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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!

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code
Author: Laurie Wallmark
Illustrator: Katy Wu
Published May 17th, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books

Summary: Do you know who Grace Hopper was?

A software tester, workplace jester, cherished mentor, ace inventor, avid reader, and naval leader! Acclaimed picture book author Laurie Wallmark (Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine) once again tells the riveting story of a trailblazing woman in Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling Children’s Books, May 16, 2017).

Grace Hopper coined the term “computer bug” and taught computers to “speak English.” Throughout her life, Hopper succeeded in doing what no one had ever done before. Delighting in difficult ideas and in defying expectations, the insatiably curious Hopper truly was “Amazing Grace” . . . and a role model for science- and math-minded girls and boys. With a wealth of witty quotes, and richly detailed illustrations, this book brings Hopper’s incredible accomplishments to life.

“If you’ve got a good idea, and you know it’s going to work, go ahead and do it.”  The picture book biography of Grace Hopper—the boundary-breaking woman who revolutionized computer science.

Who was Grace Hopper? A software tester, workplace jester, cherished mentor, ace inventor, avid reader, naval leader—AND rule breaker, chance taker, and troublemaker. Grace Hopper coined the term “computer bug” and taught computers to “speak English,” and throughout her life succeeded in doing what no one had ever done before. Delighting in difficult ideas and in defying expectations, the insatiably curious Hopper truly is “Amazing Grace” . . . and a role model for science- and math-minded girls and boys.

About the Author: Laurie Wallmark has degrees in Biochemistry from Princeton University, Information Systems from Goddard College, and Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her debut book  Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books) received four starred reviews, praise in The New York Times, and numerous awards. Laurie lives in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter: @lauriewallmark.

About the Illustrator: With a BFA in Illustration and Entertainment Arts from Pasadena Art Center College of Design in 2007, Katy Wu has worked for Google, Laika, Pixar, CinderBiter, and Simon & Schuster. Grace Hopper is her first picture book. Having worked on such projects as the feature film Coraline, and various shorts (La LunaCar Toons) as well as CG, 2D, stop motion, online games, and content for social media platforms, Katy is an incredible talent. She lives and freelances in New York City. Follow her online at katycwwu.tumblr.com.

Review: Each time I learn about a new woman in history that made such a tremendous contribution yet is a name I didn’t know, I am flabbergasted by the lack HERstory in HIStory. Grace Hopper is a phenomenal individual! I love how much her story promotes imagination and STEM. Her stories of rebuilding clocks and building a doll house from blueprints with an elevator shows how building a strong mathematical and scientific mind begins from youth, and it is all about teaching kids to mess around, use their imagination, tinker, and learn through trying. Wallmark’s biography of Grace Hopper does a beautiful job of combining a message of rebellion (in the name of science), creativity, imagination, and education with Grace’s biography. In addition to the narrative, Wu’s illustrations and formatting of the novel adds humanity and color to her story.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Grace Hopper is one example of a female scientist that should be a name that everyone knows yet she is not taught in schools. Luckily there are so many wonderful nonfiction picture book biographies being published showcasing woman who made a difference (some listed below). One way I picture this text being used in the classroom is by using these picture books in a lit circle or even like a jig saw type activity. Each group reads a different nonfiction picture book and shares what they learned with the class.

Grace Hopper could also be used in a computer classroom because it has such a wonderful introduction to the beginning of computers. Grace was part of very early computer programming and computer science, and her story would be perfect to share during a technology class looking at the history of computers.

