Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer Author: Lisa Pliscou
Illustrator: Massimo Mongiardo
Published: April 20, 2015 by Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
GoodReads Summary: What was Jane Austen like as a child? What were her formative influences and experiences, her challenges and obstacles, that together set her on the path toward becoming a writer?
Drawing upon a wide array of sources, including Austen’s own books and correspondence, Lisa Pliscou has created a “speculative biography” that, along with 20 charming black-and-white illustrations, offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of young Jane Austen. Also included is a richly detailed, annotated version of the narrative and an overview of Austen’s life, legacy, and the era in which she lived, as well as a timeline of her key childhood events.
Young Jane Austen is sure to intrigue anyone interested in Jane Austen, in writing and the creative process, and in the triumph of the artistic spirit.
Review: I enjoy the way this book is formatted. The first half (or so) tells the story of Jane Austen as she grows up—before she became a writer. It gives a strong historical background of the expectations (or lack of expectations) for women at the time. While much isn’t known about Jane’s early life, the author does an excellent job creatively interpreting events with what we do know. The next section is an annotated version that reveals the author’s decisions for the text, and the last portion discusses Jane Austen’s later life as a writer. Readers will be inspired to take on some of Austen’s novels after reading this book. The beautiful paper and illustrations of this book made me wish that more books were creatively printed. I felt as if I was reading a text from the time period of Austen’s life, which made me feel warm and fuzzy.
Please note: I tagged this book as historical nonfiction and narrative nonfiction because it bridges both genres. It is a creative nonfiction, and the later portions of the book are more informational. These kinds of books make genre-sorting seem a bit silly.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This text begs for readers to conduct research. They could delve into Jane’s novels to connect her life details with her works. They might also research more about the time period or another favorite author’s early life. The annotated section is particularly interesting to me. I would love to have my students annotate a text looking for the author’s purpose.
Discussion Questions: How was your life different from Jane Austen’s life? How do the expectations for females impact Jane?; What adjectives would you use to describe Jane? Why?; How does the format of the book enhance your reading? Do you know any other books like this?
I couldn’t help but share how beautiful the inside of this book is. Image taken from: www.goodreads.com.
Author and Illustrator: Victoria Jamieson
Published March 10th, 2015 by Dial Books
Goodreads Summary: For most of her twelve years, Astrid has done everything with her best friend Nicole. But after Astrid falls in love with roller derby and signs up for derby camp, Nicole decides to go to dance camp instead. And so begins the most difficult summer of Astrid’s life as she struggles to keep up with the older girls at camp, hang on to the friend she feels slipping away, and cautiously embark on a new friendship. As the end of summer nears and her first roller derby bout (and junior high!) draws closer, Astrid realizes that maybe she is strong enough to handle the bout, a lost friendship, and middle school… in short, strong enough to be a roller girl.
In her graphic novel debut, real-life derby girl Victoria Jamieson has created an inspiring coming-of-age story about friendship, perseverence, and girl power!
My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: How did I not read this book the instant it came out?! First, it has eye-catching, colorful artwork which is my favorite in graphic novels. Yes, everyone is comparing it to Raina’s work, and I can see why, because they are both just so well done and fun to read. Second, it is such a girl power book. Not an over-the-top girl power book, but it is a book about being a girl and being awesome at it. Third, it has roller derby in it! I love that we get to learn about the sport with Astrid. Fourth, the book has an awesome mom! Even when Astrid is complaining about her, she is being awesome (like taking her to poetry readings and the art museum). Fifth, this book is also about friendships and the ebbs and flows that come with teenage friends. Finally, it is about putting your mind to something and doing it! Astrid works her butt off, and it pays off. I think Roller Girl is also a great jumping off point to talk about bullying, friendship, and working hard to meet a goal.
This book is going to be loved by fans of Raina Telgemeier, El Deafo, The Dumbest Idea Ever!, Astronaut Academy, and Cleopatra in Space. It is definitely going to make the rounds in my classroom library!
