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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!

March Trilogy
Author: John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
Illustrator: Nate Powell
Published 2013, 2015, & 2016 by Top Shelf Productions

Summary: Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One: Begins with John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Book Two: After the success of the Nashville sit-in campaign, John Lewis is more committed than ever to changing the world through nonviolence – but as he and his fellow Freedom Riders board a bus into the vicious heart of the deep south, they will be tested like never before. Faced with beatings, police brutality, imprisonment, arson, and even murder, the young activists of the movement struggle with internal conflicts as well. But their courage will attract the notice of powerful allies, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy… and once Lewis is elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, this 23-year-old will be thrust into the national spotlight, becoming one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement and a central figure in the landmark 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Book Three: Fall 1963, the Civil Rights Movement is an undeniable keystone of the national conversation, and as chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis is right in the thick of it. With the stakes continuing to rise, white supremacists intensify their opposition through government obstruction and civilian terrorist attacks, a supportive president is assassinated, and African-Americans across the South are still blatantly prohibited from voting. To carry out their nonviolent revolution, Lewis and an army of young activists launch a series of innovative projects, including the Freedom Vote, Mississippi Freedom Summer, and a pitched battle for the soul of the Democratic Party waged live on national television. But strategic disputes are deepening within the movement, even as 25-year-old John Lewis heads to Alabama to risk everything in a historic showdown that will shock the world.

Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1950s comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

Review: No matter what I say in this review, I am not going to give this trilogy justice. I mean, Book Three won the National Book Award, Sibert Medal, Printz Award, Coretta Scott King Award, YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction, and the Walter Dean Myers Award. And it had SIX starred reviews, Book Two had FOUR starred reviews, and Book One had FIVE starred reviews. That is FIFTEEN between the three! And they all deserve whatever praise or recognition they have received.

John Lewis’s story included many aspects of the Civil Rights movement I did know about; however, it gives insight into these events that no one else could give us as Lewis is the last of the March on Washington speakers to be with us. It also addresses aspects of the movement that are not taught in history books because it is ugly. Our history is ugly, but that is exactly why it needs to be talked about. There were times when reading where I had to put the book down (especially in Book Three) because this truth was harder to read than just any fiction I’ve encountered. These were my tweets as I was reading (read bottom to top):

But it is because of the shocking nature of our history that we must speak and read and learn about it. We are supposed to keep moving forward, and the only way to make sure we know which way that is, is to learn about what was in the past. John Lewis, with the help of his co-writer Andrew Aydin and the illustrator Nate Powell, have given us a gift with these books. A gift of a look into the past through the eyes of an insider.

I’d also like to share how amazing it was to see John Lewis at ALA Annual in Chicago! I had the honor of hearing him speak twice: once at the Coretta Scott King Award breakfast and once in the Library of Congress pavilion. I also got to shake his hand (though the picture didn’t come out–boo!), thank him, and get my book signed by him and Nate Powell. I am still in awe of the experience!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: PLEASE put these in classrooms! U.S. History teachers, use these as your resource for teaching about Civil Rights. ELA teachers, use these as a nonfiction text in any unit. Anyone with a library for young adults, please put them in your collection. Everyone, read these with a young adult or get them to a young adult. Learning about John Lewis’s truth is how we keep history from repeating itself.

Discussion Questions: 

March Book One Teaching Guide

March Book Two Teaching Guide

March Book Three Example Lesson Plan

Flagged Passages: 

Here are three passages I took photos of because it shocked me how relevant they are to our society today. They may not be the best representation of John Lewis’s narrative; however, they do show the beautiful format and artwork as well as touch on some of the events in Book Three.

Read This If You Love: Just read these. I promise.

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Highly Illogical Behavior
Author: John Corey Whaley
Published: May 10, 2016 by Dial

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But is ambition alone enough to get her in?

Enter Lisa.

Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same.

Ricki’s Review: I didn’t expect this book to hit me quite as hard as it did. The summary was compelling, and I enjoyed reading the first few chapters, and then I became personally invested in the characters’ lives. There are many complex emotions within this text. Because of the alternating perspectives, I’d be rooting for Lisa in a chapter and then feel like a jerk because I was betraying Solomon. And then I’d wonder if rooting for Lisa meant that I was also rooting for Solomon, in a way. This book makes readers question their values and consider ethics. I’ll be thinking about this one for quite some time.

