Harlem: A Poem by Walter Dean Myers



Harlem: A Poem
Author: Walter Dean Myers
Illustrator: Christopher Myers
Published 1997 by Scholastic Press

Goodreads Summary: Walter Dean Myers calls to life the deep, rich, and hope-filled history of Harlem, this crucible of American culture.

Christopher Myers’ boldly assembled collage art resonates with feeling, and tells a tale all its own. Words and pictures together connect readers -of all ages – to the spirit of Harlem in its music, art, literature, and everyday life, and to how it has helped shape us as a people.

My Review & Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: After reading this book the first time, I knew I was going to have to tackle it differently than just reading a picture book. I wanted to make sense of it and I knew that I didn’t have the background knowledge so I knew that the power of all of the words had not sunk in yet. So, I typed up the poem in Google Drive and began doing my very own close reading of the poem.  I started with research of terms and names that I didn’t know, building my knowledge of the culture and history of Harlem. Through this build up of knowledge, I began to understand the beauty behind Myers’s poem. The voice of this poem is one of heartbreak, but strength; proud of not only what he has become, but where he came from. This poem is a celebration of the history of Harlem and its citizens—a celebration of its religion, music, poets, authors, and everything that made/makes it a hub for the civil rights movement and African America culture.

While doing my research, I found an amazing website that I will definitely use when teaching this poetry book- Harlem: A Visual Interpretative Analysis– which takes an excerpt of the poem and an accompanied collage and takes the reader through an analysis of the excerpt and artwork. Fascinating!

This book would be a great one to use across many different subject areas- history, literature, and art.

Discussion Questions: What references to Harlem’s history did Myers entertwine into his poem?; How did Christopher Myers’s illustrations take the poem to another level?; (Writing) Do research about your ancestors and your heritage. Through this research, find people, places, literature, art, musicians, etc. that helped shape who you or your family are. Use this research to construct a poem about your heritage. Find a piece of artwork to accompany your poem. 

We Flagged: 

The uptown A
Rattles past 110th street
Unreal to real
Relaxing the soul

Shango and Jesus
Asante and Mende
One people, a hundred different
Huddled masses
And crowded dreams

Read This If You Loved: Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra and Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa by Andrea Davis Pinkney, The Complete Poems including Harlem by Langston Hughes, Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers, Nonfiction books about Harlem

Recommended For: 

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In This Moment by Wendy Glenn


In This Moment

Author: Wendy Glenn
Manuscript Available at Macmillan’s Swoon Reads (www.swoonreads.com)

SwoonReads Summary: Sometimes, going through the motions feels like all we can manage, but it takes love to truly live.

Sixteen-year-old Laney Pritzkau lives with her hippie father in Connecticut. The unexpected death of her mother two years prior maintains a hold on her. She keeps her relationship circle small, lessening the likelihood of any future loss. It’s summer, and Laney babysits the energetic twin boys across the street, hangs out at the mall and beach with her two best girlfriends, and volunteers at Harmony House, the foster care home where her father works as a counselor. She wills the days to go by so she can flip her calendar to the next week, the next month, the next year, to keep moving forward and avoid the residual sadness and anger that bubble up when she pauses to consider life without a mother. Then she meets Evan–and leans that what’s most important is what’s in this moment.

Review: This is a beautifully written novel that allows readers to grapple with complex issues. My heart ached for Laney as she longed for her mother in difficult situations, and as a future parent, I couldn’t help but appreciate the connection she had with her father. Too often, parents are put in stereotypical, negative roles in books that feature young adult characters, and I appreciated the warmth and love Laney’s father emanated. Their relationship is comparable with that of Atticus and Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, and teachers might find it valuable to pair passages between both texts.

The language of this novel was very poetic. Often, one or two passages impact me strongly within a novel. But with this text, I was continually scribbling down lines that forced me to stop and consider aspects of friendship, love, loss, and life.

Consider the beautiful language here:

“‘When I was growing up, I lived next door to the oldest, wisest woman on earth.   Her name was Sadie, and she had all the answers I could ever hope to discover.  Why is the sky blue?  Because God likes to paint in pastels.  Why does Jason keep teasing me in front of his friends?  Because Jason thinks you’re something special.  Why do Mom and Dad fight?  Because real love is worth the battle’” (p. 54).

