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Goodbye Brings Hello: A Book of Firsts
Author: Dianne White
Illustrator: Daniel Wiseman
Published June 26th, 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Summary: There are many ways of letting go.
With each goodbye, a new hello.

From being pushed on a swing to learning how to pump your legs yourself, from riding a beloved trike to mastering your first bike ride, from leaving the comforts of home behind to venturing forth on that first day of school, milestones are exciting but hard. They mean having to say goodbye to one moment in order to welcome the next.   

Honest and uplifting, this cheerfully illustrated ode to change gently empowers readers to brave life’s milestones, both large and small. 

About the Author and Illustrator: 

When she was five, Dianne White said goodbye to her house and her teacher, Mrs. Dunlap, and hello to a new school, and her newest favorite teacher, Mr. Loop. She has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is the award-winning author of Blue on Blue. She lives in Arizona, where she writes full-time. Her next book, Who Eats Orange?, is due out August 2018. For more information, and to download a free activity kit, visit diannewrites.com. Twitter: @diannewrites

Daniel Wiseman remembers saying goodbye to the training wheels on his bike, and saying a great big hello to skinned knees and elbows. But the freedom of rolling on two wheels was well worth the bumps and bruises. He still rides his (slightly larger) bike almost every day. Daniel loves to draw, and has illustrated several books for children. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri. Visit him at danieldraws.com. Instagram: @d_wiseman

Praise: 

“White and Wiseman have created an engaging set of vignettes that will appeal to young listeners in the process of learning new skills.”—Booklist

“This book will give courage to any child feeling a little nervous or scared to try something new.”—Kirkus

“The brightly colored, naive-style illustrations add a cheerful positivity to the book.”—School Library Journal

ReviewWow! What a great lesson within the pages of this book! As kids grow up, one of the hardest things is the saying goodbye to things as they outgrow or as the world changes. For example, Trent just finished preschool and is now in a jump start to pre-K program, so he is switching teachers. What a hard transition! We’ve also had a lot of change at my school that I teach at, and I have had to talk to my middle schoolers about change. It is hard for them, too! And the book doesn’t only deal with big changes, it also shows that seasons change, clothes change, haircuts change… Life is about changes, and we have to learn how to work through them to live our happiest life. Because of the way the book is written, a lot of discussion can happen inferring from the writing and the illustrations to help determine what change is happening to the kid in the illustration.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Activity kit including discussion questions, poetry, graphing, mazes, looking at seasons, and other fun activities here: https://bit.ly/2s3WA40

Discussion Questions: Here are some some of the discussion questions from the activity kit:

  • What are some things you’ve had to say goodbye to? Were you sad to leave them behind? Or did you feel happy that you were moving on to something new?
  • On the back cover of the book it says, “Trying new things takes courage.” What do you think this means?
  • Can you think ahead to what things you’ll do in the future? What will you be saying goodbye to soon? What hellos are you looking forward to?
  • Do you think saying goodbye and hello to things only happens when you’re a kid? Do grown ups say goodbye and hello to things?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: School People by Lee Bennett Hopkins; Time for School by Brian BiggsMonster Needs to Go to School by Paul CzajakOn My Way to School by Sarah Maizes; One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count with Me by John MicklosWhen Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

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Whose Boat?
Author: Toni Buzzeo
Illustrator: Tom Froese
Published May 22nd, 2018 by Abrams Appleseed

Summary: Smoke billows up.
Cool water flows.
Whose boat is that?
Do you know?

This nonfiction ode to boats features six kinds of workers and their boats—a patrol boat, a tugboat, a car ferry, a lobster boat, a lifeboat, and a fireboat—with important parts properly labeled. The answer to each inquiring refrain lies under a gatefold, engaging the reader in an informative guessing game. With lyrical (and factual!) text by New York Times–bestselling author Toni Buzzeo, and the stylized art of Tom Froese, this sturdy board book is perfect for curious and playful young readers.

About the Author and Illustrator: 

Toni Buzzeo’s first two books in the series, Whose Tools? and Whose Truck?, have sold more than fifty thousand copies. Toni is the author of the 2013 Caldecott Honor Book and New York Times bestseller One Cool Friend, as well as many other books for children. A former elementary school librarian and secondary teacher, she now presents at schools, national and international library and reading conferences, and in district and regional staff development trainings. Buzzeo lives with her husband in Arlington, Massachusetts.

