Review with Educators’ Guide for The Incredible Octopus by Erin Spencer

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The Incredible Octopus: Meet the Eight-Armed Wonder of the Sea
Author: Erin Spencer
Published: April 16th, 2024 by Storey Publishing

Summary: Packed with mesmerizing undersea photography, this book invites kids to explore the fascinating behavior and intelligence of this remarkable creature of the deep.

The Incredible Octopus combines amazing photos with in-depth facts to get kids aged 7 and up excited about octopuses and the underwater world in which they live. Readers are introduced to the fascinating biology of the octopus, from its 3 hearts and 9 brains to suction cups and how they work, and learn all about what it’s like to be an octopus: how they use camouflage and ink, what they eat, and how they reproduce (nests and eggs!). The book also explores the  intelligence and playfulness of this animal—and, of course, the famous stories of octopuses who escaped their tanks. Readers will meet 13 different species of octopuses and find out what makes them unique, from the most venomous and best disguised to the deepest and coldest. They’ll also get a glimpse into exciting octopus research, technology inspired by octopuses, and ways to help conserve our oceans.

About the Author: Erin Spencer is the author of The Incredible Octopus​ and The World of Coral Reefs. She is a marine ecologist and National Geographic Explorer whose articles, photos, and videos of marine life have been featured in National Geographic, PBS, CBS Sunday Morning, and in publications of Ocean Conservancy. She is an avid public speaker and has presented to National Geographic, the World Bank, MCON, and TEDx, as well as many school groups. Originally from Maryland, she now lives in South Florida where she studies great hammerhead sharks and their prey for her PhD.

Review: The octopus is truly incredible, and this book is a fantastic introduction to everything about these amazing animals. The book really does touch on a little bit of everything you’d want to know about octopuses with a text structure that makes sense: going from the biology of the octopus to their life, specific examples, and people & octopuses. I also think the author was very smart with their writing as well–while much of it is traditional informational nonfiction, the author included narrative elements, text features, and interviews to make the reading interesting in a whole other way.

I learned so much about octopuses, and they really are fascinating. I was sitting at my son’s karate dojo while I read, and I kept sharing facts with my husband and friend because I just was blown away by so many things in the book. I think a nonfiction book making me want to share things is one of the greatest compliments you can give!

This nonfiction book is a great one to read from front to back but is also one that can be perused by your nonfiction skimmers.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy this curriculum guide from the publisher.

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

Flagged Spreads: 

Recommended For: 

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Educators’ Guide for Airi Sano, Prankmaster General: New School Skirmish by Zoe Tokushige, Illustrated by Jennifer Naalchigar

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Airi Sano, Prankmaster General: New School Skirmish
Author: Zoe Tokushige
Illustrator: Jennifer Naalchigar
Published: September 20, 2022 by Philomel Books

Summary: A hilarious story of new-school hijinks, filled with friendship, family, and plenty of pranks–perfect for fans of Dork Diaries and Diary of a Wimpy Kid!

Meet Airi Sano. After spending her entire childhood moving from one military base to another, she’s excited to be settling down for the long-term in Hawai’i. She’s less excited about her new teacher, who’s determined to make Airi like school. But she’s got a plan: prank her teacher so hard that she gives up on even trying to get Airi to do any work–especially any reading.

But Mrs. Ashton won’t give up, no matter what Airi does. Airi will need the help of her new classmates–who might even be her new friends–to get Mrs. Ashton to crack. It’s time . . . for a prank war!

With fun and funny black-and-white illustrations throughout, New School Skirmish kicks off a brand-new series for readers to adore!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for New School Skirmish:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

Recommended For: 

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Educators’ Guide for Promise Boys by Nick Brooks

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Promise Boys
Author: Nick Brooks
Published: January 31st, 2023 by Henry Holt and Co.

Summary: Promise Boys is a blockbuster, dark academia mystery about three teens of color who must investigate their principal’s murder to clear their own names. This page-turning thriller is perfect for fans of Karen McManus, Jason Reynolds, Angie Thomas, and Holly Jackson .

The prestigious Urban Promise Prep school might look pristine on the outside, but deadly secrets lurk within. When the principal ends up murdered on school premises and the cops come sniffing around, a trio of students―J.B., Ramón, and Trey―emerge as the prime suspects. They had the means, they had the motive . . . and they may have had the murder weapon. But with all three maintaining their innocence, they must band together to track down the real killer before they are arrested. Or is the true culprit hiding among them?

