Hope Wins: A Collection of Inspiring Stories for Young Readers
Editor: Rose Brock
Published: May 10, 2022 by Philomel
Summary: In a collection of personal stories and essays, award-winning and bestselling artists from Matt de la Peña and Veera Hiranandani to Max Brallier and R.L. Stine write about how hope always wins, even in the darkest of times.
Where does hope live?
In your family?
In your community?
In your school?
In your heart?
From a family restaurant to a hot-dog shaped car, from an empty road on a moonlight night to a classroom holiday celebration, this anthology of personal stories from award-winning and bestselling authors, shows that hope can live everywhere, even–or especially–during the darkest of times.
No matter what happens: Hope wins.
Contributors include: Tom Angleberger, James Bird, Max Brallier, Julie Buxbaum, Pablo Cartaya, J.C. Cervantes, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Stuart Gibbs, Adam Gidwitz, Karina Yan Glaser, Veera Hiranandani, Hena Khan, Gordon Korman, Janae Marks, Sarah Mlynowski, Rex Ogle, James Ponti, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Ronald L.Smith, Christina Soontornvat, and R.L. Stine.
Ricki’s and Kellee’s Review: We love that Rose Brock decided to take the idea of Hope Nation and create a version for younger readers because all ages need to hear stories from those they look up. This is especially true about stories that are filled with adversity and hope. Usually with anthologies from various authors, we find ourselves liking only some of the stories and finding that others are dragging; however, with this text, we found that each story fit purposefully in the book. And because of the purposeful choices, every reader will find something in the book to connect with and will learn a little bit of something from each story.
Although we liked all the stories, we did have some favorites:
-Pablo Cartaya speaks from the heart and definitely made us cry (and clap for the young lady who we know inspired one of Kellee’s favorite books, Each Tiny Spark);
-James Bird shows that there is hope even in the darkest of times and the power of a strong support system;
-J.C. Cervantes shared how a teacher changed everything even if the teacher nor the student realize it at the time;
-Adam Gidwitz writes about what so many of us have felt at one time or another, and we felt it deep in the gut;
-Christina Soontornvat shows what life can teach that school cannot;
-Stuart Gibbs tells the truth about adversity and absolute grief;
-Janae Marks speaks to how hopes and dreams can lead to different hopes and dreams, you just need patience;
-Gordon Korman speaks about that feeling of revision and the emotional roller coaster that come with it;
-Hena Khan speaks about what it means to feel different and to want to share a piece of ourselves with others;
-Sarah Mlynowski writes about the powerful bond of sisterhood and the feeling of being far from those we love; and
-James Ponti showed how even in middle school you can stand up for who you want to be, and the power of names and naming.
Although the diversity of stories and authors is vast and all readers will find something to connect with, we did wish there were a few more queer stories in the collection. With the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, we are particularly thinking about this topic. This could be supplemented by teachers with other essays beyond the collection.
Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: This book easily lends itself to a personal narrative unit or a college essay unit. Both of these are very prevalent in curricula, which makes this book a phenomenal fit. Ricki showed the first chapter to her neighbor who is writing her college essay, and it inspired a great discussion.
What is hope?
Where and how do we seek hope?
When have you found hope in your life?
Which stories resonated with you? Why?
Flagged: “The daily reminder of how our own lives can be turned upside down made me realize why it’s so important to hang on to hope. It’s not always an easy thing to do—sometimes, it feels downright impossible—but the thing I know is that difficult times in life come and go; with those experiences, we grow as people. The key is to find ways to motivate and inspire our spirits—stories of hope can do that” (n.p.)
Read This If You Love: Hope Nation edited by Rose Brock; The Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul series; Essay Collections; Anthologies; Middle Grade Authors
All the Places We Call Home Author: Patrice Gopo
Illustrator: Jenin Mohammed
Published June 14th, 2022 by Worthy Kids
Summary: Fall in love with this lyrically written and lushly illustrated exploration of identity and home that celebrates all the places and people who make us who we are.
“And where shall we go?” Mama asks as she tucks me in.
“South Africa. Where I was born.”
My answer summons Mama’s stories, stories that send us soaring back in time to when I was a baby. Out my window. Down my street. Across water. Across continents.
Where do you come from? Where does your family come from? For many children, the answers to these questions can transform a conversation into a journey around the globe.
In her first picture book, author Patrice Gopo illuminates how family stories help shape children, help form their identity, and help connect them with the broader world. Her lyrical language, paired with Jenin Mohammed’s richly textured artwork, creates a beautiful, stirring portrait of a child’s deep ties to cultures and communities beyond where she lays her head to sleep.
