Guest Post: Classroom Uses for Astronuts by Jon Sciezska, El Deafo by Cece Bell, Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani, One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale, and Squish: Super Amoeba by Jennifer L. Holm

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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 about these graphic novels.

AstroNuts Mission One: The Plant Planet
Author: Jon Scieszka
Illustrator: Steven Weinberg
Published September 10th, 2019 by Chronicle Books

Summary: AstroWolf, LaserShark, SmartHawk, and StinkBug are animal astronauts that were sent on a mission to find a sustainable planet for humans to live on once we’ve ruined Earth. So off they rocket to the Plant Planet in the nose rocket! They must perform experiments to gather all the information needed to know if the planet would be able to sustain humans, Or do Plant Planet’s inhabitants have a different plan in store. This book uses real life science with a fun twist.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be great for teaching all about planet Earth, how to recycle, and how to protect the planet. Also, this book does a great job on putting a fun, zany twist on its characters that make this educational, engaging, and entertaining. These are all great things that students can look forward to when reading this book and are introduced to it, in the classroom.

In terms of interdisciplinary elements, we have discussed that the best subject that the book AstroNuts can be connected to is science. This book can be seen from many different angles when connected to science, but can be more specifically geared towards the knowledge of climate change, protecting one’s planet, and cell information (ex: plant cells).

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why do you think AstroWolf thought that he knew it all?
  • Out of all the characters in AstroNuts (AstroWolf, LaserShark, etc.), which character do you think you could relate to the most? Explain.
  • What could the AstroNuts have done differently in order to not anger the plants, when they first arrived on the planet?
  • Which of the AstroNuts do you feel accomplished their goal for the mission? Why or why not?
  • What aspects of the story do you see in our society when it comes to protecting our planet?
  • How does this book inspire you when it talks about the environment and the ongoing topic of global warming?
  • Which AstroNut do you think contributed the most to their mission? Explain.
  • If you were an official for the NNASA how could you help prepare the AstroNuts for their next mission?
  • If you were to draw Plant Planet, how would it look different from Earth. What types of things would be shown in your illustration? Explain.

Recommended For: 

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El Deafo
Author: Cece Bell
Published September 2nd, 2014 by Abrams Books

Summary: Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece’s class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends.

Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school — in the hallway… in the teacher’s lounge… in the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it’s just another way of feeling different… and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend?

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: El Deafo teaches students about inclusivity which is something kids sometimes struggle with, and its books like this, that may just do the trick! This novel could also be a great choice as a book club book because it is a real-life story and could very well be a kids favorite. You can challenge your students, and have them create a piece of writing or art work that is inspired by this story, to show understanding. It’s great to have different books about kids with certain challenges, so other students can read and understand them better and see that they are not so different from other students, which is why it is encouraged that you to add this to your classroom library if it isn’t there already!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Based off of the cover of the book, what predictions do you have for the book?
  • Why did Cece dislike the way Ginny spoke to her?
  • How did Martha treat Cece when they first met?
  • Do you think that Mike Miller was a good influence?
  • Do you think that Cece missed out on a new opportunity to learn something new because she went into sign language school with a negative attitude?
  • What would you have done if you were in Ceces’ shoes when the teacher slipped out of the classroom and your friends wanted you to listen for her?
  • Why do you think the illustrator chose bunnies to be the characters?
  • Based off of the cover of the book, what predictions do you have for the book?
  • In what ways can you relate to Cece?
  • Cece thought about herself as a superhero? What do you think makes a person a superhero?
  • Why did Cece dislike the way Ginny spoke to her?
  • How did Martha treat Cece when they first met?
  • Do you think that Mike Miller was a good influence?
  • Do you think that Cece missed out on a new opportunity to learn something new because she went into sign language school with a negative attitude?
  • What would you have done if you were in Ceces’ shoes when the teacher slipped out of the classroom and your friends wanted you to listen for her?
  • Why do you think the illustrator chose bunnies to be the characters?
  • How did the illustration help you understand what is going on in the story?

Recommended For: 

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Jukebox
Author: Nidhi Chanani
Published June 22nd, 2021 by First Second

Summary: When her dad goes missing, Shahi and her cousin Naz discover a magical time traveling Jukebox and are transported throughout history. Traveling through time, Shahi and Naz race to find Gio and uncover the truth behind the Jukebox.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is educational because it goes over important social issues and it has an engaging story line that will catch the reader’s attention.

Literature logs would allow students to make connections and critically think while they read the novel. The students can then revisit their notes before coming together for class discussions. Free writes allow students to get their real impressions of the book out. They are asked to write freely about the novel for a given amount of time. The absence of a prompt gives the students the chance to explore the aspects of the novel that stood out to them the most.

This book’s interdisciplinary concepts contain history, music and sexuality. Each record that plays brings you back to an event in history without giving too much information, this may lead readers to want to learn more about what was happening at different points of musical history and history in general. Along with this, there was mention of sexuality and the acceptance of it in their family. This can show the reader that it is okay to have a sexuality that isn’t heterosexuality.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Describe the relationship Shahi has with her parents and with Naz.
  • What clues does the illustrator use to let the reader know what time period they are in?
  • Why do you think Gio and Earl prefer to listen to music on records?
  • Are you familiar with any of the music artists talked about in the book? If so, who and how did you learn about them? If not, who do you think would listen to and why?
  • Do you think the store owner (Earl) was a bit selfish, if so, why do you think that?
  • How does music influence your life?
  • Do you think music and history go hand in hand to shape our communities today?
  • Which historic time travel trip stood out to you the most and why?
  • Describe one event in the book that stood out to you the most. Give your reasoning.
  • Did you think that Shahi and Naz were ever going to find their father/ uncle? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think the Jukebox was so important to Gio and Earl?
  • Describe one time in history that was mentioned in the book that you would like to go back to.

