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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!

Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer
Author and Illustrator: Fiona Robinson
Published August 2nd, 2016 by Abrams Books

Summary: Ada Lovelace (1815–1852) was the daughter of Lord Byron, a poet, and Anna Isabella Milbanke, a mathematician. Her parents separated when she was young, and her mother insisted on a logic-focused education, rejecting Byron’s “mad” love of poetry. But Ada remained fascinated with her father and considered mathematics “poetical science.” Via her friendship with inventor Charles Babbage, she became involved in “programming” his Analytical Engine, a precursor to the computer, thus becoming the world’s first computer programmer. This picture book biography of Ada Lovelace is a portrait of a woman who saw the potential for numbers to make art.

Teaching Guide with Discussion Questions and Activities: 

Ada’s Ideas: The Story of ADA LOVELACE, the World’s First Computer Programmer

Ada Lovelace (1815–1852) was the daughter of Lord Byron, a poet, and Anna Isabella Milbanke, a mathematician. Her parents separated when she was young, and her mother insisted on a logic-focused education, rejecting Byron’s “mad” love of poetry. But Ada remained fascinated with her father and considered mathematics “poetical science.” Via her friendship with inventor Charles Babbage, she became involved in “programming” his Analytical Engine, a precursor to the computer, thus becoming the world’s first computer programmer. This picture book biography of Ada Lovelace is a portrait of a woman who saw the potential for numbers to make art.

Note about this guide and Ada’s Ideas

Ada Lovelace was a mathematician far ahead of her time. Because of this, much of the math included in Ada’s Ideas are quite complex. Because of this, Ada’s Ideas could be used for a wide range of students from early-elementary, focusing on Ada’s impact on math, to college, focusing on her use of complex math to write the first computer programs. Within this guide, you will find activities and discussion questions that primarily focus on its use in elementary and middle classrooms, but this does not limit it to these grade levels.

Vocabulary

These vocabulary words can be found throughout the book (in the order they are listed). Use these words as a starting point for a vocabulary study with Ada’s Ideas. Research shows that reading and discussing vocabulary within the context of reading is one of the most effective ways to learn vocabulary.

Despaired     |     Era     |    Defy     |    Reckless     |    Parallelogram     |    Influence     |    Steady     |    Whirred     |    Clanked     |    Newly Harnessed     |    Mechanical     |    Affectionate     |    Carrier Pigeon     |    Confined     |    Poetical expression     |    Aside     |    Eligible     |    Thrust     |     Regimented     |    Re-ignited     |    Potential     |    Orient     |    Corresponding     |    Loom     |    Thereby     |    Algorithm     |    Compute     |    Potential     |    Foresaw     |    Impact     |    Stunned     |    Envision

Activities: Use these activities to extend student learning with Ada’s Ideas.

Ana’s Parents

  • Ana’s parents are both well-renowned and intelligent; however, they are both very different.
  • Get to know George Byron
    • Have your students read the first stanza of “She Walks in Beauty” by Lord Byron. Analyze the stanza with them and discuss: How is Lord Byron describing the subject of his poem? Does it fit your idea of “Romantic” as Lord Byron was considered a leading figure in the Romantic Movement of poetry.
      • She walks in beauty, like the night
        Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
        And all that’s best of dark and bright
        Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
        Thus mellowed to that tender light
        Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
  • Get to know Anne Isabella Byron
    • Lady Byron was wealthy and educated. She was tutored by a Cambridge University professor as a child and found she excelled at mathematics. Discuss with your students: How did Lady Byron’s fascination of mathematics influence Ana’s life? Do you think her life would have been the same if her mother had not been a mathematician herself?

Nature vs. Nurture

  • Discuss with your students the idea of nature vs. nurture.
  • Lord and Lady Byron worked hard to separate Lord Byron from Ada to try and limit her poetical and imaginative behavior; however, Ada still ended up with quite the imagination. What does this show us about nature vs. nurture? Was Ada’s mother able to change how she was going to grow up by separating her from her father, or did it not matter since she is biologically his daughter?
  • Have your students break into two sides and research the ideas of nature vs. nurture then debate whether a person’s DNA decides their development or if experiences and environment can change the development.
    • Extension: Move the debate to Ada’s situation instead of a generic debate about the idea.

