Faithful Elephants by Yukio Tsuchiya

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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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Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People, and War
Author: Yukio Tsuchiya
Translator: Tomoko Tsuchiya Dykes
Illustrator: Ted Lewin
Published October 30th, 1997 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: A zookeeper recounts the story of John, Tonky, and Wanly, three performing elephants at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, whose turn it is to die, and of their keepers, who weep and pray that World War II will end so their beloved elephants might be saved.

My Review: I picked up this book as soon as I read that  Jillian Heise thought that it’d be a good companion to Endangered. I read aloud Endangered with my 8th graders last year, and I trusted that Jillian knew what she was talking about. The subtitle warned me that this picture book would definitely not be a cheery one, but I could not have prepared myself for how emotional the book actually was. The lyrical writing and soft, watercolor illustrations add to the intensity of the story. Be warned: tears will happen.

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: This book not only would be a perfect companion to Endangered, it is definitely a wonderful picture book to lead to deep discussions in the classroom. Children are always very emotional about books pertaining to animals, so I know they will have an intense opinion about what happens in this book. As the zookeepers kill the animals to protect the city in case of a bombing, students will definitely disagree with this decision and this will lead to a great debate. The story also lends itself towards discussions about animal emotions and abuse as well as cause and effect discussions.

Discussion Questions: In what ways is the story of the elephants in Faithful Elephants similar to the story of the bonobos in Eliot Schrefer’s Endangered?; Was there an alternate solution that the zookeepers could have considered for the elephants?

We Flagged: “Not far from the cheerful square, there stands a tombstone. Not many notice this monument for the animals that have died at the Ueno Zoo. It is quiet and peaceful here, and the sun warms every corner.” (p. 8)

Read This If You Loved: Endangered by Eliot Schrefer, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, The Outside of a Horse by Ginny Rorby

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Doll Bones by Holly Black

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Doll Bones
Author: Holly Black
Illustrator: Eliza Wheeler
Published May 7th, 2013 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

Goodreads Summary: Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity…

My Review: Wow. I am very reluctant to read “scary” books because I too often find that they rely too much on the scary and not enough on the writing. However, with Doll Bones, Holly Black was able to write a well-written middle grade novel with a good plot arc and characterization mixed with a lot of creepy. Within her “scary” book, Holly Black is able to capture a very awkward time in one’s life– middle school! –in a very realistic way. Her characters are believable, completely filled with the internal debate of growing up or staying a child a bit longer. Then, on top of her great middle grade story, she has included a completely creepy aspect of the story that I even had to put down a couple of times because I knew I was reading some creepy stuff too close to bedtime.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This one will be a phenomenal read aloud and will find a ton of readers when put into classroom libraries. I also know that some of my teacher friends are planning to use it in a book club setting as well.

Discussion Questions: Have you ever been in a situation like Zach where you feel like you are supposed to grow up, but you’d rather play like you used to?; Do you think Poppy was telling the truth the whole time?; What do you think happened to The Queen?

We Flagged: “It wasn’t like a regular dream,” Poppy said, her fingers smoothing back the Queen’s curls and her voice changing, going soft and chill as the night air. It reminded Zach of the way Poppy talked when she played villains or even the Queen herself. “It wasn’t like dreaming at all. She was sitting on the end of my bed. Her hair was blond, like the doll’s, but it was tangled and dirty. She was wearing a nightdress smeared with mud. She told me I had to bury her. She said she couldn’t rest until her bones were in her own grave, and if I didn’t help her, she would make me sorry.” (p. 62-63)

Read This If You Loved: Mary Downing Hahn books, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Guys Read: Thriller edited by Jon Scieszka

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**Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy!**

Journey by Aaron Becker

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Journey
Author and Illustrator: Aaron Becker
Published August 6th, 2013 by Candlewick Press

Goodreads Summary: Follow a girl on an elaborate flight of fancy in a wondrously illustrated, wordless picture book about self-determination — and unexpected friendship.

A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure, and danger abound. Red marker in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey toward an uncertain destiny. When she is captured by a sinister emperor, only an act of tremendous courage and kindness can set her free. Can it also lead her home and to her heart’s desire? With supple line, luminous color, and nimble flights of fancy, author-illustrator Aaron Becker launches an ordinary child on an extraordinary journey toward her greatest and most exciting adventure of all.

My Review: This book is very hard to explain the magic of it. Lorna (@notforlunch) described it the best, I think: “a wonderful mashup of a David Wiesner book and Harold and the Purple Crayon.” I think this is perfect. It has the illustration beauty and magic of a wordless David Wiesner picture book and it is about creativity (and a crayon) like Harold. The beauty of the castle she visted also reminded me of Cathedral by David Macaulay. This book is just full of amazing! (You know it is good if it is a topic of #SharpSchu book club!)

