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Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars
Author: Laurie Wallmark
Illustrator: Brooke Smart
Anticipated Publication: March 2, 2021 by Harry N. Abrams

Goodreads Summary: Decode the story of Elizebeth Friedman, the cryptologist who took down gangsters and Nazi spies.

In this picture book biography, young readers will learn all about Elizebeth Friedman (1892-1980), a brilliant American code breaker who smashed Nazi spy rings, took down gangsters, and created the CIA’s first cryptology unit. Her story came to light when her secret papers were finally declassified in 2015. From thwarting notorious rumrunners with only paper and pencil to counter-spying into the minds and activities of&; Nazis, Elizebeth held a pivotal role in the early days of US cryptology. No code was too challenging for her to crack, and Elizebeth’s work undoubtedly saved thousands of lives. Extensive back matter includes explanations of codes and ciphers, further information on cryptology, a bibliography, a timeline of Elizebeth&;s life, plus secret messages for young readers to decode.

About the Creators: 

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark has written picture-book biographies of women in STEM fields ranging from computer science to mathematics, astronomy to code breaking. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Cook Prize Honor, and Parents’; Choice Gold Medal. She is a former software engineer and computer science professor. She lives in Ringoes, New Jersey. You can find her at lauriewallmark.com. On Twitter: @lauriewallmark, Facebook: @lauriewallmarkauthor, Instagram: @lauriewallmark

Brooke Smart loves telling stories through her illustrations, especially stories about brave women from history. She has always loved to read, and growing up she could be found nightly falling asleep with a book on her chest. Illustrating books as a professional artist is a lifelong dream come true. She is living the busy, tired, happy, wonderful dream in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, their three kids, and their naughty cat named Sunshine. Learn more about her at brooke-smart.com. Instagram: @bookesmartillustration

Ricki’s Review: This book is packed with information! I wasn’t familiar with this Women in STEM series, and now I feel like I need to get all of the books! The book has a great complexity—from the way in which the story is told in an engaging way that draw readers in to the way the illustrations and text are laid on the page. Typically, I give books away after I read and review them, but I am going to have a hard time parting with this one. Elizebeth Friedman’s bravery is simply awe-inspiring. She is a true heroine who needs to be named more frequently in history. Get this book. You truly won’t be disappointed.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book begs to be read in literature circles with other books about heroes/heroines, women in STEM, or powerful people in history. It would ignite powerful conversations about the characteristics of historical and contemporary heroes and heroines.

Check out the Code Breaker, Spy Hunter book page, where you’ll find a trailer, cool activity sheets, and more!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is one intentional choice the author made in telling this story?
  • What are the qualities of a hero? Who are some historical and contemporary heroes who inspire you?
  • What are some of the pivotal moments in Friedman’s life story? How did she change the world for the better?

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Other Books by Laurie Wallmark: Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code; Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine; Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor; Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics

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**Thank you go Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

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The Stuff Between the Stars: How Vera Rubin Discovered MOST of the Universe
Author: Sandra Nickel
Illustrator: Aimée Sicuro
Publishing March 2nd, 2021 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

Summary: An inspired biographical picture book about a female astronomer who makes huge discoveries about the mysteries of the night sky and changed the way we look at the universe.

Vera Rubin was one of the astronomers who discovered and named dark matter, the thing that keeps the universe hanging together. Throughout her career she was never taken seriously as a scientist because she was one of the only female astronomers at that time, but she didn’t let that stop her. She made groundbreaking and incredibly significant discoveries that scientists have only recently been able to really appreciate—and she changed the way that we look at the universe. A stunning portrait of a little-known trailblazer, The Stuff Between the Stars tells Vera’s story and inspires the youngest readers who are just starting to look up at the stars.

About the Creators: 

Sandra Nickel says that story ideas are everywhere; you just have to reach out and grab them.  She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her first book, Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack, was a Golden Kite Award finalist. Sandra lives in Chexbres, Switzerland, where she blogs about children’s book writers and illustrators at whatwason.com. To learn more, visit https://sandranickel.com/.

Twitter:  @senickel
Facebook: @sandranickelbooks
Instagram: @sandranickelbooks

Aimée Sicuro is an illustrator, picture book maker, and surface pattern designer who received a BFA in Illustration from Columbus College of Art and Design. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and young sons. Visit her website to learn more.

