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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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On Gull Beach
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Bob Marstall
Published March 27th, 2018 by Cornell Lab Publishing Group

Summary: Together again! On Gull Beach reunites bestselling children’s author Jane Yolen and award-winning illustrator Bob Marstall for the third installment of the acclaimed On Bird Hill and Beyondseries of children’s books written for the renowned Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

In On Bird Hill, Yolen and Marstall took readers on a surreal journey with a boy and his dog as they see the natural world, ultimately witnessing the miracle of a chick emerging from an egg.

On Duck Pond continued their journey, this time at a serene pond filled with birds, frogs, and turtles who are suddenly disrupted by their intrusion, but soon settle back into a quiet equilibrium.

On Gull Beach brings us to an idyllic shoreline in Cape Cod, where gulls hover, dive, and chase with pitched acrobatics in pursuit of a seastar. This enchanting sequel in a brand new habitat will delight readers young and old.

As with all Cornell Lab Publishing Group books, 35% of net proceeds from the sale of this title goes directly to the Cornell Lab to support projects such as children’s educational and community programs.

Our review of On Duck Pond from May 4, 2017.

Kellee’s Review: What I love about this series of books by Yolen and Marstall are the way they have combined the beauty of Yolen’s lyrical words with information about the birds and other animals and their habitats that the books focus on. In this one we follow a young boy as he takes a walk on the beach and tried to say a starfish from the birds on the beach. Yolen’s rhythmic writing takes you on the journey while Marstall’s illustrations make them come to life. 

Ricki’s Review: I am still waiting for the day that I read a Jane Yolen book that I don’t love. Today isn’t that day. As Kellee said, Yolen’s words are lyrical. She rhymes, but it isn’t a cheesy sort of rhyme. Instead, it’s quite beautiful and urges readers to keep turning the pages. Marstall’s illustrations are realistic, and they pull the reader into the story. The back matter provides clarifying information about gulls (see the page spread that we feature below). As a New Englander, I smiled at the variety of gulls that the authors feature. The book features photographs along with informational text to teach readers all about the “So many gulls!” This made me long for the summer, and I am looking forward to identifying these gulls on our next beach trip! 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Each of the books Yolen and Marstall have done focus on a different bird in a different habitat. What a great way to combine reading, writing, and science! In an elementary classroom, have students jigsaw to each of the books and come together in a home group so share what they learned about each habitat and the animals that live there. Then students can research a bird of their choice and its habitat to write their own poem about a visit to see the bird.

Discussion Questions: 

  • The habitat Yolen and Marstall were focusing on is a New England Beach. If you have been to a beach in another area, how is the New England beach in the book different and similar to the beach you have gone to?
  • What other birds other than gulls live on beaches all over the world?
  • What parts of the beach habitat did Yolen and Marstall highlight in their book?
  • How does the structure of poetry change this nonfiction book to make it different than other books about birds and habitats?
  • What are the differences and similarities between the three habitats and three birds that Yolen and Marstall have focused on?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Yolen & Marstall’s other ornithology books, Books about birds like Hello, Hippo! Goodbye, Bird! by Kristyn Crow, The Sky Painter by Margarita Engle, Elwood Bigfood: Wanted Birdie Friends by Jill Esbaum, Birds by Kevin Henkes, Look Up! by Annette LeBlanc Cate, Seabird in the Forest by Joan Dunning

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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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Bone’s Gift
Author: Angie Smibert
Published March 20th, 2018 by Boyd’s Mill Press

Summary: Boyds Mills Press is pleased to announce the March publication of BONE’S GIFT, a supernatural historical mystery written by Angie Smibert about twelve-year-old Bone, who possesses a Gift that allows her to see the stories in everyday objects. When Bone receives a note that says her mother’s Gift killed her, Bone seeks to unravel the mysteries of her mother’s death, the schisms in her family, and the Gifts themselves.

