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NOVEMBER (1)

May 9th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | Primary (Grades K-2) | 2017-2018 Primary | November - (Comments Off on NOVEMBER (1))

The Hole Story of the Doughnut by Pat Miller. Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016

Prior to 1847, little round cakes fried in lard were a dietary staple for sailors aboard ships. They were easy to prepare and easy to eat. But Hanson Gregory, a 16-year-old cook’s assistant aboard a schooner, listened to his fellow sailor’s complaints about the cakes, which they called “sinkers” because the centers were so heavy with grease, and he came up with a way to improve them: He took the top of a pepper shaker and cut the centers out of the cakes before he fried them. They were such a hit that Hanson shared the idea with his mother when he got back home, and she began to cook up dozens of “holey cakes” to sell on the docks to the sailors, and pretty soon, all the ships’ cooks began to adopt the practice, thereby spreading doughnuts far and wide. Gregory later became a ship’s captain, and tall tales began to develop about how he came to invent the doughnut, some of which are included in this book. A great deal of primary and secondary research went into recounting the doughnut’s—or, more accurately, the doughnut hole’s–entertaining history. Each whimsical watercolor illustration is framed within a circle, echoing the importance of the doughnut hole. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Captain Gregory spent a lot of time on large ships, what is the largest vehicle you’ve ever seen, and where were you when you saw it?
  2. Why is Captain Gregory considered a hero? What is he remembered for?
  3. In the book, what is the problem Hanson Gregory was trying to solve with his invention? How does his invention help the sailors?
  4. How do the sailors’ stories differ from Hanson Gregory’s story (How do tall-tales differ from non-fiction?)

OCTOBER (2)

May 9th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | Primary (Grades K-2) | October | 2017-2018 Primary - (Comments Off on OCTOBER (2))

Little Cat’s Luck by Marion Dane Bauer. Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell. Simon & Schuster, 2016

A small calico cat, Patches, lives in a loving home with a girl she adores, but when she suddenly feels the need for a special place she escapes through a faulty screen and ends up lost just three blocks from home. She spies what looks like a perfect special place when she sees a dog house, but it belongs to Gus, the meanest dog in town. Both a mouseling and a squirrel a bit more worldly than Patches warn her about the dog. Still, Patches slips in and gives birth to three kittens. It turns out Gus isn’t really scary—he’s just lonely. He falls hard for gentle, clever Patches and her kittens, and when it’s time for them to leave, he doesn’t want to let them go, growling, “Mine.” But Patches is determined to get her kittens back home. This companion book to Little Dog Lost is written in short verse lines with a humorous voice that speaks directly to the reader. The story ends happily, but not before Bauer builds narrative tension that keeps sweetness restrained and readers on the edges of their seats. (Ages 6–9)  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How does the text, written like a poem, help the reader to visualize the story?
  2. How do Patches’ feelings about her home change by the end of the story?
  3. Explain how Gus, the humans, and Patches all say the kittens are, “Mine”. Why do you think they feel this way?

OCTOBER (1)

May 9th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | Primary (Grades K-2) | October | 2017-2018 Primary - (Comments Off on OCTOBER (1))

When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson. Illustrated by Julie Flett. Highwater Press, 2016

A young Cree girl gardening with her kókom asks about certain habits she has observed: Her kókum always wears bright color and a long braid. She often speaks in Cree and enjoys spending time with her brother. There is a story behind each that is connected to kókum’s years in Indian Boarding School. The students were not allowed to wear bright colors, for example. “But sometimes,” Kókom says, “in the fall when we were alone, and the leaves had turned to their warm autumn hues, we would all roll around on the ground. We would pile the leaves over the clothes they had given us, and we would be colorful again. And this made us happy.” Each question and answer follows this same pattern, with Kókom describing small acts of resistance that helped her and her classmates survive emotionally. The beautiful, affecting narrative is accompanied by Julie Flett’s striking, culturally authentic illustrations that show the connection between the child and her elders. (Ages 5–8)  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What is your favorite story from your grandparent or from an older community member?
  2. The grandmother in the story has kept many of her cultural traditions. What are some of your favorite family traditions?
  3. How do you think the illustrations in the book reflect the feelings of the grandmother?