Ultimately, this story speaks a truth that all children need to hear: The places we come from are part of us, even if we can’t always be near them. All the Places We Call Home is a quiet triumph that encourages an awakening to our own stories and to the stories of those around us.
About the Creators:
Patrice Gopo is the child of Jamaican immigrants and was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. She is an award-winning essayist and the author of All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way (a Fall 2018 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection). Her ties to Jamaica and other parts of the world sparked her early desire to travel to the cities and countries she traced on a globe. In time, as she began writing about her experiences, Patrice became interested in how places contribute to the people we become. Ultimately, she hopes her stories celebrate the beauty of living a multifaceted life. Patrice lives with her family in North Carolina—a place she considers another home. All the Places We Call Home is her first picture book.
Winner of the SCBWI 2020 Summer Showcase Award, artist Jenin Mohammed moved into children’s illustration after working to gain entry into storyboarding for television. Just as her dream studio job appeared on the horizon, Jenin realized that her true love for story lay in children’s illustration. Her work uses dynamic shapes and perspective with a layering technique to create a tissue-paper-collage-meets-painterly look. Born and raised in Florida, Jenin grew up in an African American/Caribbean household, providing a personal connection to Patrice’s story.
Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:This book is a beautiful look at family history and culture. It celebrates oral tradition through story and memories, a sense of belonging through place, and a look at one family’s story. The prose is lyrical and calming and the illustrations are vibrant and expressive–it will make a great read aloud for all and a deep dive book for classrooms!
This book would be a great mentor text for writing a family history or visiting the world through memories in another way. Students can connect with their families and friend through the places they call home and create their own pathway around the globe.
Where are your homes?
Why does learning about where someone is from help tell their story?
Even if not through family, how else could you “travel” the globe through memories?
Where would you like to visit if you could?
What tradition do you have at bedtime?
What do you think the author’s purpose of the story was?
Why does the young girl view America, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Jamaica all as her homes?
Read This If You Love: Bedtime stories, Multigenerational stories, Stories about family history
**Thank you to Nicole Banholzer PR for providing copies for review!**
Inside Cat Author: Brendan Wenzel
Published: October 12, 2021 by Chronicle Books
GoodReads Summary: Told in rhyming text, Inside Cat views the world through many windows, watching the birds, squirrels, and people go by—but when the door opens it discovers a whole new view.
Review: Brendan Wenzel regularly impresses me. I use his They All Saw a Cat to teach about perspective, and it reminds us of the value of picture books at all levels of class instruction. I was really excited to read Inside Cat because I knew it would be just as compelling—and it was! Inside Cat can see the world in so many ways. It travels around the house and sees so much. I don’t want to give a spoiler, but the last page of this book will make you gasp.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book should be paired with They All Saw a Cat to teach perspective. Both offer different angles to questions of perspective. I think it could also be used to teach about authorship (as in authority and authenticity). Teachers might ask students to think critically about what perspectives we do or do not hold.
What does Inside Cat do?
What does Inside Cat see?
How do the images on the page work together?
What does the surprise ending teach you?
Read This If You Love: They All Saw the Cat by Brendan Wenzel, The Journey Trilogy by Aaron Becker
**Thank you to Eva at Chronicle for providing a copy for review!**
Kingdom of Secrets Author: Christyne Morrell
Expected Publication August 3rd, 2021 by Delacorte Press
Summary: Prismena’s father is the hot air balloonist in the peaceful kingdom of Oren. She assists him by mending torn balloons, but she yearns to build and fly the complicated machines herself. One day, a waif named Abi steals Prissy’s only remaining memento of her deceased mother – a silk scarf – and promises to return it only if Prissy smuggles a mysterious box onto one of her father’s flights. Since balloon travel is strictly regulated in Oren, that single act of rebellion results in her father’s arrest and kicks off a spiraling series of events that will yank Prissy out of her predictable life.
Along the way to free her father from jail, she’ll get caught up in a bar fight, nabbed by a sadistic schoolmistress, tossed into a home for unwanted children, schooled in the art of stealing, and thrust into the center of a brewing rebellion. On her journey through Oren – with its glitzy neighborhoods and its seedy underbelly – Prismena will uncover secrets that change the way she views her family, her kingdom, herself, and even her beloved hot air balloons. She’ll have to break a few rules – and even forge metal – to save the people she loves, but she may also get a chance to soar.
About the Author: Christyne Morrell is a children’s book author and attorney. She lives in Decatur, Georgia with her husband, daughter, and hyperactive beagle. Christyne has been writing poems and stories since she could hold a pencil, but KINGDOM OF SECRETS (Delacorte 2021) is her debut middle-grade novel.
