Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott



Jumped In
Author: Patrick Flores-Scott
Published August 27, 2013 by Henry Holt and Co.

Goodreads Summary: Sam has the rules of slackerhood down: Don’t be late to class. Don’t ever look the teacher in the eye. Develop your blank stare. Since his mom left, he has become an expert in the art of slacking, especially since no one at his new school gets his intense passion for the music of the Pacific Northwest—Nirvana, Hole, Sleater-Kinney. Then his English teacher begins a slam poetry unit and Sam gets paired up with the daunting, scarred, clearly-a-gang-member Luis, who happens to sit next to him in every one of his classes. Slacking is no longer an option—Luis will destroy him. Told in Sam’s raw voice and interspersed with vivid poems, Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott is a stunning debut novel about differences, friendship, loss, and the power of words

My Review: This book is about depression, friendship, poetry, music, loyalty, teachers, and family.. It is amazing that through Sam’s interactions with Luis and introduction to poetry, he goes from trying to be invisible on purpose to having a whole different view of his surroundings. Luis changes how he sees the world because Luis ends up being everything he thought he wasn’t.

This book surprised me. I didn’t know what it was about when I started, so I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. At first Sam seems to just be a slacker that is hard to connect with, and I thought it was going to be similar to many other books with a bully that I’ve read. But it ended up being like Luis was to Sam–everything I thought it wasn’t going to be, and it was so unpredictable. From page 1, the author had me. The images just jumped out at me. And that was just the beginning of me being thoroughly impressed with the book. Both of the voices in this book resonated with me for a long time after (As much as I end up liking Sam in this book, I think Luis may be one of my favorite characters ever. He has a beautiful voice, and I felt privileged to meet him.). It was one of those books that I had to let marinate before I could pick up another one because it was still banging around inside of my head (and I couldn’t stop hearing Sam and Luis’s voices).

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is a poetry-friendly book. First, although Sam is telling the story, throughout Luis’s voice is shared through his poetry. Beautiful poetry. Also, one of the main settings of the book is an English classroom with a pretty awesome English teacher talking about poetry. There are even examples of poems that she asks her students to write such as diamantes and nonets. All of her poetry unit (and writing process) activities would be perfect to use in the classroom.

Discussion Questions: Was there ever someone you judged by looking at them, but later learned that they were not what you thought?; Have you ever just tried to be invisible? Why?; Do you ever have “brain movies” like Sam when your brain just won’t stop thinking?; How does Luis’s friendship change Sam?; How is Luis different than what Sam assumed he would be?; How does Gilbert affect Sam?

We Flagged: “I pull away from everyone, and after a while, I pretty much quit talking altogether. It’s been two years. I’m a sophmore. I shouldn’t still be stuck like this. But the pit I’ve dug for myself feels so deep, I can’t climb out of it. I want to. I want to climb out and join the world. But I can’t. I don’t know how.” (Sam, p. 32)


I’m Callado
Still waters, aguas quietas

But in school you have to speak
To be seen as running deep

To be thought of as more than
The tragic mask
I wear to put you off
I don’t know why, so don’t ask

Someday I’ll scrap the mask
I’ll let loose my new, crazy words
I’ll speak my piece
Without ceasing till you’ve learned…

That I’m as deep
As Everest is voluminous

I’m as thoughtful
As the sun is luminous

As lucid
As Casanova is amorous

As passionate
As a grizzly is carnivorous…” (Luis, p. 51)

Read This If You Loved: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos, Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, Reality Boy by A.S. King, Wine Young Fool by Sean Beaudoin

Recommended For: 

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Review and Giveaway!: Like Bug Juice on a Burger and Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake by Julie Sternberg


bug juice

Like Bug Juice on a Burger (Eleanor #2)
Author: Julie Sternberg
Illsutrator: Matthew Cordell
Published April 2nd, 2013 by Amulet Books

Goodreads Summary: I hate camp. I just hate it. I wish I didn’t. But I do. Being here is worse than bug juice on a burger. Or homework on Thanksgiving. Or water seeping into my shoes. In this sequel to the critically acclaimed Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie, Eleanor is off to summer camp. At first she’s excited to carry on the family tradition at Camp Wallumwahpuck, but when she gets there she finds icky bugs, terrible food, and worst of all: swim class, where she just can’t seem to keep up with everyone else. But as the days go on, Eleanor realizes that even the most miserable situations can be full of special surprises and that growing up is full of belly flops. 

