ROW February 2016 Selections! Engaging Reads! Check Them Out Below!

February 1st, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | Primary (Grades K-2) | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2015-2016 | Middle School | High School | February - (Comments Off on ROW February 2016 Selections! Engaging Reads! Check Them Out Below!)

mouse who ate the moonmooncakes  grandma and the great gourdhttp://readon.education.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/little-roja-e1440433353684.jpgsugargracefully grayson port chicago 50      http://readon.education.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/shadow-hero-e1440432919341.jpg







Wow! We’ve got super appealing, accessible books for children and young adults this February here at Read On Wisconsin! The Shadow Hero is a multi-layered graphic novel about a Chinese American super hero in 1940’s America sure to appeal to a wide array of readers from middle school through high school. We also have some absolutely riveting non-fiction from award-winning author, Steve Sheinkin. Port Chicago 50 is difficult to put down. And, those are just the high school selections.

Check out all of this month’s titles below. Click on the book cover image for the CCBC annotation of the book, links to resources from TeachingBooks.net, and discussion prompts or early childhood activities.  Tell us what you think of this month’s titles @ReadOnWI.

Heroes Rule in these Riveting Non-fiction and Graphic Novel Titles: February 2016 High School

January 24th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2015-2016 | High School | February - (Comments Off on Heroes Rule in these Riveting Non-fiction and Graphic Novel Titles: February 2016 High School)

port chicago 50The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Icon_HighSchoolFight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin. Roaring Brook Press, 2014.

In the segregated military during World War II, Black sailors were responsible for loading munitions at Port Chicago on the San Francisco Bay. They were given no training in how to handle the dangerous cargo, and often felt pressure to increase their speed. On July 17, 1944, a tremendous explosion resulted in the deaths of 320 sailors on the dock and in the ships being loaded. In the aftermath, surviving Black sailors were soon ordered back to loading munitions. A group of them refused, saying they would obey any order but that one. They admitted they were afraid. And they were court martialed and found guilty of mutiny, sentenced to 15 years hard labor in prison. Steve Sheinkin offers a mesmerizing account of individuals and events surrounding the trial of the men who became known as the “Port Chicago 50,” revealing the impact of racism and segregation within the military at that time. The overtly racist Navy prosecutor aimed to show the men had conspired together ahead of time to refuse the order but there was no evidence of this in the testimony. Thurgood Marshall, then with the NAACP, sat in on the trail and appealed the guilty verdict, but the appeal failed: to reverse the decision would be to admit the original trial was unjust. Political and public pressure resulted in the men’s release from prison after sixteen months. They were allowed to resume work as sailors, some serving on ships as the Navy began to desegregate, but the mutiny convictions were never dropped despite recurring efforts over the decades. Sheinkin’s compelling narrative, clearly positioned on the side of social justice, draws on the full-transcripts of interviews done with members of the Port Chicago 50 in the 1970s as well as transcripts of the trial. These accounts and other research is thoroughly documented in an offering that is sure to evoke strong emotional responses among y.a. readers. (MS) ©2014 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Great resources for Port Chicago 50 available at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion questions:

  1. The first chapter in the book, “First Hero,” describes an African American naval kitchen worker who saves many lives during an air raid in 1941 at Pearl Harbor. In what ways does this story foreshadow the events and personal experiences during the Port Chicago 50 disaster?
  2. In the chapter “The Verdict,” the author describes the court proceedings against the Port Chicago 50. The author reports that testimony “ignited” the prosecutor’s “biggest tantrum” thus far (p. 137).   How do words like “ignited” and “tantrum” influence the reader’s perspective about the prosecutor and the court proceedings?   What feelings does the author elicit in the reader in using these descriptors? How would your reaction be different if the author had used the words “prompted” rather than “ignited” or “frustration” rather than “tantrum?’
  3. Have you or someone you know ever been in a situation where you needed to disagree with someone in authority? What were the consequences of that disagreement? How was that situation alike or different from the Port Chicago 50 situation? If you had been on that naval base, would you have continued to load ammunition or would you have joined the 50?   Why or why not?

