Currently viewing the category: "Voice"

A Boy Called Bat
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Illustrator: Charles Santoso
Published March 14th, 2017 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises—some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat’s mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter.

But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he’s got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet.

Critical Praise: 

“Delightful, endearing, and utterly relatable, Bat Tam is destined to be a dear and necessary friend for young readers. I adore him and his story.” — Anne Ursu, author of The Real Boy

“Written in third person, this engaging and insightful story makes readers intimately aware of what Bat is thinking and how he perceives the events and people in his life. With empathy and humor, Arnold delves into Bat’s relationships with his divorced parents, older sister, teachers, and classmates.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Comfortably familiar and quietly groundbreaking, this introduction to Bat should charm readers, who will likely look forward to more opportunities to explore life from Bat’s particular point of view.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Brimming with quietly tender moments, subtle humor, and authentically rendered family dynamics, Arnold’s story, the first in a new series, offers a nonprescriptive and deeply heartfelt glimpse into the life of a boy on the autism spectrum.” — Booklist

About the Author: Elana K. Arnold grew up in Southern California, where she was lucky enough to have her own perfect pet—a gorgeous mare named Rainbow—and a family who let her read as many books as she wanted. She is the author of picture books, middle grade novels, and books for teens. She lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. You can find her online at www.elanakarnold.com.

Review: A Boy Called Bat is one of those quiet yet impactful books that will find a special place in many hearts. The story is about Bat’s Asperger’s and his parent’s divorce without it being about that at all. The main character, Bat, is one of those special characters that as I was reading about him I knew that readers getting to know him will make them grow as people and that their empathy to fellow kids who may seem different will grow as well.

Bat’s story will not only appeal to our readers that love stories that promote empathy and understanding of others, Bat and his skunk, Thor, will definitely appeal to our readers who love animals. Bat’s mother is a veterinarian and Bat is 99.9% sure he is going to be as well. There are many animal references throughout the book, so these will all draw in readers who love animals. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to an amazing read aloud opportunity, I can definitely see the text being part of lit circles. Bat himself is unique, but he and his story remind me of so many other characters who I love and I wish all students would read about: Auggie from Wonder; Melody from Out of my Mind; David from Rules; Candice from The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee; Rose from Rain, Reign; and Adam from How to Speak Dolphin. All of these texts are must reads! I picture all of these texts with their extraordinary characters being part of lit circles with a focus on disabilities/disorders and empathy.

Discussion Questions: How did Thor help Bat grow emotionally? What changes did you see within him and his actions since getting Thor?; What persuasive techniques did Bat use throughout the book to work to try to get his mom to agree to let him keep Thor?; What makes Mr. Grayson a good teacher in general? A good teacher for Bat?

Teaching Guide: 

Flagged Passages: “‘Bat’ was what almost everyone called Bixby Alxander Tam, for a couple of reasons: first, because the initials of his name — B, A, and T– spelled Bat.

But there were maybe other reasons. Bat’s sensitive hearing, for one. He didn’t like loud sounds. What was so unusual about that? And if Janei’s old earmuffs happened to make an outstanding muffling device, was it that funny if he liked to wear them?

There was also the way he sometimes flapped his hands, when he was nervous or excited or thinking about something interesting. Some of the kids at school seemed to think that was hilarious. And, of course, bats have wings, which they flap.

So between the initials and the earmuffs and the hand flapping, the nickname had stuck.

And truthfully, Bat didn’t mind. Animals were his very favorite thing.” (p. 2-3)

Read This If You Loved: Any of the lit circle books I listed above

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Don’t miss out on the other stops on the blog tour!