Discussion Questions: How did Grace Hopper’s legacy continued to the computers and technology we use today?; How did Grace Hopper stand out from what was expected of woman at the time?; What hardships did Grace probably face because of gender prejudice?; Choose one of Grace’s quotes shared in the book and share what it meant for Grace and how it could it be taken as inspirational for your life?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Ada’s Ideas by Fiona Robinson, Maya Lin by Susan Rubin, I Dissent by Debbie Levy, Fearless Flyer by Heather Lang, Dorothea’s Eyes by Barb Rosenstock, Women Who Broke the Rules series by Kathleen KrullLiberty’s Voice by Erica SilvermanJosephine by Patricia Hruby Powell, Swimming with Sharks by Heather Lang, The Book of Heroines from National Geographic Kids

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**Thank you to Ardi at Sterling for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

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The Wonderful Things You Will Be
Author: Emily Winfield Martin
Published: August 25, 2015 by Random House

A Guest Review by Jennifer Zafetti

Summary: This heartwarming picture book is from the point of view of a parent who is eager to see the development of their child. The parent questions who their child will become and what interests they will possess. In the end, there are endless possibilities that the future has to offer to the child.

Review: This is a great book to give to a parent with a small child! The Wonderful Things You Will Be would make for a soothing bedtime story. The sweet message of the story is that a child can be anybody that they want to be. There are no expectations set for a child to adhere to so their future is an empty canvas waiting to be painted! The book, using second person, discusses the uniqueness of you and the wonderful attributes you have to offer to the world. There are many “what if” questions that will get the reader thinking about all the wonderful things that they can do with their life.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The Wonderful Things You Will Be is an engaging children’s book that encourages the reader to embrace the future. There are beautiful illustrations to accompany the text. The teacher can use this book to discuss rhyming words, as well as point of view.

Discussion Questions: What are some rhyming words that you noticed in the story? How do the illustrations enhance the text? What do you want to be when you grow up?

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Loved: Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, and If Animals Kissed Good Night by Ann Whitford Paul

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Thank you, Jennifer!

RickiSig

The Dark
Author: Lemony Snicket
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Published April 2, 2013 by Little, Brown

Guest Post by: Nichole Pitruzzello

Summary: Laszlo is afraid of the dark. But is the dark afraid of Laszlo? They live in the same house, with the same creaky roof, smooth, cold windows, and several sets of stairs. But the dark mostly stays in the basement…until one night, when it doesn’t. Laszlo walks through his house, as the dark converses with him, on a journey to overcome his fear.

Review: In his unique writing style, Lemony Snicket takes an eerie childhood fear and personifies the dark in a soothing way. John Klassen’s illustrations are a wonderful compliment to the story of Laszlo, using black space and warm colors to enhance the mood. I’m very impressed by the way they take a concept that many children fear, and transform it into a friendly, calming presence. I cannot wait to add this book to my library!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers can use this book as a mentor text for a variety of mini lessons. Lemony Snicket personifies the dark, uses vivid language to talk about Laszlo’s house, and creates suspense through a blend of dialogue and narration. In addition, it’s an excellent book to teach a lesson about overcoming one’s fears. There’s so much that this book can add to a classroom!

Discussion Questions: What are some places that you are scared of, and why are they scary? Was the dark really scary? How did the dark help Laszlo? Why shouldn’t we be afraid of the dark? What should we do when we are afraid of something?

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Loved: Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly, Singing Away the Dark by Caroline Woodward, 13 Words by Lemony Snicket

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Grandma in Blue with Red Hat
Author: Scott Menchin
Illustrator: Henry Bliss
Published April 14, 2015 by Abrams

Guest Post by: Sarah Mangiafico

Summary: When a young boy learns about what makes art special—sometimes it’s beautiful, sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it tells a story—he realizes that these same characteristics are what make his grandmother special, too. As a result, he finds the inspiration to create his own masterpiece that’s one of a kind.

Christopher Award–winning author Scott Menchin and New York Times bestselling illustrator Harry Bliss have teamed up for a celebration of the power of art and expression, and the extraordinary love between grandparent and child.