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang.  First Second, 2014.shadow hero

The origins of the 1940s comic book hero Green Turtle are imagined in the story of Hank, a young Chinese American man whose mother is desperate he become a superhero, even exposing him to toxic chemicals and other possible mutation-causing agents. This is one of the many moments of high humor in a graphic novel also packed with action, moments of pathos, and social commentary. It’s his humble father’s murder that finally gives Hank a superpower: It turns out one of the four spirits of China — a tortoise — possessed Hank’s father and moves on to Hank when the father dies. The tortoise becomes Hank’s mentor, although he’s as acerbic and droll as he is wise. Hank discovers gangster Ten Grand is at the bottom of his father’s death, but Ten Grand’s daughter, Red Center, complicates his plans for revenge. There is so much to appreciate about this work, from the humor and action to the seamless way racism, sexism and stereotypes are laid bare. As impressive as the story itself is the extensive note about the original Green Turtle comic, developed by a cartoonist named Chu Hing for publisher Rural Home during World War II. Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew look at the facts and rumors and discuss their own theory on how Hing fought back against his publisher’s refusal to allow him to openly depict Green Turtle as Chinese American. The entire original comic is then reproduced, racism and all, they note, as they encourage readers to make up their own minds about Hing’s intentions in this absolutely entertaining work that openly invites critical thinking.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Great resources for The Shadow Hero available at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion questions:

  1. The book ends with a short history of the comic industry in the 1940s and, in particular, how a comic called “The Green Turtle” was created by an Asian American artist. In retrospect, how did this information influence your understanding of the story? Do you think it was necessary to provide this backstory? Did knowing this information change how you felt about the story? In what ways?
  2. This book examines issues of immigration and race in addition to crime and its consequences. How do the images in the book reinforce the story’s treatment of immigration and race? Examine the panels on page 118. In one image, Hank pulls his eyes into slits. How does this image reinforce the accompanying text and the story’s treatment of race? Do you think it adds or detracts from the text’s message? How?
  3. Some people believe graphic novels teach “visual literacy” whereby you examine the images in context with the text, rather than simply reading the text alone. How does the visual representation of immigration and race contribute to or detract from your understanding of these issues? Would your reaction be different had you simply read about it without pictures? Did you find the use of visuals and the graphic novel format effective in examining these issues? Why or why not?
  4. On page 118, the police detective calls the Chinese gang, “Those sneaky slant-eyed bastards.” How does his word choice reflect the time and place in which this story takes place? Why do you think the detective is surprised that the Green Turtle is also a “slant-eyed” bastard? Why do you think the author used those words to describe the criminals?

Sensitive and Emotionally Compelling: February 2016 Middle School

January 24th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2015-2016 | Middle School | February - (Comments Off on Sensitive and Emotionally Compelling: February 2016 Middle School)

gracefully graysonGracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky. Disney Books for Middle School AgeHyperion, 2014.

Sixth grader Grayson hides his desire to wear dresses and skirts and other girls’ clothes from everyone but is finding it harder and harder. Grayson has no friends until new student Amelia arrives at their progressive private school. But their wonderful weekend forays to Chicago area thrift stores come to an end after Grayson tries on a skirt; Amelia isn’t amused. Then Grayson auditions for The Myth of Persephone at the urging of the wonderful Humanities teacher. Intending to read for the role of Zeus, at the last minute he decides to try out for Persephone. When Grayson gets the part, his aunt is furious, believing the teacher crossed a line (he did call their family first). Grayson’s parents died in a car accident when he was four, but the discovery of letters written by his mom are a revelation: As a preschooler, Grayson insisted he was a girl, and Grayson’s parents were trying their best to be supportive of Grayson’s expression of identity. Grayson begins wearing a pink heart shirt underneath a sweatshirt, and hanging out at play practice with the girls, who love to braid Grayson’s hair, all the while coming closer to speaking the truth once more: I am a girl. Threats from two older boys, and the ongoing anger of Grayson’s aunt — phobia cloaked in the guise of concern for Grayson — are challenges, but Grayson’s uncle is trying to do the right thing, while the teacher and the kids in the play take Grayson’s identity in stride in a sensitive, emotionally compelling debut novel from Amy Polonsky.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Check out the always fabulous resources from TeachingBooks.net for Ami Polonsky’s Gracefully Grayson.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How does Grayson different at the end of the story than from the beginning of the story? What are some turning points for Grayson?
  2. How did the adults in Grayson’s life react to him being in the play? What are the different adult perspectives? Why do you think the author shared these points of view?
  3. Discuss the relationship between Grayson and Mr. Finnegan.

