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Pippa Park Raises Her Game
Author: Erin Yun
Published February 4th, 2020 by Fabled Film Press

Summary: Life is full of great expectations for Korean American Pippa Park. It seems like everyone, from her family to the other kids at school, has a plan for how her life should look. So when Pippa gets a mysterious basketball scholarship to Lakeview Private, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself by following the “Rules of Cool.”

At Lakeview, Pippa juggles old and new friends, an unrequited crush, and the pressure to perform academically and athletically while keeping her past and her family’s laundromat a secret from her elite new classmates. But when Pippa begins to receive a string of hateful, anonymous messages via social media, her carefully built persona is threatened.

As things begin to spiral out of control, Pippa discovers the real reason she was admitted to Lakeview and wonders if she can keep her old and new lives separate, or if she should even try.

A Contemporary Reimagining of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens for Middle Graders

About the Author: Erin Yun grew up in Frisco, Texas. She received her BFA in English from New York University and served as president of its policy debate team. This experience came in handy when she became the debate consultant for the Tony-nominated Best Play on Broadway―What the Constitution Means to Me. Erin is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and has written reviews and articles for BookBrowse. She developed her author program, an interactive writing workshop, which she has conducted in person and virtually at schools, libraries, and bookstores. She currently lives in New York City, and yes―she used to play basketball as a middle grader!

  1. She’s obsessed with personality quizzes and takes them for her characters.
  2. She is half Korean, and half Polish/Germanic.
  3. Her favorite foods include: kimchi-jjigae, cherry ice cream, and walnut cakes filled with red bean.
  4. She ran a bubblegum-selling business in middle school until it was shut down.
  5. Her family lore says that her grandfather lost part of his farm in a game of Go-Stop.
  6. She likes creating scavenger hunts in which participants dress like secret agents and follow clues.
  7. Her favorite places in the world include Seoul, London, and Tokyo.
  8. She was president of the New York University policy debate team.
  9. Her family dogs, Belle and Yoko, both bark incredibly loudly despite being foolishly tiny.
  10. She lives in New York City, but folks can tell she grew up in Texas by how often she says ya’ll.

Review: Okay, okay, I know we aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but this cover was yelling READ ME to me, and I am so glad that I finally had the chance to and now share it with you all!

There is so much good happening in this book!

First, I love a good retelling! It brings a classical tale and its themes to a modern era.

Second, so many readers are going to connect with Pippa either because they understand what it is like to go to a new school or to fit in with a cool crowd or to have people not understand how important something is to you.

Third, there is so much to discuss with the book! You’ll see below in the discussion questions that in addition to connecting it with Great Expectations, there are opportunities to discuss family, the American Dream, culture, empathy, friendship, and more!

Fourth, I loved how complex the characters and situations were. Pippa is our protagonist but anything but perfect. Mina, Pippa’s sister, is so strict and seems heartless, but there is more there. Eliot is so cold, but there is a whole story there. And more! Such truth in the characterization of these middle schoolers and secondary characters.

Author Guest Post: Visit our Author Guest Post by Erin Yun as she shares five classics reimagined as middle grade novels.

Also, in her latest blog, Erin opened up on why she wrote this Korean American story for kids and how the recent #AAPI conversation about the lack of diverse Asian voices mirrors her own experience as a young reader. Read the blog here.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: At Pippa Park.com, there are so many wonderful resources to help use this book in classrooms!

The Tween Book Club Activity Kit includes the discussion questions below, word games, writing prompts, language arts guide, virtual author visit program, and an escape room activity! (The Common Core Language Arts Guide, Escape Room Activity, and Author Program Worksheet can also be downloaded separately.)

Erin Yun is also available for author events!

