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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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