In a southern Virginia coal-mining town in 1942, Bone Phillips has just reached the age when most members of her family discover their Gift. Bone has a Gift that disturbs her; she can sense stories when she touches an object that was important to someone. She sees both sad and happy—the death of a deer in an arrowhead, the pain of a beating in a baseball cap, and the sense of joy in a fiddle. There are also stories woven into her dead mama’s butter-yellow sweater—stories Bone yearns for and fears. When Bone receives a note that says her mama’s Gift is what killed her, Bone tries to uncover the truth. Could Bone’s Gift do the same?

This beautifully resonant coming-of-age tale about learning to trust the power of your own story is “charming” says School Library Connection, while Kirkus Reviews says, “Smibert surrounds Bone with a loving, complicated extended family….(with) language, which feels real and down-to-earth, like her characters. An intriguing blend of history and magic.”

About the Author: Angie is the author of several young adult books, including Memento NoraThe Forgetting Curve, and The Meme Plague, and numerous nonfiction books for children, as well as many short stories for both adults and teens. She lives in Roanoke, Virginia.

ReviewBone’s Gift was a special story looking at a well-known time period in a less-known setting. Normally stories in the 1940s focus primarily on the World War in Europe and the Pacific Islands, but this story focuses on a young girl who stays home when her father leaves to fight for his country. What happens to the children who have no mother and whose father leave for the war? Mostly a young girl whose family don’t all get along? And a young girl who is working very hard to figure out something important in her life while also learning truths about her mother’s life. This is that story. Bone is a character that the reader will love and will want to know what happened to her. Between Bone’s loss of her mother, her father going to WWII, Appalachian folklore & setting, and family dynamics, Bone’s Gift has so many different aspects weaving their way throughout the story, but it is all done beautifully in a way that all comes together in the resolution.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: 

(Resources from http://www.angiesmibert.com/blog/?mbdb_book=bones-gift)

Discussion Questions: 

  • What genre would you consider Bone’s Gift?
  • How did the author incorporate Appalachian Folklore in Bone’s story?
  • What theme would you say was the main theme of the story?
  • What incident in the book changed the trajectory of the plot?
  • How would a changed setting have changed the story?

Flagged Passages: “Bone Phillips floated in the cool, muddy water of the New River up to her eyeballs. The sky above was as blue as a robin’s egg, and the sun was the color of her mama’s butter-yellow sweater.

Her mother was still everywhere and nowhere Bone looked.

She let herself sink under the water and swam along the river bottom toward shore–toward Will.

In the shallows, her hand brushed against something hard and jagged on the silky river bottom. An image poured over her like cold bathwater. A young boy had hit his head on this rock. He struggled for air. The current grabbed at him–and her, pulling her along back in time. Bone snatched her hand away from the rock and came up for air with a gasp.” (p. 1)

Read This If You Love: Magical Realism, Folk lore, Historical Fiction, Mysteries

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

Monday, April 9 YA Books Central

Tuesday, April 10 Ms. Yingling Reads

Wednesday, April 11 Unleashing Readers

Thursday, April 12 The Brain Lair AND Genrefluent

Friday, April 13 Always in the Middle

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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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Moon
Author and Illustrator: Alison Oliver
Expected Publication April 17th, 2018 by Clarion Books

Summary: Like many children, Moon leads a busy life. School, homework, music lessons, sports, and the next day it begins again. She wonders if things could be different. Then, one night, she meets a wolf.

The wolf takes Moon deep into the dark, fantastical forest and there she learns to howl, how to hide, how to be still, and how to be wild. And in that, she learns what it’s like to be free.

ReviewJust as Where the Wild Things Are made children think about controlling our inner wild things (anger), Moon has us look at the new pressures of childhood and the need to let kids unleash their inner wild thing (playfulness). I talk often about the pressure that kids with other parents and teachers about the pressure that kids have on them now. Computer programs and homework starting in kindergarten, multiple standardized testing starting in 3rd grade, high school classes starting in middle school, AP classes required for almost everyone, etc. etc. etc. It makes me so sad to see that a lot of the joys of childhood are being pushed away to make kids grow up earlier (but then we complain about kids growing up quicker…). Moon, the main character, represents so many of our kids, and her adventure shows how important it is to let our kids just be themselves to be happy and to remove some of the pressure. I loved this message, and I thought it was told in a beautiful and figurative way that will lead to wonderful discussions and lots of rereading.

