The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street
Author: Lindsay Currie
Published October 10th, 2017 by Aladdin
Summary: A girl unravels a centuries-old mystery after moving into a haunted house in this deliciously suspenseful mystery.
Tessa Woodward isn’t exactly thrilled to move to rainy, cold Chicago from her home in sunny Florida. But homesickness turns to icy fear when unexplainable things start happening in her new house. Things like flickering lights, mysterious drawings appearing out of nowhere, and a crackling noise she can feel in her bones.
When her little brother’s doll starts crying real tears, Tessa realizes that someone—or something—is trying to communicate with her. A secret that’s been shrouded in mystery for more than one hundred years.
With the help of three new friends, Tessa begins unraveling the mystery of what happened in the house on Shady Street—and more importantly, what it has to do with her!
Review: I always go in tentatively to spooky books because I am so jumpy and also really don’t enjoy when the only point of a book is to scare the reader. But I could tell right away that Shady Street was going to completely exceed other just-scary books because it was about so much more. Sure, there was definitely a shady mystery and some really scary moments, but it was all entwined with a story about friendship, family, identity, and moving. Lindsay Currie did a perfect job balancing the two goals of the book: to scare the reader and to make the reader care so much about her characters.
In addition to the plot development being on point, Shady Street‘s characters were each were fully-developed to give every reader someone to connect with. I also liked how Currie included actual Chicago folklore and landmarks to enhance the story (and as a girl who lives in Florida and loves Chicago, I loved the Florida truths throughout also). Check out Currie’s website for behind the scenes info, and here’s a video of Lindsay Currie on a walking tour through Graceland cemetery, one of the settings of the book:
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Students are going to love this story because it is a perfect mix of ghost story and coming-of-age story, so classroom, school, and public libraries all definitely need to have a copy–once one students reads it, the word is going to get out, and it’ll never be on the shelf!
In the classroom, using Lindsay Currie’s website and video, Shady Street is a good example of author’s decision-making, how the setting of a story can impact the plot, and how an author uses the setting to affect the mood.
- How would the story have been different if Tessa had not gone to the pond the first time?
- Why do you think Inez chose Tessa?
- Did the story end how you thought it was going to?
- How did the author use the setting to affect the mood of the story? The plot?
- Which character do you connect with the most? Explain.
- What caused Inez to act the way she did?
- Similar to what Tessa did at the end for Inez, create a name plate for yourself with illustrations that identify you.
- Explain the act of condensation.
Flagged Passages: “The door clicks shut behind her, and I grab a pair of jeans off the chair I slung them over last night. My sketchpad is open just slightly and I stop in my tracks, confused at the small blur I can see in the upper left-hand corner of the sheet. It’s grayish black, like I started something then just barely ran the bad of my thumb over it.
‘What in the–‘ I start, bending closer to the page.
I didn’t draw anything last night. I was so tired from carrying boxes all over this ginormous place that I crawled into bed without even brushing my teeth.
I stare at the mark. It’s small and shaped like an upside-down L. Lifting the book and giving the paper a tap, I watch asn the unwelcome spot becomes dust again and drifts into the air. There will still be a darkened area there, but I’ll camouflage it with shading later. Still. There’s something about the mark that bothers me. Something off.”
**Thank you to Lindsay Currie for providing a copy of the book for review!**
Listen: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing
Author: Leda Schubert
Illustrator: Raúl Colón
Published June 13th, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
There was nobody like Pete Seeger.
Wherever he went, he got people singing.
With his head thrown back
and his Adam s apple bouncing,
picking his long-necked banjo
or strumming his twelve-string guitar,
Pete sang old songs,
new words to old songs,
and songs he made up.
In this tribute to legendary musician and activist Pete Seeger, author Leda Schubert highlights major musical events in Mr. Seeger’s life as well important moments of his fight against social injustice. From singing sold-out concerts to courageously standing against the McCarthy-era finger-pointing, Pete Seeger’s life is celebrated in this book.
