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A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
Author: Atia Abawi
Published: January 23, 2018 by Philomel

Guest Review by Rachel Krieger

Summary: In a country ripped apart by war, Tareq lives with his big and loving family . . . until the bombs strike. His city is in ruins. His life is destroyed. And those who have survived are left to figure out their uncertain future.

In the wake of destruction, he’s threatened by Daesh fighters and witnesses a public beheading. Tareq’s family knows that to continue to stay alive, they must leave. As they travel as refugees from Syria to Turkey to Greece, facing danger at every turn, Tareq must find the resilience and courage to complete his harrowing journey.

But while this is one family’s story, it is also the timeless tale of all wars, of all tragedy, and of all strife. When you are a refugee, success is outliving your loss.

Review: This book is astonishing. In a world where people like to avoid talking about awkward things or situations that make us sad, this novel is completely, unapologetically honest. With every horror that Tareq experiences, you will find yourself crying with him, hoping with him, and loving with him. You will wish you could be with Alexia helping these people to find new lives. It is impossible to read Abawi’s story without reflecting on your own life, wondering what destiny would write about you.

If you know nothing about the refugee crises happening all over the world, this story will give you a glimpse into the lives of people struggling every day. Although it only looks into the lives of a few refugees, it gave me an idea of how different the life of a refugee is to my own. Atia Abawi’s story will make you reflect on your own humanity and actions, changing the way you think about the world and your own privilege.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: This is the perfect book to start a discussion about the situation in Syria. Since it is so essential to address current events regardless of the sensitive nature of those events, teachers should start conversations about this war-torn region. There are many young adult novels that address immigration, however, this one specifically follows the process of that immigration. It would be very beneficial to have students read a book like this and a book like American Street to look at very different stories of immigration with a few similar characteristics. This book in conjunction with others about immigration could be the perfect opportunity to discuss the idea of the danger of a single story.

This novel also offers a very interesting twist on narration. Since destiny is the narrator of this novel rather than one of the characters, there are small parts of the story that reflect broadly on war and humanity. It could be interesting to have students think about how this odd source of narration changes the story. They could even experiment with their own unique narrators, discussing how these odd points of view add or detract from stories.

Discussion Questions: What does the perspective switch add to the novel? Do you think a book like this is likely to encourage people to support this cause? How does Destiny as the narrator change this story? How would this story change if Tareq was a woman?

We Flagged: “Making it to Germany ended Tareq’s crossing and escape from war, but his new life as a refugee is just beginning. There are millions of Tareq’s, Susans and Fayeds, all in search of safety and kindness. I hope you will provide that warmth, be that helper, do what you can to make that world a better place. Because when I meet you—and I will—there will be reckoning. There always is.”

Read This If You Loved: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Supetys, American Street by Ibi Zoboi, Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

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I Am Gandhi
Author: Brad Meltzer
Illustrator: 25 Acclaimed Artists
Published May 8th, 2018 by Dial Books

Summary: Twenty-five exceptional comic book creators join forces to share the heroic story of Gandhi in this inspiring graphic novel biography.

As a young man in India, Gandhi saw firsthand how people were treated unfairly. Refusing to accept injustice, he came up with a brilliant way to fight back through quiet, peaceful protest. He used his methods in South Africa and India, where he led a nonviolent revolution that freed his country from British rule. Through his calm, steady heroism, Gandhi changed the lives of millions and inspired civil rights movements all over the world, proving that the smallest of us can be the most powerful.

Galvanized by Gandhi’s example of gentle, peaceful activism, New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer asked his friends in the comic book world to help him make a difference by creating this philanthropic graphic novel. Twenty-four illustrators–including many of the most acclaimed artists in comics today–enthusiastically joined the project, agreeing to donate their work so that their royalties can go to Seeds of Peace, a non-profit organization that inspires and cultivates new generations of global leaders. This extraordinary biography is a glorious team effort that truly exemplifies Gandhi’s selflessness and love for humanity.