Discussion Questions: How should Astrid had dealt with Nicole not going to derby camp?; Have you had a friend like Nicole?; Astrid really wants to learn roller derby; Nicole wants to get better at ballet–what is your passion?; How did Rainbow Brite help Astrid?; What do you think about Astrid’s mom?
Read This If You Loved: Smile, Sisters, and Dramaby Raina Telgemeier, El Deafo by Cece Bell, The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley, Astronaut Academy by Dave Roman, Cleopatra in Space by Mike Maihack
Won Ton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog’s Tale Told in Haiku Author: Lee Wardlaw
Illustrator: Eugene Yelchin
Published: March 17, 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Goodreads Summary: Won Ton has a happy life with his Boy, until… Ears perk. Fur prickles. Belly low, I creep…peek…FREEZE! My eyes full of Doom.
A new puppy arrives, and nothing will be the same.Told entirely in haiku and with plenty of catitude, the story of how Won Ton faces down the enemy is a fresh and funny twist on a familiar rivalry.
Ricki’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: A Review in Haikus:
Fun for All, Especially
Middle Grade and Teen
Will Teach the Crowds to Love Words
Use as a Mentor Text for
Capture the Fun of this Tale
Or Should I Say Tail?
Kellee’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Well, Ricki sure one-upped me on this one! But I think she showed a really great example of what you can do with this book. I think it is a perfect introduction to haiku. It makes poetry accessible and fun which is the opposite of what students think when they think of poetry. I actually shared the first Won Ton book with my class at the time, and we wrote our own haiku about our favorite animal. Lee Wardlaw also includes very descriptive and specific vocabulary which would lead to a wonderful conversation about word choice and imagery.
I loved the first Won Ton book (see my review here), and I was happy to see that Lee Wardlaw had written a second so I could see what Won Ton was up to now. I am completely a cat person, so I love how Lee captures the nuances and thoughts of Won Ton.
Discussion Questions: How do the author’s haikus add to the complexity of this tale?; How does the vocabulary enhance the story?; What did you learn about friendship?; How do the illustrations enhance the themes of this book?; How does Won Ton’s feelings for Chopstick change throughout the book?
“Master of escape!
Read This if You Loved: Won Ton by Lee Wardlaw; One Leaf Rides the Wind by Celeste Davidson Mannis; If Not for the Cat by Jack Prelutsky; I Haiku You by Betsy E. Snyder; Dogku by Andrew Clements
Check out Won Ton and Chopstick at the Other Stops the Blog Tour:
“Eight Things I Learned from My Cats about Writing Haiku”
by Lee Wardlaw
1. There is no yesterday; there is no tomorrow. There is only you, scratching me under my chin right now.
Haiku poems focus on a right-this-instant experience—or from a memory of that experience. So remind your students to write in the present tense.
2. When poised at a hole, remain still—and use your ears, eyes, nose, whiskers and mouth to detect a lurking gopher.
Observation is crucial to haiku. It’s hard for children today to quiet their minds, especially when they’re constantly bombarded with TV, internet, iPhones, video games, etc. So take them outside, away from all of that! Encourage them to sit alone on the playground, under a tree, on a sunny bench, whatever, and use all five senses to absorb, appreciate, and anchor the moment.
3. Be patient. Then, when least expected—pounce!
Haiku captures ONE moment in time, revealing a surprise . . . or evoking a response of a-ha! or ahhh. This pounce helps the reader awaken and experience an ordinary moment or thing in an extraordinary way.
4. Most cats have 18 toes—unless we’re polydactyl; then we might have 20, 22, even 28 toes!
Japanese haiku feature a total of seventeen beats or sound units: five in the first line, seven in the second, five again in the third. But this 5-7-5 form doesn’t apply to American haiku because of differences in English phonics, vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. Too many teachers focus only on the 5-7-5 because they use haiku as lesson about syllables. Please don’t! When children force an unnecessary adjective or adverb (or a bunch of adverbs) into a haiku simply to meet the 17-beats rule, it ruins the flow, brevity, meaning, and beauty of a poem. It’s not a poem at all, just a laundry list. You end up with poems like this:
My cat is so cute.
