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Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshall by Vaunda Nelson Micheaux. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Carolrhoda, 2009

Bass Reeves was big, tall, and strong, wore a bushy mustache, and rode a powerful horse. “But the biggest thing about Bass Reeves was his character. He had a dedication to duty few men could match. He didn’t have a speck of fear in him. And he was as honest as the day is long.” As a young enslaved man in the 1840s, Bass hit his owner. To avoid death, he ran away to Indian Territory, where he lived on the run until after the Civil War. Eventually Bass became a U.S. deputy marshal for the territory, where he gained a reputation for his sharpshooting and clever use of disguises. His capture rate was high, and he was both respected and hated by the people of the time. Criminals didn’t want Bass tracking them down, and “some whites didn’t like the notion of a black man with a badge.” Striking oil illustrations capture both the dignity of the man and the drama of his job. A glossary, timeline, list of further reading, and additional information about Indian Territory and the judge under whom Bass Reeves worked are included in the final pages. CCBC Categories: Biography and Autobiography  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Tua and the Elephant by R.P. Harris. Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. Chronicle Books, 2012

Tua is at the market when she stumbles upon a young elephant being cruelly treated by the petty thieves who won the pachyderm in a poker game. Once the men fall asleep, smart, capable Tua frees the elephant and leads her through the bustling Thai city of Chiang Mai. They end up at the house of Tua’s Auntie Orchid, a flamboyant actress who barely bats an eye at the beast’s arrival, not even after the elephant, whom Tua names Pohn-Pohn, opens the refrigerator in search of food. But it’s clear Auntie Orchid’s house isn’t a good elephant refuge, especially when the two thieves show up at the door. A narrow but successful escape has Tua leading the elephant through the city and into the countryside, where she hopes to reach an elephant sanctuary, with the slightly bumbling, slightly menacing thieves hot on her trail. Great descriptive writing combines with lots of action in R. P. Harris’s fresh, whimsical tale full of humor and warmth, not the least of which is the tenderness between Tua and Pohn-Pohn. Beautiful book design—including two-color illustrations in purple and gold—add to the pleasure of this lively story that would make a great read-aloud.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre. Illustrated by Rafael Rosado. First Second, 2012

Bold Claudette wants to slay the legendary, baby-feet-eating giant that threatens her town. Sure, the Marquis built a fortress to protect them (at taxpayer expense, Claudette notes), but what kind of a solution is that? She convinces her best friend Marie, an aspiring princess, and her timid little brother Gaston, an aspiring chef, to join her on a quest to kill the giant. The Marquis rallies a group of men in town to form a search party to go after them, but the children prove far more adept in their quest to reach Giant’s Peak than the men prove in saving them. Once there, the children discover the story as they heard it isn’t quite true: It turns out the giant is just a baby who likes to tickle feet, not eat them. Rafael Rosaldo’s spirited, full-color graphic novel is full of humor and action, as well as doses of social satire and a welcome dismissal of traditional gender roles.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Buffalo Bird Girl:  A Hidatsa Story by S.D. Nelson. Abrams, 2012

“My name is Buffalo Bird Woman, Waheenee, and my people are known as the Hidatsa. When I was young, they called me Buffalo Bird Girl—after the little brown bird that lives on the prairies of the Great Plains.” In a beautifully realized work, S.D. Nelson pairs a narrative written in the first-person voice of Buffalo Bird Woman looking back on her childhood with illustrations and documentary photographs—including one of Buffalo Bird Woman–showing dimensions of nineteenth-century Hidatsa life. The mix of illustrations and photographs works wonderfully. Nelson’s striking paintings reflect scenes described in the narrative, which are punctuated with occasional black-and-white photos showing these elements in real life. In an author’s note Nelson describes personal memories that echo some of the traditions described by Buffalo Bird Woman. He goes on to tell more about Buffalo Bird Woman, including the published works about her life on which she collaborated and from which he drew in writing his narrative. He also discusses the Hidatsa people, past and present. A time line, notes, and a bibliography are also provided. (MS) ©2013 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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

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

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

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

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

Finders Keepers by Shelley Tougas. Roaring Brook Press, 2015

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

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

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

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

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

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At every age level, the books this month are excellent read alouds or books to share with a group. Simple sounds and science fill the Babies, Toddlers, and Preschooler books, Hurry Home, Hedgehog! and Water is Water— by Wisconsin author, Miranda Paul!

 

 

 

 

 

The primary titles, It’s Only Stanley and When Otis Courted Mama, have amazingly imaginative and instructive language.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mysteries, family and community are at the heart of the Intermediate titles, Finders Keepers and Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Middle School title, Cinder, is a clever take on a sci-fi version of classic fairy tale, Cinderella — entertaining while raising interesting questions.

Finally, high school title, Patrick Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here is a witty commentary on young adult fiction, asking what is life like for the kids stuck at the same school as the overly heroic or tragic or magical characters in some recent ya novels.

 

Click on an image to learn more about the book! Or, search below for resources and discussion questions for the titles as May approaches.

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Between Cultures: April ROW Books Explore Immigrant and Refugee Experiences

March 25th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | Primary (Grades K-2) | 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | Middle School | High School | April - (Comments Off on Between Cultures: April ROW Books Explore Immigrant and Refugee Experiences)

Refugee, immigrants, migrants: these have become every day terms in recent months, as major news stories, in political arenas, and across social media. How do we talk to children and teens about the immigrant and refugee experience?  Fortuitously and incidentally, many of the Read On Wisconsin April 2017 titles, chosen last May, explore lives caught between cultures and countries. This might be the perfect time to share these titles with children, teens, parents, other teachers and librarians and school and public administration. Click on the link below to learn more about the book and for Wisconsin teacher- and librarian-created discussion questions:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Explore more titles on related subjects with bibliographies from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), including

50 Books about Peace and Social Justice, Civic Engagement Selected K-5 Books for Reflecting on One’s Place in the World, 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know30 Multicultural Books Every Teen Should Know

Learn more about —  Refugees and migrants: “The two terms have distinct and different meanings, and confusing them leads to problems for both populations.” — including international terminology, policies and programs at The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Find more resources for these titles at TeachingBooks.net

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Refugees and Migrants: April 2017 Intermediate

March 17th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | April - (Comments Off on Refugees and Migrants: April 2017 Intermediate)

Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago. Illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. Translated from the Spanish by Elisa Amado. Groundwood Books / House  of Anansi Press, 2015

“When we travel, I count what I see … One little bored donkey and fifty birds in the sky … the people who live by the train tracks.” A singular and extraordinary picture book pairs the matter-of-fact of a voice of a young girl giving a childlike accounting of the journey she and her father are taking with detailed color illus-trations that show the context and content of their travels. They are journeying away from their home and toward some unknown that surely represents safety, and, one can imagine, freedom and opportunity. However, none of this is stated in a narrative firmly grounded in the child’s voice. From riding atop her father’s shoulders to crossing a river on a raft, sitting on top of a train car to sleeping in the back of a pickup truck, the challenges and potential dangers of their travels are revealed through the art, in which the warmth between father and child is also apparent. So, too, is the weight of the father’s worry, although he is clearly trying to keep it from being her burden, too. Tender, heartbreaking, exceptional, this volume concludes with a note about the movement of refugees across Central America and Mexico toward the United States.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What significance do rabbits play in this story? What other animals have significant roles in the story? What do those animals represent?
  2. Why do you think the girl overlooked how difficult her family situation was?
  3. Use the question at the back of book: What do those of us who have safe comfortable lives owe to people who do not?

A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord. Scholastic Press, 2015

Lily has never given much thought to the migrant workers who harvest blueberries in her Maine community. Then she meets Salma Santiago, and they become friends. When Salma, with Lily’s support, decides to enter the local Blueberry Queen contest—the first migrant child ever to do so—Lily’s friend Hannah offers to help, despite also being in the competition. In the hands of a less skilled author, this premise would turn into mean girl drama, but Cynthia Lord is sure-handed in a novel that focuses first and foremost on the deepening friendship between Lily and Salma but doesn’t freeze out Hannah. Lily, whose single mother died when she was two, wants her tightly contained world to be fixable when it isn’t predictable. She’s saving money so her dog, Lucky, can have cataract surgery, because she is convinced he’s miserable. Salma can’t control many things about her life, but her family is a reassuring constant. The same is true of Lily’s grandparents, but Lily misses not having a mother. Nuanced, fully realized characters and a well-developed story arc distinguish this quiet, satisfying novel in which Lily begins to see her life not in terms of what is missing, but rather what she has.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Why is it good to try new things? Why is it good to let other things go? Give some examples from the book of a time that a character tried something new? Let go?
  2. What did you learn about where your food comes from? How did the migrant lifestyle impact each girl’s life?
  3. What does each girl learn from the other?

