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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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Adventures in Science: Human Body
Author: Courtney Acampora
Published: December 12, 2017 by Silver Dolphin Books

Summary: Which part of the brain is in charge of creativity? What is the smallest human muscle? Take a trip inside the human body and discover the amazing systems that allow us to move, breathe, and speak. After reading about everything from the digestive tract to the cornea, kids can assemble their own plastic skeleton and view the systems of the body in a layered cardstock model. With 20 fact cards, 2 sticker sheets, and a double-sided poster, this interactive kit is a perfect primer for learning about how the human body works.

ReviewThis book kit is so much fun! It’s very cleverly designed to engage readers. It includes an informational book about the human body, a skeleton to build, flash cards, a sticker sheet that features the major bones of the human body, a sticker sheet that features the organs within the human body, and a double-sided poster with outlines to help readers stick the bone and organ stickers in the correct places. As we read the book, we did the activities and filled in the human body. What a powerful learning experience! I am crossing my fingers that this kit becomes a series. I would love to purchase a kit for space, geography, etc.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers could purchase five kits and divide their classes into five different groups to build the skeleton and affix the stickers onto the appropriate parts of the body. I sent a message to a few of my friends who homeschool their children. I think this kit will be a huge hit in their families.

Discussion Questions: What did you learn as you did the activities?; What parts of the human body do you find most interesting? Why?; How do the different parts of the body work together?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Any nonfiction books about the human body; interactive books and kits

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review**

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Dr. E’s Super Stellar Solar System
Authors: Bethany Ehlmann with Jennifer Swanson
Published January 16, 2018 by National Geographic Children’s Books

Goodreads Summary: Take to the skies with Planetary Geologist Dr. E and her robot sidekick, Rover, to explore the solar system’s wildest, most astronomical geology–with comic book flair! This stellar book introduces kids to outer space through in-depth info and comic book adventure. Along the way, kids follow explorer Bethany Ehlmann, a member of the NASA Mars Rover Curiosity mission, and her lovable robo-dog, Rover, as they study and protect our amazing solar system. Dr. E’s conversational and funny explanations of the solar system and planetary geology will pull kids in like gravity. The pairing of fun, graphic novel side stories with science facts makes big concepts accessible and interesting to boys and girls of all levels, from STEM science fans to reluctant readers alike.

Review: This book is wild. I learned so much while reading it. I thought I knew a lot about space, but this book made me realize how much I didn’t know about it. My son is much too young for this book, but he loved looking at the pictures while I summarized the text on the pages. There are some fantastic photographs, and there are also digital representations of what things might look like. Most exciting, this book filled me with wonder. There are so many possibilities with space, and I am really excited about new discoveries and new information that will come in my lifetime and beyond. This is a must-read for space lovers and those who are curious about the world. I particularly appreciated the comics at the front of each chapter. They allowed me to better engage with the material that followed. Dr. E made me want to learn even more about space!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’d love to see this book used in literature circles. The National Geographic books are phenomenal, so teachers might collect books on various topics and allow students to form groups based on interest.

Discussion Questions: After reading about _____, what did you learn?; What do you still want to learn about space?

We Flagged: 

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Read This If You Loved: Any nonfiction book about space, for background knowledge when reading science fiction that takes place in space (e.g. Space Encyclopedia)

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**Thank you to Karen at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review**

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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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Histories Mysteries
Author: Kitson Jazynka
Illustrators: Various
Published October 17th, 2017 by National Geographic Society

Summary: Why were the Easter Island heads erected? What really happened to the Maya? Who stole the Irish Crown Jewels? The first book in this exciting new series will cover history’s heavy-hitting, head-scratching mysteries, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke, the Bermuda Triangle, the Oak Island Money Pit, Stonehenge, the Sphinx, the disappearance of entire civilizations, the dancing plague, the Voynich manuscript, and so many more. Chock-full of cool photos, fun facts, and spine-tingling mysteries.

