Blog Tour and Review!: Monster Needs to Go to School by Paul Czajak

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Monster Needs to Go to School
Author: Paul Czajak
Illustrator: Wendy Grieb
Anticipated Publication June 28, 2016 by Mighty Media Kids
(Please note the new publication date!)

Goodreads Summary: Monster is dreading his first day of school. But his classroom is full of new friends and so many fun things to learn that Monster forgets his fears in no time…until he catches his friends bullying. What will Monster do?

Another exuberant addition to the award-winning Monster & Me series, addressing back-to-school jitters and the difficulty of dealing with bullies—especially when they’re friends.

Ricki’s Review: The Monster books rank up there as one of my favorite series. I absolutely love reading these books because the monster always make me laugh. My son giggles as we look at the big monster squeezing into a tiny classroom seat. My son is starting preschool in the fall, so it was great to use this book as a teaching tool to discuss his first day of school with him. He became more excited about going to school after reading this book. I also enjoy the lessons that these books teach. Monster sees bullying and isn’t a silent bystander. He speaks out for what he believes is wrong. As a mom, I plan to talk about bullying often. I want my son to stand up for his peers when he sees bullying, and it is great to have this book as a resource to start these conversations.

Kellee’s Review: I love the Monster motto: “Teach kids what matters! After all, they are our future.” This is something I truly believe as well, and I think the Monster books do a great job teaching our children about being a good citizen and human. My first Monster book was Monster Needs Your Vote, and I was really impressed with how Czajak dealt with teaching about politics. Monster Needs to go to School is a bit different because it doesn’t as much teach about a topic but focuses on the importance of education and for kindness. This book will be great to read right before school starts, at the beginning of school, if someone is struggling with school, or when bullying is a problem. I think it would equally work for any of these situations because Monster’s story is fun and one that the reader will connect with. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This would be an excellent book to start off the school year. I’d read this book on the very first day. It would calm students’ nerves to see a giant monster who is afraid of school. Further, it would jumpstart conversations about bullying to tackle the issue before it might begin.

Discussion Questions: What is monster afraid of? What kinds of things make us afraid? Why is this okay?; What does monster do when he sees bullying? Why is it important to stand up for what is right? What is a bystander? Would you be strong and speak up against bullying?

We Flagged: “When Monster hopped onto the bus, his nerves were at their peak. He crumpled in the nearest seat, afraid to even speak.”

Read This If You Loved: Each Kindness (Kellee’s Review; Ricki’s Review) by Jacqueline Woodson, Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea, the rest of the books in the Monster & Me series

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Carolyn at Mighty Media Press for providing copies for review!**

Text Sets for Teachers: Finding the Line: What is “Good?

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Finding the Line: What is “Good?
Text Set for The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
created by Alexandria Bottelsen

What makes someone a good person? When are you beyond redemption?

For many young adults, the world seems black and white. In many forms of literature and pop culture, there is a dichotomy between good and bad, heroes and villains. That being said, things such as morality and the “right” thing to do are rarely clear-cut. Not only do these determinations depend on cultural and societal norms, they are also based on individual values. Through The Kite Runner, students will have the opportunity to explore what it truly means to be good, and when—and ultimately if—people are beyond redemption and forgiveness.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini deals with these issues of morality in a modern, engaging way and thus serves as the anchor text for this unit. That being said, the novel does take place in Afghanistan, where the culture and values are far different than those of high school students in the United States. While it is important for students to see that these issues are universal, I wanted to choose other texts—such as Harry Potter and Scandal—that they could easily relate to and grabble with. Similarly, many of the Internet texts are very modern. I want our discussion in class to transfer to other classes as well as their daily life, so including local police blotters, news articles about Snowden, and discussing the morality of current wars will expose them to wide range of contexts in which this argument exists.

Anchor Text (although other texts may be used!):
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
kite runner

Book Excerpts
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
in cold blood

Videos
Episode of Scandal (e.g. Season 4, Episode 19) and Abby and Harrison Talk About Morality
Clips from Harry Potter: Snape vs. Dumbledore
Les Miserables (2012): Clip where the bishop forgives Valjan
Criminal Minds Episodes (various)

Websites
The Scales of Good and Evil
Thought Experiment I
Thought Experiment II or Thought Experiment III
Who would you forgive?: List of Historically Famous “Bad Guys” (Instead of giving students the website rankings, ask the famous “bad guys” and debate/discuss this process. Can we rank evilness?)