Twitter: @aimeesicuro
Instagram: @aimeesicuro

Praise: 

“This engaging biography will appeal to budding scientists, particularly those with a penchant for sky searching.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A truly beautiful story of perseverance and passion.” – Booklist

Review: I love learning about amazing women. At the same time, I think it is so sad that these same women aren’t already being taught in schools. Whenever dark matter is discussed, why isn’t Vera Rubin’s story delved into?! It should be. She was someone that should be admired and learned from. Her grit to overcome the blatant sexism in her field is just so tough to even wrap your brain around. These female pioneers deserve all of the name yelling from the hill tops we can give them. 

For that reason, I am so thankful for this book. I did not know about Vera Rubin. Nickel’s story did a wonderful job of intertwining Rubin’s personal story, professional story, and pure passion into a narrative that taught me about her and about space. I also loved the illustrations and the design of the book. Sicuro’s use of darkness and light & spacing were so thoughtful, and I loved the mix between the realistic and the scientific in illustrations. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Add in Stuff Between Stars to your Amazing Women in Science text set then use the text set in a lit circle to discover and explore the amazing women scientists picture book biographies that are out there for kids! (Although there still aren’t enough, but it is vastly improving!)

I also think that this book really pushes the idea of passion projects. Everyone dismissed Vera and didn’t nurture her love of science and astronomy. Yes, she overcame, thankfully, but just imagine if just one teacher had told her to just learn everything she could and truly nurtured that love?! Let’s aim to be that educator more!

Post will soon be updated with the curriculum guide for this book!

Discussion Questions:

  • How did others’ criticisms affect Vera? 
  • In the 3rd spread below, how did the author use color to bring across the author’s point? 
  • What challenges did Vera overcome to still become an infamous astronomer? 
  • Why do you think Vera’s work is less known than other astronomers? 
  • Why did Vera have to be so blunt about wanting the job at the Carnegie Institute? What would have probably happened if she was not? 

Watch for: In Celebration of Women’s History Month, Publishers Weekly will be featuring Sandra Nickel and Laurie Wallmark. We talk about science, curiosity, and the importance of picture books about women in STEM. Look for our ‘In Conversation’ on March 8.

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Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Love: The Leaf Detective by Heather LangMarjory Saves the Everglades by Sandra Neil WallaceHidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, Shark Lady by Jess KeatingGrace Hopper by Laurie WallmarkAda’s Ideas by Fiona RobinsonWho Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? by Tanya Lee StoneMe…Jane by Patrick McDonnell  

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**Thank you to Abrams Books for Young Readers for providing a copy for giveaway!**

 

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Love in English
Author: Maria E. Andreu
Published: February 2, 2021 by Balzer + Bray

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Ana has just moved to New Jersey from Argentina for her Junior year of high school. She’s a poet and a lover of language—except that now, she can barely understand what’s going on around her, let alone find the words to express how she feels in the language she’s expected to speak.

All Ana wants to do is go home—until she meets Harrison, the very cute, very American boy in her math class. And then there’s her new friend Neo, the Greek boy she’s partnered up with in ESL class, who she bonds with over the 80s teen movies they are assigned to watch for class (but later keep watching together for fun), and Altagracia, her artistic and Instagram-fabulous friend, who thankfully is fluent in Spanish and able to help her settle into American high school.

But is it possible that she’s becoming too American—as her father accuses—and what does it mean when her feelings for Harrison and Neo start to change? Ana will spend her year learning that the rules of English may be confounding, but there are no rules when it comes to love.

With playful and poetic breakouts exploring the idiosyncrasies of the English language, Love in English tells a story that is simultaneously charming and romantic, while articulating a deeper story about what it means to become “American.”

Ricki’s Review: I read this book and immediately thought of the many people who would love reading it. It does a beautiful job offering a lived experience of a young girl who is finely attuned to language acquisition. I have been meeting regularly with two students who have shared similar experiences to those of Ana, and I plan to share this book with them. For many, this book will act as a mirror, window, and sliding glass door. I understand fully the criticism this book has received–Maria E. Andreu writes in the opening that she was born in Spain, and her grandparents moved from Spain to Argentina as toddlers. She grew up in the US, traveled to Argentina at age 6 and then was not allowed to return to the US. She was undocumented at age 8 in the US. She talks about her experiences with this and with White privilege in powerful ways in The Secret Side to Empty. My thoughts about this controversy are not as valuable as those of a person with Latinx descent. In the end, I do wish that the character more closely matched Maria E. Andreu’s story rather than that of a native Argentinian. I loved the book and appreciated all that it taught me about Maria E. Andreu’s experiences with language, and there simply aren’t enough books available that explicitly discuss the linguistic diversity within our schools. this book is one that I will remember for quite some time.

