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Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein
Author: Lita Judge
Published: January 30th, 2018 by Roaring Book Press

Summary: A young adult biography of Frankenstein’s profound young author, Mary Shelley, coinciding with the 200th anniversary of its publication, told through free verse and 300+ full-bleed illustrations.

Mary Shelley first began penning Frankenstein as part of a dare to write a ghost story, but the seeds of that story were planted long before that night. Mary, just nineteen years old at the time, had been living on her own for three years and had already lost a baby days after birth. She was deeply in love with famed poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, a mad man who both enthralled and terrified her, and her relationship with him was rife with scandal and ridicule. But rather than let it crush her, Mary fueled her grief, pain, and passion into a book that the world has still not forgotten 200 years later.

Dark, intense, and beautiful, this free-verse novel with over 300 pages of gorgeous black-and-white watercolor illustrations is a unique and unforgettable depiction of one of the greatest authors of all time.

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Whew. I felt so many emotions as I read this book. I kept thinking, “My goodness, my students are going to love this book.” I was fortunate to receive two copies of this book in the mail, and those two copies have passed from student’s hand to student’s hand. The book doesn’t even make its way back up to my desk before another student snags it. This book defies genre sorting. It’s nonfiction, it’s horror, it’s romance, it’s an illustrated book in verse. I’ve already added it to my book list to teach next semester in my Adolescents’ Literature course.

Students will read this book and want immediately to read Frankenstein. The book reads fairly quickly because it contains verse and illustrations, but readers will struggle not to pause for several minutes to enjoy the beautiful illustrations on the pages.

I’m most excited about the classroom potential for this book. It offers so much to talk about regarding characterization, mood, and poetry. But it also offers a beautiful bridge to read with Frankenstein. I thought I knew a lot about Mary Shelley’s life, but this book told me so much more about it. Reading her story on these pages made me feel as if I was experiencing her life alongside her. If you haven’t read this book yet, I recommend it highly.

Discussion Questions: What factors may have influenced Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? In what ways does the author use metaphor and symbolism to help us understand her experiences?; What might be the author’s purpose? Is she successful, in your opinion?; What textual features helped you understand Mary’s story? How might this book read differently if the author had used another form?

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Read This If You Loved: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; Horror; Gothic Literature

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Islandborn
Author: Junot Díaz
Illustrator: Leo Espinosa
Published: March 13, 2018 by Dial

Summary: From New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz comes a debut picture book about the magic of memory and the infinite power of the imagination.

Every kid in Lola’s school was from somewhere else. Hers was a school of faraway places.

So when Lola’s teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families immigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can’t remember The Island—she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories—joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening—Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island. As she draws closer to the heart of her family’s story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”

Gloriously illustrated and lyrically written, Islandborn is a celebration of creativity, diversity, and our imagination’s boundless ability to connect us—to our families, to our past and to ourselves.

Review: This book is absolutely enchanting. I can confidently say that it will always be one of my favorite picture books of all time. When Lola asks family and friends about the island that she came from, they have wonderful memories that they share with her. The illustrations and words dance off of the page—Díaz and Espinosa, the author-illustrator team, combine to create a work that will stun readers with its beauty and complexity. I took the pages from the F&G and hung them on my office walls, and they inspire me daily.

As I read this book, I continually paused to reflect on the words (“Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you” and “Memory is magic.”). There is so much to teach from this book, and I am really looking forward to sharing it with students. If you haven’t read this book, I recommend you get in your car and drive immediately to the bookstore.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: There are so many possibilities for this section for teacher. They might analyze text and word choice, focusing on figurative language. Or they could examine the emotions that Lola experiences as she tries to learn about the place that she comes from. Or they might have students research their own countries of origin and create an image that represents the magic of the country. Or they might consider a monster that exists in their country and draw it metaphorically or symbolically. This is a book that is meant to be shared and shared.

Discussion Questions: How does Lola feel when she can’t remember the country she came from? How does she learn more about it?; What do Lola’s friends and family tell her about the country she came from? What are the good and bad memories that they share? What might the bad memory represent?

We Flagged:

Read This If You Loved: Works by Junot Díaz; Miguel and the Grand Harmony by Matt de la Peña; Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan; Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

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Bone’s Gift
Author: Angie Smibert
Published March 20th, 2018 by Boyd’s Mill Press

Summary: Boyds Mills Press is pleased to announce the March publication of BONE’S GIFT, a supernatural historical mystery written by Angie Smibert about twelve-year-old Bone, who possesses a Gift that allows her to see the stories in everyday objects. When Bone receives a note that says her mother’s Gift killed her, Bone seeks to unravel the mysteries of her mother’s death, the schisms in her family, and the Gifts themselves.

