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Snow White: A Graphic Novel
Author: Matt Phelan
Published: September 21, 2016 by Candlewick

A Guest Review by Emily Baseler

GoodReads Summary: Award-winning graphic novelist Matt Phelan delivers a darkly stylized noir Snow White set against the backdrop of Depression-era Manhattan.

The scene: New York City, 1928. The dazzling lights cast shadows that grow ever darker as the glitzy prosperity of the Roaring Twenties screeches to a halt. Enter a cast of familiar characters: a young girl, Samantha White, returning after being sent away by her cruel stepmother, the Queen of the Follies, years earlier; her father, the King of Wall Street, who survives the stock market crash only to suffer a strange and sudden death; seven street urchins, brave protectors for a girl as pure as snow; and a mysterious stock ticker that holds the stepmother in its thrall, churning out ticker tape imprinted with the wicked words “Another . . . More Beautiful . . . KILL.” In a moody, cinematic new telling of a beloved fairy tale, extraordinary graphic novelist Matt Phelan captures the essence of classic film noir on the page—and draws a striking distinction between good and evil.

Review: Matt Phelan reinvented the “happily ever after” with this retelling. I identify as a Disney Classic enthusiast but I was pleasantly surprised with the ending. The illustrations are gorgeous with distinct intentionality. More mature themes such as death, assassination, murder were evaluated within a historical context to create an incredible murder mystery story at the level of a middle grade reader.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This would be an excellent text to hand a more reluctant reader. There is limited text the reader is asked to interpret the illustrations and structure. In literature groups, students could potentially discuss the use of metaphor, oenomania, author/illustrator’s choice, and compare/ contrast the original fairytale with the retelling. This is also a text I would recommend to a student who has shown an interest in the graphic novel genre to read independently.

Discussion Questions: Why do you think the author choose to use red in selected illustrations? How did this choice influence you as a reader?; Why do you think the author choose to break apart the chapters this way?; Even though there were few words, how did you interpret the mood, tone, and voice of characters?; Did you find yourself needing to interpret the illustrations to understand the plot? What was that experience like for you as a reader?; How is this retelling of the classic fairy tale of “Snow White” different than the original? What did you notice is similar?

Flagged Passage: “My name is Snow White, but my mother didn’t call be that to be funny. She would say that the snow covers everything and makes the entire world beautiful” (Ch. 10)

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Loved: Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtliff, Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk by Liesl Shurtliff, Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

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Thank you, Emily!

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

HAPPY NATIONAL POETRY MONTH!

And don’t forget to celebrate EARTH DAY on the 22nd!

Animal Ark
Created by and Photographer: Joel Sartore
Poet: Kwame Alexander
Published February 14th, 2017 by National Geographic Society

About the Book: National Geographic Kids proudly announces the release of Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures, a picture book for children ages 4-8 written by Newbery Medal-winning author Kwame Alexander and featuring photographs by acclaimed National Geographic Fellow and photographer Joel Sartore. Animal Ark pairs Alexander’s uplifting poetry and prose with more than 100 of Sartore’s most compelling images of the world’s species to create a book for children that highlights the importance of conservation and the beauty of the animal kingdom.

Animal Ark is inspired by the National Geographic Photo Ark, a multiyear effort with Sartore and the National Geographic Society to document every species in captivity—inspiring people not just to care, but also to help protect these animals for future generations. To date, Sartore has completed portraits of more than 6,000 species, photographed on either a plain black or white background. No matter its size, each animal is treated with the same amount of affection and respect. The results are portraits that are not just stunningly beautiful, but also intimate and moving.

The companion adult book, National Geographic The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals (National Geographic Books)—with a foreword by Harrison Ford—also showcases Sartore’s animal portraits: from tiny to mammoth, from the Florida grasshopper sparrow to the greater one-horned rhinoceros. In 2017, National Geographic Photo Ark exhibitions are opening at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, the Dallas Zoo, and the Cincinnati Zoo. Learn more at NatGeoPhotoArk.org and join the conversation on social media with #SaveTogether.

