Love in English
Author: Maria E. Andreu
Published: February 2, 2021 by Balzer + Bray
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Ana has just moved to New Jersey from Argentina for her Junior year of high school. She’s a poet and a lover of language—except that now, she can barely understand what’s going on around her, let alone find the words to express how she feels in the language she’s expected to speak.
All Ana wants to do is go home—until she meets Harrison, the very cute, very American boy in her math class. And then there’s her new friend Neo, the Greek boy she’s partnered up with in ESL class, who she bonds with over the 80s teen movies they are assigned to watch for class (but later keep watching together for fun), and Altagracia, her artistic and Instagram-fabulous friend, who thankfully is fluent in Spanish and able to help her settle into American high school.
But is it possible that she’s becoming too American—as her father accuses—and what does it mean when her feelings for Harrison and Neo start to change? Ana will spend her year learning that the rules of English may be confounding, but there are no rules when it comes to love.
With playful and poetic breakouts exploring the idiosyncrasies of the English language, Love in English tells a story that is simultaneously charming and romantic, while articulating a deeper story about what it means to become “American.”
Ricki’s Review: I read this book and immediately thought of the many people who would love reading it. It does a beautiful job offering a lived experience of a young girl who is finely attuned to language acquisition. I have been meeting regularly with two students who have shared similar experiences to those of Ana, and I plan to share this book with them. For many, this book will act as a mirror, window, and sliding glass door. I understand fully the criticism this book has received–Maria E. Andreu writes in the opening that she was born in Spain, and her grandparents moved from Spain to Argentina as toddlers. She grew up in the US, traveled to Argentina at age 6 and then was not allowed to return to the US. She was undocumented at age 8 in the US. She talks about her experiences with this and with White privilege in powerful ways in The Secret Side to Empty. My thoughts about this controversy are not as valuable as those of a person with Latinx descent. In the end, I do wish that the character more closely matched Maria E. Andreu’s story rather than that of a native Argentinian. I loved the book and appreciated all that it taught me about Maria E. Andreu’s experiences with language, and there simply aren’t enough books available that explicitly discuss the linguistic diversity within our schools. this book is one that I will remember for quite some time.
Kellee’s Review: One of the things I love most about my school is the amount of diversity and the acceptance and inclusion of all in the school; we do not care where you are from or what language you speak–you are welcome with open arms! While reading Love in English, I found myself being so upset with the students and some of the teachers in Ana’s school. Why was her ethnicity and language acquisition something that anyone would find funny or bully-worthy?! But then I remember that other places are not like my school…
I also found myself connecting with Mr. T the ELL teacher! When I first started working at my school, I was intimidated with teaching ELL students because I didn’t think I would be of any help with someone learning English when it was the only language I knew. But throughout my first few years there, I began to learn that teaching ELL students is one of my favorite honors of being a teacher. My 7th year teaching, I taught a class much like Mr. T’s class, and it is one of my favorite classes I’ve ever taught. Mr. T shows how an ELL class, done correctly, can truly become home at school.
Also, as a reading teacher & librarian at a school with a large Latinx population, primarily from South America, I found that it is so hard to find books that truly reflect my students’ experiences, but Love in English is a mirror for so many of them! It made me so happy while reading because I know that Ana’s experience is one that they will connect with.
Overall, this story looks at language acquisition in a way that I have not seen in another book and it does so during a wonderful story with some amazing poetry woven throughout. I also love that the language acquisition aspect is own voices. Although this aspect is own voices, I do wish that Ana’s backstory was own voices as well to ensure authenticity of all parts of the story; however, I feel like Maria’s explanation of this choice shows it was thoughtful (though, like Ricki shares, my opinion is not as valuable as a Latinx, and specifically an Argentinian).
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: We would love to use this book to teach about language and translanguaging. We’d group texts that help us think about the power of discussions related to the nuances of language.
