Great Read from Debut Wisconsin Author! March 2016 High School Title

February 24th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2015-2016 | High School | March - (Comments Off on Great Read from Debut Wisconsin Author! March 2016 High School Title)

falling into placeFalling into Place by Amy Zhang. Greenwillow / Icon_HighSchoolHarperCollins, 2014.

Popular Liz Emerson was trying to commit suicide when she ran her car off the road. But she’s survived, at least for now. With Liz in the ICU, flashback chapters from the perspective of her best friends, Julia and Kennie, her mom, Monica, and Liam, a boy who loved Liz without ever telling her, reveal what led Liz to the point of such despair. Liz, it turns out, was good to her friends, but not very nice to others. In fact, she could be quite cruel, and Liam was one of the victims of her cruelty. But the journey back in time also reveals that Liz wasn’t always this way. After her dad died in an accident for which she blames herself, Liz moved away from the kind person she once was. Self-hatred fueled her downward spiral, compounding itself because she also hated the person she’d become. The tension in Amy Zhang’s debut novel is revealed not only through the constant reminder of Liz’s devastating act (chapters are titled in relation to the event, e.g., “Five Years Before Liz Emerson Crashed Her Car,” “Fifty-Five Minutes Before Liz Emerson Crashed Her Car”) but also in Liz’s despicable behavior and genuine despair. Her survival, it is clear, depends on much more than her body healing. The novel concludes with hotline numbers for anyone needing help if they or a friend are considering suicide.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find educator resources at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conservation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Why do you think Zhang tell Liz’s story in a non-chronological format? How would a different plot structure change the tension and pace of the story?
  2. What techniques does Zhang use to take an unsympathetic protagonist and make the reader care about her?
  3. How does Zhang’s inclusion of an unknown narrator influence the plot development?

Action and Adventure in this Survival Story from a Wisconsin Author! March 2016 Middle School Title

February 24th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in 2015-2016 | Middle School | March - (Comments Off on Action and Adventure in this Survival Story from a Wisconsin Author! March 2016 Middle School Title)

scavengersThe Scavengers by Michael Perry. HarperCollins, Books for Middle School Age2014.

From the publisher: Jeanne DuPrau’s The City of Ember meets Louis Sachar’s Holes (or, as Mike puts it, Little House on the Prairie meets Mad Max) in this imaginative and hilarious middle grade novel from New York Times bestselling author Michael Perry.

When the world started to fall apart, the government gave everyone two choices: move into the Bubble Cities . . . or take their chances outside. Maggie’s family chose to live in the world that was left behind. Deciding it’s time to grow up and grow tough, Maggie rechristens herself “Ford Falcon”—a name inspired by the beat-up car she finds at a nearby junkyard…the same junkyard where Ford’s family goes to scavenge for things they can use and barter with the other people who live OutBubble. Her family has been able to survive this brave new world by working together. But when Ford comes home one day to discover her home ransacked and her family missing, she must find the strength to rescue her loved ones with the help of some friends–including one very feisty rooster.

The Scavengers is a wholly original tween novel that combines an action-packed adventure, a heartfelt family story, and a triumphant journey of self-discovery. It achieves the perfect balance of humor and heart in a world where one person’s junk is another person’s key to survival.

Read an excerpt from the book, hear a clip from the audiobook, read reviews on the Michael Perry’s website, SneezingCow.com.

Find resources for The Scavengers at TeachingBooks.net.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Why does Maggie change her name to Ford Falcon? What is the significance of her name change? What does it mean when her father calls her Ford Falcon at the end of the book?
  2. Why does Ford Falcon stay in the car instead of in the shack with her family?
  3. Why does Ford decide to stay out of the Bubble at the end of the book? Would you have the courage to do so? Would you choose to live InBubble or OutBubble? Explain.

Tales of Extraordinary Bravery: March 2016 Intermediate Titles

February 24th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2015-2016 | March - (Comments Off on Tales of Extraordinary Bravery: March 2016 Intermediate Titles)

flora and ulyssesFlora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readersKate DiCamillo. Illustrated by K. G. Campbell. Candlewick Press, 2013.

