Guest Review: Magyk by Angie Sage


Guest Reviewer: Grace, UCF Elementary Education Student

Magyk (Septimus Heap Book One)
Author: Angie Sage
Published March 2nd, 2005 by Bloomsbury Publishing

Summary: The first part of this enthralling new series leads readers on a fantastic journey filled with quirky characters, clever charms, potions and spells, and a yearning to uncover the mystery at the heart of this story…who is Septimus Heap?

The 7th son of the 7th son, aptly named Septimus Heap, is stolen the night he is born by a midwife who pronounces him dead. That same night, the baby’s father, Silas Heap, comes across a bundle in the snow containing a newborn girl with violet eyes. The Heaps take this helpless newborn into their home, name her Jenna, and raise her as their own. But who is this mysterious baby girl, and what really happened to their beloved son, Septimus?

Angie Sage writes in the tradition of great British storytellers. Her inventive fantasy is filled with humor and heart: Magyk will have readers laughing and begging for more.

About the Author: Angie Sage began her career illustrating books, and then started writing – first toddler books, later chapter books and then the masterful Septimus Heap. She lives in a fifteenth-century house in Somerset. She has two grown-up daughters.

Review: Magyk is an interesting fantasy adventure that provides children an alternative to the increasingly controversial Harry Potter series. It has themes of wizardry/magic and adventure and focuses on a small group of young characters that age throughout the series.

Magyk and the rest of the Septimus Heap series promotes gender equality as it has several strong female characters and shows women in positions of power without questioning from other characters. In addition, this book and its series promote friendships between characters not only of different genders but of different backgrounds and races.

This book also has strong themes of found-family as well as other complicated family relationships that can be comforting to children without a more traditional nuclear family structure. One of the main characters, Jenna, has been adopted and struggles with her relationships with her non-adopted siblings. This is explored further in later books in the series when she meets her biological father and learns the identity of her birth mother.

The series associated with Magyk grows with its reader as Septimus, the main character, ages throughout the series. The books introduce increasingly mature themes over time, introducing readers to new ideas as they are ready for them.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book touches upon the idea of found family. This theme could be implemented in the classroom to help students better understand the importance of relationships between themselves and those around them. Highlighting the importance of the people we surround ourselves with and the aid they can provide is an important lesson to learn as it gives us strength to go about our day.

This book also teaches students to trust themselves and bare more responsibility as time goes by. Throughout the book, the characters discover that true power comes from themselves. It is only by trusting themselves and working hard that can they achieve their goals. This teaches students the importance of a good work ethic and how you have to work in order to achieve your goals. By adding additional responsibilities to characters throughout the book you can see how their wants and needs change over time however, this does not take away from the goals and aspirations they want to achieve.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Although Jenna is not related to the Heaps by blood she is raised as their daughter. How does Jenna’s relationship with her parents differ from that of her “siblings”?
  • Boy 412 and Jenna both have complicated pasts. How does their relationship change throughout the book as they learn more about themselves and each other?
  • How does Boy 412 relationships with others vary compared to how other children in the book make relationships?
  • How do the circumstances in which Jenna and Boy 412 discover their identities vary? How does this affect how they react to the news?
  • Boy 412 was raised in a militaristic environment, how does this shape the person he has become? If he was raised in a different environment do you think his personality would be different?
  • How do Marcia, Sarah, Zelda, and Silas treat the children differently? Why do you believe they have such different approaches?

Flagged Passages: 

“Oh it’s a pebble… But it’s a really nice pebble Dad thanks.”

Read This If You Love: Books about witches/wizards, Books that age with you

Recommended For: 


Thank you, Grace, for your review!!


Robin Robin by Dan Ojari & Mikey Please, Illustrated by Briony May Smith


Robin Robin
Authors; Dan Ojari & Mikey Please
Illustrator: Briony May Smith
Published November 2nd, 2021 by Red Comet Press

Summary: The irresistible story of a robin and her adopted mouse family is the perfect treat from the creators of the holiday-themed film Robin Robin, created by Aardman for Netflix. This picture book version of the story, beautifully illustrated by Briony May Smith, is perfect for sharing with young children.

