Landscape with Invisible Hand by M. T. Anderson

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Landscape with Invisible Hand
Author: M. T. Anderson
Published: September 12, 2017 by Candlewick

Summary: National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson returns to future Earth in a sharply wrought satire of art and truth in the midst of colonization.

When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth – but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Can it really be called an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? As it turns out, yes. With his parents’ jobs replaced by alien tech and no money for food, clean water, or the vuvv’s miraculous medicine, Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, have to get creative to survive. And since the vuvv crave anything they deem “classic” Earth culture (doo-wop music, still-life paintings of fruit, true love), recording 1950s-style dates for the vuvv to watch in a pay-per-minute format seems like a brilliant idea. But it’s hard for Adam and Chloe to sell true love when they hate each other more with every passing episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he’s willing to go – and what he’s willing to sacrifice – to give the vuvv what they want.

Review: 

  • Futuristic, dark satire that is an unusual, intelligent social commentary
  • Forces readers to think deeply about their personal, social, and political lives
  • Somewhat non-linear story with an interesting layout: each chapter has a title that corresponds with the artwork created by the main character
  • Stylistically, Anderson chooses every word with intention. The text is a 149-page novella that features chapters that can be taught instructionally as vignettes.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:  Teachers might ask students to begin by looking closely at the text for short passages that they find particularly interesting or inspiring. Students might write a one-pager that a) unpacks the passage they chose, and b) examines the passage through the lens of a topic that they find particularly interesting and relevant. For example, they might connect a passage to the following topics which are relevant in the text:

Art

Automation

Capitalism

Classism

Economy

Entrepreneurship

Existentialism

Extraterrestrial Life

Health Care

Immigration

Love

Politics

Poverty

Sickness

Nostalgia

Unemployment

After the students have written several one-pagers and explored a variety of topics, they might select one topic that interests them most. They can research scholarship about the topic and look across the entire text for relevant passages.

Sample research paper topics:

Examining economic disparities and classism within Landscape with Invisible Hand

Finding the soul: M.T. Anderson’s treatment of love and art in Landscape with Invisible Hand

Discussion Questions: Do you think M. T. Anderson had a purpose for writing this text?; What kind of social commentary does this text offer?; What does it tell us about love? Society? Humanity?; How does Anderson use art to enhance the story?; How is the text structured? How does this enhance your reading?

Flagged Passage: “We are tiny figures, faceless, pointing at wonders, provided for scale, no lives of our own, surveying the landscape that has engulfed us all.”

Read This If You Loved: Feed by M. T. Anderson; Books by Scott Westerfeld; The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Recommended For:
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Thank you, Candlewick!

RickiSig

Gamer Squad #1: Attack of the Not-So-Virtual Monsters by Kim Harrington

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Gamer Squad #1: Attack of the Not-So-Virtual Monsters
Author: Kim Harrington
Published August 1st, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books

Summary: What happens when your cool virtual-reality game . . . becomes REAL? Pokemon GO meets The Goonies in this action-packed middle-grade series.

Monsters Unleashed–where you catch virtual-reality monsters on your cellphone–is one of the hottest mobile games around, and Bex and Charlie just can’t stop playing. They even check out an old map in Charlie’s grandfather’s attic in hopes of discovering some forgotten places in town where the rarest monsters might hide. But they find a strange machine up there too, and after Charlie switches it on, the WiFi goes down . . . and Bex’s entire catalog of monsters vanishes! And that’s not the worst of it: all the creatures she’s collected on her phone escape into the real world. Can the friends nab the beasts before they become monster lunch?

Author Bio: Kim Harrington is the author of ClarityPerceptionThe Dead and Buried, and Forget Me for teens and the Sleuth or Dare and Gamer Squad series for kids. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and son. When not writing, she’s most likely reading, watching one of her favorite TV shows, or fantasizing about her next vacation. She can be found on Twitter (@Kim_Harrington), Instagram (@KimHarringtonAuthor) and on her website: www.kimharringtonbooks.com.

Don’t miss out on our Interview with the Author, Kim Harrington!!

Review: Kim Harrington’s new series combining video games, science fiction, and adventure is going to be a huge hit with middle grade readers! The first book is a quick, fun read which you cannot put down. Monsters Unleashed, I believe purposefully, is like Pokemon Go! in that the players walk around town looking for monsters to catch, but what would happen if one person’s caught monsters escaped?!?! That was happens with Bex and Charlie, and now it is up to them to figure out how to save their town. This is when it gets unique and crazy! How are they going to get all of the monsters? They are clever 🙂

I cannot wait to read the rest of the series! I cannot wait to see what Bex and Charlie do next!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I can promise that this is a must buy for middle grade classroom and school libraries. Students are going to love these!

Discussion Questions: How does Bex and Charlie overcome their monster obstacles? What different strategies do they use?; What type of people are Bex and Charlie? Do you think that plays a part in them being able to be successful?; Do you think Charlie did the right thing when it came to his brother?; How is Monsters Unleashed and Pokemon Go alike? Different?; What characters surprised you with their interest in Monsters Unleashed? What does that teach you?

Flagged Passages: “The monster emerged from behind a tree. It was covered in fur, like a wolf, but also had two long, sharp fangs poking out of its mouth, and glowing red eyes. The VampWolf was the perfect combination of horrifying and terrifying. It was torrifying. I didn’t even care that wasn’t a word. I was so scared, I needed a new word.

‘Are you seeing what I’m seeing?’ I asked Charlie.

‘If you’re seeing an actual VampWolf walking toward us, then yes.’

‘How can this be happening?’ I looked down at my phone. The Monsters Unleashed app wasn’t even open. I wasn’t looking through the screen. The monster was really there, in the middle of the street.

This wasn’t a game. The VampWolf was right there in front of us on the street.” p. 26-27

Read This If You Love: Tesla’s Attic by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman, Frenzy by Robert Lettrick, Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde, Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang, Frank Einstein by Jon Sciezska, Goosebumps by R.L. Stine

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Ardi at Sterling Publishing for providing a copy for review!!**

Review and Giveaway!: Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code
Author: Laurie Wallmark
Illustrator: Katy Wu
Published May 17th, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books

Summary: Do you know who Grace Hopper was?

A software tester, workplace jester, cherished mentor, ace inventor, avid reader, and naval leader! Acclaimed picture book author Laurie Wallmark (Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine) once again tells the riveting story of a trailblazing woman in Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling Children’s Books, May 16, 2017).

Grace Hopper coined the term “computer bug” and taught computers to “speak English.” Throughout her life, Hopper succeeded in doing what no one had ever done before. Delighting in difficult ideas and in defying expectations, the insatiably curious Hopper truly was “Amazing Grace” . . . and a role model for science- and math-minded girls and boys. With a wealth of witty quotes, and richly detailed illustrations, this book brings Hopper’s incredible accomplishments to life.

“If you’ve got a good idea, and you know it’s going to work, go ahead and do it.”  The picture book biography of Grace Hopper—the boundary-breaking woman who revolutionized computer science.

Who was Grace Hopper? A software tester, workplace jester, cherished mentor, ace inventor, avid reader, naval leader—AND rule breaker, chance taker, and troublemaker. Grace Hopper coined the term “computer bug” and taught computers to “speak English,” and throughout her life succeeded in doing what no one had ever done before. Delighting in difficult ideas and in defying expectations, the insatiably curious Hopper truly is “Amazing Grace” . . . and a role model for science- and math-minded girls and boys.

About the Author: Laurie Wallmark has degrees in Biochemistry from Princeton University, Information Systems from Goddard College, and Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her debut book  Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books) received four starred reviews, praise in The New York Times, and numerous awards. Laurie lives in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter: @lauriewallmark.

About the Illustrator: With a BFA in Illustration and Entertainment Arts from Pasadena Art Center College of Design in 2007, Katy Wu has worked for Google, Laika, Pixar, CinderBiter, and Simon & Schuster. Grace Hopper is her first picture book. Having worked on such projects as the feature film Coraline, and various shorts (La LunaCar Toons) as well as CG, 2D, stop motion, online games, and content for social media platforms, Katy is an incredible talent. She lives and freelances in New York City. Follow her online at katycwwu.tumblr.com.

Review: Each time I learn about a new woman in history that made such a tremendous contribution yet is a name I didn’t know, I am flabbergasted by the lack HERstory in HIStory. Grace Hopper is a phenomenal individual! I love how much her story promotes imagination and STEM. Her stories of rebuilding clocks and building a doll house from blueprints with an elevator shows how building a strong mathematical and scientific mind begins from youth, and it is all about teaching kids to mess around, use their imagination, tinker, and learn through trying. Wallmark’s biography of Grace Hopper does a beautiful job of combining a message of rebellion (in the name of science), creativity, imagination, and education with Grace’s biography. In addition to the narrative, Wu’s illustrations and formatting of the novel adds humanity and color to her story.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Grace Hopper is one example of a female scientist that should be a name that everyone knows yet she is not taught in schools. Luckily there are so many wonderful nonfiction picture book biographies being published showcasing woman who made a difference (some listed below). One way I picture this text being used in the classroom is by using these picture books in a lit circle or even like a jig saw type activity. Each group reads a different nonfiction picture book and shares what they learned with the class.

Grace Hopper could also be used in a computer classroom because it has such a wonderful introduction to the beginning of computers. Grace was part of very early computer programming and computer science, and her story would be perfect to share during a technology class looking at the history of computers.

Discussion Questions: How did Grace Hopper’s legacy continued to the computers and technology we use today?; How did Grace Hopper stand out from what was expected of woman at the time?; What hardships did Grace probably face because of gender prejudice?; Choose one of Grace’s quotes shared in the book and share what it meant for Grace and how it could it be taken as inspirational for your life?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Ada’s Ideas by Fiona Robinson, Maya Lin by Susan Rubin, I Dissent by Debbie Levy, Fearless Flyer by Heather Lang, Dorothea’s Eyes by Barb Rosenstock, Women Who Broke the Rules series by Kathleen KrullLiberty’s Voice by Erica SilvermanJosephine by Patricia Hruby Powell, Swimming with Sharks by Heather Lang, The Book of Heroines from National Geographic Kids

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Ardi at Sterling for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

An Interactive Children’s Book App: Care For Our World by Karen Robbins from Sunbreak Games

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

Happy (almost) Earth Day!

Care For Our World
Author: Karen Robbins
Illustrator: Alexandra Ball
Originally Published: July 15th, 2012 by Compendium Publishing and Communications
App Release: March 1st, 2017 by Sunbreak Games, LLC

Book Summary: Get ready to meet some truly wonderful wild animals from every continent on Earth. As children turn the pages of this book, they’ll encounter dozens of playful creatures in their natural habitats and will learn about the importance of caring for all the plants, animals, and people that call planet Earth their home. A timely reminder of the responsibility every generation shares: to nurture and respect life in all its many forms.

App Information: Take an interactive journey around the world, discovering diverse environments and the animals that call them home, in this animated adaptation of the award-winning children’s book, Care for Our World. Additional creative activities are included, like Coloring Book pages, Creating custom habitats, and even Learning facts, sounds, and photo galleries in the Animal Encyclopedia.

“Care for our world, for you and for me, for all living things from mountain to sea.”

Author Karen Robbins’ delightful words and illustrator Alexandra Ball’s captivating images combine to inspire children to care for the earth they call home: a timely reminder of the responsibility every generation shares to nurture and respect life in all its many forms.

Features: 

• Listen to the animated story, with narration, music, and sounds.

• Touch characters to see and hear them react, and practice their words.

• Color select pages from the book
• Create custom habitats with select animals and backgrounds.
• Save images of your creations to the Gallery.

• Learn more with facts, sounds, and photos in the Animal Encyclopedia.

Recommended for ages 3-8

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’m so impressed with so many of the book apps that are becoming available! As a 21st century mom and teacher, technology is just inevitable in our lives, so I want to make sure that whatever my son and my students interact with is the best out there and isn’t just a tech babysitter. Care For Our World fits this definition and is definitely an app that I am going to recommend to my mom friends and my elementary teacher friends.

The story by itself is a wonderful read aloud and discussion starter. It takes the two main characters around the world to visit different habitats and the animals that live there. The author’s theme is quite clear throughout: this is OUR world and we need to take care of it because we share it with some amazing animals. This theme makes it a perfect read aloud for Earth Day and many animal and Earth-centered activities and inquiry projects could stem from the story.

The app takes the book to a whole new level. Everything wonderful about the book is still there, but now the story is interactive! First, it reads to you. On each page, you can also click on the plants and animals and the narrator will tell you what they are. You can also click on each word, and it’ll read it to you. This is perfect for kids learning to read! The viewer, when finished with the book, can now go explore more about some of the animals in the story by going to the Animal Encyclopedia where you can hear the sounds the animals make, learn about their behaviors, and see photos of them. Lastly, kids will have a blast coloring different scenes from the book or creating their own habitat (all artwork can be saved in a gallery to view later). The app is fun and informative–a perfect mix for the type of app I’m always trying to find for my son.

Trailer: 

Recommended For: 

 

The Happy Dandelion App

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Happy Dandelion

The Happy Dandelion App

We were contacted by Joshua and Donna Wilson, a husband-wife team and The Happy Dandelion creators, who asked if we’d review their picture book app. Because apps stray toward the advertising sector, we always review the apps carefully before we feature them on the blog. As you all know, we are not for-profit, and we are truly here for the love of teaching books, but after previewing the app, we decided it was too lovely not to share.

The books featured are picture books for all ages, and we were able to pull our sons (who are toddlers) onto our laps, and they loved pushing parts of the books to see the words spin, bump, and twist. It was fun to navigate the books because there were so many places to push, and we felt like we’d won for each time that we pushed the right places!

The first book we reviewed was The Sometimes Road. This was a calming book that is directed more for adults and is about the twists and turns of life. It was a story that will be appreciated by kids, too! There were many quotable sections that felt very zen to us. The music in the background was peaceful, and the storyline discusses the difficulties and triumphs we experience in life. The artwork is absolutely stunning. Ricki accessed this book after yoga class, and it was the perfect time to look at it. It kept her heart calm and made her feel peaceful.

We also accessed The UnStealer, which was very different from the first book. The watercolors popped, and there were many fun twists to this story. It is about an UnStealer who steals, “uns,” which was a very fun play on words. Our kids loved this one, and we think this would be very fun to use as a read-aloud in class. It would be great to take student volunteers to push different parts of the book during the read-aloud.

Check out The UnStealer in action:

We loved playing around with The Happy Dandelion app and think it would be a great resource in a classroom. This would be a great app to load onto an iPad for kids to use during independent reading or to use in groups at a reading station. A special thanks to Joshua and Donna Wilson for recommending their app to us. We had great fun!

RickiSigand Kellee Signature