The illustrators included are: Art Adams, John Cassaday, Jim Cheung, Amanda Connor, Carlos D’Anda, Michael Gaydos, Gene Ha, Stephanie Hans, Bryan Hitch, Phil Jimenez, Siddharth Kotian, David LaFuente, David Mack, Alex Maleev, Francis Manapul, David Marquez, Steve McNiven, Rags Morales, Saumin Patel, Nate Powell, Stephane Roux, Marco Rudy, Kamome Shirahama, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Abhishek Singh.

Kellee’s ReviewI’ll be honest–when I first read on the cover that 25 different artists illustrated this graphic biography, I was worried that the stagnation of illustration styles would hinder the narrative of Gandhi’s life, but I was so wrong. Instead, by allowing each illustrator to give us their interpretation of Gandhi, his spirit instead flowed through the pages as it was obvious that his story had touched each and every artist, and the author, taking part in this graphic biography.

While reading, it was clear to me that Meltzer wanted Gandhi’s message of equality, peace, and kindness to scream at the reader, and this was confirmed when I read the Washington Post article about Meltzer’s inspiration. I believe Meltzer did a beautiful job not only telling Gandhi’s story but also showing that peace is possible in a time of tumultuous relationships but that the only way to truly achieve it is through similar activism as Gandhi.

Ricki’s Review: I read this graphic novel twice to myself and twice with my son. Further, I’ve read portions of it to my students. I can’t stop sharing it! I was blown away by the amalgamation of the 25 graphic novelists—it made for an absolutely stunning text. I appreciate the historical perspective that extends throughout the graphic novel, and I loved that the illustrations really make Ghandi’s story come alive. This is a book that I will share often and widely. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it highly—even if you already know a lot about Ghandi’s life.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Have students connect Gandhi’s philosophies to those who influenced him and those he influenced. For example, in one of my literature classes, one person picked an author who was influenced by another (for example, Woody Guthrie was influenced by Walt Whitman) then the next student built on that (for example, Bob Dylan was influenced by Woody Guthrie OR Ralph Waldo Emerson influenced Walt Whitman) until a complete chain of influences were made. Then each student wrote an analysis paper showing how they were influenced then presented their findings (in order of influences) to the class. This same idea could be done here: Henry David Thoreau influenced Gandhi who influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. who influenced Barack Obama who influenced Cory Booker, etc. This idea could also be used just to look at the idea of peaceful protests that have changed the course of history: Gandhi, MLK, Black Lives Matter, Never Again, etc.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is the theme of Meltzer’s story of Gandhi?
  • How did Gandhi change the course of history for Indians in South Africa and India?
  • How did the 25 different artists illustrating the graphic novel affect the reading of the biography?
  • How did Thoreau influence Gandhi? Can you infer how Gandhi influence Martin Luther King, Jr.?
  • What was the importance of Gandhi’s march to the sea to hold salt?
  • Why do you believe Meltzer chose the specific quotes he included in the back matter of the book?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: The Ordinary People Change the World series (ex. I am Lucille Ball, I am Jackie Robinson), Nonfiction graphic novels such as Drowned City by Don Brown

Recommended For: 

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Teachers, I have a secret to tell you. Come closer…. clooooser…

CLOSE READING ISN’T ANYTHING NEW!

Phew! It is so good to get that off my chest.

My district has been focusing on close reading this year through a District Professional Learning Community, and this is something I’ve realized the more I learn about close reading.

Before I continue, let me define close reading as I see it:

  • Close reading has to happen with a short piece of complex text.
    • Complex text is defined as any text where you are having students critically think. It DOES NOT mean only Lexile. Even Common Core who started this specific terminology states that you need to look at different components of the text as well as the task being completed and the reader completing the task. Almost any text can be complex.
    • Texts are inclusive of visuals, music, multimedia, and anything else that can be analyzed.
  • Close reading then has the reader look at the same text multiple times to help them get a deeper understanding of the text.
    • Each read (or view) of the text should have a different purpose with the final read ending in a final task.
    • The final task is standards-based task.

