The Princess Protection Program by Alex London

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The Princess Protection Program
Author: Alex London
Published February 13th, 2024 by Greenwillow Books

Summary: Every fairy tale ends with its characters living happily ever after, right? A valiant prince quests long and hard to reach the castle where the sleeping princess lies. And with a kiss, he will awaken her.

But what if the princess does NOT think a kiss from a stranger is a very pleasant way to wake up? Yuck!

When Rosamund flees her prince, a Door of Opportunity opens, and she steps through to the Home Educational Academy (the HEA for short). Rosamund has found the Princess Protection Program, where fugitive fairy tale princesses escape unwanted affections, untimely ends, and all the other perils of their stories.

But as Rosamund adjusts to life in the real world and makes her first real friends (Rana, who left her story after an incident with a frog; Sirena, a former mermaid; Cindy and Charlie, who didn’t want to get married after just one dance; and others), she has more and more questions. Does anyone ever graduate from the HEA? Why doesn’t anyone seem to remember former students? Is the kindly fairy headmistress all she appears to be? Is anyone? And the most important question of all: Can Rosamund change her story?

Acclaimed and bestselling author Alex London weaves together several beloved fairy tales in this fast-paced, funny, and slyly subversive adventure about finding your place in the world and taking control of your own story. The daring escapes, sinister monsters, familiar friends, and surprise twists will keep even reluctant readers glued to the pages. The Princess Protection Program is for fans of the Never Afters and the Descendants series, The School for Good and Evil, and the Fairly True.

About the Author: Alex London is the acclaimed author of more than thirty books for children and teens. His middle grade novels include The Princess Protection Program, Search & Rescue, Dog Tags, and two titles in the 39 Clues series. For young adults, he’s the author of the cyberpunk duology Proxy and the epic fantasy series Black Wings Beating, which were both named to numerous best-of-the-year lists. He has been a journalist and human rights researcher reporting from conflict zones and refugee camps, a young adult librarian with the New York Public Library, and a snorkel salesman. He lives with his husband, daughter, and hound dog in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Visit him at calexanderlondon.com.

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Alex London: @ca_london

Review: I am such a fan of twists on fairy tales, especially when they are unique and like none I’ve read before, and The Princess Protection Program fits this! The idea of princesses being able to leave to our world and automatically go to a school with a fairy godmother protecting them from monsters that are trying to eat them to return to their tales is the perfect new twist for fairy tales. I loved getting to know all of the princesses (and Charlie!) and learning about everything with them. The characters are what make the beginning of the book, but then the twist of the story happens and it breaks the plot open and also adds in so much chaos at the end of the book that the end just speeds by as the conclusion nears. Fans of the books I listed below will definitely love this one!

Tools for Navigation: This book is filled with allusions and allegory; there is so much to unpack! Rosamund’s journey also fits the Hero’s Journey!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why would the princesses want to leave their story?
  • Which princess do you think had the worst fate in their story?
  • What other princesses/characters can you think of that might have wanted to leave their story if they had a chance?
  • Why do the professors not like all of Rosamund’s questions?
  • Were any of the princesses different than what you expected reading their fairy tales?
  • Did you see the twist coming?

Flagged Passages: Chapter One: Beauty Awakened

Once upon a time, there was a young princess, as kind and curious as she was clever, who a witch cursed into a deep and endless sleep. Her castle sat silent in a clearing at the center of a deep, dark wood for a hundred winters and a hundred springs. Around it the forest teemed with poisonous flowers and enchanted thorns. The castle would have sat like that for a hundred more winters and a hundred more springs, had not the prince, as valiant as he was brave, found it at last.

He hacked his way past the poisonous flowers and the enchanted thorns. He dodged hungry shadows and fearsome beasts, fought cursed fungus, and forded a river of nightmares. He even outwitted a witch’s riddle, which, much to his surprise, wasn’t all that tricky.

If you don’t keep me, I break. What am I?

“Um, a promise?” he’d answered.

“Are you certain?” the witch cackled at him. “If you answer wrong, you shall never escape these woods!”

He puffed out his chest.

“I am certain, witch!” he bellowed. The witch shrieked, then vanished in a puff of green smoke. Beyond her, the thorned vines parted to show his way to the castle in the clearing.

He had expected all this to be harder. It was his destiny, after all, and destiny should not be so easy.