Kellee’s Review: One of the things I love most about my school is the amount of diversity and the acceptance and inclusion of all in the school; we do not care where you are from or what language you speak–you are welcome with open arms!  While reading Love in English, I found myself being so upset with the students and some of the teachers in Ana’s school. Why was her ethnicity and language acquisition something that anyone would find funny or bully-worthy?! But then I remember that other places are not like my school… 

I also found myself connecting with Mr. T the ELL teacher! When I first started working at my school, I was intimidated with teaching ELL students because I didn’t think I would be of any help with someone learning English when it was the only language I knew. But throughout my first few years there, I began to learn that teaching ELL students is one of my favorite honors of being a teacher. My 7th year teaching, I taught a class much like Mr. T’s class, and it is one of my favorite classes I’ve ever taught. Mr. T shows how an ELL class, done correctly, can truly become home at school. 

Also, as a reading teacher & librarian at a school with a large Latinx population, primarily from South America, I found that it is so hard to find books that truly reflect my students’ experiences, but Love in English is a mirror for so many of them! It made me so happy while reading because I know that Ana’s experience is one that they will connect with. 

Overall, this story looks at language acquisition in a way that I have not seen in another book and it does so during a wonderful story with some amazing poetry woven throughout. I also love that the language acquisition aspect is own voices. Although this aspect is own voices, I do wish that Ana’s backstory was own voices as well to ensure authenticity of all parts of the story; however, I feel like Maria’s explanation of this choice shows it was thoughtful (though, like Ricki shares, my opinion is not as valuable as a Latinx, and specifically an Argentinian).

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: We would love to use this book to teach about language and translanguaging. We’d group texts that help us think about the power of discussions related to the nuances of language.

Ana, throughout the novel, focuses on aspects of English in her journal. Use Ana’s journals to guide activities on some of the more challenging and, some would say, nonsensical parts of English, like idioms, similar looking words that are pronounced differently, and more.

Ana’s journals are written in beautiful poetry! Use Ana’s poetry for a mentor text to have students write poetry about similar topics to Ana.

Many of Mr. T’s activities that he implemented in his classroom are amazing activities to work with students acquiring a new language. If you are in a language-focused classroom, they would be assets to your classroom.

Discussion Questions:

  • How does language influence the ways in which Ana moves in the world?
  • How do Ana’s relationships with family and friends impact her life?
  • What is the significance of the title of the book?
  • How might the author’s perspective have influenced her work?
  • Why does Mr. T recommend Ana and Neo watch movies as part of their language acquisition?
  • What is the impact of the author’s use of ### since Ana is the narrator?
  • What is a part of the English language that you find confusing?
  • How did the year that Ana and her dad were apart affect their current relationship?
  • Why was Ana so drawn to a relationship with Harrison at first?
  • How was Altagracia’s friendship lifechanging for Ana?

Flagged Passage: 

“‘We don’t have to speak English,’ I tell her. I think–

We don’t have to do it this way.

We don’t have to make it so hard.

We don’t have to erase everything about us. At least not all at once.

—but I do not say it” (Advanced Reader Copy p. 35).

Recipe for Disaster

How do you get an apple in your eye?
Just how easy is pie? 

Who would eat crow or eat their heart out? 
Or how could anyone eat enough hay to eat like a horse? 
How can a potato sit on the couch?
In a world where so many thins are confusing, even food, 
I dream of a day when it is a piece of cake.” (Digital Review Copy Loc 1125)

Read This Book If You Loved: The Secret Side to Empty by Maria E. Andreu, Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez, Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos, Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, Illegal by Bettina Restrepo

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The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest
Author: Heather Lang
Illustrator: Jana Christy
Published February 9th, 2021 by Calkins Creek

Summary: Meg Lowman was determined to investigate the marvelous, undiscovered world of the rainforest treetops. Meg’s perseverance and creativity allowed her to achieve this goal, but when this fantastic ecosystem started to disappear, Meg needed to act quickly.