Ana, throughout the novel, focuses on aspects of English in her journal. Use Ana’s journals to guide activities on some of the more challenging and, some would say, nonsensical parts of English, like idioms, similar looking words that are pronounced differently, and more.
Ana’s journals are written in beautiful poetry! Use Ana’s poetry for a mentor text to have students write poetry about similar topics to Ana.
Many of Mr. T’s activities that he implemented in his classroom are amazing activities to work with students acquiring a new language. If you are in a language-focused classroom, they would be assets to your classroom.
- How does language influence the ways in which Ana moves in the world?
- How do Ana’s relationships with family and friends impact her life?
- What is the significance of the title of the book?
- How might the author’s perspective have influenced her work?
- Why does Mr. T recommend Ana and Neo watch movies as part of their language acquisition?
- What is the impact of the author’s use of ### since Ana is the narrator?
- What is a part of the English language that you find confusing?
- How did the year that Ana and her dad were apart affect their current relationship?
- Why was Ana so drawn to a relationship with Harrison at first?
- How was Altagracia’s friendship lifechanging for Ana?
“‘We don’t have to speak English,’ I tell her. I think–
We don’t have to do it this way.
We don’t have to make it so hard.
We don’t have to erase everything about us. At least not all at once.
—but I do not say it” (Advanced Reader Copy p. 35).
“Recipe for Disaster
How do you get an apple in your eye?
Just how easy is pie?
Who would eat crow or eat their heart out?
Or how could anyone eat enough hay to eat like a horse?
How can a potato sit on the couch?
In a world where so many thins are confusing, even food,
I dream of a day when it is a piece of cake.” (Digital Review Copy Loc 1125)
Read This Book If You Loved: The Secret Side to Empty by Maria E. Andreu, Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez, Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos, Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, Illegal by Bettina Restrepo
The ABCs of Black History
Author: Rio Cortez
Illustrator: Lauren Semmer
Published: December 8, 2020 by Workman Publishing Company
Summary: While many alphabet books have tackled a range of social justice topics from consent to feminism, there remains an urgent need to explore through a thoughtful lens how Black history has shaped American culture. The ABCs of Black History is a beautiful representation of the ideas and personalities that embody a wide range of Black people, experiences, and ideas in lively verse matched with vivid imagery.
Written by Pushcart-nominated-poet, Rio Cortez and illustrated by newcomer Lauren Semmer, The ABCs of Black History uses the alphabet as a frame to introduce Black history. Beginning with Anthem—an introduction to James Weldon Johnson’s Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing—and ending with Zenith, a tribute to the mountaintop Dr. King spoke about before his death, readers will travel across continents and centuries, navigate triumph and heartbreak, and celebrate creativity and joy.
The poetic text introduces big ideas to engage curious minds. Every letter has a rhyming verse, and every spread is a visual feast. F explores the concepts of farming and food. G is for Go! and the Great Migration from the rural South to the urban North. Then the reader lands in Harlem, New York, where they meet Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes. Contemporary moments are included too. M is for march and message, which explores the culmination of movements that have changed the course of history, from the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965 to the Black Lives Matter movement today. And Q is for queens, acquainting readers with powerful women like Leontyne Price, Queen Nandi, Toni Morrison, Michelle Obama, and many more.
The book also includes robust back matter that offers more information on the events, places, and people mentioned in the poem, from Fannie Lou Hamer to DJ Kool Herc, the Little Rock Nine to Sam Cooke.
A necessary addition to every child’s bookshelf, The ABCs of Black History is an exuberant celebration of history, culture, race, and justice.
