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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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Weird Little Robots
Author: Carolyn Crimi
Illustrator: Corinna Luyken
Published October 1st, 2019 by Candlewick

Summary: When two science-savvy girls create an entire robot world, they don’t expect the robots to come alive. But life may be a bit more magical than they thought.

Nine-year-old Penny Rose has just moved to a new town, and so far the robots she builds herself are her only company. But with just a bit of magic, everything changes: she becomes best friends with Lark, has the chance to join a secret science club, and discovers that her robots are alive. Penny Rose hardly remembers how lonely she used to feel. But then a fateful misstep forces her to choose between the best friend she’s always hoped for and the club she’s always dreamed of, and in the end it may be her beloved little robots that pay the price.

Praise: [A]uthor Crimi infuses this unassuming transitional novel with compassion, humor, and a refreshing storyline in which girls organically weave a love for science into their everyday lives. Illustrations by Luyken add to the guileless sensibility. A contemplation on the magic of friendship told with sweetness, simplicity, and science.—Kirkus Reviews

**BEA Middle Grade Book Buzz Book

About the Author: Carolyn Crimi enjoys snacking, pugs, Halloween, and writing, although not necessarily in that order. Over the years she has published 15 funny books for children, including Don’t Need Friends, Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies, Where’s My Mummy?, There Might Be Lobsters, and I Am The Boss of This Chair. Weird Little Robots is her first novel.

For more information, and to download a free classroom guide for Weird Little Robots, visit her website. and Twitter @crims10.

Review: Thank goodness books like this exist out in the world. I cannot wait to see what this new generation of kids are like as adults now that they all have these amazing stories of smart girls to read. Even the characters who fit a certain stereotype for Penny Rose ended up proving her wrong. This book shows that there is more to everything than anyone can imagine: more to science, more to friendship, more to imagination… What a fantastic world that Penny and Lark’s story can be told!

And the story itself is one that is fun to read. Not only do you get to read about robots, engineering, ornithology, and even decorating, but the book includes a story that many kids will connect with: do you abandon one to join the others even if the one is your best friend and the others is giving an opportunity that is hard to refuse. That is something that everyone faces more than once in their life. And told in a lyrical and a bit quirky narrative, the story is just fun to read.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: A Classroom Guide for Weird Little Robots can be found on Carolyn Crimi’s website!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What do Penny Rose and Lark have in common?
  • Why do you think Penny Rose made the decision she did about the secret society? Did she regret it in the end? How could she have dealt with it differently?
  • If you were going to build a little robot RIGHT NOW, what items are in your backpack that you could use? Use these items and sketch out a plan.
  • How could Penny Rose have helped her other robots communicate with her?
  • Why do you think the robots waited to communicate?
  • What did the different members of the secret society show Penny Rose, and the reader, about judging others?
  • Create your own conversation starters. Then, in class, group with 2 other people and use the conversation starters to chat. Rotate.
  • What did Penny Rose’s one decision the turned her back on Lark cause?
  • Penny Rose finds her way through the woods just by listening. As a class create an obstacle course that has different sounds throughout it and see if students can navigate through using only their hearing.

Flagged Passages: “First though, Penny Rose would need a detailed plan. She went up to her bedroom, sat on her bed, and turned on the lamp she had made last year from an olive oil can. A stack of notebooks sat on her nightstand: her New Inventions notebook, her Robot Drawings and Descriptions notebook, and her To-Do List notebook. Her most secret notebook, Conversation Starters, was at the bottom of the pile.

She picked it up, found a clean page, and wrote a quick list of Possible Conversation Starters:

  1. “I think binoculars are fun.” (Lark seems to like binoculars.)
  2. “The sun seems strong today.” (Lark often wears sun goop. First determine if the sun does, indeed, seem strong.)
  3. “Sunglasses are very wise.” (Lark wears sunglasses.)
  4. “Do you like robots?” (It is unknown whether or not Lark likes robots, but it is probable that she does since most people do.)
  5. “Yesterday was my birthday. Would you like some leftover cake?” (This seems like a good bet, unless she has allergies or is gluten-free or vegan or something.)
  6. “What is in that metal box?” (This might be too nosy, although if you’re going to carry something so mysterious, you should be prepared for questions.)

Penny Rose looked over her list. She considered what her father said about Lark not hearing before. She decided she would speak loudly.

Penny Rose tore out the page and tucked it into the tool belt she wore in case she happened upon interesting items for her robots.” (Chapter One)

Read This If You Love: Ellie Engineer by Jackson Pearce, Ada Twist by Andrea Beaty, Marty McGuire by Kate Messner, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, The Last Panther by Todd Mitchell, Frank Einstein by Jon Scieszka

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

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Prairie Boy: Frank Lloyd Wright Turns the Heartland Into a Home
Author: Barb Rosenstock
Illustrator: Christopher Silas Neal
Published: September 10th, 2019 by Calkins Creek

Summary: The early life and creative genius of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, as a maker of American buildings—highlighting his passion, imagination and creativity.

