Currently viewing the category: "Characterization"

The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming
Author: J. Anderson Coats
Published February 28th, 2017 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Summary: High-spirited young Jane is excited to be part of Mr. Mercer’s plan to bring Civil War widows and orphans to Washington Territory—but life out west isn’t at all what she expected.

Washington Territory is just the place for men of broad mind and sturdy constitution—and girls too, Jane figures, or Mr. Mercer wouldn’t have allowed her to come on his expedition to bring unmarried girls and Civil War widows out west.

Jane’s constitution is sturdy enough. She’s been taking care of her baby brother ever since Papa was killed in the war and her young stepmother had to start working long days at the mill. The problem, she fears, is her mind. It might not be suitably broad because she had to leave school to take care of little Jer. Still, a new life awaits in Washington Territory, and Jane plans to make the best of it.

Except Seattle doesn’t turn out to be quite as advertised. In this rough-and-tumble frontier town, Jane is going to need every bit of that broad mind and sturdy constitution—not to mention a good sense of humor and a stubborn streak a mile wide.

Review: I didn’t know much about the Washington Territory. I knew that it had to have been settled quite like Oregon (I’m the Oregon Trail generation!) or California, but I didn’t know about the boat expeditions, or any expeditions for that matter, to the territory. It was fascinating to read about Jane’s trip to Washington as well as the complicated family that she traveled with. Jane’s story is not only a look at the history of America and Washington State, it is also a story of the perception about the role of woman in towns and families. Ms. D, in Jane’s story, is such an interesting character. She, as a very young uneducated woman, married Jane’s father who died in the Civil War. Now she is still young and pretty but has a preteen stepdaughter and a toddler son, both things that make you less of an attractive new wife. Jane also has us look at the idea of woman on the frontier because she learns to step outside of the roles her stepmother wants her to have and expand into a well-rounded frontier girl. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: One thing I found disappointing was the lack of back matter in the book though I think this may be where the best classroom opportunity comes from. I assume that most young readers won’t know this time period and the west before it was America, so the reader themselves could use Jane’s story to jump start an inquiry look into the Washington Territory, the expeditions there (were they all in boats?!), and how life was different there than in the east.

Discussion Questions: How does Jane break the female mold in this story?; Why isn’t Ms. D as eligible as a wife as the other girls?; Why do Jane’s friends and Jane part ways a bit once they get to Washington?; Why is Jane’s paper book so important to her?; How did Mr. Mercer use propaganda to get young girls on his boat and also to get men in Washington to help pay for the expedition?; Did Miss Gower need Jane’s help or did she have another motive?

Flagged Passages: “It will need to be grand if it’s to fit the seven hundred unmarried girls and war widows Mr. Mercer plans to bring out west to teach in the schools of Washington Territory or to turn their hands to other useful employment.

Or, if you are Mrs. D, marry one of the many prosperous gentlemen bachelors pining for quality female society.

She’s pinned all her hopes on it. Mrs. D hated working in the Lowell mills. She hated leaving her kitchen and hearth and standing for fourteen hours a day before a loom, sneezing from all the dust and lint and not being able to sleep at night because of the ringing in her ears. She wants to be a wife again, to have someone else go out to work while she keeps house. If she has to go all the way to Washington Territory to do it, by golly, that’s what she’ll do.

After Mrs. D paid our passage, Mr. Mercer gave her a copy of a pamphlet he wrote about the advantages and charms of Washington Territory. She glanced at it once, rolled her eyes, then left it on her chair in teh dining room. I snatched it up and hid it in my secret carpetbag, and when she’s not around, I read it.

I’ve read every word hundreds of times. Even the big words I must puzzle over. Even the boring chapters on Lumber and Trade.” (p. 5-6)

Read This If You Loved: The Oregon Trail, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi, The Very Nearly Honorable Society series by Caroline Carlson, The Chronicles of the Black Tulip series by Barry Wolverton, Rory’s Promise by Michaela MacColl, Hattie series by Kirby Larson, May Amelia series by Jennifer L. Holm

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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

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The Time Museum
Author: Matthew Loux
Published February 21st, 2017 by First Second

Summary: The internship program at the Time Museum is a little unusual. For one thing, kids as young as twelve get to apply for these prestigious summer jobs. And as for the applicant pool . . . well, these kids come from all over history.

