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Author Archives: etownsend

New Year, New Stories to Share: January 2016 Primary K-2 Titles

December 15th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Primary (Grades K-2) | 2015-2016 | January - (Comments Off on New Year, New Stories to Share: January 2016 Primary K-2 Titles)

blizzardBlizzard by John Rocco.  Disney / Hyperion, 2014.Primary Icon of a White-Tailed Deer

“Outside, the ground is cold and white. Inside, my home is warm and bright,” begins this satisfying picture book for young children. A small boy describes what is happening, both outside and inside his home, during a snowstorm. While the snow “swirls and blows” deeper and deeper into drifts, he warms his toes by the fireplace, drinks hot cocoa, and snuggles under a quilt. Pairs of simple sentences and their accompanying illustrations contrast the wild beauty of the storm with the snug comfort of the boy’s warm house. As the storm abates, the boy ventures out into a calm, cold, crystalline nighttime to make a snow angel. Then it’s back inside and off to bed, but not before he takes one more look at his sleeping angel. CCBC categories: Seasons and Celebrations; Books for Babies and Toddlers; Concept Books.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Before reading: What would you not want to be without in a snow storm?
  2. What visual clues show you the depth of the snow?
  3. How do the illustrations tell you about the passage of time?
  4. Which member of the family saves the day? How does he or she save the day? Show examples of this from the illustrations.

The Incredible Life of Balto by Meghan McCarthy.  Alfred A. Knopf, incredible life of balto2011.

Meghan McCarthy offers a compelling expansion on the usual story of Balto, the sled dog leader of the team that completed the famed delivery of Diptherium serum to Nome in 1925. From an exhilarating description of the final leg of the serum run, McCarthy goes on to describe Balto’s celebrity status after the event (he even starred in a movie!), and then his decline from fame into life as a side-show attraction. Eventually money was raised in a public effort in Cleveland to purchase Balto and his teammates from the sideshow owner. The dogs were donated to the Brookside Zoo, where “Balto could relax and enjoy the rest of his life.” A lengthy section in the afterword titled “Detective Work” is a fascinating account of the author’s efforts to track down Balto’s history and accurate physical description, separating rumor and error from fact. McCarthy’s distinctive art style offers up an endearingly googly-eyed Balto, which seems fitting for a dog considered an unlikely choice for a hero.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What is the setting for the book or when and where does Balto’s story take place?
  2. In what ways do you think Balto was a hero? Show examples from the book to support your opinion.
  3. Kimble did not have enough money to buy Balto, how did he manage to pay for him?

Family Fun: January 2016 Intermediate Titles

December 15th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2015-2016 | January - (Comments Off on Family Fun: January 2016 Intermediate Titles)

lulu and the cat in the bagLulu and the Cat in the Bag by Hilary McKay. Illustrated by Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readersPriscilla Lamont. U.S. edition: Albert Whitman, 2013.

Irrepressible, animal-loving Lulu is back in two new breezy outings. In Lulu and the Cat in the Bag, Lulu’s grandma, Nan, has come to stay with Lulu and her cousin, Mellie, while their parents are on vacation. Nan is decidedly not an animal lover, and the arrival of a breathing burlap bag on the doorstep has her in a panic about what might be inside. The marigold cat it proves to be isn’t too thrilled, either, and bolts when Lulu opens the bag. But she returns when Nan isn’t looking, making herself at home on Lulu’s bed. When the cat disappears, it’s Lulu’s turn to panic. The outcome of her search for the missing feline is surprising to everyone—perhaps Nan most of all. In Lulu and the Dog from the Sea, Lulu’s parents take Lulu and Mellie on a trip to a seaside cottage. After spotting a stray dog on the beach, Lulu is determined to capture the canine and take care of it. Mellie, meanwhile, is determined to build a kite from the complicated kit she has brought along. Hilary McKay, masterful at writing funny books about families and friends alike, once again offers up a cast of singular, delightful characters in two outstanding books for newly independent readers continuing the series about brown-skinned Lulu that began with Lulu and the Duck in the Park (U.S. edition: Albert Whitman, 2012).  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Before reading: What would you do if you found a cat on your doorstep?
  2. What role do pets play in the family in this book? What role do pets play for the main character?
  3. How is the grandmother different at the beginning of the story from the end of the story? Why did the grandmother change her mind about the cat?
  4. How does the setting affect the story? What setting might create a different ending for this story?