Recommended For: 

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One Dead Spy
Author: Nathan Hale
Published August 1st, 2012 by Abrams Books

Summary: Nathan Hale is the first ever American spy during the Revolutionary War, who is to be hung by the British.  Before the approval of the hanging a giant history book picks him up to go through the past events through Nathans’ point of view which made him a spy during the Revolutionary War, and what the future of the war will be.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The book can be used with history and also when learning the time period the book is a good reference as far as word choice and vocabulary. It gives a good reference as far as seeing into the reality of the time period. It has great comedic relief and can be used to be an ice breaker when dealing with difficult things such as history, especially with our ELLs because it incorporates pictures and texts will allow them to make connections when reading and following along with pictures as well.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does this book compare to the textbook as far as history? Does this text provide more of a reference or as pleasant reading?
  • Knowing now that the main character is in reference to a real time activity, how does this change the pace and voice of the book?
  • What connections can we make from the graphic novel to the text as we are reading the text?
  • What can we infer from the textbook to foreshadow to happen in the graphic novel?
  • Why couldn’t the British soldier hang Nathan at the beginning of the graphic novel?
  • What were Nathan Hale’s famous last words?
  • What other history figures are present in the book?
  • How did Henry Knox get the cannons to General Wasington?
  • What was the first American victory of the war? And who won it?
  • How does the setting and the time period give more background knowledge as a reader? Does it help you for see the ending of the book?

Recommended For: 

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Squish: Super Amoeba
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Illustrator: Matthew Holm
Published May 10th, 2011 by Random House

Summary: A student named Squish (who loves Science) encounters school life with his friends Peggy and Pod. In the midst of his everyday shenanigans, Squish discovers the meaning of right and wrong when faced with unexpected occurrences at his school. Looking up to his favorite role model, “Super Amoeba”, Squish is determined to become his own superhero, save his friend Peggy from the school bully, and fight against the difficulties that come his way!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: When it comes to interdisciplinary elements in this book, we have found that the closest subject that could be connected to Squish is science. Some ways in which you could connect the book to science is by conducting a couple of experiments where students can find amoebas, or other microorganisms,  under a microscope. Amoebas can be found in water puddles and lakes, and most of these places are nearby a school, which can be a great field day for students as well.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What event(s) in the book do you think shows poor/unfriendly behavior? Why?
  • What is a Planaria? Why did the authors make the principal of Squish’s school a Planaria?
  • If you were a friend of Squish, what advice would you give him when confronting the bully in the story? Would you not give him advice? Why or why not?
  • What types of connections could you make with Squish’s character, and his emotions at the end of the story? Explain.
  • Why do you think Mr. Rotifer didn’t ask more questions on why Squish helped Lynwood?
  • Is Pod a good friend in your opinion? Why or why not?
  • What animal would you want to eat the bully in the story? Explain.
  • Would you help the bully cheat to protect your friend?
  • What are some ways that Squish could have handled his bullying situation?Why or why not?

Recommended For: 

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Student Voices: Insights from Karina D., Emma Y., Nour B., Maria F., Bianca C., and Anabella S.

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Insights

Favorite Book Quotes by Karina D., 6th grade, & Emma Y., 7th grade

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

  • “Sometimes, things that appear very different on the surface are actually the exact same at their core.” – Jameson Winchester Hawthorne from The Inheritance Games (the first book) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
    • This quote stuck out to me as I was reading the book, this specific scene stuck in my head. Basically, the main character, Avery, was trying to unlock her new inherited billionaire house and she had a task of finding the key. The thing is, the keychain that the key was attached to contained a bunch of other keys – all similar to each other in shape and size. She figured the odd one out in record time while on a call with Jameson Winchester Hawthorne – who inhabits a part of the billionaire mansion. He was surprised, and then decided to say this quote, which stuck out to me since it hints at a deeper mystery in the book. – Emma

Amazon.com: The One (The Selection Book 3) eBook : Cass, Kiera: Kindle Store

  • “Break my heart. Break it a thousand times if you like. It was only ever yours to break anyway.” – Maxon Schreave from The One (the third book of The Selection) by Kiera Cass
    • This quote stuck out to me as I was reading this book, because it really wrapped a lot of things up in the story. They were in a situation where it was life or death, which adds a lot more suspense to the book itself, and the quote. It also provides information about who Prince Maxon chooses in The One to marry and spend the rest of his life with. This moment filled my heart with joy, which is why I definitely like this quote. Also because it’s something that I would understand myself, if I were to be in love I’d think back to this quote and smile, to fully understand the meaning behind the words.  – Emma

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

  • “I’ve been waiting for you a long time, Alina” He said. “You and I are going to change the world.” ― The Darkling from Shadow and Bone (the first book) by Leigh Bardugo
    • This quote stuck out to me because it’s really funny, it’s misleading because of what happens with the Darkling – let’s just say it’s an interesting thing to take note of. He really acknowledges the fact that the darkling and Alina can change the world together, change the Grishaverse and The Fold itself, which may or may not happen in this book, the first book of the series.. They make a powerful duo, but we find out later in the book if it’s for better or for worse. Definitely recommend, there’s also a bunch of other good lines in this story to take note of. – Emma

Amazon.com: Earthquake in the Early Morning (Magic Tree House #24) (Magic  Tree House (R)): 9780679890706: Osborne, Mary Pope, Murdocca, Sal: Books

  • “There is no water and still less soap. We have no city, but lots of hope.” ― Mary Pope Osborne, Earthquake in the Early Morning
    • This quote stuck out to me because just when they lost their house to an earthquake, with all their belongings, (and continued) the one thing they didn’t lose was their hope, just as inspiring as it sounds. That told me when times are rough, just don’t lose hope. – Karina

Amazon.com: Twister on Tuesday (Magic Tree House, No. 23): 9780679890690:  Osborne, Mary Pope, Murdocca, Sal: Books

  • “I love teaching. It’s a job that lasts forever. Whatever you teach children today travels with them far into the future.” ― Mary Pope Osborne, Twister on Tuesday
    • This book Quote stuck out to me cause it shows that the knowledge you teach is the knowledge that could lead to the future. Which shows that knowledge can last for eternity and just will be taught over and over again. – Karina

Books vs. Movies by Nour B., 7th grade

Debate: Books vs Movies — RVA Weekly

Is the book always better than the movie? In most cases, yes. The reason behind this is that most of the time the book is too boring to turn into a film. So the directors had to add extra parts to make it more interesting or leave stuff out because it wouldn’t add anything to the movie. 

When the book is being turned into a film, it’s probably better to let the author direct it so they can portray the book exactly like they wanted it to be. The movie is almost always the directors point of view of the book which can be interpreted differently so many times. While authors can portray the book just how they wanted to. Most people say the book is better than the movie or TV show because they’ve read the book and were disappointed by how they left out some of their favorite parts from the book. 

