Cross-Curricular Educators’ Guide for Above the Trenches by Nathan Hale

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Above the Trenches (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #12): A WWI Flying Ace Tale
Author & Illustrator: Nathan Hale
Published: November 14th, 2023 by Abrams Fanfare

Summary: In Above the Trenches, author-illustrator Nathan Hale takes to the skies with the flying aces of World War I to reveal another Hazardous Tale in American history in the #1 New York Times bestselling graphic novel series.

“Yippee! We’re going back to World War One!” said nobody ever—except maybe the Hangman.

When the Great War began in 1914, America had plans to stay out of it. But some young men were so eager to fight, they joined the French Foreign Legion. From deep in the mud and blood of the Western Front, these young volunteers looked to the sky and saw the future—the airplane.

The first American pilots to fight in World War One flew for the French military. France created a squadron of volunteer Americans called the Lafayette Escadrille (named after the great Marquis de Lafayette).

This book is about that volunteer How they got into the French military. How they learned to fly. How they fought—and died. And how these American pilots would go down in history with other legendary flying aces like the Red Baron and his Flying Circus.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales are graphic novels that tell the thrilling, shocking, gruesome, and TRUE stories of American history. Read them all—if you dare!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the cross-curricular educators’ guide I created for Abrams for Above the Trenches:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

You can learn more about Above the Trenches on Abrams’s page.

Recommended For: 

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Invisible Isabel by Sally J. Pla, Illustrated by Tania de Regil

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Invisible Isabel
Author: Sally J. Pla
Illustrator: Tania de Regil
Published July 9th, 2024 by Quill Tree Books

Summary: In this illustrated middle grade novel by Schneider Award-winning author Sally J. Pla, introverted Isabel Beane learns how she can speak up to help quiet the worries she feels. For fans of Elana K. Arnold and Leslie Connor.

Isabel Beane is a shy girl who lives in a home full of havoc and hubbub and hullabaloo. With five siblings, there is too much too much-ness.

At the same time, there’s a new girl at school who is immediately popular, but she’s also not very nice to one person—Isabel.

Isabel has never felt more invisible. She has so many fears: being abandoned by her old friends at school, having to speak to strangers in public, taking the upcoming Extremely Important standardized test. Her fears feel like worry-moths that flutter in her belly. With every passing day, it seems like they get stronger and stronger. How can Invisible Isabel make people listen?

About the Author: Sally J. Pla is the ALA Schneider Award-winning author of THE FIRE, THE WATER, AND MAUDIE McGINN, as well as the Dolly Gray Award-winning THE SOMEDAY BIRDS and several other popular novels and picture books. Her books have starred reviews and appear on many state awards lists and “best books” roundups. Sally, who is neurodivergent, has appeared on television and radio as an author and autism advocate. She also runs the website resource A Novel Mind (anovelmind.com). Sally believes in kindness, respect, and the beauty of different brains. We are all stars shining with different lights! Visit her at www.sallyjpla.com.

Instagram: @sallyjpla
Twitter/X: @sallyjpla
Facebook: Sally Pla

Review: This book brought up a ton of emotions for me as a mom and as a teacher. I was so mad at so many of the characters that I had to stop, breathe, and I even sent a Tweet to the author. I could not understand how this sweet girl wasn’t understood by anyone around her, and all of these emotions I felt while reading shows you how the style and voice of the book just engulfed me as a reader. Because of the verse and first person point of view, every word written felt like it was precisely chosen to go straight to my heart. I loved Isabel’s voice because although she is so quiet outwardly, she has so much to say, and we, the reader, get the honor of reading her words.

This book adds another amazing story into narratives about neurodivergency, and I truly believe that it will help so many understand Isabel thus leading to more understanding in real life.

Tools for Navigation: The verse in this novel will lend itself so perfectly to mentor texts. I would love to see students read Isabel’s poetry about her worry moths then write their own versions or use her examples of figurative language in their own way.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What were signs that Isabel struggled at home? At school?
  • How does Monica show that just one person can make a huge change? How about Monica’s dad?
  • What is the line between pushing someone to do something outside of their comfort zone in a health way versus in an unhealthy way?
  • Although Isabel’s stomach pains at one point ended up being appendicitis, did her anxiety also cause physical stomach pains? Why?
  • How did the change in teaching style change how Isabel felt at school?
  • How did the illustrations add to the book?
  • What did the backmatter teach us about anxiety/autism?

Flagged Passages: A Worry-Moths Compendium (pg. 21)

Many scary what-if worries made Isabel’s heart thump,
her tongue dry up,
her hands sweat,
and her stomach churn
with moths.
At least, they felt like moths.
Like buzzing, fluttering worry-moths
with evil, anxious wings.
Mam might not think they were real.
But they sure FELT real to Isabel.

