A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park



A Long Walk to Water
Author: Linda Sue Park
Published November, 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Goodreads Summary: A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about a girl in Sudan in 2008 and a boy in Sudan in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The wars in Sudan and Darfur are the most violent and long lasting wars in the world; however, most Americans are unaware that they are even occurring. Linda Sue Park took a true story of a lost boy’s survival (watch a video about the true story here) after being chased from his village because of war and transformed it into a novel that will leave the reader with a feeling of awe. Awe of the bravery and pure fearlessness of Salva and the other Lost boys of Sudan and awe of the world of riches and blindness we live in while a horrendous war wages on the other side of the world. I love this book because it is very accessible to children, it won’t bog them down with too much history; however, it will definitely make them aware of the situation in Sudan.

Discussion Questions: What is a way that you could share what you learned about the Lost Boys of Sudan? How can you help? 

We Flagged: “Salva took a few steps towards the men.
A soldier approached Salva and raised his gun.
Salva froze. All he could see was the gun’s huge barrel, black and gleaming, as it moved toward his face.
The end of the barrel touched his chin.
Salva felt his knees turn to water. He closed his eyes.
If I die now, I will never see my family again.
Somehow, this thought strengthened him enough to keep him from collapsing in terror.
He took a deep breath and opened his eyes.” (p. 11)

“Going was easy.
Going, the big plastic container held only air… There was little weight, going. There was only heat, the sun already baking the air, even though it was long before noon. It would take her half the morning if she didn’t stop on the way.
Heat. Time. And thorns…
Nya filled the container all the way to the top. Then she tied the gourd in back in place and took the padded cloth doughnut from her pocked. The doughnut went on her head first, followed by the heavy container of water, which she would hold in place with one hand.
With the water balanced on her head, and her foot still sore from the thorn, Nya knew that going home would take longer than coming had. But she might reach home by noon, if all went well.” (p. 1, 14-15)

Read This If You Loved: The Queen of Water by Laura Resau, Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams, Sold by Patricia McCormick, Diamonds in the Shadows by Caroline B. Cooney, Shabanu by Suzanne Fisher Staples, So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba

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For the Good of Mankind?: The Shameful History of Human Medical Experimentation by Vicki O. Wittenstein


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!

for the good of mankind

For the Good of Mankind?: The Shameful History of Human Medical Experimentation
Author: Vicki O. Wittenstein
Published: August 1st, 2013 by Lerner Publishing Group


Experiment: A child is deliberately infected with the deadly smallpox disease without his parents’ informed consent.
Result: The world’s first vaccine.
Experiment: A slave woman is forced to undergo more than thirty operations without anesthesia.
Result: The beginnings of modern gynecology.
Experiment: From 1946 to 1953, seventy-four boys are fed oatmeal laced with radioactive iron and calcium.
Result: A better understanding of the effects of radioactivity on the human body.

Experimental incidents such as these paved the way for crucial medical discoveries and lifesaving cures and procedures. But they also violated the rights of their subjects, many of whom did not give their consent to the experiments. The subjects suffered excruciating pain and humiliation. Some even died as a result of the procedures. Even in the twenty-first century—despite laws, regulations, and ethical conventions—the tension between medical experimentation and patient rights continues.

How do doctors balance the need to test new medicines and procedures with their ethical and moral duty to protect the rights of human subjects? What price has been paid for medical knowledge? Can we learn from the broken oaths of the past?

Take a harrowing journey through some of history’s greatest medical advances—and its most horrifying medical atrocities. You’ll read about orphans injected with lethal tuberculosis and concentration camp inmates tortured by Nazi doctors. You’ll also learn about radiation experimentation and present-day clinical trials that prove fatal. Through these stories, explore the human suffering that has gone hand in hand with medical advancement.

Review: Human experimentation is a very difficult subject matter, one that both horrifies and fascinates teens. I always try to believe in the good of mankind, but books like this always seem to challenge that assumption. It was difficult for me to read this book because I cannot fathom how any person could justify using individuals (including CHILDREN!) for experimentation. This book is incredibly well-researched and documents a variety of cases of experimentation. I couldn’t put it down because I was so astonished by the details of the cases. It is colorful and eye-appealing, and this will captivate reluctant readers. I think teenagers would see nonfiction in a very positive light if they were given books like this one. I absolutely recommend it to teachers.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Teachers might assign different chapters to groups of students. Students will enjoy reading about and presenting the material covered in this book. Persuasive essays are always a chore, but there are many controversial issues within this book, and I think students would really enjoy writing essays about this subject matter. This book also includes discussion questions for readers.

Discussion Questions: Can we justify the experimentation on a human being if it will better the lives of millions of people?; Why do you think human experimentation was allowed for such a long time? Can we judge the doctors who experimented on people centuries ago?; Applying the stories to animals, do you think animal experimentation is justifiable? Why or why not?