Just for fun! Let us know what you think!

  1. If this book were made into a movie, which character would you want to be and why?
  2. If this book were made into a movie, who would you cast in what role and why?

Share your answer with us @ReadOnWI or join our Read On Wisconsin Google Community where tweens and teens can discuss the ROW monthly titles online. Or, any where on social media using #ROWmaple.

Friendship, Family and Community during Reconstruction: February 2016 Intermediate 3-5

January 24th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2015-2016 | February - (Comments Off on Friendship, Family and Community during Reconstruction: February 2016 Intermediate 3-5)

sugarSugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Little, Brown, Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readers2013.

Five years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Sugar works in the sugarcane fields of a plantation on the Mississippi River. An orphan, Sugar abhors her name with its constant reminder of the crop that has defined her life in many hard ways. Although some of the recently freed slaves have headed north, those with the fewest resources—like Sugar—are stuck in the cane fields and inescapable poverty. A friendship with Billy, the son of the plantation owner, gives Sugar some pleasure and freedom in her daily life, but no one among Billy’s family or Sugar’s fellow workers approves of their relationship. When the plantation owner brings in a group of Chinese laborers to help with the harvest, the other African Americans feel threatened and resentful of the newcomers until Sugar makes the overtures that ultimately allow the two groups to find connections. This accessible and compelling tale, set at a time about which little has been written for children, focuses on the transformative power of compassion and humanity. While Billy’s attitudes may be unrealistically progressive for the era, they mark a sense of hope found in few African American books of historical fiction.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find resources for Sugar, including teaching guides, a book trailer, and more at TeachingBooks.net.

Something for everyone to discuss before reading the book:

  • Do you like your name? Why or why not?

Start some conversation about the book with these discussion prompts:

  1. Why does Sugar still feel like she is not free even though she is no longer a slave?
  2. What makes Billy seem as though he is also not free?
  3. Why is Sugar so able to make friends with people who are not like her?

Fairy and Folk Tale Fun: February 2016 Primary K-2

January 24th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Primary (Grades K-2) | 2015-2016 | February - (Comments Off on Fairy and Folk Tale Fun: February 2016 Primary K-2)

grandma and the great gourdGrandma and the Great Gourd: A Bengali Primary Icon of a White-Tailed DeerFolktale by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Illustrated by Susy Pilgrim Waters. A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press, 2013.

Traveling through the jungle in India to visit her daughter, an old woman named Grandma meets a fox, a bear, and a tiger in turn. She convinces them each she’s far too skinny to eat. “See how bony I am? I’ll be a lot juicier on my way back from my daughter’s house.” For the return journey, her daughter seals Grandma inside a giant gourd to keep her safe and gives her a push. She rolls through the jungle, encountering each animal once again. “I’m just a rolling gourd, singing my song. Won’t you give me a push and help me along?” It almost works. But the fox finally figures out Grandma’s inside. That’s when Grandma’s loyal dogs come to the rescue. A lively retelling of a traditional, humorous Bengali tale is distinguished by many fresh examples of onomatopoeia (dhip-dhip, khut-khut-khut, gar-gar, gar-gar), not to mention a strong, smart, clever main character. The vibrant illustrations are distinctively stylized. Steeped in warm, bright colors, they incorporate an array of decorative patterns into the backgrounds.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Check out these resources for Grandma and the Great Gourd from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What three animals does Grandma meet on her way through the forest?
  2. What problems does Grandma need to solve? How does she solve them?
  3. How do Grandma’s dogs help her?
  4. How might this story be different in a different setting? Give an example of a different setting and resulting story.

Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Middleton Elya. little rojaIllustrated by Susan Guevara. Putnam, 2014.