When Delia finds herself working at the Time Museum, the last thing she expects is to be sent on time-traveling adventures with an unlikely gang of kids from across the eons. From a cave-boy to a girl from the distant future, Delia’s team represents nearly all of human history! They’re going to need all their skills for the challenge they’ve got in store . . . defending the Time Museum itself!

Review: Delia’s life changes drastically when she learns the truth about her uncle and his career running the Time Museum. Unlike any museum that she’s ever been too, the Time Museum curates directly from historical periods by traveling through time. Because of her love of science and high intelligence, Delia is chosen not to only spend some time at the Time Museum but also to compete with five others for a coveted internship! This competition includes challenges that take them to different points in time and a task they have to compete. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Loux’s adventure-packed though humorous sci-fi novel will find a wide range of readers because it hits on so many different genres and is so well done. This is definitely a book to pick up for your graphic novel, sci-fi, and adventure fans! (Oh, and as a teacher, I mus say I love the theme!)

Discussion Questions: If you found the Time Museum, what time period would you want to visit?; Which of the characters have traits that are most similar to you?; What are the dangers of time travel? Do you think it’s worth it?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Loved: Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel, Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi, Lucy and Andy Neanderthal by Jeffrey Brown, Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown, HiLo by Judd Winick

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Ghost
Author: Jason Reynolds
Published: August 30, 2016 byAtheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

GoodReads Summary: Running. That’s all that Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But never for a track team. Nope, his game has always been ball. But when Ghost impulsively challenges an elite sprinter to a race — and wins — the Olympic medalist track coach sees he has something: crazy natural talent. Thing is, Ghost has something else: a lot of anger, and a past that he is trying to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up to him?

Ricki’s Review: I will read anything by Jason Reynolds. He captures the adolescent voice perfectly. Ghost reminds me of so many kids that I taught, and if I was still teaching, I would be thrilled to bring this book to school to recommend it to dozens of my students. Luckily, I can now share it with preservice teachers! I am very excited that this book will be one installment of a series of companion texts. It doesn’t end with a hook, which I am grateful for, and I believe the next book will feature a different character. There are so many great lessons that emerge from this story. Teachers would have much to discuss in their classrooms. I highly, highly recommend this text. It belongs in schools and in the hands of kids.

Kellee’s Review: This book is one of those books that I don’t like to tell people what it is about because any summary just doesn’t capture the brilliance of the characterization and story. However, through the word-of-mouth compliments of middle schoolers, it has become a favorite book for many of our school’s students and even won our HCMS Mock Newbery Award! I think it is Jason Reynolds’s way of connecting with adolescent readers through a true voice and circumstances that so many of them will connect to.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: We recommend using this book to teach characterization. Ghost reflects the qualities of a human—he has good and bad qualities and makes some mistakes. Students might list all of the lessons that Ghost learns through the story. They could even try to map the lessons he learns in a visual diagram of their choice.

Discussion Questions: How does Ghost’s past haunt him? Does it shape who he is?; What poor choices does Ghost make? Why does he make the choices, and are they justified?; How does the track team act as an unconventional family for Ghost?

Flagged Passage: “You can’t run away from who you are, but what you can do is run toward who you want to be.”

Read This If You Loved:  The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds; The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen; Boy21 by Matthew Quick; Ball Don’t Lie by Matt de la Peña

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Last Day on Mars

Chronicle of the Dark Star: Last Day on Mars
Author: Kevin Emerson
Publishes February 14th, 2017 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: It is Earth year 2213—but, of course, there is no Earth anymore. Not since it was burned to a cinder by the sun, which has mysteriously begun the process of going supernova. The human race has fled to Mars, but this was only a temporary solution while we prepare for a second trip: a one-hundred-fifty-year journey to a distant star, our best guess at where we might find a new home.

Liam Saunders-Chang is one of the last humans left on Mars. The son of two scientists who have been racing against time to create technology vital to humanity’s survival, Liam, along with his friend Phoebe, will be on the very last starliner to depart before Mars, like Earth before it, is destroyed.

