Currently viewing the category: "Author’s Purpose/Perspective/Bias"

A Bike Like Sergio’s
Author: Maribeth Boelts
Illustrator: Noah Z. Jones
Published October 4th, 2016 by Candlewick Press

Summary: Finders keepers, right? When Ruben picks up someone’s lost money, he finds out how hard it can be to do the right thing.

Ruben feels like he is the only kid without a bike. His friend Sergio reminds him that his birthday is coming, but Ruben knows that the kinds of birthday gifts he and Sergio receive are not the same. After all, when Ruben’s mom sends him to Sonny’s corner store for groceries, sometimes she doesn’t have enough money for everything on the list. So when Ruben sees a dollar bill fall out of someone’s purse, he picks it up and puts it in his pocket. But when he gets home, he discovers it’s not one dollar or even five or ten—it’s a hundred-dollar bill, more than enough for a new bike just like Sergio’s! But what about the crossed-off groceries? And what about the woman who lost her money? Presenting a relatable story told with subtlety and heart, the creative team behind Those Shoes pairs up again for a satisfying new picture book.

Review: The summary and many of the reviews I’ve seen focus on the aspect that Ruben must learn to make a tough decision in the book: Should he keep the money or give it back? But something else really hit home for me: Ruben is going to be important to many readers because he is going to reflect the socioeconomic status in which they live. Not often is a topic like money issues hit on in a picture book, but Boelts wasn’t afraid to tackle that. 

One thing I talk to my students a lot about is using phrases to make themselves feel like they are doing the right thing like “finders keepers” or “snitches get stitches,” and A Bike Like Sergio’s tackles how using a phrase to justify a wrong-doing affects others.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: One way I picture A Bike Like Sergio’s being used in schools are with counselors in one of their lessons with kids when talking about how to treat others. Many of us get mad when kids act a certain way, but empathy really is something that needs to be taught (research proves it!), so books like Sergio’s will help teach students how actions can affect others and hopefully build empathy within our young students/kids.

Discussion Questions: Why did Ruben consider keeping the money? How would it have affected his family’s life? His life?; Based on the illustrations, how had the losing of $100 affected the woman who lost the money?; Did Ruben do the right thing?

Teachers’ Guide from Candlewick Press

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Talking ethics with kids and books such as Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell, We Are Growing! by Laurie Keller, The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

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SPLATypus
Author: Sudipta bardhan-Quallen
Illustrator: Jacki Urbanovic
Published April 4th, 2017 by Two Lions

Summary: Lonely Platypus wants to play, but where should he go? Should he jump with the kangaroos? Leap with the possums? Fly with the bats? Every time he tries to find out—skipping, hopping, dipping, dropping—he winds up going splat instead. Can a SPLATypus find a place where he belongs? This rhyming, rollicking story is perfect for reading aloud.

Review: Everyone is searching for their place in the world. Starting at a very young age, we want to be accepted and know that we belong. Kids will love the platypus story because it is about him figuring it out; however, even though the message is quite serious and will lead to important talks, it leads to this topic in a very fun and humorous way. The platypus’s adventure is just so silly that readers will be mesmerized by it and the colorful illustrations! This story is a win-win for teachers, parents, and kids!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The most important way this book will fit into most classrooms is through read aloud and the classroom library. Like I shared above, it really does lead to conversations about identity and fitting in but does so in a non-preachy way. Additionally, the text could be used as a mentor text for writing a narrative animal story in a similar style. Maybe OOPSephant or KangaNO or GOrilla filled with onomatopoeias and rhyming.

Discussion Questions: When is a time you haven’t felt like you fit in? What did you do to make your situation better?: What words in the story rhymed?; What onomatopoeias did the author use in the text? Why do you think they were included?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Loved: Leaping Lemmings by John BriggsHoot and Honk Just Can’t Sleep by Leslie HelakoskiThe Knowing Book by Rebecca Kai DotlichA Big Surprise for Little Card by Charise Mericle HarperThunder Boy Jr. by Sherman AlexieAfter the Fall by Dan Santat, Little Excavator by Anna Dewdney, Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima

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Giveaway!

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**Thank you to Al at Two Lions for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

Behind the Legend Series
The Loch Ness Monster
Big Food
Author: Erin Peabody
Illustrator: Victor Rivas
Published May 2nd, 2017 by little bee books

Series Summary: little bee books is thrilled to announce their brand-new nonfiction middle grade series! Behind the Legend is designed for readers ages 8-10 and asks that to decide what is fact and what is fiction. Each book analyzes legendary creatures throughout history using scientific problem solving. Readers evaluate the evidence of sightings, debunk hoaxes with scientific experiments, and read from sources to decide if the monster is made of myth, legend, or fact. Packed with interesting anecdotes, photos, sidebars, and illustrations, each title is a page-turning adventure that readers won’t want to put down.

Learn all about creatures and monsters throughout history and discover if they’re real or not in this new nonfiction series! Behind the Legend looks at creatures and monsters throughout history and analyzes them through a scientific, mythbusting lens, debating whether or not the sightings and evidence provided are adequate proof of their existence.

More books coming soon! Zombies and Werewolves coming in Summer 2017 and Unicorns and Dragons in Spring 2018.