Holy cow. Did that hit you straight in the heart? And on the flip side, sections of the novel made me laugh out loud, like this one:

“’Edgar Allan Poe.  My ferret.  He’s a tormented soul, obsessed with me, really.  Won’t stay home alone.  I’m his Annabel Lee’” (p. 112).

This is a book with strong literary merit that will greatly appeal to readers. I hope Macmillan considers publishing it because I’d love to have a hard copy in my hands. As a teacher, there would be many passages that I could draw upon, and more importantly, it would be well-loved by students. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the ending is stunning.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Laney has great difficulty processing her grief over the loss of her mother. Loss is an incredibly difficult, intangible reality of life. Laney’s coping mechanism is that she doesn’t allow people to get close to her. She believes this will prevent her from having to experiencing these feelings again in her lifetime. It would be valuable for teachers to help students understand and learn about different coping mechanisms that humans use when they are grieving. Alternatively, teachers might have students consider where Laney is in the steps of the grieving process. I also imagine that many students would be interested in exploring and understanding Laney’s friendships. What do each of her friends offer her? Students always find their own meaning with texts, and this is certainly one that offers many ideas for students to explore.

Discussion Questions: How do Laney’s friendships differ from her relationship with Evan? Is the love that exists in a friendship different from the love that exists in an intimate relationship with a significant other?; By the end of the novel, do you feel a sense of hope for Laney? Has she completely overcome her inability to form close relationships, or do you think she still has work to do?; How does Laney’s father provide support for her? Do they cope with her mother’s death in the same way?

We Flagged: 

“Why is it that people get so excited by an opportunity to escape from reality, to cross that line from reality to fantasy?  Why do they crave a temporary fix?  They can hop on a cruise ship, pitch a tent, take that flight to somewhere, anywhere, in the quest to abandon reality for a short time, but to what end?  Eventually, they all have to come home to their mundane existence and, in the return, find themselves feeling as though they’re missing more than before they left in the first place.  And that doesn’t even take into consideration the lasting scars brought on by lost luggage, sunburn, and having to navigate airport security” (p. 10).

“‘Prove to me that your mom was right about love, that it’s possible, that it has the potential to make us better, stronger.  When you find the right guy, make him believe, too'” (p. 43).

Please note: The above quotes are from the manuscript posted on www.swoonreads.com. The quotes and page numbers may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler,  Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen,The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan MatsonThe Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Recommended For:

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Faithful Elephants by Yukio Tsuchiya


NF PB 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!


Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People, and War
Author: Yukio Tsuchiya
Translator: Tomoko Tsuchiya Dykes
Illustrator: Ted Lewin
Published October 30th, 1997 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: A zookeeper recounts the story of John, Tonky, and Wanly, three performing elephants at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, whose turn it is to die, and of their keepers, who weep and pray that World War II will end so their beloved elephants might be saved.

My Review: I picked up this book as soon as I read that  Jillian Heise thought that it’d be a good companion to Endangered. I read aloud Endangered with my 8th graders last year, and I trusted that Jillian knew what she was talking about. The subtitle warned me that this picture book would definitely not be a cheery one, but I could not have prepared myself for how emotional the book actually was. The lyrical writing and soft, watercolor illustrations add to the intensity of the story. Be warned: tears will happen.

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: This book not only would be a perfect companion to Endangered, it is definitely a wonderful picture book to lead to deep discussions in the classroom. Children are always very emotional about books pertaining to animals, so I know they will have an intense opinion about what happens in this book. As the zookeepers kill the animals to protect the city in case of a bombing, students will definitely disagree with this decision and this will lead to a great debate. The story also lends itself towards discussions about animal emotions and abuse as well as cause and effect discussions.

Discussion Questions: In what ways is the story of the elephants in Faithful Elephants similar to the story of the bonobos in Eliot Schrefer’s Endangered?; Was there an alternate solution that the zookeepers could have considered for the elephants?