ReviewI feel like a broken record, but I just feel like it needs to be repeated: National Geographic Kids are publishing some truly phenomenal books for kids to read independently and/or for teachers to use in the classrooms. This one is no exception! It is beautifully structured with each mystery being shared with background, more details, clues, and theories along with illustrations and photographs. It is broken up into 7 chapters with mysteries all within the chapter around a specific topic. The chapter topic’s are: vanished civilizations, unexplained deaths and disappearances, creatures of myth and legend, freaky phenomena, mystifying monuments, cryptic codes and lost languages, & treasure troves.

 Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I felt very similarly about this book as I did about What Would Happen?, another National Geographic book–I just want to bring it into a classroom and let kids just inquire about any of the mysteries that tickle their fancy! How much fun it’d be to just allow students to get obsessed with a mystery then share it with their classmates.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which mystery do you want to do more research on?
  • [For each mystery] Do you agree with the theory shared? OR Which of the theories shared do you agree with?
  • What other mysteries would you like to learn more about?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: History, Mysteries, National Geographic Kids books

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Stop by Kid Lit Frenzy to check out the link up of other Nonfiction Picture Book reviews!

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**Thank you to Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

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Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy
Author: Laurel Snyder
Illustrator: Emily Hughes
Published October 3rd, 2017 by Chronicle

Summary: In this heartwarming sequel to Laurel Snyder’s beginning chapter book Charlie & Mouse, the two brothers enjoy a special visit from their grandpa, Grumpy. Follow along as they discuss being medium, pounce each other, sing the wrong songs, build blanket forts, and more. Paired with effervescent illustrations by Emily Hughes, this touching, funny celebration of imagination and bonding will enchant readers young and old.

View our post about Charlie and Grumpy book one (with teaching guide) here!

Activities include: 

Bedtime Songs

Grumpy doesn’t know the right bedtime song to sing for Charlie and Mouse, so he tries to guess. Using the clues he gave, we can assume he was talking about “Circle Game” by Joni Mitchell, “Hush, Little Baby,” and possibly “Jump in the River” by Sinead O’Connor. Play these three songs for your students.

  • Which do you like the most? Why?
  • Which do you think would be the best bedtime song? Why?

After Grumpy guesses, Charlie sings the right bedtime song to Grumpy.

  • We don’t know what song Charlie sang, but what song would you have sung to Grumpy?

After gathering all of the bedtime songs discussed as a group, have students analyze the different songs (theirs and the three Grumpy mentioned) by having them (in groups or independently):

  • Identify rhyming words within the songs.
  • Does the author repeat any words? Why did the author choose to repeat these words?
  • How does the author supply rhythm in the song?

Infer

There are a few times in the book that the text doesn’t tell you what happened, but you can infer from the illustrations what occurred such as p. 17, p. 27, and p.37. Have students use the illustrations to see how each of these chapters concluded and have them write out what they see in the illustrations.

Rain

In the final chapter, it is raining while Charlie and Mouse say good-bye to Grumpy. Even though the rain seems to be happening because of the mood of the chapter, rain actually occurs because of the water cycle. After discussing the mood of the chapter (see discussion question), share the scientific reason for rain by sharing the water cycle. One activity that could be done to help students understand the water cycle is the “Simple Water Cycle in a Bag” experiment: http://www.rookieparenting.com/what-is-water-cycle/.

Discussion Questions include: 

  • The text never says that Grumpy is Charlie and Mouse’s grandfather, but you can infer he is. What clues from the text and illustration help you know that he is their grandfather?
  • In the final chapter, the author chose to have it be raining. Why does this type of weather make the most sense for this final chapter? What mood does it set for the chapter?
  • Using the clues throughout the book, how many days and nights did Grumpy stay with Charlie and Mouse? How did you know?

Teaching Guide Created by Me (Kellee): 

You can also access the teaching guide through Chronicle’s website here.

