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Disney Villains: The Evilest of Them All
Author: Rachael Upton
Illustrator: Various Disney Story Art Team
Published 2018 by Fun Studio International

Summary: Dive into the devilish thoughts of Disney’s most masterful villains and become a part of the story . . . for better or for worse.

WANTED: The most evil, wicked, abhorrent, vile villain to ever curse this world . . . or any others.

A villain acting vile is merely part of the job description . . . but which of Disney’s famed scoundrels is the evilest of them all? Dive into the devilish thoughts of The Evil Queen, Jafar, Ursula, and more as they recall their most wicked achievements. With gatefolds and lift-the-flaps, readers can dive into minds of the best of the worst in this fun read for Disney fans of all ages.

Villains Include…
Evil Queen (Snow White)
Jafar (Aladdin)
Mother Gothel (Rapunzel)
Lady Tremaine (Cinderella)
Ursula (The Little Mermaid)
Scar (Lion King)
Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmatians)
Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)
Malificent (Sleeping Beauty)
Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland)
Captain Hook (Peter Pan)
Hades (Hercules)
Dr. Facilier (The Princess and the Frog)

Review: I must share that I am very bias when it comes to this one. I love Disney. Period. However, this book was even better than expected. I loved the highlight of the villains and how the book was set up as a character profile for each of them like a business resume as well as fun anecdotal information about each of them–including a lot of humor!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I am so ready to use this book in my class as an argumentative or debate activity! Each section does a phenomenal job breaking down the evilness of each of the villains including their skills, possessions, education, work experience, likes, dislikes, and a random list of information about them. Using this information, students would make an argument for why their villain is the “evilest of them all.”

The book also would fit perfectly in a compare and contrast unit since each villain has the same topics highlighted.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which villain do you think is the evilest of them all?
    • Why do you think they are more evil than ____?
  • Who is the foe of _____?
  • Which villain has the most impressive skills? Explain.
  • How did the author use humor in the book to lighten the mood?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Disney, Villains, Profile Books, Humor

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

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The Astonishing Color of After
Author: Emily X. R. Pan
Published: March 20, 2018 by Little, Brown

Goodreads Summary: Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

My Review: I just finished discussing this book with my class, and they loved it. It is a bit of a longer book and moves somewhat slowly, but even my students who didn’t finish it in time insisted that I should use it again next year. The writing is absolutely stunning. Pan depicts humanity in ways that are very powerful. She integrates color and emotion to connect readers to the characters. We had two one-hour class periods to discuss this book, and there were so many things to talk about. Discussion was easy, and students made meaningful connections with the book. This book is simply unforgettable. I recommend it highly and hope it wins some awards in January!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: My students said that they Googled the colors within the text as they read. We spent a lot of time talking about the colors as an effective writing tool. I asked students to think of a moment in their lives that they’d be willing to share. Then, I asked them to attach a color with the moment. They shared beautiful stories of working at drive-ins, meeting their SOs, visiting places with friends, etc. The colors they attached with the images were fascinating and made the stories come alive.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the author incorporate magical realism in the text? Is it effective?
  • Did Leigh and Axel’s relationship feel realistic to you? Why or why not?
  • Which scenes are beautifully written, and how do they demonstrate excellent writing?
  • Should we forgive Leigh’s father? Why might he make the decisions he makes?

We Flagged: “Once you figure out what matters, you’ll figure out how to be brave.”

Read This If You Loved: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner, When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore, Miles Away From You by A. B. Rutledge, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

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  RickiSig

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Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers
Author: Deborah Heiligman
Published April 18th, 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.

Summary: The deep and enduring friendship between Vincent and Theo Van Gogh shaped both brothers’ lives. Confidant, champion, sympathizer, friend, Theo supported Vincent as he struggled to find his path in life. They shared everything, swapping stories of lovers and friends, successes and disappointments, dreams and ambitions. Meticulously researched, drawing on the 658 letters Vincent wrote to Theo during his lifetime, Deborah Heiligman weaves a tale of two lives intertwined and the love of the Van Gogh brothers.

About the Author: Deborah Heiligman has written many books for children, including National Book Award Finalist Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith and The Boy Who Loved Math. She lives with her family in New York City.