We Flagged: “Not far from the cheerful square, there stands a tombstone. Not many notice this monument for the animals that have died at the Ueno Zoo. It is quiet and peaceful here, and the sun warms every corner.” (p. 8)

Read This If You Loved: Endangered by Eliot Schrefer, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, The Outside of a Horse by Ginny Rorby

Recommended For: 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Sequels We Can’t Wait to Get Our Hands On


top ten tuesday

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

 Today’s Topic: Top Ten Sequels We Can’t Wait to Get Our Hands On

Sometimes you are too scared to read the sequel because it might not live up to the excellence of the first installment…and sometimes, you just haven’t had the time.


1. Crossed (Matched series) by Ally Condie

I loved Matched, and I have owned Crossed and Reached since they both came out. I think I haven’t read them out of fear that they will tarnish my image of the first book! Someone, send me courage!

2. Prized (Birthmarked series) by Caragh M. O’Brien

I could read dystopians forever and never get tired of them. I loved the concept behind the Birthmarked series, and it took me a long time to get the second book. Then, I became worried that I had gone too long between books and needed to reread the first one. I need to read this sequel because the first book was excellent.

3. Ashen Winter (Ashfall series) by Mike Mullin

Why haven’t I read this one? Because both of my copies never came back to me. Luckily, I saw it in the library and am going to get to this book. I found the first book to be epic.

4. Unsouled (Unwind series) by Neal Shusterman

This one is coming out in two days! Eee! I am crossing my fingers that we get it in our ALAN Workshop box. Otherwise, I am off to the bookstore!

5. Game (Jasper Dent series) by Barry Lyga

I loved the first book in the series. It was very similar to Criminal Minds, the TV show. I have it on reserve at the library, but it seems the person who borrowed it has not returned it yet. My students loved this series.


Like Ricki, a lot of the books on my list are sequels that have been out, but I just haven’t gotten to (and I want to read CrossedReached, Ashen Winter, Unwholly, and Unsouled just like Ricki does!). Sequels are by far my biggest book gap, because there are so many books to read and I often don’t get to the sequels. Because of this, I couldn’t keep mine to a list of 5.  Here is my list of 15 sequels that I need to read! I want to read them all for the same reason: Because the beginning of the series was awesome!

1. Allegiant (Divergent #3) by Veronica Roth

2. The Son of NeptuneThe Mark of Athena, and House of Hades (Heroes of Olympus #2, #3, and #4) by Rick Riordan

3. Middle Ground (Awaken #2) by Katie Kacvinsky

4. Scarlet (Cinder #2) by Marissa Meyer

5. Darkbeast Rebellion (Darkbeast #2) by Morgan Keyes

6. The Crown of Embers and The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns #2 and #3) by Rae Carson

7. Such Wicked Intent (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #2) by Kenneth Oppel

8. Rebel Heart (Dust Lands #2by Moira Young

9. The Lives We Lost (Fallen World #2) by Megan Crewe

10. Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green (Precious Stone Trilogy #2 and #3) by Kerstin Gier

11. Outpost and Horde (Razorland #2 and #3) by Ann Aguirre

12. Fever and Sever (The Chemical Garden #2 and #3) by Lauren DeStefano

13. Pandemonium and Requiem (Delirium #2 and #3) by Lauren Oliver

14. Death Cure and Kill Order (Maze Runner #3 and #0.5) by James Dashner

15. A Million Suns and Shades of Earth (Across the Universe #2 and #3) by Beth Revis

Honorable. Trail of the Spellmans and The Last Word (The Spellmans #5 and #6) by Lisa Lutz

Which sequels are you looking forward to reading?


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 11/4/13



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 encyclopedia halloween

hetty jodie hilda Baby Library Poll

**Click on any picture to view the post**

Last Week’s Journeys

Kellee: almost read all that I planned on reading. I did finish Adele Griffin’s Loud Awake and Lost and I read most of girlchild by Tupelo Hassman and The Season of the Witch by Mariah Fredericks. I hardly ever read more than one book at a time and I actually think trying to do so made me read them both slower than I would have if I’d just focused on one. I actually hope I will finish them very soon!