Frank Lloyd Wright loved the Wisconsin prairie where he was born, with its wide-open sky and waves of tall grass. As his family moved across the United States, young Frank found his own home in shapes: rectangles, triangles, half-moons, and circles. So, Frank pursued a career in architecture. Unlike everyone else, he didn’t think the Victorian homes fit the beauty of the land. Using his love of shapes, Frank redesigned the American home inside and out, developing a unique architecture, the Prairie House.

Author Barb Rosenstock and artist Christopher Silas Neal explore the early life and creative genius of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, highlighting his passion, imagination, and ingenuity.

Backmatter includes historical photos, author’s note, quotations, sources, source notes, architectural plans and a photo gallery of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings across America.

About the Creators: 

Author Barb Rosenstock is the author of many picture book biographies, including Otis and Will Discover the Deep, Secret Kingdom, Dorothea’s Eyes, Ben Franklin’s Big Splash, and The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio Became America’s Hero. Her picture book about Kandinsky, The Noisy Paint Box, won the 2015 Caldecott Medal.

Illustrator Christopher Silas Neal is the author and illustrator of multiple picture books, including I Won’t Eat That and Everyone. He is also the illustrator of Kate Messner’s Over and Under the Pond, Over and Under the Snow, and Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt.

Book Trailer: 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ and discussion guide I created for Prairie Boy: 

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about the book on Barb Rosenstock’s Prairie Boy page.

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The best way to learn what kids are thinking & feeling is by listening to them, so I am happy to share my students’ voices!

Strong Women Characters by Vanessa & Angelina, 8th and 7th Grade

  • Sophie Quire (from Sophie Quire) is strong even though her mother passed away. She stands up for what she believes in and adventures off to attempt to ave what she finds important.
  • Grace Blakely (from All Fall Down) is a brave girl who lost her mother at a young age. She stands up for what she believes is right even when nobody trusts her.
  • Maddie Manchester (from Not If I Save You First) is torn from her past, but she follows her beliefs and stands up for herself. She discovers the truth, stands up to assassins, and protect what’s important.
  • Linh Cinder (from Cinder) is living a normal life until she discovers new truths. Finding companions along the way, she attempts to fight evil and bring them to justice.
  • Agatha (from School for Good and Evil) overcomes her doubts and discovers her own dreams and beliefs.
  • Kestra Dallisor (from The Traitor’s Game) is a runaway princess who tries to escape her present and figure out her past. She protects those who are innocent and close to her.
  • Other favorites:
    • Chaya Lindner (from Resistance)
    • Cammie Morgan (from Gallagher Girls)
    • Alex Bailey (from Land of Stories)
    • Katarina Bishop (from Heist Society)

Most Inspirational Women in Books by Georgia & Natalie, 6th Grade

  • Cassie Sullivan (from The 5th Wave) spent the whole span of The Fifth Wave trying to protect her brother. Even in great sorrow and loss, she made the ultimate sacrifice so her brother could grow up in a safe world.
  • Mare (from The Red Queen) was put in a castle of danger where one wrong move could get her killed. She has to act like a princess to save her family while also being an advocate for a “red”volution.
  • Alyssa (from Dry) is the perfect big sister. She went through hell and back to protect her little brother and was prepared to do the unthinkable to keep her brother from suffering.
  • Cleo (from A Death-Struck Year) risked her life to help the sick. In the midst of an epidemic with no parents or family, 17 year old Cleo went houst to house saving people and risking her life.
  • SPOILERS!!!
    Mallory (from Sword of Summer) sacrificed herself. During a war, a bus was dropping off more soldiers when Loki took control of her body and made her set a bomb on the bus. When she took control back of her body, she deactivated the bomb saving 72 people but died in the process.
  • SPOILERS!!!
    Cinderpelt (from Warriors: The Fourth Apprentice) protects those around her. When every other cat is out of camp, a badger attacks the medicine den. Cinderpelt protects the kittens inside with the cost of her life.
  • Gerta (from A Night Divided) is a 12 year old from East Berlin who got caught between a rock and a hard place when in the middle of the night the Berlin wall was built up around her side of town. In order to protect her family, she faces betrayal, spies, and possibly death. All of this just to save her family.
  • Imogen (from The False Prince) seems like just a common servant but risks her life numerous times to protect someone she cares about.
  • Gina (from The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days) is focused on doing helpful things around her neighborhood at night during the summer. She is spending her time trying to make others’ lives better.
  • Molly (from Castle Hangnail) is the only person that can save Castle Hangnail!

Thank you everyone for your great lists!

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The best way to learn what kids are thinking & feeling is by listening to them, so I am happy to share my students’ voices!