In a southern Virginia coal-mining town in 1942, Bone Phillips has just reached the age when most members of her family discover their Gift. Bone has a Gift that disturbs her; she can sense stories when she touches an object that was important to someone. She sees both sad and happy—the death of a deer in an arrowhead, the pain of a beating in a baseball cap, and the sense of joy in a fiddle. There are also stories woven into her dead mama’s butter-yellow sweater—stories Bone yearns for and fears. When Bone receives a note that says her mama’s Gift is what killed her, Bone tries to uncover the truth. Could Bone’s Gift do the same?

This beautifully resonant coming-of-age tale about learning to trust the power of your own story is “charming” says School Library Connection, while Kirkus Reviews says, “Smibert surrounds Bone with a loving, complicated extended family….(with) language, which feels real and down-to-earth, like her characters. An intriguing blend of history and magic.”

About the Author: Angie is the author of several young adult books, including Memento NoraThe Forgetting Curve, and The Meme Plague, and numerous nonfiction books for children, as well as many short stories for both adults and teens. She lives in Roanoke, Virginia.

ReviewBone’s Gift was a special story looking at a well-known time period in a less-known setting. Normally stories in the 1940s focus primarily on the World War in Europe and the Pacific Islands, but this story focuses on a young girl who stays home when her father leaves to fight for his country. What happens to the children who have no mother and whose father leave for the war? Mostly a young girl whose family don’t all get along? And a young girl who is working very hard to figure out something important in her life while also learning truths about her mother’s life. This is that story. Bone is a character that the reader will love and will want to know what happened to her. Between Bone’s loss of her mother, her father going to WWII, Appalachian folklore & setting, and family dynamics, Bone’s Gift has so many different aspects weaving their way throughout the story, but it is all done beautifully in a way that all comes together in the resolution.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: 

(Resources from http://www.angiesmibert.com/blog/?mbdb_book=bones-gift)

Discussion Questions: 

  • What genre would you consider Bone’s Gift?
  • How did the author incorporate Appalachian Folklore in Bone’s story?
  • What theme would you say was the main theme of the story?
  • What incident in the book changed the trajectory of the plot?
  • How would a changed setting have changed the story?

Flagged Passages: “Bone Phillips floated in the cool, muddy water of the New River up to her eyeballs. The sky above was as blue as a robin’s egg, and the sun was the color of her mama’s butter-yellow sweater.

Her mother was still everywhere and nowhere Bone looked.

She let herself sink under the water and swam along the river bottom toward shore–toward Will.

In the shallows, her hand brushed against something hard and jagged on the silky river bottom. An image poured over her like cold bathwater. A young boy had hit his head on this rock. He struggled for air. The current grabbed at him–and her, pulling her along back in time. Bone snatched her hand away from the rock and came up for air with a gasp.” (p. 1)

Read This If You Love: Magical Realism, Folk lore, Historical Fiction, Mysteries

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

Monday, April 9 YA Books Central

Tuesday, April 10 Ms. Yingling Reads

Wednesday, April 11 Unleashing Readers

Thursday, April 12 The Brain Lair AND Genrefluent

Friday, April 13 Always in the Middle

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Moon
Author and Illustrator: Alison Oliver
Expected Publication April 17th, 2018 by Clarion Books

Summary: Like many children, Moon leads a busy life. School, homework, music lessons, sports, and the next day it begins again. She wonders if things could be different. Then, one night, she meets a wolf.

The wolf takes Moon deep into the dark, fantastical forest and there she learns to howl, how to hide, how to be still, and how to be wild. And in that, she learns what it’s like to be free.

ReviewJust as Where the Wild Things Are made children think about controlling our inner wild things (anger), Moon has us look at the new pressures of childhood and the need to let kids unleash their inner wild thing (playfulness). I talk often about the pressure that kids with other parents and teachers about the pressure that kids have on them now. Computer programs and homework starting in kindergarten, multiple standardized testing starting in 3rd grade, high school classes starting in middle school, AP classes required for almost everyone, etc. etc. etc. It makes me so sad to see that a lot of the joys of childhood are being pushed away to make kids grow up earlier (but then we complain about kids growing up quicker…). Moon, the main character, represents so many of our kids, and her adventure shows how important it is to let our kids just be themselves to be happy and to remove some of the pressure. I loved this message, and I thought it was told in a beautiful and figurative way that will lead to wonderful discussions and lots of rereading.

