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Thicker than Water by Natasha Deen

Thicker than Water by Natasha Deen. January 29, 2019. Orca, 144 p. ISBN: 9781459821989.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: 3.2; Lexile: 450.

Zack Bernard has a thing for crime shows, especially the forensic-investigation kind. So when his friend Ella goes missing, Zack can’t help piecing together what he thinks is concrete evidence that could lead to her whereabouts. The problem is, it’s all pointing toward his dad. He knows his dad is lying about not having seen Ella because Zack saw them together at the mall the day she disappeared. What he doesn’t know is why. With the help of his friend Ayo, Zack tries to solve the mystery himself to avoid having to make the ter-rible choice between losing someone close to him and betraying his family.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2018)
When his friend goes missing, Zack Bernard realizes her disappearance is not the only mystery. The story focuses on Zack, a West Indian–Canadian teen living in Toronto who’s a fan of true-crime shows and plans to become a detective. When his friend Ella Larson disappears, Zack can’t let the police be the only ones investigating—especially because he knows something the police don’t: Zack saw Ella with his guidance-counselor father at the mall and, later, getting into his car. Afraid to jeopardize his father’s job, Zack withholds this information. Zack’s dad refuses to talk to him about what he saw, his friend Ayo Mohammed thinks he needs to respect the confidentiality of his father’s records, and they both think Zack should let the police handle everything. But his gut instinct says something terrible happened to Ella, and Zack’s going to do everything he can to find out what it is even if he finds out something he didn’t want to know. A challenge with hi-lo books is displayed with this title: The plot is too complex for the format, forcing an overly tidy and sanitized conclusion to the central mystery. However, readers will definitely keep turning the pages; Zack’s and Ayo’s immigrant families provide some subtle characterization for each of them. For reluctant readers with a taste for crime, this title should scratch the itch. (Mystery/thriller. 12-18)

School Library Journal (February 1, 2019)
Gr 8 Up-This continuing series follows teenagers dealing with transitions. Logan is a photographer reeling from the recent death of her mother in The Unbroken Hearts Club. When she and her best friend Cole begin attending bereavement meetings hosted by her father, she is forced to confront her loss, as well as her possible feelings for Cole. Aspiring criminologist Zack’s best friend goes missing in Thicker Than Water-and all signs point to Zack’s father being involved, all while his parents’ marriage falls apart. In The Bodyguard, Ryan, known as “Replay,” is a star football player who dreams of becoming a filmmaker. To raise the money to apply to film school, he begins working as a bodyguard to Markus, an Estonian exchange student with dark secrets tied to online gambling. Readers will be enticed by the edgy themes and compelling stories of adolescents following their dreams. VERDICT Written at a third and fourth grade reading level, these novels are distinguished by multidimensional characters and briskly paced plots. © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.

About the Author

Natasha Deen’s family moved from Guyana, South America to Canada to escape the country’s political & racial violence. She loved growing up in a country of snow & flannel, but often felt out of place. Thank goodness for books that showed her being different could also mean being awesome. Natasha lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her family where she spends A LOT of time arguing with her cats and dogs about who’s the boss of the house.

Her website is www.natashadeen.com

Teacher Resources

Thicker than Water Teacher’s Guide

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The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel

The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History: The Story of the Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel. January 29, 2019. Scholastic Nonfiction, 333 p. ISBN: 9781338251197.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1200.

Robert M. Edsel brings the story of his #1 NYT bestseller for adults The Monuments Mento young readers for the first time in this dynamic, narrative nonfiction project packed with photos.

Robert M. Edsel, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Monuments Men, brings this story to young readers for the first time in a sweeping, dynamic adventure detailing history’s greatest treasure hunt.

As the most destructive war in history ravaged Europe, many of the world’s most cherished cultural objects were in harm’s way. The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History recounts the astonishing true story of 11 men and one woman who risked their lives amidst the bloodshed of World War II to preserve churches, libraries, monuments, and works of art that for centuries defined the heritage of Western civilization. As the war raged, these American and British volunteers — museum curators, art scholars and educators, architects, archivists, and artists, known as the Monuments Men — found themselves in a desperate race against time to locate and save the many priceless treasures and works of art stolen by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 4))
Grades 7-12. While Adolf Hitler and his Nazi officers were organizing the genocide of Jews, they also orchestrated the looting of millions of pieces of art and culturally significant items from museums, churches, and private collections throughout Europe. Although dubbed the Monuments Men, about 350 men and women from 14 nations volunteered in the Allied armies’ Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Program from 1943 to 1951 to help preserve a shared cultural heritage. In this young readers edition of The Monuments Men (2009), Edsel focuses on 10 Monuments Men and Rose Valland, an art historian and member of the French Resistance. With precise details, incredible adventure, and mounting intensity, the author describes the responsibilities of these artists, architects, curators, and historians. Arriving in damaged cities, they tried to salvage important documents, art, and buildings. Their biggest role, however, was as art detectives endeavoring to locate the Nazi’s stash of hidden treasure, while racing against time. Although they didn’t serve on the front lines, booby traps, snipers, and other dangers made their mission risky—and even deadly. Complemented by rarely seen images of WWII, these amazing stories from history not only depict true heroes but also encourage readers to question the value of art throughout humanity and civilization. Monumental, indeed.

