Crayola: Follow That Line!: Magic at Your Fingertips by JaNay Brown-Wood

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Press Here
Author: JaNay Brown-Wood
Illustrator: Rob Justus
Published July 26, 2022 by Running Press Kids

Goodreads Summary: Do you want to know a secret? You have magic in your fingertips!

Use your fingers to follow a line and help it burst into color. Make magic with blooming flowers, tall mountain tops, splashing waves, and more by tracing lines with all four fingers and your thumb. Celebrate the power of creating artwork with Crayola products in this delightful and bright interactive book.

Ricki’s Review: My children LOVED this book. I’ve read it multiple times to them in the past few days. Kids of all ages will have a lot of fun with this one. It’s interactive (sort of in the style of Let’s Play by Hervé Tullet), and it asks kids to follow the line as they create the magic of the book. The colors are bright, and the writing is very engaging. This book would make an amazing holiday gift for a child or teacher.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: After we read this book the first time, my kids were inspired to draw. It would be really neat for each student in a class to draw one page of their own Follow That Line book (fanfiction at its best). The teacher could ask the students how they should organize the pages for a cohesive story and bind the book.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which page was your favorite, and why?
  • What might the author’s purpose be for this book?
  • How does the book creatively reach readers?

We Flagged: “Do you want to know a secret? You have magic in your fingers. Want to see? Turn the page.”

Read This If You Love: Interactive books, art

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Drawing Outside the Lines: A Julia Morgan Novel by Susan J. Austin

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Drawing Outside the Lines: A Julia Morgan Novel
Author: Susan J. Austin
Published October 18th, 2022 by SparkPress

Summary: Meet the brilliant, fearless, and ambitious Julia Morgan. In 1883, eleven-year-old Julia visits the amazing new Brooklyn Bridge—an experience that ignites within her a small but persistent flame. Someday, she decides, she too will build an astounding structure.

Growing up in horse-and-buggy Oakland, Julia enjoys daring fence walks, climbing the tallest trees, and constantly testing her mother’s patience with her lack of interest in domestic duties and social events. At a time when “brainy” girls are the object of ridicule, Julia excels in school and consistently outsmarts her ornery brothers—but she has an even greater battle ahead. When she enrolls at university to study engineering, the male students taunt her, and the professors belittle her. Through it all, however, Julia holds on to her dream of becoming an architect. She faces each challenge head-on, firmly standing up to those who believe a woman’s place is in the home. Fortunately, the world has yet to meet anyone like the indomitable Miss Morgan.

Drawing Outside the Lines is an imagined childhood of pioneering architect Julia Morgan, who left behind her an extraordinary legacy of creativity, beauty, and engineering marvels.

Author: Susan Austin

Praise:

  • “Austin imagines Julia Morgan’s life with authority.  She makes an important historical figure accessible to us.  Drawing Outside the Lines makes us see and feel what Morgan was up against, which makes her spectacular work all the more impressive.” —Gennifer Choldenko, Newbery Honor-winning author of the Alcatraz series
  • “Austin imagines Julia Morgan’s life with authority.  She makes an important historical figure accessible to us.  Drawing Outside the Lines makes us see and feel what Morgan was up against, which makes her spectacular work all the more impressive.” —Joan Schoettler, author of Ruth Asawa: A Sculpting Life 
  • “Diligent research and a rich imagination make Susan Austin’s new book on the young Julia Morgan a pleasure to read for all ages. Morgan is an amazing role model for young women everywhere. Austin offers plenty of examples of Morgan’s determination and talent and embroiders on these to create a convincing narrative. This book is a charming introduction to a great woman architect.” Sarah Gill, author of Julia Morgan’s Berkeley City Club

About the Author: As an educator, Susan J. Austin knows the minds of young readers. Her first novel, The Bamboo Garden, is set in Berkeley, California, 1923, and describes an unlikely friendship between two girls that is tested by a fierce fire that threatens to destroy their town. Currently, she is writing about 12-year-old Goldie, a whiz kid in the kitchen who hopes that her culinary magic can help her family’s delicatessen out of a pickle in 1928 Hollywood. Her characters are always brave, strong-willed, risk-takers. Writing historical fiction offers her a way to educate and excite her readers about the past. She and her husband live in Northern California, surrounded by family, their splendid, but fussy rose bushes, and a lifetime collection of books. Learn more at www.susanjaustin.com

Review: I loved stepping back to the turn of the 20th century with Julia and experience her marvel as engineering and architectural feats were occurring all over America. I also learned so much along with Julia in the book–it was intriguing to learn about architecture, architectural materials, engineering, and more!

Although I know that much of the book is fiction, that Julia is based on a real woman made the story easier to connect with because you knew she succeeded; you knew that all of the hate and bullying and sexism didn’t keep her down. And I wanted to keep following her journey to see all of the amazing things she did to prove people wrong.

Overall, a well-researched and also engaging historical fiction novel about a topic and time period not often shared with our middle grade readers. I look forward to sharing it with students and am happy to share it here.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This novel lends itself to be a companion when teaching historical architecture, engineering, or mechanical drawing. It also includes great anecdotes that could add to a lesson about the turn of the century’s amazing feats such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Eifel Tower, and Ferris Wheel.

Additionally, must of Julia’s story is shrouded in sexism which would go well with a discussion on women’s rights during American history.

The book could also be a mentor text for students to write their own historical fiction story based on an individual. The author’s note could be used to show how the author took what she learned through research and then made the story her own while still honoring the historical time and figure.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did the author use what she knew about Julia Morgan to create this story?
  • Which of Julia’s mentors do you think influenced her the most?
  • Why did Julia’s mom have more trouble with letting Julia focus on academics than her father did?
  • Even though Mary and Julia were very different, how did they complement each other and help each other succeed?
  • Is there anything in the book that you really wanted to be true but the author’s not shared it was fiction?
  • How was Julia treated versus her male counterparts in her university?
  • What barriers did Julia face and overcome? Why did the barriers exist and how did she overcome them?
  • How did Julia’s family both shape and inhibit her?

Flagged Passages:

Part II: The Choice

Oakland High School in the 1880s

Chapter 11: Too Brainy

“The tower with windows on all four sides, offers a fine view of the city. After considering several sites, I decide on an unusual structure I frequently pass by.

The next day, as I climb the tower’s narrow staircase, voices and thumping noises dash my hope of being alone. The room is packed with fellow drawing students. As soon as I step inside, the place turns eerily quiet.

I’m not surprised. The boys have never approved of me. Pencils go missing from my desk, my work is crumpled or tossed to the floor, and every day my stool mysteriously moves to the back of the room. It hardly ever happens to the few girls in the class. Just me. Although I hate the situation, it would be worse if I spoke up. Over the years, I’ve grown used to being teased by both boys and girls, mainly about my good grades. But high school is different. The boys in mechanical drawing have made it clear: I am not welcome.

I make my way to the best window for viewing my subject—the Pardee water tower. It’s a two-story wood construction, wider at the bottom, and topped with a windmill. Two boys standing by the window appear absorbed in their drawings. When I head toward a second, less favorable window, the boys standing there act as if I’m invisible. The air in this crowded, silent room is stale and unpleasant, much like the smell of dirty laundry in my brothers’ bedroom.

Heading to a third window, I steel myself for trouble, resolving to be sugar sweet. I will shame them. With a cheery smile, I say, “Excuse me. Is there room for one more here?”

The boy with freckles finally looks up from his sketchpad. “Have to wait ’til we’re done. And that could take a while.” I glance at his notebook. Blank.

I want to race back down those stairs, but I stay. Still smiling, I say, “Frankly, I think your estimate is incorrect. I shall not take up much room.”

If they are like my brothers, they will back down like timid deer. Can they hear the frantic flutter in my chest? After the briefest pause, they shuffle aside, red-faced, leaving me a tiny space.

The water tower is visible against a flame-red sunset. Within minutes I have a decent rendering. A quick glance at the boys’ sketchbooks confirms my hunch. Still blank.

The floorboards creak as I leave the church-quiet room. Reaching the bottom of the stairs, I hear that familiar refrain. “She’s too brainy for a girl.”

The laughter that follows stings worse than the words. I shut the door behind me, angry. What’s wrong with a girl being smarter than a boy? And so what if I draw well? It’s easy for me, like breathing.”

Read This If You Love: Historical fiction with strong women who overcome the odds of the limitations set by their time period, Architecture

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**Thank you to Spark Point Studio for providing a copy for review!**

Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet by Barbara Dee

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Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet
Author: Barbara Dee
Published September 27th, 2022 by Aladdin

Summary: Twelve-year-old Haven Jacobs can’t stop thinking about the climate crisis. In fact, her anxiety about the state of the planet is starting to interfere with her schoolwork, her friendships, even her sleep. She can’t stop wondering why grownups aren’t even trying to solve the earth’s problem—and if there’s anything meaningful that she, as a seventh grader, can contribute.

When Haven’s social studies teacher urges her to find a specific, manageable way to make a difference to the planet, Haven focuses on the annual science class project at the local Belmont River, where her class will take samples of the water to analyze. Students have been doing the project for years, and her older brother tells her that his favorite part was studying and catching frogs.

But when Haven and her classmates get to the river, there’s no sign of frogs or other wildlife—but there is ample evidence of pollution. The only thing that’s changed by the river is the opening of Gemba, the new factory where Haven’s dad works. It doesn’t take much investigation before Haven is convinced Gemba is behind the slow pollution of the river.

She’s determined to expose Gemba and force them to clean up their act. But when it becomes clear taking action might put her dad’s job—and some friendships—in jeopardy, Haven must decide how far she’s willing to go.

About the Author: Barbara Dee is the author of twelve middle grade novels including Violets Are Blue, Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet, My Life in the Fish Tank, Maybe He Just Likes You, Everything I Know About You, Halfway Normal, and Star-Crossed. Her books have earned several starred reviews and have been named to many best-of lists, including The Washington Post’s Best Children’s Books, the ALA Notable Children’s Books, the ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, and the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten. Barbara lives with her family, including a naughty cat named Luna and a sweet rescue hound named Ripley, in Westchester County, New York.

Review: I’ve never read a book about eco-anxiety before, but I could definitely empathize with Haven Jacobs and her true anxiety over the state of our planet. I loved that the book gave tangible things that could be done in a community and also looks at global issues. Additionally, like all of Barbara Dee’s books, she does a great job balancing teaching (about science and climate change) and storytelling.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The publisher-provided reading group guide also includes extension activities:

1. Choose one of the following and write an essay:

– How does Haven’s name reflect the major theme of the book?

– Revisit the chapter titled “The Scratch,” and the scene in which the author describes Haven’s room and talks about how her room shows readers who she is and what’s important to her. Then write a description of your own room, and ask a partner if they can identify what is most important to you.

– Using the quote attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way”), write an essay about what that means, giving specific examples from the book.

2. Haven’s heroine is a fictional Inuit teen climate activist named Kirima Ansong. Choose a real-life teen activist and write a report about them, the issue they support, and the actions they’ve taken.

3. The headline of the RiverFest story is “SEVENTH GRADER GRIPPED BY ECO-ANXIETY,” which nicely sums up the major theme of this book. How prevalent is eco-anxiety among the kids at your school? Create a survey and share it to discover the answer. Write a report sharing your findings.

4. Choose one of the following topics from the book to research and write a report about, using the facts shared in the book as a jumping-off point to learn more.

Discussion Questions:
(Chosen questions from the publisher-provided reading group guide; there are 16 questions on the guide)

1. Talk about how the two events that Haven relates in the book’s opening chapter illustrate two of the book’s major themes. What does the bouncy house incident show readers about Haven’s personality? Do you agree with Grandpa Aaron that “‘Haven’s a true problem solver’”? (Chapter: Sensitive) Do you consider yourself to be a problem solver?

2. Why does Haven decide to become a vegetarian? Do you understand and sympathize with her reaction when she goes fishing with Carter and her dad? Are you a vegetarian, or do you have friends who are? What are some other reasons that people make this choice? Talk about how vegetarianism connects with the issue of climate change.

3. Do you understand why Haven is so upset about climate change? How do you feel about her statement that “’no one cares about anything except what’s going on in their own lives’”? (Chapter: Dinner) Why do some of her friends think climate change is too depressing to talk about? Haven tells Lauren, the reporter, that all kids are worried about the issue. How do you and your friends feel?

4. Have you ever heard of eco-anxiety? What are some of the signs of eco-anxiety that Haven is experiencing? How might eco-anxiety feel different from other things kids are anxious about, like taking tests or giving oral reports? What are some actions Haven takes, or could take, to relieve this anxiety?

5. Ms. Packer says to Haven: “‘There’s a positive way to be upset, and another way that just makes you feel hopeless and depressed.’” (Chapter: The Blanks) Do you understand both options? Do you identify with one more than the other? What do you think when Haven says she feels that going to school is pointless, that there are more important things going on?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Learning or reading about climate change, science, and/or mental health

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

Trex by Christyne Morrell

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Trex
Author: Christyne Morrell
Published August 30th, 2022 by Delacorte

Summary: This middle grade mystery follows the adventures of a boy with an experimental brain implant, and a reclusive girl training to be a spy, as they’re pitted against school bullies, their own parents, and an evil, brain-hacking corporation. Perfect for fans of Stranger Things.

Trex’s experimental brain implant saved his life–but it also made his life a lot harder. Now he shocks everything he touches. When his overprotective mother finally agrees to send him to a real school for sixth grade, Trex is determined to fit in.

He wasn’t counting on Mellie the Mouse. She lives in the creepiest house in Hopewell Hill, where she spends her time scowling, lurking, ignoring bullies, and training to be a spy. Mellie is convinced she saw lightning shoot from Trex’s fingertips, and she is Very Suspicious.

And she should be . . . but not of Trex. Someone mysterious is lurking in the shadows . . . someone who knows a dangerous secret.

About the Author: Christyne’s earliest completed work, written at age 7, told the story of Kermit the Frog meeting Miss Piggy’s parents for the first time. Kermit the Hog was a cautionary tale about pretending to be something you’re not. She still thinks it has potential.

Today, Christyne writes middle-grade novels across a number of genres. Whether they take place in quirky seaside towns or fantastical, faraway kingdoms, her stories all have one thing in common: clever kids accomplishing extraordinary things, like conquering a curse, overthrowing a king, or taking down an evil, brain-hacking corporation. Christyne believes that middle-grade books should challenge, intrigue, and inspire young readers – but above all, never underestimate them.

Christyne’s debut middle-grade novel, Kingdom of Secrets, came out in August 2021 from Delacorte Press. Her next novel, TREX, releases in August 2022. She is also the author of the poetry book, The Fool Catcher (2021), and the picture book, Abra, Cadabra & Bob (2019), and her poems and stories have appeared in HighlightsSpider, and The School Magazine.

When Christyne isn’t writing for kids, she’s busy raising one. She’s an attorney by day, who enjoys reading, baking, and watching House Hunters marathons. She lives with her husband, daughter, and hyperactive beagle in Decatur, Georgia.

Review: I LOVED Morrell’s first middle grade novel, Kingdom of Secrets, so when she reached out for me to read her newest, I jumped at the chance! What is so interesting is how one author can come up with two completely different types of stories–two sides of the speculative coin, if you will. But man, does she knock this one out of the park, too. It is a mind bender of a story that, through red herrings, multiple points of view, and limited narrators, keeps you on your toes all the way until the end! There is so much to delve into with this book, and it is super engaging on top of it all. Another stellar middle grade novel!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: There is so much in this book to use in classrooms: STEM, journaling/spying, and mental health representation! And Christyne Morrell has so many resources on her website to utilize with Trex:

  • STEM
    • Static Electricity: Trex’s brain implant gives him a persistent static electric charge, which has a significant impact on his daily life. Teachers and students can explore the causes of static electricity and consider the steps someone with Trex’s condition would have to take to avoid hurting themselves and others. There are tons of activities available online that demonstrate static electricity at work. Here are some of the best: 16 Fun Electricity Experiments and Activities For Kids.
    • Trex in Real Life: Could Trex’s static electricity problem exist in real life? In Australia, a man reportedly built up a charge of 30,000 volts and set fire to a carpet! (Report: Man Burns Carpet with Static Shock | AP News)
    • Dry Lightning: Dry Lightning is any lightning that occurs without rain nearby. It’s especially dangerous for Trex, but it poses a real risk to everyone. Dry Lightning is more likely than typical lightning to cause forest fires, especially in the western portion of the United States, where it occurs most frequently. (What is a Dry Thunderstorm? | Live Science)
  • Spies
    • Spy Museum: Did you know there’s an entire museum dedicated to spycraft? Future sleuths will have a blast at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. Upon arrival, visitors receive a cover identity, an RFID-enabled badge, and a secret mission to complete. And for those who can’t make it to D.C., the Spy Museum offers a number of resources on their website, including podcasts, puzzles, and more. (Spy Resources | International Spy Museum)
    • Famous Female Spies: Mellie follows in the footsteps of a long line of female spies. From the Civil War to World War II, women have been covertly risking their lives on top secret missions in service to their country. Learn about some of history’s most famous and successful spies: 6 of History’s Most Notable Female Spies | HistoryHit.
    • Easter Egg Hunt: To kickstart your career as a future spy, I’ve included a major Easter egg (a hidden reference) within the text of Trex. If you’ve read my first book, Kingdom of Secrets, and have a keen eye, perhaps you spot the reference!
  • Mental Health
    • The Power of Introverts: Full of insightful research and powerful examples, Susan Cain’s Quiet makes the case that introverts as a group are undervalued in our society and that we should accept – even embrace – our introverted natures. The “Quiet Manifesto” on Susan’s website states, “The next generation of quiet kids can and must be raised to know their own strengths.” And I wrote Trex for precisely that reason. There’s a version of Quiet for kids and a podcast for parents on Susan Cain’s website. (Home – Susan Cain)
    • Anxiety: One of the characters in Trex deals with anxiety – a sense of distress or fear when faced with uncomfortable, unfamiliar, or stressful situations. All of us experience some level of anxiety (on the first day of school, for example), but when it becomes debilitating or disruptive, it may require attention. Treatment for anxiety can range from simple tactics like breathing exercises to therapy and medication. If you’re experiencing anxiety, talk to a trusted adult or doctor, and check resources like Anxiety.org, Child Mind Institute, and CDC: Anxiety and depression in children.
    • Alphabetter: In the book, the characters play a game called “Alphabetter,” in which they take turns naming things that make them happy in alphabetical order. This is a simple and fun way for anyone to calm their stress and boost their mood!

Discussion Questions: 

Book Trailer:

Read This If You Love: Mysteries, Tesla’s Attic by Neal Shusterman & Eric Elfman, Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson, Masterminds by Gordon Korman

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**Thank you to the author for providing an e-galley for review!**

Guest Post: Classroom Uses for All Thirteen by Christina Soontornvat, Astronaut-Aquanaut by Jennifer Swanson, Call and Response by Veronica Chambers, She Persisted: Claudette Colvin by Lesa Cline-Ransome, and History Smashers: Women’s Rights to Vote by Kate Messner

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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 some of the nonfiction books they read.

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team
Author: Christina Soontornvat
Published October 13th, 2020 by Candlewick Press

Summary: An account of the amazing Thai cave rescue told in a you-are-there style that blends suspense, science, and cultural insight. Twelve young players of the Wild Boar soccer team and their coach enter a cave in northern Thailand seeking an afternoon adventure. But when they turn to leave, rising floodwaters block their path out. The boys are trapped! Before long, news of the missing team spreads, launching a seventeen day rescue operation involving thousands of rescuers from around the globe.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be great for a full class discussion and read aloud. This book has a lot of important themes that would be great for class discussion such as teamwork and will to survive. Additionally, incorporating STEM activities through engineering would be perfect since this book was full of it.  And you can teach chronological order writing from the style of the book.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Have you ever been cave diving or experienced jumping into really cold water? Do you think you would be able to stay in the same wet/cold conditions for multiple days? What would help you get through the experience?
  • The Wild Boars were used to working as a team on the field, do you think it was easy for them to keep each other’s hopes up or more difficult? Why?
  • Different experts were called in to help get the team out of the water? Who do you think would be the most helpful in a similar situation? Do you think there are any people who weren’t called in that should’ve been called? Why?
  • The British divers refused to dive into the cave because of safety hazards on June 29th, and 30th. In your opinion do you think they were right, or do you think the Thai military were right in telling them to go in? Why?
  • If you were a family member of one of the thirteen trapped inside, what would you do? Would you call whoever you can think to help or keep yourself busy with aimless tasks or help pump water? Do you think you would remain calm? Why?
  • Draw a scene from the book, why did you choose this scene and how does it make you feel?
  •  Why did the team continue to follow their coach further into the cave although at times it was unsafe?  Who is someone you would follow feeling safe? Why?
  •  How did the maps and diagrams make it easier to understand the operation?
  •  There are many heroes in this book, who is someone in the book you consider a hero? and in your own life?

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Astronaut – Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact
Author: Jennifer Swanson
Published January 9th, 2018 by National Geographic Kids

Summary: Astronaut-Aquanaut explores the world of space and sea science, its differences and its similarities. The book is filled with interesting facts of the preparation and journey of surviving in a remote and hostile environment. The book also includes vivid photographs, as well as detailed accounts of real astronauts and aquanauts.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:This book could be useful in the classroom as a read-aloud book. In addition, this book is great at incorporating science and can be used within a STEM class, if possible. In addition, students are exposed to many after-reading activities that can help them comprehend the information that they had just read from this book in class.

Discussion Questions: 

  • If you were to pick to be an Astronaut or Aquanaut what would you choose? And why?
  • What types of places do you think would be useful for aquanauts to discover? Where and why?
  • If you were an Astronaut how would you describe the similarities of your job to an Aquanaut?
  • Why do you think that these extreme exploration trips put a strain on the human body? And why do you think the body responds that way?
  • If you were an Astronaut what type of experiment would you conduct? And how can that also relate to being an Aquanaut?
  • Why is it important for astronauts to train underwater?
  • Imagine being called for an emergency involving an asteroid that needs to be identified. In what ways do you think this might affect your life as an astronaut, and how you would feel?
  • In what ways do you think that astronauts and aquanauts explore their surroundings?
  • How does understanding pressure, heat, and temperature help us understand space and sea exploration?

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Call and Response: The Story of Black Lives Matter
Author: Veronica Chambers
Published August 17th, 2021 by Versify

Summary: Call and Response: The Story of Black Lives Matter written by Veronica Chambers is a powerful outlook on the events of the civil rights movement of 2020. The Black Lives Matter movement captured global attention and spurred thousands of people of all ages, races, genders, and backgrounds to stand up for progressive social reform. This book tells the story of how social media networks like Instagram, Snapchat, Tik Tok, as well as every news broadcasting site had come together to educate and inform the world on the systematic racism that has been growing in this country for centuries.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book could be used to help students understand a civil rights movements that is still going on today. The book shares information on the past and present situations that have led to this movement and includes pictures.

After reading this text, we would encourage my students to have a group discussion on there feelings towards the book, if the book made them feel a certain way, if they had an eye-opening facts that they would like to share, etc.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Do you remember another time in history when something was as big and powerful as the Black Lives Matter movement?
  • What emotions did you feel while looking at some of the pictures provided in the novel?
  • What are some ways that you can be a leader, like discussed in Chapter 6?
  • What quote in the novel stood out to you?  Why?
  • In what ways do you perceive this movement
  • How does it make you feel?
  • Do you feel you are in a safe and comfortable environment?
  • Do you or do you know of someone who may have been negatively affected by the BLM?
  •  Chapter 10 discusses young leaders. How did these young leaders lead, and why was it effective?

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She Persisted: Claudette Colvin
Author: Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrator: Alexandra Boiger
Published February 2nd, 2021 by Philomel Books

Summary: Inspired by the #1 New York Times bestseller She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger comes a chapter book series about women who stood up, spoke up and rose up against the odds!

In this chapter book biography by award-winning author Lesa Cline-Ransome, readers learn about the amazing life of Claudette Colvin–and how she persisted.

Before Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin made the same choice. She insisted on standing up–or in her case, sitting down–for what was right, and in doing so, fought for equality, fairness, and justice.

Complete with an introduction from Chelsea Clinton, black-and-white illustrations throughout, and a list of ways that readers can follow in Claudette Colvin’s footsteps and make a difference!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book can be used in the classroom to teach students about the civil rights movement as well as the life of Claudette Colvin. By teaching students about influential people of the civil rights movement. This introduction to figures helps students understand the effect that they had on the movement and also the importance of why the fight was important.