And I couldn’t review this book properly without commenting on the beautiful illustrations. I particularly loved the palette changes to highlight time and place and the bits of humor in the illustrations. Just a wonderful combination of artwork and story.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Moon‘s theme and symbolism are what jump out to me first, and I see them being what is discussed the most when it comes to this book, and I could see it be extended from early elementary all the way to middle school just pushing the conversation to different levels the older students get.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What do the wolves symbolize in Moon’s story?
  • How is your life similar to Moon’s at the beginning of the book?
  • How does Moon’s life change from beginning to end?
  • What lesson was the message the author was trying to spread from Moon? 
  • Do you see any differences between Moon from the first couple of pages and the last couple of pages?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Yellow Kayak by Nina Laden, Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

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Miles Away from You
Author: A. B. Rutledge
Published: March 20, 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Guest Review by Kaari von Bernuth

Goodreads Summary: It’s been three years since Miles fell for Vivian, a talented and dazzling transgender girl. Eighteen months since a suicide attempt left Vivian on life support. Now Miles isn’t sure who he is without her, but knows it’s time to figure out how to say goodbye.

He books a solo trip to Iceland but then has a hard time leaving the refuge of his hotel room. After a little push from Oskar, a local who is equal parts endearing and aloof, Miles decides to honor Vivian’s life by photographing her treasured Doc Martens standing empty against the surreal landscapes. With each step he takes, Miles finds his heart healing–even as he must accept that Vivian, still in a coma, will never recover.

Told through a series of instant messages to Vivian, this quirky and completely fresh novel explores love, loss, and the drastic distances we sometimes have to travel in order to move on.

Kaari’s Review: I’d like to preface this blog post by saying that I do not identify as LGBTQ in any way, so I don’t have personal experiences to say whether or not this novel presents an accurate representation of what it is like to be an LGBTQ person. But, I think that this book does provide a compelling and interesting perspective that non-LGBTQ people can understand and connect with. I liked that the entire story was written in a messaging format. It placed an interesting lens over the story because, as readers, we always know that the story is being written to someone, even if they can’t respond. The format also lends itself to casual language, which makes it an entertaining and engaging read that students will love.

This book was certainly entertaining, and I loved reading it. I loved cheering for Miles and hurting for Miles when it was appropriate. I think that Miles’ approach to grief is also an approach that many teens can connect with, and maybe learn from as well. However, this book has a lot going on in it. The main character, Miles, is coping with the loss of his transgender girlfriend. His two lesbian moms are very supportive of the LGBTQ community, and even run a summer camp for LGBTQ kids. And, Miles himself is unsure of his sexuality, which he explores more as the novel goes on. Because there are so many LGBTQ elements the author tried to fit in, it feels a little bit contrived at times, and distracts from the overall messages of acceptance of personal identity, and also of the LGBTQ community, and dealing with the intricate and complicated loss of a loved one.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I think this book poses a lot of really interesting questions about suicide, grief, overcoming grief, acceptance, identity, potential abuse (between Oskar and his boyfriend), love, gender, and sexuality that could spark a lot of discussions for students. For these reasons, I think that this book should definitely be included in classroom libraries, and used as a literature circle book. However, if someone is looking to teach an lgbtq book to an entire classroom, I’d choose one that didn’t have quite as many lgbtq aspects, as I mentioned in the review, because it makes the book feel somewhat cluttered and contrived, and there are many other novels that would be better for teaching to a large classroom.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How is identity explored in this novel?
  • How is discrimination portrayed in this novel?
  • What kinds of violence/abuse do we see in the novel?
  • How is death/dying portrayed?
  • How does Miles cope with grief? What ways are productive and what ways are unproductive?

We Flagged: “This is the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the place where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly, slowly tearing apart. It sounds so destructive, doesn’t it? Like the world could just keep spreading and eventually it’ll just crack in half and bleed out into the universe. But the good news is that it doesn’t actually work like that. When the earth splits, lava rises and cools, creating new land where there wasn’t any before. It heals as it tears. I think humans do that, too. So, anyway, this is the tenth photo I’ve taken of Vivian’s boots, and it might be my last for a little while. I do want to keep connecting and keep exploring this new scar tissue.” -Advanced Reading Copy page 224

Read This If You Loved: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills; Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin; If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo; Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford

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**Thank you to Kaari for reviewing this book!**

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Leaf Litter Critters
Author: Leslie Bulion
Illustrator: Robert Meganck
Published March 8th, 2018 by Peachtree Publishers

Summary: Have fun on this poetic tour through the leaf litter layer and dig into the fascinating facts about the tiny critters who live there. Nineteen poems in a variety of verse forms with accompanying science notes take readers on a decomposer safari through the “brown food web,” from bacteria through tardigrades and on to rove beetle predators with other busy recyclers in-between. 