Richly flavored with Spanish words and Latino cultural details, this retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” is also full of spirit and good humor. Young Roja is suspicious of the wolf that questions her in the woods on the way to her Abuela’s, but doesn’t notice him stealing off with her red capa and hood when she stops to pick flores for her ailing grandmother. The wolf, meanwhile, arrives at Grandma’s in disguise, but Grandma (working on her laptop while in bed) only pretends to be fooled. Armed with a religious statue, she’s joined by Roja, who arrives in time to swing la canasta of hot soup at the beast. Susan Middleton Elya’s retelling is a masterful—and delightful—rhyming narrative. Susan Guevara’s watercolor, ink and gouache illustrations are the perfect accompaniment, providing not only visual context for Spanish words and greater cultural context for this version of the story, but also full of funny details, including a cast of characters from other traditional folktales, most notable the three blind mice who accompany Roja on her journey.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Check out helpful resources for Little Roja Riding Hood from TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Have you read other versions of Little Red Riding? What is similar and different in this version?
  2. The duendes are in many of the illustrations. What do you notice about them?
  3. How do the illustrations help to tell the story? What do the illustrations tell you about Little Roja, her mother and her grandmother?

A Month of Moon Stories: February 2016 Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers

January 24th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | 2015-2016 | February - (Comments Off on A Month of Moon Stories: February 2016 Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers)

mouse who ate the moonThe Mouse Who Ate the Moon by Petr Horáček. U.S. edition: Icon_PreSchoolCandlewick Press, 2014.

Little Mouse is so struck by the beauty of the moon that she wishes she could have a piece of it to keep. The next morning, her wish has come true when she wakes up and finds a yellow crescent outside her hole. It smells so good! It turns out to be tasty, too. She eats half of her piece of the moon before sadly realizing the moon won’t be round anymore. Luckily, her friends Mole and Rabbit reassure her that she didn’t really eat the moon. Deep-hued illustrations with occasional die-cuts are the backdrop for a gently humorous story that never makes fun of Little Mouse while giving young listeners the satisfaction of understanding Little Mouse’s mistake early on: Her piece of the moon is clearly a banana, although that’s never stated.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find resources for this book at TeachingBooks.net.

Talk: Talk about the different foods and their shapes. What are some special things you do with your family? Are there special foods you eat with your family?

Sing: Play a recording of “I’m Being Followed By a Moon Shadow” and sing along.

Play: Play peek-a-boo! Create finger shadow puppets. Host a tea party for family, friends, toys or dolls.

STEM: Discuss the different shapes and phases of the moon.

Mooncakes by Loretta Seto. Illustrated by Renné Benoit. Orca, 2013.mooncakes

A young Chinese North American girl describes her first time staying up to celebrate the autumn Moon Festival. There are round mooncakes to eat. “They make a circle for me and Mama and Baba. They make a circle for my family.” There are round paper lanterns to light. And there is the circle of Mama and Baba’s arms. The night also includes storytelling as the parents share three Chinese legends about the moon with the little girl. They are the perfect length for stories parents would tell a small child, and so integrate seamlessly into the narrative of this picture book that is full of warmth. It’s in the simple, beautiful language, and in the loving depiction of family. The story’s cozy feel is echoed in the illustrations’ warm tones. Discovering that the three legends are reflected in the decorations on the family’s teapot adds to the pleasure.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find resources for this book at TeachingBooks.net.

Read: Look at maps of the world. Find China and North America. What other countries can your children find?

Talk: Talk about holidays that your family celebrates. What foods does your family eat on these special occasions. Why is this important to your family?

Sing: Sing a favorite holiday song with children.

Write: Draw different holiday foods and let your child decorate them with crayons, paint, sequins, beads or sprinkles.

STEM: Bake a treat with children. Explain the need to follow a recipe. Talk about the steps needed to make the treat. What would happen you followed the steps in the recipe out of order?

Find more early literacy activities from the Youth Services Section of the Wisconsin Library Association’s 2015 Early Literacy Calendar created by Youth Services librarians across Wisconsin.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown / Charm & Strange

February 1st, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in 2014-2015 | High School | February - (Comments Off on The Coldest Girl in Coldtown / Charm & Strange)

coldest girl in coldtown

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. Little, Brown, 2013.charm & strange

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013.

