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!
Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years
Author: Stacy McAnulty
Illustrator: David Litchfield
Published October 24th, 2017
Summary: “Hi, I’m Earth! But you can call me Planet Awesome.”
Prepare to learn all about Earth from the point-of-view of Earth herself! In this funny yet informative book, filled to the brim with kid-friendly facts, readers will discover key moments in Earth’s life, from her childhood more than four billion years ago all the way up to present day. Beloved children’s book author Stacy McAnulty helps Earth tell her story, and award-winning illustrator David Litchfield brings the words to life. The book includes back matter with even more interesting tidbits.
Review: Wow! This book went above and beyond my expectations! Think of it as Earth’s humorous autobiography. The voice that Stacy McAnulty gave Earth is perfect, and you learn things too! Although the book is silly and is told from Earth’s point of view, it is still a book that should be taken seriously because the knowledge it (and the back matter) holds is tremendous. It goes through the history of Earth is a truthful yet understandable way. Kids will leave the book knowing more than they did before but also really interested in learning more. Stacy McAnulty’s narrative with David Litchfield’s cartoonish illustrations lends itself to the perfect picture book for entertainment and information. Just check out the flagged passages to see why I say this is a must-get book!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: When Earth’s history is first introduced in elementary school, Earth! would be the perfect introduction book because it goes over the entire history in a way that students will pay attention to but also without dumbing down any of the information.
- How did the author use text features throughout the book?
- How did the author’s use of an unconventional narrator help you understand the history of Earth better?
- What humorous parts of the book were your favorite? Why?
- Using the ruler visual within the book, how much of Earth’s history have human’s inhabited? What else do you learn from this visual?
- Read the back matter of the book. What else did Stacy McAnulty teach you in the back of the book?
- What is something new you learned about Earth or the solar system in Earth!?
- Would you classify the book as fiction or non-fiction? Why?
Read This If You Love: Science, Space, Picture books with humorous narrators like It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk by Josh Funk & Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex
**Thank you to Kelsey at MacMillan for setting up the blog tour for Earth!**
Things That Surprise You
Author: Jennifer Maschari
Published August 22nd, 2017 by Balzer + Bray
Summary: Emily Murphy is about to enter middle school. She’s sort of excited… though not nearly as much as her best friend Hazel, who is ready for everything to be new. Emily wishes she and Hazel could just continue on as they always have, being the biggest fans ever of the Unicorn Chronicles, making up dance moves, and getting their regular order at The Slice.
But things are changing. At home, Emily and her mom are learning to move on after her parents’ divorce. Hardest of all, her beloved sister Mina has been in a treatment facility to deal with her anorexia. Emily is eager to have her back, but anxious about her sister getting sick again.
Hazel is changing too. She has new friends from the field hockey team, is starting to wear makeup, and have crushes on boys. Emily is trying to keep up, but she keeps doing and saying the wrong thing. She want to be the perfect new Emily. But who is that really?
Things That Surprise You is a beautifully layered novel about navigating the often shifting bonds of family and friendship, and learning how to put the pieces back together when things fall apart.
About the Author: Jennifer Maschari is a classroom teacher and the author of THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE and THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU. She is hard at work on her next middle grade novel with Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. Jennifer lives in Ohio with her husband and stinky (yet noble) English bulldogs, Oliver and Hank. To learn more, visit http://jenmaschari.com/.
Review: Things that Surprise You is a perfect starting middle school book because it really shows the truth of how that transition is a turning point in kids’ lives. As a middle school teacher, I see students all start coming into their own or getting pushed by peer pressure to be something they’re not. It is such a tough time in a kids’ life; a book like this will surely make them feel less alone during the turbulent time.
There are other two minor plot lines/characters that I felt were really well done. First, I think the inclusion of Emily’s sister’s eating disorder was done tastefully and was not added in just to make the book an issues book. Although this story didn’t take center stage, it was dealt with in a way that was respectful yet also brought light to anorexia. The struggles that Emily’s sister, family, and Emily face during this time is realistic because so many middle schoolers are facing adversity at home and when starting middle school. I also really enjoyed Emily’s teacher. I think her ability to make students feel like her classroom is a home for them and that she is there for them was honorable, and I hope that I can be just a tiny bit like her.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: A curriculum guide has been created by the publisher that includes discussion questions and activities that meet Common Core standards.
