Just so we all have the same definition of close reading, I wanted to share how I define it:
The process of close reading is reading a short, worthy text more than once to get deeper into its meaning.
Here is a fun close reading activity I did with my reading classes a couple of weeks ago.
Standards for this lesson: RL.1 & RI.1 (Inference & text evidence), RL.2 (Theme), RI.2 (Central Idea), RL.3 (Narrative elements interact)
Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester is a much more complex text than it first seems, so I really wanted to take this fun text and push my students’ thinking to realize that Tacky teaches us more than they first thought.
First read: For the first read of Tacky the Penguin, I just had my students enjoy the story. I love watching kids see this book for the first time because he is such a ridiculous yet awesome penguin.
Second read: When we read the story again, this time I chunked the text and had them take notes about a different characters’ emotions for each section. They then went on our Canvas discussion board and made an inference about how the character was feeling based on their notes and included evidence.
“The other penguins are much more accepting of Tacky at the end. In the text it shows that all the penguins hugged Tacky since his oddness had scared the hunters away and saved them. This action showed that even though they might disagree on how to do things they were still thankful of him.” -EX, 8th grade
“I think that the other penguins, Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly and Perfect are happy that Tacky is around. In the story it is showing all the penguins celebrating that the hunters were gone. Usually when you are celebrating it is because someone has accomplished something and you feel happy for them. So, you can conclude that the other penguins are happy that Tacky is around because he got rid of the hunters and without Tacky they might’ve died.” -JK, 6th grade
For the final section of the text, I asked them to think about the theme of the story, and they answered their inferred theme with evidence on the discussion board.
“I think the theme of Tacky the penguin is that differences can be good. I think that because at first the other penguins didn’t like Tacky because he was very different in the way he acted. They thought he was annoying and didn’t really include him in their group. At the end, they appreciate him because he saved them from the hunters, so his differences were good.” -AN, 8th grade
“The theme is to treat everyone fairly. Because in the beginning the other penguins treated Tacky badly, by excluding him, being annoyed at his greets, singing, and diving. But when Tacky acted like a hero they all appreciated him like they should of in the beginning.” -AK, 8th grade
“I think the theme of TACKY THE PENGUIN is to always be yourself. In the beginning of the story, the other penguins didn’t seem to really like Tacky because he did things so differently from them. However, as the middle towards end of the story, Tacky uses that to his advantage to scare away the hunters. So really, because Tacky was himself, he saved the day!” -DV, 7th grade
As we know, there are many themes that can be taken from a story, and most of the themes I received were spot on and focused primarily on how Tacky may seem odd but that doesn’t mean being different is bad. But there was one theme that I didn’t have any students pick up on, and I felt it was a big one. So, for the third read, I added in another text.
Third read: For the third read, I had my students read an Aesop Fable to connect with Tacky. “The Lion and the Three Bullocks” has the theme “In Unity is Strength” because the bulls survive the predator because they work together. The students did a wonderful job realizing that this theme connected to Tacky because it was only when all the of the penguins worked together that they were able to ward off the hunters.
“The theme “Unity is Strength” works for both books because together they defeated the enemy(ies). In Tacky the Penguin it says, “ Tacky began to sing, and from behind the block of ice came the voices of his companions, all singing as loudly and dreadfully as they could.” This shows that together the penguins can work together to be strong. The next page says “The hunters could not stand the horrible singing” This evidence illustrates that together as a team they can do anything. In Aesop For Children (Three Bullocks and a Lion), it says that a hungry lion is looking for his next meal. He was only sitting and watching because all of them were together so he would lose. In a little bit the bullocks separated and it was the lion’s time to strike (He ate them). This shows that when you are together you can be even stronger then when you were alone.” -EN, 7th grade
At this point, I was so proud of the connections my students were making, but it was still on a level where they were not connecting it to life–they saw it as a penguin and bullocks lesson mostly. This meant that I added in another text that I had them close read:
Scila Elworthy’s TED Talk is titled “Fighting with Nonviolence” and shares how fighting violence with violence is not successful while using nonviolence has been successful. I love TED Talks because you have the video and the transcript! What a great text for the classroom! (And thank you Jennifer Shettel for pointing me in this direction!)
