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Eduardo Guadardo, Elite Sheet
Author: Anthony Pearson
Illustrator: Jennifer E. Morris
Published October 1st, 2018 by Two Lions

Summary: Eduardo Guadardo may look fluffy. He may look cute. But he’s no little lamb. He’s about to graduate from the FBI—that’s the Fairytale Bureau of Investigations—as an Elite Sheep. He knows five forms of kung fu, and he can outfox the foxiest of foxes. In fact, he’s so good they put him on his own case: to keep the farmer’s daughter, Mary, safe from Wolf, Troll, and Witch. It’s a job for somebody baaaaaaad—someone like a soon-to-be Elite Sheep. The thing is, protecting Mary isn’t quite as easy as Eduardo expected…

This imaginary backstory for “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is hilarious, action-packed, and filled with subterfuge (that means pulling the wool over your eyes, for you civilians).

About the Author: Anthony Pearson is not a spy. He’s not. We promise. He’s actually a school counselor, a child therapist, and the author of Baby Bear Eats the Night, illustrated by Bonnie Leick. But that didn’t stop him from digging for clues about “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” What he found made him imagine what could have inspired the rhyme: a sheep that is totally, absolutely, 100 percent in control of things … or maybe just 95 percent. And squirrels in sunglasses. Oh, and a witch flying a helicopter. But you didn’t hear about the Fairytale Bureau of Investigations from him. Anthony and his family live in deep cover in Georgia. Get more intel about him at www.AnthonyPearson.info. Twitter: @APearson_Writer

About the Illustrator: Jennifer E. Morris has written and illustrated award-winning picture books and has also illustrated children’s magazines, greeting cards, partyware, and educational materials. She has not illustrated classified documents nor is she a super secret agent. She is, however, the creator of May I Please Have a Cookie? which has infiltrated more than a million homes. If you say “The dove flies at noon,” she may tell you what the ducks recorded on their cameras. Maybe. But most likely not. Jennifer lives with her family in Massachusetts, just a few miles from the little red schoolhouse where “Mary Had a Little Lamb” originated. Read more of her dossier (that’s DAH-see-ay) at www.jenmorris.com. Twitter: @jemorrisbooks

Review: What a fun and quite smart idea! I didn’t know that I ever wondered how Mary got her lamb, but this backstory is one epic way for that nursery rhyme to come about! And Eduardo Guadardo is quite the character, and it really does give another outlook on why Mary’s lamb went to school with her. I also liked the additional layer that the author added to the story to show how arrogance does not lead to success and that even if you are good at something, if you can’t learn and work with others, you will not do well.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Allusions, allusions, allusions! Eduardo Guadardo may be a backstory for Mary Has a Little Lamb, but so many other fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters are scattered throughout the book! Trent and I played a scavenger hunt for characters in the book and with older students who could do more discussions and analysis with these cameos.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What other fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters did you see in the book?
  • Why were the witch, troll, and wolf the bad guys in the story? What other stories are they the antagonists?
    • How did the author use your preconceived notions to trick you about these three in the end?
  • Why did Mary’s lamb follow her to school one day?
  • How did Mary trick Eduardo? What did the trick teach Eduardo?
  • Based on the final spread, what fairy tale are Eduardo and Mary going to take on next?
    • What do you think is going to happen?

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Love: Fractured Fairy Tales!

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*Thank you to Blue Slip Media and Two Lions for providing copies for review and giveaway!**

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Garbage Island
Author and Illustrator: Fred Koehler
Published October 9th, 2018 by Boyds Mills Press

Summary: Mr. Popli, the mouse mayor of Garbage Island, is always at odds with Archibald Shrew, a brilliant but reckless inventor. When Garbage Island, their home in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, splits apart, they are trapped together in Mr. Popli’s houseboat, desperate to find their way back home. At first, they only argue, but when they face a perilous thunderstorm and a series of predators, they begin to work together and recognize – in themselves and in each other – strengths they didn’t know they had.

