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Fountains of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Published: October 1, 2019 by Philomel Books

GoodReads Summary: A portrait of love, silence, and secrets under a Spanish dictatorship.

Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming promise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of an oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography–and fate–introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War–as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of difficult decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

Includes vintage media reports, oral history commentary, photos, and more.

My Review: This book rocked me. It is so beautifully written, and I felt so lucky to be able to share it with others at NCTE this year. Because I have so many teaching ideas for this book, I am organizing this post a bit differently and focusing on many more teaching tools than usual. I hope that the information below helps other teachers use this book in their classrooms. It is so worthy of being read, studied, and loved.

Inquiry to Consider the Complexity of The Fountains of Silence:

The Connection of People: Ana, Daniel, Rafa, Fuga, Julia, Puri
“Some friendships are born of commonality. Others of proximity. And some friendships, often the unlikely ones, are born of survival” (p. 53).

Place as Character
The Castellana Hilton Madrid and Madrid
“After all, a hotel is a house of secrets” (p. 171).
“Madrid’s soil is untender, strong, and enduring like many who walk upon it” (p. 457).

Gender Norms
“Estamos más guapas con la boca cerrada. We are prettier with our mouths shut” (p. 240, 243, 300).

Social Class
“What lies outside the country’s borders is untouchable for families like hers” (p. 47).

Family Responsibility
“Julia needs the wages to feed her family and pay their debts” (p. 63).
“The family business needs you” (p. 82).

Human resilience
“It’s warrior skin, very strong” (p. 113)

Secrets
“There is a category of unspeakable things, a dark drawer where inexpressible truths live in exile” (p. 240).

Dreams
“Ana is tired of silence, tired of unanswered questions, and tired of secrets. A girl of patched pieces, she dreams of new beginnings. She dreams of leaving Spain” (p. 24).

Fountains of Silence
Analysis of the power of the title. Whose stories are heard? Whose are silenced?

Culminating Project Idea: Multigenre Inquiry Project
The Fountains of Silence is story which uses layered writing to illuminate the fear and terror that people experienced under Franco’s fascist regime. The novel reveals the brute strength and resilience of the people during the time period. Select a time and place in history to research. Consider researching a time and place which is deeply connected with your own story. Read the narratives of the people and develop a multigenre project which reflects your learning. You might include fictional narratives of stories you create, nonfiction excerpts that you find in your research, a photo essay which includes photos you find in your research. Whatever the final form, your culminating project should include various types of writing and media and demonstrate your knowledge about the time and place you selected to research.

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Bedtime for Sweet Creatures
Author: Nikki Grimes; Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon
Published January 1, 2020 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Goodreads Summary: It’s bedtime. But Mommy’s little one is not sleepy.

He growls like a bear, he questions like an owl, he tosses his mane like a lion. He hunts for water like a sly wolf, and hides like a snake.

Mommy needs to wrangle her sweet creature in bed so that the whole family can sleep. From tigers to squirrels to snakes, the little boy dodges around his bedtime, until he is tired enough to finally sleep. His imaginative animal friends weave their way through the illustrations, eventually joining him in curling up for the night.

My Review: The rhythm of this book is palpable. As a mother of three children six and under, I identified whole-heartedly with the mother of this book. She just wants her child to go to bed. As the child attempts sleep, he morphs into different animals (a lion, a tiger, an owl!). The book displays bedtime in ways that parents will identify with. Teachers will love using this book to teach metaphor and sound in story. 

My three-year-old’s review: “I like the squirrel and the koala a lot! I liked all of the aminals. [sic]”

My six-year-old’s review: “I like how his mom and his dad are trying to get him to sleep at night. I like how it is night-time in the book and the colors of the book make it feel like it is night-time.”

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The ways in which Grimes uses sound and metaphor is very intriguing and quite teachable. I spent a significant amount of time thinking about the almost-anthropomorphism of the text. The animals are given human characteristics of the child. But the child is actually given animal characteristics. This is zoomorphism, right? I would love to have this kind of study and debate with students. So cool!