He’s really, really, really
cute and so fluffy.
Encourage your students to experiment with any pattern they prefer (e.g. 2-3-2, 5-6-4, 4-7-3)—provided the structure remains three short lines. Remember: what’s most important here is not syllables but the essence of a chosen moment.
5. When I’m out, I want in; when I’m in, I want out. Mostly, I want out. That’s where the rats, gophers, lizards, snakes, bugs and birds are.
Traditional haiku focus on themes of nature, and always include a kigo or “season” word. This doesn’t mean you must be explicit about the weather or time of year. A sensorial hint (e.g. a green leaf indicates spring; a russet leaf indicates fall) is all that’s needed.
6. What part of meow don’t you understand?
Tease a cat and it won’t bother to holler—it will bite and scratch. It shows its annoyance rather than tells. Good haiku follows suit. Instead of explaining, haiku should paint a picture in the reader’s mind of the feeling it evokes. So encourage children to show the reader how cute and fluffy their cat is instead of just telling us.
7. If you refuse to play with me, I will snooze on your keyboard, flick pens off your desk, and gleefully shed into your printer.
Yes, haiku has “rules,” but remember to play! Encourage students to use words like toys, to frolic with them in new ways to portray images, emotions, themes, conflicts and character.
8. When in doubt, nap.
Good writing comes from revising. But before working on a second (or third . . . or fourth!) draft, both the students and their haiku need a “nap.” Set aside the poems for a few days (a few weeks is even better!). What needs revising will be much more obvious if the poems are read again with rested eyes, alert ears, and a fresh mind.
About Lee Wadlaw:
Lee Wardlaw swears that her first spoken word was “kitty.” Since then, she’s shared her life with 30 cats (not all at the same time) and published 30 books for young readers, including Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku, recipient of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and many other honors. Lee has a B.A. in Education, an AMI-Primary Diploma from the Montessori Institute of San Diego, and is finishing her M.Ed. in Education/Child Development. She lives in Santa Barbara with her family. http://www.leewardlaw.com
**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review and giveaway!**
Henry Aaron’s Dream Author: Matt Tavares
Published January 12th, 2010 by Candlewick Press
Goodreads Summary: Matt Tavares hits one out of the park with this powerful tale of a kid from the segregated south who would become baseball’s home-run king.
Before he was Hammerin’ Hank, Henry Aaron was a young boy grow ing up in Mobile, Alabama, with what seemed like a foolhardy dream: to be a big-league baseball player. He didn’t have a bat. He didn’t have a ball. And there wasn’t a single black ball player in the major leagues. B ut none of this could stop Henry Aaron. In a captivating biography of Henr y Aaron’s young life – from his sandlot days through his time in the Negro Leagues to the day he played his first spring training game for the Braves – Matt Tavares offers an inspiring homage to one of baseball’s all-time greats.
There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived Author: Matt Tavares Published February 14th, 2012 by Candlewick Press
Goodreads Summary: A lively picture book biography of Ted Williams from a master of the genre — just in time for Fenway Park’s centennial.
Ted Williams lived a life of dedication and passion. He was an ordinary kid who wanted one thing: to hit a baseball better than anyone else. So he practiced his swing every chance he got. He did fingertip push-ups. He ate a lot of food. He practiced his swing again. And then practiced it some more. From his days playing ball in North Park as a kid to his unmatched .406 season in 1941 to his heroic tours of duty as a fighter pilot in World War II and Korea, the story of Teddy Ballgame is the story of an American hero. In this engrossing biography, a companion to Henry Aaron’s Dream, Matt Tavares makes Ted Williams’s life story accessible to a whole new generation of fans who are sure to admire the hard work, sacrifice, and triumph of the greatest hitter who ever lived.
