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Author Archives: etownsend

Between and Within Cultures: April 2017 High School

March 17th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | High School | April - (Comments Off on Between and Within Cultures: April 2017 High School)

Both Margarita Engle and Naila in Written in the Stars find themselves living between two cultures. What struggles do they face in finding a place where they feel they fit?

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle. Atheneum, 2015

Margarita Engle’s mother was Cuban, her father American. Introverted Margarita felt socially awkward here in the United States but something eased for her when she visited her mother’s family in Cuba. She loved her relatives, the land, the ways of being, the very air when they would visit in the 1950s. Then came the 1960s, with the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the travel ban that cut them off from the place and the people she and her mother cherished. There were comments at school, tension at home, visits from the government, and no word on how their loved ones faired. Engle’s family continued to travel, but not to the place she most longed to go. A memoir in poems that takes Engle through age 14 ends with one in which she writes, “Someday, surely I’ll be free / to return to the island of all my childhood / dreams.” Her eventual return in 1991 and recent political changes are discussed in a brief author’s note in a volume that also includes a Cold War timeline. Grounded in Engle’s specific experience, the sense of loss, of feeling an outsider, of longing, will resonate with many tween and teen readers.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Why do you think Engle chose to write her memoir in poetic form?
  2. As the U.S. and Cuba begin to interact politically again, many Cuban Americans will have a chance to return to their homeland. Do you think many will?
  3. Which of Engle’s memories stand out the most to you?

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed. Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin, 2015

When Pakistani American Naila’s parents find out she has a boyfriend they see it not only as a huge betrayal of trust but also worry how far from their culture and control she is moving. It doesn’t matter that Saif is Pakistani, too. Genuinely afraid for Naila, her parents take her to visit family in Pakistan the summer before she starts college. Naila doesn’t understand until it’s too late why they keep postponing their return: They’re arranging a marriage for her. After a failed escape attempt, Naila is drugged by her uncle and forced to marry Amin. He is a kind and patient young man who feels trapped in his own way by tradition. But when Amin’s mother threatens to send depressed Naila back to her family, Amin rapes Naila to consummate the marriage. It’s a short, powerful scene that underscores the warped way conservative tradition has shaped his perspective: He thinks he has no choice. Aisha Saeed reveals complexities of characters, situations, and culture in a riveting and moving debut novel. Naila has immense strength and Saif is not her savior but her ally in self-determination when he and his father finally help her get away. An insightful and powerful author’s note provides personal, cultural, and global perspectives on the distinction between arranged marriages in which a young woman has a choice, and forced marriages that still take place in many countries, including our own.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Naila’s parents want the best for her. Naila wants to please her parents. Why can’t they find a middle ground?
  2. Before you read this novel, what did you know about arranged marriages? Naila’s experience is terrible, but the author has a happy and successful arranged marriage which she discusses in the author’s note. How did your understanding of arranged marriages change after reading Naila’s story? After reading the author’s note.
  3. Written in the Stars shows a diversity of experiences within Muslim culture. In what different ways do we see Muslim culture portrayed in this novel?

Find more resources for Enchanted Air and Written in the Stars from TeachingBooks.net!

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Home and Family: April 2017 Middle School

March 17th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Middle School | April - (Comments Off on Home and Family: April 2017 Middle School)