Tom Froese is a commercial artist. His work can be seen in retail stores and publications including MonocleHarvard Business Review, and Wired UK. He lives in Canada.

Kellee’s ReviewThis book quickly became a favorite in our household. Trent was so excited about learning about the boats, and the little bit of a twist at the end makes it so that Trent loves to reveal this surprise and he gets excited every time. I do really like how the book doesn’t only introduce the boats but also shares the who the boat is owned/driven by. The lyrical poems for each boat are also really nicely written and fun to read aloud. 

Trent’s Review:I like how the pages open up. And I like reading it to mom, dad, and my two kitty cats. My favorite boat is the car ferry. Sometime I want to park my car in the car ferry then I’ll go up and up to the top. It is fun how the boats were the kids’ in the pool.  I like this page and this page (he then went through every page).

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This would be a great book to discuss careers on the water. Also, the text would be a great introduction to possessive apostrophes since it focuses on the owners of the boats. Students could also write their own poems about a vehicle or boat or building or whatever they want to have their peers guess the owner of what they are writing about.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which boat helps maintain order in the harbor? Whose boat is it?
  • Which boat moves cars across the bay? Whose boat is it?
  • Which boat helps with fires and accidents? Whose boat is it?
  • Which boat moves larger boats? Whose boat is it?
  • Which boat captures fish and other animals for food? Whose boat is it?
  • What is the twist at the end of the book?
  • What are the differences between the boats? Similarities?
  • What boat vocabulary was new to you?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat by Philip C. Stead, Just a Tugboat by Mercer Mayer, Books about vehicles

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What Do They Do With All That Poo?
Author: Jane Kurtz; Illustrator: Allison Black
Published: June 19, 2018 by Beach Lane Books

Goodreads Summary: Find out what happens to all of the poo at the zoo in this funny and factual picture book!

There are so many different kinds of animals at the zoo, and they each make lots and lots (and sometimes LOTS!) of poo. So what do zoos do with all of that poo? This zany, fact-filled romp explores zoo poo, from cube-shaped wombat poo to white hyena scat, and all of the places it ends up, including in science labs and elephant-poo paper—even backyard gardens!

Ricki’s Review: It brings me great joy to review this book. Really. This book is on our nightly reading list, and my son laughs and laughs as we look at all of the different types of poo. I’ll admit that I don’t like poop jokes and don’t find poop to be very funny. But this book is really funny and wildly entertaining. My son’s preschool teacher has recycled panda poo paper, and he learned from this book that this recycling process is made possible by a panda’s diet (see the first spread featured below). He was thrilled to share this scientific tidbit during his morning meeting. This book spurs curiosity. My son asks a lot of questions wen we read it, and we do a lot of comparing and contrasting across pages. I’ll admit that we’ve had great fun selecting which poo is the most interesting to us. I loved that one of the animals (no spoilers here) has cube-shaped poo! This book is sure to be a favorite in classrooms. Get ready to learn science in an entertaining way!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Mary Cowhey’s Black Ants and Buddhists is one of the most beloved elementary school professional development texts. In the book, Cowhey describes a moment in her teaching career when a student wondered aloud about where the poo goes after he flushes the toilet. Cowhey set up an exploratory learning unit based on this question. What Do They Do with All That Poo? follows this spirit (with a focus on zoos and animals).

Teachers might ask students to go home and return to class with an inquiry question about the world. Then, they might (as a whole class, in groups, individually) explore their question(s) and design a picture book or picture books to reflect their new learning.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did you learn? What do they do with all that poo?
  • Which animal poo was the most interesting to you?
  • Select one animal. What is one interesting fact about the animal’s poo (beyond the shape)?
  • Which animals weren’t featured in the book? What is their poo like?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Loved: Caring for Your Lion by Tammi Sauer; Strange, Unusual, Gross, and Cool Animals by Charles Ghigna; Pink is for Blobfish by Jess Keating; Animal Planet & National Geographic nonfiction such as Real or Fake?Ocean AnimalsAwesome 8Animal Atlas, or the Animal Bites series    

