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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

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December 2016 Titles: End this Year, Start the New Year Sharing Great Books!

November 22nd, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | Primary (Grades K-2) | 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | Middle School | December | High School - (Comments Off on December 2016 Titles: End this Year, Start the New Year Sharing Great Books!)

Whether celebrating the arts, the seasons, community, family, friends or ourselves, the ROW December 2016 titles are great books to read and discuss. Check them out below. Find discussion questions here and other resources at TeachingBooks.net!

global baby bedtimes

waiting

happy in our skin small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

song within my hearthanahashimotoweb

dragons beware small

winter-bees

 

friends-for-life

this-one-summer

girls-like-us

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Another Perspective: December 2016 High School

November 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | December | High School - (Comments Off on Another Perspective: December 2016 High School)

Icon_HighSchool1girls-like-usGirls Like Us by Gail Giles. Candlewick, 2014

A 2015 Schneider Family Book Award Winner

We understand stuff. We just learn it slow. And most of what we understand is that people what ain’t Speddies think we too stupid to get out our own way. And that makes me mad.

Quincy and Biddy are both graduates of their high school’s special ed program, but they couldn’t be more different: suspicious Quincy faces the world with her fists up, while gentle Biddy is frightened to step outside her front door. When they’re thrown together as roommates in their first “real world” apartment, it initially seems to be an uneasy fit. But as Biddy’s past resurfaces and Quincy faces a harrowing experience that no one should have to go through alone, the two of them realize that they might have more in common than they thought — and more important, that they might be able to help each other move forward.  From the publisher

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What lessons do other characters learn from their interactions with Biddy and Quincy?
  2. How are Biddy and Quincy’s lives after graduation similar to most young adults? How are their lives different?
  3. What rights does a mother have after she has given her baby up for adoption?
  4. What does the duck symbolize? Why? Does this help you make sense of Biddy’s story?

this-one-summer

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki. Illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. First Second, 2014

A 2015 Caldecott Honor Book
A 2015 Michael L. Printz Honor Book

Early adolescence is a fluid and challenging period of awakening and discovery and in-between-ness in this graphic novel that beautifully and keenly captures that time. In this summer of tension and change, Rose and her parents are at the cottage they have gone to for years. Rose is between child and teenager, more mature in some ways than her younger friend, Windy, even as Windy’s innocence helps ground them both. At the store where the girls go to get videos on languid days, Rose is drawn to the local teenage clerk. She picks out horror movies to impress him, and is intrigued by the drama surrounding the boy and his girlfriend who, she learns, is pregnant. Windy is still sure enough of herself to see and state things in a refreshingly straightforward, uncomplicated way, and calls Rose out for her sexism in blaming the pregnant girl. Meanwhile, Rose’s mother is battling depression and something else Rose doesn’t understand. Rose’s parents are tense and often fighting, and Rose thinks her mother can and should just choose not to be sad. Everything feels profoundly connected in this story that illuminates that time of adolescence when young teens are just starting to open their eyes to the world in new ways; when their interests outpace their experience or their understanding; and when their ability to understand can mature at an astonishing rate.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What was your first reaction to the cover and the illustrations of this book? How does this reaction compare to your reaction to the novel after reading it?
  2. What characters did you most identify with? Why?
  3. What aspects of Rose’s life drive her urge to grow up?
  4. How do the illustrations and texts work together and apart to tell this story? What do the illustrations add that the text leaves out?

Find resources for Girls Like Us and This One Summer at TeachingBooks.net!

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Life Changing Friendships: December 2016 Middle School

November 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Middle School | December - (Comments Off on Life Changing Friendships: December 2016 Middle School)

Books for Middle School Agefriends-for-lifeFriends for Life by Andrew Norris. David Fickling Books/Scholastic Inc., 2015

A timeless and uplifting book about friendship, filled with humor and heart.

When Jessica sits next to Francis on a bench during recess, he’s surprised to learn that she isn’t actually alive — she’s a ghost. And she’s surprised, too, because Francis is the first person who has been able to see her since she died.