The mouse family all love Robin, and she is so keen to fit in she pulls her feathers into ears…but nothing can make a noisy, rather clumsy bird, good at sneaking crumbs for the family without disturbing the dreaded cat! After several attempts and with the help of a friendly magpie, she finally realizes that her special bird talents of singing and flying can be put to good use: Robin can be true to herself and a much loved member of the family.

Robin Robin is a heartwarming and humorous story with themes of diversity, community, inclusion and acceptance – it will win the hearts of families everywhere.

Streaming worldwide from Christmas 2021, Robin Robin is the new collaboration between Aardman, the animation studio behind Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, and Netflix. Golden Globe® winner Gillian Anderson and Oscar® nominee Richard E. Grant lead the cast which also includes Bronte Carmichael and Adeel Akhtar.

About the Creators: 

Dan Ojari and Mikey Please are co-founders of the BAFTA® Award-winning Parabella animation studio which is based in East London. They co-directed Robin Robin, the first production in association with Aardman and produced exclusively for Netflix. Together they authored an adaptation of the script of the Robin Robin holiday special to create the book. They both live in London. Learn more about Mikey Please at and Dan Ojari at

Briony May Smith is a British illustrator who has published titles in the US and the UK, including Stardust, written by Jeanne Willis (Nosy Crow, 2019). She also wrote and illustrated Imelda and the Goblin King (Flying Eye Books, 2015) and Margaret’s Unicorn (Schwartz and Wade, 2020), a Fall 2020 Indie Kids’ Next List selection. She lives in Devon, England. Learn more at

Red Comet Press
Facebook: Red Comet Press
Twitter: @redcometpress
Instagram: @redcometpressbooks

Watch the Netflix special on November 24!

Review: There is no way you can read this book without loving Robin Robin. Robin means well, tries their best, and never gives up, and just look at that silly walk in the flagged passages (they’re trying to walk like a mouse)–how can you not love Robin?! And the love for characters won’t stop there when it comes to the wonderful cast of characters that Kirkus says “any character in this picture book could be a main character in a different book.” I cannot wait to see the Netflix special because I know that I am going to fall in love with it, too!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is so fun to read aloud, and with the themes it has and a Netflix special, there is so much that can be done in the classroom: theme, how an individual’s presence affects the plot, analyze the structure, and compare/contrast/evaluate content in diverse medias and formats. There’s just so much that can be done.

Flagged Passages: 

Official Trailer for the Musical:

Read This If You Love: Picture books staring animals, with repetitive text, or with a moral

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

Author Interview and Review!: I’ll Hold You Forever: An Adoption Story by Dawn Marie Hooks


i'll hold you forever

I’ll Hold You Forever: An Adoption Story
Author and Illustrator: Dawn Marie Hooks
Published January 2nd, 2015 by Paper Moon Publications

Goodreads Summary: A young girl walks through the countryside when she begins to wonder: Is Mommy really her real mom? Mommy turns the question into a story of the child’s adoption. Soon the child is reassured that her mom is real and will hold her forever. A touching story about the beauty of adoption and the warmth of a mother’s love is told through charming watercolor illustrations and clear, simple text that even the youngest child can understand. Notes from the author include suggestions on how to talk to children about adoption.

Kellee’s Review: I think this book has two very important purposes. First, I think it would be a wonderful book to read with a child who was adopted. It does a very good job of honoring all parts of adoption. The “Notes from the Author” section gives some great suggestions for talking to children about adoption which is a wonderful jumping off point after reading the book. Second, I think this book could be used to discuss adoption with students who are not adopted. It is so important to talk to kids about all kinds of different types of families. This book beautifully captures the power of love between a mother and her child and would be a great text for classrooms.

Author Interview: We are so happy to have Dawn Marie Hooks here to answer some of our questions about I’ll Hold You Forever:

Unleashing Readers: What was your main purpose in writing I’ll Hold You Forever?

Dawn Marie Hooks: My main purpose in writing I’ll Hold You Forever is to communicate the love surrounding adoption.  I hope adoptive families will use this book to talk to their children about their adoption stories and all readers will be touched and inspired by the beauty of adoption.

UR: What inspired you to write I’ll Hold You Forever?

DMH: This story comes from my heart, the heart of a mom.  It was inspired by the adoptions of my two beautiful daughters.  Actually, I drew and painted some of the illustrations using our personal photographs.  We adopted our girls through a private adoption agency in Redmond, WA called Antioch Adoptions.  Both children were adopted at different times and through different circumstances.  Every step was full of ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  We were extremely blessed to finally become parents to two precious girls who “fit perfectly in our family.”