About the Author: Fred Koehler won a Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Award for his illustrations for One Day, The End. He is the author-illustrator of How To Cheer Up Dad, which received three starred reviews, and he is the illustrator of This Book Is Not About Dragons and Puppy, Puppy, Puppy and Flashlight Night.  He lives with his children in Lakeland, Florida.

Visit the Garbage Island Boyds Mills Press page to view an interview about his inspirations and what’s coming next!

Praise: 

“In this series opener, a mouse and a shrew find themselves unlikely allies as they unite to save Garbage Island. The clever pairing of opposites adds humor, making the gradual emergence of friendship…all the sweeter. Dramatic black-and-white illustrations highlight key action. Exciting, fast-paced adventure and unexpected friendship in a “trashy” venue.” –Kirkus Reviews

“This adventurous tale is packed with action, examples of creative thinking, and ingenuity. Use this as an introduction to STEM thinking, a science fair project, a lesson on ecology, or simply read it for the enjoyment the story provides. This book will appeal to the adventure seeker, animal lover, explorer, and just about everyone else. A must-read for readers ready to strap in for a great ride!” – School Library Connection, starred review

“(With) fast-paced action and danger… this entertaining animal adventure stands out… because of its strong characters and an underlying message of environmental awareness.”–School Library Journal

Review: I love Archibald Shrew. He actually reminds me of Tinkerbell, specifically from the movie Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure. Archie is a genius; he just is a genius that sometimes makes a mess when he is creating or may forget something essential if he’s brainstorming or might put him or someone else in danger if trying something new. But he is just so gosh darn lovable! From the very first page when we meet him, and he’s trying out his bicycle invention. Archie is obviously just ahead of his time. And while Mr. Popli starts off as a bit of a stern, uptight character, he is forced to see what is most important through this journey. Lastly, Merri. She is a special character who I connect with so much. She tries so hard to take care of everyone. She is never not helping or doing something; everyone can rely on her. But she also feels a lot of pressure to be a caregiver in so many different ways; so much that she pushes herself way too hard sometimes. It is because of these three characters plus the plot arc of Mr. Popli and Archie’s nearly always perilous adventure that this book is hard to put down. I know this is going to be one that Trent and I will read when he is a bit older: so much to unpack and just so entertaining!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: There is an Educator Guide available:

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did Mr. Popli change over the course of the book?
  • What did the egg teach Archie and Mr. Popli?
  • What are the differing character traits between Archie, Mr. Popli, Merri, and Edward? Similarities?
  • How does Archie effect the other characters at the beginning of the book? The end?
  • What part of the book surprised you?
  • How does the book promote environmental awareness?
  • Which of the opponents was the biggest foe for Archie and Mr. Popli? Explain why you think that foe was the toughest?

Flagged Passages: Chapter 3

“A week into his punishment for the sea-cycle incident, Archie had taken to his new routine with all the enthusiasm of a one-armed starfish. During the day, he did everything that was asked of him, but the work made him hungry, and the hunger made him grumpy. And still, his yearning for his workshop rose in his throat each evening like the moon in the sky.

Merrie had come to visit Archie each night at the Watchtower. She was the only bird left on Garage Island. He was the only shrew. In many ways, they were kindred. But Merri was an outsider because of her species. And she was sure that Archie was treated as an outsider because of his actions. If she could get him to see that, perhaps his life could improve. Her attempts to convince him turned into another argument.” (p. 30)

Read This If You Love: Anthropomorphic stories like Redwall by Brian Jacques, Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel, Seekers series by Erin Hunter, Mez’s Magic by Eliot Schrefer, Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart, An Army of Frogs by Trevor Pryce;Fiction that promotes environmental awareness; Plastics Ahoy! by Patricia Newman

Giveaway!:

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Don’t Miss Out on the Other Blog Tour Stops!: 