About Joel Sartore: Joel Sartore is a photographer, speaker, author, teacher, conservationist, National Geographic fellow, regular contributor to National Geographic magazine and founder of the National Geographic Photo Ark.  In addition to the work he has done for National Geographic, Sartore has contributed to Audubon magazine, Time, Life, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, the Smithsonian magazine and numerous book projects.  His next book for adults, National Geographic The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals  will be released in March 2017.

About Kwame Alexander: Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times bestselling author of 21 books, including The Crossover, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children. His other recent works include Booked, Surf’s Up, and He Said, She Said. He is the founder of Book-in-a-Day, a student-run publishing program that has created more than 3,000 student authors in 75 schools; and LEAP for Ghana, an international literacy project that builds libraries, trains teachers, and empowers children through literature. In 2015, Kwame served as Bank Street College of Education’s first writer-in-residence.

Book Trailer: 

My Review: I am in love with all of these animals! Do you see how cute they are?!?! And I love the message that Joel Sartore, National Geographic Kids, and Kwame Alexander are spreading with this text: “At its heart, the Photo Ark was born out of necessity… I  started to see that people weren’t paying much attention to the fate of all the others species we share this planet with. Without action, and soon, I worried that many animals could go extinct. The Photo Ark is my answer to this. By introducing the entire world to thoughts of photographs of [animals], I hope we can get everyone following, liking, tweeting, and even talking about this wondrous world of ours.” -Joel Sartore. I care deeply for all living things, and I have the same fear that Sartore has–that too many people are so caught up in their own little worlds that they aren’t focusing on the big world around us. The continual denial of climate change, the recent possible elimination of many of the EPA’s environmental protections, and so many other things makes the possibilities of us ruining our Earth even closer to reality 🙁

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Animal Ark has writing and science opportunities for the classroom. First, the theme of the book works beautifully within a science unit about endangered animals. Mix the text with the website What is Missing? by Maya Lin, and there are so many opportunities to discuss conservation and sustainability. Kwame Alexander’s poetry also gives an opportunity for poetry writing. In the Author’s Note, National Geographic shares information about haiku. Although all of Kwame’s poetry does not fit the traditional haiku format and we wouldn’t recommend it for a haiku mentor text, it shows how poets can take a traditional format and embrace yet manipulate it for their purpose.

Discussion Questions: Which animal would you like to learn more about?; What can humans do to help save these animals?; What is the theme of Animal Ark? What is the author/photographer trying to teach us?

Flagged Passages: 

Photography Outtakes!

Read This If You Love: National Geographic texts about animals, Poetry anthologies about nature including Water is Water by Miranda Paul, Books about making a difference like Dare to Dream…Change the World by Jill Corcoran & Be a Changemaker by Laurie Ann Thomson

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**Thank you to Karen at Media Masters Publicity for providing copes for review!**

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

HAPPY NATIONAL POETRY MONTH!

Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book
Authors: Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong
Illustrator: Franzi Paetzold
Published January 11th, 2017 by Pomelo Books

Summary: Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book is a story in poems and a writing journal designed to help kids think about social change. It contains 12 PowerPack sets featuring Ameera, David, Jack, and Jenna, a diverse group of kids working together to make an impact in their community. Sylvia Vardell’s inventive PowerPlay activities make it easy for writers to get inspired, while her Power2You writing prompts extend learning. Vardell also created extensive back matter resources for young readers, writers, and activists.

Praise: “This interactive book and the abundance of resources provided will motivate students to take action through words and ideas to make their world a better place—a must have for today’s classrooms.” —Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli, Authors of Mentor Texts

“I absolutely love this book! The invitations are inspiring and offer opportunities to think about the world and respond both personally and critically.” —Mary Napoli, Associate Professor of Reading, Penn State Harrisburg

“This book will allow all sorts of emotions and thoughts to bubble forth, including difficult and painful ones . . . and that will be a source of healing.” —Ed Spicer, Educator and literacy expert

“Really glad and excited that this book will be in the hands of young people.” —Jeana Hrepich, Core Faculty, Antioch University Seattle

This book is a Children’s Book Council “Hot Off the Press” selection for January 2017 and the second Poetry Friday Power Book. The first book in that series, You Just Wait: A Poetry Friday Power Book, is a 2017 NCTE Poetry Notable.