March 1 Read, Write, Reflect
March 2 A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
March 3 Bluestocking Thinking
March 6 The Official Tumblr of Walden Media
March 7 For Those About to Mock
March 8 Maria’s Melange
March 9 Novel Novice
March 10 Unleashing Readers
March 13 The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
March 13 Mundie Kids
March 14 All the Wonders
March 15 Teach Mentor Texts
March 19 Nerdy Book Club
March 20 LibLaura5
March 22 Book Monsters
March 27 Librarian’s Quest
March 29 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
March 30 Lit Coach Lou

**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for review!**

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ghost

Ghost
Author: Jason Reynolds
Published: August 30, 2016 byAtheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

GoodReads Summary: Running. That’s all that Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But never for a track team. Nope, his game has always been ball. But when Ghost impulsively challenges an elite sprinter to a race — and wins — the Olympic medalist track coach sees he has something: crazy natural talent. Thing is, Ghost has something else: a lot of anger, and a past that he is trying to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up to him?

Ricki’s Review: I will read anything by Jason Reynolds. He captures the adolescent voice perfectly. Ghost reminds me of so many kids that I taught, and if I was still teaching, I would be thrilled to bring this book to school to recommend it to dozens of my students. Luckily, I can now share it with preservice teachers! I am very excited that this book will be one installment of a series of companion texts. It doesn’t end with a hook, which I am grateful for, and I believe the next book will feature a different character. There are so many great lessons that emerge from this story. Teachers would have much to discuss in their classrooms. I highly, highly recommend this text. It belongs in schools and in the hands of kids.

Kellee’s Review: This book is one of those books that I don’t like to tell people what it is about because any summary just doesn’t capture the brilliance of the characterization and story. However, through the word-of-mouth compliments of middle schoolers, it has become a favorite book for many of our school’s students and even won our HCMS Mock Newbery Award! I think it is Jason Reynolds’s way of connecting with adolescent readers through a true voice and circumstances that so many of them will connect to.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: We recommend using this book to teach characterization. Ghost reflects the qualities of a human—he has good and bad qualities and makes some mistakes. Students might list all of the lessons that Ghost learns through the story. They could even try to map the lessons he learns in a visual diagram of their choice.

Discussion Questions: How does Ghost’s past haunt him? Does it shape who he is?; What poor choices does Ghost make? Why does he make the choices, and are they justified?; How does the track team act as an unconventional family for Ghost?

Flagged Passage: “You can’t run away from who you are, but what you can do is run toward who you want to be.”

Read This If You Loved:  The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds; The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen; Boy21 by Matthew Quick; Ball Don’t Lie by Matt de la Peña

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Enter Title Here
Author: Rahul Kanakia
Published: August 2, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion

Summary: I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.

Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.

What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent’s help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she’s already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)

My Review: Whew! I really enjoyed this book! Rahul Kanakia really nails the pressure that overachievers experience. I was reminded of myself a bit. Reshma is willing to do anything to maintain her valedictorian status, and she takes things a bit too far. She is such an unlikeable character that I found her to be quite likable. I notice the GoodReads ratings of this book are high (a 3.58 average) but not incredibly high, and I laughed. Books with unlikable characters are always unfairly low in their ratings. When I put this book down, I felt like I’d learned a lot. Reshma feels like a real person because she makes some major mistakes. She is an anti-hero. I had difficulty putting the book down because I wanted to see how far she would go, and it made me cringe a bit. This book evoked a visceral reaction out of me!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would love to teach this book because it would evoke some excellent classroom discussions. Reshma represents the ugly side of many people, and I think that readers will have strong reactions to her selfishness. I’d particularly like to dive into her relationship with her mother. Readers could discuss family histories and how these may influence our decisions and our concepts of self.

This book is a great way to introduce metafiction. It would be very interesting to tease apart how the plot relates to the narrator’s book.

Discussion Questions: How do Reshma’s parents differ? How do they influence her decisions? What impact do they have on her as a person?; Does Reshma go too far? What are the consequences? Would you have gone as far as she did?; Why might the author have chosen to write the book as if Reshma was writing it? How does this impact your reading of the text?

Flagged Passage: “The thing no one understands about me is that sometimes, once in a while, I get this feeling like I can do anything, and that feeling is so rare and so beautiful that it’s really hard not to simply surrender to it.”