First read: We watched the first 5 minutes and 11 seconds of the TED talk, and I gave each student a Post-It note. I asked them to write down words that stuck out to them. We then shared the words and defined any words they didn’t know.
Second read: For their second read of the text, they went to the transcript and were to focus on the central idea of this section of the text. Each person wrote down their own central idea.
Then I did a variety on one of the discussion ideas that Ricki shared in her Engaging Classroom Discussion Techniques post. Kind of like in Facts of Five, I had students then go into groups of three and come up with a consensus of a central idea together. They then wrote these on sentences strips to display in the room. We also discussed each one and talked about the supporting evidence for each central idea. I called it “Most Important Point.”
“As a group for the “most important point activity” we came up with the point that “solving a problem with violence only ever causes more violence”. Toward the end of the ted talk the speaker gives an example of when her ‘heroine’ was faced with guns during a protest and solved it by walking up to them and getting them to put their guns down. Had she not solved that problem this way it can be assumed that the soldiers would have shot them. By solving a situation with non violence she avoided the problem all together. We concluded from this, and the other points she made in ted talk including Nelson Mandela and her own personal anecdote about non violence, that that was the central point.” -KA, 8th grade
Third read: For the culminating task for all of these texts, I added in one more text to truly make all of this connect to reality. I knew I wanted to pick an image from the Civil Rights Movement because it is a true example of this idea at work. I introduced my students to sit-ins.
I then asked, “Why did we watch this TED Talk and why did I share the Sit-In images after reading Tacky the Penguin and the Aesop Fable? How do they all connect? Write a short paragraph explaining the connection, and remember to Restate, Answer, have Text evidence, and Explain/elaborate.”
“All of these connect because they all show them going against things together. In “Tacky the Penguin” all of the penguins started singing in the end together, driving them away. If it was only Tacky singing, the hunters might not have gone away if the other penguins had not shown up. In “Three Bullocks and a Lion”, the lion would not attack them when they were together because he knew he was no match for all three of them combined. In the Sit- In photo, there are four people sitting at a counter, and in the other photo, it shows them getting drinks poured on them from other people in the restaurant. If there was only one person sitting at the counter, the point would not have been proven as well as it would if there were four. All of them show that when they are together, they are stronger.” -MA, 7th grade
“The Ted Talk, Sit-in images, Tacky the Penguin, and Aesop Fable connect because they show how if we stick together and try to solve conflict in nonviolent ways, we will not have to resolve problems with more fighting. The Ted Talk says that bullies use violence to intimidate, terrorize, and undermine, but “only very rarely in few cases does it work to use more violence.” This just makes people more and more violent. An example is when the “Students who participated in sit-ins refused to become violent” even when people were not treating them fair by not serving them or even pouring a drink on them. Tacky the Penguin helped save all the penguins from being taken away by hunters because he had the attitude that people should be friendly and kind to each other and because he acted like this, it scared the hunters and they ran away. In the Aesop Fable, the bulls were able to keep the lion from eating them by staying close and being strong together. When they began to argue and separated from each other, they were not strong enough alone to keep from being attacked. “It was now an easy matter for the lion to attack them one at a time, and this he proceeded to do with the greatest satisfaction and relish.” This shows that we need each other to be strong and reach our goals and when we begin to fight, we lose our strength against enemies. We can control all of this, like she says, “It’s my response, my attitude, to oppression that I’ve got control over, and that I can do something about.” -DA, 6th grade
I was so impressed with my students’ deep thinking, connections, inferences, and elaboration! And overall they truly loved the activity, and I think that it truly shows that a text to analyze can be more than the canon!
Complexity in Young Adult Literature
In Teaching Reading with YA Literature: Complex Text, Complex Lives by Jennifer Buehler, Chapter 2 looks at Young Adult Literature and Text Complexity and gives 8 different elements to think about to help analyze the complexity of a text:
Examples of complexity in The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
Published January 7th, 2014
ALAN Walden Award Finalist 2015
National Book Award Longlist 2014
School Library Journal Best Young Adult Book of 2014
Summary: For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.
Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.
Other questions that could be asked while reading to find complexity in YAL
(Examples from Teacher Reading with YA Literature, Buehler 36-37)
- Language: Are the sentences artfully constructed? Are the words carefully chosen? Does the author incorporate figurative language or poetic expression? Can we hear voice in the writing?
- Structure: How is it built in terms of form and structure? How do other elements such as titles and subtitles, vignettes and interludes, shifts between past and present, or multiple points of view work together to service the whole?
- Other Stylistic Elements: Are there other distinct elements in the text?
- Character: What is there to explore in terms of the character’s thoughts and feelings; conflicts and contradictions; struggles, growth, and change?
- Setting: How does the author bring us into the world of the story? What details help us to see, hear, and imagine this place?
- Literary Devices: How does the author use literary or cultural allusions, intertextual references, dialogue, internal monologue, metaphor and symbolism, magical realism, or repetition to build meaning?
- Topics and themes: What questions does the book ask? What ideas does it explore? What is at stake for teen readers in this book?
- How the book is put together: How effective is the interplay between plot layers and thematic layers?
Discussion Questions/Writing Prompts for The Impossible Knife of Memory
Complexity can also be increased by the characteristics of the reader (such as motivation, knowledge, and experiences) and task variables (such as purpose and the complexity generated by the task assigned and the questions posed). Here are some examples of discussion questions or writing prompts that could be used in classrooms or with independent readers who are reading The Impossible Knife of Memory.
- Hayley classifies all people into two categories: freaks & zombies. What does Hayley’s idea of the world show us about her outlook on life?
- How does Laurie Halse Anderson use the idea of THEN and NOW throughout the novel to build on the theme that memories are a very complex part of life?
- Drowning is a motif throughout the novel.
- How does Laurie Halse Anderson show the reader that Hayley’s father is suffering and found addiction without using those words?
- How did the inclusion of Hayley’s romantic relationship with Finn help move along the story and Hayley’s transformation? Do you feel that Hayley’s story arc would have been the same without Finn in the story?
- How was the setting an integral part of the story? How did Hayley returning to her deceased grandmother’s home propel the story?
- .Trish is one of the most complex characters in the book because there are many different Trishes shared with us throughout the story: Trish then, Trish now in reality, and Trish now in Hayley’s mind. How did Laurie Halse Anderson develop each of these different characters to show the reader a full picture of Trish?
To learn more about complexity in young adult literature, please read Teaching Reading with YA Literature: Complex Text, Complex Lives by Jennifer Buehler!
Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood
Authors: James Baldwin and Yoran Cazac
Published August 27, 2018 by Duke University Press
Summary: Four-year-old TJ spends his days on his lively Harlem block playing with his best friends WT and Blinky and running errands for neighbors. As he comes of age as a “Little Man” with big dreams, TJ faces a world of grown-up adventures and realities. Baldwin’s only children’s book, Little Man, Little Man celebrates and explores the challenges and joys of black childhood.
Now available for the first time in forty years, this new edition of Little Man, Little Man—which retains the charming original illustrations by French artist Yoran Cazac—includes a foreword by Baldwin’s nephew Tejan “TJ” Karefa-Smart and an afterword by his niece Aisha Karefa-Smart, with an introduction by two Baldwin scholars. In it we not only see life in 1970s Harlem from a black child’s perspective, but we also gain a fuller appreciation of the genius of one of America’s greatest writers.
Ricki’s Review: When I was asked to review this book, I jumped at the opportunity. I am a huge fan of James Baldwin’s work, and I was completely unaware that this book existed! It lived up to my high expectations. The illustrations are beautiful, and the message is powerful. It is harshly realistic and difficult to read, and the book cuts deeply. It will serve as both windows and mirrors for children. This book took me to 1970s Harlem, and I am grateful for the experience. It is a must-read for fans of Baldwin, for those with interest in historical perspectives, and for those seeking a compelling story that will endure.
