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Hazardous Tales: Raid of No Return
Author and Illustrator: Nathan Hale
Published November 7th, 2017 by Abrams Books

Summary: A top secret mission needs volunteers.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States joined World War II. And soon after that, young pilots were recruited fro a very secret – and very dangerous – raid on Japan. No one in the armed forced had done anything like this raid before, and none of the volunteers expected to escape with their lives. But this was a war unlike any other before, which called for creative thinking as well as bravery.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales are graphic novels that tell the thrilling, shocking, gruesome, and TRUE stories of American history. Read them all – if you dare!

About the Author: Nathan Hale is the #1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales. He also wrote and illustrated the graphic novel One Trick Pony. Hale lives in Provo, Utah. Learn more at hazardoustales.com.

Praise: “Harrowing and no detail is left out . . . Hale’s tendency to incorporate character commentary, infographics, and fun facts will draw readers. Give this title to readers interested in action-packed graphic novels.” — School Library Journal

Review: The Hazardous Tales series is the series I use when kids say that nonfiction is boring AND when teachers say that graphic novels aren’t complex because this series, and this book, is complex, interesting, well crafted, funny, and just everything you’d want from any book, much less a nonfiction graphic novel.

And I am so happy to have a World War II Tale because so many students ask for it, and this is a new story for me, so I know it’ll be new for my students as well. Also, I think this specific mission will lead to many discussions because the idea of volunteering for a deadly mission is something that so many of my students struggle to understand because it isn’t something that they need to even consider, so to look at these men’s decision-making and willingness to fight for their country.

Other Hazardous Tales reviewed in the past here on Unleashing Readers: Alamo All-Stars and The Underground Abductor.

Hazardous Tales tip: I recommend starting with the first book, One Dead Spy, then you can read any of the others in any order.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’ve written in the past how I would incorporate this series as well as written a teaching guide for the first six books, but I wanted to allow another voice to share the brilliance of Hazardous Tales, so today my colleague, Kaleigh Gill who teaches 8th grade U.S. history, who started reading the series this summer and has read almost the whole series! I wanted to let her share why she loves the series and how she pictures it being part of her classroom:

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales opens up a world of American stories that are often overlooked. With multiple books focusing on big topics, like the Revolution, Civil War, Alamo and Westward Expansion, Hale is able to give students (and teachers!) an engaging and realistic depiction of the experiences of American heroes and villains. With his humorous and relatable characters, he is able to connect with young readers on an unprecedented level in regards to nonfiction novels.

One of my favorite attributes of Hale’s series is the way he inserts side stories filled with background information and informative detail on corresponding events and individuals. He has the ability to make these often dull stories, come alive with his animated and entertaining illustrations. His stories are sure to captivate readers of all ages and interests.

Every history teacher in the United States should read this series! Even if you feel you wouldn’t have enough time to teach the entire book, it would be a great visual to provide students when discussing certain topics or figures. Some excerpts in this series would only take about 5-10 minutes to read aloud and discuss with your students, but would definitely leave a lasting impact! This series has even inspired me to design lessons based around historical texts for young readers and has also ignited my love of history again. Leaving these books to simply sit in my classroom library, would be a huge waste for my curriculum and more importantly, my students. Not only will it give insight into little known stories of America’s major events to enhance instruction, but it will intrigue students to dive deeper into historical texts that they would typically overlook.

Teaching Guide for Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #1-#6:

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did these soldiers volunteer for a mission they knew nothing about and that they knew was very dangerous?
  • Why do you think the part of World War II in the South Pacific isn’t spoken about as much as the European front?
  • How did the planes have to be changed up to be successful for the mission? Why?
  • Trying reading the book the way it was written then switch it up and read one plane’s story at a time–which way did you enjoy better?
  • How did this mission change the course of the war against Japan?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: History, Graphic Novels, Other Hazardous Tales books

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Amal Unbound
Author: Aisha Saeed
Published May 8, 2018 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Goodreads Summary: Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when—as the eldest daughter—she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens—after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal—especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

Ricki’s Review: I read this book in one sitting. I’ve been thinking about it almost daily since I’ve read it. It’s an unforgettable story about a girl’s courage to survive. I don’t know her age, and although I suspect that the book is targeted by marketing teams for middle graders, it is quite simply a must-read for everyone. The book provides layers upon layers of themes and issues to consider. It made me think about privilege, freedom, education, and bravery, in particular. Amal is inspiring, and I greatly admire her courage in the face of adversity. When I was reviewing this book on GoodReads, I noticed that every one of my reader friends rated the book highly, and I am not surprised. Amal’s story is one that will stick with all readers. 