Or so he thinks. Because before this day is over, Liam and Phoebe will make a series of profound discoveries about the nature of time and space, and find out that the human race is just one of many in our universe locked in a desperate struggle for survival.

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About the Author: Kevin Emerson is the author of The Fellowship for Alien Detection as well as the Exile series, the Atlanteans series, the Oliver Nocturne series, and Carlos is Gonna Get It. He is also an acclaimed musician who has recorded songs for both children and adults. A former K-8 science teacher, Kevin lives with his family in Seattle. Visit him online at www.kevinemerson.net

Social Media:
Kevin Emerson on Twitter: @kcemerson
Walden Pond Press Twitter: @waldenpondpress
Walden Pond Press Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WaldenPondPress/
Walden Media Tumblr: http://walden-media.tumblr.com/
LAST DAY ON MARS website on Walden Media: https://www.walden.com/book/last-day-on-mars/

Advance Praise: 

“Enigmatic enemies, sabotage, space travel, and short, bone-wracking bits of time travel make for a banging adventure.” Kirkus Reviews (Starred)

“Last Day on Mars is thrillingly ambitious and imaginative. Like a lovechild of Gravity and The Martian, it’s a rousing space opera for any age, meticulously researched and relentlessly paced, that balances action, science, humor, and most importantly, two compelling main characters in Liam and Phoebe. A fantastic start to an epic new series.” —Soman Chainani, New York Times bestselling author of the School for Good and Evil series

“Emerson’s writing explodes off the page in this irresistible space adventure, filled with startling plot twists, diabolical aliens, and (my favorite!) courageous young heroes faced with an impossible task.” —Lisa McMann, New York Times bestselling author of the Unwanteds series

Review: The suspense that builds throughout this book is palpable! I really enjoyed how Kevin Emerson used a prologue to set the stage for Liam’s world so that once Liam’s story begins, we jump right into the chaos of the the last day on Mars for all humans. What I assumed this story was going to be ended up just being the tip of the iceberg. I knew the story was going to be about humans escaping a doomed Mars, but there is an underlying heart-stopping craziness that really adds suspense to the novel. 

AND you will be so mad when it ends because even though the current conflict is mostly resolved, there is definitely a cliffhanger, and you will be on your seat waiting for book 2 with me!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: My 8th grade teachers have their students take part in dystopian lit circles to discuss different components of utopian vs. dystopian societies, and I think Life on Mars would be a great basis to start a sci-fi lit circle set that would include books about the future of humans that don’t fit the exact dystopian/utopian definition. It would be a really interesting way to discuss authors’ representation of humans’ future. Or if you did this as a an inclusion to a text set, there are many articles, picture books, and movies out there that also touch on this subject.

Publisher Teaching Guide: 

Discussion Questions: What foreshadowing did the prologue give us for what happened to Liam?; What foreshadowing for book two did the end of book one give us about Phoebe?; What character traits does Liam embrace? What evidence supports your analysis?; What event do you think was what propelled the plot to what it became in the end?; Which character do you feel was the hero of the story?

Flagged Passages: “Earth Year: 2179. As you all know, for the past four years we have been documenting unusual activity in the sun. Increased radiation and solar flares have wreaked havoc on daily life. The best minds in the world have studied this data around the clock, and tonight I can report that while we still do not know the cause, the conclusion is unanimous: the sun is expanding and we are all in grave danger.” (p. 14)

Read This If You Loved: Feed by MT Anderson, Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis GillLife on Mars by Jon Agee

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Blog Tour Stops: 

Jan. 27th  Unleashing Readers

Jan. 30th  SciFi Chick

Feb. 1st  This Kid Reviews Books

Feb. 3rd  Walden Media Tumblr

Feb. 6th  Word Spelunking

Feb. 7th  Novel Novice

Feb.  8th  Charlotte’s Library

Feb. 9th  Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Feb. 10th  Librarian’s Quest

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**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for having us be part of the blog tour!**

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Enter Title Here
Author: Rahul Kanakia
Published: August 2, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion

Summary: I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.

Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.

