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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Flagged:

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

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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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Sylvia Rose and the Cherry Tree
Author: Sandy Shapiro Hurt
Illustrator: Xindi Yan
Published Tilbury House Publishers

Summary: This very strange tale began in May.

in a friendly forest on a sunny day

Skipping along a path in the wood

danced Sylvia Rose, and man, she was GOOD!

Laughing and leaping came Sylvia Rose,

Whirling and twirling on twinkly toes.

Bold, adventurous Sylvia Rose loves visiting the animals and trees of the forest. The girl and her favorite cherry tree share almost everything, including dancing and stories, but they can’t travel the world together because the tree is rooted deep in the earth. Determined to overcome this obstacle, Sylvia Rose enlists her animal friends to uproot the glorious tree, and Sylvia and the tree set off globetrotting together, taking in the wonders of the world from the Eiffel Tower to the Sydney Opera House, each sight more amazing than the last.

Back home in the forest, however, the animals begin to suffer without the food and shelter of their life-sustaining cherry tree. Can the tree give up her newfound freedom and return to her role in the forest ecosystem?

ReviewThis was such a fun book to read aloud! The rhyming and rhythm make it so sing-songy which always makes a book a pleasure to read aloud. Hurt was very smart with her rhymes and none of them seemed forced. She also kept a very specific rhythm throughout the book which made everything seem clean. I also was immediately taken by the artwork. Yan’s vibrant colors and exuberant characters really pull everything together, and as the reader I could not help but smile as Sylvia and the Cherry Tree go on their adventures. While reading, I was immediately excited for this book to make its way to classrooms, and I cannot wait to share it with my friend that teaches 2nd grade.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Sylvia Rose and the Cherry Tree is a perfect mentor text for the introduction of rhyming and rhyme scheme because of the clear rhyming and easy pattern. Students could write their own story of one of the animals in the story using the rhyme scheme and rhythm of the book.

Sylvia Rose and the Cherry Tree also is a good story to use when talking about big ideas including priorities, fun vs. responsibilities, and homesickness. This discussion could also grow into one about theme.

Finally, cross curricularly the story could be used to look at habitats. The animals that live in the forest suffer when the Cherry Tree leaves because their home is no longer there. This conversation could also include why removing forests is detrimental to the wildlife in the area.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why is the tree and all the animals immediately drawn to Sylvia Rose?
  • Why does the tree want to go on adventures?
  • What are some effects of the tree’s decision to go with Sylvia Rose?
  • Using clues in the illustration, where did Sylvia Rose and the Cherry Tree go visit?
  • Do you agree with the decision that the tree made in the end? Why or why not?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon

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Love
Author: Matt de la Peña
Illustrator: Loren Long
Published January 9th, 2018

Summary: From Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long comes a story about the strongest bond there is and the diverse and powerful ways it connects us all.

“In the beginning there is light
and two wide-eyed figures standing near the foot of your bed
and the sound of their voices is love.

A cab driver plays love softly on his radio
while you bounce in back with the bumps of the city
and everything smells new, and it smells like life.”

In this heartfelt celebration of love, Matt de la Peña and  illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.

Kellee’s Review: I sat here for a long time trying to figure out how to put into words how I feel about this book. I just can’t, but I will try. 

Let me give you some history. At ALAN in 2016, I believe, Matt was a speaker, and he shared how he’d written a poem about love to share with his daughter when the world didn’t seem so loving. Matt’s daughter is approximately Trent’s age and she’s his first just like Trent is, so I completely understood his feelings–the reality that we’ve brought children into this hard world. When Matt read his beautiful words, I cried. It was beautiful. At the end of the poem, he let us know it was going to be a book, and I had very high expectations.

Then at NCTE 2017, I heard that Penguin had a finished copy. I thought that there was no way that the book could live up to what I expected. But then I read it. And I cried again. I, probably rudely, found Matt right away, maybe interrupting a conversation he was having with someone else, to tell him what a beautiful book he and Loren had created. Matt’s poem had been about love, but the book is about LOVE. Love in the sense that every one needs to start thinking about–love between every person. Empathy. Understanding. Tolerance. Unity. Love for all humans.

And as I read it over and over (after I was lucky enough to receive a copy), I couldn’t think of a kid I didn’t want to share it with. I wanted to share it with my son to talk about how much I love him and how he should love all of human kind; I wanted to share it with my friend who is a 2nd grade teacher, so she could share it with all of her students; I wanted to share it with my students, so we can discuss about the love and acceptance found in each spread and each word; and I am so happy to be sharing it here with all of you so that it can be in every person’s life.

Also, please read this amazing article by Matt de la Peña: “Why We Shouldn’t Shield Children from Darkness” from Time and Kate DiCamillo’s follow-up “Why Children’s Books Should Be a Little Bit Sad” where she answers a question de la Peña posed in his article as well as this Twitter thread from Sayantani DasGupta where she explores the need for joy in the darkeness! It truly embodies my parenting and teaching philosophy: that although kids are kids, they are also humans and future adults; life should be about being real and about happiness.

In the end, I want to just thank these two amazing men for writing this phenomenal book that I so feel is needed so badly right now, and thank you for including nothing but truth within it including inclusion of all types of people and children and situations and cultures and races and ethnicities, etc.

Ricki’s Review: I am really looking forward to seeing Matt de la Peña next month during his tour! This book is absolutely stunning, and we will certainly be purchasing many copies to give as baby shower gifts. The entire text simply emanates love. It is honest, poetically, and it treats children as the intelligent people that they are. The illustrations are simply marvelous and the words dance across the page. I simply don’t have the words to share how absolutely beautiful this book is. When I think of this book, I think about a warm, cozy house and two little boys on my lap. And these little boys make me feel love, love, love.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’ll talk about one scene specifically, which happens to be my favorite.

As soon as I saw this scene, I wanted to show it to students and have discussions with them. How does this scene make them feel? Who is the family? What are they watching? What clues did they use to answer these questions?

Then I would add in the word that accompany the scene:

“One day you find your family
nervously huddled around the TV,
but when you asked what happened,
they answer with silence
and shift between you and the screen.”

And I would ask them how these words change the inferences they made about the spread.

Lastly, I would ask them why this stanza would be in a poem about love, how it fits with the theme, and what it represents.

Another idea that I brainstormed with my friend Jennie Smith are:

  • Recreate my experience by sharing the poem first with the circumstances I shared above. Then reread the poem to them but with the illustrations.
    • After the first read, you can also have them make their own illustrations analyzing the words then compare/contrast the choices that Loren Long made with what they did.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did the author and illustrator include tough scenes in their picture book about love?
  • Which scene represents love the most for you?
  • Which scene are you glad they included?
  • How does the poem differ with and without the illustrations?
  • What different purposes could this poem of love be perfect for?

Flagged Passages: *psst!* Matt may have told me this is (one of) his favorite spreads:

Read This If You Love: Love. (But seriously, read this. Period.)

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Miguel and the Grand Harmony
Author: Matt de la Peña
Illustrator: Ana Ramírez
Published: October 10, 2017 by Disney

Summary: This jacketed picture book pairs Newbery Winner Matt de la Peña and Pixar artist Ana Ramírez with the highly anticipated Pixar Studios film, Coco. Featuring a beautiful original story based on the characters of the film, as well as vibrant stylized artwork, this title is sure to appeal to readers of all ages.

Disney*Pixar’s Coco is the celebration of a lifetime, where the discovery of a generations-old mystery leads to a most extraordinary and surprising family reunion. Directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) and produced by Darla K. Anderson (Toy Story 3), Disney*Pixar’s Coco opens in U.S. theaters November 22, 2017.

Review: Matt de la Peña. Let me count the ways I love this man. He writes stories that come alive and dance off of the pages. This story is no different. This story beautifully depicts the power of music. It reminds readers to pause and listen to the music around them. This would be a beautiful book to pair with Last Stop on Market Street. Both books remind children to slow down and look at their surroundings. We can find beauty all around us.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: This text reads like an extended poem. I would use this book at any age level to teach students about poetry. High schoolers would find beauty in its complexity, and younger readers might use the book as a mentor text to form their own poetry.

Discussion Questions: How does the author use words with intention?; What do you notice about the ways in which the phrases work together on each page?; How does Miguel grow?; Where do you see music in your everyday life?

