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I Love You, Michael Collins
Author: Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Published June 20th, 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Summary: It’s 1969 and the country is gearing up for what looks to be the most exciting moment in U.S. history: men landing on the moon. Ten-year-old Mamie’s class is given an assignment to write letters to the astronauts. All the girls write to Neil Armstrong (“So cute!”) and all the boys write to Buzz Aldrin (“So cool!”). Only Mamie writes to Michael Collins, the astronaut who will come so close but never achieve everyone else’s dream of walking on the moon, because he is the one who must stay with the ship.

After school ends, Mamie keeps writing to Michael Collins, taking comfort in telling someone about what’s going on with her family as, one by one, they leave the house thinking that someone else is taking care of her—until she is all alone except for her cat and her best friend, Buster. And as the date of the launch nears, Mamie can’t help but wonder: Does no one stay with the ship anymore?

I Love You, Michael Collins was a Best Book of June 2017 on Amazon; a semifinalist for the Goodreads Readers’ Choice Awards; and a pick by the Planetary Society for Best Science Children’s Books of 2017.

ReviewThere is so much I really enjoyed about this book!

First, I adored looking into the experience of the moon landing. I cannot even imagine witnessing it happening! What an amazing feat it was and completely unimaginable. (And I hope to at some point see it happen again.) And I thought Baratz-Logsted did a good job showing all the different types of feelings towards the moon landing and space program. But I’m glad that she focused on its amazingness and the excitement.

Second, I think the author did a fantastic job with the character’s voice. With a book of letters it is essential that the writing sounds like the character because it is actually the character writing all the words. I loved seeing all the techniques she used to write like Mamie while still keeping her writing to a literary level.

Third, I loved that the book was not just a reenactment of the moon landing and a family’s celebration of it. The story has so many layers within it: Mamie’s introverted personality and the look into what makes a kid like this happy; her family’s conflicts and issues; and the power of one best friend.

Overall, I Love You, Michael Collins is a fun historical fiction middle grade book that is perfect for so many readers!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The first thing I went to when I thought about this book from a teachers point of view was the idea of letter writing. Mamie writes Michael Collins originally because it is a school project. Mamies letters could be used as a starting point on how to write letters, parts of a letter, etc. And students could even write a letter to someone in the news that is doing something amazing.

Next summer is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and at the end of next school year, I am definitely going to do a cross-curricular unit about NASA and the Apollo missions along with a read aloud of excerpts from this novel. It is so engaging as a story and will also be a great way for students in the 21st century to have a window into the 1960s.

But even without this amazing anniversary, Baratz-Logsted’s title is one that middle grade students will find enjoyment in and should definitely be in classrooms and libraries!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did the author help make her writing seem like a ten-year-old was writing the letters?
  • Michael Collins is not a household name like Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. Why is that? Do you think we should all know his name in the same context as the other two astronauts?
  • Which character do you think changed the most throughout the book?
  • What do you think is going to happen next with Mamie’s family?
  • How did Buster’s friendship help Mamie keep her positivity and sanity during this tough time in her family?
  • If you were going to have a moon landing party, what would you make?
  • How would the story of Mamie’s parents’ separation have been different in the 21st century?

Flagged Passages: 

“Dear Michael Collins,

I finally figured out why you never write back. Can you figure out how I figured this out? If not, I will tell you. I did the math.

Okay, I didn’t really do the math, since I don’t have all the information. But it struck me that I might not be the only person writing to you. I though, if every school in the country has just one class that is writing letters to the astronauts and if in each class there is just one kid like me writing to you, then that is still a lot of mail.

It’s no wonder you can’t write back to everyone. And of course you do have other things to do right now.

I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of you getting more mail than I originally thought you did. On the one hand, I’m really happy for you. I’m glad you’ve got more than just me. On the other hand, it was kind of nice when I thought I was the only one. It felt special. Like I was the the only one who knew about you. Which of course isn’t true. The whole world knows about you. It’s just that most of them don’t seem to appreciate you very much.