Praise for Listen:
★“Schubert and Colón ably demonstrate one of their book’s final assertions: ‘there really was nobody like Pete Seeger.’”—Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“A rousing tribute to a singular musician and activist who ‘walked the talk.’” —Publishers Weekly
“This inspiring picture book biography about one of America’s greatest folk heroes is sure to get a new generation of children singing.” —School Library Journal
“An inspiring and heartfelt tribute to, as Schubert calls him, a ‘true American hero.’” —Horn Book
About the Creators:
Leda Schubert holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in the Writing for Children and Young Adults and was a core faculty member until 2012. She is the author of many award-winning titles, including The Princess of Borscht, Ballet of the Elephants, and Monsieur Marceau, winner of the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction. Leda lives in Plainfield, Vermont, with her husband and two dogs. To learn more, and to download a curriculum guide, visit ledaschubert.com.
Raúl Colón has illustrated several highly acclaimed picture books, including Draw!; the New York Times-bestselling Angela and the Baby Jesus by Frank McCourt; Susanna Reich’s José! Born to Dance; and Jill Biden’s Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops. Mr. Colón lived in Puerto Rico as a young boy and now resides in New City, New York, with his family.
Kellee’s Review: Schubert’s narrative of Seeger’s life is so lyrical and poetic–it is a song accompanied by beautifully textured, light illustrations that bring the biography to life. I can tell that Schubert is a fan of Seeger because she told his story with gentleness and love honoring a man that is truly an American hero.
The more I read about Pete Seeger, the more I am intrigued. I have heard about Pete Seeger my whole life, but it wasn’t until I read Stand Up and Sing by Susanna Reich that I truly learned about HIM outside of just knowing his music. I truly wish that Pete Seeger was still around to help us in our current time. His story has shown me that one person can make a difference, that good can win and be honored, and that music can bring people together. I loved learning even more about Seeger through Schubert’s picture book.
Ricki’s Review: Like Kellee, I didn’t know a lot about Pete Seeger until I read this book. I love reading texts that teach me more about a person. I didn’t realize that he traveled with Woody Guthrie! Too cool! Pete Seeger was a social activist, and his songs urge us to take action. This book will encourage readers to learn more about the singers that they listen to.
The author and illustrator bring great life to this book. It is very clear that they were inspired by his music, and the book truly comes alive. This is a book that teaches kids about an important man in our history and the power of music. It also reveals a lot of information about American History. I highly recommend this book to parents and teachers.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation & Discussion Questions: A fabulous curriculum guide can be found here created by Leigh Courtney, Ph.D. and includes discussion questions and activities.
Example discussion questions:
- Pete Seeger said, “Participation. That’s what’s gonna save the human race.” What do you think that means?
- Pete Seeger found himself in trouble with the government at one point in his life. Which group questioned him? Why were they interested in him?
- Encourage students to study the illustrations in Listen paying particular attention to the drawings of people in the story. Discuss what the people’s actions and expressions tell you about Pete Seeger’s impact on those who listened to his music.
- Many view Pete Seeger as an American hero. Discuss why people might regard Seeger as an important figure in American history. Read aloud President Obama’s statement about Pete Seeger, made upon the musician’s death, found in the final timeline entry at the back of the book.
Some examples of activities include cause and effect, research, vocabulary, and some fun music activities.
Resources: Leda Schubert provides some great links to recordings and videos of Pete Seeger here.
Read This If You Love: Stand Up and Sing! by Suanna Reich, When Bob Met Woody by Gary Golio, Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow by Gary Golio
**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing the book for review!**
Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos
Author: Stephanie Roth Sisson
Published: October 14, 2014 by Roaring Brook Press
A Guest Review by Brittany Brown
Summary: A curious boy living in a small city apartment finds the world astonishing. He wants to know about light bulbs, inch worms, and rocket ships. Carl sets out on a journey to find answers, but finds bigger, even more powerful questions. Through his research and studies, Carl eventually earns the title of Dr. Carl Sagan and spends his life seeking knowledge and understanding about the universe. This young
boy’s contributions to science and education have inspired many children everywhere to question the world around them. His story will resonate every child who has ever wondered “how” or “why” or spent an evening looking up at the night sky.
Review: I am constantly looking for books which will inspire my students and get them excited about learning. This book, which is brought to life with beautiful illustrations and the great mysteries of the universe, did that for myself as an adult, too. After reading it, everyday life is once again imbued with the magic and novelty it had in childhood. In Sagan’s eyes, there is no phenomenon too mundane to investigate. The curiosity which most adults leave behind drove Sagan to be the lifelong learner that all teachers hope to foster in their students. Reading this book shows that science is all around us, that we all belong here in the universe, and that in everyone there is a scientist. I absolutely loved reading this book, and as a new teacher building my classroom library, this is the first one which I will be purchasing multiple copies of to share with my students.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This story would pair well with any science or biography unit. It would also serve as a great example of narrative nonfiction.