Interdisciplinary uses:

Social Studies: This book can be used to help teach students the importance of behavior between different people. Understanding the importance of treating everyone as equals is essential to promoting peace in society. This book talks about the errors of the past and focuses on how even though we have different genders, races, and looks it is important to remember that we are all the same.

History: This does a great job of going over the history of the civil rights movement. This book touches upon why the movement started, what those who lived through the movement went through in everyday life, as well as talking about important events within the movement.

Political Literacy- This book teaches the students on the importance of persisting. This book goes over the importance of having a voice especially in politics. By knowing your rights and expressing them in society it is possible to make a change.

Discussion Questions: 

  • The author cited one inspiration of the novel was the quote “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Why is it important to read books that feature many different main characters?
  • What effect did the death of Delphine have on Claudette Colvin?
  • While Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks protested in very similar ways the story of Rosa Parks is more commonly known. Had you heard of Claudette Colvin before reading this book? Why do you think the story of Rosa Parks is more widely known.
  • When Claudette Colvin was escorted off the bus she repeated that sitting was her constitutional right. Why is knowing your rights important? How does her knowledge of her rights affect the decisions she made in life?
  • In the back of the book there is a list of ways to persist. One the top of the list is to conduct research on how others have brought about change. Why is understanding change in the commonuite important to making a difference in the world?
  • When learning in school Claudette spoke about the attention that was spent on learning about injustice and civil rights. Claudette spoke about how she thought that this was more important and influential than the lessons they had covered in the past. Why is this so?
  • Why do you think Claudette decided to take a stand on the bus?
  • How did Claudette inspire others to take a stand?
  • How did the testimonies of the students on the bus differ from the police officer and other citizens on the bus. Why would they lie?
  • Claudette Colvin was charged with three charges of violating segregation laws, disturbing the peace, and assaulting a police officer. Why do you think one action resulted in multiple charges in court?

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History Smashers: Women’s Right to Vote
Author: Kate Messner
Illustrator: Dylan Meconis
Published July 7th, 2020 by Random House Books for Children

Summary: Myths! Lies! Secrets! Smash the stories behind famous moments in history and expose the hidden truth. Perfect for fans of I Survived and Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales.

In 1920, Susan B. Anthony passed a law that gave voting rights to women in the United States. Right?

Wrong! Susan B. Anthony wasn’t even alive when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified. Plus, it takes a lot more than one person to amend the constitution.

The truth is, it took millions of women to get that amendment into law. They marched! They picketed! They even went to jail. But in the end, it all came down to a letter from a state representative’s mom. No joke.

Through illustrations, graphic panels, photographs, sidebars, and more, acclaimed author Kate Messner smashes history by exploring the little-known details behind the fight for women’s suffrage.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book could be useful in a classroom during a Social Studies lesson where women rights is being talked about and the history behind that time. This book would also be useful to help students relate to the same efforts of current movements like,Black Lives Matter and other current social injustices. It teaches history in clear facts on how women sacrificed and fought on amending the constitution to help them have a right to vote and a voice. It also goes over discrimination and how it still was affected.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did this book help you better understand the movement for women to vote in our country?
  • Why did Susan Anthony and Elizabeth Cady want the right for every American woman to vote? HH
  • Why was Susan B. Anthony portrayed as the face of the women’s right to vote movement?
  • How did the pictures and sidebars in the book help you understand what you were reading?
  • How did women’s suffrage affect black women?
  • Why do you think Susan B Anthony was used as the poster child for the book?
  • What myths were found during the book and who was supposedly the first woman who spoke about women’s rights?
  • What was the reason for women’s suffrage and the struggle for right for African Americans?
  • How did women exercise political power throughout the book?
  • In the book, how were black women involved in the fight for women’s suffrage?
  • What did Frances Ellen Watkins Harper argue about?
  • In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote an official document outlining what?
  • On page 24, a document called, The Declaration of Sentiments, women listed their demands and read it aloud to a convention at the time. If you had an opportunity to write your demands for this convention, what would they be?
  • From all the women leaders named in the book, who do you think was the most influential? Why?
  • Of the strategies that women used to earn the right to vote in the United States, which do you think was the most successful? Why?
  • After reading the book, what has been the impact of women’s suffrage in the 20th century?
  • Give examples of some of the outcomes that happened when women’s rights activists would protest and picket?
  • What was President’s Wilson’s response to the women’s protests?

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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

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Thank you, Katie, for your review!

Guest Post: Classroom Uses for Concealed by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel David Makonnen, Maya and the Robot by Eve Ewing, and The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles

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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 science fiction novels.

Concealed
Author: Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Published October 19th, 2021 by Scholastic

Summary: Ivette, Joanna, and now: Katrina

Whatever her name is, it won’t last long. Katrina doesn’t know any of the details about her past, but she does know that she and her parents are part of the Witness Protection Program. Whenever her parents say they have to move on and start over, she takes on a new identity. A new name, new hair color, new story.

