Who’s That Dinosaur?: An Animal Guessing Game by Gabrielle Balkan, Illustrated by Sam Brewster

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Who’s That Dinosaur?: An Animal Guessing Game
Author: Gabrielle Balkan
Illustrator: Sam Brewster
Published September 21, 2022 by Phaedon

Summary: A playful, informative introduction to dinosaurs for the youngest readers, by the team behind the bestselling Book of Bones

Set up as a guessing game with visual and narrative clues, Who’s That Dinosaur? invites readers to examine seven skeletons and guess to whom they belong. The answer is provided in a vibrant, foldout reveal, accompanied by an explanation as to why each dinosaur’s body was so special.

It’s a humorous, informative introduction to fossils and dinosaur anatomy, where, in a surprise twist, young children learn how birds are modern-day dinosaurs. A fun and informative introduction to the ever-popular topic of dinosaurs.

Review: This book is such good fun! It is an informational fiction text which really engages its readers. Although this is marketed to younger readers (ages 2-4), My almost 6-year-old had a BLAST reading it. He was able to read the words, so it also offered great vocabulary for him. (My 3-year-old, of course, loved it.) This is a book that would be great for preschool or early elementary school classrooms. It is interactive, engaging, and a very fun read—for adults, too!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: It would be neat to have children create their own interactive pages that fold out. They might pick a dinosaur or animal and research to create their own “Who’s that…” page filled with fun facts.

Flagged Spread:

Read This If You Love: Interactive activity books that are fun and educational

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

A River’s Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn by Patricia Newman, Illustrated by Natasha Donovan

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A River’s Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn
Author: Patricia Newman
Illustrator: Natasha Donovan
Published September 6th, 2022 by Millbrook Press

Summary: A mighty river. A long history.

For thousands of years, the Elwha river flowed north to the sea. The river churned with salmon, which helped feed bears, otters, and eagles. The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, known as the Strong People located in the Pacific Northwest, were grateful for the river’s abundance. All that changed in the 1790s when strangers came who did not understand the river’s gifts. The strangers built dams, and the environmental consequences were disastrous.

Sibert honoree Patricia Newman and award-winning illustrator Natasha Donovan join forces to tell the story of the Elwha, chronicling how the Strong People successfully fought to restore the river and their way of life.

About the Creators: 

Patricia Newman’s books inspire young readers to seek connections to the real world. Her titles encourage readers to use their imaginations to solve real world problems and act on behalf of their communities. These books include Sibert Honor title Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem; Orbis Pictus Recommended Book Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean; Bank Street College Best Book Zoo Scientists to the Rescue; Booklist Editor’s Choice Ebola: Fears and Facts; and Green Earth Book Award winner Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Patricia frequently speaks at schools and conferences to share how children of any age can affect change. Visit her at www.patriciamnewman.com.

Natasha Donovan is the illustrator of the award-winning Mothers of Xsan series (written by Brett Huson). She illustrated the graphic novel Surviving the City (written by Tasha Spillett), which won a Manitoba Book Award and received an American Indian Youth Literature Award (AIYLA) honor. She also illustrated Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer which won an Orbis Pictus Honor Book and an American Indian Youth Literature Award (AIYLA). Natasha is Métis, and spent her early life in Vancouver, British Columbia. Although she moved to the United States to marry a mathematician, she prefers to keep her own calculations to the world of color and line. She lives in Washington. www.natashadonovan.com

Review: This book is different than Newman’s other books as it is illustrated and more lyrical than her books of the past; however, there is no need to worry — the book is beautiful! Newman does a fantastic job balancing the narrative of the river and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe with informative information about water, salmon, dams, and other wildlife. Newman’s prose also does amazing justice when it comes to the river’s legacy and the indigenous tribes that relied on, and lost, the river.

To add to Newman’s work, Donovan’s illustrations bring everything to life that Newman shares. Her work is filled with color and life and brings the whole book together.

