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Just so we all have the same definition of close reading, I wanted to share how I define it:
The process of close reading is reading a short, worthy text more than once to get deeper into its meaning.

Here is a fun close reading activity I did with my reading classes a couple of weeks ago.

Standards for this lesson: RL.1 & RI.1 (Inference & text evidence), RL.2 (Theme), RI.2 (Central Idea), RL.3 (Narrative elements interact)

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester is a much more complex text than it first seems, so I really wanted to take this fun text and push my students’ thinking to realize that Tacky teaches us more than they first thought.

First read: For the first read of Tacky the Penguin, I just had my students enjoy the story. I love watching kids see this book for the first time because he is such a ridiculous yet awesome penguin.

Second read: When we read the story again, this time I chunked the text and had them take notes about a different characters’ emotions for each section. They then went on our Canvas discussion board and made an inference about how the character was feeling based on their notes and included evidence.

“The other penguins are much more accepting of Tacky at the end. In the text it shows that all the penguins hugged Tacky since his oddness had scared the hunters away and saved them. This action showed that even though they might disagree on how to do things they were still thankful of him.” -EX, 8th grade

“I think that the other penguins, Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly and Perfect are happy that Tacky is around. In the story it is showing all the penguins celebrating that the hunters were gone. Usually when you are celebrating it is because someone has accomplished something and you feel happy for them. So, you can conclude that the other penguins are happy that Tacky is around because he got rid of the hunters and without Tacky they might’ve died.” -JK, 6th grade

For the final section of the text, I asked them to think about the theme of the story, and they answered their inferred theme with evidence on the discussion board.

“I think the theme of Tacky the penguin is that differences can be good. I think that because at first the other penguins didn’t like Tacky because he was very different in the way he acted. They thought he was annoying and didn’t really include him in their group. At the end, they appreciate him because he saved them from the hunters, so his differences were good.” -AN, 8th grade

“The theme is to treat everyone fairly. Because in the beginning the other penguins treated Tacky badly, by excluding him, being annoyed at his greets, singing, and diving. But when Tacky acted like a hero they all appreciated him like they should of in the beginning.” -AK, 8th grade

“I think the theme of TACKY THE PENGUIN is to always be yourself. In the beginning of the story, the other penguins didn’t seem to really like Tacky because he did things so differently from them. However, as the middle towards end of the story, Tacky uses that to his advantage to scare away the hunters. So really, because Tacky was himself, he saved the day!” -DV, 7th grade

As we know, there are many themes that can be taken from a story, and most of the themes I received were spot on and focused primarily on how Tacky may seem odd but that doesn’t mean being different is bad. But there was one theme that I didn’t have any students pick up on, and I felt it was a big one. So, for the third read, I added in another text.

Third read: For the third read, I had my students read an Aesop Fable to connect with Tacky. “The Lion and the Three Bullocks” has the theme “In Unity is Strength” because the bulls survive the predator because they work together. The students did a wonderful job realizing that this theme connected to Tacky because it was only when all the of the penguins worked together that they were able to ward off the hunters.

“The theme “Unity is Strength” works for both books because together they defeated the enemy(ies). In Tacky the Penguin it says, “ Tacky began to sing, and from behind the block of ice came the voices of his companions, all singing as loudly and dreadfully as they could.” This shows that together the penguins can work together to be strong. The next page says “The hunters could not stand the horrible singing” This evidence illustrates that together as a team they can do anything. In Aesop For Children (Three Bullocks and a Lion), it says that a hungry lion is looking for his next meal. He was only sitting and watching because all of them were together so he would lose. In a little bit the bullocks separated and it was the lion’s time to strike (He ate them). This shows that when you are together you can be even stronger then when you were alone.” -EN, 7th grade

At this point, I was so proud of the connections my students were making, but it was still on a level where they were not connecting it to life–they saw it as a penguin and bullocks lesson mostly. This meant that I added in another text that I had them close read:

Scila Elworthy’s TED Talk is titled “Fighting with Nonviolence” and shares how fighting violence with violence is not successful while using nonviolence has been successful. I love TED Talks because you have the video and the transcript! What a great text for the classroom! (And thank you Jennifer Shettel for pointing me in this direction!)

First read: We watched the first 5 minutes and 11 seconds of the TED talk, and I gave each student a Post-It note. I asked them to write down words that stuck out to them. We then shared the words and defined any words they didn’t know.

Second read: For their second read of the text, they went to the transcript and were to focus on the central idea of this section of the text. Each person wrote down their own central idea.