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

Maya Lin: Thinking With Her Hands
Author: Susan Goldman Rubin
Published November 7th, 2017 by Chronicle

Summary: In the tradition of DELICIOUS, WIDENESS & WONDER, and EVERYBODY PAINTS!, this is Susan Goldman Rubin’s extensively researched and very accessible biography of civic activist Maya Lin, most famous for her design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is one of the most famous pieces of civic architecture in the world. But most people are not as familiar with the reserved college student who entered and won the design competition to build it. This accessible biography tells the story of Maya Lin, from her struggle to stick with her vision of the memorial to the wide variety of works she has created since then. Illustrated extensively with photos and drawings, the carefully researched text crosses multiple interests–American history, civic activism, art history, and cultural diversity–and offers a timely celebration of the memorial’s 35th anniversary, as well as contributing to the current, important discussion of the role of women and minorities in American society.

Activities include: 

Pre-Reading

  • Building Historical and Scientific Background Knowledge: To better understand much of Maya Lin’s extensive work, background knowledge of certain historical and scientific events are needed. Before reading Maya Lin’s biography, separate the class into five groups and assign each group one of these events:
    1. Vietnam War
    2. Civil Rights Movement
    3. Chinese-American Immigration
    4. Endangered and threatened animals
    5. Lewis and Clark’s expedition and the effect on the Indigenous People of Washington State

    Have each group create a timeline using an interactive timeline creator that showcases their event chronologically.  Within the timeline, the students should not only have important dates but they should incorporate visuals, the impact of each event on history/science, and any other supplemental information/media that will increase the knowledge of their event.

    Students then will present their timelines to their classmates to allow for all students to possess knowledge of all five historical and scientific events before beginning Maya Lin’s biography.

Post-Reading

  • Symbolism: Unlike traditional minimalists, Maya Lin uses symbolism in her work. Begin with working with students on symbolism within familiar stories they know. Show students What is Symbolism? at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Vwek28P9Gk then read the Story of William Tell (http://www.mainlesson.com/display.php?author=baldwin&book=fifty&story=tell) and discuss what the apple symbolizes. After this discussion tell students that symbolism in art is the same–symbolism is when a piece of art or an aspect of a piece of art represents something more than its literal meaning.Then, have students analyze her pieces of work for symbols within them. Students should then create a symbolism T-chart showing their found symbolism.Some examples:
    The ark shape of the Riggio-Lynch Chapel Symbolizes that the chapel is a safe place just as Noah’s Ark was.
    The water on the Civil Rights memorial Symbolizes the justice rolling down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream mentioned in “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Cumulative Writing Assignment: Legacy
    Maya Lin states, “You need to see me whole as an artist. What I’m doing is art, architecture, and memorials.” Have students write an informative essay explaining how Lin has fulfilled her legacy as an artist, architect, and memorial designer. Have students use evidence from the text, as well as other provided resources if you choose, to support their claim.Other resources:
    http://www.whatismissing.net/
    http://www.mayalin.com
    http://www.biography.com/people/maya-lin-37259
    http://www.theartstory.org/artist-lin-maya.htm

Discussion Questions include: 

  • From a young age, Maya Lin did not like the color red. Why does she not like the color red? What does red represent to her? The color red was included in the Museum of Chinese in America, however. Why was the color included in this project even though Maya Lin does not like it?
  • After completing the Vietnam War Memorial, Lin felt like she was boxed in as a “monument designer,” and refused many invitations to complete more memorials. Why do you think the Civil Rights Memorial was the work that she finally agreed to complete?
  • Maya Lin’s message of sustainability (avoiding the depletion of natural resources to maintain a balance within nature) reaches us through not only her What is Missing? project but through many of her other pieces of work. She states, “A lot of my work is not very glorious. If I succeed, you may never know I was here.” How did Maya Lin’s message of sustainability come through her works?
  • Susan Goldman Rubin’s chapter titles are very specific word choices. Looking at the titles (Clay, Granite, Water, Earth, Glass, Celadon, Dunes and Driftwood, Wood, and Memories), why do you believe the author choose these words to title each chapter?

Teaching Guide Created by Me (Kellee): 

You can also access the teaching guide through Chronicle’s website here.

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