Waluk by Emilio Ruiz



Author: Emilio Ruiz
Illustrator: Ana Miralles
Expected publication November 1st, 2013 by Delcourt

Goodreads Summary: Young Waluk is all alone. His mother has abandoned him, as is the way of polar bears, and now he must fend for himself. But he doesn’t know much about the world—and unfortunately, his Arctic world is changing quickly. The ice is melting, and food is hard to find.

Luckily, Waluk meets Manitok, a wise old bear with missing teeth and a bad sense of smell. Manitok knows many survival tricks, and he teaches Waluk about seals, foxes, changing seasons, and—when Manitok is caught in a trap—human beings. Has Waluk learned enough from his friend to find a way to save him?

My Review: I’m always a big fan of books that books that tell a great story, but also teaches the reader something – Waluk fits this description.

I love that this story is told in a graphic novel because it allows us to see what Waluk is experiencing. I think this is really important because many readers will not be familiar with the setting and animals.

Additionally, there are nonfiction aspects where global warming and human impact on polar bears is discussed even with a bibliography in the end for students who want to learn more.

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: I would love to read this graphic novel aloud to my class just to discuss with them the environmental aspects of the book. I think the story really brings global warming and the threat polar bears feel to life. Also, the story would be a great way to discuss point of view/perspective since the story is told from Waluk’s point of view.

Discussion Questions: How is global warming threatening polar bears?; What type of character traits must Waluk have to be willing to go save Manitok?

We Flagged: Manitok “If you want to be like the great Nanook, you’ll have to feed on seal blubber and whale fat.”
Waluk “Sure. Like it’s that easy. The seals laugh at me. Not even the puny lemmings are afraid of me.”
Manitok “Nah, that’s no problem, Buddy. I’m Manitok! Descended from the legend of the great whit bears. I know how to hunt anything.”
Waluk “Really?”
Manitok “Of course! Seals, walruses, belugas, lemmings, razorbills, humans–”
Waluk “Then why are you so thin?”
Manitok “Well, it’s age… see, I’m not as good as I used to be. Frankly, it’s been a while since I’ve gorged on sea lion – taken him down with my fangs, ya know, like it’s no big deal.” (p. 18)

Read This If You Loved: Seekers (series) by Erin Hunter, Nonfiction books about global warming or polar bears, Neversink by Barry Wolverton, [For further POV discussions] Who Stole Mona Lisa? by Ruthie Knapp and The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Netgalley and Lerner Publishing Group (Graphic Universe) for providing the e-galley!**

Into That Forest by Louis Nowra


Title: Into That Forest
Author: Louis Nowra
Expected Publication: September 3th, 2013 by Amazon Children’s Publishing

Summary: Hannah and Becky are traveling down a river in Tasmania, Australia with Hannah’s parents when a storm erupts. Their boat overturns, and Hannah and Becky are left to survive in the wild. Two Tasmanian tigers are nearby, and because they’ve recently lost their pups, the tigers adopt Hannah and Becky as their own children. The two girls slowly adapt to the tigers’ ways, adopting their habits and forgetting words. It isn’t long before they become feral children, acting only as animals would.

Review: I have never read a book quite like this one. When I tried to compare it to other books I’ve read, I immediately thought of Endangered (Eliot Schrefer), which describes bonobos rather than tigers. With both books, I developed a fondness for the animals and their habits. Also, they both roped me into their beautiful settings and imagery. The only other books I could compare this to were those about abuse and neglect, as the children slowly developed animalistic ways, as abandoned children do.