Then I did a variety on one of the discussion ideas that Ricki shared in her Engaging Classroom Discussion Techniques post. Kind of like in Facts of Five, I had students then go into groups of three and come up with a consensus of a central idea together. They then wrote these on sentences strips to display in the room. We also discussed each one and talked about the supporting evidence for each central idea. I called it “Most Important Point.”

“As a group for the “most important point activity” we came up with the point that “solving a problem with violence only ever causes more violence”. Toward the end of the ted talk the speaker gives an example of when her ‘heroine’ was faced with guns during a protest and solved it by walking up to them and getting them to put their guns down. Had she not solved that problem this way it can be assumed that the soldiers would have shot them. By solving a situation with non violence she avoided the problem all together. We concluded from this, and the other points she made in ted talk including Nelson Mandela and her own personal anecdote about non violence, that that was the central point.” -KA, 8th grade

Third read: For the culminating task for all of these texts, I added in one more text to truly make all of this connect to reality. I knew I wanted to pick an image from the Civil Rights Movement because it is a true example of this idea at work. I introduced my students to sit-ins.

I then asked, “Why did we watch this TED Talk and why did I share the Sit-In images after reading Tacky the Penguin and the Aesop Fable? How do they all connect? Write a short paragraph explaining the connection, and remember to Restate, Answer, have Text evidence, and Explain/elaborate.”

All of these connect because they all show them going against things together. In “Tacky the Penguin” all of the penguins started singing in the end together, driving them away. If it was only Tacky singing, the hunters might not have gone away if the other penguins had not shown up.  In “Three Bullocks and a Lion”, the lion would not attack them when they were together because he knew he was no match for all three of them combined. In the Sit- In photo, there are four people sitting at a counter, and in the other photo, it shows them getting drinks poured on them from other people in the restaurant. If there was only one person sitting at the counter, the point would not have been proven as well as it would if there were four. All of them show that when they are together, they are stronger.” -MA, 7th grade

The Ted Talk, Sit-in images, Tacky the Penguin, and Aesop Fable connect because they show how if we stick together and try to solve conflict in nonviolent ways, we will not have to resolve problems with more fighting.  The Ted Talk says that bullies use violence to intimidate, terrorize, and undermine, but “only very rarely in few cases does it work to use more violence.” This just makes people more and more violent. An example is when the “Students who participated in sit-ins refused to become violent” even when people were not treating them fair by not serving them or even pouring a drink on them. Tacky the Penguin helped save all the penguins from being taken away by hunters because he had the attitude that people should be friendly and kind to each other and because he acted like this, it scared the hunters and they ran away. In the Aesop Fable, the bulls were able to keep the lion from eating them by staying close and being strong together. When they began to argue and separated from each other, they were not strong enough alone to keep from being attacked. “It was now an easy matter for the lion to attack them one at a time, and this he proceeded to do with the greatest satisfaction and relish.” This shows that we need each other to be strong and reach our goals and when we begin to fight, we lose our strength against enemies. We can control all of this, like she says, “It’s my response, my attitude, to oppression that I’ve got control over, and that I can do something about.” -DA, 6th grade

I was so impressed with my students’ deep thinking, connections, inferences, and elaboration! And overall they truly loved the activity, and I think that it truly shows that a text to analyze can be more than the canon!

 

 

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Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers
Author: Deborah Heiligman
Published April 18th, 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.

Summary: The deep and enduring friendship between Vincent and Theo Van Gogh shaped both brothers’ lives. Confidant, champion, sympathizer, friend, Theo supported Vincent as he struggled to find his path in life. They shared everything, swapping stories of lovers and friends, successes and disappointments, dreams and ambitions. Meticulously researched, drawing on the 658 letters Vincent wrote to Theo during his lifetime, Deborah Heiligman weaves a tale of two lives intertwined and the love of the Van Gogh brothers.

About the Author: Deborah Heiligman has written many books for children, including National Book Award Finalist Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith and The Boy Who Loved Math. She lives with her family in New York City.

