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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

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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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Where’s the Architect?: From Pyramids to Skyscrapers: An Architecture Look and Find Book
Author: Susanne Rebscher; Illustrator: Annabelle von Sperber
Published October 23, 2018 by Prestel Junior

Summary: This wonderfully illustrated and captivating introduction to the wonders of architecture will have young readers poring over each spread and learning as they go.

From the top of China’s Great Wall to the base of the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, this journey through the world of architecture stops in nearly every continent and travels through centuries. Annabelle von Sperber populates her dynamic and intricate double-page spreads with many details and a hidden architect or important figure on every page that kids will have fun trying to locate. Along the way they’ll learn about the iron workers who built the Empire State building, how many bulbs it takes to light the Eiffel Tower, where the royal jewels are kept at the Tower of London, and why there is so much red and yellow in Beijing’s Forbidden City. Young readers will find themselves fully immersed in this large format book while learning about the incredible architectural wonders that continue to amaze us today.

Review: My son and I absolutely loved this book. It is oversized with giant illustrations, and we spent much time on each spread. The pages feature magnificent works of architecture from the past (and currently existing in the present). In most of the drawings, the architecture is in the process of being built or was recently built, so the book leads readers into a historical time period. We learned so much from this book, and I loved all of the new-to-me facts about the famous architectural structures. My son loved looking and talking about the buildings, and he enjoyed doing the search-and-finds on each page. It is a wonderful book that would be a great resource for classrooms.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to work in groups to pick a page that is particularly compelling for them. They can research more about the structure and the time period to understand context and explore historical aspects of the architecture that interest them.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which architectural design is most interesting to you? Why do you find it to be interesting?
  • Which facts surprised you?
  • Do you notice differences in the architecture throughout time?
  • Which structures are close to you? Which are far away?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Interactive search-and-find (seek-and-find, look-and-find) activity books filled with educational information

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

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Smithsonian Exploration Station: Solar System

Summary: Take a trip into the stratosphere with Smithsonian Exploration Station: Space! With informative text and full-color photographs, young astronomers will learn about the intricate makeup of our solar system as well as distant galaxies and constellations. The 56-page fact book combined with the sticker sheet, space figurines to play with, and the glow-in-the-dark stars make this space experience interactive and engaging.

Includes a 56-page fact book, 30 stickers, 22 glow-in-the-dark stars, and 2 figurines (astronaut and rocket).

ReviewI love book kits. There is something about them that makes me feel warm and fuzzy. My almost 5-year-old loves them just as much. Opening the box is like opening a world of fun. We were thrilled to receive this kit, and it didn’t disappoint. My son played with the rocket and astronaut figurines as we read the book together. The rocket and astronaut touched every page of the book! After we read about each part of the solar system, he affixed the appropriate sticker on his poster. He’s very much looking forward to sticking the glow in the dark stars on his ceiling! Parents will love these kits. The interactive learning component is wonderful. I intend to purchase several other kits from this company!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might purchase 1-2 kits each of the Smithsonian Exploration Station series. These include the Human Body, World Atlas, and Human Body. They can be found here. Students can select the kit that is most interesting to them and engage in an inquiry unit on the topic. These kids would be very fun to use in small groups!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did you learn as you did the activities?;
  • What parts of solar system do you find most interesting? Why?;
  • How do the different parts of the solar system together?

We Flagged: 

The kit!

The full-sized poster! Notice the grayed out planets. The stickers match these and make for a great interactive reading experience!

Read This If You Loved: Any nonfiction books about the solar system; interactive books and kits (like this one about the human body)

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review**

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Gods and Heroes
Author: Korwin Briggs
Published August 21, 2018 by Workman

GoodReads Summary: Meet the Original Superheroes.

Before there was Batman, Wonder Woman, or Black Panther…there was Indra, Hindu king of gods, who battled a fearsome snake to save the world from drought. Athena, the powerful Greek goddess of wisdom who could decide the fate of battles before they even began. Okuninushi, the Japanese hero who defeated eighty brothers to become king and then traded it all for a chance at immortality.

