Pippa Park: Crush at First Sight by Erin Yun

Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall 

Signature

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

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

Share

The Pants Project
Author: Cat Clarke
Published March 1, 2017 by Sourcebooks Young Readers

Summary: A touching, humorous story of strong-willed eleven-year-old Liv, who is determined to challenge his school’s terrible dress code and change his life. Inspire empathy and compassion (and a few laughs!) in young readers with this stunning middle-grade novel.

Here’s the thing:
I may seem like a girl, but on the inside, I’m a boy.

“My name is Liv (Not Olivia)… I’m not technically a girl. I’m transgender. Which is a bit like being a Transformer. Only not quite as cool because I probably won’t get to save the world one day.”

Liv knows he was always meant to be a boy, but with his new school’s terrible dress code, he can’t even wear pants. Only skirts.

Whoever wrote the uniform policy decided (whyyy?) that girls had to wear skirts, while boys were allowed to wear pants.

Sexist. Dumb. Unfair.

“Girls must wear a black, pleated, knee-length skirt.”

I bet I read those words a hundred times during summer vacation. The problem wasn’t the last word in that sentence. Skirt wasn’t really the issue, not for me.
The issue was the first word. Girls.

Operation: Pants Project begins! The only way for Liv to get what he wants is to go after it himself. But to Liv, this isn’t just a mission to change the policy—it’s a mission to change his life. And that’s a pretty big deal.

Review: This book is a book about identity, but not completely about Liv’s gender identity. It is also about identity within a school, within a friend group, and within the greater system we are all in. With all of these identity journeys happening at once in the book, there is a lot of figurative bumps and bruises along the way in the form of losing friends, homophobic bullies, people stuck in their ways, and sexism; however, there is also some wonderful positives: a better friend who loves Live for who he is, no matter what; a family that is supportive and an example of what all families should be; teachers who are seen as allies within a system that not many are seen; and finding friends that feel like family.

On top of the identity journey, there is also the story of The Pants Project which showed Liv and other students fight a sexist part of their school’s system and doing it the right way.

All in all, it was a pleasure to read about Liv’s time starting middle school and all of the change he is able to make.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book tackles a healthy and practical way that students can make a difference. This book would be a great conversation about how to make a change that you want to see in a way that isn’t confrontational in a dangerous way.

The book will also find readers in school, classroom, and public libraries and book clubs!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How is what Liv did to change his school’s policies go well? Not well?
  • How is Jacob a better friend than Maisie?
  • How were Liv’s parents supportive yet also tough on Liv?
  • Why do you think Jade acts and says the things she does? What do you think her consequences should be?
  • Do you agree how the news article was written? How would you have written the article?
  • Why did Mr. Lynch act the way he did during the protest? How do you think he wanted to act?
  • How would you feel if your dress code was as strict as Liv’s?
  • How was Liv’s first impression of Jacob wrong?
  • Did Jacob’s secret surprise you? What clues did you see? Why do you think he hid it?

Flagged Passages: “‘Hi, I’m Liv. What’s your name?’

The boy looked up at me, blinking slowly. He narrowed his eyes, acting as if I’d asked a really tough question. ‘Jacob. What kind of name is Liv anyways?’

I disliked him immediately. He was obviously one of those boys. The popular ones. His dark brown hair was messy, but not properly messy. It was the kind of messy that requires a lot of time spent in front of the mirror and loads of hair gunk. He was slouched in his seat, perfectly at ease, like there was no where he’d rather be. Whenever I sat that way at Gram’s house, she always told me to ‘sit up properly-like a lady.’ You can probably guess how much I enjoyed that.

The only thing that gave me a glimmer of hope about Jacob was his eyes. They didn’t seem to be the eyes of a terrible person. There was kindness lurking there under the smirk.

I sat down next to him and shoved his leg so it was under his half of the table. Why do real boys always take up so much space? I mentally kicked myself. I don’t know when I’d started thinking of them as ‘real’ boys. I knew it was wrong; I wasn’t Pinnochio. I was as much a real boy as Jacob–even if no one else could see it yet.