The most obvious use for this story is in a science unit. I would love to use this book to open up a discussion at the beginning of a unit on the solar system. Not only would it generate excitement, it would also begin to build some vocabulary and background knowledge. It would make the information in the unit more personal and relevant to kids, and would be a great launching point to encourage students to come up with their own questions about how the world works.
This book is also a wonderful book to use for mini lessons in writing. Using this book as an example, a teacher could lead a discussion on how to choose which life events to include in a biography, how to sequence and organize it, and how to incorporate quotes from a historical figure into a writing piece. It also shows how to include facts and achievements in an engaging way, and how to demonstrate a person’s impact on history.
Finally, this book would also be a superb example of narrative nonfiction. Despite containing lots of scientific facts, it reads like a storybook and the illustrations do much of the talking. Students will be captivated with the descriptive narration, and discussions could explore their experiences as readers or how they may be able to attempt this style in their writing.
Discussion Questions: What are your big mystery questions? Where would you go to try to find answers to them? What character traits helped Carl on his journey? What impact did he have on the world? Who does he remind you of?
Read This If You Loved: What Do You Do with an Idea? By Kobi Yamada, I Wonder by Annaka Harris, You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey, On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Edros by Deborah Heiligman, Look Up!: Henrietta Leavitt, a Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh
Thank you, Brittany!
Snow White: A Graphic Novel
Author: Matt Phelan
Published: September 21, 2016 by Candlewick
A Guest Review by Emily Baseler
GoodReads Summary: Award-winning graphic novelist Matt Phelan delivers a darkly stylized noir Snow White set against the backdrop of Depression-era Manhattan.
The scene: New York City, 1928. The dazzling lights cast shadows that grow ever darker as the glitzy prosperity of the Roaring Twenties screeches to a halt. Enter a cast of familiar characters: a young girl, Samantha White, returning after being sent away by her cruel stepmother, the Queen of the Follies, years earlier; her father, the King of Wall Street, who survives the stock market crash only to suffer a strange and sudden death; seven street urchins, brave protectors for a girl as pure as snow; and a mysterious stock ticker that holds the stepmother in its thrall, churning out ticker tape imprinted with the wicked words “Another . . . More Beautiful . . . KILL.” In a moody, cinematic new telling of a beloved fairy tale, extraordinary graphic novelist Matt Phelan captures the essence of classic film noir on the page—and draws a striking distinction between good and evil.
Review: Matt Phelan reinvented the “happily ever after” with this retelling. I identify as a Disney Classic enthusiast but I was pleasantly surprised with the ending. The illustrations are gorgeous with distinct intentionality. More mature themes such as death, assassination, murder were evaluated within a historical context to create an incredible murder mystery story at the level of a middle grade reader.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This would be an excellent text to hand a more reluctant reader. There is limited text the reader is asked to interpret the illustrations and structure. In literature groups, students could potentially discuss the use of metaphor, oenomania, author/illustrator’s choice, and compare/ contrast the original fairytale with the retelling. This is also a text I would recommend to a student who has shown an interest in the graphic novel genre to read independently.
Discussion Questions: Why do you think the author choose to use red in selected illustrations? How did this choice influence you as a reader?; Why do you think the author choose to break apart the chapters this way?; Even though there were few words, how did you interpret the mood, tone, and voice of characters?; Did you find yourself needing to interpret the illustrations to understand the plot? What was that experience like for you as a reader?; How is this retelling of the classic fairy tale of “Snow White” different than the original? What did you notice is similar?
Flagged Passage: “My name is Snow White, but my mother didn’t call be that to be funny. She would say that the snow covers everything and makes the entire world beautiful” (Ch. 10)
Read This If You Loved: Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtliff, Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk by Liesl Shurtliff, Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff
Thank you, Emily!
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?