One of the reasons the book is (almost always) better than the book is. The director has to fit the book into about a 1.5-3 hour movie. That’s pretty hard considering all the details included in the book. When you read books you get to see what the character is thinking while in movies you often don’t get that privilege This leaves us to fiure out what the character is thinking through what they say or do in the given situation. Books also provide background knowledge while the movie doesn’t have enough time for that. When you read a book you get a lot of information about the characters, in the movie they just show the characters and give you no information on who they are and what happened to make them who they are.

Reading the book leaves you with some type of imagination to picture where they are or what the character looks like while the movie the characters and setting look completely different than what is described in the book. The book gives you freedom to imagine what the character look like and what the setting is like. This is often ignored by movie directors  and many fans of the book are left disappointed or upset.

In conclusion, the book is almost always better than the movie. While there are some exceptions to this, it is correct most of the time. Reading allows you to feel like you are also experiencing it while the movie just feels like you’re just watching it. 

The Truth About The Hunger Game Series (Spoiler Alert!) by Maria F., 8th grade

Amazon.com: The Hunger Games - Library Edition: 9780545310581: Collins,  Suzanne: Books

The inner workings of what actually happens! 

Warning: A lot of unpopular opinions are present 

The Hunger Games series is such a good book series but have you ever thought about who is the true villain or looked at who we should blame for prim’s death. Also what is truly going on with every character and their motives. Today I’m going to be going into more depth on what I think of the series and provide several theories that might even answer some of the questions above. 

Gale Is One of the Villains Of Our story! 

Hey I know what you might be thinking, Gale how could Gale be a villain, he was always there for Katniss! Or was he? From the very beginning of our story we were introduced to Gale and the author introduced him as a side character who played a protagonist role in the series. But why would we question his actions then. Well let’s look a little deeper, in the beginning gale acted like he and Katniss were just good friends and “he cared for her.” But later on in the story it proves that he did actually have secret feelings for Katniss and this had inevitably confused Katniss on who to chose, which didn’t help her mental health state. At Katniss’ lowest point in life Gale showed up and made it more confusing. Fine this doesn’t make him a villain but it does serve us every right to call him not a good person. But now let’s look more into Gale’s character throughout the book series. Gale has been proven time and time again that he hates the way the government is run, and clearly despises the capital.  So lets flash forward to the third book when gale designs that nuclear bomb that ends up killing one of my favorite characters Prim! He claims he did not know what the purpose of the bomb was and had no idea it was going to kill prim. But clearly he knew that designing a bomb is made to kill people. So Gale was willing to kill innocent people all around the capital? Also the real question is he designed a super powerful bomb but yet didn’t even take one second to ask what it was for! He killed his people and not only that, he ruined Katniss as well. So in conclusion, gale is a secret villain in disguise you decide!

Peeta Is the Best Character In the books! 

In the Hunger Games series peta is presented as a main side character so how can he be the best character in the whole series. Well let’s just say Susan Colonies knew what she was doing when she presented peta. She made peta a lovable character from the start who just happened to fall head over heels for our main character Katniss. The reason why Katniss is not the best character is because of her thought process on things, and instead of character development in Katniss we saw none of it. But yet in peta we did, peta even with his PTSD that he got in the hunger games, Yet he was still able to think with a strong mind. Peeta Is a character who went through so much for Katniss and we love him for that. 

Katniss went through too much and yet she still didn’t fail us? 

I feel like this is a given idea that Katniss has been through so much that mentally is not ok. But I did feel like putting it in here since it does contribute to topic one. What I mean by that is clearly Katniss has been through a lot from going through the hunger games and losing her sister. But yet Gale never helped,I feel like Gale just worried her more than helped which is why I say that he was never the best character. But yet Katniss didn’t fail us because in the end she ended up killing president coin. Many might say that was a foolish move on her behalf. But I think even in her terrible mental state her killing president coin was the best move she could have made. It was brave due to the fact that was her own leader and she knew what she was risking. The killing coin has stopped form another version of hunger games arising and yet she did this all in her terrible state of mine!

Effie Trinket Hates The Games! 

How could Effie hate the games if she announces the whole procure and draws the names. I don’t have that much evidence to support this theory but you can tell that Effie never enjoyed having to see Katniss and Peeta go through what they went through. You can tell that she had a soft spot for them and her having to see all that happen to them just didn’t sit well with her. 

President Snow Just wanted what was best for the Capital 

I had left the best one for last! How could someone as cold as president Snow want something good that is not for himself. Well hear me out although we can all agree president snow had the most evil character traits in the books. He did unfortunately care for the capital but never for the right reason. President Snow had worked so hard to create the evil foundation that he made from the districts divisions to the capitol. So just like anybody that worked hard on something they don’t want it to crumble. So when Katniss had posed a threat he was shocked on how somebody could have dared to do such a thing. Which is why what happened in the second book happened. President Snow did that in hopes of having Katniss’ death come true which didn’t happen and resulted in President Snow’s enemy never to be gone. So he had to take drastic measures due to the fact that he just wanted to protect the capital. So in the end president snow never cared for the district people but for his capital. 

My Mixed Feelings on the Author of Harry Potter by Bianca C., 8th grade

J.K. Rowling's tweets on LGBTQ community sparks outrage - YouTube

Although I do love the Harry Potter series: I think it pretty amazing. I love the whole story line of Harry Potter adventures to defeat lord Voldemort… But I do have a big problem with the Author J.K Rowling because of her being anti- trans. As someone who is in the LGBTQ+ community, it is something I have a problem with because I believe that just because you weren’t biologically born a woman doesn’t mean you aren’t because I believe we can be whoever we want to be.  

I get that she is a huge feminist, but it just isn’t right telling trans- women that they aren’t real women because they weren’t born as one but they can still be a women in their heart, and if you feel like you are a women then you are you don’t have to go through being pregnant or getting your period 7 days a month to be a she. So that why I have a huge problem with J.K Rowling.

We should all get to choose who we want to be: even our gender.  We choose the decisions in our lives we can be who we want to be and J.K ROWLING HAS NO RIGHT SAYING WE CAN’T MAKE THAT CHOICE. And by her treating trans- women like this, she’s making people feel tarnished by the Harry Potter books because of J.K Rowling anti trans posts on twitter And a lot of the actors from the harry potter movies totally disagree on J.K. Rowling’s views on trans women. They have repeatedly argued on the trans topic.

She is totally mistaken if she believes trans women aren’t real women because they are and that the truth is why I have mixed feelings on Harry Potter because I hate what she’s been saying about trans people, but I do love her books so you can see why I’m confused.