Inside, the castle was still. Golden light streaked through stained glass windows. He made his way to the chapel, where he would find his princess. He had been promised this princess in visions and dreams, and even by his very own fairy godmother. The princess would be his one true love from the moment he first laid eyes on her until his last, dying day.

He really hoped she was pretty.

And there she was, the cursed Princess Rosamund, asleep in a bed that stood upon a dais surrounded by wildflowers and an abundance of soothing lavender. She was drenched in golden light, as lovely as the day she’d fallen into that deep sleep one hundred years ago.

“A true beauty,” he whispered to himself, relieved. “Sleeping perfection.”

He knelt before the dais and said a quiet thanks, for he was a polite prince, and grateful that all his dreams were coming true.

Then he rose, stepped up beside the bed, and stood over the sleeping princess, whose story he had been told since childhood: a witch had cursed her father’s kingdom to perish and her to sleep until she was awoken by a kiss of the truehearted.

Well, this prince knew his heart was true.

“My entire life has led me here,” he told the sleeping princess. “I swear to you, I shall love you better than the moon loves the sunset, better than boats love the rising tide, better than a flower loves the . . . err . . . um . . . something? Not dew. Bees, maybe? Err . . .”

He’d forgotten his oath, even though he’d practiced it for the entire quest. Then again, it was not his words that mattered, but the truth in his heart and the passion in his kiss. The oaths were just for posterity, a word

he didn’t really understand anyway. Posterity didn’t have chapped lips and body odor from all that questing. The prince did.

With no further ado, he pressed his lips to the sleeping princess’s and held them there with his eyes closed for a count of three, which was how long his squire had told him a real kiss was meant to last. The prince had never kissed anyone before, not even the squire who’d suggested they practice. He wished he had practiced now. He didn’t know if he was doing kissing right at all.

He opened first one eye and then the other.

To his delight, the princess had opened her eyes, both of them, and was staring up at him with a look of deep passion.

Or was that surprise?

“Fear not, princess,” he told her softly. “It is I, Prince Percy the Valiant, and it is my destiny to wake you and marry you and love you for the rest of our blessed lives.”

Her eyes narrowed. Her forehead furrowed.

“Am I not all you dreamed of these hundred years?” he asked her, his confidence faltering. He had not considered that she might not think him pretty.

“Um,” she said, which was not the most inspiring first word of their life together, but she had been asleep for a long time.

He leaned back, giving her space as the color returned to her cheeks, the focus to her eyes. He could give her a moment to come to her senses. He himself was a beast first thing in the morning, as she would surely learn in the course of their marriage.

To his surprise, she sat bolt upright. Like an unbroken mare kicking out at a new rider, she shoved him off her bed and sent him tumbling from the dais. He nearly fell over onto his princely posterior, which was not at all the first impression he preferred to make.

“Princess!” he called as she leapt in bare feet down to the chapel floor. The wildflowers around her withered as the magic faded.

She looked him up and down, brow still furrowed.

Then she ran.

Read This If You Love: Fairy Tale Reform School by Jen Calonita, Disney Twisted Tales, Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer, Books by Jessica Day George, Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski

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

This review was featured by Twinkl in their article Magical Books for Kids to Beat the Summer Reading Slide!

This is My America by Kim Johnson

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This is My America
Author: Kim Johnson
Published: February 28, 2017 by Balzer + Bray

GoodReads Summary: Dear Martin meets Just Mercy in this unflinching yet uplifting YA novel that explores the racist injustices in the American justice system.

Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time—her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?

Fans of Nic Stone and Jason Reynolds won’t want to miss this provocative and gripping debut.

Review: This is a book that will stick with me forever. The characters are powerfully written, and the plot unfolds itself beautifully. It tackles complex themes that offer excellent fodder for classroom discussion. Some of these include implicit and explicit racism, the ripple effects of White supremacy and racism, White privilege, and injustices in the judicial system. I could go on. This book is truly exceptional, and I envision it winning some big awards this year. There is so much to unpack and so much to admire in Johnson’s writing. It’s absolutely brilliant. If you buy no other book this summer, buy this one. It will make you think deeply about equity and justice.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I highlighted so many passages of this book while I was reading it. There are so many sections that would make phenomenal close readings in the classroom. I highly recommend pairing this text with portions or all of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

Discussion Questions: What are some of the injustices in this text?; How can we, as a society, work to change these injustices?; How do the injustices have a ripple effect on other characters?; How does Johnson layer the plot to elevate the reading and message of the text?