The language is a bit peculiar at first, as Hannah is writing the story as an elderly woman, and she admits her language isn’t very good. I found myself slipping into the beautiful wording by the third or fourth page, and I didn’t find that it distracted my reading, and instead, it added to the experience. If I could change anything, I might alter the ending a bit, but perhaps, I am being too particular. I loved learning about the tigers’ lifestyle, and I was hooked to this survival story from the very first page. The sisterly bond that develops between Hannah and Becky is remarkable, and the story teaches themes of loyalty and companionship. Readers will be left pondering humanity and the differences between animals and humans.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Students may find the language to be a bit difficult to understand at first, so the teacher may need to provide some close readings at first. I suspect most students quickly adjust to the language and will no longer be distracted by the wording after the first few pages, and they will likely find that it adds a lot of color to the text. Teachers could have students select their favorite descriptions of the setting and imagery, as these elements are very well-developed and would serve as a great model for students. Upon completion of the text, students might research topics like Tasmania, feral children, and tigers. I was left wanting to learn more about the Tasmanian wilderness and lifestyle, and I imagine that students will also find this book to pique their curiosity.

Discussion Questions: What does it mean to be human? How do the girls lose their humanity?; What are some of the patterns of the tigers’ behavior that the girls adopt? Why is this necessary?; How do you imagine Hannah’s life today? How has this experience changed her?

We Flagged: “As the water boiled and foamed, we bounced along with me father, unable to steer the boat toward the shore. The river were so wild that all we could do were to cling on tight to the sides of the boat or each other as we were flung back and forward like puppets with no strings. The rain chucked down and we were soaked, so soggy it were like the rain were drilling through our skin into our marrow.”

“The more I looked at its black eyes, the more I seen kindness […] I knew it were saying to us, Come, I’ll take you home.”

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: Endangered by Eliot Schrefer, Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick, Dog Boy by Eva Hornung, Second Nature by Alice Hoffman, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Recommended For:

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Thank you to NetGalley and Amazon Children’s Publishing for sending me the Advanced Reader Copy!

Blog Tour and Author Guest Post!: The Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand



Today, I am so happy to be part of The Year of Shadows blog tour! First, let me tell you a bit about the book: 


The Year of Shadows
Author: Claire Legrand
Published August 27th, 2013 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year.

Her mother left, her neglectful father — the maestro of a failing orchestra — has moved her and her grandmother into his dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.

Just when she thinks life couldn’t get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia’s help — if the hall is torn down, they’ll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.

Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: Save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living . . . and soon it’s not just the concert hall that needs saving.

I am so excited to read this! One of the things that intrigues me the most is the setting of a concert hall; reminds me of Phantom of the Opera


Today we are so lucky to have author Claire Legrand as a guest blogger. Claire Legrand used to be a musician until she realized she couldn’t stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now a writer, Ms. Legrand can often be found typing with purpose at her keyboard, losing herself in the stacks at her local library, or embarking upon spontaneous adventures to lands unknown. Her first novel is The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, a New York Public Library Best Book for Children in 2012. Her second novel, The Year of Shadows, releases August 27, 2013, with her third novel, Winterspell, to follow in fall 2014. She is one of the four authors behind The Cabinet of Curiosities, an anthology of dark middle grade fiction due out in July 2014 from Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins. Claire lives in New Jersey with a dragon and two cats. Visit her at claire-legrand.com and at enterthecabinet.com.

Here at Unleashing Readers, one of our goals is helping educators find books that will help them teach their students about different literary elements. We are so excited for Claire Legrand to discuss the literary elements of setting, characterization, and language, and how she utilized those elements to bring the world of The Year of Shadows to life! I think you all will find this post interesting and so useful.


The sense of place in The Year of Shadows was one of the first story elements I established. Olivia’s world is an isolated one—she lives at Emerson Hall, she goes to school, she works after school at the tea shop across the street called The Happy Place. We don’t see a lot of Olivia’s city beyond those three locations, and the time spent at Olivia’s school and The Happy Place are relatively minimal. The Year of Shadows is really all about Emerson Hall. It’s not only where Olivia spends the majority of her time; it’s also her new home. I therefore knew I would have to make the Hall as vibrant a character as Olivia herself, full of moods and memories. The Hall needed to feel like a whole new world, one that Olivia explores in the new lens of “home” just as the readers are exploring it for the first time. The state of the Hall, and how Olivia perceives it, represents Olivia’s state of mind.