4 Classics I Want to Read That Actually Sound Good by Anabella S., 8th grade

The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins  Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Stetson

The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story with only about 64 pages, and It sounds like every last page is going to be a masterpiece. The story follows a woman and her husband who rent a house for their summer vacation. The Narrator (the woman) suffers from depression while her husband John, who’s a doctor, belittles her illness, thoughts, and concerns. The Narrator’s treatment for her depression (given to her by her husband) is that she must do nothing active.  However, she feels that writing is a form of freedom for her and so she decides to start a secret journal to help calm her mind. In this Journal, she mostly describes the house. She speaks mainly positively about the house but then some disturbing elements start to pop up. The Narrator becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in particular in one of the rooms and she starts to believe she can see things (a woman) trapped in the wallpaper. What was first believed to be a fun summer getaway turns into a psychological battle of terror, solitude, and freedom. A woman who slowly goes insane trapped in a room surrounded by dull yellow wallpaper. 

Crime and Punishment - Wikipedia

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Crime and Punishment is one of the most well-known pieces of classical literature and for good reason. The story is about Raskolnikov, a former student who lives in poverty in Saint Petersburg, and one day he decides to murder an elderly local pawnbroker who has made her way to a small fortune. Raskolnikov wants this fortune for himself and so he kills her as his solution to get the money. Then from the point in which he kills her onward, his mental states start to darken and deteriorate. Raskolnikov becomes enveloped by his guilt and then has to deal with moral dilemmas on whether he should confess or continue to lie about what he did. This book has me crazy with the urge to read it and get a full understanding of everything that happens and I’m also really intrigued by Dostoevsky’s style of writing. 

Amazon.com: The Setting Sun (New Directions Book): 9780811200325: Dazai,  Osamu, Bett, Sam: Books

The Setting Sun by Osamu Dazai 

Osamu Dazai is a great classic Japanese author who also wrote the book No Longer Human. No Longer Human is my favorite book to this day so I have high expectations for The Setting Sun and I have a feeling it won’t disappoint. (The Setting Sun is originally in Japanese and translated to English). The story of The Setting Sun is set in the early post-war years of WW2. It follows a 29-year-old aristocrat called Kazuko who divorced her husband and decided to move back in with her mother. After the war had ended the family had lost most if not all of their money due to the war and would now have to move from Tokyo to the countryside. We get to follow Kazuko as she tries to make a living for herself while her mother’s health is declining and her brother is trying to come to terms with the new state of the world after the war. The biggest reason why I want to read this book so much is due to Dazai’s amazing way of being able to show the change in society after so much harm was done to the people post-war and how the spirit, culture, and moral code at the time were changing. He also does an amazing job of showing how society and the changes happening put a strain on the main character. You get to see clearly into the mind of the character and how they think, making the character feel real while making you connect with them and understand all that is happening to them at the time. 

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger

This is again another common classic piece of literature most people know, but it should be noted that the book does touch on a lot of hard topics, so I recommend you look into the book more before you decide to read it. The story is set in the 1950s and follows Holden Caulfield who is 16 years old. We first meet him right when he is released from an institution and his story starts at Pencey prep, Pennsylvania (The fourth school he has gone to and is on his way to failing again). After getting into a fight with a friend Holden packs up early and goes home to Manhattan. In Manhattan, he stays in a hotel where he finds a girl and asks her to run away with him but when she denies him he gets angry and heads to his childhood home where his little sister is. He tells her that he has failed out of yet another school and she gets angry telling him that he can’t go around hating everything. He ends up going to the same school as his little sister and continues to try to find himself and form some kind of future for himself. The story doesn’t have much of an elaborate plot besides an angry kid having to change schools over and over yet the book calls my attention and I think it might be because of all the things I’ve heard about the style of writing and the way that the characters are expressed. I feel like there is a lot more to the book which I don’t know yet and I’m crazy to figure it out. 

Thank you so much to my student voices today and their look at ___!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 8/8/22

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?
Sharing Picture Books, Early Readers, Middle Grade Books, and Young Adult Books for All Ages!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly blog hop co-hosted by Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts which focuses on sharing books marketed for children and young adults. It offers opportunities to share and recommend books with each other.

The original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Happy reading!

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Thursday: Warrior Princess: The Story of Khutulun by Sally Deng

Saturday: Guest Review: Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, Illustrated by Laura Freeman

Sunday: Author Guest Post by Mary Batten, Author of Life in Hot Water: Wildlife at the Bottom of the Ocean

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

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Kellee

Don't Ask Me Where I'm From by Jennifer  De Leon We Were Liars by E. Lockhart Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

  • Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon: I really, really, really liked this book, and I don’t see why there hasn’t been more hype around it. I loved the characters, the story, the evolution, and definitely the theme. Beautifully written with real representation.
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: I can see why this book is so popular–the characters are pretentious yet interesting enough that you are intrigued and you have to figure out the truth behind all of the terrible. I know lots of people said they figured it out; I didn’t, so the reveal worked for me. I look forward to reading the prequel.
  • Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart: This one was harder for me to get into. It reminded me of Memento the movie in that you never knew what was true and what wasn’t and the sequence just wasn’t right. This one didn’t work for me as well, but I am glad I read it!

The Nerdy Dozen by Jeff     Miller The Million Dollar Race by Matthew Ross Smith Fenris & Mott by Greg Van Eekhout

  • The Nerdy Dozen by Jeff Miller: I can see why students like this book–it is full of action and keeps you on the edge of your seat!
  • The Million Dollar Race by Matthew Ross Smith: I ended up really liking this book! It is just written really well, and I loved the characters–you just cannot help but rooting for them all!
  • Fenris & Mott by Greg Van Eekhout: This is a newly released book that all of my elementary and middle school educators will want to get for their classroom or library! Van Eekhout takes the reader on a heart-stopping adventure full of Norse mythology, including the potential for the mythological pup, Fenris, to eat the entire world. Mott is a character that readers will connect with and the friendships found within the pages are unique and heartwarming. I cannot wait to share this book with students!

Your Lie in April, Vol. 1 by Naoshi Arakawa Penguin & House, Vol. 1 by Akiho Ieda

  • Your Lie in April Vol. 1 by Naoshi Arakawa: Always looking for new manga for my library, and this is one a friend recommended. It is a slice of life story that has a sad premise but also has hope. I have a feeling it gets sadder as the series goes along though…
  • Penguin & House Vol. 1 by Akiho Ieda: YAY! An all ages manga! I am so happy my friend Shannon is as into finding mangas for the school library as I am. This one is just so silly and charming–I mean it is a brilliant penguin and a blockhead guy in silly antics!