Two other things I love about this book: 1. Solomon’s parents are great! I love when a YA book features good parents! 2. Sexuality is discussed in the book, but it isn’t the only (or main) feature of the book. This goes along with my belief that books that feature discussions about sexuality need not be purely focused on sexuality.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I am a big advocate for literature circles that consider mental health. I think that placing texts like these in conversation allows us to consider the complexity of mental health issues. Some great texts to include in these literature circles follow: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King, and 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. A discussion of these titles would foster incredibly rich discussions about phobias, depression, anxiety, and suicide. In my opinion, we must have these conversations with our students.

Discussion Questions: Do you think that Lisa “did the right thing” throughout the text? Were all of her decisions selfish, or could some of them be considered simultaneously selfless? Can a decision be selfish and selfless at the same time?

We Flagged: “We’re just floating in space trying to figure out what it means to be human.”

Read This If You Loved: (Many of these are listed above.) Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King, Reality Boy by A.S. King, Dear Life, You Suck by Scott Blagden, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Recommended For:

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The Explorers: The Door in the Alley
Author: Adrienne Kress
Published April 25th, 2017 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Summary: The Explorers: The Door in the Alley is filled with adventure and danger. There are missing persons, hired thugs, a hidden box, a lost map, famous explorers, a risk-averse boy, and a girl on a mission. Not to mention secrets not meant for the faint of heart. But if you are feeling bold, or maybe even a little italic, and if you enjoy derring-dos (and doing dares), this just might be the story for you.

Featuring a mysterious society, a secretive past, and a pig in a teeny hat, The Explorers: The Door in the Alley is the first book in a new series for fans of The Name of This Book Is a Secret and The Mysterious Benedict Society. Knock once if you can find it—but only members are allowed inside.

This is one of those stories that starts with a pig in a teeny hat. It’s not the one you’re thinking about. (This story is way better than that one.)

This pig-in-a-teeny-hat story starts when a very uninquisitive boy stumbles upon a very mysterious society. After that, there is danger and adventure; there are missing persons, hired thugs, a hidden box, a lost map, and famous explorers; and also a girl on a rescue mission.

About the Author: Adrienne Kress is a writer and an actress born and raised in Toronto. She is the daughter of two high school English teachers and credits them with her love of both writing and performing. She also has a cat named Atticus, who unfortunately despises teeny hats. Look for her online at AdrienneKress.com, and follow her on Twitter at @AdrienneKress.

Review: I love when narrators break the fourth wall if it is done well, and you’ll learn really early on that it is done well in The Explorers. This hilarious narrator takes us on this adventure with Sebastian, a character that very logical people will relate to, and Evie, a character that people who are bored unless they are on an adventure, will relate to that is filled with more action, adventure, and danger than I thought would come out of this little book. But don’t worry, the narrator keeps it light with funny chapter titles and footnotes. All of this combines to make a book that I loved quite a bit because it is just the perfect balance of adventure, humor, friendship, and mystery. Although, I must warn you about the cliffhanger–WHOA! I’m still recovering. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The Door in the Alley has many opportunities to be a mentor text including discussing footnotes and breaking the fourth wall. Not many books use either of these yet The Door in the Alley uses both quite well. Discussing these will also lead to a perfect conversation about voice. Normally voice is saved for first person books but because we have a narrator that although not a character in the story definitely has a voice, it would be interesting to talk to students about how that worked in this book.

Discussion Questions: What do you think is going to happen in the next book?; Why do you think the author chose to have the narrator break the fourth wall and speak with you, the reader?; Sebastian and Evie are quite opposites, and normally they would seem like an odd pairing; however, they seem to work perfectly together–what do you think each of them brings out in the other?; Evie is searching for her grandfather because he is in trouble, but what is she truly searching for?; What do you think Sebastian’s parents are thinking right about now?!