And let’s clear up some some misconceptions of close reading:

  • A whole novel should never be close read.
    • So if we label a novel as “Close Read/Analysis” that means we feel there are aspects of the novel that could be pulled out to used for a close read, not the whole novel.
  • Close reading doesn’t need to take multiple days.
    • It just depends on the text, task, and readers.
  • Close reading can be done with independent reading.
    • A complex task can be given that can be applied to multiple texts.
  • Close reading doesn’t have to kill the fun or love of a text.
    • My students actually like close reading (in small doses) because it makes them feel like they understand the text better and better. Think about when you read a poem multiple times with a teacher until you finally “get it.” That is how my students feel about close reading.
  • It can only be done with an article or poem.
    • It is done with every piece of music that a musician gets. It is done with athletes when they watch game tape to analyze their playing. It is done when looking at artwork to truly understand its meaning. It is done every time a student breaks down a math word problem to truly understand what it is asking. And these are just a few examples.
  • It is only for English class.
    • See above ^
  • Close reading should be done every day.
    • Oh man, no! Please. That’ll just completely kill it. Close reading, in my opinion, is for the end of a unit as you get to a standards-based final task. However, that is not the only time it can be used.

That’s it. Close reading is something that if you are teaching students to think deeply about a text with a focus on one task or standard, you’re already having students close read. It is just a name for this best practice.

Now, is close reading important? Absolutely! Should teachers consciously plan close reads? Definitely! But should students hate it and teachers avoid it? NO! If this is happening, then some close reading remediation needs to happen because without close reading, in my opinion, students are not deeply thinking about text.

Please continue being the kick butt teachers you are without the fear of the term close reading!

 
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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme started by Sheila at Book Journeys and now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover the next “must-read” book!

Kellee and Jen, of Teach Mentor Texts, decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too.

We encourage everyone who participates to support the blogging community by visiting at least three of the other book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

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Last Week’s Posts

 

Tuesday: Teacher Appreciation Week!: Teachers Who Inspired Us #ThankATeacher

Wednesday: Tsu and the Outliers by E Eero Johnson

Thursday: Who’s Hiding by Satoru Onishi

Friday:  Summer Brain Quest and Star Wars Workbooks

**Click on any picture/link to view the post**

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Kellee
& 
Ricki

 We are spending our Mother’s Day Sunday with our families, so we’ll catch you all up on our reading next week 🙂 We hope everyone who is a mother, identifies as a mother, or fills the roll of a mother had a wonderful Mother’s Day! <3

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Upcoming Week’s Posts

 

Tuesday: A Secret About Close Reading

Wednesday: I Am Gandhi by Brad Meltzer

Thursday: Guest Review: A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi

Friday: How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk

Sunday: Author Q&A with Lynn Brunelle, Author of Turn This Book Into a Beehive!

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 So, what are you reading?

Link up below and go check out what everyone else is reading. Please support other bloggers by viewing and commenting on at least 3 other blogs. If you tweet about your Monday post, tag the tweet with #IMWAYR!

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Star Wars Workbooks (Writing, ABCs, Reading, and Math)

and

Summer Brain Quest Workbooks

Published by Workman

Star Wars Workbooks Summary: The Force is strong with this series! Introducing a line of workbooks that marries the iconic popularity of Star Wars with the unique mix of editorial quality, fun presentation, and rigorous educational standards that Workman applied to the BRAIN QUEST Workbooks.

Twelve titles launch the series―three each for Pre-K through 2nd Grade―and dig deep into core subjects, including numbers, ABCs, phonics, and reading readiness for younger grades, and math, reading, and writing for the older ones. The material, which aligns with national Common Core State Standards, is designed to reinforce essential concepts and lessons taught in schools. Any child, not just fans of Star Wars―but yes, those fans will be especially delighted (as will reluctant learners)―will love the “A” is for Anakin approach to phonics. Kids will practice learning numbers by counting and circling X-wing starfighters and clone troopers. Master place values by sorting groups of Wookiees. There are math problems―Yoda is holding 7 lightsabers. 5 of the lightsabers are blue. The rest are green. How many green lightsabers is he holding? And Language Arts―Circle the correct homophone in this sentence: Luke is a Jedi knight/night.