About the Authors: Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book features the work of the dynamic team of Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, plus 12 poets: Ibtisam Barakat, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, Robyn Hood Black, David Bowles, Joseph Bruchac, Kate Coombs, David L. Harrison, Renée M. LaTulippe, Naomi Shihab Nye, Margaret Simon, Eileen Spinelli, and Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrations by Franzi Paetzold.

Sylvia M. Vardell is Professor at Texas Woman’s University and teaches courses in children’s and young adult literature. She has published five books on literature, as well as over 25 book chapters and 100 journal articles. Her current work focuses on poetry for young people, including a regular blog, PoetryforChildren.blogspot.com, since 2006.

Janet Wong is a graduate of Yale Law School and a former lawyer who became a children’s poet. Her work has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show and other shows. She is the author of 30 books for children and teens on chess, creative recycling, yoga, superstitions, driving, and more.

Together, Vardell and Wong are the creative forces behind The Poetry Friday Anthology series.

About the Book (from the authors): Why is this a “Poetry Friday Power Book”? Because we believe in the power of poetry to express our deepest feelings, and our most powerful experiences, and to inspire us to use our words to create change in teh world. Plus, we want you to discover the power of poetry in your own thinking and writing with the PowerPlay prewriting and Power2You writing prompts that pull you into poetry and inspire you to get your own ideas on paper–creatively, whimsically, powerfully, and immediately–right now in this book…

This book offers you several choices for reading, thinking, writing, and responding. Overall, it’s a story in poems, but all of this is also organized in PowerPack groups that help you get a “behind the scenes” look at how poems work and how poets write and think. In each of these PowerPack groups, you’ll find five things:

-PowerPlay activity
-Anchor poem (from an outside source)
-Response poem
-Mentor poem
-Power2You writing prompt

Have fun reading and thinking about poetry and learning about how poetry uses just a few words but says so much and can inspire us to take action. Ready? Let’s “power up” and get started!

Review: I have an interesting relationship with poetry. I overall love it. I love writing it, and I love reading it, but I really have trouble with the analyzing aspect. It is in this very serious analyzing step that kids get afraid of poetry, but I think books like Here We Go help students learn to love poetry instead of being afraid of it while still teaching about the beauty and importance of poetry.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Here We Go is a book that is made for classroom use! There are 12 PowerPacks, each with a different anchor poem and focus. Some PowerPacks work on rhyming, some work on format, and others focus on inspiration. There are so many different ways these PowerPacks could be organized to be used in the classroom! They can be daily during a poetry unit or weekly for half of the school year–whatever works best in your classroom, but this book is begging to be in children’s hands as an inspiration for our future poets.

Discussion Questions: What inspires you to write?; What is your favorite season? Why?; What are your favorite rhyming words?; How can you use your daily life to inspire you as a poet?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Writing poetry; Any poetry anthology including Out of Wonders by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjory Wentworth and When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

Fun Home

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Author: Alison Bechdel
Published: June 5, 2007 by Mariner Books

Summary: In this graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father.

Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.

Review: I don’t tend to read many adult books each year, but I kept seeing this book referenced. I noticed it was a 2007 publication, and when books are still being discussed frequently almost ten years later, you know they have to be good! I finally requested it from my library, and boy did I love it. I usually try to review only new books, but this book was too good not to share. I felt deeply connected with Alison and her life—despite the fact that it is nothing like mine. I was really drawn to the psychological themes she embedded and the phenomenal writing. She is incredibly smart, and this shines in her writing. The drawings are equally captivating. I am not surprised that young adults tend to read this book. It’s quite edgy and many sections made me blush, but I know this doesn’t stop teens. I will be thinking about this book for a long time.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I am not a stranger to controversy, but I’d probably use this book for close reading because the images might be a bit uncomfortable for some (but not most!) of my students. There is a lot of nudity, and there are sexually explicit drawings. That said, I most certainly would have it in my classroom (nothing stops me, controversy-wise, if a book is really good and a great learning tool). A close reading of many of the beginning chapters would lead to fantastic conversations about family dynamics and psychology. There is so much to teach from this book: Tone, Author’s Perspective, Vocabulary, etc. 