Becoming Babe Ruth Author: Matt Tavares Published February 12th, 2013 by Candlewick Press
Goodreads Summary: Matt Tavares’s striking homage to one of baseball’s legends offers a rare view into Babe Ruth’s formative years in “the House that built Ruth.”
Before he is known as the Babe, George Herman Ruth is just a boy who lives in Baltimore and gets into a lot of trouble. But when he turns seven, his father brings him to the gates of Saint Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, and his life is changed forever. At Saint Mary’s, he’s expected to study hard and follow a lot of rules. But there is one good thing about Saint Mary’s: almost every day, George gets to play baseball. Here, under the watchful eye of Brother Matthias, George evolves as a player and as a man, and when he sets off into the wild world of big-league baseball, the school, the boys, and Brother Matthias are never far from his heart. With vivid illustrations and clear affection for his subject, Matt Tavares sheds light on an icon who learned early that life is what you make of it — and sends home a message about honoring the place from which you came.
Growing Up Pedro: How the Martinez Brothers Made it From the Dominican Republic All Way to the Major Leagues Author: Matt Tavares Published February 10th, 2015
Goodreads Summary: The love between brothers is key to Matt Tavares’s tale of Dominican pitcher Pedro Martinez, from his days of throwing rocks at mangoes to his years as a major-league star.
Before Pedro Martinez pitched the Red Sox to a World Series championship, before he was named to the All-Star team eight times, before he won the Cy Young three times, he was a kid from a place called Manoguayabo in the Dominican Republic. Pedro loved baseball more than anything, and his older brother Ramon was the best pitcher he’d ever seen. He’d dream of the day he and his brother could play together in the major leagues—and here, Matt Tavares tells the story of how that dream came true. In a fitting homage to a modern day baseball star, the acclaimed author-illustrator examines both Pedro Martinez’s improbable rise to the top of his game and the power that comes from the deep bond between brothers.
My Review: These four superbly crafted biographies take a look at the life of each man, but as more than a baseball player. We learn about their childhoods, where they came from, and their dreams and hopes. Each book includes aspects of the history surrounding them including the Depression, wars, and racism. Additionally, these books are crafted beautiful with lyrically written prose. These books are must reads for lovers of baseball, history, and biographies in general.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I was lucky enough to be asked to write a teachers’ guide for each of these books. For each book, I created discussion questions and activities (including cross-curricular activities). I plan on using this guide in my own classroom with the books in a lit circle type of setting. Each group will be given one of the biographies, will complete the discussion questions and activities, and then become experts on their player before presenting. These biographies are asking to be in classrooms, and I hope the guide helps show how they can fit into a language arts/reading class.
Becoming Babe Ruth
News spread differently in the early twentieth century. Discuss with your students the way news about Babe Ruth was spread during his lifetime and have students find examples in the text. Then have them discuss the way news is spread digitally nowadays. Invite the class to debate the pros and cons of digital news.; How did Babe Ruth’s life change when he left Saint Mary’s to play for the Orioles?
There Goes Ted Williams Have students write down Ted Williams’s batting average and home run stats as well as those of two other Hall of Famers. After comparing the players’ stats, have students write a paragraph discussing whether or not they believe that Ted Williams is the best hitter ever.; How did Ted Williams’s childhood perseverance help him become a professional baseball player?
Henry Aaron’s Dream Baseball began integrating before all cities in the United States had ended segregation. As a class, discuss how this reality affected black players on major-league baseball teams and how black players’ trips to segregated cities differed from those of their white teammates. Then, with your students, complete a graphic organizer comparing and contrasting the life of white and black baseball players during Hank Aaron’s lifetime. Invite students to write an essay about how life has changed for players of color over time.; How did Jackie Robinson influence Henry Aaron? What did Jackie Robinson’s accomplishments mean for other black baseball players?
Growing Up Pedro Pull up a map of North America. Have students mark all the different places that Pedro played: the Dominican Republic, Montana, Montreal, and so on. Ask students to determine the miles between each location. Which place was the farthest from Pedro’s home? Which place was the closest?; Have students write a journal entry as Pedro Martínez. Invite them to write, from Pedro’s point of view, what it feels like to move so far away from home when he is so young. Does he miss his family? Is he sad, happy, or excited to be in Montana.