Ricki’s Review: Oh my. This is a powerful book. Every single page is beautifully constructed. I simply cannot imagine how long it took to create this book. It is 64 pages of masterful writing and eye-catching illustrations. To call this an alphabet book would be to undermine everything that it is. Each spread features a different letter with numerous words connected to Black history and written in poetic form. Nine pages of back matter offer further information of all of the people, places, and terms used throughout the book. Thus, a child will hear the lilt of a poetic description in a read aloud, and the back matter offers more learning. I describe a child here, but as an adult, I was absolutely captivated by this text. This book is one to read and love and it is one to gift. Also, in case you missed it, look at the cover! I loved this book and give it my highest recommendation.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask each child to select a letter in the book. They can learn more about the people, places, and terms used and share with peers more information about Black history. Then, they might create their own alphabet books about a topic they are interested in researching.
- Which letter spread did you like the most? What did you learn?
- How does the author incorporate information in a poetic and engaging way?
- How do the illustrations elevate your understanding of the text?
E is for explore—to study a place: like Matthew Henson, the Artctic; Mae Jemison, space.
E is for education, for expanding the mind, like Ruby Bridges, Linda Brown, the Little Rock Nine—The first Black children in all-white schools, they opened the doors and challenged the rules.
Excerpted from THE ABCs of BLACK HISTORY by Rio Cortez (Workman Publishing). Copyright © 2020. Illustrations by Lauren Semmer
Read This If You Love: Nonfiction picture books, Black history books, alphabet books, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History by Walter Dean Myers, Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkney, We March by Shane W. Evans, Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson, Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford
I am thrilled to introduce a new series that I am hosting, which explores nonfiction history books for kids. This is all we read in our house, and I’ve learned so much, so I am jazzed to dive deeply into some of the texts on the blog.
I am thrilled to introduce a new series that I am hosting, which explores nonfiction history books for kids. This is all we read in our house, and I’ve learned so much, so I am jazzed to dive deeply into some of the texts on the blog.
I want to start off by sharing a phenomenal series by Kane Miller: The Extraordinary Life of… series. You’ll want to get your hands on these.
Summary: A bold new series for young readers focusing on the lives of inspirational historical and modern figures.
Review: We have fallen in love with the Extraordinary Lives series. My first grader can’t get enough nonfiction. He could spend a full 12-hour day looking through the nonfiction section of the library. He devoured information about the election, reads history books that are above his age range, and just asks for more, more, more. When I learned about the Extraordinary Lives series, I knew it would be a good fit. What I didn’t realize was that my preschooler and I would get just as much joy from the series as my first grader.
Here’s one picture I caught of my son reading them:
Here’s a closer look at the books:
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: These books would be wonderful for use in book groups. I would be thrilled if my kids were in a classroom in which the teacher allowed them to choose the text of a person they were interested in studying. For instance, I LOVED learning about Mary Seacole. That particular book really captured me (although they were all fascinating to read). My sons each had their own favorites, and I imagine this would be the case in a classroom. Students might then present to their peers to teach about the person they chose. Choice is so important in the classroom, and this series offers such wonderful opportunities for learning.
- Which book did you choose and why?
- What did you learn?
- How did the author create engaging content to help you learn more about the person?
Flagged Passage from the Katherine Johnson Text:
Read This If You Love: Nonfiction books, history books, biographies, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, Schomburg: The Man Who Built the Library by Carole Boston Weatherford, Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe, Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkney, We March by Shane W. Evans, Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson, Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford
Sofia is an 9-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!
I have just come across this amazing book in the library and it is called The Crayon Man: the True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons by Natascha Biebow! I read it the first time to my four-year-old sister, and we love it! I bet you would love it too. This book is recommended for ages 6-9 on Amazon but I think it is great for any age.
Edwin was an inventor in the late 1800’s. He loved colors and was the actual inventor of the Crayola crayon! This book talks about how he worked on his invention to make it perfect. His wife encouraged him and actually came up with the name! He had made gray, white and really black crayons but his wife and family kept telling him what he could do to make them better and one major idea was to make them in different colors. At the end the book even shows how Crayola Crayons are made today and lists different steps with photographs!