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book definitely brought back memories! I loved the idea of summer camp and many of the activities, but I hated the bugs and the food and the changing in front of other people. There are many times when I was away that I just wanted to go home; however, there were things that saved me- specifically, like Eleanor, the animals. I loved working in the barn with the horses and it is what saved me and then got me going back year after year. I remember walking into the barn and being able to be part of these horses’ lives and the scene where Eleanor meets Cornelius the goat brought me right back to that moment. 

This book would be a wonderful read aloud for right before summer because even if students are not going to summer camp, there is probably something new and scary that they will try this summer and this book will definitely cause discussion about how something new may be scary, but that doesn’t mean you won’t like it eventually. Julie Sternberg’s writing also lends itself to some amazing discussions about free verse poetry and, in this one, letter writing. Maybe use the letter writing part of the book to segue into writing a letter to next year’s class. 

Finally, I love the idea of the Wall of Feelings! The Wall of Feelings is where the campers put up how they feel about camp; however, Eleanor is given the job of writing about how she used to feel about camp and then how she feels about camp now. What a great way for students to express themselves! This would be a great formative assessment for looking at how students feel about reading or school or some other topic at the beginning of the year vs. the end. 

Discussion Questions: Think about a time in your life when you did something you were scared to do. How did you overcome your fear/nervousness? How did it turn out in the end?  

We Flagged: “The bus was bumping
down a gravel road
with bushes and trees and weeds all around. 
This isn’t beautiful
I thought. 
This is creepy
I missed sidewalks full of people
checking their phones
and walking their cute dogs. 
I missed paved roads, too, 
filled with taxis and bik riders.” (Chapter 5) 

Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake_cover (1)

Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake
Author: Julie Sternberg
Illustrator: Matthew Cordell
Published March 18th, 2014 by Amulet Books

Goodreads Summary: I did a mean thing.
A very mean thing.
I HATE that I did it.
But I did.
This is worse than
carrot juice on a cupcake
or a wasp on my pillow
or a dress that’s too tight at the neck.
In the third installment from the team who created Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie and Like Bug Juice on a Burger, Eleanor’s relationship with her best friend, Pearl, experiences its first growing pains. When a glamorous new student transfers to school, at first Eleanor’s excited about the possibility of a new friend. But when Pearl is assigned to be the new girl’s buddy, Eleanor fears she can’t compete. To make matters worse, Eleanor’s been chosen for the lead role in the springtime musical, which means she has to sing a solo in front of the entire school!
From overcoming stage fright to having a secret crush, young readers will relate to Eleanor as she navigates the bittersweet waters of growing up.

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book has multiple levels going on at the same time. There is the story of Eleanor and Pearl’s friendship and their first speed bump. Then there is Eleanor getting the lead in the play, and dealing with the fear of singing a solo. Eleanor dealing with her puppy having trouble getting house trained. And finally, the Eleanor and Nicholas story. But Sternberg balances it all because it is just all part of Eleanor’s life. Julie Sternberg is so great at writing in an elementary student’s voice. It is so authentic and well done!

What I love so much about all of the “Eleanor” books are that they are written in verse, and Eleanor is an amazing poet. I love that it is free verse and includes such beautiful language, but it never comes off as anything but authentic. Teachers could definitely take Eleanor’s writing and use it as a mentor text for students to write about their own experiences.

Discussion Questions: Have you ever hurt a friend’s feelings? What did you do to make it better?; How was Eleanor able to overcome her stage fright?; Why was Eleanor so scare and jealous of Ainsley?; Do you think Eleanor likes Nicholas?


Read These If You Loved: Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie by Julie Sternberg, Marty McGuire and Marty McGuire Digs Worms by Kate Messner, Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli, Go Out and Play! by KaBoom!, Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown by Jarrett Kroscozka, Camp Babymouse by Jenni and Matt Holm, Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo, Ramona books by Beverly Cleary

Curriculum Guide for All of the “Eleanor” Books Can be Found Here.

