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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

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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

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Community, Knowledge, Friends, Nature, Family! Themes of Love in February Titles

February 1st, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | Primary (Grades K-2) | 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | Middle School | High School | February - (Comments Off on Community, Knowledge, Friends, Nature, Family! Themes of Love in February Titles)

This month, Read On Wisconsin titles offer a wide range of subjects, characters, genres, and languages across our age-level groups. Books for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers include bilingual titles, Maya’s Blanket / La Manta de Maya and Squirrel Round and Round: A Bilingual Book of Seasons, in Spanish and Chinese for International Mother Language Day on February 21st.  Primary titles, New Shoes and Trapped!, while very different stories, illustrate how creative problem solving can help others. For Intermediate readers, Stella by Starlight and The Book Itch offer stories imbued with a love of words, family and community. Family, friends, and fate interweave around Valentine’s Day in the Middle School title, Goodbye Stranger. And, Printz Award-winning, Bone Gap, is a Midwestern fairy tale about strength, understanding, and kindness. 

Find descriptions, discussion questions or literacy activities, and resources for each title below by clicking on the book cover image. Find descriptions, discussion questions or literacy activities, and resources for each title below by clicking on the book cover image.

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Bilingual Books for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers: February 2017

January 25th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | 2016-2017 | February - (Comments Off on Bilingual Books for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers: February 2017)

Maya’s Blanket / La Manta de Maya by Monica Brown. Illustrated by David Diaz. Children’s Book Press / Lee & Low, 2015

Little Maya loves her manta (blanket), which was made by her abuelita. When the edges of the blanket fray from use, Abuelita helps Maya turn it into a vestido (dress). They later make the vestido into a falda (skirt), which they eventually sew into a rebozo (shawl), before turning it into a bufanda (scarf), and then a cinta (headband). When Maya gets her hair cut, she turns the cinta into a marcador de libros (bookmark). When she loses her bookmark, Maya realizes she can write the entire story down. And when she is grown with a little girl of her own, she tells that story to her. Based on a traditional Yiddish folk song, this lively contemporary story is grounded in Latino culture and told in both English and Spanish. Monica Brown’s engaging cumulative narrative seamlessly integrates Spanish words into the English text, defining them in context, while the cultural details and a wonderful, warm sense of family as Maya grows are brought into full visual relief in David Diaz’s richly hued illustrations that are both heartfelt and whimsical. Highly Commended, 2016 Charlotte Zolotow Award ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Share these early literacy activities with caregivers or add them in story time.

  • Talk: This book is in both English and Spanish. What other languages do you hear or speak?
  • Sing: Do you know any songs or poems in different languages? Sing one of these songs.
  • Write: Draw your favorite thing. Is it a blanket, pillow, or something else?
  • Play: Create a story about your favorite thing. Can you act out your story?
  • Math or Science: Make a blanket fort.

Squirrel Round and Round: A Bilingual Book of Seasons by Belle Yang. Candlewick Press, 2015

Squirrel Round and Round describes the changing landscape and activities of its inhabitants as a squirrel travels through the seasons of the year. The squirrel observes blooming camellias, noisy cicadas, ripe persimmons, and more as winter turns to spring then to summer and fall. The first frost and fresh tracks in the snow bring the squirrel back to winter. The book offers a rich vocabulary in English and Mandarin Chinese while attractive illustrations painted in impressionistic colors are simple yet detailed.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center.

Share these early literacy activities with caregivers or add them in story time.

  • Talk: What different animals live outside your house? Where do they live?
  • Sing: Listen for the sounds in your world. What sounds can you make? Do different languages make different sounds?
  • Write: Can you create Mandarin characters?
  • Play: Go outside and make some tracks.
  • Math or Science: How can you tell what season it is? Use all 5 senses.

Include some poetry: Changes: A Child’s First Poetry Collection: page 20 and Lullaby and Kisses Sweet: Firsts section

For more bilingual titles, try the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) bibliography, 50 Bilingual and Spanish/English Integrated Books, or search on the CCBC website.

