretty realistic representations of how middle schoolers see some teachers though), they were needed to propel the story. And Mr. Sword is anything but a stereotype and one of those teachers that I just love in books because he cares! I also felt that the bullying represented is, sadly, probably a pretty true representation. Middle school really is all about finding your tribe. So many kids are trying to find their identity and are influenced by so much which sometimes leads to mean kids; however, there are really awesome middle schoolers as well which you can also see in this book. I love these middle schoolers (Frost, Rose, Wolf, Deedee, and even Bench), and I know you and any kid you share this book with will as well. 

What I think makes this book stand out, though, is the theme that words can hurt. They are powerful and can change lives. They can be used for good or evil.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Much of what Mr. Sword does in his class is easily transferable to a classroom. Throughout the book, he is teaching Julius Caesar so quotes/discussions throughout could definitely be used in conjunction with a Julius Caesar lesson. I, personally, love his aphorism activity. It reminded me a bit of the precept activity in Wonder (and they could easily work together if you do a precept activity). Mr. Sword has students create their ow aphorism to share with their students. I think this, like Mr. Sword says, helps students realize that “all of us have something meaningful to share.” Frost also talks about poetry throughout the book, his poetry and Robert Frost, and these sections could be used to inspire students when it comes to poetry.

Discussion Questions: Have you ever had a nickname? Did you like it or not? Out of all the nicknames, one seems to be more negative than the others–which one is it? Do you think the character likes his nickname?; Do you think Deedee started the war? Should he blame himself?; Do you agree with what Wolf’s parents decided?; How did Rose change everything? Do you think everything would have changed without her moving to the school?

Flagged Passages: “Words accumulate. And once they’re free, there’s no taking them back.

You can do an awful lot of damage with a handful of words. You can destroy friendships. You can end a marriage. You can start a war. Some words can break you to pieces.

But that’s not all. Words can be beautiful. They can make you feel things you’ve never felt before. Gather enough of them and sometimes they can stick those same pieces back together.” (p. 342)

Characters: 

Read This If You Loved: Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks & Gita Varadarajan, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Zack De La Cruz by Jeff AndersonFish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly HuntWarp Speed by Lisa Yee, Schooled by Gordon Korman, Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil, Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick, Loser by Jerry Spinelli

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Don’t miss out on any blog tour stops!

April 17           Librarian’s Quest

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April 18           Nerdy Book Club

April 19           For Those About to Mock

April 20           Teach Mentor Texts

April 21           Unleashing Readers

April 22           Next Best Book

April 23           Bluestocking Thinking

April 24           Litcoach Lou

Book Monsters

April 25           Kirsti Call

April 26           Educate-Empower-Inspire-Teach

April 27           The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

Ms Yingling Reads

April 28           Maria’s Mélange 

Novel Novice

April 29           The Hiding Spot

April 30           This Kid Reviews Books

 

Giveaway!: 

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A Boy Called Bat
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Illustrator: Charles Santoso
Published March 14th, 2017 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises—some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat’s mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter.

But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he’s got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet.

Critical Praise: 

“Delightful, endearing, and utterly relatable, Bat Tam is destined to be a dear and necessary friend for young readers. I adore him and his story.” — Anne Ursu, author of The Real Boy

“Written in third person, this engaging and insightful story makes readers intimately aware of what Bat is thinking and how he perceives the events and people in his life. With empathy and humor, Arnold delves into Bat’s relationships with his divorced parents, older sister, teachers, and classmates.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Comfortably familiar and quietly groundbreaking, this introduction to Bat should charm readers, who will likely look forward to more opportunities to explore life from Bat’s particular point of view.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Brimming with quietly tender moments, subtle humor, and authentically rendered family dynamics, Arnold’s story, the first in a new series, offers a nonprescriptive and deeply heartfelt glimpse into the life of a boy on the autism spectrum.” — Booklist

About the Author: Elana K. Arnold grew up in Southern California, where she was lucky enough to have her own perfect pet—a gorgeous mare named Rainbow—and a family who let her read as many books as she wanted. She is the author of picture books, middle grade novels, and books for teens. She lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. You can find her online at www.elanakarnold.com.

Review: A Boy Called Bat is one of those quiet yet impactful books that will find a special place in many hearts. The story is about Bat’s Asperger’s and his parent’s divorce without it being about that at all. The main character, Bat, is one of those special characters that as I was reading about him I knew that readers getting to know him will make them grow as people and that their empathy to fellow kids who may seem different will grow as well.

