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Author Archives: etownsend

DECEMBER (2)

May 10th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2017-2018 Intermediate | December - (Comments Off on DECEMBER (2))

A Boy Named Queen by Sara Cassidy. Groundwood, 2016

Most of the kids in Evelyn’s grade 5 class don’t know what to make of the new boy, with his long hair, pink shirt, bead necklaces, and name: Queen. Evelyn doesn’t either, but when he’s shooting baskets on his own at recess the first day, missing every time, she shows him how to make a bank shot. From that moment, they’re friends. Queen takes the other kids in stride, telling Evelyn that he imagines he has a turquoise force field that mean comments bounce off. Evelyn’s imagination, no less active, works differently. She wonders, for example, what her walk home from school would have looked like 100 years ago. When Evelyn enters the realm of Queen’s easygoing, artistic family—his mom and dad are laid-back musicians (the dog is named Patti Smith)—Queen and his parents share the story of how he started calling himself Queen when he was four, wearing a purple velvet cape everywhere (his mother confesses it was actually velour). It couldn’t be more different from Evelyn’s staid home, but the love is the same. A short, charming novel distinguished by fine writing that reveals characters and relationships with wonderful clarity and great delight. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What lessons do Evelyn and Queen learn about friendship?
  2. How are Queen’s and Evelyn’s families alike and different?
  3. How might this story be continued?

DECEMBER (1)

May 10th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2017-2018 Intermediate | December - (Comments Off on DECEMBER (1))

Shadows of Sherwood (A Robyn Hoodlum Adventure) by Kekla Magoon. Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 2016

The night her parents disappear, twelve-year-old Robyn Loxley must learn to fend for herself. Her home, Nott City, has been taken over by a harsh governor, Ignomus Crown. After fleeing for her life, Robyn has no choice but to join a band of strangers-misfit kids, each with their own special talent for mischief. Setting out to right the wrongs of Crown’s merciless government, they take their outlaw status in stride. But Robyn can’t rest until she finds her parents. As she pieces together clues from the night they disappeared, Robyn learns that her destiny is tied to the future of Nott City in ways she never expected. Kicking off a new series with an unforgettable heroine, readers will be treated to feats of courage and daring deeds as Robyn and her band find their way in this cruel, new world. – See more at: Bloomsbury USA Children

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What is a dystopian story? What are some elements of dystopian stories that you can find in this novel?
  2. What lessons does Robin learn about herself and the world around her?
  3. Do you think Robin is selfish? Why or why not?

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NOVEMBER (2)

May 10th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | November | 2017-2018 Intermediate - (Comments Off on NOVEMBER (2))

Esquivel! Space–Age Sound Artist by Susan Wood. Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh. Charlesbridge, 2016

Juan Garcia Esquivel was an avant garde musician born and raised in Mexico. Captivated by music and by sounds as a child, he had no formal musical training and “focused on how sounds could be arranged” as he started to create music of his own. “He was an artist, using dips and dabs of color to create a vivid landscape. But instead of paint, Juan used sound. Weird and wild sounds! Strange and exciting sounds!” As a young man he moved to New York City, and soon was creating music that had everyone talking—and listening! The artist known simply, emphatically, as “Esquivel!” became hugely popular in the 1950s into the 1960s, in the heyday of easy-listening “lounge” music. Now new generations are discovering his unique and playful stylings. An energetic narrative set against distinctive illustrations with elements of whimsy introduces the musician to young readers and listeners, while end matter includes where to read, listen, watch, and find out more. (Ages 8–11)  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How do the author and illustrator describe sound in the book? How would you describe – with words, images, action — a sound you hear around you?
  2. Why do you think Juan Esquivel was called a space-age sound artist?
  3. How did Esquivel make old styles of music new? How does the illustrator of the book make old styles of art new?

