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“Things Sure Were Different In My Day”

I caught myself saying something the other day that I never thought I would say to my children, and I’m still reeling from the sheer horror of how those words felt as they spilled out of my mouth. In my defense, my kids had been complainingin high-pitched, whiny voices that could crack the most ardent sainthow bored they were. As I looked around at their toys, their bikes, their swing set in the backyard, their books, their tablets, without even thinking I said, “How can you girls be bored with so much stuff to do? You should be grateful for all this entertainment because things sure were different in my day.”

That’s right, I said the dreaded phrase: THINGS SURE WERE DIFFERENT IN MY DAY.

The girls looked at me like I was a dog walking on my back legs. I could almost see them trying to calculate what “in my day” looked like, their eyes blinking and squinting as numbers and Greek symbols flashed above their heads like a cartoon. Maybe they saw cavemen walking around in mammoth-skin skinny jeans, or those old-timey gangsters hanging out in saloons with cigars dangling from their lips drinking kombucha teas from Starbucks. It had to be some strange, foreign amalgam of their own reality and the reality they could only assume their screamy old mom came from.

But the truth is, my day was very different. My childhood was arguably simpler. There was no online shopping or Prime deliveries and certainly no social media. Kids “in my day” were not as connected as kids are today, with information at their fingertips. This makes our children much more knowledgeable, and this is great for learning and exploring. Whenever we have a science project or a social studies report due, my girls and I head to the web. We have found loads of practical and fun information. It is also very easy to stay in touch with our friends and family. For anyone who has moved and left behind people they care about, social media can be a wonderful tool to preserve friendships. But as with all wonderful things in this world, there are disadvantages, too. Our tightly connected and information-saturated world means our kids know a lot more about tough realities.

This difficult knowledge hit home when my oldest child’s class practiced emergency protocols. She often would come home and tell me what she would do when “code red” was activated. Her demeanor was calm and even happy as she described the role she would play. One day she happened to see coverage about a school shooting. The reporter spoke about the different ways that students and teachers worked to save the lives of their fellow classmates and staff. The actions they described, such as barricading doors and hiding in closets, were similar to what her class had been practicing. I could see her brain making the connections, and this led to inevitable questions and a very difficult conversation. While this was something I never wanted to talk about with my little girl, it was a conversation that was necessary. Children are exposed to and must face difficult realities.

Difficult Realities for Developing Kids

Kids begin to develop their own identities almost as soon as they are born. They say “no” to gooey green baby food and later wear black lipstick to their grandma’s 80th birthday party. Or maybe that was just me? Regardless of the black lipstick, healthy emotional, physical, and spiritual development is rooted in the development of one’s identity. Difficult circumstances such as school violence, bullying, and even divorce can destabilize or strengthen their identity.

In my science-themed middle grade book, Quantum Quagmire, I cover the topic of divorce. Serafina Sterling learns her best friend, Tori Copper, is going through a difficult time when she starts to lose interest in her most beloved hobbies, bug hunting and pizza eating. And what’s troubling Tori is more difficult for Serafina to understand than cold fusion: Tori’s parents are getting a divorce. 

Serafina turns to her friends and science to try to figure out how to prevent the divorce. Using the scientific method, trial and error, and one disastrous release of a dangerous class pet, Serafina realizes her beloved science has reached its limit. Or has it? In the end, Serafina is able to understand a very important quantum principle and use it to help Tori accept the inevitable split. Serafina and her friends realize that while they may not be able to prevent a divorce, they have the tools to understand and accept the difficult reality.

The purpose of this book was not only to convey one of my favorite quantum concepts, quantum entanglement, but to also help kids navigate through difficult realities they may face. Especially in today’s information heavy world.

 Change versus Acceptance

We all have some control over our lives. Where we live. The job we have. What’s for dinner? We can’t, however, control the weather, what our neighbors are like, and who our bosses are. Kids have even less control. They can’t vote. They can’t get their own place. And they can’t understand what they can and can’t change without some guidance.

In Quantum Quagmire, I emphasize the importance of acceptance. Serafina and her friends try to reunite Tori Copper’s parents. When those efforts fail, her mother helps her understand that sometimes bad things happen in a person’s life. Serafina was able to take these lessons and help Tori accept the change. More importantly, she helped her see that even though her parents would not be living in the same house anymore, they would always be connected as a family. 

Sugarcoating is Good. Perspective is Better. 

My hope is that my entire Serafina Loves Science! series helps lay the groundwork for difficult conversations with children. Our kids will face a lot of challenges and failures in their lives, just as we have “back in our day”. Their relative success or failure in life will be the result of how well they can navigate, recover, and later thrive because of those bumps in the road.