Discussion Questions: 

From the back matter (some aspects of the questions removed because of spoilers)

  • Pippa isn’t an orphan, but at times she feels like one. Describe Pippa’s relationship with Mina, her older sister. Why is Mina so tough on Pippa? Discuss whether Mina resents taking care of Pippa. How is Jung-Hwa, Mina’s husband, a father figure to Pippa? How does he make Pippa feel better after she has a fight with Mina?
  • What is the definition of family? Explain why Pippa’s mother had to return to Korea. How are Mina and Jung-Hwa realizing the American Dream? Discuss how Pippa’s family situation is similar to that of new American’s throughout our nation. How are many of them separated from their loved ones? Discuss why it’s important to celebrate all types of families.
  • Pippa says, “At Lakeview I could be anyone, as long as they didn’t find out the truth about me.” What doesn’t she want the kids at Lakeview to know about her? What does she do to keep her home life private? What does Pippa think would happen if the girls found out the truth about her?
  • How does trying to fit in cause Pippa Pippa to lose her sense of self? Why is she ashamed of her family and the way they live?
  • Pippa’s best friend at Victoria Middle School is Buddy Johnson. Think about how she betrays him.
  • Why does Pippa think that Eliot’s life is more messed up than hers? How does knowing about his family make her better understand Eliot?
  • Olive Giordana is the student ambassador that shows Pippa around the school. How does Olive’s desire to be popular affect her judgement?
  • Discuss what Jung-Hwa means when he says, “The lower you fall, the more room you have to rise.” What is Pippa’s lowest point? How do you know that she is about to rise? Have you ever felt that way?
  • Pippa’s family celebrates Chuseok: Korean Thanksgiving Day. Learn more about the traditions associated with this holiday on the Internet. Describe and discuss the holiday and the food that is prepared. What cultural holidays does your family celebrate? Is there anything special that you eat?
  • Pippa Park Raises Her Game is a contemporary reimagining of Great Expectations. Use books or the Internet to find out about the main characters in Great Expectations. What is each character’s counterpart in Pippa Park Raises Her Game? List the characters side by side and as a group apply two or three adjectives that best describe each of them.
  • Think about all that has happened to Pippa. Then consider the following quote from Great Expectations: “And it was not until I began to think, that I began fully to know how wrecked I was, and how the ship in which I had sailed was gone to pieces.” What is the metaphorical ship that Pippa sails? at what point does Pippa realized “how wrecked” her life is? How does she turn her life around once she begins “thinking”?
  • If you were to pick on character from Pippa Park Raises Her Game who is most like you, who would it be and why? Who is most unlike you and why? Which character from the book would you want as your friend and why?

Flagged Passages: “Chapter One: The Strange Encounter

I was the only person in the park.

Tucking a damp strand of hair back behind one ear, I surveyed the abandoned slides and empty benches. It was just past six p.m. on a Friday, but it looked like nobody else wanted to be out in the rain. As I strode briskly forward, icy wind numbed the tips of my fingers, making me clutch my basketball tighter. Even though we hadn’t officially left summer behind, the cold front that had settle over Victoria, Massachusetts, did show any signs of leaving.

So … empty court. Lousy weather. And things at home were just as dismal.

My older sister, Mina, had just grilled me for nearly an hour after finding out about the ‘unacceptable’ grade I had received on my latest algebra quiz. When she finally finished, I stormed out of the apartment, making sure to grab my basketball and water bottle; I planned on being gone awhile. Now I kind of wish I had taken a warmer jacket, too. Or at least a hat. But rain or shine, I wasn’t ready to go home yet.”

Read This If You Love: Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen by Sarah Kapit; Bouncing Back by Scott Ostler; Kiki and Jacque by Susan Ross; It Doesn’t Take a Genius by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich; Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

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**Thank you to Dienesa at Fabled Films for providing a copy for review!!**

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The House That Wasn’t There
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Published March 30th, 2021 by Walden Pond Books

Summary: Alder has always lived in his cozy little house in Southern California. And for as long as he can remember, the old, reliable, comforting walnut tree has stood between his house and the one next door. That is, until a new family—with a particularly annoying girl his age—moves into the neighboring house and, without warning, cuts the tree down.