Meg Lowman was always fascinated by the natural world above her head. The colors, the branches, and, most of all, the leaves and mysterious organisms living there. As a scientist, Meg set out to climb up and investigate the rain forest tree canopies– and to be the first scientist to do so. But she encountered challenge after challenge. Male teachers would not let her into their classrooms, the high canopy was difficult to get to, and worst of all, people were logging and clearing the forests. Meg never gave up or gave in. She studied, invented, and persevered, not only creating a future for herself as a scientist, but making sure that the rainforests had a future as well. Working closely with Meg Lowman, author Heather Lang and artist Jana Christy beautifully capture Meg’s world in the treetops.

About the Creators: 

Heather Lang loves to write about real women who overcame extraordinary obstacles and never gave up on their dreams. Her award-winning picture book biographies include Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine.

Jana Christy currently lives in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. She is the illustrator of various titles, including I’m the Big One Now!: Poems about Growing Up. Visit janachristy.wixsite.com/illustrations.

Review: Heather Lang does an amazing job of the layering in this book ensuring to include many different aspects of Margaret (Meg) Lowman’s life including her passion for the environment, challenges of being a woman in the sciences in 1970s and the barriers that came with the institutional sexism, and someone wanting to be innovative yet being shut down left and right.

The narrative of the story is written in beautiful verses mixed with direct quotes from Lowman and extra side bar notes that includes facts and information that help drive the biography. And finally the illustrations, filled with vibrant blues and greens, bring the story and setting to life for the reader.

The back matter includes an author note sharing about Lang’s interest in Lowman and about meeting and interviewing her, and it includes photos of Lowman and Lang! This shows the reader Lang’s research methods and how the quote throughout the book are primary sources.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: 

Publisher-provided Educator Guide:

Flagged Passages: 

View two spreads from the book by visiting the publisher’s page:

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Love: Marjory Saves the Everglades by Sandra Neil Wallace, The Blue Giant by Katie Cottle, Over and Under series by Kate Messner, Swimming with Sharks by Heather Lang, Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell, The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino, The Tree Lady by Joseph H. Hopkins

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Don’t miss the other stops on the tour!

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**Thank you to Boyds Mills & Kane for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

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Sloth Wasn’t Sleepy
Author: Kate Messner
Illustrator: Valentina Toro
Published: January 12, 2021 by Sounds True

Goodreads Summary: For any child having trouble getting to sleep, the most lovable animal in the rain forest is here to help.

One night at bedtime, Sloth wasn’t sleepy.
“What if I worry when I try to fall asleep?” Sloth said.
“Ah … worries,” Mama said. “We will have to let them go.”

A tough day, a bad dream, a scary noise … these are just a few of the things that can keep kids wide awake and frightened after dark. But Mama Sloth knows the secrets for calming worried minds and getting to sleep—and as she shares them with her daughter, young readers will learn valuable relaxation skills that last a lifetime.

Sloth Wasn’t Sleepy does more than provide a sweet bedtime story—kids will join Sloth to learn mindfulness practices such as “shrinking down” fears in their mind and calming their body through breath and simple visualizations. Kate Messner’s beautiful book helps parents and kids relax into dreamland with a sense of peace, safety, and belonging.

Ricki’s Review: This book is simply magical. Since moving to Colorado, I have understood the value of mindfulness. My kids do meditation at night, and it has really helped their sleep. This book is going to be so helpful to facilitate the process. The charming illustrations drew my attention immediately, and my kids were giggling as we read the book. The words feel carefully and intentionally placed, and they soothed me, as the reader, too! I plan to gift this book to my younger sons’ teachers to use before naptime.

Kellee’s Review: My son is definitely afflicted with a large imagination, specifically when it comes to bedtimes and fears. Reading about Sloth’s worries and her mom’s advice on how to overcome this anxiety is something I will definitely be bringing up whenever these fears erupt at bedtime. I think many kids will find solace in these routines that Mama Sloth set up for Sloth in the story–between the relaxing onomatopoeias, the deep breathing, and the visualization, the story definitely brings a calm over the reader. And to add to this feeling is the adorable and cool-colored illustrations that just tie it all together.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Implicit in this book is a description of anxiety. A common manifestation of anxiety comes with nighttime worrying. I’d love to use this book in literature circles centered around mental health, or in a way that allows children to think about the ways in which they negotiate feelings of worry and anxiety.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What interrupts Sloth’s desire to rest?
  • How does Sloth work to go to sleep?
  • How can you adjust your own habits to improve your sleep?
  • What worries do you have? Shrink them, lay it on a leaf, and set it free.
  • When else could you use a breathing technique like the one Mama Sloth taught Sloth?

