Guest Post: Classroom Uses for Astronuts by Jon Sciezska, El Deafo by Cece Bell, Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani, One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale, and Squish: Super Amoeba by Jennifer L. Holm

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 graphic novels.

AstroNuts Mission One: The Plant Planet
Author: Jon Scieszka
Illustrator: Steven Weinberg
Published September 10th, 2019 by Chronicle Books

Summary: AstroWolf, LaserShark, SmartHawk, and StinkBug are animal astronauts that were sent on a mission to find a sustainable planet for humans to live on once we’ve ruined Earth. So off they rocket to the Plant Planet in the nose rocket! They must perform experiments to gather all the information needed to know if the planet would be able to sustain humans, Or do Plant Planet’s inhabitants have a different plan in store. This book uses real life science with a fun twist.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be great for teaching all about planet Earth, how to recycle, and how to protect the planet. Also, this book does a great job on putting a fun, zany twist on its characters that make this educational, engaging, and entertaining. These are all great things that students can look forward to when reading this book and are introduced to it, in the classroom.

In terms of interdisciplinary elements, we have discussed that the best subject that the book AstroNuts can be connected to is science. This book can be seen from many different angles when connected to science, but can be more specifically geared towards the knowledge of climate change, protecting one’s planet, and cell information (ex: plant cells).

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why do you think AstroWolf thought that he knew it all?
  • Out of all the characters in AstroNuts (AstroWolf, LaserShark, etc.), which character do you think you could relate to the most? Explain.
  • What could the AstroNuts have done differently in order to not anger the plants, when they first arrived on the planet?
  • Which of the AstroNuts do you feel accomplished their goal for the mission? Why or why not?
  • What aspects of the story do you see in our society when it comes to protecting our planet?
  • How does this book inspire you when it talks about the environment and the ongoing topic of global warming?
  • Which AstroNut do you think contributed the most to their mission? Explain.
  • If you were an official for the NNASA how could you help prepare the AstroNuts for their next mission?
  • If you were to draw Plant Planet, how would it look different from Earth. What types of things would be shown in your illustration? Explain.

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


El Deafo
Author: Cece Bell
Published September 2nd, 2014 by Abrams Books

Summary: Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece’s class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends.

Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school — in the hallway… in the teacher’s lounge… in the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it’s just another way of feeling different… and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend?

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: El Deafo teaches students about inclusivity which is something kids sometimes struggle with, and its books like this, that may just do the trick! This novel could also be a great choice as a book club book because it is a real-life story and could very well be a kids favorite. You can challenge your students, and have them create a piece of writing or art work that is inspired by this story, to show understanding. It’s great to have different books about kids with certain challenges, so other students can read and understand them better and see that they are not so different from other students, which is why it is encouraged that you to add this to your classroom library if it isn’t there already!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Based off of the cover of the book, what predictions do you have for the book?
  • Why did Cece dislike the way Ginny spoke to her?
  • How did Martha treat Cece when they first met?
  • Do you think that Mike Miller was a good influence?
  • Do you think that Cece missed out on a new opportunity to learn something new because she went into sign language school with a negative attitude?
  • What would you have done if you were in Ceces’ shoes when the teacher slipped out of the classroom and your friends wanted you to listen for her?
  • Why do you think the illustrator chose bunnies to be the characters?
  • Based off of the cover of the book, what predictions do you have for the book?
  • In what ways can you relate to Cece?
  • Cece thought about herself as a superhero? What do you think makes a person a superhero?
  • Why did Cece dislike the way Ginny spoke to her?
  • How did Martha treat Cece when they first met?
  • Do you think that Mike Miller was a good influence?
  • Do you think that Cece missed out on a new opportunity to learn something new because she went into sign language school with a negative attitude?
  • What would you have done if you were in Ceces’ shoes when the teacher slipped out of the classroom and your friends wanted you to listen for her?
  • Why do you think the illustrator chose bunnies to be the characters?
  • How did the illustration help you understand what is going on in the story?

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


Jukebox
Author: Nidhi Chanani
Published June 22nd, 2021 by First Second

Summary: When her dad goes missing, Shahi and her cousin Naz discover a magical time traveling Jukebox and are transported throughout history. Traveling through time, Shahi and Naz race to find Gio and uncover the truth behind the Jukebox.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is educational because it goes over important social issues and it has an engaging story line that will catch the reader’s attention.

Literature logs would allow students to make connections and critically think while they read the novel. The students can then revisit their notes before coming together for class discussions. Free writes allow students to get their real impressions of the book out. They are asked to write freely about the novel for a given amount of time. The absence of a prompt gives the students the chance to explore the aspects of the novel that stood out to them the most.

This book’s interdisciplinary concepts contain history, music and sexuality. Each record that plays brings you back to an event in history without giving too much information, this may lead readers to want to learn more about what was happening at different points of musical history and history in general. Along with this, there was mention of sexuality and the acceptance of it in their family. This can show the reader that it is okay to have a sexuality that isn’t heterosexuality.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Describe the relationship Shahi has with her parents and with Naz.
  • What clues does the illustrator use to let the reader know what time period they are in?
  • Why do you think Gio and Earl prefer to listen to music on records?
  • Are you familiar with any of the music artists talked about in the book? If so, who and how did you learn about them? If not, who do you think would listen to and why?
  • Do you think the store owner (Earl) was a bit selfish, if so, why do you think that?
  • How does music influence your life?
  • Do you think music and history go hand in hand to shape our communities today?
  • Which historic time travel trip stood out to you the most and why?
  • Describe one event in the book that stood out to you the most. Give your reasoning.
  • Did you think that Shahi and Naz were ever going to find their father/ uncle? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think the Jukebox was so important to Gio and Earl?
  • Describe one time in history that was mentioned in the book that you would like to go back to.

