Magnolia Flower by Zora Neale Hurston, Adapted by Ibram X. Kendi, Illustrations by Loveis Wise

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Magnolia Flower
Written by Zora Neale Hurston and Adapted by Ibram X. Kendi
Illustrator: Loveis Wise
Published: September 6, 2022 by Amistad Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: From beloved African American folklorist Zora Neale Hurston comes a moving adaptation by National Book Award winner and #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist and Antiracist Baby, Ibram X. Kendi. Magnolia Flower follows a young Afro Indigenous girl who longs for freedom and is gorgeously illustrated by Loveis Wise (The People RememberAblaze with Color).

Born to parents who fled slavery and the Trail of Tears, Magnolia Flower is a girl with a vibrant spirit. Not to be deterred by rigid ways of the world, she longs to connect with others, who too long for freedom. She finds this in a young man of letters who her father disapproves of. In her quest to be free, Magnolia must make a choice and set off on a journey that will prove just how brave one can be when leading with one’s heart.

The acclaimed writer of several American classics, Zora Neale Hurston wrote this stirring folktale brimming with poetic prose, culture, and history. It was first published as a short story in The Spokesman in 1925 and later in her collection Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick (2020).

Tenderly retold by #1 New York Times bestselling and National Book Award-winning author Ibram X. Kendi, Magnolia Flower is a story of a transformative and radical devotion between generations of Indigenous and Black people in America. With breathtaking illustrations by Loveis Wise, this picture book reminds us that there is no force strong enough to stop love.

Ricki’s Review: Magnolia Flower is a short story by Zora Neale Hurston, and it has been adapted into this picture book. The illustrations and words will appeal to kids, but as an adult, I felt like this was written for me, too. It has stunning figurative language, and the illustrations are absolutely beautiful. The author’s notes at the end helped me understand more about the book.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might have students select a longer work (e.g. a short story) and adapt the book into a picture book. 

Discussion Questions: 

  • What does this story tell us about love?
  • What does this story tell you about history?
  • If you haven’t read the longer work, what do you think it might include, beyond this book?

Flagged Spread: 

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you go Leilani at SparkPoint Studio for providing a copy for review!**

Pippa Park: Crush at First Sight by Erin Yun

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Pippa Park: Crush at First Sight
Author: Erin Yun
Published September 13th, 2022 by Fabled Films Press

Summary: Korean American Pippa Park picks up right where she left off . . . trying to balance basketball, school, friends, working at the struggling family laundromat, and fitting in. Eliot, her math tutor—and the cutest boy at school—is finally paying attention to her. And Marvel—her childhood friend—is making her required volunteering much more interesting. But things with the Royals, her new friends and teammates who rule the school, still feel a bit rocky. Especially because Caroline, a head Royal, would like nothing more than to see Pippa fail.

So when Pippa is faced with hosting the annual Christmas Eve party that could make or break her social life, how can she say no? Will Pippa make enough money to cover the costs while juggling crushes and everything else? With courage and determination, Pippa sets out to host the party, find the perfect dress, pick the right boy, and stay true to her real self.

Praise: “Pippa explores the highs and lows of friendships and first crushes in this well-crafted sequel to Pippa Park Raises Her Game. ..VERDICT This warm-hearted, feel-good series continues to realistically explore one Korean American girl’s middle school experience in a relatable way.” —School Library Journal

About the Author: Erin Yun grew up in Frisco, Texas and used to play basketball as a middle grader. She received her BA in English from New York University and is currently pursuing her Masters in Creative Writing at Cambridge. She developed the Pippa Park Author Program, an interactive writing workshop, which she has conducted in person and virtually at schools, libraries, and bookstores.