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: This was a bit hard for me. I can envision how this book would be used in the middle grades, but I was blanking on ideas for primary. I know this book needs to be shared, but how?

In my classroom, the first thing I would do is project the book and just have the students read it with me. No talking; just looking. Then we’d go back and discuss what is going on in the book, talk about some of the smaller parts of the illustrations, relive the journey. If I wanted to include a writing activity, we could add words to the book (although, I think this book’s illustrations stand alone). We could also discuss what we’d do if we had a magic crayon. I think this book would be a great addition to Dot Day and discussing creativity. Finally, I think a discussion of observing your surroundings would be appropriate as what the girl wanted the most was right in front of her at the beginning of the book.

Discussion Questions: What would you do with a magic crayon?; What was your favorite part of the journey?; Two parts remind me of Where the Wild Things Are, can you figure out which parts?; What do you think the girl’s name is?; Aaron Becker grew up in many different parts of the world including Japan. Can you find influences of Japan in this story? What about some of the other places he lived?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, Blackout by John Rocco, David Weisner wordless picture books, Cathedral by David Macaulay, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Henri Mouse by George Mendoza, Chalk by Bill Thomson, Art & Max by David Weisner, Weslandia by Paul Fleishman, Narnia (series) by C.S. Lewis

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I put “Read Aloud” although this book is wordless; however, I know it needs to be shared with students. How would you share this book with your students in a read aloud fashion? 

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The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

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The Dream Thieves
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Published: September 17th, 2013 by Scholastic Press

Summary: Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

Review: This sequel will not disappoint lovers of The Raven Boys. The book is written in multiple points of view, but in my opinion, Ronan’s perspective is the highlight of this installment of the series. He is tormented by terrible nightmares and his harrowing past. Each of the characters is further developed from the first novel, and I loved the new advancements. Additionally, readers are introduced to two, incredibly complex characters, The Gray Man and Kavinsky, who offer dark perspectives and are essential to the unfolding of the story. I loved the new characters and the intricacy of this story. I will admit that I missed the central focus on Blue and her household of psychics (as in The Raven Boys), but Blue certainly plays a strong role in this book. The psychics were my favorite part of the first book in the series. Stiefvater does a brilliant job in the development of Ronan’s story which adds an interesting twist to this book. I also enjoyed how she wove several, different plot threads. This book kept me guessing, and it is quite unpredictable, which made it a pleasure to read.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: It would be hard for teachers to introduce this text as a whole-class reading if students haven’t read the first book in the series. That said, teachers could set the context of the story and show samples of the darker passages from Ronan’s perspective to teach imagery and mood. If a small group chose it as a literature circle text, students would enjoy comparing and contrasting the author’s purposes and characterization between the two books in the series. This would show students how important it is to build characterization both within a story and across books in a sequel as a plot advances.

Discussion Questions: How do the purpose and direction of this book differ from the first book in the series?; How does Stiefvater develop her characters further from the first book?; In what ways does Ronan struggle to negotiate with his past?; How does Adam cope with his obstacles and circumstances? Do you agree with his approach?

We Flagged: “Sometimes, some rare times, a secret stays undiscovered because it is something too big for the mind to hold. It is too strange, too vast, too terrifying to contemplate” (Prologue).

Please note: The above quotes are from the Advanced Reader Copy. The e-book (a galley) did not provide page numbers. The quotes may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, White Cat by Holly Black

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**Thank you to NetGalley and Scholastic for providing the Advanced Reader Copy for review!**

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

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Title: Rose under Fire
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Expected Publication: September 10th, 2013 by Miramax (Disney)

Summary: While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?

Elizabeth Wein, author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Code Name Verity, delivers another stunning WWII thriller. The unforgettable story of Rose Justice is forged from heart-wrenching courage, resolve, and the slim, bright chance of survival.

Review: Out of the thousands of books I’ve read, this one is going to sit among my all-time favorites. There is a phenomenal balance of history and narrative that will engage readers while offering harrowing lessons in history. I am not an air and space girl. My husband loves planes, and he was giddy when we went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. As much as I want to love planes, I don’t find them to be interesting. This book changed my outlook.