By the Book by Jasmine Guillory Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry The Roughest Draft by Emily Wibberley

  • By the Book by Jasmine Guillory: I loved this Beauty and the Beast retelling with an editorial assistant and a past-prime bad boy who is supposed to be writing a memoir. Kept the essence of the fairy tale but got rid of all the cringe parts.
  • Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid: This book was fascinating! I don’t want to tell you too much about it, but I highly recommend it for contemporary adult fiction fans.
  • People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry: Although I still liked this fun rom com, it was my least favorite of Emily Henry’s. It dragged at the beginning for me, and I just didn’t connect with the characters as much. However, I have seen people saying this is their favorite, so you never know.
  • The Roughest Draft by Emily Wibberley: Two “enemies” who used to write books come together to write the final book of their contract while fighting all sorts of tension?! Yes please!

To learn more about any of these books, check out my 2022 Goodreads Challenge page or my read bookshelf on Goodreads.

Ricki

It is Kellee’s week to share a long IMWAYR post, and she’s taking next week, too; I will update you all on my reading in a couple of weeks!

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Kellee

Delirium (Delirium, #1) Hooky The Mysterious Benedict Society (The Mysterious Benedict Society, #1) Stella

Reading: Delirium by Lauren Oliver & Hooky by Míriam Bonastre Tur

Listening to: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart & Stella by McCall Hoyle

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Tuesday: Student Voices: Insights from Karina D., Emma Y., Nour B., Maria F., Bianca C., and Anabella S.

Thursday: Guest Post: Classroom Uses for Astronuts by Jon Sciezska, El Deafo by Cece Bell, Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani, One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale, and Squish: Super Amoeba by Jennifer L. Holm

Saturday: 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

Sunday: Author Guest Post by Dianne White, Author of Look and Listen

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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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Guest Review: Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, Illustrated by Laura Freeman

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Guest Reviewer: Kayla, UCF Elementary Education Student

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
Author: Margot Lee Shetterly
Illustrator: Laura Freeman
Published

Summary: Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math…really good.

They participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes, like providing the calculations for America’s first journeys into space. And they did so during a time when being black and a woman limited what they could do. But they worked hard. They persisted. And they used their genius minds to change the world.

In this illustrated picture book edition, we explore the story of four female African American mathematicians at NASA, known as “colored computers,” and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career.

About the Creators: 

Margot Lee Shetterly is the author of  Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (William Morrow/HarperCollins). Shetterly is also the founder of The Human Computer Project, an endeavor that is recovering the names and accomplishments of all of the women who worked as computers, mathematicians, scientists and engineers at the NACA and NASA from the 1930s through the 1980s. Shetterly is a Virginia native, University of Virginia graduate, an entrepreneur, and an intrepid traveler who spent 11 years living in Mexico. She currently lives in Charlottesville, VA.

Originally from New York City, Laura Freeman now live in Atlanta with her husband and their two children. Freeman received my BFA from the School of Visual Arts and began her career working for various editorial clients. She has illustrated over thirty children’s books, including Hidden Figures written by Margot Lee Shetterly, the Nikki & Deja series by Karen English and Fancy Party Gowns by Deborah Blumenthal. In addition to illustrating books and editorial content, Freeman’s art can be found on a wide range of products, from dishes and textiles to greeting cards.

Review: This book was a gem to find. I didn’t really know the story of how NASA got the skills to make it to space when planning the exploration. I was very intrigued when I read the story of these four African American women who were mathematical geniuses. These women were around during the segregation era but that didn’t stop them from doing what they loved even through tough times. In this picture book I was able to explore their story and how they made everything possible to help NASA put the first man into space. I also really like the message of women entering a career we only see men in but overcoming gender and racial barriers will allow any women to be successful in her career.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book can be used in many ways. We can use in social studies when talking and exploring segregation and how these women overcame a lot of obstacles to help NASA but men into space. We can also speak about STEM based careers and how difficult it was for many women to enter science or engineering jobs or schools because it was considered a “mans” job. This book will allow many children to see that hard work and dedication pays off. We should follow are dream and work hard and overall, not let any obstacle allow us to fail.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did these 4 women make NASA hire them to work on the program to allow humans into space?
  • Was it easy for these women to get into school or even work for NASA? Why?
  • Who would you identify more with Dorothy, Mary, Katherine or Christine?
  • Descried how the segregation affected Black people?
  • What two major obstacles did Dorothy Vaughan face to become a computer at the Langley Laboratory?
  • Using the timeline in the book what were the most important events in the story?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker, Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed

Recommended For: 

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Thank you, Kayla, for your review!

Author Guest Post: “Unforgotten” by Kerry L. Malawista, Author of Meet the Moon

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“Unforgotten”

In my thirties, newly pregnant, I returned to my hometown library in search of my mother.

Once inside that maroon brick building, I was transported back in time. The thrill of possibilities lining the shelves, the card catalog with its array of seemingly endless wooden drawers, and the metal water fountain—where I struggled with how to simultaneously hold down the foot pedal and rise up on tiptoes to take a sip of water.

A gray-haired woman approached me. “Can I help you?” she whispered into the hush.

“Yes, I am trying to find the Bergen Record—from 1970.”

“Any newspapers over a year old are kept on microfiche. Follow me.” She drifted toward a side room full of machines that had clearly seen better days. A mysterious room, where grown-ups had unspooled reels and loaded slides into carousels, forgotten ways of recording the world. She demonstrated how to load the microfiche into the viewer and how to move the film around to find past articles, then she left me to my task.

“Good luck!” she said as she walked out of the room.

My eyes blurred as the years flew by. I slowed down as I reached 1970. Even more slowly I scrolled. January…March… April. I noticed the headline for the Apollo 13 launch on April 17 of that year, and stopped. I remembered that day at Shaler Elementary School in Ridgefield, New Jersey. It was a Friday, and my teacher, Mrs. McCurry, had marched us single file down the hall to the all-purpose room to watch the splash down with the entire school. Two large televisions were set up on the stage at the front of the room.

I overheard talk among the teachers that something might have gone wrong with the space shuttle and that the astronauts were at risk of burning up as they re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. A tense chatter filled the room until we saw the first sight of the parachutes opening, and like purple butterflies the astronauts floated down to safety. Everyone cheered. But for me, the thought of those men floating around in a capsule, out in space, away from their families, left a sad and lonely sensation in the pit of my stomach.

I never understood why that feeling about Apollo 13 stayed with me so long. The astronauts had made it back to earth. They hadn’t blown up.

Sitting beside the industrial metal bulk of the microfiche viewer, carefully sliding the brittle plastic film forward, I was launched back to my childhood bedroom. Running along the wall next to my bed, right where my eyes landed was a line of white trim that extended out from the center windows. On the wood was a tiny indentation with some chipped paint, shaped just like a rocket ship, with what I thought at the time looked like fire, blasting it off into outer space. As I settled into sleep each night I would check to see that my rocket ship, my Apollo 13, was still there.

Scrolling down to May, I realized that the desolation lingering from that long-ago Apollo landing was actually from three weeks later, when my mother’s capsule didn’t protect her. Till that moment I hadn’t realized how close these two events were in real time. My memory had fused them together, overlaying the later dread with the earlier Apollo 13 landing.

Now I wondered if had it always been a rocket I saw there, or did it only become one after our lives exploded?

Increasing the magnification, I zoomed in to the top of the front page—May 8, 1970. At first all I saw was the large faded photograph of the demolished Ford Country Squire station wagon, smashed in, glass shattered.

I read the caption below, “A woman was killed and her small son critically injured in Palisades Park.” I didn’t want to imagine a “woman,” my mother, pressed inside what looked like an enormous accordion with all the air pressed out of it.

The story below unfolded: “Police say Mrs. Leddy, 32, of 389 Mayer Court, Ridgefield, was driving south on Grand Avenue when her car swerved into the northbound lane and crashed head on into a truck driven by Edward Martini, 45, of Staten Island. According to police, Martini was sitting in his van reading a road map when the accident occurred.”

When I paused the flat black and white microfiche, I thought how little of the story those spare words told. I knew the facts: My mother, with my baby brother in the back seat, was on her way to pick up my little sister from nursery school. An eyewitness saw my mother slump to her side, that it appeared she had fainted, resulting in her foot pressing down on the accelerator. The autopsy stated, with high certainty, that an aneurysm exploded in her brain.

Yet, in that moment, staring at the picture, the intoxicating smell of the burgundy leather seats returned—just months before the accident we had celebrated the arrival of our very first new car—and the reel of that long-ago day unfurled through my brain.

My nine-year-old self, along with my four siblings, staring at my father sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Girls, there’s been…”

My knees weak, I glanced away, trying to land my eyes anywhere but on my father’s face. Not wanting to see his tears.

“There has been a terrible accident,” he said. I was like one of my lightening bug trapped in a jar, looking for a way out.

Slowly he choked out the rest of the words. “Mom’s gone.”

“What do you mean she’s gone?” I understood, but I didn’t want to.

Barely audible, he said, “She died.”

One of us asked, “What happened?”

“We aren’t sure yet, but she was in a car accident.” He might have said more. I couldn’t take in his words—a wall had gone up between my ears and my mind.

After I left the library, eager for more memories of that day I called the Palisades Police Department. While I realized it was unlikely, I wanted to see if there might be a small chance someone there remembered the accident. Something they could tell me. A desk officer answered the phone.

“Palisades Police Department. Is this an emergency?”

“No. I just have a question. I’m wondering if there might be someone working in the police department that was here in 1970.” Adding, “There was a car accident…I was hoping to ask about.”

He said, “Well our Captain was here then. Maybe he’d remember. Hold on a moment. What was your name?”

“It was Kerry Leddy back then.”

As I waited, my self-consciousness grew. Should I hang up? This guy has better things to do. Who calls the cops twenty years later, expecting someone to remember a car accident?

“I can’t believe I’m hearing from you,” a voice said, nearly as whispery as the librarian. He sounded as if he had been sitting by the phone, awaiting my call. “How is your brother?” His voice choked.

“He’s fine.” I said, doing my best to keep my own voice steady. “Really well. He’s in the army.”

“I’m so glad. . . . He was so . . . badly hurt. . . . I had gone to the hospital to check on him.” I could hear him struggling to find the words.

I said, “I’m shocked you remember.”

“How could I forget? It’s like it was yesterday. . . I was a new officer, just there a couple of months, and going to that scene and seeing the accident and your Mom. . . five kids. . . Well. . . Man. . . jeez. . . .” His voice once again caught in his throat. “I think about your family all the time. . . it was so awful. . . you kids…your brother like that. . . your mom. I never could get her out of my head. My wife had just had a baby. I never forgot it. I’m so glad to hear you all did so well.”

Captain Stanton had nothing new to tell me about the accident. Nothing new to tell me about my mother.

Yet he gave me just what I was needed, what truly mattered: Captain Stanton remembered. Remembered my mother. Remembered our family. All these years he had carried her and us with him, linking the past to the present. That’s what I was searching for, to not forget.

I found my mother in the newspaper that day in the library, and I discovered that I’d merged our family history with that of the space program. Then I found an eye witness to the devastation our family faced—a man who’d just started a family of his own when my mother died—and he’d spent time inventing a future for our family. That factual and emotional confirmation, together on the same day, launched me to write my novel, Meet the Moon. I remembered, embellished, and invented a family grappling with grief in hopes of reaching readers the way I reached the policeman, who gratefully said to me, “I can’t believe I’m hearing from you.”

Expected Publication: September 15th, 2022 by Fitzroy Books/Regal House Publishing

About the Book: In 1970, 13-year-old Jody Moran wants pierced ears, a kiss from a boy, and more attention from her mother. It’s not fair. Seems like her mother is more worked up about the Apollo 13 astronauts, who may not make it back to earth safely. As it happens, the astronauts are spared a crash landing, but Jody is not, for three days after splashdown, her mother dies in a car accident. Now, Jody will never know if her mother really loved her. Jody’s father has taught them to believe in the “Power of Intention.” Announce what you want to the world to make it happen. But could the power of Jody’s jealousy and anger have caused Mom’s accident? To relieve her guilt and sadness, she devotes herself to mothering her three younger siblings and helping Dad, which quickly proves too much for her, just as persuading quirky Grandma Cupcakes to live with them proves too much for Grandma. That’s when Jody decides to find someone to marry her father, a new mom who will love her best. Jody reads high and low to learn about love, marriage and death. For her adolescent firsts—kiss, bra, and boyfriend—she has the help of her popular older sister, her supportive father, and comical Grandma. But each first, which makes her miss her mother, teaches her that death doesn’t happen just once.