Before long, Francis and Jessica are best friends, enjoying life more than they ever have. When they meet two more friends who can also see Jessica, the question arises: What is it that they have in common? And does it have something to do with Jessica being a ghost?  From the publisher

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What do you think makes the adults turn to a 13 year-old like Francis to solve their parenting problems?
  2. Why do you think Andi risks being expelled to defend Francis?
  3. How do the three friends change after meeting Jessica?

Find more resources for Friends for Life from TeachingBooks.net

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Fight Dragons or Fighting the Cold? Try our December 2016 Intermediate Titles

November 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | December - (Comments Off on Fight Dragons or Fighting the Cold? Try our December 2016 Intermediate Titles)

dragons beware smallIcon_Intermediate1Dragons Beware! by Jorge Aguirre. Illustrated by Rafael Rosado. First Second, 2015

She’s back! Still the “act first, think later,” wooden-sword wielding fighter introduced in Giants Beware, bold Claudette is itching to protect her town from the menacing sorcerer Grombach and his army of gargoyles. With her best friend, Marie, and little brother, Gaston, at her heels, Claudette follows her father on his quest to reclaim his powerful sword and face their foe. Grombach’s true identity is revealed, a cursed hag provides a helpful tool, and a sword-swallowing dragon is convinced to return his plunder (albeit in a disgusting vomit-manner). Drawing on a combination of courage, luck, and a dose of cooperation and diplomacy, the three kids again save their community from looming disaster. Appealing characters and large doses of humor (like the seven hopeful princes trailing after Marie) complement the non-stop action of this full-color graphic novel.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. The heroine, Claudette, is a fighter. She likes to “act first, think later.” How does compromise work better than force in this story?
  2. The children’s father has physical limitations. How does he persevere?
  3. How does this book challenge gender stereotypes? Have you ever felt that because of your gender you should or shouldn’t do something?
  4. If you could play a character in this book, who would you want to be and why?

winter-bees

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman. Illustrated by Rick Allen. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014

Tundra swan, snake, snowflake. Bees in their hive, a vole under snow, the fly-high raven and the earth-bound wolf. The lives of these and other creatures in winter are the subject of poems by Joyce Sidman that crackle with cold and sing with warmth. “We scaled a million blooms / to reap the summer’s glow. / Now, in the merciless cold, / we share each morsel of heat, / each honeycombed crumb…. / Deep in the winter hive, / we burn like a golden sun.” (From “Winter Bees”) Sidman’s evocative, lyrical poems are paired with brief factual information written to resonate with an illuminating the imagery by showing how it is drawn from what the poet knew about each of her subjects. Gorgeous, stylized linoblock and digitally rendered art by Rick Allen is an elegant backdrop to a lovely and inspired collection. (MS)  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Why do you think the poem “Winter Bees” was chosen for the title? Which poem would you have selected and why?
  2. The author pairs poems and informational text to describe animals and their habitats in the winter. Why do you think the author chose to use both formats? Do you like the poems or the informational text better, or do you like them both? Why?
  3. What role do you think the fox plays in the illustrations?
  4. What Wisconsin animal would you add to the book?

Find more resources for Dragons Beware! and Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold at TeachingBooks.net!

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Community, Family and Arts: December 2016 (K-2)

November 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Primary (Grades K-2) | 2016-2017 | December - (Comments Off on Community, Family and Arts: December 2016 (K-2))

hanahashimotoPrimary Icon of a White-Tailed DeerHana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki. Illustrated by Qin Leng. Kids Can Press, 2014