UR: What other picture books do you recommend that discuss adoption?

DMH: My favorite picture books about adoption are God Found Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren and How I Was Adopted by Joanna Cole.  For the very young, there is a cute board book called Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis.   There are many more but these are the ones that I’ve read over and over.

I also recommend that families who adopt create their own photo books to tell the children their unique story.

UR: What do you hope readers of I’ll Hold You Forever will take away?

DMH: I love when moms they get tears in their eyes and that “ahhhh” feeling. I love when children ask lots of questions.

I hope the readers will feel the love surrounding adoption and I hope they learn a little more about the adoption process.  At the end of the book, I included a few notes for adults about how to talk to children about adoption.  Of course, since it’s a picture book, it’s brief.  So, on my website (, I posted an information sheet about adoption as well as a discussion & activity guide on the topic of FAMILY for I’ll Hold You Forever.  (I’m a former teacher, so I love writing those helpful little tools to go along with children’s books.)

Discussion Questions: The above-mentioned discussion and activity guide as well as more information about adoption can be found at

We Flagged: 

i'll hold you forever2

Mommy, are you really my real mom? 

I’m your mom, and I am real.”

Read This If You Loved: And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, When Otis Courted Mama by Kathi Appelt, The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale by Grace Lin, A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Melanie at Paper Moon Publications for providing copies for review!**

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick



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!
**This book is technically historical fiction, but I felt it was pretty darn close to nonfiction**

never fall down

Never Fall Down
Author: Patricia McCormick
Published May 8th, 2012 by Balzer + Bray

Goodreads Summary: This National Book Award nominee from two-time finalist Patricia McCormick is the unforgettable story of Arn Chorn-Pond, who defied the odds to survive the Cambodian genocide of 1975-1979 and the labor camps of the Khmer Rouge.

Based on the true story of Cambodian advocate Arn Chorn-Pond, and authentically told from his point of view as a young boy, this is an achingly raw and powerful historical novel about a child of war who becomes a man of peace. It includes an author’s note and acknowledgments from Arn Chorn-Pond himself.

When soldiers arrive in his hometown, Arn is just a normal little boy. But after the soldiers march the entire population into the countryside, his life is changed forever.

Arn is separated from his family and assigned to a labor camp: working in the rice paddies under a blazing sun, he sees the other children dying before his eyes. One day, the soldiers ask if any of the kids can play an instrument. Arn’s never played a note in his life, but he volunteers.

This decision will save his life, but it will pull him into the very center of what we know today as the Killing Fields. And just as the country is about to be liberated, Arn is handed a gun and forced to become a soldier.

My Review: When I started Never Fall Down, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I began it because Ricki recommended it to me, but I didn’t read the back or have any prior knowledge about the book. So, when I began, I had no idea how tough this book was going to be.

I also have to preface with my ignorance of the Cambodian Genocide. I blame my lack of world history education because this is a time of history that should be taught. It, along with the Holocaust and Armenian Genocide, was based in racism and the attempt to purify a country. Reading Arn’s story throws you right in the middle of the genocide, and Patricia McCormick doesn’t hold anything back. Every time you think nothing can get worse for Arn and the Cambodians, something does, but you also have such hope for Arn’s survival as you seen him overcome every obstacle he faces. Even though death actually stares him in the face throughout the book, this young boy somehow continues. He continues through starvation, excessive work, lack of sleep, and murder surrounding him.  Arn stated in interviews with McCormick that music saved his life, but I think it was more about his willingness to do whatever was needed to survive and especially anything to help those he cared for to survive.

Patricia McCormick tells our story in a broken English dialect that was influenced by “Arn’s own beautiful, improvised English” that McCormick heard in her head after interviewing him and traveling with him to Cambodia over a couple of years.  The extent that Ms. McCormick went to ensure that Arn’s story was a true representation of his trials and heroism is honorable.

Teachers’ Tools For Navigation: This would be a perfect cross-curricular text! It could be read in a world history class in full or in parts. Although it is McCormick’s writing, it is definitely Arn’s story, and Arn’s story is one that needs to be shared. This book could also be used in lit circles where each group has a different book about a piece of history or an individual who/that is not usually learned about (maybe with Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Sold, Caminar by Skila Brown, The Glass Collector by Anna Perera, Son of a Gun by Anne de Graaf, Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai, Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera, A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, The Queen of Water by Laura Resau, or Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams).