AccoladesMichael L. Printz Award – Honor, School Library Best Books of the Year, CPL: Chicago Public Library Best of the Best, NYPL Books for the Teen Age, Booklist Editors’ Choice, YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist, YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Winner, BCCB Blue Ribbon Award, Boston Globe – Horn Book Award, Kirkus Best Teen Books of the Year, Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year, Texas TAYSHAS High School Reading List, Horn Book Magazine Fanfare List

Praise: 

“A remarkably insightful, profoundly moving story of fraternal interdependence and unconditional love.” —Kirkus, starred review

“A breathtaking achievement that will leave teens eager to learn more.” —School Library Journal, starred review

“In fittingly painterly language, Heiligman offers vivid descriptions of Vincent’s artwork and life, which grow more detailed and colorful as Vincent’s own artistic style becomes richer and more refined . . . This illuminating glimpse into the van Goghs’ turbulent life and historical period will add compelling depth to readers’ understanding of the iconic painter. ” —Booklist, starred review

“A unique and riveting exploration of art, artists, and brotherly love.” —The Horn Book, starred review

“An intensive exploration of their turbulent lives” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“This title is a treasure for readers who want to immerse in a roiling domestic drama and who don’t back away from a good cry” —The Bulletin, starred review

Review: I could not stop talking about this book while I was listening to it. That, and that I couldn’t stop listening to the book–I would listen whenever I could, show me what a fabulous book it was. Hieligman does an amazing job making Vincent and Theo’s story come to life through such emotional narrative that the reader cannot help but feel as if we are living alongside the Van Gogh brothers. As someone who loves learning about history and art as well as an interest in brain health, this was a story that was more fascinating than I can even describe.

Also, I feel personally connected to this book in a fun way. In November, 2016 Deborah Heiligman and I had a dinner at NCTE, and we got talking about art since she had just finished Vincent and Theo. If you didn’t know, my dad has a BA in Art History and a MFA in Museumology and runs art museums (currently the LSU Museum of Art), so I have grown up around art museums my whole life and with art as a big part of it. One of the things we spoke about is the new information that a painting thought to be a self-portrait (right below) was actually the only known painting of Theo Van Gogh that Vincent painted. One thing that made it hard to determine this was that Theo is wearing the straw hat that Vincent is known to wear while Vincent is wearing Theo’s business felt hat. And this is where Deborah’s question came in: “The hats on the cover matched the hats the men are wearing in the photo although those are not actually their hats. Does it matter?” Now although I love art, I am not the expert, so I offered to ask my dad, and he responded with, “I like the cover as it is. I think it causes a questioning that evidences the new research in an interesting way. It defies previous thoughts and expectations.” Thus the cover stayed as is with an explanation on the jacket (below).

But I think what can show you about the book more than just me raving is all of the awards it received, ⇑ see above, and all of the amazing information about how Deborah researched for the book, ⇓ see below, and of course an excerpt from the book, ⇓ also below.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: View Deborah Hieligman’s research for Vincent and Theo and view all the articles & interviews about the book to use with students when reading this nonfiction text. There is so much that can be done with this story and the author’s writing process; use this amazing text in your classrooms, have it in your libraries, read it yourself–however you see fit, but read and share it!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How were Vincent and Theo’s life parallel with each other?
  • In what way were Vincent and Theo’s view of love part of their downfall emotionally?
  • Looking at the two portraits above and after reading the article about the portrait being of Theo, what do you believe? What similarities and differences do you see between the two?
  • How did Deborah Hieligman take all of the letters and research she did and turn them into a narrative?
  • I described this book to my sister as “A love story about two brothers.” Why would I call it a love story?
  • How did Theo’s short but mighty marriage set up for the current popularity of Vincent Van Gogh?
  • Why did it take so long for Vincent to find art?
  • In what way did finding friends in the impressionist art community help Vincent as an artist?

Flagged Passages: 1. TWO BROTHERS, ONE APARTMENT, PARIS, 1887

There was a time when I loved Vincent very much, and he was my best friend, but that’s over now. —Theo van Gogh to his sister Willemien, March 14, 1887

THEO’S BROTHER VINCENT has been living with him for just over a year, and Theo cannot take it anymore.

It is “almost intolerable for me at home,” he writes to their sister Wil in March 1887. Even though Theo has moved them to a larger apartment, this one still feels too small to hold Vincent’s outsized personality and Theo’s desperate need for quiet. He’s dying to tell Vincent to move out, but he knows if he does, Vincent will just be more determined to stay.

Dogged. Contrary. Stubborn. Vincent.