Discussion Questions: What animals does the child act like? How does the author choose qualities of the child to connect them with animals?; Choose another animal not within the book. How might the child act like this animal at bedtime, too?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Penguin and Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime by Cate Berry; Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley; Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise BrownGoodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown

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The Treacherous Seas
Author: Christopher Healy
Published November 5th, 2019 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: After saving New York by thwarting Ambrose Rector’s dastardly plot to control the minds of everyone at the 1883 World’s Fair, Molly Pepper and Emmett Lee thought they’d have it made. They were heroes, after all. But if someone saves the world and there’s no one around who remembers it, did it really happen?

Now Molly, Emmett, and Molly’s mother, Cassandra, are left to prove themselves once again. And they aim to do it with an achievement that no one could ignore or forget: winning the race that has captured the attention of the world, to be the first people to find the South Pole. But despite their one-of-a-kind ship, their can-do attitude, and the help of a determined young journalist named Nellie Bly, the path to the Pole is not without its challenges—or its terrors. It is the path Emmett’s father took when he led an expedition to Antarctica on behalf of Mr. Alexander Graham Bell—the expedition in which Mr. Lee and his entire crew were killed. Does death await our heroes on these treacherous seas?

About the Author: Christopher Healy is the author of the novels A Perilous Journey of Danger and Mayhem #1: A Dastardly Plot, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, its two sequels, The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle and The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw and the picture book This Is Not That Kind Of Book. Before becoming a writer, he worked as an actor, an ad copywriter, a toy store display designer, a fact-checker, a dishwasher, a journalist, a costume shop clothing stitcher, a children’s entertainment reviewer, and a haunted house zombie. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and a dog named Duncan. You can visit him online at www.christopherhealy.com

Check out my review of Book #1 here!

Christopher Healy’s Nerdy Book Club post was hilarious and also focused on research–don’t miss out on it!

Educators’ Guide:

Giveaway!:

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Don’t Miss out on the Other Blog Tour Stops: 

November 6    Nerdy Book Club

December 2    Bluestocking Thinking

December 3     Novel Novice

December 4    Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

December 5     The Book Monsters

December 6    Maria’s Melange

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**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for giveaway and for hosting the blog tour**

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Bad Hair Day
Author and Illustrator: Jim Benton
Published July 23rd, 2019 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Summary: Franny K. Stein isn’t a fan of glamour. She doesn’t style her hair, the thought of wearing makeup makes her want to gag, and she couldn’t care less about wearing dressy dresses when she’d much prefer her lab coat.

But sometimes Franny wonders if her mom wishes she were different. Which gives Franny an idea…for an experiment! What if she can turn the beauty products her mom loves into something more exciting?

Every experiment has its experimental error, and when Franny’s hair takes on a life of its own, Franny must save the day (and her hair).

About the Author: Jim Benton is the New York Times bestselling writer of the Dear Dumb Diary series and a cartoonist whose unique brand of humor has been seen on toys, television, T-shirts, greeting cards, and even underwear. Franny K. Stein is the first character he’s created especially for young children. A husband and father of two, he lives in Michigan, where he works in a studio that really and truly does have creepy stuff in it.

Review: Franny K. Stein is not worried about all those other things other people worry about–she just wants to do experiments and other mad scientists things. And you know what, I love that!!! And I definitely saw what Benton was trying to do with this book when it comes to glamour and such, but I, as a parent, just didn’t like to see Franny’s mom put a bit of passive aggressive pressure on Franny to be anything other than her amazing self. I mean, she makes creatures and fights them–what does a little messy hair matter?! But in the end, Franny’s mom and the reader are reminded of this, so once again Franny can go on being herself.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Simon and Schuster have a wonderful curriculum guide to use with this series: CLICK HERE.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Franny’s mom is supportive of Franny, but she also questions her. How did you feel about how Franny’s mom in this book?
  • I like to describe Franny as awesome, as in I am awe-struck by her. What traits does Franny have that would lead me to describe her this way?
  • Why did Franny’s pig tails act differently than her ponytails?
  • How was Franny’s mom wrong about Igor?
  • Would Franny be successful in her monster fighting without Igor? Why or why not?

Flagged Passages: CHAPTER ONE: FRANNY’S HOUSE

The Stein family lived in the pretty pink house with the lovely purple shutters down at the end of Daffodil Street. Everything about the house was bright and cheery.

But, of course, the outside of a house is never as interesting as what’s going on inside it.

And inside this house, behind the little round upstairs window, something interesting was always going on, because this was the bedroom and laboratory of Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist.

Last week, for example, Franny developed a giant sea horse, and the day before that she worked on a way to fly based on how bats flap their wings.