And I couldn’t review this book properly without commenting on the beautiful illustrations. I particularly loved the palette changes to highlight time and place and the bits of humor in the illustrations. Just a wonderful combination of artwork and story.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Moon‘s theme and symbolism are what jump out to me first, and I see them being what is discussed the most when it comes to this book, and I could see it be extended from early elementary all the way to middle school just pushing the conversation to different levels the older students get.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What do the wolves symbolize in Moon’s story?
  • How is your life similar to Moon’s at the beginning of the book?
  • How does Moon’s life change from beginning to end?
  • What lesson was the message the author was trying to spread from Moon? 
  • Do you see any differences between Moon from the first couple of pages and the last couple of pages?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Yellow Kayak by Nina Laden, Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

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The Life and Times of Birdie Mae Hayes: The Gift
Author: Jeri Anne Agee
Illustrator: Bryan Langdo
Published: January 2nd, 2018 by Sky Pony Press

Summary: Birdie Mae Hayes has pretty much the perfect life. Her best friend Sally lives just down the street, she’s becoming friends with the new boy in town, and Halloween is coming up. Her little brother Bubba drives her crazy sometimes, but whose doesn’t?

Except, lately, Birdie can’t stop feeling like something is about to happen. Then she starts seeing things happen–before they happen!

It turns out her Grandma Mae has the same ability. But Birdie doesn’t know if she’s ready to take on the responsibility of this “gift.” Still, with the right attitude and some practice, she could help a lot of people. One thing’s for sure: life is going to be real interesting from now on!

ReviewMost children’s lit books at this level are realistic fiction in genre to help guide our elementary age kids with navigating the world. Birdie Mae Hayes’s story does that but also throws in some fantasy which I think is so much fun because that means this series will be great for fans of books like Cody from Tricia Springstubb and Marty from Kate Messner while also being something that fans of Phoebe and her Unicorn from Dana Simpson and Upside-Down Magic from Sarah Mlynowski, Emily Jenkins, and Lauren Myracle will enjoy also! I also enjoyed the well-rounded male and female characters giving most readers someone to connect with. Lastly, I love the small town feel! Every reader needs books that reflect them, and this one will be great for our small-town readers (and windows for our urban readers).

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Like many children’s books for this age (1st-4th grade), Birdie Mae is a perfect addition to a classroom/school library to give readers more options that fit what they need.  

Discussion Questions: 

  • Birdie Mae’s gift isn’t something that we could get; however, if you could see into the future, what events from your past may you have seen to help you change what happened?
  • The gift is selective in what it shows Birdie Mae. What do all the incidences that she sees have in common?
  • What makes Birdie’s hometown of Rainbow, Alabama different from your hometown? Similar?
  • What did Patrick do that others wouldn’t when it came to Doyle? What does his experience teach you?
  • Do you have a friend in your life like Sally?
  • What do we know about Birdie and Patrick’s dads that would make you think they could be friends? Enemies?

Flagged Passages: “My name is Birdie Mae Hayes, and I live in Rainbow, Alabama with my mama, daddy, and my little brother Bubba. I’m in third grade, and my best friend, Sally Rose Hope, lives right down the street from me. I know, I know, it sounds like a perfect life, except that my little brother Bubba drives me crazy and lately I can’t stop feeling like something is about to happen. Or maybe like I’m waiting for something. I don’t really know how to describe it.” (p. 1)

Read This If You Love: Cody series by Tricia SpringstubbMy Life in Pictures by Deborah ZemkeEllie Ultra by Gina BellisarioEllie Engineer by Jackson Pearce; Marty McGuire by Kate Messner; Upside-Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Emily Jenkins, & Lauren Myracle; Cecile Valentine by Julie Sternberg; Eleanor books by Julie SternbergThe Trouble with Ants by Claudia Mills

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