Christyne is also the author of the picture book Abra, Cadabra & Bob (Clear Fork Publishing 2019), and her work has appeared in Highlights,Spider, and The School Magazine. She can be found online at christynewrites.com and on Twitter and Instagram at @ChristyneWrites. Christyne is represented by Danielle Chiotti at Upstart Crow Literary.
Review:When I started reading this book, it caught me right away because Abi comes out of nowhere, blackmails Prissy, then her dad gets arrested, and really I truly had no idea what was going on! Since the book is in Prissy’s point of view it gives the reader the suspense and disbelief that Prismena has as the story begins. This makes you want to just keep reading to figure everything out.
Then, add in a second story about a mysterious young lady named Wren from the past that will crash land into the main story in a very unexpected way–it just sucks the reader in more!
In addition to the plot, I found the characters intriguing and very well crafted. The development of Prismena is definitely the highlight as she learns how to be on her own and have her own thoughts, but even the secondary characters had stories that Morrell found time to tell in the book. I do wish I knew more about Abi’s life, but maybe that will come in another book!
I also think the book is timely as it looks at government corruption and propaganda based in fear of others and loss of power. Because of Prismena’s ignorance, we get to experience the realizations as she does, so this allows for good discussions about these topics without bringing up current events.
I am pretty picky about high fantasy, but this one is one of my recent favorites, and I cannot wait to share it with my students!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The author’s website has a plethora of extra information to bring great discussions about this book to your classroom or book club!
First, there is an interview with balloonists which goes more into the science of the balloons, how Prissy’s valves would work, and other fun balloon anecdotes.
At the beginning of A Blood Red Smile, a little girl treats Prissy like a celebrity because she’s the “balloonist’s daughter.” Later, Marybeth does the same. Why do you think that is?
Mr. Dudley is arrested for having “contraband,” including rubber. It may seem silly to you that something as common as rubber would be considered dangerous. Why do you think King Michael feels that rubber and other simple inventions are threatening?
When they first meet, Prissy and Abi don’t get along. Why not? What are some of their differences? What do they have in common? What changes over the course of the book that leads to them becoming friends?
Note: Some of the discussion questions in the complete guide are spoilers!!
Flagged Passages: Chapter 1. The Stranger and the Scarf
Abigail Smeade arrived like a black eye: sudden, fierce, and blossoming under my skin. When I met her, I was sitting in the shade of an old oak tree, minding my own business. I’d just removed a burlap sack from a hollow in the tree’s trunk and poured its contents out in the grass–scraps of metal, twisted brackets, and a few strips of a stretchy material called rubber. Most people would’ve described those things as junk fit for the bin, but I knew better. Pieced together just right, that “junk” would become more than the sum of its parts. And figuring out which way was just right happened to be one of my favorite pastimes.
But Father didn’t like me tinkering with the odds and ends I gathered (and sometimes even pinched from his workshop). It wasn’t proper, he said, and making something nobody had ever seen before might get a person looked at twice, which was the last thing we wanted. That’s why I kept my collection stashed inside an oak tree in the middle of Fletcher’s field. Nobody but Mr. Fletcher and me ever wandered into that field anymore, if you didn’t count the sheep.
At the bottom of the bundle, rolled up tight, was a scarf, a single piece of fabric more precious than all the rest of it put together. I unfurled it across my knees, and the silk shone and rippled like running water. It was cool to the touch, but the pattern–in shades of blue and yellow and purple–made me think of places drenched in sun. The kind of faraway places Mother liked to visit when she was flying hot-air balloons. In fact, the scarf had been a souvenir from one of her trips. She’d had a weakness for beautiful, unnecessary things. She’d filled the house with them once.
Startled, I crumpled the scarf and crammed it back into the sack. Then I whipped my head left and right, hunting for the owner of that voice. It wasn’t until I looked up that I spotted her, sitting on a branch of the tree and kicking her legs like she was lounging on a swing. She peered down at me with shrewd, glittering brown eyes. Without prompting, she extended a half-eaten shard of candy through the leaves. It glistened with a semicircle of saliva where she’d taken the last bite.
“No, thanks,” I said.
“Your loss.” She wedged the peanut brittle into the far reaches of her mouth and cracked off a piece. It rattled against her teeth as she spoke. “What’s that?” She pointed down at one of my projects, something I was still trying to get just right. A small flying machine I’d made using those strips of rubber Mr. Dudley had given me.
