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You Choose in Space
Author: Pippa Goodhart
Illustrator: Nick Sharratt
Published March, 2019 by Kane Miller Books

Summary: Zoom off into space for an adventure where you choose what happens next. Which alien would you most like to be friends with? And what fantastically freaky food will you decide to munch for lunch?

The possibilities are infinite in this mesmerizing creative toolkit which will inspire children to make their own stories time and again — it’s out of this world!

Ricki’s Review: The You Choose series books are easily among my favorite books to read to my kids. We take them on family vacations and visits with relatives and friends because we love to hear what our friends and family would choose. This is one of the best books to bring in car trips because kids can select a different ending every time! When this book came in the mail, my kids shrieked with joy. Since then, we’ve read it dozens of times. I love seeing how my kids’ tastes are different. There is also a lot of great classroom potential in these books (see below).

Kellee’s Review: I’m so glad that Ricki told me to review this You Choose book with her! She received the first one, but I was booked at the time, but she said that I could not let this chance pass, and I am so glad! It is a choose your own adventure book for the picture book age. It really does build up the story-telling capacity because it gives a foundation and lets the reader build up from there. It is such a fun book that is different every time, so a reader is never done!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: You Choose in Space, Just Imagine, and You Choose make for fantastic texts for creative writing units and courses. As teachers, we know that students often struggle to get started, and paging through these books allows for wonderful story starters. I use these books to discuss teaching composition with preservice teachers, and I also use them for a unit about using picture books in the classroom. My students love these books!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did you choose? Why?
  • What did you NOT choose? Why?
  • Which page was your favorite? Why was the spread most interesting to you?
  • Did you notice any trends or patterns with your choices?

Ricki’s family reading one of the You Choose books on vacation: 

Flagged Spread:

Read This If You Loved: Just Imagine by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart; You Choose by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart; Choose Your Own Journey by Susie Brooks and Tracy Cottingham; Story Path: Choose a Path, Tell a Story by Madalena Matoso; Where’s Will? by Tilly; I Want to Be… books by Ruby Brown

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**Thank you to Lynn Kelley at Kane Miller Books for sending us this book!**

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On the Come Up
Authors: Angie Thomas
Published: February 5, 2019 by Balzer + Bray

GoodReads Summary: Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.

My Review: After reading this book, I promptly went into my course syllabus for next semester and swapped out another book to include this one. There are so many things that I love about this book. In particular, I really liked how this book tackled the issues of violence against and the assumptions stereotypically made of black females. There are only a few other recent books that tackle these issues, and they are critically important. I get incredibly frustrated by assumptions like “aggressive black female.” Angie Thomas deftly addresses these assumptions and provides a variety of angles for readers. Bri, the narrator, is incredibly strong, and I admire her greatly. I will never have a daughter, but if I did, I would be so proud if my daughter turned out to be like her. This book just feels different from any book that I’ve read. It offers something different that is going to make for great classroom conversations.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I am going to be using this book in a Social Movements and Collective Action course. I will be using it with other texts to talk about the history and currency of the #blacklivesmatter movement. I am very excited that this book exists in the world, and I know that my students will love it.

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

Flagged Passage: “There’s only so much you can take being described as somebody you’re not.”

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

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You Are Never Alone
Author: Elin Kelsey
Illustrator: Soyeon Kim
Published April 15th, 2019 by Owl Kids

Summary: You Are Never Alone is a picture book that explores how humans are inextricably connected to nature.

Drawing examples from the clouds and the cosmos, the seafloor and the surface of our skin, it explores how we are always surrounded and supported by nature. Whether it’s gravity holding us tight; our lungs breathing oxygen synthesized by plants; the countless microorganisms that build our immunity; or the whales whose waste fertilizes the plankton that feed the fish we eat: nature touches every aspect of how we live.

Using lyrical text grounded in current science alongside detailed diorama art, this informational picture book presents the idea that we thrive through connections to the land and sea and sky, and togetherness is key to nature. It encourages inquiry-based learning, inviting readers to wonder, ask questions, observe the natural world, and engage with big ideas.

About the Creators:

Elin Kelsey, PhD, is an award-winning author and a leading spokesperson for hope and the environment. In 2014, she co-created #OceanOptimism, a Twitter campaign to crowd-source and share ocean conservation successes which has reached 90 million users to date. She frequently works on projects with the Monterey Bay AquariumStanford University and the University of Victoria and is passionate about engaging kids in hopeful, science-based, environmental solutions.

Soyeon Kim is a Toronto-based, Korean-born artist who specializes in fine sketching and painting techniques to create three-dimensional dioramas. She is a graduate of the Visual Arts and Education programs at York University.

