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The Refuge
Author: Sandra Le Guen
Translator: Daniel Hahn
Illustrator:  Stéphane Nicolet
Published June 1, 2020 by Amazon Crossing Kids

Summary: “There’s a new girl at school. She never stops looking up at the sky! She likes the stars and comets.”

Jeannette tells her mom about her new classmate, who also loves astronomy but seems sad. She realizes it’s not easy to move to a new place. So the next day, at recess, Jeannette asks Iliana to play.

At first, it’s a little hard to communicate because Iliana is learning a new language. The girls have to use their hands and their drawings. But they keep trying, and, soon, Iliana tells Jeannette about her difficult journey as a refugee who had to leave her country. Then their families meet, and Iliana’s parents share their story too. The girls’ friendship blooms, as limitless as the sky and their imaginations.

Originally published in France and brought to life with wonderfully expressive artwork, this is a book about sharing stories and finding refuge in friendship, family, and a new home.

Kellee’s Review: This book is beautiful. It shows pure empathy for a young girl, and her family, who needs all love in the scary new situation she is in. Their journey was harrowing and being in a new place where they do not speak the language must be completely overwhelming; however, this was something they felt no choice in doing because of the horrors of war back at their home. But sadly, refugees have been villainized–once again fear winning over empathy. However, The Refuge puts a narrative to the journey that many children and families face just to stay safe. And it is such a well-crafted narrative with beautiful illustrations–just an overall excellent book. A must read for ALL ages. 

Ricki’s Review: Magnificent. This book is truly and utterly magnificent. I am quite hopeful it will win some of the major literary awards. Whew! The writing depicts the myriad emotions that Iliana might have experienced on her journey, and Jeannette has such deep empathy for her classmate. The illustrations take the book to the next level. I would purchase a spread of this book and frame it for the wall in my office—the illustrations are that captivating. We share some of the illustrations below. There’s one illustration in which Iliana is carrying a giant boat on her back, and a star hangs from a string on the front. Two small children walk up the top of the steep boat. The words match the illustrations, and yet the illustrations have deeper, metaphoric meaning. This would be a terrific book to study at the high school and college level. It would sustain several classes of discussion. I plan to purchase a copy to use in my Teaching Reading class. If you haven’t read this book, I recommend it highly.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Metaphor is powerfully used in this text (both in the writing and illustrations). This would be a magnificent text to use as a mentor text for the instruction of metaphor. Students might select a written metaphor to illustrate and an illustrated metaphor to write in words to consider the flexibility and power of the use of metaphor. Then, they might craft their own metaphors related to the story.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Choose one illustration that you like. What is the surface level meaning? What is the deeper meaning attached to the image?
  • How does Jeannette demonstrate empathy for Iliana?
  • What did you learn about refugees?
  • Why do you believe the author titled the book The Refuge instead of Refugee?
  • How do the illustrations and writing work together?
  • What creative techniques does the author use?
  • What creative techniques does the illustrator use?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: The Arrival by Shaun Tan, Refugee by Alan Gratz, Dreamers by Yuyi Morales, The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

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**Thank you, Barbara at Blue Slip Media, for providing copies for review!**

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Bedtime for Sweet Creatures
Author: Nikki Grimes; Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon
Published January 1, 2020 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Goodreads Summary: It’s bedtime. But Mommy’s little one is not sleepy.

He growls like a bear, he questions like an owl, he tosses his mane like a lion. He hunts for water like a sly wolf, and hides like a snake.

Mommy needs to wrangle her sweet creature in bed so that the whole family can sleep. From tigers to squirrels to snakes, the little boy dodges around his bedtime, until he is tired enough to finally sleep. His imaginative animal friends weave their way through the illustrations, eventually joining him in curling up for the night.

My Review: The rhythm of this book is palpable. As a mother of three children six and under, I identified whole-heartedly with the mother of this book. She just wants her child to go to bed. As the child attempts sleep, he morphs into different animals (a lion, a tiger, an owl!). The book displays bedtime in ways that parents will identify with. Teachers will love using this book to teach metaphor and sound in story. 

My three-year-old’s review: “I like the squirrel and the koala a lot! I liked all of the aminals. [sic]”

My six-year-old’s review: “I like how his mom and his dad are trying to get him to sleep at night. I like how it is night-time in the book and the colors of the book make it feel like it is night-time.”

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The ways in which Grimes uses sound and metaphor is very intriguing and quite teachable. I spent a significant amount of time thinking about the almost-anthropomorphism of the text. The animals are given human characteristics of the child. But the child is actually given animal characteristics. This is zoomorphism, right? I would love to have this kind of study and debate with students. So cool!