The Loch Ness Monster Summary: In The Loch Ness Monster, readers learn about all the sightings and proof of it, from the famous photograph to the huge “footprints” found by the Loch. It also discusses other history about the monster, such as how Nessie became a major figure in popular culture, and other mythical beings that came from Scotland. Complete with engaging anecdotes, interesting sidebars, and fantastic illustrations, kids won’t want to put this book down!

Big Foot Summary: In Bigfoot, readers learn about all the sightings and proof of it, from the famous photograph and video to footprints and other evidence. It also discusses additional history about the monster, such as how Bigfoot became a major figure in popular culture, and how other versions of the creature (such as the Yeti) have been seen around the world. Complete with engaging anecdotes, interesting sidebars, and fantastic illustrations, kids won’t want to put this book down!

Review: On one of our recent Top Ten Tuesday posts, I shared that I am always looking for nonfiction books to keep my middle grade students reading nonfiction because it is so hard to talk them into reading it unless it really catches their interest. I think part of the reason is because there aren’t many transitional nonfiction books from picture books and shorter informational nonfiction books to longer works like books by Jim Murphy, Deborah Heiligman, and Candance Fleming (which are phenomenal, but many readers just don’t have the nonfiction stamina). I think the Behind the Legend series fits this need perfectly! They are slightly longer than the traditional children’s nonfiction book and the words outnumber the pictures though there are still many illustrations, big font, lots of white space, and short chapters.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The Behind the Legend series’ texts will be perfect for not only reading aloud and discussing the truly interesting information within the book, I think the texts would be perfect mentor texts for writing an informational nonfiction text of the students’ own. The books do a wonderful job at looking at many different aspects of the legend and remaining unbiased.

Discussion Questions: Based on the information shared in the text, do you believe the legends are fact or fiction? Support your answer with evidence form the text.; How do legends such as the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot become such cultural phenomenons?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Who Was? series, Legends

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**Thank you little bee books for providing copies for review!**

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

A Guest Review by Kelsey Iwanicki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thank you, Kelsey!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Is that a ponytail?’

‘Easy out!’

‘Go back to softball!’

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

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

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

‘Strike!’

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

‘Time out!’

Uh, oh.

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

‘Sam, what was that?’

‘What do you mean, Coach?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published March 24th, 2017

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

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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!

Happy (almost) Earth Day!

Care For Our World
Author: Karen Robbins
Illustrator: Alexandra Ball
Originally Published: July 15th, 2012 by Compendium Publishing and Communications
App Release: March 1st, 2017 by Sunbreak Games, LLC

Book Summary: Get ready to meet some truly wonderful wild animals from every continent on Earth. As children turn the pages of this book, they’ll encounter dozens of playful creatures in their natural habitats and will learn about the importance of caring for all the plants, animals, and people that call planet Earth their home. A timely reminder of the responsibility every generation shares: to nurture and respect life in all its many forms.

App Information: Take an interactive journey around the world, discovering diverse environments and the animals that call them home, in this animated adaptation of the award-winning children’s book, Care for Our World. Additional creative activities are included, like Coloring Book pages, Creating custom habitats, and even Learning facts, sounds, and photo galleries in the Animal Encyclopedia.

“Care for our world, for you and for me, for all living things from mountain to sea.”

Author Karen Robbins’ delightful words and illustrator Alexandra Ball’s captivating images combine to inspire children to care for the earth they call home: a timely reminder of the responsibility every generation shares to nurture and respect life in all its many forms.

Features: 

• Listen to the animated story, with narration, music, and sounds.

• Touch characters to see and hear them react, and practice their words.

• Color select pages from the book
• Create custom habitats with select animals and backgrounds.
• Save images of your creations to the Gallery.

• Learn more with facts, sounds, and photos in the Animal Encyclopedia.

Recommended for ages 3-8

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’m so impressed with so many of the book apps that are becoming available! As a 21st century mom and teacher, technology is just inevitable in our lives, so I want to make sure that whatever my son and my students interact with is the best out there and isn’t just a tech babysitter. Care For Our World fits this definition and is definitely an app that I am going to recommend to my mom friends and my elementary teacher friends.

The story by itself is a wonderful read aloud and discussion starter. It takes the two main characters around the world to visit different habitats and the animals that live there. The author’s theme is quite clear throughout: this is OUR world and we need to take care of it because we share it with some amazing animals. This theme makes it a perfect read aloud for Earth Day and many animal and Earth-centered activities and inquiry projects could stem from the story.

The app takes the book to a whole new level. Everything wonderful about the book is still there, but now the story is interactive! First, it reads to you. On each page, you can also click on the plants and animals and the narrator will tell you what they are. You can also click on each word, and it’ll read it to you. This is perfect for kids learning to read! The viewer, when finished with the book, can now go explore more about some of the animals in the story by going to the Animal Encyclopedia where you can hear the sounds the animals make, learn about their behaviors, and see photos of them. Lastly, kids will have a blast coloring different scenes from the book or creating their own habitat (all artwork can be saved in a gallery to view later). The app is fun and informative–a perfect mix for the type of app I’m always trying to find for my son.

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