Charts
Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development

Short Stories
“Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
“Lather and Nothing Else” by Hernando Tellez
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

Articles
“Does Reading Good Literature Make You Moral?”: Boston Review
“Is War Ever Morally Justified?”: The Week
Newspaper Scavenger Hunt for Good and Evil: Police Blotter
Bill Cosby vs. Michael Jackson: How Are They Remembered?
Edward Snowden

Essay
“The Prince” Machiavelli

Guiding Questions

  • How does the culture we live in help/hurt our definition of morality? How does the line between good and evil differ between cultures?
  • Does someone’s position in society (e.g. a role model, celebrity, or public servant) change where the line of morality is for them?
  • Is anyone entirely “good” or “bad,” or can people move freely between categories?
  • How does someone’s fall from morality affect our memory of them as a person?
  • Is there a point at which we can no longer forgive someone? Who defines that point?
  • Are good and bad situational, or are they concrete across all contexts?
  • Do the “ends justify the means”? In other words, is it ok to act “badly” if the result is “good”?

Writing Prompts

  • Think of a time when someone betrayed you. What did they do and why was that so bad for you? Would someone have taken equal offense to it? Were you able to forgive them? Why or why not?
  • What is one thing you think is beyond forgiveness? Why did you choose this? Can you think of any situations where you may forgive a person for that action?
  • List your top three values as an individual. Where do these values come from? How do they affect your view of “good” and “bad”?
  • Trace Amir’s morality throughout the novel, then decide, is Amir ultimately a moral person? Do you forgive him? Write a short paragraph for each side of the argument, then highlight which one you personally agree with the most.

A special thanks to Alex for this critical, thoughtful text set! We hope this will prove useful for many anchor texts! What do you think?

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Text Sets for Teachers: Prejudice: Is It Something We Can Control?

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Prejudice: Is It Something We Can Control?
Text Set for Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
created by Brenna Conrad

I will be working with an 11A class studying British Literature. In class, we will be reading Frankenstein and Pride and Prejudice. At first, I had a lot of difficulty finding a theme that would be applicable not only to both texts but also to two sets of students who get to choose which book they want to read. I chose to focus my unit on the concept of prejudice and if it is something that we can control. In Frankenstein, prejudice is visible when everyone rejects the monster based on its appearance. In Pride and Prejudice, it is inherent in how the classes are divided and how characters treat one another. I chose this overarching theme because I think that this idea of prejudice is a very prominent issue in today’s society and should be considered and discussed in an educational setting. I want students to be able to not only get a more complex and complete understanding of what prejudice is and how it is prevalent in society but also to understand that there are many subtle ways it is incorporated into the media and texts. This is important for students to be aware of, especially as technology and media is becoming increasingly more influential as time progresses.

With this goal in mind, I constructed my text set with illustrating prejudices not only in as many forms of media as possible but in as many different time periods as possible. I want students to place these books among many other works that display the dangers and horrors of prejudice. Though I tried to incorporate multiple sources from different time periods to plot prejudice through time, I narrowed my focus to current media that my students have witnessed in their lifetime, allowing them to personally connect with these sources. Prejudice is one of the most prevalent issues in today’s society, and I think creating an awareness about how prejudice is incorporated into our society in multiple forms of media is very important for learners.

Anchor Texts (although other texts may be used!):
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Frankenstein
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice

Children’s Books
The Sneeches by Dr. Seuss (Also available on YouTube)
sneetches

Young Adult Texts
This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel (YA pairing to Frankenstein)
this dark endeavor
Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg (YA pairing to Pride and Prejudice)
prom and prejudice

Films
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (with Kenneth Branagh and Robert Di Niro)
Pride & Prejudice (with Kiera Knightly)
Pride and Prejudice (with Colin Firth)
Cinderella

Plays
The Laramie Project by Moisés Kaufman
Othello by William Shakespeare

Images Used as Propaganda for Protest Movements
Gay Rights:
3.25.2015Prior to WWIJune 2015 Gay Rights MovementJune 2015 Anti-Gay Rights Movement

3.25.2015 Prior to WWI June 2015 Gay Rights June 2015 Anti-Gay Rights

Women’s Suffrage:
Anti-SuffragePro-Suffrage2013

 SuffragePro-Suffrage2013

Civil Rights:
1960sAnti-Civil RightsBlack Lives Matter MovementBlack Lives Matter MovementCounter to Black Lives Matter Movement