Review: I love how this book expresses the different feelings that art can evoke in someone, along with the meaningful moments that it can capture. Sometimes something can be art simply for being funny or for making you feel nice; art does not have to be complicated to be art. This is a powerful message to share with readers, since many people often think that art needs to have many different meanings and lots of creativity in order to be art. The art that the boy makes about his grandma clearly shows the feelings and thoughts that can inspire someone to make art. The art that he makes about her is also very touching, and is a great ending to the book that leaves readers (including myself) ready to go out and create their own meaningful art pieces.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Grandma in Blue with Red Hat is a wonderful book that can show students how “Anything can be in an art exhibition,” and can teach them how anything that they create can be considered art (Menchin 3). This is a great book to introduce students to what art is, and can motivate kids to want to create their own art pieces for a “class art museum.” After creating their pieces, students can walk around the “class art museum” and write down why they think each piece is art. Grandma in Blue with Red Hat is a sure way to get students interested in art, and to create art that is meaningful to them in some way.

This book is also a wonderful book to share with students because the art pieces shown in the book are real and famous pieces of art. Reading this book as a read aloud can introduce students to these pieces and can lead to a more in-depth class study of them and the artists that made them. A variety of cultures are represented in the art pieces shown in the book as well, which makes this book culturally relevant.

Discussion Questions: What is art? Why did the boy in the story decide to use his grandma as an inspiration for his art? What are some things that you could make an art piece about? What makes you choose those things?

Flagged Passages: “Grandma is beautiful. Grandma is different. Grandma is funny. Grandma tells me stories. Grandma comes from far away. Grandma makes me feel good” (p. 17).

Read This If You Loved: Draw! by Raúl Colón, Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, My Pen by Christopher Myers

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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

Recommended For:
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Thank you, Kelsey!

RickiSig

nfpb2017

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!

Hazardous Tales: Alamo All-Stars
Author and Illustrator: Nathan Hale
Published March 29th, 2016 by Abrams Books

Summary: “Remember the Alamo!” That rallying cry has been a part of Texas lore for generations. But who were the ragtag group of adventurers behind the famous slogan, and how did they end up barricaded in a fort against a Mexican army? Who survived, who died, and how? This sixth book in the bestselling Hazardous Tales series tracks the Lone Star State’s bloody fight for independence from the Mexican government. It features the exploits of the notorious Jim Bowie, as well as Stephen Austin, Davy Crockett, and other settlers and soldiers who made the wild frontier of Texas their home—all told with the inimitable style and humor for which Nathan Hale is known.

Teaching Guide with Discussion Questions and Activities from Abrams by ME!, Kellee Moye: 

How to use this guide

  • For Alamo All-Stars, opportunities to have discussions and complete activities across different content areas are shared. In the “Fun Across the Curriculum” section, these activities and discussion questions are split into subject areas and are written as if they are being asked of a student.
  • At the end of the guide, Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards are listed that can be met when the books are extended using the activities and discussion questions.