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


One Dead Spy
Author: Nathan Hale
Published August 1st, 2012 by Abrams Books

Summary: Nathan Hale is the first ever American spy during the Revolutionary War, who is to be hung by the British.  Before the approval of the hanging a giant history book picks him up to go through the past events through Nathans’ point of view which made him a spy during the Revolutionary War, and what the future of the war will be.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The book can be used with history and also when learning the time period the book is a good reference as far as word choice and vocabulary. It gives a good reference as far as seeing into the reality of the time period. It has great comedic relief and can be used to be an ice breaker when dealing with difficult things such as history, especially with our ELLs because it incorporates pictures and texts will allow them to make connections when reading and following along with pictures as well.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does this book compare to the textbook as far as history? Does this text provide more of a reference or as pleasant reading?
  • Knowing now that the main character is in reference to a real time activity, how does this change the pace and voice of the book?
  • What connections can we make from the graphic novel to the text as we are reading the text?
  • What can we infer from the textbook to foreshadow to happen in the graphic novel?
  • Why couldn’t the British soldier hang Nathan at the beginning of the graphic novel?
  • What were Nathan Hale’s famous last words?
  • What other history figures are present in the book?
  • How did Henry Knox get the cannons to General Wasington?
  • What was the first American victory of the war? And who won it?
  • How does the setting and the time period give more background knowledge as a reader? Does it help you for see the ending of the book?

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


Squish: Super Amoeba
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Illustrator: Matthew Holm
Published May 10th, 2011 by Random House

Summary: A student named Squish (who loves Science) encounters school life with his friends Peggy and Pod. In the midst of his everyday shenanigans, Squish discovers the meaning of right and wrong when faced with unexpected occurrences at his school. Looking up to his favorite role model, “Super Amoeba”, Squish is determined to become his own superhero, save his friend Peggy from the school bully, and fight against the difficulties that come his way!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: When it comes to interdisciplinary elements in this book, we have found that the closest subject that could be connected to Squish is science. Some ways in which you could connect the book to science is by conducting a couple of experiments where students can find amoebas, or other microorganisms,  under a microscope. Amoebas can be found in water puddles and lakes, and most of these places are nearby a school, which can be a great field day for students as well.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What event(s) in the book do you think shows poor/unfriendly behavior? Why?
  • What is a Planaria? Why did the authors make the principal of Squish’s school a Planaria?
  • If you were a friend of Squish, what advice would you give him when confronting the bully in the story? Would you not give him advice? Why or why not?
  • What types of connections could you make with Squish’s character, and his emotions at the end of the story? Explain.
  • Why do you think Mr. Rotifer didn’t ask more questions on why Squish helped Lynwood?
  • Is Pod a good friend in your opinion? Why or why not?
  • What animal would you want to eat the bully in the story? Explain.
  • Would you help the bully cheat to protect your friend?
  • What are some ways that Squish could have handled his bullying situation?Why or why not?

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


Author Guest Post: “Why I Write Science Books for Children” by Mary Batten, Author of Life in Hot Water: Wildlife at the Bottom of the Ocean

Share

“Why I Write Science Books for Children”

One day some years ago when I was writing scripts for the Children’s Television Workshop science series 3-2-1 Contact, I took my four-year-old daughter to my office and introduced her to the show’s actors. Afterwards, she looked at me and said, “I didn’t know they were real.” I was astounded. She had learned from watching Sesame Street and the show I was working on–the only TV shows we allowed her to watch–that what you see on TV is pretend. Big Bird, Cookie Monster and the other muppets were imaginary characters. Sesame Street was an imaginary street. My little daughter had learned the difference between fact and fiction.

From toddler age, children are fascinated by the real world. I consider them budding field biologists. They pick up the tiniest pieces of their environment–a pebble, a shell, a feather, a blade of grass–and excitedly present it to their parent or caretaker. As soon as they can, they repeatedly ask “Why?” About everything! These questions are the beginning of scientific curiosity. And it is my hope that my books tap into and nourish that curiosity.

By third grade, most children have learned about the two literary genres, fiction and nonfiction. The books I write are nonfiction–science, nature. When people ask me why I write nonfiction, I have two answers: First, I am fascinated and excited by the complex interrelationships among animals, plants, microbes, soil, sun and water that hold ecosystems together. Secondly, what goes on in nature is more fantastic, more bizarre than anything science fiction writers have imagined. Sex-changing fishes, flowers that use trickery to attract pollinators, insects that look like leaves and sticks, symbiotic partnerships between totally different species, and creatures that live in water hot enough to melt lead–these and many more are all real!

