Junket is Nice by Dorothy Kunhardt



Junket is Nice
Author: Dorothy Kunhardt
Published: June 25th, 2013 by NYR Children’s Collection
(First published: 1933)

Summary: An old man with a red beard and red slippers eats junket out of a big, red bowl. All of the people arrive and want to know what he thinks about while he eats his junket. The old man tells them the three things he is NOT thinking about, and the people try to guess what he is thinking. Only the little boy, who arrived last, truly knows what the old man is thinking while he is eating his junket.

Ricki’s Review: Kids will love the crowd’s nonsensical guesses of what the old man is thinking about while he eats his junket–from “a kangaroo jumping over a glass of orange juice so as not to spill it” to “a bear climbing a ladder because his toenails are too long for walking on the ground”–I can imagine a whole class giggling as the people make their guesses.

Dorothy Kunhardt has a very creative imagination that kids are sure to enjoy. The drawings are very humorous, and I couldn’t help but chuckle as I read this picture book–the idea of a “daddy-long-legs holding up his foot for the sun to warm it” is just very silly! Junket is Nice would allow for a lot of great, creative thinking in the classroom. Readers of Pat the Bunny are sure to enjoy this classic.

Kellee’s Review: This book is so full of imagination. The clever, funny animals that the crowd comes up with while trying to guess what the old man is thinking will definitely, like Ricki says, make a whole class giggle. It also will be the most discussed part of the book, I’m sure.  You can tell that Dorothy Kunhardt was full of imagination and wanted to make this book as fun as possible.  Her son remembers her being curious and appreciating the way young people viewed the book, and you can tell by Junket is Nice that she embraced this curiosity and put as much of it into her books as possible.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Teachers could use this book and have students create their own riddles like Kunhardt’s–“What is the old man thinking while he eats his junket?” They could even create their own picture books for their riddles. Alternatively, a teacher might read all the way up to the section of the book that gives the answer to the riddle. Then, each student in the classroom might draw their own creative guess about what the old man is thinking. This would allow students to make predictions, based on the other guesses within the book.

Discussion Questions: What might the old man be thinking about when he eats his junket?; Why might the little boy be the only one who knows what the old man is thinking about?; Was the ending satisfying, or did you wish the old man was thinking about something else?

We Flagged: “‘People why don’t you try and guess what I am thinking about all the time I am eating my junket and if you guess right I will give you something nice'” (p. 16).

Read This If You Loved: Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt, The Napping House by Audrey Wood, That is Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems, other picture book classics like Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey and The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton 

Recommended For:

readaloudbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below so you can win your own copy of Junket is Nice!

026F3FBCC8C3913BD3A4D3F6920340D5 andSignature

**Thank you to Media Masters Publicity for providing copies for us to review**

More Than This by Patrick Ness


more than this

More Than This
Author: Patrick Ness
Expected Publication September 10th, 2013 by Candlewick Press

Summary: Readers are thrown into the action right from the beginning of this book. Seth is drowning–he is dying. When he wakes up, he is naked, alone, and unfamiliar with his surroundings. Seth knows he has died, but he isn’t sure where he is. In his distant memories, he remembers the English town that he is in, but he moved away after an enormous tragedy in his childhood, so why has he returned? The town looks very different from the way he remembers it–as if no one has lived there in over a decade. Seth sets out to try to discover where he is. He hopes he isn’t alone, the world hasn’t ended, and he hasn’t arrived in his personal Hell.

Review: At the beginning of my reading, I felt the same feelings as I felt with The Maze Runner by James Dashner. I was bewildered, confused, and very curious about where the book was headed. Patrick Ness phenomenally reveals details so slowly that it makes it very difficult to put this one down. It is highly unpredictable and extremely engaging. This book evades the typical features that would lock it into one genre–it is a thriller, an adventure, and a, frankly, an incredibly thoughtful work of science fiction. More Than This teaches readers about loyalty, resilience, hope, and bravery, amongst other messages that I can’t express without revealing details of the plot. Dive into this one–it will send you to a world that will make you ponder elements of life you may not have ever considered before.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This is one of the best books that I’ve read that can be used for helping students make predictions. Teachers can use the whole book or excerpts of the text, and students would love predicting plot details, grounded in the evidence the plot provides. Like all of Ness’s writing, this book experiments with language and sentence structure, and students could examine how Ness uses language to advance the plot and overall meaning of the book. 