At the beginning of the story, Emerson Hall is decrepit, shabby, old. Its paint has faded, its carpet is torn, and the once-grand stone angels on the building’s façade have been vandalized. Like Olivia and her broken family, Emerson Hall has seen better days. Olivia directs her hatred of what her life has become at the Hall itself; to her, Emerson Hall and its orchestra lie at the root of her troubles. She doesn’t realize until much later that her refusal to reach out to friends for help and her destructive tendency to isolate herself are more problematic than living in Emerson Hall. Like Olivia and her family, Emerson Hall literally starts to fall apart as the story progresses. Both Olivia and her home undergo crises that could make or break them. It is Olivia’s realization that she and the Hall need each other if they are going to survive that marks a turning point in the story, and allows her to find a peace that, at the beginning of The Year of Shadows, she can’t imagine finding ever again.


Imagine for a moment that you are twelve years old. You have enjoyed a comfortable, happy life with your father, mother, and grandmother. Art is in your blood; you are never without your trusty sketchpad, and you studied symphonies with your conductor father from the time you could crawl.

Then, things start to go wrong. Your mother and father start to fight; you lie awake at night listening to them. Your father spends more and more time working and less and less time with you and your mother. The orchestra isn’t doing well; lots of businesses aren’t doing well, and who wants to spend money they don’t have on coming to hear an increasingly crummy orchestra perform? Your stomach is in constant knots.

One day, a day that should have been like any other day, you wake up to find that your mother is gone. She left in the middle of the night without a clue as to her destination. It’s just you and your father now—your father who seems to care more than ever about work, much more than he cares about you. He lets bills and letters from your school pile up. (You’re not doing well in school these days.) He sells your house and moves you into the backstage storage rooms of a music hall that should probably be condemned.

You hate him. You hate everything. Sometimes, you even hate yourself.

This is Olivia. This is the girl whose story I sat down to tell when I wrote The Year of Shadows. She was a difficult character to bring to life; as you can see, her story isn’t a happy one. I needed to both communicate her (righteous, justified) anger and grief while still keeping her sympathetic. To achieve this, I balanced her darker moments—berating her father, insulting people who try to help her—with lighter ones. I felt it was even more important with Olivia than it was for some of my other, more immediately sympathetic characters, to give the reader peeks of the true her, beneath all the hurt that consumes her.

Olivia is an artist. There are beautiful worlds inside her, worlds she brings to life in her sketchpad even when—especially when—nothing else makes sense.

Olivia is kindhearted, devoted to her frail grandmother. She is determined to transform the backstage rooms of Emerson Hall into something like a home—decorating the bare gray walls with pictures from her sketchbook, spending the limited money she earns from working after school to buy her grandmother scarves and a nice warm rug for the cold floor.

Olivia is brave. She will face down ghosts—even the distinctly unfriendly ones—if it means defending her father, as much as she thinks she hates him. (But finding the courage to trust again? That she doesn’t find so easily.)

Creating Olivia was all about finding the right balance between her good moments and her bad ones, and ensuring that even her worst moments came from a place readers could understand.

The other characters in The Year of Shadows help Olivia in different ways. They are like rungs on the ladder Olivia must climb to pull herself out of her depression. Henry is trusting and loyal, traits Olivia can no longer see in herself or in her family. Joan is not afraid of being herself, or of letting others see her, while Olivia is constantly trying to hide. Mr. and Mrs. Barsky are the loving couple Olivia used to see in her parents. Trumpet player Richard Ashley is the love of music Olivia once had, and has now lost.

Even the ghosts play their part. I like to think of the four main ghosts in The Year of Shadows as fulfilling a function similar to that of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, each of which teach Ebenezer Scrooge something about himself. Olivia’s ghosts do the same, each “lesson” increasing in importance. Violinist Frederick helps Olivia rediscover her love of music. Best friends Tillie and Jax remind Olivia of the power and value of friendship. And poor Mr. Worthington, with his horrible secret, shows Olivia that even her family, as dysfunctional as it is, is worth saving.