Fun Across the Curriculum

  • Language Arts
    • The title page and the cover show two different illustrations of the Alamo. Compare and contrast the illustrations. Using information from the text, when is the cover illustration from, and when is the title page illustration from?
    • Why would Alamo All-Star need two narrators, Nathan Hale and Vincente Guerrero, while all of the other Hazardous Tales books only needed Hale? How would the story have differed if only Hale had narrated the book? What about only Guerrero?
    • On page 10-11, Guerrero uses the metaphor of a set table to describe Texas in the 1820s. Why does he use this metaphor to describe the state of Texas at this time?
    • On page 18, Hale uses another metaphor of an explosive barrel to illustrate the situation Austin and his settlers were in. How does an explosive barrel and Austin’s situation relate to each other?
    • After researching cholera (science section), look at Hale’s personification of the disease on page 37. Why did he choose this creature to embody cholera?
    • Many different events and problems caused Santa Anna’s army to be able to easily defeat the Texans at the Battle of the Alamo. Create a cause/effect graphic organizer showing the correlation between different events leading up to the Battle of the Alamo and the fall of the Alamo.
      • For example:
    • Much of what happened at the Alamo during the infamous battle as well as stories about Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie have become an American legend. What is a legend? Why has some parts of the story of the Alamo become a legend and not a complete factual part of history?
    • Throughout the book, Hale includes direct quotes from primary sources. How do these quotes enhance the story? How are primary sources more reliable when sharing historical events than secondary sources?
  • History/Social Studies
    • The page of Texas on the end sheets shares the different battles during the Texas revolution. Using Alamo All-Stars, convert the map into a timeline by graphing each battle on the date/year they were fought.
    • Using the text feature on pages 10-11 that shared the 1820s Texas settlers, answer the following: how did each settler threaten each other? Why was Texas such a treacherous place at this time? Who was the rightful settler of Texas?
      • Then, split the class up into 8 groups and assign a group of settlers to each group of students. They then should research the group, and determine how they ended up in Texas, why they felt they deserved to stay in Texas, etc.
    • Page 12 defines a filibuster and gives an example of one. What other famous filibusters have happened in history? Use the Wikipedia article “Filibuster (military)” and its resources to learn about other filibuster expeditions. Unlike the James Long Expedition, were any successful?
    • Throughout the book, Mexico goes through different types of governments: a monarch (inferred from p. 16), a republic (mentioned on p. 17), and a despotic (mentioned on p. 40). Compare and contrast the similarities and differences of the different types of governments.
    • Page 88 shows one of the many flags that have flown over Texas. Using the Texas State Historical Information article “Flags of Texas” and the Flags of the World website, learn about all of the different flags that Texas has flown. Why have so many flown over Texas? Where does the phrase “six flags of Texas” come from?
    • On page 104, Santa Anna compares himself to Napoleon. How are the two men similar? How do they differ?
    • On page 113, Hale jokes, “Don’t feel bad. Everyone forgets about Goliad.” Why do you think the Battle of the Alamo is remembered by so many while the massacre at Goliad is not?
    • Why are Travis, Seguin, Bowie, and Crockett pictured on the front of Alamo All-Stars? Is this who you would consider the all-stars of the Alamo? If not, why not? If so, what did they do to deserve that title? Is there anyone else you would consider an Alamo all-star?
  • Science
    • Cholera killed tens of thousands in the summer of 1833 including Bowie’s wife and her family. What is cholera? How does it spread? Why did Bowie’s family try to travel north to escape it?
    • On page 47, Noah Smithwick was quotes sharing that one member of the Gonzales army had a nose bleed; however, he used scientific terms such as nasal appendage and sanguinary fluid. What do these terms mean?
  • Math
    • On page 31, Rezin Bowie mentions that they were outnumbered 14 to 1 during the battle. Using the illustrations and clues in the “Jim Bowie and the Lost Mine” section to determine how many men were on Bowie’s side and how many men they fought and defeated.
    • Santa Anna’s army outnumbered the Texans by a large amount. Using the information shared about the number of men in each side of the battle, determine an approximate ratio of the battle.
      • After you estimate using Alamo All-Stars, research the actual number of men at the battle and determine the ratio. How close was your estimate?
  • Foreign Language (Spanish and French)
    • Throughout the text, different Spanish words are used, many of which can be defined using context clues or connecting to the English language because they are cognates with a word you already know. Look through the book, and try to define all foreign language vocabulary. Some words throughout the book:
      • El Gran Libro Enorme de la Historia Mexicana (p. 6)
      • ejercito de las tres garantias (p. 9)
      • empresario (p. 12)
      • mucho (p. 16)
      • viva la revolución (p. 21)
      • fantástico (p. 31)
      • Dios y libertad (p. 36)
      • alcalde (p. 45)
      • fandangos (p. 72-84)
      • voy a firmarlo (p. 98)
      • mes amis (p. 103 | French)
        • Which words were easier to define? Why were they easier?
  • Music
    • At the Battle of the Alamo, both Santa Anna’s army and the Texas army played music (p. 91). Research to determine what music was played at the battle. Why would they play music while preparing for a battle?

The teaching guide, along with the other books in the series, can also be viewed at: https://www.scribd.com/document/326377929/NathanHale6-TeachingGuide or http://www.abramsbooks.com/academic-resources/teaching-guides/

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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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