We Flagged: “‘Sometimes,” Mama said, “I like to pretend I’m a tree. Drinking up breath from my roots to my crown, from my toes to the top of my head. Would you like to try that, too?'”

You can also check out:

Read This If You Loved: Sloth Wasn’t Sleepy by Frann Preston-Gannon; Sparky by Jenny Offill, “Slowly, Slowly, Slowly” Said the Sloth by Eric Carle, Dinosaur Farm by Frann Preston Gannon

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**Thank you to Samantha at Sounds True for providing copies for review!**

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Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award Winning Children’s Book Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing
Editor: Melissa Stewart
Published November 2020 by National Council of Teachers of English

Summary: In Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award-Winning Children’s Book Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing, some of today’s most celebrated writers for children share essays that describe a critical part of the informational writing process that is often left out of classroom instruction.

To craft engaging nonfiction, professional writers choose topics that fascinate them and explore concepts and themes that reflect their passions, personalities, beliefs, and experiences in the world. By scrutinizing the information they collect to make their own personal meaning, they create distinctive books that delight as well as inform.

In addition to essays from mentor authors, Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep includes a wide range of tips, tools, teaching strategies, and activity ideas from editor Melissa Stewart to help students (1) choose a topic, (2) focus that topic by identifying a core idea, theme, or concept, and (3) analyze their research to find a personal connection. By adding a piece of themselves to their drafts, students will learn to craft rich, unique prose.

100 percent of the proceeds will be divided among the National Council of Teachers for English (NCTE), We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)

About the Author: Melissa Stewart has written more than 180 science books for children, including the ALA Notable Feathers: Not Just for Flying, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen; the SCBWI Golden Kite Honor title Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis; and Can an Aardvark Bark?, illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Steve Jenkins. She coauthored 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books (forthcoming) and grades K-2 and 3-5 editions of Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction & Nonfiction Picture Books to Teach Life Science. Stewart maintains the award-winning blog Celebrate Science and serves on the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators board of advisors. Her highly regarded website features a rich array of nonfiction writing resources.

Contributors: Sarah AlbeeChris BartonDonna Janell BowmanMary Kay CarsonNancy CastaldoJason ChinLesa Cline-RansomeSeth FishmanCandace FlemingKelly Milner HallsDeborah HeiligmanSusan HoodGail JarrowLita JudgeJess KeatingBarbara KerleyHeather LangCynthia LevinsonMichelle MarkelCarla Killough McClaffertyHeather L. MontgomeryPatricia NewmanElizabeth PartridgeBaptiste PaulMiranda PaulTeresa RobesonMara RockliffBarb RosenstockLaura Purdie SalasAnita SanchezApril Pulley SayreSteve SheinkinRay Anthony ShepardAnita SilveyTraci SorellTanya Lee StoneJennifer SwansonStephen R. SwinburneDon TateLaurie Ann ThompsonPamela S. TurnerPatricia ValdezSandra Neil WallaceLaurie WallmarkJennifer WardCarole Boston WeatherfordLee WindPaula YooKaren Romano Young

From Melissa Stewart: “Behind the Book”

The idea for this book traces back to the 2017 National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, when I was fortunate to participate in a panel titled ‘The Secret of Crafting Engaging Nonfiction’ with two of the most talented children’s nonfiction authors of our time—Candace Fleming and Deborah Heiligman.

During our discussion, moderated by educator and children’s nonfiction enthusiast Alyson Beecher, we dove deeply into what fuels our work and why we routinely dedicate years of our lives to a single manuscript. As we compared our thoughts and experiences, we came to realize something critically important—each of our books has a piece of us at its heart. And that personal connection is what drives us to keep working despite the inevitable obstacles and setbacks.

Several other nonfiction authors attended our presentation, and afterward they praised our insights. That conversation helped us all understand our creative process in a new and exciting way. And it eventually led to the essays in this anthology, which are our way of sharing an important—and often unrecognized and underappreciated—aspect of nonfiction writing with educators and students.

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I was star struck seeing all of the authors who had contributed! I was lucky enough to be at the presentation that this book’s seed of an idea started, so when I heard about this book, I knew it would be a book I would need!

This book is all about moving nonfiction writing to an authentic experience. The book is broken into 3 sections to help guide writing instruction:

  • Choosing a Topic
  • Finding a Focus
  • Making is Personal

Within each section there are essays by mentor authors focusing on different aspects of the topic. I loved reading the essays that ranged from a look at how to take an idea and make it grow, about complexities within nonfiction, about the bumps along the way, about the writing process, and everything else you can think of.