I love this book because of its beautiful illustrations. They bring amazing colors into the picture and really make me feel like I am there. Another reason I love this book is because it makes great read-alouds!!! When I read this to my preschool sister who is four she said “This book is amazing!” Another great thing about this book is that it is good for questions. For example, you can ask your students or children to name the colors in the Crayola crayon package or you can just enjoy reading it through and ask a question like “Who was your favorite character and why?” or something like “How do you think Edwin felt when he ran home to his wife with his new invention?”. One last reason why I love this book is you can make tons of crafts out of it! For example, I told my sister to draw a few things out of the book using crayons. Here is the final product!
**Thanks so much to Sofia for this awesome post! Victoria, your drawing ROCKS! We loved having you this week, too!**
William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad
Author & Illustrator: Don Tate
Publication Date: November 1, 2020 by Peachtree Publishing Company
Summary: You might be familiar with Harriet Tubman and other key leaders of the Underground Railroad, but do you know about the Father of the Underground Railroad?
William Still’s parents escaped slavery but had to leave two of their children behind, a tragedy that haunted the family. As a young man, William went to work for the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, where he raised money, planned rescues, and helped freedom seekers who had traveled north. And then one day, a strangely familiar man came into William’s office, searching for information about his long-lost family. Could it be?
Motivated by his own family’s experience, William began collecting the stories of thousands of other freedom seekers. As a result, he was able to reunite other families and build a remarkable source of information, including encounters with Harriet Tubman, Henry Box Brown, and William and Ellen Craft.
Don Tate brings to life the incredible, stranger-than-fiction true story of William Still’s life and work as a record keeper of enslaved people who had fled to freedom. Tate’s powerful words and artwork are sure to inspire readers in this first-ever picture book biography of the Father of the Underground Railroad.
About the Author: DON TATE is the award-winning illustrator of numerous books for children, including Carter Reads the Newspaper, and is the author and illustrator of Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton for which he won the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award. He is also the co-contributor to the Brown Bookshelf, a blog designed to raise awareness of African Americans writing for young readers. He lives in Austin, Texas. Visit his website at www.dontate.com.
Review: I think history education is one of the ways I was let down as a kid, so I adore when I learn about a piece of history or a historical figure that we should all know about but has been left out of “chosen” history.
William Still was a huge part of abolitionism, the Underground Railroad, and the history of freed enslaved Americans. Based on Don Tate’s story, I learned that his transcription of the oral history of freedom seekers is how we know about many of the stories that are shared including Harriet Tubman’s and Henry Brown’s.
Don Tate’s book beautifully illustrates through his artwork and words the power of William Still and his impact on our history. We are lucky to have this book out in the world!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:
Peachtree Publishing has provided a downloadable poster which I love!
Read an excerpt of the book here: https://peachtree-online.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/WilliamStillandHisFreedomStoriesExcerpt.pdf
Read This If You Love: History, specifically the Civil War, Emancipation, Underground Railroad; Don Tate’s books
**Thank you to Elyse at Peachtree for providing a copy for review!**
Sofia is an 8-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia will share her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!
If you are looking for two books about kindness and bravery then these books would be those books. Drumroll please… The One and Only Ivan and the sequel The One and Only Bob by Kathrine Applegate!!! These books are totally recommended for read aloud! If you want any of these books for read aloud I would say they are appropriate for second grade and above. These books are recommended for ages 8-12 if you read them yourself.
The One and Only Ivan
Ivan is a big and kind gorilla. He lives at a mall owned by a person called Mack. Mack makes shows to attract more people to his mall and Ivan and some of his friends are in it. Ivan makes some friends at the mall like an old circus elephant named Stella, Julia who is Mack’s daughter and later on a young elephant named Ruby who was taken away from her family when she was very young. They are trapped in big cages made of glass so the people can see the animals when they walk past the cages. Mack is very harsh when the animals don’t follow his directions and sometimes he even takes out a whip! Will Ivan and his friends be able to escape Mack’s mall without being harmed?