Review: The second Pippa Park book does everything that the first book did well: a plot and characters that any middle schooler will connect with! When the book opens, Pippa has finally found her friends, even though he doesn’t feel totally accepted, and everything is going swell, but that doesn’t ever stay in the world of middle school drama–in comes a party to plan on a non-existent budget and two crushes that Pippa can’t choose between. Add into that a dash of strict guardian, an unexpected change in holiday plans, and an unwanted guest, and you have a story that keeps the reader guessing, rooting for Pippa (and sometimes screaming at Pippa), and waiting to see how it all works out. I love a true middle school book, and Pippa Park fits right in that range! It is a must get for libraries and classrooms!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: The publisher has provided an educator’s guide for the book:

Flagged Passages: Read an excerpt of Pippa Park: Crush at First Sight here!

Read This If You Love: Middle school books filled with friendship and crush drama

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head by Jeanne Walker Harvey, Illustrated by Diana Toledano

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Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head
Author: Jeanne Walker Harvey
Illustrator: Diana Toledano
Published September 20th, 2022 by Beach Lane Books

Summary: Discover the true story of how a shy miner’s daughter became one of the most legendary costume designers in Hollywood in this inspiring nonfiction picture book biography.

As a child in the small mining town of Searchlight, Nevada, Edith Head (1897 – 1981) had few friends and spent most of her time dressing up her toys and pets and even wild animals using fabric scraps. She always knew she wanted to move somewhere full of people and excitement. She set her sights on Hollywood and talked her way into a job sketching costumes for a movie studio.

Did she have formal training? Did she know how to draw or sew costumes? No. But that didn’t stop her!

Strong and determined, Edith taught herself how to sew and tirelessly worked her way up until she was dressing some of the biggest stars of the day. These included Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Ginger Rogers, and Elizabeth Taylor. She made costumes for films like Sabrina and Rear Window and TV shows like Bewitched. She also designed costumes for many of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, including To Catch a ThiefNotorious, and The Trouble With Harry. She became the first woman to head a major Hollywood movie studio costume department and went on to win eight Academy Awards for best costume design—and she defined the style of an era.

By ultimately becoming one of Hollywood’s most sought-after designers, Edith Head proved that with tenacity, anything is possible. This insightful behind-the-scenes look at the iconic figure is a must-have for cinephiles, history buffs, and fashionistas alike.

FUN FACT! Edith served as the inspiration for the iconic character Edna Mode in the Pixar film The Incredibles! With her classic hairstyle and glasses, Edith will be recognizable as the inspiration for Edna to the observant reader.

Praise:

* “Together, the art and storytelling capture Head’s belief in the transformative magic of costumes, which will certainly strike a chord with dress-up enthusiasts.” — ALA Booklist (STARRED review)

“Toledano’s mixed-media artwork… combined with starry-eyed prose, the result is a glamorous life story with a Hollywood ending.” — Publishers Weekly

About the Creators: 

Jeanne Walker Harvey studied literature and psychology at Stanford University and has worn many job hats, ranging from being a roller coaster ride operator to an attorney, a middle school language arts teacher, and a long-time docent for school groups at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She is the author of several books for young readers, including the picture book biographies Dressing up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith HeadAblaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas, and Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines. Jeanne lives in Northern California. Visit her online at JeanneHarvey.com.

Twitter: @JeanneWHarvey
Pinterest: @JeanneWalkerHarvey
Check out the many resources here at Jeanne Walker Harvey’s website!

Diana Toledano is an illustrator, writer, and educator. She is also a Pisces who loves children’s books, patterns, and dancing her heart out. Originally from Spain, Diana (pronounced the Spanish way: dee-ah-na) grew up in Madrid where she studied art history and illustration. Now she lives in San Francisco with her husband and two fluffy cats. Her mixed media art seeks to capture the magic of the ordinary. Diana’s product designs, picture books, board books, and chapter books have been published and sold all over the world. Diana also teaches workshops for kids and adults. She enjoys doing school visits and speaking at conferences. Learn more at Diana-Toledano.com.