Until their location leaks and her parents disappear. Katrina embarks on a dangerous rescue mission to save them-and find out the truth of her past at last.

Yet every new discovery shows that the Katrina’s entire life has been nothing but lies. Katrina has always kept her parents’ secrets. But it turns out, they were the ones keeping secrets from her this whole time. Could she be the reason they’ve been hiding all these years? The truth will throw everything Katrina has ever believed about herself into question.

Concealed is an action-packed adventure story by award-winning author Christina Diaz Gonzalez.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is a great relatable book for young adults! Throughout the story, Katrina, the main character, fights for more information about herself and her family and why they are on the run, but she often gets overlooked and ignored when she’s asks questions. A lot of teens experience this and I think it would be a great book for a book club or even an assigned read for the class to explore sci-fi and have good discussions.

This books interdisciplinary elements include science and family and friendship values. It touches on the development of science in the DNA and gene makeup, which students may be unaware of at the time of reading which may lead them to explore more on their own. The family and friendship values show that no matter what a family goes through there is still love there. Along with this it shows the importance of friendship and everything that goes along with having a good friend by your side, even when at first you don’t think it is important.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What would you do if you were Katrina and no one would answer your questions?
  • Would you have wanted to go with Katrina on this adventure? Why or why not?
  • Katrina’s skill is drawing and Parker’s skill is computers, describe what your skill is.
  • Describe how you would feel if you found out that you had a lost twin sister/brother.
  • What did you think of X in the story? Did you think he was a good character or a bad character? Why?
  • What would be your name if you had to choose another one?
  • Describe the relationship between Katrina and Parker.
  • Describe one event in the book that stood out to you the most and give your reasoning.
  • Why do you think Katrina didn’t like moving so much? How would you have felt if you were in her shoes?
  • Why do you think the main character’s family has to run and change their identity so many times?
  • Do you think it would be safer for Katrina to leave Parker out of her life? Why or why not?
  • Describe the relationship Katrina has with her parents as the book goes along. What about Parker? X?
  • Why do you think Katrina was so open with Parker, even at the beginning of their friendship?
  • Do you believe X is trustworthy? Why or why not?
  • Why do you believe B and L refuse to tell Katrina the truth about what happened before she lost her memory?
  • Do you think Ellla will side with her family or Mr. Sterling?
  • Describe what part of the book surprised you the most.
  • Do you think it is a good idea for Ellla and Katrina to share their life story on social media? Why or why not?

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The Last Gate of the Emperor
Authors: Kwame Mbalia & Prince Joel Makonnen
Published May 4th, 2021 by Scholastic Press

Summary: An Afrofuturist adventure about a mythical Ethiopian empire. Sci-fi and fantasy combine in this journey to the stars.

Yared Heywat lives an isolated life in Addis Prime — a hardscrabble city with rundown tech, lots of rules, and not much to do. His worrywart Uncle Moti and bionic lioness Besa are his only family… and his only friends.

Often in trouble for his thrill-seeking antics and smart mouth, those same qualities make Yared a star player of the underground augmented reality game, The Hunt for Kaleb’s Obelisk. But when a change in the game rules prompts Yared to log in with his real name, it triggers an attack that rocks the city. In the chaos, Uncle Moti disappears.

Suddenly, all the stories Yared’s uncle told him as a young boy are coming to life, of kingdoms in the sky and city-razing monsters. And somehow Yared is at the center of them.

Together with Besa and the Ibis — a game rival turned reluctant ally — Yared must search for his uncle… and answers to his place in a forgotten, galaxy-spanning war.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In a way, students can learn about culture in this book. From there, diversity can be introduced into the lesson. Also, it would be great for discussing using your own personal interests and culture in your writing. The story also intertwines Ethiopian history and culture with space adventure and science fiction. This will be entertaining for the students while also educational. Another thing that can be taught while reading this book is that you will have to face the consequences of your own actions. If you are going to do something that you know is wrong, something bad will happen afterwards.

Students could also make timeline of events which would be interesting to see Yared’s adventure and battles laid out.

This novel would be considered interdisciplinary because it intertwines history with science fiction. It also introduces the idea of secret underground games, space & robots, as well as intergalactic war. These topics are mostly seen in movies but the main plot line is finding the uncle who would have the answers. It shows the students that even in stressful situations, never giving up and determination in hard times shows better outcomes.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Think about what makes up you. What aspects of yourself would you reflect in your stories?
  • Compare a time when Yared was brave to one where he was scared? How did he overcome his fear?
  • Describe a time Yared had to ask for help?
  • What futuristic items in the book do you wish we had now? Why?
  • Describe the relationship between Yared and his uncle.
  • Predict what you think Yared will do in the next book.
  • How would you characterize Besa? How does the author convey her feelings without talking?
  • Why do you think the story starts with an audio transcript? Did it grab your attention or confuse you?
  • How do you feel about the rules on Addis Prime? Would you want to follow them?
  • Does this novel remind you of any movies or maybe other literature you have read?
  • How would you feel if you were in the same situation as Yared?
  • Do you think Yared has good qualities or does he often find himself in trouble because of them?
  • What other Ethiopian stories have we read in class before? Do you find similarities in the novels?
  • Do you think the illustrations on the cover with Yared and the robots in space gave you a good summary of what the book might be about?
  • What inferences can you make by looking at the cover of the book?
  • How and why did the setting change?
  • What key words from the novel stood out to you the most and why?
  • If the authors were to write another novel using Yared and Besa, what do you think it would be about?