Discussion Questions: How does Ness reveal plot details as a way to engage his audience? Is he effective?; Where is Seth? What might Ness be telling us about the world we live in?; In the beginning of the book, Seth wonders if he has woken up in his personal Hell. Where would your personal Hell be?; What memories shape who you are as a person? Have you learned from them? How?

We Flagged: “There’s an unreality under all the dust, all the weeds. Ground that seems solid but that might give way any moment” (p. 51).

“A book, he thinks at one point, rubbing his eyes, tired from so much focused reading. It’s a world all on its own, too. […] A world made of words, Seth thinks, where you live for a while” (p. 143).

Please note: The above quotes are from the Advanced Reader Copy. They may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: Maze Runner by James Dashner, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Recommended For:

litcirclesbuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending me the Advanced Reader Copy!

Any Patrick Ness fans out there? Have you read this one or pre-ordered it?

What are your favorite science fiction books?

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani


NF PB 2013

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!


Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas
Author: Jim Ottaviani
Illustrator: Maris Wicks
Published June 11th, 2013 by First Second

Summary: Three woman in the 1960s and 1970s took part in primatology research that would change the way that we think about primates. Three woman who took a chance and researched potentially dangerous animals in their wild habitats. Three woman who took risks when many did not believe that woman should be part of the sciences. Primates tells the stories of Jane Goodall, a researcher of chimps, Dian Fossey, a gorilla expert, and Birute Galdikas, an orangutan researcher, and how their lives overlap and differ.

My Review: I may be bias, but this is one of my favorite nonfiction graphic novels ever. Bias because I am a huge ape advocate and am fascinated by them. These creatures are amazing; their intelligence is so remarkable that it is hard to even fathom. The reason why I loved this book is because it takes you through the research of three groundbreaking woman scientists and what they learned about the three completely different apes. It makes sure to show how each ape is different and spectacular as well as how each lady’s research made an impact.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I think that this book is a great introduction to apes and would be a perfect read aloud before book talking other books such as Endangered (about a different ape that isn’t mentioned in Primates), Hurt Go HappyHalf Brother, and other nonfiction like Chimpanzees I LoveMe…Jane, and Gorillas in the Mist.  Check out my Nerdy Book Club Post: Top Ten Ape Books (which I would definitely add this one to) to see what other books you could connect Primates too.

Discussion Questions: How do the apes that Jane, Dian, and Birute study similar? Different?; How did Dr. Leaky play a part in all three women’s research?; Which ape is your favorite? Why?

We Flagged: Part 1: But in my dreams, I did bigger things Ever since I was a very young girl I had Africa in my blood so to speak. Sometimes my mother Vanne might have hoped I’d get over it, but even as I grew older I never did. “I do wish you’d read something… else, on occasion” “But I do! I just finished Dr. Dolittle.” “Yes, for the… How many times is that?” “Seven, Mummy.” “Well you’ll never get into a top school if that’s all you study.” “I shan’t be going to college – I want to live with wild animals when I grow up!”” (p. 3)

Also check out the School Library Journal Blog’s interview with Jim Ottaviani to see some of the artwork.

Read This If You Loved: Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell, Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey, Any nonfiction book about apes including Chimpanzees I Love by Jane Goodall, Endangered by Eliot Schrefer, Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby, Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel, Little Beauty by Anthony Browne, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Recommended For:

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall readaloudbuttonsmall

What is your favorite ape book?
Have you read Primates yet? What did you think?


Top Ten Tuesday: Authors Who Deserve More Recognition


top ten tuesday

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

Today’s Topic: Top Ten Authors Who Deserve More Recognition


This one was much harder than I thought it was going to be.  Many authors I loved are loved within the YA/MG community. So, these 5 authors are writers that I wish were read more by everyone and may be appreciated by many, but being read by more would never hurt.

1. Ginny Rorby – Anyone who knows me knows I am an advocate for Ginny Rorby’s books. I love how she takes animal and human themes and melds them into a wonderful narrative. Though her novels Hurt Go Happy and Lost in the River of Grass have gotten recognized by the Schneider and Sunshine State Award (respectably), I feel that her books often fly under the radar and they are too great to do so. And on top of that, she has 2 other books that are just as well done as the two mentioned above: Dolphin Sky and The Outside of a Horse. I really think that Ginny should be read more and I think it’ll lead to more empathy in the readers.