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About the Author: Jane Kurtz was born in Portland, Oregon (where she now lives), but when she was two years old, her parents decided to move to Ethiopia, where she spent most of her childhood. Jane speaks about being an author at schools and conferences—in all but eleven of the United States, so far, and such places as Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, France, Germany, Romania, Russia, Oman, England, Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Japan. She helped start Ethiopia Reads (EthiopiaReads.org), a nonprofit that is planting libraries for children and printing some of the first easy-reader books in local languages in Ethiopia. She is the author of many books for children, including Water Hole Waiting and River Friendly River Wild, winner of the SCBWI Golden Kite award for picture book text. To learn more, visit her website: janekurtz.com.

Twitter: @janekurtz

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

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Women Athletes Who Rule! from Sports Illustrated Kids: The 101 Stars Every Fan Needs to Know
Author: Elizabeth McGarr McCue
Published June 5th, 2018 by Sports Illustrated

Summary: The fifth book in the Big Book of Who series from Sports Illustrated Kids profiles extraordinary athletes who shaped the narratives of their sports. The best women athletes–past and present–including Billie Jean King, Serena Williams, Nadia Comaneci, Simone Biles, and dozens more are grouped into these categories: Superstars who reinvented what it means to be a sports celebrity, Wonder Women who transcend sports and created seismic shifts in our culture, Trail Blazers who broke barriers and paved the way for others to follow, Record Breakers who set new standards for excellence, and the Champions who showed heart and gumption as winners. All of their stories bring excellence in women’s sports to readers hungry for empowering stories for kids–girls and boys alike. 

ReviewAlthough I wish there were just more women in a book called ATHLETES WHO RULE, I am happy to have a book that celebrates female athletes that kick butt in their sport! This book celebrates firsts, amazing accomplishments, broken records, and champions. I adore that it spans from the early 1900s to today looking at women who paved the way for the extraordinary athletes that are superstars of today.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The text is structured like a Guinness Book of World Records book making it quite friendly for kid readers who want to read the whole text or for readers who want to browse for fun facts. It could also be a great resource for a literacy activity in a physical education class.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did the women of the early 1900s help pave the way for women athletes today?
  • How are women athletes treated differently than male athletes?
  • Which woman athlete was a new name to you and impressed you with their accomplishments?
  • How was the book structured? What other ways could it have been organized?
  • How did the “Fast Facts,” “Did You Know,” and “Wow Factor” sidebars help with the intrigue the book built?

Flagged Passages: 

Credit: Excerpted from Women Athletes Who Rule by the Editors of Sports illustrated Kids. Copyright © 2018 Liberty Street. Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Meredith Corporation. New York, NY. All rights reserved.

Read This If You Love: Sports!, Sports history, Sports Illustrated Kids

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**Thank you to little bigfoot for providing a copy for review!**

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Rescued
Ape Quartet #3
Author: Eliot Schrefer
Published April 26th, 2016 by Scholastic Press

Summary: They grew up together. Now they have to escape together.

Raja has been raised in captivity. Not behind the bars of a zoo, but within the confines of an American home. He was stolen when he was young to be someone’s pet. Now he’s grown up and is about to be sent away again, to a place from which there will be no return.

John grew up with Raja. The orangutan was his friend, his brother. But when John’s parents split up and he moved across the country, he left Raja behind. Now Raja is in danger.

There’s one last chance to save Raja—a chance that will force John to confront his fractured family and the captivity he’s imposed on himself all of these years.

About the Author: Eliot Schrefer is a New York Times-bestselling author, and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Award. In naming him an Editor’s Choice, the New York Times has called his work “dazzling… big-hearted.” He is also the author of two novels for adults and four other novels for children and young adults. His books have been named to the NPR “best of the year” list, the ALA best fiction list for young adults, and the Chicago Public Library’s “Best of the Best.” His work has also been selected to the Amelia Bloomer List, recognizing best feminist books for young readers, and he has been a finalist for the Walden Award and won the Green Earth Book Award and Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. He lives in New York City, where he reviews books for USAToday.

ReviewI think out of the three Ape Quartet books published so far, this is the one that is going to hit closest to home for many. It will make many readers uncomfortable and want to make a change. First, it takes place in the United States unlike Africa like the first two. Second, it really digs into an issue that is still very much prominent here–animal injustice.

I find Schrefer’s writing to be so beautiful yet so easy to read. He can pull you into his stories and makes you feel for not only his human characters but also his animal characters. He does such a tremendous amount of research for all of his books and with this one it brings the injustice of Raja alive.

I am a sucker for ape books. I find apes to be the most fascinating animals, and orangutans may be my favorite because they have these amazing eyes that just show me that they are so intelligent and deep thinkers. They are also introverts; I think I just relate to them in that way. This book brings orangutans to life through Raja.

As evident from Schrefer’s status as a two-time National Book Award finalist, his books can be used as a mentor text for just about any aspect of writing that you are looking for: characterization, imagery, voice, conflict, etc. Read any of his books, and you can pull out so much to discuss and use within the classroom. Additionally, there are some amazing ape books, including Schrefer’s other Ape Quartet books, that would make for an amazing lit circle opportunity or text set.

Review originally posted here on May 13, 2016.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Last year, our whole-class novel unit was done using Hurt Go Happy and included a trip to Center for Great Apes. This year, I had a completely different type of novel planned, but my students begged to read more about apes (and visit CFGA again). After looking at all of the available ape books, I decided that Rescued was perfect for the standards I wanted to teach and also included orangutans instead of chimps, and orangutans are the other great ape at CFGA. After setting up a Donors Choose and getting funded (THANK YOU ALL DONORS!), Eliot Schrefer also so kindly contacted me and offered to send even more copies of Rescued to my students–wow! So much kindness! Now that we had a plethora of copies, I wanted to share the love, so I contacted my South Carolina middle school teacher friend, Jennie Smith, to see if she wanted to read Rescued with us and collaborate some how. I was so happy that she said yes!

The Unit

Because I do love whole-class novels, but I also don’t like how a whole-class novel can also ruin a book with too much time spent on one book with way too many assignments during the unit. To try to fight this, I planned the unit quite simply:

  • Each week the students were given a focus question on Monday that they could think about all week then answer on Friday.
    • These focus questions are how we collaborated with Mrs. Smith’s class as well. My 1st and 2nd period posted their answers on Padlet and Mrs. Smith’s students would also post. The kids would then respond to each other.
    • Focus questions:
      • 1. What’s a big idea that’s emerging that’s worth talking about?
      • 2. Is there a passage that struck you as important in developing a character or a conflict in the reading so far? Share the passage and explain.
      • 3. What incident up to this point has had the most impact on the plot? How so? What did the characters’ response to this incident teach you about them?
      • 4. There are many who argue that Great Apes are human-like, including the lawyer who will take apes as plaintiffs to demand rights. What are some examples in this section of Raja showing how close to humans he truly is?
      • 5. How did the characters (specifically John’s mom, John’s dad, John, and Raja) change throughout the book? What other narrative elements helped shape their final persona? Find a piece of dialogue and a specific incident in the book that is evidence for your analysis of the character.
    • The idea of focus questions was something I got from a talk by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle at NCTE 2017.
  • Because of one of the standards the unit was focusing on, we also looked at narrative elements, specifically dialogue, setting, and conflicts. Here is my scale for the unit:
  • Throughout the unit, I would also stop to have students think about certain text-dependent questions. I tried not to do this too often to not slow down the narrative; however, I loved seeing my students’ thinking. We would then discuss these questions, but I like allowing my students to write answers first before discussing because it allows them to get their thinking organized. (I shared some of these text-dependent questions and an example of a student’s answers below.)

The Field Trip

Once again I was lucky enough to bring my students to the CFGAs. All students were able to attend this year, and they were so kind to donate to the Center goodies for the Apes–it always fills my heart to see the empathy in their hearts!

I have gone to the Center for Great Apes for years, and sadly this is the first year it rained. Luckily, we were able to get in a 90-minute tour to see the amazing animals who inspired Schrefer’s novel. To see more about the Center, the apes they’ve saved, and the amazing work they do, please visit http://www.centerforgreatapes.org/.

Author Virtual Visit

After reading Rescued, I was so happy to be able to give my (and Jennie’s) students an opportunity to interview Eliot Schrefer about the book. Each student wrote down at least one question they had for Eliot then in groups, the students chose their favorites, then based on these choices, we broke it down to 5 per class equaling fifteen interview questions altogether:

  • Why did you start writing about apes in the first place? And how did you decide on the order of publication for the Ape Quartet? 
  • Do you like writing realistic fiction like Rescued or fantasy like Mez’s Magic better?
  • Will you continue to write about apes now that you are done with the Ape Quartet? 
  • While the titles of your other books, Endangered, Threatened, and Captured, inspire a feeling of fear, the title Rescued inspires hope. Did this change in connotation of your title mark your different opinion about orangutans?
  • Were you ever stuck in between two decisions while writing the book? When? 
  • Who do you think the antagonist of the book is?
  • How did you come up with the whole “Raja bites off John’s finger” scenario? 
  • How did you come up with the concept of Friendlyland? 
  • How did you come up with the character traits for each character (Ex. Gary being a bad father)? Did you base them off people you know or knew? 
  • Can you tell us more about the corruption happening in Indonesia which allows palm oil companies to be able to keep burning down forests even though it is illegal? 
  • Do you feel that apes should be treated like human beings and given the same rights such as due process, land, etc. like the lawyer in the book? 
  • Was it hard for you to decide what would happen to Raja at the end of the book or did you know that you wanted Raja to be released into the wild instead of being kept at the sanctuary?
  • Do you have a favorite sanctuary or zoo you’ve visited? Have you visited the CFGA?
  • You used the word “merantau” which means “hitting a dead end and leaving one life to live another elsewhere” which pretty much sums up the theme of the book. Where did you come across this word? 
  • What writing tips can you give to students who want to be a writer?

We then did a Google Hangout with Mrs. Smith’s class and Eliot Schrefer on May 25th after school:

Some of my favorite answers/quotes from the visit were:

  • Realistic fiction allows for a shifting antagonist.
  • Wanted to help people realize that orangutans aren’t stuffed animals come to life.
  • I don’t have characters first. I have stories first then make the best characters for that story.
  • Apes should not be kept against their will.
  • I used the idea of merantau to develop the plot.
  • Advice: For any artistic pursuit, I encourage you to think of the long range range view. It is risky to put all expectations of self in one basket. Focus on the joy you feel when doing the art. Remember what brings you joy! And do research, take advice, and read.

Discussion Questions: These were the first five of the text-dependent questions I asked during our reading of Rescued as well as an example of a student response (color coded for RATE. R=restate, A=answer, T=text evidence, E=elaborate/explain).

  • What can you infer about John and Raja’s relationship based on the first section?
  • Why does John feel like he needs to go see Raja before he leaves?
  • In the Q&A, the author says he “realized that a captive ape’s situation was similar to the plight of a kid during a divorce, getting swept along by the needs of powerful parents, at risk for being seen for what he represents instead of as a child with his own needs” (p. 251). How are John’s and Raja’s situations similar after the divorce? How are they different?
  • Do you agree with the choice John and his dad are making? Why or why not?
  • Why do you believe the author is beginning each part with a memory of Raja’s?
  • How did the author foreshadow this scene (on pg. 99) earlier in the book?

Flagged Passages: “My telltale heart, the one I’d left behind.” (p. 38)

Read This If You Love: Eliot Schrefer novels: Endangered and ThreatenedHurt Go Happy by Ginny RorbyHalf Brother by Kenneth Oppel, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine ApplegatePrimates by Jim Ottaviani

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I Am Gandhi
Author: Brad Meltzer
Illustrator: 25 Acclaimed Artists
Published May 8th, 2018 by Dial Books

Summary: Twenty-five exceptional comic book creators join forces to share the heroic story of Gandhi in this inspiring graphic novel biography.

As a young man in India, Gandhi saw firsthand how people were treated unfairly. Refusing to accept injustice, he came up with a brilliant way to fight back through quiet, peaceful protest. He used his methods in South Africa and India, where he led a nonviolent revolution that freed his country from British rule. Through his calm, steady heroism, Gandhi changed the lives of millions and inspired civil rights movements all over the world, proving that the smallest of us can be the most powerful.

Galvanized by Gandhi’s example of gentle, peaceful activism, New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer asked his friends in the comic book world to help him make a difference by creating this philanthropic graphic novel. Twenty-four illustrators–including many of the most acclaimed artists in comics today–enthusiastically joined the project, agreeing to donate their work so that their royalties can go to Seeds of Peace, a non-profit organization that inspires and cultivates new generations of global leaders. This extraordinary biography is a glorious team effort that truly exemplifies Gandhi’s selflessness and love for humanity.

The illustrators included are: Art Adams, John Cassaday, Jim Cheung, Amanda Connor, Carlos D’Anda, Michael Gaydos, Gene Ha, Stephanie Hans, Bryan Hitch, Phil Jimenez, Siddharth Kotian, David LaFuente, David Mack, Alex Maleev, Francis Manapul, David Marquez, Steve McNiven, Rags Morales, Saumin Patel, Nate Powell, Stephane Roux, Marco Rudy, Kamome Shirahama, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Abhishek Singh.

Kellee’s ReviewI’ll be honest–when I first read on the cover that 25 different artists illustrated this graphic biography, I was worried that the stagnation of illustration styles would hinder the narrative of Gandhi’s life, but I was so wrong. Instead, by allowing each illustrator to give us their interpretation of Gandhi, his spirit instead flowed through the pages as it was obvious that his story had touched each and every artist, and the author, taking part in this graphic biography.

While reading, it was clear to me that Meltzer wanted Gandhi’s message of equality, peace, and kindness to scream at the reader, and this was confirmed when I read the Washington Post article about Meltzer’s inspiration. I believe Meltzer did a beautiful job not only telling Gandhi’s story but also showing that peace is possible in a time of tumultuous relationships but that the only way to truly achieve it is through similar activism as Gandhi.

Ricki’s Review: I read this graphic novel twice to myself and twice with my son. Further, I’ve read portions of it to my students. I can’t stop sharing it! I was blown away by the amalgamation of the 25 graphic novelists—it made for an absolutely stunning text. I appreciate the historical perspective that extends throughout the graphic novel, and I loved that the illustrations really make Ghandi’s story come alive. This is a book that I will share often and widely. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it highly—even if you already know a lot about Ghandi’s life.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Have students connect Gandhi’s philosophies to those who influenced him and those he influenced. For example, in one of my literature classes, one person picked an author who was influenced by another (for example, Woody Guthrie was influenced by Walt Whitman) then the next student built on that (for example, Bob Dylan was influenced by Woody Guthrie OR Ralph Waldo Emerson influenced Walt Whitman) until a complete chain of influences were made. Then each student wrote an analysis paper showing how they were influenced then presented their findings (in order of influences) to the class. This same idea could be done here: Henry David Thoreau influenced Gandhi who influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. who influenced Barack Obama who influenced Cory Booker, etc. This idea could also be used just to look at the idea of peaceful protests that have changed the course of history: Gandhi, MLK, Black Lives Matter, Never Again, etc.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is the theme of Meltzer’s story of Gandhi?
  • How did Gandhi change the course of history for Indians in South Africa and India?
  • How did the 25 different artists illustrating the graphic novel affect the reading of the biography?
  • How did Thoreau influence Gandhi? Can you infer how Gandhi influence Martin Luther King, Jr.?
  • What was the importance of Gandhi’s march to the sea to hold salt?
  • Why do you believe Meltzer chose the specific quotes he included in the back matter of the book?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: The Ordinary People Change the World series (ex. I am Lucille Ball, I am Jackie Robinson), Nonfiction graphic novels such as Drowned City by Don Brown

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Star Wars Workbooks (Writing, ABCs, Reading, and Math)

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Summer Brain Quest Workbooks

Published by Workman

Star Wars Workbooks Summary: The Force is strong with this series! Introducing a line of workbooks that marries the iconic popularity of Star Wars with the unique mix of editorial quality, fun presentation, and rigorous educational standards that Workman applied to the BRAIN QUEST Workbooks.

