The Wolf Girls: An Unsolved Mystery from History by Jane Yolen and Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple

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NF PB 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

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The Wolf Girls: An Unsolved Mystery from History
Authors: Jane Yolen and Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple
Illustrator: Roger Roth
Published August 1st, 2000 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: In 1920 a missionary brought two young girls to an orphanage in India. The girls didn’t know how to talk, walk, or eat from a plate. Some people thought the girls had been abandoned by their parents. Some people said the girls were brought up by wolves in the wild. Still others thought that the missionary who ran the orphanage made up the story about the girls. No one knows for sure.

Become a detective as you read this true story, study the clues, and try to figure out the fate of the wolf girls of Midnapore. The Unsolved Mystery from History series is written by acclaimed author Jane Yolen and former private investigator Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple. Read carefully and check your clues. You might be the first to solve a puzzle that has baffled people for years.

My Review: This story was fascinating as I had never heard of the wolf girls and came in with no prior knowledge about the mystery. It was so much fun to be full on submerged in the mystery and following the clues that are given throughout the “case notebook”.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This book is set up just like the Salem Witch Trials: An Unsolved Mystery from History and could be used the same way in the classroom: This book promotes studying history, inquiry, and vocabulary. The book begins with an introduction to a young girl who enjoys unsolved mysteries from history and then the book is set up like her case notebook. Each page of the case notebook includes a narrative nonfiction section, an informational nonfiction section where facts about the story are explained even more in detail, and then there are vocabulary words from the two sections defined for the reader. Finally, in the back of the book the different theories about what could be the answer to the unsolved mystery are shared and briefly discussed. The set up of this book leads to infinite possibilities of being used in the classroom. Students could debate, write research papers, could do their very own case notebook about a different mystery, etc. Another option is to get all of the Unsolved Mystery from History books and have students get into lit circle groups and have each group read a different mystery then research and share.

What I like particularly about this one is that there is so much to debate as there aren’t many clues given throughout the story. Many of the eye witnesses are unreliable and there aren’t many facts shared throughout the book. I think this book would lead to a great discussion about primary and secondary sources as well as reliability.

Discussion Questions: Which theory do you believe about the wolf girls?; Do you think a journal written a year after an incident is reliable?; Many of the scientific facts and theories shared are from the 18th and 19th century, are these facts still what science believes?; Why do you think the missionary’s wife never spoke of the wolf girls?; Why do you think that Singh’s accounts were different than his daughter’s?; Singh said he did not want to exploit the girls yet he let people come to see her – is this exploitation? Do you think what he did was wrong?

We Flagged: Narrative nonfiction “After nursing the two girls back to health, the Reverend Singh loaded them into the cart and drove them for eight days to his orphanage in Midnapore. But the wolf girls were so weak and emaciated, they could not move about, so at first no one outside of the orphanage saw them. Singh wrote in his journal, ‘They were accepted simply as neglected children.’

Informational Nonfiction Singh wrote in his journal that the girls were mud-covered, with scratches, scars, and fleas. The heels of their hands were callused from running on all fours. Their ears trembled like a dog’s when they were excited. Their brows were bushy and long. Each had arms almost reaching their knees. Their teeth were close-set, uneven, with fine, sharp edges, the canines longer and more pointed than is usual in humans. However, Singh took no scientific measurements and invited no scientists to examine the girls. He took photographs that were fuzzy and indistinct. Years later, his own daughter, when interviewed, did not remember the distinctive teeth or exceptional ears or terrifically bushy brows.

Vocabulary Emaciated: thin and feeble due to disease or poor food; Neglected: not take proper care of” (p. 20-21)

Read This If You Loved: Yolen’s other Unsolved Mystery from History books

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What mystery from history do you wish Jane Yolen had written about? 

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Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow & The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

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These two books are my favorite fiction/nonfiction companion books, so I wanted to share them with you together. 

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Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow
Author: Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Published April 1st, 2005 by Scholastic Nonfiction

Goodreads Summary: In her first full-length nonfiction title since winning the Robert F. Sibert Award, Susan Campbell Bartoletti explores the riveting and often chilling story of Germany’s powerful Hitler Youth groups.