Flora’s been pretty cynical since her parents’ divorce. She spends most of her time reading superhero comics while her self-involved mom works on her next romance novel and her dad, with his lack of confidence, flounders. But when Flora sees a hapless squirrel sucked up by a vacuum, she’s on the scene in an instant performing CPR (she learned it in the back of a comic book). “For a cynic I am a surprisingly helpful person,” she thinks. The squirrel not only lives, but is changed by the experience. He understands what Flora says. And he can write—poetry no less—plunking out deep, thoughtful verses on the typewriter belonging to Flora’s mom. Flora names him Ulysses (for the model of vacuum that was almost his demise) and thinks of him as a superhero in real life. Ulysses may not be able to save the world, but he just might be able to save Flora, restoring her belief in friendship and family. Kate DiCamillo’s witty, wonderful work of magical realism is patently absurd with its flights of fancy and wordplay, but that’s its charm. The lively prose narrative is punctuated by interludes of black-and-white panel illustrations by K. G. Campbell that showcase small vignettes of action while referencing the comic-book form.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find resources for Flora and Ulysses, including links to 8 lesson plans at TeachingBooks.net!

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Before reading: Both stories (Flora and Ulysses and Stubby the War Dog) use headlines. What would be the headline for your life today?
  2. How do the text features affect the story? How do the illustrations affect your understanding of the story and the characters?
  3. How does the mother change throughout the story? Why does the mom want to get rid of Ulysses? What does the mom say that’s hurtful and why?
  4. Why do you think that the boy pretends to be blind? How would the story and characters change if the boy didn’t pretend to be blind?

Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I’s stubby the war dogBravest Dog by Ann Bausum. National Geographic, 2014.

As he was training for duty overseas in 1917, Pvt. J. Robert Conroy bonded with a stray dog at the training camp. Conroy named the dog Stubby due to his stub of a tail, and smuggled him on board his ship when he headed for France. Stubby was so smart and so personable that he quickly became the unofficial mascot for Conroy’s division. On the battlefield, Stubby proved his worth by locating fallen soldiers and staying with them until help arrived, and warning the unit of poison gas. He earned a medal for bravery when he captured a German soldier. After the war, Stubby’s reputation and fame continued to grow. Author Ann Bausum did extensive primary research through documents, photos, and mementos at the Smithsonian, which has taxidermy Stubby in its collection, and one of the intriguing aspects of her narrative is occasional comments on the challenges of separating fact from fiction, since even stories written when Stubby was alive were prone to hyperbole. She also interviewed Conroy’s grandson, who shared memories of his grandfather and his stories about Stubby. Numerous photographs of Stubby, Conroy, and other memorabilia are an integral part of a volume that includes a timeline, extensive bibliography, and wonderful research notes.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Check out the great resources for TeachingBooks.net!

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Before reading: Both stories (Flora and Ulysses and Stubby the War Dog) use headlines. What would be the headline for your life today?
  2. Can you identify any primary sources in the book? How do the primary sources affect the story?
  3. Make a timeline of Stubby’s Story.
  4. How do animals help people through difficult times? What examples can you find in this book? Which of Stubby’s feats impressed you most?

Celebrate Nature with the March 2016 Primary Titles

February 24th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Primary (Grades K-2) | 2015-2016 | March - (Comments Off on Celebrate Nature with the March 2016 Primary Titles)

firefly julyFirefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems by Primary Icon of a White-Tailed DeerPaul B. Janeczko. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Candlewick Press, 2014.

A smile-inducing collection of poems offers a range of perspectives on the seasons and an introduction to an array of poets both contemporary and classic. Charlotte Zolotow’s “Little Orange Cat,” Ralph Fletcher’s “Water Lily,” and Carl Sandburg’s “Window” are among subjects for Spring. Summer includes “Subway Rush Hour” by Langston Hughes and Joyce Sidman’s “Happy Meeting” in which “Rain meets dust: / soft, cinnamon kisses. / Quick, noisy courtship, / then marriage: mud.” Fall and Winter speak in the voices of William Carlos Williams, Eve Merriam, Robert Frost, Ted Kooser, and others. The brevity of the individual poems makes each one feel like a perfect little package, to be opened, sighed over, shared. Melissa Sweet’s lovely illustrations offer concrete yet whimsical images that shift stylistically, providing an appealing accompaniment to poem while maintaining a sense of unity across the pages.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find more resources for Firefly July at TeachingBooks.net, including this teaching guide from The Classroom Bookshelf and QR codes.

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How do the illustrations help us to understand the words in the poems?
  2. Describe how the words and illustrations identify the seasons?
  3. What are the differences between the fog in Carl Sandburg’s poem (p. 36) and Ever Merriam’s poem (p. 37)?

What Forest Knows by George Ella Lyon. Illustrated by what forest knowsAugust Hall. A Richard Jackson Book / Atheneum, 2014.

An inspired journey through the seasons in a wood offers a growing litany of what Forest knows, from “snow / icy branches / frozen waterfall” in winter to “buds … / waking / opening up” in spring. Forest knows “growing, / going forth … / fruit” in summer, and “gathering in, letting go” in fall. Then Forest knows snow again, and change, in everything and everyone. A picture book full of rich, evocative words moves seamlessly between ideas and concrete details of many things that might be found in the wood across the seasons. Astute observers will appreciate the dual meaning applied to “Forest” through the illustrations. The word can not only be taken as the woods personified, it can also be interpreted as the name of the brown dog seen on every page spread, exploring the woods throughout the year. Highly Commended, 2015 Charlotte Zolotow Award  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Find more resources for What Forest Knows at TeachingBooks.net,

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. Who or what do you think is Forest? Show examples for your opinion.
  2. In what season does the book begin? In what season does the book end?
  3. Identify words in the story that describe or show action?

Great Books for Literacy Activities: March 2016 Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers

February 24th, 2016 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | 2015-2016 | March - (Comments Off on Great Books for Literacy Activities: March 2016 Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers)

socksSocks! by Tania Sohn. Kane Miller, 2014.Icon_PreSchool

A little girl’s love for socks of all types — “yellow socks so I can play [soccer] … daddy socks,” Christmas stockings, socks that she turns into puppets, others she pretends are an elephant’s trunk — culminates with a pair of extra special socks that arrive in the mail: “Beoseon! Traditional Korean socks, from Grandma.” The simple text is set against clean-lined, appealing illustrations showing a small girl of Korean heritage, and a playful black-and-white kitten that is almost as enamored of all the different socks as she is!  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  • Read: Socks!
  • Talk: Talk about the patterns and colors on the socks in the book. What colors are the different socks?
  • Play: Make sock puppets. Let your child make names and characters for their puppets. Put on a puppet show for each other.
  • STEM: Sort laundry, find pairs, and talk about patterns.

If You Were a Dog by Jamie A. Swenson. Illustrated by Chris ifyouwereadogRaschka. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2014.

“If you were a dog, would you be a speedy-quick, lickedy-sloppidy, scavenge-the-garbage, Frisbee-catching, hot-dog-stealing, pillow-hogging, best-friend-ever sort of dog? Would you howl at the moon? Some dogs do.” A playful picture book full of fresh turns of phrase asks similar questions about being a cat, fish, bird, bug, frog, and even a dinosaur in author Jamie Swenson’s merry offering that is sure to invite role-playing (be prepared for moon-howling and dinosaur stomping in story time). Chris Raschka’s whimsical illustrations are a perfect match for Swenson’s imaginative outing that concludes with the very best thing of all to be: a kid! Highly Commended, 2015 Charlotte Zolotow Award  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

  • Read: If You Were a Dog
  • Talk: Talk about the different words and phrases used to describe the animals in the book. What words would you use to describe yourself, a pet, or a friend.
  • Write: Do some watercolor painting in the spirit of this book’s style.
  • Play: Encourage role play and pretend to be the different animals depicted in the book.

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 Nazi Hunters / I See the Promised Land

March 1st, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in 2014-2015 | High School | March - (Comments Off on The Nazi Hunters / I See the Promised Land)

nazi hunters i see the promised landHS


The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb. Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic Inc., 2013.

I See the Promised Land: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Arthur Flowers. Illustrated by Manu Chitrakar. Designed by Guglielmo Rossi. Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press, 2013.


Having read one or both of these books…

1. How do the visual elements of the text impact your understanding of the story? What are some of the other choices the authors and illustrators made to emotionally engage readers? How do these elements work together?

2. Cite evidence of people in these books taking action for a cause greater rather than for themselves. What compels them to do this? How do those actions impact us today?

3. What did you learn about the time periods and people involved in these stories that you didn’t know before reading these books?


March: Book One / Imprisoned

March 1st, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Middle School | 2014-2015 | March - (Comments Off on March: Book One / Imprisoned)

march book oneMSMarch: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. Illustrated by Nate Powell. Top Shelf, 2013.

1. Education was important to John Lewis from the time he was a child. How is this introduced and then explored throughout the book? What does John Lewis learn from raising chickens and reading scripture? How do these learning experiences influence his life?