Kellee’s Review: In the 1970s, Harlem was a different place. TJ is 4 and roams with his friends, and we get to see his community from his point of view. Even the plot felt like his point of view as the story is very focused on events and is almost liked different episodes of his life. Although TJ is quite young, the story is anything but immature. TJ is an active participant in his community: the good and the bad. Mixed with Cazac’s slightly abstract, colorful and emotion-filled art, Baldwin’s story is overall a fascinating historical look at Harlem in the 1970s.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is certainly written for younger children, but high schoolers would also find value in a close examination of the text. We’d love to pair this book with some of Baldwin’s texts for adults. High schoolers would have rich conversations if they examined Little Man, Little Man through the lens of some of Baldwin’s other works.
- This is a book that has been reprinted from several decades ago. How does the book feel different from other picture books?
- What did you learn about 1970s Harlem?
- What did you notice about the phrasing of the book? How does this support your reading?
- What is the mood of the text?
- What lessons did you learn?
Flagged Passage: “Music all up and down this street, TJ runs it every day” (p. 2-3).
Book Trailer (Tejan [the character “TJ” is modeled after him] narrates it!):
Read This If You Love: Books by James Baldwin, Matt de la Peña, Coe Booth, Nikki Grimes, or Jacqueline Woodson
**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review!**
Picture Book Science: Physical Science for Kids
Author: Andi Diehn
Published March 1st, 2018 by Nomad Press
Series Summary: By combining children’s natural curiosity with prompts for keen observations and quick experiments, Physical Science for Kids provides a fun introduction for kids to the physical science that rules our world! Great for beginner readers or as a read aloud for younger children. Children are introduced to physical science through detailed illustrations paired with a nonfiction narrative that uses fun language to convey familiar examples of real-world connections.
- Encourages the development of important skills, including observing, connecting, problem solving, and model testing.
- Explores vocabulary, encouraging readers to make language arts connections and conclusions.
- Visually stimulating, detailed illustrations make this an excellent choice as a read aloud for younger children.
Waves Summary: You can find waves just about everywhere you look! Take a tour of the world of waves in this fun, illustrated introduction to the concept of waves and energy and their presence in our world. This installment in Picture Book Science encourages readers to observe lots of different kinds of waves, including those found in water, wheat, a baseball stadium, and even invisible waves!
Forces Summary: Our world operates the way it does because of forces. Gravity, magnetism, pulling and pushing, and friction are some of the many forces that affect the way we move on Earth. They even affect the Earth itself-without gravity, the world would eventually fly apart! In Forces: Physical Science for Kids, readers observe different types of forces, including gravity, magnetism, pulling, pushing, and friction.
Energy Summary: When you feel like running, leaping, and singing, people might say you have a lot of energy. And you’re not the only one! Energy is the stuff that makes everything live and move. People, animals, plants-we all need energy to live! In Energy: Physical Science for Kids, readers discover different forms of energy, including heat, light, and chemical energy, that keep the world working and moving.
Matter Summary: Everything you can touch and hold is made up of matter-including you, your dog, and this book! Matter is stuff that you can weigh and that takes up space, which means pretty much everything in the world is made of matter! In Matter: Physical Science for Kids, readers discover the basic building block of most of the material they come in contact with every day, including themselves-matter!
About the Creators:
Andi Diehn is a writer, editor, and book critic with a BA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College. She has published dozens of articles, stories, and essays and spent many hours volunteering in her son’s classrooms. She lives in Enfield, New Hampshire, with her family.
Shululu (Hui Li) has always been driven by curiosity. She received a PhD in computational chemistry from the University of Chicago. Her research has been published in the world’s most influential science journals, including Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. She is devoted to bringing joy and science to young readers through fun illustrations! She lives with her husband in New York, NY.
Review: Young children have so many questions about the world and how everything works. Curiousity runs wild in their brains, but more than anything they just want to learn and absorb. This series is a must get for parents, classrooms, and libraries because it addresses many of the questions that kids have.