Ricki: I had a great reading week and read five books! I read two YA books: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch (this one was EXCELLENT, and I highly recommend it) and The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork (this was a reread for a class I am observing, and I loved it just as much this time around).

I also read three children’s picture books: Crow Call by Lois Lowry (beautifully written), Ballet for Martha by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan (a great nonfiction book), and Halloween Hustle by Charlotte Gunnufson (a fun, literary Halloween book). 

This Week’s Expeditions

Kellee: After I finish the two books I’ve started, I have 3 piles of picture books: one of 3 fiction picture books that Candlewick was kind enough to send me, one of National Geographic books that I received and am so excited to leave, and finally a pile of 7 Seymour Simon nonfiction books. PHEW! It’ll be an awesome picture book reading week. 

Ricki: I just started Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I am pretty excited about it, and so far, it is great. I am not sure where I will head after that, but it is a hefty one, so that may be it for this week. The baby is coming in five weeks, and I need to get some of my long-term projects for graduate school completed, so I am ready to devote 100% of my time to him.

Upcoming Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday faithful page-0jpg-1

0-590-54340-7 gorgeous Baby Library Poll

 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!

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Hilda and the Midnight Giants by Luke Pearson



Hilda and the Midnight Giant
Author: Luke Pearson
Published April 17th, 2012 by Nobrow Press

Goodreads Summary: In Hilda and the Midnight Giant, our protagonist finds her world turned upside down as she faces the prospect of leaving her snow-capped birthplace for the hum of the megalopolis, where her mother (an architect) has been offered a prestigious job. During Hilda’s daily one-and-a-half hour trek to school she looks for ways to stall her mother’s decision. She conspires with the beings of the mystical Blue Forest to delay the inevitable. Will they help or hinder her? More importantly, who is this mysterious Midnight Giant?

This is the first part of the Hildafolk series, a series that follows Hilda on her many adventures and travels through the magical fjords and enchanted mountains of her birthplace as she unravels the mysteries of the supernatural world that surrounds her.

My Review: When Hilda and the Midnight Giant was in Mr. Schu and Scope’s Top 20 of 2012 and I hadn’t heard of it, I knew I had to get my hands on it. Graphic novels are the most loved format in my classroom and I try to keep as up to date about them as I can. I went straight to my bookstore, ordered it, and waited patiently. When it arrived, I delved right in. On my first read, I just found the story odd and didn’t find myself connecting to the story at all. I knew then and there that I needed to reread at a later date to see if my perspective changed. Like Penny Kittle says in Book Love, “Rereading is an opportunity to see more. On the first time through a novel I am trying to figure out who is who and what is happening. I’m too engaged in understanding to analyze the book well. ON a second time through, I see the whole and then the parts differently.” And this was no exception with my reread of Hilda.

Hilda reminds me a bit of Coraline- she is independent, a bit quirky and loves rainwear. And just like Coraline, she has a fantastical world surrounding her and she doesn’t even know it.  It took this second time for me to realize the magic within this story: the connection between Hilda’s and the Giant’s story, the love of the Giants, the magical world of Elves, and the fascinating Woffs.

I read one review that said Hilda’s fantastical world reminded them of Miyazaki’s work and though I didn’t see it the first time (I think I was just caught up in the oddness), I definitely saw it the second time. The Woffs reminded me most of him- silent creatures that play a small yet important role in the story.

In the end, I am so glad that I reread Hilda so I could get the full magical experience and I definitely recommend it.

Teachers Tools for Navigation: There are many special things about this book and although I think it will find its best home in classroom libraries, it can definitely be used for a mentor text as well. It is a great text to share about world building and also to learn about graphic novels and paneling. It can also be used to practice predicting as Hilda is filled with unexpectedness throughout.

Discussion Questions: Is there something that you viewed differently after reading/seeing it for the second time like I did with Hilda? If not, try rereading a story that you didn’t like; see if your perspective changes.

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Coraline by Neil Gaiman, Explorer edited by Kazu Kibuishi, The Arrival by Shaun Tan, Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

Recommended For: 

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