Read This If You Loved: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, books in the Real Justice series, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley


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Blog Tour, Review, and Author Interview: Double Vision: Code Name 711 by F.T. Bradley



Double Vision: Code Name 711
Author: F. T. Bradley
Published: October 15th, 2013 by HarperCollins

Summary: Twelve-year-old Lincoln Baker isn’t a great student, and he often gets into trouble, but one thing is for sure—he is a great spy. In his last adventure, Linc went on an undercover mission in Paris and saved the world, but this time, Washington D.C. needs his help. A dark car pulls up to his road, and Pandora tells him they need his help. The president and her family have received a death threat, and they need Linc to help save her life. Worse, George Washington’s coat, which is believed to protect the wearer from harm is missing. Unfortunately for Lincoln, his doppelganger, Ben Green is also asked to help with the mission, and Lincoln wants to solve the crime first.

Review: Readers will enjoy this adventure through Washington D.C. and learn about the different museums and pieces of America’s history. Linc’s journey is action-packed and is sure to engage reluctant readers. I was actually visiting Washington D.C. while I read this book, so it was fun for me to learn more about the museums as I visited them. I haven’t read the first book in this series yet, but I was able to follow along with the details of this second book very easily. I enjoyed the hooks at the end of each chapter and was engaged in this detective story.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Middle school students will have a lot of fun with this book. I’d love to see it in American history classes, where teachers might use the book side-by-side with units about our history. Many schools take field trips to Washington D.C., and this would make for a great read-aloud on the bus ride! Or perhaps, teachers might assign it as required reading for the trip. As another alternative, teachers might make a Webquest for students to learn more about our country’s history as they read this book. The great foreshadowing at the end of chapters would be great to teach students how to make predictions.

Discussion Questions: How do 12-year-olds make for great spies?; Why does Linc’s nemesis, Ben Green, play an important role in the story?; Which characters were suspicious? Cite reasons why you found each of them to be suspicious.; How does the setting add to the color of the story? Pick a different setting and tell how the story might the story be different if it were in this setting.

We Flagged: 

“Agent Stark got out of the car and gave me a little nod. And I knew my gut was spot-on: Pandora was back.

I got off my board and carried it as I walked toward her. ‘Hey, Agent Stark. You must be here for my mom’s spaghetti dinner'” (Chapter 1).

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

Read This If You Loved: The 39 Clues series published by Scholastic, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, The Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowtz, or detective/spy middle grade novels

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Interview with F.T. Bradley!

F.T. Bradley--photo

Websites: www.ftbradley.com and www.doublevisionbooks.com

Twitter: @FTBradleyAuthor

How did you become interested in writing detective/spy novels?

I’ve always loved mysteries, from when I was young, and was given an Enid Blyton Secret Seven paperback. When I was a kid, there wasn’t a YA section in my library, so I moved on to Agatha Christie novels after that. I love the puzzle in mysteries. My interest in all things spy didn’t come until later, when I watched movies like Sneakers. Spies are cool.

When did this story come to you? When did you realize that you wanted it to be a series?

The Double Vision trilogy really started with Linc: what if a regular kid (and a troublemaker with a sense of humor to boot) had to take the place of a lookalike spy? Linc really drives the story; when I sit down to write, I just let him take a run with it and hope for the best. So far, the story is a hit with kids—but that’s all Linc, I swear.

Some of the stories developed as I worked with my agent and editor, once it was sold to Harper Children’s as a three-book series. For the second book, Double Vision: Code Name 711, we started with the Washington D.C. location, which is the center of the spy world. From there, I began researching George Washington, since Linc would be on the hunt for a mysterious double of Washington’s coat.

Once I found out George Washington was a spy, the pieces just fell into place. The history of Washington as having the code name 711 in the Culper Ring during the Revolutionary War is just so awesome, it fueled Double Vision: Code Name 711 from there.

Tell us a little bit about your writing process.

For each book in the Double Vision trilogy, I usually start with a cool location (like Paris for the first book, Washington D.C. for the second), and then try to think of an interesting historical figure and magical artifact. Next, I’ll think of my bad guy/lady: who is the antagonist, and what is at stake? Since it’s a thriller I’m writing, I try to make the stakes as high as I can. I’m putting Linc’s life on the line on these missions after all.

Once I have those elements nailed down, I plot the book as best as I can, trying to think of the most daring things Linc can do on his quest. Like jumping from an airplane onto the Eiffel Tower’s gardens in the first book.

And once that plot gets the thumbs up from my editor, I start writing, and brace myself for what Linc will do. I never quite know, and that’s the best part. Linc is a cool and funny dude.

How did you settle on Lincoln’s age for your book? Did you always know it would be a middle-grade book?

Linc is twelve, which is a solid age for middle-grade. It’s important that he’s not too old, but not so young that he can’t go on his missions.