About the Author: Kerry L. Malawista, PhD is a writer and psychoanalyst in Potomac, MD. She is co-chair of New Directions in Writing and founder of the recent project The Things They Carry – offering virtual writing workshops for healthcare and frontline workers. Her essays have appeared nationally in newspapers, magazines and literary journals including The New York Times, The Washington PostThe Baltimore SunThe Boston GlobeZone 3Washingtonian MagazineThe Huffington PostBethesda MagazineArlington MagazineThe Account Magazine, and Delmarva Review, which nominated her for a Pushcart Prize. She is the co-author of Wearing my Tutu to Analysis and Other Stories (2011), The Therapist in Mourning: From the Faraway Nearby (2013), both published by Columbia University Press, and Who’s Behind the Couch (2017) published by Routledge Press. When the Garden Isn’t Eden: More Psychoanalytic Concepts from Life will be published by Columbia University Press spring 2022 and her novel, Meet the Moon will be released September 2022 by Regal House Publishing. Her website is KerryMalawista.com.

Thank you, Kerry, for this beautifully written post!

Guest Review: The Bad Seed by Jory John, Illustrated by Pete Oswald

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Guest Reviewer: Katie, UCF Elementary Education Student

The Bad Seed
Author: Jory John
Illustrator: Pete Oswald
Published August 29th, 2017 by HarperCollins Publishers

Summary: This is a book about a bad seed. A baaaaaaaaaad seed. How bad? Do you really want to know?

He has a bad temper, bad manners, and a bad attitude. He’s been bad since he can remember! This seed cuts in line every time, stares at everybody and never listens. But what happens when one mischievous little seed changes his mind about himself, and decides that he wants to be—happy?

About the Creators:

Jory John is a New York Times bestselling author and two-time E. B. White Read Aloud Honor recipient. Jory’s work includes the award-winning Goodnight Already! series; the bestselling Terrible Two series; the popular picture books The Bad Seed, Penguin Problems, and Quit Calling Me a Monster!; and the national bestseller All My Friends Are Dead, among other books. He lives in Oregon.

Pete Oswald is an LA-based artist, kid lit author/illustrator, and production designer. He is the co-creator of Mingo the Flamingo, published in 2017 by HarperCollins. Pete is also the illustrator of The Bad Seed, by Jory John. When Pete is not working on books he is helping to uplift many of the most successful animated franchises as a character designer, concept artist, and production designer. Pete lives in Santa Monica, California, with his wife and two sons.

Review: I personally love this book and the character development it possesses throughout. There is a background on how the seed became to be “The Bad Seed”, which helps readers understand that there is always a reason behind their peers’ behaviors. The seed shared the things he does and the reasons he believes himself to be so bad but also a chance in his mindset, he no longer wants to be a bad seed. He starts changing his behavior and wants to be happy. This shows kids that it’s okay to want to make positive changes in themselves and it is possible for their peers to do so too. The seed also shares that he may not continue these positive behaviors at all times but does so from time to time. This shows that you can not be the perfect person at all times but it’s all about you trying to do so. With this, I think this would be a great book to start the year out with to show students that it is okay to start out being “bad” and changing for the better. It also gives students a chance to understand behaviors without telling them.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I think this book would be best for a classroom read aloud. This is because it would be a great introduction book or even if you notice there are a lot of negative behaviors happening in the classroom. It shows character development and how you can turn your behavior around. It also shows that there is a reason behind all negative behaviors and that these reasons are justifiable as well showing that you can get past it.

Some activities you could also do with it are:

Mapping: Mapping could be used for this book as you can map the journey the character takes to change his behavior from being bad to being good. You can have points that begin with the seed being happy, what happened that made him change his behavior, what he did while he was being bad, and what he started doing to become good.

Literature Logs: This could be used for older age groups, they can stop at the beginning to make connections or write down their initial thoughts after a picture walk. They can stop at different points to make inferences about what’s going to happen next or things they believe the character can do to turn around his behavior.

Graffiti Boards: This could be used just like the literature logs but may be more fun for the students as it is less structured. Here they have a chance to write, draw and interpret ideas on their own with little guidance other then the initial instructions and it can be done at any point without having to stop as a whole class to complete.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Describe in your own words the reasoning behind the bad seed becoming bad?
  • Why do you think the seed is considered to be the bad seed just from looking at the cover?
  • Do you think the seed will be able to overcome his “bad” behavior? Why or why not?
  • Describe a time in your life where you interacted with someone who acted like the bad seed? How did it make you feel?
  • Why do you think the seed wanted to turn his behavior around and become good again?
  • What do you think we can learn from the bad seed and his journey to become good?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Understanding behavior, colorful illustrations

Recommended For: 

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Thank you, Katie, for your review!

Guest Post: Classroom Uses for Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott, Magnificent Makers: How to Test a Friendship by Theanne Griffith, Polly Diamond and the Magic Book by Alice Kuipers, and Sisters of the Neversea by Cynthia Leitich Smith

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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. The course was structured by genre as were the book clubs.

Today, I am happy to share the classroom uses and discussion questions found by my UCF Elementary Education students about fantasy novels.

Dragons in a Bag
Author: Zetta Elliott
Published October 23rd, 2018 by Random House

Summary: Jax is left by his mom to an old lady by the name of Ma. Jax later finds out that Ma is a witch who has 3 dragon eggs that hatched. They need to return the eggs because they won’t survive in the regular world due to lack of magic. They go to portals through time that takes them to the time of dinosaurs. Along the way, Jax meets his grandfather who also knows magic, and has him return two of the dragons to the magic council but accidentally left one left behind so he returns to the regular world. He forces his mom and the witch to hash out their problems.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: When using fantasy in the classroom it is always a good way to spark your students’ creativity. This source could be used as a creative writing prompt to boost off their creativity of the story: Conduct an activity based upon the book like have them write a short story about what they would do if they were in Jax’s shoes and have them draw pictures of dragons, name them, and design the dragons how they would like them to be pictured.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What was Jax’s first impression of Ma?
  • How do you think Jax will return the last dragon to the magic council?
  • Who do agree with and why? Ma who wants to keep the world of magic separate or L. Roy who wants magic to come back to earth.
  • Why do you think Jax decided to open the window for the squirrel?
  • What were 2 things the dragons were not allowed to have?
  • When you first hear the word apprentice what comes to mind?  Did you have the same thinking as Jax?
  • How does the story tie in with real-life scenarios with the fantasy?
  • Who are the most influential character apart from Jax?
  • When do we see the change of events come in play throughout the story?
  • When reading the book your imagination goes wild,in what other circumstances does your mind go other places when reading this story?