2. How does the use of the graphic novel style contribute to John Lewis’s story? Does it detract in any ways?

3. Why was nonviolent resistance/civil disobedience effective with Lewis’ group’s protests? What other problems could be solved with this type of action? Are there any problems that could not (or should not) be approached this way?


imprisonedImprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans during World War II by Martin W. Sandler. Walker, 2013.

1. The author believes that the response of the government and many individual Americans to people of Japanese descent in the U.S. after the bombing of Pearl Harbor was unjust and hysterical. How does he convey this perspective and support it in the narrative?

2. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Battalion were two units composed entirely of Japanese Americans. What were some of the reasons these men gave for fighting for a country that had treated them so poorly?

3. Why do you think it took so long for the U.S. government to apologize for the treatment of Americans of Japanese ancestry?

Books for Middle School Age

No Monkeys, No Chocolate

March 1st, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Primary (Grades K-2) | 2014-2015 | March - (Comments Off on No Monkeys, No Chocolate)

no monkeys no chocolateGRK-2

No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young. Illustrated by Nicole Wong.  Charlesbridge, 2013.

1. Why can’t chocolate grow without monkeys and other creatures? Why do you think the author chose the title, No Monkeys, No Chocolate, for this book?

2. What do you think are the important things the author wants us to know about chocolate?

3. In what other ways do plants, insects and animals depend on each other?

H.O.R.S.E.: / Hoop Genius

March 1st, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2014-2015 | March - (Comments Off on H.O.R.S.E.: / Hoop Genius)

h.o.r.s.eH.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination by Christopher Myers. Egmont, 2012.

1. Did you have trouble deciding who was talking on each page of this book? What helped you to figure out who was speaking?

2. What is the setting of this book? How do you know? How do the illustrations and the text help you to identify the setting?

3. Do you think the characters are friends? What makes you say that?


hoop genius

Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball by John Coy. Illustrated by Joe Morse. Carolrhoda, 2013.

1. Why did James Naismith invent basketball? What experiences helped James Naismith invent the sport?

2. How or why were some of the rules for basketball formed? How were the original rules different from the basketball we know today? Why do think some of the rules changed?

3. Why do you think basketball is still a popular sport?

Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readers


Which is Round? Which is Bigger? / All the World

March 1st, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | 2014-2015 | March - (Comments Off on Which is Round? Which is Bigger? / All the World)

which is round

Which Is Round? Which Is Bigger? by Mineko Mamada. Translated from the Japanese by Yvette Ghione. U.S. edition: Kids Can Press, 2013.

1. Which animals have tails?

2. How many circles do you see? What fruits do you see?

3. What are some of the ways that the animals and fruits change to become bigger or smaller, round or not round?


all the worldAll the World by Liz Garton Scanlon. Illustrated by Marla Frazee. Beach Lane, 2009.

1. Find people who are playing. Which place would you like to play?

2. Find people who are working. Which job would you like?

3. What does your family like to do outdoors?




March 1st, 2014 | Posted by schliesman in Middle School | 2013-2014 | March - (Comments Off on Unwind)

unwind cover

Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Simon and Schuster, 2007

1. Connor, Risa and Lev have followed three different paths to the same fate and are all destined for “unwinding.” How do their individual experiences draw similarities between the future in which this story is set and our society today?

2. What are some of the ways the three main characters influence one another’s understanding of and attitudes toward “unwinding”? How do Connor, Risa and Lev change in other ways from knowing one another?

3. This book takes a highly controversial issue in our society today and offers up a fictional future where the solution is a compromise that seems unimaginable. What do you think the author wants readers to think about or take away from this?


Books for Middle School Age

Final Four

March 1st, 2014 | Posted by schliesman in High School | 2013-2014 | March - (Comments Off on Final Four)

final four cover

The Final Four by Paul Volponi. Viking, 2012

1. This book raises a lot of questions about whether college athletes should receive compensation from the NCAA for their talent. What do you believe and why? In what ways, if any, has your opinion been informed by or changed by this novel?

2. Malcolm McBride, Roko Basic and Michael Jordan are each facing challenges—some off the court, some on. What are their similarities and what are their differences. How do they work individually and together as characters to illuminate realities for college athletes?

3. In what ways do you think the secondary female characters were stereotyped? How could they have changed those roles to make them less stereotypical?



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