Listen, Slowly by Thanhhà Lai. Harper/HarperCollins, 2015

At 12, Mia planned to spend every day of summer at the beach with friends. Instead, she’s a reluctant traveler to Vietnam with her grandma. Mia loves Ba but is unhappy about going and makes sure her father, traveling with them, and her mother, still at home, know it. Mia’s grandfather, Ong, was a prisoner of the North Vietnamese during the war and has been missing since Mia’s father was two. Ba and her seven children fled the country two days before the fall of Saigon. Now a detective has found the man who guarded Ong, and Ba holds out hope that her husband might still be alive. At least that’s what Mia thinks. Mia narrates in a voice full of snarky irreverence. She meets her match in her feisty, frog-loving, science-minded cousin named Út, although neither girl reveals that she understands the other’s native language. Despite her resentment, Mia finds more and more it is the place and people around her who matter in the moment rather than the friends she left behind. Thanhhà Lai’s storytelling moves from a rural village to the bustling city and back, following characters that are complex and vividly drawn. Even Ong, met only through Ba’s stories, feels alive, making it even more painful as Mia realizes Ba has come to say goodbye. A novel full of humor offers a deep exploration of the ways family, culture, and language impact who we are and how we perceive and experience the world.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How does the respect for elders compare in American culture and Vietnam culture?
  2. Why do Út and Mai become friends?
  3. How does the trip to Vietnam change Mai?

Caminar by Skila Brown. Candlewick Press, 2014

“She did not / sit down, did not / take more than two steps. Just / pointed her finger right to me, / “You / will / run.” A novel written in verse and set in 1981 during the Guatemalan civil war juxtaposes the beauty of the Guatemalan landscape and goodness of many of the country’s people with the brutality of war. Carlos obeys his mother when she tells him to run into the forest and hide when their village is attacked, promising to find him. But she never comes. On his own, Carlos heads up the mountain toward his grandmother’s village and meets four rebel soldiers who are lost in the forest Carlos knows so well. They tell Carlos that government soldiers attacked his village and massacred all the people. Devastated, Carlos begins to walk (caminar ) with the rebels, to help them find their way. He’s also determined to warn the people in the village where his grandmother lives about the soldiers. Once they arrive, he must make a choice: join the rebels, or stay in his grandmother’s village. There is strong sense of Carlos and his people as a minority Native culture within Guatemala in a beautifully written book that deals with violent realities in a way that feels honest yet appropriate for young readers.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. The author chose to write this story in verse. How does the poetry format add to or detract from the story?
  2. What examples of symbolism can you find in the poems’ text and layouts?
  3. How does Carlos change throughout the book? How does Carlos decide who to trust? What decisions does he make? What decisions are made for him?

Find a complete discussion guides for Listen, Slowly and Caminar and more resources at TeachingBooks.net!

Refugees and migrants: “The two terms have distinct and different meanings, and confusing them leads to problems for both populations.” Learn more from The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

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Refugees and Migrants: April 2017 Intermediate

March 17th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | April - (Comments Off on Refugees and Migrants: April 2017 Intermediate)

Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago. Illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. Translated from the Spanish by Elisa Amado. Groundwood Books / House  of Anansi Press, 2015

“When we travel, I count what I see … One little bored donkey and fifty birds in the sky … the people who live by the train tracks.” A singular and extraordinary picture book pairs the matter-of-fact of a voice of a young girl giving a childlike accounting of the journey she and her father are taking with detailed color illus-trations that show the context and content of their travels. They are journeying away from their home and toward some unknown that surely represents safety, and, one can imagine, freedom and opportunity. However, none of this is stated in a narrative firmly grounded in the child’s voice. From riding atop her father’s shoulders to crossing a river on a raft, sitting on top of a train car to sleeping in the back of a pickup truck, the challenges and potential dangers of their travels are revealed through the art, in which the warmth between father and child is also apparent. So, too, is the weight of the father’s worry, although he is clearly trying to keep it from being her burden, too. Tender, heartbreaking, exceptional, this volume concludes with a note about the movement of refugees across Central America and Mexico toward the United States.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What significance do rabbits play in this story? What other animals have significant roles in the story? What do those animals represent?
  2. Why do you think the girl overlooked how difficult her family situation was?
  3. Use the question at the back of book: What do those of us who have safe comfortable lives owe to people who do not?