Discussion Questions: How does Alison navigate her childhood?; What is her response to her father’s death? Why might this be?; What role does the Fun Home play in her life? How does this graphic novel differ from others that you’ve read?; How is the author’s writing style similar to short vignettes? What scenes stand out to you? Why might this be?

Flagged Passage: 

Fun Home ImageSource of Image

Read This If You Love: How the World Was: A California Childhood by Emmanuel Guibert; The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert; Alan’s War by Emmanuel Guibert; The Stranger by Albert Camus; The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

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uncorker of bottles

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles
Author: Michelle Cuevas
Illustrator: Erin E. Stead
Published August 23rd, 2016 by Dial Books

Summary: The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, who lives alone atop a hill, has a job of the utmost importance. It is his task to open any bottles found at sea and make sure that the messages are delivered. He loves his job, though he has always wished that, someday, one of the letters would be addressed to him. One day he opens a party invitation—but there’s no name attached. As he devotes himself to the mystery of the intended recipient, he ends up finding something even more special: the possibility of new friends.

Kellee’s Review: I love the premise of an Uncorker of Ocean Bottles even existing! There are so many notes (notes in a bottle, notes to Santa, etc.) that are out there floating around, so it is so much fun to imagine what happens to them. But the story is really about the Uncorker himself. What is it like to have a very important job yet be alone all the time? No matter how much you love what you do, is being alone ever going to be easy?  

Erin Stead’s art always makes me want to pick up a book! Her use of woodblock prints, oil pastels, and pencil give a perfect feel for this story of a man who didn’t even know he was lonely. The illustrations give a wistful feel that fits Cuevas’s hopeful story. 

Ricki’s Review: This is a book that readers will never forget. Years from now, I will sit in the sand on a beach and think of the Uncorker and all of his gentleness as a human being. His loneliness emanated from the pages, and I longed to go to him, to stay with him, and to become his friend. This would be a great book to discuss relationships and friendships with kids, and it also would be an excellent way to talk about loneliness. All people—kids included—feel loneliness, so a book like this will open up wonderful conversations about this emotion that is not discussed often. 

The illustrations make this book stand out. I felt as if they were freshly drawn for my eyes only. I have a print hanging up in my son’s nursery, and I love looking at it every morning.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: As a read aloud in a classroom, The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles would be a perfect discussion starter on many levels. At the beginning of the book, students can guess what they think some of the bottle say when all they are told is that they are “dipped in sadness” or “very old” or “made people quite happy.” The conversation can continue about how they would feel living alone, even if they were doing something important and something they loved. Then they can make predictions about the message that is revealed then analyze how it changes the Uncorkers life.

Discussion Questions: What do you think the messages say?; What would you write as a message in a bottle if you were going to write one?; What do you think the Uncorker is going to do with the unaddressed message?; Would you like living alone?

Flagged Passages: “While the Uncorker of Ocean Bottles loved his job, he couldn’t help but wonder if he would ever receive a letter. Truth be told, each time he opened a bottle, a part of him hoped to see his own name winking from the top of the page.

But then he remembered that this was about as likely as finding a mermaid’s toenail on the beach. For he had no name. He had no friends. He stank of seaweed and salt and fishermen’s feet. No one would ever write him a letter.”