Instagram: @dianatoledano
Facebook: Diana Toledano
Pinterest: Diana Toledano

Review: As a fan of old Hollywood, I recognized Edith Head’s costumes right away. I mean–Grace Kelly in Rear Window, Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Tippi Hedren in The Birds, Fred Astaire in Holiday Inn, Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii–anyone?!? And this is just the tip of the iceberg of Head’s designing. She was nominated for an Academy Award THIRTY FIVE times and won EIGHT making her the most awarded woman in the Academy’s history. But yet, she was behind the scenes and not as well known as the actors in front of the camera, so I am so happy to have this picture book biography to bring to light her genius. A self-taught young woman with no experience fighting her way up to being an Oscar winner–yes, please! Harvey does a fantastic job of sharing Edith’s magic from her childhood dreams to her adult reality and Toledano’s illustrations work perfectly for Edith’s style and costumes.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: 

Check out the publisher-provided activity kit for some fun activities to do with the book:

Discussion Questions: 

  • What does Edith’s journey to her dream job teach you about growth mindset?
  • How did Edith’s hobbies as a child help her reach her dreams?
  • Why do you think Edith chose to wear black or other dark, neutral colors when dressing stars?
  • How does a costume designer impact a movie or show?
  • Why do you think Edith was given a second chance after she failed to create costumes for dancers dressed as candy?
  • How do you think Edith grew her confidence overtime so much that she was able to not allow nay-sayers to make her question herself?
  • What are some words in the book that you did not know? What do you think they mean based on context? Check your guess by looking ups its definition.
  • How does the Author’s Note at the end of the book add to the book experience?

Book Trailer: 

The trailer can also be viewed on the author’s website:
https://www.jeanneharvey.com/dressingupthe-stars

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Nonfiction biography picture books, specifically about groundbreaking women, including Harvey’s books on Maya Lin and Alma Thomas

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Alex at Simon & Schuster and Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet by Barbara Dee

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Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet
Author: Barbara Dee
Published September 27th, 2022 by Aladdin

Summary: Twelve-year-old Haven Jacobs can’t stop thinking about the climate crisis. In fact, her anxiety about the state of the planet is starting to interfere with her schoolwork, her friendships, even her sleep. She can’t stop wondering why grownups aren’t even trying to solve the earth’s problem—and if there’s anything meaningful that she, as a seventh grader, can contribute.

When Haven’s social studies teacher urges her to find a specific, manageable way to make a difference to the planet, Haven focuses on the annual science class project at the local Belmont River, where her class will take samples of the water to analyze. Students have been doing the project for years, and her older brother tells her that his favorite part was studying and catching frogs.

But when Haven and her classmates get to the river, there’s no sign of frogs or other wildlife—but there is ample evidence of pollution. The only thing that’s changed by the river is the opening of Gemba, the new factory where Haven’s dad works. It doesn’t take much investigation before Haven is convinced Gemba is behind the slow pollution of the river.

She’s determined to expose Gemba and force them to clean up their act. But when it becomes clear taking action might put her dad’s job—and some friendships—in jeopardy, Haven must decide how far she’s willing to go.

About the Author: Barbara Dee is the author of twelve middle grade novels including Violets Are Blue, Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet, My Life in the Fish Tank, Maybe He Just Likes You, Everything I Know About You, Halfway Normal, and Star-Crossed. Her books have earned several starred reviews and have been named to many best-of lists, including The Washington Post’s Best Children’s Books, the ALA Notable Children’s Books, the ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, and the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten. Barbara lives with her family, including a naughty cat named Luna and a sweet rescue hound named Ripley, in Westchester County, New York.

Review: I’ve never read a book about eco-anxiety before, but I could definitely empathize with Haven Jacobs and her true anxiety over the state of our planet. I loved that the book gave tangible things that could be done in a community and also looks at global issues. Additionally, like all of Barbara Dee’s books, she does a great job balancing teaching (about science and climate change) and storytelling.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The publisher-provided reading group guide also includes extension activities:

1. Choose one of the following and write an essay:

– How does Haven’s name reflect the major theme of the book?

– Revisit the chapter titled “The Scratch,” and the scene in which the author describes Haven’s room and talks about how her room shows readers who she is and what’s important to her. Then write a description of your own room, and ask a partner if they can identify what is most important to you.

– Using the quote attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way”), write an essay about what that means, giving specific examples from the book.