Those projects became pretty expensive, so Franny needed to get a piggy bank to save her money in.

Of course, being a mad scientist, she created her piggy bank from a real live pig, which meant that she had to learn all she could about pigs.

This got pretty messy, but she didn’t mind getting messy, because that’s just what happens when you’re doing mad science.

Read This If You Love: Dear Dumb Diary series, Frank Einstein series, Zita the Spacegirl series

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Snail & Worm All Day
Author and Illustrator: Tina Kügler
Published September 24th, 2019 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Summary: Snail and Worm go on three silly adventures in this early reader chock full of heartfelt humor and irresistible illustrations. By Geisel Honor winner Tina Kügler.

Snail and Worm are back at it and sure to have readers giggling from dawn ’til dusk (wait—do snails and worms sleep?) in Snail and Worm All Day, complete with heartfelt humor and Tina Kügler’s irresistible illustrations.

Brimming with laugh-out-loud jokes, these three new stories are sweet celebrations of cooperation and discovery.

About the Author: Author-illustrator Tina Kügler lives in the Los Angeles area with her artist husband and three sons. When she is not making picture books, she can be found trying to befriend snails and worms in her backyard.www.tinakugler.squarespace.com Twitter: @tinatheatre Instagram: @kuglertina

Praise: ★ “All day, every day, is a good time for reading about Snail and Worm….Run (faster than Snail ever could) to get a copy of this winning early reader.”—Kirkus, STARRED review

“[N]ew readers should feel supported in their efforts while being continually entertained.”—The Horn Book

Kügler’s clever, off-kilter stories are enhanced by colorful, expressive cartoon illustrations that give strong textual support….This latest Snail and Worm book is a strong addition to all early reader collections and a surefire hit with children and their adults.”—Booklist

“The friendly and cheerful cartoon illustrations effectively enhance the story’s sweet humor.”—School Library Journal

Review: As Trent has entered this world of early chapter and transitional books, I have been so lucky to learn about some amazing books out there, and I was so happy to get introduced to Snail and Worm with this book, and we cannot wait to read the rest of the series.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Each of the three stories has a different chance to dig deep during a read aloud. The first story looks at how one bad thing doesn’t need to affect the entire day, the second story looks at habitats and contradictions, and the final story looks at creating a narrative.

Discussion Questions: 

  • When you are having a bad day, what can you think about to make you feel better?
  • What is a time that you thought something was different than what it was?
  • What are the similarities and differences between Snail and Worm? Why do you think they are friends?
  • How was snail a contradiction in the second story?
  • Who is your best friend?
  • Which of the three stories was your favorite? Why?
  • What is a lesson that you learned from the book?
  • How would the stories change if they were only from Snail’s point of view? Worm’s?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Elephant & Piggie, Frog & Toad, Fox & Chick, and other fun duos

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**Thank you to Jessica at HMH for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

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AstroNuts Mission One: The Plant Planet
Author: Jon Scieszka
Illustrator: Steven Weinberg
Published: September 10th, 2019 by Chronicle Books

Summary: AstroWolf, LaserShark, SmartHawk, and StinkBug are animals that have been hybridized to find other planets for humans to live on once we’ve ruined Earth. So off they rocket to the Plant Planet! Will that planet support human life? Or do Plant Planet’s inhabitants have a more sinister plan?

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ guide I created for AstroNuts Mission One:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about AstroNuts on its webpage.

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The Trouble with Shooting Stars
Author: Meg Cannistra
Published: August 20th, 2019 by Simon & Schuster for Young Readers

Summary: Twelve-year-old Luna loves the nighttime more than anything else. It’s when no one gives her “that look” about the half mask she has to wear while healing from a disfiguring car accident. It’s also the perfect time to sit outside and draw what she sees. Like the boy and girl from the new family next door…zipping out of the window in a zeppelin and up to the stars.

At first she thinks she’s dreaming. But one night the siblings catch her watching. Now Luna spends her nights on adventures with them, as they clean full moons, arrange constellations, and catch jars of stardust. She even gets to make a wish on a shooting star they catch.

But Luna learns that no wish is strong enough to erase the past — as much as she may hope to.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ guide I created for The Trouble with Shooting Stars:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about The Trouble with Shooting Stars on Meg Cannistra’s Cake Literary page.

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