Both Books Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review**

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park



A Long Walk to Water
Author: Linda Sue Park
Published November, 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Goodreads Summary: A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about a girl in Sudan in 2008 and a boy in Sudan in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The wars in Sudan and Darfur are the most violent and long lasting wars in the world; however, most Americans are unaware that they are even occurring. Linda Sue Park took a true story of a lost boy’s survival (watch a video about the true story here) after being chased from his village because of war and transformed it into a novel that will leave the reader with a feeling of awe. Awe of the bravery and pure fearlessness of Salva and the other Lost boys of Sudan and awe of the world of riches and blindness we live in while a horrendous war wages on the other side of the world. I love this book because it is very accessible to children, it won’t bog them down with too much history; however, it will definitely make them aware of the situation in Sudan.

Discussion Questions: What is a way that you could share what you learned about the Lost Boys of Sudan? How can you help? 

We Flagged: “Salva took a few steps towards the men.
A soldier approached Salva and raised his gun.
Salva froze. All he could see was the gun’s huge barrel, black and gleaming, as it moved toward his face.
The end of the barrel touched his chin.
Salva felt his knees turn to water. He closed his eyes.
If I die now, I will never see my family again.
Somehow, this thought strengthened him enough to keep him from collapsing in terror.
He took a deep breath and opened his eyes.” (p. 11)

“Going was easy.
Going, the big plastic container held only air… There was little weight, going. There was only heat, the sun already baking the air, even though it was long before noon. It would take her half the morning if she didn’t stop on the way.
Heat. Time. And thorns…
Nya filled the container all the way to the top. Then she tied the gourd in back in place and took the padded cloth doughnut from her pocked. The doughnut went on her head first, followed by the heavy container of water, which she would hold in place with one hand.
With the water balanced on her head, and her foot still sore from the thorn, Nya knew that going home would take longer than coming had. But she might reach home by noon, if all went well.” (p. 1, 14-15)

Read This If You Loved: The Queen of Water by Laura Resau, Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams, Sold by Patricia McCormick, Diamonds in the Shadows by Caroline B. Cooney, Shabanu by Suzanne Fisher Staples, So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba

Recommended For: 
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All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill [Kellee’s Review]



All Our Yesterdays
Author: Cristin Terrill
Published September 3rd, 2013 by Disney Hyperion

Goodreads Summary: What would you change?

Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it… at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is a book that keeps you reading. I couldn’t put it down. I found myself reading whenever I could (including times when I was holding my sleeping son or when I should have been sleeping).  When you find out how Marina and Em are connected, it just blew my mind! I then had to find out how everything was going to turn out. I was just so impressed with everything:

First, the plot. It is so complex and intricate. You have to pay attention to keep up with the timeline, but it isn’t so bad that you’ll get lost. It is so admirable that the author was able to craft such intense timelines and intertwine them seamlessly.

Second, the language. I loved how Cristin Terrill wrote. The imagery throughout transported you into the story.

Third, the suspense. I just HAD to know what was going to happen!

Fourth, the characters. In a way that I’ve never experience before, Cristin Terrill truly gets you into the minds and hearts of the characters. You understand their motives, who they used to be, who they’ll become, all because of the way that Terrill tells the story and crafts her characters. You feel their heartbreak with them (and one particular realization that you find out in the very end just broke my heart and blew my mind), and you are so invested in everything they do.

Finally, the themes. The discussions that would come from this novel would be so interesting. Just the idea of power and corruption that is dealt with would lead to quite a debate.

Ricki also pointed out in her review how fun it would be to have students imagine what they would change if time travel existed.

This text would be a wonderful mentor text to discuss plot and character development, theme, and style. And most importantly, it will be a text that students will be intrigued with, not want to put down, and share with everyone.

Discussion Questions: What would you change if you had the ability to change time?; How far would you go to protect your best friend?; How did Cristin Terrill build suspense throughout the novel?; Why does power lead to corruption? Where have we seen this happen in history?