Then the last part of the chapter is In the Classroom which helps tie the essays all together with how to take it to our students.

This book is written specifically with teachers in mind–it is such an amazing resource!

Video about the Book: https://melissa-stewart.com/books/teachers/bk_nonfiction_writers_dig_deep.html

Read This If You Love: Teaching authentic nonfiction writing

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“Story Talk: Use Conversation to Fall in Love with a Book–A Reading Resource using Float by Daniel Miyares”

Reading a story with a child is one of the most loving ways to build a relationship. Snuggled up together, you can laugh, feel sad, be curious, and learn something, together. Stories open up worlds and let us see things through the eyes of another. It’s the best way to teach empathy.

The first few times you read a story, just enjoy the experience of saying the words, or looking at the pictures. How is your child responding? Let them just sit with the feelings they have.

But you don’t have to stop there. The real reason to read a story more than once or twice is so you can get to know it better, learn its secrets, discover what it’s trying to tell you. Just like a new friend, the first few times you meet, you just want to have fun. But each time you return to the story, try to learn a little more about it. This is how you fall in love with storytelling, and with reading.

Here’s a secret about authors: They wish they could be in the room with you, talking to you about their story. Since they can’t do that, they leave you clues instead. It’s like a puzzle – can you figure out what the author was thinking about? Why did they use that word, that color, or those images? The author loves it when you take the time to get to know what they are thinking.

Once you feel like you understand howthe author thinks, see if you can determine whythe author thinks that way. What was this story really trying to tell you?

Take a look at the picture book Float by Daniel Miyares. There are no words, but it is most definitely a rich story. The first time you read it, just flip through the pages and ask your child what is happening. What is this story about?

After a few reads, you can stop at a few places on each page and point to something, pose a question, and ponder with your child about the choices that the author or illustrator made. Not only are you getting to know the story better, you are providing your child with a blueprint for how to approach reading. Can they visualize something? Will they make a prediction? Does this story connect with their own life in any way? When children can do these things on their own, they are more likely to stay engaged with reading, and to go beyond the surface to explore deeper understanding.

If you want an example of how this can look, follow the prompts in the figure below. On each page of the story, notice the feature identified under “Stop at…”. Have a conversation about the feature. As you do this, you are modeling great reading strategies, such as Visualizing, Making Predictions, Summarizing, Asking Questions, Inferring, or Making Connections to the text. These conversations are reading skill-builders.

Then, go a little deeper. Ask your child to consider what the author was thinking about, or to try to explain a choice the author made. These questions will help the child understand that behind every story is a human being who just wants a moment of your time to talk to you about something they care about.

In school, teachers will call this “close reading.” Close reading means reading a text more than once, for multiple purposes. First, read to get the gist. What is the story about? Who are the characters? What happens first, in the middle, and at the end?

Next, read for author’s craft. This means paying attention to the word choices the author made, the text structure they chose, the images they used. What was the context for the story? From whose point of view is the story told?

Finally, read to evaluate the ideas from multiple perspectives. What does the story stir up in you? Does it make you want to take an action, or make a change in your own life?

This may sound very dry and academic and like it takes a lot of work. But it doesn’t have to be so formal. It’s a conversation, a way to make friends with a story, and let it into your life. Get to know it, ask it questions, try to understand its point of view. Be a good friend. In return, you may get a companion that will stay with you for a long, long time.

As you read…

Page Suggestions of Places to Pause… Focus on a Reading Strategy… Have a Discussion About…
Inside cover Arrows and dotted lines Visualize: What do the arrows mean? What do the dotted lines mean?

How many sheets of paper will be needed to make this?

Text Structure: What is the author/illustrator showing us?
Title Float Inferring: What did the instructions on the previous page make? (Hint: There’s a clue on the cover)
1-2 Picture: Notice the blue square Inferring: How many people are in the picture? Who do you think they are? Author’s/Illustrator’s Craft: Why is there only a little bit of color on the paper? What does the illustrator want you to notice?
3-4 What the child is wearing; the sky Predicting: What will the weather be like? Author’s/Illustrator’s Craft: Why did the author make the coat and boots the only color in the picture?
5-6 Third panel Questioning: How does the child feel in the first panel? In the second? In the third? Author’s/Illustrator’s Craft: What do the three panels represent?
7-8 Yellow Visualize: Does this look like rainstorms you have seen?