Does it ever bother you that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin get so much more mail than you do? I hope not. It certainly wouldn’t bother me. There was a time I thought it might be nice to be popular–you know, to have a lot of friends. But then Buster came along, and then Campbell, and I realized that that is quite enough for me…” (p. 30-31)

Read This If You Love: Space! I recommend Space Encyclopedia by David A. Aguilar and Moon Base Crisis by Rebecca Moesta & Kevin J. Anderson. Also check out Planetary.org’s list of recommended books from 2017: http://www.planetary.org/blogs/emily-lakdawalla/2017/1115-space-books-kids.html and 2016: http://www.planetary.org/blogs/emily-lakdawalla/2016/emily-lakdawalla-space-book-recommendations.html

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Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein
Author: Lita Judge
Published: January 30th, 2018 by Roaring Book Press

Summary: A young adult biography of Frankenstein’s profound young author, Mary Shelley, coinciding with the 200th anniversary of its publication, told through free verse and 300+ full-bleed illustrations.

Mary Shelley first began penning Frankenstein as part of a dare to write a ghost story, but the seeds of that story were planted long before that night. Mary, just nineteen years old at the time, had been living on her own for three years and had already lost a baby days after birth. She was deeply in love with famed poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, a mad man who both enthralled and terrified her, and her relationship with him was rife with scandal and ridicule. But rather than let it crush her, Mary fueled her grief, pain, and passion into a book that the world has still not forgotten 200 years later.

Dark, intense, and beautiful, this free-verse novel with over 300 pages of gorgeous black-and-white watercolor illustrations is a unique and unforgettable depiction of one of the greatest authors of all time.

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Whew. I felt so many emotions as I read this book. I kept thinking, “My goodness, my students are going to love this book.” I was fortunate to receive two copies of this book in the mail, and those two copies have passed from student’s hand to student’s hand. The book doesn’t even make its way back up to my desk before another student snags it. This book defies genre sorting. It’s nonfiction, it’s horror, it’s romance, it’s an illustrated book in verse. I’ve already added it to my book list to teach next semester in my Adolescents’ Literature course.

Students will read this book and want immediately to read Frankenstein. The book reads fairly quickly because it contains verse and illustrations, but readers will struggle not to pause for several minutes to enjoy the beautiful illustrations on the pages.

I’m most excited about the classroom potential for this book. It offers so much to talk about regarding characterization, mood, and poetry. But it also offers a beautiful bridge to read with Frankenstein. I thought I knew a lot about Mary Shelley’s life, but this book told me so much more about it. Reading her story on these pages made me feel as if I was experiencing her life alongside her. If you haven’t read this book yet, I recommend it highly.

Discussion Questions: What factors may have influenced Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? In what ways does the author use metaphor and symbolism to help us understand her experiences?; What might be the author’s purpose? Is she successful, in your opinion?; What textual features helped you understand Mary’s story? How might this book read differently if the author had used another form?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; Horror; Gothic Literature

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Islandborn
Author: Junot Díaz
Illustrator: Leo Espinosa
Published: March 13, 2018 by Dial

Summary: From New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz comes a debut picture book about the magic of memory and the infinite power of the imagination.

Every kid in Lola’s school was from somewhere else. Hers was a school of faraway places.

So when Lola’s teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families immigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can’t remember The Island—she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories—joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening—Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island. As she draws closer to the heart of her family’s story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”

Gloriously illustrated and lyrically written, Islandborn is a celebration of creativity, diversity, and our imagination’s boundless ability to connect us—to our families, to our past and to ourselves.

Review: This book is absolutely enchanting. I can confidently say that it will always be one of my favorite picture books of all time. When Lola asks family and friends about the island that she came from, they have wonderful memories that they share with her. The illustrations and words dance off of the page—Díaz and Espinosa, the author-illustrator team, combine to create a work that will stun readers with its beauty and complexity. I took the pages from the F&G and hung them on my office walls, and they inspire me daily.