We Flagged: “Far down the hallway, I hear the clink of a door. Someone is approaching. I bolt upright and lunge for the drain. No telling what the doctor will do if he finds me breaking into it, and if he sees the sheet of paper… The though sends ice through my veins. He’ll kill me for sure. Hands clumsy with rushing, I break the spoon into several pieces and drop them down the drain. I can now make out a pair of heavy boots against the cement. I jam the grating back onto the drain and replace the screws as best I can with fingertips and nails. I swipe up the plastic bag and piece of paper and throw myself at my mattress. I show them both underneath just as Kessler’s face appears at the small window in my cell door.” (p. 9-10)

Read This If You Loved: Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith, Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier, Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky, Lost Time by Susan Maupin Schmid, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix, London Calling by Edward Bloor

Recommended For: 

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Amulet Books Graphic Novel Teaching Guide



In January, I was contacted by a publicity and marketing associate from Abrams Books/Amulet Books out of the blue. In this email, I was asked to work on a teaching guide about their graphic novels: The Misadventures of Salem Hyde, Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, Hereville, and the Explorer series.




I was beyond honored! And, of course, I said that I would definitely love to do it as I had read all of the graphic novels, and I am a huge fan of them.

First, they asked me to write an introduction about graphic novels and their importance in the classroom. I am a huge advocate for using graphic novels in schools, so I immediately began researching and writing. Here is the introduction:

What are graphic novels? The easiest way to describe graphic novels is to say that they are book-length comic books. However, a more complex definition that educators and librarians use is “book-length narratives told using a combination of words and sequential art, often presented in comic book style” (Fletcher-Spear, 37). Graphic novels are not written in just one genre; they can be in any genre, since graphic novels are a format/medium. Graphic novels are much like novels, but they’re told through words and visuals. They have all narrative elements, including characters, a complete plot, a conflict, etc.

Middle grade and young adult graphic novels cover a wide spectrum of themes and topics. Some common themes found in graphic novels for this age include the hero’s journey; overcoming hardship; and finding one’s identity. For example, in Hereville, we meet Mirka, an everyday girl who learns to use her brains and brawn to overcome her foes. In The Misadventures of Salem Hyde, Salem is working on finding out just who she is (both as a witch and as a person) with the help of her friend Whammy. Graphic novels can cross curricular lines. One example is the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series—comical nonfiction that takes historical events and presents them in interesting ways, using graphics and humor that will make students want to learn even more about the historical time periods. In the Explorer series, stories include topics such as animal adaptation, volcanic eruptions, and the fate of humanity. Like novels, graphic novels offer opportunities in all subject areas to extend students’ thinking.

Over the past few years, graphic novels have become a hot topic, growing in popularity with both children and educators. While many teachers are beginning to include them in the classroom, there are still teachers, administrators, and librarians who struggle with including this format in their schools. So, why should you use them in your classroom and have them available for students?

  • Graphic novels can make a difficult subject interesting and relatable. (Cohen)
  • Students are visual learners, and today’s students have a much wider visual vocabulary than students in the past. (Karp)
  • Graphic novels can help foster complex reading skills by building a bridge from what students know to what they still have to learn. (NCTE)
  • Graphic novels can help with scaffolding when trying to teach higher-order thinking skills or other complex ideas.
  • For students who struggle to visualize while they read, graphic novels provide visuals that shows what good readers do. (NCTE)
  • Many graphic novels rely on symbol, allusion, satire, parody, irony, and characters/plot and can be used to teach these, and other, literary devices. (Miller; NCTE)
  • Often, in between panels (called the gutter), the reader must make inferences to understand how the events in one panel lead to the events in the next. (McCloud)
  • Graphic novels can make differentiating easier. (Miller)
  • Graphic novels can help ELL (English Language Learners) and reluctant and struggling readers since they divide the text into manageable chunks, use images (which help students understand unknown vocabulary), and are far less daunting than prose. (Haines)
  • Graphic novels do not reduce the vocabulary demand; instead, they provide picture support, quick and appealing story lines, and less text, which allow the reader to understand the vocabulary more easily. (Haines)
  • Research shows that comic books are linguistically appropriate reading material, bearing no negative impact on school achievement or language acquisition. (Krashen)
  • Students love them.

Although you can find graphic novel readers at all reading levels, graphic novels can truly be a gateway to the joys of reading for reluctant and struggling readers. Reluctant readers often find reading to be less fun than video games, movies, and other media, but many will gravitate toward graphic novels because of the visuals and the fast pace. Struggling readers will pick up graphic novels for these reasons as well but also because the graphic novel includes accommodations directly in the book: images, less text, etc.

All in all, graphic novels can interest your most reluctant and struggling readers and also extend all of your readers, including your most gifted.  