Each book begins with a poem that introduces the topic then is followed by lyrical text going through scientific information about the topic of the book. Mixed in with the text are “TRY THIS” sidebars with fun experiments for kids to take the text into the real world.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Each of the books has a classroom guide!! The guides have Essential Questions for Before, During, and After Reading; Key Vocabulary; and Common Core Connections:
Discussion Questions: Example questions from the classroom guides:
- How do we know something exists if we cannot see it?
- What would the world be like if there was no energy?
- How are forces created?
- How are magnets and gravity related to each other?
- How is energy related to waves?
- How do science activities help you learn about energy?
- The word “matter” can mean lots of different things. Can you think of other words that are the same but have different meanings?
- How might we weigh things that are too large to hold in our hands or put on a scale?
Read This If You Love: Sharing science with children
**Thank you to Nomad Press for providing copies for review!**
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.
- 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
The Kid’s Awesome Activity Book
Author and Illustrator: Mike Lowery
Published June 12th, 2018 by Workman Publishing Company
Summary: Pure interactive fun between two covers!
A book that begs to be doodled in with 96 wacky prompts, games, and crafts, and adorable creatures to boot, The Kid’s Awesome Activity Book is packed with activities that take delightful twists and turns, inviting kids to design, draw, and dream—and encouraging creativity on and off the page. Enter an ancient cave to decode a mummy’s message. Find your way through a beehive maze. Write a song for a cat rock band. Design a personalized spaceship—and so much more. Plus, plenty of goodies to return to again and again for hands-on play: paper dolls, finger puppets, bonus stickers, and a giant pullout poster designed to kindle curious minds and active imaginations.
A great boredom-buster for travel or rainy days, and a fun birthday or holiday gift. From the author and illustrator of the Doodle Adventures® series and based on the Kid’s Awesome Activity Calendar, the book showcases Lowery’s inimitable quirky style and humor that clicks with all ages—get the whole family in on the fun!
About the Creator: Mike Lowery is the creator of The Kid’s Awesome Activity Calendar and the Doodle Adventures® series. His latest book, Random Illustrated Facts, collects weird bits of news and knowledge. Mike draws in his sketchbooks and posts on Instagram daily at @mikelowerystudio. He lives with his wife and children in Atlanta, Georgia.
Praise: “With bold, goofy artwork, a plethora of activities, and more than 400 stickers, this jam-packed offering from Lowery (the Doodle Adventure series) lives up to its name…Jokes and wordplay accompany the cast of loveable, dopey, and deadpan characters, and a detachable poster makes this exhilarating interactive book even more multidimensional.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
Kellee’s Review: I am such a fan of Mike Lowery’s illustrations, so I was so excited to see that this awesome activity book was created by him! And if you know his work, you know how fun he is which translates so well to this activity book. Additionally, I really liked the different kinds of activities throughout–he did a great job mixing up the activities so no one feels the same. My son, and all kids, are going to love completing this book!
Ricki’s Review: Mike Lowery’s books emanate fun. My son is still a bit young for them, but we have such a blast doing the pages together. These are great books to stretch kids’ creative thinking. In many ways, they act as story starters. This book would be a wonderful resource for elementary school teachers seeking to integrate more creative writing in their classrooms. Students could pick pages that inspire them and use the ideas to generate story ideas.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: There is so much to do in this activity book! It would be a great investment to get one of these for each student in you class to use during creative enrichment time. Activities include mazes, drawing, writing, word searches, and so much more. The recommendation of classroom library + read aloud below is meant to represent using the activity book with students in classrooms.
Discussion Questions: The entire book is filled with questions and activities! Check out the Flagged Passages to see:
Read This If You Love: Interactive activity books filled with fun and educational activities
**Thank you to Workman Publishing for providing copies for review!**
Daring Dreamers Club #1: Milla Takes Charge
Author: Erin Soderberg
Illustrator: Anoosha Syed
Published June 5th, 2018 by Random House
Summary: When you follow your dreams, the possibilities are endless!
Milla loves nothing more than imagining grand adventures in the great wide somewhere, just like Belle. She dreams of traveling the world and writing about her incredible discoveries. Unfortunately, there is nothing pretend about the fifth-grade overnight and Milla’s fear that her moms won’t let her go.