Read This If You Loved: Little Tree by Loren LongLenny & Lucy by Philip C. Stead, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

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rescued

Rescued
Author: Eliot Schrefer
Published April 26th, 2016 by Scholastic

Goodreads Summary: The third entry in the taut, heart-wrenching quartet that made Eliot Schrefer a two-time National Book Award finalist introduces us to an orangutan held captive in suburban America.

John grows up with everything he could possibly want. His father is a businessman who travels far and wide. One day, he comes home with a rare gift for his son, a baby orangutan, and the two become inseparable friends. But as the orangutan gets older, stronger, less cute, the family relegates the animal to a locked trailer in the backyard. Until John’s father finally decides to sell the ape to a roadside zoo. Coming to the defense of his childhood friend, John resolves to smuggle the orangutan back to Indonesia, and the two set out on a journey far more dangerous than John bargained for.

My Review: I think out of the three Ape Quartet books published so far, this is the one that is going to hit closest to home for many. It will make many readers uncomfortable and want to make a change. First, it takes place in the United States unlike Africa like the first two. Second, it really digs into an issue that is still very much prominent here–animal injustice.

I find Schrefer’s writing to be so beautiful yet so easy to read. He can pull you into his stories and makes you feel for not only his human characters but also his animal characters. He does such a tremendous amount of research for all of his books and with this one it brings the injustice of Raja alive.

I am a sucker for ape books. I find apes to be the most fascinating animals, and orangutans may be my favorite because they have these amazing eyes that just show me that they are so intelligent and deep thinkers. They are also introverts; I think I just relate to them in that way. This book brings orangutans to life through Raja.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: As evident from Schrefer’s status as a two-time National Book Award finalist, his books can be used as a mentor text for just about any aspect of writing that you are looking for: characterization, imagery, voice, conflict, etc. Read any of his books, and you can pull out so much to discuss and use within the classroom. Additionally, there are some amazing ape books, including Schrefer’s other Ape Quartet books, that would make for an amazing lit circle opportunity or text set.

Discussion Questions: Why does John feel obligated to help Raja?; What would you have done if you were John or John’s mom when the divorce happened? Or when John’s father showed up with Raja?; Why is it better for wild animals to be in the wild?

Flagged Passages: “Every family’s got something weird about it, and mine was no different. We just had to try harder than most to hide it. All it took was someone to walk in the door to see that we had an orangutan. A real-live, orange-brown, TV-obsessed, drinking-grapefruit-juice-from-the-carton orangutan.” (p. 11)

“The truck’s engine rumbled, and the trailer pulled away. I watched it go, stunned.

You did this, I scolded myself. You let this happen.

Sweat had soaked my shirt, ran from the pits down my arms. The heat radiating up from the pavement made me dizzy, even though the perspiration on my brow was chill. I bent over, hands on my knees. I could feel the cords of my neck stand out, straining. Getting ready to start my stomach, at least, back at zero.

I heaved in air, and it sounded like a sob. Then it was a sob. Something huge and dark and terrible came out of me, something that had tamped down for so long that it had become even more huge and dark and terrible.

One last sob came out of me, then all was quiet.

There, slumped in the dirt, was Raja’s old blue elephant. (p. 69-70)

Read This If You Loved: Endangered and Threatened by Eliot Schrefer (Ape Quartet #1 and #2 yet are all stand alone novels), Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby, One and Only Ivan by Kathering Applegate, Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate, Top Ten Ape Book list from Nerdy Book Club (I’ll be updating here on Unleashing Readers soon)

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raymie

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo is out today!

And we are happy to be able to be able to exclusively reveal the teaching guide.

Kate DiCamillo writes heartprint stories, and Raymie Nightingale is no different. Raymie Nightingale shares with the reader a story of three very different girls who all are enveloped in sadness for different reasons and need each other to find their way out. You will love Raymie and the Three Rancheros!

I had so much fun writing this guide, and I hope that many of you find the activities and discussion questions within it useful to you and your students!

Please note: There are some spoilers in the guide, so please be aware if you are reading the guide before reading the book.

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about Raymie on Candlewick Press’s Raymie Nightingale page.

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Don’t miss out on this one!

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