‘It’s my kind of name.'” (Chapter 4)

Read This If You Love: Melissa by Alex Gino, Linked by Gordon Korman, Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes, Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet by Barbara Dee, Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

Signature

**Thank you to Sourcebooks for providing a copy for review!**

Guest Review: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, Illustrated by Christian Robinson

Share

Guest Reviewer: Amanda & Sendy, UCF Elementary Education Student

Last Stop on Market Street
Author: Matt de la Peña
Illustrator: Christian Robinson
Published January 8, 2015 by Penguin Books

Summary: “Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, CJ, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.”

CJ begins his weekly bus journey around the city with disappointment and dissatisfaction, wondering why he and his family can’t drive a car like his friends. Through energy and encouragement, CJ’s nana helps him see the beauty and fun in their routine.

This beautifully illustrated, emotive picture book explores urban life with honesty, interest, and gratitude.

Last Stop on Market Street is a story about appreciating differences, happiness, and inequity. CJ and his Nana take the bus to its last stop on Market Street every Sunday after Church. On the Sunday this book is set on, CJ begins to wonder why they must wait in the rain for the bus instead of buying a car. Nana enlightens him by giving him different ways of appreciating what they have, what they do in their everyday lives, and all the types of people they meet. The theme of the novel is Nana showing CJ the value in how they live their lives and helping those who need it.

Last Stop on Market Street has won multiple awards and spent time at the number one spot in the New York Times Bestseller List.

About the Author: Matt de la Peña is the #1 New York Times-bestselling. Newbery Medal-winning author of five picture books and six critically acclaimed young adult novels.  He was also awarded the NCTE Intellectual Freedom Award and received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University. He is currently living in Brooklyn, NY with his family.

About the Illustrator: Christian Robinson has received a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor for his art in Last Stop on Market Street. He was born in Hollywood, California. He was awarded a Caldecott Honor and the Newbery Medal

Review: Last Stop on Market Street is a stunning contribution to art in children’s literature and the future of book of storytelling. This novel reveals the creative potential of a powerful cross-cultural author-illustrator partnership. The art combined with the theme of the novel embraces the diversity in ourselves and everyday routine but others.

This book is such an amazing book! It is easy to see the bad that goes on in our lives, and things that we do not like, but this book is a great reminder to see the good in those situations that it is difficult to. I would recommend “The last stop on Market Street” to every teacher and parent to read to their children and/or have them read it themselves.

Throughout this book, a little boy named CJ had many questions. He did not like riding the bus or going to the soup kitchen after church and always questioned why he didn’t have certain things. Nana always had a clever response and see’s the brighter side to every situation. CJ learns this from her and begins to see it too allowing him to feel more confident and happier about his situations.

Just as adults need these reminders that your life is just as good as your mindset, it is good to instill it into our children as well. If they grow up feeling like they don’t have enough, it will transfer into adulthood. This is an amazing book that brings an amazing lesson to all ages. There’s beautiful in even the ugliest things

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is perfect to teach students about acceptance and the importance of helping others in need. As CJ ends his bus ride with his Nana, he goes to work at a soup kitchen which enables him to understand how he gives back to his community.

Also, it would be a great opportunity to use this book in the classroom during group reading, or even partner reading. This book would bring a great opportunity in a group setting because it will allow the students to have discussions. They will be able to discuss what they think about the book, how they feel about the main characters and have the opportunity to express the times that they have felt unhappy. This can now turn into a conversation of how they can see these situations in a better light next time. this will allow the students to sharpen up their critical thinking skills, learn how to have discussions and understand what is like to be open minded.

Since last stop on market Street is the street where the soup kitchen is, this book can also be read during history time to focus on the soup kitchen, how soup kitchens came about, the reasons for them and why people go to them

Discussion Questions: 

  • Who is telling the story? How do you know?
  • How and why does CJ’s mood change throughout the book?
  • How do CJ and Nana look at life differently?
  • Why do you think Nana volunteers? What does she gain?
  • How can you show more gratitude and optimism, like Nana?
  • What do we learn about the different settings from the illustrations?
  • where was CJ and his Nana coming from in the beginning of the story?
  • What animal their Nana used to describe the bus?
  • Who were the people that CJ was talking about on the bus?
  • What was the name of the bus driver?
  • What is on the last stop of Market Street that CJ and his Nana went to?
  • Why didn’t CJ like the last stop?
  • What did CJ see over the building at the end of the book?