Mon 10/1           Always in the Middle
Tue 10/2             Miss Marple’s Musings
Wed 10/3           Inkygirl
Thu 10/4             Storymamas
Fri 10/5               Teen Librarian Toolbox
Mon 10/8           Librarian in Cute Shoes
Tue 10/9             KidLit Frenzy
Wed 10/10         Middle Grade Book Village
Thu 10/11          Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook
Fri 10/12             Middle Grade Minded
Fri 10/12            Unleashing Readers

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**Thank you to Boyds Mills for providing copies for review and giveaway and for hosting the blog tour!**

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As I receive and read picture books, I put aside books that I hope to get to write a post about; however, my pile has gotten so big because of all of the amazing books coming out, that I cannot give them each their own post. So every once in a while I do a picture book round up, and today I am happy to share some of my recent favorite fiction reads (Wednesday I shared nonfiction titles). Please know that putting these in a round-up does not lower their value! They are all ones that I recommend and loved!

I Don’t Want to Go to Sleep
Author: Dev Petty
Illustrator: Mike Boldt
Publication Date: October 16th, 2018 by Doubleday Books for Young Readers

Summary: Fans of the hit I Don’t Want to Be a Frog will hop with joy for this fourth book in the series–a hilarious and clever twist on the classic childhood issue of not wanting to go to bed.

Frog is excited about autumn and the coming of winter. But when Owl informs him that frogs hibernate till spring, Frog is upset at missing out on all the snowy fun. In this hysterically funny twist on the classic “I don’t want to go to bed” dilemma, Frog comes up with all kinds of reasons why he’s not going to sleep through winter, until he devises a clever way to convince his friends to come along for the ride.

Featuring the beloved young frog character from the hit I Don’t Want to Be a Frog and his cast of zany animal friends, this new story is sure to bring a smile to every kid who’s ever protested at bedtime. And parents will appreciate a bold new twist on a timeless childhood topic. It’s another surefire crowd pleaser and perfect read-aloud.

My Thoughts: This is my first Frog book by Petty, and I can see why everyone loves them! It is a perfect mixture of humor and information, and Frog’s voice is just so whiny and perfect! I’m wondering if the other books in the series also have the same cast of animal friends because they add to Frog’s story so much.

Quiet Please, Owen McPhee!
Author: Trudy Ludwig
Illustrator: Patrice Barton
Published July 3rd, 2018 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Summary: From the author-illustrator team who brought you The Invisible Boy comes the story of a boy who won’t stop talking–until he gets laryngitis. You don’t have to be a chatterbox to appreciate this tale of listening and learning. 

Owen McPhee doesn’t just like to talk, he LOVES to talk. He spends every waking minute chattering away at his teachers, his classmates, his parents, his dog, and even himself. But all that talking can get in the way of listening. And when Owen wakes up with a bad case of laryngitis, it gives him a much-needed opportunity to hear what others have to say.

From the author-illustrator team behind The Invisible Boy comes a bright and lively picture book that captures the social dynamics of a busy classroom while delivering a gentle message about the importance of listening.

My Thoughts: Like The Invisible Boy, Ludwig’s story of a boy that many will relate to will start so many discussions about listening and other aspects of being a good friend, student, and person in general. I think it will also show readers that Owen wasn’t being malicious in any way because sometimes when other kids are a certain way, kids assume they are doing it on purpose, but really it is just part of their personality and haven’t yet figured out the cause and effect of their behavior. Teachers and kids will all like Owen McPhee and the lesson he learns.

Pet this Book
Play this Book
Author: Jessica Young
Illustrator: Daniel Wiseman
Published May 22nd, 2018 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Summary: For fans of Press Here, this new interactive picture book line invites readers to touch and move and “play” with theese books. Hello, friend! It’s time to play! We’re taking care of pets today. To start our show we need a band–maybe you can lend a hand!