1960s Anti-Civil Rights Black Lives Matter1 black lives matter white lives matter

News Articles
Transgender Student Seeks Acceptance as She Runs for Homecoming Queen
BBC News: The Girl Who Was Shot for Going to School
Girls who Code aim to Make Waves in a Man’s World
Seeking Self-Esteem Through Surgery

Poems
“I, Too” by Langston Hughes
“Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou
“Beautiful City” by Alfred Tennyson
“Discrimination” by Kenneth Rexroth
“Breaking Prejudice” by Daniel Tabone

Songs
“Teenage Frankenstein” by Alice Cooper
“Same Love” by Macklemore
“Blackbird” by The Beatles
“Chains” by Usher

Charts
Gap in Yearly Earnings
Race of Prisoners

Essays
Gilbert and Gubar: “The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination”

TV Shows/YouTube Clips
Family Guy: African American Prejudice
Family Guy: Asian Prejudice
Family Guy: Mexican Prejudice
Family GuyItalian Prejudice
Family Guy: Muslim Prejudice
Family GuyChristian Prejudice
Social Mobility with Legos

Guiding Questions

  • What is prejudice?
  • How is prejudice seen in today’s society? Has this changed in comparison to the past?
  • How does society portray prejudice? How do we speak back to prejudice?
  • Are there prejudices that we are unaware of, but still possess? How do we know? What can we do about it?
  • Do people live in fear of prejudice? What do they do to avoid it?
  • Are prejudice and racism the same thing?
  • What different types of prejudice are there? Do some levels of prejudice feel stronger or more impactful than others? How might ranking levels of prejudice be problematic?
  • Can we eradicate prejudice or is it a reality of human nature?

Writing Prompts

  • How many different forms of prejudice are there? Are they all prejudice?
  • Make a list of things you’ve seen in the media that promote a prejudice society. Consider media such as television commercials, shows, movies, songs, magazines, or even comics. Pick 5 media that you believe are the most detrimental and briefly explain why.
  • After reading Frankenstein or Pride and Prejudice, has your concept of prejudice changed?
  • Choose a group that has been historically marginalized—either one that we talked about in class or a different group—and examine how the prejudice against this group has shifted across years.
  • Do you believe that it is human nature to be prejudice or that it is something society has taught. Write an argument for the side that you believe in. Be sure to include example from class and at least two credible outside sources.
  • In a journal entry, discuss prejudice in our society. Consider: Do people use prejudice in a way to benefit themselves? How do we as a society associate prejudice and humor? Is that ok? Are we making progress away from prejudice? Why or why not?

A special thanks to Brenna for this phenomenal text set! We think this text set would be useful for many anchor texts! What do you think?

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Text Sets for Teachers: Growing Pains: Looking at the Subject of Coming of Age

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Growing Pains: Looking at the Subject of Coming of Age
Text Set for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
created by Andrew Johnson

We must all grow up order to fully enter the world as an adult. In some cultures, growing up is a rite of passage. In others, it is a series of events—a gradual process. Everyone grows up in different ways and is influenced by the different circumstances and environments. There is no one singular point in people’s lives when they can decidedly say that they came of age. It simply just happens. It comes to pass through the experiences that change who they are and what they value as individuals. Growing up not only changes how we think about others, but it also changes how we think about our own identities and places in society.

With that said, this text set is immensely important for exposing students to how others manage to grow up and progress through their lives. Students in middle and high school want nothing more than to be older. They want to be grown, even though a part of them also wants to secretly stay young forever. They may have been told at some point in their lives by a parent, teacher, or other adult to “grow up,” but do they really know what this means? How do they know? This text set will take a multicultural, multi-faceted view on the process of growing up in a world that can be strange, harsh, and also very, very enjoyable.