Flagged Passages: 

Book Trailer: 

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

Thank you, Amanda & Sendy, for your reviews!

The More You Give by Marcy Campbell, Illustrated by Francesca Sanna

Share

The More You Give
Author: Marcy Campbell
Illustrator: Francesca Sanna
Publishing December 28, 2021 by Chronicle

Summary: A modern-day response to The Giving Tree, this lyrical picturebook shows how a family passes down love from generation to generation, leaving a legacy of growing both trees and community.

Once there was a wide-open field, and a boy who loved his grandmother,
who loved him back.

The boy’s grandmother gives him many gifts, like hugs, and Sunday morning pancakes, and acorns with wild and woolly caps. And all her wisdom about how things grow. As the boy becomes a father, he gives his daughter bedtime stories his grandmother told him, and piggyback rides. He gives her acorns, and the wisdom he learned about how things grow. His daughter continues the chain, then passing down gifts of her own. Here is a picture book about the legacy of love that comes when we nurture living things—be they people or trees.

Ricki’s Review: This book is absolutely stunning. It captures the beautiful spirit of giving as it passes through generations. I found myself drawn into the text, captivated by the words and the powerful illustrations. I loved the ways in which the spirit of giving is captured across three generations. Overall, I love the way it captures kindness, wisdom, and love.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might read The Giving Tree and then read this book. Students could engage in a discussion of giving. The two texts exist as foils for each other, and the giving does not just go one way.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do we give? What do we give?
  • What does it mean to give?
  • What does giving mean for the boy in the book? His grandmother?
  • What have elders given to you?

Book Trailer:

Read This If You Love: Books about Giving; Books about Intergenerational Love; Books about Kindness

Recommended For: 

**Thank you to Cynthia at Random House Children’s Books for providing a copy for review!**

Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution by Kacen Callender

Share

Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution
Author: Kacen Callender
Published: September 27, 2022 by Amulet

Summary: From National Book Award–winner Kacen Callender, a contemporary YA that follows Lark’s journey to speak the truth and discover how their own self-love can be a revolution

Lark Winters wants to be a writer, and for now that means posting on their social media accounts––anything to build their platform. When former best friend Kasim accidentally posts a thread on Lark’s Twitter declaring his love for a secret, unrequited crush, Lark’s tweets are suddenly the talk of the school—and beyond. To protect Kasim, Lark decides to take the fall, pretending they accidentally posted the thread in reference to another classmate. It seems like a great idea: Lark gets closer to their crush, Kasim keeps his privacy, and Lark’s social media stats explode. But living a lie takes a toll—as does the judgment of thousands of Internet strangers. Lark tries their best to be perfect at all costs, but nothing seems good enough for the anonymous hordes––or for Kasim, who is growing closer to Lark, just like it used to be between them . . .

In the end, Lark must embrace their right to their messy emotions and learn how to be in love.

Review: This is a beautiful book that has so much heart. It feels as if Kacen Callender put their whole soul into it. The characterization, in particular, stood out to me. Even minor characters feel very developed. The characters remind us of the imperfections that we all have, and the value of remembering that we won’t get everything right. I was particular impressed by the ways in which love is depicted throughout the text. It is vast and expansive and knows no rules or boundaries. The LGBTQ representation and attention to intersectionality was among the best I’ve read (and I read a lot of YAL). Callender also depicts the raw brutality that can come with social media. There were moments in this text where I felt sick to my stomach.

The word “revolution” is in the title, and there are many moments where readers are given space to explore conceptions and understanding of activism. I particularly liked that the revolution isn’t explicit, which made me think deeply long after I turned the last page of the text.

I loved this book, and I can’t wait to discuss it with others. I certainly have many pages flagged to read again and again!