AccoladesMichael L. Printz Award – Honor, School Library Best Books of the Year, CPL: Chicago Public Library Best of the Best, NYPL Books for the Teen Age, Booklist Editors’ Choice, YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist, YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Winner, BCCB Blue Ribbon Award, Boston Globe – Horn Book Award, Kirkus Best Teen Books of the Year, Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year, Texas TAYSHAS High School Reading List, Horn Book Magazine Fanfare List

Praise: 

“A remarkably insightful, profoundly moving story of fraternal interdependence and unconditional love.” —Kirkus, starred review

“A breathtaking achievement that will leave teens eager to learn more.” —School Library Journal, starred review

“In fittingly painterly language, Heiligman offers vivid descriptions of Vincent’s artwork and life, which grow more detailed and colorful as Vincent’s own artistic style becomes richer and more refined . . . This illuminating glimpse into the van Goghs’ turbulent life and historical period will add compelling depth to readers’ understanding of the iconic painter. ” —Booklist, starred review

“A unique and riveting exploration of art, artists, and brotherly love.” —The Horn Book, starred review

“An intensive exploration of their turbulent lives” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“This title is a treasure for readers who want to immerse in a roiling domestic drama and who don’t back away from a good cry” —The Bulletin, starred review

Review: I could not stop talking about this book while I was listening to it. That, and that I couldn’t stop listening to the book–I would listen whenever I could, show me what a fabulous book it was. Hieligman does an amazing job making Vincent and Theo’s story come to life through such emotional narrative that the reader cannot help but feel as if we are living alongside the Van Gogh brothers. As someone who loves learning about history and art as well as an interest in brain health, this was a story that was more fascinating than I can even describe.

Also, I feel personally connected to this book in a fun way. In November, 2016 Deborah Heiligman and I had a dinner at NCTE, and we got talking about art since she had just finished Vincent and Theo. If you didn’t know, my dad has a BA in Art History and a MFA in Museumology and runs art museums (currently the LSU Museum of Art), so I have grown up around art museums my whole life and with art as a big part of it. One of the things we spoke about is the new information that a painting thought to be a self-portrait (right below) was actually the only known painting of Theo Van Gogh that Vincent painted. One thing that made it hard to determine this was that Theo is wearing the straw hat that Vincent is known to wear while Vincent is wearing Theo’s business felt hat. And this is where Deborah’s question came in: “The hats on the cover matched the hats the men are wearing in the photo although those are not actually their hats. Does it matter?” Now although I love art, I am not the expert, so I offered to ask my dad, and he responded with, “I like the cover as it is. I think it causes a questioning that evidences the new research in an interesting way. It defies previous thoughts and expectations.” Thus the cover stayed as is with an explanation on the jacket (below).

But I think what can show you about the book more than just me raving is all of the awards it received, ⇑ see above, and all of the amazing information about how Deborah researched for the book, ⇓ see below, and of course an excerpt from the book, ⇓ also below.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: View Deborah Hieligman’s research for Vincent and Theo and view all the articles & interviews about the book to use with students when reading this nonfiction text. There is so much that can be done with this story and the author’s writing process; use this amazing text in your classrooms, have it in your libraries, read it yourself–however you see fit, but read and share it!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How were Vincent and Theo’s life parallel with each other?
  • In what way were Vincent and Theo’s view of love part of their downfall emotionally?
  • Looking at the two portraits above and after reading the article about the portrait being of Theo, what do you believe? What similarities and differences do you see between the two?
  • How did Deborah Hieligman take all of the letters and research she did and turn them into a narrative?
  • I described this book to my sister as “A love story about two brothers.” Why would I call it a love story?
  • How did Theo’s short but mighty marriage set up for the current popularity of Vincent Van Gogh?
  • Why did it take so long for Vincent to find art?
  • In what way did finding friends in the impressionist art community help Vincent as an artist?

Flagged Passages: 1. TWO BROTHERS, ONE APARTMENT, PARIS, 1887

There was a time when I loved Vincent very much, and he was my best friend, but that’s over now. —Theo van Gogh to his sister Willemien, March 14, 1887

THEO’S BROTHER VINCENT has been living with him for just over a year, and Theo cannot take it anymore.

It is “almost intolerable for me at home,” he writes to their sister Wil in March 1887. Even though Theo has moved them to a larger apartment, this one still feels too small to hold Vincent’s outsized personality and Theo’s desperate need for quiet. He’s dying to tell Vincent to move out, but he knows if he does, Vincent will just be more determined to stay.

Dogged. Contrary. Stubborn. Vincent.

Theo van Gogh is the manager of Goupil & Cie, a successful art gallery on the fashionable Boulevard Montmartre in Paris. Theo is good at his job, but it’s terrifically frustrating for him right now. The owners of the gallery want him to sell paintings in the traditional style because they’re popular and bring in money. Though Theo certainly needs to make money—he has to support himself and Vincent and help their mother—he wants to sell art that is truly exciting to him, paintings by the Impressionists and their crowd, friends of his and Vincent’s: Émile Bernard, Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Soon, maybe even paintings by Vincent himself.