Having read both or one of these books…

1. Why would an author choose to use vampires and werewolves to explore changing identity?

2. How are the vampires and werewolves similar and different from supernatural characters in other stories?

3. What plot elements allow you to suspend your disbelief?


Lincoln’s Grave Robbers

February 1st, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Middle School | 2014-2015 | February - (Comments Off on Lincoln’s Grave Robbers)

lincoln's grave robbersLincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin. Scholastic Press, 2013.

1. How did the author use source documents to reconstruct the events of the plot to steal Lincoln’s body and the history of counterfeiters?

2. Why does Tyrell hesitate before breaking into the tomb?

3. What were Swegles’ strategies to gain the trust of the grave robbers and avoid detection?

Books for Middle School Age


Lulu and the Duck in the Park / The Pet Project

February 1st, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2014-2015 | February - (Comments Off on Lulu and the Duck in the Park / The Pet Project)

luluandtheduckintheparkLulu and the Duck in the Park by Hilary McKay. Illustrated by Priscilla Lamont. U.S. edition: Albert Whitman, 2013.

1. Talk about how Lulu and Mellie and Mrs. Halliday each feel about animals. What in the story makes you say this?

2. What do you think about animals? Which of the characters are you most like when it comes to your feelings about animals and why?

3. What are some of the ways that Lulu and Mellie help each other? How do you help your friends?


pet project

The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses by Lisa Wheeler. Illustrated by Zachariah Ohora. Atheneum, 2013.

1. What are the steps the narrator completes to determine which pet is best for her?

2. Choose a poem or animal. How does the narrator feel about this animal? What in the text makes you think this? Do you agree with the narrator’s observations? Why?

3. What do you think about the assignment her parent’s gave her? Do you think this is a good way to decide what type of pet is best for her? How would you (or have you) determined what type of pet is best for you?Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readers

A Splash of Red / Kunu’s Basket

February 1st, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Primary (Grades K-2) | 2014-2015 | February - (Comments Off on A Splash of Red / Kunu’s Basket)

splash of red

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.

1. Why do you think the author wants us to learn about Horace Pippin? What did you learn by reading this book?

2. Why does Horace Pippin keep painting even when it is difficult?

3. Why do you think he included a splash of red in each painting?


kunu's basket

Kunu’s Basket: A Story from Indian Island by Lee DeCora Francis. Illustrated by Susan Drucker. Tilbury House, 2012.

1. Making a basket is hard work. Why does Kunu persevere in making the basket?

2. How are baskets used in the story?

3. Kunu’s grandfather helps him with his basket. Who helps you when something is difficult?


Primary Icon of a White-Tailed Deer

Tiger in My Soup / Stripes of All Types

February 1st, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | 2014-2015 | February - (Comments Off on Tiger in My Soup / Stripes of All Types)

tiger in my soup

Tiger in My Soup by Kashmira Sheth. Peachtree Publishers, 2013.

1. What would you do if you found a tiger in your soup?

2. Look at the end pages, how many tigers and boys can you count?

3. What kind of soup do you like?


stripes of all types

Stripes of All Types by Susan Stockdale. Peachtree Publishers, 2013.

1. Where do you see stripes? Where do you see spots? What colors do you see?

2. In the book, what places do the animals, insects, fish and birds live?

3. Find the activity page for further exploration.



Unspoken / Chickadee

February 1st, 2014 | Posted by schliesman in Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2013-2014 | February - (Comments Off on Unspoken / Chickadee)

unspoken cover

Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole. Scholastic Press, 2012

1. Who is the person hiding and who or what are they running from? How can you tell?

2. Do you think this is the first time someone has hidden on this family’s farm and gotten help? What can you point to in the illustrations that make you think yes or no?

3. Why do you think the illustrator chose to tell this story without any words?

4. If you were the girl in the story and discovered someone hiding and in need of help, what would you do?


chickadee cover
Chickadee by Louise Erdrich. Harper / HarperCollins, 2012

1. Chickadee is taken hundreds of miles from his home and has to find his own way back when he escapes. What knowledge does he draw on? Who are some of his helpers?

2. Everyone in Chickadee’s family is worried about him and misses him, especially his twin, Makoons. What are some of the ways Makoons responds to missing his brother? Why do you think Chickadee’s disappearance is so hard for him in particular?

3. Describe the characters of Babiche and Baptiste. In what ways were they funny? In what ways were they scary?


Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readers

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