Flagged Passage: “Corinne never held that memory [of Daddy getting arrested], but I know she feels it in everything we breathe. It’s in the polite nods across the street we have to make, the way our family turns down our music when there are others around. Say yes ma’am and no sir. Leave our jackets and backpacks in the car when we go shopping.

It’s in the way I carry myself that tells our story now. I can’t risk being accused of anything. Because if something goes wrong or missing, I know it’s in the back of someone’s mind that maybe I had something to do with it. And it’s in the way that the voice of the strongest woman I know stumbles when saying, ‘Hello, Officer’ as she walks through the visitation gates to see Daddy.”

Read This If You Loved: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson; The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas; All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely; by Ilyassah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon; The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon; How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon; Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles;

Recommended For:

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Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan

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Snow White: A Graphic Novel
Author: Matt Phelan
Published: September 21, 2016 by Candlewick

A Guest Review by Emily Baseler

GoodReads Summary: Award-winning graphic novelist Matt Phelan delivers a darkly stylized noir Snow White set against the backdrop of Depression-era Manhattan.

The scene: New York City, 1928. The dazzling lights cast shadows that grow ever darker as the glitzy prosperity of the Roaring Twenties screeches to a halt. Enter a cast of familiar characters: a young girl, Samantha White, returning after being sent away by her cruel stepmother, the Queen of the Follies, years earlier; her father, the King of Wall Street, who survives the stock market crash only to suffer a strange and sudden death; seven street urchins, brave protectors for a girl as pure as snow; and a mysterious stock ticker that holds the stepmother in its thrall, churning out ticker tape imprinted with the wicked words “Another . . . More Beautiful . . . KILL.” In a moody, cinematic new telling of a beloved fairy tale, extraordinary graphic novelist Matt Phelan captures the essence of classic film noir on the page—and draws a striking distinction between good and evil.

Review: Matt Phelan reinvented the “happily ever after” with this retelling. I identify as a Disney Classic enthusiast but I was pleasantly surprised with the ending. The illustrations are gorgeous with distinct intentionality. More mature themes such as death, assassination, murder were evaluated within a historical context to create an incredible murder mystery story at the level of a middle grade reader.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This would be an excellent text to hand a more reluctant reader. There is limited text the reader is asked to interpret the illustrations and structure. In literature groups, students could potentially discuss the use of metaphor, oenomania, author/illustrator’s choice, and compare/ contrast the original fairytale with the retelling. This is also a text I would recommend to a student who has shown an interest in the graphic novel genre to read independently.

Discussion Questions: Why do you think the author choose to use red in selected illustrations? How did this choice influence you as a reader?; Why do you think the author choose to break apart the chapters this way?; Even though there were few words, how did you interpret the mood, tone, and voice of characters?; Did you find yourself needing to interpret the illustrations to understand the plot? What was that experience like for you as a reader?; How is this retelling of the classic fairy tale of “Snow White” different than the original? What did you notice is similar?

Flagged Passage: “My name is Snow White, but my mother didn’t call be that to be funny. She would say that the snow covers everything and makes the entire world beautiful” (Ch. 10)

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Loved: Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtliff, Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk by Liesl Shurtliff, Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

Recommended For:
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Thank you, Emily!

RickiSig

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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The Hate U Give
Authors: Angie Thomas
Published: February 28, 2017 by Balzer + Bray

GoodReads Summary: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Ricki’s Review: I don’t know where to begin with this very special book. To give proof of my love for it, I will share that this book is on my Adolescents’ Literature course syllabus for next year. It is the book that I am most excited to teach. My research concerns multicultural young adult literature, and I have read a lot of books that interrogate issues of race. When this book was hyped, I knew I had to read it, but I was nervous that it wouldn’t be as good as I wanted it to be. It was everything and more. The characters feel real, and the pacing is fantastic. The author beautifully captures dialogue and life in ways that will grab readers’ attention. It has a strong message without feeling didactic. Teachers will find much to talk about with this text.

You might notice that this book has a 4.66 average rating on GoodReads. I don’t know of any book with that high of an average rating. I am not one to buy into ratings, but I think this extremely high rating shows that this is a book that really resonates with people. If you plan to read one book this year, pick this one. 

Kellee’s Review: When I first heard about The Hate U Give at ALAN in November 2016, Jason Reynolds said it was going to be one of the most important books of our time. Then I started hearing about it being bid on by all of the major publishing houses. Reynolds’s recommendation mixed with the hype made me want to pick it up, but then I also was so worried that it wouldn’t live up to this hype. But it does. It lives up to it all. I have nothing negative to say about the book. It is poignant. It is thought-provoking. It pushes boundaries. It makes white people have to look at race a way that they may not have considered before. It is REAL. It is rough. It is truth. I think Thomas did a phenomenal job writing a narrative of truth that just lays out there the problems with race in our society in a way that no one can deny or argue; it just is. I think their story makes everyone more aware and more empathetic. I finished a month ago, and I still am thinking about Star and Khalil and Natasha and Kenya and Star’s family–I just didn’t want to stop being in their lives. I cannot say any more how phenomenal this book is. Pick it up if you haven’t. (And the audiobook is so brilliant if you want to listen to it.)

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to analyze the varied themes of this text and dive deeply into discussions of each (power, economics, race, etc.). Then, they might create a civic video essay—one that considers a social issue and provides steps for social action to raise awareness for the viewing audience.

Discussion Questions: How does the author craft dialogue? What might other writers learn from her work?; What messages does the text reveal? Which messages are less obvious but implicit in a reading of the text?; What connections does this text have with the world today?

Flagged Passage: “Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”

Read This If You Loved: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely; by Ilyassah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon; The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon; How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon; Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles; Audacity by Melanie Crowder; The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Recommended For:

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The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

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The Fourteenth Goldfish
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Published: April 5, 2016 by Yearling

A Guest Review by Kelsey Iwanicki

Summary: The Fourteenth Goldfish follows the story of Ellie, an 11-year-old girl, who is currently struggling to find her passion, especially following the gradual drop off with her one and only friend, Brianna. However, everything changes when her mother brings home a quirky and crabby 13-year-old boy, Melvin. Ellie notices striking similarities between Melvin and her seventy-something year-old grandfather until he comes clean and tells her that they are in fact the same person. Melvin has worked on developing a drug to reverse the signs of aging, which has successfully worked on himself.

As Ellie and Melvin get closer, they also form an unlikely friendship with a goth student, Raj. Together they give Melvin advice about being a teenager, such as giving him acne medicine and hair elastics. They also help Melvin eventually, after a few failed attempts, steal the same compound that reversed his age. Melvin’s original plan was to steal the gene so he could share it with the world and receive the Nobel Peace Prize. However, Ellie persuaded him not to on the grounds of moral ethics and how scientific impacts can be both positive and negative. Due to this, Melvin flushes the compound down the drain and starts to tour the country. Thanks to her time with her grandfather, Ellie is able to discover his passion in science and also gain a few friends along the way, Raj and Momo.

Review: What I liked most about this book was its quirkiness, mostly exemplified through Melvin. Although the relationship between Ellie and Melvin is untraditional, you can also get glimpses of a typical relationship between a grandfather and granddaughter is like, one that isn’t usually written about. The majority of characters are nontraditional, such as Raj, who is explicitly written as goth; Ellie, a girl scientist (although this is becoming more popular, usually boys are the ones in the STEM fields); and Melvin, as a grumpy 13-year-old.

What I didn’t like about the book was the build-up. Although they failed multiple times at stealing the compound, there was no suspense for when Melvin actually succeeded. Rather, he just came home one day with it. The climax actually was when Ellie had a self-realization that science has both positives and negatives, which honestly was kind of a let down because the plot had focused around getting the compound from the lab. Ultimately, it was a good theme because Ellie realizes there are good and bad things with any passion.

All in all, I did like the book, I think it could appeal to students who are interested in science and realistic fiction books.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book should definitely be included in a classroom library for independent reading because I think it would appeal for students because it is a little quirky and has some interesting characters. It could also prompt some interesting discussions for literature circles because students could discuss the ethics behind using a compound to reverse aging.

A teacher could also use it as a read aloud for a few reasons. It would be interesting to consider the other perspectives of characters such as Melvin or Melissa, Ellie’s mother. Additionally, they could talk about the character traits and what makes Melvin and Ellie such strong characters. Or, they could talk about science and ethics behind what scientists release.