Anchor Text (although other texts may be used!):
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
curious incident of the dog in the night-time

Graphic Novel
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
american born chinese

Other Texts
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Little prince

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (excerpts) by Stephen Chbosky
perks of being a wallflower

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
house on mango street

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (excerpts) by Mark Twain
tom sawyer

The Body by Stephen King (novella)
the body

Poems/Songs
“If” by Rudyard Kipling
“Lightspeed” by Grieves
“In My Life” by The Beatles
“Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost

Short Stories
“Lost in the Funhouse” by John Barth (excerpt)
“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut

Essay
“Manhood for Amateurs” by Michael Chabon

Movies
Wizard of Oz (part of a prior unit)
Mean Girls
Rain Man (clips/part of introduction to ASD)
Stand By Me (adaptation of Stephen King’s The Body)

TV Shows
Boy Meets World (any and all applicable clips)
Girl Meets World (any and all applicable clips)

Articles/Internet Sources
The Teenage Brain by National Geographic
Should Growing Up in Compton be Considered a Disability VICE
Kids are Growing up Way Too Fast – Manhattan Institute
The Definition of Disability by Deborah Kaplan
Talking About Disability – A Guide to Using Appropriate Language
13 Amazing Coming of Age Traditions from Around the World

Websites
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (in order to understand the anchor text better)
Autism Speaks (in order to understand the anchor text better)
Simply Psychology (Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development)

Guiding Questions

  • What does being a child mean? What does being an adult mean?
  • Why can the path between childhood and adulthood be confusing or challenging?
  • Do we ever stop “growing up”?
  • Does our environment affect how we “grow up”?
  • Is “growing up” always a good thing? What makes it desirable?
  • Who or what pressures us to “grow up”? Who or what pressures us to stay young?
  • Is maturity synonymous with age?

Writing Topics

  • Describe someone who you consider to be “grown up” or “mature”? List their attributes.
  • Which stage(s) of identity development would you consider yourself to be in?
  • Design one scenario/question to determine if someone is mature or not. What would you look for in the answer?
  • After reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Do you think that Christopher has “grown up”? What do you think he has learned?
  • Compare and contrast Christopher’s journey and possible “coming of age” with another character of your choosing (or maybe even you!).
  • What are we supposed to learn about ourselves after you’ve grown up? What do you hope to learn about yourself after you’ve grown up?

A special thanks to Andrew for this relevant, engaging text set! We think it would fit in with a variety of age levels and class texts. What do you think?

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Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles (Kellee’s Review)

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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!

Disclaimer: This book is technically historical fiction, but I felt it belonged on a Wednesday because of its base in fact (see “A Note About The Text”).

freedom summer

Freedom Summer
Author: Deborah Wiles
Illustrator: Jerome Lagarrigue
Published January 1st, 2005 by Aladdin

Goodreads Summary: 

John Henry swims better than anyone I know.
He crawls like a catfish,
blows bubbles like a swamp monster,
but he doesn’t swim in the town pool with me.
He’s not allowed.

Joe and John Henry are a lot alike. They both like shooting marbles, they both want to be firemen, and they both love to swim. But there’s one important way they’re different: Joe is white and John Henry is black, and in the South in 1964, that means John Henry isn’t allowed to do everything his best friend is. Then a law is passed that forbids segregation and opens the town pool to everyone. Joe and John Henry are so excited they race each other there…only to discover that it takes more than a new law to change people’s hearts.

My Review:  Deborah Wiles amazes me every time I read something by her. I think I need to get everything she has written and devour it. Her books make me a better person. This one is no exception to these statements. Freedom Summer starts with a personal story of Wiles’s and sets the stage for the book: What would it be like to have a best friend who is black in the South in 1964? Do you know what it is like? Any other friendship! Except many people felt that it was wrong and you cannot go places together. Freedom Summer is about Joe and John Henry. They are both young boys. They both like to swim. They both love ice cream. However, only one can go to the pool and only one can buy ice cream from the store. I think what makes this story so impactful is that Wiles sets the stage of the friendship as something so normal (because it is!!) then shows how different their lives are. So powerful. Made me cry. It’s lyrical writing, soft and beautiful illustrations, and powerful message are so moving. Go read it if you haven’t.

You can view Ricki’s review of Freedom Summer here.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book belongs in classrooms. It will start discussions and make students think. Luckily, Deborah Wiles helps us out a ton by sharing so many resources with us on her Pinterest board https://www.pinterest.com/debbiewiles/ and her website http://deborahwiles.com/site/resources-for-educators/.

Discussion Questions: Why was the pool being filled with tar?; What do you think will happen after the end of the book?; Based on Joe’s parents letting him be friends with John Henry, what can you infer their viewpoint of integration is?