One of my amazing 8th grade students read this book recently, and she was as enthralled with it as I was. Immediately after finishing, she got online and started learning more about Arn and Cambodia. She came across an amazing video with both Patricia McCormick and Arn in it. It is 27 minutes long, but it is so worth watching:

Discussion Questions: What do you think ultimately helped Arn survive?; How did Sombo save Arn’s life at the orphan camp? When the war with the Vietnamese started? At the killing fields?; Do you think music is what saved Arn?; How were the Khmer Rouge able to make their prisoners do whatever they wanted them to?; Why did the Khmer Rouge kill all the educated Cambodians?; Why was Sombo so unsure about the Coca Cola?

We Flagged: “All the time now we hear girl screaming, girl running, girl crying. At night but also sometime in the daytime. All the tie, the Khmer Rouge they chase the girl, cut the hair. Sometime with scissor, sometime with knife. Chop short, to the chin, like boy. The girl, they cry and sometime they run. They run, it’s no good. The Khmer Rouge may shoot them, maybe take them to the bushes, do whatever they want. A lot of the girl afterward, they pull on their hair, pull like maybe they can stretch it, make it long, make it beautiful again.

My number two big sister, Maly, her hair like silk. Most proud thing about her, her hair. Shiny black, like blue, like a crow has. Every night she brush her hair, every morning. Sometime even she brush her hair not thinking, just dreaming maybe about the boy she love. One morning I wake up before everyone and see her making rice. Her neck, it’s bare now, her skin there is pale, never saw the sun, her long hair gone. Last night while I was asleep, the soldier, they cut her beauty. So now when she give me a bowl of rice soup, her eyes stay on the ground.” (p. 29-30)

Read This If You Loved: Titles listed above in Teachers’ Tools for Navigation

Recommended For: 

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Blog Tour, Review, Giveaway, and Author Interview!: Rory’s Promise by Michaela MacColl and Rosemary Nichols



Rory’s Promise
Authors: Michaela MacColl and Rosemary Nichols
Published: September 1st, 2014 by Calkin Creek Books

Goodreads Summary: Twelve-year-old orphan Rory Fitzpatrick lives with her younger sister Violet at New York City’s Foundling Hospital in the early 1900s. But when Rory discovers that Violet will be sent to the Arizona Territory to be adopted, her world is shattered. Although too old to be adopted herself, Rory–brave and smart–is determined to stay with her sister, even if it means hiding out on a train traveling west. When Rory and Violet arrive in Arizona, everything that could go wrong does go wrong. Will Rory give up? This uplifting novel about the power of faith and the true meaning of family launches the Hidden Histories series, spotlighting little-known tales from America’s past, and the children behind those stories. Includes authors’ note and further resources.

Kellee’s Review: I love historical fiction because it introduces me to history in a way that will suck me into it and help me retain the information. Many historical fiction books also choose lesser known aspects of history to share. Rory’s Promise does all of the above. When I was done with the book, I immediately went and book talked it to my reading class though I found myself talking to them even more in depth about the history it shares (which then make them want to read the book even more). Rory’s Promise touches on orphans, mining, race relations, religion, kidnapping, building of the west, and The Foundling Hospital of NYC and does so in such a fascinating yet educational way. I learned so much from the book, and I immediately went and did more nonfiction reading when finished. AND it was a book I couldn’t put down!

Ricki’s Review: Like Kellee, learning about a lesser known subject in history was incredibly intriguing. This book reminded me of many of the historical fiction titles I read as a young girl—which were foundational for my growth as a reader. Beyond the fascinating subject matter, this text shows the powerful bond sisters share. Rory is utterly devoted to her sister, and will stop at nothing to protect her. When I read this book, I couldn’t help but think of the connection I have with my own sister, and I was compelled to call her and tell her how much I care for her. I imagine that this text will strengthen sibling bonds, and the love and loyalty these two sisters share is a great model for readers.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Rory’s Promise could definitely be used for cross-curricular reading to help address content being taught in American History. It would be so interesting to research the different historical elements touched on in the book and connect it to Rory’s story.