As I read this book, I continually paused to reflect on the words (“Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you” and “Memory is magic.”). There is so much to teach from this book, and I am really looking forward to sharing it with students. If you haven’t read this book, I recommend you get in your car and drive immediately to the bookstore.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: There are so many possibilities for this section for teacher. They might analyze text and word choice, focusing on figurative language. Or they could examine the emotions that Lola experiences as she tries to learn about the place that she comes from. Or they might have students research their own countries of origin and create an image that represents the magic of the country. Or they might consider a monster that exists in their country and draw it metaphorically or symbolically. This is a book that is meant to be shared and shared.

Discussion Questions: How does Lola feel when she can’t remember the country she came from? How does she learn more about it?; What do Lola’s friends and family tell her about the country she came from? What are the good and bad memories that they share? What might the bad memory represent?

We Flagged:

Read This If You Loved: Works by Junot Díaz; Miguel and the Grand Harmony by Matt de la Peña; Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan; Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

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Secondhand Heroes:
Brothers Unite [July 5th, 2016]
In the Trenches [February 7th, 2017]
The Last Battle [April 10th, 2018]
Author: Justin LaRocca Hansen
Published by Dial Books

Brothers Unite Summary: Perfect for fans of AmuletSidekicks, and Zita the Spacegirl, this graphic novel series debut introduces Stretch and Brella, a pair of ordinary brothers whose extraordinary yard sale discovery turns them into superheroes.

Tuck and Hudson are just two average suburban brothers—until their mother buys them a scarf and an umbrella at a yard sale. Quickly, the brothers realize that these ordinary-looking objects are full of magic, and that, with the help of their squirrel sidekick, they can use that magic to fight evil. As the boys move from fighting their neighborhood nemesis to facing bigger foes, they become Stretch and Brella, the unstoppable brother superhero duo. Soon, Stretch and Brella find themselves in another realm, where they take on enormous dragons and an evil knight in an incredible graphic novel adventure.

In the Trenches Summary: [Mild Brothers Unite SPOILERS!] Two ordinary objects turned a pair of brothers into superheroes. Now they must fight the evil Trench right in their own neighborhood.

When Tuck and Hudson return from their first adventure as the superheroes Stretch and Brella, they’re still reeling from the shock of their newfound powers. But there’s no time to slow down. Trench, a supervillain whose powers came from the very same garage sale where Tuck and Hudson found their magic scarves and umbrella, lives around the corner—and he’s out to get the brother superhero duo. With help from their squirrel companion, Steen, and another newly minted superhero, a neighborhood girl named Elvira, the brothers keep fighting the good fight, with plenty of action and adventure along the way.

The Last Battle Summary: [Mild Brothers Unite & In the Trenches SPOILERS!] Two ordinary objects turned a pair of brothers into superheroes. Now they’re banding together with their neighbors to take down the evil Trench once and for all in the final volume of this graphic novel trilogy.

Tuck and Hudson have figured out how to wield the superpowers they got when their mom bought them an ordinary-looking pair of scarves and an umbrella at a yard sale. But Trench, their supervillain archnemesis, is only getting more powerful. Slowly, the brothers have discovered the others in their town who have superpowered objects from that same yard sale. Now Tuck and Hudson, along with their friend Elvira and their squirrel sidekick, Steen, are leading a band of heroes in the fight against Trench. This final volume of the graphic novel adventure series features the heroes’ last stand, with plenty of twists and turns along the way.

About the Author: [From http://www.justinlaroccahansen.com/] I grew up in the tiny town of Millis Massachusetts but spent most summers in a tinier village called Cataumet in Cape Cod and it is there I feel most at home. Comic books, cartoons and toys captivated me as a child and I would constantly create my own characters and stories. I went to college at Ringling College of Art and Design where I got a BFA in Illustration. Shortly after I moved to New York City to try and “make it” as an illustrator. It was a long journey with plenty of odd jobs (including a birthday party host and paper airplane teacher), lots of rejections (we’re talkin’ LOTS), and all the ups and downs that come with chasing a dream. I finally sold my first picture book Monster Hunter in 2012 to Sky Pony Press. The next few years would be consumed by a graphic novel trilogy that had been kicking around in my head for some time called Secondhand Heroes. The first book of that trilogy, Secondhand Heroes: Brothers Unite was published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an Imprint of Penguin Random House, in 2016. Part two, Secondhand Heroes: In the Trenches came out in 2017 and last summer I finished work on part three, Secondhand Heroes: The Last Battle which will be out on April 10th, 2018. I live in Brooklyn with my most amazing wife and my collection of Springsteen records.