Read This If You Love: Books-in-Verse, A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold, Better with Butter by Victoria Pointek, Tom Percival’s emotion picture books, Jenn Bailey’s Henry books

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

Discussion Guide for Totally Psychic by Brigid Martin

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Totally Psychic
Author: Brigid Martin
Published: August 15, 2023 by Inkyard Press

Summary: This debut middle grade series stars a Cuban-American tween medium navigating friends, family and ghosts!

Paloma Ferrer is psychic. In fact, everyone in her family line has “the gift.” Now that Paloma has come into her powers, she dreams of a famous medium to celebrities, being just like her beloved grandma.

When Paloma’s parents move them from Miami to Los Angeles, she hatches a plan to get her career as a medium up and running:

  • Host seances at her new school and stream on social media
  • Build her profile and make a name for herself
  • Avoid detection from her tattletale of a little sister

But when a reading gone awry leaves Paloma in a sticky situation with a new friend, she’ll need more than a crystal ball to find her way out of this mess.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the discussion guide I created for Cake Creative Kitchen for Totally Psychic:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

Recommended For: 

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Exclusion and the Chinese American Story by Sarah-Soonling Blackburn

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Exclusion and the Chinese American Story
Author: Sarah-Soonling Blackburn
Published: March 26, 2024 by Crown Books for Young Readers

Summary: Until now, you’ve only heard one side of the story, but Chinese American history extends far beyond the railroads. Here’s the true story of America, from the Chinese American perspective.

If you’ve learned about the history of Chinese people in America, it was probably about their work on the railroads in the 1800s. But more likely, you may not have learned about it at all. This may make it feel like Chinese immigration is a newer part of this country, but some scholars believe the first immigrant arrived from China 499 CE–one thousand years before Columbus did!

When immigration picked up in the mid-1800s, efforts to ban immigrants from China began swiftly. But hope, strength, and community allowed the Chinese population in America to flourish. From the gold rush and railroads to entrepreneurs, animators, and movie stars, this is the true story of the Chinese American experience.

Review: I am so glad that this book exists. It tells the Chinese American experience from the very beginning—more specifically, from the first moment that a Chinese person came to America and the racism that Chinese Americans have experienced for centuries. The chapters are dense and filled with incredibly important information. I read a chapter each night to help me digest and think about each one of the topics and time periods covered. I especially appreciated the questions at the end of the chapters. This book is important for readers of all ages. 

Tools for Navigation: I wish more books like this one were taught in history classrooms. It’s imperative that young people don’t get a white-washed, sanitized version of US history. The Race to the Truth series (and this book, in particular) allow young people to read from many different perspectives to understand the truth about our country.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which information did you find most surprising? Most interesting?
  • How has racism evolved across the centuries for Chinese Americans?
  • How can you use what you learned to share truths with others?

Read This If You Love: History books, conversations about equity, nonfiction

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of this book for an honest review**

Discussion Guide for The Lilies by Quinn Diacon-Furtado

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The Lilies
Author: Quinn Diacon-Furtado
Published: April 30th, 2024 by HarperTeen

Summary: One of Us Is Lying meets A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder in this don’t-dare-to-look-away dark academia thriller that explores how secrets can rot an institution–and the people who uphold it–from the inside out.

Everyone wants to be a Lily.

At Archwell Academy, it’s the ticket to a successful future. But like every secret society, there is something much darker beneath the surface … sometimes girls disappear.

When four Archwell students find themselves trapped in a time loop, they must relive their worst memories, untangling the Lilies’ moldering roots and unraveling the secrets at the core of their school … before they destroy their futures forever.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the discussion guide I created for Cake Creative:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

Recommended For: 

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Else B. in the Sea: The Woman Who Painted the Wonders of the Deep by Jeanne Walker Harvey, Illustrated by Melodie Stacey

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Else B. in the Sea: The Woman Who Painted the Wonders of the Deep
Author: Jeanne Walker Harvey
Illustrator: Melodie Stacey
Published June 4th, 2024 by Cameron Kids

Summary: Else B. in the Sea is a poetic picture book biography about a daring and pioneering woman artist that combines themes of art and science from author Jeanne Walker Harvey and illustrator Melodie Stacey.

Else Bostelmann donned a red swimsuit and a copper diving helmet and, with paints and brushes in hand, descended into the choppy turquoise sea off the coast of Bermuda. It was 1930, and few had ventured deep into the sea before. She discovered a fairyland six fathoms below the surface—fantastic coral castles, glittering sunbeams, swaying sea plumes, and slender purple sea fans. And fish! Flashy silverfish, puckering blue parrotfish, iridescent jellyfish.