Oak doesn’t understand why her family had to move to Southern California. She has to attend a new school, find new friends, and live in a new house that isn’t even ready—her mother had to cut down a tree on their property line in order to make room for a second floor. And now a strange boy next door won’t stop staring at her, like she did something wrong moving here in the first place.

As Oak and Alder start school together, they can’t imagine ever becoming friends. But the two of them soon discover a series of connections between them—mysterious, possibly even magical puzzles they can’t put together.

At least not without each other’s help.

Award-winning author Elana K. Arnold returns with an unforgettable story of the strange, wondrous threads that run between all of us, whether we know they’re there or not.

About the Author: Elana K. Arnold is the author of critically acclaimed and award-winning young adult novels and children’s books, including the Printz Honor winner Damsel, the National Book Award finalist What Girls Are Made Of, and Global Read Aloud selection A Boy Called Bat and its sequels. Several of her books are Junior Library Guild selections and have appeared on many best book lists, including the Amelia Bloomer Project, a catalog of feminist titles for young readers. Elana teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program and lives in Southern California with her family and menagerie of pets.

Praise for The House That Wasn’t There:

“In this luminous story full of mystery and magic, Elana K. Arnold weaves a shimmering tapestry about the lovely and surprising ways we’re connected to each other. Heart-healing, hopeful, and wonderfully inventive, this beautiful novel by a master storyteller is not to be missed.” —Katherine Applegate, Newbery Medal-winning author of The One and Only Ivan

“Told through alternating perspectives that offer clearly rendered details, this compassionate novel gives a unique twist to familiar situations—feeling lonely, adjusting to new environments, forging new bonds—while inviting readers to open their imaginations to all sorts of wonderful possibilities.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The author enriches her sparely told story with hints of magic, song lyrics, good choices that key sudden sea changes in several relationships, and the small background details that make settings and backstories seem real. A low-key marvel rich in surprises, small fuzzy creatures, and friendships old and new.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Review: I love what Elana K. Arnold can do with a story! She is brilliant when it comes to weaving in secondary stories that often have way more impact than the reader realizes and for building secondary characters that leave a lasting impression.

In The House That Wasn’t There, I was struck with this talent again as I followed Alder’s and Oak’s life as they collide suddenly at the beginning of 6th grade and how their school project, a walnut tree, a dead possum, and adopted kittens all intertwine to help tell their story. The reader at times will wonder why certain things are happening or why something is being mentioned and then BAM it is revealed. It is quite fun to read! And with a bit of magical realism thrown in just for fun, a seemingly “normal” story becomes an extraordinary one!

It was also quite interesting how Arnold set up the chapters, alternating between Alder and Oak but in 3rd person. It helped keep the POV clear while also showing the reader a bit more about each of the character’s lives.

And finally: A shout out to Beck for not being what was expected; Faith for having a name, being a part of the story instead of the background, and being wonderful; and Mr. Rivera for being an innovative teacher that promotes collaboration, cross-curricular activities, and outside of the box thinking!

Educators’ Guide: 

Flagged Passages: Preview the first two chapters from the publisher: READ A SAMPLE

Read This If You Love: A Girl, a Raccoon, and the Midnight Moon by Karen Romano YoungBrave in the Woods by Tracy HolczerQuintessence by Jess Redman, Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor, This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews, The Trouble with Shooting Stars by Meg Cannistra

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

March 28 Nerdy Book Club @nerdybookclub
March 29 YAYOMG @yayomgofficial
March 30 Unleashing Readers @UnleashReaders
March 31 Teachers Who Read @teachers_read
April 2 Maria’s Mélange @mariaselke
April 7 Bluestocking Thinking @BlueSockGirl
April 10 A Library Mama @librarymama
April 12 Storymamas @storymamas

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

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Encounter
Author: Brittany Luby
Illustrator: Michaela Goade
Published: October 1, 2019 by Little, Brown

GoodReads Summary: A powerful imagining by two Native creators of a first encounter between two very different people that celebrates our ability to acknowledge difference and find common ground.