Justin is represented by Warner Literary Group. To inquire about commissions, or a school or library visit please use the form at http://www.justinlaroccahansen.com/about/ or email: j.larocca.hansen@gmail.com.

Kellee’s ReviewOne of my students named Lucas is a huge graphic novel fan, and earlier this school year, he introduced a new series to me: Secondhand Heroes. He had read the first books in the series and wanted BADLY for me to read them and could not wait for the third book in the series. Well he does not need to wait any longer! This is a crazy series! I’ll be honest, in the first book, a twist in the plot happens, and the reader is not sure why, but I promise: TRUST THE AUTHOR! It epically comes together throughout the series. This series is definitely a perfect reading ladder up from younger middle grade series like Zita and Amulet. The bit of romance and realistic violence pushes its age range further into teens which, as a middle school reading teacher, I am always looking for! I also am in love with the artwork. It is different than other series because of its softer undertones and touches which makes it so unique. 

Ricki’s Review: I am so glad that I read this series and have it to recommend to students. While it is definitely above his age range, my son really enjoyed this series. Each night, we read it together, and he imagined that the brothers were him and his younger brother. It’s quite a clever series—the main characters, two brothers, get items from a second-hand shop that prove to be magical. They turn into superheroes. At first, they question whether they should use the superpowers, but they quickly realize how they can use these superpowers for good. I particularly like how the boys slowly discover others in their town who have also gained superpowers. It was fun to read all of the different powers that characters had. The illustrations are eye-catching and engaging. The books in this series were ones that I looked forward to reading each night with my son. I’d put it more at the upper elementary/middle school level and agree with Kellee that these books books make a wonderful ladder for middle schoolers. I’ll be recommending these books often.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Graphic novels are such an important format to have available for students in school and classroom libraries.

“While many teachers are beginning to include [graphic novels] in their classrooms, there are still teachers, administrators, and librarians who struggle with including this format in their schools. So, why should you use them in your classroom and have available for students?

• Graphic novels can make a difficult subject interesting and relatable. (Cohen)
• Students are visual learners, and today’s students have a much wider visual vocabulary than students in the past. (Karp)
• Graphic novels can help foster complex reading skills by building a bridge from what students know to what they still have to learn. (NCTE)|
• Graphic novels can help with scaffolding when trying to teach higher-order thinking skills or other complex ideas.
• For students who struggle to visualize while they read, graphic novels provide visuals that show what good readers do. (NCTE)
• Many graphic novels rely on symbol, allusion, satire, parody, irony, and characters/plot and can be used to teach these, and other, literary devices. (Miller; NCTE)
• Often, in between panels (called the gutter), the reader must make inferences to understand how the events in one panel lead to the
events in the next. (McCloud)
• Graphic novels can make differentiating easier. (Miller)
• Graphic novels can help ELL (English Language Learners) and reluctant and struggling readers since they divide the text into manageable chunks, use images (which help students understand unknown vocabulary), and are far less daunting than prose. (Haines)
• Graphic novels do not reduce the vocabulary demand; instead, they provide picture support, quick and appealing story lines, and less text, which allow the reader to understand the vocabulary more easily. (Haines)
• Research shows that comic books are linguistically appropriate reading material, bearing no negative impact on school achievement or language acquisition. (Krashen)
• Students love them.

(Resource: Amulet Books Graphic Novels Teaching Guide Introduction by Kellee Moye)”

Discussion Questions: 

  • In the first book, why did the author change settings?
  • How did the boys’ behavior in this new setting affect the end of the series?
  • How did the superpowers bring the brothers together?
  • How did Brella’s interest in Isabella cause him to struggle with being a superhero?
  • How did Trench use Brella and Stretch’s “weaknesses” as a good person filled with love to manipulate them?
  • How did Trench set up Brella and Stretch?
  • How would you compare/contrast the boys’ character traits from the first book to the last book?