Find out who killed Principal Moore in Nick Brooks’s murder mystery, Promise Boys ― The Hate U Give meets One of Us Is Lying.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for Cake Creative Kitchen:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

Recommended For: 

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Discussion Guide for Futureland: Battle for the Park by H.D. Hunter

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Futureland: Battle for the Park
Author: H.D. Hunter
Published: November 8th, 2022 by Random House Books for Young Readers

Summary: When an extraordinary flying theme park arrives above Atlanta, one boy must stop a sinister force from stealing the park’s tech and taking over the world.

Welcome to the most spectacular theme park in the world.

Everyone wants a ticket to Futureland, where you can literally live out your wildest dreams. Want to step inside your favorite video game? Go pro in a sports arena? Perform at a real live concert? Grab your ticket and come right in.

Yet with all its attractions, Futureland has always just been home to Cam Walker, the son of the park’s famous creators. And when Futureland arrives at its latest stop, Atlanta, Cam is thrilled for what promises to be the biggest opening ever. . . .

But things aren’t quite right with the Atlanta opening. Park attractions are glitching. Kids go missing. And when his parents are blamed, Cam must find the missing kids and whoever’s trying to take down his family . . . before it’s too late.

Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the discussion guide I created for Futureland: Battle for the Park:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

Recommended For:

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Mascot by Charles Waters and Traci Sorell

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Mascot
Authors: Charles Waters and Traci Sorell
Published September 5th, 2023 by Charlesbridge

Summary: What if a school’s mascot is seen as racist, but not by everyone? In this compelling middle-grade novel in verse, two best-selling BIPOC authors tackle this hot-button issue.

In Rye, Virginia, just outside Washington, DC, people work hard, kids go to school, and football is big on Friday nights. An eighth-grade English teacher creates an assignment for her class to debate whether Rye’s mascot should stay or change. Now six middle-schoolers—all with different backgrounds and beliefs—get involved in the contentious issue that already has the suburb turned upside down with everyone choosing sides and arguments getting ugly.

Praise: 

⭐ Publishers Weekly, starred review

Told via seven alternating narratives, this ripped-from-the-headlines collaboration in verse by Waters (African Town) and Cherokee Nation member Sorrel (One Land, Many Nations) follows a fictional town’s division over a racist sports mascot. Callie Crossland, who is Cherokee and Black, has just transferred to a middle school in Rye, Va. She immediately expresses disgust at her school’s mascot, a “copper-toned, muscled, loincloth-clad, tomahawk-wielding” caricature of an Indigenous person. Callie’s English teacher Ms. Williams soon assigns a group writing project regarding the “Pros and Cons of Indigenous Peoples as Mascots,” and Callie is annoyed at being paired with Black classmate Franklin, who believes the mascot “brings so much joy.” Waters and Sorrel paint a complex portrait of the differing reactions toward the controversy by layering the racially diverse tweens’ perspectives and showcasing the effects the event has on their individual relationships and the community beyond their school. The creators eschew judgment to present a well-rounded discussion about classism and racism, as well as effective allyship, with compassion and understanding. A glossary and resources conclude. Ages 10–up.

Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Waters and Sorell (Cherokee Nation) join forces to write about the power of being true to oneself.

In a middle school in Rye, a fictional town near Washington, D.C., a racist mural and offensive pep rally chants shock new student Callie Crossland, who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and African American. Callie shares a heartfelt poem with her seventh grade honors English class, reminding everyone that the “stupid tomahawk-chop chant” and the “cheap chicken-feather headdress” are nothing less than symbols of “white supremacy.” Afterward, Ms. Williams, her teacher, assigns a persuasive writing and oration project entitled “Pros and Cons of Indigenous Peoples as Mascots.” The small, broadly diverse group of students is assigned to work in pairs; Callie is matched with Franklin, who is Black and a proud fan of the Rye Braves football team. Franklin insists, “I wish we could Lysol racism away. / It’s a bad odor,” but he feels conflicted: “I still don’t think our mascot is racist though. It brings so much joy. / …what’s the big deal?” This clever novel unfolds in poems told in multiple voices showing the wide range of students’, families’, and community responses to the controversy; for some, initial feelings of opposition, hesitation, or indifference change and friendships are tested. The compelling, highly relevant subject matter and accessible text invite readers to understand different perspectives and witness individual growth.

A brilliant story not to be missed; deeply engaging from the first page. (glossary, additional information and resources) (Verse fiction. 10-14)

About the Authors: Charles Waters is a children’s poet, actor, educator, and coauthor of African Town; Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z; and the award-winning Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship. He lives near Atlanta.