The One and Only Bob
Bob is a dog. He got taken away from his mom when he was little. He got dropped off in the road and became a street dog searching through garbage cans for as much food as he could find. When Bob meets Ivan in the first book they become best buddies and they also become friends with Ruby, the elephant that lives at the mall with Ivan. As you will know if you have read The One and Only Ivan Bob eventually goes to stay with Julia, Mack’s daughter. Bob visits his friends every day. But one time there is a big storm and Julia loses Bob in the middle of a monstrous flood! Will he make it out alive?
I love both of these books because they really make me feel like I am actually there and witnessing the event, like all good books do. I also love these books because they are a bit silly because the stories are told from an animal’s point of view. The animals say a lot of weird things about us because they don’t really understand our ways. For example, the book says “I have learned to understand human words over the years, but understanding human speech is not the same as understanding humans. Humans speak too much. They chatter like chimps, crowding the world with their noise even when they have nothing to say.” I am sure any reader would have fun with this so ENJOY!!!
If you loved these books then you might want to read Crenshaw By Katharine Applegate. Crenshaw is a cat. I have not read it yet but it sounds very interesting!
**Thank you, Sofia, for your continued brilliance. You inspire us!**
Magnificent Makers: How to Test a Friendship
Author: Theanne Griffith
Illustrator: Reggie Brown
Published May 19, 2020 by Random House Children’s Books
Summary: BOOM! SNAP! WHIZ! ZAP! The Magnificent Makers series is filled with science, adventure, and characters that readers will love!
A modern-day Magic School Bus for chapter book readers!
Violet and Pablo are best friends who love science! So when they discover a riddle that opens a magic portal in the Science Space at school, they can’t wait to check it out! Along with their new classmate, Deepak, the friends discover a magical makerspace called the Maker Maze. It’s a laboratory full of robots, 3D printers, an antigravity chamber, and more. Doors line the walls of the makerspace, with a new science adventure waiting behind each one.
Ricki’s Review: I think I’ve recommended this book to about fifteen people since we’ve read it. I really admire the way in which Griffith incorporates science in such a fun way. The book almost feels interactive. I am going to admit that I, an adult, learned some cool science information as we read this one. We read this book with our virtual book club of kids, and they all loved it. It was very easy to host discussions, and the kids were very animated as they talked about the sections that they loved most. This is a great early chapter book series that is going to be well-loved by teachers. The interdisciplinary nature of the text makes it very easy to teach. We will definitely be getting the next book in the series.
Kellee’s Review: As a mom of 1st grader who loves to read, we are always looking for new early chapter books that will grab his attention and this book is everything we could want. First, it is relatable. The dynamics between the three characters are accurate and just on point. It also deals with real feelings like jealousy and competitiveness. Second, it is about science! Trent is definitely a science loving kid, and adding some science into his books makes him love them more. Third, it is a reflection of the real world (even though they travel to another dimension) because there are a diversity of kids and adults both in looks and behavior. We have already gone to buy the next three in the series, and we cannot wait to see what adventure happens next!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book offers many questions that can lead to inquiry and many topics that can be explored further by kids. Teachers might ask students to select a topic in science and write a fictional story about it. This would require some research and thinking about how information is presented in fiction.
- What was your favorite aspect of science that you learned from the book?
- What emotions did the characters experience in the book? Have you been in situations where you’ve felt these emotions?
- What could you research from this book to learn more (e.g. robots, 3D printers, an antigravity chamber, the ecosystem)?
Flagged Passage: “Producers, consumers, decomposers, oh my! All are necessary for an ecosystem to survive. Most animals are __________. Living things, beware! If ____________ disappeared, we wouldn’t have fresh air. And without ______________, nature’s garbage would be everywhere! Solve this riddle to enter the maker maze” (p. 11).
Read This If You Love: Science books, early chapter books, interdisciplinary learning
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