Bat’s story will not only appeal to our readers that love stories that promote empathy and understanding of others, Bat and his skunk, Thor, will definitely appeal to our readers who love animals. Bat’s mother is a veterinarian and Bat is 99.9% sure he is going to be as well. There are many animal references throughout the book, so these will all draw in readers who love animals. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to an amazing read aloud opportunity, I can definitely see the text being part of lit circles. Bat himself is unique, but he and his story remind me of so many other characters who I love and I wish all students would read about: Auggie from Wonder; Melody from Out of my Mind; David from Rules; Candice from The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee; Rose from Rain, Reign; and Adam from How to Speak Dolphin. All of these texts are must reads! I picture all of these texts with their extraordinary characters being part of lit circles with a focus on disabilities/disorders and empathy.

Discussion Questions: How did Thor help Bat grow emotionally? What changes did you see within him and his actions since getting Thor?; What persuasive techniques did Bat use throughout the book to work to try to get his mom to agree to let him keep Thor?; What makes Mr. Grayson a good teacher in general? A good teacher for Bat?

Teaching Guide: 

Flagged Passages: “‘Bat’ was what almost everyone called Bixby Alxander Tam, for a couple of reasons: first, because the initials of his name — B, A, and T– spelled Bat.

But there were maybe other reasons. Bat’s sensitive hearing, for one. He didn’t like loud sounds. What was so unusual about that? And if Janei’s old earmuffs happened to make an outstanding muffling device, was it that funny if he liked to wear them?

There was also the way he sometimes flapped his hands, when he was nervous or excited or thinking about something interesting. Some of the kids at school seemed to think that was hilarious. And, of course, bats have wings, which they flap.

So between the initials and the earmuffs and the hand flapping, the nickname had stuck.

And truthfully, Bat didn’t mind. Animals were his very favorite thing.” (p. 2-3)

Read This If You Loved: Any of the lit circle books I listed above

Recommended For:

  litcirclesbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall 

Giveaway: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

March 1 Read, Write, Reflect
March 2 A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
March 3 Bluestocking Thinking
March 6 The Official Tumblr of Walden Media
March 7 For Those About to Mock
March 8 Maria’s Melange
March 9 Novel Novice
March 10 Unleashing Readers
March 13 The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
March 13 Mundie Kids
March 14 All the Wonders
March 15 Teach Mentor Texts
March 19 Nerdy Book Club
March 20 LibLaura5
March 22 Book Monsters
March 27 Librarian’s Quest
March 29 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
March 30 Lit Coach Lou

**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for review!**

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Because of Mr. Terupt
Author: Rob Buyea
Published October 12, 2010 by Delacorte

A Guest Review by Julia Kipphut

Summary: Mr. Terupt’s fifth grade class at Snow Hill School is comprised of various types of students, some including: a new student, a popular girl, a bully, and a troublemaker. Their teacher, Mr. Terupt who is passionate and energetic, strives to engage his students and instill a sense of community amongst his class. Unfortunately, one day, a snowball fight goes awry and leaves Mr. Terupt in a coma. His class is rattled and must learn to work together, be kind, and hope for Mr. Terupt’s recovery.

Review: This book includes a variety of characters, each owning their own identity and personality. Each chapter is written from a different character’s perspective, making for a fluid and interesting read. They are relatable for children and allow them to recognize themselves in each character. Each character evolves in the story and shows tremendous growth, proving the rich development of the people in this book. The message of community and forgiveness is nicely intertwined in the story and proves that it is always better to choose kindness. The theme of this book is positive and motivational. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Because of Mr. Terupt serves as a great reader aloud for upper elementary school students. 4th and 5th graders who are struggling with their identity and place in a classroom community can learn the importance of compassion. Students can learn to embrace individual differences for a common goal or outcome, mirroring the characters in this book. Additionally, this book allows students to study character development throughout the story; each character evolves- allowing for effective classroom discussion.

Because of each character of this book is written from a different character’s perspective, students are able to study point of view and consider the influence each chapter has on the story as a whole. Students are able to learn about each character in depth and can even use literature circles to each study a character for analysis.

Discussion Questions: How might the story be different if the snowball accident did not happen?; What do you think the author’s purpose or message was for this story?; Why do you think the author chose to write this story from different characters points of views? Do you think this was effective?

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Loved: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper; Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Recommended For:

  litcirclesbuttonsmall  classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

Thank you, Julia!

RickiSig