  • Cohen, Lisa S. “But This Book Has Pictures! The Case for Graphic Novels in an AP Classroom.” AP Central. CollegeBoard.
  • Fletcher-Spear, Kristin, Merideth Jenson-Benjamin, and Teresa Copeland. “The Truth About Graphic Novels: A Format, Not a Genre.” The ALAN Review Winter (2005): 37­–44.
  • Haines, Jennifer. “Why Use Comics in The Classroom?” Comic Book Daily. N.p., 20 Mar. 2012.
  • Karp, Jesse. “The Case for Graphic Novels in Education.” American Libraries. N.p., 1 Aug. 2011.
  • Krashen, Stephen. The Power of Reading. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc. 1993.
  • McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics. Northampton, Mass.: Kitchen Sink, 1993. 
  • Miller, Andrew. “Using Graphic Novels and Comics in the Classroom.” Edutopia. N.p., 11 Jan. 2012.
  • NCTE, comp. “Using Comics and Graphic Novels in the Classroom.” The Council Chronicle September (2005) http://www.ncte.org/magazine/archives/122031.

 I then began reading and rereading the graphic novels and planning activities and discussion questions that could go along with each book. I was asked to come up with activities for all subjects, so this pushed me out of my comfort zone a bit; however, I loved trying to figure out how these amazing books could be used throughout all classes.  Some examples:

  • Salem Hyde [Science]: At the end of Spelling Trouble, Salem and Whammy have to rescue a whale, but it is done in a very unconventional way. How would real scientists rescue a whale in distress?
  • Hazardous Tales [Language Arts/History]: The Provost (a British soldier) and Nathan Hale disagree about the cause of the Revolutionary War. Based on One Dead Spy, what events caused the Americans to revolt? Do you agree with the Provost or with Nathan Hale about the causes of the war? (This could also be used as a debate question in class.)
  • Hereville [Math]: On pages 31–32 [of Hereville 1], Mirka is given a math problem: Three people are splitting a cake, so they cut it into thirds. But then a fourth person shows up. How can they cut the cake so that each person gets an equalamount of cake? (Mirka comes up with a solution, but are there others?) What if two more people had shown up? Three more? Four more? 
  • Explorer [History]: On page 84 [of The Mystery Boxes], in The Soldier’s Daughter, the man says, “War is a dark power.” Where in history have we seen war consume someone? Have there been wars that did not need to be fought? Research past wars and determine if a war was started because of the need for power or if there was a legitimate reason for it. 

These are just some examples.

I am happy to share the entire teaching guide with you. It can be found at http://www.abramsbooks.com/academic-resources/teaching-guides/ along with other teaching guides. The direct link to the PDF is http://www.abramsbooks.com/pdfs/academic/GraphicNovels_TeachingGuide.pdf.

I hope you find it useful as I am very proud of it,


Locomotive by Brian Floca (Kellee’s Review)


NF PB 2014

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!


Author and Illustrator: Brian Floca
Published September 3rd, 2013 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: The Caldecott Medal Winner, Sibert Honor Book, and New York Timesbestseller Locomotive is a rich and detailed sensory exploration of America’s early railroads, from the creator of the “stunning” (Booklist)Moonshot.

It is the summer of 1869, and trains, crews, and family are traveling together, riding America’s brand-new transcontinental railroad. These pages come alive with the details of the trip and the sounds, speed, and strength of the mighty locomotives; the work that keeps them moving; and the thrill of travel from plains to mountain to ocean.

Come hear the hiss of the steam, feel the heat of the engine, watch the landscape race by. Come ride the rails, come cross the young country!

My Review: Rhythm. Onomatopoeias. (Well-researched) History. Gorgeous (and historically accurate) illustrations. Lyrical narrative. Unique point of view. This book has everything.

YOU (second person POV!) are a passenger on a train cross America with your family in 1869. Throughout the book, you will encounter many different landmarks, experience things on a train very few had at this time in history, and learn about the intricacies of the train. So fascinating! And all told in rich, beautiful language. It is hard to even share much more about the book because it is such an experience.

Check out Ricki’s review of Locomotive as well HERE.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would LOVE to read this to kids. There are so many places to stop and discuss and research and learn, but never without an enthralling story accompanying.  It would be a great book to use across subjects. There are definitely opportunities for all subjects: social studies (trans-continental travel, history, trains); science (the science of steam engines); math (travel); reading/writing (onomatopoeia, point of view, rhythm).