“I begin with the young. We older ones are used up . . . But my magnificent youngsters! Look at these men and boys! What material! With them, I can create a new world.” –Adolf Hitler, Nuremberg 1933

By the time Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, 3.5 million children belonged to the Hitler Youth. It would become the largest youth group in history. Susan Campbell Bartoletti explores how Hitler gained the loyalty, trust, and passion of so many of Germany’s young people. Her research includes telling interviews with surviving Hitler Youth members.

My Review: During World War II, Hitler controlled more than just the military; he controlled the entire country of Germany. Much of what this book explains are parts of the WWII history that is not taught in our schools and shows the true extent of the power that Hitler had over everyone.

The Hitler Youth began as a voluntary organization to support Hitler, but it quickly became a way for Hitler to control the youth. Soon the Hitler Youth was not voluntary and they were being used in much the same way as the military.

This book tells true stories of children in the Hitler Youth and children that were brave enough to speak up. It is truly horrific and fascinating. Susan Campbell Bartoletti uses a combination of narrative and expository writing to take her reader on a journey through Nazi controlled Germany starting with their depression and taking us through the the end of World War II. By intertwining true stories of the youth of Germany with historical fact, Bartoletti pulls at your heart strings and shows the true effect that Hitler had on the entire nation. It also takes you through the steps that Hitler took to brainwash the entire population, starting with the most desperate citizens, including the youth.

Although many nonfiction books are hard to get through and are dry, this one has a voice to it that is deeper and more sensitive than most. You become connected to the people of Germany and the youth of the story, so it doesn’t matter if that I already know the outcome- you have to know how they make it out of their deceit filled situation.

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The Boy Who Dared
Author: Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Published February 1st, 2008 by Scholastic Press

Goodreads Summary: Bartoletti has taken one episode from her Newbery Honor Book, HITLER YOUTH, and fleshed it out into thought-provoking novel. When 16-year-old Helmut Hubner listens to the BBC news on an illegal short-wave radio, he quickly discovers Germany is lying to the people. But when he tries to expose the truth with leaflets, he’s tried for treason. Sentenced to death and waiting in a jail cell, Helmut’s story emerges in a series of flashbacks that show his growth from a naive child caught up in the patriotism of the times , to a sensitive and mature young man who thinks for himself.

My Review: Helmuth Hubener thought that Hitler was going to fix Germany, but the longer Hitler was in power, the more Helmuth realized that there was social injustice happening.

Based on a true story, The Boy Who Dared, accounts Helmuth’s life and the choices he makes. Told in flashback, I felt that some of the suspense is taken away since you know Helmuth’s current situation right from the beginning of the story; however, even with knowing the outcome, I wanted to read to figure out how Helmuth got there.

The exposition of the book helped me understand the extent of Helmuth’s society at the time which made me even more sympathetic then I would have been just jumping into Helmuth’s life. Although we all know about World War II and the Holocaust, unless you have read other books on World War II Germany, you may not understand the extent of Hitler’s power and brainwashing. With The Boy Who Dared, we follow Helmuth through his feelings about Hitler and the decisions he made.

This book is fabulous to read with the nonfiction book by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Hitler Youth, which recounts the history around the Hitler Youth and what Helmuth was living through.

*     *     *     *     *

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: If I taught a grade level where the Holocaust or WWII was taught in history, I would love to use these books supplementally in English class. These books tell a story within WWII that isn’t normally taught in history and really shines a light on a different side of the story. It would be a great way to discuss point of view, persuasion, and propaganda. I can also see these being used in thematic sets and then in lit circles. Each book adds to a whole look at WWII.

Discussion Questions: After reading both books, why was Hitler able to manipulate and affect the youth of Germany the way he did?; How did Helmuth affect those around him? History?

We Flagged: “The dark streets were already flooded with thousands of excited people, who, like Melita, were running out to watch the victory parade in honor of Adolf Hitler… Melita couldn’t understand why her parents didn’t support a great man like Adolf Hitler, who said that a person’s money and titles didn’t matter.  All that mattered was whether a person contributed to the well-being of the people.” (Hitler Youth p. 15-16)

“It’s morning.  Soft gray lights slips over the tall redbrick wall.  It stretches across the exercise yard and reaches through the high, barred windows.  In a cell on the ground floor, the light shifts dark shapes into a small stool, a scrawny table, and a bed made of wooden boards with no mattress or blanket.  On that bed, a thin, huddled figure, Helmuth, a boy of seventeen, lies awake.  Shivering. Trembling.
It’s Tuesday.
The executioner works on Tuesday.” (The Boy who Dared p. 1)