My newest book, Life in Hot Water: Wildlife at the Bottom of the Ocean, is about animals that live in the hottest, most extreme environment on Earth–hydrothermal vents. It is the second book in a series I created called “Life in the Extreme,” about the incredible ability of living things to evolve and take up residence in nooks and crannies of the most extreme environments. Discovery of hydrothermal vents in 1977 is one of the greatest adventures in science. 

Hydrothermal vents are underwater hot springs that form along the mid-ocean ridge, the longest mountain range on Earth. You can’t see it because it’s at the bottom of the sea. There it snakes more than 40,000 miles (65,000 kilometers) around the planet. When scientists first descended into this world, nobody expected to find any living thing. But the porthole of their tiny submarine revealed fish, clams, shrimp, crabs, and giant red-tipped tube worms never seen before. How could anything live amidst plumes of superhot, toxic liquid gushing from strange chimney-like structures?

Like toddlers who develop by asking questions, scientists also gather knowledge by asking questions and searching for answers. Questions open doors to discovery and the mind-blowing discovery of hydrothermal vents raised many questions. One of the most important was, “What are these creatures eating?”

Until vents were discovered, scientists thought that green plants and the sun were the base of all food chains–a process called photosynthesis. But no sunlight reaches the total darkness of the vent world miles below the ocean’s surface. And no green plants grow in this world. What then?

Following up these and other questions, scientists discovered an entirely new food chain–one that depends on energy from the Earth instead of energy from the sun. Amazingly, vent animals eat bacteria that feed on toxic chemicals such as hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs, spewed from Earth’s interior by undersea volcanoes that create the vents. Scientists called this process chemosynthesis. Robert Ballard, the oceanographer who discovered where the sunken ship Titanic lay, called it “Probably one of the biggest biological discoveries ever made on Earth.”*

Textbooks had to be rewritten to include chemosynthesis as well as photosynthesis. Today research to learn more about hydrothermal vents is going on all over the world.

For me, one of the joys of writing nonfiction is reaching out to scientists who are doing the real work and interviewing them. One of the scientists whom I consulted for this book, Dr. Janet Voight, Associate Curator at the Field Museum in Chicago, said, “There’s so much about the deep sea that we haven’t even begun to explore. It’s all discovery, and that makes it exciting.”

Children are natural born explorers. Tapping into their questions is one of the most exciting and productive ways to foster children’s developmental curiosity, engage them in the basic scientific process, and encourage them to write their own nonfiction. Children’s science books, such as Life in Hot Water, can be used to create multi-disciplinary units engaging biology, geography, art, and creative writing. 

*Bill Nye discusses discovery of hydrothermal vents with Robert Ballard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D69hGvCsWgA

Published June 21, 2022 by Peachtree

About the Book: .A dramatic overview of the deep-sea extremophiles that thrive in scalding water and permanent darkness at the bottom of the ocean

The scalding-hot water gushing from vents at the bottom of the ocean is one of the most extreme environments on Earth. Yet over millions of years, many organisms—from chemical-eating bacteria to eyeless crabs and iron-shelled snails—have evolved in amazing ways that enable them to thrive in this unlikely habitat. Scientists are hard at work to learn more about the complex ecosystems of the ocean depths.

Award-winning science writer Mary Batten and NYT best-selling illustrator Thomas Gonzalez, the masterful duo that created Life in a Frozen World, team up again in this impressive overview of hydrothermal ocean vents. Her clear, informative text coupled with his unique and eerily realistic paintings of sights never seen on land—gushing “black smokers,” ghostly blind shrimp, red-plumed tube worms—will entice readers to learn more about this once-hidden world at the bottom of the sea.

About the Author: Mary Batten is an award-winning writer for television, film and publishing. Her many writing projects have taken her into tropical rainforests, astronomical observatories, and scientific laboratories. She scripted some 50 television documentaries, was nominated for an Emmy, and is the author of many children’s science books, including Aliens From Earth, and Life in a Frozen World: Wildlife of Antarctica. Her most recent book is Life in Hot Water: Wildlife at the Bottom of the Ocean.

Thank you, Sara at Holiday House, for connecting us with Mary!

Guest Review: Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, Illustrated by Laura Freeman

Share

Guest Reviewer: Kayla, UCF Elementary Education Student

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
Author: Margot Lee Shetterly
Illustrator: Laura Freeman
Published

Summary: Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math…really good.

They participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes, like providing the calculations for America’s first journeys into space. And they did so during a time when being black and a woman limited what they could do. But they worked hard. They persisted. And they used their genius minds to change the world.

In this illustrated picture book edition, we explore the story of four female African American mathematicians at NASA, known as “colored computers,” and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career.

About the Creators: 

Margot Lee Shetterly is the author of  Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (William Morrow/HarperCollins). Shetterly is also the founder of The Human Computer Project, an endeavor that is recovering the names and accomplishments of all of the women who worked as computers, mathematicians, scientists and engineers at the NACA and NASA from the 1930s through the 1980s. Shetterly is a Virginia native, University of Virginia graduate, an entrepreneur, and an intrepid traveler who spent 11 years living in Mexico. She currently lives in Charlottesville, VA.

Originally from New York City, Laura Freeman now live in Atlanta with her husband and their two children. Freeman received my BFA from the School of Visual Arts and began her career working for various editorial clients. She has illustrated over thirty children’s books, including Hidden Figures written by Margot Lee Shetterly, the Nikki & Deja series by Karen English and Fancy Party Gowns by Deborah Blumenthal. In addition to illustrating books and editorial content, Freeman’s art can be found on a wide range of products, from dishes and textiles to greeting cards.