Based on the real journal kept by French explorer Jacques Cartier in 1534, Encounter imagines a first meeting between a French sailor and a Stadaconan fisher. As they navigate their differences, the wise animals around them note their similarities, illuminating common ground.

This extraordinary imagining by Brittany Luby, Professor of Indigenous History, is paired with stunning art by Michaela Goade, winner of 2018 American Indian Youth Literature Best Picture Book Award. Encounter is a luminous telling from two Indigenous creators that invites readers to reckon with the past, and to welcome, together, a future that is yet unchartered.

Ricki’s Review: This powerful book belongs in every classroom. It offers a counterstory that does not fit the typical narrative. The backmatter offers even greater depth and begs for the text to be taught in classrooms. I would use this book with students of all ages (including adults), and it is such an important book to the field. This story is grounded in a primary historical source from the timer period and is beautifully done.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would love to use this text to discuss the multiple ways in which fiction humanizes experiences and teaches us about history and the world. One theme, for instance, is that of communication. Students might select a topic or theme and read the text through the lens of that theme to offer a better understanding of history, narrative, and the world.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the story reach readers?
  • How does the story offer an account of history, and how does it expand our understandings of history?
  • How do the words and pictures work together to create meaning?

Read This If You Loved: We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom; The People Shall Continue by Simon J. Ortiz; At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorell; We Are Grateful/Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell; Fry Bread: A Native American Family Tradition by Kevin Noble Maillard

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Follow That Frog!
Author: Philip C. Stead
Illustrator: Matthew Cordell
Published: February 2, 2021 by Holiday House

GoodReads Summary: When a curiously croaking stranger comes knocking at the door, Aunt Josephine launches into a rambling tale about her lifelong pursuit of a rare giant frog.

Eccentric Aunt Josephine poignantly ignores a stranger knocking at her door as she tells her niece Sadie the story of her time in the jungles of Peru, cataloguing amphibians for the scientific team of Admiral Rodriguez. When the admiral’s son was suddenly swallowed by a giant frog, Aunt Josephine gave chase in a journey which took her around the world.

In the tradition of Philip Stead and Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell’s previous collaborations Special Delivery and The Only Fish in the Sea, this is a story full of rambunctious fun and sensationally appealing artwork.

Ricki’s Review: I could not stop laughing as I read this book. This, in turn, made my kids laugh. It was a joyous affair–ha ha! I have not read the first two books in the series, and this book stood alone very nicely. Aunt Josephine’s story is simply fantastic, and this feels like it will be a classic. It’s a bizarre, quirky telling, but this makes it stand out from other books that I’ve read. 

The illustrations are absolutely marvelous–not surprising, given the illustrator–and the story is very engaging. The story winds in a way that keeps readers on their toes and feels different and exciting. This book demands to be read aloud to a crowd of children! Adults and children alike will want to read this one again and again.

Kellee’s Review: Philip C. Stead and Matthew Cordell sure have a vivid imagination and silly sense of humor, and this book definitely show that it is true–once again Aunt Josephine takes the reader on a wild adventure! This book strays away a bit from the structure of the first two books in the series because instead of Sadie going on an adventure, Aunt Josephine shares an adventure SHE had from her younger days. 

I loved this story because it gave us a bit more insight into Aunt Josephine as we got glimpses not only into her past but also into her home, and it all gives us a bit of an understanding of some of Sadie’s characteristics! I think the easiest way to describe it all is quirky, equally balanced between Stead’s sensational story telling and Cordell’s intricate illustrations.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is an obvious choice for read alouds and creative writing classes. I’d also use it with high school and adult readers, too. It teaches excellent examples of craft that could be analyzed richly by all ages and would inspire writing of all kinds.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the story maintain reader interest?
  • How do the illustrations pair with the story to make the story more effective?
  • Was the ending what you predicted? How does the ending enhance the story?