Industrial Revolution

  • The Industrial Revolution was possible because of the engineers, scientists, and mathematicians who put theory into practice. These new exciting feats of engineering and science included the first reliable steam engine, the cotton gin, telegraph, dynamite, vaccines, telephone, light bulb, airplane, and automobile.
  • Individually, in partners, or in groups, assign a different Industrial Revolution invention and look at how it was created, how it changed the world, and how it changed science/math/engineering then present their findings to the class.
  • After learning more about the Industrial Revolution, tie it back to Ada Lovelace’s life by discussing if the class believes that Ada’s accomplishments could have happened during a different time in history.

Influence

  • Ada Lovelace’s findings are largely said to be the first computer program. Her programs, in conjunction with Babbage’s hardware, were a theory over a century before the first computers were invented in the United States and England. Even though she was not part of the actual invention and start of computer science, she influenced much of modern computer science. Use the information below as the starting point for a research paper/project or discussion.
  • Some of the ways Ada has influenced computer science are:
    • Mill made by Babbage’s son
      • Charles Babbage’s son made the part of the analytical engine called the mill which carried out numerical operations.
    • Alan Turing
      • Babbage and Lovelace’s analytical engine was the original “drum” computer though Turing is often portrayed as the inventor of the idea.
    • John Graham-Cumming
      • Graham-Cumming is a British programmer who is working to bring the analytical engine, known as Plan 28, to realization.
    • Some ways Ada has been commemorated:
      • ADA: a standardized computer language used by the US Department of Defense
        • A computer language that appeared for the first time in 1980 and is still used today.
      • Ada Lovelace Day
        • Ada Lovelace Day was founded in 2011 and aims to share female pioneers in STEM fields. Ada Lovelace Day is the second Tuesday of October.

Discussion Questions: Use these questions as whole class discussions, reading check-ins, or as writing prompts with Ada’s Ideas. The discussion questions are written as if they are being asked to a student.

  • Ada’s schedule as an 8-year-old was very intense. Compare and contrast your current schooling schedule to what Ada was expected to do daily.
    • How many hours did she spend on each subject? How long do you spend?
    • Do you feel like what was expected of her was too high of expectations or fair?
  • How did Ada’s contraction of measles change her life?
  • Why did the author choose to cover Ada’s comforter in geometric shapes on the page when she is suffering with measles?
  • Ada surrounded herself with some very intelligent and influential people including Mary Fairfax Somerville, nominated to be jointly the first female member of the Royal Astronomical Society; Charles Dickens, one of the greatest novelist of the Victorian era; Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing; and Charles Babbage. How do you think having these historical figures as her friends helped influence her focus and trajectory in life?
  • The mentorship of Charles Babbage changed Ada’s life as well as the trajectory of computer science. How did Ada influence Charles’s work and vice versa? Do you think either could have accomplished what they did without each other?
    • Compare their work to modern technologies: Ada’s work ended up influencing the creations of ____, and Mr. Babbage’s work ended up influencing the creations of ____.
  • How did Joseph-Marie Jacquard’s loom influence Ada’s idea of the program for the Analytical Engine?
  • The author’s note about Bernoulli Numbers states that Ada chose them as “beautiful examples” of the complexity of the Analytical Engine. Elaborate on this statement: Why would Ada choose something so complicated as the first program she wrote for the Analytical Engine?
  • The illustrations of Ada’s Ideas are Japanese watercolor pieces cut out and rearranged at different depths to achieve 3-D artwork then photographed. How does this artwork fit Ada’s story? Would another type of illustrations have been able to capture Ada’s ideas and personality as well?

Common Core Standards: English Language Arts

Examples of English Language Arts Common Core Anchor Standards that can be met by extending Ada’s Ideas with the above discussion questions/activities.

  • ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1
    Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  • ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2
    Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
  • ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3
    Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
  • ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4
    Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
  • ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.5
    Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
  • ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7
    Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  • ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9
    Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Computer Science Teachers Association Standards

  • Computational Thinking: Grades K-3, #4: The student will be able to recognize that software is created to control computer operations.
  • Computational Thinking: Grades K-6, #6: The student will be able to understand the connections between computer science and other fields.
  • Computational Thinking: Grades 6-9, #3: The student will be able to define an algorithm as a sequence of instructions that can be processed by a computer.
  • Computing Practice and Programming: Grades K-3, #5: The student will be able to identify jobs that use computing and technology.
  • Computing Practice and Programming: Grades 6-9, #7: The student will be able to identify interdisciplinary careers that are enhanced by computer science.
  • Computers and Communication Devices: Grades 6-9, #3: The student will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between hardware and software.
  • Computers and Communication Devices: Grade 6-9, #4: The student will be able to use developmentally appropriate, accurate terminology when communicating about technology.
  • Community, Global, and Ethical Impacts: Grade 6-9, #2: The student will be able to demonstrate the knowledge of changes in information technologies over time and the effects those changes have had on education, the workplace, and society.