Flagged Passages: “In all the confusion, with the pig and the teeny hat and the zigzag man, he had completely forgotten about the thing he had been trying to forget about. In one way, it meant he had done an excellent job at avoiding it up until now; on the other, it meant hat his guard had been down. For, sure enough, the man had turned down an alley. The only alley that existed on the street. That connect to another street. And there was only one thing down that alley.

Sebastian approached it with caution, his expression slowly morphing into one the pig had been wearing all the time. Terror. He stood at the end of the dark passageway and peeked his head around the corner only to see the man standing right by the door. And right under the sign that read…

The Explorers Society.” (p. 18-19)

Read This If You Loved: The Wig in the Window by Kristen KittscherFRAMED by James PontiLoot by Jude Watson, Nickel Bay Nick by Dean Pitchford, and other mysteries where kids have to solve a problem because adults won’t listen to them

Recommended For:

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Visit the Other Stops on the Blog Tour: 

Date Blog URL
24-Apr Live To Read http://livetoread-krystal.blogspot.com/
25-Apr Imagination Soup http://imaginationsoup.net
26-Apr Mom and More http://momandmore.com
27-Apr Pandora’s Books www.pandorasbooks.org
28-Apr Mommy Ramblings http://www.mommyramblings.org
1-May The Lovely Books http://thelovelybooksbookblog.blogspot.com
2-May Batch of Books http://www.batchofbooks.com
3-May Oh, for the Hook of a Book! www.hookofabook.wordpress.com
4-May To Read, or Not To Read http://www.toreadornottoread.net
5-May Grandma’s Cookie Jar http://www.grandmascookiejar.net/
8-May Good Reads with Ronna www.goodreadswithronna.com
9-May Geo Librarian http://geolibrarian.blogspot.ca/
10-May Life By Candlelight http://lifebycandlelight.blogspot.com/
11-May Jumpin Beans http://jumpin-beans.blogspot.com/
12-May Always in the Middle https://gpattridge.com/
15-May Librarians Quest www.librariansquest.blogspot.com
16-May The Book Wars http://thebookwars.ca/
17-May Middle Grade Mafioso http://middlegrademafioso.blogspot.com/
18-May Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile http://www.hopelessbibliophile.com
19-May Tween You & Me http://tweenlibrarian.blogspot.com/
22-May Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook http://mrsknottsbooknook.blogspot.com/
23-May Mundie Moms http://mundiemoms.blogspot.com 
24-May The Write Path http://www.dorinewhite.blogspot.com/
25-May foodiebibliophile.com www.foodiebibliophile.com
26-May Beach Bound Books http://www.beachboundbooks.com/
29-May Middle Grade Ninja http://www.middlegradeninja.com/
30-May Night Owl Reviews https://www.nightowlreviews.com/v5
31-May Cracking the Cover http://www.crackingthecover.com 
1-Jun Jenni Enzor http://jennienzor.blogspot.com/
2-Jun Literary Hoots http://www.literaryhoots.com/
5-Jun From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com/
6-Jun The Winged Pen http://thewingedpen.com/
7-Jun Operation Awesome https://operationawesome6.blogspot.com/
8-Jun Leeanna.me www.leeanna.me
9-Jun Bloggin’ ’bout Books http://www.blogginboutbooks.com
12-Jun YA Books Central http://www.yabookscentral.com/
13-Jun Ms. Yingling Reads http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com
14-Jun MGMinded blog http://middlegrademinded.blogspot.com/
15-Jun Smack Dab in the Middle http://smack-dab-in-the-middle.blogspot.com/
16-Jun Swoony Boys Podcast www.swoonyboyspodcast.com
19-Jun Book Foolery http://bookfoolery.blogspot.com/
20-Jun Unleashing Readers http://www.unleashingreaders.com/
21-Jun Kit Lit Reviews https://kid-lit-reviews.com/
22-Jun The O.W.L. http://owlforya.blogspot.com

**Thank you to Josh at Random House Children’s Books for providing a copy for review and hosting the blog tour!**

 

The Hate U Give
Authors: Angie Thomas
Published: February 28, 2017 by Balzer + Bray

GoodReads Summary: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Ricki’s Review: I don’t know where to begin with this very special book. To give proof of my love for it, I will share that this book is on my Adolescents’ Literature course syllabus for next year. It is the book that I am most excited to teach. My research concerns multicultural young adult literature, and I have read a lot of books that interrogate issues of race. When this book was hyped, I knew I had to read it, but I was nervous that it wouldn’t be as good as I wanted it to be. It was everything and more. The characters feel real, and the pacing is fantastic. The author beautifully captures dialogue and life in ways that will grab readers’ attention. It has a strong message without feeling didactic. Teachers will find much to talk about with this text.