Discussion Questions: Would you have done what Rory did? Why or why not?; Do you think the Foundling should have gotten the orphans back?; Would you have made the same choice Rory did at the end of the book?; Do you think Sister Anna was looking out for Rory or do you disagree with her decision to separate the sisters?

Book Trailer: 

Authors’ Bios: Michaela MacColl attended Vassar College and Yale University earning degrees in multi-disciplinary history. Unfortunately, it took her 20 years before she realized she was learning how to write historical fiction. Her favorite stories are the ones she finds about the childhood experiences of famous people. She has written about a teenaged Queen Victoria (Prisoners in the Palace, Chronicle 2010) and Beryl Markham’s childhood (Promise the Night, Chronicle 2011). She is writing a literary mystery series for teens featuring so far a young Emily Dickinson in Nobody’s Secret (2013) and the Bronte sisters in Always Emily (2014).  She has recently begun a new series with Boyd’s Mill/Highlights called Hidden Histories about odd events in America’s past. The first entry in the series is Rory’s Promise and will be published in September 2014. She frequently visits high schools and has taught at the Graduate Institute in Bethel, CT.   She lives in Westport CT with her husband, two teenaged daughters and three extremely large cats.

michaela maccoll

Rosemary Nichols has loved history all her life, especially the history of ordinary people. She has two history degrees from the University of Washington and a law degree from the University of Chicago. This is her first book for children. She lives in upstate New York.

Author Q&A: We are very lucky to have been able to ask Michaela MacColl some questions about Rory’s Promise. We were super excited as we were so intrigued by the story and history.

Unleashing Readers: How did you first come across all the different histories you touched on in Rory’s Promise?

Michaela MacColl: My writing partner is one of those folks who reads all the scholarly topic non-fiction. You know when a smart professor spends years finding out about something and then writes a compelling book (with a zillion footnotes!).  In this case, Rosemary suggested we take a look at “The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction” by Linda Gordon. Gordon wrote her book to talk about class and race in turn of the 19th c. America – using the orphan abduction as her example.  So we considered her philosophical views – but what was incredibly useful for us was her detailed well-researched timeline of events.

UR: Rory is not based on a real person, so who/what inspired you when creating her?

MM: We needed a heroine kids could identify with. The target age was middle grade but most of the Foundling kids were under the age of 5. Not to say anything negative about 5 year olds – but how interesting can they be? So we thought about a girl who might have a strong interest in one of the kids. Aha, a sibling! But then she needed a plausible reason to still be at the orphanage. The answer to that was the basis of Rory’s character. She’s devoted to her sister and will do literally anything to stay close to her.  This means making herself indispensable around the Foundling Hospital. She thinks she’s fooling the nuns – but they see right through her and love her for it.

The other half of Rory came from the history of the orphaned kids who were left behind in Clifton AZ.  No one know what happened to them all, but there was a rumor that a Mexican family returned to town years later, with a red-haired daughter.  There was also a discrepancy on the lists of children. One girl named Violet appears on the initial lists but not the later ones. Who was she? That’s where we started.

UR: Can you tell us about your writing process? How is it different when writing with two writers vs. by yourself.

MM: Rosemary is a whiz with American history. She’s read so widely that she was our fact checker and generally kept my imagination in realistic/historical check. She wrote a lot of the setting and descriptions. I have more experience writing for kids – so I did most of the plot and dialogue. But we both worked on the revisions.

UR: What was your favorite interesting piece of information you found when researching for Rory’s Promise?

MM: Oddly, it wasn’t the abduction in Arizona. I found myself fascinated by the very clever sisters at the Foundling Hospital. With few resources they built an organization that helped thousands of women and babies – not to mention creating what we know as the foster care system in America.

URRory’s Promise is the first book in the Hidden Histories series. Can you tell us what is coming next?

MM: I can! We’re finishing it right now.  Tentatively titled Freedom’s Price, it’s about Dred Scott’s daughter in 1849 St. Louis Mo. There’s slavecatchers, cholera and fire. I think it will really appeal to middle grade readers!

Thank you so much Michaela! Cannot wait for the next book in the series!