When my oldest daughter recently lost her front tooth and was concerned she would “look weird” in class, I tried giving her a sugarcoated answer. I told her that the little hole in her face was “cute” and that at least she had a very handy soup strainer until her grown-up tooth came in. Those answers seemed to placate her for about 10 minutes. But as I stared at my gap-tooth seven-year-old, with her arms folded tightly across her chest and her brows pinched into a tight knot, I realized she was onto my bogus mom answers. I took a deep breath and tried to put it into perspective for her. I told her that, in my day, I also had been self-conscious about looking like a piano missing a lot of keys, and that her friends probably felt the same way. I listed some of her friends who also were missing their front teeth. She seemed to respond to this and even gave me a hug.

While having a missing tooth isn’t as difficult as divorce or school violence, the method of providing perspective remains. Kids are smart, and they are growing. Providing them with truthful, honest, and loving guidance can make a difference. It certainly did for Serafina and her friends!

Serafina Loves Science
Cosmic Conundrum
Quantum Quagmire
Published by Absolute Love Publishing

Series Summary: Serafina Loves Science! is a middle grade fiction series that focuses on 11-year-old Serafina Sterling. Serafina is just like other kids who have to deal with issues like annoying older brothers, cliques at school, and parents who restrict her use of noxious chemicals. But she has a secret … Serafina loves science! Her passion for all things scientific helps her make new friends and figure out the old ones, understand her family, invent new devices for space travel, and appreciate the basic principles of the universe.

Cosmic Conundrum Summary: See Kellee’s review from Friday!

Quantum Quagmire Summary: Serafina suspects something is wrong when her best friend, Tori Copper, loses interest in their most cherished hobbies: bug hunting and pizza nights. When she learns Tori’s parents are getting a divorce and that Tori’s mom is moving away, Serafina vows to discover a scientific solution to a very personal problem so that Tori can be happy again. But will the scientific method, a clever plan, and a small army of arachnids be enough to reunite Tori’s parents? When the situation goes haywire, Serafina realizes she has overlooked the smallest, most quantum of details. Will love be the one challenge science can’t solve?

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.

Thank you to Cara and Absolute Love Publishing for sharing this awesome outlook into the changes in childhood in the 21st century and how Serafina deals with these changes!

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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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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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Masterpiece Robot and the Ferocious Valerie Knick-Knack
Author: Frank Tra
Illustrator: Rebecca Evans
Published April 17th, 2018 by Tilbury House Publishers

Summary: Masterpiece Robot pays tribute to the power of a child’s vivid imagination, which can transform a suburban autumn backyard into a futuristic battleground and Laura’s lively siblings into unwitting but enthusiastic participants in a fight for a planet’s survival. We begin in Laura’s bedroom where she is struggling to find her way into the story she wants to write, and we end there with Laura putting the finishing touches on her triumphant tale.

When Laura―a.k.a. Masterpiece Robot―heads into the backyard with her little sister Molly―a.k.a. Sidekick―her active imagination places them instead on patrol around the perimeter of a dystopian city, guarding against super villains. Then older sister Amber―a.k.a. Valerie Knick-Knack―throws handfuls of fallen leaves at them, unknowingly initiating a battle for the ages.

This one is such a fun read, and one kids will definitely relate to! It also lets adults relive those childhood memories where ordinary things – such as a pile of leaves, or a large cardboard box – can turn extraordinary with just a bit of imagination. The transitions back and forth from suburbia to dystopia in this story within a story are deftly rendered with contrasting palettes. The rollicking interactions of the sibling heroes and villains make Masterpiece Robot pure fun to read.

About the Author & Illustrator: 

A child of Vietnamese immigrants, FRANK TRA proudly calls Wichita, Kansas home. Frank attended the University of Kansas to wrestle and write comic books. While there, he also earned a Doctorate in Pharmacy. He has been a cancer pharmacist for the last ten years. Frank’s writing credits include two graphic novels and several comic books. Masterpiece Robot is his first children’s book. Dr. Tra resides in a quiet neighborhood with his wife, Katy, and their six children: Amber, Laura, Roman, Molly, Tommy, and Isaac. He spends his spare time writing, fishing, and coaching his high school wrestling team.

REBECCA EVANS worked for nine years as an artist and designer before returning to her first love: children’s book illustrations and writing. Her children’s books include Someday I’ll Fly; Friends in Fur Coats; The Good Things; The Shopkeeper’s Bear; Naughty Nan; Amhale in South Africa; Vivienne in France; Mei Ling in China; Marcela in Argentina; Tiffany in New York; and Tatiana in Russia. She lives in Maryland with her husband and four young children, shares her love of literature and art regularly at elementary schools, teaches art at the Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts, and works from her home studio whenever time permits. Rebecca’s boundless imagination enjoys free rein at www.rebeccaevans.net.