Discussion Questions: What animals does the child act like? How does the author choose qualities of the child to connect them with animals?; Choose another animal not within the book. How might the child act like this animal at bedtime, too?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Penguin and Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime by Cate Berry; Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley; Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise BrownGoodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown

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Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos
Author: Stephanie Roth Sisson
Published: October 14, 2014 by Roaring Brook Press

A Guest Review by Brittany Brown

Summary: A curious boy living in a small city apartment finds the world astonishing. He wants to know about light bulbs, inch worms, and rocket ships. Carl sets out on a journey to find answers, but finds bigger, even more powerful questions. Through his research and studies, Carl eventually earns the title of Dr. Carl Sagan and spends his life seeking knowledge and understanding about the universe. This young

boy’s contributions to science and education have inspired many children everywhere to question the world around them. His story will resonate every child who has ever wondered “how” or “why” or spent an evening looking up at the night sky.

Review: I am constantly looking for books which will inspire my students and get them excited about learning. This book, which is brought to life with beautiful illustrations and the great mysteries of the universe, did that for myself as an adult, too. After reading it, everyday life is once again imbued with the magic and novelty it had in childhood. In Sagan’s eyes, there is no phenomenon too mundane to investigate. The curiosity which most adults leave behind drove Sagan to be the lifelong learner that all teachers hope to foster in their students. Reading this book shows that science is all around us, that we all belong here in the universe, and that in everyone there is a scientist. I absolutely loved reading this book, and as a new teacher building my classroom library, this is the first one which I will be purchasing multiple copies of to share with my students.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This story would pair well with any science or biography unit. It would also serve as a great example of narrative nonfiction.

The most obvious use for this story is in a science unit. I would love to use this book to open up a discussion at the beginning of a unit on the solar system. Not only would it generate excitement, it would also begin to build some vocabulary and background knowledge. It would make the information in the unit more personal and relevant to kids, and would be a great launching point to encourage students to come up with their own questions about how the world works.

This book is also a wonderful book to use for mini lessons in writing. Using this book as an example, a teacher could lead a discussion on how to choose which life events to include in a biography, how to sequence and organize it, and how to incorporate quotes from a historical figure into a writing piece. It also shows how to include facts and achievements in an engaging way, and how to demonstrate a person’s impact on history.

Finally, this book would also be a superb example of narrative nonfiction. Despite containing lots of scientific facts, it reads like a storybook and the illustrations do much of the talking. Students will be captivated with the descriptive narration, and discussions could explore their experiences as readers or how they may be able to attempt this style in their writing.

Discussion Questions: What are your big mystery questions? Where would you go to try to find answers to them? What character traits helped Carl on his journey? What impact did he have on the world? Who does he remind you of?

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Loved: What Do You Do with an Idea? By Kobi Yamada, I Wonder by Annaka Harris, You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey, On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Edros by Deborah Heiligman, Look Up!: Henrietta Leavitt, a Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh

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Thank you, Brittany!

RickiSig

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The Wonderful Things You Will Be
Author: Emily Winfield Martin
Published: August 25, 2015 by Random House

A Guest Review by Jennifer Zafetti

Summary: This heartwarming picture book is from the point of view of a parent who is eager to see the development of their child. The parent questions who their child will become and what interests they will possess. In the end, there are endless possibilities that the future has to offer to the child.

Review: This is a great book to give to a parent with a small child! The Wonderful Things You Will Be would make for a soothing bedtime story. The sweet message of the story is that a child can be anybody that they want to be. There are no expectations set for a child to adhere to so their future is an empty canvas waiting to be painted! The book, using second person, discusses the uniqueness of you and the wonderful attributes you have to offer to the world. There are many “what if” questions that will get the reader thinking about all the wonderful things that they can do with their life.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The Wonderful Things You Will Be is an engaging children’s book that encourages the reader to embrace the future. There are beautiful illustrations to accompany the text. The teacher can use this book to discuss rhyming words, as well as point of view.

Discussion Questions: What are some rhyming words that you noticed in the story? How do the illustrations enhance the text? What do you want to be when you grow up?

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Loved: Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, and If Animals Kissed Good Night by Ann Whitford Paul

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Thank you, Jennifer!

RickiSig

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nfpb2017

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!

HAPPY NATIONAL POETRY MONTH!

Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book
Authors: Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong
Illustrator: Franzi Paetzold
Published January 11th, 2017 by Pomelo Books

Summary: Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book is a story in poems and a writing journal designed to help kids think about social change. It contains 12 PowerPack sets featuring Ameera, David, Jack, and Jenna, a diverse group of kids working together to make an impact in their community. Sylvia Vardell’s inventive PowerPlay activities make it easy for writers to get inspired, while her Power2You writing prompts extend learning. Vardell also created extensive back matter resources for young readers, writers, and activists.

Praise: “This interactive book and the abundance of resources provided will motivate students to take action through words and ideas to make their world a better place—a must have for today’s classrooms.” —Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli, Authors of Mentor Texts

“I absolutely love this book! The invitations are inspiring and offer opportunities to think about the world and respond both personally and critically.” —Mary Napoli, Associate Professor of Reading, Penn State Harrisburg

“This book will allow all sorts of emotions and thoughts to bubble forth, including difficult and painful ones . . . and that will be a source of healing.” —Ed Spicer, Educator and literacy expert

“Really glad and excited that this book will be in the hands of young people.” —Jeana Hrepich, Core Faculty, Antioch University Seattle

This book is a Children’s Book Council “Hot Off the Press” selection for January 2017 and the second Poetry Friday Power Book. The first book in that series, You Just Wait: A Poetry Friday Power Book, is a 2017 NCTE Poetry Notable.

About the Authors: Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book features the work of the dynamic team of Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, plus 12 poets: Ibtisam Barakat, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, Robyn Hood Black, David Bowles, Joseph Bruchac, Kate Coombs, David L. Harrison, Renée M. LaTulippe, Naomi Shihab Nye, Margaret Simon, Eileen Spinelli, and Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrations by Franzi Paetzold.

Sylvia M. Vardell is Professor at Texas Woman’s University and teaches courses in children’s and young adult literature. She has published five books on literature, as well as over 25 book chapters and 100 journal articles. Her current work focuses on poetry for young people, including a regular blog, PoetryforChildren.blogspot.com, since 2006.

Janet Wong is a graduate of Yale Law School and a former lawyer who became a children’s poet. Her work has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show and other shows. She is the author of 30 books for children and teens on chess, creative recycling, yoga, superstitions, driving, and more.

Together, Vardell and Wong are the creative forces behind The Poetry Friday Anthology series.

About the Book (from the authors): Why is this a “Poetry Friday Power Book”? Because we believe in the power of poetry to express our deepest feelings, and our most powerful experiences, and to inspire us to use our words to create change in teh world. Plus, we want you to discover the power of poetry in your own thinking and writing with the PowerPlay prewriting and Power2You writing prompts that pull you into poetry and inspire you to get your own ideas on paper–creatively, whimsically, powerfully, and immediately–right now in this book…

This book offers you several choices for reading, thinking, writing, and responding. Overall, it’s a story in poems, but all of this is also organized in PowerPack groups that help you get a “behind the scenes” look at how poems work and how poets write and think. In each of these PowerPack groups, you’ll find five things:

-PowerPlay activity
-Anchor poem (from an outside source)
-Response poem
-Mentor poem
-Power2You writing prompt

Have fun reading and thinking about poetry and learning about how poetry uses just a few words but says so much and can inspire us to take action. Ready? Let’s “power up” and get started!

Review: I have an interesting relationship with poetry. I overall love it. I love writing it, and I love reading it, but I really have trouble with the analyzing aspect. It is in this very serious analyzing step that kids get afraid of poetry, but I think books like Here We Go help students learn to love poetry instead of being afraid of it while still teaching about the beauty and importance of poetry.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Here We Go is a book that is made for classroom use! There are 12 PowerPacks, each with a different anchor poem and focus. Some PowerPacks work on rhyming, some work on format, and others focus on inspiration. There are so many different ways these PowerPacks could be organized to be used in the classroom! They can be daily during a poetry unit or weekly for half of the school year–whatever works best in your classroom, but this book is begging to be in children’s hands as an inspiration for our future poets.