Read This If You Loved: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, American Girls series, Dear America series, Orphan Train series by Joan Lowery Nixon, Nonfiction books about orphan trains or building of the West

Recommended For: 


Make sure to stop by the other stops on the blog tour to learn more about Rory’s Promise

Friday, 9/19          Kirby Larson blog (GUEST BLOG POST/GIVEAWAY)

Mon 9/22             Middle Grade Mafioso (BOOK REVIEW/GIVEAWAY)

Tue 9/23               Mother/Daughter Book Club (BOOK REVIEW/GIVEAWAY) |

Wed 9/24             Middle Grade Minded (GUEST BLOG POST/GIVEAWAY)

Thu 9/25              KidLit Frenzy (BOOK REVIEW/GIVEAWAY)


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**Thank you to Kerry at Boyds Mills Press and Highlights for Children for providing copies for review**

The Wolf Girls: An Unsolved Mystery from History by Jane Yolen and Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple


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!


The Wolf Girls: An Unsolved Mystery from History
Authors: Jane Yolen and Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple
Illustrator: Roger Roth
Published August 1st, 2000 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: In 1920 a missionary brought two young girls to an orphanage in India. The girls didn’t know how to talk, walk, or eat from a plate. Some people thought the girls had been abandoned by their parents. Some people said the girls were brought up by wolves in the wild. Still others thought that the missionary who ran the orphanage made up the story about the girls. No one knows for sure.

Become a detective as you read this true story, study the clues, and try to figure out the fate of the wolf girls of Midnapore. The Unsolved Mystery from History series is written by acclaimed author Jane Yolen and former private investigator Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple. Read carefully and check your clues. You might be the first to solve a puzzle that has baffled people for years.

My Review: This story was fascinating as I had never heard of the wolf girls and came in with no prior knowledge about the mystery. It was so much fun to be full on submerged in the mystery and following the clues that are given throughout the “case notebook”.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This book is set up just like the Salem Witch Trials: An Unsolved Mystery from History and could be used the same way in the classroom: This book promotes studying history, inquiry, and vocabulary. The book begins with an introduction to a young girl who enjoys unsolved mysteries from history and then the book is set up like her case notebook. Each page of the case notebook includes a narrative nonfiction section, an informational nonfiction section where facts about the story are explained even more in detail, and then there are vocabulary words from the two sections defined for the reader. Finally, in the back of the book the different theories about what could be the answer to the unsolved mystery are shared and briefly discussed. The set up of this book leads to infinite possibilities of being used in the classroom. Students could debate, write research papers, could do their very own case notebook about a different mystery, etc. Another option is to get all of the Unsolved Mystery from History books and have students get into lit circle groups and have each group read a different mystery then research and share.

What I like particularly about this one is that there is so much to debate as there aren’t many clues given throughout the story. Many of the eye witnesses are unreliable and there aren’t many facts shared throughout the book. I think this book would lead to a great discussion about primary and secondary sources as well as reliability.

Discussion Questions: Which theory do you believe about the wolf girls?; Do you think a journal written a year after an incident is reliable?; Many of the scientific facts and theories shared are from the 18th and 19th century, are these facts still what science believes?; Why do you think the missionary’s wife never spoke of the wolf girls?; Why do you think that Singh’s accounts were different than his daughter’s?; Singh said he did not want to exploit the girls yet he let people come to see her – is this exploitation? Do you think what he did was wrong?

We Flagged: Narrative nonfiction “After nursing the two girls back to health, the Reverend Singh loaded them into the cart and drove them for eight days to his orphanage in Midnapore. But the wolf girls were so weak and emaciated, they could not move about, so at first no one outside of the orphanage saw them. Singh wrote in his journal, ‘They were accepted simply as neglected children.’

Informational Nonfiction Singh wrote in his journal that the girls were mud-covered, with scratches, scars, and fleas. The heels of their hands were callused from running on all fours. Their ears trembled like a dog’s when they were excited. Their brows were bushy and long. Each had arms almost reaching their knees. Their teeth were close-set, uneven, with fine, sharp edges, the canines longer and more pointed than is usual in humans. However, Singh took no scientific measurements and invited no scientists to examine the girls. He took photographs that were fuzzy and indistinct. Years later, his own daughter, when interviewed, did not remember the distinctive teeth or exceptional ears or terrifically bushy brows.