ReviewI love this book! I love the story, I love the spread of imaginative play, and I love the humor! It is so smart how the author and illustrator told both stories: the literal and the imaginative, and both stories are developed and fun to read together AND separately. This made for a quite complex book which is also really appealing to kids (and parents/teachers). I’m also a big fan of the artwork in the book. The illustrator did an amazing job changing the style just a bit for the imaginative and the reality but also kept her signature style in both. The illustrations definitely added to the narrative making this book a must get. I also loved that this is a sci-fi picture book because not many exist.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: There are a few different ways I envision this book being used in a classroom. First, I would like to say that it’s best would be in a read aloud with a conversation around the reality versus imaginative. There is also some great word choices and vocabulary throughout. Lastly, the reality has very little narrative, so students could write the story of what is actually happening. The discussion questions shared below will also lead to some great activities and discussions.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What character in real life was the imaginative characters?
  • Compare and contrast the reality and imaginative story.
  • How did the illustrator change her style for reality versus sci fi?
  • Think of a chore that you do at home. What could you imagine you were doing when you are doing your chore?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Zathura by Chris Van Allsburg, Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Not a Box by Antoinette Portis, Going Places by Paul and Peter Reynolds, Weslandia by Paul Fleishman, and other books that promote imagination and creativity

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That Inevitable Victorian Thing
Author: E. K. Johnston
Published: October 3, 2017 by Dutton

Guest Review by Kaari von Bernuth

Goodreads Summary: Set in a near-future world where the British Empire was preserved, not by the cost of blood and theft but by effort of repatriation and promises kept, That Inevitable Victorian Thing is a novel of love, duty, and the small moments that can change people and the world.

Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendent of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history two centuries earlier. The imperial practice of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage like her mother before her, but before she does her duty, she’ll have one summer incognito in a far corner of empire. In Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir apparent to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an unusual bond and maybe a one in a million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process —just like the first Queen Victoria.

My Review: The futuristic setting of this novel that wasn’t a dystopia was very intriguing to me. Most of the futuristic novels that I’ve read have featured dystopian societies, so it was refreshing to have something that worked. I really enjoyed the multiple perspectives from the different characters, and became personally invested in their lives and experiences. I’d find myself hurting for Helena as she struggled to reconcile her identity, and rooting for August to do the right thing. In some way, all of the characters have to struggle to come of age and develop their identity based on who they want to be. 

However, I wish that this novel had placed a little more effort on the ending. While the rest of the novel had dealt with realistic challenges that an adolescent might face, the ending seemed rather contrived, and less realistic like the rest of the novel. The solution proposed at the end of the novel is not a solution that an adolescent in current society could replicate and learn from, which was disappointing.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book poses great questions about racism (or rather the eradication of racism), as well as questions of morality. It also would be great for discussions about the influence that society can have on your life verses the influence that you decide for your life. I think that this book would be a great addition to a classroom library for kids to enjoy, or a book to be used in a reading circle. It’s engaging and could lead to interesting discussions, especially about the futuristic government and setting of the novel, and the aforementioned topics of racism, morality, and societal influence vs self. However, I do think that other novels cover these topics in a better way, which is why I wouldn’t recommend it for large classroom discussions.  

Discussion Questions: Is this novel a utopia? Dystopia? Does it fit either criteria?; How is race approached in this novel? Is there racism in the society?; What is the role of colonialism in this novel?; What is the role of the Computer? Do you think this is a good advancement?; What does the computer lack?; What morality questions does this novel pose?

We Flagged: “The Computer is sufficient if you want to know your future without taking into account your soul. I don’t mean in the eternal sense, but in the worldly. The Computer can tell you if your genes are prone to carcinoma or if you might be six feet tall, but it cannot tell you if you will enjoy dancing or if you will prefer cake to pie. I would argue that the latter is more important in terms of a long and healthy relationship” (p. 254).

Read This If You Loved: Matched by Allie Condie; Delirium by Lauren Oliver; The Luxe by Anna Godbersen; The Selection by Kiera Cass

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**Thank you to Kaari for reviewing this book!**

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Children of Exile
Published September 13th, 2016 by Simon & Schuster for Young Readers

Children of Refuge
Published September 12th, 2017 by Simon & Schuster for Young Readers

Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix

Children of Exile Summary: For the past twelve years, adults called “Freds” have raised Rosi, her younger brother Bobo, and the other children of their town, saying it is too dangerous for them to stay with their parents, but now they are all being sent back. Since Rosi is the oldest, all the younger kids are looking to her with questions she doesn’t have the answers to. She’d always trusted the Freds completely, but now she’s not so sure.