SEPTEMBER (2)

May 9th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in September | 2017-2018 | Primary (Grades K-2) | 2017-2018 Primary - (Comments Off on SEPTEMBER (2))

Excellent Ed by Stacy McAnulty. Illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach. Alfred A. Knopf, 2016

“All of the Ellis children were allowed to eat at the table and ride in the van and sit on the couch and use the indoor bathroom. Except Ed.” Ed is prohibited from these activities because he’s a dog, not that Ed himself makes any distinction between himself and his human family. But because each of the other Ellis children excels at something—Elaine at soccer, Emily and Elmer at math, Edith at ballet, and Ernie at baking cupcakes—Ed goes in search of what he’s best at. The search leads to answers that are satisfying for Ed and for readers and listeners, too. It’s hard to say which is more appealing in this sparkling picture book, Ed or the entire lively Ellis family, of which Ed is clearly a much-loved member. The wonderful narrative makes judicious use of repetition while the vivacious illustrations are full of humor and warmth. The Ellis family is Black, with children ranging from early-elementary-age to their teens, something typical for many families but not for many picture books. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What are some things that Ed does well? What are some things that members of Ed’s family do well? Have you found what you are “excellent at”? Or, are you still looking?
  2. What does Ed do when someone in the family is better than he is? How do you remind yourself to keep trying your best even though someone else does something better than you?
  3. How does Ed finally find what he is “excellent at”? What do you do when you feel left out?
  4. How do the text and the illustrations work together to tell this story?

SEPTEMBER (1)

May 9th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in September | 2017-2018 | Primary (Grades K-2) | 2017-2018 Primary - (Comments Off on SEPTEMBER (1))

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex. Illustrated by Christian Robinson. A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Book Press, 2016

We know about children’s anxiety on the first day of school but what about the school itself? Newly built Frederick Douglass Elementary is just as nervous about its first day as its students are. Before school starts, a man named Janitor mops and buffs the floors, and it’s nice when it’s just the two of them. But when the children start filing in—more of them than the school could have imagined—school begins to worry. It’s clear not all of the kids want to be there, while others are afraid. The kids are also noisy and messy (although school gets even by squirting a boy at the water fountain). But school discovers it can learn a thing or two in kindergarten class. By the time the kids leave at the end of the first day, school is eager to have them come back. Christian Robinson’s acrylic illustrations incorporate classic elements, like a flag, circle rug, and chalkboard with the alphabet above, in scenes showing a diverse, contemporary school in this perfect antidote for first-day jitters. Highly Commended, 2017 Charlotte Zolotow Award ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What are some examples of the school acting like a person?
  2. What do the illustrations show the reader about how the school feels?
  3. How does the school change its mind about the freckled girl and other characters?
  4. How would the story be the same or different if told from the janitor’s perspective?

MAY

May 8th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | Middle School | 2017-2018 Middle School | May - (Comments Off on MAY)

Lowriders in Space (Lowriders, Book 1) by Cathy Camper. Illustrated by Raul the Third. Chronicle Books, 2014

Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria love working with cars. You name it, they can fix it. But the team’s favorite cars of all are lowriders—cars that hip and hop, dip and drop, go low and slow, bajito y suavecito. The stars align when a contest for the best car around offers a prize of a trunkful of cash—just what the team needs to open their own shop! ¡Ay chihuahua! What will it take to transform a junker into the best car in the universe? Striking, unparalleled art from debut illustrator Raul the Third recalls ballpoint-pen-and-Sharpie desk-drawn doodles, while the story is sketched with Spanish, inked with science facts, and colored with true friendship. With a glossary at the back to provide definitions for Spanish and science terms, this delightful book will educate and entertain in equal measure.  (Ages 9-12) — from the publisher 

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. In the notes, it says: “This book was written to celebrate the artistry, inventiveness, mechanical aptitude, resilience, and humor that are all part of lowrider culture.” Give examples of how the author and illustrator accomplish this.
  2. What would be your playlist for this book?
  3. How is collaboration important in this story?