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy. misadventures of the family fletcher001Delacorte, 2014.

The multiracial Fletcher family is comprised of four boys — twelve-year-old Sam, ten-year-olds Jax and Eli (who are not twins), and six-year-old Frog — along with their adoptive Dads, whom they call Dad and Papa. Set over the course of a single school year, a warm, funny story in the tradition of classics like The Saturdays features wonderful family dynamics that will ring true to readers regardless of what their own family structure looks like. Over the course of the novel, each of the boys faces a dilemma. Sam, who has been single-minded about soccer, is taken by surprise at how much he enjoys acting in the school play and feels torn about where to put his energy. Jax chooses their crabby next-door neighbor as the focus of a year-long Veteran’s Project for school, but then finds it impossible to engage the unfriendly man. Eli hates the special school for gifted academic kids that he begged to attend, but now feels he has to stick with it. And Frog has a new friend, Ladybug, that the rest of the family assumes is imaginary, like the cheetah that lived under his bed. Their good-humored yet often exasperated parents and a variety of friends and neighbors all add to the fun of a story that is fresh, lively, and comforting.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How is each brother featured as a protagonist? How does that change the story?
  2. This book features messages and emails at the beginning of each chapter. How does that affect your understanding of the narrative? What do you learn about the characters from these notes?
  3. Why did Mr. Nelson appear to be grumpy for much of the story?
  4. Which character changes the most throughout the story? Why do you think this? Cite examples.

Enthralling Nonfiction: January 2016 Middle School Titles

December 15th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in 2015-2016 | Middle School | January - (Comments Off on Enthralling Nonfiction: January 2016 Middle School Titles)

patient zeroPatient Zero: Solving the Mysteries of Deadly Books for Middle School AgeEpidemics by Marilee Peters. Annick Press, 2014.

“Who’s our Patient Zero?” Today this is one of many questions scientists ask when looking at a disease outbreak. This captivating look at the development of the field of epidemiology, which blends hard science and social science, looks at seven significant outbreaks of disease over the past 350 years. Starting with the Black Death in London in 1665, readers see how the approach to investigating diseases has developed over time. Each account, which include the Soho Cholera outbreak (1854), Yellow Fever in Cuba (1900), Typhoid in New York City (1906), Spanish Influenza (1918–19), Ebola in Zaire (1976), and AIDS (1980), reads like a mystery as those on the front lines looked for clues to understanding what was happening, where it started, and how it spread, often developing better practices that applied to both the specific illness and the broader field of epidemiology. (The current Ebola outbreak had not yet happened when this book was written; but the discussion of Ebola notes that a re-occurrence is an ongoing concern.) A paperback volume with an engaging design includes numerous visual elements and informative sidebars, as well as a glossary, chapter-by-chapter sources, suggestions for finding out more, and an index.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What does Patient Zero mean? Do you think this is fitting title for this book? Why?
  2. What were some of the similarities of the different epidemics? How does the time period each epidemic was set in influence how each epidemic was handled?
  3. What are some elements of this informational text (text size, organization, design, illustrations) that are engaging to you as a reader?
  4. Which disease would you like to learn more about? Why?

Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, courage has no colorAmerica’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone. Candlewick Press, 2013.

In 1943, Sergeant Walter Morris, a guard at Fort Benning, Georgia, saw how his fellow Black soldiers were struggling with morale. He began leading his men through the ground training exercises he saw the white paratroopers doing. No one had given him permission, but he wanted to prove to them that they were just as capable as white soldiers. Instead of being reprimanded, Morris got official go-ahead for formation of the first Black paratrooper unit, the 555th Parachute Infantry Company. Tanya Lee Stone follows Morris and other soldiers through the first training classes, and their subsequent expectation that the newly minted Triple Nickles would be sent into battle—the war in Europe was raging. Instead, they were sent to fight forest fires in the Pacific Northwest and California as smoke jumpers. A repeated theme in Stone’s narrative is how the members of the Triple Nickles had to swallow bitterness over and over. But they did, performing the jobs they were asked to do with distinction because they knew the long road was important. Stone introduces a number of the unit’s members, some of whom she interviewed as part of her research. She also provides broader social context for the racism that defined much of the experience of Black soldiers both within and beyond the military during World War II. Her author’s note is an informative discussion of her research and decision-making as a writer—the difficulty of gleaning some facts, and the choices she made at certain points as she gained information and insight through reading and first-person interviews. Numerous black-and-white photographs, and detailed source notes, are included.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What are specific ways the author shows how racism was a barrier and a burden for individual members of the Triple Nickles and the group as a whole?
  2. How did the Triple Nickles change history and people’s perceptions of African Americans? Cite evidence from the book.
  3. Do people of color experience the same kinds of prejudice today?