Featuring more than 70 characters from 23 cultures around the world, this A-to-Z encyclopedia of mythology is a who’s who of powerful gods and goddesses, warriors and kings, enchanted creatures and earthshaking giants whose stories have been passed down since the beginning of time—and are now given fresh life for a new generation of young readers.

Plus, You’ll Learn All About:
Dragons: The Hydra, St. George’s Dragon, and the Australian Rainbow Snake
Giants: Grendel, Balor of the Evuil Eye, Polyphemus, and the Purusha with the thousand heads
Monsters: Manticore, Sphinx, Minotaur, Thunderbird, and Echidne, mother of the Nemean lion that nearly killed Heracles
Underworlds: Travel to Hades, Valhalla, and the Elysian Fields

Review: I always enjoy Workman books. The offer nonfiction information in a way that is fun and engaging. My four-year-old loved this book (even though most of it was a bit over his head). I’d recommend this book for the targeted audience (grades 3-7), but I think younger and older kids would really enjoy it (I know I did!). There are a diverse set of gods and heroes within this story, and they don’t originate from one culture, which I liked a lot. My son seemed to love the Greek/Roman gods the most, so those are the ones that we’ve read so far. We read about a different god/hero each night, and we’ve been going strong for about two weeks. We look forward to reading these stories each night. It makes for a fantastic bedtime routine.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask each student to pick a different god or hero and present it to the class. I’d encourage students to choose a god/hero that interests them, and I think this onus would help students get excited about their presentations!

Discussion Questions: Which heroine/hero did you enjoy the most? Why?; Did you notice any similarities across cultural heroes? Differences? Which hero would you want to learn more about?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Mythology, Gods, Heroes, History

Recommended For: 

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

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A Perilous Journey of Danger & Mayhem: A Dastardly Plot
Author: Christopher Healy
Published September 25th, 2018

Summary: It is 1883—the Age of Invention! A time when great men like Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Nicola Tesla, and George Eastman work to turn the country into a mechanical-electrical-industrial marvel: a land of limitless opportunity. And it all happens at the world famous Inventors Guild headquarters in New York City—a place where a great idea, a lot of hard work, and a little bit of luck can find you rubbing elbows with these gods of industry who will usher humanity into the bright promise of the future.

Unless, of course, you’re a woman.

Molly Pepper, daughter of brilliant but unknown inventor Cassandra Pepper, lives with her mother in New York. By day, they make ends meet running a small pickle shop; but by night, they toil and dream of Cassandra shattering the glass ceiling of the Inventors Guild and taking her place among the most famous inventors in America. In an attempt to find a way to exhibit Cassandra’s work at the 1883 World’s Fair, they break into the Inventors Guild—and discover a mysterious and dastardly plot to destroy New York. The evidence points to the involvement of one of the world’s most famous inventors, and now it’s up to Molly, Cassandra, and a shop hand named Emmett Lee to uncover the truth—even if no one will ever know it was they who did it.

Christopher Healy, author of the acclaimed Hero’s Guide series, returns with the first book in a rip-roaring adventure about the inventors history remembers—and more than a few that it’s forgotten.

About the Author: Christopher Healy is the author of The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, as well as its two sequels, The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle and The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw. Before becoming a writer, he worked as an actor, an ad copywriter, a toy store display designer, a fact-checker, a dishwasher, a journalist, a costume shop clothing stitcher, a children’s entertainment reviewer, and a haunted house zombie. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and a dog named Duncan. You can visit him online at www.christopherhealy.com

Praise: 

“A zany, rollicking series opener.”– Kirkus Reviews

“Plot twists and banter hit at breakneck speeds in this heartfelt yet tongue-in-cheek look at the tumultuous Age of Invention, and its focus on two often marginalized groups—immigrants and women—allows for relevant social commentary.”– Publishers Weekly