Read These If You Loved: Parallel Journeys by Eleanor Ayers, Alfons Heck & Helen Waterford, Briar Rose by Jane Yolen, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Resistance (series) by Carla Jablonski, London Calling by Edward Bloor, Once (series) by Morris Gleitzman, The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

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Barbed Wire Baseball by Marissa Moss

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NF PB 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

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Barbed Wire Baseball
Author: Marissa Moss
Illustrated by: Yuko Shimizu
Published April 9th, 2013 by Harry N. Abrams

Goodreads Summary: As a boy, Kenichi “Zeni” Zenimura dreams of playing professional baseball, but everyone tells him he is too small. Yet he grows up to be a successful player, playing with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig! When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor in 1941, Zeni and his family are sent to one of ten internment camps where more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry are imprisoned without trials. Zeni brings the game of baseball to the camp, along with a sense of hope.

This true story, set in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, introduces children to a little-discussed part of American history through Marissa Moss’s rich text and Yuko Shimizu’s beautiful illustrations. The book includes author and illustrator notes, archival photographs, and a bibliography.

Review: World War II is the most infamous war and it is taught to all students at some point in their career. They learn about Pearl Harbor and the Atomic Bomb and the Holocause and Hitler, but way too often what happened here in the US is not discussed. All of the Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of the US (62% were US citizens) were interned because our fear overwhelmed us so much that it was the only solution that seemed plausible. I felt that the fear that was felt after the Pearl Harbor bombings is very similar to what was felt 12 years ago today.

Barbed Wire Baseball does discuss the internment camps, but I think that the theme of this book is not about the camps but about how a love of something can turn a poor situation into something else if you are determined.

The story is just one part of the book. What moves it to a higher level is the author and illustrator. Marissa Moss has someone captured the tone of the story. It begins with hopefulness then to hopelessness and finally back to joyousness. Her ability to manipulate the tone throughout makes the story touch the reader even more. Yuko Shimizu’s illustrations are done with a Japenese calligraphy brush and ink adding to the connection the reader will feel with the story. Just beautiful.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I think this book mostly leads to a discussion about the historical event that is shared in the book. In my classroom, I would share it as a read aloud and then jump into a discussion about Zeni, baseball, the internment camps, and World War II. The bibliography in the back of the book gives great websites to visit to continue the discussion.

Discussion Questions: Zeni doesn’t listen to his parents and went for what he wanted: baseball. He overcame his height and those who didn’t believe in him and was able to work towards his dreams. What is something that you’ve overcome even though others didn’t believe in you?; How can you compare/contrast how US citizens responded to Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor to how US citizens responded to American Muslims after 9/11?

We Flagged: “Zeni stood staring at the dry earth, which was broken up every now and then by a few scrubby bits of green. In all the brown and gray, with a dull, coppery sky overhead, he felt as if he were shrinking into a tiny hard ball.

There was only one thing that could make the desert camp a home – baseball. Zeni unpacked his favorite photo, the one that showed him in uniform, lined up with baseball legends Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig towering like redwood trees beside him. He had played with the Yankee stars in an exhibition game back home in Fresno, and he hadn’t felt small at all. He pinned the picture up over his bed. He was going to play baseball again. Here, in the desolate middle of nowhere.” (p. 9-10)

Read This If You Loved: Something to Prove by Robert Skead, Silent Star by Bill Wise, Brothers at Bat by Audrey Vernick, Keeping Score by Linda Sue Park, Nonfiction books about World War II or Japanese Internment Camps

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Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea

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Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great
Author and Illustrator: Bob Shea
Published June 25th, 2013 by Disney-Hyperion

Goodreads Summary: Hi, I’m Goat.
Things were just fine around here until UNICORN showed up.
So what if he can fly?
Or make it rain cupcakes?
And turn stuff into gold?
Big deal.
I can do some cool stuff too, like…
Hey! What are you doing? Why are you opening the book?
He’s just going to tell you how great he is. Blah, blah, blah.
Go ahead. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Dopey Unicorn.

Review: Nothing can promote this book better than the book trailer – it is a must watch!