Review: This book was a gem to find. I didn’t really know the story of how NASA got the skills to make it to space when planning the exploration. I was very intrigued when I read the story of these four African American women who were mathematical geniuses. These women were around during the segregation era but that didn’t stop them from doing what they loved even through tough times. In this picture book I was able to explore their story and how they made everything possible to help NASA put the first man into space. I also really like the message of women entering a career we only see men in but overcoming gender and racial barriers will allow any women to be successful in her career.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book can be used in many ways. We can use in social studies when talking and exploring segregation and how these women overcame a lot of obstacles to help NASA but men into space. We can also speak about STEM based careers and how difficult it was for many women to enter science or engineering jobs or schools because it was considered a “mans” job. This book will allow many children to see that hard work and dedication pays off. We should follow are dream and work hard and overall, not let any obstacle allow us to fail.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did these 4 women make NASA hire them to work on the program to allow humans into space?
  • Was it easy for these women to get into school or even work for NASA? Why?
  • Who would you identify more with Dorothy, Mary, Katherine or Christine?
  • Descried how the segregation affected Black people?
  • What two major obstacles did Dorothy Vaughan face to become a computer at the Langley Laboratory?
  • Using the timeline in the book what were the most important events in the story?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker, Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

Thank you, Kayla, for your review!

Author Guest Post: “Unforgotten” by Kerry L. Malawista, Author of Meet the Moon

Share

“Unforgotten”

In my thirties, newly pregnant, I returned to my hometown library in search of my mother.

Once inside that maroon brick building, I was transported back in time. The thrill of possibilities lining the shelves, the card catalog with its array of seemingly endless wooden drawers, and the metal water fountain—where I struggled with how to simultaneously hold down the foot pedal and rise up on tiptoes to take a sip of water.

A gray-haired woman approached me. “Can I help you?” she whispered into the hush.

“Yes, I am trying to find the Bergen Record—from 1970.”

“Any newspapers over a year old are kept on microfiche. Follow me.” She drifted toward a side room full of machines that had clearly seen better days. A mysterious room, where grown-ups had unspooled reels and loaded slides into carousels, forgotten ways of recording the world. She demonstrated how to load the microfiche into the viewer and how to move the film around to find past articles, then she left me to my task.

“Good luck!” she said as she walked out of the room.

My eyes blurred as the years flew by. I slowed down as I reached 1970. Even more slowly I scrolled. January…March… April. I noticed the headline for the Apollo 13 launch on April 17 of that year, and stopped. I remembered that day at Shaler Elementary School in Ridgefield, New Jersey. It was a Friday, and my teacher, Mrs. McCurry, had marched us single file down the hall to the all-purpose room to watch the splash down with the entire school. Two large televisions were set up on the stage at the front of the room.

I overheard talk among the teachers that something might have gone wrong with the space shuttle and that the astronauts were at risk of burning up as they re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. A tense chatter filled the room until we saw the first sight of the parachutes opening, and like purple butterflies the astronauts floated down to safety. Everyone cheered. But for me, the thought of those men floating around in a capsule, out in space, away from their families, left a sad and lonely sensation in the pit of my stomach.

I never understood why that feeling about Apollo 13 stayed with me so long. The astronauts had made it back to earth. They hadn’t blown up.

Sitting beside the industrial metal bulk of the microfiche viewer, carefully sliding the brittle plastic film forward, I was launched back to my childhood bedroom. Running along the wall next to my bed, right where my eyes landed was a line of white trim that extended out from the center windows. On the wood was a tiny indentation with some chipped paint, shaped just like a rocket ship, with what I thought at the time looked like fire, blasting it off into outer space. As I settled into sleep each night I would check to see that my rocket ship, my Apollo 13, was still there.

Scrolling down to May, I realized that the desolation lingering from that long-ago Apollo landing was actually from three weeks later, when my mother’s capsule didn’t protect her. Till that moment I hadn’t realized how close these two events were in real time. My memory had fused them together, overlaying the later dread with the earlier Apollo 13 landing.

Now I wondered if had it always been a rocket I saw there, or did it only become one after our lives exploded?

Increasing the magnification, I zoomed in to the top of the front page—May 8, 1970. At first all I saw was the large faded photograph of the demolished Ford Country Squire station wagon, smashed in, glass shattered.

I read the caption below, “A woman was killed and her small son critically injured in Palisades Park.” I didn’t want to imagine a “woman,” my mother, pressed inside what looked like an enormous accordion with all the air pressed out of it.

The story below unfolded: “Police say Mrs. Leddy, 32, of 389 Mayer Court, Ridgefield, was driving south on Grand Avenue when her car swerved into the northbound lane and crashed head on into a truck driven by Edward Martini, 45, of Staten Island. According to police, Martini was sitting in his van reading a road map when the accident occurred.”

When I paused the flat black and white microfiche, I thought how little of the story those spare words told. I knew the facts: My mother, with my baby brother in the back seat, was on her way to pick up my little sister from nursery school. An eyewitness saw my mother slump to her side, that it appeared she had fainted, resulting in her foot pressing down on the accelerator. The autopsy stated, with high certainty, that an aneurysm exploded in her brain.