As one side note, I couldn’t decide if this book was realistic fiction or if the splash of magical realism made it magical realism. I am not much of a genre sorter, but I thought I’d throw that out there in case you are. 😉

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The rep in this book! The rep! I wish I’d been exposed to more books with representation like this when I was in school. If I was teaching this book, I would introduce some of Crenshaw’s intersectionality articles to allow students to dive into these concepts together.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What does Lark learn in this book?
  • How does Kasim develop as a character?
  • What do we, the readers, learn from Sable?
  • What did you learn (or think about) related to social media?
  • How are the characters in this book imperfectly human?

Flagged Passage: “That feeling when you read the last line of a book that you love? I can’t think of a lonelier feeling in the world.”

Read This If You Loved:  Books by Kacen Callender,

Recommended For:

 litcirclesbuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

RickiSig

Guest Post: Classroom Uses for Jo Jo Makoons by Dawn Quigley, Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman, Melissa by Alex Gino, and Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Share

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

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

Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-be Best Friend
Author: Dawn Quigley
Illustrator: Tara Audibert
Published May 11th, 2021 by Heartdrum

Summary: Hello/Boozhoo—meet Jo Jo Makoons, a spunky young Ojibwe girl who loves who she is.

Jo Jo Makoons Azure is a spirited seven-year-old who moves through the world a little differently than anyone else on her Ojibwe reservation. It always seems like her mom, her kokum (grandma), and her teacher have a lot to learn—about how good Jo Jo is at cleaning up, what makes a good rhyme, and what it means to be friendly.

Even though Jo Jo loves her #1 best friend Mimi (who is a cat), she’s worried that she needs to figure out how to make more friends. Because Fern, her best friend at school, may not want to be friends anymore…

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book can be used in the classroom as a tool to show the students that it’s important not to assume what another student is thinking. It is always best to vocalize concerns

Discussion Questions: 

  • Describe what a reservation is according to the book?
  • Why did Kokum (grandma) move in with Jo Jo and her mom?
  • In what ways are cats and balloons different?
  • Why did Jo Jo Makoons cut the toes out of her socks? What did she do with them?
  • What happens when Jo Jo takes Mimi to school?
  • What did the new girl, Susan do when she saw Mimi in the classroom?  How did JoJo feel about Susan’s reaction?
  • What are some ways you may relate to Jo Jo?
  • Has anybody ever felt like they might lose their best friend? Why?
  • How do Jo Jo’s classmates help her see that they are friends at the end of the story.
  • What does it mean to be a good friend to you?
  • What are some positive traits we could learn from Jo Jo?
  • In the Book Jo Jo cut out the toes in her socks. Why did she do this?
  • Why do you feel that Jo Jo felt left out at school?
  • Why was it so important for Jo Jo to bring MiMi to school with her?
  • What ways could JoJo have approached her classmates at lunch before getting upset about eating alone?
  • Why do you feel it’s important for Jo Jo and her family to learn and know the language of her Ojibwe tribe?
  • What could JoJo have done better for her original rhyme to make it better?
  • Like Jo Jo if you had to bring your best friend to class with you, who would it be and why?
  • How did you feel about the nickname Jo Jo made for Chuck?
  • Why do you think Jo Jo thought the Gym teacher’s name was Jim?

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


The Length of a String
Author: Elissa Brent Weissman
Published May 1st, 2018 by Dial Books

Summary: Imani is adopted, and she’s ready to search for her birthparents. But when she discovers the diary her Jewish great-grandmother wrote chronicling her escape from Holocaust-era Europe, Imani begins to see family in a new way.

Imani knows exactly what she wants as her big bat mitzvah gift: to meet her birthparents. She loves her family and her Jewish community in Baltimore, but she has always wondered where she came from, especially since she’s black and almost everyone she knows is white. When her mom’s grandmother–Imani’s great-grandma Anna–passes away, Imani discovers an old diary among her books. It’s Anna’s diary from 1941, the year she was twelve–the year she fled Nazi-occupied Luxembourg alone, sent by her parents to seek refuge in Brooklyn. Written as a series of letters to the twin sister she had to leave behind, Anna’s diary records her journey to America and her new life with an adopted family. Anna’s diary and Imani’s birthparent search intertwine to tell the story of two girls, each searching for family and identity in her own time and in her own way.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Use this book to discuss and learn about History-World War II/Holocaust, the Jewish faith, and adoption.