And the book trailer truly captures the essence of Unicorn. It is fun and colorful! However, the best part of the book is that after the fun story it does have a message that is so important and is a great read aloud for classrooms.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This book is a great one to read at the beginning of the school year. It promotes friendship and not judging others. It will be a great discussion starter about making new friends and starting the new year with a clean slate as well as self-esteem, being a good loser, and jealousy.

Discussion Questions: Is there someone you met that you judged at first and they turned out to be completely different?; Have you ever thought you were going to win something only to have someone beat you? How did this make you feel?

We Flagged: “Things are a lot different around here since that Unicorn moved in. I thought I was pretty cool when I rode my bike to school. Until that show-off went flying by!

Or the time I made marshmallow squares that almost came out right. He made it rain cupcakes!” (p. 4-8)

Check out Amazon’s Look Inside of Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great to see the illustrations.

Read This If You Loved: Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci, Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems, Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman, One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, You Will Be My Friend! by Peter Brown, Duck on a Bike by David Shannon

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Remember: Don’t judge a book by its flashy, colorful, magical cover.

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Rump by Liesl Shurtliff

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Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin
Author: Liesl Shurtliff
Published April 9th, 2013 by Alfred A. Knopf for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: In a magical kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone’s joke. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold. His best friend, Red Riding Hood, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she’s right. With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse.

To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—he just might triumph in the end.

Review: I love fairy tale retellings! They are so clever and I am so impressed with how an author can read a story and then think up a prequel or a different version of it. This specific retelling has jumped to become one of my favorites because I felt that she has made a wonderful, fantastical world and was able to see Rumpelstiltskin as more than just an antagonist.

I also felt that the book did have a moral, as all fairy tales should, but it is one that creeps up on you at the end and is such a great discussion starter.

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: This book would make a fantastic read aloud! All students will enjoy it and it is just so fun! It will also find a home in many students’ hands by being in the classroom library.

Discussion Questions: Before reading the book, look at the chapter titles and predict what you think each title/the book will be about.; What do you think the moral of Rump is?; Look back at the original story of Rumpelstiltskin. How does the new information that Liesl Shurtliff has given us in Rump change how you view the original story?

We Flagged: “My mother named me after a cow’s read end. It’s the favorite village joke, and probably the only one, but it’s not really true. At least I don’t think it’s true, and neither does Gran. Really, my mother had another name for me, a wonderful name, but no on ever hear it. They only heard the first part. The worst part.” (p. 1)

Read This If You Loved: Rumpelstiltskin by The Grimm Brothers, A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, The Dodgeball Chronicles by Frank Cammuso, Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst, The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker, A Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy, The Other Slipper by Kenechi Udogu

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Rump was a #virtualbookclub book on Twitter. Did you take part in the chat?
What did you learn from the chat? How are you going to use Rump in your class?

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Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played with Puppets by Kathleen Krull

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Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!\

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Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played with Puppets
Author: Kathleen Krull
Paintings by: Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
Published August 23rd, 2011 by Random House Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: Sesame Street and The Muppet Show introduced Jim Henson’s Muppets to the world, making Kermit the Frog, Oscar the Grouch, and Big Bird household names. But even as a child in rural Mississippi, listening to the radio and putting on comedy shows for his family, Jim recognized the power of laughter to bring people together. On Sesame Street, Jim’s Muppets transformed children’s television by making learning fun for kids everywhere. A visionary, Jim always believed that puppets could reach a wider audience. In 1976, he proved it, drawing millions of family viewers to The Muppet Show. With his feature film The Dark Crystal and his Star Wars characters—including Yoda—Jim continued to push the boundaries of what was possible in puppetry until his death in 1990 at the age of 53.

Kathleen Krull, recipient of the Children’s Book Guild 2011 Non-fiction Award and many other accolades, once again does what she does so well—illuminating the life of an important figure in history, art, and culture with her informative but approachable writing style.

Review: I love Jim Henson. I remember when he passed away and I was devastated. I thought that Sesame Street was dead too, but Jim Henson’s influence is stronger than death. He has continued to live through his show, characters, and legacy. Kathleen Krull does an amazing job of sharing with the reader what made Jim Henson who he was and how he became (I believe) the most influential person when it came to children and children’s entertainment in the 20th century.