Make Connections: Do you like the rain?

Gist: What is this story about so far?
9-10 Reflections Question: Has the weather changed? Why is the picture of the house and tree upside down? Citing Evidence: How do you know it is still raining?
11-12 Blurred lines, ripples Summarizing: Explain what is happening in this picture. Citing Evidence: How does the author/illustrator show movement?
13-14 Second panel Visualizing: What angle are we seeing the child from? How do you know?

What do the wavy white lines mean?

Gist: What did the rain provide for the boat?
15-16 Child holding his hat; perspective Predicting: Who is faster- the child or the boat?

What will happen to the boat?

Citing Evidence: The child is holding onto the hat. Is it windy or is the child running fast? What are the clues in the picture?
17-18 Child’s pose Summarize: Explain what has happened. Integration of Ideas: How has the child’s feelings about the boat changed so far?
19-20 Top panel Questioning: Did the child see the boat cross the street?
21-22 Child’s pose Predicting: What is about to happen to the boat?
23-24 Child’s face Making Connections: How does it feel to lose something you care about? Author’s/Illustrator’s Craft: The illustrator used the color black and drew a shadow across the boat. Do you think the child will be able to find the boat?
25-26 Water Inferring: Where did the boat go?  
27-28 Third panel Inferring: How does the child feel? Integration of Ideas: The weather has changed again. What is the relationship between the rain and the child’s mood?
29-30 Shadow Visualizing: What time of day is it? Where is the child going?  
31-32 Boat Questioning: Who opened the door? Gist: What do you think the child will tell the adult about what happened?
33-34 First and third panels Making Connections: What do you do when someone you care about is sad? What makes you feel better when you are sad?  
35-36 Pink picture in the paper Predicting: What do you think they will make with the paper? Citing Evidence: Is it morning or night-time? What clues did the illustrator give you?
37-38 Color of the sky; what the child is holding Summarizing: What time of day is it? How do you know?

Predicting: What is going to happen next?

Integration of Ideas: Yellow is a bright color. What does the author/illustrator want us to know about how the child is feeling?
39-40 Child’s pose, clothes Predicting: Was your prediction from the last page correct? Integration of Ideas: What is something you can tell yourself when something makes you sad? What determines if you will be happy or sad?
41-42 Arrows, dotted lines Questioning: Why did this story end this way? Text Structure: How is this page the same as, and different from, the opening page?
Furthering the Conversation
Think about the title. What does the word “float” mean? Explain what it means for a boat or for a plane. How could you use the word “float” to describe an attitude?

Do you have a favorite story that you would like broken down this way? Please send suggestions to Story Talk, a website for engaging in reading conversations. https://hillwolfe.wixsite.com/story-talk, or email me at hw.storytalk@gmail.com.

About Educator Hillary Wolfe: Hillary Wolfe is a Director of Curriculum and Instruction in El Monte, CA, who has worked with students from grades pre-K through 12, and has served as an instructional coach, intervention coordinator, and media specialist. As a classroom teacher, she created a writing curriculum for middle- and high school literacy students reading two or more years below grade level, helping her students achieve substantial gains on state exams. Ms. Wolfe also brings 10 years as a journalist and an education columnist to her understanding of instruction and best practices. She has written books on writing strategies (Capstone 2013/2015), and teachers guides for phonemic awareness activities (Capstone 2017), as well as articles on literacy and intervention in national journals. She has made presentations around literacy for national organizations, and has served as an editor, curriculum writer, and Academic Officer in educational publishing as well as a Coordinator for Academic Interventions for the Orange County Department of Education.

Float
Creator: Daniel Miyares
Published June 9th, 2015 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Children

About the Book:A boy’s small paper boat and his large imagination fill the pages of this wordless picture book, a modern-day classic from the creator of Pardon Me! that includes endpaper instructions for building a boat of your own.

A little boy takes a boat made of newspaper out for a rainy-day adventure. The boy and his boat dance in the downpour and play in the puddles, but when the boy sends his boat floating down a gutter stream, it quickly gets away from him.

So of course the little boy goes on the hunt for his beloved boat, and when the rain lets up, he finds himself on a new adventure altogether.

This seemingly simply story from Daniel Miyares is enriched with incredible depth and texture that transcend words.

Thank you, Hillary, for this amazing resource!

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