Guest Post: Classroom Uses for Stargazing by Jen Wang, The Party by Sergio Ruzzier, Twins by Varian Johnson, and When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed


One of the assignments during my Spring Children’s Literature course at UCF was creating a mini-teaching guide for the books we read for book clubs. We started with picture books for practice then students created them in their book clubs each week.

Today, I am happy to share the classroom uses and discussion questions found by my UCF Elementary Education students created for these graphic novels they read.

Author: Jen Wang
Published September 10th, 2019 by First Second

Summary: Christine is a young girl who plays the violin and is suggested by her parents to join the talent show. She then meets a girl, Moon, who is rumored to beat up other kids. Once she gets to know her, she finds out that she is actually a good person and they become great friends who decide on performing in the talent show together. The girls get closer but when Christine’s schedule gets busier, Moon finds a new friend in Madison, making Christine jealous to the point she leaves Moon’s journal open on the table for everyone to see. The girls start laughing at the drawings in the journal but when Moon encounters situations that upset her, she doesn’t know how to act and gets violent. After attacking a classmate, Moon passes out and it’s discovered she has a tumor in her brain that requires surgery. Christine avoids talking to Moon as she was the one that caused the fight and Moon gets surgery to remove her tumor. The girls make up afterwards and Christine bands together with their other classmates to perform at the talent show in tribute to Moon while the school hosts the night as a Fundraiser for Moon and her mother.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be useful in the classroom to help students learn the importance of accepting differences, treating others fairly and anger management. The book touches on topics such as stereotyping, homelessness, and bullying which can help students in the classroom.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How would you react if you were Christine and learned that your new friend has a brain tumor?
  • Have you ever had a vegetarian dish, if so what was it?
  • What are some other ways Moon could handle Angela reading her pictures to everyone at the birthday party?
  • In the book the characters participate in a talent show, if you were to participate one what would your talent be?
  • Why do you think Moon left during Chinese learning class, do you think she should’ve gone back to learn Chinese?
  • If one of your friends were feeling sad and alone like Moon was after her surgery, how would you comfort them?
  • Do you think that Moon was wrong in sharing her concert ticket with Madison after Christine said she didn’t want to go?
  • Do you believe it was right for Moon to attack Gabrielle for making fun of Vivian about her math puzzles.
  • Was Christine’s father right for getting mad at Christine for painting her nails and not telling her parents about it?

Recommended For: 


Fox & Chick: The Party and other stories
Author: Sergio Ruzzier
Published April 17th, 2018 by Chronicle Books

Summary: Fox and Chick don’t always agree. But Fox and Chick are always friends.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: A great activity to do with this book would be “post-ful thinking” where students put sticky notes on pages where they have a connection to while reading and jot a quick comment. These connections are shared when the group meets to identify issues for discussion. The sticky notes can also be used to revisit the book around a particular issue by marking pages relevant to the issue as a way to prepare for the discussion.

This book touched on more of the social-emotional aspects of life which is important for the age that the book is for.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Do you believe Chick’s question was properly stated in The Party?
  • Did Chick do as he said he would in The Party?
  • How would you reword Chick’s question in The Party?
  • How would you react if someone did something they didn’t mention before?
  • What time of day do you think the story Good Soup is?
  • Have you ever found yourself not being able to sit still like Chick?
  • What did you do to help yourself sit still in this situation?
  • Do you think Fox was correct when they didn’t paint Chick? What would you have done if your friend would not sit still?
  • What lessons can you take away from this book?
  • Have you ever made assumed something before you got to know someone like Chick did?

Recommended For: 


Author: Varian Johnson
Illustrator: Shannon Wright
Published October 6th, 2020 by Graphix

Summary:Maureen and Francine Carter are twins and best friends. They participate in the same clubs, enjoy the same foods, and are partners on all their school projects. But just before the girls start sixth grade, Francine becomes Fran — a girl who wants to join the chorus, run for class president, and dress in fashionable outfits that set her apart from Maureen. A girl who seems happy to share only two classes with her sister!

Maureen and Francine are growing apart and there’s nothing Maureen can do to stop it. Are sisters really forever? Or will middle school change things for good?

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be useful in classrooms when trying to teach students about the importance of self-confidence, friendships and personal identity.

After reading the book, students can make a quick graphic or symbolic drawing reflecting how the story Twins made them feel/what they thought about the story and discuss their drawings.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did Maureen and Francine find self-confidence?
  • How do Maureen and Francine change throughout the story?
  • What parts of the story do you see these changes?
  • How are Maureen and Francine alike?
  • How are Maureen and Francine different?
  • Why do you think Maureen ran for President instead of another position, such as Vice President or Treasurer?
  • Why do you think Maureen and Francine’s parents asked the twins to keep the election civil?
  • How do you think the parents feel about Maureen and Francine feuding with each other?
  • How does Maureen and Francine’s story influence how you see yourself? Do you know yourself?
  • Has the story of Maureen and Francine influenced how you view the concept of self confidence?