And their home is nothing like she’d expected, like nothing the Freds had prepared them for. Will Rosi and the other kids be able to adjust to their new reality?

Children of Refuge Summary: After Edwy is smuggled off to Refuge City to stay with his brother and sister, Rosi, Bobo, and Cana are stuck alone—and in danger—in Cursed Town in the thrilling follow-up to Children of Exile from New York Times bestselling author, Margaret Peterson Haddix.

It’s been barely a day since Edwy left Fredtown to be with his parents and, already, he is being sent away. He’s smuggled off to boarding school in Refuge City, where he will be with his brother and sister, who don’t even like him very much. The boarding school is nothing like the school that he knew, there’s no one around looking up to him now, and he’s still not allowed to ask questions!

Alone and confused, Edwy seeks out other children brought back from Fredtown and soon discovers that Rosi and the others—still stuck in the Cursed Town—might be in danger. Can Edwy find his way back to his friends before it’s too late?

ReviewOne thing you can always guarantee when you read a Haddix book is that it will suck you in and will be super unique! The Children of Exile series did not disappoint. I will admit, it is really hard to review either of the books without spoiling. The summaries above both did a really great job, but everything that happens after that suspense-building summary happens would spoil something for you. But I will promise you these things:

  • You will be on the edge of your seat and not be able to figure out what is going on for 90% of the first book.
  • You will be disgusted by the treatment of the children once they are returned to their parents.
  • You will want to help Edwy and his friends so badly throughout the entire second book.
  • You will have to stop reading when the reveal happens in the first book just to process it. Then you’ll reread. Then you’ll text someone who has read it.
  • You will want to know more than book 2 tells you, so we’ll all be waiting impatiently for #3.
  • You will realize that these books are actually a bit older and darker than they first seem.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Like other Haddix books, you will find the best home for these books in the hands of kids. They are going to be talking about these books after they read them!

Discussion Questions: Discussion questions are available on Haddix’s website.

Flagged Passages: “‘Remember to be good little children!’

Good little children, good little children, good little children…

I saw children crying and clinging to their Fred-parents’ legs. I saw men yanking babies from their Fred-parents’ arms. I turned my back to my own Fred-mama and Fred-daddy — maybe to grab them as hard as I could — but the crowd surged just then, pushing Bobo and me up the stairs. I couldn’t see my Fred-parents anymore. I hadn’t even had a chance to tell them a proper good-bye.” (Children of Exile, Chapter 3)

“I’d been counting on being able to run fast enough no one caught up.

‘Good,’ an oily voice whispered in my ear. ‘Now you understand that screaming is useless.’

‘No, I was just–‘ Before I could add deciding what to scream next, a thick hand slid over my mouth. It smelled of onions and sweat and mud and, I don’t know, maybe puke as well.” (Children of Exile, Prologue)

Read This If You Love: Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, Tesla’s Attic by Neal Shusterman, Masterminds by Gordon Korman, Spillzone by Scott Westerfeld

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters for providing copies for review!**

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Aliens Get the Sniffles Too
Author: Katy S. Duffield
Illustrator: K. G. Campbell
Published November 7, 2017 by Candlewick

Summary: Ahhh-flying-saucer-shooting-star-CHOO! Laughter is the best medicine when you’re a little alien feeling under the weather.

Little Alien is sick. And sick is extra-terrestrial bad when you have two scratchy throats, five ears that hurt, and three runny noses. Splatch! Sputter! Spurt! Luckily Mama and Daddy Alien have an arsenal of lunar decongestants and meteor showers on hand to make him feel a little better (not to mention a Milky Way milkshake to help the medicine go down). Even so, the family’s alien pooch, Mars Rover, can’t stand to see his little buddy feeling out of sorts. Can a loyal pup’s funny tricks finally coax a smile?

About the Author and Illustrator: Katy Duffield is the award-winning author of more than twenty-five books for children. She lives in Florida with her husband. To learn more, and to download classroom resources, visit katyduffield.com. Twitter: @KatyDuffield

Check out Katy on Pinterest!
 
K. G. Campbell is the illustrator of Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo and the author-illustrator of Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters. He was born in Kenya, raised in Scotland, and now lives in southern California.