Praise for Elin Kelsey & Soyeon Kim:

“Both important and breathtakingly beautiful.” –Kirkus Reviews, starred, on You Are Never Alone

“The depth of the images and the surprising facts work together to create a lovely connection between the readers and the natural world.” –The Boston Globe on Wild Ideas

“Demands to be read and reread, studied and examined, and thoroughly digested. It is perfect for sparking adult and child conversations about our place in the universe. A remarkable achievement.” –Kirkus Reviews, starred, on You Are Stardust

“This is a work that will be read and examined again and again, with something new to be discovered at every turn. Profound and entirely wonderful.” –Kirkus Reviews, starred, on Wild Ideas

Review: What a beautiful representation of how humans and nature intertwine with each other. Often, when we speak of our impact on our planet and the planet’s impact on us, we focus on very huge ideas that may seem so far away for kids, but You Are Never Alone shows the small things that have a large impact.

The mix of beautiful art and research-based science make for a picture book that covers such a wide range of opportunities for classroom discussions and educational activities including themes, poetic verse, science, and diorama art.

Educators’ Guide:  

Flagged Passages: 

Behind the Scenes: 

Soyeon talks about the process of creating the diorama artwork in the book.

Elin explains the scientific research behind three of the poetic lines in the book.

Read This If You Love: The Perfect Tree by Chloe Bonfield; Weeds Find a Way by Cindy Jenson-Elliot; Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayre; Over and Under Snow (and its companions) by Kate Messner

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A Brief History of Life on Earth
Creator: Clémence Dupont
Published March 19th, 2019 by Prestel Junior

Summary: The story of life on earth unfolds in dramatic fashion in this amazing picture book that takes readers from 4.6 billion years ago to the present day.

It’s difficult to grasp the enormous changes life on Earth has undergone since it first came into existence, but this marvelously illustrated book makes learning about our planet’s fascinating history easy and entertaining. In an accordion style, the series of pages take readers through every major geological period, with bright artwork and detailed drawings. Opening on lava-filled oceans and smoking volcanoes, the book unfolds, era by era, to show how life evolved from tiny protozoa and crustaceans to dinosaurs and mammals.

Fully expanded to 8 meters (26 feet), this spectacular visual timeline is a very impressive panorama that reveals evolution in all its glory. Each page is brimming with illustrations that readers will turn to again and again. A celebration of life, this extraordinary and beautiful book illuminates the history of Earth for young readers in an unforgettable and delightful way.

About the Author: Clémence Dupont is an illustrator living in Strasbourg, France. This is her first book.

Review: This book is so beautiful, useful, and just plain neat! First, I love that it folds out (as does Trent!):

When folded out, it reaches 26 feet with one side showing the images created by the author for each of the time periods while the other side has a timeline which is to scale showing how long respectively each time period was.

This book is a work of art. How each time period stands alone yet also is part of the entire timeline when folded out is beautiful to see. Additionally, I adore the artist’s technique of art with rough edges and bright colors.

Each spread focuses on one time period and the life on Earth at the time with a brief write up in the bottom left corner; however, many of the organisms/animals/plants not mentioned in the paragraph are labeled allowing readers to jump into inquiry about them if they wish.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Did anyone else do the activity in elementary school where the teacher had the class convert the miles(?) between planets into centimeters then had the class create a to-scale solar system showing just how far apart the planets are? This book reminds me of that activity in that it shows the true expanse of time Earth has existed versus the very small time humans have. I would use this timeline to create a similar to-scale idea for students to show the history of life on Earth.

Also, as I stated above, each time period only has a brief write up and leaves much to research if one is interested.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What surprised you about the history of life on Earth?
  • What did the timeline on the back show you about the history of life on Earth?
  • When did dinosaurs appear? When did the first human ancestor appear? (etc.)
  • What animal surprised you that has been around a long time?
  • What do you believe is the author’s purpose in creating the book in this structure?
  • How did the Earth change from one period to the next? Take two periods and compare and contrast them.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Animals, Biology, Geology, Earth’s history

Recommended For: 

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Love
Author: Stacy McAnulty
Illustrator: Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Published December 4, 2018 by Running Press

Summary:From award-winning author Stacy McAnulty comes a sweet story about love and what it’s really all about.

What is love? Can you only express it in fancy meals, greeting cards, and heart-shaped chocolates? Kids will find love everywhere in this delightful book. It can be found in everyday moments such as baking cookies with grandma, notes from Mom in your lunchbox, or a family singing together on a car trip, and it isn’t always what you expect!

With delightful illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff and sweetly simple prose by award-winning author Stacy McAnulty, thisis the perfect book to teach children what love means, why it’s important, and how they can spread the love in their daily lives.

My Review: This is a very heart-warming book. I received it on Valentine’s Day, and my kids and I have read it dozens of times. It would make a wonderful gift to a friend or family member because it offers many angles for the power of love. This book offers a lot of teaching potential as students explore abstract concepts and the idea of the metaphor. One thing, in particular, that I like about this book is that it resists the commercialization of love. As readers might see in the spread below, “love needs special presents” but those presents are homemade or expressed with kindness. This is a very touching book, and I think readers will find joy in it.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’d love to have students take an abstract concept (hope, grief, etc.) and create their own books to parallel this one. It would require a lot of brain power and would help students explore the idea of metaphors in their writing. I might even offer poetry that does this (e.g. “Hope is a thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson).