This is an important book. This is a book that will make your heart race. This is a book that I will read again and again.

Kellee’s Review: This story affected me much in the way that Sold, A Long Walk to Water, Rickshaw Girl, or Queen of Water did. As we fight for so many injustices here in America, there are unimaginable things happening to humans in other places around the world. Often somewhere like Pakistan seems so far away, but then you read a story like Amal’s and you see that the gap between you and her is not that big and we all just want happiness in our life. Amal’s strive for knowledge and willingness to help others are traits that make her unforgettable mostly when paired with the bravery she shows throughout this book. Amal’s story will truly help readers look through windows (and possibly mirrors) and have to face the privilege we do have and the injustice others face. 

On top of the very important theme and amazing main character, the story of Amal Unbound is heartwarming as well as heartbreaking and heart wrenching. And there is a truly suspenseful part also! The story is definitely one that will keep kids reading while also doing all of what I said above.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers could use this book as a read aloud, close reading/analysis, lit circle/book club, or classroom library text. It is rare that Kellee and I designate a book with all of these categories, but it’s a very adaptable text. It might be interesting for teachers to use this book as a whole-class read but using book groups. The groups could select a theme to study (e.g. education) and read other fiction and nonfiction related to the theme. This might allow for rich discussion across groups where they share their findings and teach each other.

Discussion Questions: 

  • In what ways did Amal show courage? Did you agree with all of her actions?
  • What is the role of education in this book?
  • Which characters stood out to you? What made them three-dimensional?
  • What is the role of family in the text?
  • What do you think the author’s purpose(s) might be?

We Flagged: “If everyone decided nothing could change, nothing ever would.”

Read This If You Loved: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed, Sold by Patricia McCormick, A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, The Queen of Water by Laura Resau, Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams, Diamonds in the Shadows by Caroline B. Cooney, Shabanu by Suzanne Fisher Staples, So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba

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Our Solar System
Author: Arthur John L’Hommedieu
Published January 16, 2018 by Child’s Play Books

Goodreads Summary: Packed with information, this book opens before us like a tunnel through space, enabling us to make a fascinating tour of the planets in our solar system. Revised and updated edition of this three-dimensional information book children to study interesting data about each of the planets. Larger trim size and additional spread.

Review: I took this book for review because I have a thing for accordion-like books. I wasn’t disappointed. The book is packed with great information about space. After my son goes to sleep, it is one of his favorites to read. He can really get into the book (quite literally) and put his face in between the planets. It’s hard to describe the book, but the cutouts allow readers to see all of the pages collapsed. It can be opened accordion-style, and it can stand up in a cube-style. Lovers of space will really appreciate this book and all of its information.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book made me want to make my own accordion book. It would be neat for teachers to share this book and invite groups of students to create an accordion book on a shared topic of interest. For example, my son would have a blast making a book about predatory plants. He is currently fascinated with Venus flytraps. 🙂

Discussion Questions: After reading about _____, what did you learn?; What do you still want to learn about space? How did the book format add to your understanding?

We Flagged: “This is the sun. Our journey begins here…

The sun is a gaseous mass of hydrogen and helium” (n.p).

Read This If You Loved: Any nonfiction book about space, for background knowledge when reading science fiction that takes place in space (e.g. Dr. E’s Super Stellar Solar System; Space Encyclopedia)

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**Thank you to Veronica Crisler at Myrick Marketing & Media for providing a copy for review**

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Nocturnals: The Slithery Shakedown
Author and Illustrator: Tracey Hecht
Published: April 10, 2018 by Fabled Films Press

Goodreads Summary: Discover the friendship and humor of the Nocturnals Brigade! In The Slithery Shakedown, three unlikely friends—Tobin, a sweet pangolin, Bismark a loud-mouthed sugar glider and Dawn, a serious fox—stand up to a big bully snake. In the process, they find themselves some spec-tac-u-lar snakeskin capes!

