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The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik
Author: David Arnold
Published: May 22, 2018 by Viking

Guest Review by Natalia Sperry

Summary: This is Noah Oakman → sixteen, Bowie believer, concise historian, disillusioned swimmer, son, brother, friend.

Then Noah → gets hypnotized.

Now Noah → sees changes—inexplicable scars, odd behaviors, rewritten histories—in all those around him. All except his Strange Fascinations . . .

Review: The longer I sit with this book, the more I feel like I’m still it; every time I sit down to think about it, I find new things to consider. If that’s not the sign of a good book,I don’t know what else is. The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hipnotik is a surreal exploration of identity, friendship, and family on the brink of the many changes protagonist Noah Oakman faces (both before and after his hypnotic episode) as he looks to the future beyond high school.

Above all else, I loved the nerdom in this book, both in its literary and historical detail as well as the variety of pop-culture references. In particular, much of the book (including its title) is drawn from musical icon David Bowie, so I’ll admit,  it’s hard to go wrong. The humor also brings some lightness to the moral questions and philosophical questions of self and reality, which helps keep the largely internal narrative afloat.

Through it all, this book captures an important to capture the emotional gamut of someone’s life, especially when it feels like everything is ch-ch-ch-changing around you. Whether you’re looking for fun or serious contemplation of reality, this book will let you escape for a while (and even for a while longer after you’re done!)

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: Though grounded in humor and pop culture references, this book would make for a really interesting companion to classics like James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, or J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. In asking students to compare the latter with Strange Fascinations, there are some really interesting parallels to be made both in the coming of age story and in the respective protagonists’ relationships with their sisters.

Discussion Questions: Do you agree, like Circuit, that genuine conversations are rare in the contemporary world? What do you think of Noah’s “strange fascinations?” Do you have any “fascinations” of your own, in this sense?

Flagged: “Some books are songs like that, the ones you go back to, make playlists of, put on repeat” (page 108).

Read This If You Loved: Mosquitoland by David Arnold, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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Merci Suárez Changes Gears
Author: Meg Medina
Published: September 11th, 2018 by Candlewick Press

Summary: Thoughtful, strong-willed sixth-grader Merci Suárez navigates difficult changes with friends, family, and everyone in between in a resonant new novel from Meg Medina.

Merci Suárez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci’s school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna’s jealousy. Things aren’t going well at home, either: Merci’s grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what’s going on, so she’s left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ guide I created for Merci Suárez Changes Gears:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about Merci on Candlewick Press’s Merci Suárez Changes Gears page.

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Louisiana’s Way Home
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Published: October 2nd, 2018 by Candlewick Press

Summary: From two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo comes a story of discovering who you are — and deciding who you want to be.

When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town — including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder — she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes. (Which could be due to the curse on Louisiana’s and Granny’s heads. But that is a story for another time.)

Called “one of DiCamillo’s most singular and arresting creations” by The New York Times Book Review, the heartbreakingly irresistible Louisiana Elefante was introduced to readers in Raymie Nightingale — and now, with humor and tenderness, Kate DiCamillo returns to tell her story.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ guide I created for Louisiana’s Way Home: 

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about Louisianaon Candlewick Press’s Louisiana’s Way Home page.

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H is for Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z
Author: Sydell Rosenberg
Illustrator: Sawsan Chalabi
Published April 10, 2018 by Penny Candy Books

Summary: In H Is For Haiku the late poet Rosenberg, a charter member of the Haiku Society of America and a New York City public school teacher, and illustrator Chalabi offer an A-Z compendium of haiku that brings out the fun and poetry in everyday moments.

H Is For Haiku introduces young readers to the short Japanese poetic form of haiku and includes helpful notes by the author’s daughter as well as by the author herself.

About the Creators: 

Sydell Rosenberg (1929-1996) lived, wrote and taught in New York City. Syd was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America in 1968 and served as HSA’s Secretary in 1975. Her short poems – notably haiku and senryu – as well as other poetry, were published in various magazines and anthologies. Syd received her M.A. in English as a Second Language from Hunter College in 1972. It was Syd’s dream to publish a book of haiku for children.

Sawsan Chalabi is a Lebanese-American illustrator and designer. She earned her MFA in Illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design. When she is not at her computer making digital illustrations, she can be found in her studio getting messy with inks and paint. Her work has been published with several magazines and publishing houses such as Cricket Magazine, Bust Magazine, Wine & Spirits Magazine, Applied Arts Magazine, Penguin, and Lee & Low Books, among others. She currently resides in Washington, D.C. where she continues to explore the power in the silent communication of art.

Praise for the Title:

Book Riot’s 2018 list of kids’ poetry: https://bookriot.com/2019/04/05/poetry-books-for-kids/

“2019 Notable Poetry Book” from The National Council for Teachers

Cybils awards finalist in the poetry category

Review: A wonderful text full of examples of haiku that follow the traditional rhythm and themes of the style. The imagery the author brings along with the colorful and fun-filled illustrations makes the book one that will bring enjoyment to the reading of poetry.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Perfect for

More information for teaching ideas: https://teachersandwritersmagazine.org/making-small-moments-big-teaching-haiku-with-sydell-rosenberg-5594.htm 

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Poetry, Haiku

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Wake Up, Color Pup
Author and Illustrator: Taia Morley
Published March 12, 2019 by Random House

GoodReads Summary: A beautiful picture book about a little pup’s colorful journey through the range of his emotions!