Discussion Questions: What inspires you to write?; What is your favorite season? Why?; What are your favorite rhyming words?; How can you use your daily life to inspire you as a poet?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Writing poetry; Any poetry anthology including Out of Wonders by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjory Wentworth and When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano

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the memory of things

The Memory of Things
Author: Gae Polisner
Published: September 6, 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin

GoodReads Summary: The powerful story of two teenagers finding friendship, comfort, and first love in the days following 9/11 as their fractured city tries to put itself back together.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, sixteen-year-old Kyle Donohue watches the first twin tower come down from the window of Stuyvesant High School. Moments later, terrified and fleeing home to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge, he stumbles across a girl perched in the shadows. She is covered in ash and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, a New York City detective likely on his way to the disaster, Kyle makes the split-second decision to bring the girl home. What follows is their story, told in alternating points of view, as Kyle tries to unravel the mystery of the girl so he can return her to her family. But what if the girl has forgotten everything, even her own name? And what if the more Kyle gets to know her, the less he wants her to go home? The Memory of Things tells a stunning story of friendship and first love and of carrying on with our day-to-day living in the midst of world-changing tragedy and unforgettable pain—it tells a story of hope.

Review: I read this book several weeks ago, and I still can’t thinking about it. As a few other bloggers have said, this is a book about 9/11—but it isn’t a book about 9/11. It is more a book about friendship, about growing up, and about being human. There are so many topics in this book that are worthy of discussion, and I think teachers will really appreciate its beauty. The writing is quiet yet powerful, and the book has a sort of shattering impact on readers. I loved the connections that Kyle makes in this book, and I particularly enjoyed the ways each of the individuals he interacts with tells the reader more about him. He grows from everyone in this book, and I’d love to discuss this growth with students.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to research the many themes of this book to provide background information. They might look at disability/caregivers, PTSD, suicide, and 9/11—just to name a few. They could also look at the different stages of trauma to learn more about how each of the characters reacts differently to the tragic events that occurred on 9/11.

Discussion Questions: Is Kyle helping the girl, or is she helping him?; What do we learn from Kyle’s uncle? What does he teach us about disability and humanity?; In what ways does Kyle show strength, and in what ways does he show weakness? How does he grow from each experience of the text?

We Flagged: “So now I get it. Now I fully understand. Tuesday, and those planes, they’ve broken something. Permanently. And in the process, they’ve changed everything. And everyone.”

This is a quote from an advanced reader’s copy. Some quotes may change before publication.

Read This If You Loved: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer; The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson; Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie, The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt, If I Lie by Corrine Jackson, Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

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bea garcia

Bea Garcia: My Life in Pictures
Author and Illustrator: Deborah Zemke
Published March 8th, 2016 by Dial Books

Summary: Bea Garcia is an artist. She draws anywhere and everywhere—but mostly in her own notebook.  When Bea’s first and only best friend Yvonne moves to Australia, not even drawing makes Bea feel better. And things only get worse when a loud, rambunctious boy moves in next door. He’s nothing at all like Yvonne! But with a little imagination and a whole lot of doodles, Bea Garcia might just make a new friend.

This first book in a brand-new chapter book series is a must-read for doodlers everywhere.

Review: I am loving learning more about early middle grade books, and Bea Garcia is going to be a protagonist that will be welcomed in this group of books. Bea will join forces with so many strong girls that 4th through 6th graders can read about. What I love about Bea’s story is that it is one that so many readers will relate to. She deals with losing a best friend and a bully moving into her classroom and neighborhood. She also has a supportive and real family that will reflect many families out there. Also, I loved Deborah Zemke’s illustrations throughout. They really brought Bea’s personality, dreams, and thoughts. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Bea’s story will be one that can be used to start so many discussions while being read aloud. It is a perfect story to discuss different types of people, bullying, friendship, school, etc.  Also, I think it would be interesting to discuss the addition of illustrations and even voice with students. One idea would be to read aloud part of the story without showing the illustrations and discuss how the illustrations help the story and how Bea’s voice is crafted.

Discussion Questions: Bea uses drawing to think through her emotions. What do you use to help think through your emotions?; What would have been a different way that Bea could have dealt with Bert?; Is there a time that you lost a best friend? How did you deal with it?; How would Bea’s story have been different without illustrations?

Flagged Passages: “We played together at recess and after school, on weekends and vacations, running back and forth in the backyards from my house to her house.

One winter day, we rolled a snowball from her yard to mine and back a hundred times until it was the biggest snowball in the world. Then we turned the snowball into a giant Snow Kitty.

I don’t think Sophie liked Snow Kitty.

When it was warm, we played in the crabapple tree that was just the right size for us to climb.

It was a magic tree.” (p. 20-21)

Bea Garcia Illustration

Read This If You Loved: Amelia’s Notebook series by Marissa Moss, Popularity Papers series by Amy Ignatow, Mackenzie Blue series by Tina Wells, Middle School series by Jenni L. Holm

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**Thank you to Deborah for providing the book for review!**

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