Traci Sorell writes fiction and nonfiction for children featuring contemporary characters and compelling biographies, including the Sibert Honor books We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga and We Are Still Here!. She is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation and lives in northeastern Oklahoma, where her tribe is located.

The Authors Discuss the Book: 

Review: The tagline of this book is “Discrimination is discrimination, even when people claim it is ‘tradition,'” and this tagline tells you exactly about the theme of the book. Told from four students’ points of view, it looks at a school where there is a lot of school spirit around their sports team, called the Braves, and a new student starts who is indigenous and is horrified at the appropriation of her culture. The book is written in verse which gives such well written insight into each of the students’ point of view as these kids aim to make a difference. I read this book in one sitting–it is such a great read where you want to know what is going to happen, so you cannot put the book down.

This topic is also so very timely! I saw Traci Sorell at AASL, and she shared that about 2,000 K-12 schools still have Native American-themed mascots. I know of a couple in my area, and I hope that someone shares this book with them to get the conversation going as the book does a beautiful job of looking at the effects of the ignorant choices that were made in the past (and that too many continue to ignore, despite the racism).

Discussion Questions: 

*This discussion guide is provided by the publisher.

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Novels in Verse, Books with multiple points of view, Books that look at timely injustices

Recommended For: 

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**Thanks to Charlesbridge for providing a copy of the book for review!**

The Uninhabitable Earth (Adapted for Young Readers): Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells

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The Uninhabitable Earth (Adapted for Young Readers): Life After Warming
Author: David Wallace-Wells
Published October 10th, 2023 by Delacorte Press

Summary: An exploration of the devastating effects of global warming—current and future—adapted for young adults from the #1 New York Times bestseller. This is not only an assessment on how the future will look to those living through it, but also a dire overview and an impassioned and hopeful call to action to change the trajectory while there is still time.

The climate crisis that our nation currently faces, from rising temperatures, unfathomable drought, devastating floods, unprecedented fires, just to name a few, are alarming precursors to what awaits us if we continue on our current path. In this adaptation for young adults from the #1 New York Times bestseller, journalist David Wallace-Wells tells it like it is, and it is much worse than anyone might think. Global warming is effecting the world, if left unchecked, it promises to transform global politics, the meaning of technology and the trajectory of human progress.

In sobering detail, Wallace-Wells lays out the mistakes and inaction of past and current generations that we see negatively affecting all lives today and more importantly how they will inevitably affect the future. But readers will also hear—loud and clear—his impassioned call to action, as he appeals to current and future generations, especially young people. As he “the solutions, when we dare to imagine them . . . are indeed motivating, if there is to be any chance of preserving even the hope for a happier future—relatively livable, relatively fulfilling, relatively prosperous, and perhaps more than only relatively just.”

About the Author: David Wallace-Wells is a columnist and deputy editor at New York magazine. He has been a national fellow at the New America Foundation and was previously the deputy editor of The Paris Review. He lives in New York City.

Review: This is an intense book. Like shared in the excerpt below, climate change is a “hyperobject” which makes it seems so intimidating, but David Wallace-Wells does a good job of taking this daunting reality and potential future and breaking it down for the reader though he definitely did not sugar coat anything for the Young Reader edition. It is terrifying and a call to action. But it is also so important, and I am so glad that the author and publisher decided to make it available and accessible for young readers.

I really liked the structure of the books. Wallace-Wells didn’t combine everything and just throw it all at the reader. Each of the four parts are broken up into smaller topics where he focuses on just those aspects. For example, climate changes’ effect on hunger, wild fires, air, plagues, etc. This allows the reader to process each part and not get too overwhelmed.

I also appreciate that he added an afterword which has updates since the original book was published. I think this shows readers that science changes and needs to be updated and make the book more reliable.

I do need to add a warning: The book will not help with eco-anxiety. If anything, it will make it worse. I had to pause the book sometimes to take a breath.

Tools for Navigation: This text could definitely be used in a high school course looking at global warming and climate change since he does a great job of connecting the science to reality. I would love to see this text used in English class as the science is studied in science: a cross-curricular gem of an opportunity.

Most importantly, though, this book needs to get into kids’ hands. It reminds them of the importance of the decisions that our current and future generations need to make about our environment.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What are some actions that we could begin doing to help with the future?
  • Why did the author add to the book when he rewrote it for Young Readers?
  • How has human progression been the downfall for our Earth?
  • Why does climate change seem so daunting to many and thus leads to doing nothing?
  • What do you think is the most important thing that humans need to do now?
  • How will climate change directly impact where you live?