Vocabulary Emaciated: thin and feeble due to disease or poor food; Neglected: not take proper care of” (p. 20-21)

Read This If You Loved: Yolen’s other Unsolved Mystery from History books

Recommended For: 

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What mystery from history do you wish Jane Yolen had written about? 


Living with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles



Living with Jackie Chan
Author: Jo Knowles
Expected Publication: September 10th, 2013 by Candlewick Press

Summary: After fathering a baby, a teenager moves in with his karate-loving uncle and tries to come to terms with his guilt — and find a way to forgive.

This isn’t how Josh expected to spend senior year. He thought he’d be hanging out with his best friends, Dave and Caleb, driving around, partying, just like always. But here he is, miles from home — new school, new life, living with his Jackie-Chan-obsessed uncle, Larry, and trying to forget. But Josh can’t forget. So many things bring back memories of last year and the night that changed everything. Every day the pain, the shame, and the just not knowing are never far from his thoughts. Why is he such a loser? How could he have done what he did? He finds some moments of peace when he practices karate with Stella, the girl upstairs and his one real friend. As they move together through the katas, Josh feels connected in a way he has never felt before. He wonders if they could be more than friends, but Stella’s jealous boyfriend will make sure that doesn’t happen. And maybe it doesn’t matter. If Stella knew the truth, would she still think he was a True Karate Man? Readers first met Josh in Jumping Off Swings which told the story of four high school students and how one pregnancy changed all of their lives. In this companion book, they follow Josh as he tries to come to terms with what happened, and find a way to forgive.

Ricki’s Review: Jumping off Swings is a favorite in my classroom, so I was very excited to read this companion text. I always wondered what happened to Josh, and this novel shows the other side of the story. In many ways, Jo Knowles makes this story unpredictable for readers. When Josh meets Stella, the reader anticipates this novel will progress similarly to other novels with a budding romance. But instead, the two characters develop a deep, meaningful friendship that feels much more important than a love connection. Stella’s mother neglects her, and she submits to her boyfriend’s emotional abuse. In a way, she needs healing just as badly as Josh does. Larry, at first, seems to be a minor character with his goofy grin and karate moves, but as the story progresses, his depth of character is apparent. He isn’t a secondary character who plays second fiddle. Instead, he drives Josh’s healing process. There is so much to think about and discuss in regards to this text. It is beautifully written, and the characters will stick with me.

Kellee’s Review: I can’t say enough great things about this novel as it helped me out of my latest reading slump! I also think it is interesting because I read Jackie Chan before reading Jumping Off Swings, and I think that may have changed my perspective. It is interesting to think about how the different order of reading can change how you view a book. I went in with no expectations because I didn’t even know what had happened to Josh, so I think that the reveal of that secret was bigger for me than if I’d read it in the other order. Because I was naive about the past, I went in with no past feelings for Josh and really just hoping for the best for him. I found myself struggling with him and crying with him because his hurt was so deep. Though Stella and Larry enter his life, I didn’t think he’d let them in, but instead, they become a huge part in him healing. I really loved Living with Jackie Chan (as well as Jumping off Swings which I read immediately after finishing Jackie Chan). Jo Knowles always impresses me with her ability to tell tough stories in ways that makes it so that the reader can connect.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This is a great text to teach internal conflict. Josh has extremely low self-esteem and blames himself for his decisions. He goes through various stages of grief and tries a variety of coping mechanisms, many of which are unsuccessful. Teachers might have students research the stages of grief and various coping mechanisms that can be used with internal conflicts and relate them back to specific scenes from the text.

Discussion Questions: How does karate play an important role in Josh’s character development?; What stages of grief does Josh go through?; Do you think Josh is morally good? Do you think he should be judged for his mistakes?; Does Britt seem truly remorseful for the way he treats Stella? How does karate play a role in Stella’s character development?; By the end of the novel, is Josh a True Karate Man? Why or why not?

We Flagged: “A true karate man lifts those who have fallen, no matter how low. I can imagine him thinking this as he looks at me. That he’s going to e a true karate man and get me out of this mess. But he doesn’t know everything that happened. He doesn’t know what I did. He doesn’t know how low I’ve gone.”

Please note: The above quote is from the Advanced Reader E-Galley and did not provide page numbers. The quotes may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: Jumping off Swings by Jo Knowles, First Part Last by Angela Johnson, Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

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**Thank you to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for providing us with the Advanced Reader Copies!**