Else painted under the sea! She painted what she saw with her own eyes, and, back on land, she painted the never-before-seen deep-sea creatures described by world-renowned scientist William Beebe on his momentous 1930s bathysphere expeditions for the New York Zoological Society’s Department of Tropical Research. It was a daring and glamorous adventure and a dream come true for Else B., who shared this new, unfathomable world with humankind.

About the Creators: 

Jeanne Walker Harvey is the author of many picture books, including Boats on the Bay, as well as the well-received picture book biographies Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas (winner of the 2022 Northern California Book Awards – Children’s Literature Younger Readers and Jane Addams Children’s Book Award finalist), Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head, and Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines (a NSTA Best STEM Book of the Year). She lives in Sonoma, California. For free downloadable activities and more, visit her website,  jeanneharvey.com.

Melodie Stacey is a fine artist and illustrator whose work can be found in the picture book Beautiful Useful Things: What William Morris Made. She lives in Brighton, UK.

Instagram
Jeanne Walker Harvey: @jeannewharvey
Melodie Stacey: @melodiestacey
Cameron Kids/ABRAMS Kids: @cameron_kids and @abramskids
Blue Slip Media: @blue_slip_media

Twitter/X
Jeanne Walker Harvey: @JeanneWHarvey
Melodie Stacey: @Melodiestacey
Cameron Kids/ABRAMS Kids: @abramskids
Blue Slip Media: @blueslipper & @barbfisch

Pinterest
Jeanne Walker Harvey: @JeanneWalkerHarvey

Review: I love learning about new people (to me) from history that expand my knowledge of the world. Else is such a cool character and to know she is a real person makes it even more intriguing and amazing. Else is definitely a person whose story should have already been told, and I am so glad that Harvey and Stacey are telling it now.

Like Harvey has done in all of her picture book biographies that I’ve read by her, she expertly mixes narrative and nonfiction to ensure the book not only teaches the reader about the person but also entertains and keeps attention along the way. This is so important to ensure that readers will gravitate towards hearing this story with a side effect of learning about an amazing person, in this case Else.

Stacey’s illustrations take Harvey’s words and make them sing off the page with illustrations that range from full page to small additions, keeping the eyes from ever wanting to stop exploring the art, just like Else explored the sea.

Tools for Navigation: There is so much to do in conjunction with this book in the classroom! After reading the book aloud, I would then make sure to read the author’s note and dive deeper into:

  • Deep sea creatures and what has changed in our knowledge of them since Else’s time.
  • How color changes when light is removed, including the underwater color spectrums.
  • Why women scientists were excluded normally during Else’s time and how including them affected how others viewed the expeditions that Else was part of.
  • How paint and salt water interact and trying to paint under water!
  • Other woman who took first steps that need to have their story told.
  • The science behind bioluminescence.
  • The math of the ocean.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do you think Else’s childhood and roadblocks early in her life affect her?
  • What does Else’s idea to practice painting the “ocean firsthand” and “descending as far as she could by herself” tell you about the type of person Else was? How about her ability to learn to paint underwater?
  • How has scuba gear changed over time?
  • Why did William Beebe have to kill animals to allow them to be studied/painted? What are your thoughts on this?
  • How did Else’s paintings of Beebe’s discoveries give “people a way to escape their worries”?
  • Why do you think Harvey wanted to tell Else’s story?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Picture book biographies, Science, Ocean creatures

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

Educators’ Guide for Lila Greer, Teacher of the Year by Andrea Beaty, Illustrated by David Roberts

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Lila Greer, Teacher of the Year
Author: Andrea Beaty
Illustrator: David Roberts
Published: November 7, 2023 by Abrams

Summary: Lila Greer, Teacher of the Year is a moving story starring the Questioneers’ teacher that’s all about kindness, learning to face your fears, and the profound difference that one brilliant educator can make in a child’s life, from author Andrea Beaty and illustrator David Roberts, the #1 New York Times bestselling creators of Aaron Slater, Illustrator and Ada Twist, Scientist !

Lila Greer is full of worries. Even the smallest things—from cabbages to cardboard—fill her with dread and what-if s. So when her family makes a big change—moving to a new town—the worry and what-if s only grow. What if things go wrong? What if no one likes her?

At first, Lila feels right to be worried. In her new home, everything is strange. The new kids, the new smells. Lila feels alone and invisible. But there’s one person who sees Lila’s teacher, Ms. Kern. Through some creativity, blackboard erasers, and—most of all—kindness, Ms. Kern finds a way to make Lila feel welcome and open to new experiences. A lesson that will resonate with Lila long after second grade.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for Abrams for Lila Greer, Teacher of the Year:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

You can learn more about Lila Greer, Teacher of the Year on Abrams’s page.

Recommended For: 

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