A bright yellow bird promises to bring adventure to sleepy Pup’s gray world. As Pup follows his new friend on a walk, each discovery ignites a new feeling and corresponding color, until Pup is saturated with them. But when a storm comes, Pup’s color is drained as fear sweeps through him. Only his curious yellow friend remains bright, and encourages him to keep his chin up, play, and carry on!

This is a remarkably simple and resonant examination of exploration and resilience, and introduces the idea of abstract association.

My Review: I loved the concept behind this book! The puppy is an energetic, spritely character, and he bounces through life and experiences a range of emotions. With each emotion, the page is lit up with color. The story is very sweet, and the rhymes flow  well. My two-year-old loves reading this book and is drawn to the colorful pages. It is a great way to practice colors together. If you aren’t convinced that you need to check out this book, I recommend you check out the page spreads featured below. They are really quite captivating.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Kids would have fun creating their own color-engaged stories. They might find a different metaphor than emotions and demonstrate how colors shift through the metaphor.

Discussion Questions: Which color page was your favorite, and why?; How does the author and illustrator demonstrate emotions through color?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Love: Dogs; Photography

About the Author: Taia Morley has worked as a toy and game designer and is an illustrator whose work appears in books and magazines. Her books include My New Big-Kid Bed and some titles in the HarperCollins Let’s Read and Find Out series. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. To learn more, and to download a curriculum guide for her latest book, visit taiamorley.com.

Twitter: @taiamorley

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!!**

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Tiger Days: A Book of Feelings
Author: M.H. Clark; Illustrator: Anna Hurley
Published: February 5, 2019 by Compendium

Summary: From tiger fierce to snail slow, there are lots of ways to feel and be. A walk through the menagerie of Tiger Days helps young readers see all the feelings they have and the ways those feelings change. Through playful rhymes and colorful illustrations, this spirited book gives children new tools to understand the range of their emotions and express themselves to family, teachers, and friends.

Ricki’s Review: Compendium books always make me smile, and this book was no different. I have a two-year-old, and we talk a lot about feelings. I think this one will be particularly helpful in our discussions because he loves animals. The metaphor of animals as a way to express feelings is brilliant. We are going to keep this book nearby at all times, so I can say things like, “Are you having a Bull Day today?” For older kids, the book offers an accessible way to consider metaphor.

Kellee’s Review: Everyone has different moods each day. I, for example, have a mood calendar in my classroom that I use to show my students how I am feeling because, you know what? Some days are tiger days for me too. But as an adult, it is easy(ish) for me to identify how I am feeling, but kids have to be taught to understand feelings and emotions, and Tiger Days is a perfect foundation to start this conversation. (And P.S. LOVE the fuzzy cover!)

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might use this book to introduce the idea of the metaphor. Older elementary school students could then create their own “Book of _________” using a metaphor. For instance, they might consider creating books like, “Color Days: A Book of Passions” and use colors as a metaphor for different types and levels of passion. It would require some scaffolding and careful planning, but it allows students to apply the concept of the metaphor to the world. Younger students might extend the book, instead, and create their own animal pages to create a classroom book of feelings.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which animal page was your favorite, and why?
  • If you could add one more animal to the book, which one would you pick? What feeling would it represent?
  • Which animal day are you having today, and why?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Loved: The Color Monster by Anna Llenas; The Feelings Book by Todd Parr; In My Heart by Jo Witek

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Love
Author: Stacy McAnulty
Illustrator: Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Published December 4, 2018 by Running Press

Summary:From award-winning author Stacy McAnulty comes a sweet story about love and what it’s really all about.

What is love? Can you only express it in fancy meals, greeting cards, and heart-shaped chocolates? Kids will find love everywhere in this delightful book. It can be found in everyday moments such as baking cookies with grandma, notes from Mom in your lunchbox, or a family singing together on a car trip, and it isn’t always what you expect!

With delightful illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff and sweetly simple prose by award-winning author Stacy McAnulty, thisis the perfect book to teach children what love means, why it’s important, and how they can spread the love in their daily lives.

My Review: This is a very heart-warming book. I received it on Valentine’s Day, and my kids and I have read it dozens of times. It would make a wonderful gift to a friend or family member because it offers many angles for the power of love. This book offers a lot of teaching potential as students explore abstract concepts and the idea of the metaphor. One thing, in particular, that I like about this book is that it resists the commercialization of love. As readers might see in the spread below, “love needs special presents” but those presents are homemade or expressed with kindness. This is a very touching book, and I think readers will find joy in it.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’d love to have students take an abstract concept (hope, grief, etc.) and create their own books to parallel this one. It would require a lot of brain power and would help students explore the idea of metaphors in their writing. I might even offer poetry that does this (e.g. “Hope is a thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson).

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is love? Who do you love?
  • How do you express your love?
  • Write your own page to add to this book. How does it fit in with the other pages?

Flagged Spread:

 

Read This If You Love: Love. And who doesn’t?

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