Featuring favorite characters like Luke Skywalker, Queen Amidala, Yoda, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and other creatures, monsters, Jedi, and Sith, the workbooks are filled with thousands of original illustrations drawing from all six Star Wars movies and the expanded Star Wars universe.

Learn well, you will.

Summer Brain Quest Workbooks Summary (Pre-K to K Summary): It’s time to get ready for school! Now, the series that keeps K–6th graders sharp, active, and curious in between grades is expanding to meet popular demand: Introducing Summer Brain Quest: Between Grades Pre-K & K, covering the summer between Preschool and Kindergarten so 4- and 5-year-olds can get ready for school—and have fun doing it.

Part workbook, part game, part adventure, it’s the interactive book that combines educational activities with indoor and outdoor play—with entertaining and effective results. The pullout map guides kids on a learning quest; to cross the finish line, they fulfill the curriculum-based exercises and customize their path by pursuing the bonus challenges and outdoor activities that excite them most. How about extra counting or reading calendars? A hunt for three-dimensional shapes? Identifying landforms? Or finding words that rhyme? Along the way, they earn stickers for completing pages, tick off an adventure list, and get fresh air with outdoor learning challenges, like writing the alphabet with sidewalk chalk.

Teacher-approved, parent-trusted, and designed to appeal to kids’ natural love of learning and playful curiosity, Brain Questmakes it fun to be smart all summer long!

Ricki’s ReviewMy son LOVES these books. They have made him so excited about reading, writing, and math. I am not a workbook kind of teacher, but these books defy all notions of worksheet and workbook teaching. The Summer Brain Quest books feature a map at the end. As kids finish each page, they earn stickers to go along the map. The books ask them about themselves in the “my world” pages. They make learning very fun. He particularly loves the Star Wars reading book. He enjoys matching the letters to words and circling answers. My son is an outdoors-y kind of kid. He doesn’t enjoy sitting at the table and practicing his reading. Therefore, we do these at night. After we read together, he picks one of these workbooks to do together. We sit on the floor, and he loves it. It extends his awake time, and he loves thinking he is doing something fun to stay up later than his brother. We found the workbooks in the bookstore yesterday, and he was thrilled to see his books on the shelves. We ended up buying other books in the Brain Quest series because he enjoyed them so much. He chose this rather than a new toy! I’ll be purchasing these books for my younger son when he gets a bit older. They are absolutely wonderful and make learning fun! 

Kellee’s ReviewLike Ricki, I am skeptical whenever I see a workbook, but as soon as these arrived, my son became a bit obsessed with “doing his Star Wars letters,” and I just cannot argue with that as Trent is not a sit-and-do-something type of kid. But since the workbook is a mix of writing and activities, it doesn’t seem like work to him but instead is seen as a game. Because of this, I view them more as an activity book than just a workbook. We’ve currently been focusing primarily on the Star Wars activity book because I don’t want to overwhelm him, and it also leaves the Brain Quest for us to do when he is done. (Though, I do LOVE Brain Quest cards. My sister, Natalie, gives them to Trent for his birthday, and we do his “cards” in the car.) Lastly, I want to give a shout out to these helping parents who want to include educational activities at home. I know that even I, as a teacher mom, struggle with figuring out what to do to help my child learn to read and keep learning, and these activity books are perfect!