Find more resources for Maya’s Blanket/La Manta de Maya and Squirrel Round and Round: A Bilingual Book of Seasons at TeachingBooks.net.

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Stories from History and from Nature: February 2017 Primary

January 25th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in Primary (Grades K-2) | 2016-2017 | February - (Comments Off on Stories from History and from Nature: February 2017 Primary)

New Shoes by Susan Lynn Meyer. Illustrated by Eric Velasquez. Holiday House, 2015

When Ella Mae, who’s always had hand-me-downs, goes shoe shopping for the first time, she’s eager to try on the pair of new saddle shoes she’d been eyeing in the window. But it turns out Black people aren’t allowed to try on shoes at the shoe store. Ella Mae’s mom traces Ella Mae’s foot on a piece of paper and they determine what size to buy based on the tracing. The experience diminishes the joy of new shoes for Ella Mae, but it also inspires her. She and a friend begin to do odd jobs for a nickel and a pair of outgrown shoes. They invest the money in polish and laces, scrub and shine the pairs they’ve collected, and invite anyone to come in and try them on before purchasing, asking for more old shoes as part of the price of payment to guarantee the goodwill can continue. A story set in the mid–20th century South underscores the unfairness of racism through a common childhood event. The story pulls no punches in describing how it feels to Ella Mae to be treated so unfairly. Ella Mae’s response is one that also underscores determination, generosity, and fairness. An author’s note provides additional historical context, as do the period illustrations.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Pre-Reading: What do you know about segregation?
  2. What happened in the shoe store? How do you think it made Ella Mae and her Mother feel?
  3. How do Ella Mae and her mother react to what happened in the shoe store?  What actions does Ella Mae take to change her experience of shoe shopping?
  4. How does the community benefit from Ella Mae’s and Charlotte’s creative solution?

 

Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue by Robert Burleigh. Illustrated by Wendell Minor. Charlesbridge, 2015

“The huge humpback whale dips and dives. Her sleek black sides shimmering, she spyhops, lobtails, flashes her flukes.” The whale becomes entangled in nets used for crab fishing. She struggles, tiring, before a team of divers arrives and embarks on a rescue mission. Will they free the whale in time to save her? Robert Burleigh’s tense, dramatic picture book narrative is based on an actual event that happened off the California coast in 2005. When the whale is finally freed, she swims past her rescuers and gently nudges each one, “as if saying thanks.” Wendell Minor’s gorgeous illustrations offer a variety of arresting perspectives of the whale and the divers in the sea in an account that concludes with additional information about the event on which it is based, as well as more about whales and whale rescues.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What roles do you think humans play in the whale’s story?
  2. How do you know whether or not the whale understands that the humans helped to free the whale?
  3. How do the illustrations show the difference between the whale feeling trapped and feeling free?
  4. What do you think are some of the words that the author uses to show the whale’s movement?

Find more great resources, including discussion guides, for New Shoes and Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue at TeachingBooks.net.

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Explore the Power of Words in Fiction and Nonfiction: February 2017 Intermediate

January 25th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | February - (Comments Off on Explore the Power of Words in Fiction and Nonfiction: February 2017 Intermediate)

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper. Atheneum, 2015

After 11-year-old Stella and her little brother, Jojo, see the burning cross and the men in white, members of the African American community in their small North Carolina town gather at Stella’s house to discuss the danger, but the rhythm of life continues: The kids go to school, the adults go about their work. When Stella’s dad, the preacher, and a neighbor named Mr. Spencer register to vote—a decision made after careful consideration and tense debate—the retaliation is swift and awful: Mr. Spencer’s house is set on fire. But neighbors rally, including a few whites, to care for the family. This strong, resilient community graces Sharon Draper’s compelling story set during the Depression with a profound sense of comfort. So, too, do the finely drawn characters. Stella, her family, and most of her neighbors feel like friends one can count on in a story grounded in Stella’s perspective. In addition to the racism that is a daily and unsettling part of life, Stella is facing a much more personal challenge, working hard to get better at writing. Although it doesn’t come easily, she is driven to improve, and this portrait of an emerging writer beginning to understand the power of putting words and ideas on paper is notable and gratifying.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How is Stella’s life different from the lives of the kids who live in town?
  2. How is her father’s involvement in voting an act of bravery? Have you seen your parents vote?
  3. Describe the Stella’s community. How do the people in her community support one another?
  4. How does it make you feel to see Stella’s writing process throughout the story? How have you seen your writing progress throughout the school year?

