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Author Archives: etownsend

FEBRUARY (2)

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

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

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

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

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

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FEBRUARY (1)

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

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

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

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

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

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JANUARY

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

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

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

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

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

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DECEMBER

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

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

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

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

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

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NOVEMBER

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

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman. Clarion, 2016

As young adults in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, Hans Scholl joined the Hitler Youth, his sister Sophie the League of German Girls. They quickly became disillusioned. The White Rose Movement grew out of gatherings of Hans and a few friends in Munich in the early 1940s. As soon as Sophie knew Hans was behind the first White Rose flyer in 1942, encouraging Germans to resist fascism “before it’s too late,” she demanded to be part of the work. The Movement’s weapons were words: flyers written and printed in secret, distributed with great planning and care. Their commitment was unwavering, right through their capture, interrogation and brief trial. “I would do it all over again,” 21-year-old Sophie told her Gestapo interrogator. “I’m not wrong … You have the wrong world view.” Along with a third White Rose member who’d been captured (they did not reveal the names of others) Hans, 24, and Sophie were executed by guillotine in early 1943. A detailed account full of intrigue and danger and heroism and heartbreak presents the Scholls’ courageous activism in the context of the terrible wrongs being committed by the Nazi regime, and the greater good that the White Rose Movement sought to inspire. Ample black-and-white photos, including candid snapshots of the Scholls, and other visual material are part of a work that ends with source notes and a bibliography.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What role does propaganda play, and how can you recognize it?
  2. Why do you think that by the 5th leaflet the name had changed from “The White Rose” to “Leaflets of the Resistance”?
  3. What would it take to get you to stand up and risk your life like Hans, Sophie, and Alex?

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OCTOBER (2)

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

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2016

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl’s resilience, strength, and compassion help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history. (Age 10 and up) From the publisher

 

Start some conversation with there discussion prompts:

  1. If you were Annabelle’s parents, would you have lied to the authorities to protect Toby? If you were Toby, would you have let them? Why or why not?
  2. Did Betty deserve her fate? Did Toby deserve his fate? Explain.
  3. What connections can you make from this story to today’s world?

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OCTOBER (1)

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

Riding Chance by Christine Kendall. Scholastic Press, 2016

Since his mom died, it’s been hard for Troy, 13, to stay on an even keel in his tough Philadelphia neighborhood. When he and his best friend, Foster, get caught for petty larceny they are offered the chance to participate in a juvenile offender program working at a city stable, cleaning out horse stalls and, if they’re interested, learning to ride. Unlike Foster, Troy discovers he has an affinity for horses. Step by step he learns how to trust them and how to earn their trust in return, and before long caring for and riding his favorite horse, Chance, is always on his mind. He’s also interested in one of the other riders, a kind, outspoken girl who seems to like him, too. The two men in charge of the program see Troy’s potential and get him involved in the all-Black polo team they also run. The competition is typically upper-class white kids, but the bigger challenge for Troy is that the best player on his own team clearly has it in for him. And just when he needs a friend most, he and Foster are struggling to reconnect after a fallout. Author Christine Kendall has crafted a compelling and relatable story populated with well-developed, realistic characters in a debut that will keep readers turning the page. (Ages 11–15)  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion questions:

  1. Horses require a lot of care, attention, and money. What do friendships require?
  2. Troy rode a horse named Chance. How else does the title fit the story?
  3. What role do secrets play in the story?

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SEPTEMBER

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

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas. Clarion, 2016

Zomorod and her parents are in the United States for her dad’s job as an engineer working at a California oil company. Zomorod, who has chosen the Brady Bunch-inspired name “Cindy” at school, narrates an often funny and always insightful account of her life as an Iranian immigrant in the late 1970s (an era that is vividly and often delightfully realized here). Her father is openhearted and upbeat but her mother finds it difficult acclimating to their life in America. Struggling with English, she rarely leaves the house. Zomorod, like her dad, is happy. Despite often being mistaken as Latina by strangers (no one has heard of Iran), she also has good friends. Then the Shah of Iran is overthrown and Ayatollah Khomeni comes into power. The hostage crisis horrifies Zomorod’s family. So, too, do the oppressive religious restrictions under Khomeni’s rule. Meanwhile, everyone in America suddenly wants to know or has something to say about Iran. Zomorod’s mother finds purpose in helping other Iranians in their community feel less alone, but her dad loses his job and when he can’t find another he begins to lose hope as the family faces returning to their radically changed homeland. Dumas’s “semi-autobiographical” novel doesn’t shy away from the racism Zomorod and her family experiences. Yet her story is buoyed by this honesty, as well as the warmth of family, and the essential kindness of friendship. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center. (Ages 9-13)

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. In what ways is Cindy the caretaker for her family?
  2. How do generosity and kindness triumph over hate in the book?
  3. Cindy says books are her friends. Who are your best book friends?

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Oh! The Possibilities! Read On Wisconsin Committee Selects New Titles!

May 2nd, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | 2017-2018 | Primary (Grades K-2) | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | Middle School | High School - (Comments Off on Oh! The Possibilities! Read On Wisconsin Committee Selects New Titles!)

This Saturday, May 6, 2016, the Read On Wisconsin (ROW) Literacy Advisory Committee (LAC) members will meet to select the monthly titles for the upcoming Read On Wisconsin year. This is an exciting time for us here at Read On Wisconsin! After months of reading books from a preliminary list compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center’s librarians along with suggestions from the LAC, the ROW LAC comes together to discuss the books; select the ones they feel will resonate with teachers, librarians, and children and teens across Wisconsin; and then, create questions and prompts to encourage everyone to discuss and engage with the ROW books and each other. Take a peak below at what the day looks like from our busy LAC from May 9th, 2015 meeting! And, check back soon for the 2017-2018 ROW books!

Witty Satire: May 2017 High School

April 20th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | High School | May - (Comments Off on Witty Satire: May 2017 High School)

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. Harper Teen / HarperCollins, 2015

Mikey, his sister Mel(inda), and their friends Henna and Jared, are about to graduate high school. Mel has anorexia and Mikey lives with severe anxiety and OCD, neither fitting the image their high-aspiring politician mother wants their family to project. Henna’s parents plan on taking her to the Central African Republic to do missionary work, despite the war there. Jared feels the weight of being an only child on the verge of leaving his single-parent father. Jared is also a god. Well, technically a quarter-god. And there is the delicious twist in this emotionally rich story about facing a time of transition and uncertainty: The otherworldly is real. When indie kids (it’s always the indie kids) in the foursome’s small community begin disappearing, it isn’t the first time. In the past the culprits were vampires and soul-sucking ghosts; now it’s aliens. Mikey and his friends aren’t indie kids (despite Henna’s name) but are aware of the danger, which plays out in hilarious chapter openings chronicling the indie kids’ efforts to combat the threat, making for a merry satire on countless young adult novels. But the heart of this novel is the reality of change—in relationships, in circumstances, in what we understand; imperfect families; and the sustaining power of friendship. As a narrator, Mikey is real and complex, and a little bit heartbreaking. As a work of fiction, Ness’s book is funny and tender and true, and a little bit dazzling. ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What is satire? How is this novel satire? What are the targets of the author’s satire? What is the author critiquing in our culture?
  2. How is this save-the-world story told from a unique perspective?
  3. What does the title mean?

Find curated resources for The Rest of Us Just Live Here at TeachingBooks.net!

Fairy Tale Meets Sci Fi: May 2017 Middle School

April 20th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Middle School | May - (Comments Off on Fairy Tale Meets Sci Fi: May 2017 Middle School)

Cinder: Book One of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. Feiwel & Friends, 2012

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future. –from the publisher

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What could the alienation or exclusion of cyborgs translate to in our society?
  2. Choose a different fairy tale. How would you set it the future?
  3. What diseases in our world’s history does the plague in Cinder reflect?

Find discussion guides, a book trailer, and more for Cinder at TeachingBooks.net!

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Two Unusual Mysteries: May 2017 Intermediate

April 20th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | May - (Comments Off on Two Unusual Mysteries: May 2017 Intermediate)

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones. Illustrated by Katie Kath. Alfred A. Knopf, 2015

Adjusting to life in the country brings challenges and surprises for Sophie Brown. While her unemployed dad learns about small-scale farming, her mom is churning out one freelance article after another to stay on top of bills. Sophie, meanwhile, is learning to care for the chickens that once belonged to her Great Uncle Jim, only Uncle Jim’s chickens prove to be far from ordinary. Henrietta has a Forceful gaze—literally. Sophie has seen her levitate things. Chameleon turns invisible. And all six are the target of a would-be chicken thief who clearly knows they’re special. A funny, spirited story is told almost entirely through letters. Many are from Sophie to her Abuelita or her Great Uncle Jim, both of whom have passed away. Letters full of questions and advice also go back and forth between Sophie and Agnes, owner of Redwood Farm Supply. Agnes’s letters are mysteriously typo-ridden, but her poultry correspondence course is informative and no-nonsense. Trying to protect her flock, Sophie makes the first friend her own age in town while asserting her claim on the chickens she’s come to love. Sophie, who is biracial (her mom is Mexican American; her dad is white), occasionally reflects on cultural aspects of her family history and identity in ways that are genuine and unforced in this blithe but not unsubstantial debut novel featuring pitch-perfect black-and-white illustrations. (MS) ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Why do you think the author uses letters to tell the story?
  2. How do the illustrations add to the story?
  3. What community resources does Sophie use to care for her chickens? Who does Sophie build relationships with in the community?
  4. What challenges does Sophie perceive in making friends?

Finders Keepers by Shelley Tougas. Roaring Brook Press, 2015

Enjoy this book from a Wisconsin author. Shelley Tougas lives in Hudson, WI!

Christa spends every summer at the most awesome place in the whole world: her family’s cabin on Whitefish Lake, Wisconsin. Only her dad recently lost his job and her parents have decided to sell the cabin. But not if Christa can help it. Everyone knows there is Al Capone blood money hidden somewhere in Whitefish Lake, and her friend Alex’s cranky grandpa might have the key to finding it. Grumpa says the loot is gone, or worse—cursed!—but Christa knows better. That loot is the only thing that can save her family. – from the publisher

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Pre-reading: Who was Al Capone and where did you live?
  2. How believable do you think it is that Al Capone’s money would be buried in Wisconsin? Why do you think Christa believes that his money is buried in Whitefish Lake?
  3. Choose 4 characters for the book and describe how their relationships with each other change throughout the story?
  4. What impact did the imaginative play have on the overall story?

Find resources for Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer  and Finders Keepers at TeachingBooks.net!

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