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MARCH

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

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry. Viking, 2016

In 13th-century western Europe, the Inquisition is control through terror, as those whose beliefs or behaviors offend Church authorities face persecution as heretics. Dolssa is a young woman who says Christ is her true love. Even the threat of death cannot make her deny that he speaks to her. But it is her mother who is burned by Inquisitors as Dolssa watches. When her bonds are cut and a voice tells her to run, Dolssa flees. Spirited Botille and her two equally confident, gifted sisters run an inn in the village of Bajas. When Botille discovers a dying young woman by a river, instinct or intuition or perhaps something else tells her to lie when a passing friar asks about a missing girl. Botille smuggles the young woman—Dolssa—back to her village, where the sisters secretly nurse her back to health. Dolssa remains hidden until a crisis forces her to call on her divine gift for healing. Word about her miracles spreads and the determined friar tracks Dolssa down. A taut narrative arc in this work of historical fiction is richly embellished with vivid period details and a cast of vibrant, singular, complex, contradictory characters. The story is tragic, funny, satisfying, and scathingly critical. It also leaves space for genuine faith and miracles and mystery and devotion, however one chooses to define it (earthbound romance included). A detailed author’s note about the historical period concludes this intricate and astonishing work.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Do you think Dolssa’s “beloved” is real or imaginary? If he is real, why doesn’t he save Dolssa and her mother? How do you explain the miracles that seemed to occur in her presence?
  2. Dolssa is being pursued because she is seen as a criminal by the church. The people of Provensa see her as good. What risks are the people of Provensa taking by siding with Dolssa instead of the church?
  3. Do you believe Botille at the end of the story? In an interview, Julie Berry herself tells readers not to trust her.

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FEBRUARY (2)

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

Watched by Marina Budhos. Wendy Lamb Books / Random House, 2016

When Naeem is caught shoplifting, it further jeopardizes his already tenuous hope of graduating high school. Then he’s offered a deal by police: spy on other Muslims in New York City and he won’t be charged. In fact, they’ll pay him for information. It could even become a real job. Naeem is both enticed and repulsed by the offer. He wants to help his family, and the cops make him feel like he’s special, but he hates the idea of spying, and he hates that he doesn’t think he has a choice. When Naeem encounters Ibrahim, a boy he hasn’t seen in awhile, he realizes Ibrahim fits the officers’ “lone wolf ” profile: he’s angry, isolated, and has been reading radical Islamic web sites. Naeem reluctantly reports him then becomes more and more uncomfortable as another operative steps in and further fuels Ibrahim’s anger. Isn’t this entrapment? Naeem feels trapped, too, in this taut, timely novel that addresses complex realities, from Islamophobia and police coercion to radicals who prey on Muslim youth feeling disillusioned, disconnected, and hopeless. Details of Naeem’s daily life, his worries about school, and his relationships with family members, friends, and others within and beyond the diverse Muslim community ground this riveting work in even greater poignancy and realism, while the author’s note provides background information on the truths behind this work of fiction. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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FEBRUARY (1)

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

Radical by E.M. Kokie. Candlewick Press, 2016

Bex, 15, is distrustful of the government and knows that Lucy, in town for the summer to visit her grandparents, wouldn’t understand why Bex goes to Clearview. So she says nothing about the shooting club/survival training center near her rural Michigan home as they fall for each other. For Bex, who isn’t out, dating Lucy is unexpected, uncertain, sweet, and thrilling, until a police stop illuminates the huge gap in how the two young women see the world. Bex is also growing uneasy about her older brother Mark’s involvement with a group of young men at Clearview who defy the rules, intent on causing trouble. Mark’s behavior toward Bex becomes threatening and violent before government agents arrest the young men for plotting to use explosives. Bex is arrested, too, and doesn’t believe she can trust anyone in the system, including her well- meaning, court-appointed lawyer. Some of her fears about the system are not unfounded, and her mother is pressuring her to take the fall for Mark because she’s a minor facing lesser consequences. Bex, her brother, and her parents are all singular individuals in a struggling family dynamic. The leadership and most members of Clearview are also wholly believable in this unusually nuanced novel showing degrees of extremism. A thoughtful, at times passionate coming out story is woven into this insightful look at how Bex’s thinking has been shaped, and is shifting by story’s end.   © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What assumptions did you make about the cover of this book? (Even before reading it!)
  2. Do you think Bex’s views are radical? Did your opinion change throughout the book?
  3. Why do you think Lucy made the decisions she did? What do you think motivated Lucy’s decisions?

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JANUARY (2)

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

Playing for the Devil’s Fire by Phillippe Diederich. Cinco Puntos Press, 2016

In his small town outside of Mexico City, 13-year-old Boli spends his time helping at his parents’ bakery, playing marbles with his friends (the devil’s fire is a coveted marble he owns), and waiting for the next lucha libre match to visit his town. But his easy, predictable life changes after the severed head of the town’s teacher is found in the square. That is soon followed by the discovery of another dead body. These two events make it impossible for the adults to continue shielding their children from the narcos who are taking over the town. When Boli’s parents leave to find help from a greater authority, they don’t return, which leads Boli to team up with a washed-out lucha libre figher, El Chicano, to find answers. Diederich wisely chose to tell this gut-wrenching story of crime, violence, and corruption from Boli’s innocent point of view. Tight, descriptive writing paints a picture of the town, its people, and their culture, and of a reluctant hero in El Chicano. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

 

 

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JANUARY (1)

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

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis. Amulet / Abrams, 2016

It’s 2035 and a comet is headed toward Earth. Preparations for the inevitable destruction have fallen along class lines—those who can afford it, or who have critical skills, are set to escape on self-sustaining generation ships. Those who can’t are staying in underground shelters with little hope of long-term survival. Biracial (Black/white) Denise, her drug-addicted mother, and her trans sister don’t come close to qualifying for safe passage on a generation ship, but Denise is determined to get the three of them on board, even it means lying or sneaking on. Denise has autism—sometimes that hinders her, sometimes it helps, but always it is just part of who she is and how she views the world. Set in a futuristic Amsterdam, this compelling novel is tense, visceral, and extremely well crafted. It also offers a thoughtful exploration of ethical dilemmas: What would you be willing to do to survive? Whom would you save? And, in the face of pending doom, who deserves to live and who is expendable? ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How does Denise’s autism aid or hinder her during this end of the world catastrophe?
  2. What are the ethical implications of choosing people to live or die? How would you choose who survives?
  3. In the end, why do you think Denise makes the choice she does? What would you have chosen?

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DECEMBER (2)

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

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore. Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Griffin, 2016

Miel and Sam have been friends since the day Miel, drenched and scared, appeared in a field where a water tower had just been drained in Sam’s town. Miel is haunted by snippets of memory that include a curandero father long gone, and a mother and older brother who drowned. In the wind she sometimes hears her mother’s cries. But Miel has Aracely, the young woman who raised her, curer of lovesick, broken hearts, and Sam, who hangs the moon for her. Miel is one of the few who knows Sam is really Samira. He and his mother moved to town when Sam was small so he could live as a boy. The practice, from his mother’s Pakistani heritage, is called bacha posh and typically ends in adolescence. But Miel understands that it expresses who Sam is, now and forever. The Bonner Girls, las gringas bonitas, are four sisters who once could make any boy fall in love with them, but not anymore. Ivy Bonner believes the roses that grow from Miel’s wrist, the roses Miel see as her curse, can restore the sisters’ power. When Ivy learns Sam’s secret, Miel knows she’ll do what Ivy wants to protect the boy she loves. Latin American magical realism is foundational to this lush, sensual, astounding work graced by characters that are exquisitely, exceptionally human. Thick with secrets, this is a story of love and family and the power of speaking one’s truth. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Discuss the theme of secrets. How do secrets bind and tear different characters apart?
  2. How does the author address the subject of gender identification? Why do you think the author chose to approach gender in this way?
  3. How does this book show the difference between sexual identity and gender identity?
  4. Did you prefer the magical realism of When the Moon Was Ours or the realistic portrayal in Symptoms of Being Human?

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DECEMBER (1)

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

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin. Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins, 2016

Riley feels feminine some days, masculine others, but never feels safe outwardly expressing this shifting identity so dresses in gender-neutral clothing. As a result, Riley experiences dysphoria almost daily. On the first day at a new high school, Riley is called “it” before even getting in the door. But Riley gradually becomes friends with Bec and Solo. At the suggestion of a therapist, whom Riley has been seeing since a suicide attempt the year before, Riley has also started writing. Blogging under the pseudonym Alix, Riley is a source of online support for other teens. Riley’s parents know nothing about the blog or Riley’s shifting gender identity. It’s Bec who takes Riley to a transgender support group, one Bec attends because her sister, Gabi, who committed suicide, was transgender. It’s there Riley learns the term “gender fluid,”  and feels relief  even without being ready to say “this is who I am.” A horrifying sexual assault eventually fuels Riley’s determination to speak out. Riley’s voice is compelling and Riley, Bec, and Solo are vivid characters with believable strengths and quirks and uncertainties in a novel that also succeeds because the emotional arc feels authentic, and ultimately cathartic. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Discuss the theme of secrets. How do secrets bind and tear different characters apart?
  2. How does the author address the subject of gender identification? Why do you think the author chose to approach gender in this way?
  3. How does this book show the difference between sexual identity and gender identity?
  4. Did you prefer the magical realism of When the Moon Was Ours or the realistic portrayal in Symptoms of Being Human?

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NOVEMBER (2)

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

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Philomel, 2016

The sinking of the Nazi passenger ship Wilhelm Gustloff, killing an estimated 9,000 evacuees escaping the advancing Russian army in the last days of WWII, inspired this riveting, haunting novel. Joanna and Emilia are refugees; Florian is on the run for reasons he won’t reveal. All three teens are desperate to reach the Polish port where German ships are waiting. Each is struggling with a secret and all are damaged by what they’ve experienced, unable to easily trust, but they form a makeshift family with other travelers. Teenage Alfred is a Nazi sailor at the port. Reviled by peers for his self-importance, he also exhibits sociopathic behavior that is, in its way, a personification of facism. The fates of the other three intertwine with Alfred after their harrowing journey to the port culminates in discovery of thousands more refugees than the waiting ships can possibly carry. Short chapters moving back and forth among the four points of view makes for a swiftly paced story in which the characters are revealed in how they interact and through internal reflection that also illuminates their backstories. Oppression under Stalin, Nazi greed, the brutality of war, and the intriguing mystery of the legendary Amber Room are all part of a tense, tragic novel in which the fate of the ship will not be changed by fiction, even as some fictional characters do survive. An author’s note gives more information about the Wilhelm Gustloff tragedy and other factual elements of the narrative. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Bravery and patriotism can be defined in different ways, in different contexts. How do the characters differ in their representations of bravery and patriotism in Salt to the Sea?
  2. Had you previously heard of the historical events depicted in this book? Why do you think you may have or have not heard about these events?
  3. When told that the soldiers “with a strong chance of survival will be embarked” upon the Wilhelm Gustloff, and Alfred says: “Quite wise. Leave the browned cabbage in the basket. It makes no sense to save a head with only a few good leaves.” How does this reflect the Nazi view of humanity? How is this view flawed? Would he pass as a healthy cabbage?

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NOVEMBER (1)

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

Sabotage: The Mission to Destroy Hitler’s Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb. Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic, 2016

This riveting account chronicles Norwegian underground fighters’ efforts to sabotage the German production of heavy water in Norway, being used by the Nazis in an effort to develop an atomic bomb during World War II. Most of the men had escaped the country after the Nazi invasion. Working with the British in England, they planned the mission and then parachuted back into Norway in the middle of winter, joining others who had remained from the beginning of the German occupation. The effort ended up far more complicated than hoped when the initial assault did not completely destroy the plant where heavy water was produced. When the Germans finally decided to shut the plant down and move the existing heavy water, the partisans had to destroy the supply in transit, a mission that carried the emotional weight of risking civilian lives. A number of the partisans, whose commitment and endurance were remarkable, are introduced throughout a narrative informed by numerous interviews with their family members, as well as memoirs, diaries, and other primary source materials. Black-and-white photographs are included throughout, and ample notes are provided at volume’s end. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Bravery and patriotism can be defined in different ways, in different contexts. How do the characters differ in their representations of bravery and patriotism in Sabotage?
  2. Had you previously heard of the historical events depicted in this book? Why do you think you may have or have not heard about these events?
  3. How does Bascomb use characteristics from different genres to tell this story?

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OCTOBER

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

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina. Candlewick Press, 2016

Nora López is finishing high school uncertain about the future. Encouraged to apply to the New York City Community College trades program, she can’t imagine being able to go when her mom, Mima, struggles to pay the rent. When recent murders of young, dark-haired women in the city turn out to  be the actions of a serial killer, who begins writing letters to the press signed “Son of Sam,” the growing tension and fear is tangible. It pulses through Nora’s Queens neighborhood and the city like the disco rhythms and intense heat so prevalent that spring of 1977. And it explodes into looting following the citywide blackout. But the more pressing danger for Nora is at home, where her younger brother, Hector, is increasingly violent and out of control. Cuban- born Mima says Hector is just a boy in need of a good girl to help him settle down. Mima’s sexism and blinders infuriate Nora, but Nora is also too ashamed to tell her best friend, her boyfriend, her caring boss at the market, teachers, or anyone else what’s happening. Son of Sam is caught, almost anticlimactically, even as the threat in Nora’s personal life escalates. An exceptional novel captures the textures and turbulence of time and place and the complexities of Nora’s relationships vividly. Even before Son of Sam is arrested, it’s becoming clear that community rather than family is Nora’s greatest source of safety, while her own resilience is her greatest strength, especially once she breaks her silence. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Why do you think Nora keeps the issues she was experiencing at home secret?
  2. “The real dangers are often closer to home then we’d like to admit.” What do you think this quote from the blurb on the back cover of the book means or conveys?
  3. How does setting both at home and in the world impact Nora’s life?

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SEPTEMBER

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

March: The Trilogy by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. Illustrated by Nate Powell. Top Shelf, 2013-2016

March: Book Three

The third and final volume of U.S. Congressman John Lewis’s graphic novel memoir opens with the Birmingham church bombing in September,1963,   in which four Black girls were murdered. At the time, Lewis was a leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the tragedy, and additional violence that followed, fueled SNCC’s increased voting rights efforts. Details of those efforts, and the work of activists like Fannie Lou Hamer and Bob Moses, are the focus here as Lewis describes individuals whose skill and passion, and grief and anger, found purpose in activism to change our nation. The narrative’s climax is the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Lewis states, “That day was the end of a very long road. It was the end of the movement as I knew it.” Lewis’s memories are again framed by the January, 2009, inauguration of Barack Obama. As in the two prior volumes, the conversational narrative is direct and powerful, and paired with black-and- white panel art and occasional full-page illustrations.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

March: Book Two

The second volume of this graphic novel memoir trilogy follows U.S. Congressman John Lewis’s activism and leadership in the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960s. Beaten, jailed, but steadfast and further politicized and energized during the Freedom Rides, he emerged into a leadership role in the Student Nonviolent Coordinator Committee (SNCC) as protests heated up in Birmingham early in 1963. It was in his SNCC role that he was involved in planning the March on Washington that year and to speak at the event, only to be asked to make last-minute changes to lines in his speech questioned as too divisive and critical. The direct, powerful conversational narrative is paired with dramatic black-and-white panel art and occasional full-page illustrations, and includes Lewis’s account of other key figures and their role in the sweeping social change taking place. Like March: Book One , President Obama’s 2008 inauguration provides a framing device in a volume that ends, tragically and poignantly, with the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham that killed four girls in September, 1963. The original draft of Lewis’s March on Washington speech is included in the end matter.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

March: Book One

As he gets ready to join the distinguished guests at the January, 2009, inauguration of Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States, Senator John Lewis recounts memories from his childhood and the early days of the Civil Rights Movement to a young family who stops by his office. Lewis, the son of Alabama sharecroppers, was hungry to learn as a child. He snuck away to his all-Black school on days when his help was needed in the fields. He started preaching as a boy and was attending divinity school in Nashville when he began training in nonviolent civil disobedience and participating in lunch counter sit-ins. The sense of unity in the face of racism and discrimination inspired and encouraged him, as did his fellow activists, many of them students like himself, and a preacher named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A powerful black-and-white graphic novel brings this first part of Lewis’s journey into vivid relief. Among the most powerful scenes is a series of panels in which the young activists must painfully hurl racist slurs and spit on one another as they prepare themselves to respond nonviolently to the hatred they will face.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How do protests today compare to those depicted in March? What are some similarities? What are some differences?
  2. Why was it so important for people fighting for Civil Rights to keep their protests nonviolent?
  3. What has been accomplished by the Civil Rights movement? What still needs to be accomplished today?
  4. What are the reasons that the authors chose the graphic novel format to tell John Lewis’s story?

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MAY (2)

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

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea: Unicorn of the Sea. (A Narwhal and Jelly Book) by Ben Clanton. Tundra Books, 2016

When Narwhal and Jellyfish first meet, neither can believe the other is real. “I can’t believe this! The thing I’m imagining is imagining that it is imagining me,” observes a somewhat disgruntled Jelly. Even once Jelly is convinced Narwhal is real, and agrees that Narwhal’s horn is awesome, Narwhal identifies Jelly as an imaginary friend. “We’re friends?” Jelly asks hopefully. “Sure thing!” They seal the deal by eating waffles (“Nom Nom Nom”). That opening chapter in this droll graphic novel is followed by two more stories, “Narwhal’s Pod of Awesomeness” and “Narwhal and the Best Book Ever.” Two brief interludes include “Really Fun Facts” about narwhals and jellyfish (e.g., a narwhal’s horn- like tooth can grow to up to 3 feet; a group of jellyfish is called a smack), and the “Narwhal Song” praising waffles and parties. Open-hearted Narwhal and dubious Jelly are a dynamite friendship duo. The simple, engaging line drawings are done with a limited, somewhat muted palette dominated by watery blue. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What are some ways Narwhal’s imagination makes the story funny?
  2. What information about Narwhals do you find the most interesting in this book?
  3. At first, Jelly did not understand Narwhal’s book. At the end, he wanted to borrow it. What changed?
  4. If you had a blank book like Narwhal, what story would you tell?

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