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is love? Who do you love?
  • How do you express your love?
  • Write your own page to add to this book. How does it fit in with the other pages?

Flagged Spread:

 

Read This If You Love: Love. And who doesn’t?

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The Undefeated
Author: Kwame Alexander
Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
Published April 2, 2019 by Versify

Summary: The Newbery Award-winning author of The Crossover pens an ode to black American triumph and tribulation, with art from a two-time Caldecott Honoree.
Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more.

Ricki’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is an incredibly powerful book. I loved seeing the poem (which was previously performed) turned into a picture book. The book touches upon many critical topics for youth to consider across time and place. It offers a strength that makes readers want to jump from their chairs to support the message of the text. This is a must-read. Teachers might use this book in classrooms by asking students to select a page that they find to be particularly inspiring. Then, they might research individuals who reflect the undefeated-ness that they see on the pages. This might devolve into research projects that explore the “faith and fire,” as quoted from the book summary, that students see across time, space, and place.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does this book make you feel?
  • What do you perceive to be the author’s and illustrator’s purpose(s)?
  • What similarities and differences do you see across the pages?

Read This If You Love: Out of Wonder by Kwame Alexander; We March by Shane W. Evans; Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles; The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson; Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer by Carole Boston Weatherford

Recommended For: 

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If da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur
Author: Amy Newbold
Illustrator: Greg Newbold
Published October 2 2018 by Tilbury House Publishers

GoodReads Summary: In this sequel to the tour de force children’s art-history picture book If Picasso Painted a Snowman, Amy Newbold conveys nineteen artists’ styles in a few deft words, while Greg Newbold’s chameleon-like artistry shows us Edgar Degas’ dinosaur ballerinas, Cassius Coolidge’s dinosaurs playing Go Fish, Hokusai’s dinosaurs surfing a giant wave, and dinosaurs smelling flowers in Mary Cassatt’s garden; grazing in Grandma Moses’ green valley; peeking around Diego Rivera’s orchids in Frida Kahlo’s portrait; tiptoeing through Baishi’s inky bamboo; and cavorting, stampeding, or hiding in canvases by Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, Franz Marc, Harrison Begay, Alma Thomas, Aaron Douglas, Mark Rothko, Lois Mailou Jones, Marguerite Zorach, and Edvard Munch. And, of course, striking a Mona Lisa pose for Leonardo da Vinci.

As in If Picasso Painted a Snowman, our guide for this tour is an engaging beret-topped hamster who is joined in the final pages by a tiny dino artist. Thumbnail biographies of the artists identify their iconic works, completing this tour of the creative imagination.

Ricki’s ReviewAfter I read this book, I texted Kellee, “I LOVE THIS BOOK!” We received this a couple of weeks ago, and my son and I have read it several times. I missed If Picasso Painted a Snowman, but I plan to get it for my son for the holidays. I love how much learning is packed in this book. After we turned the pages, my son and I looked up the artists to learn more about the artists, their style, and their famous paintings. For me, this picture book will always rank among my favorites because it offers so much educational potential. This is one that I’d use with high schoolers and college students, as well. If you don’t own this book, I recommend it highly. It’s phenomenal.

Kellee’s Review: If I thought the Newbolds hit the height of fun art picture books with If Picasso Painted a Snowman, but they continued the brilliance with their newest If da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur. What I love about the Newbolds’ books are that they are so beautifully done in both art and informational narrative, and it is done in a way that is entertaining and also teaches about some amazing artists. What surprised me about this newest is that there are even more truly abstract and modern art pieces, more than the first book, and the diversity of the artists represented were expanded to show the talent around the world and in different cultures. I can’t wait to see what they are going to do next!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This would be a great book to use in interdisciplinary ways with an art classroom. Students might research an artist, pick a theme, and create their own “If ______ painted a _______” book. It could be bound and kept in the classroom.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do the dinosaurs differ across the pages? What do you notice about the different artists’ styles?
  • Which dinosaur was your favorite? Why?
  • After reading the back matter, which artist would you like to learn more about?
  • Compare and contrast “regular” dinosaurs which each dinosaur in the book. What do you notice that is the same and/or different?

Flagged Spread: 

Read This If You Love: Art!; If Picasso Painted a Snowman by Amy & Greg Newbold; Biographies of artists such as The Noisy Paintbox by Barb RosenstockViva Frida by Yuyi Morales, Sandy’s Circus by Tanya Lee Stone, A Splash of Red by Jennifer Fisher Bryant; The Dot by Peter H. ReynoldsLinnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Björk; Seen Art? by Jon Sciezska; The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew DaywaltPerfect Square by Michael Hall; My Pen by Christopher Myers, Paint Me a Picture by Emily Bannister, Mini Museum Series

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters for providing copies for review!**

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