Recommended For: 

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The Magnificent Makers: How to Test Friendship
Author: Theanne Griffith
Illustrator: Reggie Brown
Published May 19th, 2020 by Random House Children’s Books

Summary: Pablo, Violet and Deepak are three friends who get sucked into a telescope and must play science games to come back and play again. Deepak is the new kid who makes Pablo jealous with his presence. Throughout the book, the team works together and build their friendship to complete the games.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The book could be used as a classroom read-aloud over the course of a few days or a week.  Due to the science elements, this book would be a good way to start off science discussions in the classroom. For example, the second chapter includes the students learning about food chains. This book is perfect to make connections back to science.

Discussion Questions: 

  •   Why do you think Pablo was jealous of Deepak?
  •   What were some of the challenges they had and what did they have to do?
  •   Why do you think Pablo, Violet, and Deepak were chosen for the Maker’s Maze?
  •    What do you know about producers, consumers, decomposers, and scavengers?
  • What were your favorite aspects of science that you learned from the book?
  • What type of emotion did the characters experience in the book?
  • When Deepak arrived to class, what did Pablo notice about him?
  • How does Pablo overcome is jealous toward Deepak?
  • Toward the end of the book why did they relate their friendship to the ecosystems?

Recommended For: 

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Polly Diamond and the Magic Book
Author: Alice Kuipers
Illustrator: Diana Toledano
Published April 22nd, 2018 by Chronicle Books

Summary: Polly Diamond is a little girl who receives a magic book that lets her bring to life the things that she writes and draws. She has a little sister who she doesn’t like very much and a brother on the way. Polly loves to write, she writes lists and stories and anything that she thinks is worth writing. When she starts writing in her magic book she realizes that the book can talk back to her. She writes to her book and comes up with lists and stories to write. She realizes that whatever she writes in the book comes to life when she writes about making a ladder to paint her room and the books on the floor magically move to make a ladder. The book tells her that is what she’s for and Polly quickly learns she can do anything she writes. She makes herself invisible and her sister into a banana. But she realizes that the book is taking everything she says literally. When she writes about eating a club sandwich the book gives her two slices of bread with a bat in between because it took the definition of a club literally. She told the house to fix up the carpet and turn her room into an aquarium. But the carpet was on the ceiling and fish were swimming around her room. She then realizes that everything she wrote was crazy and tries to put the house back to normal because she can’t even recognize it anymore. She fixes it just in time for her parents to come home with her new baby brother. At the end of the story she gives the book a name, Spell. And looks forward to writing and drawing another day with her new book, and friend Spell.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Polly uses and explains words like metaphor, affixes, alliteration, and hyperbole.  This is a great opportunity to talk about these definitions, make lists of words and phrases that relate to these words, and do activities where the students use metaphors, alliteration, homophones, homonyms etc.  It seems like a useful book to have in a first grade classroom and use with a higher level reading small group or a second grade class.    It could also be used as a read aloud, again discussing the key words and their meanings, then practicing using those skills.  There is a lot of use of imagery in this book as well as understanding literal meaning and how words matter.

After reading the text, students can respond to the story by engaging in a free write activity after they finish the reading. As a teacher, we could set a timer for five minutes and ask the students to write continuously about their thoughts on the book, good or bad, and afterwards, go over it as a small group.

Discussion Questions:

  • Polly had many favorite words throughout the book, what are some of your favorite words and why?
  • Make a list of activities you would do to have a Super-Fantastic-Day.
  • In the book, Polly writes down what her dream bedroom would look like. If you could have your dream bedroom, what would it look like?
  • When Polly writes in the magic book, she learns that she needs to write clearly and use as much detail as possible. What are some important rules to follow when writing so people can understand your message clearly?
  • When Polly is playing hide-and-seek, why does she become invisible?
  • Imagine the turquoise notebook has changed your house like Polly’s. Please write a short story explaining what your home looks like in order to get it back to normal.
  • How does Polly feel having to share a room with her little sister when her brother is born?
  • If you had a magic notebook that could bring three things you wrote about to life, what 3 things would you write or draw and why?
  • Polly loves words with double letters like “Dizzy.” List 5 words you can think of that have double letters.
  • Polly loves alliteration.  That’s when  two or more words in a row begin with the same letter.  What alliterations can you think of?

Recommended For: 

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Sisters of the Neversea
Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Published June 1st, 2021 by Heartdrum

Summary: This book is a tale about three children, Lily, Wendy, and Michael. Their parents, Mr. Darling and Ms. Florene Roberts-Darling are separating, splitting the family between two different locations.  The night before Wendy and Mr. Darling are supposed to leave, the children are visited by a boy named Peter Pan and Belle. Stories of pirates and merfolk persuade the children to follow Peter Pan and Belle off to a mystical land called Neverland.  Upon arriving the children are separated and discover once you arrive you can never leave.  The children meet merfolk, pirates, native children, the lost, and fairies in a desperate attempt to figure out how to get home.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book will be great for a read aloud, book club, or close reading because it involves a lot of higher level vocabulary than some students may currently be reading at and it has long sentences and dialogue which again, some children could struggle with. These classroom uses would allow for discussions.

Geography could also be tied in because students could illustrate and demonstrate caves and waterways the Merfolk might have dwelled in. They also could show their knowledge of what an island like Neverland might have, and include what trees they think the lost boys were living in.

And, of course, it could be looked at versus Peter Pan as it is a retelling.

Discussion Questions: 

  • If you were a character in this book, who would you be and why?
  • If you were to create a different ending, How would it go?
  • Why do you think Mr. Darling and Ms. Florene wanted to separate?
  • What was your favorite part of the book?
  • What were some challenges that the children had to face or overcome?
  • Why do you think Peter Pan and Belle appeared?
  • Why do you think it was hard for the lost boys to remember who they are?
  • Why do you think Peter Pan never wanted to grow up?
  • Why do you think Belle brought Peter Pan to the island?
  • Why do you think the crocodile made a TikTok sound?
  • Does this book remind you of any other children’s stories?  If so why?

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