2. Kenneth Oppel – I think Kenneth Oppel deserves to be HUGE. I adore everything he writes that I’ve read.  He transcends genres and writes such smart young adult books. His Matt Cruse series is one of the most action-packed, fun, well done trilogies I’ve ever read. Half Brother is smart, emotion-filled, thought-provoking book and the book is made to be a discussed as it introduces so many tough topics. He also writes a fun middle grade series called Silverwing that takes us on an adventure with a bat, but it isn’t just another animal-protagonist book; it is an underdog overcoming. It is adventurous, filled with twists and turns. Finally, his Frankenstein prequels- The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein– are so brilliantly done. I am just a huge fan and think there should be more like me.

3. George O’Connor – George O’Connor writes graphic novels that brings mythology to life. He is going to do a graphic novel for each of the main gods beginning with Zeus and he has now completed Athena, Hades, Poseidon, and Hera.  Not only does he make the myths understandable while keeping their integrity, he does so by accompanying it with amazing artwork and an afterword of further information. Even his website is fantastic!

4. Kate Messner – In my Twitter circle, Kate Messner is loved, but I want to make sure that this love extends to the entire world. Kate is an amazing talent. First, until recently, she wrote while teaching middle school and being a mom. Being a middle school teacher, all I can say is BRAVO! Also, she is so multi-talented. She has written picture books, children’s books and middle grade novels all of equally great quality. On top of all of this, she does free Skype visits to classrooms, is a supporter of education constantly including being part of Teachers Write during the summer, and she is a good friend to all of us that are lucky enough to know her. If you have not read any Kate Messner yet, I recommend starting with Eye of the Storm or Marty McGuire or Over and Under the Snow or Sugar and Ice or… any of her books!

5. Jo Knowles – Like Kate, Jo is loved by all of my teacher friends, but I want to make sure that it isn’t just my circle that has heard of her. Jo Knowles knows how to tackle tough topics and does it amazingly in her books. Very tough topics. Her book See You At Harry’s is so phenomenally emotional and touching. And, for an author who isn’t afraid to write about some of the hardest things, Jo Knowles is one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Like Kate, she is part of Teachers Write, will visit classrooms, and is a wonderful friend. If you want to read a book by Jo, I recommend Harry’s first, but any of her books are worth reading.


1. More compliments to Kellee’s list – Kellee and I each wrote our top five list separately. After much debate, I came to my final five. When I logged on to add to Kellee’s post, we BOTH had Jo Knowles and Kate Messner. I would just like to add my accolades to these two women. They do so much for education and young adult literature. I continually see Kate’s name in various journal articles promoting education, reading, and teachers in general. She is wonderful human being and incredibly generous. Jo does great work regarding censorship and speaks out for the freedom to read. She is a very kind soul and does so much for students and teachers. Teachers are always talking about how much they appreciate her support of their classrooms.

2. Ruta Sepetys – Last year, I was honored to meet Ruta Sepetys at the ALAN Workshop. I can confidently say that she is one of the nicest people I have ever met. When I sat down at her table for dinner, she talked to every person individually, asking them about their passions and urging them to pursue their dreams. She has written Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy, two phenomenal historical fiction novels. Ruta works to promote the voices that are unheard. She spreads the love of historical fiction–urging people to discover their history and ancestors. There are many great historical fiction authors, but what I like most about Ruta Sepetys is how I can give her books to ANY student in my classroom and know they will love them. She truly makes historical fiction accessible. I will pre-order any book she writes because I know each one will be an unforgettable adventure.

3. Matt de la Pena – I debated not including Matt on this list because I think many people are aware of how amazing he is. I couldn’t help but include him on this list, though, because I think he is doing such great things in the field of young adult literature. If you have a boy in your classroom who doesn’t enjoy reading, give him one of Matt’s books. He does such a great job depicting the truth, and I have found my teens really connect with his characters. At the ALAN workshop a few years ago, I mentioned to Matt how much his books connected with some of my students who I worried were at risk of dropping out. They were so excited for me to talk with him at the conference. Matt asked me to send the names of the students I was worried about, including a short description of each of them. He personalized a book for each of these students, writing a different note to each student, encouraging them to stay in school. Every single one of those students graduated high school. Thanks, Matt.