Yet, in that moment, staring at the picture, the intoxicating smell of the burgundy leather seats returned—just months before the accident we had celebrated the arrival of our very first new car—and the reel of that long-ago day unfurled through my brain.

My nine-year-old self, along with my four siblings, staring at my father sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Girls, there’s been…”

My knees weak, I glanced away, trying to land my eyes anywhere but on my father’s face. Not wanting to see his tears.

“There has been a terrible accident,” he said. I was like one of my lightening bug trapped in a jar, looking for a way out.

Slowly he choked out the rest of the words. “Mom’s gone.”

“What do you mean she’s gone?” I understood, but I didn’t want to.

Barely audible, he said, “She died.”

One of us asked, “What happened?”

“We aren’t sure yet, but she was in a car accident.” He might have said more. I couldn’t take in his words—a wall had gone up between my ears and my mind.

After I left the library, eager for more memories of that day I called the Palisades Police Department. While I realized it was unlikely, I wanted to see if there might be a small chance someone there remembered the accident. Something they could tell me. A desk officer answered the phone.

“Palisades Police Department. Is this an emergency?”

“No. I just have a question. I’m wondering if there might be someone working in the police department that was here in 1970.” Adding, “There was a car accident…I was hoping to ask about.”

He said, “Well our Captain was here then. Maybe he’d remember. Hold on a moment. What was your name?”

“It was Kerry Leddy back then.”

As I waited, my self-consciousness grew. Should I hang up? This guy has better things to do. Who calls the cops twenty years later, expecting someone to remember a car accident?

“I can’t believe I’m hearing from you,” a voice said, nearly as whispery as the librarian. He sounded as if he had been sitting by the phone, awaiting my call. “How is your brother?” His voice choked.

“He’s fine.” I said, doing my best to keep my own voice steady. “Really well. He’s in the army.”

“I’m so glad. . . . He was so . . . badly hurt. . . . I had gone to the hospital to check on him.” I could hear him struggling to find the words.

I said, “I’m shocked you remember.”

“How could I forget? It’s like it was yesterday. . . I was a new officer, just there a couple of months, and going to that scene and seeing the accident and your Mom. . . five kids. . . Well. . . Man. . . jeez. . . .” His voice once again caught in his throat. “I think about your family all the time. . . it was so awful. . . you kids…your brother like that. . . your mom. I never could get her out of my head. My wife had just had a baby. I never forgot it. I’m so glad to hear you all did so well.”

Captain Stanton had nothing new to tell me about the accident. Nothing new to tell me about my mother.

Yet he gave me just what I was needed, what truly mattered: Captain Stanton remembered. Remembered my mother. Remembered our family. All these years he had carried her and us with him, linking the past to the present. That’s what I was searching for, to not forget.

I found my mother in the newspaper that day in the library, and I discovered that I’d merged our family history with that of the space program. Then I found an eye witness to the devastation our family faced—a man who’d just started a family of his own when my mother died—and he’d spent time inventing a future for our family. That factual and emotional confirmation, together on the same day, launched me to write my novel, Meet the Moon. I remembered, embellished, and invented a family grappling with grief in hopes of reaching readers the way I reached the policeman, who gratefully said to me, “I can’t believe I’m hearing from you.”

Expected Publication: September 15th, 2022 by Fitzroy Books/Regal House Publishing

About the Book: In 1970, 13-year-old Jody Moran wants pierced ears, a kiss from a boy, and more attention from her mother. It’s not fair. Seems like her mother is more worked up about the Apollo 13 astronauts, who may not make it back to earth safely. As it happens, the astronauts are spared a crash landing, but Jody is not, for three days after splashdown, her mother dies in a car accident. Now, Jody will never know if her mother really loved her. Jody’s father has taught them to believe in the “Power of Intention.” Announce what you want to the world to make it happen. But could the power of Jody’s jealousy and anger have caused Mom’s accident? To relieve her guilt and sadness, she devotes herself to mothering her three younger siblings and helping Dad, which quickly proves too much for her, just as persuading quirky Grandma Cupcakes to live with them proves too much for Grandma. That’s when Jody decides to find someone to marry her father, a new mom who will love her best. Jody reads high and low to learn about love, marriage and death. For her adolescent firsts—kiss, bra, and boyfriend—she has the help of her popular older sister, her supportive father, and comical Grandma. But each first, which makes her miss her mother, teaches her that death doesn’t happen just once.

About the Author: Kerry L. Malawista, PhD is a writer and psychoanalyst in Potomac, MD. She is co-chair of New Directions in Writing and founder of the recent project The Things They Carry – offering virtual writing workshops for healthcare and frontline workers. Her essays have appeared nationally in newspapers, magazines and literary journals including The New York Times, The Washington PostThe Baltimore SunThe Boston GlobeZone 3Washingtonian MagazineThe Huffington PostBethesda MagazineArlington MagazineThe Account Magazine, and Delmarva Review, which nominated her for a Pushcart Prize. She is the co-author of Wearing my Tutu to Analysis and Other Stories (2011), The Therapist in Mourning: From the Faraway Nearby (2013), both published by Columbia University Press, and Who’s Behind the Couch (2017) published by Routledge Press. When the Garden Isn’t Eden: More Psychoanalytic Concepts from Life will be published by Columbia University Press spring 2022 and her novel, Meet the Moon will be released September 2022 by Regal House Publishing. Her website is KerryMalawista.com.