2. Haven’s heroine is a fictional Inuit teen climate activist named Kirima Ansong. Choose a real-life teen activist and write a report about them, the issue they support, and the actions they’ve taken.

3. The headline of the RiverFest story is “SEVENTH GRADER GRIPPED BY ECO-ANXIETY,” which nicely sums up the major theme of this book. How prevalent is eco-anxiety among the kids at your school? Create a survey and share it to discover the answer. Write a report sharing your findings.

4. Choose one of the following topics from the book to research and write a report about, using the facts shared in the book as a jumping-off point to learn more.

Discussion Questions:
(Chosen questions from the publisher-provided reading group guide; there are 16 questions on the guide)

1. Talk about how the two events that Haven relates in the book’s opening chapter illustrate two of the book’s major themes. What does the bouncy house incident show readers about Haven’s personality? Do you agree with Grandpa Aaron that “‘Haven’s a true problem solver’”? (Chapter: Sensitive) Do you consider yourself to be a problem solver?

2. Why does Haven decide to become a vegetarian? Do you understand and sympathize with her reaction when she goes fishing with Carter and her dad? Are you a vegetarian, or do you have friends who are? What are some other reasons that people make this choice? Talk about how vegetarianism connects with the issue of climate change.

3. Do you understand why Haven is so upset about climate change? How do you feel about her statement that “’no one cares about anything except what’s going on in their own lives’”? (Chapter: Dinner) Why do some of her friends think climate change is too depressing to talk about? Haven tells Lauren, the reporter, that all kids are worried about the issue. How do you and your friends feel?

4. Have you ever heard of eco-anxiety? What are some of the signs of eco-anxiety that Haven is experiencing? How might eco-anxiety feel different from other things kids are anxious about, like taking tests or giving oral reports? What are some actions Haven takes, or could take, to relieve this anxiety?

5. Ms. Packer says to Haven: “‘There’s a positive way to be upset, and another way that just makes you feel hopeless and depressed.’” (Chapter: The Blanks) Do you understand both options? Do you identify with one more than the other? What do you think when Haven says she feels that going to school is pointless, that there are more important things going on?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Learning or reading about climate change, science, and/or mental health

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

Guest Review: All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

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Guest Reviewer: Sharon, UCF Elementary Education Student

All Are Welcome
Author: Alexandra Penfold
Illustrator: Suzanne Kaufman
Published July 10th, 2018 by Bloomsbury Publishing

Summary: Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yamulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps. A school where students grow and learn from each other’s traditions and the whole community gathers to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, they are welcome in their school.

About the Creators: 

A graduate of New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Alexandra Penfold began her career in publishing as a children’s book publicist at Simon & Schuster where she worked on media campaigns that appeared in USA Today, Newsweek, US News and World Report, and NPR’s All Things Considered. For eight years she served as an editor at Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster working on award-winning books for young readers of all ages. She is currently a literary agent with Upstart Crow Literary representing children book authors and illustrators as well as select adult projects.

Suzanne Kaufman is the New York Times bestselling illustrator of All Are Welcome.  She is the recipient of The Ezra Jack Keats/Kerlan Memorial Fellowship, Society of Children’s Book Writers Illustrators Mentorship and Portfolio Honors and Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Her books have been awarded Bank Street College Education Best Children’s Books of the Year Honors, Notable Books for a Global Society, CCBC Choice Award, Washington State Best Picture Book Award, Mathical Honor Award, and Amazon Best Children Book of the Year.  Her books include her own book Confiscated and illustrated work: Big Feelings, Take Your Pets to School Day, 100 Bugs, Naughty Claudine Christmas, and Samanthasaurus Rex.  She has presented at SCBWI Summer Conference, NMAEYC Conference, Tucson Book Festival, Los Angeles Festival of Books and Penguin Random House Book Festival.