Flagged Passages: Chapter 1: Cascades

The world will be what we make it–perhaps what you make it. The timelines are indeed that short.

Consider the speed of change. The earth has experienced five mass extinctions before the one we are living through now, each so complete a wiping of the fossil record that it functioned as an evolutionary reset, the planet’s phylogenetic tree first expanding, then collapsing, at intervals, like a lung: 86 percent of all species dead 450 million years ago; 70 million years later, 75 percent; 125 million years later, 96 percent; 50 million years later, 80 percent; 135 million years after that, 75 percent again. All but one of these involved climate change produced by greenhouse gas. The most notorious was 250 million years ago; it began when carbon dioxide warmed the planet by five degrees Celsius, accelerated when that warming triggered the release of methane, another greenhouse gas, and ended with all but a sliver of life on Earth dead. We are currently adding carbon to the atmosphere at a considerably faster rate–by most estimates, at least ten times faster. The rate is one hundred times faster than at any point in human history before the beginning of industrialization. And there is already, right now, fully a third more carbon in the atmosphere than at any point in the last 800,000 years–perhaps in as long as 15 million years. There were no humans then. The oceans were more than a hundred feet higher.

Many perceive global warming as a sort of moral and economic debt, accumulated since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and now come due after several centuries. In fact, more than half the carbon exhaled into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels has been emitted in just the past three decades. The United Nations established its climate change framework in 1992, building a political consensus out of a scientific consensus and advertising it unmistakably to the world; this means we have now done as much damage to the environment knowingly as we ever managed in ignorance. Global warming may seem like a distended morality tale playing out over several centuries and inflicting a kind of Old Testament retribution on the great-great-grandchildren of those responsible, since it was carbon burning in eighteenth-century England that lit the fuse of everything that has followed. But that is a fable about historical villainy that acquits those of us alive today–unfairly. The majority of the burning has come since the 1994 premiere of Friends. A quarter of the damage has been done since Barack Obama was elected president, and Joe Biden vice president, in 2008. Since the end of World War II, the figure is about 90 percent. The story of the industrial world’s kamikaze mission is the story of a single lifetime–the planet brought from seeming stability to the brink of catastrophe in the years between a baptism or bar mitzvah and a funeral.

It is the lifetime of many of the scientists who first raised public alarm about climate change, some of whom, incredibly, remain working–that is how rapidly we have arrived at this promontory, staring down the likelihood of three degrees Celsius of warming by the year 2100. Four degrees is possible as well–perhaps more. According to some estimates, that would mean that whole regions of Africa and Australia and the United States, parts of South America north of Patagonia, and Asia south of Siberia would be rendered brutally uncomfortable by direct heat, desertification, and flooding. Certainly, it would make them inhospitable, and many more regions besides. Which means that, if the planet was brought to the brink of climate catastrophe within the lifetime of a single generation, the responsibility to avoid it belongs with a single generation, too. We all also know that second lifetime. It is ours.

I am not an environmentalist and don’t even think of myself as a nature person. I’ve lived my whole life in cities, enjoying gadgets built by industrial supply chains I hardly think twice about. I’ve never gone camping, not willingly anyway, and while I always thought it was basically a good idea to keep streams clean and air clear, I also always accepted the proposition that there was a trade-off between economic growth and its cost to nature–and figured, well, in most cases I’d probably go for growth. I’m not about to personally slaughter a cow to eat a hamburger, but I’m also not about to go vegan. In these ways–many of them at least–I am like every other American who has spent their life fatally complacent, and willfully deluded, about climate change, which is not just the biggest threat human life on the planet has ever faced but a threat of an entirely different category and scale. That is, the scale of human life itself.

A few years ago, I began collecting stories of climate change, many of them terrifying, gripping, uncanny narratives, with even the most small-scale sagas playing like fables: a group of Arctic scientists trapped when melting ice isolated their research center, on an island populated also by a group of polar bears; a Russian boy killed by anthrax released from a thawing reindeer carcass, which had been trapped in permafrost for many decades. My file of stories grew daily, but very few of the clips, even those drawn from new research published in the most pedigreed scientific journals, seemed to appear in the coverage about climate change the country watched on television and read in its newspapers. In those places, climate change was reported, of course, and even with some tinge of alarm. But the discussion of possible effects was misleadingly narrow, limited almost invariably to the matter of sea-level rise. Just as worrisome, the coverage was sanguine, all things considered. As recently as the 1997 signing of the landmark Kyoto Protocol, two degrees Celsius of global warming was considered the threshold of catastrophe: flooded cities, crippling droughts and heat waves, a planet battered daily by hurricanes and monsoons we used to call “natural disasters” but will soon normalize as simply “bad weather.” More recently, the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands offered another name for that level of warming: “genocide.”