Flagged Passages: [From Brothers Unite]

(p. 24)

“1. *whup* 2. HUH…HUH…HUH. 3. THIS IS MY HOME. TUCKER WAS RIGHT. THIS. IS. 4. AWESOME!” (p. 26)

(p. 50-51)

“2. VERY WELL. 5. Brella: TUCK! Stretch: FLY! I GOT IT! (p. 74)”

Read This If You Love: Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi, Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke, Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel, Sidekicks by Dan Santat, 5 Worlds series by Mark Siegel, Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack, HiLo series by Judd Winick, West series & Battling Boy series by Paul Pope, Chronicles of Claudette by Jorge Aguirre

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**Thank you so much to Justin for providing copies for review and goodies for Kellee’s students!**

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Miles Away from You
Author: A. B. Rutledge
Published: March 20, 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Guest Review by Kaari von Bernuth

Goodreads Summary: It’s been three years since Miles fell for Vivian, a talented and dazzling transgender girl. Eighteen months since a suicide attempt left Vivian on life support. Now Miles isn’t sure who he is without her, but knows it’s time to figure out how to say goodbye.

He books a solo trip to Iceland but then has a hard time leaving the refuge of his hotel room. After a little push from Oskar, a local who is equal parts endearing and aloof, Miles decides to honor Vivian’s life by photographing her treasured Doc Martens standing empty against the surreal landscapes. With each step he takes, Miles finds his heart healing–even as he must accept that Vivian, still in a coma, will never recover.

Told through a series of instant messages to Vivian, this quirky and completely fresh novel explores love, loss, and the drastic distances we sometimes have to travel in order to move on.

Kaari’s Review: I’d like to preface this blog post by saying that I do not identify as LGBTQ in any way, so I don’t have personal experiences to say whether or not this novel presents an accurate representation of what it is like to be an LGBTQ person. But, I think that this book does provide a compelling and interesting perspective that non-LGBTQ people can understand and connect with. I liked that the entire story was written in a messaging format. It placed an interesting lens over the story because, as readers, we always know that the story is being written to someone, even if they can’t respond. The format also lends itself to casual language, which makes it an entertaining and engaging read that students will love.

This book was certainly entertaining, and I loved reading it. I loved cheering for Miles and hurting for Miles when it was appropriate. I think that Miles’ approach to grief is also an approach that many teens can connect with, and maybe learn from as well. However, this book has a lot going on in it. The main character, Miles, is coping with the loss of his transgender girlfriend. His two lesbian moms are very supportive of the LGBTQ community, and even run a summer camp for LGBTQ kids. And, Miles himself is unsure of his sexuality, which he explores more as the novel goes on. Because there are so many LGBTQ elements the author tried to fit in, it feels a little bit contrived at times, and distracts from the overall messages of acceptance of personal identity, and also of the LGBTQ community, and dealing with the intricate and complicated loss of a loved one.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I think this book poses a lot of really interesting questions about suicide, grief, overcoming grief, acceptance, identity, potential abuse (between Oskar and his boyfriend), love, gender, and sexuality that could spark a lot of discussions for students. For these reasons, I think that this book should definitely be included in classroom libraries, and used as a literature circle book. However, if someone is looking to teach an lgbtq book to an entire classroom, I’d choose one that didn’t have quite as many lgbtq aspects, as I mentioned in the review, because it makes the book feel somewhat cluttered and contrived, and there are many other novels that would be better for teaching to a large classroom.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How is identity explored in this novel?
  • How is discrimination portrayed in this novel?
  • What kinds of violence/abuse do we see in the novel?
  • How is death/dying portrayed?
  • How does Miles cope with grief? What ways are productive and what ways are unproductive?