4. Kevin Brooks – I rarely hear teachers talking about Kevin Brooks. Why the heck not? I have multiple copies of all of his books in my classroom because they are excellent for reluctant readers. I love reading aloud segments of Being and The Road of the Dead, in particular. Whenever students finish Kevin Brooks’ books, they always recommend them to their peers. His books constantly flow off my bookshelves, and they are the most worn of any of the books on the shelves. Many of the books have a mystery element to them, and I find that, in general, kids love reading a good mystery. If you have many reluctant readers, get a few copies of Kevin Brooks’ books, and you won’t be sorry.

5. Kristin Cashore – Okay, okay. You probably know about her. She gets a lot of recognition in the YAL world. But why, oh why, doesn’t the whole world know about Kristin Cashore? Some of you may argue with this, but I think she is more talented than any other fantasy writer out there. (I should probably duck my head to avoid the Quidditch balls.) This woman is a genius. I would pay good money to spend a day inside her head. Her world-building is phenomenal. I have seen her speak a few times and I was amazed at her writing process. My only regret is that Kristin doesn’t produce books fast enough. When I remember hearing about how she has created maps and languages to understand characters, this makes sense. But please, Kristin, publish another book soon. I will be the first in line to buy it.

Which authors do you think deserve more recognition?

Signature and026F3FBCC8C3913BD3A4D3F6920340D5

Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Finalists Announced and It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/15/13


Award Seal

Ricki and Kellee have been pleased to work on the 2013 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award committee. The award finalists were announced this morning. We will, of course, do a lengthier post about the finalists, but we couldn’t wait to share the list with you all:

2013 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Finalists Announced


And of course….



It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover the next “must-read” book!

Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too.

We encourage everyone who participates to support the blogging community by visiting at least three of the other book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Last Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday relish 16115612  zebra 20130306_095945_resized_1

 **Click on any of the pictures to view the post*

Last Week’s Journeys

Ricki: Last week, I read And the Mountains Echoed by Khalid Hosseini–click the image above for the review. It was phenomenal. I also finished Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, a book by Jesse Andrews that I started several weeks ago. I enjoyed this one but think I would enjoy it even more if I was an adolescent boy. Lastly, I have been working on preparing for the college classes I am teaching, so I read the first third of When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do  by Kylene Beers. I am enjoying it so much that it is making me want to go back to teaching high school so I can try out the new skills and strategies I am learning. It is making me rethink many of the practices of my classroom and is a GREAT text if you are looking to improve how you teach readers–struggling readers, in particular.

Kellee: This week was a different kind of reading week for me. Mostly, I read research for my book proposal.  Currently, I am reading articles about socioeconomic status, emotional intelligence, and lack of reading skills in struggling readers. To be honest, after reading for research, I really haven’t felt like reading for pleasure.  Like Ricki, I hope to pick up Kylene Beers’s When Kids Can’t Read for research soon.  I’ve read parts of it, but I know that it’ll be a great asset to my research.

The one book for pleasure I did read was a true winner though. Sidekicked by John David Anderson is just as great as all of the Walden Pond Press titles. I cannot wait to review it for you on Saturday as part of the Sidekicked blog hop!


This Week’s Expeditions

Ricki: I want to give a shout-out to USPS for forwarding some packages that were sent to my old address. Hooray! I received some great ARCs this week. I probably would have finished the Kylene Beers book if I hadn’t taken a quick peek of Patrick Ness’ More Than This. Whoops. Ness roped me in…so expect a review of More Than This on Thursday because I suspect I will finish it within the next day. Kellee and I hit our round of reading for the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award this week, so we’ll be rereading those books as well. I can’t wait to share the details of the award soon!

Kellee: Hm… First, I need to take what I’ve learned from the research I’ve done this week and transport that knowledge into my book proposal. That may take away from some of my reading time.  As for pleasure reading, I am STILL listening to David Sedaris’s newest. It is so hard to get through audiobooks when I am not driving as much because it is summer… I’ll also be rereading for the Walden Award (already started actually). Check out the link above to see the finalists!!  Next to that, it is going to be a surprise what I feel like. I’ll let you know next week.


Upcoming Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday 16002028 17262303 productimage-picture-junket-is-nice-337 16248141


 So, what are you reading?