We Flagged: 

Star Wars “A”

to “Z”

Tracing and Coloring the Number 3

Brainquest “MNO” and “Living Things”

“Summer Brain Quest” map

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**Thank you to Diana and Christi at Workman for providing a copy for review**

 
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Who’s Hiding?
Author: Satoru Onishi
Published: January 1, 2018 by Gecko Press

Summary: Who’s hiding? Who’s crying? Who’s backwards? Look carefully! Is it dog, tiger, hippo, zebra, bear, reindeer, kangaroo, lion, rabbit, giraffe, monkey, bull, rhino, pig, sheep, hen, elephant, or cat? Can you tell? Look again…18 fun-loving animals can be found on each question-posing page, sending readers into an up-close, attention-to-detail discovery.

ReviewThis is a book that is fun for people of all ages! Each spread asks questions like, “Who’s hiding?” or “Who’s angry?” or “Who has horns?” Readers  have to look from animal to animal to figure out the answer. My son and I had a lot of fun reading it because we raced to see who could find the animal first. It offers a unique twist to search-and-find books, and quite frankly, we found it to be much more fun than the classic search-and-find books. I could see this book working well with students who have been identified as having ASD. Because some pages ask about emotions, it would be a good way to reinforce facial expressions. Other pages would be easier (like “Who has horns?” and might relieve some frustration.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: As stated above, this books would be a great test for students who have been identified as having ASD. Also, it is a generally fun book and could be used to teach skills in compare and contrast (across the pages and within the pages). Lastly, it would be a great book to give to fast finishers.

Discussion Questions: How do the animals change across the pages? Which animal is your favorite? Which page is your favorite, and why?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Search-and-Find Books

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Veronica at Myrick for providing a copy for review**

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Tsu and the Outliers
Author: E. Eero Johnson
Published May 8th, 2018 by odod books

Summary: Tsu and the Outliers is a graphic novel about a non- verbal boy whose rural existence appears unbearable until rumors of a monstrous giant upend his mundane life. Tsu finds himself at the center of the mystery, as his strange metaphysical connection with the creature is revealed.

As the dragnet closes in, Tsu is forced to choose between a dangerous path leading beyond the periphery of human perception or a life without his only friend.

About the Author: E. Eero Johnson (Erik T. Johnson) is a Minneapolis-based illustrator, graphic designer, and comic book artist. His illustrations have appeared in GQThe New YorkerNewsweekWired, and The New York Times, and on several book covers. His comic book projects, The Outliers and Kozmo-Knot, have gained a growing interest from the indie comic world. He lives with his wife, Tammy, sons, Emmett and Eilif, and a crazy Boston terrier.

ReviewTsu and the Outliers is an interesting look at a new type of superhero: a young non-verbal boy who is able to communicate with a creature that his world is afraid of. There are some interesting discussion points when it comes to bullying since Tsu is judged by his classmates because of his disability. This is a big theme during the beginning of the book as we get to know Tsu. The creature also ends up being a Sasquatch and they are being chased by a chupacabra-like creature which introduces North American folklore. Overall, the story is pretty crazy (in a good way), and the end of the book sets up for a definite sequel which I NEED because Tsu makes a crazy decision at the end of the book with no explanation.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Use the scene where Tsu is bullied by Jespers to start a dialogue about bullying. Discuss why the scene makes them angry and uncomfortable and what could have been done by others to help Tsu. Have students create anti-bullying advertisements to share in your school.

When mythology and folklore are discussed, the focus is primarily on Greek, Roman, and Egyptian. Use Tsu and the Outliers to discuss North American folklore including the Sasquatch and chupacabra. Have them research the tales about these creatures and create their own myth with them in it. Also, as a class, discuss the difference between the characters is Tsu and traditional folklore.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What foreshadowing was there to show that Tsu was more than what everyone assumed?
  • Tsu’s lack of verbal communication in the end of the book ended up not being a disability. What do you think caused it?
  • Why do you think Tsu made the choice he did at the end of the book?
  • Why do you think Tsu’s mother made the claim she did at the end of the book covering up for Tsu?
  • Why does the Chimpanzee-professor want Tsu?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Superpowers, Folklore, Superhero comics

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to odod books for providing a copy for review!**

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