Controversial Characters (Are they villains? Or are they heroes?) by Elsa, Kaley, and Max, 8th Grade

  • Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series: Even though J.K. Rowling makes Dumbledore seem like a wise, old guide helping Harry, Dumbledore is often manipulative, selfish, and cold. While Harry saw Dumbledore as a mentor, Dumbledore only saw Harry as a pawn. Dumbledore used Harry’s feelings toward him to make Harry do what he wants. (Elsa)
  • Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series: At the end of the series, J.K. Rowling attempted redemption with Severus Snape. I feel as though it wasn’t enough and if anything it made me not like him more. While he was a villain for the majority of the series, the fact that he was bullied and then obsessed with Harry’s mom is supposed to make the fact that he is a trash person for 6.5 books okay… (Kaley)
  • Tedros from the School for Good and Evil series: Tedros, the love interest of both Sophie and Agatha in the first book, is so self absorbed and ignorant. In the first book, he seemed very fake and would do whatever he wanted. (Elsa)
  • Sophie from the School for Good and Evil series: I totally get that Sophie was supposed to come across as artificial and stupid. It was one of her character flaws that was supposed to be overruled by her good traits like being a good friend to Agatha. I don’t think it did and think the bad outweighed the good. (Kaley)
  • Naomi’s Dad in Two Naomis: Naomi’s dad is a controversial character in my opinion because the author tried to make the reader feel sorry for him and that he was really trying; however, I do not like him because he should not force things on the children. Some children take longer to deal with changes. (Max)

15 of the Most Evil Characters in Books by Daniela & Mariana, 8th Grade

  • Slade from Blood on my Hands
  • The Governor from Stung
  • The Evil Queen from The Land of Stories series
  • The Masked Man from The Land of Stories series
  • Lady Iris from The Land of Stories series
  • Snow Queen from The Land of Stories series
  • Sea Witch from The Land of Stories series
  • The Queen of Hearts from The Land of Stories series
  • Captain Hook from The Land of Stories series
  • Morina from The Land of Stories series
  • The Police from Ghost Boys
  • Hellhounds from Good Dog
  • Aiden’s Dad from Good Dog
  • Secret Murderer from One of Us is Lying
  • Steven from A Girl Named Digit

10 Comic Villains I Wish I Could Fight by Diego, 8th Grade

  • Thanos: I would like to fight Thanos because he is the strongest supervillain. He beat The Avengers!
  • Reverse Flash: I would fight Reverse Flash because he is the archenemy of the Flash and is very fast and super smart.
  • The Joker: I would fight the Joker because he’s a very smart scientist and a criminal mastermind. I think I would lose.
  • Lex Luthor: I would fight Lex Luther because he’s the archenemy of Superman and is very powerful though I think I could win.
  • Catwoman: I would fight Cat Woman because she’s very agile and would be difficult to fight because of her agility and coordination.
  • Harley Quinn: I would fight Harley because she is very smart and is Joker’s partner and would be hart to defeat.
  • Magneto: I would fight Magneto because he’s very powerful since he can control magnets and magnetic fields.
  • Loki: I would want to fight Loki because he is the god of mischief and would be fun but hart to beat.
  • Venom: I would like to fight Venom because when the symbiote turns into Venom, he turns really lethal and powerful, similar to fighting Spiderman.
  • Doctor Doom: I would like to fight Doctor Doom because he is Spiderman’s archenemy and is very mean and knows how to create armor. He also is an intellect, knows sorcery, and is a telepath.

Top 10 Manga Villains by Luis, 8th Grade

  • Blackbeard from One Piece: Marshall D. Teach, also known as Blackbeard, is the captain of the Blackbeard Pirates and is known as one of the baddest pirates in the manga.
  • Piccolo Daimaku from Dragon Ball Z: He’s the main antagonist of Dragon Ball. He’s one half of the No-Name Namekian alongside Kami-sama. He’s known for assassinating innocents during the Martial Arts Tournament and assassinating Master Roshi.
  • Zamasu from Dragon Ball Z: Zamasu is a god of time. He started hating humans after Trunks started messing with time travel. He wants to kill all humans for Trunks’s actions against time.
  • Majin Buu from Dragon Ball Z: Majin Buu is a monster created by magician Vividi and reused by his son. Buu’s only objective is to destroy all living creatures on the planet, even killing Vividi.
  • Frieza from Dragon Ball Z: Frieza is the emperor of the universe, and his only desire in life is to attain immortality.
  • Kars from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Kars is the one responsible for the Villain vs. Human War and killing all of his species except for 3 men. He is right now floating in space not thinking.
  • Dio Brando from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Dio is a vampire. Dio wants to reset the world to his wishes. He’s able to stop time and kills half of the stardust crusaders.
  • Enrico Pucci from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Pucci is a priest but once he meets Dio his believes change. Dio is his god now and Pucci is helping with resetting the whole universe.
  • The Major from Hellsing: The Major is the master evil human in the world since all he wants is war, destruction, and chaos.
  • Madara Uchiha from Naruto: Shippuden: Madara is th descendant of the 2nd son of the sage of sixpathes, part of the Uchika clan, and the first Uchiha to unlock the eternal Mangekyou Sharingan which gave him great powers.

Thank you everyone for your great lists!

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