Kirkus Reviews (October 1, 2018)
During World War II, a team of so-called Monuments Men was formed to search for and recover the enormous collection of art treasures that Hitler and his minions looted from museums, churches, and private collections all across Europe. The tale is focused on a small, although representative, number of the approximately 350 men (and women) who served up until 1951, locating hoards of some of the world’s best loved and most culturally significant art, much of it stashed in damp tunnels scattered across Germany. Edsel’s backstories of the 10 Monuments Men covered in the tale help breathe life into these scholarly—and highly driven—men. Although the war is presented mostly as a backdrop to their energetic detective work, enough information on the struggle is included to keep the quest in context and to remind readers that these unlikely soldiers were often in peril. Based primarily upon his adult work The Monuments Men (2009) along with two others on the same subject (Rescuing Da Vinci, 2006; Saving Italy, 2013), Edsel’s effort for younger readers is still lengthy. Numerous well-placed photographs (many more than in the adult version) are included and appear on most pages. Although the book is richly engaging and highly informative, its audience may be limited to those readers who already have some awareness of the extent of Nazi thievery and the nearly inconceivable danger the art was placed in. Figures profiled all seem to be white. Excellent backmatter is included. A high-interest work on an important topic. (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Robert M. Edsel is the best-selling author of Saving ItalyThe Monuments Men and Rescuing da Vinci and co-producer of the award-winning documentary film The Rape of Europa. Edsel is also the founder and president of the Monuments Men Foundation, a recipient of the National Humanities Medal, and a trustee at the National WWII Museum. After living in Florence for five years, he now resides in Dallas, Texas.

Her website is www.monumentsmenfoundation.org

Teacher Resources

The Greatest Treasure Hunt in History Educator’s Guide

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El Mundo Adorado de Sonia Sotomayor by Sonia Sotomayor

El Mundo Adorado se Sonia Sotomayor by Sonia Sotomayor. November 13, 2018. Vintage Espanol, 400 p. ISBN: 9780525564614.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.4; Lexile: 1070.

Discover the inspiring life of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, in this middle-grade adaptation of her bestselling adult memoir, My Beloved World
 
Includes an 8-page photo insert and a brief history of the Supreme Court.

Sonia Sotomayor was just a girl when she dared to dream big. Her dream? To become a lawyer and a judge even though she’d never met one of either, and none lived in her neighborhood.

Sonia did not let the hardships of her background—which included growing up in the rough housing projects of New York City’s South Bronx, dealing with juvenile diabetes, coping with parents who argued and fought personal demons, and worrying about money—stand in her way. Always, she believed in herself. Her determination, along with guidance from generous mentors and the unwavering love of her extended Puerto Rican family, propelled her ever forward.

Eventually, all of Sonia’s hard work led to her appointment as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 2009, a role that she has held ever since.

Learn about Justice Sotomayor’s rise and her amazing work as well as about the Supreme Court in this fascinating memoir that shows that no matter the obstacles, dreams can come true.

Spanish Language version of The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Drugs, Racism, Alcoholism

 

Author Videos

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 7-10. After seven-year-old Sonia, recently diagnosed with diabetes, awakens to the sound of her parents arguing over who will give her a daily shot of insulin, she decides to take on that responsibility herself. It was the first of many decisions that would challenge her and move her forward. Judiciously pared down from Sotomayor’s My Beloved World (2013), this autobiography for young people records her memories of growing up with her father (who died when she was nine), her mother, her brother, and her extended Puerto Rican American family in the Bronx. She also discusses her education in Catholic schools, at Princeton, and at Yale, her pro bono advocacy work, and her career as an assistant district attorney and a partner in a private law firm. The story concludes as she begins working as a district court judge. Readers will come away with a strong sense of Sotomayor’s background, her steadfast values, and her ability to stand up for herself and for others. Written in a clear, direct manner and enriched with many personal stories, the book also conveys a sense of her gratitude to family, friends, teachers, and mentors. A lively autobiography of the third woman and the first Latina on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2018)
The memoir of a woman who rose from the housing projects in New York City’s South Bronx to become the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. This is the story of a woman who as a 10-year-old fell under the spell of Perry Mason, a fictional TV lawyer. Her life course was set: She would become a lawyer and, dare she dream it, a judge. With a clear vision, hard work, and determination she set out to make her dream come true. In a series of vignettes that help to illustrate her remarkable spirit and motivations, Sotomayor recalls some of the salient moments of her life. Readers are introduced to her close-knit family, friends, colleagues, and mentors that nurtured her along the way. She chronicles her academic and professional achievements and what it took to be successful. She also presents her core beliefs and struggles, never shying from coming across as human. The account of this exceptional trajectory, told with a storyteller’s talent, is filled with a candor and honesty that make her story eminently accessible to young readers. Adapted from her memoir for adults, My Beloved World (2013), in the hope of inspiring children to dream even the dreams they cannot at first imagine, this book should thoroughly achieve that goal. A must read. (glossary, Supreme Court overview) (Memoir. 10-18)

About the Author

Sonia Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976 and from Yale Law School in 1979. She worked as an assistant district attorney in New York and then at the law firm of Pavia & Harcourt. She served as a judge of the US District Court, Southern District of New York, from 1992 to 1998, and from 1998 to 2009 served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In May 2009, President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; she assumed this role on August 8, 2009.