A spectacular nonfiction picture book that takes the reader on a journey of a river’s legacy filled with lyrical prose and important information.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The publisher has provided a Teaching Guide for The River’s Gifts:

There is also an interview with Patricia Newman that digs deeper into her book:

Flagged Passages: 

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Love: Environmental nonfiction picture books

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Patricia Newman and Lerner for providing a copy for review!**

Guest Review: We Can: Portraits of Power by Tyler Gordon

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Guest Reviewer: Sailor, UCF Elementary Education Student

We Can: Portraits of Power
Creator: Tyler Gordon
Published September 28th, 2021 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Summary: “When I was born, the doctors told my mom that if I did survive I would have lots of health problems and be blind, deaf and severely mentally delayed . . . Boy were they wrong!” —Tyler Gordon

Fifteen-year-old Tyler Gordon’s journey from a regular kid growing up in San Jose, California, to a nationally recognized artist wasn’t without its challenges. For the first six years of his life he was fully deaf, which led to a stutter and bullying. Art gave him a creative outlet for his pain. Then, after painting a portrait of Kamala Harris and posting it on social media, he received a call from the vice president herself! Soon his art was everywhere. He had an interview with the The Today Show. He was the youngest artist featured in the Beverly Center. His portrait of LeBron James graced the cover of TIME Magazine. And that was only the beginning!

Here is a debut picture book by partially deaf prodigy Tyler Gordon, featuring his bold paintings of over 30 icons—musicians, artists, writers, civils rights leaders, sports legends, change-makers, record-setters, and more—alongside short explanations of how these people inspire him.

If Tyler can make art and follow his dreams, you can, too. We all can.

About the Author: Tyler Gordon is a fourteen-year-old painter whose work has been featured in TIME Magazine, Essence, Good Morning America, and ABC News. In 2020, he was awarded the Global Child Prodigy Award. He currently lives in San Jose, California with his family.

Review: We Can: Portraits of Power by Tyler Gordon is by far one of the best books for children to read. This book provides a lot of historical, and current information, that many people do not know, but should, about very famous and influential people. Tyler Gordon was only 14 years old when his book was published. He relates every single person that he paints to himself and talks about the honorable work that these people have done, walls they have torn down, and glass ceilings they have broken through.

Every single student can relate to this book in some way or another, with over 30 people showcased in We Can: Portraits of Power, students will be able to see themselves through one of them, all of them, or even through Tyler Gordon himself. This book is filled with politicians, artists, athletes, singers, philanthropists, civil rights activists, and many more. This story is able to empower students to be activists for theirs, and other people’s rights, all while also getting them excited and encouraging  them to learn about the history that some of these amazing  people have made, and are continuing to make.

I loved reading this book and looking at the beautiful art that Tyler has done and will continue to do. I cannot wait to see what this young man’s future holds.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: We Can: Portraits of Power by Tyler Gordon provides many great opportunities for use within the classroom. To start, teachers are able to have students pick their favorite person that Tyler had painted and write why that person was also an inspiration to them.  Teachers can also have students paint a portrait of someone who had has a big impact in their lives,  and. then write about them.

I think that one of the best ideas to pair with We Can: Portraits of Power by Tyler Gordon. would be to have students make a list of people who they look up to, and people that empower them to be great. After students make their lists, they would go back and write why these people have been so influential in their life, and then finally paint an image of them. Creating their own mini versions of We Can: Portraits of Power.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does Tyler relate to President Biden? Do you know anyone that could also relate to President Biden and Tyler? Why is it good to be able to relate to successful people?
  • How did Tyler’s creativity help him?
  • How did this book inspire you?
  • Who did you relate to in this book? Why?
  • Why did Tyler use athletes, politicians, and historical figures in this book? What did it do to the story that he used  a variety of people?
  • Who do you think is the most important person in this book? Why do you think that? How can you relate to this person?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Art, Diversity, Empowerment

Recommended For: 

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Thank you, Sailor, for your review!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Questions: 

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

Recommended For: 

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Questions: 

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

Recommended For: 

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Questions: 

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

Recommended For: 

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

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

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

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

Discussion Questions: 

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

Recommended For: 

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Guest Post: Classroom Uses for Front Desk by Kelly Yang, Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell, Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar, Mary and the Trail of Tears by Andrea L. Rogers, and Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

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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 for some historical fiction books they read.