We Flagged: “This is the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the place where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly, slowly tearing apart. It sounds so destructive, doesn’t it? Like the world could just keep spreading and eventually it’ll just crack in half and bleed out into the universe. But the good news is that it doesn’t actually work like that. When the earth splits, lava rises and cools, creating new land where there wasn’t any before. It heals as it tears. I think humans do that, too. So, anyway, this is the tenth photo I’ve taken of Vivian’s boots, and it might be my last for a little while. I do want to keep connecting and keep exploring this new scar tissue.” -Advanced Reading Copy page 224

Read This If You Loved: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills; Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin; If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo; Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford

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**Thank you to Kaari for reviewing this book!**

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Bat and the Waiting Game
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Illustrator: Charles Santoso
Published March 27th, 2018 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: The second book in the irresistible and “quietly groundbreaking”* young middle grade series starring Bat, an unforgettable boy on the autism spectrum.

For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life is pretty great. He’s the caretaker of the best baby skunk in the world—even Janie, his older sister, is warming up to Thor.

When Janie gets a part in the school play and can’t watch Bat after school, it means some pretty big changes. Someone else has to take care of the skunk kit in the afternoons.

Janie is having sleepovers with her new friends. Bat just wants everything to go back to normal. He just has to make it to the night of Janie’s performance…

*Kirkus Reviews

Critical Praise: 

“Delightful. This humorous follow-up is even stronger than its predecessor and will leave readers hoping for a third book featuring Bat and his family.” — School Library Journal

“A gentle tale of shared similarities rather than differences that divide and a fine read-aloud with a useful but not didactic message of acceptance.”  — Kirkus Reviews

A winsome blend of humor and heart, vibrant characters, and laugh-out-loud dialogue. Arnold’s narrative also gracefully explores life through the eyes of a boy on the autism spectrum.  The ever-lovable Bat is sure to resonate with readers of all ages. — Booklist Online

About the Author: Elana K. Arnold grew up in California, where she, like Bat, 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, including the National Book Award finalist title What Girls Are Made Of. Elana lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. She calls the “Bat” series for Walden Pond Press “books of her heart.” You can find her online at www.elanakarnold.com.

ReviewBat is one of my favorite characters ever. He is a flawed character but is also so perfect as who he is! What I love about Bat, other than his amazingly sweet personality, his brilliance when it comes to skunks, and his coping skills, is that he teaches us to treasure the little things. Also, the way that Elana write Bat, his story will help middle grade readers think about their classmates who may not think or act the way that they think is normal. We are all normal for who we are! Bat’s story shows about the good in life and teaches us what good humans are like.

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. [From my review of A Boy Called Bat, 3/10/17]

Educators’ Resource Guide: 

Flagged Passages: “Maybe, Bat though, there was something better in the world than cradling a sleepy, just-fed baby skunk in your arms. But at this moment, it didn’t seem likely.

Bat was sitting in his beanbag chair, having just put down the tiny, nearly empty bottle of formula. In Bat’s hand, licking his fine soft whiskers with a tiny pink tongue and then yawning widely to reveal two rows of new white teeth, was a six-week-old skunk kit named Thor.” (p. 1-2)

“When Israel first handed [a skunk kit sculpture] to Bat last Monday at school, it had taken Bat a moment to figure out what exactly he was holding…

Bat had rubbed his thumb down the smooth shiny back of the clay ump. It didn’t look much like a skunk kit, but its pleasant weight felt good in his hand. And when he had flipped it over to find the words ‘From Israel’ on the bottom, a warm good feeling spread through his chest and up his neck.