But these modern painters don’t bring in enough money, so it’s a constant battle with his bosses. Theo haspersuaded them to let him set up a little display of Impressionists on the entresol. The entresol is not the ground floor, and it’s not the first floor. It’s the floor in between. It’s as if the paintings are there, but not quite yet, a glimpse into the future. It’s a start. But he spends his days working hard and comes back to the apartment at 54 Rue Lepic exasperated and exhausted. What he needs at home is rest and peace, but instead he gets VINCENT.

Theo loves his brother’s brilliant mind, his gregariousness, even his fiery temperament. Vincent can be a good antidote to Theo’s own inwardness and tendency to melancholy.

But after so many months of the cold Parisian winter spent indoors with Vincent, Theo is a wreck both mentally and physically. A few months back, in December, he was actually paralyzed—he couldn’t move at all for a few days. Although Theo knows he can’t blame his bad health on his brother, to get better he needs a break from Vincent’s gusts, his squalls, his constant talking and lecturing.

And, to make matters worse, lately Vincent has been furious at him. “He loses no opportunity to let me see that he despises me and I inspire aversion in him,” Theo tells Wil.

A portrait done of the brothers at this time would be sizzling with streaks of red-orange paint.

* * *

WHEN VINCENT AND THEO were young, growing up in the village of Zundert in the Netherlands, their father, a pastor, had written a special prayer. All the Van Gogh children had to memorize it and recite it when they left home:

“O Lord, join us intimately to one another and let our love for Thee make that bond ever stronger.”

Theo has valiantly been living up to that prayer. He’s been Vincent’s best friend for most of the last fifteen years, ever since they made a pledge to each other on a walk. And through many ups and downs and storms, for the past seven years, Theo has been giving Vincent money for paint, pencils and pens, ink, canvases, paper, clothing, food, and, until he moved in, rent.

On March 30 Vincent turns thirty-four; on May 1 Theo will be thirty. They’ve made it this far in their journey together—how can Theo kick him out now?

* * *

VINCENT AND THEO VAN GOGH look a lot alike: They both have red hair, though Vincent’s is redder, Theo’s more reddish blond. Vincent has freckles; Theo does not. They are both medium height—around five feet seven—but Vincent is broader, bigger; Theo slighter, thinner. They have pale blue eyes that sometimes darken to greenish blue. They are definitely brothers.

But they couldn’t give more different impressions.

Vincent in his workman’s clothes spends his days painting, outside if it’s not too cold, or inside the apartment. He is covered with Parisian soot and grime, overlaid with splatters and spatters of paint: ochre, brick red, orange, lemon chrome, cobalt blue, green, black, zinc white.

He doesn’t bathe often, which is typical for a nineteenth-century man, but it’s even less often than he should. He stinks—of body odor, dirt, food, paint, turpentine, wine, and tobacco. He usually has a pipe in his mouth, though he has very few teeth left, and those that are left are rotten.

And yet Vincent looks healthy: he’s robust, sturdy, and vehemently alive. Passion pours from him, as if the world he’s trying to capture is inside him, bursting to come out.

Theo is tidy, well dressed in a suit, looking very much the proper Parisian businessman. His features are finer, more refined. He would be handsome if he weren’t so sick: he’s thin and pale; he looks as though the life is being sucked out of him. He feels that way, too.

* * *

IN MANY WAYS, Vincent’s move to Paris has been good for both brothers. Thanks to Theo’s influence, to the artists he’s met, and to his own tenacious work, Vincent’s paintings are better than ever: they are imbued with color and light and Vincent’s own particular style.

And Vincent has given Theo more of a life. He’d been lonely in Paris, so lonely, and now, even though he doesn’t have a wife and family, Theo at least has a circle of friends through Vincent. For that he is grateful. So even though he’s desperate, Theo doesn’t kick out his brother. Yet.

In April, Theo acknowledges to another sister, Lies, that he’s been ill, “particularly in my spirit, and have had a great struggle with myself.” If he were well, he could deal with Vincent.

In fact both brothers do better with sun and warm air and hours spent outside. The Parisian days are getting longer—by minutes, anyway. If only spring would arrive! But there’s still too much gloom outside and in.

Gloom and fire.

It’s as if there are two Vincents, Theo has told Wil. He knows both sides of his brother very well. Sometimes Vincent is ebulliently happy and kind, sometimes furiously angry and difficult. He has a huge heart, but he’s stubborn and argumentative.

Vincent argues not only with Theo, and with himself, but also with friends and people he admires. One cold and fiery night in the near future, Vincent will fight with another roommate. And that argument will end in blood.