Review: This story was very inspiring, and I enjoyed reading it very much. This story resembles what I wish for my future classroom and school to be like. I think it is very important to teach acceptance to children at a very young age and to show them that not everyone looks the same or has the same traditions. This book teaches children that diversity is something good and a strength. This book will hopefully make students feel that no matter what they are welcomed and have a safe space in their school. There are a lot of illustrations and repetition that will help ELL students. This book shows flags of other countries and different types of people which I think will make ELL students feel welcomed at their new school. Students should find someone in the book they can relate to and feel special that they have someone like them in the story. This book emphasizes that no matter what you do at home with your family, what clothes you wear, where you come from, what foods you eat, or what traditions you have with your family, everyone is able to come together and be friends and play together at school. This message is so important and so strong. Children who learn about diversity early on will later become more understanding of their differences with others and will realize what a good thing it is to have diversity.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book could be used to talk about different countries and the types of traditions different people have around the world. Teacher’s can pause while reading the book and discuss different characters’ countries. This book also teaches the valuable lesson that everyone is welcomed and that acceptance of others is very important. This is a good book to read to teach the class about acceptance and in an underlying way it also prevents bullying. If students learn to be accepting of each other’s differences, that could stop a lot of the bullying that goes on in schools. Teachers can use this book to discuss how their community is similar and different to the one portrayed in the book. Students can also discuss how diversity makes a community better and why they think that. Teachers can also discuss with students times they have felt unwelcomed and what they could do to make others feel welcomed.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What makes the kids in the book remind you of yourself and your friends?
  • Based on what you have seen in the book, do you think having a diverse community like the one in the book is better? Why or why not?
  • If you could be a part of this classroom would you want to? Why or why not.
  • What are some things that the children in the book are doing that makes you think they are kind? Look close at the illustrations on each page. What are some kind things you could do to other students?
  • What is something you and your family do that you think is unique? Explain what it is that you do and why it is unique.
  • What do you think is happening in the cover illustration of the book?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Inclusion and diversity

Recommended For: 

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Thank you, Sharon, for your review!

Killer Underwear Invasion!: How to Spot Fake News, Misinformation, & Conspiracy Theories by Elise Gravel

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Killer Underwear Invasion: How to Spot Fake News, Disinformation & Conspiracy Theories
Author: Elise Gravel
Published September 20, 2022 by Chronicle

Summary: A hilarious and timely tool to help kids learn how to tell what news is true and what isn’t

Can peanuts give you super strength? Were unicorns discovered on the moon? Did Martians really invade New Jersey? For anyone who has ever encountered outrageous stories like these and wondered whether they were true, this funny, yet informative book breaks down what fake news is, why people spread it, and how to tell what is true and what isn’t. With quirky illustrations and a humorous tone, Elise Gravel brings her kid-accessible wit to the increasingly important subject of media literacy and equips younger readers with the skills needed to interact with global news.

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: My kids love this book, and I love the way it allows kids to think about critical literacy! I used excerpts of this in my college class to demonstrate how accessible conversations about critical literacy can be. I also found myself sharing pages of the text with my brother (who said he would be ordering it for his daughter). This book is wholly impressive and critical for classrooms. Teachers could do close readings of the text and pair this text with conversations about disinformation, evaluating sources, etc.

Flagged Passage:  

Read This If You Love: Humor, Books about Critical Literacy, Retaliation against Fake News!!

Recommended For: 

Guest Post: Classroom Uses for New Kid by Jerry Craft, Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga, Stella Díaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez, and From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

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One of the assignments during my Spring Children’s Literature course at UCF was creating a mini-teaching guide for the books we read for book clubs. We started with picture books for practice then students created them in their book clubs each week. The course was structured by genre as were the book clubs.

Today, I am happy to share the classroom uses and discussion questions found by my UCF Elementary Education students about these realistic fiction books.

New Kid
Author: Jerry Craft
Published February 5th, 2019 by Quill Tree Books

Summary: A graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real.

Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.

As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: You can cover social topics like: Inclusion for BIPOC students and new kids, microaggressions, and stereotyping. If you have a new student in the class, maybe they could read and relate to this book. How to like the way Liam treated Jordan. Maybe you could also use Andy as an example of how not to treat others, since he is the antagonist of the story. Jordan also learned throughout the book how to be more confident, outspoken, stand up for others (telling the teacher that Andy was in the wrong over Drew in the lunch room scene), and how to be a bigger person (Jordan signing Andy’s yearbook at the end of the year).