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APRIL

May 8th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | Middle School | 2017-2018 Middle School | April - (Comments Off on APRIL)

Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins. Atheneum, 2016

Three girls coming of age in three separate centuries, all facing limits on expectations and opportunities because of being female, and all making significant contributions to science. Their stories unfold in three verse narratives. “The Artist’s Daughter” introduces Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717), who grew up loving nature, butterflies in particular. She was the first to observe, understand, and document the life cycle of moths and butterflies. Mary Anning (1799–1847) was “The Carpenter’s Daughter.” She found and helped unearth what turned out the be the first ichthyosaur fossil. “The Mapmaker’s Daughter,” Maria Mitchell (1818–1889), grew up in a Quaker family on Nantucket. She could repair a sextant as well as her father, and when the king of Denmark announced a prize for the first person to discover a new comet, Mary eventually won, after six years of closely, doggedly observing the skies. Personalities of the three come alive in fictionalized profiles full of small, meaningful details as they move from childhood to adulthood. An author’s note and suggestions for further reading are included. (Ages 10–13)  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What are the threads that weave the three stories together?
  2. Why is it important to tell these women’s stories today?
  3. How do art and science complement each other in this book and in our world?

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MARCH

May 8th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | Middle School | 2017-2018 Middle School | March - (Comments Off on MARCH)

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge. Amulet / Abrams, 2016

When 14-year-old Faith’s scientist father is accused of trying to pass off a fake fossil as authentic, public censure prompts the family to move from their Kent home to the site of an archaeological dig on a sparsely populated island. But scandal follows the family to the island, where Faith covertly investigates the mystery behind her father’s secretive behavior. She discovers the Mendacity Tree, an obscure plant he’s hiding that is nourished by lies rather than sunlight. If well fed, it bears a fruit that reveals the truth when eaten. When her father dies suddenly, Faith is convinced he was murdered. She sets out to prove it, using the Mendacity Tree to aid her mission. Truth and lies shift uneasily as Faith sinks deeper and deeper into a quagmire of greed and treachery— including her own. The shifting world of natural science a decade after the publication of Darwin’s The Origin of the Species plays an important role is this novel that compares and contrasts the behavior of complex characters and the intricacies of their relationships. At the center of it all is Faith, an intelligent girl who resents the limitations of the gender roles of her time, and yet judges her mother with the same stereotypical bias that she abhors. (Age 12 and older)  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. If given the chance, would you eat the fruit from the Lie Tree? Why or why not?
  2. Faith’s brother uses guns and his toy stage to act out his fears and to talk about tough stuff. What helps you through tough stuff and problems? How do you cope?
  3. Faith has complicated relationships with both her mother and father. Which parent do you think she is most like? Why?

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FEBRUARY (2)

May 8th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | Middle School | 2017-2018 Middle School | February - (Comments Off on FEBRUARY (2))

Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung. Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic, 2016

Chloe Cho’s immigrant parents never talk about Korea so she’s explored her heritage on her own. A class assignment leads to crisis when her parents’ reticence makes it impossible for Chloe to share a family story as required. Finally, her parents reveal that they aren’t really Korean; they’re aliens from another planet. They intentionally chose an all-white U.S. town where its assumed they don’t know things because they are immigrants. In turn, the residents of the town are so ignorant about Koreans that no one has ever assumed Chloe’s parents are anything but what they claimed to be. Chloe’s best friend Shelley, who has learned about Korean culture with Chloe, is the only person who has always understood Chloe’s eye-rolling annoyance and occasional anger at the many uninformed things people say to her. Classmates assume, for example, that Chloe is obsessed with good grades and plays the violin because she is Asian, not because she is Chloe. Learning that she isn’t who, or even what, she always thought makes Chloe question everything, including Shelley’s interest in her culture, until she discovers both how little has changed and how much the things that matter—true friendship and family love—have remained steadfast. Mike Jung’s use of otherworldly “aliens” as a metaphor for how white people think about people of other races makes for a smart, funny, layered novel that is both blithe and deeply insightful. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Would you take a DNA test like Chloe? Why or why not?
  2. Chloe and Ms. Lee have a strong connection. Have you ever had that type of relationship with a teacher of mentor? How did it benefit you?
  3. What does it mean to be an alien in this book?