Read This Book If You Loved: The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu; I Crawl Through It by A.S. King

 

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zack-delacruz-2

Zack Delacruz: Just My Luck
Author: Jeff Anderson
Published October 11th, 2016 by Sterling Children’s Books

Summary: Zack Delacruz is back—and eager to meet Abhi, the new girl at school. But things get off to a rough start when he accidentally knocks her to the ground during a game of dodgeball. And whenever he tries to make amends, she just ignores him. Nothing works—not his friends’ advice or his “lucky” cologne. In fact, he just seems more and more cursed! Then, at the Fall Fiesta-val, Zack finally learns the real reason behind Abhi’s cold shoulder . . . but not before total chaos erupts. With a runaway train, exploding confetti-filled eggs, and Abhi’s terrifying older brother, will Zack ever get a chance to talk to his crush? In the end, Zack learns what it means to believe, to listen, and to be a good friend.

This dynamite sequel captures the middle-school experience—and will keep readers laughing from beginning to end.

Review: I always worry about sophmore books because there is always a chance that the story will just not hold up to the premiere; however, Zack is back and better than ever! The first Zack Delacruz adventure really introduced us to the diverse cast of characters at Zack’s school and just how rough of a time Zack has on a day-to-day basis. Book two begins with one of the funniest days I’ve ever read about in a book! Not only does he knock down the new girl who he wants to get to know during a game of dodgeball, but it definitely gets worse than that (but I am not going to tell you!). Next to the humor, the thing I love most about Anderson’s choice of character is that he makes sure that Zack’s school reflects a real school and the teachers and kids that go there. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Just like the first book, I think the key to Zack’s potential is making sure he is in libraries and read aloud.

Discussion Questions: What is the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you at school?; What should Zack learn from what happened with Abhi?

Flagged Passages: “And all the frustration and embarrassment from the day made my skin burn. Why did every terrible thing seem to always happen to me? My eyes were getting wet. I wasn’t going to add crying to my fool portfolio. All my rage went into the red ball. I gripped it, not sure what to do. After all, I really didn’t want to hit her. But if I threw the ball too softly, people would say I had a crush on Abhi.  Then they would start heckling me from the sidelines. Just like this stupid game of dodgeball, there was no way to win middle school. So, I chuck the ball low and away, so I would just miss her leg. But at that moment, Abhi jumped.

The ball smashed into her angle, and her legs flew back from the force of the ball. She slammed facedown on the hard wooden floor with a boom like thunder.

The gym went silent.” (p. 34)

Read This If You Loved: Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth by Jeff AndersonFrank Einstein by Jon SciezskaPickle by Kim BakerBetter Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle, Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

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**Thank you to Lauren at Sterling for providing a copy for review!!**

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the sun is also a star

The Sun Is Also a Star
Author: Nicola Yoon
Published: November 1, 2016 by Delacorte

Summary: Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

My Review: This book shines brightly. It is more than a love story. The description of the text doesn’t quite do it justice. While reading Nicola Yoon’s words, I thought of politics, I thought of the universe, I thought of science, and I thought of culture. Natasha and Daniel have a lot of baggage, and their family histories have formed who they are. Both are strong characters who want to be better than some of the mistakes their family members have made. I appreciated the depth of this text.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I love talking about immigration in the classroom because it is a great opportunity for powerful discussions. I would love to talk about Natasha’s situation and students’ opinions about it. This might allow students an opportunity to look at immigration laws and how they impact others.

Throughout the text, Yoon provides snippets of other characters’ lives. These snippets impact the narrators, and it would be interesting to discuss how each snipped changes the way we read the story.

Discussion Questions: Is Natasha’s father entirely wrong in his approach to life? Can you find some redemption in his poor decisions?; Do you believe in fate? How can we tie this story to science?; Does Natasha’s family deserve to go home? Do you think they should be allowed to stay in the United States of America?; What role does Daniel’s father play in the development of the story?

Flagged Passage: “There’s a Japanese phrase that I like: koi no yokan. It doesn’t mean love at first sight. It’s closer to love at second sight. It’s the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them. Maybe you don’t love them right away, but it’s inevitable that you will.”