Thank you, Kerry, for this beautifully written post!

Guest Review: The Bad Seed by Jory John, Illustrated by Pete Oswald

Share

Guest Reviewer: Katie, UCF Elementary Education Student

The Bad Seed
Author: Jory John
Illustrator: Pete Oswald
Published August 29th, 2017 by HarperCollins Publishers

Summary: This is a book about a bad seed. A baaaaaaaaaad seed. How bad? Do you really want to know?

He has a bad temper, bad manners, and a bad attitude. He’s been bad since he can remember! This seed cuts in line every time, stares at everybody and never listens. But what happens when one mischievous little seed changes his mind about himself, and decides that he wants to be—happy?

About the Creators:

Jory John is a New York Times bestselling author and two-time E. B. White Read Aloud Honor recipient. Jory’s work includes the award-winning Goodnight Already! series; the bestselling Terrible Two series; the popular picture books The Bad Seed, Penguin Problems, and Quit Calling Me a Monster!; and the national bestseller All My Friends Are Dead, among other books. He lives in Oregon.

Pete Oswald is an LA-based artist, kid lit author/illustrator, and production designer. He is the co-creator of Mingo the Flamingo, published in 2017 by HarperCollins. Pete is also the illustrator of The Bad Seed, by Jory John. When Pete is not working on books he is helping to uplift many of the most successful animated franchises as a character designer, concept artist, and production designer. Pete lives in Santa Monica, California, with his wife and two sons.

Review: I personally love this book and the character development it possesses throughout. There is a background on how the seed became to be “The Bad Seed”, which helps readers understand that there is always a reason behind their peers’ behaviors. The seed shared the things he does and the reasons he believes himself to be so bad but also a chance in his mindset, he no longer wants to be a bad seed. He starts changing his behavior and wants to be happy. This shows kids that it’s okay to want to make positive changes in themselves and it is possible for their peers to do so too. The seed also shares that he may not continue these positive behaviors at all times but does so from time to time. This shows that you can not be the perfect person at all times but it’s all about you trying to do so. With this, I think this would be a great book to start the year out with to show students that it is okay to start out being “bad” and changing for the better. It also gives students a chance to understand behaviors without telling them.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I think this book would be best for a classroom read aloud. This is because it would be a great introduction book or even if you notice there are a lot of negative behaviors happening in the classroom. It shows character development and how you can turn your behavior around. It also shows that there is a reason behind all negative behaviors and that these reasons are justifiable as well showing that you can get past it.

Some activities you could also do with it are:

Mapping: Mapping could be used for this book as you can map the journey the character takes to change his behavior from being bad to being good. You can have points that begin with the seed being happy, what happened that made him change his behavior, what he did while he was being bad, and what he started doing to become good.

Literature Logs: This could be used for older age groups, they can stop at the beginning to make connections or write down their initial thoughts after a picture walk. They can stop at different points to make inferences about what’s going to happen next or things they believe the character can do to turn around his behavior.

Graffiti Boards: This could be used just like the literature logs but may be more fun for the students as it is less structured. Here they have a chance to write, draw and interpret ideas on their own with little guidance other then the initial instructions and it can be done at any point without having to stop as a whole class to complete.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Describe in your own words the reasoning behind the bad seed becoming bad?
  • Why do you think the seed is considered to be the bad seed just from looking at the cover?
  • Do you think the seed will be able to overcome his “bad” behavior? Why or why not?
  • Describe a time in your life where you interacted with someone who acted like the bad seed? How did it make you feel?
  • Why do you think the seed wanted to turn his behavior around and become good again?
  • What do you think we can learn from the bad seed and his journey to become good?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Understanding behavior, colorful illustrations

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

Thank you, Katie, for your review!

Guest Post: Classroom Uses for Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott, Magnificent Makers: How to Test a Friendship by Theanne Griffith, Polly Diamond and the Magic Book by Alice Kuipers, and Sisters of the Neversea by Cynthia Leitich Smith

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. The course was structured by genre as were the book clubs.

Today, I am happy to share the classroom uses and discussion questions found by my UCF Elementary Education students about fantasy novels.

Dragons in a Bag
Author: Zetta Elliott
Published October 23rd, 2018 by Random House

Summary: Jax is left by his mom to an old lady by the name of Ma. Jax later finds out that Ma is a witch who has 3 dragon eggs that hatched. They need to return the eggs because they won’t survive in the regular world due to lack of magic. They go to portals through time that takes them to the time of dinosaurs. Along the way, Jax meets his grandfather who also knows magic, and has him return two of the dragons to the magic council but accidentally left one left behind so he returns to the regular world. He forces his mom and the witch to hash out their problems.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: When using fantasy in the classroom it is always a good way to spark your students’ creativity. This source could be used as a creative writing prompt to boost off their creativity of the story: Conduct an activity based upon the book like have them write a short story about what they would do if they were in Jax’s shoes and have them draw pictures of dragons, name them, and design the dragons how they would like them to be pictured.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What was Jax’s first impression of Ma?
  • How do you think Jax will return the last dragon to the magic council?
  • Who do agree with and why? Ma who wants to keep the world of magic separate or L. Roy who wants magic to come back to earth.
  • Why do you think Jax decided to open the window for the squirrel?
  • What were 2 things the dragons were not allowed to have?
  • When you first hear the word apprentice what comes to mind?  Did you have the same thinking as Jax?
  • How does the story tie in with real-life scenarios with the fantasy?
  • Who are the most influential character apart from Jax?
  • When do we see the change of events come in play throughout the story?
  • When reading the book your imagination goes wild,in what other circumstances does your mind go other places when reading this story?

