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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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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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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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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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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?

Find more resources here

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Excellent Concept Books for Early Literacy: November 2016 Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers

October 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | 2016-2017 | November - (Comments Off on Excellent Concept Books for Early Literacy: November 2016 Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers)

Alphabet SchoolIcon for Babies Toddlers & PreschoolersAlphabet School by Stephen T. Johnson. A Paula Wiseman Book / Simon & Schuster, 2015

Stephen T. Johnson brings his artist’s eye to a school environment to locate letters of the alphabet in ordinary objects and scenes. The shadow of a school bus mirror forms the letter B. Two flags on a pole make an F. Remnants of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich curl into a G. A flipped-up toilet seat is an almost perfect U. Johnson’s striking full-page, realistic paintings have a tinge of grittiness with their speckled texture, looking like well-worn photographs. The imperfections amplify the realism, and while these are surely images drawn from one or more specific places, there is also a universality, as if this could be any school. It’s hard to imagine children not being inspired to look closely around their own classrooms, hallways, gymnasiums, and playgrounds to see what letters might be lurking, and some will surely want to create images and books of their own.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Try these literacy activities after reading Alphabet School

  • Talk: Talk about the shapes within the letters. Which letters are curvy? Which are straight?
  • Sing: Sing the Alphabet Song. Try singing the alphabet to a different tune.
  • Write: Use different objects from around your house to form the first letter of your name.
  • Play: Go on a letter walk and look for the first letter of your name.
  • Math or Science: Make a cutout of the first letter of your name. Bring it with you on your letter walk.

i dont like snakesI (Don’t) Like Snakes by Nicola Davies. Illustrated by Luciano Lozano. U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2015

When her puzzled, snake-loving family asks a young girl why she doesn’t like snakes, she points out that snakes slither and have “slimy, scaly skin” and “flicky tongues.” They also stare. In response to these and other points, her dad, mom, and brother have an explanation—and sometimes a correction (e.g., snakes aren’t slimy; their skin is dry)—expanding the girl’s understanding of and appreciation for snakes. This picture book deftly blends the appealing fictional story and its blithe illustration style with factual text and images about snake biology and behavior. A brief bibliography and an index conclude the volume.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Try these literacy activities after reading I Don’t Like Snakes

  • Talk: Find another book with snakes. Compare the snakes in the two books.
  • Sing: Can you hiss like a snake? Can you hiss like a snake? Try to “sing” a song by hissing.
  • Write: Can you draw a snake? What will your snake look like? Is it long? Is it curvy? What is your snake doing? Sleeping? Eating?
  • Play: Without using words, act out how you show that you don’t like something or do like something. Have someone guess which is like and which is dislike.
  • Math or Science: Snakes shed their skins. What else sheds its skin? Do you shed your skin?

 

moving blocksMoving Blocks by Yusuke Yonezu. U.S. edition: Minedition, 2015

A book offering a plethora of possibilities for interaction (color concept, spatial reasoning, prediction, and types of transportation for a start) begins with a page spread showing a rectangular pattern of yellow, green, blue, and red blocks with die-cuts suggesting a shape. The text asks, “What are you building? What can it be?” A page turn shows the die-cut shape surrounded by white against the block pattern on the previous page to reveal a vehicle made of blocks: car, bus, train, ship, rocket ship. The full rectangle of blocks and two questions repeat on every other spread before the next reveal, giving a sense of pattern and order to the book as a whole that is also visually suggested by the repetition of the block shapes in this clever, developmentally appropriate board book.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Try these literacy activities after reading Moving Blocks

  • Talk: Name the shapes. Talk about curves and straight lines in the shapes.
  • Sing: The Wheels on the Bus
  • Write: Draw shapes in the air.
  • Play: Create vehicles out of shapes and pretend to go on a trip.
  • Math or Science: Make shapes out of blocks. Count how many blocks you used for each shape.