“Healy has created a steampunk-inspired alternative history featuring some of the greatest minds in invention (including a number of women) in this series opener. A solid choice for adventurous readers.”– Booklist

“Christopher Healy, author of the Hero’s Guide series knows how to tell a good story. He’s done it again with the adventures of a determined girl named Molly Pepper.”– Brightly

Review: This is the exact book the world needed! Our traditionally told history is lacking in all things diversity because it was told by bias individuals who left out people who made huge differences despite their gender or race. I love that Christopher Healy was able to take this fact, show the ridiculousness of lack of great female minds being included in history and create this book filled with humor, adventure, heart, and a bit of history. He also includes prejudice against immigrants in the story in a way that will make any reader realize how undeserving these humans just looking for a life are of this prejudice.

Now starting my review that way may make you think that the book is preachy or boring, but it is anything but. Right from the beginning, you want to see if Cassandra and her brilliant inventions will ever be acknowledged and if they are going to be able to stop New York from being destroyed. Now throw in deceit from men the Peppers and Emmett trust, inventions of all sorts, a gang of men trying to kill whomever get in their way, and a group of brilliant women who won’t let anything stop them, and you will get this crazy adventure of Molly’s and Emmett’s.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Although the book is fiction, much of what is included is shrouded in fact. The author includes “What’s Real and Not…” in the back matter which allows for inquiry into the historical elements of the story. This also allows teachers to see what parts of the story include more fact than fiction and different aspects could be pulled out when learning about the different historical elements.

An educator’s guide is also for the book from the publisher!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What part of the books were historical and what parts were fiction?
  • Would you consider the book historical fiction or science fiction or steam punk?
  • What invention would you want to make?
  • Research Edison. Do you think he deserves as much recognition as he gets?
  • Research the World’s Fair. Why do we not have them anymore?
  • Which deceitful events in the story surprised you? Were your predictions correct?
  • How did meeting Emmett and the MOI change Molly’s life trajectory?
  • Other than for entertainment, why do you think the author chose to write this story?

Flagged Passages: Check out this clip from the audiobook! You can also read a sample here!

Read This If You Love: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin by Elinor TeeleExplorers: Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress

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

24-Sep Novel Novice  Post by Christopher Healy https://novelnovice.com/
25-Sep A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust http://www.foodiebibliophile.com/
26-Sep Unleashing Readers http://www.unleashingreaders.com
27-Sep Teach Mentor Texts http://www.teachmentortexts.com
28-Sep Novel Novice  Review https://novelnovice.com/
29-Sep Maria’s Melange http://www.mariaselke.com/
1-Oct The Flashlight Reader http://www.theflashlightreader.com/
2-Oct Nerdy Book Club https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/
3-Oct Book Monsters https://thebookmonsters.com/
3-Oct Novel Novice Q and A with Chris https://novelnovice.com/
4-Oct Bluestocking Thinking http://bluestockingthinking.blogspot.com/

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**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing copies for review and giveaway!**

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Journey of the Pale Bear
Author: Susan Fletcher
Publication Date: October 2nd, 2018 by McElderry Books

Summary: The polar bear is a royal bear, a gift from the King of Norway to the King of England. The first time Arthur encounters the bear, he is shoved in her cage as payback for stealing food. Restless and deadly, the bear terrifies him. Yet, strangely, she doesn’t harm him—though she has attacked anyone else who comes near. That makes Arthur valuable to the doctor in charge of getting the bear safely to London. So Arthur, who has run away from home, finds himself taking care of a polar bear on a ship to England.

Tasked with feeding and cleaning up after the bear, Arthur’s fears slowly lessen as he begins to feel a connection to this bear, who like him, has been cut off from her family. But the journey holds many dangers, and Arthur knows his own freedom—perhaps even his life—depends on keeping the bear from harm. When pirates attack and the ship founders, Arthur must make a choice—does he do everything he can to save himself, or does he help the bear to find freedom?