Author/Illustrator

Fiona Robinson is originally from the north of England she now lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is an author and illustrator of books for children including Whale Shines, What Animals Really Look Like, and Ada’s Ideas. What Animals Really Like received the 2012 Irma Black Award, and Bank Street named it one of the 2012 Best Children’s Books. She has been praised by Publishers Weekly for her “humor tinged with heart,” and her work has been honored by the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Her favorite things include drawing, reading, drinking tea and telling her stories to children. She doesn’t like loud noises or clapping and often reads newspapers and magazines back to front. When she was in elementary school her teachers called her Little Leonardo, and she’s forever thankful for their support and that of her fabulous family in England too.

Resources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ada_Lovelace

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/11285007/Ada-Lovelace-paved-the-way-for-Alan-Turings-more-celebrated-codebreaking-a-century-before-he-was-born.html

http://findingada.com/

https://plus.maths.org/content/ada-lovelace-visions-today

The teaching guide can also be viewed at: https://www.scribd.com/document/341092371/Ada-s-Ideas-Teaching-Guide# or http://www.abramsbooks.com/academic-resources/teaching-guides/

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I Am (Not) Scared
Author: Anna Kang
Illustrator: Christopher Weyant
Published March 21, 2017 by Two Lions

Goodreads Summary: Two fuzzy friends go to an amusement park. They try to convince each other that there are much scarier things than the roller coaster. Hairy spiders! Aliens! Fried ants! They soon discover that sometimes being scared isn’t as “scary” as they thought. With expressive illustrations and simple text, this giggle-inducing tale about (not) being scared features the endearing characters from the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small.

Ricki’s Review: These books crack me up. I have loved every book in this series, and they all make me giggle and giggle. Each book teaches an important lesson to kids. In this book, readers learn what it’s like to be scared, and why being scared can be transformed into something quite fun! I can’t decide which I like more—the writing or the illustrations. The characterization is beautifully done, and this wife and husband (author and illustrator) team is brilliant. I recommend this series highly to kids, and I also recommend it for use in creative writing classrooms.

Kellee’s Review: We are huge fans of Kang and Weyant books here at the Moye house. Our wall growth chart is from You Are (Not) Small, and I cannot wait to buy the plush fuzzies for Trent! I think that each of their books take on a pretty serious childhood issue (sharing, comparing, now fear) and talk about it in a fun way that still has a pretty clear lesson intertwined with it. This one is going to especially be one I read with Trent because as a three year old, he is just starting to really be scared of things, so it will be a really good discussion to have with him. If you haven’t read any of these books, I highly recommend getting all three–you will not be disappointed. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers will appreciate these books because they are great for use as beginning readers. Unlike some of the dry, boring beginning readers in classrooms, the books in this series use just the right number of words that will allow kids to read without getting incredibly frustrated. I’d recommend this series to both teachers and parents! I am happy to have all of the books in this series for when my own son begins to learn to read!

For more information, and to download a free activity kit, visit annakang.com, or download at: http://bit.ly/2mKbFWi

Discussion Questions: What are the two fuzzy creatures scared of? How does the writing work together with the illustrations to share the story?; How are the characters feeling on the last page? How do you know?

We Flagged: “I am not scared… Are you?

Read This If You Loved: You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang, That’s (Not) Mine by Anna KangScaredy Squirrel  by Mélanie Watts, The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems, Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems

Recommended For:

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Giveaway!:

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About the Authors:

Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant are the creators of two other books featuring these characters: Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small and That’s (Not) Mine. Christopher’s work can be seen regularly in The New Yorker magazine and his cartoons are syndicated worldwide. This husband-and-wife team lives in New Jersey with their two daughters and their Bich-Poo. Visit them at www.annakang.com and www.christopherweyant.com.
Twitter: @annakang27 @chrisweyant05
Instagram: annakangbooks; christopherweyant
Facebook: Anna Kang – Author; Christopher Weyant

 

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

 

Brobarians
Author & Illustrator: Lindsay Ward
Published March 28th, 2017 by Two Lions

Summary: This is the tale of the mighty Brobarians. Two warriors, once at peace…now at odds.