Read This If You Loved: Special Delivery and The Only Fish in the Sea by Philip Stead; Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems; The Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel; Pug Meets Pig by Sue Lowell Gallion

Author and Illustrator Interview

What keeps bringing you back to Sadie and Josephine?
MATTHEW: Phil’s had such great ideas and adventures for them, so I was always thrilled to be on board. I love the strange world these characters inhabit and the madcap stories they tell. So much fun to draw!
PHILIP: Sadie and Josephine are two of my favorite characters I’ve ever created. Matt and I talked a lot at the outset about wanting strong female leads that were confident and capable in the face of increasingly ridiculous circumstances. It’s just been so much fun coming up with those ridiculous circumstances and watching how Sadie and Josephine power right through.

Was the original story a collaboration? If not, how did it come to be? And is it more of a collaboration now that you’re on book 3?
MATTHEW: Unlike most author and illustrator picture book team scenarios, Phil and I and our editor Neal have collaborated through and through. Typically, authors and illustrators do not work together to make a picture book come to life. It’s a bit more of a relay race. The author does the first bit with the editor. Then the editor passes the baton to an illustrator to finish up the book. But since Phil and I were friends before Special Delivery (book 1), we always wanted to work together with Neal, so that’s how it’s always been. It’s always been a very natural and organic way of working for us. Can’t imagine it any other way, really!
PHILIP: Ditto that! Really, collaboration is the only way of working I’ve ever known. The only other illustrator I’ve worked with (other than myself) is my wife Erin. Writing work and illustration work are constantly overlapping in our studio and I think that overlap leads to better, more cohesive books. I definitely think many of the weird quirks of the three Sadie books wouldn’t have survived the more normal book making process where author and illustrator work separately on their own little islands.

Each Sadie story has an animal focus–how do you choose which animal(s) will be in the story?
PHILIP: Well, obviously I have a thing for elephants that goes back to my first book with Erin, A Sick Day for Amos McGee. My first book with Matt, Special Delivery, centers around an elephant as well. I love how expressive an elephant face can be. Erin and Matt are both very expressive illustrators, albeit with very different results. That’s probably why elephants came to mind for both of them. Plus, an elephant can really fill up a book page nicely. All the other animal choices are somewhat opportunistic. Like, who wouldn’t want to see Matt illustrate a giant frog riding on the back of a rhea?! A rhea is basically a South American ostrich, for those of you reading that aren’t current on your ornithological studies.

Any plans for more Sadie stories?
MATTHEW: Nothing else is in the works for Sadie, Aunt Josephine, Sherman, and those monkeys. But Phil, Neal, and I (different kind of monkeys?) are already working up a whole different picture book idea now. I’m currently in sketches for this one. And hopefully there will be more books on down the road too. I sent Phil some drawings from my sketchbook a while ago to see if he could pry a story out of them. We shall see!
PHILIP: In Follow That Frog! there’s talk of getting to Paris. I’d love to send Sadie and Josephine to Paris someday. But for now Matt and I are onto something new.

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**Thank you to Sara at Holiday House for providing copies for review!**

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Once Upon Another Time
Author: Charles Ghigna & Matt Forrest Esenwine
Illustrator: Andrés F. Landazábal
Published March 2nd, 2021 by Beaming Books

Summary: Illustrations and easy-to-read, rhyming text introduce the reader to the world as it was before humans made their mark, then propose going outdoors–without electronic devices–to connect with that ancient beauty.

Once upon another time,
the world was young and new.
If you want to know this world,
there’s something you can do…

With sweeping landscapes and up-close details of the natural world, Once Upon Another Time takes readers through a lyrical exploration of the world as it was before humans made their mark. Contrasting the past with the present, this expansive picture book serves as a warm invitation for children–and all people–to appreciate, explore, and protect the magic and wonder of this planet we call home.