Discussion Questions: If you had a compound that could reverse aging, would you take it? Why or why not?; If you discovered a compound that could reverse aging, would you deliver it to the public? Why or why not?; What do you think will happen to Ellie and Brianna’s friendship? Ellie and Momo’s?; What do you think the side affects are from taking the compound? / What do you think happened to Melvin?; Put yourself in Ellie’s shoes, how would you feel if your grandfather attended the same school as you?; What is the importance of the fourteenth goldfish?

Flagged Passage: “Average people just give up at the obstacles we face every day. Scientists fail again and again and again. Sometimes for our whole lives. But we don’t give up, because we want to solve the puzzle” (p. 47).

Read This If You Loved: El Deafo by Cece Bell; Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt; Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper; Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin; Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

Recommended For:
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Thank you, Kelsey!

RickiSig

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

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All American Boys

All American Boys
Authors: Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Published: September 29, 2015 byAtheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

GoodReads Summary: Rashad is absent again today.

That’s the sidewalk graffiti that started it all…

Well, no, actually, a lady tripping over Rashad at the store, making him drop a bag of chips, was what started it all. Because it didn’t matter what Rashad said next—that it was an accident, that he wasn’t stealing—the cop just kept pounding him. Over and over, pummeling him into the pavement. So then Rashad, an ROTC kid with mad art skills, was absent again…and again…stuck in a hospital room. Why? Because it looked like he was stealing. And he was a black kid in baggy clothes. So he must have been stealing.

And that’s how it started.

And that’s what Quinn, a white kid, saw. He saw his best friend’s older brother beating the daylights out of a classmate. At first Quinn doesn’t tell a soul…He’s not even sure he understands it. And does it matter? The whole thing was caught on camera, anyway. But when the school—and nation—start to divide on what happens, blame spreads like wildfire fed by ugly words like “racism” and “police brutality.” Quinn realizes he’sgot to understand it, because, bystander or not, he’s a part of history. He just has to figure out what side of history that will be.

Rashad and Quinn—one black, one white, both American—face the unspeakable truth that racism and prejudice didn’t die after the civil rights movement. There’s a future at stake, a future where no one else will have to be absent because of police brutality. They just have to risk everything to change the world.

Cuz that’s how it can end.

Ricki’s Review: I read this book a few months ago, and frankly, I can’t stop thinking about how important this story is. We read so many books in our lifetimes, and some just take our breath away. This is one of those books. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I believe it belongs in every classroom. The strength of the two voices in this book is remarkable, and it makes for an excellent teaching tool—about heroism; about doing what is right and true; and about being a good, decent human being. The acts within this book are all-to-common, and I believe this book promotes genuine change. The book is literary at the same time that it is engaging. It will pull (and has pulled) readers of all ages and backgrounds. I typically don’t review books long after they have been published, but this book feels too important to leave out. If you haven’t read it already, I recommend it move to the top of your TBR list. It’s and incredible story.

Kellee’s Review: I too read this book a few months ago. It was a choice for our Faculty Book Club, and it was a perfect book to discuss with a bunch of educators. All American Boys is a book that is going to be a classic because it highlights modern history in a thoughtful and truthful way. This is a book that I would recommend to everyone to read. It is a perfect jumping off point to discuss race relations, Black Lives Matter, and We Need Diverse Books. The way the book is set up, with two voices, will help readers have permission to talk about what is happening in our country, the Civil Rights movement and its tie into modern times, and the racial tension currently happening in our country.

Jason & Brendan

I’d like to also add that I recently was lucky enough to see Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely accept their Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award at the ALA Annual Conference here in Orlando, and they both moved me to tears. Jason actually gave two speeches since he won an honor for All American Boys and Boy in the Black Suit. His second speech was a brilliant advocacy poem titled Machetes which can be viewed here or read here. His first speech and Brendan’s speech are not available yet. Brendan says School Library Journal will be publishing his, and I am not sure about Jason’s; however, I did tweet some quotes as I sat and listened:

  • I hope The Boy in the Black Suit gives young men permission to feel and be human and sometimes need a hug. – Jason Reynolds
  • Memory in of itself is life. -Jason Reynolds
  • If you are doing this work, this award is yours too. -Jason Reynolds
  • Jason Reynolds talking about his mama made me cry. I hope my son’s love can be as true as his is.
  • There are bodies missing, and I cannot bring them back. It is time for action. -Brendan Kiely
  • Revolution begins in the heart. -Brendan Kiely
  • Love is art. Love is education. Love is accountability. And it needs repeating love is love is love is love. -Brendan Kiely
  • I want to reckon w whiteness…speak truth to myself. -Brendan Kiely

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book begs to be taught in classrooms. If I was still teaching it would be the first book that I would request to be added to curriculum. I think it would be particularly fascinating to use this book as a read-aloud while simultaneously doing literature circles with by Ilyassah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon, The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon, and How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon. These books all deal with civil rights issues, as well, and it would be interesting to look at civil rights across time and history and also within other relevant contexts.