What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent’s help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she’s already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)

My Review: Whew! I really enjoyed this book! Rahul Kanakia really nails the pressure that overachievers experience. I was reminded of myself a bit. Reshma is willing to do anything to maintain her valedictorian status, and she takes things a bit too far. She is such an unlikeable character that I found her to be quite likable. I notice the GoodReads ratings of this book are high (a 3.58 average) but not incredibly high, and I laughed. Books with unlikable characters are always unfairly low in their ratings. When I put this book down, I felt like I’d learned a lot. Reshma feels like a real person because she makes some major mistakes. She is an anti-hero. I had difficulty putting the book down because I wanted to see how far she would go, and it made me cringe a bit. This book evoked a visceral reaction out of me!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would love to teach this book because it would evoke some excellent classroom discussions. Reshma represents the ugly side of many people, and I think that readers will have strong reactions to her selfishness. I’d particularly like to dive into her relationship with her mother. Readers could discuss family histories and how these may influence our decisions and our concepts of self.

This book is a great way to introduce metafiction. It would be very interesting to tease apart how the plot relates to the narrator’s book.

Discussion Questions: How do Reshma’s parents differ? How do they influence her decisions? What impact do they have on her as a person?; Does Reshma go too far? What are the consequences? Would you have gone as far as she did?; Why might the author have chosen to write the book as if Reshma was writing it? How does this impact your reading of the text?

Flagged Passage: “The thing no one understands about me is that sometimes, once in a while, I get this feeling like I can do anything, and that feeling is so rare and so beautiful that it’s really hard not to simply surrender to it.”

Read This Book If You Loved: The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu; I Crawl Through It by A.S. King

 

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Zack Delacruz: Just My Luck
Author: Jeff Anderson
Published October 11th, 2016 by Sterling Children’s Books

Summary: Zack Delacruz is back—and eager to meet Abhi, the new girl at school. But things get off to a rough start when he accidentally knocks her to the ground during a game of dodgeball. And whenever he tries to make amends, she just ignores him. Nothing works—not his friends’ advice or his “lucky” cologne. In fact, he just seems more and more cursed! Then, at the Fall Fiesta-val, Zack finally learns the real reason behind Abhi’s cold shoulder . . . but not before total chaos erupts. With a runaway train, exploding confetti-filled eggs, and Abhi’s terrifying older brother, will Zack ever get a chance to talk to his crush? In the end, Zack learns what it means to believe, to listen, and to be a good friend.

This dynamite sequel captures the middle-school experience—and will keep readers laughing from beginning to end.

Review: I always worry about sophmore books because there is always a chance that the story will just not hold up to the premiere; however, Zack is back and better than ever! The first Zack Delacruz adventure really introduced us to the diverse cast of characters at Zack’s school and just how rough of a time Zack has on a day-to-day basis. Book two begins with one of the funniest days I’ve ever read about in a book! Not only does he knock down the new girl who he wants to get to know during a game of dodgeball, but it definitely gets worse than that (but I am not going to tell you!). Next to the humor, the thing I love most about Anderson’s choice of character is that he makes sure that Zack’s school reflects a real school and the teachers and kids that go there. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Just like the first book, I think the key to Zack’s potential is making sure he is in libraries and read aloud.

Discussion Questions: What is the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you at school?; What should Zack learn from what happened with Abhi?

Flagged Passages: “And all the frustration and embarrassment from the day made my skin burn. Why did every terrible thing seem to always happen to me? My eyes were getting wet. I wasn’t going to add crying to my fool portfolio. All my rage went into the red ball. I gripped it, not sure what to do. After all, I really didn’t want to hit her. But if I threw the ball too softly, people would say I had a crush on Abhi.  Then they would start heckling me from the sidelines. Just like this stupid game of dodgeball, there was no way to win middle school. So, I chuck the ball low and away, so I would just miss her leg. But at that moment, Abhi jumped.

The ball smashed into her angle, and her legs flew back from the force of the ball. She slammed facedown on the hard wooden floor with a boom like thunder.

The gym went silent.” (p. 34)

Read This If You Loved: Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth by Jeff AndersonFrank Einstein by Jon SciezskaPickle by Kim BakerBetter Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle, Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

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**Thank you to Lauren at Sterling for providing a copy for review!!**

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