Theo van Gogh is the manager of Goupil & Cie, a successful art gallery on the fashionable Boulevard Montmartre in Paris. Theo is good at his job, but it’s terrifically frustrating for him right now. The owners of the gallery want him to sell paintings in the traditional style because they’re popular and bring in money. Though Theo certainly needs to make money—he has to support himself and Vincent and help their mother—he wants to sell art that is truly exciting to him, paintings by the Impressionists and their crowd, friends of his and Vincent’s: Émile Bernard, Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Soon, maybe even paintings by Vincent himself.

But these modern painters don’t bring in enough money, so it’s a constant battle with his bosses. Theo haspersuaded them to let him set up a little display of Impressionists on the entresol. The entresol is not the ground floor, and it’s not the first floor. It’s the floor in between. It’s as if the paintings are there, but not quite yet, a glimpse into the future. It’s a start. But he spends his days working hard and comes back to the apartment at 54 Rue Lepic exasperated and exhausted. What he needs at home is rest and peace, but instead he gets VINCENT.

Theo loves his brother’s brilliant mind, his gregariousness, even his fiery temperament. Vincent can be a good antidote to Theo’s own inwardness and tendency to melancholy.

But after so many months of the cold Parisian winter spent indoors with Vincent, Theo is a wreck both mentally and physically. A few months back, in December, he was actually paralyzed—he couldn’t move at all for a few days. Although Theo knows he can’t blame his bad health on his brother, to get better he needs a break from Vincent’s gusts, his squalls, his constant talking and lecturing.

And, to make matters worse, lately Vincent has been furious at him. “He loses no opportunity to let me see that he despises me and I inspire aversion in him,” Theo tells Wil.

A portrait done of the brothers at this time would be sizzling with streaks of red-orange paint.

* * *

WHEN VINCENT AND THEO were young, growing up in the village of Zundert in the Netherlands, their father, a pastor, had written a special prayer. All the Van Gogh children had to memorize it and recite it when they left home:

“O Lord, join us intimately to one another and let our love for Thee make that bond ever stronger.”

Theo has valiantly been living up to that prayer. He’s been Vincent’s best friend for most of the last fifteen years, ever since they made a pledge to each other on a walk. And through many ups and downs and storms, for the past seven years, Theo has been giving Vincent money for paint, pencils and pens, ink, canvases, paper, clothing, food, and, until he moved in, rent.

On March 30 Vincent turns thirty-four; on May 1 Theo will be thirty. They’ve made it this far in their journey together—how can Theo kick him out now?

* * *

VINCENT AND THEO VAN GOGH look a lot alike: They both have red hair, though Vincent’s is redder, Theo’s more reddish blond. Vincent has freckles; Theo does not. They are both medium height—around five feet seven—but Vincent is broader, bigger; Theo slighter, thinner. They have pale blue eyes that sometimes darken to greenish blue. They are definitely brothers.

But they couldn’t give more different impressions.

Vincent in his workman’s clothes spends his days painting, outside if it’s not too cold, or inside the apartment. He is covered with Parisian soot and grime, overlaid with splatters and spatters of paint: ochre, brick red, orange, lemon chrome, cobalt blue, green, black, zinc white.

He doesn’t bathe often, which is typical for a nineteenth-century man, but it’s even less often than he should. He stinks—of body odor, dirt, food, paint, turpentine, wine, and tobacco. He usually has a pipe in his mouth, though he has very few teeth left, and those that are left are rotten.

And yet Vincent looks healthy: he’s robust, sturdy, and vehemently alive. Passion pours from him, as if the world he’s trying to capture is inside him, bursting to come out.

Theo is tidy, well dressed in a suit, looking very much the proper Parisian businessman. His features are finer, more refined. He would be handsome if he weren’t so sick: he’s thin and pale; he looks as though the life is being sucked out of him. He feels that way, too.

* * *

IN MANY WAYS, Vincent’s move to Paris has been good for both brothers. Thanks to Theo’s influence, to the artists he’s met, and to his own tenacious work, Vincent’s paintings are better than ever: they are imbued with color and light and Vincent’s own particular style.

And Vincent has given Theo more of a life. He’d been lonely in Paris, so lonely, and now, even though he doesn’t have a wife and family, Theo at least has a circle of friends through Vincent. For that he is grateful. So even though he’s desperate, Theo doesn’t kick out his brother. Yet.

In April, Theo acknowledges to another sister, Lies, that he’s been ill, “particularly in my spirit, and have had a great struggle with myself.” If he were well, he could deal with Vincent.

In fact both brothers do better with sun and warm air and hours spent outside. The Parisian days are getting longer—by minutes, anyway. If only spring would arrive! But there’s still too much gloom outside and in.

