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Furia
Author: Yamile Saied Méndez
Published: September 15, 2020 by Algonquin

Summary: An #ownvoices contemporary YA set in Argentina, about a rising soccer star who must put everything on the line—even her blooming love story—to follow her dreams.

In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life.

At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father.

On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.

But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her.

But is it possible that she’s becoming too American—as her father accuses—and what does it mean when her feelings for Harrison and Neo start to change? Ana will spend her year learning that the rules of English may be confounding, but there are no rules when it comes to love.

With playful and poetic breakouts exploring the idiosyncrasies of the English language, Love in English tells a story that is simultaneously charming and romantic, while articulating a deeper story about what it means to become “American.”

Ricki’s Review: I lost a lot of sleep reading this book. I could not stop reading! Camila’s voice was so strong that I was really drawn to her story. I am not a particularly athletic person, yet I loved reading about the soccer within this book. It is set in Argentina, which offered a perspective of the country. It made me want to visit Argentina. There are many rich themes in this text that make it very teachable—in particular, it offers depictions of domestic abuse, sexism, and strength. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would love to use this book with a translanguaging lens of analysis. It would also be interesting to look at feminist theory as a theoretical framing of the text. But it isn’t about me–instead, I’d ask students what they find interesting in the text and what they want to learn more about. This allows for a freedom of curiosity to explore topics of interest from the text (and there are many!).

Discussion Questions:

  • How do gender roles differ related to soccer in Argentina, according to Camila’s perspective?
  • What is the role of family in the text?
  • What does Camila’s mother teach readers? Her brother? Her best friend?
  • Do you think Camila makes the right choices regarding her future? Why or why not?

Flagged Passage: “Our family was stuck in a cosmic hamster wheel of toxic love, making the same mistakes, saying the same words, being hurt in the same ways generation after generation. I didn’t want to keep playing a role in this tragedy of errors.”

Read This Book If You Loved: Love in English by Maria E. Andreu;  Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos, Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok; YA Books with Sports

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  RickiSig
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Love in English
Author: Maria E. Andreu
Published: February 2, 2021 by Balzer + Bray

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Ana has just moved to New Jersey from Argentina for her Junior year of high school. She’s a poet and a lover of language—except that now, she can barely understand what’s going on around her, let alone find the words to express how she feels in the language she’s expected to speak.

All Ana wants to do is go home—until she meets Harrison, the very cute, very American boy in her math class. And then there’s her new friend Neo, the Greek boy she’s partnered up with in ESL class, who she bonds with over the 80s teen movies they are assigned to watch for class (but later keep watching together for fun), and Altagracia, her artistic and Instagram-fabulous friend, who thankfully is fluent in Spanish and able to help her settle into American high school.

But is it possible that she’s becoming too American—as her father accuses—and what does it mean when her feelings for Harrison and Neo start to change? Ana will spend her year learning that the rules of English may be confounding, but there are no rules when it comes to love.

With playful and poetic breakouts exploring the idiosyncrasies of the English language, Love in English tells a story that is simultaneously charming and romantic, while articulating a deeper story about what it means to become “American.”

Ricki’s Review: I read this book and immediately thought of the many people who would love reading it. It does a beautiful job offering a lived experience of a young girl who is finely attuned to language acquisition. I have been meeting regularly with two students who have shared similar experiences to those of Ana, and I plan to share this book with them. For many, this book will act as a mirror, window, and sliding glass door. I understand fully the criticism this book has received–Maria E. Andreu writes in the opening that she was born in Spain, and her grandparents moved from Spain to Argentina as toddlers. She grew up in the US, traveled to Argentina at age 6 and then was not allowed to return to the US. She was undocumented at age 8 in the US. She talks about her experiences with this and with White privilege in powerful ways in The Secret Side to Empty. My thoughts about this controversy are not as valuable as those of a person with Latinx descent. In the end, I do wish that the character more closely matched Maria E. Andreu’s story rather than that of a native Argentinian. I loved the book and appreciated all that it taught me about Maria E. Andreu’s experiences with language, and there simply aren’t enough books available that explicitly discuss the linguistic diversity within our schools. this book is one that I will remember for quite some time.

Kellee’s Review: One of the things I love most about my school is the amount of diversity and the acceptance and inclusion of all in the school; we do not care where you are from or what language you speak–you are welcome with open arms!  While reading Love in English, I found myself being so upset with the students and some of the teachers in Ana’s school. Why was her ethnicity and language acquisition something that anyone would find funny or bully-worthy?! But then I remember that other places are not like my school… 

I also found myself connecting with Mr. T the ELL teacher! When I first started working at my school, I was intimidated with teaching ELL students because I didn’t think I would be of any help with someone learning English when it was the only language I knew. But throughout my first few years there, I began to learn that teaching ELL students is one of my favorite honors of being a teacher. My 7th year teaching, I taught a class much like Mr. T’s class, and it is one of my favorite classes I’ve ever taught. Mr. T shows how an ELL class, done correctly, can truly become home at school. 