A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord. Scholastic Press, 2015

Lily has never given much thought to the migrant workers who harvest blueberries in her Maine community. Then she meets Salma Santiago, and they become friends. When Salma, with Lily’s support, decides to enter the local Blueberry Queen contest—the first migrant child ever to do so—Lily’s friend Hannah offers to help, despite also being in the competition. In the hands of a less skilled author, this premise would turn into mean girl drama, but Cynthia Lord is sure-handed in a novel that focuses first and foremost on the deepening friendship between Lily and Salma but doesn’t freeze out Hannah. Lily, whose single mother died when she was two, wants her tightly contained world to be fixable when it isn’t predictable. She’s saving money so her dog, Lucky, can have cataract surgery, because she is convinced he’s miserable. Salma can’t control many things about her life, but her family is a reassuring constant. The same is true of Lily’s grandparents, but Lily misses not having a mother. Nuanced, fully realized characters and a well-developed story arc distinguish this quiet, satisfying novel in which Lily begins to see her life not in terms of what is missing, but rather what she has.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Why is it good to try new things? Why is it good to let other things go? Give some examples from the book of a time that a character tried something new? Let go?
  2. What did you learn about where your food comes from? How did the migrant lifestyle impact each girl’s life?
  3. What does each girl learn from the other?

Find discussion guides and more resources for Two White Rabbits and A Handful of Stars at TeachingBooks.net!

Refugees and migrants: “The two terms have distinct and different meanings, and confusing them leads to problems for both populations.” Learn more from The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

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Discovering Family: April 2017 Primary

March 17th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in Primary (Grades K-2) | 2016-2017 | April - (Comments Off on Discovering Family: April 2017 Primary)

Finding the Music = En pos de la música by Jennifer Torres. Illustrated by Renato Alarcão. Spanish translation by Alexis Romay. Children’s Book Press / Lee & Low, 2015

When Reyna accidentally breaks her late grandfather’s vihuela, a small guitar-like instrument he played in a mariachi band, she asks various community members to help her fix it before her mother finds out. During her visits to her music teacher, the music store, the hardware store, and other places, Reyna learns more about her abuelito and mariachi music. Each person also gives her an object related to her grandfather—his old hat, a photo, a record of his band—which Reyna brings home to share with her mother. A warm, bilingual picture book has a strong, satisfying storyline that conveys a vibrant sense of community and family, reflected in the acrylic illustrations. A note provides more information about mariachi music, which grew out of the blending of indigenous and Spanish musical traditions in Mexico.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. In what ways do Reyna’s feelings about her community change during the story?
  2. How did Abuelito make a memorable difference in the lives of people in the community?
  3. How do the items that Reyna receives from members of the community help her learn more about her grandfather?  How does the author use these items to create a description of Reyna’s Abuelito?

Poems in the Attic by Nikki Grimes. Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. Lee & Low, 2015

A warm picture book collection alternates between poems in the voice of an African American girl whose mom is away in the military, and poems in the voice of her mother as a child, growing up in a military family that moved many times. The contemporary girl’s discovery of her mother’s childhood poems has inspired her to write her own, which often reflect on the differences between their childhoods, especially as she is living in one place with her grandmother while her mom is away, rather than moving from place to place. But there are many parallel experiences that play out in the two poems on each page spread, one in each voice. There is a strong sense of connection and continuity—grandmother, mother, grandchild—while in both present and past there is a child missing a parent who is away on duty. The illustrations do a terrific job of distinguishing between present and past on the same page spread. An author’s note talks more about the experiences of military children and identifies the actual U.S. air force bases which formed the locales for the places the girl’s mother lived as a child.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. In what ways do the poems in the attic connect the girl with her mother and with her grandparents?
  2. What do the poems tell us about the similarities and differences in the life of the girl and her mother?
  3. In what ways does the writing of poems help both the girl and her mother?

Find discussion guides, lesson plans, and more resources for Finding the Music and Poems in the Attic at TeachingBooks.net!

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Making and Baking: April 2017 Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers

March 17th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | 2016-2017 | April - (Comments Off on Making and Baking: April 2017 Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers)

Whose Tools? By Toni Buzzeo. Illustrated by Jim Datz. Abrams Appleseed,2015

A clever board book shows the stages of building a house, with each page spread labeling four different tools and asking to whom they belong. “Keep all rooms dry in rain or snow. Whose tools are those? Do you know?” is the question on a layout that features a utility knife, nail gun, snips, and ladder. A foldout page reveals the answer (“the Roofer’s!”) and shows a worker or workers on the job using the tools. The workers include both men and women and are culturally diverse in a board book that is a wonderful vocabulary builder and discussion starter, in addition to its obvious child-appeal.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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

  • Talk: Name the different tools in the book. What jobs do the tools do?
  • Sing: Johnny Works with One Hammer
  • Write: Get a large a box and make a house.
  • Play: Can you pretend to do each job?
  • Math or Science: Build a block house.

Bulldozer’s Big Day by Candace Fleming. Illustrated by Eric Rohmann. Atheneum, 2015

A small bulldozer is full of excitement as he sets off across a construction site. “Guess what today is!” But his happiness gradually wanes as each big vehicle he encounters seems too busy to care. Digger is “scooping … scooping … scooping.” Dump truck is “sifting … sifting…sifting.” Cement Mixer is stirring. Scraper is filling. Grader is chopping. Roller is mashing. By the time he gets to Crane (lifting … lifting … lifting), Bulldozer’s blade is “dragging sadly in the dirt.” But what is Crane lifting? Candace Fleming’s text is a marvelous balance of repetition and freshness, with well-chosen verbs doing double-duty to describe both the work of big equipment and cake-making. Eric Rohmann’s colorful illustrations featuring bold black frames and black outlines masterfully personify the vehicles without veering into cuteness. A story that is immensely entertaining also has an immensely satisfying emotional arc as a much-loved little bulldozer is celebrated.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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

  • Talk: What happens on your birthday. What do you look forward to on your birthday?
  • Write: Role a toy car or truck in paint. Make tracks as you drive your car. What shapes can you make
  • Sing: Happy Birthday to You. Do you know other birthday songs in other languages?
  • Play: Go to the park and play with trucks and diggers.
  • Math or Science: Cover some stones and other items with sand in a plastic tub. Can you dig for them?

Find more resources for Whose Tools? and Bulldozer’s Big Day at TeachingBooks.net!

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Propensity for Poetry?: April 2017

March 15th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | Primary (Grades K-2) | 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | Middle School | High School | April - (Comments Off on Propensity for Poetry?: April 2017)

Plenty of poetry for National Poetry Month! Here at Read On Wisconsin, our fabulous Literacy Advisory Committee chose a variety of poetry books including novels and memoirs in verse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, on the list of book suggestions this month are picture books, chapter books, and young adult fiction. Many of the books, chosen last May, explore lives caught between cultures and countries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers, try these lively titles for making, baking, building or construction themes in story or circle time. The amazing Bulldozer’s Big Day offers excellent early literacy opportunities with machine sounds and word play.

 

 

 

 

 

Find curated resources for all of these titles at TeachingBooks.net!

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Take a Peak at ROW March 2017 Titles

February 21st, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | Primary (Grades K-2) | 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | Middle School | High School | March - (Comments Off on Take a Peak at ROW March 2017 Titles)

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 - (Comments Off on March 2017 High School)

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 - (Comments Off on March 2017 Middle School)

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!

March 2017 Intermediate

February 20th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | March - (Comments Off on March 2017 Intermediate)

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.

Art, Science, and Creativity: March 2017 Primary

February 20th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in Primary (Grades K-2) | 2016-2017 | March - (Comments Off on Art, Science, and Creativity: March 2017 Primary)

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!

Families Together: March 2017 Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers

February 20th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | 2016-2017 | March - (Comments Off on Families Together: March 2017 Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers)

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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