Gloom and fire.

It’s as if there are two Vincents, Theo has told Wil. He knows both sides of his brother very well. Sometimes Vincent is ebulliently happy and kind, sometimes furiously angry and difficult. He has a huge heart, but he’s stubborn and argumentative.

Vincent argues not only with Theo, and with himself, but also with friends and people he admires. One cold and fiery night in the near future, Vincent will fight with another roommate. And that argument will end in blood.

Read This If You Love: History, Art, Brain health, Van Gogh, Heiligman’s writing

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Astronaut, Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact
Author: Jennifer Swanson
Foreword by Fabien Cousteau and Kathryn D. Sullivan
Published January 9th, 2018 by National Geographic Society

Summary: Journey from the deepest trenches in the oceans to the farthest humans have ventured into space and learn what it takes to explore the extremes. You might just be surprised by how similar the domains of ASTRONAUTS and AQUANAUTS really are.

Space and the ocean. If you don’t think they go together, think again! Both deep-sea and space explorers have to worry about pressure, temperature, climate, and most importantly, how to survive in a remote and hostile environment. Join us on an amazing journey as we go up in space with astronauts and dive deep down in the ocean with aquanauts to explore the far-off places of our planet and the solar system.

With a strong tie into STEM topics–such as making connections, making comparisons, and recognizing patterns across content areas–readers will discover the amazing science and incredible innovations that allow humans (and sometimes only machines) to survive in these harsh environments.

Review: First, I want to share this image because it is one of my favorites ever, and I want a poster of it for Trent’s room!

I love the idea of this book! First, from a personal point of view: my son loves animals and space, so this is a perfect book for him. We didn’t read word for word together, but we spent hours over the last couple of weeks flipping through the book, looking at different spreads, reading parts of the book, and answering any questions that Trent had. Also, from a educator point of view: this text is so full of information told in such an interesting way with fun facts, activities, and so much fascinating information! Swanson did a beautiful job making connections between the two professions and scientists and giving equal looks into both. And since the book is for middle grade students, it is essential for it to be written in a way that will be intriguing to readers, and this book is definitely that!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Throughout the book there are questions that can lead to inquiry (see below) and many topics that are introduced that could be further researched. Additionally, there are a few activities throughout such as one on submersibles, docking the ISS, and design your own space suit. The book is also set up for comparing and contrasting looking at exploration in both space and the sea and how they differ and overlap.

Discussion Questions: The text is FILLED with books that can lead to phenomenal discussions or inquiry projects such as

  • How does studying the topography of the ocean floor help us understand the space?
  • Why is it important for astronauts to train underwater?
  • What does it feel like during blastoff?
  • What is it like to live in space/under water for a long time?
  • Why and how do we explore?
  • How can studying the ocean help astronauts better understand conditions in space?
  • What can space teach us about the ocean?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Space travel, Science, Marine biology

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**Thank you to the author for providing a copy for review!**

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Orphaned
Author: Eliot Schrefer
Published September 25th, 2018 by Scholastic Press

Summary: Before humans, and before human history, there were the apes.
Snub is a young gorilla, living in the heart what will eventually be known as Africa. She is jealous of her mother’s new baby . . . and restless in her need to explore. When a natural disaster shakes up her family, Snub finds herself as the guardian of her young sibling . . . and lost in a reshaped world.

Snub may feel orphaned, but she is not alone. There are other creatures stalking through the woods — a new form of predator, walking on two legs. One of their kind is also orphaned, and is taken in by Snub. But the intersection of the human world and the gorilla world will bring both new connections and new battles.

In his boldest work yet, two-time National Book Award finalist Eliot Schrefer shows us a riveting, heartbreaking early encounter between ape and man — told from the ape’s point of view. It is a journey unlike any other in recent literature.

About the Author: Eliot Schrefer is a New York Times-bestselling author, and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Award. In naming him an Editor’s Choice, the New York Times has called his work “dazzling… big-hearted.” He is also the author of two novels for adults and four other novels for children and young adults. His books have been named to the NPR “best of the year” list, the ALA best fiction list for young adults, and the Chicago Public Library’s “Best of the Best.” His work has also been selected to the Amelia Bloomer List, recognizing best feminist books for young readers, and he has been a finalist for the Walden Award and won the Green Earth Book Award and Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. He lives in New York City, where he reviews books for USAToday.