You might notice that this book has a 4.66 average rating on GoodReads. I don’t know of any book with that high of an average rating. I am not one to buy into ratings, but I think this extremely high rating shows that this is a book that really resonates with people. If you plan to read one book this year, pick this one. 

Kellee’s Review: When I first heard about The Hate U Give at ALAN in November 2016, Jason Reynolds said it was going to be one of the most important books of our time. Then I started hearing about it being bid on by all of the major publishing houses. Reynolds’s recommendation mixed with the hype made me want to pick it up, but then I also was so worried that it wouldn’t live up to this hype. But it does. It lives up to it all. I have nothing negative to say about the book. It is poignant. It is thought-provoking. It pushes boundaries. It makes white people have to look at race a way that they may not have considered before. It is REAL. It is rough. It is truth. I think Thomas did a phenomenal job writing a narrative of truth that just lays out there the problems with race in our society in a way that no one can deny or argue; it just is. I think their story makes everyone more aware and more empathetic. I finished a month ago, and I still am thinking about Star and Khalil and Natasha and Kenya and Star’s family–I just didn’t want to stop being in their lives. I cannot say any more how phenomenal this book is. Pick it up if you haven’t. (And the audiobook is so brilliant if you want to listen to it.)

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to analyze the varied themes of this text and dive deeply into discussions of each (power, economics, race, etc.). Then, they might create a civic video essay—one that considers a social issue and provides steps for social action to raise awareness for the viewing audience.

Discussion Questions: How does the author craft dialogue? What might other writers learn from her work?; What messages does the text reveal? Which messages are less obvious but implicit in a reading of the text?; What connections does this text have with the world today?

Flagged Passage: “Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”

Read This If You Loved: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely; by Ilyassah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon; The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon; How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon; Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles; Audacity by Melanie Crowder; The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Recommended For:

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The Fourteenth Goldfish
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Published: April 5, 2016 by Yearling

A Guest Review by Kelsey Iwanicki

Summary: The Fourteenth Goldfish follows the story of Ellie, an 11-year-old girl, who is currently struggling to find her passion, especially following the gradual drop off with her one and only friend, Brianna. However, everything changes when her mother brings home a quirky and crabby 13-year-old boy, Melvin. Ellie notices striking similarities between Melvin and her seventy-something year-old grandfather until he comes clean and tells her that they are in fact the same person. Melvin has worked on developing a drug to reverse the signs of aging, which has successfully worked on himself.

As Ellie and Melvin get closer, they also form an unlikely friendship with a goth student, Raj. Together they give Melvin advice about being a teenager, such as giving him acne medicine and hair elastics. They also help Melvin eventually, after a few failed attempts, steal the same compound that reversed his age. Melvin’s original plan was to steal the gene so he could share it with the world and receive the Nobel Peace Prize. However, Ellie persuaded him not to on the grounds of moral ethics and how scientific impacts can be both positive and negative. Due to this, Melvin flushes the compound down the drain and starts to tour the country. Thanks to her time with her grandfather, Ellie is able to discover his passion in science and also gain a few friends along the way, Raj and Momo.

Review: What I liked most about this book was its quirkiness, mostly exemplified through Melvin. Although the relationship between Ellie and Melvin is untraditional, you can also get glimpses of a typical relationship between a grandfather and granddaughter is like, one that isn’t usually written about. The majority of characters are nontraditional, such as Raj, who is explicitly written as goth; Ellie, a girl scientist (although this is becoming more popular, usually boys are the ones in the STEM fields); and Melvin, as a grumpy 13-year-old.

What I didn’t like about the book was the build-up. Although they failed multiple times at stealing the compound, there was no suspense for when Melvin actually succeeded. Rather, he just came home one day with it. The climax actually was when Ellie had a self-realization that science has both positives and negatives, which honestly was kind of a let down because the plot had focused around getting the compound from the lab. Ultimately, it was a good theme because Ellie realizes there are good and bad things with any passion.

All in all, I did like the book, I think it could appeal to students who are interested in science and realistic fiction books.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book should definitely be included in a classroom library for independent reading because I think it would appeal for students because it is a little quirky and has some interesting characters. It could also prompt some interesting discussions for literature circles because students could discuss the ethics behind using a compound to reverse aging.

A teacher could also use it as a read aloud for a few reasons. It would be interesting to consider the other perspectives of characters such as Melvin or Melissa, Ellie’s mother. Additionally, they could talk about the character traits and what makes Melvin and Ellie such strong characters. Or, they could talk about science and ethics behind what scientists release.

Discussion Questions: If you had a compound that could reverse aging, would you take it? Why or why not?; If you discovered a compound that could reverse aging, would you deliver it to the public? Why or why not?; What do you think will happen to Ellie and Brianna’s friendship? Ellie and Momo’s?; What do you think the side affects are from taking the compound? / What do you think happened to Melvin?; Put yourself in Ellie’s shoes, how would you feel if your grandfather attended the same school as you?; What is the importance of the fourteenth goldfish?

Flagged Passage: “Average people just give up at the obstacles we face every day. Scientists fail again and again and again. Sometimes for our whole lives. But we don’t give up, because we want to solve the puzzle” (p. 47).

Read This If You Loved: El Deafo by Cece Bell; Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt; Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper; Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin; Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

Recommended For:
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Thank you, Kelsey!

RickiSig

nfpb2017

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!

Hazardous Tales: Alamo All-Stars
Author and Illustrator: Nathan Hale
Published March 29th, 2016 by Abrams Books

Summary: “Remember the Alamo!” That rallying cry has been a part of Texas lore for generations. But who were the ragtag group of adventurers behind the famous slogan, and how did they end up barricaded in a fort against a Mexican army? Who survived, who died, and how? This sixth book in the bestselling Hazardous Tales series tracks the Lone Star State’s bloody fight for independence from the Mexican government. It features the exploits of the notorious Jim Bowie, as well as Stephen Austin, Davy Crockett, and other settlers and soldiers who made the wild frontier of Texas their home—all told with the inimitable style and humor for which Nathan Hale is known.

Teaching Guide with Discussion Questions and Activities from Abrams by ME!, Kellee Moye: 

How to use this guide

  • For Alamo All-Stars, opportunities to have discussions and complete activities across different content areas are shared. In the “Fun Across the Curriculum” section, these activities and discussion questions are split into subject areas and are written as if they are being asked of a student.
  • At the end of the guide, Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards are listed that can be met when the books are extended using the activities and discussion questions.