Recommended For: 


When Stars Are Scattered
Author: Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed
Illustrator: Victoria Jamieson
Published April 14th, 2020 by Dial Books

Summary: Heartbreak and hope exist together in this remarkable graphic novel about growing up in a refugee camp, as told by a Somali refugee to the Newbery Honor-winning creator of Roller Girl.

Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future . . . but it would also mean leaving his brother, the only family member he has left, every day.

Heartbreak, hope, and gentle humor exist together in this graphic novel about a childhood spent waiting, and a young man who is able to create a sense of family and home in the most difficult of settings. It’s an intimate, important, unforgettable look at the day-to-day life of a refugee, as told to New York Times Bestselling author/artist Victoria Jamieson by Omar Mohamed, the Somali man who lived the story.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: When Stars are Scattered is an impactful graphic novel that tells the story of the authors hardships throughout his childhood.  It places us into his shoes as he navigates his new life in a Kenyan refugee camp.  It was interesting to see our country from another persons point of view.  Throughout this book Omar and his brother had to face challenges not familiar to most his age.  They often went hungry, not knowing when or where the next meal would be coming from.  It was really great to see and show children that what we might take for granted is not available to others across the world.  In the book Omar had to decide if school was worth leaving his brother by himself everyday.  School wasn’t accessible to everyone in the camp, especially middle and high school.  It was a great accomplishment that Omar was accepted into middle school.  Omar also had to battle taking care of his brother by himself with the help of a neighbor.  Omar and his brother got separated from their mother shortly after fleeing their home.  Overall this book is a great example of what children across the world go through on a daily basis. 

This book has a lot in it that can be unpacked and discussed within the classroom.  This book hits on war, disability representation, women’s rights, and perseverance.  Omar and his brother were faced with challenges they shouldn’t have been faced with at their age.  But they overcame them and eventually accomplished their goal.  You could open up a discussion within the classroom talking about the hard topics that might not get talked about anywhere else.  You could talk about war and how it happens around the world.  You could show how Omar’s brother had a disability but didn’t let it stop him from achieving his goals.  You could hit on how women are treated in other countries compared to our own.  Honestly I feel this book is a great book to just promote a safe space for open discussions.  Children might not have a safe space to discuss these types of things.

Social Studies tie-in: The students can use this graphic novels to study the region of this book, the conflicts that have taken place, and how others around the world live.

Math tie-in: The refugee camps that are mentioned in the graphic novel are very large have the students calculate how large these camps by adding together the size of the three. Have the students graph the number of refugees coming to the camp every year.

Art tie-in: Have students draw their own section of a graphic novel inspired by this book.

Economics tie-in: Throughout this book Omar and Jeri do their best to make money in order to buy new essentials such as clothing and food. Have the students analyze how the market in the refugee camp fluctuates and how Jeri and Omar made profits.

Astronomy/History tie-in: Students can learn about stars and how they have guided travelers of the past.

Social Emotional Learning tie-in: The book could teach students about responsibility, compassion and values. Students can relate to the message this story brings. Some kids can be going through a somewhat similar situation that you may not be aware of. It teaches students the importance of perseverance through difficult times. It allows for students to engage in discussions about social issues that are going on and how to be compassionate about them.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Who do you believe had the most influence on Omar’s life in the camp?
  • What is your first impression of Omar and Hassan?
  • Why do the boys think of Fatima as their foster mom? What is a foster parent?
  • Why was Omar hesitant to go to school?
  • Why was Maryam forced to quit school?
  • When Omar went to school why was there less girls then boys?  Was this normal?
  • Why was it so difficult for Omar to talk about his mom at the UN?
  • Why was Omar not going to school and when Salmen offered for him to go to school?
  • Write a diary entry from the perspective of Omar, describing thoughts and feelings about your day at school.
  • Omar realizes that he does have many people that love and support him, write about what you are grateful for, do you feel that love and support are things that mean the most in the world?
  • If you were Omar, would you have chosen the same path and attended school? Or stayed home to take care of Hassan? Explain
  • Throughout this graphic novel young girls and boys are treated differently within camp. Write about a time that you have seen someone be treated differently based on something they can’t control.
  • How were the schools within the refugee camp different from the schools in the United States?
  • Fatuma is considered a part of Omar and Hassan’s family despite not being related to them. Write about a person who is not related to you but who you love and consider a part of your family.
  • Which child in the story did you relate to and why?
  • Did this novel change your perspective of school? How so?
  • What is one lesson you learned from this book?
  • Have you ever read a story about a refugee before? Did it change your thoughts about what it means to be a refugee?
  • Who do you believe had the most influence on Omar’s life in the camp?
  • What do you want to be when you grow up?  What makes you want to do that?
  • What is your first impression of Omar and Hassan?
  • Why do the boys think of Fatuma as their ‘foster mum’? What is a foster parent?
  • Why did the author choose “Hooyo” to be the last words said in the story?

Recommended For: 


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