The Simon & Schuster Reading Group Guide gives some discussion questions, journal responses, and research ideas.

Discussion Questions: How do Rashad’s and Quinn’s voices shine differently in the text?; Did Quinn do the right thing? Would you have done the same?; What would you have done if you had been in Rashad’s circumstance? Would you have done anything differently?; How is racism present both in obvious and nuanced ways in the plot events of this text?

Flagged Passage: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Read This If You Loved: by Ilyassah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon; The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon; How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon; Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles; Audacity by Melanie Crowder; The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Recommended For:

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The House of Purple Cedar by Tim Tingle

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house of purple cedar

House of Purple Cedar
Author: Tim Tingle
Published: February 18, 2014 by Cinco Puntos Press

GoodReads Summary: “The hour has come to speak of troubled times. It is time we spoke of Skullyville.”

Thus begins Rose Goode’s story of her growing up in Indian Territory in pre-statehood Oklahoma. Skullyville, a once-thriving Choctaw community, was destroyed by land-grabbers, culminating in the arson on New Year’s Eve, 1896, of New Hope Academy for Girls. Twenty Choctaw girls died, but Rose escaped. She is blessed by the presence of her grandmother Pokoni and her grandfather Amafo, both respected elders who understand the old ways. Soon after the fire, the white sheriff beats Amafo in front of the town’s people, humiliating him. Instead of asking the Choctaw community to avenge the beating, her grandfather decides to follow the path of forgiveness. And so unwinds this tale of mystery, Indian-style magical realism, and deep wisdom. It’s a world where backwoods spiritualism and Bible-thumping Christianity mix with bad guys; a one-legged woman shop-keeper, her oaf of a husband, herbal potions, and shape-shifting panthers rendering justice. Tim Tingle—a scholar of his nation’s language, culture, and spirituality—tells Rose’s story of good and evil with understanding and even laugh-out-loud Choctaw humor.

My Review: It took Tingle fifteen years (and many experiences with a Choctaw storyteller) to write this story, and the thoughtfulness of the story makes this feel very true. While this book is marketed for adults, it most certainly has a young adult crossover audience. I was swept away by the lyrical beauty of the words. The book is quite magical. As I think back on the book, vivid scenes replay in my head. I had difficulty putting the book down because the characters were so real. I was wrapped in all of the subplots and did not want to leave the characters. It reminded me much of a John Steinbeck book—East of Eden, in particular. The evilness of Hardwicke in this book reminded me much of Cathy in East of Eden. When I came to the end of The House of Purple Cedar, I felt as if I’d read an epic—or something enormously important. The themes are left to the reader, they are varied, and they pour from the text. This complex story will remain with me for a long time.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Most obviously, teachers could teach this book along with cultural stories from the Choctaw. They might look at reincarnation and its evolution in history and culture, too. Alternatively, teachers could ask students to examine age. What role does age play in this story, and how does it impact character? Teachers might have students read more about the Indian Boarding Schools and their impact on the Native American community.

Discussion Questions: What does Amafo teach us? Would you do the same in his position? How do his lessons impact the rest of the story?; How does Tingle vividly depict characters in ways that make this story come alive? What makes these characters feel so real?; What is Maggie’s purpose in the story? What does she teach us?; What role does family play in this text?

We Flagged: I am choosing a quote that shows just how beautiful Tingle’s language is: “His hand gripped her shoulder and strong fingers seized her upper arm. He flung her on her back and a hot river of strength surged through her. He was massive and his figure blocked the sky.”

Read This If You Loved: Books by Sherman Alexie, House Made of Dawn by M. Scott Momaday, Books by Louise Erdrich, East of Eden by John Steinbeck,

Recommended For:

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RickiSig