Discussion Questions: Examples of discussion questions and activities for each of the biographies can be found in my teachers’ guide; however, after reading all four of the books, two discussion questions could be: Most of the baseball players had a mentor or idol that he looked up to and learned from. How did these mentors or idols help guide the players into becoming the greats they are?; Each of the baseball players helped a charity that was close to his heart. Who did each player help? Why did players choose the charity they did?
Counting Crows Author: Kathi Appelt
Illustrator: Rob Dunlavey
Published: March 3, 2015 by Atheneum
Goodreads Summary: Help hungry crows avoid a feline foe in this clever concept book from the author of The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp and The Underneath.
One, two, three, crows in a tree, bedecked in red scarves and hungry as can be. So they fly out of their nest with snacking in mind, and snack they do. Snack one, snack two, snack three—all the way to a dozen! But before they have time to complain about bellyaches, they have a bigger problem: a cat has been eyeing them…as potential snacks! Can these well-fed crows become well-FLED crows? Read and find out in this counting book from Newbery Finalist and two-time National Book Award Nominee Kathi Appelt, with spot-on illustrations from Rob Dunlavey. It’s the cat’s meow!
Ricki’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The pairing of Appelt’s strong, lyrical language, and the simplicity of the Dunlavey’s artwork make this picture book a whimsical, memorable counting book. As a mom, I have grown tired of counting books. They are important, so I keep reading them to my son (just as elementary school teachers will continue to read them to children). This book is different. The language is poetic and fresh, and it rolled off my tongue. The contrast between the pencil drawings of the setting and the black beaks and bright red coloring of the crows’ clothing shows off both the beauty of Appelt’s language and the cleverness of Dunlavey’s artwork. I was impressed by this book and am not surprised it has received three starred reviews thus far. I would ask creative writing students to analyze the structure, language, and artwork of this text. I think they would find its cleverness and innovation to be inspirational for their own work.
Kellee’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I agree with everything that Ricki said above. This unique counting book’s rhythmic, rhyming language mixed with good vocabulary, a chance to look at multiplication, and a story that is more than it seems really makes this book a good read for kids and adults. The poetic writing almost makes the book sing-song-y which I love in a rhyming book. But I think my favorite thing about the books is the crows. They remind me of the whimsical crows in Dumbo. I can just see those crows playing around and singing the book as they fly around.
Discussion Questions: How is this book structured to make the writing effective?; In what ways does Kathi Appelt use language creatively?; Why isn’t this book more colorful? Do you think this is intentional?
Book trailer created by Kathi’s son, Cooper Appelt, and his wife, Laurel Kathleen.
Read This if You Loved: Zero by Kathryn Otoshi (or her other counting books); Richard Scarry’s Best Counting Book Ever by Richard Scarry; Counting Kisses: A Kiss & Read Book by Karen Katz; Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews
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!
I am Jackie Robinson Author: Brad Meltzer
Illustrator: Christopher Eliopoulos
Published January 8th, 2015 by Dial
Goodreads Summary: This New York Times Bestselling picture book biography series by Brad Meltzer has an inspiring message: We can all be heroes.
Jackie Robinson always loved sports, especially baseball. But he lived at a time before the Civil Rights Movement, when the rules weren’t fair to African Americans. Even though Jackie was a great athlete, he wasn’t allowed on the best teams just because of the color of his skin. Jackie knew that sports were best when everyone, of every color, played together. He became the first black player in Major League Baseball, and his bravery changed African-American history and led the way to equality in all sports in America.
This engaging series is the perfect way to bring American history to life for young children, providing them with the right role models, and best of all, inspiring them to strive and dream.