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NOVEMBER (1)

May 10th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | November | 2017-2018 Intermediate - (Comments Off on NOVEMBER (1))

The Sound of All Things by Myron Uhlberg. Illustrated by Ted Papoulas. Peachtree, 2016

Both of the young narrator’s parents are deaf, but his father has vague memories of hearing as a child and often asks his son to describe in detail the sounds of experiences they share. On a trip to Coney Island the boy’s father asks him to describe the sound of the roller coaster they ride, and, later, the ocean waves. The boy, who speaks sign language to his parents, tells his dad waves are “loud.” His dad signs, “Don’t be lazy.” The boy thinks and tries again, explaining that the pounding water sounds like a hammer. That’s better, but the boy wants to say even more. A book of poems about the ocean turns out to be exactly what he needs. A story based on the author’s own childhood is set in the 1930s and features illustrations that vividly capture time and place along with the warmth of the loving family at the center of the lengthy picture book narrative. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How does the boy describe sounds for his father? How would you describe a sound you hear around you?
  2. The librarian helps the boy find a strategy for describing sounds. What is the strategy and how do the librarian and the boy develop this strategy?
  3. In what ways does the boy grow or change because he is the interpreter for his parents?

 

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OCTOBER (2)

May 10th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | October | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2017-2018 Intermediate - (Comments Off on OCTOBER (2))

I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer. Illustrated by Gillian Newland. Second Story Press, 2016

Irene Couchie is an eight-year-old Anishinaabe living happily with her family on the Nippissing Reserve in Northern Ontario. But when the Indian agent comes to their home to take her and her two brothers away to attend a residential boarding school, the only thing her parents can do to protect them is to tell them to never forget who they are. Life in the school is terrifying. Irene is separated from her two brothers and has her identity stripped from her—even her name. She is told that from now on she will be number 759. The year passes slowly. Irene faces harsh living conditions and cruel physical punishment for speaking her own language. When summer finally comes, she and her brothers return home, and her parents vow to never send them back after hearing what the children endured, hiding them when the agent returns. Based on the childhood experience of the author’s grandmother, the heart- wrenching story is illustrated with realistic paintings that convey Irene’s fear and sadness. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Pre-read: Why do you think it is it important for people to share their stories/experiences?
  2. What are some of the ways that Irene and the others are being denied their identity?
  3. How do the illustrations help to tell the story? To you think the story would have been the same without the illlustrations?
  4. Is this part of history new to you? Read the afterward. Why is it important to share this history?O

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OCTOBER (1)

May 10th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | October | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2017-2018 Intermediate - (Comments Off on OCTOBER (1))

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall. Amulet/Abrams, 2015

Jimmy McLean is self-conscious about his blue eyes, fair skin, and light hair. He even worries about his last name—McLean—which doesn’t sound Lakota, and is sometimes teased at middle school about being too white. Over summer, Jimmy’s Grandpa takes him to visit places significant in the life of the Lakota warrior and leader Crazy Horse, who was known as Light Hair as a boy. Over the course of their journey, which moves chronologically through a number significant events in Crazy Horse’s life, the history of Westward expansion and the Indian Wars, including the Battle of Little Bighorn, unfolds from a Lakota perspective, rooted in the drive for survival, while Jimmy gains insight into courage and identity. Lakota author Joseph Marshall echoes the oral tradition he grew up with in Grandpa’s stories about Crazy Horse. Set in italics, these are gripping accounts full of urgency that reveal the warrior’s intelligence and effort to keep his people free. Light Hair, later Crazy Horse, is witness time and again to brutality, persistence, and lies of Long Knives and others. But Grandpa is not unsympathetic to the fear and discomfort of U.S. soldiers fighting the Lakota and others so far from home—war is a human story for everyone. The present-day narrative featuring Jimmy and Grandpa is less fluid, but at times unexpectedly moving.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What causes Jimmy and his grandfather to start their road trip?
  2. Grandpa Nyles and Jimmy point out that the battle has a different name than they have given it (page 49). Why are there different names?
  3. What does Jimmy learn about himself through this road trip with his grandfather?

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SEPTEMBER (2)

May 10th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in September | 2017-2018 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2017-2018 Intermediate - (Comments Off on SEPTEMBER (2))

Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami. Illustrated by Julianna Swaney. Groundwood, 2016

Nine-year-old Yasmin visits Book Uncle’s Lending Library, located on a street corner near her apartment, every day. He calls her his Number One Patron. She usually borrows longer books, so the day Book Uncle suggests a picture book, she’s disappointed but politely accepts it. After she reads the story, about doves trapped in a hunter’s net working together to free themselves, she finds she can’t stop thinking about it. “How strange that such a skinny book can leave so many questions in my mind.” When Book Uncle is told by the city that he must shut down his library because he has no permit and can’t afford one, Yasmin is devastated. Then she’s determined. Together with her friends she draws attention to Book Uncle’s plight during the mayoral campaign, challenging the candidates to support Book Uncle and literacy, and finding out in the process that the current mayor was behind the lending library’s closure (he wanted to clean up the streets before his daughter’s marriage at a nearby fancy hotel). Engaging, child-centered, and often funny, this easy chapter book set in a large Indian city is also a primer in community activism for young children. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What are some of the ways that Yasmin’s community is the same as yours? What are some of the ways that it is different?
  2. What lessons does Yasmin learn about politics, activism, and standing up for someone who is being unfairly treated?
  3. Yasmin has a goal of reading one book each day. What are your goals for reading this year? Where does Yasmin get her books to read? Where do you get your books to read?

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SEPTEMBER (1)

May 10th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in September | 2017-2018 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2017-2018 Intermediate - (Comments Off on SEPTEMBER (1))

Juana & Lucas by Juana Medina. Candlewick Press, 2016

Juana is a little girl living in Bogotá, Colombia. Lucas is her beloved dog. In a spritely conversational tone, Juana chats about the things she loves (her city, her dog, her abuelo, her best friend, Juli) and the things she doesn’t (her school uniform). Each one of these is accompanied by a diagram-style illustration that points out key factors (Abuelo’s love for chocolate, for example, and her uniform’s itchy skirt). Overall, Juana is a bubbly, happy girl. Then she starts having to learn “the English” in school. And she hates it. She asks everyone she trusts to give her a good reason to study English, sure they won’t come up with any. They all do, but only one of them convinces Juana it’s worth the effort: an upcoming family trip to Spaceland in Florida, where she can meet her hero, Astroman. The charming narrative, somewhat autobiographical, integrates Spanish words into the English text and is accompanied by amusing color illustrations on every page. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What are some of the ways that Juana’s community is the same as yours? What are some of the ways that it is different?
  2. How do the illustrations and text features (like the wrapped text, the bold words, and the labels on the character pages) add to the story?
  3. What are some of the challenges Juana faces and how does she overcome these challenges? What challenges have you faced?

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MAY (2)

May 10th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | High School | 2017-2018 High School | May - (Comments Off on MAY (2))

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. Delacorte, 2016

Over the course of a single day on which they have a chance meeting, alternating chapters move between Natasha, who has been in the United States with her Jamaican immigrant family since she was 8, and Daniel, the son of Korean immigrant parents who feels intense pressure to become a doctor. It’s a monumental day for both of them even before their first encounter. Tasha is desperately trying to seek once last stay of her family’s deportation and Daniel is on his way to an interview with a Yale alum for an application he doesn’t care about. The perspectives and histories of other characters, from family members to people they encounter over the course of the day, like Irene, the security guard at the office building where INS is located, and Jeremy, the immigration attorney Natasha meets with, are also part of the story. Natasha, who loves science, and Daniel, who wants to be a poet, are both intelligent, and their exchanges are entertaining but also surprisingly deep in a novel that delves into political and historical aspects of race and culture as well as the dynamics of family and the delight of falling in love.  Like the two main characters, this unusual love story is poetic and witty, blithe and thought-provoking.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How is the novel timely on the topic of immigrants in the United States? Is the situation with undocumented immigrants complicated or straightforward?
  2. Natasha’s family considers themselves Americans, even though they are undocumented immigrants. Daniel’s family considers themselves Korean, even though they’ve been American citizens for many years with Daniel and his brother both born in the US. Is each family right or wrong?
  3. How do each of the characters in this book confront grief and experience love?

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MAY (1)

May 10th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | High School | 2017-2018 High School | May - (Comments Off on MAY (1))

Great American Whatever by Tim Federle. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016

Quinn Roberts is a sixteen-year-old smart aleck and Hollywood hopeful whose only worry used to be writing convincing dialogue for the movies he made with his sister Annabeth. Of course, that was all before—before Quinn stopped going to school, before his mom started sleeping on the sofa…and before the car accident that changed everything. Enter: Geoff, Quinn’s best friend who insists it’s time that Quinn came out—at least from hibernation. One haircut later, Geoff drags Quinn to his first college party, where instead of nursing his pain, he meets a guy—okay, a hot guy—and falls, hard. What follows is an upside-down week in which Quinn begins imagining his future as a screenplay that might actually have a happily-ever-after ending—if, that is, he can finally step back into the starring role of his own life story. from the publisher  

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How do you think the story would be different if Quinn had read the text message from Annabeth earlier in the book?
  2. Should Jeff have kept his romantic relationship secret from Quinn?
  3. How do each of the characters is the book confront grief and experience love?

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APRIL (2)

May 10th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | High School | 2017-2018 High School | April - (Comments Off on APRIL (2))

Scythe (Arc of the Scythe, Book 1) by Neal Shusterman.  Simon & Schuster, 2016

In a future on earth when humans have become immortal, fatal disease and injury and even aging neutralized by the ability to regenerate, the population is kept in check by Scythes, individuals trained to kill, or “glean,” those whom they select. When teens Citra and Rowan are chosen as unwilling apprentice Scythes (saying no is not an option), they find themselves caught in the political machinations within the Scythedom. Scythes, says their mentor, Scythe Faraday, should abhor the taking of a life, but another faction gaining power relishes killing, and has been doing so with increasing violence. Citra and Rowan, already going through rigorous physical and mental training, know that they are competing for a single position, but the stakes grow higher when a rule change Faraday is helpless to challenge dictates that the first task of the winner will be to glean the loser. Timeless questions of whether the good of the many outweighs the good of the one, and ethical dilemmas exacerbated by power struggles and greed, invite contemplation, while martial arts combat training will entice thrill-seekers in this riveting work. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. When faced with life or death situations, how is the humanity of the characters in the book challenged? How does that affect them later in life?
  2. Discuss how death is portrayed in Scythe. What do you think of this portrayal?
  3. What experiences lead to the growth of the characters in Scythe?

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APRIL (1)

May 10th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | High School | 2017-2018 High School | April - (Comments Off on APRIL (1))

To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party by Skila Brown. Candlewick Press, 2016

A novel in verse in the voice of 19-year-old Mary Ann Graves tells of her family’s journey west by wagon in 1846. They eventually join another group that includes the Donner family. The travelers reach the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range late and the snows come early, stranding them in the mountains. With food scarce, Mary Ann, her father, and her older sister are part of a smaller group that attempts the pass, hoping to send back help for the others. They end up lost in a storm. Mary Ann’s father, a driving force of optimism early on in the journey, a voice of pragmatism later, is one of the first to die. There is an absolute lack of sensationalism in this moving account of the Donner Party, and the grim decision to eat those who died. Mary Ann’s voice stitches a story of small, compelling details, creating a vivid sense of people, time, and place. And she describes the desperation from hunger and malnutrition that turn an unbearable, unthinkable choice into one that becomes numbly inevitable for anyone hoping to survive. An author’s note tells more about the Donner Party’s journey, and Mary Ann’s life after she and other survivors were rescued.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. When faced with life or death situations, how is the humanity of the characters in the book challenged? How does that affect them later in life?
  2. Discuss how death is portrayed in To Stay Alive. What do you think of this portrayal?
  3. What experiences lead to the growth of the characters in To Stay Alive?

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