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Carolrhoda, 2015

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson revisits the topic of Lewis Michaux and the National Memorial African Bookstore that were the subject of her singular young adult novel No Crystal Stair, here introducing her great uncle and his Harlem store in a picture book told in the engaging fictionalized voice of Lewis Michaux’s son. Young Louie shares the history of the store, which his father could not get a bank loan to open because the banker believed “Black people don’t read.” And he shares a sense of the vibrant, vivid gathering place the store is, with its “zillion books” by Black people—African Americans, Africans—and others who aren’t white; with its many visitors from the famous (Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X) to the anonymous (the boy who spends every Saturday reading at the store); with its readings and rallies; a place of activism and action. Read to learn, his father tells him, and to learn how “to figure out for yourself what is true.” In the aftermath of Malcolm X’s death, Louie is comforted by his father’s reminder that “His words will never leave us.” And Louie thinks about the importance of words, and the importance of their bookstore as a place to find them in a picture book strikingly illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Nelson tells more about the store, which closed in 1975, and her personal connection, in end material that includes photographs and a bibliography. ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Pre-reading: Who was Malcolm X?
  2. Why do you think the author choose “Book Itch” as the title? What multiple meanings do you see for the word “itch” in the book?
  3. What do you think was the impact of the National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem? In the United States? Why do you think so many famous people visited the National Memorial African Bookstore?
  4. Is there a message in the end-pages that speaks to you?
  5. After reading: How was Malcolm X different from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? Why is each leader important?

Find discussion guides and more for Stella by Starlight and Book Itch at TeachingBooks.net!

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A Different Kind of Valentine’s Day Story: February 2017 Middle School

January 25th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Middle School | February - (Comments Off on A Different Kind of Valentine’s Day Story: February 2017 Middle School)

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead. Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2015

The structure of Rebecca Stead’s novel is complex and the connections are deep and rich between characters and across several storylines as she examines friendship, family, and love. Bridge’s best friends are Emily and Tab. Seventh grade brings changes and challenges as Emily likes an older boy named Patrick, who may or may not be reliable, and there’s fallout when a picture Emily sends him is widely shared, illuminating a sexist double standard that Tab doesn’t hesitate to point out. Bridge is still occasionally plagued by nightmares from when she was hit by a car in third grade; an accident that her new friend Sherm Russo remembers, too, although Bridge doesn’t know it. Meanwhile, Bridge’s brother is on the verge of losing yet another bet with his closest-but-not-so-nice friend, and Sherm is ignoring texts from his grandfather, with whom he was close until he left Sherm’s grandmother months before. Finally there is Tab’s older sister, Celeste, whose betrayal of her new friend Gina’s confidence to her old friend Vinny, whose mean streak is getting worse, has her mortified. While the three younger girls manage to be true to themselves and one another, Celeste and Bridge’s brother are realizing that sometimes you have to let a friendship go in a novel full of truths that will resonate with readers.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What makes Bridge and Sherm’s relationship so strong?
  2. A nurse says to Bridge, “You must’ve been put on this earth for a reason, little girl…” How does that affect Bridge’s decisions and actions? What do you think your own purpose is?
  3. What issues and themes in this book make it real for middle school readers?

Find a complete discussion guide here! More resources for Goodbye Stranger available at TeachingBooks.net!