This book is educational because it discusses the Holocaust from the point of view of someone who experienced it. It also has an engaging story line that makes readers want to read more to find out what will happen. This book would be very useful when teaching about the Holocaust.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do you think Imani felt when she started to read about Anna’s life in her diary?
  • Think of a time you felt out of place and write about how that made you feel.
  • Why do you think Imani’s mom cries so much?
  • Have you ever felt a special connection with someone in you family?
  • If you were Imani, would you continue to look for your birth parents?
  • Suppose you wrote a diary about something that you want people/family in the future to know. What would it be about and why?
  • What are some special celebrations that you do with your family?
  • If you were Imani’s friend, what advice would you give her as she goes through this journey?
  • What is something you have that is special that you think you will give to someone in the future?
  • Why do you think people living around Imani insensitive questions?

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


Melissa
Author: Alex Gino
Published August 25th, 2018 by Scholastic

Summary: When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This story is a good teachable book where certain themes can be brought up and talked about within the classroom setting. Where students can ask questions that may push boundaries but can be answered in a professional setting. This novel would be useful in the classroom to teach and promote gender diversity. This book would also be great as a classroom library so that students who may be facing these issues will have something relatable to read.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Identify some ways Melissa being trans affected their life.
  • Think about a moment when someone in the book was bullied. What could have been done differently?
  • Why do you think Melissa was so scared to tell her parents about who she is?
  • What does it mean to be an Ally?
  • Describe two ways someone else helped Melissa.
  • Describe Melissa’s disposition throughout the book. How did it change?
  • Do you think that it was a good idea to talk to a therapist about the issues between Melissa and her mom?
  • Write about a time you felt scared to tell someone the truth.
  • If you were in Melissa’s class what would you do to make her feel welcome?
  • Sketch a scene from the book. Why did you pick that scene?
  • Why do you think the author chose to use the pronoun “she” when describing or referring to George?  Does this make a difference to the way you feel about the character?
  • How do you think George feels having to keep this big secret inside?  (Use text evidence to support your claims.)  Have you had to keep a secret about yourself — how does this make you feel?  Without revealing the secret (unless you feel comfortable), share or write about this experience and how you were affected.
  • George eventually reveals her secret to those she cares about.  How does this make her feel?  (Use text evidence to support your claims.)  What are some consequences of “hiding” vs. “being yourself”?
  • What do you think it takes to “be yourself”? What are some pros and cons of being who you are?  What are some other examples of “being yourself” that might be scary for kid?
  • Share or write about a time where you had to be brave enough to be who you are.  What made you finally do it, and what effects did the experience have on your life?
  • People reacted differently to George’s revelation. Discuss how they differed and possible reasons why (try to think about this from the person’s point of view).  How do you think you would react if you were each of these individuals?
    1. Classmates
    2. George’s mom and big brother
    3. School teacher/principal
    4. George’s best friend Kelly
    5. Kelly’s dad and uncle
  • Discuss diversity, acceptance/tolerance, prejudice, bullying, compassion, etc.  Come up with real-life examples. What are some way your classroom/school/family/community could be more accepting of those who might be different from you?
  • Towards the end of the book, the author switches to the name Melissa when referring to George.  Why do you think they chose to do that?
  • How does Melissa feel in the first few chapters of the book?
  • How does Melissa feel at the end of the book?
  • Why did Ms.Udell not let Melissa play Charlotte?
  • Have you ever felt lost or scared to tell the truth? If so, how did that make you feel?
  • If Melissa was in your class, what are some ways you could make her feel welcomed?
  • Name a few things that Melissa had to struggle with, because she wanted to be trans.

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


Merci Suárez Changes Gears
Author: Meg Medina
Published September 11th, 2018 by Candlewick Press

Summary: Thoughtful, strong-willed sixth-grader Merci Suarez navigates difficult changes with friends, family, and everyone in between in a resonant new novel from Meg Medina.

Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci’s school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna’s jealousy. Things aren’t going well at home, either: Merci’s grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what’s going on, so she’s left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be useful in a classroom for teachers to expose a lot of topics to students such as bullying, family relations, and relatable school interactions like wanting to play sports or friendships and grades. As well as students that are nervous about their 6th grade year or also starting sixth grade read about someone going through the same things as them.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What do you think caused Lolo to pick up the wrong twins?
  • Why do you think Merci and Edna are not friends?
  • Why do you think Edna is worried about appearances and mercy is not?
  • After their first interaction, do you think Merci will end up enjoying Michael as a sunshine buddy?
  • If you were a new kid would you want a sunshine buddy? Would you want to be a sunshine buddy? Why or why not?
  • Do you think Merci handled her situations maturely? Why or why not ?
  • Why did Merci’s parents hide Lolo’s conditions from her ?
  • How would you describe Merci’s relationship with her grandfather?
  • Do you think Merci’s culture made her feel different from her peers at school ? Why or Why not ?
  • How would you handle being falsely accused of something you didn’t do like Merci when edna destroyed the mask ?

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


Guest Post: Classroom Uses for One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus, Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos, Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai, and The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Share

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

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

One Crazy Summer
Author: Rita Williams-Garcia
Published January 26th, 2010 by Quill Tree Books

Summary: In the summer of 1968, after travelling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp.

In a humorous and breakout book by Williams-Garcia, the Penderwicks meet the Black Panthers.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What do you think of Cecile and the way she treats her daughters? How does that make you feel?
  • What do you think Cecile does for the black panthers? Do you think it is good or bad?
  • Explain why you think the girls were sent to visit their mother?
  • Why did the black panthers call Fern’s doll, Ms. Pattycake, self hatred?
  • Who or what is a black panther? (For background knowledge on the history in story)
  • Why do you think Vonneta didn’t stick up for Fern when her friend was calling her a baby? Why did she then destroy Fern’s doll?
  • Family is an important theme of the novel, write about your relationship with your family.
  • Do you think Delphine agrees with the black panthers are fighting for? Why or why not?
  • Do you think Fern’s name is the real reason Cecile left? Why or why not?
  •  Do you think Delphine forgives her mom for abandoning her? Why or why not?

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall 


A Place to Hang the Moon
Author: Kate Albus
Published February 2nd, 2021 by Margaret Ferguson Books

Summary: Set against the backdrop of World War II, Anna, Edmund, and William are evacuated from London to live in the countryside, bouncing from home to home in search of a permanent family.

It is 1940 and Anna, 9, Edmund, 11, and William, 12, have just lost their grandmother. Unfortunately, she left no provision for their guardianship in her will. Her solicitor comes up with a preposterous plan: he will arrange for the children to join a group of schoolchildren who are being evacuated to a village in the country, where they will live with families for the duration of the war. He also hopes that whoever takes the children on might end up willing to adopt them and become their new family–providing, of course, that the children can agree on the choice.

Moving from one family to another, the children suffer the cruel trickery of foster brothers, the cold realities of outdoor toilets, and the hollowness of empty tummies. They seek comfort in the village lending library, whose kind librarian, Nora Muller, seems an excellent candidate–except that she has a German husband whose whereabouts are currently unknown. Nevertheless, Nora’s cottage is a place of bedtime stories and fireplaces, of vegetable gardens and hot, milky tea. Most important, it’s a place where someone thinks they all three hung the moon. Which is really all you need in a mom, if you think about it.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book could be used to teach children about the effects of World War II on England and specifically how it affected children. This book could also be used to have an open discussion about family. To help children understand how family changes and how your ideas and those you consider family can change over time.

This book should definitely be put in the classroom library. Close reading/analysis would be used especially when the children are learning about World War II, so they are able to better understand historical context and explore what else was going on in this time period and why the actions of the characters were necessary. And the book would be great in a book club could also be used to help students reflect upon what they were feeling and give them an opportunity to share their opinions of the story with their peers.