Also, and this is fresh on my mind because I just read it, but I would love to read this and The Donner Dinner Party and then look at the two journeys. How long did each take? Dangers? It would be an interesting look at how trains truly changed transportation.

Discussion Questions: How does having the book in 2nd point of view make it more enthralling?; What onomatopoeias were used in the book? How did these words help suck you into the story?; How did the author’s rhythm make you feel like you are actually on the train?; What are the landmarks that were passed on the trans-continental railroad? Why are these landmarks significant?; How does a steam engine work? What are the jobs of all of the different people on board?

We Flagged:
“Here is how this road was built,
with a grunt and a heave and a swing,
with the ring of shovels on stone,
the ring of hammers on spikes:


Men came from far away
to build from the East,
to build from the West,
to meet in the middle.

They cleared the rocks
and dug the tunnels.
They raised the hammers
and brought them down—

“Three strokes to the spike,
ten spikes to the rail!”


Read This If You Loved: The Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale, Train by Elisha Cooper

Recommended For: 

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Bruised by Sarah Skilton



Author: Sarah Skilton
Published March 5, 2013 by Amulet/Abrams

Goodreads Summary: Imogen has always believed that her black belt in Tae Kwon Do made her stronger than everyone else–more responsible, more capable. But when she witnesses a holdup in a diner, she freezes. The gunman is shot and killed by the police. And it’s all her fault.

Now she’s got to rebuild her life without the talent that made her special and the beliefs that made her strong. If only she could prove herself in a fight–a real fight–she might be able to let go of the guilt and shock. She’s drawn to Ricky, another witness to the holdup, both romantically and because she believes he might be able to give her the fight she’s been waiting for.

But when it comes down to it, a fight won’t answer Imogen’s big questions: What does it really mean to be stronger than other people? Is there such a thing as a fair fight? And can someone who’s beaten and bruised fall in love?

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Imogen is broken and she must overcome this feeling of hopelessness that surrounds her constantly. What an intense way to introduce us to a character? We then go on a journey with Imogen as she tries to rebuild her life, her memories, her friendships, and her family.

At first I struggled with this book because the timeline was choppy, and Imogen was hard to pinpoint. But then, through the flashbacks, Imogen starts to become clearer to us, the reader, and Imogen’s memories start to become clearer to her. Then you are so sucked into wanting to know everything, and you can only know everything if you stick with the book and see Imogen’s memories as they are revealed. This is a pretty brilliant tactic in making the reader feel like they are in the protagonist’s brain.

Bruised actually reminds me a lot of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Both young ladies are thrown into a tragedy, let that tragedy eat away at their hearts and souls, and have to figure out how to find themselves again. Truly a remarkable journey to go on with a character.  And, like Speak, there are some intense topics/themes dealt with in Bruised that will definitely grab a teen’s attention: sibling rivalry, a disabled parent, disconnected family, friendship, sex, love, survival, and martial arts. It is one of those books that teens need to read, so they can learn to become resilient and to overcome whatever is in their path.

Discussion Questions: Is it ever okay to lie?; Would you have been able to forgive your best friend if she’d done what Shelly did?; Was it right of Imogen to call Grant down during the demonstration?; Why was having Ricky there such an important part of Imogen’s recovery?

We Flagged: “Don’t you recognize me?” says Ricky after a moment.
Confused, I force myself to look up from the floor, up his legs and along his body, until I’m looking him in the eyes.
I hear gunshots, the cashier crying, and the police sirens, but I don’t look away.
He’s my friend from under the table.” (p. 60)

“Today, eleven days later, I slide down the wall of my own shower and curl up in a ball, tuck my knees under my chin, and wrap my arms around my head. I’ve taken showers since the diner, but this one’s different. Get smaller. Small as you can be. Low to the ground is comforting, standing up is bad. Why is standing up bad? What happins if you stand up? (You don’t want to know.) Reset button. Start at the beginning. Gretchen’s in the bathroom when the gunman comes in. I see the glint of his gun, and I hide under the table. There’s Ricky, under a different table, he brings his finger to his lips. Shh…” (p. 95-96)

Read This If You Loved: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Stained by Cheryl Rainfield, Rape Girl by Alina Klein

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