Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet by Barbara Dee

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Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet
Author: Barbara Dee
Published September 27th, 2022 by Aladdin

Summary: Twelve-year-old Haven Jacobs can’t stop thinking about the climate crisis. In fact, her anxiety about the state of the planet is starting to interfere with her schoolwork, her friendships, even her sleep. She can’t stop wondering why grownups aren’t even trying to solve the earth’s problem—and if there’s anything meaningful that she, as a seventh grader, can contribute.

When Haven’s social studies teacher urges her to find a specific, manageable way to make a difference to the planet, Haven focuses on the annual science class project at the local Belmont River, where her class will take samples of the water to analyze. Students have been doing the project for years, and her older brother tells her that his favorite part was studying and catching frogs.

But when Haven and her classmates get to the river, there’s no sign of frogs or other wildlife—but there is ample evidence of pollution. The only thing that’s changed by the river is the opening of Gemba, the new factory where Haven’s dad works. It doesn’t take much investigation before Haven is convinced Gemba is behind the slow pollution of the river.

She’s determined to expose Gemba and force them to clean up their act. But when it becomes clear taking action might put her dad’s job—and some friendships—in jeopardy, Haven must decide how far she’s willing to go.

About the Author: Barbara Dee is the author of twelve middle grade novels including Violets Are Blue, Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet, My Life in the Fish Tank, Maybe He Just Likes You, Everything I Know About You, Halfway Normal, and Star-Crossed. Her books have earned several starred reviews and have been named to many best-of lists, including The Washington Post’s Best Children’s Books, the ALA Notable Children’s Books, the ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, and the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten. Barbara lives with her family, including a naughty cat named Luna and a sweet rescue hound named Ripley, in Westchester County, New York.

Review: I’ve never read a book about eco-anxiety before, but I could definitely empathize with Haven Jacobs and her true anxiety over the state of our planet. I loved that the book gave tangible things that could be done in a community and also looks at global issues. Additionally, like all of Barbara Dee’s books, she does a great job balancing teaching (about science and climate change) and storytelling.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The publisher-provided reading group guide also includes extension activities:

1. Choose one of the following and write an essay:

– How does Haven’s name reflect the major theme of the book?

– Revisit the chapter titled “The Scratch,” and the scene in which the author describes Haven’s room and talks about how her room shows readers who she is and what’s important to her. Then write a description of your own room, and ask a partner if they can identify what is most important to you.

– Using the quote attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way”), write an essay about what that means, giving specific examples from the book.

2. Haven’s heroine is a fictional Inuit teen climate activist named Kirima Ansong. Choose a real-life teen activist and write a report about them, the issue they support, and the actions they’ve taken.

3. The headline of the RiverFest story is “SEVENTH GRADER GRIPPED BY ECO-ANXIETY,” which nicely sums up the major theme of this book. How prevalent is eco-anxiety among the kids at your school? Create a survey and share it to discover the answer. Write a report sharing your findings.

4. Choose one of the following topics from the book to research and write a report about, using the facts shared in the book as a jumping-off point to learn more.

Discussion Questions:
(Chosen questions from the publisher-provided reading group guide; there are 16 questions on the guide)

1. Talk about how the two events that Haven relates in the book’s opening chapter illustrate two of the book’s major themes. What does the bouncy house incident show readers about Haven’s personality? Do you agree with Grandpa Aaron that “‘Haven’s a true problem solver’”? (Chapter: Sensitive) Do you consider yourself to be a problem solver?

2. Why does Haven decide to become a vegetarian? Do you understand and sympathize with her reaction when she goes fishing with Carter and her dad? Are you a vegetarian, or do you have friends who are? What are some other reasons that people make this choice? Talk about how vegetarianism connects with the issue of climate change.

3. Do you understand why Haven is so upset about climate change? How do you feel about her statement that “’no one cares about anything except what’s going on in their own lives’”? (Chapter: Dinner) Why do some of her friends think climate change is too depressing to talk about? Haven tells Lauren, the reporter, that all kids are worried about the issue. How do you and your friends feel?