Link up below and go check out what everyone else is reading.
Please support other bloggers by viewing and commenting on at least 3 other blogs.
If you tweet about your Monday post, tag the tweet with #IMWAYR!

Happy reading!

Signature and026F3FBCC8C3913BD3A4D3F6920340D5


End of (School) Year Reflection



School ended over a month ago for me now, but my reflection of the school year has continued throughout the entire month. Receiving state test scores, looking over end of year surveys, and talking with students/colleagues can really get your mind going. Today, I wanted to share two of my favorite moments from the year as well as some amazing feedback I received from students. This post is not to toot my horn, but to share the amazing things that are happening because I made a choice to include independent choice reading in my classroom as well as two great moments I spent with my students.



Independent choice reading is a huge part of my curriculum. I teach intensive reading so much of what I do teach is remedial and student-based. It saddens me when intensive teachers do not feel that another huge aspect in helping these students become better readers is just allowing them to read what they want and often. I’m not going to get into state test data, because to me that isn’t the most important data. The most important to me is did my students become better readers and learn to enjoy reading more? In short, yes. Lets first start with the numbers. This year I taught 63 students that included struggling readers as well as ESOL students who had lived in the country for less than a year when they entered our school. These 63 students read 1,017 books (that I’m aware of) in comparison to the 400ish that they said they read last year. This shows me that the time I am spending allowing them to read it worth it. Also, if I had any other questions it is feedback like this that shows me how important it is:

“At the beginning of the year I hated reading, but now I love reading.”
“I was like a bad reader, but when I got to Ms. Moye’s class everything changed.”
“My attitude [towards reading] has gotten better after the 2 years I’ve had Mrs. Moye and I feel that I’ve gotten to understand the joy of reading books and how good it is to read because it helps you and amuses you at the same time.”
“You helped me become a better reader because you made me read every day.”
“You made me read every day and pushed me to read more and become a better reader and now I read all types of books. TY.”
“You helped me to never give up on reading… and you have some really good books.”

This is why having books in my classroom, modeling reading, and have free choice reading time in my classroom is so important.  Every time I have some question me about if it is worth the time, I got back to these reflections and others kids have said over the years and I know that it is the best thing for our students.


Amazing Moment- A First

This year was also a big year because I had my first skype visit with an author!!! At the end of each school year, I like to do a class novel because it builds amazing community in a classroom. As most of you probably know, I am a huge fan of apes, so this year to read with my 8th graders I chose the book Endangered by Eliot Schrefer because… well, it’s brilliant. I hoped that my students would think the same thing and they did! The book provided opportunities to discuss good author’s craft as well as a huge variety of topics. And then, as icing on the cake, Eliot Schrefer was kind enough to agree to Skype with my students. The students generated questions including asking about his decision to be an author, his experiences writing Endangered, choices he made in the book, and his future books. The students were enthralled during the skype visit and, I’ll be honest, so was I! It was like having an author in your class without the hassle of airfare, costs, etc. And don’t take my word for it:

“It gave us knowledge and understanding about what authors have to go through to write their books. Writing a book isn’t easy.”
“Eliot is engaged in a good cause and it really shows you that you don’t have to be born into something to have it, for a lack of better words, “drilled into your brain” to make it a known cause with a hopeful solution. I want to thank him for the courage to speak out on something.”
“I liked when he showed pictures of the bonobos he saw when he was in the sanctuary. I liked the bonobo he showed that was looking at the camera.”
“It was really cool that we skyped with him because it felt like he was really here with us.”
“The skype helped me understand why he made certain choices in the book like Otto’s name. It was because he had 8 fingers but also because he wanted it to be short because he was gonna put it in the book so much.”
And then lots of comments about wanting to read his next book, see Endangered as a movie, how nice he was, how cute the bonobos were, and how much they learned about the Congo.