Read This Book If You Loved: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon; Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell; The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu

 

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Hundred Percent
Author: Karen Romano Young
Published August 9th, 2016 by Chronicle Books

Summary: The last year of elementary school is big for every kid. Christine Gouda faces change at every turn, starting with her own nickname—Tink—which just doesn’t fit anymore. Christine navigates a year’s cringingly painful trials in normalcy—uncomfortable Halloween costumes, premature sleepover parties, crushed crushes, and changing friendships. Throughout all this, Tink learns, what you call yourself, and how you do it, has a lot to do with who you are.

This book marks beloved author Karen Romano Young’s masterful return to children’s literature: a heartbreakingly honest account of what it means to be between girl and woman, elementary and middle school, inside and out—and just what you name that in-between self.

“A lovely, lovely tale full of warmth, humor, and intelligence.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Perfectly captures the emotions of middle schoolers and their evolving friendships and familial relationships.”—School Library Journal, starred review

“Romano’s characters jump off the page in a thoughtful and realistic look at what it means to be on the precipice of adolescence.”—Publishers Weekly

“A brilliant and irresistible book about the sharp pains and joys of real life. Karen Romano Young is a writer like no other.—Rebecca Stead, Newbery Award–winning author of When You Reach Me

“Karen Romano Young must be twelve. There’s no other way she can possibly know what she knows about sixth grade in all its weirdness and glory.”—Annie Barrows, New York Times bestselling author of the Ivy & Bean series

“Karen Romano Young has an unerring feel for the shifting alliances and uncomfortable intrigues of sixth graders.” —Ellen Wittlinger, Printz Honor–winning author of Hard Love

Review: The blurbs for Hundred Percent state that the book delves into the true emotions and experiences of a sixth grader, and that it does. It actually is so realistic that it will make adults, myself included, a bit uncomfortable. Thinking back to sixth grade, it was the time where everyone was figuring out their identities: social, emotional, physical, sexual. Hundred Percent captures this. Tink is trying to figure out who her friends are, if it is worth liking boys, how to deal with changes all over the place, and so much more. I do know that there are parts of the book that some adults will be uncomfortable with their students/child reading if they are the same age as Tink. For example, there are derogatory terms used such as slut/slutty and horny skank, a lip syncing scene to “Honky Tonk Women,” and a discussion of what “sleeping together” is. Although this may be a bit uncomfortable, the more I think about the more I have come to realize that these conversations are definitely happening between 6th graders, and we can’t, as the adults in their life, pretend like they are not (though I still don’t know why the teachers let them choose “Honky Tonk Women”). With all this being said, I still think this text is for our most mature sixth graders, but those students need Tink’s story. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to a classroom library book, the text could be used within the classroom during a creative writing unit. The prose of Hundred Percent is lyrical and beautifully written. Karen Romano Young is able to take the most mundane of thoughts or activities and make them sing on the page. Because of this, some parts of the story could definitely be used as a mentor text for writing.

Flagged Passages: “Tink could have cried, but instead she smiled. She was thinking about the moment when she’d held the dishpan down to the surface of the water and turned it sideways to let the lobster slosh out of it. Its clause had sprung wide open, as if it was looking for something to grab on to. The Sound was so cool and blue and clear. She hung over the water to watch the lobster sinking down into the gloom. Back where it belonged again, back home like Tink. She felt like–like crying, but also laughing, like smiling through a storm, like an ambassador of lobsters. She wondered: Does an ambassador ever forget that the foreign land he’s learned so much about isn’t the place he’s from?” p. 55

Read This If You Loved: Truth or Dare by Barbara DeeStill a Work in Progress by Jo KnowlesThe Secret Hum of Daisy by Tracy Holczer

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**Thank you Chronicle Books for providing a copy for review!**

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honest truth

The Honest Truth
Author: Dan Gemeinhart
Published: January 27, 2015 by Scholastic Press

Summary: In all the ways that matter, Mark is a normal kid. He’s got a dog named Beau and a best friend, Jessie. He likes to take photos and write haiku poems in his notebook. He dreams of climbing a mountain one day.