4. Have you ever heard of eco-anxiety? What are some of the signs of eco-anxiety that Haven is experiencing? How might eco-anxiety feel different from other things kids are anxious about, like taking tests or giving oral reports? What are some actions Haven takes, or could take, to relieve this anxiety?

5. Ms. Packer says to Haven: “‘There’s a positive way to be upset, and another way that just makes you feel hopeless and depressed.’” (Chapter: The Blanks) Do you understand both options? Do you identify with one more than the other? What do you think when Haven says she feels that going to school is pointless, that there are more important things going on?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Learning or reading about climate change, science, and/or mental health

Recommended For: 

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

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

Recommended For: 

**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: A Butterfly is Patient by Dianna Hutts Aston, Illustrated by Sylvia Long

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Guest Reviewer: Natalia, UCF Elementary Education Student

A Butterfly is Patient
Author: Dianna Hutts Aston
Illustrator: Sylvia Long
Published May 18th, 2011 by Chronicle Books

Summary: The creators of the award-winning An Egg Is Quiet and A Seed Is Sleepy have teamed up again to create this gorgeous and informative introduction to the world of butterflies. From iridescent blue swallowtails and brilliant orange monarchs to the worlds tiniest butterfly (Western Pygmy Blue) and the largest (Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing), an incredible variety of butterflies are celebrated here in all of their beauty and wonder. Perfect for a child’s bedroom bookshelf or for a classroom reading circle!  (Summary from Goodreads)

About the Creators: 

Dianna Hutts Aston is the author of many books for children and is the founder of the nonprofit foundation for disadvantaged children, The Oz Project. She lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Sylvia Long is the illustrator of many best-selling books for children, including Sylvia Long’s Mother Goose and Hush Little Baby. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband and their dogs.

Review: I loved this beautifully illustrated book by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long!  There is a wide variety of butterflies depicted in this nonfiction picture book about the life cycle and anatomy of butterflies.  Not only can it be enjoyed for its visual aspects, but the descriptive vocabulary shares basic facts about butterflies as well as more unusual information.  Did you know butterflies taste with their feet?  Some butterflies eat plants that are poisonous to their predators when they are caterpillars, so they will be poisonous as adults.  For such a seemingly delicate creature, A Butterfly is Patient shares that butterflies are so much more than they seem.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:

In addition to providing beautiful, life-like illustrations of a variety of butterflies, this nonfiction picture book follows the life cycle of a butterfly.  There are many opportunities to infuse reading, ELA, math, art, and science and more using this book.  There is a rich descriptive vocabulary and uses key terms like anatomy, metamorphosis, migration, coloration/camouflage, and more.  I can see using these words cross-curricular lessons, from an ELA-based writing exercise to science-based compare/contrast activity with other animals and insects.  Math and geography activities can be used to calculate and track the migratory paths that different species of butterflies travel in their lifetimes.  Take it a step further, compare/contrast how many hours/days/weeks that would take a person using different modes of transportation.  Students can use what they have learned about butterfly camouflage and anatomy, to create their own butterfly.  They can describe why they chose the colors and features, then use art supplies to create a painting, drawing, or model of their “newly discovered” species.

Something I love to do with my children and students, is purchase milkweed plants.  They attract Monarch Butterflies.  Sometimes the plants already have tiny eggs or caterpillars living on them.  Other times, if I wait long enough, Monarchs will lay eggs on my plants.  We love to watch the caterpillars grow from teeny tiny slivers, to thick, fat caterpillars, which in turn, change into gorgeous jade chrysalis.  If we are lucky enough, we get to see the butterfly when it hatches.  There are butterfly net cages you can use in the classroom or just keep the plants outdoors if there is a safe place.  Students can track the growth and changes throughout the process with drawings and/or written descriptions.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why does a butterfly lay its egg under a leaf?
  • What does it mean to “molt?”
  • What is “metamorphosis?”
  • How does a caterpillar protect itself during metamorphosis?
  • How do butterflies help pollinate flowers?
  • What are some ways that butterflies use their wings to protect themselves?
  • How does a butterfly use its probiscis?
  • Are butterflies all the same size?
  • What would happen if a butterfly didn’t have scales?
  • How are butterflies’ scales helpful to them?
  • Where do Monarch butterflies migrate to and from?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Recommended For: 

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Thank you, Natalia, for your review!

Trex by Christyne Morrell

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Trex
Author: Christyne Morrell
Published August 30th, 2022 by Delacorte

Summary: This middle grade mystery follows the adventures of a boy with an experimental brain implant, and a reclusive girl training to be a spy, as they’re pitted against school bullies, their own parents, and an evil, brain-hacking corporation. Perfect for fans of Stranger Things.

Trex’s experimental brain implant saved his life–but it also made his life a lot harder. Now he shocks everything he touches. When his overprotective mother finally agrees to send him to a real school for sixth grade, Trex is determined to fit in.

He wasn’t counting on Mellie the Mouse. She lives in the creepiest house in Hopewell Hill, where she spends her time scowling, lurking, ignoring bullies, and training to be a spy. Mellie is convinced she saw lightning shoot from Trex’s fingertips, and she is Very Suspicious.

And she should be . . . but not of Trex. Someone mysterious is lurking in the shadows . . . someone who knows a dangerous secret.

About the Author: Christyne’s earliest completed work, written at age 7, told the story of Kermit the Frog meeting Miss Piggy’s parents for the first time. Kermit the Hog was a cautionary tale about pretending to be something you’re not. She still thinks it has potential.

Today, Christyne writes middle-grade novels across a number of genres. Whether they take place in quirky seaside towns or fantastical, faraway kingdoms, her stories all have one thing in common: clever kids accomplishing extraordinary things, like conquering a curse, overthrowing a king, or taking down an evil, brain-hacking corporation. Christyne believes that middle-grade books should challenge, intrigue, and inspire young readers – but above all, never underestimate them.

Christyne’s debut middle-grade novel, Kingdom of Secrets, came out in August 2021 from Delacorte Press. Her next novel, TREX, releases in August 2022. She is also the author of the poetry book, The Fool Catcher (2021), and the picture book, Abra, Cadabra & Bob (2019), and her poems and stories have appeared in HighlightsSpider, and The School Magazine.

When Christyne isn’t writing for kids, she’s busy raising one. She’s an attorney by day, who enjoys reading, baking, and watching House Hunters marathons. She lives with her husband, daughter, and hyperactive beagle in Decatur, Georgia.

Review: I LOVED Morrell’s first middle grade novel, Kingdom of Secrets, so when she reached out for me to read her newest, I jumped at the chance! What is so interesting is how one author can come up with two completely different types of stories–two sides of the speculative coin, if you will. But man, does she knock this one out of the park, too. It is a mind bender of a story that, through red herrings, multiple points of view, and limited narrators, keeps you on your toes all the way until the end! There is so much to delve into with this book, and it is super engaging on top of it all. Another stellar middle grade novel!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: There is so much in this book to use in classrooms: STEM, journaling/spying, and mental health representation! And Christyne Morrell has so many resources on her website to utilize with Trex:

  • STEM
    • Static Electricity: Trex’s brain implant gives him a persistent static electric charge, which has a significant impact on his daily life. Teachers and students can explore the causes of static electricity and consider the steps someone with Trex’s condition would have to take to avoid hurting themselves and others. There are tons of activities available online that demonstrate static electricity at work. Here are some of the best: 16 Fun Electricity Experiments and Activities For Kids.
    • Trex in Real Life: Could Trex’s static electricity problem exist in real life? In Australia, a man reportedly built up a charge of 30,000 volts and set fire to a carpet! (Report: Man Burns Carpet with Static Shock | AP News)
    • Dry Lightning: Dry Lightning is any lightning that occurs without rain nearby. It’s especially dangerous for Trex, but it poses a real risk to everyone. Dry Lightning is more likely than typical lightning to cause forest fires, especially in the western portion of the United States, where it occurs most frequently. (What is a Dry Thunderstorm? | Live Science)
  • Spies
    • Spy Museum: Did you know there’s an entire museum dedicated to spycraft? Future sleuths will have a blast at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. Upon arrival, visitors receive a cover identity, an RFID-enabled badge, and a secret mission to complete. And for those who can’t make it to D.C., the Spy Museum offers a number of resources on their website, including podcasts, puzzles, and more. (Spy Resources | International Spy Museum)
    • Famous Female Spies: Mellie follows in the footsteps of a long line of female spies. From the Civil War to World War II, women have been covertly risking their lives on top secret missions in service to their country. Learn about some of history’s most famous and successful spies: 6 of History’s Most Notable Female Spies | HistoryHit.
    • Easter Egg Hunt: To kickstart your career as a future spy, I’ve included a major Easter egg (a hidden reference) within the text of Trex. If you’ve read my first book, Kingdom of Secrets, and have a keen eye, perhaps you spot the reference!
  • Mental Health
    • The Power of Introverts: Full of insightful research and powerful examples, Susan Cain’s Quiet makes the case that introverts as a group are undervalued in our society and that we should accept – even embrace – our introverted natures. The “Quiet Manifesto” on Susan’s website states, “The next generation of quiet kids can and must be raised to know their own strengths.” And I wrote Trex for precisely that reason. There’s a version of Quiet for kids and a podcast for parents on Susan Cain’s website. (Home – Susan Cain)
    • Anxiety: One of the characters in Trex deals with anxiety – a sense of distress or fear when faced with uncomfortable, unfamiliar, or stressful situations. All of us experience some level of anxiety (on the first day of school, for example), but when it becomes debilitating or disruptive, it may require attention. Treatment for anxiety can range from simple tactics like breathing exercises to therapy and medication. If you’re experiencing anxiety, talk to a trusted adult or doctor, and check resources like Anxiety.org, Child Mind Institute, and CDC: Anxiety and depression in children.
    • Alphabetter: In the book, the characters play a game called “Alphabetter,” in which they take turns naming things that make them happy in alphabetical order. This is a simple and fun way for anyone to calm their stress and boost their mood!

Discussion Questions: 

Book Trailer:

Read This If You Love: Mysteries, Tesla’s Attic by Neal Shusterman & Eric Elfman, Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson, Masterminds by Gordon Korman

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to the author for providing an e-galley for review!**

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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Guest Post: Classroom Uses for All Thirteen by Christina Soontornvat, Astronaut-Aquanaut by Jennifer Swanson, Call and Response by Veronica Chambers, She Persisted: Claudette Colvin by Lesa Cline-Ransome, and History Smashers: Women’s Rights to Vote by Kate Messner

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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 some of the nonfiction books they read.

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team
Author: Christina Soontornvat
Published October 13th, 2020 by Candlewick Press

Summary: An account of the amazing Thai cave rescue told in a you-are-there style that blends suspense, science, and cultural insight. Twelve young players of the Wild Boar soccer team and their coach enter a cave in northern Thailand seeking an afternoon adventure. But when they turn to leave, rising floodwaters block their path out. The boys are trapped! Before long, news of the missing team spreads, launching a seventeen day rescue operation involving thousands of rescuers from around the globe.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be great for a full class discussion and read aloud. This book has a lot of important themes that would be great for class discussion such as teamwork and will to survive. Additionally, incorporating STEM activities through engineering would be perfect since this book was full of it.  And you can teach chronological order writing from the style of the book.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Have you ever been cave diving or experienced jumping into really cold water? Do you think you would be able to stay in the same wet/cold conditions for multiple days? What would help you get through the experience?
  • The Wild Boars were used to working as a team on the field, do you think it was easy for them to keep each other’s hopes up or more difficult? Why?
  • Different experts were called in to help get the team out of the water? Who do you think would be the most helpful in a similar situation? Do you think there are any people who weren’t called in that should’ve been called? Why?
  • The British divers refused to dive into the cave because of safety hazards on June 29th, and 30th. In your opinion do you think they were right, or do you think the Thai military were right in telling them to go in? Why?
  • If you were a family member of one of the thirteen trapped inside, what would you do? Would you call whoever you can think to help or keep yourself busy with aimless tasks or help pump water? Do you think you would remain calm? Why?
  • Draw a scene from the book, why did you choose this scene and how does it make you feel?
  •  Why did the team continue to follow their coach further into the cave although at times it was unsafe?  Who is someone you would follow feeling safe? Why?
  •  How did the maps and diagrams make it easier to understand the operation?
  •  There are many heroes in this book, who is someone in the book you consider a hero? and in your own life?

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Astronaut – Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact
Author: Jennifer Swanson
Published January 9th, 2018 by National Geographic Kids

Summary: Astronaut-Aquanaut explores the world of space and sea science, its differences and its similarities. The book is filled with interesting facts of the preparation and journey of surviving in a remote and hostile environment. The book also includes vivid photographs, as well as detailed accounts of real astronauts and aquanauts.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:This book could be useful in the classroom as a read-aloud book. In addition, this book is great at incorporating science and can be used within a STEM class, if possible. In addition, students are exposed to many after-reading activities that can help them comprehend the information that they had just read from this book in class.

Discussion Questions: 

  • If you were to pick to be an Astronaut or Aquanaut what would you choose? And why?
  • What types of places do you think would be useful for aquanauts to discover? Where and why?
  • If you were an Astronaut how would you describe the similarities of your job to an Aquanaut?
  • Why do you think that these extreme exploration trips put a strain on the human body? And why do you think the body responds that way?
  • If you were an Astronaut what type of experiment would you conduct? And how can that also relate to being an Aquanaut?
  • Why is it important for astronauts to train underwater?
  • Imagine being called for an emergency involving an asteroid that needs to be identified. In what ways do you think this might affect your life as an astronaut, and how you would feel?
  • In what ways do you think that astronauts and aquanauts explore their surroundings?
  • How does understanding pressure, heat, and temperature help us understand space and sea exploration?

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Call and Response: The Story of Black Lives Matter
Author: Veronica Chambers
Published August 17th, 2021 by Versify

Summary: Call and Response: The Story of Black Lives Matter written by Veronica Chambers is a powerful outlook on the events of the civil rights movement of 2020. The Black Lives Matter movement captured global attention and spurred thousands of people of all ages, races, genders, and backgrounds to stand up for progressive social reform. This book tells the story of how social media networks like Instagram, Snapchat, Tik Tok, as well as every news broadcasting site had come together to educate and inform the world on the systematic racism that has been growing in this country for centuries.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book could be used to help students understand a civil rights movements that is still going on today. The book shares information on the past and present situations that have led to this movement and includes pictures.

After reading this text, we would encourage my students to have a group discussion on there feelings towards the book, if the book made them feel a certain way, if they had an eye-opening facts that they would like to share, etc.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Do you remember another time in history when something was as big and powerful as the Black Lives Matter movement?
  • What emotions did you feel while looking at some of the pictures provided in the novel?
  • What are some ways that you can be a leader, like discussed in Chapter 6?
  • What quote in the novel stood out to you?  Why?
  • In what ways do you perceive this movement
  • How does it make you feel?
  • Do you feel you are in a safe and comfortable environment?
  • Do you or do you know of someone who may have been negatively affected by the BLM?
  •  Chapter 10 discusses young leaders. How did these young leaders lead, and why was it effective?

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She Persisted: Claudette Colvin
Author: Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrator: Alexandra Boiger
Published February 2nd, 2021 by Philomel Books

Summary: Inspired by the #1 New York Times bestseller She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger comes a chapter book series about women who stood up, spoke up and rose up against the odds!

In this chapter book biography by award-winning author Lesa Cline-Ransome, readers learn about the amazing life of Claudette Colvin–and how she persisted.

Before Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin made the same choice. She insisted on standing up–or in her case, sitting down–for what was right, and in doing so, fought for equality, fairness, and justice.

Complete with an introduction from Chelsea Clinton, black-and-white illustrations throughout, and a list of ways that readers can follow in Claudette Colvin’s footsteps and make a difference!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book can be used in the classroom to teach students about the civil rights movement as well as the life of Claudette Colvin. By teaching students about influential people of the civil rights movement. This introduction to figures helps students understand the effect that they had on the movement and also the importance of why the fight was important.

Interdisciplinary uses:

Social Studies: This book can be used to help teach students the importance of behavior between different people. Understanding the importance of treating everyone as equals is essential to promoting peace in society. This book talks about the errors of the past and focuses on how even though we have different genders, races, and looks it is important to remember that we are all the same.

History: This does a great job of going over the history of the civil rights movement. This book touches upon why the movement started, what those who lived through the movement went through in everyday life, as well as talking about important events within the movement.

Political Literacy- This book teaches the students on the importance of persisting. This book goes over the importance of having a voice especially in politics. By knowing your rights and expressing them in society it is possible to make a change.

Discussion Questions: 

  • The author cited one inspiration of the novel was the quote “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Why is it important to read books that feature many different main characters?
  • What effect did the death of Delphine have on Claudette Colvin?
  • While Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks protested in very similar ways the story of Rosa Parks is more commonly known. Had you heard of Claudette Colvin before reading this book? Why do you think the story of Rosa Parks is more widely known.
  • When Claudette Colvin was escorted off the bus she repeated that sitting was her constitutional right. Why is knowing your rights important? How does her knowledge of her rights affect the decisions she made in life?
  • In the back of the book there is a list of ways to persist. One the top of the list is to conduct research on how others have brought about change. Why is understanding change in the commonuite important to making a difference in the world?
  • When learning in school Claudette spoke about the attention that was spent on learning about injustice and civil rights. Claudette spoke about how she thought that this was more important and influential than the lessons they had covered in the past. Why is this so?
  • Why do you think Claudette decided to take a stand on the bus?
  • How did Claudette inspire others to take a stand?
  • How did the testimonies of the students on the bus differ from the police officer and other citizens on the bus. Why would they lie?
  • Claudette Colvin was charged with three charges of violating segregation laws, disturbing the peace, and assaulting a police officer. Why do you think one action resulted in multiple charges in court?

Recommended For: 

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History Smashers: Women’s Right to Vote
Author: Kate Messner
Illustrator: Dylan Meconis
Published July 7th, 2020 by Random House Books for Children

Summary: Myths! Lies! Secrets! Smash the stories behind famous moments in history and expose the hidden truth. Perfect for fans of I Survived and Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales.

In 1920, Susan B. Anthony passed a law that gave voting rights to women in the United States. Right?

Wrong! Susan B. Anthony wasn’t even alive when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified. Plus, it takes a lot more than one person to amend the constitution.

The truth is, it took millions of women to get that amendment into law. They marched! They picketed! They even went to jail. But in the end, it all came down to a letter from a state representative’s mom. No joke.

Through illustrations, graphic panels, photographs, sidebars, and more, acclaimed author Kate Messner smashes history by exploring the little-known details behind the fight for women’s suffrage.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book could be useful in a classroom during a Social Studies lesson where women rights is being talked about and the history behind that time. This book would also be useful to help students relate to the same efforts of current movements like,Black Lives Matter and other current social injustices. It teaches history in clear facts on how women sacrificed and fought on amending the constitution to help them have a right to vote and a voice. It also goes over discrimination and how it still was affected.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did this book help you better understand the movement for women to vote in our country?
  • Why did Susan Anthony and Elizabeth Cady want the right for every American woman to vote? HH
  • Why was Susan B. Anthony portrayed as the face of the women’s right to vote movement?
  • How did the pictures and sidebars in the book help you understand what you were reading?
  • How did women’s suffrage affect black women?
  • Why do you think Susan B Anthony was used as the poster child for the book?
  • What myths were found during the book and who was supposedly the first woman who spoke about women’s rights?
  • What was the reason for women’s suffrage and the struggle for right for African Americans?
  • How did women exercise political power throughout the book?
  • In the book, how were black women involved in the fight for women’s suffrage?
  • What did Frances Ellen Watkins Harper argue about?
  • In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote an official document outlining what?
  • On page 24, a document called, The Declaration of Sentiments, women listed their demands and read it aloud to a convention at the time. If you had an opportunity to write your demands for this convention, what would they be?
  • From all the women leaders named in the book, who do you think was the most influential? Why?
  • Of the strategies that women used to earn the right to vote in the United States, which do you think was the most successful? Why?
  • After reading the book, what has been the impact of women’s suffrage in the 20th century?
  • Give examples of some of the outcomes that happened when women’s rights activists would protest and picket?
  • What was President’s Wilson’s response to the women’s protests?

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