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


The Magnificent Makers: How to Test Friendship
Author: Theanne Griffith
Illustrator: Reggie Brown
Published May 19th, 2020 by Random House Children’s Books

Summary: Pablo, Violet and Deepak are three friends who get sucked into a telescope and must play science games to come back and play again. Deepak is the new kid who makes Pablo jealous with his presence. Throughout the book, the team works together and build their friendship to complete the games.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The book could be used as a classroom read-aloud over the course of a few days or a week.  Due to the science elements, this book would be a good way to start off science discussions in the classroom. For example, the second chapter includes the students learning about food chains. This book is perfect to make connections back to science.

Discussion Questions: 

  •   Why do you think Pablo was jealous of Deepak?
  •   What were some of the challenges they had and what did they have to do?
  •   Why do you think Pablo, Violet, and Deepak were chosen for the Maker’s Maze?
  •    What do you know about producers, consumers, decomposers, and scavengers?
  • What were your favorite aspects of science that you learned from the book?
  • What type of emotion did the characters experience in the book?
  • When Deepak arrived to class, what did Pablo notice about him?
  • How does Pablo overcome is jealous toward Deepak?
  • Toward the end of the book why did they relate their friendship to the ecosystems?

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


Polly Diamond and the Magic Book
Author: Alice Kuipers
Illustrator: Diana Toledano
Published April 22nd, 2018 by Chronicle Books

Summary: Polly Diamond is a little girl who receives a magic book that lets her bring to life the things that she writes and draws. She has a little sister who she doesn’t like very much and a brother on the way. Polly loves to write, she writes lists and stories and anything that she thinks is worth writing. When she starts writing in her magic book she realizes that the book can talk back to her. She writes to her book and comes up with lists and stories to write. She realizes that whatever she writes in the book comes to life when she writes about making a ladder to paint her room and the books on the floor magically move to make a ladder. The book tells her that is what she’s for and Polly quickly learns she can do anything she writes. She makes herself invisible and her sister into a banana. But she realizes that the book is taking everything she says literally. When she writes about eating a club sandwich the book gives her two slices of bread with a bat in between because it took the definition of a club literally. She told the house to fix up the carpet and turn her room into an aquarium. But the carpet was on the ceiling and fish were swimming around her room. She then realizes that everything she wrote was crazy and tries to put the house back to normal because she can’t even recognize it anymore. She fixes it just in time for her parents to come home with her new baby brother. At the end of the story she gives the book a name, Spell. And looks forward to writing and drawing another day with her new book, and friend Spell.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Polly uses and explains words like metaphor, affixes, alliteration, and hyperbole.  This is a great opportunity to talk about these definitions, make lists of words and phrases that relate to these words, and do activities where the students use metaphors, alliteration, homophones, homonyms etc.  It seems like a useful book to have in a first grade classroom and use with a higher level reading small group or a second grade class.    It could also be used as a read aloud, again discussing the key words and their meanings, then practicing using those skills.  There is a lot of use of imagery in this book as well as understanding literal meaning and how words matter.

After reading the text, students can respond to the story by engaging in a free write activity after they finish the reading. As a teacher, we could set a timer for five minutes and ask the students to write continuously about their thoughts on the book, good or bad, and afterwards, go over it as a small group.

Discussion Questions:

  • Polly had many favorite words throughout the book, what are some of your favorite words and why?
  • Make a list of activities you would do to have a Super-Fantastic-Day.
  • In the book, Polly writes down what her dream bedroom would look like. If you could have your dream bedroom, what would it look like?
  • When Polly writes in the magic book, she learns that she needs to write clearly and use as much detail as possible. What are some important rules to follow when writing so people can understand your message clearly?
  • When Polly is playing hide-and-seek, why does she become invisible?
  • Imagine the turquoise notebook has changed your house like Polly’s. Please write a short story explaining what your home looks like in order to get it back to normal.
  • How does Polly feel having to share a room with her little sister when her brother is born?
  • If you had a magic notebook that could bring three things you wrote about to life, what 3 things would you write or draw and why?
  • Polly loves words with double letters like “Dizzy.” List 5 words you can think of that have double letters.
  • Polly loves alliteration.  That’s when  two or more words in a row begin with the same letter.  What alliterations can you think of?

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


Sisters of the Neversea
Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Published June 1st, 2021 by Heartdrum

Summary: This book is a tale about three children, Lily, Wendy, and Michael. Their parents, Mr. Darling and Ms. Florene Roberts-Darling are separating, splitting the family between two different locations.  The night before Wendy and Mr. Darling are supposed to leave, the children are visited by a boy named Peter Pan and Belle. Stories of pirates and merfolk persuade the children to follow Peter Pan and Belle off to a mystical land called Neverland.  Upon arriving the children are separated and discover once you arrive you can never leave.  The children meet merfolk, pirates, native children, the lost, and fairies in a desperate attempt to figure out how to get home.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book will be great for a read aloud, book club, or close reading because it involves a lot of higher level vocabulary than some students may currently be reading at and it has long sentences and dialogue which again, some children could struggle with. These classroom uses would allow for discussions.