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Maya and the Robot
Author: Eve Ewing
Illustrator: Christine Almeda
Published July 13th, 2021 by Kokila

Summary: An illustrated middle grade novel about a forgotten homemade robot who comes to life just when aspiring fifth-grade scientist Maya needs a friend—and a science fair project.

Maya’s nervous about fifth grade. She tries to keep calm by reminding herself she knows what to expect. But then she learns that this year won’t be anything like the last. For the first time since kindergarten, her best friends Jada and MJ are placed in a different class without her, and introverted Maya has trouble making new friends.

She tries to put on a brave face since they are in fifth grade now, but Maya is nervous! Just when too much seems to be changing, she finds a robot named Ralph in the back of Mr. Mac’s convenience store closet. Once she uses her science skills to get him up and running, a whole new world of connection opens up as Ralph becomes a member of her family and Maya begins to step into her power.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be useful in the classroom in order to get children interested in STEM:

Students could learn more about robotics and electrical elements. Following along with Maya as they learn students are introduced to new ideas and definitions that will bridge their understanding of STEM.

Students will be able to create their own science fair projects. Students can present their own ideas and also learn about how projects in the book worked

Discussion Questions: 

  • Do you think that her finding the robot impacted her in a good or bad way? Why?
  • What piece of modern technology does Ralph remind us of?
  • What modern upgrade would you give Ralph?
  • What is something in your life that you would consider your Ralph?
  • Who can relate to Maya? Explain why?
  • Throughout Maya and the Robot there are many different lessons you can take away. What lessons can you take away from the book and why?
  • How did Ralph allow Mr. Mac to heal after Christopher’s death?
  • Throughout the book Maya often feels alone in the classroom. What is one way to make your classmates feel included?
  • Could Maya have fixed her relationship with MJ and Jada earlier in the book? Why or why not?
  • Throughout the book Maya’s teacher calls her by the incorrect name. Why is it important to stand up for yourself when you feel uncomfortable?

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The Last Last-Day-of-Summer
Author: Lamar Giles
Illustrator: Dapo Adeola
Published April 2nd, 2019 by Versify

Summary: When two adventurous cousins accidentally extend the last day of summer by freezing time, they find the secrets hidden between the unmoving seconds, minutes, and hours are not the endless fun they expected.

Otto and Sheed are the local sleuths in their zany Virginia town, masters of unraveling mischief using their unmatched powers of deduction. And as the summer winds down and the first day of school looms, the boys are craving just a little bit more time for fun, even as they bicker over what kind of fun they want to have. That is, until a mysterious man appears with a camera that literally freezes time. Now, with the help of some very strange people and even stranger creatures, Otto and Sheed will have to put aside their differences to save their town—and each other—before time stops for good.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Using this book in the classroom could help students become more brave or confident. Majority of the students should be able to relate to this story because it is almost like a dream come true. This book could open up a lot of “What if” questions for students and I love it. Students will be able to use their imaginations, better their reading skills, and have fun at the same time.

This story would also be a fun story to read together as a class and it is a fun novel to get students eager to read!

Once students are done reading this book, there could be a class reflection on how we can all be brave heroes in real life in our homes and at school. To make this even more exciting students can create their own super hero crest and name. Students will practice helping others and I will make sure their parents know about this assignment to help the students with understanding that we help each other all of the time not just at school, but to practice it everywhere if applicable and not dangerous.

Students can also respond by writing their own fictional story about their own adventures on the last day of summer.

Discussion Questions: 

  • In the novel the acronym BTSFOASTF is written by Grandma. What does it mean?
  • With a partner, come up with an answer together and write it on the white board. Grandma is diabetic, What medicine did she take and what is it for?
  • When Otto and Sheed took the picture, what happened?
  • Why did Sheed decide not to tear up the picture?
  • What was the one thing Otto discovered had been consistent since time had been frozen, and in which chapter was this discovered? Would you have noticed the same thing? Why?
  • For how long did Otto and Sheed’s adventure last, and why do you think so?
  • How do you unfreeze a person in the story?
  • Why did TimeStar lie?
  • Who is TimeStar and why do you think so?
  • What role did the clock watchers play in this story?
  • How are Otto and Sheed alike? Different?
  • How do Otto and Sheed work together and overcome their differences?
  • What were some clues that you noticed when reading, that something was not right after the boys took the photo?
  • Describe the boys relationship with their grandmother
  • If you could time travel, would you rather go forward in time or backward in time?
  • What was your favorite part about Sheed and Otto’s day?
  • Are you surprised by who Mr. Flux is?
  • Is this how you would want to spend your last day of summer?

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