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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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  RickiSig

**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

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Thank you, Candlewick!

RickiSig

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Gamer Squad #1: Attack of the Not-So-Virtual Monsters
Author: Kim Harrington
Published August 1st, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books

Summary: What happens when your cool virtual-reality game . . . becomes REAL? Pokemon GO meets The Goonies in this action-packed middle-grade series.

Monsters Unleashed–where you catch virtual-reality monsters on your cellphone–is one of the hottest mobile games around, and Bex and Charlie just can’t stop playing. They even check out an old map in Charlie’s grandfather’s attic in hopes of discovering some forgotten places in town where the rarest monsters might hide. But they find a strange machine up there too, and after Charlie switches it on, the WiFi goes down . . . and Bex’s entire catalog of monsters vanishes! And that’s not the worst of it: all the creatures she’s collected on her phone escape into the real world. Can the friends nab the beasts before they become monster lunch?

Author Bio: Kim Harrington is the author of ClarityPerceptionThe Dead and Buried, and Forget Me for teens and the Sleuth or Dare and Gamer Squad series for kids. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and son. When not writing, she’s most likely reading, watching one of her favorite TV shows, or fantasizing about her next vacation. She can be found on Twitter (@Kim_Harrington), Instagram (@KimHarringtonAuthor) and on her website: www.kimharringtonbooks.com.

Don’t miss out on our Interview with the Author, Kim Harrington!!

Review: Kim Harrington’s new series combining video games, science fiction, and adventure is going to be a huge hit with middle grade readers! The first book is a quick, fun read which you cannot put down. Monsters Unleashed, I believe purposefully, is like Pokemon Go! in that the players walk around town looking for monsters to catch, but what would happen if one person’s caught monsters escaped?!?! That was happens with Bex and Charlie, and now it is up to them to figure out how to save their town. This is when it gets unique and crazy! How are they going to get all of the monsters? They are clever 🙂

I cannot wait to read the rest of the series! I cannot wait to see what Bex and Charlie do next!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I can promise that this is a must buy for middle grade classroom and school libraries. Students are going to love these!

Discussion Questions: How does Bex and Charlie overcome their monster obstacles? What different strategies do they use?; What type of people are Bex and Charlie? Do you think that plays a part in them being able to be successful?; Do you think Charlie did the right thing when it came to his brother?; How is Monsters Unleashed and Pokemon Go alike? Different?; What characters surprised you with their interest in Monsters Unleashed? What does that teach you?

Flagged Passages: “The monster emerged from behind a tree. It was covered in fur, like a wolf, but also had two long, sharp fangs poking out of its mouth, and glowing red eyes. The VampWolf was the perfect combination of horrifying and terrifying. It was torrifying. I didn’t even care that wasn’t a word. I was so scared, I needed a new word.

‘Are you seeing what I’m seeing?’ I asked Charlie.

‘If you’re seeing an actual VampWolf walking toward us, then yes.’

‘How can this be happening?’ I looked down at my phone. The Monsters Unleashed app wasn’t even open. I wasn’t looking through the screen. The monster was really there, in the middle of the street.

This wasn’t a game. The VampWolf was right there in front of us on the street.” p. 26-27

Read This If You Love: Tesla’s Attic by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman, Frenzy by Robert Lettrick, Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde, Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang, Frank Einstein by Jon Sciezska, Goosebumps by R.L. Stine

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**Thank you to Ardi at Sterling Publishing for providing a copy for review!!**

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5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior
Author: Mark Siegel & Alexis Siegel
Illustrator: Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, & Boya Sun
Published May 2nd, 2017 by Random House for Young Readers

Summary: The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves and more to their worlds than meets the eye. . . .

  • The clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, Oona Lee is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine.
  • A boy from the poorest slums, An Tzu has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations.
  • Star athlete Jax Amboy is beloved by an entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends?

When these three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest, it will take not one, not two, but 5 WORLDS to contain all the magic and adventure!

About the Authors and Illustrators: 

Mark Siegel has written and illustrated several award-winning picture books and graphic novels, including the New York Times bestseller Sailor Twain, or the Mermaid in the Hudson. He is also the founder and editorial director of First Second Books. He lives with his family in New York. Follow Mark on Tumblr at @marksiegel and the 5 Worlds team on Twitter at @5WorldsTeam.

Alexis Siegel is a writer and translator based in London, England. He has translated a number of bestselling graphic novels, including Joann Sfar’s The Rabbi’s Cat, Pénélope Bagleu’s Exquisite Corpse, and Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese (into French).

Xanthe Bouma is an illustrator based in Southern California. When not working on picture books, fashion illustration, and comics, Xanthe enjoys soaking up the beachside sun. Follow Xanthe on Tumblr at @yumbles and on Twitter at @xoxobouma.

Matt Rockefeller is an illustrator and comic book artist from Tucson, Arizona. His work has appeared in a variety of formats, including book covers, picture books, and animation. Matt lives in New York City. Follow him on Tumblr at @mrockefeller and on Twitter at @mcrockefeller.

Boya Sun is an illustrator and co-author of the graphic novel Chasma Knights. Originally from China, Boya has traveled from Canada to the United States and now resides in the charming city of Baltimore. Follow Boya on Tumblr at @boyasun and on Twitter at @boyaboyasun.