We Flagged:

Read This If You Loved:  Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham

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Listen: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing
Author: Leda Schubert
Illustrator: Raúl Colón
Published June 13th, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press

Summary: 

Listen.
There was nobody like Pete Seeger.
Wherever he went, he got people singing.
With his head thrown back
and his Adam s apple bouncing,
picking his long-necked banjo
or strumming his twelve-string guitar,
Pete sang old songs,
new songs,
new words to old songs,
and songs he made up.

In this tribute to legendary musician and activist Pete Seeger, author Leda Schubert highlights major musical events in Mr. Seeger’s life as well important moments of his fight against social injustice. From singing sold-out concerts to courageously standing against the McCarthy-era finger-pointing, Pete Seeger’s life is celebrated in this book.

Praise for Listen

★“Schubert and Colón ably demonstrate one of their book’s final assertions: ‘there really was nobody like Pete Seeger.’”—Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“A rousing tribute to a singular musician and activist who ‘walked the talk.’” —Publishers Weekly

“This inspiring picture book biography about one of America’s greatest folk heroes is sure to get a new generation of children singing.” —School Library Journal

“An inspiring and heartfelt tribute to, as Schubert calls him, a ‘true American hero.’” —Horn Book

About the Creators: 

Leda Schubert holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in the Writing for Children and Young Adults and was a core faculty member until 2012. She is the author of many award-winning titles, including The Princess of Borscht, Ballet of the Elephants, and Monsieur Marceau, winner of the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction. Leda lives in Plainfield, Vermont, with her husband and two dogs. To learn more, and to download a curriculum guide, visit ledaschubert.com.

Raúl Colón has illustrated several highly acclaimed picture books, including Draw!; the New York Times-bestselling Angela and the Baby Jesus by Frank McCourt; Susanna Reich’s José! Born to Dance; and Jill Biden’s Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops. Mr. Colón lived in Puerto Rico as a young boy and now resides in New City, New York, with his family.

Kellee’s Review: Schubert’s narrative of Seeger’s life is so lyrical and poetic–it is a song accompanied by beautifully textured, light illustrations that bring the biography to life. I can tell that Schubert is a fan of Seeger because she told his story with gentleness and love honoring a man that is truly an American hero.

The more I read about Pete Seeger, the more I am intrigued. I have heard about Pete Seeger my whole life, but it wasn’t until I read Stand Up and Sing by Susanna Reich that I truly learned about HIM outside of just knowing his music. I truly wish that Pete Seeger was still around to help us in our current time. His story has shown me that one person can make a difference, that good can win and be honored, and that music can bring people together. I loved learning even more about Seeger through Schubert’s picture book.

Ricki’s Review: Like Kellee, I didn’t know a lot about Pete Seeger until I read this book. I love reading texts that teach me more about a person. I didn’t realize that he traveled with Woody Guthrie! Too cool! Pete Seeger was a social activist, and his songs urge us to take action. This book will encourage readers to learn more about the singers that they listen to.

The author and illustrator bring great life to this book. It is very clear that they were inspired by his music, and the book truly comes alive. This is a book that teaches kids about an important man in our history and the power of music. It also reveals a lot of information about American History. I highly recommend this book to parents and teachers.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation & Discussion Questions: A fabulous curriculum guide can be found here created by Leigh Courtney, Ph.D. and includes discussion questions and activities.

Example discussion questions:

  • Pete Seeger said, “Participation. That’s what’s gonna save the human race.” What do you think that means?
  • Pete Seeger found himself in trouble with the government at one point in his life. Which group questioned him? Why were they interested in him?
  • Encourage students to study the illustrations in Listen paying particular attention to the drawings of people in the story. Discuss what the people’s actions and expressions tell you about Pete Seeger’s impact on those who listened to his music.
  • Many view Pete Seeger as an American hero. Discuss why people might regard Seeger as an important figure in American history. Read aloud President Obama’s statement about Pete Seeger, made upon the musician’s death, found in the final timeline entry at the back of the book.

Some examples of activities include cause and effect, research, vocabulary, and some fun music activities.

Resources: Leda Schubert provides some great links to recordings and videos of Pete Seeger here.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Stand Up and Sing! by Suanna ReichWhen Bob Met Woody by Gary Golio, Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow by Gary Golio

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing the book for review!**

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