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2016-2017 Discussion Questions

The Read On Wisconsin Advisory Committee and CCBC librarians have developed sample discussion questions for all the Read On Wisconsin titles from September – May of each year. These discussion starters can be used to encourage children and teens to think more deeply about Read On Wisconsin books.

In developing questions, the ROW Literacy Advisory Committee focuses on providing a variety of question types that would encourage children and teens to engage with the text, their community and the world. Every book (especially for kindergarten and older) has at least one or two questions that requires a response based on information/evidence that can be found in the text and/or illustrations. Other questions ask  readers to provide an opinion or to use the book as a launching point for personal reflection.  We emphasize open-ended questions, although we occasionally deviate from these, especially when asking younger students to find facts in a work of non-fiction.

For Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers, we offer up early literacy activities for caregivers to share with children. These activities align the American Library Association’s Every Child Ready to Read II (ECRR2) which encourages caregivers and parents to share with children five behaviors essential to developing language and pre-reading skills: reading, talking, singing, writing, playing. We also include some STEM ideas so that our activities align with the Youth Services Section of the Wisconsin Library Association’s 2017 Early Literacy Calendar created by Youth Services librarians across Wisconsin.

We bet readers and listeners will have plenty of insights and observations of their own to share as well!

The books and questions are listed in chronological order (September – May) for each group.

[Preschoolers|Primary|Intermediate|Middle School|High School]



Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers[top]

The Discussion Questions for the Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers books include a mix of questions and suggestions for building early literacy behaviors with young children while sharing the books. Not every question or suggestion will be suitable for all children—use what makes sense based on the age(s) of the child or children you are with.

Find more early literacy activities from the Youth Services Section of the Wisconsin Library Association’s 2016 Early Literacy Calendar created by Youth Services librarians across Wisconsin.

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

The Babies and Doggies Book by John Schindel and Molly Woodward. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015

  • 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 Sing?  Animal Songs of the Pacific Northwest by Jennifer Blomgren. Illustrated by Andrea Gabriel. Little Bigfoot / Sasquatch Books, 2015

  • 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?

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach. Knopf, 2015

  • Talk: Talk about the differences between the forest and the city.
  • Sing: Bear crosses a bridge to the city. Sing London Bridge.
  • Write: Make sandwiches and cut them into shapes of bears or into the letter B.
  • Play: Can you move like the bear? Can you stretch and sniff, can you climb and scratch? How else does the bear move?
  • Math or Science: Can you make a bridge? With another person? What else can you make a bridge with?

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor. Illustrated by Jean Jullien. Candlewick Press, 2015

  • Talk: Talk about all the ways that Hoot Owl moves in the story. Point out the verbs or action words in the book.
  • Sing: Mary Had a Little Lamb
  • Write: Practice the letter O in pudding or shaving cream
  • Play: How can you disguise yourself? Who or what can you become?
  • Math or Science: Talk about what owls eat. What does Hoot Owl eat? What do you eat? How are alike or different?

Alphabet School by Stephen T. Johnson. A Paula Wiseman Book / Simon & Schuster, 2015

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

I Don’t Like Snakes by Nicola Davies. Illustrated by Luciano Lozano. U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2015

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

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

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

Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin. Illustrated by Lauren Tobia. Candlewick Press, 2015

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

Waiting by Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2015

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

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

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

Big and Small (Odd One Out) by Guido van Genechten. Translated from the Dutch. U.S. edition: Clavis, 2013

  • Talk: What would you wear to a party?
  • Sing: Sing a favorite party song.
  • Write: Make your own handprint and other stamp art.
  • Play: Dance to your favorite song.
  • Math or Science: Count the types of animals in the book. How many can you find? Who’s biggest? Who’s smallest?

One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2015

  • Talk: What kind of pet would you like? What would you name your pet?
  • Sing: Sing a please and thank you song.
  • Write: Draw your favorite animal. Would this animal make a good pet?
  • Play: Pretend you have an unusual animal for a pet. What would you need to do to take care of this pet?
  • Math or Science: Your pet needs exercise. Draw a map of where you will take your pet on your walk.

Vincent Paints His House by Tedd Arnold. Holiday House, 2015

  • Talk: Take a walk around the block. What color houses can you find?
  • Sing: Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Write: Draw a picture of where you live. What colors will you use?
  • Play: Build a house for a favorite toy out of boxes or blocks.
  • Math or Science: What happens when you mix colors? What colors can you make?

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

  • 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

  • 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.

Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina. Illustrated by Angela Dominguez. Candlewick Press, 2015

  • Talk: How do you say hello, goodbye, and I love you without words?
  • Sing: Visit your library and listen to songs in Spanish.
  • Write: Draw a picture of yourself with a grandparent or a favorite adult.
  • Play: Visit your library and find more bilingual books.
  • Math or Science: Taste a mango! Is it sweet, sour, tangy?

One Family by George Shannon. Illustrated by Blanca Gómez. Frances Foster Books / Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015

  • Talk: Who is in your family? Name them all.
  • Sing: A counting song.
  • Write: How old are you? How many different ways can you show this number using different objects?
  • Play: Hopscotch
  • Math or Science: Count the groupings on each page. What kinds of groups can you find in your world?

The New Small Person by Lauren Child. Candlewick Press, 2015

  • Talk: Talk about your favorite things. Do you share them with others?
  • Sing: Choose a song. Sing it loudly. Sing it quietly. Sing it in a silly way.
  • Write: Draw a picture of your favorite things.
  • Play: Share your favorite toys with a friend.
  • Math or Science: How many are in your family? Do you think it’s a big or small family?

Whose Tools? By Toni Buzzeo. Illustrated by Jim Datz. Abrams Appleseed,2015

  • Talk: Name the different tools in the book. What jobs do the tools do?
  • Sing: Johnny Works with One Hammer
  • Write: Get a large a box and make a house.
  • Play: Can you pretend to do each job?
  • Math or Science: Build a block house.

Bulldozer’s Big Day by Candace Fleming. Illustrated by Eric Rohmann. Atheneum, 2015

  • Talk: What happens on your birthday. What do you look forward to on your birthday?
  • Write: Role a toy car or truck in paint. Make tracks as you drive your car. What shapes can you make
  • Sing: Happy Birthday to You. Do you know other birthday songs in other languages?
  • Play: Go to the park and play with trucks and diggers.
  • Math or Science: Cover some stones and other items with sand in a plastic tub. Can you dig for them?

Water Is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle by Miranda Paul. Illustrated by Jason Chin. A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press, 2015

  • Talk: Talk about different kinds or forms of water.
  • Sing: Rain, Rain, Go Away. Do you know other rhyming songs?
  • Write: Write on a steamy bathroom mirror.
  • Play: Splash in the bathtub.
  • STEM: Use a pan or bucket to collect water when it rains. Measure the water using measuring cups. How much water did you collect?

Hurry Home, Hedgehog! A Bilingual Book of Sounds by Belle Yang. Candlewick Press, 2015

  • Talk: What makes you warm and cozy?
  • Sing: Make the sounds in the book. What other sounds can you make?
  • Write: Tell a story about one of the other animals in the book.
  • Play: Pretend to be an animal in the rain. Would you run for shelter? Splash in puddles?
  • STEM: Find other ways to make the sounds from the book in your world.

Primary (Grades K-2)[top]

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

  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

  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?

Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow Books / HarperCollins, 2013

  1. How does the author/illustrator let us know that Penny feels that she has done something wrong by taking the marble?
  2. Why do you think Penny’s mother tells her she can only go as far as Mrs. Goodwin’s?
  3. What does Penny see or dream about that she compares to the marble? How does the author/illustrator convey this information through illustrations or text?

A Poem in Your Pocket by Margaret McNamara. Illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Schwartz & Wade, 2015

  1. Pre-reading: What are some different kinds (forms) of poems that you know?
  2. What do you think made it difficult for Elinor to write her poem?
  3. How do you think that Emmy Crane helps Elinor?
  4. Which kind of poetry in the book do you like best?

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña. Illustrated by Christian Robinson. Putnam, 2015

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

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

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

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki. Illustrated by Qin Leng. Kids Can Press, 2014

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

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

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

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick.  Illustrated by Sophie Blackall.  Little, Brown, 2015

  1. Pre-reading: What do you know about a bear named Winnie?
  2. What are the three different stories in the book?
  3. How do the illustrations add to the story? Do they add information, emotions, and/or movement to the story?
  4. In what ways, do the author and illustrator use the photos in the scrapbook in the text and Illustrations?
  5. Who would be on your family tree?

The First Case by Ulf Nilsson. Illustrated by Gitte Spee.  Translated from the Swedish by Julia Marshall. (Detective Gordon) U.S. edition: Gecko Press, 2015

  1. Describe how Detective Gordon and Buffy are different from and similar to each other. Why do you think Detective Gordon and Buffy work well together?
  2. Why do you think Detective Gordon handed the squirrel the mirror?
  3. What rituals and routines does Detective Gordon eventually share with Buffy?

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

  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 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

  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?

Grandma in Blue with Red Hat by Scott Menchin. Illustrated by Harry Bliss. Abrams, 2015

  1. Pre-reading: What is art?
  2. Do you recognize some of the paintings and sculptures in the book?
  3. Why do you think text appears in two formats?
  4. After reading this book, how has your understanding of art and making art changed?

I, Fly: The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are by Bridget Heos. Illustrated by Jennifer Plecas. Henry Holt, 2015

  1. How does the fly show us the difference between facts and myths?
  2. What information about flies do you find most interesting in this book?
  3. In what ways are flies and butterflies alike? different?

Finding the Music = En pos de la música by Jennifer Torres. Illustrated by Renato Alarcão. Spanish translation by Alexis Romay. Children’s Book Press / Lee & Low, 2015

  1. In what ways do Reyna’s feelings about her community change during the story?
  2. How did Abuelito make a memorable difference in the lives of people in the community?
  3. How do the items that Reyna receives from members of the community help her learn more about her grandfather?  How does the author use these items to create a description of Reyna’s Abuelito?

Poems in the Attic by Nikki Grimes. Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. Lee & Low, 2015

  1. In what ways do the poems in the attic connect the girl with her mother and with her grandparents?
  2. What do the poems tell us about the similarities and differences in the life of the girl and her mother?
  3. In what ways does the writing of poems help both the girl and her mother?

It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee. Dial, 2015

  1. Why do you think Stanley wanted to go to the Moon, and what’s your evidence?
  2. Explain what action each sound-word (onomotapoia) represents?
  3. How do the text and illustrations tell different stories in the book? Why do you think the book was created this way?

When Otis Courted Mama by Kathi Appelt. Illustrated by Jill McElmurry.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015

  1. Pre-reading: What is a family? Who is in your family?
  2. What do you learn about Cardell at the beginning of the story?
  3. In what ways do Cardell’s feelings change toward Otis throughout the book?
  4. What words and illustrations give you evidence of the desert habitat? Give some examples.

Find a complete curriculum guide for here! Also, find other great resources for When Otis Courted Mama from TeachingBooks.net.


Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readers

Intermediate (Grades 3-5)[top]

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

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

  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


Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson. Illustrated by David Shannon. Abrams, 2015

  1. What did you know about Hiawatha before reading the book? What do you know about Hiawatha after reading the book?
  2. How do the illustrations help tell the story? How does the music enhance this story?
  3. What message did you get from this story? Is peace possible without forgiveness?

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh. Abrams, 2015

  1. How did Posada express his political opinions through art? Why did you decide to do this? Was it effective?
  2. What makes Posada’s original work timeless?
  3. Compare the book’s illustrations with Posada’s. How does this affect your perspective on all the ways skulls are used now?
  4. Day of the Dead and Halloween are celebrated within a day of each other in different cultures. In what ways are they similar? Different? Why are the differences between the holiday’s important?

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Dial, 2015

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

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

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

Dragons Beware! by Jorge Aguirre. Illustrated by Rafael Rosado. First Second, 2015

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

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

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

Find discussion and teacher guides for Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold at TeachingBooks.net!


The Marvels by Brian Selznick. Scholastic Press, 2015

  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?

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

  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.

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

  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

  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?

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

  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

  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?

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

  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

  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?

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

  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?

Find resources for Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer at TeachingBooks.net


Finders Keepers by Shelly Tougas. Roaring Brook Press, 2015

  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?

Books for Middle School Age

Middle School[top]

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

  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?

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. Dial, 2015

  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?

Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith. Clarion, 2015

  1. How does Hoodoo grow into his name?
  2. Who does the stranger represent in this story? What evidence helps you figure this out?
  3. Why does the author use italicized writing throughout the text?
  4. Why does Hoodoo reject the help of his family and insist on pursuing the challenge on his own?

Better Nate Than Ever! by Tim Federle. Simon & Schuster, 2013

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

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

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

Friends for Life by Andrew Norris. David Fickling Books/Scholastic Inc., 2015

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

Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow. Calkins Creek/Highlights, 2015

  1. How was Mary Mallon treated fairly? unfairly? Why?
  2. What would a germ detective like George Soper be investigating today?
  3. This story was told from a medical perspective. Whose side or perspective of the story would you like to hear?

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt. Clarion, 2015

  1. What challenges would an 8th grader face if he or she was a parent?
  2. How do the adults in Joseph’s life help him? How did the adults hold him back?
  3. How do you feel about the conclusion of this book?

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

  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!


The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip M. Hoose. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015

  1. How did the boys’ deeds have an effect on Denmark’s resistance movement?
  2. Would you categorize the boys as impetuous or heroic? Support your answer.
  3. What world/societal issues could this story relate to today?
  4. If this book became a movie, which part, person or role would you want to play?

A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielson. Scholastic, 2015

  1. What purpose did the quotes serve at the beginning of each chapter?
  2. Gerta got help from unexpected people. What were their motivations for helping her?
  3. Why did the East Germans need a wall to keep people from leaving?

Listen, Slowly by Thanhhà Lai. Harper/HarperCollins, 2015

  1. How does the respect for elders compare in American culture and Vietnam culture?
  2. Why do Út and Mai become friends?
  3. How does the trip to Vietnam change Mai?

 Caminar by Skila Brown. Candlewick Press, 2014

  1. The author chose to write this story in verse. How does the poetry format add to or detract from the story?
  2. What examples of symbolism can you find in the poems’ text and layouts?
  3. How does Carlos change throughout the book? How does Carlos decide who to trust? What decisions does he make? What decisions are made for him?

Find a complete discussion guide here! Find more resources for Caminar at TeachingBooks.net!


Cinder: Book One of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. Feiwel & Friends, 2012

  1. What could the alienation or exclusion of cyborgs translate to in our society?
  2. Choose a different fairy tale. How would you set it the future?
  3. What diseases in our world’s history does the plague in Cinder reflect?

High School [top]

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

  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?

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins, 2015

  1. Willow Dean is simultaneously confident and insecure. Can she both proud of her body and afraid to show it in public? Do you find this realistic?
  2. How does perform in beauty pageants? Who are the pageants for?
  3. Who do you think one the pageant? Does it matter? Why do you think Julie Murphy does not tell the reader who won the pageant?

Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez. Carolrhoda Lab, 2015

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

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

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

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles. Candlewick, 2014

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

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

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

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book / Atheneum, 2015

  1. Why did the authors write this book together? Does it make a difference that one author is Black and one is White?
  2. Both Quinn and Rasheed feel powerless in their situations. What do they do to gain control of their lives again? Who influences each of them most?
  3. In this novel, characters need to decide how they are going to react to Rasheed’s beating. At what point is doing nothing actually choosing a side?

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

  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?

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steven Sheinkin. Roaring Brook Press, 2015

  1. How are we affected today by the decisions our political leaders make?
  2. Was Daniel Ellsberg right or wrong to release the Pentagon Papers? What role did his experiences in the war affect his eventual decisions?
  3. Who should decide what secrets the government gets to keep? Should all government information eventually become public?
  4. Steve Sheinkin has tells us about history in a much different way than a history textbook. How is it different and how does Sheinkin hold the reader’s interest in such a complicated story?

For Enchanted Air and Written in the Stars:

Both Margarita Engle and Naila find themselves living between two cultures. What struggles do they face in finding a place where they feel they fit?

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle. Atheneum, 2015

  1. Why do you think Engle chose to write her memoir in poetic form?
  2. As the U.S. and Cuba begin to interact politically again, many Cuban Americans will have a chance to return to their homeland. Do you think many will?
  3. Which of Engle’s memories stand out the most to you?

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed. Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin, 2015

  1. Naila’s parents want the best for her. Naila wants to please her parents. Why can’t they find a middle ground?
  2. Before you read this novel, what did you know about arranged marriages? Naila’s experience is terrible, but the author has a happy and successful arranged marriage which she discusses in the author’s note. How did your understanding of arranged marriages change after reading Naila’s story? After reading the author’s note.
  3. In what different ways do we see Muslim culture portrayed in this novel? What is the danger of stereotyping?

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. Harper Teen / HarperCollins, 2015

  1. What is satire? How is this novel satire? What are the targets of the author’s satire? What is the author critiquing in our culture?
  2. How is this save-the-world story told from a unique perspective?
  3. What does the title mean?

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