Written by award-winning authors Charles Ghigna and Matt Forrest Esenwine, and illustrated by Andrés F. Landazábal, Once Upon Another Time is a stunning portrait of a world that used to exist, and can still be found–if you just know where to look.

Endorsements: 

“Ghigna and Esenwine provide a vehicle to ferry young readers back to a time when the wonders of nature called to them more powerfully than any computer screen ever could. Once Upon Another Time‘s glorious poetry and paintings are a perfect pairing.” –Nikki Grimes, author of One Last Word and Garvey’s Choice

Once Upon Another Time is timely and playfully crafted–a beautiful book that I can’t wait to read to the grandkids.” –Eileen Spinelli, author of Love You Always and Thankful

“Vivid colors and gorgeous landscapes interweave with poetic prose as we all yearn for the wild, fresh freedom of another time.” –Fred Koehler, illustrator of Flashlight Night; What If, Then We; and Garbage Island

“In Once Upon Another Time, the reader is transported to a world where we can “breathe the air that once was shared by monstrous dinosaurs!” With lyrical language and fresh images, Ghigna and Esenwine invite the reader to imagine — and then go out and experience — that natural world full of ‘canyon walls,’ ‘sunny fields,’ and ‘passing clouds’ –timeless wonders of our planet.” –Dr. Sylvia Vardell, professor, Texas Woman’s University and poetry anthologist, A World Full of Poems

About the Creators: 

Matt Forrest Esenwine is an author and poet from Warner, New Hampshire. His debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), was selected by the New York Public Library as one of the Best Picture Books for Kids of 2017. His poetry can be found in numerous anthologies, including The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2015), I Am Someone Else (Charlesbridge, 2019), and Highlights for Children.

Charles Ghigna, aka Father Goose®, lives in a treehouse in the middle of Alabama. He is the author of more than one hundred books from Random House, Simon & Schuster, Time Inc., Disney, Hyperion, Scholastic, Abrams, Boyds Mills Press, Charlesbridge, Capstone, Orca, and other publishers. He has written more than five thousand poems for children and adults that have appeared in anthologies, newspapers and magazines ranging from The New Yorker and Harper’s to Highlights and Cricket magazines. He served as poet in residence and chair of creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, instructor of creative writing at Samford University, poetry editor of English Journal for the National Council of Teachers of English, and as a nationally syndicated poetry feature writer for Tribune Media Services. He speaks at schools, conferences, libraries, and literary events throughout the US and overseas, and has read his poems at the Library of Congress, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the American Library in Paris, the American School in Paris, and the International Schools of South America.

Andrés F. Landazábal is an illustrator and art-director based in Armenia, Colombia. His work has appeared in film, television, and print for companies such as Sesame Street, Discovery Kids, and Fox. Landazábal’s love for drawing and painting was instilled at a young age as he read classic illustrated children’s books.

Review: The authors use their impeccable rhythm to invite the readers to join them in the journey first back in time then to modern day with hints on how to enjoy the world today without the distractions of screens.  As soon as I was done reading, I knew this book was meant to be read aloud (and I wanted to HEAR the rhythm and rhyme), and I was right–it is a joy to read out loud.

You are also going to be blown away by the illustrations. You open it up and are transported into the past where only nature was at its finest. The illustrator says that he was inspired to draw and paint at a young age from classic children’s books, and you can see it in the work as it is filled with wistfulness, lots of colors, and brightness.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: As noted by the publisher on Amazon, this book definitely:

  • Encourages kids to unplug from digital devices and appreciate nature.
  • Teaches children about the wonder and magic of our world before civilization and industrialization
  • Invites readers to think about ways they can preserve the beauty of the natural world

And that it teaches about:

  • Conservation
  • Nature
  • History of our planet

And lets not forget that the history of our planet does include human inventions and successes because although the theme of the book is to get away from screens, it also points out some amazing accomplishments like building sky scrapers, dams, and planes.