Interdisciplinary Aspects:

History- This book takes place during World War II students can take this as an opportunity to research the war and understand the setting of the novel and why the characters were forced to move away in more detail

Reading/Literature- Throughout the book the children are introduced to many different books and authors. Students can explore these books and read one of their choosing to understand these stories in more detail

Discussion Questions: 

  • Throughout the book the children mention that they know they will have found their new family when they find someone who believes that they had hung the moon. What do you believe that this phrase means?
  • During this book the children mention that they are frequently talking about rationing and the need for rationing coupons. What is rationing and why was it necessary during the war?
  • Why would Mrs.Mueller having a German husband make her unsuitable to house the children?
  • Which housing accommodation was the least suitable for the children? Why?
  • Throughout the book the children read different books to pass the time and feel better about their current situation? How can reading bring about comfort to these characters?
  • How is Edmunds understanding of the war and his actions to his billet hosts different from Williams?
  • Edmund tells William that he knows that the stories he tells about his parents are fake. Why does he still enjoy these stories even though he knows they aren’t real?
  • Each of the siblings is hoping to get something specific out of the new family. (Edmund wants someone to cook for him, William wants to not worry about taking care of his siblings and having so many burdens, and Anna wants someone to tuck her in and give her a hug) Why is their idea of parents so different? How does Mrs. Mueller meet each of their expectations?
  • Why do you think that none of the children were devastated at the death of their Grandmother? How do you think they acted at their parents’ funeral?
  • Why are the children sent to a village in the country?
  • What war did this story take place during?
  • Where did the children get sent off to?
  • What is one thing they encountered during their foster care?
  • What is the name of the librarian they fell in love with?
  • Who is the person that sent them into foster care and why?
  • What did it mean for them when they said they hung the moon?
  • Who sank the boat of refugee children?
  • Why did the English women who’s husband was German get a lot of prejudice from neighbors?

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


Planet Earth is Blue
Author: Nicole Panteleakos
Published May 14th, 2019 by Random House

Summary: Twelve-year-old Nova is eagerly awaiting the launch of the space shuttle Challenger–it’s the first time a teacher is going into space, and kids across America will watch the event on live TV in their classrooms. Nova and her big sister, Bridget, share a love of astronomy and the space program. They planned to watch the launch together. But Bridget has disappeared, and Nova is in a new foster home.

While foster families and teachers dismiss Nova as severely autistic and nonverbal, Bridget understands how intelligent and special Nova is, and all that she can’t express. As the liftoff draws closer, Nova’s new foster family and teachers begin to see her potential, and for the first time, she is making friends without Bridget. But every day, she’s counting down to the launch, and to the moment when she’ll see Bridget again. Because Bridget said, “No matter what, I’ll be there. I promise.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be useful for students who aren’t nonverbal and autistic, it would teach the perspective from these students who are  to better understand them and find ways to relate to them.

It can also be an introduction to space and the solar system focusing on science.

This would be a great book to have in the classroom library as it is easy to build a personal connection to the characters that students may not want to speak about to a larger group. This would give them the chance to dive into subjects that may be relatable to them but not others and provide a safe space for it.

Using this book for a close reading or analysis can be beneficial as it can be used as an introduction to the space unit. It can be used as a way to introduce the topic of differences in students’ lives and how it can be accepted rather than seen as a negative.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Describe the relationship between Nova and Bridget that was given by the narrator.
  • Why do you think Nova and Bridget were unable to live with their mother any longer?
  • Why do you think Nova took a special interest in space?
  • How does it make you feel that people are mean to Nova? Use describing words.
  • Nova often talks about being tested multiple times. How does Nova feel about this testing? Can you relate to this? Explain.
  • Why do you believe the book was written from the point of view of a narrator rather than Nova herself?
  • When Francine looks up the word Nova, how does this relate to her?
  • Why were the chapters counting down instead of up?
  • Describe the alternative ending you would have liked to read for Nova and Bridget.

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


Shooting Kabul
Author: N.H. Senzai
Published June 22nd, 2010 by Simon & Schuster

Summary: In the summer of 2001, twelve-year-old Fadi’s parents make the difficult decision to illegally leave Afghanistan and move the family to the United States. When their underground transport arrives at the rendezvous point, chaos ensues, and Fadi is left dragging his younger sister Mariam through the crush of people. But Mariam accidentally lets go of his hand and becomes lost in the crowd, just as Fadi is snatched up into the truck. With Taliban soldiers closing in, the truck speeds away, leaving Mariam behind.