Enter Piper, Mariana, Zahra, and Ruby. Together with Milla, they form the Daring Dreamers Club and become best friends. But can they help Milla believe she’s ready for this real grand adventure?
Diverse, talented, and smart–these five girls found each other because they all had one thing in common: big dreams. Touching on everyday dramas and the ups and downs of friendship, this series will enchant all readers who are princesses at heart.
About the Creators:
ERIN SODERBERG lives in Minneapolis, MN, with her husband, three adventure-loving kids, and a mischievous Goldendoodle named Wally. Before becoming an author, she was a children’s book editor and a cookie inventor and worked for Nickelodeon. She has written many books for young readers, including the Quirks and Puppy Pirates series. Visit her online at erinsoderberg.com.
ANOOSHA SYED is a Pakistani illustrator & character designer for animation. She received her BFA in illustration at Ceruleum: Ecole d’arts Visuels in Switzerland, and now lives in Canada. Visit her online at anooshasyed.com.
“Though core issues of identity, independence, and teamwork ground the novel, Disney Princess devotees will likely be the most charmed. —Publishers Weekly
“I cannot wait to “hear” the stories of all the other girls! Brava Erin SD for kicking off a new series for the younger MG set! Positive messages for kids! —Goodreads Praise
“Young readers will be able to relate to the story, there is a positive message, and the characters provide a model of friendship, showing how friends work together and support on another. Loved meeting these girls!” —Goodreads Praise
Review: I know that at first this book may seem like a book that only Disney or Princess lovers would like, but it is so much more than that! So please do not judge this book by that idea! Instead you will find a story about girls who find a deep friendship within each other after being placed in a group at school together. With the guidance of an amazing educator, they look deep within themselves and join as a group while still celebrating their individuality.
Now, as someone who DOES love Disney and Disney princesses, I loved the angle that this book took! After the first assignment by their group teacher, the girls are asked to write about a princess who they connect with. Milla and her friends are using the strengths of the princesses as inspiration to build their own strengths. For example, Milla feels like her life is very sheltered, and she loves to write, so she finds inspiration in Belle. Ruby, who is athletic and prides herself in her strength, first struggles to connect with a princess but then she realizes that Mulan is a person that is very much who she would like to be. And each girl does her own reflection (written in her own words in a journal format).
This first book focuses on Milla, but we get to know all the girls through the inclusion of the journals and from Milla’s point of view. I assume that future books will also be in different points of view to allow readers to get to know more in depth each of the characters. I look forward to future books to see where Piper, Milla, Mariana, Ruby, Zahra and Ms. Bancroft go next!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I love Ms. Bancroft! And I think that how she had the girls introduce themselves and her first assignment that she gave the Daring Dreamers Club would be wonderful activities in a classroom:
- “I’d love for each of you to introduce yourself and share one of your big dreams.”
- “I want each of you to think of a princess you connect with or feel inspired by and explain why. Dig deep and really think about your answer.”
Since each of the girls’ answers are shared in the book, they would be a great thing to share as well.
In addition, this book is going to be LOVED by realistic fiction fans! I cannot wait to share it with my students.
- Which of the five main characters do you connect with the most?
- If you had to choose a princess you connect with, who would you choose?
- Do you think Milla went about getting her moms to trust her correctly?
- How does Ms. Bancroft inspire the girls? How is she different than the last music teacher?
- What is one of your big dreams?
Flagged Passages: “Milla loved reading and writing just about anything, but there was nothing she enjoyed more than creating adventures for herself. In Milla’s stories, she was always a brave hero without fears or worries of any kind. One of the things Milla most loved about writing was that she was totally in charge and got to make all the decisions about what would happen on her adventures. The only limitation was her imagination, and her imagination was vast.” (p. 6)
Read This If You Love: Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin, Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson, Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol, Whatever After by Sarah Mlynowski
Disney’s Dream Big, Princess–Be a Champion Campaign:
**Thank you to Sydney at Penguin Random House for providing a copy for review!**
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