Read This If You Love: History, Art, Brain health, Van Gogh, Heiligman’s writing

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Serafina Loves Science #1: Cosmic Conundrum
Author: Cara Bartek, Ph.D.
Published by Absolute Love Publishing

Summary: In Cosmic Conundrum, sixth grader Serafina Sterling finds herself accepted into the Ivy League of space adventures for commercial astronauts, where she’ll study with Jeronimo Musgrave, a famous and flamboyant scientist who brought jet-engine minivans to the suburbs. Unfortunately, Serafina also meets Ida Hammer, a 12-year-old superstar of science who has her own theorem, a Nobel-Prize-winning mother, impeccable fashion sense—and a million social media followers. Basically, she’s everything Serafina’s not. Or so Serafina thinks.

Even in an anti-gravity chamber, Serafina realizes surviving junior astronaut training will take more than just a thorough understanding of Newton’s Laws. She’ll have to conquer her fear of public speaking, stick to the rules, and overcome the antics of Ida. How will Serafina survive this cosmic conundrum?

About the Author: Cara Bartek, Ph.D. lives in Texas with her husband and two daughters. The Serafina Loves Science! series was inspired in part by her career path and in part by her two little girls. Her hope is to make this world a more equitable and opportune place for her daughters one silly story at a time. Visit www.carabartek.com.

Also, stop by on Sunday for an author guest post by Cara Bartek including information about the second book in the series!

Praise: “Through the quirky character of Serafina, Cosmic Conundrum shows us that science can be fascinating! Girls, you can embrace your curiosity, follow your passions, and most importantly, just be you! As an environmental scientist, I love this series!” -Emily Thompson, Edwards Aquifer Authority Environmental Scientist

Review: Serafina is a genius. And eleven. Both things that can cause strife which leads us to her story. At its heart, it is a story of an eleven year old navigating a new situation and a new bully with the help of her friends and brains. At its brains, it is a story of a genius young woman who wants to do amazing things with her life and uses her brains in ways that are unexpected and important. Combined, you get a wonderful middle grade story that shows how interesting science can be and how important it is to just be yourself! I am looking forward to reading the second book in the series and getting both for my classroom.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: First, the book belongs in libraries so that kids can read them. So many readers are going to enjoy Serafina: your realistic fiction readers who love to read about school and other things they relate to, your science fans, ya=our sci-fi fans who want to think about inventions for the future. It is definitely going to find some readers!

As a cross-curricular text, one way it could be used is to use it to examine science. The back matter of the book shares the science behind much of the book in a “blog post” by Serafina about Newton’s Laws of Motion. While still being told in the voice of Serafina, the blog post is filled with information about all three laws. This blog would be a great place to start then as students read the book, they can look for times when these laws were in effect and also connect them to real life.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why was Serafina’s invention so different than everyone else’s?
  • How does friendship play a role in Serafina’s story?
  • How does the zero gravity plane work?
  • What does the story say about money and influence versus brains and hard work?
  • How did Newton’s Laws of Motion fit into the story?
  • What do you think is going to happen in the next Serafina story?

Flagged Passages: “I took another deep breath and straightened my shoulders. ‘I got into Musgrave Space Adventure!’ My face-splitting smile returned. ‘It’s the best news ever!’

It was. The Musgrave Space Adventure was not an ordinary space adventure. It was the Ivy League of space adventures, founded by the great scientific entrepreneur Jeronimo Musgrave himself. The Jeronimo Musgrave! The man who, legend has it, personally greeted visitors from space and studied a real-life spaceship while working at the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico in 1995…

Six months earlier, Jeronimo had issued an open call to all scientists under the age of 13 to apply for 50 open spots for a grueling scientific competition to see who could earn a coveted spot in his junior astronaut development program. The application had been killer. Wannabe commercial astronauts had to submit notarized transcripts; a 10-page autobiography complete with philosophical stances on such topics as politics, the environment, and the role of the Kardashian family in modern society; a DNA sample; a fully executed last will and testament; and an original working invention designed to make space travel more bearable.