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
Someone Else’s Summer
Author: Rachel Bateman
Published May 9th, 2017 by Running Press Kids
Summary: Anna’s always idolized her older sister, Storm. So when Storm dies in a tragic car accident on the night of her high school graduation, Anna is completely lost and her family is torn apart. That is, until she finds Storm’s summer bucket list and decides to honor her sister by having the best summer ever—which includes taking an epic road trip to the coast from her sleepy Iowa town. Setting out to do everything on Storm’s list along with her sisters best friend Cameron—the boy next door—who knew that Storm’s dream summer would eventually lead to Anna’s own self-discovery?
Review: I am a sucker for road trip books. I just love them so much, and a good road trip book to me is like the perfect book to read–especially if I am in a rut. Someone Else’s Summer is a really good road trip book. It has everything you expect: searching for identity, mishaps, high jinx, romance, and unexpected twists and turns; however, Someone Else’s Summer is not predictable or like any other road trip book. It has all the feelings of comfort with new adventures, characters, and conflicts.
Storm was the opposite of Anna, but she was Anna’s very best friend, no matter how much they’d grown apart in high school, so when Storm dies, Anna knows she has to do something to honor her friendship with her sister, and it had to be something like what they did as kids. One of the things Storm liked to do was make to-do lists; however, her very last one is one that Storm will never be able to finish–so Anna decides she needs to. And it is only right that Storm’s best friend and the boy next door, Cameron, accompanies her.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: There are readers out there that need this book. They may be dealing with grief or struggling with their identity in high school or making a transition between friends. They’ll need Anna’s story. There are other readers out there that will want this book. They may love romance or road trips or sad books. They’ll want Anna’s story. This book has a home in classrooms and libraries where these readers can find it.
Discussion Questions: Why do you think Anna felt she needed to finish Storm’s to do list?; Did the ending surprise you? Was there any foreshadowing to the reveal at the end?; How did you feel about Anna’s friend’s reactions to Anna’s choice? Did Anna deal with the situation well? Why do you think she changed so quickly?
Flagged Passages: “Hours later, the rain still pattered a steady rhythm on the roof as a shrill ring pulled me from sleep. Mom and Dad insisted on keeping a landline with receivers throughout the house, even though we rarely use it. The ancient, corded phone blaring just outside of my bedroom door should have been my first indication something was wrong; I should have known right away. That’s the way it always happens in the movies–there’s intuition, a feeling deep in the gut. I had none of that, just a mild irritation at whoever was calling. And the constant, insistent rain.
Then my world ended with Mom’s ear-breaking scream.”
Read This If You Loved: Last True Love Story by Brendan Kiely; Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown; The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle; Jess, Chunk, and the Road to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth Clark; The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider; Cadillac Chronicles by Brett Hartman
**Thank you to Valerie at Running Press for providing a copy for review!**
Rosie Revere, Engineer
Author: Andrea Beaty; Illustrated by: David Roberts
Published: September 3, 2013 by Abrams
A Guest Review by Jennifer Zafetti
Summary: Rosie is an ambitious young girl who aspires to be an engineer. She creates an invention for her uncle, but becomes embarrassed when he laughs at her. She does not feel supported , until she meets her Great-Great-Aunt Rose who is both an adventurer and an explorer. Her great-great-aunt yearns to fly so Rosie builds her a contraption made out of cheese. When her great-great-aunt laughs at her failure, Rosie becomes disheartened and swears to never invent again. Rose provides her with comfort and explains that, “Your brilliant first flop was a raging success.” This provides Rosie with the encouragement she needs to try again!
Review: I really enjoyed reading this book! I think that it is so important for kids to embrace failures! If Rosie had admitted defeat after her first failure, she would have never been able to be successful. Rosie’s perserverance allowed her to create a flying contraption for her aunt. Furthermore, the rhyming sentences created an engaging tone that kept me wondering what would happen next. This is a great story to read-aloud to a classroom! Additionally, the illustrations on each page really add to the story and provide detailed visuals to accompany Rosie’s different inventions. Overall, I think that this book can be inspirational for all ages—the simple message: never give up!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Rosie Revere, Engineer is an uplifting story in which failure turns into success. Teachers should use this children’s book to teach students about the importance of perseverance. When faced with challenges, students should use them as an opportunity to grow. If you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything!
Also, the teacher can pause the reading to ask for predictions.
Discussion Questions: How did Rosie’s mood change throughout the story?; When is a time that you persevered when facing a challenge?; When is a time that you have learned from a failure? How do Rosie’s family members impact her actions?
Read This If You Loved: Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, and The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
Thank you, Jennifer!
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