There are lots of ways little hands can care for animals. Each page of this book invites readers to pet the cat, wash the puppy, brush the horse’s mane, and more–no animals required! With a delightful rhyming text and engaging illustrations, this book is full of pets who can’t wait to play. The only thing they need is YOU! Just use your imagination, turn the pages, and Pet This Book!

There are lots of ways little hands can make music. Each page of this interactive book invites readers to strum the guitar, slide the trombone, crash the cymbals, and more–no instruments required! With a delightful rhyming text and engaging illustrations, this book is full of instruments waiting to share their sounds. The only thing this band needs is YOU! Just use your imagination, turn the pages, and Play This Book!

Pair with each other for all kinds of play!

My Thoughts: We love interactive picture books in my house, and I am always excited when I find a new one that is unique, and this time I found TWO! Such a fun way to promote imagination while also promoting love for animals and music.  Oh! And I love the godo use of onomatopoeias. Trent will want to read these over and over; I see lots of PURRs and CRASHs in our future.

The Dinosaur Expert
Author: Margaret McNamara
Illustrator: G. Brian Karas
Published July 17th, 2018 by Schwartz & Wade

Summary: Dinosaurs, girl power, and science combine in the newest addition to the Mr. Tiffin’s Classroom series.

Mr. Tiffin and his students are back in another picture book, and this time the focus is on dinosaur-loving Kimmy. During a field trip to the natural history museum, Kimmy is thrilled to share what she knows about the Stegosaurus and the Archaeopteryx and even the ginormous Titanosaurus. That changes when one of her classmates questions whether girls can be paleontologists. Kimmy starts to feel shy. What if they can’t? What if no one wants to hear what she has to say? It will take some help from Mr. Tiffin–and from a famous scientist–for Kimmy to find her voice again.

Join Mr. Tiffin’s class as they learn about dinosaurs big and small, feathered and scaly, winged and ocean-dwelling. And root for Kimmy, the dinosaur expert . . . who might just learn something about herself.

My Thoughts: This book made me so mad at first! It definitely shows why representation is important! Kids like Jake, who says girls can’t be scientists, wouldn’t exist as often if women scientists were more prolific in our discussions or if we made sure to talk about how prejudice stopped women from being many things, not brains. Kimmy’s story also shows how this lack of inclusion could shut down a brilliant kid because they feel inferior. Luckily, Kimmy had Mr. Tiffin and Dr. Brandoni de Gasparini there to show her that she had a voice worth sharing. And thank you to the author for including the back matter with more female paleontologists! What a wonderful book!

Stone Underpants
Author: Rebecca Lisle
Illustrator: Richard Watson
Published August 1st, 2018 by Maverick Arts

Summary: Pod lives in the Stone Age and finds that he often has a cold bottom! So he invents underpants! Unfortunately his choice of material is not always practical. Will he find something that is both warm and flexbile, so he can play with his friends?

A hilarious story by prolific young fiction writer, Rebecca Lisle. Her first picture book explores the humorous side of the Stone Age, with equally funny illustrations by talented illustrator, Richard Watson.

My Thoughts: Trent is currently obsessed with Captain Underpants (the movie and show), so when I told him I had a book called Stone Underpants, he actually laughed out loud and said that he wanted to read it. But this book is more than just a silly joke about underpants, it is about cause and effect as well as problem and solution. His bottom is cold, what will he do? Are stone underpants the best idea? Read to find out.

Sleepy, the Goodnight Buddy
Author: Drew Daywalt
Illustrator: Scott Campbell
Publication Date: Sepember 11th, 2018 by Disney-Hyperion

Summary: It is impossible not to crack up while reading this all-dialogue bedtime story by Drew Daywalt, the New York Times #1 best-selling author of THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT. Scott Campbell’s expressive illustrations bring home the hilarity.
Roderick hates going to bed, and the young boy has become quite resourceful in coming up with ways to delay the dreaded hour when the lights must go out. Roderick’s loving parents–fed up with the distractions and demands that have become his anti-bedtime ritual–decide to get him a stuffed animal to cuddle with and help him wind down. However, Sleepy quickly proves to be a bit high-maintenance. Just when we fear the night may never end, Sleepy’s antics become too exhausting for Roderick to bear.