Kellee’s Review: Since Brad Meltzer published his first “Ordinary People Change The World” book, I have been intrigued by them. I am a huge fan of how he and Chris Eliopoulos format the books, and how they truly help engage their reader throughout. Their newest book in the series focuses on Jackie Robinson and how he went from a young kid loving and excelling at sports to changing the world by becoming the first black MLB player. It deals with acceptance and bravery and overcoming obstacles.
What makes this story of Jackie so unique though is how it is executed. First, I love how it is told in first person. Second, they included humor throughout. For example, there are two kids that keep guessing what the “B” on Jackie’s hat stands for, and they are such comic relief. Finally, the book is a picture book/graphic novel mix which I think really adds to the engagement of the book. And on top of all of this, the book is inspirational! Jackie’s story is always an awe-inspiring one, but this book specifically focuses on how you can truly change your own life if you put your mind to it even if there are truly tough obstacles.
Ricki’s Review: This book! From time to time, a book really impacts me, and I absolutely fell in love with this one. I have always found Jackie Robinson to be inspirational, but the way this story is crafted is uplifting. I am thrilled that kids will be exposed to this story–it teaches resilience and strength, and above all, it shows an extraordinary human being who made a difference in the world.
Like Kellee, I love the way this book is formatted. It will be great for all types of readers, and teachers will love how accessible it is for reluctant readers. The graphic novel style (with one panel per page) is intriguing and engaging. The last page provides a visually appealing fact-page to learn more about Robinson. I will absolutely be getting more books in this series.
Teachers’ Tools For Navigation: Meltzer’s series is a wonderful introduction to some phenomenal people in history that all children should learn about and aspire to be. “Ordinary People Change The World” would actually be a fantastic unit. You could read all of Meltzer’s titles (whole group or in lit circles) then research Lincoln, Parks, Einstein, Earhart, and Robinson to learn more about them. The students could then look into other ordinary people who have changed the world.
Discussion Questions: What do you think the hardest thing about being the first black MLB player would be?; Why do you think Jackie was chosen as the first black player?; What did the B on his hat stand for?
Read This If You Loved: Any of the Ordinary People Change the World series books by Brad Meltzer, Henry Aaron’s Dream by Matt Tavares, Baseball Is… by Louise Borden, Something to Prove: The Great Satchel Paige vs. Rookie Joe Dimaggio by Robert Skead
**Thank you to Penguin for providing copies for review!!**
How It Went Down Author: Kekla Magoon
Published: October 21, 2014 by Henry Holt and Co.
Goodreads Summary: When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.
In the aftermath of Tariq’s death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.
Tariq’s friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down.
Ricki’s Review: In light of the recent protests, this is an incredibly insightful book that is very important. The point-of-view shifts every 2-3 pages, which was very thought-provoking. Too often, books depict stereotypical portrayals of members of cultures, and the gamut of characters within this text felt very realistic. For some, this book may be too gritty and too uncomfortable. There is nothing comfortable about discussions regarding inequities and privilege in society. But if you walk down the halls of my high school, there is nothing in the book that is not a concern in schools. This is not a feel-good read, but it made me think. And thinking…is a very good thing.
Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: There is much to discuss in this book. Teachers could use it to start conversations about power and privilege. There are a lot of discrepancies between the characters’ perceptions of the shootings, and I imagine students would disagree about what happened. Teachers might elect to hold a verbal or silent debate. Also, I would love to discuss the structure of the text. The creativity in the form is purposeful, and it would be interesting for students to investigate why Magoon structured it in the way she did.
Discussion Questions: Why does Magoon structure the novel with alternating voices? How is the novel structured as a whole?; Does this story serve as a counter-narrative? If so, how? If not, why not?; Did Tariq have a gun in his hand? Why do/don’t you think so?; How does the story evolve as time passes?
We Flagged: “As a black man, you have to keep your head down. You have to keep yourself steady. You have to follow every rule that’s ever been written, plus a few that have always remained unspoken.”
Read This If You Loved: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, On the Run by Alice Goffman, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, Monster by Walter Dean Myers, The Brothers Torres by Coert Voorhees, Autobiography of my Dead Brother by Walter Dean Myers