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Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami. Illustrated by Julianna Swaney. Groundwood, 2016

Nine-year-old Yasmin visits Book Uncle’s Lending Library, located on a street corner near her apartment, every day. He calls her his Number One Patron. She usually borrows longer books, so the day Book Uncle suggests a picture book, she’s disappointed but politely accepts it. After she reads the story, about doves trapped in a hunter’s net working together to free themselves, she finds she can’t stop thinking about it. “How strange that such a skinny book can leave so many questions in my mind.” When Book Uncle is told by the city that he must shut down his library because he has no permit and can’t afford one, Yasmin is devastated. Then she’s determined. Together with her friends she draws attention to Book Uncle’s plight during the mayoral campaign, challenging the candidates to support Book Uncle and literacy, and finding out in the process that the current mayor was behind the lending library’s closure (he wanted to clean up the streets before his daughter’s marriage at a nearby fancy hotel). Engaging, child-centered, and often funny, this easy chapter book set in a large Indian city is also a primer in community activism for young children. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What are some of the ways that Yasmin’s community is the same as yours? What are some of the ways that it is different?
  2. What lessons does Yasmin learn about politics, activism, and standing up for someone who is being unfairly treated?
  3. Yasmin has a goal of reading one book each day. What are your goals for reading this year? Where does Yasmin get her books to read? Where do you get your books to read?

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Juana & Lucas by Juana Medina. Candlewick Press, 2016

Juana is a little girl living in Bogotá, Colombia. Lucas is her beloved dog. In a spritely conversational tone, Juana chats about the things she loves (her city, her dog, her abuelo, her best friend, Juli) and the things she doesn’t (her school uniform). Each one of these is accompanied by a diagram-style illustration that points out key factors (Abuelo’s love for chocolate, for example, and her uniform’s itchy skirt). Overall, Juana is a bubbly, happy girl. Then she starts having to learn “the English” in school. And she hates it. She asks everyone she trusts to give her a good reason to study English, sure they won’t come up with any. They all do, but only one of them convinces Juana it’s worth the effort: an upcoming family trip to Spaceland in Florida, where she can meet her hero, Astroman. The charming narrative, somewhat autobiographical, integrates Spanish words into the English text and is accompanied by amusing color illustrations on every page. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What are some of the ways that Juana’s community is the same as yours? What are some of the ways that it is different?
  2. How do the illustrations and text features (like the wrapped text, the bold words, and the labels on the character pages) add to the story?
  3. What are some of the challenges Juana faces and how does she overcome these challenges? What challenges have you faced?

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March: The Trilogy by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. Illustrated by Nate Powell. Top Shelf, 2013-2016

March: Book Three

The third and final volume of U.S. Congressman John Lewis’s graphic novel memoir opens with the Birmingham church bombing in September,1963,   in which four Black girls were murdered. At the time, Lewis was a leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the tragedy, and additional violence that followed, fueled SNCC’s increased voting rights efforts. Details of those efforts, and the work of activists like Fannie Lou Hamer and Bob Moses, are the focus here as Lewis describes individuals whose skill and passion, and grief and anger, found purpose in activism to change our nation. The narrative’s climax is the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Lewis states, “That day was the end of a very long road. It was the end of the movement as I knew it.” Lewis’s memories are again framed by the January, 2009, inauguration of Barack Obama. As in the two prior volumes, the conversational narrative is direct and powerful, and paired with black-and- white panel art and occasional full-page illustrations.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

March: Book Two

The second volume of this graphic novel memoir trilogy follows U.S. Congressman John Lewis’s activism and leadership in the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960s. Beaten, jailed, but steadfast and further politicized and energized during the Freedom Rides, he emerged into a leadership role in the Student Nonviolent Coordinator Committee (SNCC) as protests heated up in Birmingham early in 1963. It was in his SNCC role that he was involved in planning the March on Washington that year and to speak at the event, only to be asked to make last-minute changes to lines in his speech questioned as too divisive and critical. The direct, powerful conversational narrative is paired with dramatic black-and-white panel art and occasional full-page illustrations, and includes Lewis’s account of other key figures and their role in the sweeping social change taking place. Like March: Book One , President Obama’s 2008 inauguration provides a framing device in a volume that ends, tragically and poignantly, with the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham that killed four girls in September, 1963. The original draft of Lewis’s March on Washington speech is included in the end matter.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