Discussion Questions: What do you think surprised Emily the most about middle school and was the most impactful?; What is the theme of this book? What is the author trying to tell us about middle school?; Do you have a book series that you love as much as Emily loves her unicorn books? What series is it? Why do you love it?; What do you think was the hardest for Emily in middle school?; Hazel changed a lot throughout the book. How would you compare/contrast Hazel from the beginning to the end of the book?; Mina’s eating disorder is one of the main conflicts of the book. Do you feel hopeful about Mina going forward?
Flagged Passages: “While Hazel and I wait, we bench dance to the music from the jukebox. It’s a lot like car dancing but a little more restrained since you’re in public and everything. She does the squid, a move she made up where you wiggle your arms on either side of your body. I do the turtle, where you bob your head forward and backward. Hazel’s snort-laughing and I practically have tears coming out of my eyes, when I hear a noise behind me. Hazel stops dancing. I turn my head to look, but not so fast that I miss Hazel taking the purple horn off her head and hiding it below the table. I blink once and then again Confused.
‘Hazel!’ the voice cried but it sound like ‘Heyyyyzel’ the way she draws it out.
Three girls wearing the same field hockey shirt Hazel was before crowd around the booth.” (p. 18-19)
Read This If You Love: The Real Us by Tommy Greenwald, Hundred Percent by Karen Romano Young, Truth or Dare by Barbara Dee, Still a Work in Progress by Jo Knowles, The Secret Hum of Daisy by Tracy Holczer, Georgia Rules by Nanci Turner Stevenson, Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry
One lucky winner will receive a copy of THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU (U.S. addresses).
**Thank you Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!!**
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus
Author: Dusti Bowling
Published September 5th, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books
Summary: Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.
Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.
*“Aven is a perky, hilarious, and inspiring protagonist whose attitude and humor will linger even after the last page has turned.” —School Library Journal (Starred review)
“Connor’s Tourette’s support-group meetings and Aven’s witty, increasingly honest discussions of the pros and cons of “lack of armage” give the book excellent educational potential. . . . its portrayal of characters with rarely depicted disabilities is informative, funny, and supportive.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Bowling’s sensitive and funny novel . . . demonstrates how negotiating others’ discomfort can be one of the most challenging aspects of having a physical difference and how friendship can mitigate that discomfort. . . . [an] openhearted, empathic book. —Publishers Weekly
Review: From the very first page, you know that Aven is awesome. In the first paragraph you learn that she doesn’t have arms but it doesn’t matter to her. The only reason why she is upset is because someone else freaked out about her armlessness. She is brave and funny and resilient. The way that she is able to joke around about her physical difference to help ease the reader and the other characters is a true talent. The stories she creates about what happened to her arms just to freak people out truly cracked me up. And Aven’s awesomeness is followed closely by her parents’. I adore them. They are the pinnacle of parents. They are kind yet tough and are raising an independent, wonderful young woman. Then there is Connor who is also so well-crafted. His Tourette’s syndrome is dealt with in a thoughtful way and also doesn’t define Connor just like Aven’s armlessness doesn’t define her. This is a book of amazing characters coming together to find their place in the world.
You are going to love this book. Your students are going to love this book. Parents are going to love this book. Your fellow teachers are going to love this book. This is a book that is going to get a lot of love!
Check out Dusti’s “Spotlight on Dusti Bowling” feature in Publishers Weekly to hear more about her inspirations.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Please add this title to your collection of read aloud and classroom library books that you share with students to promote empathy, kindness, and friendship with those with differences as well as facing hardship and stepping up to challenges. You will not be disappointed!
Discussion Questions: After reading Aven and Connor’s story, how has your attitude and future actions towards those with differences changed?; How was Aven’s story inspiring to you?; Why did you feel that author made the choice to have Aven’s family move at the beginning of the book?; Did you predict the connection to Stagecoach Pass?; How were Connor and Aven able to help each other?