Front Desk
Author: Kelly Yang
Published May 29th, 2018 by Arthur A. Levine Books

Summary: Mia Tang has a lot of secrets.

Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.

Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they’ve been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed.

Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?

It will take all of Mia’s courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams?

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be useful in a classroom because it discusses real life topics like immigration, racism, poverty, bullying and even fraud. It gives a message to students on how important it is to fight for what’s right and to learn to treat others with respect, regardless of what they look like. It can be used as a platform for students to discuss issues that they can relate to.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What was Mia’s job at the hotel? What characteristics she have to make her flourish doing that job?
  • Mia’s mom mothers says, were immigrants. Our lives are never fair,” what does she mean by that?
  • How did Mia change and grow throughout the book?
  • Within the book, Mias mother wanted her to practice her math skills despite how Mia felt. Has there ever been a time where you felt like you were in the same position as Mia?
  • Mia and her dad discuss the value of a penny. He says, “A mistake isn’t always a mistake. Sometimes a mistake is actually an opportunity. What does he mean by that?
  • Would you try to help immigrants the same way Mia’s family did or would you try to come up with a different solution? What would you do if you were caught by your employer?
  • If you were part of an immigrant family would you stay to work at this motel or would you leave to try better opportunities? Why would you stay or leave?
  • If you ran a motel how would you handle customers?
  • Do you think Mia’s mother was right to have her focus more on math or should she have been supportive of her daughter’s interest in writing? Why do you think one way or the other.

Recommended For: 

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Indian No More
Author: Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell
Published September 24th 2019 by Tu Books

Summary: Regina Petit’s family has always been Umpqua, and living on the Grand Ronde reservation is all ten-year-old Regina has ever known. Her biggest worry is that Sasquatch may actually exist out in the forest. But when the federal government signs a bill into law that says Regina’s tribe no longer exists, Regina becomes “Indian no more” overnight–even though she was given a number by the Bureau of Indian Affairs that counted her as Indian, even though she lives with her tribe and practices tribal customs, and even though her ancestors were Indian for countless generations.

With no good jobs available in Oregon, Regina’s father signs the family up for the Indian Relocation program and moves them to Los Angeles. Regina finds a whole new world in her neighborhood on 58th Place. She’s never met kids of other races, and they’ve never met a real Indian. For the first time in her life, Regina comes face to face with the viciousness of racism, personally and toward her new friends.

Meanwhile, her father believes that if he works hard, their family will be treated just like white Americans. But it’s not that easy. It’s 1957 during the Civil Rights Era. The family struggles without their tribal community and land. At least Regina has her grandmother, Chich, and her stories. At least they are all together.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is useful for teaching about the US Government and US History. This book also teaches about how people from diverse identities showed solidarity with each other in the face of white supremacy, which is a core value of US democracy. The book also teaches that one’s identity is personal and they cannot be defined by other people.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Describe the significance of storytelling in Umpqua culture.
  • This book examines how identity is very complicated and mixed but the US government imposes very rigid categories on people. Discuss how the categories the US government attempts to put people in, then and now, can harm people and are inaccurate.
  • Describe the Grande Ronde Reservation from Regina’s point of view, is this different from other depictions of reservations you have seen?
  • What made the Thanksgiving and the Thanksgiving play so hard on Regina and her family?
  • Compare and Contrast the Indian Agency School on Grande Ronde Reservation and Budlong Elementary School in Los Angeles.
  • Reflect on Regina’s first Halloween off the Reservation. What went wrong and how do you think Regina and her friends felt? Think about how it could affect them even after the attack.
  • How did the passing of Chich affect the family? Why do you think Regina’s father reacted the way he did?
  • Regina connects to her culture and identity by storytelling. Write about a significant event that happened to you.
  • How does Regina’s father struggle with his identity after they move to Los Angeles?
  • Within the story Regina Petit called her grandmother and grandfather Chich and Chup. What do you call your grandparents where you’re from? Why do you think it differs from Regina?
  • Within the story, Regina was prideful of her long hair. It represented their culture back home. When Regina’s father cut it off, she was very upset. How do you think you would have reacted if someone took something that means alot in your culture and why?
  • Chich would keep the story of their homeland alive through her story telling. What stories do you have of your own culture that represents you? Why did you chose this?
  • Looking back at the story of the beaver, how can this relate to you in your life?
  • Have you ever experienced/seen someone experience what Regina and her friends did on Halloween? How would you react if you were in this situation? Do you think this was a fair treatment?
  • When Regina and her family wanted to celebrate her father promotion at work, they were denied service due to the color of their skin and appearance. Have you or someone you know experienced not being served at a restaurant just because of your appearance? Do you think this treatment of people of color is correct and just? How would you react if it were you in this very same situation?
  • What did you know about this time period prior to reading this book? Do you believe you learned more about the time period from the book after reading it? What have you learned?
  • How do you think Regina’s life differs from your own life? Do you think the time period has anything to do with that?
  • Have you ever experienced a great loss like Regina and her sister did towards the end of the book? How did you react to it?
  • If there was anything about the events in the book that you would change what would it be? Why did you choose this event to change?

Recommended For: 

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Lucky Broken Girl
Author: Ruth Behar
Published April 11th 2017 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Summary: Based on the author’s childhood in the 1960s, a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed.

Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro’s Cuba to New York City. Just when she’s finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood’s hopscotch queen, a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie’s world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger. She comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be useful in the classroom for group discussions about overcoming hardships. It is also useful in the classroom to help students who are learning English relate to Ruthie.

This book will be a good choice for a classroom library. This book represents the story of a strong girl living through a difficult time in her life. She had to move to a new country but also had a bad accident that left her physically and emotionally drained. This book can help children learn to face loss and have hope for a better future.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Ruthie faced hardship and she found it difficult to stay positive but her family and friends tried helping in the best way they could. How have your friends and family helped you when facing difficulties?
  • What is the theme of Lucky Broken Girl and how can you relate to the theme?
  • How are characters helping and not helping Ruthie cope during her recovery?
  • Was Chico a good friend to Ruthie? Why? What did he do during Ruthie’s recovery?
  • What did Ruthie learn about the immigration stories of the people around her?
  • Ruthie has been reading a lot during her recovery, especially Nancy Drew. How are these books helping her and encouraging her?
  • How was Ruthie “Lucky” while being bedridden for ten months?
  • What connection can you make with Ruthie or her family?
  • The painting of Frida Kahlo and the poems of Emily Dickerson help Ruthie understand her situation. What poems, books, or artists have helped you through a hard time, and why?

Recommended For: 

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Mary and the Trail of Tears: A Cherokee Removal Survival Story
Author: Andrea L. Rogers
Published January 1st 2020 by Stone Arch Books

Summary: Twelve-year-old Mary and her Cherokee family are forced out of their home in Georgia by U.S. soldiers in May 1838. From the beginning of the forced move, Mary and her family are separated from her father. Facing horrors such as internment, violence, disease, and harsh weather, Mary perseveres and helps keep her family and friends together until they can reach the new Cherokee nation in Indian Territory. Featuring nonfiction support material, a glossary, and reader response questions, this Girls Survive story explores the tragedy of forced removals following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The story goes into great detail from the time Mary learns what is happening and the journey across the land.  The characters face many different challenges on their journey, and the book does a great job at providing dates and locations.  Also, the drama response of the news reporter would be fun, as it is clear the characters in the story have many opinions and emotions.

This book could also be used as a read-aloud book. It would be great to read a chapter a day as a class, even having children popcorn read paragraphs.  After reading, students can do several different activities about the culture, history, and even character perspectives

Discussion Questions: 

  • In what ways would you try to communicate to the soldiers if you didn’t speak English like Mary.
  • In what ways would you try to comfort your younger family members knowing you had no home to return to?
  • When Mary and her family are trapped in the mud caused by the non-sto prain, they begin to sing a song they all remember. Do you have a song your whole family knows? What song(s) do you sing to make yourself feel better?
  • While reading this book what emotions trigger you the most: sad, happy, confused?
  • In what ways do you relate to Mary?
  • How does not being able to speak the language with the soldiers create a conflict for Mary?
  • We’ve all felt alone at some point whether its been when we lost our mom at the grocery store for a second or what have you, name a similar situation in which you felt alone like Mary. Elaborate.
  • When was there a time where you felt scared like Mary? What did you do to overcome this fear?
  • How do you think that this situation of being forcefully kicked out of your house would play out today because you were of a certain racial group? What would be the effects?
  • Explain a time you cried tears of joy?

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The Night Diary
Author: Veera Hiranandani
Published March 6th 2018 by Kokila

Summary: It’s 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders.

Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn’t know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it’s too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can’t imagine losing her homeland, too. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together.

Told through Nisha’s letters to her mother, The Night Diary is a heartfelt story of one girl’s search for home, for her own identity…and for a hopeful future.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book can be useful in the classroom when talking about and learning about different cultures around the world. Students will have a better understanding of the differences of two close religions and cultures, as I learned when reading the book.

This book would also be useful when it comes to the topic of World History. After reading this book, students would have had insight to another culture and perspective from a standpoint of someone of a different culture in a different country.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do you think Nisha felt when she had to move?
  • What do you think you would have done if you or a family member were attacked on a train like Nisha and her family was?
  • Nisha kept a diary, what kind of thing do you think you would put in yours if you had one? Would your diary be similar to Nishas?
  • Do you think Papa made the right decision on moving away? Explain why or why not.
  • Do you think Nisha preferred one religion to the other? Hindu or muslim?
  • Kazi was Nisha’s best friend but she had to leave her behind. Do you think they would still keep in touch if they could?
  • Why do you think there was so much division in India?
  • How did the book make you feel after and during reading? Was it what you expected? Explain.
  • Nisha is half Muslim and half Hindu. Do you only have one religion in your household, or do you come from two like Nisha?
  • How did reading about Nisha’s journey make you feel when she was attacked on the train? What would you do in that situation ?
  • What are two lessons you learned from reading this book that are specific to Nisha’s Journey?
  • Do you think Papa made a good choice by leaving? Why or why not?
  • If you had to be a character from the book, who would you choose? Why?
  • How did moving away affect Nisha?
  • Name one character that contributed to Nisha’s life and journey to find herself.
  • Does anyone have a diary? If so, do you think that you can relate to Nisha because she had one to? Why?
  • Why do you think Papa didn’t want his son to smile in the beginning? What does this say about their culture?
  • Think about your bond with your siblings if you have any. Do you find it to be similar to Nisha and her brothers in any way?
  • When Nisha had to leave Kazi behind she was very sad. Have you ever lost a friend the way Nisha did, if so what was that like ?

Recommended For: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Questions: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interdisciplinary Aspects:

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

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

Discussion Questions: 

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

Recommended For: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Questions: 

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

Recommended For: 

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Questions: 

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

Recommended For: 

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Questions: 

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

Recommended For: 

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Guest Post: Classroom Uses for Latinitas by Juliet Menendez, Lost in the Antarctic by Tod Olson, On the Horizon by Lois Lowry, and Stamped adapted by Sonja Cherry-Paul

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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 found for these nonfiction books they read.

Latinitas: Celerating 40 Big Dreamers
Author: Juliet Menendez
Illustrator:
Published

Summary: Dream big with the Latinitas in Latinitas: Celebrating 40 Big Dreamers.

Discover how 40 influential Latinas became the women we celebrate today! In this collection of short biographies from all over Latin America and across the United States, Juliet Menéndez explores the first small steps that set the Latinitas off on their journeys. With gorgeous, hand-painted illustrations, Menéndez shines a spotlight on the power of childhood dreams.

From Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to singer Selena Quintanilla to NASA’s first virtual reality engineer, Evelyn Miralles, this is a book for aspiring artists, scientists, activists, and more. These women followed their dreams–and just might encourage you to follow yours!