Praise: “Scientific accuracy paired with lyrical, subjective language describing the young gorilla’s impressions of her surroundings and bodily needs make this book an imaginative, eloquent evocation of a little-known era in prehistory from an animal’s viewpoint. A plausibly authentic account skillfully avoiding risk of excessive anthropomorphism.” – Kirkus Reviews

Review: What a fascinating book! Orphaned is so different than Schrefer’s other novels but in a way that is new and so well done. Where Endangered, Rescued, and Threatened were about humans interacting with apes in a contemporary setting, Orphaned is about apes interacting with early humans in a pre-historic setting. There is no book like this! And it is done beautifully.

When we visited virtually with Eliot Schrefer he shared with us that the story was originally told in prose but his editor, David Levithan, pointed out to him that apes, though intelligent, would not think the way that Eliot writes prose. That their thoughts would be focused on immediate needs and would lack in descriptive and fluffy language. He then completely rewrote the story in verse and WOW! Snub’s voice is perfect.

While I originally thought that the point of view and setting would make the story a challenge, but it was the contrary–it made it just that more interesting!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: What a great mentor text for point of view and setting! Have students write a story with an animals main character in an interesting setting. Then have them change from prose to verse to hone in on the point of view of the animal and make sure they are including the setting as a main aspect of the story.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the inclusion of the ape “language” help with the realism of the story?
  • Why do you think the author included the illustrations of what apes were currently in the story at the top of the page?
  • How did the change from prose to verse storytelling impact the way the story was perceived?
  • How do you think the early humans perceived the gorillas when they interacted with them?
  • How does the point of view shape this story?
  • How did the eruption change the life of the gorillas and early humans?
  • How are gorillas and early humans similar and different?

Flagged Passages: 

Central Eastern Africa
600,000 Years Ago

Until this time, gorillas lived by the millions in a broad band of jungle across Africa. Then a series of volcanic eruptions, many times more foreful than any the modern world has experience, occurred in the Great Rift Valley. The shift in landscape allowed tribes of early humans to travel south into this area for the first time. 

It would be the first meeting between ape and human.

Part One: Home

Rock. Nut.
Snub looks between the two, thinking.
This tree keeps its nuts high in its branches–
a fallen one is a lucky treat.
She imagines rolling the inside nugget in her mouth,
biting its oily flesh.
Tongue between her teeth, brow scrunched,
she raps the rock on top of the nut.
It does not crack.
She licks the rock.
The rock tastes like rock.
She licks the nut.
The nut tastes like dirt.
Snub twists the woody halves.
They will not part.
Opening nuts is Mother’s job,
but Mother let Snub go off alone.

                                                                              mrgh. 

Fresh fury surges.
Snub hurts the nut, aiming
at a pair of magpies.
It goes wide and disappears into the foliage.
Worthless nut.
Snub looks to see if anyone has
been impressed by her rage.
But this only reminds her:
Her family is not here.”

Read This If You Love: The Ape Quartet books #1-3, Early humans, Gorillas

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Gods and Heroes
Author: Korwin Briggs
Published August 21, 2018 by Workman

GoodReads Summary: Meet the Original Superheroes.

Before there was Batman, Wonder Woman, or Black Panther…there was Indra, Hindu king of gods, who battled a fearsome snake to save the world from drought. Athena, the powerful Greek goddess of wisdom who could decide the fate of battles before they even began. Okuninushi, the Japanese hero who defeated eighty brothers to become king and then traded it all for a chance at immortality.

Featuring more than 70 characters from 23 cultures around the world, this A-to-Z encyclopedia of mythology is a who’s who of powerful gods and goddesses, warriors and kings, enchanted creatures and earthshaking giants whose stories have been passed down since the beginning of time—and are now given fresh life for a new generation of young readers.

Plus, You’ll Learn All About:
Dragons: The Hydra, St. George’s Dragon, and the Australian Rainbow Snake
Giants: Grendel, Balor of the Evuil Eye, Polyphemus, and the Purusha with the thousand heads
Monsters: Manticore, Sphinx, Minotaur, Thunderbird, and Echidne, mother of the Nemean lion that nearly killed Heracles
Underworlds: Travel to Hades, Valhalla, and the Elysian Fields

Review: I always enjoy Workman books. The offer nonfiction information in a way that is fun and engaging. My four-year-old loved this book (even though most of it was a bit over his head). I’d recommend this book for the targeted audience (grades 3-7), but I think younger and older kids would really enjoy it (I know I did!). There are a diverse set of gods and heroes within this story, and they don’t originate from one culture, which I liked a lot. My son seemed to love the Greek/Roman gods the most, so those are the ones that we’ve read so far. We read about a different god/hero each night, and we’ve been going strong for about two weeks. We look forward to reading these stories each night. It makes for a fantastic bedtime routine.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask each student to pick a different god or hero and present it to the class. I’d encourage students to choose a god/hero that interests them, and I think this onus would help students get excited about their presentations!