Iggy the Brobarian has taken over the land. Can Otto the Big Brobarian win it back? Or maybe, with a little help, the two brothers can find peace again…

This is an epic—and adorable—story of sibling rivalry and resolution.

About the Author: Lindsay Ward would never have written this book if she hadn’t stayed up late one night watching Conan the Barbarian. She finds the idea of baby barbarians to be very funny . . . and hopes you do too. Lindsay’s recent books include Rosco vs. the Baby and The Importance of Being 3. Most days you can find her writing and sketching at home in Ohio with her family. Learn more about her at www.lindsaymward.com or on Twitter: @lindsaymward.

Praise for Brobarians

“Highly cinematic, both in imagery and narrative soundtrack…Good and campy and a fine opportunity for vocabulary building.”—Kirkus Reviews

“As readalouds go, it’s pretty epic.” – Publishers Weekly

“Ward’s plot cleverly celebrates the spirit of imaginative toddlers, and her cartoonlike cut-paper collage, pencil and crayon illustrations playfully match the humor of the tale. A boisterous, silly picture book that would work well for story-time.” —School Library Journal

Kellee’s Review: This extended metaphor really embodies what it feels like to be a sibling. As the oldest, I can definitely remember times when I was younger and felt like I was in a battle with my sister for attention or cookies or anything that she had that I wanted. And through this metaphor of siblings as brobarians fighting over territory and bah bahs, hilarity ensues! Once best of friends, they are now at odds–who will win?!

Ricki’s Review: Ah, this book is the best! As a mama of two boys, I feel so lucky to have it in my collection. I read this one with both of my boys on my lap. My older son thought it was fabulous. He did a demonstration of some of the moves after we finished. My younger son pawed at the pages and was clearly enamored, too. I can’t wait until they are both a bit older. We are going to create paper outfits to match the outfits of the characters in the book. I highly recommend this book. I promise that you will get swept into the adventurous spirit of these two boys. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Publisher’s Weekly says, “As readalouds go,  it’s pretty epic,” and we would have to agree. In addition to the read aloud opportunity, there are opportunities for discussions about siblings to go along with a family unit. Brobarians brings to light the rivalry that siblings may feel against each other which is something that any child with a sibling may feel and may feel is not normal. Using this story, teachers can discuss what it may feel like to have a sibling and ways to deal with sibling rivalry.

You can also check out a coloring sheet and a map of Brobaria here!

Discussion Questions: Why are Iggy and Otto fighting at first?; What does Otto do to make it worse?; Who wins in the end?; Did you see the end coming? Who did you think was going to win?; How does the map on the end sheets help you navigate the story better?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Loved: Pug Meets Pig by Sue Lowell Gallion, Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Best by Stacy McAnultyWe Found a Hat by Jon KlassenHoot and Peep by Lita JudgeThat’s (Not) Mine by Anna Kang

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for copies for review!**

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A Boy Called Bat
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Illustrator: Charles Santoso
Published March 14th, 2017 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises—some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat’s mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter.

But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he’s got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet.

Critical Praise: 

“Delightful, endearing, and utterly relatable, Bat Tam is destined to be a dear and necessary friend for young readers. I adore him and his story.” — Anne Ursu, author of The Real Boy

“Written in third person, this engaging and insightful story makes readers intimately aware of what Bat is thinking and how he perceives the events and people in his life. With empathy and humor, Arnold delves into Bat’s relationships with his divorced parents, older sister, teachers, and classmates.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Comfortably familiar and quietly groundbreaking, this introduction to Bat should charm readers, who will likely look forward to more opportunities to explore life from Bat’s particular point of view.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Brimming with quietly tender moments, subtle humor, and authentically rendered family dynamics, Arnold’s story, the first in a new series, offers a nonprescriptive and deeply heartfelt glimpse into the life of a boy on the autism spectrum.” — Booklist

About the Author: Elana K. Arnold grew up in Southern California, where she was lucky enough to have her own perfect pet—a gorgeous mare named Rainbow—and a family who let her read as many books as she wanted. She is the author of picture books, middle grade novels, and books for teens. She lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. You can find her online at www.elanakarnold.com.

Review: A Boy Called Bat is one of those quiet yet impactful books that will find a special place in many hearts. The story is about Bat’s Asperger’s and his parent’s divorce without it being about that at all. The main character, Bat, is one of those special characters that as I was reading about him I knew that readers getting to know him will make them grow as people and that their empathy to fellow kids who may seem different will grow as well.