I had struggled for months trying to think of an invention. While space food definitely left something to be desired–it looked like cat food squeezed out of a toothpaste tube–at least you got to eat it while performing back flips in midair. That seemed bearable enough, even if those flips were just about the only real activities you could enjoy in the shuttle. They seemed to have the water and pooping things down pretty well, too, so I was at a loss. Until it hit me: The hardest part of space travel would be missing everyone back home.” (Chapter 1)

Read This If You Love: Frank Einstein series by Jon Sciezska, Ellie Engineer by Jackson Pearce, Galaxy Girls by Libby Jackson, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, Finding Wonders by Jeannine Atkins, Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky, Almost Astronauts by Tanya Lee Stone

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**Thank you to Absolute Love Publishing for providing a copy for review!**

 
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Astronaut, Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact
Author: Jennifer Swanson
Foreword by Fabien Cousteau and Kathryn D. Sullivan
Published January 9th, 2018 by National Geographic Society

Summary: Journey from the deepest trenches in the oceans to the farthest humans have ventured into space and learn what it takes to explore the extremes. You might just be surprised by how similar the domains of ASTRONAUTS and AQUANAUTS really are.

Space and the ocean. If you don’t think they go together, think again! Both deep-sea and space explorers have to worry about pressure, temperature, climate, and most importantly, how to survive in a remote and hostile environment. Join us on an amazing journey as we go up in space with astronauts and dive deep down in the ocean with aquanauts to explore the far-off places of our planet and the solar system.

With a strong tie into STEM topics–such as making connections, making comparisons, and recognizing patterns across content areas–readers will discover the amazing science and incredible innovations that allow humans (and sometimes only machines) to survive in these harsh environments.

Review: First, I want to share this image because it is one of my favorites ever, and I want a poster of it for Trent’s room!

I love the idea of this book! First, from a personal point of view: my son loves animals and space, so this is a perfect book for him. We didn’t read word for word together, but we spent hours over the last couple of weeks flipping through the book, looking at different spreads, reading parts of the book, and answering any questions that Trent had. Also, from a educator point of view: this text is so full of information told in such an interesting way with fun facts, activities, and so much fascinating information! Swanson did a beautiful job making connections between the two professions and scientists and giving equal looks into both. And since the book is for middle grade students, it is essential for it to be written in a way that will be intriguing to readers, and this book is definitely that!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Throughout the book there are questions that can lead to inquiry (see below) and many topics that are introduced that could be further researched. Additionally, there are a few activities throughout such as one on submersibles, docking the ISS, and design your own space suit. The book is also set up for comparing and contrasting looking at exploration in both space and the sea and how they differ and overlap.

Discussion Questions: The text is FILLED with books that can lead to phenomenal discussions or inquiry projects such as

  • How does studying the topography of the ocean floor help us understand the space?
  • Why is it important for astronauts to train underwater?
  • What does it feel like during blastoff?
  • What is it like to live in space/under water for a long time?
  • Why and how do we explore?
  • How can studying the ocean help astronauts better understand conditions in space?
  • What can space teach us about the ocean?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Space travel, Science, Marine biology

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**Thank you to the author for providing a copy for review!**

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A Perilous Journey of Danger & Mayhem: A Dastardly Plot
Author: Christopher Healy
Published September 25th, 2018

Summary: It is 1883—the Age of Invention! A time when great men like Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Nicola Tesla, and George Eastman work to turn the country into a mechanical-electrical-industrial marvel: a land of limitless opportunity. And it all happens at the world famous Inventors Guild headquarters in New York City—a place where a great idea, a lot of hard work, and a little bit of luck can find you rubbing elbows with these gods of industry who will usher humanity into the bright promise of the future.

Unless, of course, you’re a woman.

Molly Pepper, daughter of brilliant but unknown inventor Cassandra Pepper, lives with her mother in New York. By day, they make ends meet running a small pickle shop; but by night, they toil and dream of Cassandra shattering the glass ceiling of the Inventors Guild and taking her place among the most famous inventors in America. In an attempt to find a way to exhibit Cassandra’s work at the 1883 World’s Fair, they break into the Inventors Guild—and discover a mysterious and dastardly plot to destroy New York. The evidence points to the involvement of one of the world’s most famous inventors, and now it’s up to Molly, Cassandra, and a shop hand named Emmett Lee to uncover the truth—even if no one will ever know it was they who did it.

Christopher Healy, author of the acclaimed Hero’s Guide series, returns with the first book in a rip-roaring adventure about the inventors history remembers—and more than a few that it’s forgotten.