I also think that it can help delve into animals and habitats! Throughout the book, different animals are found on the pages.

Additionally, the text itself could be read as a poem, looking for rhyme, rhythm, and figurative language, specifically personification.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is something we use often that without it our life would change drastically?
  • What is something you do for fun that lets you know the world of another time?
  • What are some differences/similarities between the another time and now?
  • Why do you think the illustrator ended with two spreads in the same location?
  • What is the theme of this book?
    • Why do you think the authors felt it was necessary to write a book with this theme?
  • How have humans impacted the nature of Earth?
    • How has it affected animals?
  • The setting is never explicitly stated, but there are clues throughout the book. Where do you think the book takes place?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Old Rock (is Not Boring) by Deb PiluttiHike by Pete Oswald, Grand Canyon by Jason Chin, The Blue Giant by Katie Cottle, We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers

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Visit the other blog tour stops: 

2/25:      Ellen Leventhal:  https://www.ellenleventhal.com/#blog
3/1:        Maria Marshall: https://www.mariacmarshall.com/blog
3/2:        Matt Forrest Esenwine: https://mattforrest.wordpress.com
3/3:        Bookseed Studio: https://bookseedstudio.wordpress.com/
3/4:        Celebrate Picture Books: https://celebratepicturebooks.com/
3/5:        Maria Marshall #PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday): https://www.mariacmarshall.com/blog
3/5:        KidLit411 – Charles Ghigna interview: http://www.kidlit411.com/
3/5:       Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook: http://mrsknottsbooknook.blogspot.com/
3/9:      Erin Dealey https://www.erindealey.com/blog/
3/10:     Melissa Stoller: https://www.melissastoller.com/blog
3/16:     Kellee Moye at Unleashing Readers: http://www.unleashingreaders.com/
5/5:       Andrew Hackett: https://www.andrewhacket.com/blog

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A Place Inside of Me
Author: Zetta Elliot
Illustrator: Noa Denmon
Published: July 21, 2020 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR)

Summary: In this powerful, affirming poem by award-winning author Zetta Elliott, a Black child explores his shifting emotions throughout the year.

There is a place inside of me
a space deep down inside of me
where all my feelings hide.

Summertime is filled with joy―skateboarding and playing basketballuntil his community is deeply wounded by a police shooting. As fall turns to winter and then spring, fear grows into anger, then pride and peace.

In her stunning debut, illustrator Noa Denmon articulates the depth and nuances of a child’s experiences following a police shooting―through grief and protests, healing and community―with washes of color as vibrant as his words.

Here is a groundbreaking narrative that can help all readers―children and adults alike―talk about the feelings hiding deep inside each of us.

My Review: Whew. This is a powerful text that is accessible to all ages. I could imagine reading this to a class of elementary schoolers, and I could imagine reading it aloud to a group of adults. The book is a poem that reads in layers. It offers a surface-level understanding for beginning readers and also offers a rich conception and application for more mature readers. Following a police shooting, the narrator feels a wealth of very real emotions, and each spread navigates the emotions with beautifully woven language and powerful images. I believe that Zetta Elliot is one of the greatest authors of our time, and I felt this book in my gut. It is a must read.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might use this text to unpack the many levels of emotions that students experience with events. One way to use this book is to ask students to pick a recent event and write a poem about the varied emotions they felt (or feel) regarding the event.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do the author and illustrator depict the emotions within the text?
  • What nuances do you see in the different emotions?
  • How can we use this text to enact change in our community?

Flagged Passage: 

 

Read This If You Love: I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson, You Matter by Christian Robinson, I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoët

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Don’t Judge Me
Author: Lisa Schroeder
Publication Date: November 10, 2020 by Scholastic

Summary: Inspired by a true story of girl empowerment, acclaimed author Lisa Schroeder’s new novel explores trust, self-worth, and speaking up — especially when you’re told to keep quiet.