Critical Praise: 

“[A] dazzling interplanetary fantasy . . . that will easily appeal to fans of Naruto or Avatar: The Last Airbender.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“With sensitive writing, gorgeous artwork, and riveting plot, this is a series to keep an eye on.” —Booklist, Starred Review

“This stellar team has created a gorgeous and entrancing world like no other!”—Noelle Stevenson, New York Times bestselling author of Nimona

“Epic action, adventure, and mystery will draw you in, but the heartfelt characters and their seemingly impossible journey will keep you turning the pages.” —Lisa Yee, author of the DC Super Hero Girls™ series

Review: I am always amazed when I read a book and the concept is so unique and well-crafted that I am in awe of every page and cannot predict anything that is coming. The Sand Warrior did just that. The Siegels have created a whole new world (well, five worlds, and I do really appreciate them including a map of the world at the beginning of the book to help the reader navigate) as their setting which allows for infinite possibilities of story.  

In addition to the new, cool setting, the characters in the book are so interesting! Each of them have their own unique backstory (and I look forward to learning more about them in future books) and are just so different. Oona is living in her sister’s shadow and struggling to be what everyone expects of her. Jax is perfection on the field but hasn’t really had a chance to live. And An is hiding a terrible secret and has had a rough life. Each of these characters has a trait that a reader will connect to and even if they don’t, as you read you really want to know more about them.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: You know that reader that loves Doug TenNapel and Kazu Kibuishi but you have run out of things to recommend to them because they are so picky about their graphic novels? Well, they are going to love this one (and some of the others I listed below). This is a must buy for classroom (and school) libraries!

Discussion Questions: Would you have made the same decision Oona made?; Did you predict the twist about Jax?; What do you think is going to happen in book 2?

Behind the Scenes of 5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior: 

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Read This If You Loved: Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi, Bad Island by Doug TenNapel, Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence, The Time Museum by Matthew LouxRed’s Planet by Eddie PittmanSpace Dumplins by Craig Thompson, Last Day on Mars by Kevin Emerson

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**Thank you to Josh at Random House for providing a copy for review!**

 
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The Fourteenth Goldfish
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Published: April 5, 2016 by Yearling

A Guest Review by Kelsey Iwanicki

Summary: The Fourteenth Goldfish follows the story of Ellie, an 11-year-old girl, who is currently struggling to find her passion, especially following the gradual drop off with her one and only friend, Brianna. However, everything changes when her mother brings home a quirky and crabby 13-year-old boy, Melvin. Ellie notices striking similarities between Melvin and her seventy-something year-old grandfather until he comes clean and tells her that they are in fact the same person. Melvin has worked on developing a drug to reverse the signs of aging, which has successfully worked on himself.

As Ellie and Melvin get closer, they also form an unlikely friendship with a goth student, Raj. Together they give Melvin advice about being a teenager, such as giving him acne medicine and hair elastics. They also help Melvin eventually, after a few failed attempts, steal the same compound that reversed his age. Melvin’s original plan was to steal the gene so he could share it with the world and receive the Nobel Peace Prize. However, Ellie persuaded him not to on the grounds of moral ethics and how scientific impacts can be both positive and negative. Due to this, Melvin flushes the compound down the drain and starts to tour the country. Thanks to her time with her grandfather, Ellie is able to discover his passion in science and also gain a few friends along the way, Raj and Momo.

Review: What I liked most about this book was its quirkiness, mostly exemplified through Melvin. Although the relationship between Ellie and Melvin is untraditional, you can also get glimpses of a typical relationship between a grandfather and granddaughter is like, one that isn’t usually written about. The majority of characters are nontraditional, such as Raj, who is explicitly written as goth; Ellie, a girl scientist (although this is becoming more popular, usually boys are the ones in the STEM fields); and Melvin, as a grumpy 13-year-old.

What I didn’t like about the book was the build-up. Although they failed multiple times at stealing the compound, there was no suspense for when Melvin actually succeeded. Rather, he just came home one day with it. The climax actually was when Ellie had a self-realization that science has both positives and negatives, which honestly was kind of a let down because the plot had focused around getting the compound from the lab. Ultimately, it was a good theme because Ellie realizes there are good and bad things with any passion.

All in all, I did like the book, I think it could appeal to students who are interested in science and realistic fiction books.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book should definitely be included in a classroom library for independent reading because I think it would appeal for students because it is a little quirky and has some interesting characters. It could also prompt some interesting discussions for literature circles because students could discuss the ethics behind using a compound to reverse aging.

A teacher could also use it as a read aloud for a few reasons. It would be interesting to consider the other perspectives of characters such as Melvin or Melissa, Ellie’s mother. Additionally, they could talk about the character traits and what makes Melvin and Ellie such strong characters. Or, they could talk about science and ethics behind what scientists release.

Discussion Questions: If you had a compound that could reverse aging, would you take it? Why or why not?; If you discovered a compound that could reverse aging, would you deliver it to the public? Why or why not?; What do you think will happen to Ellie and Brianna’s friendship? Ellie and Momo’s?; What do you think the side affects are from taking the compound? / What do you think happened to Melvin?; Put yourself in Ellie’s shoes, how would you feel if your grandfather attended the same school as you?; What is the importance of the fourteenth goldfish?

Flagged Passage: “Average people just give up at the obstacles we face every day. Scientists fail again and again and again. Sometimes for our whole lives. But we don’t give up, because we want to solve the puzzle” (p. 47).

Read This If You Loved: El Deafo by Cece Bell; Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt; Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper; Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin; Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

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Thank you, Kelsey!

RickiSig