About the Author: Christopher Healy is the author of The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, as well as its two sequels, The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle and The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw. Before becoming a writer, he worked as an actor, an ad copywriter, a toy store display designer, a fact-checker, a dishwasher, a journalist, a costume shop clothing stitcher, a children’s entertainment reviewer, and a haunted house zombie. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and a dog named Duncan. You can visit him online at www.christopherhealy.com

Praise: 

“A zany, rollicking series opener.”– Kirkus Reviews

“Plot twists and banter hit at breakneck speeds in this heartfelt yet tongue-in-cheek look at the tumultuous Age of Invention, and its focus on two often marginalized groups—immigrants and women—allows for relevant social commentary.”– Publishers Weekly

“Healy has created a steampunk-inspired alternative history featuring some of the greatest minds in invention (including a number of women) in this series opener. A solid choice for adventurous readers.”– Booklist

“Christopher Healy, author of the Hero’s Guide series knows how to tell a good story. He’s done it again with the adventures of a determined girl named Molly Pepper.”– Brightly

Review: This is the exact book the world needed! Our traditionally told history is lacking in all things diversity because it was told by bias individuals who left out people who made huge differences despite their gender or race. I love that Christopher Healy was able to take this fact, show the ridiculousness of lack of great female minds being included in history and create this book filled with humor, adventure, heart, and a bit of history. He also includes prejudice against immigrants in the story in a way that will make any reader realize how undeserving these humans just looking for a life are of this prejudice.

Now starting my review that way may make you think that the book is preachy or boring, but it is anything but. Right from the beginning, you want to see if Cassandra and her brilliant inventions will ever be acknowledged and if they are going to be able to stop New York from being destroyed. Now throw in deceit from men the Peppers and Emmett trust, inventions of all sorts, a gang of men trying to kill whomever get in their way, and a group of brilliant women who won’t let anything stop them, and you will get this crazy adventure of Molly’s and Emmett’s.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Although the book is fiction, much of what is included is shrouded in fact. The author includes “What’s Real and Not…” in the back matter which allows for inquiry into the historical elements of the story. This also allows teachers to see what parts of the story include more fact than fiction and different aspects could be pulled out when learning about the different historical elements.

An educator’s guide is also for the book from the publisher!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What part of the books were historical and what parts were fiction?
  • Would you consider the book historical fiction or science fiction or steam punk?
  • What invention would you want to make?
  • Research Edison. Do you think he deserves as much recognition as he gets?
  • Research the World’s Fair. Why do we not have them anymore?
  • Which deceitful events in the story surprised you? Were your predictions correct?
  • How did meeting Emmett and the MOI change Molly’s life trajectory?
  • Other than for entertainment, why do you think the author chose to write this story?

Flagged Passages: Check out this clip from the audiobook! You can also read a sample here!

Read This If You Love: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin by Elinor TeeleExplorers: Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress

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GIVEAWAY!

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

24-Sep Novel Novice  Post by Christopher Healy https://novelnovice.com/
25-Sep A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust http://www.foodiebibliophile.com/
26-Sep Unleashing Readers http://www.unleashingreaders.com
27-Sep Teach Mentor Texts http://www.teachmentortexts.com
28-Sep Novel Novice  Review https://novelnovice.com/
29-Sep Maria’s Melange http://www.mariaselke.com/
1-Oct The Flashlight Reader http://www.theflashlightreader.com/
2-Oct Nerdy Book Club https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/
3-Oct Book Monsters https://thebookmonsters.com/
3-Oct Novel Novice Q and A with Chris https://novelnovice.com/
4-Oct Bluestocking Thinking http://bluestockingthinking.blogspot.com/

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

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Carlos Santana: Sound of the Heart, Song of the World
Author: Gary Golio
Illustrator: Rudy Gutierrez
Published: September 4, 2018 by Henry Holt

Summary: Discover the childhood story of Carlos Santana in Gary Golio’s Sound of the Heart, Song of the World, featuring illustrations by Rudy Gutierrez,the internationally celebrated artist who created the iconic Carlos Santana Shaman CD cover.

Carlos Santana grew up surrounded by music. His father, a beloved mariachi performer, teaches his son how to play the violin when he is only six years old. But when Carlos discovers American blues, he is captivated by the raw honesty of the music. Unable to think of anything else, he loses all interest in the violin. When Carlos finally receives his first guitar, his whole life begins to change.

From his early exposure to mariachi to his successful fusing of rock, blues, jazz, and Latin influences, here is the childhood story of a legendary musician.

My Review: I absolutely loved this book. My son and I had so much fun reading it, and then he asked to listen to some of Carlos Santana’s music. A few days later, we heard a Carlos Santana song on the radio, and my husband excitedly reminded my son about the book. It feels good to connect him with such a powerful man in our history. He shaped music in powerful ways. The book is beautifully written. I liked how it focused predominantly on Santana’s childhood. This kept my son’s interest and helped him connect with Santana. The art flows beautifully and looks like visual music on the page.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would love to use this book in literature circles with kids. Students could each read a picture book about a famous person in our history of music (see some of the options below). They could share out to their peers and play a clip from the music. These interdisciplinary activities would make for a warm, powerful learning environment.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Describe Carlos Santana’s childhood.
  • What inspired Santana?
  • What was Santana’s relationship with his parents? How do you think this may have shaped his life? What did working beside his father teach him about himself?
  • Describe Santana’s journey into music. What influenced him?