Includes Bonus Animal Glossary!

About the Author: Tracey Hecht is a writer and entrepreneur who has written, directed, and produced for film. The American Booksellers Association chose her first book in The Nocturnal series, The Mysterious Abductions, as a Kids’ Indie Next List pick. Last year, in partnership with the New York Public Library, she created a Noctural Read Aloud Writing Program for middle graders that has expanded worldwide. She splits her time between Oquossoc, Maine and New York City.  Check out our Q&A with her here!

Ricki’s Review: I don’t tend to gravitate to early readers because they can be awfully boring. This book breaks the mold. It’s fun and engaging, and my son loves reading it. I frequently catch him looking through the pages and staring at the pictures.  He didn’t know what nocturnal animals were before he read this book, and now, any time we see an animal, he asks if it is nocturnal. The conflict in this book is wonderfully portrayed, and it teaches about the power of friendship and bravery. I recommend this book for folks seeking engaging early readers that will capture children’s attention. It’s wonderfully done.

Kellee’s Review: What a fun book to read! It not only will be great for Trent when he is a beginning reader to practice his reading, it is overall a fun story that is a fantastic read aloud. It looks at the idea of bravery and fear as well as friendship while also introducing scientific ideas like nocturnal animals and carnivore animals. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:  The Summer Reading Kit is available on the publisher’s website. This book begs readers to research nocturnal animals, and it provides a lot of opportunity for classroom use.

Additionally, the author uses a ton of alliteration which makes it super fun to read out loud but also gives a chance to introduce this literary device.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which animal is most afraid? How does friendship influence this character’s bravery?
  • How does the snake react to the friends? What does this tell you?
  • What other nocturnal animals do you know?
  • What do you think the setting of the book is based on the animals?
  • How does the author use alliteration throughout the book?
  • What words did you not know in the story? Using context what do you think they mean?

Flagged Passages: 

“Chapter 3

‘Did sss-someone sss-say breakfassst?’ the snake said.

Bismark spun around.

Behind hijm was a long, blue, shimmery snake.

The snake slid from the grass.

The snake raised its head.

The snake flicked its flickery tongue.

‘Bismark, look out!’ Dawn cried.” (p. 24-25)

Read This If You Loved: Night Animals by Gianna MarinoBaby Animals at Night by Kingfisher Publications, National Geographic Early Readers

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**Thank you to Stacey and Nicole at Fabled Films for providing copies for review!**

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

and

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

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

 
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Sticky Facts: What Will You Find?
New York, Construction, Animals
Published: December 12, 2017 by Workman

Summary: Sticky Facts is an innovative, kid-friendly approach to beloved topics for ages 6 and up, featuring a cutting-edge sticker sheet design that allows for text and color images to appear underneath the sticker.

Unlike average sticker books, each sticker page features questions with facts hidden underneath the relevant sticker. Once the sticker is peeled o­ff, the fascinating factis revealed. Activity pages with corresponding prompts are featured next to the sticker pages for readers to use as fuel for sticker landscapes, adding hours of fun to the whole experience!

ReviewWhile the book is marketed for ages 6 and up, my 4-year-old had a blast with these books. I had to read the facts beneath the stickers to him, but he loved peeling them off of the pages and finding their matching places within the book. As a parent, sometimes it gets to the point that I am looking for something new and different, and this clever idea was very impressive to me. The books are well-made and fun. I overheard my son sharing one of the construction facts with a friend at preschool, so it really works! These books make great gifts and add a new twist to kids’ love of stickers.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might group students by interest to allow them to learn and work together on a book of their choosing. This allows students to learn nonfiction facts on a topic that they are interested about!

Discussion Questions: Which was your favorite sticky fact?; What are some new facts that you learned? What kinds of facts are featured below the stickers?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Nonfiction; Sticker Books

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**Thank you to Christy at Workman for providing a copy for review**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Flagged: 

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

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