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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Because of Mr. Terupt
Author: Rob Buyea
Published October 12, 2010 by Delacorte

A Guest Review by Julia Kipphut

Summary: Mr. Terupt’s fifth grade class at Snow Hill School is comprised of various types of students, some including: a new student, a popular girl, a bully, and a troublemaker. Their teacher, Mr. Terupt who is passionate and energetic, strives to engage his students and instill a sense of community amongst his class. Unfortunately, one day, a snowball fight goes awry and leaves Mr. Terupt in a coma. His class is rattled and must learn to work together, be kind, and hope for Mr. Terupt’s recovery.

Review: This book includes a variety of characters, each owning their own identity and personality. Each chapter is written from a different character’s perspective, making for a fluid and interesting read. They are relatable for children and allow them to recognize themselves in each character. Each character evolves in the story and shows tremendous growth, proving the rich development of the people in this book. The message of community and forgiveness is nicely intertwined in the story and proves that it is always better to choose kindness. The theme of this book is positive and motivational. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Because of Mr. Terupt serves as a great reader aloud for upper elementary school students. 4th and 5th graders who are struggling with their identity and place in a classroom community can learn the importance of compassion. Students can learn to embrace individual differences for a common goal or outcome, mirroring the characters in this book. Additionally, this book allows students to study character development throughout the story; each character evolves- allowing for effective classroom discussion.

Because of each character of this book is written from a different character’s perspective, students are able to study point of view and consider the influence each chapter has on the story as a whole. Students are able to learn about each character in depth and can even use literature circles to each study a character for analysis.

Discussion Questions: How might the story be different if the snowball accident did not happen?; What do you think the author’s purpose or message was for this story?; Why do you think the author chose to write this story from different characters points of views? Do you think this was effective?

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Loved: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper; Wonder by R. J. Palacio

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ghost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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the sun is also a star

The Sun Is Also a Star
Author: Nicola Yoon
Published: November 1, 2016 by Delacorte

Summary: Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

My Review: This book shines brightly. It is more than a love story. The description of the text doesn’t quite do it justice. While reading Nicola Yoon’s words, I thought of politics, I thought of the universe, I thought of science, and I thought of culture. Natasha and Daniel have a lot of baggage, and their family histories have formed who they are. Both are strong characters who want to be better than some of the mistakes their family members have made. I appreciated the depth of this text.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I love talking about immigration in the classroom because it is a great opportunity for powerful discussions. I would love to talk about Natasha’s situation and students’ opinions about it. This might allow students an opportunity to look at immigration laws and how they impact others.

Throughout the text, Yoon provides snippets of other characters’ lives. These snippets impact the narrators, and it would be interesting to discuss how each snipped changes the way we read the story.

Discussion Questions: Is Natasha’s father entirely wrong in his approach to life? Can you find some redemption in his poor decisions?; Do you believe in fate? How can we tie this story to science?; Does Natasha’s family deserve to go home? Do you think they should be allowed to stay in the United States of America?; What role does Daniel’s father play in the development of the story?

Flagged Passage: “There’s a Japanese phrase that I like: koi no yokan. It doesn’t mean love at first sight. It’s closer to love at second sight. It’s the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them. Maybe you don’t love them right away, but it’s inevitable that you will.”

Read This Book If You Loved: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon; Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell; The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu

 

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

arabian-nights

Tales from the Arabian Nights: Stories of Adventure, Magic, Love, and Betrayal by Donna Jo Napoli
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Illustrator: Christina Balit
Published October 11th, 2016 by National Geographic Children’s Books

Summary: Classic stories and dazzling illustrations of princesses, kings, sailors, and genies come to life in a stunning retelling of the Arabian folk tales from One Thousand and One Nights and other collections, including those of Aladdin, Sinbad the Sailor, and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. The magical storytelling of award-winning author Donna Jo Napoli dramatizes these timeless tales and ignites childrens’ imaginations.

Review: This short story anthology of Arabian mythology was fascinating, captivating, and beautifully written and illustrated. The layers of themes and stories built upon each other to create a collection that is a wonderful introduction to true traditional literature.