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: Jim’s story is a great story to tell children, because like many successful creative persons, he was passionate and went for what he enjoyed, was good at, and was his passion. Jim also will be someone that many students will connect with as he was quiet, smart, not athletic, in school plays, a reader, a story teller, and fascinated with TV.  There are more students like Jim than unlike him and they need to hear about those like them who were successful.

This book would also be a great way to incorporate the CCSS’s diverse media and formats by showing clips of Jim Henson’s work as they are discussed in the book. For example, Jim got his very own TV show when he was in college, Sam and Friends, and clips of this show are on You Tube.

Discussion Questions: How has television changed since Jim Henson got his first TV?; How did not listening to what others thought influence Jim Henson’s decisions in life? If he listened to others, what would be different?

We Flagged: “Puppets struck some people as babyish, but Jim really wanted to go on TV. Now! He checked out books from the library and joined his high school’s puppet club as a way to learn how to make them.” (p. 16)

“He practiced for hours in front of a mirror, trying to get his puppets’ movements and expressions just right, voicing silly and witty thoughts he normally kept to himself.” (p. 18)

Read This If You Loved: Before You Leap by Kermit the Frog, Who Was Jim Henson? by Joan Holub, On A Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino, Lost Boy: The Story of the Man Who Created Peter Pan by Jane Yolen, Sandy’s Circus: A Story about Alexander Calder by Tanya Lee Stone

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Real Justice: Convicted for Being Mi’kmaq: The Story of Donald Marshall Jr. by Bill Swan

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NF PB 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book). Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

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Real Justice: Convicted for being Mi’kmaq: The Story of Donald Marshall Jr.
Author: Bill Swan
Expected Publication: September 1st, 2013 by James Lorimer & Company

Summary: This book is part of the Real Justice series by James Lorimer & Company that shed light on young people who are wrongfully convicted of crimes. Donald Marshall Jr. spent eleven years in prison for a crime he never committed. He was the eldest son of the Grand Chief of the Mi’kmaw Nation, and racism certainly played a role in his conviction. It was a late night in Wentworth Park when Sandy Seale, a black teen, and Donald Marshall Jr. are waved over by two drunk men wanting cigarettes. One of the men stabs Sandy Seale in the side, and Donald Marshall Jr. runs for help. What he doesn’t know is that the police won’t believe his story, and they will do anything they can to convict him of the Seale’s death.

Review: I enjoyed the journalistic format of this book. Swan does an excellent job researching and depicting the facts of the case. He goes into depth when in his description of each witness’s story, and the reader gets a comprehensive background of the crime scene, investigation, and trial. As a Micmac Indian (the American version of this tribe), I was very interested in this story. Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed that aside from the comments about racism and a brief note toward the end of the book, there wasn’t much information about the Mi’kmaq Indians. I completely understand this, as the author chose to focus more on the investigation and trial, but I was secretly craving more information about Donald Marshall Jr.’s life background and customs. This text would make for a great nonfiction text to use in the classroom.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I love teaching nonfiction units because there is so much variety. Teachers can offer myriad choices of memoirs and informational nonfiction for students to do research. After reading this story, students might research more about the case (if any other information is available) or they could compare and contrast this case with another example of injustice, particularly one that was impacted by racism. I have a feeling that students, like me, will want to research more about Marshall’s culture or the racial imbalance that existed at the time of the crime. I could also see this being paired with Black and White by Paul Volponi, an example of realistic fiction that also deals with injustice due to racism.

Discussion Questions: Does racism still exist today? In what ways did it impact the crime, investigation, and trial? What injustices did you see?; Do you think Marshall should have been compensated more for his eleven years in jail?; How does Marshall show incredible strength throughout his ordeal?

We Flagged: “‘Know what I think?’ MacIntyre added, as though on cue. ‘I think Marshall’s description of some old guy is a crock. The whole thing likely happened when that Indian, fueled up with fire water, got in an argument with the black kid'” (Chapter 5).

“When the reality hit [Donald Marshall Jr.], he cried the tears of childhood” (Chapter 15).

Please note: The above quotes are from the Advanced Reader Copy. Chapter numbers are included instead of page numbers because the e-reader did not provide page numbers. The quotes may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: Hole in my Life by Jack Gantos, Black and White by Paul Volponi, other books in the Real Justice series, other books about Law and Order

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