Zooming into the thin layer of decaying leaves, plant parts, and soil beneath our feet, Leaf Litter Critters digs into fascinating information about the world of decomposers–from the common earthworm to the amazing tardigarde.

Written in various poetic forms, acclaimed science poet and award-winning author Leslie Bulion combines intriguing scientific details with fun wordplay to create a collection of nonfiction verses amusing for all readers. Vibrant and entertaining artwork by distinguished illustrator Rober Meganck adds to the humor of each poem.

Perfect for cross curricular learning, Leaf Litter Critters has extensive back matter, including both science notes about each critter and poetry notes about each poetic form, as well as a glossary, hands-on activities, and additional resources for curious readers to further their investigations. It’s also a great read-aloud for Earth Day and beyond.

* “The poems are expertly crafted in a variety of forms (identified in the backmatter). The language is lively and the imagery appropriate. With alliteration, internal rhymes, and careful rhythm, these will be a delight to read aloud and learn…. Meganck’s engaging digital drawings give each creature pop-eyes and attitude…. A delightful, memorable introduction to an unsung ecosystem.” —Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Bulion stuffs her poems with scientific detail and puts even more into accompanying “science notes.” Meganck’s cartoons strike sillier notes…balancing all of the information Bulion provides with hefty doses of fun.” —Publishers Weekly

Review & Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I cannot wait to give this to my mentee who is a sixth grade science teacher who has a BS in biology–she is going to love this so much! And if I was an upper elementary teacher, I would love to use this text as a cross-curricular text during a poetry and biology unit. Not only did it teach me SO much about these amazing creatures that do weird and truly astonishing things, it goes through all the different types of poetry shared to ensure that the book isn’t just science nor poetry centered. I think the author did a beautiful job making sure that each spread had a wonderful poem and a deep science explanation just in case the poem doesn’t clarify anything. Additionally, the back matter includes investigative activities, a glossary, and more science information that would all be incredible assets to a classroom! I really cannot say enough how well the book is crafted for the purpose it was created for.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How is each creature in the leaf litter layer important?
  • How did the illustrator use a pin to help you see the size of each critter on pages 54-55?
  • Write your own poem about one of the creatures that you learned about using whatever poetic style you choose.
  • How did the science notes on each page assist you in understanding the creature that was shared on each spread?
  • Which of the poetic forms/styles did you enjoy the most? Why?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Biology, Poetry, Science

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**Thank you to Elyse at Peachtree for providing a copy for review!!**

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Tough Tug
Author: Margaret Read MacDonald;  Illustrator: Rob McClurkan
Published: March 1, 2018 by Two Lions

Goodreads Summary: Tough Tug is a brand-new boat. He likes to swirl and twirl—and run and race. He wants everyone to see what he can do. But when he sails to Alaska for the first time, he finds out what being a tug really means…

Ricki’s Review: This delightful book is sure to capture the spirit of young children. Tough Tug has determination and energy, and I yearned to read this book aloud to a classroom of readers. As he adventures to new horizons, Tough Tug realizes just how difficult it is to be a tug boat, but he knows that he passion will get him to his goal. The bright illustrations feature determined, anthropomorphic ships. Readers will feel energized after reading this one.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book begs for movement. I’d read this book to preschoolers and kindergarteners and ask them to move with tough tug. Reading this story and reacting to the movement words (e.g. “haul”) would help them learn some great new vocabulary!

Discussion Questions: How does Tough Tug show strength? What is he determined to do? What struggles does he face?; How does the illustrator make the boats come alive?; How can you connect this story with your own lives?

Flagged Passage: 

“Launch day!

Here I come…!”

“Hooray! I’m floating! This is fun!

Wait till those boats see what Tough Tug can do!”

Read This If You Loved: Might Tug by Alyssa Satin Capucilli; The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper; Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, Demolition by Sally Sutton

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RickiSig

**Thank you to Kristin for providing copies for review!**

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