The book features Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Juana Azurduy de Padilla, Policarpa Salavarrieta, Rosa Peña de González, Teresa Carreño, Zelia Nuttall, Antonia Navarro, Matilde Hidalgo, Gabriela Mistral, Juana de Ibarbourou, Pura Belpré, Gumercinda Páez, Frida Kahlo, Julia de Burgos, Chavela Vargas, Alicia Alonso, Victoria Santa Cruz, Claribel Alegría, Celia Cruz, Dolores Huerta, Rita Moreno, Maria Auxiliadora da Silva, Mercedes Sosa, Isabel Allende, Susana Torre, Julia Alvarez, Sandra Cisneros, Sonia Sotomayor, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Mercedes Doretti, Sonia Pierre, Justa Canaviri, Evelyn Miralles, Selena Quintanilla, Berta Cáceres, Serena Auñón, Wanda Díaz-Merced, Marta Vieira da Silva, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Laurie Hernandez.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: There are so many ways this book provides an opportunity to be used in the classroom. The book can be used during a history lesson as a resource. The book can also be used on its own for women’s month to learn about all of the Latina women who have made an impact in the world, or this book can also be used for Hispanic Heritage Month. This book could also be a resource if a student is looking to learn more about the women who have impacted their culture or just a Latina woman whose story has caught their attention. This book could also be used for language arts and social studies. This is an excellent book for reading circles, independent reading, or even book clubs. The children can choose a Latina they would like to focus on and write an essay on how they captured their attention or their accomplishments. This book is a quick read with various Latinas that will capture any student’s attention during reading time.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Choose one of the Latinitas highlighted in this book and write about how they inspired you.
  • Juana Azurduy de Padilla is one of the many women who fought for their country’s independence. What are some of the reasons people have fought for a nation’s independence?
  • Pick your favorite subject or topic and find a Latinita that shares that interest. What does she do in that field and how did she get there?
  • Many Latinitas were inspired by other great minds, who inspires you? Why?
  • Where they came from and where they called home heavily impacted the women in this book. How has your identity impacted your life?
  • Compare and contrast two Latinitas from different time periods. What did they have in common? What was different?
  • Explain why the work of an Archeologist, like Zelia Nuttall, is important?
  • Choose one of the Latinitas highlighted in this book and write about how they inspired you.
  • Juana Azurduy de Padilla is one of the many women who fought for their country’s independence. What are some of the reasons people have fought for a nation’s independence?
  • Explain why the work of an Archeologist, like Zelia Nuttall, is important?
  • Pick your favorite subject or topic and find a Latinita that shares that interest. What does she do in that field and how did she get there?
  • Many Latinitas were inspired by other great minds, who inspires you? Why?
  • Where they came from and where they called home heavily impacted the women in this book. How has your identity impacted your life?
  • Compare and contrast two Latinitas from different time periods. What did they have in common? What was different?
  • Compare two women that you read about in this book. Explain any similarities and differences between the two.
  • Write about two examples of Latinitas that had to fight for their education and explain how this was important.

Recommended For: 

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Lost in the Antarctic: The Doomed Voyage of the Endurance
Author: Tod Olson
Published January 1st, 2019 by Scholastic

Summary: There wasn’t a thing Ernest Shackleton could do. He stood on the ice-bound Weddell Sea, watching the giant blocks of frozen saltwater squeeze his ship to death. The ship’s name seemed ironic now: the Endurance. But she had lasted nine months in this condition, stuck on the ice in the frigid Antarctic winter. So had Shackleton and his crew of 28 men, trying to become the first expedition ever to cross the entire continent.

Now, in October 1915, as he watched his ship break into pieces, Shackleton gave up on that goal. He ordered his men to abandon ship. From here on, their new goal would be to focus on only one thing: survival.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would make a great book club where students sit in groups and discuss their thoughts about the reading. This would also make an exceptional classroom library book because this could introduce students to survival based books that they may not have a lot of access to and may discover an interest in. This may also make them interested in Narrative Nonfiction that they may not have realized existed before.

This book could be interdisciplinary with science for the climate in the Antarctic and harsh conditions, along with social studies for a nonfiction historic event. Social studies with geography can also be involved as well.

Discussion Questions: 

  • On what day did The Endurance ship slip past the rotting whale carcasses into the South Atlantic?
  • Do you think Shackleton was a good captain for this voyage? Why or why not?
  • How do the images impact the story being told in the story? Do these images give you additional information? Explain how the images impact how you read the story.
  •  Do you think that the cold weather made it more difficult for Shackleton along his crew to survive? What if the weather was hotter, do you think they could’ve survived more easily?
  • Do you think there was a specific action that led to the doom of the voyage? Why do you think this?
  • If you could bring one person with you on this voyage who would you bring and why?
  • What would you do to stay positive in this scenario? Use specific instances from the story in your response.
  • What roles would you assign to each of your classmates on this voyage?
  • How long do you think you and your class would survive in the antarctic? What would be important to think about, based on what you read in the story, when considering how long your survival would be and what you would need.

Recommended For: 

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On the Horizon
Author: Lois Lowry
Published April 7th, 2020 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Summary: From Lois Lowry comes an account of the lives lost in two of WWII’s most infamous events: Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. With black-and-white illustrations by Kenard Pak.

Lois Lowry looks back at history through a personal lens as she draws from her own memories as a child in Hawaii and Japan, as well as from historical research, in this work in verse for young readers.

On the Horizon tells the story of people whose lives were lost or forever altered by the twin tragedies of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima.  Composed of poems about individual sailors who lost their lives on the Arizona and about the citizens of Hiroshima who experienced unfathomable horror.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be useful in the classroom to teach about two major historical events that happened. Additionally this book can be used to teach students about citizenship, understanding, and cause and effect.

Students could also use the events in the book to create a newspaper because this gives the students a chance to interview people from the book that went through major historical events and offers a range of perspectives for students to look from.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do you think these events affected her?
  • Why do you think Lois Lowry decided to write about this event?
  • What connections can you make to the events of Horoshima and Pearl Harbor and your life?
  • Why do you think the author chose to write in poems?
  • Writing prompt: What would your feelings have been if you experienced the wars of Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor?
  • Why do you think the author chose the title “On the Horizon?”
  • What do you think Lois Lowry was trying to accomplish by giving different peoples perspectives?
  • How do you think the events of the war made Lois feel during and after the war?
  • What were your feelings when reading about the stories of sailors that lost their lives?

Recommended For: 

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Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You
Authors: Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi
Adapted by: Sonja Cherry-Paul
Published May 11th, 2021 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary: This chapter book edition of the #1 New York Times bestseller by luminaries Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds is an essential introduction to the history of racism and antiracism in America

RACE. Uh-oh. The R-word. 
But actually talking about race is one of the most important things to learn how to do.

Adapted from the groundbreaking bestseller Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, this book takes readers on a journey from present to past and back again. Kids will discover where racist ideas came from, identify how they impact America today, and meet those who have fought racism with antiracism. Along the way, they’ll learn how to identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their own lives.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The book could be incorporated in classrooms as an introduction to a study. This book discusses an ongoing topic that is still controversial today. With a book like this, it opens up a door for students to discuss whether the author made valid points and how we could contribute his theories in today’s society.

The book is told in mostly chronological order when speaking about the evolution of racism throughout history. So the students could draw out a timeline and write the dates and facts they see throughout the story while they read. For this particular book it would be easier for them to do them in pairs.

Discussion Questions: 

  • In the book what actions lead to the civil war?
  • How did literature play a big role with how African American as slaves were viewed by society back then?
  • After reading the book, what part of American History did you learn that you hadn’t previously known?
  • What is the author’s motive for writing this book?
  • Can you name one person in the book that contributed to the author’s point? Why?
  • Who is Nat Turner and what was his role?
  • Why do you think this author mentioned, “This is not a history book?”
  • What form of media such as movies or TV shows  make you rethink about the content of racism after reading this book?
  • Who did the author name as the “world’s first racist person” early in the book?
  • What was the curse theory, and how did it have an effect on the justification of slavery?

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