Twelve titles launch the series―three each for Pre-K through 2nd Grade―and dig deep into core subjects, including numbers, ABCs, phonics, and reading readiness for younger grades, and math, reading, and writing for the older ones. The material, which aligns with national Common Core State Standards, is designed to reinforce essential concepts and lessons taught in schools. Any child, not just fans of Star Wars―but yes, those fans will be especially delighted (as will reluctant learners)―will love the “A” is for Anakin approach to phonics. Kids will practice learning numbers by counting and circling X-wing starfighters and clone troopers. Master place values by sorting groups of Wookiees. There are math problems―Yoda is holding 7 lightsabers. 5 of the lightsabers are blue. The rest are green. How many green lightsabers is he holding? And Language Arts―Circle the correct homophone in this sentence: Luke is a Jedi knight/night.

Featuring favorite characters like Luke Skywalker, Queen Amidala, Yoda, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and other creatures, monsters, Jedi, and Sith, the workbooks are filled with thousands of original illustrations drawing from all six Star Wars movies and the expanded Star Wars universe.

Learn well, you will.

Summer Brain Quest Workbooks Summary (Pre-K to K Summary): It’s time to get ready for school! Now, the series that keeps K–6th graders sharp, active, and curious in between grades is expanding to meet popular demand: Introducing Summer Brain Quest: Between Grades Pre-K & K, covering the summer between Preschool and Kindergarten so 4- and 5-year-olds can get ready for school—and have fun doing it.

Part workbook, part game, part adventure, it’s the interactive book that combines educational activities with indoor and outdoor play—with entertaining and effective results. The pullout map guides kids on a learning quest; to cross the finish line, they fulfill the curriculum-based exercises and customize their path by pursuing the bonus challenges and outdoor activities that excite them most. How about extra counting or reading calendars? A hunt for three-dimensional shapes? Identifying landforms? Or finding words that rhyme? Along the way, they earn stickers for completing pages, tick off an adventure list, and get fresh air with outdoor learning challenges, like writing the alphabet with sidewalk chalk.

Teacher-approved, parent-trusted, and designed to appeal to kids’ natural love of learning and playful curiosity, Brain Questmakes it fun to be smart all summer long!

Ricki’s ReviewMy son LOVES these books. They have made him so excited about reading, writing, and math. I am not a workbook kind of teacher, but these books defy all notions of worksheet and workbook teaching. The Summer Brain Quest books feature a map at the end. As kids finish each page, they earn stickers to go along the map. The books ask them about themselves in the “my world” pages. They make learning very fun. He particularly loves the Star Wars reading book. He enjoys matching the letters to words and circling answers. My son is an outdoors-y kind of kid. He doesn’t enjoy sitting at the table and practicing his reading. Therefore, we do these at night. After we read together, he picks one of these workbooks to do together. We sit on the floor, and he loves it. It extends his awake time, and he loves thinking he is doing something fun to stay up later than his brother. We found the workbooks in the bookstore yesterday, and he was thrilled to see his books on the shelves. We ended up buying other books in the Brain Quest series because he enjoyed them so much. He chose this rather than a new toy! I’ll be purchasing these books for my younger son when he gets a bit older. They are absolutely wonderful and make learning fun! 

Kellee’s ReviewLike Ricki, I am skeptical whenever I see a workbook, but as soon as these arrived, my son became a bit obsessed with “doing his Star Wars letters,” and I just cannot argue with that as Trent is not a sit-and-do-something type of kid. But since the workbook is a mix of writing and activities, it doesn’t seem like work to him but instead is seen as a game. Because of this, I view them more as an activity book than just a workbook. We’ve currently been focusing primarily on the Star Wars activity book because I don’t want to overwhelm him, and it also leaves the Brain Quest for us to do when he is done. (Though, I do LOVE Brain Quest cards. My sister, Natalie, gives them to Trent for his birthday, and we do his “cards” in the car.) Lastly, I want to give a shout out to these helping parents who want to include educational activities at home. I know that even I, as a teacher mom, struggle with figuring out what to do to help my child learn to read and keep learning, and these activity books are perfect!

We Flagged: 

Star Wars “A”

to “Z”

Tracing and Coloring the Number 3

Brainquest “MNO” and “Living Things”

“Summer Brain Quest” map

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Diana and Christi at Workman for providing a copy for review**