About the Author: SUSAN FLETCHER is the acclaimed author of the Dragon Chronicles as well as the award-winning Alphabet of Dreams, Shadow Spinner, Walk Across the Sea, and Falcon in the Glass. Ms. Fletcher lives in Bryan, Texas. To read about the fascinating story behind the inspiration for Journey of the Pale Bear, visit her website, SusanFletcher.com

Praise: ★”A stupendous coming-of-age tale stuffed with adventure and laced with deeper questions.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Review: When I first read about this book it sounded pretty good, enough for me to pick it up, but it was SO GOOD! Like so good that even though it was a school week, I read it in 2 days!

First, it takes place in a time period that is hardly ever in books which is fascinating. I found myself looking up some of the history that was mentioned in the book, but the author did a great job of making sure that not knowing about the details of the time period wouldn’t effect the reading experience.

Second, it looks at animal treatment and truly makes you think about how an animal feels when it is put in captivity. Although told only in a realistic manner, the animal is such an integral part of the story that its behaviors are shared in detail allowing it to become a full character within the book.

Third, did you know there used to be a menagerie in the Tower of London? Me neither! But that took me down a suck hole of Google research. So fascinating!

Fourth, wow! The adventure is EPIC: sailing, bullies, pirates, shipwrecks, storms. It never stops!

So in review: Fascinating, thought-provoking, curious, and action-packed. All in all, a book I truly recommend and enjoyed.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The main home for this book will be in libraries; however, I can definitely see portions of it being used in classrooms.

  • First, I could see it being used during a history lesson to discuss the politics and war shared in the book.
  • Second, there are so many scenes that could be pulled out as mentor texts for writing. I’ll share some of my favorites below.
  • Third, I would love to see some creative writing done from the bear’s point of view.
  • Fourth, it is a fascinating look at animal treatment and how it has (and has not) changed over the years.

But in the end, it belongs in kids’ hands! Get it there!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did Arthur agree to take care of the bear?
  • What examples throughout the book show that the bear loved and trusted Arthur?
  • What does the whole story of a polar bear being sent from Norway to England show you about the respect of animals during the time period of the novel?
  • How did Arthur’s involvement make the bear’s life better?
  • Do you believe that the doctor cared about Arthur as he said he did? Explain.
  • How did Arthur earn the respect of the sailors on the ship?

Flagged Passages: 

“Its eyes, small and dark, were alert, curious, aware. I felt the faint stirring of its breath against my cheeks. I drew in the rich, ripe scent of bear until I seemed to sink down below the surface of it, drowning. From somewhere far away I heard Hauk and the lantern boy arguing, but the sounds fell away behind the throbbing in my ears and the thrill of the running-hum in my limbs.

The bear rumbled deep in its throat.

I rose to my feet, stepped back, and felt the iron bars press cold against me. I kept my eyes fixed on the pale, wide face, as if the force of my gaze could prevent the bear from lunging at me with its enormous paws or raking me with is claws–claws that I could see out of the corner of my eyes, massive claws, claws from a nightmare of monsters.” (Chapter 3)

“Before we saw the bear, we heard her—a heavy rhythmic read, a thump, a clang. Beyond the reek of fish, I sniffed out the feral musk of her.

We crept through the dark warehouse–the doctor, the captain, and I–until I made out a large, pale, moving form in the deep gloom ahead. The doctor motioned us to stop, and we watched from behind a stack of crates and bales. The bear was as tall as a pony, longer than a caribou, and as wide as two bulls. Back and forth she paced in her cage, and back and forth again, her head swinging side to side on her long neck, the convex bow of her snout lending her an air of nobility. The bear-smell now filled the air, and the stench of dung as well. A surge of fear rose up in me, turning my bones and sinews to liquid.” (Chapter 6)

Read This If You Love: Seekers by Erin Hunter, The Vanishing Islands by Barry WolvertonPirates! by Celia Rees, The Ravenmaster’s Secret by Elvira Woodruff

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review and McElderry Books for providing a copy for giveaway!**

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