Some topics for navigation would be using this text to discuss family dynamics and friendships. It would be great to also bring up the topic of diversity, bullying, and respect in the classrooms. Most of the characters in the book have some kind of conflict going on. Draw these conflicts to the students as some of these conflicts may mirror conflicts they could be personally dealing with. Open up the discussion for them to make connections to the story and its characters. Have the students discuss in what ways the conflicts in the book are fueled by social, racial, economic, and cultural differences? Using the book, have students do some freewriting about how to navigate through their emotions, just as Jordan found a way to cope. Teachers can also use the book to have students explore the ways the neighborhood Jordan speaks about is portrayed in the illustrations and words. They can investigate Washington Heights where Jordan and his family live and discuss how or why Jordan would camouflage.

Interdisciplinary options:

  • Geography: have students work with maps and have them draw a way that Jordan would have gone to school every day on the bus.
  • History: teach about how diversity is viewed now vs what it was in the past and why it is important to have it within our school and classroom.
  • Art: Jordan has great drawing skills and he loves to draw about what is going on in his life, maybe the students could try to draw what there day/week has looked like.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which of the many pressures that Jordan faced can you relate to the most?
  • How do you handle having a new kid at your school?
  • How does Jordan handle the impacts of race on his friendships?
  • Which character in the book do you identify with the most? Why?
  • Why do you think Jordan saying something when the altercation between Drew and Andy happened, made others step up to report the truth, too?
  • Jordan states that when he has to ride the bus to school he has to be like a chameleon. In your own words, explain what this simile means.
  • In your own opinion, explain why you think the teacher keeps calling Jordan by the wrong name.
  • If you were a character in this book, who would you be and why?
  • Why do you think Jordan at the end of the book decided to write in Andy’s yearbook?
  • Have you ever lost touch with a friend after moving? Why do you think that happens?
  • Have you ever been the new kid? What was that like?
  • How would you have handled the situation like Jordan where the teacher had his notebook? And why?
  • Do you think that Jordan Moving helped develop his character in the book? Why?
  • Why do you think Drew reacted upset towards his teacher calling him Deandre?
  • Write about a time that you didn’t fit in. What happened? How did this make you feel? Did anyone notice and include you?
  • How do you handle having a new kid at your school? Classroom?

Recommended For: 

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Other Words for Home
Author: Jasmine Warga
Published May 7th, 2019 by Balzer + Bray

Summary: I am learning how to be
sad
and happy
at the same time.

Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book does a great job of taking a situation that is happening in the world and putting it into context in a way that resonates with students as is easy to understand.

A great activity for this book would be “Webbing what’s on my mind.” Students would take moments to write down key concepts throughout the book and talk about how they feel about the themes and issues that they read about. This will also give students time to research issues in the book, research it and then reflect. This will allow students to easily see key concepts in the books and compare their thoughts to the thoughts of their peers. This will allow a group discussion on key elements throughout the story.

Interdisciplinary opportunities:

Social Studies- Students will take this book as an opportunity to research about different countries and cultures to learn more about the characters and what they have gone through. This will also allow the students to understand the differences between the United States and Syria and the changes that Jude went through in the book.

Outreach/Humanitarian Aid- Students can learn about different organizations within their community and learn how to help those around them. Students can participate in drives to help refugees and those displaced by conflict.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Put yourself in Judes shoes. How would you have felt if you had to move across the country and leave your loved ones behind?
  • How does Baba feel when Mama and Jude say goodbye? Provide some examples from the book.
  • Why does Issa believe that he should protest?
  • Whose side do you understand more, the brothers or the parents?
  • Why did Jude have to move away?
  • How did Jude’s relationships with the other ELL students affect her confidence in school?
  • How did Mama and Jude first describe Cincinnati when they landed?
  • How did people treat Layla and Jude differently as one was born in America and spoke fluent English while the other struggled communicating and was seen as more of an outsider?
  • How did the behavior of those around Jude change after she began wearing a hijab. What evidence supports this?
  • The first time Jude is reminded of home in the US iis when she enters Layla’s family restaurant. How does this affect her relationship with Layla and her comfort level within Layla’s restaurant.