Geography could also be tied in because students could illustrate and demonstrate caves and waterways the Merfolk might have dwelled in. They also could show their knowledge of what an island like Neverland might have, and include what trees they think the lost boys were living in.

And, of course, it could be looked at versus Peter Pan as it is a retelling.

Discussion Questions: 

  • If you were a character in this book, who would you be and why?
  • If you were to create a different ending, How would it go?
  • Why do you think Mr. Darling and Ms. Florene wanted to separate?
  • What was your favorite part of the book?
  • What were some challenges that the children had to face or overcome?
  • Why do you think Peter Pan and Belle appeared?
  • Why do you think it was hard for the lost boys to remember who they are?
  • Why do you think Peter Pan never wanted to grow up?
  • Why do you think Belle brought Peter Pan to the island?
  • Why do you think the crocodile made a TikTok sound?
  • Does this book remind you of any other children’s stories?  If so why?

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall  


Guest Review: There’s Only One You by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, Illustrated by Rosie Butcher

Share

Guest Reviewer: Jessica G., UCF Elementary Education Student

There’s Only One You
Authors: Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook
Illustrator: Rosie Butcher
Published May 7th, 2019 by Union Square Kids

Summary: This feel-good book reassures kids that, whoever and whatever they are, it’s awesome being YOU! Expertly written to include all kinds of children and families, it embraces the beauty in a range of physical types, personalities, and abilities. Kids will love discovering and recognizing themselves in these pages—and they’ll feel proud to see their special qualities acknowledged. Adorable illustrations by Rosie Butcher show a diverse community that many will find similar to their own. (Goodreads)

About the Creators:

Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook have coauthored several books for children, including Ten Lucky Leprechauns (Scholastic) and Mouse Makes Words: A Phonics Reader (Random House). Kathryn is a school psychologist and Deborah is a kindergarten teacher. They both live in WI. Learn more at helinghembrook.com.

Rosie Butcher lives in East Yorkshire and spends her summers in Sweden. Follow her @scrimmle.

Review: I really enjoyed reading There’s Only One You. It is a wonderful book embracing diversity, inclusion, and individuality. The book is filled with beautiful illustrations demonstrating what makes us unique. The book is written in a rhythmic style, so it is engaging for young readers. Each spread beautifully displays the range of physical characteristics, personalities, or abilities individuals may have. The book is filled with bright vivid colors. Each page is filled with many details. Readers will enjoy exploring each page. The book and the illustrations go beyond inclusion of physical characteristics and incorporate physical attributes and challenges such as being in a wheelchair, using arm crutches, a walker, or using a hearing aid. The book also includes multiple spreads showing differences in families. Illustrations include families that comprise of a mom and a dad, or two moms, or two dads, or a single mom, or a single dad. The authors and illustrator do an excellent job displaying diversity within each page. The book also addresses differences in personalities, such as “crying when you’re sad, or keep tears inside”. The story emphasizes that being unique is what we all have in common. It is what makes us extraordinary.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I believe There’s Only One You is a wonderful book to kick start a new school year. It is a great read aloud choice that reminds students that we are all unique and that is special. The story celebrates all learners. It also encourages empathy among students. It is an excellent aide to teach social emotional learning concepts such as self-esteem, managing thoughts, emotions,

and behaviors, and being against bullying. The book can also be used interdisciplinary in reading, social studies, and art. The text and illustrations are filled with many details that prompt discussion among readers. Students may also respond in a journal entry to some of the subjects addressed in the book or write and draw about their own family. Students may also respond by creating an acrostic poem. In social studies, students can utilize individuality to explore what makes us diverse. For example, exploring

what country each student is from, their culture, traditions, and norms. In art, students can draw a self-portrait of themselves, then share with their classmates.There’s Only One You provides a great opportunity to build a classroom community.

Discussion Questions: 

  • On page 3, the author writes, “It’s awesome being unique!” Based on what we have read so far, what do you think being unique means?
  • On page 4, the author writes, “Do your feelings spill out? Do they lay low and hide? You might cry when you’re sad or keep tears inside.” The author is trying to tell us we differ in how we express our emotions. What are ways you can respond if you do not like something or it is not what you may have wanted?
  • On pages 8 and 9, we see students at the zoo. The author wants us to know how they are different and special. How does the author tell us that the students are different? What can we see from the illustrations?
  • Is there something that makes you unique or different from your classmates?
  • On pages 12 and 13, we can see all the children doing different activities. What kind of activities do we see in the picture? Do you have an activity that you love to do?
  • On pages 14 and 15, we can see some cool tools that may help our friends. Can you recall any of these tools? How do they help?

Flagged Passages: 

 

Read This If You Love: Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael López; You Are Enough: A Book about Inclusion by Margaret O’ Hair, illustrated by Sofia Cardoso; Different–A Great Thing to Be! by Heather Avis, illustrated by Sarah Mensinga

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

Thank you, Jessica, for your review!