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Midwestern Fairy Tale: February 2017 High School

January 25th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | High School | February - (Comments Off on Midwestern Fairy Tale: February 2017 High School)

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins, 2015

Teenage Finn is the only person in Bone Gap who believes Roza, a young woman relatively new to town, was abducted. Finn is sure Roza was a prisoner in the car he saw her riding in, but he can’t describe the driver. Everyone else thinks he made up the story and was in love with Roza. In truth, Finn’s older brother Sean is the one in love with Roza, and Finn feels increasingly frustrated by Sean’s distant behavior and seeming lack of concern: Sean clearly assumes Roza left Bone Gap—and him—of her own accord. When the point of view of this exquisitely written novel switches to Roza, who is, indeed, being held prisoner, the story takes on the overtones of a thriller, one that slips into the realm of magical realism as Roza’s storyline develops. Defying all boundaries, Laura Ruby moves assuredly back and forth between small town life in Bone Gap, where Finn is marked by loss that precedes the present events and finds unexpected friendship and solace in a developing relationship with classmate Petey, and Roza’s ever-more-complex history and situation. Roza is strikingly beautiful. Petey is often seen as remarkable for her lack of beauty. Neither woman can be defined by her appearance—one of the story’s many points. Themes of small town life, family, loss, love, evil, beauty, sexuality, power and its abuse all resound in a story that can be read, among many ways, as a feminist fairy tale. (MS) ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What is the connection between the characters’ emotions and the magical events in the story?
  2. Discuss the difference between Finn’s and Sean’s reactions to Roza’s disappearance.
  3. Is beauty always a good thing? How does Finn’s condition affect his ability to find beauty?
  4. What parallels can you find between Roza and Persephone from the Greek myth?

Find teaching guides and other resources for Bone Gap at TeachingBooks.net and book discussion guide from Balzer + Bray.

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ROW February 2016 Selections! Engaging Reads! Check Them Out Below!

February 1st, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | Primary (Grades K-2) | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2015-2016 | Middle School | High School | February - (Comments Off on ROW February 2016 Selections! Engaging Reads! Check Them Out Below!)

mouse who ate the moonmooncakes  grandma and the great gourdhttp://readon.education.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/little-roja-e1440433353684.jpgsugargracefully grayson port chicago 50      http://readon.education.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/shadow-hero-e1440432919341.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow! We’ve got super appealing, accessible books for children and young adults this February here at Read On Wisconsin! The Shadow Hero is a multi-layered graphic novel about a Chinese American super hero in 1940’s America sure to appeal to a wide array of readers from middle school through high school. We also have some absolutely riveting non-fiction from award-winning author, Steve Sheinkin. Port Chicago 50 is difficult to put down. And, those are just the high school selections.

Check out all of this month’s titles below. Click on the book cover image for the CCBC annotation of the book, links to resources from TeachingBooks.net, and discussion prompts or early childhood activities.  Tell us what you think of this month’s titles @ReadOnWI.

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Heroes Rule in these Riveting Non-fiction and Graphic Novel Titles: February 2016 High School

January 24th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2015-2016 | High School | February - (Comments Off on Heroes Rule in these Riveting Non-fiction and Graphic Novel Titles: February 2016 High School)

port chicago 50The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Icon_HighSchoolFight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin. Roaring Brook Press, 2014.

In the segregated military during World War II, Black sailors were responsible for loading munitions at Port Chicago on the San Francisco Bay. They were given no training in how to handle the dangerous cargo, and often felt pressure to increase their speed. On July 17, 1944, a tremendous explosion resulted in the deaths of 320 sailors on the dock and in the ships being loaded. In the aftermath, surviving Black sailors were soon ordered back to loading munitions. A group of them refused, saying they would obey any order but that one. They admitted they were afraid. And they were court martialed and found guilty of mutiny, sentenced to 15 years hard labor in prison. Steve Sheinkin offers a mesmerizing account of individuals and events surrounding the trial of the men who became known as the “Port Chicago 50,” revealing the impact of racism and segregation within the military at that time. The overtly racist Navy prosecutor aimed to show the men had conspired together ahead of time to refuse the order but there was no evidence of this in the testimony. Thurgood Marshall, then with the NAACP, sat in on the trail and appealed the guilty verdict, but the appeal failed: to reverse the decision would be to admit the original trial was unjust. Political and public pressure resulted in the men’s release from prison after sixteen months. They were allowed to resume work as sailors, some serving on ships as the Navy began to desegregate, but the mutiny convictions were never dropped despite recurring efforts over the decades. Sheinkin’s compelling narrative, clearly positioned on the side of social justice, draws on the full-transcripts of interviews done with members of the Port Chicago 50 in the 1970s as well as transcripts of the trial. These accounts and other research is thoroughly documented in an offering that is sure to evoke strong emotional responses among y.a. readers. (MS) ©2014 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Great resources for Port Chicago 50 available at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion questions:

  1. The first chapter in the book, “First Hero,” describes an African American naval kitchen worker who saves many lives during an air raid in 1941 at Pearl Harbor. In what ways does this story foreshadow the events and personal experiences during the Port Chicago 50 disaster?
  2. In the chapter “The Verdict,” the author describes the court proceedings against the Port Chicago 50. The author reports that testimony “ignited” the prosecutor’s “biggest tantrum” thus far (p. 137).   How do words like “ignited” and “tantrum” influence the reader’s perspective about the prosecutor and the court proceedings?   What feelings does the author elicit in the reader in using these descriptors? How would your reaction be different if the author had used the words “prompted” rather than “ignited” or “frustration” rather than “tantrum?’
  3. Have you or someone you know ever been in a situation where you needed to disagree with someone in authority? What were the consequences of that disagreement? How was that situation alike or different from the Port Chicago 50 situation? If you had been on that naval base, would you have continued to load ammunition or would you have joined the 50?   Why or why not?

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang.  First Second, 2014.shadow hero

The origins of the 1940s comic book hero Green Turtle are imagined in the story of Hank, a young Chinese American man whose mother is desperate he become a superhero, even exposing him to toxic chemicals and other possible mutation-causing agents. This is one of the many moments of high humor in a graphic novel also packed with action, moments of pathos, and social commentary. It’s his humble father’s murder that finally gives Hank a superpower: It turns out one of the four spirits of China — a tortoise — possessed Hank’s father and moves on to Hank when the father dies. The tortoise becomes Hank’s mentor, although he’s as acerbic and droll as he is wise. Hank discovers gangster Ten Grand is at the bottom of his father’s death, but Ten Grand’s daughter, Red Center, complicates his plans for revenge. There is so much to appreciate about this work, from the humor and action to the seamless way racism, sexism and stereotypes are laid bare. As impressive as the story itself is the extensive note about the original Green Turtle comic, developed by a cartoonist named Chu Hing for publisher Rural Home during World War II. Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew look at the facts and rumors and discuss their own theory on how Hing fought back against his publisher’s refusal to allow him to openly depict Green Turtle as Chinese American. The entire original comic is then reproduced, racism and all, they note, as they encourage readers to make up their own minds about Hing’s intentions in this absolutely entertaining work that openly invites critical thinking.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Great resources for The Shadow Hero available at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion questions:

  1. The book ends with a short history of the comic industry in the 1940s and, in particular, how a comic called “The Green Turtle” was created by an Asian American artist. In retrospect, how did this information influence your understanding of the story? Do you think it was necessary to provide this backstory? Did knowing this information change how you felt about the story? In what ways?
  2. This book examines issues of immigration and race in addition to crime and its consequences. How do the images in the book reinforce the story’s treatment of immigration and race? Examine the panels on page 118. In one image, Hank pulls his eyes into slits. How does this image reinforce the accompanying text and the story’s treatment of race? Do you think it adds or detracts from the text’s message? How?
  3. Some people believe graphic novels teach “visual literacy” whereby you examine the images in context with the text, rather than simply reading the text alone. How does the visual representation of immigration and race contribute to or detract from your understanding of these issues? Would your reaction be different had you simply read about it without pictures? Did you find the use of visuals and the graphic novel format effective in examining these issues? Why or why not?
  4. On page 118, the police detective calls the Chinese gang, “Those sneaky slant-eyed bastards.” How does his word choice reflect the time and place in which this story takes place? Why do you think the detective is surprised that the Green Turtle is also a “slant-eyed” bastard? Why do you think the author used those words to describe the criminals?
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Sensitive and Emotionally Compelling: February 2016 Middle School

January 24th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2015-2016 | Middle School | February - (Comments Off on Sensitive and Emotionally Compelling: February 2016 Middle School)

gracefully graysonGracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky. Disney Books for Middle School AgeHyperion, 2014.

Sixth grader Grayson hides his desire to wear dresses and skirts and other girls’ clothes from everyone but is finding it harder and harder. Grayson has no friends until new student Amelia arrives at their progressive private school. But their wonderful weekend forays to Chicago area thrift stores come to an end after Grayson tries on a skirt; Amelia isn’t amused. Then Grayson auditions for The Myth of Persephone at the urging of the wonderful Humanities teacher. Intending to read for the role of Zeus, at the last minute he decides to try out for Persephone. When Grayson gets the part, his aunt is furious, believing the teacher crossed a line (he did call their family first). Grayson’s parents died in a car accident when he was four, but the discovery of letters written by his mom are a revelation: As a preschooler, Grayson insisted he was a girl, and Grayson’s parents were trying their best to be supportive of Grayson’s expression of identity. Grayson begins wearing a pink heart shirt underneath a sweatshirt, and hanging out at play practice with the girls, who love to braid Grayson’s hair, all the while coming closer to speaking the truth once more: I am a girl. Threats from two older boys, and the ongoing anger of Grayson’s aunt — phobia cloaked in the guise of concern for Grayson — are challenges, but Grayson’s uncle is trying to do the right thing, while the teacher and the kids in the play take Grayson’s identity in stride in a sensitive, emotionally compelling debut novel from Amy Polonsky.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Check out the always fabulous resources from TeachingBooks.net for Ami Polonsky’s Gracefully Grayson.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How does Grayson different at the end of the story than from the beginning of the story? What are some turning points for Grayson?
  2. How did the adults in Grayson’s life react to him being in the play? What are the different adult perspectives? Why do you think the author shared these points of view?
  3. Discuss the relationship between Grayson and Mr. Finnegan.

Just for fun! Let us know what you think!

  1. If this book were made into a movie, which character would you want to be and why?
  2. If this book were made into a movie, who would you cast in what role and why?

Share your answer with us @ReadOnWI or join our Read On Wisconsin Google Community where tweens and teens can discuss the ROW monthly titles online. Or, any where on social media using #ROWmaple.

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Friendship, Family and Community during Reconstruction: February 2016 Intermediate 3-5

January 24th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2015-2016 | February - (Comments Off on Friendship, Family and Community during Reconstruction: February 2016 Intermediate 3-5)

sugarSugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Little, Brown, Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readers2013.

Five years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Sugar works in the sugarcane fields of a plantation on the Mississippi River. An orphan, Sugar abhors her name with its constant reminder of the crop that has defined her life in many hard ways. Although some of the recently freed slaves have headed north, those with the fewest resources—like Sugar—are stuck in the cane fields and inescapable poverty. A friendship with Billy, the son of the plantation owner, gives Sugar some pleasure and freedom in her daily life, but no one among Billy’s family or Sugar’s fellow workers approves of their relationship. When the plantation owner brings in a group of Chinese laborers to help with the harvest, the other African Americans feel threatened and resentful of the newcomers until Sugar makes the overtures that ultimately allow the two groups to find connections. This accessible and compelling tale, set at a time about which little has been written for children, focuses on the transformative power of compassion and humanity. While Billy’s attitudes may be unrealistically progressive for the era, they mark a sense of hope found in few African American books of historical fiction.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find resources for Sugar, including teaching guides, a book trailer, and more at TeachingBooks.net.

Something for everyone to discuss before reading the book:

  • Do you like your name? Why or why not?

Start some conversation about the book with these discussion prompts:

  1. Why does Sugar still feel like she is not free even though she is no longer a slave?
  2. What makes Billy seem as though he is also not free?
  3. Why is Sugar so able to make friends with people who are not like her?
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