Recommended For: 

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Stella Díaz Has Something to Say
Author: Angela Dominguez
Published January 16th, 2018 by Roaring Brook Press

Summary: In her first middle-grade novel, award-winning picture book author and illustrator Angela Dominguez tells a heartwarming story based on her own experiences growing up Mexican-American.

Stella Díaz loves marine animals, especially her betta fish, Pancho. But Stella Díaz is not a betta fish. Betta fish like to be alone, while Stella loves spending time with her mom and brother and her best friend Jenny. Trouble is, Jenny is in another class this year, and Stella feels very lonely.

When a new boy arrives in Stella’s class, she really wants to be his friend, but sometimes Stella accidentally speaks Spanish instead of English and pronounces words wrong, which makes her turn roja. Plus, she has to speak in front of her whole class for a big presentation at school! But she better get over her fears soon, because Stella Díaz has something to say!

Stella Díaz Has Something to Say introduces an infectiously charming new character with relatable writing and adorable black-and-white art throughout. Simple Spanish vocabulary is also integrated within the text, providing a bilingual element.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be useful by helping students know that they can overcome the fear of speaking and sharing  opinions, beliefs or ideas to other people, even if it means that those opinions may be different from other people. It also has bilingual opportunities!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Have you ever been the new students at school, if you have, how did you begin to make friends? If you haven’t, did you still feel nervous on your first day, why or why not?
  • If you moved to a different state and had to introduce yourself to the class, what would you say? Would you bring gifts for your classmates?
  • Do you think it’s an important best friend rule to match one another and no one else or do you think Stella was being over-protective of her best friend?
  • List some questions you would ask a new classmate to get to know them. What would you share with a classmate for them to get to know you?
  • How does Jenny suggest Stella start conversations with people? Do you think it is good advice?
  • Why do you think Stella doesn’t let people see her artwork until it’s perfect?
  • Why do you think Stella was afraid of speaking in public?
  • How did the spelling bee or marine report help Stella overcome her fear of speaking in public? What has helped you overcome the fear of speaking in public?
  • Stella and her family celebrate the new year with a trip to Wisconsin, how does your family celebrate special occasions or holidays?

Recommended For: 

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From the Desk of Zoe Washington
Author: Janae Marks
Published January 14th, 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books

Summary: Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime?

A crime he says he never committed.

Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge.

But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is AMAZING, and is recommended for all to young readers to dive in. This story is also relatable and a lot of young readers can relate to this story and have a special bond with this book. This story also teaches the lesson to fight for what you believe in which is a great lesson to teach students.

This book would be useful to teach kids to fight for what they believe in. Even though Zoe didn’t know her father, she still fought to prove his innocence and was willing to uncover hard truths.

A great tool to use for this story is chronological order journals and open discussions. This book talks about a tough topic that may be hard for other students and this would be the perfect opportunity for teachers to connect with students and have an honest discussion about how the book makes them feel, what they think, and if they are open to sharing stories. You can also have a “mailbox” where students can send you mail and let them know that whatever mail  they send is only for your eyes, if they are uncomfortable with the conversation.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is the theme of the book from the desk of Zoe Washington?
  • Describe where “From The Desk of Zoe Washington” take place.
  • How did the letter’s in the novel make you feel while reading the book?
  • What would you have done in Zoe’s  mother’s shoes? Why? What about other characters?
  • How do you think Zoe’s grandmother handles the situation?
  • Why do you think Zoe was so eager to rebuild her friendship with Trevor after he found out about Marcus?
  • Describe your favorite scene in the book and the way you imagined it while reading.
  • Why do you think it was so important for Zoe to build a relationship with his biological father?
  • Describe the conflicts that came up in Zoe and her mothers relationship when Zoe found the letter on her 12th birthday.

Recommended For: 

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