Discussion Questions: Which heroine/hero did you enjoy the most? Why?; Did you notice any similarities across cultural heroes? Differences? Which hero would you want to learn more about?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Mythology, Gods, Heroes, History

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**Thank you to Diana at Workman for providing a copy for review!**

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Eavesdropping on Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation
Author: Patricia Newman
Published August 1st, 2018 by Millbrook Press

Summary: Deep in the Central African Republic, forest elephants trumpet and rumble along with the forest’s symphony. And scientists are listening.

Scientist Katy Payne started Cornell University’s Elephant Listening Project to learn more about how forest elephants communicate and what they’re saying. But the project soon grew to be about so much more.

Poaching, logging, mining, and increasing human populations threaten the survival of forest elephants. Katy and other members of the Elephant Listening Project’s team knew they needed to do something to protect these majestic animals. By eavesdropping on elephants, the Elephant Listening Project is doing its part to save Africa’s forest elephants and preserve the music in the forest.

About the Author: Patricia Newman has a passion for uncovering fascinating aspects about our world and crafting books that lead children on an adventure of discovery. She gravitates toward stories about animals and conservation science and enjoys sharing her excitement with readers. Books include Sibert Honor title Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem; Junior Library Guild Selection Eavesdropping on Elephants; Bank Street College Best Book Zoo Scientists to the Rescue; Booklist Editor’s Choice Ebola: Fears and Facts; and Green Earth Book Award winner Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. She frequently speaks at schools, libraries, and conferences about writing and conservation. Visit her at www.patriciamnewman.com.

Praise: 

“…this book does an excellent job of transporting readers and providing a clear, multifaceted picture of African forest elephants…The more you listen to wildlife, the more your mind opens up to new ideas about why the world is a place worth saving… VERDICT: A great pick for middle school nonfiction collections.” —School Library Journal

“Fascinating for earnest conservationists.” —Kirkus Reviews

Review: I am never disappointed when I read a Patricia Newman book. Each of her books are filled with fascinating information told in a way that will make any reader feel the passion that Newman obviously feels about her topics.

Her newest, Eavesdropping on Elephants, takes it to a whole new level! Not only does the book still include informational and narrative nonfiction, sidebars, glossaries, and classroom connections all well-researched and interesting, but it also includes QR codes (or links if you do not have a QR reader) to actually see and/or hear the elephants that are being discussed in the book. This really makes the book come to life in a way that I haven’t seen before.

Like all of her books, by the end I wanted to talk to people about what I read, wanted to go make a difference, and wanted to keep learning. If this isn’t a testament to how good her nonfiction is then I don’t know what is.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: “Consider an Authors for Earth Day visit in conjunction with Eavesdropping on Elephants. Students research a list of five conservation nominees selected by Patricia Newman and then vote for their favorite. Newman writes a check to the winning organization. The mission? To empower young readers to shape the world around them!”  –https://www.patriciamnewman.com/books/eavesdropping-on-elephants/ 

Research, reading, and writing activities for the classroom in conjunction with Eavesdropping on Elephants can be found on Patricia Newman’s Elephants Pinterest Board!

I, personally, am going to use Newman’s texts in my passion project research unit this year. I’m going to use her texts to show mentor texts of a nonfiction picture book and students are going to make their own nonfiction book or video. I also hope to have my lunch book club read Newman’s books as one of their month choices.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do the videos/recordings help with the understanding of the book?
  • What is a keystone species? And how are the forest elephants a keystone species of their habitat?
  • What is the difference between ultrasound and infrasound? What does this have to do with elephants?
  • What figurative journey did Katy take to finally make it to Africa to study elephants in the wild?
  • What did the scientists learn by listening to the elephants?
  • Why are elephants’ ears the shape that they are?
  • How is what Katy did with elephant sounds similar to a dictionary?
  • How are humans a threat to forest elephants?
  • What did Teagan Yardley do when she learned about these threats?

Book Trailer: 

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Nonfiction about animals, Nonfiction titles by Patricia Newman

Recommended For: 

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Signature

**Thank you to Lerner Publishing and Patricia for providing a copy for review!**

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