Life Stories from Native Youth: January 2016 High School Title

December 15th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in 2015-2016 | High School | January - (Comments Off on Life Stories from Native Youth: January 2016 High School Title)

looks like daylightLooks Like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kids by Deborah Ellis. Icon_HighSchoolForeword by Loriene Roy. Groundwood / House of Anansi Press, 2013.

 Forty-five contemporary Native youth in Canada and the United States, most of them teens, share details about their lives in this gathering of voices that resounds with hopes for the future and echoes with pain from the distant and not-so-distant past. The kids come from many different Indian nations. Some live on reservations (called “reserves” in Canada), some in cities. Some have had lives of stability, some have struggled, and continue to struggle, within or outside of families facing challenges. Many of the young people find grounding and solace and strength in their culture. Native and non-Native readers alike will find elements of their stories relatable. Deborah Ellis provides an introduction to the volume as a whole that gives an overview of the politics that have come to shape many realities of Native lives. She also provides an introduction to each profile. But it is the voices and lives of the kids that stand out, whether they are young artists or activists, horse-lovers or budding engineers, or struggling with harsh things that have happened, in need of support and finding their way.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. This book is entitled, Looks Like Daylight. Why do you think the author chose this title? How does it reflect the overall tone of the stories the author chose to include? What do you think it suggests about the long term prognosis for Native youth in America? Provide examples from the stories to support your opinion.
  2. In each chapter, Native youth describe some of the challenges they face. Frequently, these challenges include alcohol abuse, discrimination, and suicide. How has the history of Native Americans (i.e., repatriation to reservations, boarding schools, language extinction) contributed to these challenges? In what ways do Native youth cope positively with these challenges? How are these challenges similar or different from the experiences of non-Native youth or even from your experience?
  3. Many of the Native youth describe their relationship to Native history. Give examples of how this has been a positive experience as well as a negative experience for these youth. Are there examples of your personal history, or the history of someone you know, that affect your behavior or life outlook today? Discuss why it’s important for these Native students to remember history and, equally, why it’s important to identify with the present and plan for the future.

Find Some New Favorites: December 2015 Titles

November 30th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in 2015-2016 | December - (Comments Off on Find Some New Favorites: December 2015 Titles)

http://readon.education.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/chengdu-e1440433541438.jpg

It Is Night and Chendu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

Frida and The Scraps Book

viva frida

 

http://readon.education.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/what-the-moon-said-e1440431906617.jpggreat american dust bowl

 

 

 

 

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House of Purple Cedar

 

 

 

 

 

 

So many favorites books this month! What the Moon Said and The Great Greene Heist would make great read aloud books heading into the winter break or a great read for winter break. Toddlers will want to read and re-read It is Night and Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep. Kids of all ages will linger over the creative imagery in Frida and The Scraps Book. Get a new perspective on historical fiction with the graphic novel from Don Brown, The Great American Dust Bowl, and Choctaw storyteller, Tim Tingle’s House of Purple Cedar. Click on the covers above to read the CCBC annotation of that book and find classroom and library resources for the titles.

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Powerful and Beautiful: December 2015 High School Title

November 15th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in 2015-2016 | December | High School - (Comments Off on Powerful and Beautiful: December 2015 High School Title)

house of purple cedarHouse of Purple Cedar by Tim Tingle. Cinco Puntos Icon_HighSchoolPress, 2014 (c2013).

In 1967, Rose is an old woman looking back on her childhood in Skullyville, Oklahoma, in 1897, in a novel that moves back and forth between Rose, her family and Choctaw community, and residents of the nearby town of Spiro. Among them is the marshall, a man who is despised by Choctaw and whites alike. His cruelty is often random, as when he strikes Amafo, Rose’s grandfather, at the train station one day. Amafo turns the other cheek, and in doing so finds allies among some of the whites in Spiro while leading his community away from confrontation. Tim Tingle writes beautifully and deeply about love and forgiveness as antidotes to violence and hatred in a novel that also doesn’t ignore hard realities. Sometimes bringing the truth into the light isn’t enough; sometimes you have to fight back with violence. This is illuminated not only through what happens to Rose and her community but also through the lives of several women in Spiro, one of them the marshall’s wife, who has endured his beatings for years. The power of family, of community and connection, and of love and compassion to transcend divides — among individuals, across cultures, between the living and the dead — is profound and hopeful in a story that is, above all, about the human heart. The tense plot unfolds through characters drawn with astonishing depth and subtlety, their actions and interactions richly revealing. Solace for Rose’s community is also found in both Christianity and in spiritual experiences imbedded in their culture, the two seamlessly reconciled in their lives.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Decisions to perform acts of violence and nonviolence play a pivotal role in the course of the book. For example, Amafo’s response to the marshall’s attack was deliberate. Argue how this was or wasn’t an effective strategy.
  2. Explain the significance of the title, House of Purple Cedar.
  3. Find two examples of symbolism in this novel. Explain the importance of each to the narrative arc of the story or development of a character.

The Ultimate Middle School Heist Novel for December 2015!

November 15th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in 2015-2016 | Middle School | December - (Comments Off on The Ultimate Middle School Heist Novel for December 2015!)

great greene heist001The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson. Arthur A. Books for Middle School AgeLevine Books / Scholastic, Inc., 2014.

When Jackson Greene learns classmate Keith Sinclair is trying to steal the election for eighth grade class president—with the help of the principal no less!—he steps up. It might not be the noblest of intentions that convinces him to get involved, but it’s not wholly selfish, either. Jackson’s friend Gaby de la Cruz is Keith’s opponent. Although they had a falling out, Gaby is still someone Jackson likes—a lot—while her twin brother, Charlie, is his best friend. And then there’s the fact that outsmarting Keith and the principal means running a con, something Jackson happens to like doing, and is very, very good at. But he can’t do it alone, so he and Charlie put together a team, each member with specific skills necessary to complete their part of a plan that involves technology, psychology, and a series of carefully crafted interactions. Varian Johnson’s entertaining tale has all the machinations of the best con games, but is set against the backdrop of a contemporary middle school. Johnson’s intentionally diverse cast of characters feels natural rather than heavy-handed in a story of humor and hijinks featuring a winning African American protagonist who, it turns out, is carrying on family tradition.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. This book is a classic con or heist story. Different genre elements are present in Great Greene Heist that make it recognizable as a heist or con story. What are some things that make this book fall into the heist genre?
  2. Some passages in this book make Keith seem sympathetic. Provide some examples of this from the book. Did you ever feel sorry for him? Why or why not?
  3. Jackson is a student, a friend and a con man. What qualities does Jackson possess that makes him a good con man? What are some qualities that Jackson a good friend?
  4. Do you agree with the actions that Jackson takes to help his friend? Why or why not? Is it ever okay to break rules?

The Great Depression in Fiction and Nonfiction: December 2015 Intermediate 3-5

November 15th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2015-2016 | December - (Comments Off on The Great Depression in Fiction and Nonfiction: December 2015 Intermediate 3-5)

what the moon saidWhat the Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren. Penguin Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readersGroup, 2014.

After Esther’s father loses his job in Chicago during the Depression, the family manages to buy a small farm in Wisconsin. Her immigrant parents include her warm German father and her more emotionally distant, Russian-born mother. In fact, Esther’s mother is so distant that Esther sometimes wonders if her mother loves her, especially because she seems much more affectionate with Esther’s siblings. As the family adjusts to rural life, Esther makes a good friend in Bethany, and loves her new teacher at the small school. But superstitious Ma soon forbids Esther from spending time with Bethany because of her new friend’s mole, which Esther’s mother believes is a devil’s mark. Soon Esther can’t help but blame a lot of the family hardship on her mother, especially as the Depression continues to bear down and makes their future on the farm she’s come to love uncertain. There’s an old-fashioned sensibility to this story that goes beyond its setting and time period. The storytelling itself, with several dramatic plot elements leading to revelations, has the feel of a piece from an earlier time. But if there is a sense of predictability, it comes with comfort and great satisfaction, even as Esther’s story ends happily but not in the prefect way she might have wished.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Before reading: Do you have any superstitions?
  2. What is Esther’s life like on the farm? How is it different from her siblings?
  3. How does Ma’s background affect Esther?
  4. How is Esther different in the beginning of the story from the end of the story? How is Ma different?

The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown. Houghton Mifflin,great american dust bowl 2013.

“It fell across our city like a curtain of black rolled down. We thought it was our … doom.” Don Brown’s informative and affecting graphic novel look at the Dust Bowl examines its causes and effects from the perspective of both science and social history. He covers the geologic history of the Plains, and the changing ways people and animals used the land. When the grasslands were stripped to plant crops to meet the European food shortage during World War I, farmers were living high. Then prices fell, the Great Depression struck, and a drought hit. The stage was set for ecological and human disaster. Brown’s writing is straightforward and spare, at times poetic as he takes readers through the years of the Dust Bowl, sharing dramatic and painful experiences of people who lived during the devastating time. His poignant illustrations are heavily shaded in dusty tones of brown and yellow. Readers can see and feel the heat of the sun and the thickness of the dust, as well as the weight of worry, fear, and despair in the bodies and faces of people and animals alike. A final page spread discusses droughts that have taken place in the Plains since the 1930s (most recently in 2012), and offer a selected bibliography and source notes for quoted material. (MS) ©2013 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What do you think the author wanted you to know about the dust bowl? What are some of the things he included in the text and the images to tell you that?
  2. How did the illustrations help tell the story?
  3. How does the graphic novel format differ from other informational text formats? What are the benefits of the graphic novel format in relaying information?

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Explore the Artistic Life: December 2015 Primary Titles

November 15th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Primary (Grades K-2) | 2015-2016 | December - (Comments Off on Explore the Artistic Life: December 2015 Primary Titles)

scraps bookThe Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life by Primary Icon of a White-Tailed DeerLois Ehlert. Beach Lane Books, 2014.

Lois Ehlert’s creative journey began in early childhood and continues today. Here she offers an open, inviting look at some of her own work as an artist creating books for children. Page spreads dazzle with Ehlert’s colorful collage art, including images from some of her best-known books along with a brief, friendly narrative about where the idea came from and how it developed. There is a scrapbook feel to the assorted illustrations, personal photographs, and notes in an offering that is a collage both visually, and in the content that combines insight into her personal journey as an artist with information about how her art and her books take shape. Inspiration can come from everywhere. Chaos can lead to beautiful creations. This treasure trove feels like a love letter to the beauty all around us, and encourages young artists to “find your own spot to work and begin.” (MS) ©2014 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find resources at TeachingBooks.net

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Before reading: What do you like to create or make?
  2. How did the author’s parents help her to become an artist? Show examples from the text.
  3. Where does the author get ideas and materials for the picture books she writes and illustrates?
  4. What kind of art technique does the author/illustrator use? How is this described in the book in text and in images?

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales. Photographs by Tim O’Meara. A Nealviva frida Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press, 2014.

Yuyi Morales’s playful, lush, elegant, heartfelt picture book about artist Frida Kahlo concludes with an author’s note titled “My Frida Kahlo,” which begins: “When I think of Frida Kahlo, I think of orgullo, pride. Growing up in Mexico, I wanted to know more about this woman with her mustache and unibrow. Who was this artist who had unapologetically filled her paintings with old and new symbols of Mexican culture in order to tell her own story?” The note itself is an informative and loquacious conclusion to a work that is linguistically spare, visually complex, and emotionally rich and stirring. Morales’s illustrations combine photographs of three-dimensional tableaus she created featuring hand-crafted puppets representing factual elements of Kahlo’s life, including the child-friendly details of Kahlo’s pet deer and monkey, and paintings that reference Kahlo’s own work, representing elements of her vivid creative life as expressed through her art. The bilingual text is a series of simple statements in Kahlo’s voice, which concludes, “I love / and create / and so / I live!”  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Before reading: What verbs would you use to describe yourself?
  2. The author uses strong verbs to describe Frida? What do you learn about her?
  3. What do you learn about Frida from the illustrations?
  4. This book is written in both English and Spanish? Why do you think the author writes in both languages?

Sweet Bedtime Stories: December 2015 Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers

November 15th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | 2015-2016 | December - (Comments Off on Sweet Bedtime Stories: December 2015 Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers)

chengduChengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep by Icon_PreSchoolBarney Saltzberg. Disney / Hyperion, 2014.

While everyone else in the bamboo grove slumbers, a panda named Chengdu is tossing, twitching, scrunching, rolling, even hanging upside down, but no matter what he does he can’t fall asleep. His eye-popping, wide-awake visage is one of the charms of a picture book in which the black and white panda is once shown as nothing but big open eyes. He finally climbs up high in a tree and finds a perfect spot to slumber. Too bad for his brother Yuan it’s right on top of him. A witty and wonderfully paced pairing of text and illustrations will definitely charm young readers and listeners, with occasional fold-out and varied trim-size pages adding to the fun. Honor Book, 2015 Charlotte Zolotow Award  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Early literacy activities for both books below.

It Is Night by Phyllis Rowland. Illustrated by Laura Dronzek. it is nightGreenwillow / HarperCollins, 2014.

Originally published in 1953 with illustrations by the author, an almost stream-of-conscious bedtime book is given a cozy, comforting new look with the warm, rich hues and soft, soothing, curved lines of Laura Dronzek’s art. The narrative ponders where a variety of animals and objects might sleep at night. “Where should a sleek seal rest his head? On the quiet beach of a faraway island, or safe in an island cave.” A dog in a doghouse “can keep his eye on the stars and see that they don’t bump into the moon.” Rooster and rabbit, elephant and mouse, not to mention a train and dolls “big and small” are all considered. But do any of them sleep in the places imagined? “No! They sleep in the bed of one small child … ALL OF THEM.” It’s a familiar ritual of childhood made fresh.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

For both books:

  • Read: Find other books about plants, animals, and the solar system.
  • Talk & Write: Talk about your bedtime routine. Make a list of your bedtime routine as your child describes the routine and hang the list by your child’s bed. Encourage your child to draw a picture of each routine.
  • Sing: Sing a favorite or traditional lullaby together. For example, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
  • Play: Have your child get their favorite doll or toy ready for bed.
  • STEM: Collect twigs, stones, leaves and other natural materials. Which of these materials do you think animals would use in their habitats? Why?

Find more early literacy activities from the Youth Services Section of the Wisconsin Library Association’s 2015 Early Literacy Calendar created by Youth Services librarians across Wisconsin.

Enter New Worlds with this Gritty Sci-Fi Story: November 2015 High School Title

October 23rd, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in November | 2015-2016 | High School - (Comments Off on Enter New Worlds with this Gritty Sci-Fi Story: November 2015 High School Title)

tin starTin Star by Cecil Castellucci. Roaring Brook Press, 2014.Icon_HighSchool

Teenager Tula Bane, beaten and left for dead aboard a space station in a remote part of galaxy, is now living in the station underguts, bartering to survive. Heckleck and Tournour, members of two different insect-like species, have both been kind to Tula, but she’s still incredibly lonely as the only human on board. Then the Imperium takes control of the station and Tula hears rumors that it’s putting political pressure on isolationist Earth to join it. It’s an effort apparently orchestrated by Brother Blue, the man who tried to kill her. The arrival of three more human teens on the station who may or may not be loyal to the Imperium gives Tula the opportunity she’s been looking for to plan revenge against Brother Blue, if she can get them to reveal information she needs. At the same time, they ease her loneliness as she delights in human contact and conversation, and even begins to fall in love. Cecil Castellucci’s satisfying work of science fiction has a complex political backstory, but it’s the wonderful characterizations and relationships that shine. Castellucci is adept at imagining how a wide variety of species whose cultural norms and habits differ relate to one another on a personal level, including how lack of cultural knowledge leads to misunderstanding. Tula’s survival has been dependent upon her ability to understand and communicate in a variety of ways. But as successful as she’s been, she’s failed to realize the most important thing: she has never been as alone as she thought. A novel that feels complete on its own leaves the door wide open for a sequel.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find resources at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How are insider/outsider lines defined in this book and in what cases are they blurred?
  2. Where do Tula’s loyalties lie? How do her loyalties change throughout her experience on the space station? Cite examples from the text.
  3. Make a text-to-world connection relating the political figures and issues in Tin Star to historical or contemporary events.

 

Creativity and Determination in Nonfiction Reads: Nov. 2015 Middle School Titles

October 23rd, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in November | 2015-2016 | Middle School - (Comments Off on Creativity and Determination in Nonfiction Reads: Nov. 2015 Middle School Titles)

etched in clayEtched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Books for Middle School AgePoet by Andrea Cheng. Lee & Low, 2013.

Andrea Cheng examines the life of Dave the Potter (who took the name David Drake after the Civil War ended) through a verse novel that tells his powerful, poignant story of endurance, artistry, and rebellion. Cheng’s poems reveal Dave’s hunger for words and learning and self-expression, and his pain of living in slavery. He was trained by and worked for Pottersville Stoneware in Edgefield, South Carolina, where founder Abner Landrum developed unique glazes. Dave later worked for Landrum’s brother and nephew, Lewis Miles, a kind man who nonetheless did not think to free Dave. Dave endured multiple, lifelong separations from people he loved: his first wife, Eliza; his second wife, Lydia; and Lydia’s two sons, whom he had taught to read. The poems are in the voices of these and other individual’s, all listed in a cast of characters near the beginning of the volume. Cheng incorporates some of the inscriptions Dave carved into his pots into her poems, and the novel as a whole gives a context for those words, showing them as a form of rebellion. Lovely, occasional black-and-white woodcut prints punctuate a work that includes back matter with more information on Dave and his poems and pottery in Edgefield, South Carolina. Cheng talks about her interest in Dave in an author’s note that precedes her list of sources. (MS) ©2013 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Close reading and teacher’s guides as well as other resources available from TeachingBooks.net

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Why do you think the author chose to use various points of view to tell Dave’s story? What affect do the different points of view have on the reader’s understanding of the story and Dave’s life?
  2. The author also used poetry to tell Dave’s story. Why do you think the author chose this format? Did you find it effective in relaying information, developing characters, telling a story? Why or why not?
  3. How did Dave rebel against slavery while still remaining a slave? How does the author show this? What risks did Dave take in creating his art? Cite examples for the story that show why he took these risks?
  4. In what way is Dave’s story part of the story of the struggle for Civil Rights?

The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius by Jan mad potterGreenberg and Sandra Jordan. A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press, 2013.

The folded shapes and crenellated forms created by potter George E. Ohr may not look that distinctive now, but the striking pots he shaped were like nothing else seen in the late 1800s. And they were largely unheralded at the time. But Ohr was more than the genius he knew himself to be; he was a personality and a showman in Biloxi, Mississippi, where he had his potter’s studio. But beneath all his dazzle was incredible talent: He spun out pots and pitchers and vases and vessels with twists and turns that were sometimes quirky and playful and sometimes, simply, strikingly beautiful. He experimented with glazes. And he thrived on his own eccentricity (although his family did not). Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan provide a lively introduction to this American artist who was all but undiscovered until the final decades of the twentieth century, long after his death. Their final chapter shows his influence on contemporary pottery, and even contemporary architecture—a museum dedicated to Ohr designed by Frank Gehry was inspired by his forms. Detailed source notes follow a primer on “How to Look at a Pot.”  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Lesson plans and teacher’s ideas and other resources for The Mad Potter available at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Do you think George was unrealistic for continuing to make pottery despite the fact that no one bought it? Why?
  2. How does George’s pottery reflect his personality? Cite examples from the book.
  3. In George’s time, fairs were a place that people visited to discover and explore new ideas and inventions? What fills that role today?
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