Flagged Passage: Check out the beautiful interiors on the book’s Macmillan page.

Read This If You Love: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing by Leda SchubertStand Up and Sing! by Susanna ReichWhen Bob Met Woody by Gary Golio, Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow by Gary Golio

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**Thank you to Madison at Macmillan for providing the book for review!**

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Eavesdropping on Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation
Author: Patricia Newman
Published August 1st, 2018 by Millbrook Press

Summary: Deep in the Central African Republic, forest elephants trumpet and rumble along with the forest’s symphony. And scientists are listening.

Scientist Katy Payne started Cornell University’s Elephant Listening Project to learn more about how forest elephants communicate and what they’re saying. But the project soon grew to be about so much more.

Poaching, logging, mining, and increasing human populations threaten the survival of forest elephants. Katy and other members of the Elephant Listening Project’s team knew they needed to do something to protect these majestic animals. By eavesdropping on elephants, the Elephant Listening Project is doing its part to save Africa’s forest elephants and preserve the music in the forest.

About the Author: Patricia Newman has a passion for uncovering fascinating aspects about our world and crafting books that lead children on an adventure of discovery. She gravitates toward stories about animals and conservation science and enjoys sharing her excitement with readers. Books include Sibert Honor title Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem; Junior Library Guild Selection Eavesdropping on Elephants; Bank Street College Best Book Zoo Scientists to the Rescue; Booklist Editor’s Choice Ebola: Fears and Facts; and Green Earth Book Award winner Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. She frequently speaks at schools, libraries, and conferences about writing and conservation. Visit her at www.patriciamnewman.com.

Praise: 

“…this book does an excellent job of transporting readers and providing a clear, multifaceted picture of African forest elephants…The more you listen to wildlife, the more your mind opens up to new ideas about why the world is a place worth saving… VERDICT: A great pick for middle school nonfiction collections.” —School Library Journal

“Fascinating for earnest conservationists.” —Kirkus Reviews

Review: I am never disappointed when I read a Patricia Newman book. Each of her books are filled with fascinating information told in a way that will make any reader feel the passion that Newman obviously feels about her topics.

Her newest, Eavesdropping on Elephants, takes it to a whole new level! Not only does the book still include informational and narrative nonfiction, sidebars, glossaries, and classroom connections all well-researched and interesting, but it also includes QR codes (or links if you do not have a QR reader) to actually see and/or hear the elephants that are being discussed in the book. This really makes the book come to life in a way that I haven’t seen before.

Like all of her books, by the end I wanted to talk to people about what I read, wanted to go make a difference, and wanted to keep learning. If this isn’t a testament to how good her nonfiction is then I don’t know what is.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: “Consider an Authors for Earth Day visit in conjunction with Eavesdropping on Elephants. Students research a list of five conservation nominees selected by Patricia Newman and then vote for their favorite. Newman writes a check to the winning organization. The mission? To empower young readers to shape the world around them!”  –https://www.patriciamnewman.com/books/eavesdropping-on-elephants/ 

Research, reading, and writing activities for the classroom in conjunction with Eavesdropping on Elephants can be found on Patricia Newman’s Elephants Pinterest Board!

I, personally, am going to use Newman’s texts in my passion project research unit this year. I’m going to use her texts to show mentor texts of a nonfiction picture book and students are going to make their own nonfiction book or video. I also hope to have my lunch book club read Newman’s books as one of their month choices.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do the videos/recordings help with the understanding of the book?
  • What is a keystone species? And how are the forest elephants a keystone species of their habitat?
  • What is the difference between ultrasound and infrasound? What does this have to do with elephants?
  • What figurative journey did Katy take to finally make it to Africa to study elephants in the wild?
  • What did the scientists learn by listening to the elephants?
  • Why are elephants’ ears the shape that they are?
  • How is what Katy did with elephant sounds similar to a dictionary?
  • How are humans a threat to forest elephants?
  • What did Teagan Yardley do when she learned about these threats?

Book Trailer: 

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Nonfiction about animals, Nonfiction titles by Patricia Newman

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**Thank you to Lerner Publishing and Patricia for providing a copy for review!**

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