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Riveting Graphic Novels: September 2016 Middle School Titles

August 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | September | 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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Variety of the Spice of Life: Try These Summer 2016 High School Titles

May 24th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2015-2016 | High School | Summer - (Comments Off on Variety of the Spice of Life: Try These Summer 2016 High School Titles)

love is the drugLove is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson. Arthur Icon_HighSchoolA. Levine Books, 2014.

Icon to identify Summer Reading BooksTeenager Emily Bird feels pressure to be perfect — a credit to her family and all African Americans. But inside, she’s far more Bird than Emily, longing to fly away from rigid expectations that have nothing to do with her desires. Bird meets private government security contractor Roosevelt David at a party in Washington, D.C. — her boyfriend Paul is angling for an internship with the man’s company. She wakes up in the hospital eight days later. Bird has hazy memories of leaving the party. The most vivid one is of Coffee, a known drug dealer and son of a Brazilian diplomat, chasing the car as Paul drove her away. Coffee, whom she’s always found intriguing. Did he drug her? She doesn’t believe it despite what Roosevelt and Paul suggest. Bird senses something far more sinister in her lost memories, and begins to realize Roosevelt is afraid of something she might know but doesn’t remember, and that it’s related to her scientist parents’ work and the flu pandemic spreading across the globe and nation. As the death toll begins to mount in D.C., and as Bird tries to piece together what’s going on, she feels the menace of Roosevelt everywhere she turns. Staying with her Uncle Nicky — underachiever in her mother’s eyes, free man in Bird’s — because her parents can’t return to the city, and not sure whom to trust, she puts her faith in new friend Marella, and in Coffee, with whom she is falling in love. Alaya Dawn Johnson’s compelling thriller is marked by thickly woven storytelling that features complex plotting, rich language, and a cast of multidimensional characters.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith. Simon & Schuster, 100 sideways miles2014.

When high school senior Finn Easton was seven, a dead horse fell off of an overpass into the canyon where he and his mom were walking. She was killed when it landed on them. He was left with epileptic seizures and a distinctive scar from back surgery to repair his broken vertebrae. Finn’s dad is the author of a science fiction book with a cult-like following in which a boy named Finn with a distinctive scar is an alien trying to pass as human. Now sixteen, Finn feels like his dad stole his life. Finn’s best friend Cade Hernandez is charismatic, sex-obsessed, and crass. Cade is a terrific friend to Finn. But Finn doesn’t even tell Cade how unhappy and overwhelmed he sometimes is — about the novel, his seizures (which he also sees as a gift), the overprotectiveness of his dad and stepmom. When Julia Bishop, wry, insightful, and another survivor of trauma, comes to their small California desert town, she is the first person Finn is honest with about everything. He falls in love and is devastated when she eventually returns home. Andrew Smith’s story is tender and outrageous and improbable and, somehow, both true and funny every step of the way. Richly woven into the landscape and history of one specific area of Southern California canyon country, and with details of Finn’s father’s novel, The Lazarus Door, slowly revealed, it culminates in a road trip in which Finn, who measures time by distance, is given the extraordinary opportunity to be someone else. In the process, he gains a sense of perspective on, and possibility for, his own life.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

silhouette of a sparrowSilhouette of a Sparrow by Mary Beth Griffin. Milkweed Editions, 2012.

Sixteen-year-old Garnet Richardson is staying with relatives in the Minnesota resort town of Excelsior in the summer of 1926. Both her aunt and slightly younger cousin are far too proper for Garnet, who longs to visit the dance hall and explore the amusement park; she settles for a job working in a hat shop. Bird-lover Garnet immediately thinks of a scarlet tanager when she meets lively Isabella, a dance-hall girl who comes into the shop. The two girls feel an immediate connection that deepens as they spend time together. Talking to Isabella, and kissing her, feel absolutely right to Garnet, even though she knows the end of summer will bring a return to Minneapolis and a proposal from Teddy, the boy she’s been dating but doesn’t love. Garnet’s developing relationship with Isabella, who knows the costs of independence but also understands its rewards, helps her resolve to apply to college to study birds. Then everything unravels, first when she hears from her mother at home, and then in Excelsior when Garnet and Isabella’s relationship is discovered. Molly Beth Griffin’s quiet, compelling, beautifully written novel features lyrical descriptions, numerous bird metaphors, and a young woman poised to take flight.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Vanishing Point. (Tune: Book 1) by Derek Kirk Kim. First vanishing pointSecond, 2012.

Andy Go is a dropout. He exits school after his third year in the Illustration Department at the College of Visual Arts in San Francisco, sure that his career is about to take off and further education is unnecessary. Andy gets a rude awakening: No one wants to hire him. His Korean American parents are dismayed by his failure to finish school or stay employed, and his father finally issues an ultimatum: Get a job, any job, or don’t come home. His last-gasp job interview comes after responding to a vague ad for a position at a zoo. He assumes it’s for an animal caretaker, but he couldn’t be more wrong. It turns out he’s up for the position of human exhibit at an alien zoo, and the father-daughter extraterrestrials conducting the interview are desperate. In fact, they keep sweetening the benefit pot (Medical coverage! Retirement package! Three weeks paid vacation!) until the offer is too good to pass up—at least that’s what Andy’s mother says. Derek Kirk Kim’s hilarious graphic novel ends with Andy traveling by spaceship to start his new job in a story to be continued, and featuring a subplot about Andy’s sweet, somewhat lust-filled crush on a fellow art school student.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Thrills and Spills; Tears and Laughter: Summer 2016 Middle School Titles

May 24th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2015-2016 | Middle School | Summer - (Comments Off on Thrills and Spills; Tears and Laughter: Summer 2016 Middle School Titles)

mira in the present tenseMira in the Present Tense by Sita Brahmachari. Books for Middle School AgeU.S. edition: Albert Whitman, 2013.

Icon to identify Summer Reading Books

Mira’s twelfth birthday is bittersweet. It’s the day she starts her period. And it’s the day her beloved grandmother’s coffin arrives. Nana Josie hasn’t died, but she’s terminally ill with cancer and has ordered the plain coffin so she and Mira can paint it with images of things she loves. It’s one of the ways Nana Josie is very open about dying. Sometimes too open, as far as Mira is concerned—it can be a little overwhelming. At school, Mira, who is very quiet, begins to find her voice—literally and on the page—through a writing workshop led by a local author. One of the other participants is a boy named Jide, and the two of them discover they like each other, a lot. The excitement of these new feelings are something Mira enjoys even as she struggles with Nana Josie’s illness. When Nana Josie goes into hospice, though, it all begins to feel like too much. Sita Brahmachari’s novel about a biracial (East Indian/white) girl in Britain is a deeply moving look at an entire family moving through the experience of loss and grieving. But the author deftly balances this with moments of lightness, and skillfully handles the sorrow, including a subplot about Jide, who has a profound understanding of loss as a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. Richly developed characters full of individuality, including some charming quirks, deeply ground this fine story.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell. little blog on the prairieBloomsbury, 2010.

Teenage Gen is spending the summer with her family at Camp Frontier. Participants agree to live off the grid and on the land like pioneers. But Gen has snuck a cell phone in and is texting her friends back home about the absurdity of the experience. (“Help. I’m dressed up like an American Girl doll minus the fashion sense.”) Camp was supposed to be a bonding experience for Gen’s family, but the struggle of even simple tasks and the competition among camp families is causing more stress than togetherness. Even Gen’s crush on Caleb, a boy from another family, is complicated: the teenage daughter of the camp’s owners seems to like him too. Then Gen discovers the owners’ secret shack. The history purists have a computer with Internet access and a fridge stocked with soda. Now Gen can recharge her phone and text even more scathing perspectives on Camp Frontier. But one of Gen’s friends has been posting her texts on a blog, and readership is about to skyrocket. Cathleen Davitt Bell starts with a hilarious premise and develops it into a story that offers astute observations about human behavior at the best and worst of times. A subplot involving a reality TV show is over the top but ultimately doesn’t detract from the genuine humor, as well as the insightful story about family at the novel’s core.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

houdinithehandcuffkingHoudini: The Handcuff King by Jason Lutes. Illustrated by Nick Bertozzi. Hyperion, 2007.

On May 1, 1908, Harry Houdini, locked into handcuffs and leg irons, leapt from the Harvard Bridge in Cambridge, Massachusetts, into the frigid water of the Charles River. This book’s graphic novel format is perfectly suited to capture the tension of Houdini’s escape, as a series of panels visually draw out the suspense as the seconds tick by. Apprehension, doubt, and anticipation on the spectators’ faces contrast with scenes of the magician working alone in inky water to unlock the handcuffs before his breath gives out. For those who speculate about Houdini’s methods, the authors suggest a possibility: a lock pick passed to Houdini in a kiss from his wife, Bess. A thoughtful closing discussion offers additional information about Houdini and Bess, and relates fascinating details under headings such as “Locks of the Day and How Houdini Prepared to Pick Them” and “In the Early Part of the Twentieth Century Everybody Wore Hats.” Glen David Gold’s Introduction places the magician within the framework of the early 1900s and outlines the character traits that carried him to fame: obsession, energy, loyalty, and the inability to refuse a challenge. With few words and many images, readers will be caught up in a dramatic moment of magical showmanship. (MVL) ©2007 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

The Great Depression in Fiction and Nonfiction: December 2015 Intermediate 3-5

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

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

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

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

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

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

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

Resources from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

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

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