Hana’s decision to enter the school talent show is met with derision by her older brothers. “It’s a talent show, Hana.” “You’ll be a disaster.” It’s true she’s only had three violin lessons. But on their summer visit to Japan, their grandfather, Ojiichan, played for them every day. Hana’s favorite was the song about a crow calling for her chicks. “Whenever Ojiichan played it, Hana would feel a shiver of happy-sadness shiver through her.” She also loved the way he could make his violin sound like crickets or raindrops. She practices every day for the show, and when the time comes to step onto the stage, the sixth violin performance of the night, she’s nervous but determined. She begins with three “raw, squawky notes” to mimic the caw of a crow, followed by a “the sound of my neighbor’s cat at night” as she drags the bow across the strings in a “yowl of protest.” Hana also makes the sound of buzzing bees, squeaking mice, and croaking frogs before taking a bow. Not everyone can be a prodigy, but in a warm, refreshing, beautifully told and illustrated story, loving what you do is enough of a reason to share it.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How do you think Hanna’s performance at the talent show differs from the other five violinists? How does her performance surprise her brothers?
  2. In what ways does Grandfather’s playing of the violin inspire Hanna?
  3. How does Hanna overcome her stage fright at the talent show?

song within my heartThe Song within My Heart by David Bouchard. Illustrated by Allen Sapp.  Red Deer Press, 2015

A grandmother guides her grandson through his first pow-wow. He hears the beating of the drums and the singing, but does not understand what they are saying. By urging him to listen and hear, the grandmother gently directs her grandson until he finds the stories and an understanding of his culture. With her warm presence and thoughtful words, the boy’s grandmother, his nokum, grounds her grandson in the history and present of this First Nations experience as well as leads him into his future, encouraging her grandson to own his “stories, songs, and beating heart.” Written in both English and Cree, this story showcases the stunning, brilliant colored and evocative artwork by renowned Cree artist Allen Sapp. Poetic, tender, and informative, the paintings and text are based on Sapp’s memories of being raised by his grandmother on the Red Pheasant reservation in Saskatchewan.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Why do you think the story is written in two languages — English and Cree? Why do you think the larger grey-colored words are included?
  2. How does the beating drum tell the story of an individual boy and of his people? How do the illustrations and captions improve your understanding of the story?How does listening to the CD increase your understanding of the story?
  3. Why do you think Nokm tells her grandson to value the songs and stories more than toys, clothes, jewels, or cars, and other material things?

Find more resources for Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin and Song Within My Heart for TeachingBooks.net.

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Look Around in Wonder: December 2016 Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers

November 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | 2016-2017 | December - (Comments Off on Look Around in Wonder: December 2016 Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers)

happy in our skin smallIcon for Babies Toddlers & PreschoolersHappy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin. Illustrated by Lauren Tobia. Candlewick Press, 2015

“Look at you! You look so cute in your brand-new birthday suit. This is how we all begin: small and happy in our skin.” And skin, whatever beautiful color it comes in “keeps the outsides out and your insides in … When you fall, your skin will heal with a scab, a perfect seal.” A simple, rhyming text affirms both universality and uniqueness within the human family when it comes to skin: how it looks, what it does. The joyful narrative’s message is amplified by illustrations focusing on a mixed race family as part of a diverse-in-every-way, vibrant community. The light-skinned parent in the family is a woman; the Black parent’s gender is open to interpretation.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Try these early literacy activities with children:

  • Talk: Name your skin color. For instance, are you cocoa brown, cinnamon, honey brown, ginger, peaches and cream or something else entirely?
  • Sing: Head Shoulders Knees and Toes
  • Write: Draw a picture of yourself.
  • Math or Science: Explore your 5 senses, especially touch.

waitingWaiting by Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2015

Childhood is full of waiting. It turns out childhood toys spend a lot of time waiting, too. An owl with spots waits for the moon, a pig with an umbrella waits for the rain, a bear with a kite waits for the wind, a puppy on a sled waits for the snow, and a rabbit with stars looks out the window in which they all sit, happy to be just be watching. Some waiting is easily fulfilled—the moon shows itself often. Some waiting stretches on and on. But there are always new things to see, occasional visitors, and sometimes delightful surprises. Kevin Henkes’s lyrical picture book is a graceful and perfect interplay between words and images. The finely paced narrative expresses and extends the sense of possibility in waiting, whether attached or unattached to expectation. The soft, muted illustrations expand on that possibility, further illuminating how the quiet between big moments is as important as the moments themselves. Time is measured in the repeated refrain of a four-paned window, through which seasons change and change again. Highly Commended, 2016 Charlotte Zolotow Award  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Try these early literacy activities with children:

  • Talk: What are each of the toys waiting for? Are they waiting for different things or the same thing?
  • Sing: If You’re Happy and You Know It. Replace “happy” with a word that describes one of the toy’s feelings.
  • Write: What shapes can you find in the clouds? What shapes can you find (or make) in the snow?
  • Play: Play Mother, May I? How long do you have to wait to do what you ask to do?
  • Math or Sciences: Play the waiting game. Count while you wait. How long do you wait for snack? For friends? For holidays?

global baby bedtimesGlobal Babies: Bedtimes by Maya Ajmera. A Global Fund for Children Book. Charlesbridge, 2015

Babies love seeing other babies. So what could be more appealing than the sight of one sleeping baby? How about a book that shows 18 sleeping babies from countries around the world? Following the format of earlier books in the Global Babies series, this board book features a photograph of a sleeping baby (and in one case, twins) on every page. A very brief rhyming text points out that babies everywhere sleep, whether in a crib or on a floor, on the back or in the arms of someone who loves them. Every photograph is labeled with the country in which the baby pictured lives.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Try these early literacy activities with children:

  • Talk: Where do you sleep?
  • Sing: Sing a lullaby
  • Write: Tell a story about one of the babies in the book.
  • Play: Tuck a baby doll into bed.
  • Math or Science: Explore textures. What’s soft? What’s scratchy?

Try these poems:

Lullaby and Kisses Sweet: Bedtime section

Find more resources for Global Babies: Bedtimes, Waiting and Happy in Our Skin at TeachingBooks.net!

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Find Some New Favorites: December 2015 Titles

November 30th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in 2015-2016 | December - (Comments Off on Find Some New Favorites: December 2015 Titles)

http://readon.education.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/chengdu-e1440433541438.jpg

It Is Night and Chendu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep

Frida and The Scraps Book

viva frida

 

http://readon.education.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/what-the-moon-said-e1440431906617.jpggreat american dust bowl

 

 

 

 

http://readon.education.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/great-greene-heist001-e1440433505528.jpg

 

House of Purple Cedar

 

 

 

 

 

 

So many favorites books this month! What the Moon Said and The Great Greene Heist would make great read aloud books heading into the winter break or a great read for winter break. Toddlers will want to read and re-read It is Night and Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep. Kids of all ages will linger over the creative imagery in Frida and The Scraps Book. Get a new perspective on historical fiction with the graphic novel from Don Brown, The Great American Dust Bowl, and Choctaw storyteller, Tim Tingle’s House of Purple Cedar. Click on the covers above to read the CCBC annotation of that book and find classroom and library resources for the titles.

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Powerful and Beautiful: December 2015 High School Title

November 15th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in 2015-2016 | December | High School - (Comments Off on Powerful and Beautiful: December 2015 High School Title)

house of purple cedarHouse of Purple Cedar by Tim Tingle. Cinco Puntos Icon_HighSchoolPress, 2014 (c2013).

In 1967, Rose is an old woman looking back on her childhood in Skullyville, Oklahoma, in 1897, in a novel that moves back and forth between Rose, her family and Choctaw community, and residents of the nearby town of Spiro. Among them is the marshall, a man who is despised by Choctaw and whites alike. His cruelty is often random, as when he strikes Amafo, Rose’s grandfather, at the train station one day. Amafo turns the other cheek, and in doing so finds allies among some of the whites in Spiro while leading his community away from confrontation. Tim Tingle writes beautifully and deeply about love and forgiveness as antidotes to violence and hatred in a novel that also doesn’t ignore hard realities. Sometimes bringing the truth into the light isn’t enough; sometimes you have to fight back with violence. This is illuminated not only through what happens to Rose and her community but also through the lives of several women in Spiro, one of them the marshall’s wife, who has endured his beatings for years. The power of family, of community and connection, and of love and compassion to transcend divides — among individuals, across cultures, between the living and the dead — is profound and hopeful in a story that is, above all, about the human heart. The tense plot unfolds through characters drawn with astonishing depth and subtlety, their actions and interactions richly revealing. Solace for Rose’s community is also found in both Christianity and in spiritual experiences imbedded in their culture, the two seamlessly reconciled in their lives.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Decisions to perform acts of violence and nonviolence play a pivotal role in the course of the book. For example, Amafo’s response to the marshall’s attack was deliberate. Argue how this was or wasn’t an effective strategy.
  2. Explain the significance of the title, House of Purple Cedar.
  3. Find two examples of symbolism in this novel. Explain the importance of each to the narrative arc of the story or development of a character.
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The Ultimate Middle School Heist Novel for December 2015!

November 15th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in 2015-2016 | Middle School | December - (Comments Off on The Ultimate Middle School Heist Novel for December 2015!)

great greene heist001The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson. Arthur A. Books for Middle School AgeLevine Books / Scholastic, Inc., 2014.

When Jackson Greene learns classmate Keith Sinclair is trying to steal the election for eighth grade class president—with the help of the principal no less!—he steps up. It might not be the noblest of intentions that convinces him to get involved, but it’s not wholly selfish, either. Jackson’s friend Gaby de la Cruz is Keith’s opponent. Although they had a falling out, Gaby is still someone Jackson likes—a lot—while her twin brother, Charlie, is his best friend. And then there’s the fact that outsmarting Keith and the principal means running a con, something Jackson happens to like doing, and is very, very good at. But he can’t do it alone, so he and Charlie put together a team, each member with specific skills necessary to complete their part of a plan that involves technology, psychology, and a series of carefully crafted interactions. Varian Johnson’s entertaining tale has all the machinations of the best con games, but is set against the backdrop of a contemporary middle school. Johnson’s intentionally diverse cast of characters feels natural rather than heavy-handed in a story of humor and hijinks featuring a winning African American protagonist who, it turns out, is carrying on family tradition.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. This book is a classic con or heist story. Different genre elements are present in Great Greene Heist that make it recognizable as a heist or con story. What are some things that make this book fall into the heist genre?
  2. Some passages in this book make Keith seem sympathetic. Provide some examples of this from the book. Did you ever feel sorry for him? Why or why not?
  3. Jackson is a student, a friend and a con man. What qualities does Jackson possess that makes him a good con man? What are some qualities that Jackson a good friend?
  4. Do you agree with the actions that Jackson takes to help his friend? Why or why not? Is it ever okay to break rules?
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The Great Depression in Fiction and Nonfiction: December 2015 Intermediate 3-5

November 15th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2015-2016 | December - (Comments Off on The Great Depression in Fiction and Nonfiction: December 2015 Intermediate 3-5)

what the moon saidWhat the Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren. Penguin Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readersGroup, 2014.

After Esther’s father loses his job in Chicago during the Depression, the family manages to buy a small farm in Wisconsin. Her immigrant parents include her warm German father and her more emotionally distant, Russian-born mother. In fact, Esther’s mother is so distant that Esther sometimes wonders if her mother loves her, especially because she seems much more affectionate with Esther’s siblings. As the family adjusts to rural life, Esther makes a good friend in Bethany, and loves her new teacher at the small school. But superstitious Ma soon forbids Esther from spending time with Bethany because of her new friend’s mole, which Esther’s mother believes is a devil’s mark. Soon Esther can’t help but blame a lot of the family hardship on her mother, especially as the Depression continues to bear down and makes their future on the farm she’s come to love uncertain. There’s an old-fashioned sensibility to this story that goes beyond its setting and time period. The storytelling itself, with several dramatic plot elements leading to revelations, has the feel of a piece from an earlier time. But if there is a sense of predictability, it comes with comfort and great satisfaction, even as Esther’s story ends happily but not in the prefect way she might have wished.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Before reading: Do you have any superstitions?
  2. What is Esther’s life like on the farm? How is it different from her siblings?
  3. How does Ma’s background affect Esther?
  4. How is Esther different in the beginning of the story from the end of the story? How is Ma different?

The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown. Houghton Mifflin,great american dust bowl 2013.

“It fell across our city like a curtain of black rolled down. We thought it was our … doom.” Don Brown’s informative and affecting graphic novel look at the Dust Bowl examines its causes and effects from the perspective of both science and social history. He covers the geologic history of the Plains, and the changing ways people and animals used the land. When the grasslands were stripped to plant crops to meet the European food shortage during World War I, farmers were living high. Then prices fell, the Great Depression struck, and a drought hit. The stage was set for ecological and human disaster. Brown’s writing is straightforward and spare, at times poetic as he takes readers through the years of the Dust Bowl, sharing dramatic and painful experiences of people who lived during the devastating time. His poignant illustrations are heavily shaded in dusty tones of brown and yellow. Readers can see and feel the heat of the sun and the thickness of the dust, as well as the weight of worry, fear, and despair in the bodies and faces of people and animals alike. A final page spread discusses droughts that have taken place in the Plains since the 1930s (most recently in 2012), and offer a selected bibliography and source notes for quoted material. (MS) ©2013 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What do you think the author wanted you to know about the dust bowl? What are some of the things he included in the text and the images to tell you that?
  2. How did the illustrations help tell the story?
  3. How does the graphic novel format differ from other informational text formats? What are the benefits of the graphic novel format in relaying information?

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Explore the Artistic Life: December 2015 Primary Titles

November 15th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Primary (Grades K-2) | 2015-2016 | December - (Comments Off on Explore the Artistic Life: December 2015 Primary Titles)

scraps bookThe Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life by Primary Icon of a White-Tailed DeerLois Ehlert. Beach Lane Books, 2014.

Lois Ehlert’s creative journey began in early childhood and continues today. Here she offers an open, inviting look at some of her own work as an artist creating books for children. Page spreads dazzle with Ehlert’s colorful collage art, including images from some of her best-known books along with a brief, friendly narrative about where the idea came from and how it developed. There is a scrapbook feel to the assorted illustrations, personal photographs, and notes in an offering that is a collage both visually, and in the content that combines insight into her personal journey as an artist with information about how her art and her books take shape. Inspiration can come from everywhere. Chaos can lead to beautiful creations. This treasure trove feels like a love letter to the beauty all around us, and encourages young artists to “find your own spot to work and begin.” (MS) ©2014 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find resources at TeachingBooks.net

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Before reading: What do you like to create or make?
  2. How did the author’s parents help her to become an artist? Show examples from the text.
  3. Where does the author get ideas and materials for the picture books she writes and illustrates?
  4. What kind of art technique does the author/illustrator use? How is this described in the book in text and in images?

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales. Photographs by Tim O’Meara. A Nealviva frida Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press, 2014.

Yuyi Morales’s playful, lush, elegant, heartfelt picture book about artist Frida Kahlo concludes with an author’s note titled “My Frida Kahlo,” which begins: “When I think of Frida Kahlo, I think of orgullo, pride. Growing up in Mexico, I wanted to know more about this woman with her mustache and unibrow. Who was this artist who had unapologetically filled her paintings with old and new symbols of Mexican culture in order to tell her own story?” The note itself is an informative and loquacious conclusion to a work that is linguistically spare, visually complex, and emotionally rich and stirring. Morales’s illustrations combine photographs of three-dimensional tableaus she created featuring hand-crafted puppets representing factual elements of Kahlo’s life, including the child-friendly details of Kahlo’s pet deer and monkey, and paintings that reference Kahlo’s own work, representing elements of her vivid creative life as expressed through her art. The bilingual text is a series of simple statements in Kahlo’s voice, which concludes, “I love / and create / and so / I live!”  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Resources from TeachingBooks.net

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Before reading: What verbs would you use to describe yourself?
  2. The author uses strong verbs to describe Frida? What do you learn about her?
  3. What do you learn about Frida from the illustrations?
  4. This book is written in both English and Spanish? Why do you think the author writes in both languages?
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