One thing that I at first struggled with but then ended up loving was how stories overlapped with stories. The main story was that a young woman was telling her husband a story every night to keep him in suspense so that he keeps her alive for another night. So within her story, she is telling stories. Then sometimes the characters in her stories, to help her add suspense and cliffhangers, will tell stories. So that meant at times the story you were reading was a story within a story within a story. Sounds confusing but the way it was explained and implemented allowed for the tactic to do what the young woman hoped it would do for her husband–I just had to keep reading!

I also, in my ignorance, had not read any Arabian traditional literature as I only knew the pop culture versions, so I loved learning about the culture and history through their folk tales.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Greek mythology is taught throughout school; however, there are folk tales and mythology from so many other cultures. I would love to see more Arabian folk tales taught during mythology units (and why not more folk tales and mythology from other cultures as well!). Donna Jo Napoli along with Christina Balit already have anthologies for Egyptian and Norse (and Greek), so those are a good place to start!

Discussion Questions: What are some themes you see throughout all of the tales?; How are the stories you were familiar with different than the popular culture versions you knew?

Flagged Passages: 

arabian-nights-illustration

“Princess Budur unfoldedthe letter and her own ring dropped into her palm. She read the letter. At last! She planted her feet against the wall and strained until the iron around her neck snapped. She pulled the curtain aside and threw herself into Qamar al-Zaman’s arms. On that day they were wed.” (p. 72-73)

Read This If You Love: The Arabian Nights by various and other Middle Eastern or Asian stories and folk tales, mythology

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**Thank you to Karen at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!!**

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the secret side of empty

The Secret Side of Empty
Author: Maria E. Andreu
Published: March 11, 2014 by Running Press

Summary: As a straight-A student with a budding romance and loyal best friend, M.T.’s life seems as apple-pie American as her blondish hair and pale skin. But M.T. hides two facts to the contrary: her full name of Monserrat Thalia and her status as an undocumented immigrant.

But it’s harder to hide now that M.T.’s a senior. Her school’s National Honor Society wants her to plan their trip abroad, her best friend won’t stop bugging her to get her driver’s license, and all everyone talks about is where they want to go to college. M.T. is pretty sure she can’t go to college, and with high school ending and her family life unraveling, she’s staring down a future that just seems empty. In the end, M.T. will need to trust herself and others to stake a claim in the life that she wants.

Author Maria E. Andreu draws from her personal experience as a (formerly) undocumented immigrant to explore an issue that affects over one million children in the U.S. But while the subject matter is timely, it is M.T.’s sharp, darkly funny voice and longing for a future that makes this story universally poignant.

My Review: In the last year, I have met many people who have told me that they were or are undocumented immigrants. Immigration reform is a hot topic in politics right now, and I can’t help but wonder if people are thinking about others in terms of their humanity. I’ve become increasingly heavy-hearted as I have listened to speeches about immigration, and I longed to learn more about the topic. After searching news articles, research studies, statistics, and government websites, I felt that I needed more story, and so I picked up this book from the library. It received excellent reviews, and I understand why. The author draws upon her personal experiences as a formerly undocumented immigrant, and the narrator, M. T., feels very real. I learned about some of the struggles undocumented immigrants experience, and I am grateful for all that I learned from this book. M. T. deals with other complex issues beyond her immigrant status—relationship issues, domestic abuse, and contemplations of suicide. There is so much to discuss regarding the text. I loved the book and am so glad I found it. I highly recommend it.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is a fantastic book to discuss undocumented immigrants with students. It would be wonderful to help students consider aspects of immigration reform and explore other perspectives. The author is featured in this article about Donald Trump.

Discussion Questions: How might the author’s perspective have influenced her work?; What do you learn about immigration? How does this influence, change, or solidify your beliefs?; How does M. T.’s relationship with Nate evolve? Do you agree with everything he did?; Did M. T. make the right decision to leave home? Why or why not?

Flagged Passage: I will always be a stranger everywhere. With my parents, I am too American. With Americans, I am a spectator with my nose pressed against their windowpanes, watching their weird rituals and rites of passage, never quite understanding them completely. A little chunk of me will always be a stranger everywhere, different chunks of stranger in different situations. (p. 98).

Read This Book If You Loved: 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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