Ricki’s Review: This book has been a blessing in my house. Both of my kids have had colds for the past several weeks. It seems they catch cold after cold! We’ve been reading this book quite often and making connections with Little Alien. As a parent, I particularly appreciate that the end of the book allows me space to talk about how Little Alien got Mars Rover sick. Every time we read the book, we point to the part where Little Alien spreads his germs to Mars Rover. Then, we make the cause-effect relationship about what happens when we spread our germs. I know that teachers in elementary school will love this connect. We spend a lot of time talking with kids of all ages about spreading germs!

On a literary note, the author has some great plays on words. I chuckle every time that I read the book. Kids who are obsessed with space will adore this book and all of its space references.

Kellee’s Review: Whenever Trent is sick, he is so miserable, so Little Alien’s story of trying everything to feel better is going to be the perfect companion to my sweet boy when he is feeling under the weather. Just like Mars Rover will do anything to help make Little Alien feel better, I will as well, and Aliens Get the Sniffles, Too! will be a perfect part of our feel better routine.

I loved the use of onomatopeoias in the book and mixed with the detailed, colorful, full page illustrations really brings Little Alien’s story to life.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teacher might group students in pairs and assign them a spread. Students might hunt for the references to space on the pages and look up to learn more about those aspects of space. For example, for the spread below, students might look up the word “lunar” and share it with the whole group. Then, the teacher might reread the entire text again and pause to allow students to share the word play of their assigned spread as they read the book aloud together.

Discussion Questions: How does Mars Rover feel when Little Alien gets sick? Have you ever felt that way when a friend or family member got sick?; How does Mars Rover get sick? Can you point to the specific page?; Which new words did you learn while reading this book? How are they connected to the story? How does the author create a theme around the concept of space?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Loved: Your Alien by Tammi Sauer,  Faraway Friends by Russ CoxBoy + Bot by Ame DyckmanLife on Mars by Jon Agee

Giveaway:  TWO giveaway opportunities!!

  1. One grand-prize winner will receive a out-of-this-world alien backpack with a signed copy of Aliens Get the Sniffles Too! along with tissue packs, toy mini aliens, and space pencils.
  2. Ten lucky runners-up will receive a copy of Aliens Get the Sniffles Too!
To enter, click here.

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**Thank you to Barbara from Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review!**

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Landscape with Invisible Hand
Author: M. T. Anderson
Published: September 12, 2017 by Candlewick

Summary: National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson returns to future Earth in a sharply wrought satire of art and truth in the midst of colonization.

When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth – but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Can it really be called an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? As it turns out, yes. With his parents’ jobs replaced by alien tech and no money for food, clean water, or the vuvv’s miraculous medicine, Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, have to get creative to survive. And since the vuvv crave anything they deem “classic” Earth culture (doo-wop music, still-life paintings of fruit, true love), recording 1950s-style dates for the vuvv to watch in a pay-per-minute format seems like a brilliant idea. But it’s hard for Adam and Chloe to sell true love when they hate each other more with every passing episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he’s willing to go – and what he’s willing to sacrifice – to give the vuvv what they want.

Review: 

  • Futuristic, dark satire that is an unusual, intelligent social commentary
  • Forces readers to think deeply about their personal, social, and political lives
  • Somewhat non-linear story with an interesting layout: each chapter has a title that corresponds with the artwork created by the main character
  • Stylistically, Anderson chooses every word with intention. The text is a 149-page novella that features chapters that can be taught instructionally as vignettes.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:  Teachers might ask students to begin by looking closely at the text for short passages that they find particularly interesting or inspiring. Students might write a one-pager that a) unpacks the passage they chose, and b) examines the passage through the lens of a topic that they find particularly interesting and relevant. For example, they might connect a passage to the following topics which are relevant in the text:

Art

Automation

Capitalism

Classism

Economy

Entrepreneurship

Existentialism

Extraterrestrial Life

Health Care

Immigration

Love

Politics

Poverty

Sickness

Nostalgia

Unemployment

After the students have written several one-pagers and explored a variety of topics, they might select one topic that interests them most. They can research scholarship about the topic and look across the entire text for relevant passages.

Sample research paper topics:

Examining economic disparities and classism within Landscape with Invisible Hand

Finding the soul: M.T. Anderson’s treatment of love and art in Landscape with Invisible Hand

Discussion Questions: Do you think M. T. Anderson had a purpose for writing this text?; What kind of social commentary does this text offer?; What does it tell us about love? Society? Humanity?; How does Anderson use art to enhance the story?; How is the text structured? How does this enhance your reading?

Flagged Passage: “We are tiny figures, faceless, pointing at wonders, provided for scale, no lives of our own, surveying the landscape that has engulfed us all.”

Read This If You Loved: Feed by M. T. Anderson; Books by Scott Westerfeld; The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Recommended For:
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Thank you, Candlewick!

RickiSig

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