Find discussion guides and more resources for Two White Rabbits and A Handful of Stars at TeachingBooks.net!

Refugees and migrants: “The two terms have distinct and different meanings, and confusing them leads to problems for both populations.” Learn more from The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

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Propensity for Poetry?: April 2017

March 15th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | Primary (Grades K-2) | 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | Middle School | High School | April - (Comments Off on Propensity for Poetry?: April 2017)

Plenty of poetry for National Poetry Month! Here at Read On Wisconsin, our fabulous Literacy Advisory Committee chose a variety of poetry books including novels and memoirs in verse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, on the list of book suggestions this month are picture books, chapter books, and young adult fiction. Many of the books, chosen last May, explore lives caught between cultures and countries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers, try these lively titles for making, baking, building or construction themes in story or circle time. The amazing Bulldozer’s Big Day offers excellent early literacy opportunities with machine sounds and word play.

 

 

 

 

 

Find curated resources for all of these titles at TeachingBooks.net!

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Take a Peak at ROW March 2017 Titles

February 21st, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | Primary (Grades K-2) | 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | Middle School | High School | March - (Comments Off on Take a Peak at ROW March 2017 Titles)

Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers: Family! Books about family from a newly living-in grandparent to adjusting to new siblings to all types of families! Also, language and math concepts in this month’s books for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What could art and insects possibly have to do with one another? In the March 2017 Primary books, both are presented in ways that ask young readers to think differently about the subject. Creative and engaging, these titles are winners!

 

 

 

Intermediate titles in March embrace sports buzz! Learn about the origin of the “fast break” and the coach who introduced it to the game in John Coy’s Game Changer . Find out whether a love of baseball can bring a grieving family together in Wendy Wan-Long Shang’s The Way Home Looks Now.

 

 

 

March Middle School titles offer riveting nonfiction about a group of student resistors during WWII and historical fiction set in Berlin during the Cold War. These books will start some conversation on how governments challenge and control people’s freedoms and possible responses.

 

 

 

 

An engrossing look at U.S. government deception of the American public throughout our involvement in Vietnam, and Daniel Ellsberg’s efforts to make that deception—chronicled in the Pentagon Papers—public.

Part political thriller, part American primer, Sheinkin’s account be-comes even more riveting as it follows the release of the story in the Times, a court injunction to stop publication of additional stories in that paper, and Ells-berg, hiding from federal authorities, getting additional copies into the hands of one major paper after another.

 

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March 2017 Intermediate

February 20th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | March - (Comments Off on March 2017 Intermediate)

Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game by John Coy. Illustrated by Randy DuBurke. Carolrhoda, 2015

In 1944, the Duke University Medical School basketball team played a secret game against five members of the Eagles from the North Carolina College of Negroes in defiance of segregation laws. The match was arranged by Eagles coach John McLendon, who had an African American father and Delaware Indian mother, and believed an interracial game could help erase prejudice. The Eagles blew out Duke with a final score of 88 to 44, dominating the play with their new fast-break attacking style. A second game of shirts and skins followed, with players from both teams mixing to make a more evenly matched competition. In a post-game gathering at the Eagles’ dormitory, all players agreed to keep the game secret in order to protect one another and Coach McLendon from legal liability or social retribution. A concluding sentence of this captivating story pays tribute to Coach McLendon and the players of both teams who “were years ahead of their time” on the road to athletic racial integration.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What was the significance of these two teams playing together? Why was it important for this game to be secret?
  2. Why do you think the author titled this book “Game Changer”? What are some of the different meanings of “game changer” in the book?
  3. Have you ever changed your assumptions about someone once you got to know them?
  4. Why do you think the illustrator changed the style of the art after the game?

The Way Home Looks Now by Wendy Wan-Long Shang. Scholastic Press, 2015

Peter’s Taiwanese American family is struggling since the death of his older brother, Nelson. Peter, Nelson, and their mother shared a love of baseball, so Peter tries out for a team in hopes it will spark his mother’s interest, since she’s so sad she rarely leaves the couch. But it’s Ba who gets involved, volunteering to coach Peter’s team. Angry that his father, who argued with Nelson about the Vietnam War, can’t make things at home better, Peter is now embarrassed by him as a coach. But turns out Ba has been paying attention to baseball—he even played as a boy—and to what’s happening at home more than Peter knew. A novel grounded in the perspective of a child in a family working through grief also succeeds as an accessible, engaging sports story, one that addresses changing social norms in the 1970s.When one of the team’s best players, Aaron, turns out to be Erin—a girl—parents threaten to pull their sons from the team. Ba leaves it up to the kids to decide if she should stay. Meanwhile, there are moments when Peter’s mother shows a spark, but baseball is not a magic cure. Time, says Ba. Nuanced characters, including Peter’s mother and Nelson, both developed in flashbacks, are among the story’s many strengths. (MS) ©2015 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How do the different characters handle grief?
  2. How does baseball bring people together in this story? How does it change their views of each other?
  3. How did you feel when you learned Erin was a girl?

Find more resources at TeachingBooks.net.

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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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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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Perspective and Perseverance: January 2017 Intermediate

December 15th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | January - (Comments Off on Perspective and Perseverance: January 2017 Intermediate)

marvelsThe Marvels by Brian Selznick. Scholastic Press, 2015

Almost the first two-thirds of this hefty novel is told through black-and-white illustrations depicting generations of the Marvels, a theater family in England, from 1766 to 1900. A jump to 1990 begins the prose narrative in which Joseph, cold, wet, and sick, arrives on the doorstop of his Uncle Albert’s Victorian home in London after running away from boarding school. He doesn’t really know Uncle Albert, but Joseph’s parents are traveling outside the country, so he stays. Uncle Albert’s neighbor, a girl named Frankie, strikes up a friendship with Joseph, and the two of them begin trying to string together information about a famous theater family, the Marvels, who clearly once lived in the house, which is a living museum in their honor. There are personal belongings and even letters to be found in rooms that are staged like tableaus. Uncle Albert won’t talk about them, which makes Joseph and Frankie even more curious: How are the Marvels connected to Uncle Albert, and to Joseph? When finally revealed, the answer is bitter for Joseph. But for Joseph and for readers, too, it becomes bittersweet, and then wonderful, a tribute to the power of story, and the gifts of imagination, friendship, and love. Brian Selznick moves back and forth between prose and visual narrative in the final third of a novel that concludes with an extensive and fascinating author’s note about the two men and the house that were the real-life inspiration for the story.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How do Joseph’s actions affect his uncle’s life?
  2. How does perspective in the illustrations help tell the story? (Distance: close-up and far away)
  3. How do the different characters deal with death?
  4. Brian Selznick chose to tell this story in alternating illustrations and prose, or text. Why do you think he uses both mediums? What story do each of these mediums tell? Why do you think he alternates between the illustrations and the text?

irasshakespearedreamIra’s Shakespeare Dream by Glenda Armand. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Lee & Low, 2015

Ira Alridge’s dream of performing Shakespeare was difficult for a young African American man to achieve in early 19th-century America. Despite his obvious talent, his father urged him to forgo acting and put his vocal skills to use as a minister. Instead, Ira became a cabin boy on a cargo ship heading to South Carolina, where he narrowly escaped being sold into slavery. Ira signed on as a valet to British actors James and Henry Wallack for their voyage home. Once in England, he worked in theaters running errands and as an understudy, all while studying acting. His perseverance paid off, and by the 1840s he was considered “one of the most celebrated Shakespearean actors in Europe.” He spoke out against slavery in the U.S. and encouraged audience members to financially support abolitionists. Oil wash illustrations employ warm earth tones and soft edges to follow the evolution of Alridge’s career from eager school boy to mature professional, a welcome account.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Pre-reading question: Who was Shakespeare?
  2. How does perseverance help Ira achieve his dream?
  3. What problems does Ira want to solve by acting?
  4. Find examples in the story of individuals who take chances on Ira and protect him along the way.

Find teaching guides and other resources for The Marvels and Ira’s Shakespeare Dream at TeachingBooks.net.

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