My Thoughts: HAHAHA!! Man, I have a Roderick. Every night, I hear, “MOOOOOOM!” and some sort of question or demand or request or something else, so this whole book cracked me up! Sleepy, the Goodnight Buddy is going to be a wonderful story addition to our bedtime routine, and maybe, just maybe, Trent will see that Sleepy is him and Roderick is me. And Scott Campbell is one of my favorite graphic novelists, so the illustrations are just perfectly expressive and a bit crazy.

Mermaid School
Author: Joanne Stewart Wetzel
Illustrator: Julianna Swaney
Published July 17th, 2018 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Summary: Starting school is always exciting… especially when you’re a mermaid! From schools of fish to the A B Seas, this whimsical underwater tale puts a fun twist on what to expect on the first day of school.

It’s Molly’s first day at mermaid school, and there’s so much to learn! Follow the mermaids as they count clamshells, recite the A B Seas, and make new friends. They even enjoy story time about children who walk on land! At the end of the day, it’s time to sing the goodbye song and head home. With sweet, rhyming language and a peek into a fantastical undersea world, Mermaid School touches on all the major moments children will experience on their first day. And don’t miss the mermaid school handbook in the back of this book for more mermaid fun!

My Thoughts: Add this title to your beginning of the school year read aloud list. Mermaid School looks at all of the scary and amazing things that come with starting a new school. The sing-songy rhyming text adds a lovely read aloud aspect, and the illustrations are perfect tones for a book about a school under water. One of my favorite parts though may be the school handbook in the back matter! It was quite funny, and it would be a lot of fun for kids to make their own handbooks for different types of schools.

All Are Welcome
Author: Alexandra Penfold
Illustrator: Suzanne Kaufman
Published July 10th, 2018 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

Summary: A warm, welcoming picture book that celebrates diversity and gives encouragement and support to all kids.

Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yamulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps. A school where students grow and learn from each other’s traditions and the whole community gathers to celebrate the Lunar New Year. 

All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, they are welcome in their school.

My Thoughts: YES! I love that more and more books about inclusion and kindness are making their way onto the market. I read Each Kindness every year, and this year I added I Walk with Vanessa, but as soon as I read this one, I knew it had to be added as well. Anyone who teaches wants all students to feel welcome in their school and classroom, and reading this book with them will help everyone realize that diversity is what makes our world an amazing place.

One of a Kind
Author and Illustrator: Chris Gorman
Published May 8th, 2018 by Nancy Paulsen

Summary: Bold, graphic art by indie rocker Chris Gorman of Belly captures the thrill and challenges of marching to your own beat. 

Meet a pogo-dancing, punk-rock-loving kid who loves to express himself in his own unique way. His clothes, hairstyle, music, and just the way he hears the world, all set him apart. Not everyone understands him, but he likes being one of a kind–even though it’s lonely sometimes. Fortunately, it’s a wide world out there, and if he looks around a kid is sure to find other one-of-a-kinds with common interests.

My Thoughts: I hope that everyone who reads this book take it the same way as me: Being different is awesome but there are also others out there who will love you for who you are, and may just like some of the same things you like. I know some may take it as we are all not one of a kind and need to find others like us, but I don’t see that. I definitely connect with the little boy, and I loved the message that there are friends out there for everyone and that each unique individual will find a place in our world.

Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Stevie Lewis
Published August 28th, 2018 by Henry Holt/MacMillan

Summary: Holt has bought Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude, written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Stevie Lewis, about the two lions who faithfully guard the New York Public Library. When Patience goes missing, Fortitude realizes the secret to Patience’s disappearance may be within the Library itself.