20130531_093942 20130531_100527


Amazing Moment- A Tradition

I’m actually doubly lucky, because Eliot is not the only author I am lucky enough to bring into my classroom. I have chosen to read Hurt Go Happy with my students 4 years now because I really feel that the novel brings to the table not only great writing, but empathy and topics that students need to be aware of and discuss. Just like every year, my students are always in love with HGH. At the end of reading, we are lucky enough to do two things to bring the book to life. First, we are lucky enough to visit the ape rescue facility Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, FL which is an actual setting in the novel. This allows the students to see chimps in as close to a natural habitat as we can get. And we also are lucky enough to talk to Ginny Rorby on the telephone. As with Eliot, the students come up with questions to ask Ginny that range from her experiences as a writer, to her feelings about chimps/animal test/child abuse/deafness, and her future plans.  Here are what the students had to say about their time talking to Ginny:

“The call gave me more detail about the scenes that I didn’t get and the scenes that I disliked.”
“I learned what they do to animals in captivity like research facilities. I always thought it was just testing.”
“Ginny wrote about her life. Back then you couldn’t do much about child abuse. Or animals abuse. That part really made me mad but sad. Because why do you have to abuse kids or animals. That is just wrong.”
“I found it interesting how the people in Hurt Go Happy were named after Ginny’s relatives and friends.”
“Wow. It actually surprised me that you can put so much effort, support, detail, love, and imagination all into one book.”
“You need to know that not everyone is the same, everyone is different in their own way. You have to be proud of who you are.”
And lots more about not having animals for pet or researching on them, how nice Ginny was, how cool it was to talk to her, and how much they learned about chimps and deafness.



Do you include independent reading in your classroom?
How does it affect your students’ love of reading?
What were your best experiences this year in your classroom? Have you ever Skyped with, called, or had an author come to your school or classroom?
I cannot wait to hear about your experiences. 


Zebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gewirtz



Zebra Forest
Author: Adina Rishe Gewirtz
Published April 9th, 2013 by Candlewick Press

Summary: Annie and Rew have only vague memories of their father who died triumphantly and don’t remember their mother at all who decided she didn’t want to be a mom. They now live with their grandmother who suffers with an agoraphobia-type disorder. Some days she rarely leaves her room leaving Annie to be in charge of the household, her brother, and any tough decisions including lying to her social worker. This has lead to Annie having to grow up faster than other 11-year-olds. Most of her days, she spends time with her brother near the zebra forest telling stories and reminiscing about their father and the adventures that he would have taken if he was still alive. Though, like in all of our lives, one moment can change everything and with a rattling, stuck backdoor Annie and Rew’s lives will never be the same.

My Review: Sometimes you come across quiet novels that aren’t being talked about in the mainstream that  are very entertaining and well done. This is one of those books.  It starts out quietly with amazing stories being told between Annie and Rew and great character development. Then the plot twist changes everything! And the suspense, emotion, and background story really starts to build.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The most specific aspect of this book that I see to use in the classroom as a mentor text is the creative storytelling talents that she displays throughout the book. She tells amazing stories that include extensions from Treasure Island and adventures of her father (ex. p. 21-26). Also, this book is contemporary fiction and takes place during the Iranian Hostage Crisis which would be a way to teach this important part of history that many students may not be aware of. Mostly, I see this book being used as a read aloud or lit circle to lead to discussion of the plot and characters.

Discussion Questions: After reading Treasure Island, do you agree with Annie and Rew’s favorite characters (p. 70-71)?; Have you ever lied in a situation because you felt that it was necessary? Explain.; Research the Iran Hostage Situation. From Annie we learned the basics about the crisis; what did you learn from research about it?

We Flagged: “Outside, I could smell the Zebra. Even if for some reason I stopped feeling cold or hot or rain or sun, I bet I could close my eyes and still tell which season I was in just by the smell of the tees and dirt there. Spring was sweet mud and flowers. Fall had a kind of moldy edge to it, and winter was all dust and bark. As for summer, the Zebra carried a mossy, thick aroma full of baking leaves and oozing sap, which I guess was its growing smell.” (p. 87)

“Most recently he [their father] was a secret agent, working to free those hostages in Iran. Rew loved to imagine the Middle Eastern desert, sandstorms and mullahs and veiled ladies, and our father somewhere among them, bartering for hostages in a dusty marketplace or smoking a hookah with a sheik.” (p. 22)

Read This If You Loved: One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson, Paperboy by Vince Vawter, My Mixed-up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari [Zebra Forest is a very unique book. I chose the books because they have similar tone or the characters and are for similar age levels.]

Recommended For: 

readaloudbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall litcirclesbuttonsmall

What is a favorite book of yours that flies under the mainstream radar?


**Thank you to Candlewick Press for providing a copy for review. Jen also reviewed this book at Teach Mentor Texts, so make sure to check out her review, too!**