This is not a book about the science of warming; it is about what warming means to the way we live on this planet. But what does that science say? It is complicated research, because it is built on two layers of uncertainty: what humans will do, mostly in emitting greenhouse gases, but also in how we adapt to the environment we have transformed and how the climate will respond, both through straightforward heating and a variety of more complicated and sometimes contradictory feedback loops. But even shaded by those uncertainty bars, it is also very clear research, in fact terrifyingly clear. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) offers the gold-standard assessments of the state of the planet and the likely trajectory for climate change. In its latest report, the IPCC suggested the world was on track for about 3 degrees of warming, bringing the unthinkable collapse of the planet’s ice sheets not just into the realm of the real but into the present.

Because these numbers are so small, we tend to trivialize the differences between them–one, two, four, five. Human experience and memory offer no good analogy for how we should think of those thresholds, but, as with world wars or recurrences of cancer, you don’t want to see even one.

At two degrees of warming, the ice sheets will likely begin their collapse, 400 million more people could suffer from water scarcity, and major cities in the equatorial band of the planet will become lethally hot in summer. There would be thirty-two times more extreme heat waves in India, and each would last five times as long, exposing ninety-three times more people. This is our best-case scenario.

At three degrees, southern Europe would be in permanent drought, and the average drought in Central America would last nineteen months longer and in the Caribbean twenty-one months longer. In northern Africa, the figure is sixty months longer–five years. The areas burned each year by wildfires would double in the Mediterranean and sextuple, or more, in the United States.

At four degrees, damages from river flooding could grow thirtyfold in Bangladesh, twentyfold in India, and as much as sixtyfold in the United Kingdom. In certain places, six climate-driven natural disasters could strike simultaneously. Conflict and warfare could double.

Even if we pull the planet up short of two degrees by 2100, we will be left with an atmosphere that contains 500 parts per million of carbon–perhaps more. The last time this was the case, sixteen million years ago, the planet was not two degrees warmer; it was somewhere between five and eight, giving the planet about 130 feet of sea-level rise, enough to draw a new American coastline as far west as I-95. Some of these processes take thousands of years to unfold, but they are also irreversible and therefore effectively permanent. You might hope to simply reverse climate change; you can’t. It will outrun all of us.

This is part of what makes climate change what the theorist Timothy Morton calls a “hyperobject”–a conceptual fact so large and complex that, like the internet, it can never be properly comprehended. There are many features of climate change–its size, its scope, its brutality–that alone satisfy this definition; together, they might elevate it into a higher and more incomprehensible conceptual category yet. But time is perhaps the most mind-bending feature, the worst outcomes arriving so long from now that we reflexively discount their reality.

Read This If You Love: Nonfiction, specifically about climate change

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Nicole Banholzer PR and the Publisher for providing a copy for review!**

There Was a Party for Langston by Jason Reynolds, Illustrated by Jerome Pumphrey & Jarrett Pumphrey

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There Was a Party for Langston
Author: Jason Reynolds
Illustrators: Jerome Pumphrey & Jarrett Pumphrey
Published October 3rd, 2023 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

Summary: New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jason Reynolds’s debut picture book is a snappy, joyous ode to Word King, literary genius, and glass-ceiling smasher Langston Hughes and the luminaries he inspired.

Back in the day, there was a heckuva party, a jam, for a word-making man. The King of Letters. Langston Hughes. His ABCs became drums, bumping jumping thumping like a heart the size of the whole country. They sent some people yelling and others, his word-children, to write their own glory.

Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, and more came be-bopping to recite poems at their hero’s feet at that heckuva party at the Schomberg Library, dancing boom da boom, stepping and stomping, all in praise and love for Langston, world-mending word man. Oh, yeah, there was hoopla in Harlem, for its Renaissance man. A party for Langston.

Praise:

Melding celebratory text and kinetic, graphical art, the creators underscore the power of the subject’s poetry to move and to inspire. – Publishers Weekly, *STARRED REVIEW*, 8/14/2023

Evocative and celebratory words float around the dancers like strains of music, all the way to a culminating whirl of letters, laughter, and joy. Who knew these esteemed literary lions could cut the rug like that? – Booklist, *STARRED REVIEW*, 08/01/2023

Reynolds and the Pumphrey brothers take readers on a dazzling journey through Langston Hughes’ legacy … A bar set stratospherically high and cleared with room to spare. – Kirkus Reviews, *STARRED REVIEW*, 08/01/2023

This book is an absolute textual and pictorial glory of people, places, word-making, song-singing, storytelling, history-making moments, and images that are unforgettable. A beguiling, bedazzling collaboration that will send children to the shelves to learn more about all the names within, especially Hughes. – School Library Journal, *STARRED REVIEW*, July 2023

About the Creators: 

Jason Reynolds is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, a Newbery Award Honoree, a Printz Award Honoree, a two-time National Book Award finalist, a Kirkus Award winner, a UK Carnegie Medal winner, a two-time Walter Dean Myers Award winner, an NAACP Image Award Winner, an Odyssey Award Winner and two-time honoree, the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors, and the Margaret A. Edwards Award. He was also the 2020–2022 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. His many books include All American Boys (cowritten with Brendan Kiely); When I Was the GreatestThe Boy in the Black SuitStampedAs Brave as YouFor Every One; the Track series (Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu); Look Both WaysStuntboy, in the MeantimeAin’t Burned All the Bright (recipient of the Caldecott Honor) and My Name Is Jason. Mine Too. (both cowritten with Jason Griffin); and Long Way Down, which received a Newbery Honor, a Printz Honor, and a Coretta Scott King Honor. He lives in Washington, DC. You can find his ramblings at JasonWritesBooks.com.

Jerome Pumphrey is a designer, illustrator, and writer, originally from Houston, Texas. His work includes It’s a Sign!Somewhere in the BayouThe Old Boat, and The Old Truck, which received seven starred reviews, was named a Best Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly, and received the Ezra Jack Keats Writer Award Honor—all of which he created with his brother Jarrett. They also illustrated Jason Reynolds’s There Was a Party for Langston. Jerome works as a graphic designer at The Walt Disney Company. He lives near Clearwater, Florida.

Jarrett Pumphrey is an award-winning author-illustrator who makes books for kids with his brother, Jerome. Their books include It’s a Sign!Somewhere in the BayouThe Old Boat, and The Old Truck, which received seven starred reviews, was named a Best Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly, and received the Ezra Jack Keats Writer Award Honor. They also illustrated Jason Reynolds’s There Was a Party for Langston. Jarrett lives near Austin, Texas.

Review: This book may just be perfection. All of it–the words, the story, the inspiration, and the art.

First, we have Jason Reynolds’s verse, written with a rhythm that is screaming to be read aloud (I can’t wait for the audiobook). The story is a celebration of Hughes about a celebration of Hughes, so the love is truly emanating off the pages. And the story of Reynolds’s inspiration is just so wholesome and a snapshot into history that deserves this book.

Second, the cherry on top is the pieces of art that illustrate Reynolds’s words. The Pumphrey brothers use handmade stamps to create spreads that complete the book into the complete package that it is. I loved how they included Hughes’s words and Reynolds’s words within the art as well.

I highly recommend reading Betsy Bird’s Goodreads review because she is so much more articulate and detailed than I am about this book in all of its glory.

Tools for Navigation: This text should be combined with Hughes’s work. His words are intertwined within the book which lends directly into picking up Hughes’s work to read alongside it. Readers could also find words within the illustrations and find which of Hughes’s work it comes from and look at why that particular section would be included at that point.

Additionally, other beloved authors were introduced to the readers, not only Maya Angelou and Amiri Baraka but James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ashley Bryan, Octavia Butler, Countee Cullen, W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Alice Dunbar Nelson, Ralph Ellison, Nikki Giovanni, Alex Haley, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Richard Wright. These introductions could lend themselves to be the start of an author study, including asking why Reynolds and the Pumphreys would have chosen to include these specific authors.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did Langston Hughes have a party at the library?
  • What are some ways that Reynolds captured the excitement and glory of the evening with his words?
  • How did the illustrators use words in their art? What does it add to the book?
  • How did some of Hughes’s purposes relate to issues we’re still facing in America?
  • What inspired Jason Reynolds to write this book?
  • How is this picture book biography different than others?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Poetry, Langston Hughes, Jason Reynolds

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**Thank you to Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Publishing for sharing a copy for review!**