Rose under Fire has many similarities with Wein’s Code Name Verity. They are both written in an epistolary format, involve pilots/airplanes, and are set during World War II. Both offer wonderfully complex themes about friendship, loyalty, and the strength of women. However, Rose under Fire focuses more on concentration camps, while Code Name Verity dealt more with the interrogation techniques used during World War II. Neither of these two elements drove the novels, but they are two plot features that make the texts quite different from one other. I found CNV to be a bit slow in the beginning (which isn’t the case with all readers), but I was hooked to Rose under Fire from the very first page. Wein writes characters so vividly that I still feel their presence in my life, long after I finish the books. I recommend this book to everyone. It will appeal to readers of all ages, backgrounds, genders, and interest levels.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Teachers, this is a MUST-HAVE book. It is phenomenally written and shows the truly complexity of young adult literature. It can be used to teach elements like setting, character, dialogue, the epistolary format, imagery, voice, and theme. Students might write letters back to Rose, or they could analyze one of the many well-developed characters in this story. It would also make for a great research unit of topics like the Nuremberg Trials, female WWII pilots, flying bombs, or the experimentation on Holocaust prisoners. History teachers will also find this text to be invaluable.

Discussion Questions: What loyalties did the Holocaust prisoners have for each other? What are some examples of incidents that showed this loyalty?; Why were the Rabbits so important to the concentration camp? What did they add to the story as a whole?; How does Maddie’s friendship with Rose differ from her friendship with Julie?; Why was Nick’s character important throughout the story? How does his level of importance change, and why?; Rose has very different friendships with many of the characters. Describe how three of these friendships differ from one another.; Does the novel end in a hopeful way? Why or why not?

We Flagged: I marked so many passages that it is hard to choose just a few, so I selected two longer quotes that show the quality of Wein’s writing.

Incredible Imagery:

“…and the reason everyone in there was trying to get out in the rain was because they were dying of thirst.

Really dying of it, I think.

Hands and arms and heads stuck out anywhere there was a gap—cupped hands collecting rainwater, some holding bowls or even just a piece of cloth to collect moisture—I saw one woman lying on her back with her hair in the black cinder mud at the tent’s edge, her mouth open, letting a rivulet of water stream down the canvas and into her mouth.”

And Beautiful Figurative Language:

“Hope—you think of hope as a bright thing, a strong thing, sustaining. But it’s not. It’s the opposite. It’s simply this: lumps of stale bread stuck down your shirt. Stale gray bread eked out with ground fish bones, which you won’t eat because you’re going to give it away, and maybe you’ll get a message through to your friend. That’s all you need.

God, I was hungry.”

Please note: The above quotes are from the Advanced Reader Copy. The e-book (a galley) did not provide page or chapter numbers. The quotes may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb, Night by Elie Wiesel

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Thank you to NetGalley and Disney for sending me the Advanced Reader Copy!

Battling Boy by Paul Pope

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Battling Boy
Author and Illustrator: Paul Pope
Expected publication October 8th, 2013 by First Second

Goodreads Summary: The adventure begins in the new graphic novel by comics legend Paul Pope.

Monsters roam through Arcopolis, swallowing children into the horrors of their shadowy underworld. Only one man is a match for them – the genius vigilante Haggard West.

Unfortunately, Haggard West is dead.

Arcopolis is desperate, but when its salvation comes in the form of a twelve-year-old demigod, nobody is more surprised than Battling Boy himself.

IT’S TIME TO MEET AN ELECTRIFYING NEW HERO.

My Review: I am always impressed when an author can not only make an entire new world, but also new mythology. That is exactly what Paul Pope does in his new graphic novel (will be a series).  Arcopolis is a terrifying apocalyptic-esque town where you cannot walk around at night and you are always being watched by monsters. The setting is what makes this story really able to happen.

When reading, I could tell that Paul Pope is a “comic mastermind” because this story is set up very much like a traditional comic (good vs. evil, superheroes); however, there is a new twist on it because our hero is an underdog. This makes the reader root for him even more.

Warning: Cliffhanger ending! Battling Boy better be the first in a series, because I am dying to know what happens!

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: This book will be loved in middle and high school classroom libraries. Pure comic book fans will love it, fantasy fans will love it, and adventure fans will love it.

Discussion Questions: Battling Boy lets the town believe he did something that he really didn’t – was this the right choice?; How do you think Aurora will play a part in the adventure?; Do you think Battling Boy is going to be able to save Arcopolis?

We Flagged: “The public ceremony of mourning for Haggard West was scheduled for one day… It was extended to three. The private funeral followed. A somber affair by necessity closed-casket.. and it rained. The tomb of the fallen hero. She stood under the umbrella wearing her public face… She learned long ago the special responsbilities of being a hero’s daughter… She wouldn’t allow herself to cry in public. Waves of faces in the rain.” (p. 52-53)

Check out Previews World’s Sneak Peek of Battling Boy to see some of the epic artwork.

Read This If You Loved: Amulet (series) by Kazu Kibuishi, Olympians (series) by George O’Connor, Foiled (series) by Jane Yolen, The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen
[These are adult graphic novels, but very similar feeling with mythology and epic stories] Sandman (series) by Neil Gaiman, Fables (series) by Bill Willingham, The Book of Magic by Neil Gaiman

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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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