March: Book One

As he gets ready to join the distinguished guests at the January, 2009, inauguration of Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States, Senator John Lewis recounts memories from his childhood and the early days of the Civil Rights Movement to a young family who stops by his office. Lewis, the son of Alabama sharecroppers, was hungry to learn as a child. He snuck away to his all-Black school on days when his help was needed in the fields. He started preaching as a boy and was attending divinity school in Nashville when he began training in nonviolent civil disobedience and participating in lunch counter sit-ins. The sense of unity in the face of racism and discrimination inspired and encouraged him, as did his fellow activists, many of them students like himself, and a preacher named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A powerful black-and-white graphic novel brings this first part of Lewis’s journey into vivid relief. Among the most powerful scenes is a series of panels in which the young activists must painfully hurl racist slurs and spit on one another as they prepare themselves to respond nonviolently to the hatred they will face.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How do protests today compare to those depicted in March? What are some similarities? What are some differences?
  2. Why was it so important for people fighting for Civil Rights to keep their protests nonviolent?
  3. What has been accomplished by the Civil Rights movement? What still needs to be accomplished today?
  4. What are the reasons that the authors chose the graphic novel format to tell John Lewis’s story?

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It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas. Clarion, 2016

Zomorod and her parents are in the United States for her dad’s job as an engineer working at a California oil company. Zomorod, who has chosen the Brady Bunch-inspired name “Cindy” at school, narrates an often funny and always insightful account of her life as an Iranian immigrant in the late 1970s (an era that is vividly and often delightfully realized here). Her father is openhearted and upbeat but her mother finds it difficult acclimating to their life in America. Struggling with English, she rarely leaves the house. Zomorod, like her dad, is happy. Despite often being mistaken as Latina by strangers (no one has heard of Iran), she also has good friends. Then the Shah of Iran is overthrown and Ayatollah Khomeni comes into power. The hostage crisis horrifies Zomorod’s family. So, too, do the oppressive religious restrictions under Khomeni’s rule. Meanwhile, everyone in America suddenly wants to know or has something to say about Iran. Zomorod’s mother finds purpose in helping other Iranians in their community feel less alone, but her dad loses his job and when he can’t find another he begins to lose hope as the family faces returning to their radically changed homeland. Dumas’s “semi-autobiographical” novel doesn’t shy away from the racism Zomorod and her family experiences. Yet her story is buoyed by this honesty, as well as the warmth of family, and the essential kindness of friendship. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center. (Ages 9-13)

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. In what ways is Cindy the caretaker for her family?
  2. How do generosity and kindness triumph over hate in the book?
  3. Cindy says books are her friends. Who are your best book friends?

Find more resources here

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Revisit the Excitement of the Olympics: September 2016 High School Title

August 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in September | 2016-2017 | High School - (Comments Off on Revisit the Excitement of the Olympics: September 2016 High School Title)

boys in the boat

The Boys in the Boat:  The True Story of an American Team’s Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics by Daniel James Brown. Adapted for young readers by Gregory Mone. Viking, 2015

The personal story of Joe Rantz and the collective story of the University of Washington rowers who became the U.S. gold-medal winning team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics are interwoven in this captivating work. Rantz grew up in a family hit hard by the Depression and by tragedy. On his own at age 15, he worked his way to Seattle, was admitted to the University of Washington, and tried out for the rowing program as it was beginning to excel. Unlike members of elite rowing teams from the east coast, Rantz and his fellow rowers were primarily working class young men and some, like Rantz, could take nothing for granted. The contrast when they traveled east for big races was obvious and undeniable, but their hard work, and developing teamwork under coaches committed to making them the best, eventually earned them the right to represent the country. This fine adaptation of a book originally published for adults will be satisfying on numerous levels for middle and high school readers, not the least of which is as a sports story with riveting accounts of numerous races.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find resources for The Boys in the Boat at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What was the biggest challenge that Joe and/or his team mates faced? Financial, family, academic, athletic?
  2. If this story were to happen today, what do you think would be different?
  3. This book is the story of an underdog coming out on top. What is it about these kinds of stories that readers find so appealing?

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Riveting Graphic Novels: September 2016 Middle School Titles

August 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in September | 2016-2017 | Middle School - (Comments Off on Riveting Graphic Novels: September 2016 Middle School Titles)

roller girlRoller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. Dial, 2015

Astrid Vasquez and her best friend Nicole can barely tolerate her mother’s regular Evenings of Cultural Enrichment until she surprises them with a roller derby match. For Astrid, it’s a life-changing experience: she’s hooked on roller derby, and is especially struck by the star player of the Rose City Rollers, Rainbow Brite. When she learns that there is going to be a roller derby summer camp for girls 12-17, she immediately signs up and assumes Nicole will, too. But Nicole has other plans for the summer. She wants to attend dance camp with Astrid’s long-time nemesis and Astrid feels betrayed. As Astrid go through hard weeks of training, leading up to a junior bout during the half-time of a pro roller derby game, she makes a new friend but still feels the sting of losing Nicole. Roller derby gives her an outlet for her anger as she discovers she has a fierce competitive streak. And when Astrid unintentionally hurts her new friend it’s an opportunity for self-reflection, but there’s plenty of roller derby action here, too, as novice skater Astrid gains skills and confidence but, realistically, never gets to be really good. Along the way, she gets some tips about finding her own inner strength through an on-going secret correspondence with her hero, Rainbow Brite, through notes she leaves and receives the Rose City Rollers locker room. This witty, original, and action-packed graphic novel was written and illustrated by a skater for the Rose City Rollers who is known by the name Winnie the Pow. As a result of her inside expertise, readers will get a good sense of the game and how it’s played, as well as unique aspects of derby culture.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Astrid and Nicole’s friendship changes throughout the book. Why is the change of a friendship not necessarily a bad thing?
  2. Why is being perseverant an important trait? How does Astrid demonstrate perseverance?
  3. What would you want to do for an “Evening of Cultural Enlightenment” activity? How would this compare to what your parents would suggest?

march book 2March: Book Two by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. Illustrated by Nate Powell. Top Shelf, 2015

The second volume of this graphic novel memoir trilogy follows U.S. Congressman John Lewis’s activism and leadership in the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960s. Beaten, jailed, but steadfast and further politicized and energized during the Freedom Rides, he emerged into a leadership role in the Student Nonviolent Coordinator Committee (SNCC) as protests heated up in Birmingham early in 1963. It was in his SNCC role that he was involved in planning the March on Washington that year and to speak at the event, only to be asked to make last-minute changes to lines in his speech questioned as too divisive and critical. The direct, powerful conversational narrative is paired with dramatic black-and-white panel art and occasional full-page illustrations, and includes Lewis’s account of other key figures and their role in the sweeping social change taking place. Like March: Book One , President Obama’s 2008 inauguration provides a framing device in a volume that ends, tragically and poignantly, with the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham that killed four girls in September, 1963. The original draft of Lewis’s March on Washington speech is included in the end matter.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Why was President Obama’s inauguration an important element of this story?
  2. How are civil rights struggles still relevant in our society today?
  3. What issues are important enough for you to risk everything?
  4. How did the illustrations add to the story? Why do you think the illustrator choose not to use color in his illustrations?

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Making a Difference in the World: September 2016 Intermediate Titles

August 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in September | 2016-2017 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) - (Comments Off on Making a Difference in the World: September 2016 Intermediate Titles)

one plastic bag smallOne Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul. Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. Millbrook Press, 2015

When Isatou Ceesay first noticed a piece of silky fabric on the ground in her Gambian community, she wasn’t sure what it was. “Plastic,” her Grandmother explains with a frown. Soon there is more. The bags are convenient but people discard them when they break. The litter is unsightly, and a hazard to livestock that eat it. It’s a problem that grows as Isatou reaches adulthood. Watching her sister crochet gives Isatou the idea to turn the worn bags into something useful again, and soon a group of women are transforming old plastic bags into purses after washing and cutting them into strips to crochet. The new bags are not only a solution to the litter problem but become a means of economic development in their community. Debut Wisconsin author Miranda Paul brings a storyteller’s gift for language and pacing to this picture book account based on real events and set against Elizabeth Zunon’s illustrations full of texture and color. An author’s note with more about Isatou and the ongoing initiative, pronunciation guide for the Wolof words incorporated into the narrative, timeline, bibliography, and color photographs are included in the end matter.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Pre-reading: What does your family do with plastic bags?
  2. Isatou show’s great persistence. Think of examples of other people whose perseverance impacted a broad group.
  3. How do you help your community? Does that also touch the global community?

tiger boyTiger Boy by Mitali Perkins. Illustrated by Jamie Hogan. Charlesbridge, 2015

Neel lives on one of the Sundarban islands off the coast of Bangladesh. Neel’s father has always said it’s important to protect the land and the tigers, so Neel is dismayed when Baba agrees to work for wealthy Mr. Gupta hunting a tiger cub that escaped from a nearby refuge. Everyone knows Mr. Gupta wants to sell the cub on the black market. But hardworking Baba needs extra money to hire a tutor to help Neel prepare for an upcoming scholarship exam. Neel doesn’t care about the scholarship; he has no desire to leave the island for further schooling. He does care about the little cub, however, so he and his older sister, Rupa, who wishes she could go to school, are determined to find the cub before anyone else, even Baba, and return it to the refuge. The sense of urgency that propels Neel and Rupa’s hunt for the cub creates the perfect amount of tension in an engaging story wonderfully grounded in Neel’s point of view and his experiences in his family and community. Their effort to save the cub helps Neel understand how furthering his education is one means of helping protect the place he lives. Just the right amount of information about the complexities of economic and environmental issues is seamlessly incorporated into this warm, lively chapter book featuring occasional illustrations and a satisfying and believable ending. An author’s note tells more about the islands and their environmental and economic struggles. (MS)  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Pre-reading: What does school mean to you?
  2. How does Neel feel about school? Why? How does his opinion of or feelings toward education change from the beginning of the story to the end of the story?
  3. How does the desperate situation in the story affect people’s decisions? How can one person’s actions have a profound impact on the world? Give examples from at least two characters from the book.
  4. What role does the setting play in this story?

Find a complete discussion guide from the publisher here! Find more resources for Tiger Boy at TeachingBooks.net

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Dream Big: September 2016 Primary (K-2) Titles

August 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in September | Primary (Grades K-2) | 2016-2017 - (Comments Off on Dream Big: September 2016 Primary (K-2) Titles)

Drum Dream Girl:  How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle. Illustrated by Rafael López.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015drum deam girl

Millo Castro Zaldarriaga was born in Cuba in the 1920s and grew up attuned to the rhythms in the world around her, and inside her. She dreamed of drumming, but only boys and men learned how to play at that time. She dared to drum anyway, “tall conga drums / small bongo drums / and big, round, silvery / moon-bright timbales … Her hands seemed to fly / as they rippled / rapped / and pounded / all the rhythms / of her drum dreams.” Her father said no when her sisters asked ten-year-old Millo to join their band. Only boys should play drums, he said. But Millo couldn’t silence the sounds. Eventually her father found her a teacher who listened to her, and taught her, and gave her the chance to change the way people thought about girls and drumming. Margarita Engle’s poem makes a striking picture book narrative and is set against the vibrating tropical colors of Rafael López’s lush illustrations. A note tells how Afro-Chinese-Cuban Millo went on to a world-famous musician who played alongside jazz greats, in addition to changing hearts and minds with her beats. Winner, 2016 Charlotte Zolotow Award  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What words does the author use that make you think of drumbeats? How does the author create rhythm with words?
  2. How do the illustrations show us when Milo (the protagonist) dreams of drumming and when she is actually drumming?
  3. Why do you think Papa decided to provide a drum teacher for Milo?

Emmanuel’s Dream:  The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. Schwartz & Wade, 2015

Born with only one functioning leg, Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah grew up with a mother who focused on his abilities. “He learned to crawl and hop, to fetch water and climb coconut trees.” When he grew too heavy for her to carry, he hopped two miles to school and two miles home again. “Emmanuel had a sharp mind, a bold heart, and one strong leg.” At 13, he left home for the city of Accra in Ghana to earn money to help support his family. Time and again he encountered people who assumed he couldn’t do much because of his disability. After his mother’s death, he decided to honor her last words by showing that being disabled doesn’t mean being unable, and, after much organization and planning, embarked on a bike ride across Ghana: 400 miles in 10 days, with one strong leg. An understated narrative emphasizes Emmanuel’s spirit and persistence in addition to his physical abilities, while the stylized illustrations are full of emotion. An author’s note tells of Emmanuel’s continued disability rights activism.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How is Emmanuel physically different? What challenges does he face because of his difference?
  2. How do you think Mama Comfort supports and inspires Emmanuel?
  3. How does Emmanuel show that being disabled doesn’t mean being unabled?
  4. Looking back at the book, what information do you learn from the illustrations that the text does not provide?

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Animals All Around: September 2016 Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers Titles

August 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | September | 2016-2017 - (Comments Off on Animals All Around: September 2016 Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers Titles)

RagweedRagweed’s Farm Dog Handbook by Anne Vittur Kennedy.  Candlewick Press, 2015

A how-to handbook offering sage advice from an experienced farm dog begins, “Here’s the first thing you need to know: The rooster wakes the farmer early in the morning. That’s his job. That’s not your job. Don’t wake the farmer. You will really, really want to wake the farmer … If you DO wake the farmer, you can get a biscuit just to go away.” Each lesson proves to be a slight variation on this theme as Ragweed, one of the most entertaining and authentic canine narrator’s ever to speak from the pages of a picture book, lays out who does what on the farm, what not to do as a farm dog, and how doing it anyway will generally result in a biscuit (or three!). Ragweed’s enthusiasm and almost single-minded focus on biscuits is consistent and convincingly doglike, while the occasional variation on the pattern only adds to the humor. (“If the farmer is away, chase the sheep! No biscuit. It’s just worth it.”). Anne Vittur Kennedy’s pairs her terrific narrative with illustrations full of color and movement. Ragweed’s joy in the life he lives is irresistible. Highly Commended, 2016 Charlotte Zolotow Award  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center
The Babies and Doggies Book by John Schindel and Molly Woodward. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015

  • Talk: Ragweed is proud to be an excellent farm dog. Talk about what you do well.
  • Sing: Old MacDonald Had a Farm
  • Write: Draw a picture or make a small book about the things you do well.
  • Play: Pretend to be a dog or another farm animal
  • Math or Science: Visit a farm or petting zoo.

babies and doggies bookThe Babies and Doggies Book by John Schindel and Molly Woodward. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015

Babies and puppies feature in this adorable board book that looks at how many things babies and puppies have in common. Both hide and peek, for example, and both like to eat, and both like to be silly. A simple series of rhyming and almost rhyming statements is paired with smile-inducing color photographs sure to charm both babies and toddlers and their adult caregivers.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  • Talk: Try reading the story with the word “puppies” instead of doggies.
  • Sing: “BINGO”
  • Write: Make a collage with pictures of dogs and puppies. Look for pictures in magazines or online.
  • Play: Practice the downward facing dog yoga pose.
  • Math or Science: How are puppies and babies different? How are they alike?

why do I singWhy Do I Sing?  Animal Songs of the Pacific Northwest by Jennifer Blomgren. Illustrated by Andrea Gabriel. Little Bigfoot / Sasquatch Books, 2015

Realistically rendered illustrations of ten animals with habitats in the Pacific Northwest are each paired with a four-line rhyme describing their vocalizations. From honeybees to fin whales to marmots, a wide-ranging lineup of species is showcased in a board book to be shared with the youngest of naturalists. Even amphibians are accounted for, as “the Pacific tree frogs / lead a big twilight chorus / that fills up the wetlands / and pastures and forests.” © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  • Talk: Look at a map. Where do these animals live? Where do you live?
  • Sing: Can you sing like the animals? What sounds do they make?
  • Write: Practice forming the letter “S” for sing out of string. What other materials can you use to create the letter S
  • Play: Can you move like the animals? Try them all!
  • Math or Science: Talk a walk in the park. What animals do you see? What animals do you hear?

Changes: A Child’s First Poetry Collection: “A Dog”, page 28

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Start the School Year with Compelling, Realistic Fiction: ROW High School September 2015 Selection

August 28th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in September | 2015-2016 | High School - (Comments Off on Start the School Year with Compelling, Realistic Fiction: ROW High School September 2015 Selection)

milk of birdsThe Milk of Birds by Sylvia Whitman. Icon_HighSchoolAtheneum, 2013.

Here are some the reasons that our High School Literacy Advisory Committee chose The Milk of Birds as a ROW selection. … the story draws you in with its appealing writing and sympathetic characters; the author offers believable school struggles; characters’ reactions felt realistic and authentic; learned a lot about the refugee experience and Darfur but book never felt didactic.

Read the CCBC annotation:

Nawra is a fourteen-year-old Muslim girl living in a refugee camp in the Darfur region of Sudan. Through a nonprofit called Save the Girls, she is paired with K.C., a Richmond, Virginia, teen, to exchange monthly letters. A novel that moves back and forth between the two girls chronicles their correspondence and their lives. In the camp, where living conditions are awful, Nawra cares for her silent and barely functional mother, who has been traumatized by what she and Nawra have gone through—events that are gradually revealed. Eventually Nawra tells K.C. that she’s pregnant—she was raped on their journey. Later she almost dies giving birth. K.C. is initially furious her mother signed her up for the correspondence program and doesn’t write Nawra for the first four months. She struggles in school with undiagnosed learning disabilities and faces constant pressure from her mom to try harder, while her dad seems uninterested. Sylvia Whitman’s novel is effective and compelling on multiple fronts. Both girls try to understand each other’s culture without judgment. But the truth is their experiences are vastly different. Once K.C. begins exchanging letters with Nawra in earnest, a genuine friendship develops, and she goes from reluctant correspondent to a teenager deeply moved. The pain of Nawra’s story is intense, but her voice is engaging and vivid, and the back-and-forth of the narrative provides respite from the horrors she sometimes describes.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start discussion with these questions:

  1. What events and actions contribute to Casey’s change of heart regarding the “Save the Girls” program?
  2. How does the author suggest that taking action, either for yourself or others, makes a difference? Conversely, what are the consequences of being a bystander? Provide examples from the text.
  3. Which one of Nawra’s proverbs is most relevant to the problems of teenagers today?

Multi-Award Winner Starts the Middle School ROW 2015-2016 Year!

August 28th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in September | 2015-2016 | Middle School - (Comments Off on Multi-Award Winner Starts the Middle School ROW 2015-2016 Year!)

crossover with sealsThe Crossover by Alexander Kwame. Houghton Books for Middle School AgeMifflin Harcourt, 2014.

We are so thrilled to start the ROW year off with this amazing book! It’s powerful! The styles of poetry and rap as well as the sports and family stories are electric and appeal to so many readers! — The ROW Middle School Literacy Advisory Committee

Read the CCBC annotation:

Josh Bell is a talented middle school basketball player, as is his twin brother Jordan. They learned from their dad, Chuck “Da Man,” who played in the Euroleague before retiring from the game. When Jordan gets a girlfriend, Josh resents that his twin no longer does as much with him, and he takes his frustration out on the court during a game one day, almost breaking Jordan’s nose. It creates a huge rift between the boys and gets Josh banned from playing. The tension between the brothers is wonderfully portrayed within the greater dynamic of this African American family where there is a lot of love and laughing but also consequences when expectations are unmet. Meanwhile, their mom, principal of the boys’ middle school, is also worried about their dad’s health. Hypertension runs in his family and he not only isn’t taking care of himself but he’s doctor-averse. This element of the plot builds to a moment readers can see coming when their dad has a heart attack, yet it’s shocking, as sudden death is, when he dies. Kwame Alexander’s narrative has two styles—straightforward prose poems and vibrant, rap-like poems in which Josh describes the basketball action. Josh also likes language and occasional poems have Josh exploring the meaning of specific words that connect to what’s happening in his life, such as the one titled “ca-lam-i-ty” (“As in: The HUGE bald patch / on the side / of my head / is a dreadful / calamity.”). Josh’s voice is vivid, funny and moving in this fast-paced and poignant story.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start discussion with these questions:

  1. A theme of this book is family relationships. How do these relationships change over the course of the book?
  2. Evaluate the format of the book. How does the novel in verse format help to develop the characters and the story? How does the use of different fonts and typefaces affect the reader’s understanding of the story and characters?
  3. The author uses three style of poems to tell the story. One style uses the twin’s SAT vocabulary homework; another style acts like Josh’s rap. What do these different styles show us about Josh? Pick one of these styles to tell your thoughts about the book.
  4. Describe a particular scene or character that you are able to visualize vividly in your mind. What did the author do to create that vivid image?

Watch these great videos:

 

Looking for a Hero?: Read the September 2015 Intermediate (Grades 3-5) Titles

August 28th, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in September | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2015-2016 - (Comments Off on Looking for a Hero?: Read the September 2015 Intermediate (Grades 3-5) Titles)

el deafoFrom the ROW Literacy Advisory Committee Intermediate Group: We paired these two books because they both focus on friendship and kindness. You don’t need to have superpowers to be kind, helpful or friendly — but you’ll definitely be a hero to someone if you are.

El Deafo by Cece Bell. Amulet, 2014.Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readers

Cece Bell contracted meningitis at age four and lost her hearing. Once she started school she wore a Phonic Ear, a device that amplified her teachers’ voice through a microphone the teachers wore on a cord around the neck. Cece could not only hear what her teachers said in the classroom but also the teachers’ lounge and — gasp! — the bathroom. Feeling like she had a superpower, she secretly began to think of herself as a superhero she called “El Deafo” (turning a pejorative term on its ear, so to speak). The experience of not being able to hear (as when her Phonic Ear is sent off for repair after the gym teacher breaks it, or when the lights are turned off at a sleepover and she can’t lipread anymore) is strikingly depicted in the graphic novel format, whether the text is gradually fading, or dialogue bubbles are filled with sounds of gibberish (e.g., “WAH BESS MAH WAWA GAH ANDY! YOO GOOLA FA BERRY GAH BOOLA!” while watching The Andy Griffith Show without amplification). But the novel’s main focus is Cece’s deep desire to have a best friend as she goes through elementary school. She tries to assert herself when bossy Laura claims her; endures passive-aggressive Ginny, who insists on speak-ing slow-ly and loud-ly to Cece; and finally finds a kindred spirit in neighbor Martha. Cece’s friendship struggles are sometimes complicated by her hearing loss but also have a universal dimension that most children will recognize. Bell’s memoir is set against the vividly realized backdrop of 1970s culture (from the TV shows to food and fashion), and told with great humor and honesty. The characters are all drawn as rabbits, giving the book a quirky charm.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start discussion with these prompts:

  1. If you could have any super power, what would it be?
  2. How do the illustrations add to your understanding of the book and of the author? Why do you think the author chose to illustrate herself as a rabbit?
  3. In many ways this is a book about friendships. How does Cece find a best friend?
  4. This book is a memoir – a story about the author’s life. In memoirs, authors find ways to talk about their lives in colorful, creative ways that might bending the truth a bit. What parts of this book do you think are nonfiction? What parts do you think are fiction?

Find resources at TeachingBooks.net including this teaching guide from Abrams.

Lend a Hand: Poems about Giving by John Frank. lend a handIllustrated by London Ladd. Lee & Low, 2014.

An engaging, purposeful collection of thirteen poems, each in the voice of a child who is doing something helpful. The range of subjects shows how small kindnesses matter and can happen in many ways: jamming with an elderly neighbor who shares a love of music; sharing lunch with a friend who has none; teaching an awkward classmate how to swing a bat; loading groceries in the car of a mom with small children; giving up a bus seat to someone who needs it more; tutoring a younger child; writing a letter to a soldier overseas; helping stitch a quilt for someone in need. The quilting poem concludes, “A warm spread / should have maximum size … / but the spread of warmth / should have no bounds.” The illustrations show diverse kids and adults, and a note from the illustrator recounts discovering connections between the models he photographed and some of the poems’ subjects.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start discussion with these questions:

  1. What kinds of things do you do to help around your community?
  2. How do the illustrations and text work together throughout the book?
  3. The author tells about helpful acts using poetry. Do you think this format works well for the author’s purpose? Why?

Resources at TeachingBooks.net including this teaching guide from Lee & Low.

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