A friend had given him a gift. And even if it didn’t look much like the real baby skunk now nestled in his hands, it definitely deserved a place on his bookshelf,a long with his other important things.” (p. 4-5)

Read This If You Love: A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold, Any lit circle book listed under Teacher’s Tools

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

3/12 For Those About to Mock, @abouttomock Sam Eddington

3/15 Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook @knott_michele Michele Knott

3/15 @iowaamber Amber Kuehler

3/16 The Hiding Spot @thehidingspot Sara Grochowski

3/18 Educate*Empower*Inspire…Teach @guerette79 Melissa Guerrette

3/19 Maria’s Melange @mariaselke Maria Selke

3/20 Nerdy Book Club post by Elana

3/20 Writers Rumpus @kirsticall Kirsti Call

3/22 Bluestocking Thinking @bluesockgirl Nicole Levesque

3/28 Unleashing Readers @unleashreaders Kellee Moye

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

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My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella
Author: Jerry Mahoney
Illustrator: Aleksei Bitskoff
Published August 1st, 2017 by Stone Arch Books

Summary: Holden, what have you done?! It wasn’t enough to ruin Maddie’s report on Cinderella, but now you’ve somehow broken the ACTUAL fairy tale? The ugly stepsister is marrying the prince and there’s no happy ever after! You need to fix this and the only way seems to be by entering the story. But beware: if you can’t mend it, you can never return…

ReviewEveryone! You listening?!?! If you or any of your students are a fan of the Whatever After series, you need to get this for you/them. It is a perfect companion for them! But don’t think that this is just a duplicate of the series, it is similar yet also so different! First, Holden and Maddie already don’t work well together, so going into the fairy tale is not only about fixing the fairy tale but also about fixing their relationship. Second, the fracturing of fairy tales gets even more ridiculous than you can even imagine. Third, Holden and Maddie are in the fairy tales as characters, not as themselves. I will say that both this book and the Mlynowski series looks at the problems in fairy tales and how the stories could be better told to make everyone happy.

(I will say the only “issue” I had was I really don’t like the negative connotation around step-siblings, so calling a step-brother rotten really doesn’t help that idea; however, I do like how Maddie has to learn that her opinion on her stepbrother may not be correct.)

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: First and foremost, this book will be a hilarious read aloud and an independent reading books that will fall into so many hands. Additionally, in the backmatter of the book, the author includes a glossary including the harder vocabulary in the book, a think again section with three questions for readers to think about, and finally a section about how to write a ruined version of a favorite tale. All three of these activities help make the book even more useful in a classroom.

Discussion Questions: (From the “Think Again” section by the author)

  • Everyone has someone in their life like Holden, who’s unavoidable and hard to get along with. Who’s someone you’ve struggled to relate to, and what would you do if you had to work with him or her to “fix” a fairy tale?
  • There are details about the wicked stepsisters that weren’t in the original tale, such as Beautianna’s desire to go to art school. Think of a supporting character from one of your favorite books whom you wish you knew more about. Come up with your own ideas for his or her character traits, wants, and needs. You can even try to write the whole story from that character’s perspective.
  • What do you think of the questions Holden raises about Cinderella? Do you think he makes some good points, or would you be as annoyed with him as Maddie was? Pick another story you know well and try to imagine what Holden’s problems with that story might be.

Flagged Passages: “Maddie hadn’t seen her before, but she could tell this woman had plenty to be sad about, starting with her clothes. They were filthy, patched-up work clothes, and her hair was tied back with a rag. She sat in front of a pile of roses, and one by one, she plucked the thorns off each stem and placed them into a vase. Her hands were scratched and bruised from hours of performing this tedious, excruciating task. No wonder she was crying.

‘Do you need a tissue?’ Maddie asked her.

‘Tissue?’ the woman replied. ‘What’s a tissue?’ The woman turned her head and gazed at Maddie, confused.

Of course, Maddie thought. They don’t have tissues in fairy tales. They weren’t invented yet. While she wondered how to explain this, she had another realization. This wasn’t any ordinary, sad woman. She was kind and familiar, the most beautiful woman Maddie had ever seen. She had bright blue eyes and, underneath the rag on her head, hair that seemed to be made from pure gold.

‘Oh my gosh!’ Maddie exclaimed. ‘You’re–you’re Cinderella!’

‘You seem surprised to see me, Glamoremma,’ the young woman replied.” (p. 29-30)

Read This If You Love: Whatever After by Sarah Mlynowski, It’s NOT Jack and the Beanstalk by Josh Funk, Fractured fairy tales

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**Thank you so much to the author for providing a copy for review!**

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