Lost in the Library is the first picture book that Macmillan plans to publish in partnership with the New York Public Library; it’s scheduled for publication in 2018.

My Thoughts: Josh Funk never lets me down! This magical book about the library after hours is so much fun to read, and I loved the theme supported by all that Fortitude did to find Patience. Also, where Patience is found truly is a love note to the amazing things you can find in a book. With Funk’s amazing rhyming verses and Lewis’s colorful illustrations, the New York Public Library comes to life! (And don’t miss out on the NYPL facts in the back matter!)

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Water in May
Author: Ismée Amiel Williams
Published September 12th, 2017 by Abrams Books

Summary: Fifteen-year-old Mari Pujols believes that the baby she’s carrying will finally mean she’ll have a family member who will love her deeply and won’t ever leave her—not like her mama, who took off when she was eight; or her papi, who’s in jail; or her abuela, who wants as little to do with her as possible. But when doctors discover a potentially fatal heart defect in the fetus, Mari faces choices she never could have imagined.

Surrounded by her loyal girl crew, her off-and-on boyfriend, and a dedicated doctor, Mari navigates a decision that could emotionally cripple the bravest of women. But both Mari and the broken-hearted baby inside her are fighters; and it doesn’t take long to discover that this sick baby has the strength to heal an entire family.

Inspired by true events, this gorgeous debut has been called “heartfelt, heartbreaking and—yes!—even a little heart-healing, too” by bestselling YA novelist Carolyn Mackler.

About the Author: Ismée Williams is a pediatric cardiologist who practiced at the Columbia University Medical Center in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City for fifteen years. She currently sees patients at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. As the daughter of a Cuban immigrant, partially raised by her abuelos, her background helped her understand the many Maris she met along the way. Water in May is her first novel.

Praise: 

“Full of spot-on cultural texture and packing an emotional punch, this is an unusual take on the teen-pregnancy problem novel… Williams presents her experience in a way that demands not pity but respect while also reminding readers of Mari’s heartbreaking youth and innocence at unexpected times…Fierce and tender—and absolutely worth reading.” — Kirkus, STARRED REVIEW

“Mari is a deeply credible character, a girl who’s always spoiling for a fight, usually a physical one, but who’s turning that impulse into fighting for her baby. Williams, formerly a pediatric cardiologist at Columbia, brings vivid authenticity to the medical side of things, including the details of life with a baby in the NICU and the varying personalities of health care personnel.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“This novel is realistic and compelling, heartfelt and heartbreaking all at the same time. The author’s experience as a pediatric cardiologist brings authenticity to her writing as much as does her experience of navigating cultural barriers. Young adult readers will connect with Mari’s feisty personality, strength, and vulnerability.” — VOYA Magazine

Review: Mari’s story is one that isn’t often told. Mari is someone most people would see on the streets and would try to ignore because getting to know her would be getting to know how hard life in America can be. But Mari is also someone who is stronger than many of us will ever be. Her story is one that will make readers think about assumptions OR will help readers see a mirror into struggles they may be having in life. Although I hope teens don’t see Mari’s story as an invitation for a teenage pregnancy, I believe the truth of her hardships show the tremendous change a baby brings to life and will show that Mari’s decisions are made out of desperation when there are other paths she could have taken. Some who read the book have said they don’t like Mari as a character, but I found that when Mari was frustrating, it was because she was acting like what she is: a fifteen-year-old girl trying to find her place in this crazy world.

Teachers Guide with Activities and Discussion Questions written by me: 

Guide can also be accessed through Abrams Books’s Resource Page.

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**Thank you to Ismée Williams for finding me and allowing me to complete this guide!**

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Drawn Together
Author: Minh Lê
Illustrator: Dan Santat
Published: June 5, 2018 by Disney-Hyperion

Summary: When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens-with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words.

With spare, direct text by Minh Lê and luminous illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat, this stirring picture book about reaching across barriers will be cherished for years to come.