Fun Across the Curriculum

  • Language Arts
    • The title page and the cover show two different illustrations of the Alamo. Compare and contrast the illustrations. Using information from the text, when is the cover illustration from, and when is the title page illustration from?
    • Why would Alamo All-Star need two narrators, Nathan Hale and Vincente Guerrero, while all of the other Hazardous Tales books only needed Hale? How would the story have differed if only Hale had narrated the book? What about only Guerrero?
    • On page 10-11, Guerrero uses the metaphor of a set table to describe Texas in the 1820s. Why does he use this metaphor to describe the state of Texas at this time?
    • On page 18, Hale uses another metaphor of an explosive barrel to illustrate the situation Austin and his settlers were in. How does an explosive barrel and Austin’s situation relate to each other?
    • After researching cholera (science section), look at Hale’s personification of the disease on page 37. Why did he choose this creature to embody cholera?
    • Many different events and problems caused Santa Anna’s army to be able to easily defeat the Texans at the Battle of the Alamo. Create a cause/effect graphic organizer showing the correlation between different events leading up to the Battle of the Alamo and the fall of the Alamo.
      • For example:
    • Much of what happened at the Alamo during the infamous battle as well as stories about Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie have become an American legend. What is a legend? Why has some parts of the story of the Alamo become a legend and not a complete factual part of history?
    • Throughout the book, Hale includes direct quotes from primary sources. How do these quotes enhance the story? How are primary sources more reliable when sharing historical events than secondary sources?
  • History/Social Studies
    • The page of Texas on the end sheets shares the different battles during the Texas revolution. Using Alamo All-Stars, convert the map into a timeline by graphing each battle on the date/year they were fought.
    • Using the text feature on pages 10-11 that shared the 1820s Texas settlers, answer the following: how did each settler threaten each other? Why was Texas such a treacherous place at this time? Who was the rightful settler of Texas?
      • Then, split the class up into 8 groups and assign a group of settlers to each group of students. They then should research the group, and determine how they ended up in Texas, why they felt they deserved to stay in Texas, etc.
    • Page 12 defines a filibuster and gives an example of one. What other famous filibusters have happened in history? Use the Wikipedia article “Filibuster (military)” and its resources to learn about other filibuster expeditions. Unlike the James Long Expedition, were any successful?
    • Throughout the book, Mexico goes through different types of governments: a monarch (inferred from p. 16), a republic (mentioned on p. 17), and a despotic (mentioned on p. 40). Compare and contrast the similarities and differences of the different types of governments.
    • Page 88 shows one of the many flags that have flown over Texas. Using the Texas State Historical Information article “Flags of Texas” and the Flags of the World website, learn about all of the different flags that Texas has flown. Why have so many flown over Texas? Where does the phrase “six flags of Texas” come from?
    • On page 104, Santa Anna compares himself to Napoleon. How are the two men similar? How do they differ?
    • On page 113, Hale jokes, “Don’t feel bad. Everyone forgets about Goliad.” Why do you think the Battle of the Alamo is remembered by so many while the massacre at Goliad is not?
    • Why are Travis, Seguin, Bowie, and Crockett pictured on the front of Alamo All-Stars? Is this who you would consider the all-stars of the Alamo? If not, why not? If so, what did they do to deserve that title? Is there anyone else you would consider an Alamo all-star?
  • Science
    • Cholera killed tens of thousands in the summer of 1833 including Bowie’s wife and her family. What is cholera? How does it spread? Why did Bowie’s family try to travel north to escape it?
    • On page 47, Noah Smithwick was quotes sharing that one member of the Gonzales army had a nose bleed; however, he used scientific terms such as nasal appendage and sanguinary fluid. What do these terms mean?
  • Math
    • On page 31, Rezin Bowie mentions that they were outnumbered 14 to 1 during the battle. Using the illustrations and clues in the “Jim Bowie and the Lost Mine” section to determine how many men were on Bowie’s side and how many men they fought and defeated.
    • Santa Anna’s army outnumbered the Texans by a large amount. Using the information shared about the number of men in each side of the battle, determine an approximate ratio of the battle.
      • After you estimate using Alamo All-Stars, research the actual number of men at the battle and determine the ratio. How close was your estimate?
  • Foreign Language (Spanish and French)
    • Throughout the text, different Spanish words are used, many of which can be defined using context clues or connecting to the English language because they are cognates with a word you already know. Look through the book, and try to define all foreign language vocabulary. Some words throughout the book:
      • El Gran Libro Enorme de la Historia Mexicana (p. 6)
      • ejercito de las tres garantias (p. 9)
      • empresario (p. 12)
      • mucho (p. 16)
      • viva la revolución (p. 21)
      • fantástico (p. 31)
      • Dios y libertad (p. 36)
      • alcalde (p. 45)
      • fandangos (p. 72-84)
      • voy a firmarlo (p. 98)
      • mes amis (p. 103 | French)
        • Which words were easier to define? Why were they easier?
  • Music
    • At the Battle of the Alamo, both Santa Anna’s army and the Texas army played music (p. 91). Research to determine what music was played at the battle. Why would they play music while preparing for a battle?