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FEBRUARY (1)

May 8th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | Middle School | 2017-2018 Middle School | February - (Comments Off on FEBRUARY (1))

Ghost (Track, Book 1) by Jason Reynolds. A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book / Atheneum, 2016

Castle Cranshaw, aka Ghost, stands out at his middle school for his too-big, ratty clothes, crappy knock-off sneakers, and a temper that gets him in trouble. But to the coach of an elite city track team, Ghost stands out for his speed. Ghost has had a lot to run from in his life, including a father, now in prison, who once went after Ghost and his mom with a gun. It’s a memory Ghost can’t run from. Even though Ghost thinks of basketball as his game—never mind he doesn’t actually play—Coach persuades Ghost to become one of four new runners on the team. Coach’s rules and his rigorous training regimen are challenging, but Ghost is determined to show how good he is, and sure he’d run even faster if he had fancy track shoes like some of the other kids. In a spur- of-the-moment act, Ghost shoplifts a pair. He calls them his Silver Bullets and they do seem to improve his running, but they also mess with his head. Fast- moving, funny, and realistic, this first in a four-book series features a winning protagonist and distinctive secondary characters, from the no-nonsense, give- me-patience, cab-driving Coach, who mentors the kids on and off the track, to Ghost’s fellow new team members, Lu, Patty, and Sunny, who also have stories to tell. (Ages 9–12)  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Most chapters start with “World Record for…” What would you like to set a world record in?
  2. In what ways is Ghost running in this book?
  3. At the newbie dinner, the coach asks each team member to share a secret. Ghost shares that his father tried to shoot him. How does sharing secrets help people build trust?

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JANUARY

May 8th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | Middle School | 2017-2018 Middle School | January - (Comments Off on JANUARY)

The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan. Putnam, 2016

Like many children in Mali, 15-year-old Amadou and his little brother, Seydou, left their village in Mali in search of seasonal work to help support their family. But the boys were tricked and, two years later, they are still working on a cacao plantation in Ivory Coast for no pay, little food, and plenty of beatings whenever they fail to meet their daily quotas. And then Khadija arrives at their camp—an educated girl with the eyes of a wildcat. It turns out Khadija was kidnapped to silence her journalist mother. Together Amadou and Khadija begin to plot their escape, an act that becomes all the more critical after Seydou is gravely wounded and needs medical care. This tension-filled, well-plotted story reveals the horrors of child slavery that fuels much of the modern-day chocolate industry. The fast pace will keep readers on the edge of their seats as they follow Amadou, Khadija, and Seydou on their dangerous escape through unfamiliar, often threatening territory to safety at last. An author’s note provides more background information on the exploitation of children in the cacao industry. (Ages 10–14)  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Does this book change the way you feel about eating chocolate? How?
  2. How are Amadou and Khadija’s childhood experiences different from one another?
  3. How does Amadou’s sense of responsibility affect his decisions?

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DECEMBER

May 8th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | Middle School | December | 2017-2018 Middle School - (Comments Off on DECEMBER)

The Inquisitor’s Tale, Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Godwitz.  Illustrated by Hatem Aly. Dutton, 2016

Three children on the run become determined to save Jewish texts from the flames of the Inquisition in this riveting, richly detailed story set in thirteenth-century France. Jeanne is a peasant who has visions and has fled her village pursued by Church representatives. William, son of a nobleman and a north African Muslim woman, is a monk in training. Extraordinarily strong, he’s been tasked with carrying a satchel of books to the monastery of St. Denis as punishment for disobedience. Jacob is Jewish and has unusual gifts as a healer, but he is helpless when Christian boys on a rampage burn his village. Their separate journeys converge at an Inn where the boys help Jeanne escape the men who captured her. The trio continues to Paris, where Jacob hopes to find his parents alive. Instead, they learn of King Louis’ plan to burn 20,000 Jewish texts. Realizing William was given the books he is carrying to save them from the flames, it becomes a race against Church and King to get them safely to St. Denis. Each guest at the Inn where the children first met tell pieces of this story, a la Canterbury Tales, while the novel’s mysterious narrator, one of the eager listeners, brings the breathless account to a close. At times sobering as it reveals anti-Semitism and oppression during the Inquisition, this is ultimately a story of light and faith and hope and miracles, and friendship holds them all. Black-and-white illuminations illustrate the trio’s adventures with wit and tenderness. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How did the use of multiple narrators either enhance or detract from the story?
  2. If you could be one of these characters, who would it be and why?
  3. Although book burnings aren’t as common now, in what ways do people still try to control information?

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