Ricki’s Review: This book is absolutely stunning. It will certainly be making my favorites list this year. It is a solid contender for the Caldecott this year. The story and illustrations are absolutely beautiful. Due to a language barrier, a boy and his grandfather have difficulty communicating with each other. Through drawing, they discover a deep, magical connection with each other. This book pulled at my heart. It is one that I will remember for a long time.

Kellee’s Review: This gorgeous book took my breath away. Actually. I read it at ALA Annual, and when I finished, I looked around to find someone to just feel with because the emotions were overflowing within me! The celebration of art and family and the feeling of being stuck between two worlds and not being to connect with a family member were all things that just touched me. It is a book that I had to own, I now will buy for so many people, and I cannot wait to share with my students and my son.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: Teachers might ask students to try to sit with a peer partner that they don’t know very well and try to connect with each other without speaking. Then, they might take a piece of paper and use drawing as a means to try to connect with their partner. This has the potential to spark conversations about language, relationship, and humanity.

Discussion Questions: 
  • How does the story evolve? How do the characters evolve?;
  • What do the characters learn?;
  • What does the story teach us about language? Communication? Relationships? Bravery?

We Flagged:

 

Read This If You Loved:  Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham, Harlem by Walter Dean Myers

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Amal Unbound
Author: Aisha Saeed
Published May 8, 2018 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Goodreads Summary: Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when—as the eldest daughter—she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens—after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal—especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

Ricki’s Review: I read this book in one sitting. I’ve been thinking about it almost daily since I’ve read it. It’s an unforgettable story about a girl’s courage to survive. I don’t know her age, and although I suspect that the book is targeted by marketing teams for middle graders, it is quite simply a must-read for everyone. The book provides layers upon layers of themes and issues to consider. It made me think about privilege, freedom, education, and bravery, in particular. Amal is inspiring, and I greatly admire her courage in the face of adversity. When I was reviewing this book on GoodReads, I noticed that every one of my reader friends rated the book highly, and I am not surprised. Amal’s story is one that will stick with all readers. 

This is an important book. This is a book that will make your heart race. This is a book that I will read again and again.

Kellee’s Review: This story affected me much in the way that Sold, A Long Walk to Water, Rickshaw Girl, or Queen of Water did. As we fight for so many injustices here in America, there are unimaginable things happening to humans in other places around the world. Often somewhere like Pakistan seems so far away, but then you read a story like Amal’s and you see that the gap between you and her is not that big and we all just want happiness in our life. Amal’s strive for knowledge and willingness to help others are traits that make her unforgettable mostly when paired with the bravery she shows throughout this book. Amal’s story will truly help readers look through windows (and possibly mirrors) and have to face the privilege we do have and the injustice others face. 

On top of the very important theme and amazing main character, the story of Amal Unbound is heartwarming as well as heartbreaking and heart wrenching. And there is a truly suspenseful part also! The story is definitely one that will keep kids reading while also doing all of what I said above.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers could use this book as a read aloud, close reading/analysis, lit circle/book club, or classroom library text. It is rare that Kellee and I designate a book with all of these categories, but it’s a very adaptable text. It might be interesting for teachers to use this book as a whole-class read but using book groups. The groups could select a theme to study (e.g. education) and read other fiction and nonfiction related to the theme. This might allow for rich discussion across groups where they share their findings and teach each other.

Discussion Questions: 

  • In what ways did Amal show courage? Did you agree with all of her actions?
  • What is the role of education in this book?
  • Which characters stood out to you? What made them three-dimensional?
  • What is the role of family in the text?
  • What do you think the author’s purpose(s) might be?

We Flagged: “If everyone decided nothing could change, nothing ever would.”

Read This If You Loved: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed, Sold by Patricia McCormick, A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, The Queen of Water by Laura Resau, Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams, Diamonds in the Shadows by Caroline B. Cooney, Shabanu by Suzanne Fisher Staples, So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba

Recommended For: 
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