The teaching guide, along with the other books in the series, can also be viewed at: https://www.scribd.com/document/326377929/NathanHale6-TeachingGuide or http://www.abramsbooks.com/academic-resources/teaching-guides/

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The Sweet Spot
Author: Stacy Barnett Mozer
Published March 25th, 2016 by Spellbound River Press

Summary: When thirteen-year-old Sam Barrette’s baseball coach tells her that her attitude’s holding her back, she wants to hit him in the head with a line drive. Why shouldn’t she have an attitude? As the only girl playing in the 13U league, she’s had to listen to boys and people in the stands screaming things like “Go play softball,” all season, just because she’s a girl. Her coach barely lets her play, even though she’s one of the best hitters on the team.

All stakes now rest on Sam’s performance at baseball training camp. But the moment she arrives, miscommunication sets the week up for potential disaster. Placed at the bottom with the weaker players, she will have to work her way up to A league, not just to show Coach that she can be the best team player possible, but to prove to herself that she can hold a bat with the All-Star boys.

Review: I wish I was Sam. I love baseball, but like most girls, softball is really the only option. I right away had a direct connection with Sam because she was living a dream I had when I was younger. But I also know how hard it is to cross gender barriers. As a “tomboy” you are constantly questioned and made fun of, so to be so out in the spotlight, Sam definitely feels she needs to prove herself. As a female, there are so many moments in this book that seem too real and really made me angry: she is called emotional just because she is passionate, people act as if she is fragile and can’t take care of herself, and her talent is constantly questioned. And when she stands up for herself, she is told to take a joke or calm down. Even outside of the scenario of playing baseball, these are things that woman are going to here–from males and other females! 

But in addition to this too-real reflection of life, Sam’s story will hit home with anyone who has tried to do something that others thought they couldn’t. Or anyone who has been somewhere that they don’t fit in. Or anyone who has been underestimated in general.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to adding this title to any library for middle school students, I also envision Sweet Spot as a lit circle or book club title. It has so much to talk about, and it would definitely fit in with other books that have the big idea of an underdog. It could also definitely be paired with Zootopia!

Discussion Questions: What stereotypical statements do characters say to Sam throughout the book? How does she overcome these assumptions people made about her?; Sam is called emotional; however, if a boy was acting the same way as her, how would he described in the sports world? Why do you think there is a double standard?; How is Sam’s experience at baseball camp different than what she expected?; How does Mike grow throughout the book? How does Sam?

Flagged Passages: “Laughter and chants fill my ears as I step up to the plate.

‘Is that a ponytail?’

‘Easy out!’

‘Go back to softball!’

I take a deep breath and clear my head. It’s not like I haven’t heard it all before.

The pitcher motions for the fielders to move in, then goes into his wind-up, making a big show of the ease at which he will strike me out. I bite my lip and focus.

The ball comes in. I judge the timing and location of my swing–then swing a bit lower.

‘Strike!’

I take a step back and pretend to be upset. The hooting gets louder, but this time it’s easy to ignore. Out on the mound the pitcher grins. He looks around, nods at his team, and I can almost hear the ‘told you sos.’ I may have to slam the next one right at his…

‘Time out!’

Uh, oh.

Coach Duncan storms out to the plate. I give him my best, what’s up? look. The way he glares at me, I know he isn’t buying it.

‘Sam, what was that?’

‘What do you mean, Coach?’

Coach’s bulky face reddens. A drop of sweat slides down his nose. Gross.

‘Do I need to remind you that it is the bottom of the eighth, the score is 0-0, and there are two outs? Stop fooling and play ball.’

‘Bout time you let me,’ I grumble. My batting average is better than the boys on my team. Yet even today, in the 13U Championships, he kept me warming the bench until I fielded last inning.

‘You know what I mean,’ he says. He moves to go back to the bench, then stops and comes closer so only I can hear his next words.

‘And Sam,’ he says. ‘Target this guy, and there’s no way I’ll recommend you for the travel team.'” (p. 1-2)

Read This If You Love: Baseball, Coming of Age Novels, Boy Who Saved Baseball by John Ritter, Ghost by Jason Reynolds, Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

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And don’t miss out on book 2: The Perfect Trip

Published March 24th, 2017

Although I am not going to share the summary (SPOILERS!), I will tell you that it is a wonderful sequel to Sam’s story. Although the conflict is a bit different than the first, it really gives you more insight into Sam and Mike’s families and Sam’s struggle with proving herself.

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