Don’t forget this poem from Changes: A Child’s First Poetry Collection by Charlotte Zolotow: page 30

Find more resources for Alphabet School, I (Don’t) Like Snakes and Moving Blocks at TeachingBooks.net!

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Community Engagement: November 2016 Primary (K-2)

October 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Primary (Grades K-2) | 2016-2017 | November - (Comments Off on Community Engagement: November 2016 Primary (K-2))

last stop on market streetPrimary Icon of a White-Tailed DeerLast Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña. Illustrated by Christian Robinson. Putnam, 2015

As he and his nana take the bus across town, observant young CJ is full of questions and more than a little wishful thinking: Why don’t they have a car instead of having to take the bus? Why do they always have to go somewhere after church? How come that man sitting near them can’t see? Why is the neighborhood where they get off the bus so dirty? In response, his nana points out everything they would miss if they weren’t right where they were at each moment, from the interesting people they get to see and meet to the realization that beauty can be found everywhere. Rather than telling CJ about what community means, she’s showing him that he’s a part of it. After an event-filled ride, they arrive at their destination. “I’m glad we came,” CJ says looking at the familiar faces in the window of the soup kitchen where they both volunteer. Wonderful descriptive writing (“The bus creaked to a stop in front of them. It sighed and sagged and the doors swung open.”) full of abundant, child-centered details propels an engaging picture book set against marvelous illustrations that have a naïve quality while reflecting the energy, vibrancy and diversity of a contemporary city. Honor Book, 2016 Charlotte Zolotow Award ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How does the text make us feel the sights, sounds, and smells of the city? What are some verbs and adjectives that the author uses to convey these feelings?
  2. In what ways do CJ and Nana see the world differently?
  3. How does CJ’s mood change throughout the book? How does the weather reflect CJ’s moods in the beginning and at the end of the book?

trombone shortyTrombone Shorty by Troy Andrews and Bill Taylor. Illustrated by Bryan Collier.  Abrams, 2015

Growing up in Tremé, a New Orleans neighborhood, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews was surrounded by music. It was in his house as his brother played trumpet, in the streets, in the air all year long, but especially during Mardi Gras. And he loved it. Wanting to create musical “gumbo” of his own, he used homemade instruments and paraded behind his brother before he found a broken trombone. His brother gave him his nickname, and Andrews was still smaller than his trombone when Bo Diddley called him up to play on stage at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Today the young man is a performer around the world, but he always returns to New Orleans. The musical energy and vibrancy of that city burst from every page of a dynamic picture book written by Andrews and featuring the pulsing images of Bryan Collier. A photo essay at book’s end, also by Andrews, expresses more of his appreciation for the city and people who nurtured him.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How does the Tremé community shape or influence Trombone Shorty’s passion for making music on the trombone?
  2. This book talks about New Orleans gumbo as food and as music, how do the illustrations remind you of the cooking (food) and composing (music)? How are the illustrations like gumbo?
  3. What do you think “Where y’at” means? Do you know different phrases that have a similar meaning?

Find more resources for these Last Stop on Market Street and Trombone Shorty at TeachingBooks.net!

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History Comes Alive! November 2016 Intermediate (Gr 3-5)

October 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | November - (Comments Off on History Comes Alive! November 2016 Intermediate (Gr 3-5))

war that saved my lifeIcon_Intermediate1The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Dial, 2015

Ten-year-old Ada was born with a club foot that was never fixed and her abusive, financially struggling mother has kept her isolated all her life. The evacuation of London children during World War II gives Ada and her little brother, Jamie, a chance to escape their grim life. The two end up in a small village at the home of a woman named Susan Smith. There is not necessarily anything extraordinary or unpredictable in this satisfying story in which the three become a close and loving family except for the telling itself, which reveals refreshing complexities of characters and situations. As Ada, Jamie, and Susan adjust, it becomes clear that Ada, despite many seemingly idyllic elements of her new life, feels immense anger and grief over a mother who could not love her. Susan, too, is grieving—her former housemate died the year before and though it’s never stated, it’s clear the two women were a couple. Susan is also figuring out parenting and caretaking, tasks made more difficult by the children’s abusive history and the temporary nature of the arrangement. A nearby RAF airfield, the evacuation of Dunkirk, and the bombing of London all come into play in a story that also offers honesty regarding the hard truths of war but is ultimately full of the hope that comes with kindness and connection.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  1. Ada and James have quite a lot of freedom in Kent. Talk about times when you get to make your own decisions.
  2. The children find some great friends in the adults around them. Do you have any intergenerational friendships? How or why did these friendships begin?
  3. What is it about Stephen that allows him to more easily befriend people that society views as different?
  4. How did the war save Ada’s life? Do you currently see war impacting lives around you?

lilliansrighttovoteLillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter. Illustrated by Shane W. Evans. Schwartz & Wade, 2015

“A very old woman stands at the bottom of a very steep hill. It’s Voting Day, she’s an American, and by God, she is going to vote. Lillian is her name.” An informative picture book covers an expanse of history and emotion as 100-year-old Lillian ascends the hill, reflecting on African Americans and voting. Her great-great-grandparents were sold on the auction block in front of a courthouse where only white men could vote. Her great grandfather, her grandfather and uncle, her parents, and Lillian herself lived through times when the right to vote existed in theory but was denied in fact or pursued with great risk. Lillian remembers struggles and losses of the Civil Rights Movement, the march from Selma to Montgomery, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, after which she cast her first ballot. Her ascent is a metaphor in which the struggle is tangible, palpable (“my, but that hill is steep”). Her encounter with a young man whom she asks, “Are you going to vote? … You better” is one of many powerful moments. Shane W. Evans’s layered art skillfully distinguishes present from past and is full of its own rich symbolism.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  1. How do the illustrations of the current story differ from the illustrations of the past? Why do you think the illustrator chose these two different styles to represent present day actions and past memories?
  2. What are some examples of hope in the story? Show evidence from the book.
  3. How has the right to vote continued to be an uphill battle? How is this uphill battle conveyed in the illustrations and text of the book?

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Discover the Power of Music! November 2016 Middle School

October 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | November | Middle School - (Comments Off on Discover the Power of Music! November 2016 Middle School)

better nate than everBooks for Middle School AgeBetter Nate Than Ever! by Tim Federle. Simon & Schuster, 2013

Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he’d settle for seeing a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune? With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There’s an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom. from the publisher

  1. How does the author use imagery to create a sense of being in New York City?
  2. The author doesn’t tie up all the loose ends in this story. Why do you think the author ended the story this way? How would you finish this story?
  3. How does Nate break the rules of what is expected of boys’ identities?

Rhythm-RideRhythm Ride: A Trip Through the Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney. Roaring Brook Press,2015

From award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney comes the story of the music that defined a generation and a movement that changed the world.

Berry Gordy began Motown in 1959 with an $800 loan from his family. He converted the garage of a residential house into a studio and recruited teenagers from the neighborhood-like Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Diana Ross-to sing for his new label. Meanwhile, the country was on the brink of a cultural revolution, and one of the most powerful agents of change in the following decade would be this group of young black performers from urban Detroit. From Berry Gordy and his remarkable vision to the Civil Rights movement, from the behind-the-scenes musicians, choreographers, and song writers to the most famous recording artists of the century, Andrea Davis Pinkney takes readers on a Rhythm Ride through the story of Motown. from the publisher

  1. How was the creation of Motown Records an act of promoting social justice?
  2. How did Berry Gordy’s experience at the Ford assembly line affect his work at Motown?
  3. Berry Gordy created a hits-making machine with Motown Records. What contributed to Gordy’s success?
  4. Would an “Artist Development Department” (finishing, etiquette, etc.) be successful today? Who are artists that could use this help? Which artists already know these things and would be qualified to teach it?

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Powerful, Visceral Reads! November 2016 High School

October 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | November | High School - (Comments Off on Powerful, Visceral Reads! November 2016 High School)

out of darknessIcon_HighSchool1Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez. Carolrhoda Lab, 2015

A gripping work opens with the explosion of the white school in New London, Texas, in 1937. The fictional story, woven around the facts of this actual event that killed almost 300 students and teachers, examines racism, sexual abuse, religion, and the powerful pull of family. At the center is the love between two teenagers, Mexican American Naomi and African American Wash. Much of the novel is in flashback. Wash befriends Naomi and her younger half-siblings, twins Cari and Beto, after they move to town. Naomi’s white stepfather, Henry, sexually abused her years before when her mother was dying. She told no one. When it becomes clear Henry’s intent, at the suggestion of his pastor, is to marry Naomi, she is desperate to leave, but she won’t go without the twins. Wash is determined to run away with them, despite his own family’s plans for him to go to college. Then the school explodes. In the aftermath, an angry and grieving white community is looking for someone to blame, and Wash is in their sights. Vivid, complex, and nuanced in both characters and telling, this novel is also incredibly forthright, building to a brutal climax. The violence is horrifying, but to make it anything less would be to undermine telling the truth of racism and sexual violence. But there is a thread of hope in one survivor’s determination to tell the story whole.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  1. Fire is a recurring theme in the book. Why do you think the author repeatedly uses fire and how does it affect the story?
  2. What role does gossip play in the story? Does it affect the outcomes of any of the characters in the end? What purpose do the chapters from the point of view of “The Gang” have?
  3. This story is based on a historical event. Why do you think most people have never heard of such a tragic event?

drowned cityDrowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015

An informative and deeply moving chronicle of Hurricane Katrina opens as “a swirl of unremarkable wind leaves African and breezes toward the Americas. It draws energy from the warm Atlantic water and grows in size.” As he did in The Great American Dust Bowl, Don Brown offers a factual account that makes brilliant use of the graphic novel form both to provide information and to underscore the human impact and toll of a disaster. As the storm builds and unleashes its power, it wreaks havoc—on levees and on neighborhood and on people, so many people. Some of those affected wouldn’t leave the city of New Orleans; most of them couldn’t, and this becomes an integral part of his narrative: all the failures that pile up one after another. Empty Amtrak trains leaving the city before the storm when Amtrak’s offer of transport was ignored; thousands of people in misery at the convention center with FEMA seemingly oblivious to their well-documented plight; some police deserting their posts, even joining the looting. The travesties go on and on. But there is courage and compassion, too, including many who risked their lives to help others. Brown pulls no punches in a book offering a clear and critical point of view. The straightforward presentation of grim and sometimes shocking facts paired with emotionally rich images results in a work that is powerful, poignant, and sometimes haunting. There is clear documentation with an extensive list of source notes for this notable work. (MS) ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  1. What lessons have we learned from the many failures of the response to Hurricane Katrina? Are we more prepared to help people in the event of another natural tragedy?
  2. Clearly poverty played a role in the tragedies of Katrina. How do you think things would have played out differently in a more affluent city?
  3. What were some of the stylistic choices made by Don Brown when he illustrated this book? How did choices affect your reaction or further your understanding?

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Community and Civic Engagement! November 2016 Titles!

October 17th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Primary (Grades K-2) | 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | November | Middle School | High School - (Comments Off on Community and Civic Engagement! November 2016 Titles!)

Our November 2016 titles make great conversation starters for civic and community engagement discussions. Coached in historical fiction, biography, and graphic novels, themes of social justice and freedom run through many of the Read On Wisconsin November books. Check them out below! Click on the title below to read the annotation for the title. Find discussion questions and other resources below or in the Resources tab above!

last-stop-on-market-street-small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

war that saved my lifeRhythm-Ridebetter nate than ever

 

 

 

 

 

out of darknessdrowned city

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, check out these great concept and nonfiction books from the Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers this month:

moving blocks

Alphabet School

i dont like snakes

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

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