We Flagged: 

freedom summer spread
from http://books.simonandschuster.ca/Freedom-Summer/Deborah-Wiles/9781481422987

Read This If You Loved: Revolution by Deborah WilesSeeds of Freedom by Hester BassSeparate is Never Equal by Duncan TonatiuhThe Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine, Sin-In by Andrea Pinkney

Recommended For: 

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Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin (Ricki’s Review)

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Rain Reign
Author: Ann M. Martin
Published October 7th, 2014 by Feiwel & Friends

Goodreads Summary: In her most powerful novel yet, Newbery Honor author Ann M. Martin tells the story of girl with mental/emotional challenges and the dog she loves.

Rose Howard has OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter.

Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Rose will find Rain, but so will Rain’s original owners.

Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story, brilliantly told from Rose’s point of view.

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Rose reminded me of a dear student I had when I was teaching. Because I had this strong connection with her character, I felt very attached to the story, in general. Rose is a passionate, caring young girl, and I think students will learn much from her.The story line is well-done, and I appreciated that it wasn’t a problem novel that only focused on her disorder. Her bond with her dog, her bravery, and her relationship with her uncle teach great lessons. This book reminded me of Wonder by R.J. Palacio because it teaches empathy quite well. It is one of those books that makes me want to be a better person. While Rose’s repetition may feel overdone, it is her reality, and Ann M. Martin hits that home. Rose pushes and pushes her father and teachers (at the same time as she pushes and pushes the reader) in ways that are a hallmark of Asperger’s. It shows the realities of individuals who live with this disorder. I think it is incredibly important for students to read books about people who are different from them, so they can see the similarities despite the differences in characters. I would love to use this book as a read-aloud.

Kellee’s Review: Check out Kellee’s Review here!

Discussion Questions: Was Rose’s dad an evil man? What can we learn from him?; Do you think Rose made the right choice about Rain?; How does Rose make friends in school? What can we learn from her?

We Flagged: “I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a true story, which makes it a piece of nonfiction.”

Read This If You Loved: Rules by Cynthia Lord, Wonder by R.J. Palacio, Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine, Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper, Each Kindness by Jaqueline Woodson; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

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Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin (Kellee’s Review)

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Rain Reign
Author: Ann M. Martin
Published October 7th, 2014 by Feiwel & Friends

Goodreads Summary: In her most powerful novel yet, Newbery Honor author Ann M. Martin tells the story of girl with mental/emotional challenges and the dog she loves.

Rose Howard has OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter.

Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Rose will find Rain, but so will Rain’s original owners.

Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story, brilliantly told from Rose’s point of view.

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: If you have read A Corner of the Universe,  you know what an emotionally-charged author Ann M. Martin can be, and she once again tells a heart-wrenching story with a voice that will not leave your head. In Rain Reign, Martin tackles Rose’s story. Rose is such a true character. A brilliant young girl with OCD and Asperger’s syndrome who is obsessed by homonyms. She is a girl that is so unique and intriguing. As a teacher, I very much connected with her and how I would nurture her gifts within my classroom; however, I also saw the challenges that Rose faces as well.

What makes this book truly stand out is the first person point of view. You, as the reader, are in Rose’s mind and living her life. You experience the neglect of her father, the love of Reign, the obsessiveness, the homonyms, the outbursts, and the support of her uncle. Because I was IN her life, I just couldn’t put down the book. I had to know that Rose and Rain were going to be okay.

As a teacher, I want kids to read this book because they will fall in love with Rose and Rain. Through this love, they will build empathy in their hearts because they will just want to know that Rose and Rain will be okay.

Ricki’s Review: Check out Ricki’s Review here!

Discussion Questions: How do you feel about Rose’s dad?; Can you think of homonyms that weren’t mentioned in the book?; Do you think it was right of Rose’s dad to take Rain?; How would you feel if your dog disappeared?

We Flagged: “I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a true story, which makes it a piece of nonfiction.

This is how you tell a story: First you introduce the main character. I’m writing this story about me, so I am the main character.

My first name has a homonym, and I gave my dog a homonym name too. Her name is Rain, which is special because it has two homonyms–rein and reign. I will write more about Rain in Chapter Two. Chapter Two will be called “My Dog, Rain (Rein, Reign).”

Something important about the word write is that is has three homonyms–right, rite, and wright. That’s the only group of four homonyms I’ve thought of. If I ever thing of another four-homonym group, it will be a red-letter day.” (Chapter One)

Read This If You Loved: Rules by Cynthia Lord, Wonder by R.J. Palacio, Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine, Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper, Each Kindness by Jaqueline Woodson

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