Flagged Passages: “When I was little, a kid pointed at me on the playground and shouted, ‘Her arms fell off!’ then ran away screaming in terror to his mom, who had to cuddle him on her lap and rub his head for like ten mintues to get him to calm down. I think, up until then, I hadn’t thought about the idea that my arms must have actually fallen off at some point in my life. I had never really thought about not having arms at all.
My missing arms weren’t an issue for me or my parents. I never once heard either of them say, ‘Oh, no, Aven can’t possibly do that because that’s only for armed people,’ or ‘Poor Aven is so helpless without arms,’ or ‘Maybe Aven can do that one day, you know, if she ever grows arms.’ They always said things like, ‘You’ll have to do this differently from other people, but you can manage,’ and ‘I know this is challenging for you. Keep trying,’ and ‘You’re capable of anything Aven.’
I had never realized just how different I was until that day that horrible kid shouted about my arms having fallen off. For the first time I found myself aware of my total armlessness, and I guess I felt like I was sort of naked all of a sudden. So I, too, ran to my mom, and she scooped me up and carried me away from the park, allowing my tears and snot to soak her shirt.” (Chapter 1)
Read This If You Love: Wonder by RJ Palacio, Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart, Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, How to Speak Dolphin by Ginny Rorby, Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin, Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson
**Thank you to Dusti Bowling and Sterling for providing a copy for review!**
Highly Illogical Behavior
Author: John Corey Whaley
Published: May 10, 2016 by Dial
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.
Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But is ambition alone enough to get her in?
Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same.
Ricki’s Review: I didn’t expect this book to hit me quite as hard as it did. The summary was compelling, and I enjoyed reading the first few chapters, and then I became personally invested in the characters’ lives. There are many complex emotions within this text. Because of the alternating perspectives, I’d be rooting for Lisa in a chapter and then feel like a jerk because I was betraying Solomon. And then I’d wonder if rooting for Lisa meant that I was also rooting for Solomon, in a way. This book makes readers question their values and consider ethics. I’ll be thinking about this one for quite some time.
Two other things I love about this book: 1. Solomon’s parents are great! I love when a YA book features good parents! 2. Sexuality is discussed in the book, but it isn’t the only (or main) feature of the book. This goes along with my belief that books that feature discussions about sexuality need not be purely focused on sexuality.
Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I am a big advocate for literature circles that consider mental health. I think that placing texts like these in conversation allows us to consider the complexity of mental health issues. Some great texts to include in these literature circles follow: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King, and 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. A discussion of these titles would foster incredibly rich discussions about phobias, depression, anxiety, and suicide. In my opinion, we must have these conversations with our students.
Discussion Questions: Do you think that Lisa “did the right thing” throughout the text? Were all of her decisions selfish, or could some of them be considered simultaneously selfless? Can a decision be selfish and selfless at the same time?
We Flagged: “We’re just floating in space trying to figure out what it means to be human.”
Read This If You Loved: (Many of these are listed above.) Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King, Reality Boy by A.S. King, Dear Life, You Suck by Scott Blagden, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
The Explorers: The Door in the Alley
Author: Adrienne Kress
Published April 25th, 2017 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Summary: The Explorers: The Door in the Alley is filled with adventure and danger. There are missing persons, hired thugs, a hidden box, a lost map, famous explorers, a risk-averse boy, and a girl on a mission. Not to mention secrets not meant for the faint of heart. But if you are feeling bold, or maybe even a little italic, and if you enjoy derring-dos (and doing dares), this just might be the story for you.
Featuring a mysterious society, a secretive past, and a pig in a teeny hat, The Explorers: The Door in the Alley is the first book in a new series for fans of The Name of This Book Is a Secret and The Mysterious Benedict Society. Knock once if you can find it—but only members are allowed inside.
This is one of those stories that starts with a pig in a teeny hat. It’s not the one you’re thinking about. (This story is way better than that one.)
This pig-in-a-teeny-hat story starts when a very uninquisitive boy stumbles upon a very mysterious society. After that, there is danger and adventure; there are missing persons, hired thugs, a hidden box, a lost map, and famous explorers; and also a girl on a rescue mission.
About the Author: Adrienne Kress is a writer and an actress born and raised in Toronto. She is the daughter of two high school English teachers and credits them with her love of both writing and performing. She also has a cat named Atticus, who unfortunately despises teeny hats. Look for her online at AdrienneKress.com, and follow her on Twitter at @AdrienneKress.
Review: I love when narrators break the fourth wall if it is done well, and you’ll learn really early on that it is done well in The Explorers. This hilarious narrator takes us on this adventure with Sebastian, a character that very logical people will relate to, and Evie, a character that people who are bored unless they are on an adventure, will relate to that is filled with more action, adventure, and danger than I thought would come out of this little book. But don’t worry, the narrator keeps it light with funny chapter titles and footnotes. All of this combines to make a book that I loved quite a bit because it is just the perfect balance of adventure, humor, friendship, and mystery. Although, I must warn you about the cliffhanger–WHOA! I’m still recovering.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The Door in the Alley has many opportunities to be a mentor text including discussing footnotes and breaking the fourth wall. Not many books use either of these yet The Door in the Alley uses both quite well. Discussing these will also lead to a perfect conversation about voice. Normally voice is saved for first person books but because we have a narrator that although not a character in the story definitely has a voice, it would be interesting to talk to students about how that worked in this book.
Discussion Questions: What do you think is going to happen in the next book?; Why do you think the author chose to have the narrator break the fourth wall and speak with you, the reader?; Sebastian and Evie are quite opposites, and normally they would seem like an odd pairing; however, they seem to work perfectly together–what do you think each of them brings out in the other?; Evie is searching for her grandfather because he is in trouble, but what is she truly searching for?; What do you think Sebastian’s parents are thinking right about now?!
Flagged Passages: “In all the confusion, with the pig and the teeny hat and the zigzag man, he had completely forgotten about the thing he had been trying to forget about. In one way, it meant he had done an excellent job at avoiding it up until now; on the other, it meant hat his guard had been down. For, sure enough, the man had turned down an alley. The only alley that existed on the street. That connect to another street. And there was only one thing down that alley.
Sebastian approached it with caution, his expression slowly morphing into one the pig had been wearing all the time. Terror. He stood at the end of the dark passageway and peeked his head around the corner only to see the man standing right by the door. And right under the sign that read…
The Explorers Society.” (p. 18-19)
Read This If You Loved: The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher, FRAMED by James Ponti, Loot by Jude Watson, Nickel Bay Nick by Dean Pitchford, and other mysteries where kids have to solve a problem because adults won’t listen to them
Visit the Other Stops on the Blog Tour:
**Thank you to Josh at Random House Children’s Books for providing a copy for review and hosting the blog tour!**
The Hate U Give
Authors: Angie Thomas
Published: February 28, 2017 by Balzer + Bray
GoodReads Summary: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses […]
The Hate U Give
Authors: Angie Thomas
Published: February 28, 2017 by Balzer + Bray
GoodReads Summary: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
Ricki’s Review: I don’t know where to begin with this very special book. To give proof of my love for it, I will share that this book is on my Adolescents’ Literature course syllabus for next year. It is the book that I am most excited to teach. My research concerns multicultural young adult literature, and I have read a lot of books that interrogate issues of race. When this book was hyped, I knew I had to read it, but I was nervous that it wouldn’t be as good as I wanted it to be. It was everything and more. The characters feel real, and the pacing is fantastic. The author beautifully captures dialogue and life in ways that will grab readers’ attention. It has a strong message without feeling didactic. Teachers will find much to talk about with this text.
You might notice that this book has a 4.66 average rating on GoodReads. I don’t know of any book with that high of an average rating. I am not one to buy into ratings, but I think this extremely high rating shows that this is a book that really resonates with people. If you plan to read one book this year, pick this one.
Kellee’s Review: When I first heard about The Hate U Give at ALAN in November 2016, Jason Reynolds said it was going to be one of the most important books of our time. Then I started hearing about it being bid on by all of the major publishing houses. Reynolds’s recommendation mixed with the hype made me want to pick it up, but then I also was so worried that it wouldn’t live up to this hype. But it does. It lives up to it all. I have nothing negative to say about the book. It is poignant. It is thought-provoking. It pushes boundaries. It makes white people have to look at race a way that they may not have considered before. It is REAL. It is rough. It is truth. I think Thomas did a phenomenal job writing a narrative of truth that just lays out there the problems with race in our society in a way that no one can deny or argue; it just is. I think their story makes everyone more aware and more empathetic. I finished a month ago, and I still am thinking about Star and Khalil and Natasha and Kenya and Star’s family–I just didn’t want to stop being in their lives. I cannot say any more how phenomenal this book is. Pick it up if you haven’t. (And the audiobook is so brilliant if you want to listen to it.)
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to analyze the varied themes of this text and dive deeply into discussions of each (power, economics, race, etc.). Then, they might create a civic video essay—one that considers a social issue and provides steps for social action to raise awareness for the viewing audience.
Discussion Questions: How does the author craft dialogue? What might other writers learn from her work?; What messages does the text reveal? Which messages are less obvious but implicit in a reading of the text?; What connections does this text have with the world today?
Flagged Passage: “Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”
Read This If You Loved: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely; X by Ilyassah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon; The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon; How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon; Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles; Audacity by Melanie Crowder; The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
Someone Else’s Summer
Author: Rachel Bateman
Published May 9th, 2017 by Running Press Kids
Summary: Anna’s always idolized her older sister, Storm. So when Storm dies in a tragic car accident on the night of her high school graduation, Anna is completely lost and her family is torn apart. That is, until she finds Storm’s summer bucket list and decides to honor her sister by having the best summer ever—which includes taking an epic road trip to the coast from her sleepy Iowa town. Setting out to do everything on Storm’s list along with her sisters best friend Cameron—the boy next door—who knew that Storm’s dream summer would eventually lead to Anna’s own self-discovery?
Review: I am a sucker for road trip books. I just love them so much, and a good road trip book to me is like the perfect book to read–especially if I am in a rut. Someone Else’s Summer is a really good road trip book. It has everything you expect: searching for identity, mishaps, high jinx, romance, and unexpected twists and turns; however, Someone Else’s Summer is not predictable or like any other road trip book. It has all the feelings of comfort with new adventures, characters, and conflicts.
Storm was the opposite of Anna, but she was Anna’s very best friend, no matter how much they’d grown apart in high school, so when Storm dies, Anna knows she has to do something to honor her friendship with her sister, and it had to be something like what they did as kids. One of the things Storm liked to do was make to-do lists; however, her very last one is one that Storm will never be able to finish–so Anna decides she needs to. And it is only right that Storm’s best friend and the boy next door, Cameron, accompanies her.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: There are readers out there that need this book. They may be dealing with grief or struggling with their identity in high school or making a transition between friends. They’ll need Anna’s story. There are other readers out there that will want this book. They may love romance or road trips or sad books. They’ll want Anna’s story. This book has a home in classrooms and libraries where these readers can find it.
Discussion Questions: Why do you think Anna felt she needed to finish Storm’s to do list?; Did the ending surprise you? Was there any foreshadowing to the reveal at the end?; How did you feel about Anna’s friend’s reactions to Anna’s choice? Did Anna deal with the situation well? Why do you think she changed so quickly?
Flagged Passages: “Hours later, the rain still pattered a steady rhythm on the roof as a shrill ring pulled me from sleep. Mom and Dad insisted on keeping a landline with receivers throughout the house, even though we rarely use it. The ancient, corded phone blaring just outside of my bedroom door should have been my first indication something was wrong; I should have known right away. That’s the way it always happens in the movies–there’s intuition, a feeling deep in the gut. I had none of that, just a mild irritation at whoever was calling. And the constant, insistent rain.
Then my world ended with Mom’s ear-breaking scream.”
Read This If You Loved: Last True Love Story by Brendan Kiely; Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown; The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle; Jess, Chunk, and the Road to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth Clark; The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider; Cadillac Chronicles by Brett Hartman
**Thank you to Valerie at Running Press for providing a copy for review!**
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