Establishing just the right blend of language to tell Olivia’s story was a tricky process for me. I wanted the language of The Year of Shadows to feel contemporary yet classic, homey yet eerie. The reader needed to feel at home in Emerson Hall, but still feel as unsettled as Olivia does. There are horror elements in this book, but it is not a horror novel; it is ultimately a story about family and friendship. The language needed to both accurately describe intense issues—financial trouble, death and the afterlife, parental abandonment and neglect, bullying, depression—while still being accessible to young readers. Through the narration, I needed Olivia to identify and explore complex emotions; at the same time, I needed her to describe them in such a way that felt authentic for an emotionally confused twelve-year-old.

I think it’s impossible to discuss a story’s language without addressing voice, and establishing Olivia’s voice was essential in developing the right language for The Year of Shadows. I was fortunate to quickly “hear” Olivia’s voice—informal but poetic, intelligent but not book-smart, sarcastic yet brimming with emotion too overwhelming to share. Her voice is conversational, peppered with fragments.

Ultimately, I wanted the language of The Year of Shadows to evoke just that—shadows. Dark, shifting shapes on the wall created by fleeting sweeps of light. Shadows, while they might seem frightening at first, are ultimately hopeful things, because you can’t have a shadow without light. For Olivia, it takes a while to find her light—but she does in the end, even if it wasn’t quite what she was expecting.

Below are a few brief (spoiler-free!) selections from The Year of Shadows that are representative of the book’s overall language:

“The picture I had of them in my head was pretty fuzzy, so I kept drawing them over and over, trying to capture the memory of them on the page. It wasn’t working very well; it’s harder than you might think to draw just the right amount of transparency, of driftiness.”

“The Maestro didn’t cry. The Maestro was made of stone and numbers and anger, and mostly he was made of music—cold, unfeeling, metal-tubed music.”

“Mr. Worthington stared. His eyes and mouth were the largest, hanging open like gateways to some secret, dark place. His head didn’t hang quite right, like someone had screwed it on wrong, and he was skinny as a bundle of twigs.”

“The shades overhead scampered away, but one lingered above me, its face cocked to the side like a bird. It opened its mouth and groaned, this low, rumbling sound that made my ears hurt.”

“In a week and a half, we’d know the Hall’s fate. No, not its fate. Its destiny. I liked that word better. It sounded softer, like something Mom would say. It sounded like stars.”

“Henry didn’t say anything more after that. I think he was afraid to talk to me, afraid that I would crack. He might have been right. All I knew was the tip of my charcoal on my sketchpad, like I was sewing myself back together.”

I can see this post being used in reading or writing workshop; what a great resource for teachers! Also, doesn’t it make you want to read the book even more?!

I want to thank Claire Legrand for stopping by, and I hope you found the post as useful as I did!


Rump by Liesl Shurtliff



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

Recommended For: 

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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?


Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books with a ________ Setting


top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish are particularly fond of lists (as are we!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.

 Today’s Topic: Favorite Books with a ________ Setting

Here are our favorites within each of these great settings! As always—no spoilers!

1. Post- Apocalyptic World

Ricki: Ashfall by Mike Mullin

This is an epic story that has always been a hit in my classroom. Many of my students list it as their favorite book, and they are often compelled to research about super-volcanoes after reading Ashfall. The imagery and setting details are fantastic, and readers will feel as if they are right there with Alex after the super-volcano erupts.

Kellee: Life as we Knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer

This book, like Ashfall, is so realistic and that is why it is on my list. In Life as we Knew it a meteor hits the moon, and all heck breaks loose! The description of the disasters that inflict Miranda, her family, and the rest of the world are so terrifying, it will give you nightmares!

2. Dystopian World

Ricki: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

I love dystopian novels and try to read every book published within this genre. Even when the trend has long passed, I will still continue to devour books within this setting. It was difficult for me to choose just one book for this category because there are so many incredible choices. In the end, I chose Little Brother because it is a modern interpretation of 1984, one of my favorite classic novels. I love the lessons it teaches readers and think the setting is realistically interpreted, which allows it to be believable to students. I also think it would make for a great bridge for teachers to use alongside 1984, and it could lead to some great discussions/research about technology.

Kellee: Divergent by Veronica Roth

This is one of my favorite dystopian novels (series), but it is also one of my favorite settings. I think it is because it is actually set in Chicago, so I was able to connect to the setting thus making the book even more impactful to the reader. It is the dystopian novel that seems the most likely to happen in the future and I think it is because of the realism of the setting.

3. World War II

Ricki: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

If it is set in World War II, I will read it. With all of the books I’ve read that are set in this time period, this choice was very easy for me. I chose Between Shades of Gray because it doesn’t portray the Nazi Germany conflict, but instead, it teaches readers about Stalin and the Soviets. Lina, the main character, travels to Siberia, and readers won’t be able to put this book down. Students will feel a need for social justice after reading it. I have taught it to about fifty students (so far), and every single student fell in love with this story. Fellow teachers will know that this is a very difficult feat, with the varied tastes and interests of our students!

Kellee: The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Like Ricki, I am fascinated by World War II. Because of that, this one was actually really hard to choose. I decided on The Boy Who Dared because I like the point of view which it is told. The Boy Who Dared is told from the point of view of Helmut Hubner, an actual member of Germany’s Hitler Youth, and tells us a fictionalized narrative of Helmut’s life (though all based in truth). I, unfortunately, had a very narrow history (thanks to Texas middle school Texas history and a high school where football coaches taught history), so I was not aware of the Hitler Youth and Susan Cambell Bartoletti became my teacher. This book is so informative yet so suspenseful and interesting!

4. School

Ricki: Nothing by Janne Teller

Pierre Anthon walks out of the classroom and climbs a plum tree. He yells down to his fellow classmates, “It’s all a waste of time […] Everything begins only to end. The moment you were born you begin to die. That’s how it is with everything.” His schoolmates decide to prove Pierre Anthon wrong, and they set out to create a heap of meaning. This is a chilling allegory that readers will find utterly disturbing. It isn’t entirely set in the classroom, but the characters are all classmates and depict an average group of everyday children. When I think of this book, I can’t help but remember the door that smiled as Pierre Anthon walks out of the room.

Kellee: Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

I. Love. This. Book! Such a classic and so hilarious! I’ve read is many, many times and I cannot wait to share it with new students each year and someday with my own children. If you haven’t read it, Sideways Stories is the first book of the Wayside School series. Wayside School is a 30-story school with one classroom per floor. Our story focuses on Mrs. Gorf’s class on the 30th story. Each student is such a character and tells a different chapter. For example, Calvin has a tattoo of a potato, Jenny wears a motorcycle helmet, and Kathy has a pet skunk.

5. Fantasy world

Ricki: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The wild, flesh-eating horses of this story make its mystical setting beautiful and bone-chilling. I can’t describe the magic of this world as well as Stiefvater does: “They came in with the tide. The moon illuminated long lines of froth as the waves gathered and gathered and gathered offshore, and when they finally broke on the sand, the capaill uisce tumbled onto the shore with them. The horses pulled their heads up with effort, trying to break free from the salt water.”

Kellee: Hero’s Guide to Saving the Kingdom by Christopher Healy

I love Chris Healy’s Hero’s Guide books and it is only because of the fabulous world that he created. I LOVE retellings of fairy tales and this one is no exception. What is even better about this retelling is it is HILARIOUS! It reminds me a bit of Shrek except I liked the humor in Hero’s Guide better because I feel it is a very smart funny. Just the concept is funny and smart  (the four Princes Charming from the Snow White, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty stories star in this book – unlike the original stories where they don’t even get credit with their real name! – and the Princes each have such a fun, unique personality).  And just like Shrek, in Hero’s Guide our characters explore all the kingdoms that have been created and the uniqueness of the kingdoms adds another “character” to the story.

6. Urban

Ricki: Tyrell by Coe Booth

I teach in an urban setting, so this setting category is very important to me. My students adore urban fiction, and Tyrell seems to be their favorite. They love how realistic Tyrell’s world is in comparison with their own. Coe Booth does not soften the blow for readers who don’t understand what it is like to be homeless and broke. She describes Tyrell’s life in great detail, taking readers right into the projects. “We still got roaches on the bed, walls, and floors, but Troy ain’t even crying ‘bout them no more. He probably too used to them by now.”

Kellee: Yummy by G. Neri

Yummy takes place in the southside of Chicago in 1994 and explores gang violence. This story tells of Yummy who is 11-years-old and has become part of a gang.  He is given a task that changes his life and really effects his community. Yummy explores some really tough subjects and is quite a hard read; however, it is a read that many students connect with and passes from students’ hands to hands.

7. Rural

Ricki: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

I can’t help but turn to this book when I think of rural settings. I am not quite sure if it fits in the typical stereotype of the urban setting with the fields of hay and farm life, but to me, it feels rural. The book is comprised of a collection of interconnected short stories about characters who live on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Its depiction of life on the reservation is stunning, and readers will feel the humiliation, desperation, and conviction of its characters.

Kellee: Shine by Lauren Myracle

Shine takes places in a very small rural southern community. To be honest, I think this story would have almost not taken place without the setting. In Shine, Patrick, a gay teenager, is attacked and Cat knows that the town’s police is going to blame it on outsiders instead of investigate. In a larger community, this would be unacceptable; however, Cat’s town is filled with poverty and intolerance and breeds corruption.

8. Not America

Ricki: Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

Written in broken English, McCormick sheds light on the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s—the largest act of genocide of a country against its own people. Arn is separated from his family and works in the “Killing Fields,” where he bears witness to the dark side of man. Arn’s harrowing tale will stay with me forever.

Kellee: A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

This one was one of the hardest ones for me to choose because there is a LONG list of amazing books that take place outside of the United States; however, I chose A Long Walk to Water because I loved the story and the lesson that this book tells. It is about survival and resilience.

9. Early America 

Ricki: Copper Sun by Sharon Draper

This story begins in Africa in 1738, where Amari has a peaceful, beautiful life in her village, until she is captured and sold to an American man as a slave for his son’s 16th birthday. Polly is an indentured servant and feels superior to the black slaves. After her parents die, she is forced to take on their debt, as well, and she must serve for fourteen years until she is allowed freedom. As they travel from Africa to America, readers will learn much about the slave trade and will feel compassion and anger for the injustice that occurs in this excellently-researched story.

Kellee: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson is an amazing storyteller and though she is most famous for her contemporary fiction, her historical fiction is just as superb and I’ve enjoyed all 3 of her HF books. I chose Chains to share with you all because Isabel is one of the strongest and most determined young female characters I’ve ever read. On top of that, Anderson obviously did her research because in the backdrop of Isabel’s story is the American Revolution.

10. Civil Rights

Ricki: The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon

Sam struggles to decide if he should stick by his father, a powerful civil rights activist in the community, or join his brother, a Black Panther. The amount of frustration I felt while I read this book proves just how powerful it is. I highly recommend this text to readers who want to see the various sides of the civil rights movement, as Sam’s family is split in their ideals.

Kellee: Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down and Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation by Andrea Davis Pinkney

If you have not read any of Pinkney’s nonfiction picture books, it is a must, and these two Civil Rights focused books are no different. Sit-In: The combination of the powerful story, poetic writing and a bright, colorful artistic style makes this book so powerful. Figurative language fills the book and the story is linked back to the Civil Rights Movement by the timeline presented in the back. Boycott Blues: Music and history intertwines in the Pinkneys telling of the Montgomery bus boycott.

 Did we miss any of your favorites? Please share!



Brave Girl by Michelle Markel


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!


Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909
Author: Michelle Markel
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Published January 22nd, 2013 by Balzer + Bray

Summary: Clara and her family immigrated to New York. They were searching for the American dream. When her father could not find a job, Clara quit school and became a garment worker to support her family. The conditions at her factory were appalling: low wages, unfair rules, and locks on the door. After discussions between the workers, Clara helps urge the girls to fight for their rights.

Review: I am sucker for this biographical picture book for two reasons: 1) I had not known about the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 before and I love learning about new historical moments. I know that it interested me (as I know it would for kids), because after I read the additional information about the garment industry I was on the internet searching for more information. 2) Clara is such a great example of girl power! AND she is a historical figure that shows girls (and boys) that girls can stand up for themselves when they are not being treated well (in real life). I love that she overcame so much to not only stand up for her rights, but also to get an education and take care of her family. What an amazing person to learn about.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The main way that I would use this book is as a read aloud. It will definitely cause a great discussion and may push students to do further research. It would also be a perfect read aloud for a unit on women’s rights, immigration, overcoming obstacles, girl power, labor laws, or the early 1900s to help make connections to history. 

Discussion Questions: Do you think that Clara continuing her education helped her in being able to fight for her labor rights?; Clara made a tough decision between continuing school during the day or working. Do you agree or disagree with her decision? Why or why not? How did her decision affect her life?; What caused the garment workers to strike?

We Flagged: “But Clara is uncrushable. She wants to read, she wants to learn! At the end of her shift, though her eyes hurt from straining in the gaslight and her back hurts from hunching over the sewing machine, she walks to the library. She fills her empty stomach with a single glass of milk and goes to school at night. When she gets home in the late evening, she sleeps only a few hours before rising again.” (p. 12-13)

To see a preview of the illustrations, visit Amazon’s “Look Inside” for Brave Girl.

Read This If You Loved: Here Comes the Girl Scouts! by Shana Corey, The Price of Freedom by Dennis Brindell Fradin, Boycott Blues by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Annie and Helen by Deborah Hopkinson

Recommended for: 

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Who is a female historical figure who shows as much girl power as Clara that you believe should be talked about more?


North of Nowhere by Liz Kessler



North of Nowhere
Author: Liz Kessler
Publication: August 6th, 2013 by Candlewick Press

Summary: After a frantic call from her grandmother about her grandad vanishing, Mia and her mother go to the seaside village home of her grandparents to help.  Disconnected from everyone and without any clues in the vanishing, Mia finds herself walking on the beach often where she stumbles upon a diary on an abandoned fishing boat. Through the diary, she begins exchanging notes with a girl named Dee, a young girl who lives on a nearby island, who she instantly connects with. It is through these exchanges that Mia begins to notice some weird things and a new mystery opens up right in front of her.

My Review: I really like Mia’s voice. Her voice is so authentic teenager that it was like listening to an 8th grader telling me the story. I think this is key because I think it’ll help readers draw into the story since it is a mystery that slowly unravels. Hearing Mia tell it will mean that it is almost like hearing the story from a friend.  I also thought that the whole idea behind the mystery was quite clever, but I can’t really talk about it because it would give away the ending! So, read and we’ll discuss.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I would love to listen to students discuss this book! Although I figured out the mystery earlier than revealed, but I know that middle school students would be predicting and trying to figure out the mystery the whole book until the reveal. It would keep them on the edge of their seats!

Discussion Questions: Why do you think that Dee’s diary entries and Mia’s observations are not matching up?; What do you think happened to Mia’s grandad?

We Flagged: “I need to write it all down. That’s the only way I’ll believe it’s true. Spring break, eighth grade. All those incredible, impossible things. Did they really happen? I’ve tried a hundred times to tell myself that they couldn’t have. That none of it is possible. And I’m right; none of it is possible. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is true. Everything did happen, exactly as I’m going to tell it now.” (p. 1)

Read This If You Loved: Red Kayak by Patricia Cummings, The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher, Capture the Flag by Kate Messner, Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead, Undercurrents by Willo Davis Roberts

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Candlewick Press for providing a copy for review**