“Excuse me . . . who are you?” I asked. She looked about my age–long-limbed and gangly, with light brown skin. Her hair had been pulled into a ponytail that erupted at the back of her head in a burst of copper corkscrews. She wore several layers of clothes–an apple-green vest, a striped jacket two sizes too small, and two gauzy skirts that looked like petticoats that had been dyed pink and cut short. Her scuffed boots kicked at the air over my head.
“Abigail Smeade, at your service,” she said. “You can call me Abi.” She smiled with a mouth full of crowded, crooked teeth, each one shoving its way to the front. She stretched her arm down to me again, this time offering her long, tapered fingers for a handshake. As though it were completely normal to meet someone while perched in a tree. I unpretzeled my legs and stood on tiptoes to give her hand a single uninspired shake.
“I’m Prismena,” I said. “What are you doing here?”
Secondhand Dogs Author: Carolyn Crimi
Illustrator: Melissa Manwill
Published July 6th, 2021 by Balzer + Bray
Summary: Miss Lottie’s home was for second chances.
When she adopted Gus, Roo, Tank, and Moon Pie, Miss Lottie rescued each member of the pack—including herself, her helper, Quinn, and her reclusive cat, Ghost—and turned them into a family. But when a new dog, Decker, arrives and tries to hoard Miss Lottie’s heart and home for himself, the pack’s future is threatened.
At first, Gus, the insecure pack leader, only notices little things, like tiny Moon Pie being kicked out of the bed and Ghost acting spooked (then again…Ghost is a cat). But things soon go from bad to worse as Decker’s presence causes disharmony in the group.
When Decker convinces Moon Pie to embark on an impossible journey, it’s up to Gus to gather his courage, rally his splintered pack, and bring Moon Pie home. And with coyotes and cars on the loose, the pack must push through obstacles and dangers to reunite with Moon Pie before he can get hurt—or nearly as bad, get his heart broken.
A heartwarming—and heart-tugging—middle grade novel about love, loyalty, and what to means to be part of a family, featuring a motley pack of rescue dogs—from author Carolyn Crimi, with adorable illustrations by Melissa Manwill. Perfect for fans of A Dog’s Life and Because of Winn-Dixie.
Praise: “Pervading themes of bullying, leadership, loyalty, and family—among humans and canines alike—raise important issues while the comic-style illustrations feature character cameos and highlight key scenes. A sensitive, satisfying, and intriguing canine tale” –Kirkus Reviews
About the Author: Carolyn Crimi received her MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College in 2000. She has published over 15 books, including Dear Tabby, Don’t Need Friends, Boris and Bella, Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies, Where’s My Mummy?, and I Am the Boss of this Chair. Her book, There Might Be Lobsters, won The Golden Kite Award in 2018 for Best Picture Book Text, and her middle grade debut, Weird Little Robots, was named a BEA Book Buzz pick. Carolyn has received over thirty state awards and award nominations and was given The Prairie State Award in 2012 for her body of work. You can visit Carolyn at carolyncrimi.com.
Review: First, I must say: kids are going to love this book. Seriously. Go pick it up for the kid(s) in your life.
I always go hesitantly into dog books because, as I am sure it is with all of you, the emotions when it comes to animal books are on high alert! And please know that your emotions are going to be going on a roller coaster of emotions in this one!
The first emotion you are going to feel is love. As soon as you hear Gus’s voice, you know that he is a dog you can trust. Then as you meet each of the pack, they automatically go into your heart. Crimi does an amazing job telling the current narrative while also flashing back to show the dogs’ (and Miss Lottie’s, Quinn’s, and Ghost the cat’s) past. This allows you to jump into the story while also learning about how the pack gets together.
The next emotion you are going to feel is anger. Decker is a challenger to the pack. The way he manipulates and bullies, specifically Moon Pie, is devastating. It is true manipulation. You will definitely feel anger. Also, you learn more about Quinn’s life which will definitely make you feel angry.
Then comes the feelings of suspense, sadness, happiness, pride, and more! I can’t get more into the story because I don’t want to spoil! It is a good ride, I promise!
Teachers’ Tools for Instruction: First, this book is going to make an awesome read aloud!! Great topics and themes will lead to wonderful conversations.
But I think a huge asset for this book in the classroom is the different point of views that the author tackles. It is a wonderful mentor text for looking at voice. Each dog, cat, and person, although in 3rd person, had a different distinct tone and voice. It would be a great activity to have your students write a story from a certain POV then rewrite it from a different. Then they can even change 1st person to 3rd or vice versa.
There is also a publisher-provided curriculum guide that is an awesome resource:
Why did the pack lie to Moon Pie and was it okay?
Why was Dexter the way he was?