Also, as a reading teacher & librarian at a school with a large Latinx population, primarily from South America, I found that it is so hard to find books that truly reflect my students’ experiences, but Love in English is a mirror for so many of them! It made me so happy while reading because I know that Ana’s experience is one that they will connect with. 

Overall, this story looks at language acquisition in a way that I have not seen in another book and it does so during a wonderful story with some amazing poetry woven throughout. I also love that the language acquisition aspect is own voices. Although this aspect is own voices, I do wish that Ana’s backstory was own voices as well to ensure authenticity of all parts of the story; however, I feel like Maria’s explanation of this choice shows it was thoughtful (though, like Ricki shares, my opinion is not as valuable as a Latinx, and specifically an Argentinian).

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: We would love to use this book to teach about language and translanguaging. We’d group texts that help us think about the power of discussions related to the nuances of language.

Ana, throughout the novel, focuses on aspects of English in her journal. Use Ana’s journals to guide activities on some of the more challenging and, some would say, nonsensical parts of English, like idioms, similar looking words that are pronounced differently, and more.

Ana’s journals are written in beautiful poetry! Use Ana’s poetry for a mentor text to have students write poetry about similar topics to Ana.

Many of Mr. T’s activities that he implemented in his classroom are amazing activities to work with students acquiring a new language. If you are in a language-focused classroom, they would be assets to your classroom.

Discussion Questions:

  • How does language influence the ways in which Ana moves in the world?
  • How do Ana’s relationships with family and friends impact her life?
  • What is the significance of the title of the book?
  • How might the author’s perspective have influenced her work?
  • Why does Mr. T recommend Ana and Neo watch movies as part of their language acquisition?
  • What is the impact of the author’s use of ### since Ana is the narrator?
  • What is a part of the English language that you find confusing?
  • How did the year that Ana and her dad were apart affect their current relationship?
  • Why was Ana so drawn to a relationship with Harrison at first?
  • How was Altagracia’s friendship lifechanging for Ana?

Flagged Passage: 

“‘We don’t have to speak English,’ I tell her. I think–

We don’t have to do it this way.

We don’t have to make it so hard.

We don’t have to erase everything about us. At least not all at once.

—but I do not say it” (Advanced Reader Copy p. 35).

Recipe for Disaster

How do you get an apple in your eye?
Just how easy is pie? 

Who would eat crow or eat their heart out? 
Or how could anyone eat enough hay to eat like a horse? 
How can a potato sit on the couch?
In a world where so many thins are confusing, even food, 
I dream of a day when it is a piece of cake.” (Digital Review Copy Loc 1125)

Read This Book If You Loved: The Secret Side to Empty by Maria E. Andreu, Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez, Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos, Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, Illegal by Bettina Restrepo

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Sofia is an 9-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

 

Dear readers,

If you are a dragon lover like my friend who recommended this book to me or love a kindhearted tale this would be your book: Kenny and the Dragon by Tony DiTerlizzi! This book is recommended for ages 8-12.

Kenny is a little rabbit who always has his head stuck in a book. One day, Kenny’s father rushes into the kitchen all out of  breath. He tells his family to move out straight away but the Mom sits him down for dinner and then tells him to explain. The father says that a Dragon lives on the hill next to their farm and Kenny, the bookworm, obviously wants to see the dragon. The mom protests but the father says he can go but he has to be careful. Kenny quickly goes upstairs and covers himself in pots and pans like a knight and takes a benastary (a book of beasts) with him. Once Kenny gets up on the hill and sees the dragon he gets very scared. Once Kenny meets the dragon he becomes best friends with him. Kenny’s parents think that they should meet the dragon, whose name is Grahame, so they go over to Grahame’s house and have a cup of tea. Later Kenny goes to the village to meet his friend George who lends him books. Kenny discovers that George is assigned to kill Grahame! Will Kenny be able to explain to George that this monstrous but kind beast is his friend before it is too late?

I love this book so much because of its kindness and how it proves the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”. It warms my heart when I see how the two companions work together to stop Grahame (the dragon) from getting hurt. I also love this book because of the cute pencil drawings and the great words that express the story. For example, this is how the book starts: ”Many years ago . . . Hold on, I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking a book about a dragon should start with “Once upon a time.” But this one doesn’t because frankly, I don’t really know what “Once upon a time” means.” Ha ha ha by now you must be laughing! Now you can see how the whole book is told in an exciting way. I hope this book captures your heart and your imagination. Either way HAVE FUN!!!

Discussion questions

  • If you were Kenny would you go up to a mountain that your father tells you has a dragon in it?
  • When Kenny decides to help his friend Grahame do you think that was the right thing to do? Why?
  • Which character is like you the most? What do you have in common?
  • Which of Kenny’s actions surprised you and why did they surprise you?

If this book got the action in you going or you just liked it then be sure to check out The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi. I have not read it yet but have watched the movie twice and can’t wait to get my hands on that book!

**We feel so lucky to have Sofia.**

 

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Sometimes a Wall…
Author: Dianne White; Illustrator: Barroux
Published: October 15, 2020 by OwlKids

Summary: An afternoon in the playground introduces different kinds of walls: a brick wall to draw on with chalk, a water wall, and a climbing wall. What follows is a playful yet profound exploration of the many ways walls can divide us or bring us together. When one child is excluded from a game, another builds a castle to leave him out. When the builder declares the castle MINE, other kids feel alienated―but the builder becomes lonely, too, when the others have fun without him. The book ends with the optimism of a new start: friendship, forgiveness, and imagination give the wall new meaning.

Told with short, simple lines of playful, rhyming text and loose line illustrations by internationally known artist Barroux, this book sparks questions with empathy, insight, and charm. It’s a timely tool for inquiry-based and social-emotional learning, sharing the important message that walls can unite or divide, depending on the choices we make. 

“Rhyme, rhythm, and simple art—all including references to walls—show children expressing different emotions and behaviors… Mending walls for the nursery crowd.” –Kirkus Reviews

Review: My own children have been asking about walls. They hear about them in school (in preschool and first grade), and they come home with a lot of questions. This book offers such great fodder for conversations about walls. The wall in this book evolves, and it is up to the reader to interpret many aspects about the wall and its purpose. I love how this opens discussions for what walls might represent and how they might differ in various conceptions. For instance, the wall in this book might be described as a border wall or it might be describe attached to a metaphorical or ideological wall. This is a book that will make readers of all ages think. I read the book three times in a row (which is not often my approach) because I kept thinking about new applications of the text. This would make a phenomenal classroom text and would be great for critical thinking and discussions. I recommend it highly.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: I’d love to use this book to teach the concept of a metaphor. For me, the wall in this text can be used as a metaphor to talk about a lot of concepts (concrete and abstract).

The “Why” Behind the Book:

A Letter to Parents and Educators

A Letter to Young Readers

Discussion Guide:

Sometimes a Wall… Discussion Guide

A Lesson In 3 Movements:

• Intro to the Unit (PLEASE READ FIRST!)

• What’s Different About Reading Wordless/Nearly Wordless Picture Books?

• 1st Movement: TOGETHER (I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët)

 2nd Movement: APART (Draw the Line by Kathryn Otoshi)

• 3rd Movement: REGRET. NEW START? (Sometimes a Wall … by Dianne White, illustrated by Barroux)

Coloring Pages For Younger Students:

We Are Kind coloring page

Be Kind coloring page

Discussion Questions: 

  • What might the wall represent?
  • How does the wall evolve in the text?
  • What kinds of walls do you have in your life? Do they serve good or bad purposes (or both)?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët, Draw the Line by Kathryn Otoshi, The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee

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Unicorns are the Worst!
Author: Alex Willan
Published September 29th, 2020 by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Summary: This wildly funny and imaginative picture book celebrates the value of differences as a grumpy goblin gets to know his new unicorn neighbors.

It’s an undeniable fact that unicorns are the worst!

Magic is serious business, but all unicorns do is frolic around, have tea parties, and leave glitter all over the place! They’re nothing like goblins—practical and hard-working, who can put magic to good use! Unicorns aren’t helpful at all.

Or are they?

About the Author: Alex Willan grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, where he was seldom seen without his sketchbook in hand. His love of drawing led him to earn a BFA in illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design. Alex has exhibited in art galleries and has painted murals, theater sets, and squirmy kids’ faces, but his true love has always been children’s books. He lives in Chicago with his dog, Harley. Visit him online at Alex-Willan.Squarespace.com.

P.S. If you haven’t read Alex Willan’s Jasper and Ollie, I HIGHLY recommend it as well!!!

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Happy book birthday to this funny tale! I am a sucker for a funny and unique narrator, and our Goblin in Unicorns are the Worst! fits that bill. You can hear his grumpy voice as he tells of his tales of whoa trying to do his job while unicorns get to just frollick and be happy. You can feel his despair while he gets frustrated with his hardworking life versus the laidback life of the unicorns. But you also witness his realization that his assumptions were wrong.  Because the reader has such a connection with him, this realization comes to the reader as well because as you read, you are starting to agree with the goblin. All of this leads to the idea of assumptions, fake news and gossip, propaganda, different points of view on one thing, and envy–all topics that are tough to talk about with young children, but Unicorns are the Worst! gives the perfect context (and is hilarious!).

Book Trailer:

Flagged Passages:  

Read This If You Love: Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea, Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, Eduardo Guadardo, Elite Sheep by Anthony Pearson

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**Thank you to Simon Kids for providing a copy for review!**

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Sofia is an 8-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia will share her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

 

Dear readers,

It’s time for another recommendation from me, Sofia Martinez! Today I’ve decided to change things up a bit. Instead of just writing about one book, I’m going to write about my four favorite books in a series called Classic Starts.

First let me tell you a bit about the series. There are about 55 books in the Classic Starts series. I own about thirty of them and have borrowed some from the library. So I know a lot about the series. Classic Starts is a series that abridges classics and puts them in a language that the kids of today understand. If you do not know what classics are they are very well known books. They also have to be old. This book collection is recommended for ages 7-9. The Classic Starts books also have pictures.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

This book is about the world famous detective Sherlock Holmes. The book contains six shortened mysteries. My favorite one is called The Adventure of the Speckled Band. I don’t want to spoil the story so I’ll leave it at that. After reading the abridged version I moved on and started reading the original with my dad. The abridged version is easier to read and they took the real important parts into the story.

The Secret Garden

Mary is a rich girl but then everybody in her house dies of a sickness except for her. So she moves to Mr. Craven’s house. When Mary discovers there is a secret garden she sets out to find it. She meets two boys that help her take care of the garden. One of them is Mr. Craven’s son.

Pollyanna

My third favorite book in the series is Pollyanna. When Pollyanna’s father dies she goes to live with her Aunt Polly. Aunt Polly is harsh to Pollyanna. Pollyanna keeps herself happy by playing a game that her father taught her, the just be glad game.

Little Women

I love this one so much I even watched the play and the movie (before the pandemic). Little Women is about the four March sisters. They are poor but have a kind heart. For example, one Christmas they give their breakfast to a family who couldn’t afford it. They face many challenges.

I love this series because it lets you experience classics that you would usually have to be older to read. It also gives you a good idea of what the original is about. You can also try out many without having to read a million pages to find out if you want to read the original version when you are older.

I have made a chart including most of the books that I’ve read under a few categories. I want to make it easier for you to find which books you might like. Don’t forget there are plenty more in the series.

Adventure
Anne of Green Gables
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Little Women
Pollyanna
The Secret Garden
The Adventures of Robin Hood
The Three Musketeers
Robinson Crusoe
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Treasure Island
Moby-Dick
The Swiss Family Robinson
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Gulliver’s Travels
The Call of the Wild
White Fang
The Last of the Mohicans
20,000 Leagues under the Sea
Scary
Dracula
Frankenstein
Kindness
Little Women
Heidi
Five Little Peppers and How They Grew
Pollyanna
Survival
The Swiss Family Robinson
Robinson Crusoe
Around the World in 80 Days
Magic
Alice in Wonderland & Through the 
Looking-Glass
Peter Pan
Pinocchio
Animal
Black Beauty
Anne of Green Gables
Heidi
White Fang
The Call of the Wild

**Thank you, Sofia, for your continued brilliance. You inspire us!**

 

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Sofia is an 8-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia will share her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Ban This Book
Author: Alan Gratz
Published: August 29th 2017 by Starscape Books

Hi!

It’s Sofia Martinez again and I just finished reading this amazing book: Ban This Book by Alan Gratz. You definitely would not want to ban Ban This Book. It is for ages 8-12. Ban This Book won a 2020 Nutmeg Book Award in Connecticut. It is a chapter book.

Amy Ann’s favorite book is banned from the library along with others. She decides to make a locker library of all the banned books: the B.B.L.L, the banned books locker library, but when the principal finds out things start to get ugly. For example her favorite librarian gets fired trying to speak up for her. More things happen but I don’t want to be a spoiler.

I really like Ban This Book because it teaches courage. The girl in the book speaks up for her favorite book, something that I would have never done before I read this book. Another reason why I like Ban This Book is because it gives you ideas on what to read next. For example, From the mixed up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg and Matilda by Roald Dahl. The last reason why I like it is because it is very entertaining. I like how it seems real. For example, there are typical arguments with sisters and a bit of sadness and lots of happiness. 

A few months ago I was walking in the library and saw Ban This Book on the Nutmeg Book Award shelf and thought it looked nice so I checked it out. Once I got home I changed my mind about it and didn’t want to read it anymore. I put it back in the library bag and started reading some other books, but now I really regret that.

Here are some discussion questions I came up with.

  • Would you have spoken up for your favorite book?
  • Would you run away if you had annoying brothers or sisters? 
  • Did you like Ban This Book? Why or why not?
  • How much do you think Amy Anne likes books?

If you want a book that teaches you something even if you’re a grown up, Ban This Book is perfect. I hope you have tons of fun reading this book!

**Thank you, Sofia, for your continued brilliance. You inspire us!**

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