From the start, I wanted the Double Vision books to appeal to reluctant readers, especially boys who might give up on reading by the time they hit the double digit birthdays. Although I love award-winning children’s books, mysteries and thrillers kind of get forgotten, or are looked at as less somehow. I want to write MG thrillers that mirror the great books written for adults, those that hit the bestseller list because they’re entertaining, moving, sweep you away on a mysterious quest. I want kids to read for fun, and keep reading into adulthood. It’s important that this type of reading—reading for entertainment, whatever the book is—gets more respect.

What were your favorite books as a child and middle schooler?

I was a huge Roald Dahl fan–the BFG was my favorite book. Pippi Longstocking I loved because she did exactly what she wanted. Once I hit middle-school, I moved to the Agatha Christies. As a kid, I loved going to the library, and devoured books.

During my teens, I became a bit of a reluctant reader. There was so much required reading (I grew up in Europe, where there’s a lot of it in high school), and I stopped reading for fun. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I got back to reading when someone gave me a paperback thriller. That reignited the passion for books in me, and eventually I worked on writing them (for many years…).

You could say I came full circle: I’m now back at my library every week, leaving with a stack of books.

What are your current favorite middle grade or young adult books?

I’m all over the place with my reading… In MG, I recently loved Wonder, and Eion Colfer’s latest The Reluctant Assassin. In YA, I loved Rat Life by Tedd Arnold, Seconds Away by Harlan Coben.

I’m forgetting titles, I’m sure of it. 🙂 There are so many books, I wish I could just read all day sometimes…

Tell us a little bit about your family.

My husband is in the Air Force, which makes us professional nomads. The cool part about this is that I get to meet new people all the time, and that I have friends all over the globe. My two girls are tweens, and they keep me sharp. My family is so amazingly supportive of my crazy writing career, I thank my lucky stars every day.

Also, I have four cats, so there’s always one to keep me company as I write. The secret to my success is cats, honest.

Is there any reason you chose to use F.T. Bradley instead of Fleur Bradley as the specified author name for your books?

Because the Double Vision books are meant to appeal to boys, we decided to play it safe and go with initials instead of my (sort-of-girly) first name. To be honest, I think I sold today’s boys short. When I do book signings or go on school visits, they couldn’t care less if my hair was green or my name was Bob. We talk about our favorite books, donuts, and what would make a good spy gadget. And the girls join right in.

Kids today are amazing, funny, smart, open-minded, and utterly inspiring in their enthusiasm. They’re why I love to write middle-grade.

Thank you to F.T. Bradley for providing me with a copy of Double Vision: Code Name 711 to review and for this wonderful interview!



History News: Greek News by Anton Powell and Philip Steele


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!


History News: The Greek News
Author: Anton Powell and Philip Steele
Illustrator: Various
Published March 10th, 2009 by Candlewick Press

Goodreads Summary: At home or at school, these innovative titles make history come alive

Read all About it Now, with The Greek News and The Roman News, life in ancient Greece and Rome is presented in the form of a daily newspaper written at the time. As accessible as your morning paper, The Greek News and The Roman News will give young readers the unforgettable sense of actually being a citizen of an ancient nation.

Stop the presses! What if ancient civilizations had daily newspapers? And they were amusing and compellingly informative? They might just look like this innovative series of historical nonfiction, presented in a unique, kid-friendly format.

Presents a “special edition” of a Greek newspaper which spans the years 1500 to 146 B.C. and contains articles about history, politics, feasts, fashions, theater, gods, and wars.

My Review: Set up like a Greek newspaper, The Greek News takes important events from the history of Greece and transcribes them as articles. The articles range in topics including Sparta, Alexander the Great, politics, army/navy life, trades, sports, woman, mythology, arts, education, philosophy, and traditions.

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: The book is so well done with each page including a main article as well as other features including sidebars, maps, advertisements, diagrams, illustrations and political cartoons. I think students will like reading/learning about Greece more from this text than other because the unique format shares the information as if it was happening in the present and puts the reader in the middle of Greece. It also throws in some humor which students will love. This text can lead to such great discussions about not only Greece, but war, philosophy, mythology, propaganda, and so many other things.

Discussion Questions: [Writing prompt] Use The Greek News as a guide to create your own newspaper-esque piece sharing the history of a historical fiction book which you have read.

We Flagged: “In 415 B.C., Athens tried to add to its territory by conquering the island of Sicily. The results were disastrous – thousands of Athenian soldiers and hundreds of warships were lost. The Spartans leaped on Athens’s weakness and cut off the city’s supply of wealth from its silver mines…” (“Sparta Attacks!” p. 6)

“You know what it’s like. One minute your life is going smoothly, then, just when you least expect it, the gods turn their back on you and disaster strikes! Don’t panic – The Greek News will tell you everything you need to know about keeping the gods on your side.” (Lead paragraph for “Pleasing the Gods” p. 20-21)

“Socrates is to die! The jury of 501 men has made its decision – Socrates is guilty of not believing in the state-approved gods and of leading young people astray with his teaching.” (“Death by Poison, pg. 27)

Read This If You Loved: Any non-fiction or fiction text about Greece

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