Why did Roo originally side with Dexter?
Each of the dogs had a special skill: What would your special skill be?
What are some times during the book that shows you Quinn is special?
How does Quinn finally stand up to his brother?
What does Gus’s choice about what he did with the coyote tell you about him?
Why is the book titled Secondhand Dogs?
What is the differences between Dexter and Gus as the pack leader?
What does Miss Lottie’s choice about what she did with Dexter tell you about her?
How did the ending make you rethink Dexter’s character?
Who do you think was the hero of the book?
Flagged Passages: “Gus: The new dog walked calmly next to Miss Lottie. His ears and his tail were both up. Alert, but not alarmed.
He wasn’t nervous. Not like the other dogs had been when they first approached the pack.
He was sizing them up, Gus decided. Gus didn’t know what to think about that. Usually new dogs pulled back a bit, or wiggled a little too much, or stood their ground and barked.
Not this dog.
Gus sniffed the air again. The scent that wafted off the new dog was bright and cold, like the metal water bowl in Miss Lottie’s kitchen.
Gus had always hated that bowl.” (Chapter 2)
Read a sample: https://preview.aer.io/Secondhand_Dogs-Mzk3MzU1?social=0&retail=0&emailcap=0
Read This If You Love: The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate, Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart, Granted by John David Anderson
**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!!**
Charming as a Verb
Author: Ben Philippe
Published October 13, 2020 by Balzer + Bray
Summary:Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy New York City neighbors. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University.
There is only one person who seems immune to Henri’s charms: his “intense” classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing a potential upside for himself.
Soon what started as a mutual hustle turns into something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for. . . .
This is a sharply funny and insightful novel about the countless hustles we have to keep from doing the hardest thing: being ourselves.
Review: This is one of the best examples of characterization that I’ve read in a book. I fell in love with so many characters (even minor ones!), which drew me into the story even more. Henri reminds me of some of my favorite students that I’ve had. He’s charming, driven, and likable. There’s a lot that happens in this book that I don’t want to spoil—but I should write that it teaches an incredibly powerful lesson. There’s one scene that made my stomach do flips, and I will think of that scene often. This would be a great text to use to explore concepts of ethics. It also offers a lot of insight about the college prep experiences for teens. I highly recommend this book to readers. It’s a powerful story and one that will stick with me.
How does the characterization of the text add to the story? Who were your favorite characters, and why?
Which minor characters really stand out to you? How does the author make them so noteworthy?
What did you learn from this book?
What does this book teach us about ethics? About humanity?
“There’s no use complaining about it and wishing the world was different. This isn’t how we change things for ourselves.”
Read this if You Loved: Love is a Revolutionby Renée Watson; The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe; I Crawl Through It by A.S. King
Love is a Revolution
Author: Renée Watson
Published February 2, 2021 by Bloomsbury
Summary: From New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Renée Watson comes a new YA–a love story about not only a romantic relationship but how a girl finds herself and falls in love with who she really is.
When Nala Robertson reluctantly agrees to attend an open mic night for her cousin-sister-friend Imani’s birthday, she finds herself falling in instant love with Tye Brown, the MC. He’s perfect, except . . . Tye is an activist and is spending the summer putting on events for the community when Nala would rather watch movies and try out the new seasonal flavors at the local creamery. In order to impress Tye, Nala tells a few tiny lies to have enough in common with him. As they spend more time together, sharing more of themselves, some of those lies get harder to keep up. As Nala falls deeper into keeping up her lies and into love, she’ll learn all the ways love is hard, and how self-love is revolutionary.
In Love Is a Revolution, plus size girls are beautiful and get the attention of the hot guys, the popular girl clique is not shallow but has strong convictions and substance, and the ultimate love story is not only about romance but about how to show radical love to the people in your life, including to yourself.
Ricki’s Review: There is so much to write about this book! First, I loved the way it elevated body positivity. The comments (implicit and explicit) about Nala’s size felt, at times, infuriating. I was so proud of the way she handled these comments. I also loved the idea that everyone doesn’t need to be a loud activist to be doing amazing work. Nala was keenly focused on her family, and the work that she did was important work. I admired her greatly. The book made me think a lot about my own convictions and what I value most. This is a book that belongs in all classrooms, and I recommend it highly.
How is Nala different from the other characters in the book? What do we learn from her?
What does Tye value? What do we learn from him?
How is Nala and Tye’s relationship perceived?
How do different characters in this book perceive family? Which characters reflect your own values, and why?
“I can’t stand when people don’t follow through. Make a plan, stick to it. Say what you mean and mean what you say.”
Read This If You Love: Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson; Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado