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

Mia doesn’t speak Spanish well and her abuela, who has come to live with Mia’s family, doesn’t speak English well. They share a room, and Abuela watches Mia after school, but there is a lot of silence. Then Mia begins teaching her grandmother English words, even labeling things at home like they sometimes do in her classroom at school, and Abuela teaches Mia Spanish words. The locked door between them starts to open. It opens wider when Mia sees a parrot at the pet shop and the family buys it for Abuela, who had a pet parrot back home. By story’s end, Abuela is reading Mia her favorite book, and telling stories “about Abuelo, who could dive for river stones with a single breath and weave a roof out of palms.” A warm picture book story that has some lovely turns of phrase and integrates Spanish words into the English text is set against cheery illustrations.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  • 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

An unusual, conceptually sophisticated counting book looks at the way the number “one” can be represented by a single object, a pair of items, or a group of things varying in number from three all the way up to 10. For every number from two to 10, “one” is also a group with that many members. “One is three. One house of bears. One bowl of pears … One is five. One bunch of bananas. One hand of cards.” The narrative works hand-in-hand with the illustrations, with each page spread featuring a scene in which everything named can be found and counted (e.g., a family of three walking down a street in which one building they pass has a bowl with three pears in the window and a toy shop with a window display featuring the three bears in a doll house). While the art has a nostalgic feel, there is multicultural and intergenerational diversity within and across the families, all of whom are shown together on the final page spread: “One is one and everyone. One earth. One world. One family.”  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  • 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

Elmore Green enjoys being an only child. He doesn’t have to worry about anyone messing with his stuff, and “Elmore Green’s parents thought he was simply the funniest, cleverest, most adorable person they had ever seen.” When a “new small person” arrives, Elmore Green’s perfectly ordered life is turned upside down. “They all seemed to like it … maybe a little bit MORE than they liked Elmore Green.” As the new small person gets bigger, he disrupts Elmore’s things, he licks Elmore’s jelly beans, he follows Elmore around, he moves into Elmore’s room. It’s awful, until the night Elmore has a bad dream and the small person comforts him. Not long after, Elmore is arranging his precious things in a long line, and the small person is adding his own things to the effort. “It felt good to have someone there who understood why a long line of things was SO special.” And it turns out that this small person has a name: Albert. A fresh, funny take on a familiar family scenario features two brown-skinned brothers in droll, spirited illustrations that are a perfect match for the narrative’s tone. Lauren Child’s story is joyful even as it acknowledges the very real feelings of frustration and uncertainty that come with a new sibling. Honor Book, 2016 Charlotte Zolotow Award  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  • 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?

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Community, Family and Arts: December 2016 (K-2)

November 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | Primary (Grades K-2) | December - (Comments Off on Community, Family and Arts: December 2016 (K-2))

hanahashimotoPrimary Icon of a White-Tailed DeerHana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki. Illustrated by Qin Leng. Kids Can Press, 2014

Hana’s decision to enter the school talent show is met with derision by her older brothers. “It’s a talent show, Hana.” “You’ll be a disaster.” It’s true she’s only had three violin lessons. But on their summer visit to Japan, their grandfather, Ojiichan, played for them every day. Hana’s favorite was the song about a crow calling for her chicks. “Whenever Ojiichan played it, Hana would feel a shiver of happy-sadness shiver through her.” She also loved the way he could make his violin sound like crickets or raindrops. She practices every day for the show, and when the time comes to step onto the stage, the sixth violin performance of the night, she’s nervous but determined. She begins with three “raw, squawky notes” to mimic the caw of a crow, followed by a “the sound of my neighbor’s cat at night” as she drags the bow across the strings in a “yowl of protest.” Hana also makes the sound of buzzing bees, squeaking mice, and croaking frogs before taking a bow. Not everyone can be a prodigy, but in a warm, refreshing, beautifully told and illustrated story, loving what you do is enough of a reason to share it.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  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?

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

A grandmother guides her grandson through his first pow-wow. He hears the beating of the drums and the singing, but does not understand what they are saying. By urging him to listen and hear, the grandmother gently directs her grandson until he finds the stories and an understanding of his culture. With her warm presence and thoughtful words, the boy’s grandmother, his nokum, grounds her grandson in the history and present of this First Nations experience as well as leads him into his future, encouraging her grandson to own his “stories, songs, and beating heart.” Written in both English and Cree, this story showcases the stunning, brilliant colored and evocative artwork by renowned Cree artist Allen Sapp. Poetic, tender, and informative, the paintings and text are based on Sapp’s memories of being raised by his grandmother on the Red Pheasant reservation in Saskatchewan.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  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?

Find more resources for Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin and Song Within My Heart for TeachingBooks.net.

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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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Making a Difference in the World: September 2016 Intermediate Titles

August 20th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2016-2017 | September | 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 2016-2017 | September | Primary (Grades K-2) - (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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