Adjusting to life in the United States isn’t easy for Fadi’s family, and as the events of September 11th unfold the prospects of locating Mariam in a war torn Afghanistan seem slim. When a photography competition with a grand prize trip to India is announced, Fadi sees his chance to return to Afghanistan and find his sister. But can one photo really bring Mariam home?

Based in part on Ms. Senzai’s husband’s own experience fleeing his home in Soviet-controlled Afghanistan in the 1970’s, Shooting Kabul is a powerful story of hope, love, and perseverance.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:This book would be useful in the classroom when talking about history. Events like 9/11 and especially the history of the Middle East and how refugees adapt to American culture. It speaks on culture and religion. It also creates a discussion for kids to speak on transitioning, which most can relate to.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do the events of September 11, 2001, affect Fadi’s school and home life?
  • How would you handle accidentally leaving your sibling behind in another country?
  • Would you go to another country if things are going bad in yours or would you stay to help? How would you help if you stay? Where did you leave and why did you choose there?
  • If you were put in charge of a country would you put your beliefs and needs first or would you worry more for your people’s wants and desires? How would you handle either situation?
  • Would you move on if the bullies had destroyed your camera? What would you do if the principal asked you who was there during the fight?
  • What kind of observations tell you on how Fadi has adapted to his new school and life in America?
  • If you were a member of Fadi’s family, how would you have felt about Habib, your dad, wanting to return to Afghanistan?
  • In the book, what types of misunderstandings about the Muslim faith and Middle Easterns are shown?
  • How do you think Fadi felt when in school? Was it difficult for him to cope with American culture ?

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


The Dreamer
Author: Pam Muñoz Ryan & Peter Sis
Published April 1st, 2010 by Scholastic Press

Summary: Neftali finds beauty and wonder everywhere: in the oily colors of mud puddles; a lost glove, sailing on the wind; the music of birds and language. He loves to collect treasures, daydream, and write–pastimes his authoritarian father thinks are for fools. Against all odds, Neftali prevails against his father’s cruelty and his own crippling shyness to become one of the most widely read poets in the world, Pablo Neruda. This moving story about the birth of an artist is also a celebration of childhood, imagination, & the strength of the creative spirit. Sure to inspire young writers & artists.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is more about beating the odds that someone has set in place for you. Neftali is told he should be a poet by his father but when Neftali decides to be who he is meant to be, a poet/ artist, he finds success and happiness there.

The Dreamer would be an excellent book for independent reading within the classroom. This book would be great to have in your classroom library so that there are an array of diverse books to choose from. There will be a student at some point that will be able to relate to Neftali’s story with his father. This book could definitely make an impact on a student.

This book would be an excellent shared reading pick or book club choice. The story takes place in Chile, so can be used when teaching about other countries, specifically focusing on the norms, culture, and government. This story is also based on the childhood of poet Pablo Neruda. The book serves as an excellent introduction to poetry. The book is also a great aid for social emotional learning.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why do you think Neftali enjoys daydreaming?
  • How would you describe Neftali’s relationship with his father?
  • What does Neftali’s father think of Rodolfo’s singing?
  • Why does he want Rodolfo to focus on business or medicine, instead of singing?
  • Compare Neftali’s father to Neftali’s uncle, Orlando. How are they similar or different?
  • Who did you think Neftali relates more to, his father or his uncle? Why?
  • How did Neftali’s relationship with his father change after his trip to the forest?
  • Why does Neftali love and hate the ocean?
  • Has anyone ever told you what you should be when you grow up? If so, how did it make you feel? What do you want to be when you grow up?
  • Why does Neftali’s have a hard time making it to school on time?
  • What does Neftalis’ collections represent? How do they make him feel?
  • Has someone ever told you that you should do something- as your father did with Neftali? How did that make you feel?
  • What does Neftali dream of becoming? Does his father agree? Why or why not?
  • Neftali’s father called him by really harsh names, such as “idiot”- Do you think that Neftali was truly any of those things?
  • In the beginning, Neftali was shy, frail, didn’t say much, and spent a lot of time alone. How did Neftali begin to change throughout the book?
  • In what ways did Neftali’s relationship begin to change with his father?
  • What do you think it feels like to be Neftali?
  • Draw a specific scene from the book, why did you choose this scene to draw?

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall