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Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers: Family! Books about family from a newly living-in grandparent to adjusting to new siblings to all types of families! Also, language and math concepts in this month’s books for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What could art and insects possibly have to do with one another? In the March 2017 Primary books, both are presented in ways that ask young readers to think differently about the subject. Creative and engaging, these titles are winners!

 

 

 

Intermediate titles in March embrace sports buzz! Learn about the origin of the “fast break” and the coach who introduced it to the game in John Coy’s Game Changer . Find out whether a love of baseball can bring a grieving family together in Wendy Wan-Long Shang’s The Way Home Looks Now.

 

 

 

March Middle School titles offer riveting nonfiction about a group of student resistors during WWII and historical fiction set in Berlin during the Cold War. These books will start some conversation on how governments challenge and control people’s freedoms and possible responses.

 

 

 

 

An engrossing look at U.S. government deception of the American public throughout our involvement in Vietnam, and Daniel Ellsberg’s efforts to make that deception—chronicled in the Pentagon Papers—public.

Part political thriller, part American primer, Sheinkin’s account be-comes even more riveting as it follows the release of the story in the Times, a court injunction to stop publication of additional stories in that paper, and Ells-berg, hiding from federal authorities, getting additional copies into the hands of one major paper after another.

 

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March 2017 High School

February 20th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | High School | March - (0 Comments)

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steven Sheinkin. Roaring Brook Press, 2015

An engrossing look at U.S. government deception of the American public throughout our involvement in Vietnam, and Daniel Ellsberg’s efforts to make that deception—chronicled in the Pentagon Papers—public. Ellsberg, a veteran and Harvard Ph.D., worked at the Pentagon, and later for the State Department in Vietnam, gradually changing his views on U.S. involvement there, especially as he realized how much was being kept from the public. U.S. fears of Communism post World War II, and the refusal of one president after another to “lose” a war, were among the barriers to rational decision-making. But at a new position for a California-based think tank, Ellsberg ended up with access to a single copy of the Pentagon Papers, which he eventually decided to photocopy. No politician would touch what he begged them to make public, so he went to the New York Times. Part political thriller, part American primer, Sheinkin’s account becomes even more riveting as it follows the release of the story in the Times, a court injunction to stop publication of additional stories in that paper, and Ells-berg, hiding from federal authorities, getting additional copies into the hands of one major paper after another. Ellsberg’s patriotism is never in doubt in Sheinkin’s account, but neither is the patriotism of soldiers serving in the war who, like Vietnamese civilians and our military allies there, were also at the mercy of the decisions being made. Detailed source notes round out this masterful account that includes occasional black-and-white photos.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How are we affected today by the decisions our political leaders make?
  2. Was Daniel Ellsberg right or wrong to release the Pentagon Papers? What role did his experiences in the war affect his eventual decisions?
  3. Who should decide what secrets the government gets to keep? Should all government information eventually become public?
  4. Steve Sheinkin has tells us about history in a much different way than a history textbook. How is it different and how does Sheinkin hold the reader’s interest in such a complicated story?

Find more resources at TeachingBooks.net!

March 2017 Middle School

February 20th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Middle School | March - (0 Comments)

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip M. Hoose. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015

When Germany invaded Denmark in April, 1940, the Danish government signed an agreement not to fight back. This capitulation did not sit well with many ordinary Danes. Knud Pedersen was a school boy, but he and his brother and some friends began acts of resistance—small scale annoyances and mayhem. When the Pedersens moved, the brothers formed the Churchill Club, and their activity began to escalate. From the time they stole their first gun, the boys began thinking about what they were doing in moral terms: Could they shoot a German? Under what circumstances? Meanwhile, they focused on the sabotage of train cars and vehicles. Caught, they were eventually sent to prison, but their trial sparked greater resistance efforts across the nation. By the time Knud got out of prison, his family had become an important part of the growing Danish resistance. Phillip Hoose interviewed Knud Pedersen extensively as part of this riveting account, which goes back and forth between Knud’s reminiscences and Hoose’s narrative. The boys’ youth, and at times immaturity, is conveyed along with their commitment and passion for their cause.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How did the boys’ deeds have an effect on Denmark’s resistance movement?
  2. Would you categorize the boys as impetuous or heroic? Support your answer.
  3. What world/societal issues could this story relate to today?
  4. If this book became a movie, which part, person or role would you want to play?

A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielson. Scholastic, 2015

With the rise of the Berlin Wall, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family divided overnight. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, to think forbidden thoughts of freedom, yet she can’t help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city.

But one day, while on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Then, when she receives a mysterious drawing, Gerta puts two and two together and concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom? from the publisher

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What purpose did the quotes serve at the beginning of each chapter?
  2. Gerta got help from unexpected people. What were their motivations for helping her?
  3. Why did the East Germans need a wall to keep people from leaving?

Find more resources at TeachingBooks.net!

Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game by John Coy. Illustrated by Randy DuBurke. Carolrhoda, 2015

In 1944, the Duke University Medical School basketball team played a secret game against five members of the Eagles from the North Carolina College of Negroes in defiance of segregation laws. The match was arranged by Eagles coach John McLendon, who had an African American father and Delaware Indian mother, and believed an interracial game could help erase prejudice. The Eagles blew out Duke with a final score of 88 to 44, dominating the play with their new fast-break attacking style. A second game of shirts and skins followed, with players from both teams mixing to make a more evenly matched competition. In a post-game gathering at the Eagles’ dormitory, all players agreed to keep the game secret in order to protect one another and Coach McLendon from legal liability or social retribution. A concluding sentence of this captivating story pays tribute to Coach McLendon and the players of both teams who “were years ahead of their time” on the road to athletic racial integration.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What was the significance of these two teams playing together? Why was it important for this game to be secret?
  2. Why do you think the author titled this book “Game Changer”? What are some of the different meanings of “game changer” in the book?
  3. Have you ever changed your assumptions about someone once you got to know them?
  4. Why do you think the illustrator changed the style of the art after the game?

The Way Home Looks Now by Wendy Wan-Long Shang. Scholastic Press, 2015

Peter’s Taiwanese American family is struggling since the death of his older brother, Nelson. Peter, Nelson, and their mother shared a love of baseball, so Peter tries out for a team in hopes it will spark his mother’s interest, since she’s so sad she rarely leaves the couch. But it’s Ba who gets involved, volunteering to coach Peter’s team. Angry that his father, who argued with Nelson about the Vietnam War, can’t make things at home better, Peter is now embarrassed by him as a coach. But turns out Ba has been paying attention to baseball—he even played as a boy—and to what’s happening at home more than Peter knew. A novel grounded in the perspective of a child in a family working through grief also succeeds as an accessible, engaging sports story, one that addresses changing social norms in the 1970s.When one of the team’s best players, Aaron, turns out to be Erin—a girl—parents threaten to pull their sons from the team. Ba leaves it up to the kids to decide if she should stay. Meanwhile, there are moments when Peter’s mother shows a spark, but baseball is not a magic cure. Time, says Ba. Nuanced characters, including Peter’s mother and Nelson, both developed in flashbacks, are among the story’s many strengths. (MS) ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How do the different characters handle grief?
  2. How does baseball bring people together in this story? How does it change their views of each other?
  3. How did you feel when you learned Erin was a girl?

Find more resources at TeachingBooks.net.

Grandma in Blue with Red Hat by Scott Menchin. Illustrated by Harry Bliss. Abrams, 2015

An art teacher asks a boy and his classmates touring a museum to consider why various pieces are on display: What makes them art? “Because it’s beautiful,” says Alice about one painting. “Because it came from somewhere far away,” says Thomas about another. “Because it’s different.” “Because it tells a story.” “Because it makes me feel good.” “Because it’s funny.” That night the boy thinks about his classmates’ observations, and about what the teacher said, “Anything can be in an art exhibition.” And then he thinks about his Grandma, who is different, funny, tells him stories, makes him feel good, and comes from far away. “I should give Grandma to the museum!” Alas, the museum director explains, they don’t accept Grandmas. A playful yet probing narrative is paired with illustrations blending cartoon styling with renditions of the real works of art that inspire the students’ thinking and creativity. The African American boy at story’s center goes on to paint a whimsical series in tribute to his Grandma.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  1. Pre-reading: What is art?
  2. Do you recognize some of the paintings and sculptures in the book?
  3. Why do you think text appears in two formats?
  4. After reading this book, how has your understanding of art and making art changed?

I, Fly: The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are by Bridget Heos. Illustrated by Jennifer Plecas. Henry Holt, 2015

The fly narrating this informative picture book is full of enthusiasm, not to mention knowledge, eager to convince a class studying butterflies that flies are just as worthy a subject. “Here’s how the story goes: My 500 brothers and sisters and I started out as eggs. Our mom tucked us into a warm, smelly bed of dog doo.” The fly’s impromptu lecture (it came in through the window during a science class) is followed by a Q-and-A session, with the fly dispelling misinformation about its species. Bridget Heos’s funny, factual narrative (well, except for the talking fly) is perfectly matched by Jennifer Plecas’s clean-lined, cartoon-like illustrations.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  1. How does the fly show us the difference between facts and myths?
  2. What information about flies do you find most interesting in this book?
  3. In what ways are flies and butterflies alike? different?

Find more resources for Grandma in Blue with Red Hat and I, Fly: The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are at TeachingBooks.net!

Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina. Illustrated by Angela Dominguez. Candlewick Press, 2015

Mia doesn’t speak Spanish well and her abuela, who has come to live with Mia’s family, doesn’t speak English well. They share a room, and Abuela watches Mia after school, but there is a lot of silence. Then Mia begins teaching her grandmother English words, even labeling things at home like they sometimes do in her classroom at school, and Abuela teaches Mia Spanish words. The locked door between them starts to open. It opens wider when Mia sees a parrot at the pet shop and the family buys it for Abuela, who had a pet parrot back home. By story’s end, Abuela is reading Mia her favorite book, and telling stories “about Abuelo, who could dive for river stones with a single breath and weave a roof out of palms.” A warm picture book story that has some lovely turns of phrase and integrates Spanish words into the English text is set against cheery illustrations.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  • Talk: How do you say hello, goodbye, and I love you without words?
  • Sing: Visit your library and listen to songs in Spanish.
  • Write: Draw a picture of yourself with a grandparent or a favorite adult.
  • Play: Visit your library and find more bilingual books.
  • Math or Science: Taste a mango! Is it sweet, sour, tangy?

One Family by George Shannon. Illustrated by Blanca Gómez. Frances Foster Books / Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015

An unusual, conceptually sophisticated counting book looks at the way the number “one” can be represented by a single object, a pair of items, or a group of things varying in number from three all the way up to 10. For every number from two to 10, “one” is also a group with that many members. “One is three. One house of bears. One bowl of pears … One is five. One bunch of bananas. One hand of cards.” The narrative works hand-in-hand with the illustrations, with each page spread featuring a scene in which everything named can be found and counted (e.g., a family of three walking down a street in which one building they pass has a bowl with three pears in the window and a toy shop with a window display featuring the three bears in a doll house). While the art has a nostalgic feel, there is multicultural and intergenerational diversity within and across the families, all of whom are shown together on the final page spread: “One is one and everyone. One earth. One world. One family.”  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  • Talk: Who is in your family? Name them all.
  • Sing: A counting song.
  • Write: How old are you? How many different ways can you show this number using different objects?
  • Play: Hopscotch
  • Math or Science: Count the groupings on each page. What kinds of groups can you find in your world?

The New Small Person by Lauren Child. Candlewick Press, 2015

Elmore Green enjoys being an only child. He doesn’t have to worry about anyone messing with his stuff, and “Elmore Green’s parents thought he was simply the funniest, cleverest, most adorable person they had ever seen.” When a “new small person” arrives, Elmore Green’s perfectly ordered life is turned upside down. “They all seemed to like it … maybe a little bit MORE than they liked Elmore Green.” As the new small person gets bigger, he disrupts Elmore’s things, he licks Elmore’s jelly beans, he follows Elmore around, he moves into Elmore’s room. It’s awful, until the night Elmore has a bad dream and the small person comforts him. Not long after, Elmore is arranging his precious things in a long line, and the small person is adding his own things to the effort. “It felt good to have someone there who understood why a long line of things was SO special.” And it turns out that this small person has a name: Albert. A fresh, funny take on a familiar family scenario features two brown-skinned brothers in droll, spirited illustrations that are a perfect match for the narrative’s tone. Lauren Child’s story is joyful even as it acknowledges the very real feelings of frustration and uncertainty that come with a new sibling. Honor Book, 2016 Charlotte Zolotow Award  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  • Talk: Talk about your favorite things. Do you share them with others?
  • Sing: Choose a song. Sing it loudly. Sing it quietly. Sing it in a silly way.
  • Write: Draw a picture of your favorite things.
  • Play: Share your favorite toys with a friend.
  • Math or Science: How many are in your family? Do you think it’s a big or small family?

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This month, Read On Wisconsin titles offer a wide range of subjects, characters, genres, and languages across our age-level groups. Books for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers include bilingual titles, Maya’s Blanket / La Manta de Maya and Squirrel Round and Round: A Bilingual Book of Seasons, in Spanish and Chinese for International Mother Language Day on February 21st.  Primary titles, New Shoes and Trapped!, while very different stories, illustrate how creative problem solving can help others. For Intermediate readers, Stella by Starlight and The Book Itch offer stories imbued with a love of words, family and community. Family, friends, and fate interweave around Valentine’s Day in the Middle School title, Goodbye Stranger. And, Printz Award-winning, Bone Gap, is a Midwestern fairy tale about strength, understanding, and kindness. 

Find descriptions, discussion questions or literacy activities, and resources for each title below by clicking on the book cover image. Find descriptions, discussion questions or literacy activities, and resources for each title below by clicking on the book cover image.

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Maya’s Blanket / La Manta de Maya by Monica Brown. Illustrated by David Diaz. Children’s Book Press / Lee & Low, 2015

Little Maya loves her manta (blanket), which was made by her abuelita. When the edges of the blanket fray from use, Abuelita helps Maya turn it into a vestido (dress). They later make the vestido into a falda (skirt), which they eventually sew into a rebozo (shawl), before turning it into a bufanda (scarf), and then a cinta (headband). When Maya gets her hair cut, she turns the cinta into a marcador de libros (bookmark). When she loses her bookmark, Maya realizes she can write the entire story down. And when she is grown with a little girl of her own, she tells that story to her. Based on a traditional Yiddish folk song, this lively contemporary story is grounded in Latino culture and told in both English and Spanish. Monica Brown’s engaging cumulative narrative seamlessly integrates Spanish words into the English text, defining them in context, while the cultural details and a wonderful, warm sense of family as Maya grows are brought into full visual relief in David Diaz’s richly hued illustrations that are both heartfelt and whimsical. Highly Commended, 2016 Charlotte Zolotow Award ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Share these early literacy activities with caregivers or add them in story time.

  • Talk: This book is in both English and Spanish. What other languages do you hear or speak?
  • Sing: Do you know any songs or poems in different languages? Sing one of these songs.
  • Write: Draw your favorite thing. Is it a blanket, pillow, or something else?
  • Play: Create a story about your favorite thing. Can you act out your story?
  • Math or Science: Make a blanket fort.

Squirrel Round and Round: A Bilingual Book of Seasons by Belle Yang. Candlewick Press, 2015

Squirrel Round and Round describes the changing landscape and activities of its inhabitants as a squirrel travels through the seasons of the year. The squirrel observes blooming camellias, noisy cicadas, ripe persimmons, and more as winter turns to spring then to summer and fall. The first frost and fresh tracks in the snow bring the squirrel back to winter. The book offers a rich vocabulary in English and Mandarin Chinese while attractive illustrations painted in impressionistic colors are simple yet detailed.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center.

Share these early literacy activities with caregivers or add them in story time.

  • Talk: What different animals live outside your house? Where do they live?
  • Sing: Listen for the sounds in your world. What sounds can you make? Do different languages make different sounds?
  • Write: Can you create Mandarin characters?
  • Play: Go outside and make some tracks.
  • Math or Science: How can you tell what season it is? Use all 5 senses.

Include some poetry: Changes: A Child’s First Poetry Collection: page 20 and Lullaby and Kisses Sweet: Firsts section

For more bilingual titles, try the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) bibliography, 50 Bilingual and Spanish/English Integrated Books, or search on the CCBC website.

Find more resources for Maya’s Blanket/La Manta de Maya and Squirrel Round and Round: A Bilingual Book of Seasons at TeachingBooks.net.

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New Shoes by Susan Lynn Meyer. Illustrated by Eric Velasquez. Holiday House, 2015

When Ella Mae, who’s always had hand-me-downs, goes shoe shopping for the first time, she’s eager to try on the pair of new saddle shoes she’d been eyeing in the window. But it turns out Black people aren’t allowed to try on shoes at the shoe store. Ella Mae’s mom traces Ella Mae’s foot on a piece of paper and they determine what size to buy based on the tracing. The experience diminishes the joy of new shoes for Ella Mae, but it also inspires her. She and a friend begin to do odd jobs for a nickel and a pair of outgrown shoes. They invest the money in polish and laces, scrub and shine the pairs they’ve collected, and invite anyone to come in and try them on before purchasing, asking for more old shoes as part of the price of payment to guarantee the goodwill can continue. A story set in the mid–20th century South underscores the unfairness of racism through a common childhood event. The story pulls no punches in describing how it feels to Ella Mae to be treated so unfairly. Ella Mae’s response is one that also underscores determination, generosity, and fairness. An author’s note provides additional historical context, as do the period illustrations.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Pre-Reading: What do you know about segregation?
  2. What happened in the shoe store? How do you think it made Ella Mae and her Mother feel?
  3. How do Ella Mae and her mother react to what happened in the shoe store?  What actions does Ella Mae take to change her experience of shoe shopping?
  4. How does the community benefit from Ella Mae’s and Charlotte’s creative solution?

 

Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue by Robert Burleigh. Illustrated by Wendell Minor. Charlesbridge, 2015

“The huge humpback whale dips and dives. Her sleek black sides shimmering, she spyhops, lobtails, flashes her flukes.” The whale becomes entangled in nets used for crab fishing. She struggles, tiring, before a team of divers arrives and embarks on a rescue mission. Will they free the whale in time to save her? Robert Burleigh’s tense, dramatic picture book narrative is based on an actual event that happened off the California coast in 2005. When the whale is finally freed, she swims past her rescuers and gently nudges each one, “as if saying thanks.” Wendell Minor’s gorgeous illustrations offer a variety of arresting perspectives of the whale and the divers in the sea in an account that concludes with additional information about the event on which it is based, as well as more about whales and whale rescues.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What roles do you think humans play in the whale’s story?
  2. How do you know whether or not the whale understands that the humans helped to free the whale?
  3. How do the illustrations show the difference between the whale feeling trapped and feeling free?
  4. What do you think are some of the words that the author uses to show the whale’s movement?

Find more great resources, including discussion guides, for New Shoes and Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue at TeachingBooks.net.

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Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper. Atheneum, 2015

After 11-year-old Stella and her little brother, Jojo, see the burning cross and the men in white, members of the African American community in their small North Carolina town gather at Stella’s house to discuss the danger, but the rhythm of life continues: The kids go to school, the adults go about their work. When Stella’s dad, the preacher, and a neighbor named Mr. Spencer register to vote—a decision made after careful consideration and tense debate—the retaliation is swift and awful: Mr. Spencer’s house is set on fire. But neighbors rally, including a few whites, to care for the family. This strong, resilient community graces Sharon Draper’s compelling story set during the Depression with a profound sense of comfort. So, too, do the finely drawn characters. Stella, her family, and most of her neighbors feel like friends one can count on in a story grounded in Stella’s perspective. In addition to the racism that is a daily and unsettling part of life, Stella is facing a much more personal challenge, working hard to get better at writing. Although it doesn’t come easily, she is driven to improve, and this portrait of an emerging writer beginning to understand the power of putting words and ideas on paper is notable and gratifying.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How is Stella’s life different from the lives of the kids who live in town?
  2. How is her father’s involvement in voting an act of bravery? Have you seen your parents vote?
  3. Describe the Stella’s community. How do the people in her community support one another?
  4. How does it make you feel to see Stella’s writing process throughout the story? How have you seen your writing progress throughout the school year?

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Carolrhoda, 2015

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson revisits the topic of Lewis Michaux and the National Memorial African Bookstore that were the subject of her singular young adult novel No Crystal Stair, here introducing her great uncle and his Harlem store in a picture book told in the engaging fictionalized voice of Lewis Michaux’s son. Young Louie shares the history of the store, which his father could not get a bank loan to open because the banker believed “Black people don’t read.” And he shares a sense of the vibrant, vivid gathering place the store is, with its “zillion books” by Black people—African Americans, Africans—and others who aren’t white; with its many visitors from the famous (Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X) to the anonymous (the boy who spends every Saturday reading at the store); with its readings and rallies; a place of activism and action. Read to learn, his father tells him, and to learn how “to figure out for yourself what is true.” In the aftermath of Malcolm X’s death, Louie is comforted by his father’s reminder that “His words will never leave us.” And Louie thinks about the importance of words, and the importance of their bookstore as a place to find them in a picture book strikingly illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Nelson tells more about the store, which closed in 1975, and her personal connection, in end material that includes photographs and a bibliography. ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Pre-reading: Who was Malcolm X?
  2. Why do you think the author choose “Book Itch” as the title? What multiple meanings do you see for the word “itch” in the book?
  3. What do you think was the impact of the National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem? In the United States? Why do you think so many famous people visited the National Memorial African Bookstore?
  4. Is there a message in the end-pages that speaks to you?
  5. After reading: How was Malcolm X different from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? Why is each leader important?

Find discussion guides and more for Stella by Starlight and Book Itch at TeachingBooks.net!

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Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead. Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2015

The structure of Rebecca Stead’s novel is complex and the connections are deep and rich between characters and across several storylines as she examines friendship, family, and love. Bridge’s best friends are Emily and Tab. Seventh grade brings changes and challenges as Emily likes an older boy named Patrick, who may or may not be reliable, and there’s fallout when a picture Emily sends him is widely shared, illuminating a sexist double standard that Tab doesn’t hesitate to point out. Bridge is still occasionally plagued by nightmares from when she was hit by a car in third grade; an accident that her new friend Sherm Russo remembers, too, although Bridge doesn’t know it. Meanwhile, Bridge’s brother is on the verge of losing yet another bet with his closest-but-not-so-nice friend, and Sherm is ignoring texts from his grandfather, with whom he was close until he left Sherm’s grandmother months before. Finally there is Tab’s older sister, Celeste, whose betrayal of her new friend Gina’s confidence to her old friend Vinny, whose mean streak is getting worse, has her mortified. While the three younger girls manage to be true to themselves and one another, Celeste and Bridge’s brother are realizing that sometimes you have to let a friendship go in a novel full of truths that will resonate with readers.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What makes Bridge and Sherm’s relationship so strong?
  2. A nurse says to Bridge, “You must’ve been put on this earth for a reason, little girl…” How does that affect Bridge’s decisions and actions? What do you think your own purpose is?
  3. What issues and themes in this book make it real for middle school readers?

Find a complete discussion guide here! More resources for Goodbye Stranger available at TeachingBooks.net!

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Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins, 2015

Teenage Finn is the only person in Bone Gap who believes Roza, a young woman relatively new to town, was abducted. Finn is sure Roza was a prisoner in the car he saw her riding in, but he can’t describe the driver. Everyone else thinks he made up the story and was in love with Roza. In truth, Finn’s older brother Sean is the one in love with Roza, and Finn feels increasingly frustrated by Sean’s distant behavior and seeming lack of concern: Sean clearly assumes Roza left Bone Gap—and him—of her own accord. When the point of view of this exquisitely written novel switches to Roza, who is, indeed, being held prisoner, the story takes on the overtones of a thriller, one that slips into the realm of magical realism as Roza’s storyline develops. Defying all boundaries, Laura Ruby moves assuredly back and forth between small town life in Bone Gap, where Finn is marked by loss that precedes the present events and finds unexpected friendship and solace in a developing relationship with classmate Petey, and Roza’s ever-more-complex history and situation. Roza is strikingly beautiful. Petey is often seen as remarkable for her lack of beauty. Neither woman can be defined by her appearance—one of the story’s many points. Themes of small town life, family, loss, love, evil, beauty, sexuality, power and its abuse all resound in a story that can be read, among many ways, as a feminist fairy tale. (MS) ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What is the connection between the characters’ emotions and the magical events in the story?
  2. Discuss the difference between Finn’s and Sean’s reactions to Roza’s disappearance.
  3. Is beauty always a good thing? How does Finn’s condition affect his ability to find beauty?
  4. What parallels can you find between Roza and Persephone from the Greek myth?

Find teaching guides and other resources for Bone Gap at TeachingBooks.net and book discussion guide from Balzer + Bray.

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