But in one important way, Mark is not like other kids at all. Mark is sick. The kind of sick that means hospitals. And treatments. The kind of sick some people never get better from.

So Mark runs away. He leaves home with his camera, his notebook, his dog, and a plan to reach the top of Mount Rainier–even if it’s the last thing he ever does.

The Honest Truth is a rare and extraordinary novel about big questions, small moments, and the incredible journey of the human spirit.

Ricki’s Review: In the introduction of the ARC, Dan Gemeinhart writes that this story was inspired by his friend Mark, who passed away from cancer. While the book is not about Mark, there are “smooth rocks of truth” within it. He wrote the story in hopes that Mark would enjoy reading it. With this in mind, I began the book already emotionally invested. Mark is a 12-year-old boy who has recently relapsed with cancer. He is tired of being sick, and he has set out with his dog and plans to go to Mt. Rainier to die. Much of the book is Mark’s journey to Rainier, and we slowly learn about his experiences with cancer throughout the story. Every other chapter is written by his best friend Jesse, and I found their friendship to be inspiring, particularly given the author’s introduction. This is a beautiful story that will leave a mark on readers’ hearts. I will be recommending it often.

Kellee’s Review: The Honest Truth was my first choice for my school’s faculty book club because I had only hear amazing things about it. I jumped into reading it without knowing anything about it, but by the end of the first page, I knew that all my friends who recommended it to me were right. Mark has a voice that is so full of hurt and sorrow that it jumps off the page and into your heart. The obstacles he faces and overcomes while also making his way to die alone show the strength of his character. I also was a big fan of the two points of view because it allows the reader to see what was going on at home and maybe get some more truth than what Mark was telling us (though he swears it all is the honest truth).

For our book club meeting, I tabbed up my book with passages I loved (I’ll list all the pages below), haikus that Mark wrote, and descriptions of all of the photographs he took along the way.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This would make a fantastic read-aloud. It has so much to discuss! The richly realized themes would make for fantastic conversations in the classroom. I would love to hear students’ thoughts about the story, particularly in relation to the discussion questions below. There are many debatable points in the story—which makes it all the more interesting to use as a read aloud!

Additionally, The Honest Truth would be a good introduction to haiku and visual story telling since Mark writes haiku and takes photographs to help tell his story. The haiku (in chronological order) are found on pages 120, 8, 22, 78, 79, 130. The photos Mark took are explained on pages 226-227. Using these as mentor texts, students can create their own story using poetry and photography.

More discussion ideas can be found at http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/honest-truth-discussion-guide.

Discussion Questions: Was Mark selfish to leave home? Do you think he should have told his parents? Do you think what he did was fair? Were his actions fair to his dog?; If you were Jesse, would you have told authorities? Was she wrong to keep a secret? Do you think Mark had the ability to make such a big decision?; How did Gemeinhart use personification to help make the setting a character (see pages 34, 124, and 196)?; How much pressure do sick children have to act like adults?; How was Mark’s journey selfish? How was is selfless?; Who called? Wesley or Jess?; Why didn’t the mom ever look at her credit card report to see the train ticket?; Were you angry at Mark? Scared? How do you think students will feel?; Is a 12-year-old old enough to decide you want to die? Is it reasonable for adults to expect a kid to keep on going through treatment after treatment?

Flagged Passage: “Dogs die. But dogs live, too. Right up until they die, they live. They live brave, beautiful lives. They protect their families. And love us. And make our lives a little brighter. And they don’t waste time being afraid of tomorrow.”

Kellee’s favorite passages can be found on page 5 (“Here’s…”), 19 (“I bit…”), 21 (“I closed…”), 46 (“I was…”), 70 (“She knew…), 82 (“I like…), 97 (“Here’s…”), 179 (“They would…”), 212 (“And then…”), 228 (“There’s more…)

Read This Book If You Loved: “To Build a Fire” by Jack London; Hatchet by Gary Paulsen; The Call of the Wild by Jack London; Wonder by R.J. Palacio, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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