Bat’s story will not only appeal to our readers that love stories that promote empathy and understanding of others, Bat and his skunk, Thor, will definitely appeal to our readers who love animals. Bat’s mother is a veterinarian and Bat is 99.9% sure he is going to be as well. There are many animal references throughout the book, so these will all draw in readers who love animals. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to an amazing read aloud opportunity, I can definitely see the text being part of lit circles. Bat himself is unique, but he and his story remind me of so many other characters who I love and I wish all students would read about: Auggie from Wonder; Melody from Out of my Mind; David from Rules; Candice from The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee; Rose from Rain, Reign; and Adam from How to Speak Dolphin. All of these texts are must reads! I picture all of these texts with their extraordinary characters being part of lit circles with a focus on disabilities/disorders and empathy.

Discussion Questions: How did Thor help Bat grow emotionally? What changes did you see within him and his actions since getting Thor?; What persuasive techniques did Bat use throughout the book to work to try to get his mom to agree to let him keep Thor?; What makes Mr. Grayson a good teacher in general? A good teacher for Bat?

Teaching Guide: 

Flagged Passages: “‘Bat’ was what almost everyone called Bixby Alxander Tam, for a couple of reasons: first, because the initials of his name — B, A, and T– spelled Bat.

But there were maybe other reasons. Bat’s sensitive hearing, for one. He didn’t like loud sounds. What was so unusual about that? And if Janei’s old earmuffs happened to make an outstanding muffling device, was it that funny if he liked to wear them?

There was also the way he sometimes flapped his hands, when he was nervous or excited or thinking about something interesting. Some of the kids at school seemed to think that was hilarious. And, of course, bats have wings, which they flap.

So between the initials and the earmuffs and the hand flapping, the nickname had stuck.

And truthfully, Bat didn’t mind. Animals were his very favorite thing.” (p. 2-3)

Read This If You Loved: Any of the lit circle books I listed above

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Don’t miss out on the other stops on the blog tour!

March 1 Read, Write, Reflect
March 2 A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
March 3 Bluestocking Thinking
March 6 The Official Tumblr of Walden Media
March 7 For Those About to Mock
March 8 Maria’s Melange
March 9 Novel Novice
March 10 Unleashing Readers
March 13 The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
March 13 Mundie Kids
March 14 All the Wonders
March 15 Teach Mentor Texts
March 19 Nerdy Book Club
March 20 LibLaura5
March 22 Book Monsters
March 27 Librarian’s Quest
March 29 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
March 30 Lit Coach Lou

**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for review!**

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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!

Honey Girl: The Hawaiian Monk Seal
Author: Jeanne Walker Harvey
Illustrator: Shennen Bersani
Published February 1st, 2017 by Arbordale Publishing

Summary: Hawaiian locals and visitors always enjoy spotting endangered Hawaiian monk seals, but Honey Girl is an extra special case. She has raised seven pups, and scientists call her “Super Mom.” After Honey Girl is injured by a fishhook, she gets very sick. Scientists and veterinarians work to save Honey Girl until she can be released back to her beach. This true story will have readers captivated to learn more about this endangered species.

Website: https://arbordalepublishing.com/bookpage.php?id=HoneyGirl

Review: I loved Honey Girl’s story. Honey Girl is a mother, a survivor, a symbol of hope, and a miracle of science. Jeanne Walker Harvey did a fabulous job not only developing Honey Girl’s character and developing her story but intertwining all of that with scientific undertones. She brings to the forefront issues of endangered species, humans effects on animals, and the importance of conservation scientists. All of this mixed with the colorful illustrations and amazing setting gives us such a beautiful picture picture.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Honey Girl’s back matter gives such a wealth of information. Anything that wasn’t taught during Honey Girl’s story is revealed. The “For Creative Minds” section includes information on the Hawaiian Monk Seal life cycle, fun facts, conservation information, and rescue & rehabilitation.

In addition to all of the science and geography components of Honey Girl’s story that can be discussed and learned from, there are definitely reading and vocabulary opportunities within the book also. Check out:
Teaching Activity Guide
Reading Quiz
Related Websites
For Creative Minds Quiz

Discussion Questions: How did humans effect Honey Girl’s life?; What are some ways that we could help endangered species?; How does Honey Girl give us hope about the Hawaiian Monk Seal?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Who Lives in the Sea?: Ocean Animals of Hawaii by Monika Mira, Ocean Animals by Johnna Rizzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Guest Review by Julia Kipphut

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

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

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

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

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

Book Trailer: 

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

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Thank you, Julia!

RickiSig