Hazel doesn’t like to make waves. Middle school is hard enough without causing more trouble, right? She’s happy just eating lunch in the library with her BFF, writing secret haikus, and taking care of an adorable rescue tortoise.

But then Hazel discovers a list that rates the girls at her middle school based on their looks — started by her best friend’s older brother. She knows she has to do something, and she can’t do it alone. The wave she’ll be making might turn into a tsunami, but if Hazel can find the courage to speak up, she might just change everything.

About the Author: Once upon a time, Lisa Schroeder wanted to join Encyclopedia Brown on his fun adventures. Since that didn’t work out, she decided to be an author instead. Lisa’s written over twenty books for kids and teens including the popular verse novels for teens I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME and CHASING BROOKLYN, and her most recent YA novels, THE BRIDGE FROM ME TO YOU and ALL WE HAVE IS NOW. She’s also the author of the middle grade novels IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES, MY SECRET GUIDE TO PARIS, SEE YOU ON A STARRY NIGHT and WISH ON ALL THE STARS. Her books have been translated into foreign languages and have been selected for state reading lists. Lisa is a native Oregonian and lives with her family outside of Portland.

Review: This book is so timely and important! My county just changed their dress code, and it was introduced by a board member in our local newspaper with the title “Good riddance to dress code that singles out girls,” and there are groups of girls fighting for less discrimination in school all over the nationDon’t Judge Me is based off an event in 2019 where a group of girls in Bethesda, Maryland fought back about the toxic culture in their school.

But don’t worry–the book is not didactic, though it definitely does teach a lesson; instead, you get a book with a topic that is so important, combined with a engaging story with not only main characters who I ended up loving but also well constructed and detailed secondary characters, including parents! Oh, and a tortoise! I loved watching Hazel find her voice, Tori find her confidence, Dion find his friends, and Pip find his home!

Another thing I really liked about Schroeder’s story is she showed that kids can make a difference. She used Hazel to show that it doesn’t take radical insubordination to make that difference. Instead it takes a purpose, a plan, support, and execution. Hazel was awesome!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Do you think Hazel did the right thing the notebook?
  • Why do you think popularity was so important to Tori?
  • How is Mr. Buck an example of one of the problems presented in the novel?
  • Why do you think the author included Dion in the story?
  • What is a safe place for you like the library was for Hazel, Dion, and Tori?
  • What do you think the author hopes you take from this book?
  • Do you think that Hazel dealt with meeting with admin well?
  • What is toxic masculinity and how can we fight it in our schools and community?

Flagged Passages: [Hazel just entered the library during the first week of school during lunch]

As I started to unpack my lunch, I heard snifling.

I turned around and saw a boy curled up, arms hugging his knees, against the shelf of picture books that some of the Language Arts teachers like to use in their class. His face was buried in his arms so all I could see was his curly, black hair. I looked at Tori, hoping she’d run over to ask the boy what was wrong. I know I could have done it, but I’m not every good at that kind of thing…

‘What’s wrong?’ Tori asked. ‘Do you need help with something?’

He wiped his face across the sleeve of his shirt, then shook his head ducking back into his arms.

‘Come on,’ Tori said. We want to help. Can you talk to us? Please? We’re super nice, honest. Oh, and I’m Tori and this is Hazel. What’s your name?’

He raised his head and sniffled. ‘Dion. And don’t y’all go and tell people you saw me crying. It’ll justm ake things worse.’

‘We won’t,’ I said. ‘We’d never do that.’

‘My moms say boys should cry more often,’ Tori said matter-of-factly. ‘That the world needs more sensitive men. Or something like that.’

Dion sniffled again. ‘Tell that to the bullies of the world.’ (Chapter 11)

Read This If You Love: Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee, Nat Enough series by Maria Scrivan, Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya, The Usual Suspects by Maurice Broaddus, Here We Are edited by Kelly Jensen

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**Thank you to Lisa for providing a copy for review!**

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