Teacher Resources

Soina Sotomayor Biography Lesson Plan

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Blacklisted!: Hollywood, the Cold War, and the First Amendment by Larry Dane Brimner

Blacklisted!: Hollywood, the Cold War, and the First Amendment by Larry Dane Brimner. October 9, 2018. Calkins Creek, 176 p. ISBN: 9781620916032.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1230.

Sibert award-winning author Larry Dane Brimner follows in vivid detail the story of nineteen men from the film industry who were investigated for suspected communist ties during the Cold War, and the ten who were blacklisted for standing up for their First Amendment rights and refusing to cooperate.

World War II is over, but tensions between communist Soviet Union and the U.S. are at an all-time high. In America, communist threats are seen everywhere and a committee is formed in the nation’s capital to investigate those threats. Larry Dane Brimner follows the story of nineteen men—all from the film industry—who are summoned to appear before the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities. All nineteen believe that the committee’s investigations into their political views and personal associations are a violation of their First Amendment rights. When the first ten of these men refuse to give the committee the simple answers it wants, they are cited for contempt of Congress and blacklisted.

Brimner brings the story of the trial and its consequences to life, giving readers an in-depth look at what it’s like to fight for the most basic of our Constitutional rights. The book includes an author’s note, a bibliography, source notes, and an index, as well as archival photographs, documents, cartoons, images, and quotations from the accused and their accusers.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States?” That was the question asked of 19 men (Hollywood screenwriters, directors, a producer, and an actor) in 1947 congressional hearings. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) played on Americans’ fears of communists by investigating “subversive” influences in the movie industry. Ten men were charged with contempt of Congress, tried, found guilty, and imprisoned, while many others were blacklisted. The author of the Sibert Award-winning Twelve Days in May​ (2017), Brimner presents an informative account of the HUAC hearings and their repercussions for the Hollywood Ten. In the chapters covering those hearings, the extensive use of quotes gives the writing great immediacy, while the commentary clearly explains the motivations of the committee members and the viewpoints of those called to testify before them. The well-captioned illustrations include archival photos, documents, and political cartoons. Most easily understood by readers with some knowledge of the period, this tightly focused book presents a meticulously detailed narrative of events related to the 1947 hearings. More broadly, Brimner offers a cautionary tale about the damage done to individuals and society when constitutional rights are denied by officials sworn to uphold them.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2018)
Brimner brings to life a shameful episode in American history when citizens working in the film industry were accused of disloyalty and subversion and persecuted for defending their First Amendment rights. In 1947, tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States were at an all-time high. The House Committee on Un-American Activities, which included members with ties to the KKK, called Hollywood actors, directors, producers, and screenwriters to answer accusations that they were Communists. Ten who appeared refused to answer questions, citing their Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly. The “Hollywood Ten” were afterward denied work by all Hollywood studios. Brimner vividly chronicles the hearings and their fallout, braiding stories of individuals into the overall narrative. Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo worked under pseudonyms; director Edward Dmytryk, unable to work covertly, later cooperated with the committee and named names. Drawing heavily on hearings transcripts, Brimner also includes a great deal of historical background to put the story in context. He notes that the origins of HUAC were rooted in America’s first “Red Scare” following the Russian Revolution, and he challenges readers to consider if things are all that different today, citing contemporary examples. The many archival photographs included are testament to the overwhelming whiteness of both Hollywood and Congress. A chilling look at a time when the government waged war on civil liberties, with the public a complicit ally. (bibliography, source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Larry Dane Brimner is the recipient of the 2018 Robert F. Sibert Award for the most distinguished informational book for children for his title Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961. He is known for his well-researched, innovative, and award-winning nonfiction for young readers, and is the author of multiple acclaimed civil rights titles, including Strike!: The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights; and Black & White: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor.

His website is www.brimner.com

Teacher Resources

Hollywood v. HUAC Lesson Plans

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The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden

The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden. September 4, 2018. Sky Pony Press, 256 p. ISBN: 9781510737488.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 6.0.

Some people can do their homework. Some people get to have crushes on boys. Some people have other things they’ve got to do.

Seventh-grader Zoey has her hands full as she takes care of her much younger siblings after school every day while her mom works her shift at the pizza parlor. Not that her mom seems to appreciate it. At least there’s Lenny, her mom’s boyfriend—they all get to live in his nice, clean trailer.

At school, Zoey tries to stay under the radar. Her only friend Fuchsia has her own issues, and since they’re in an entirely different world than the rich kids, it’s best if no one notices them.

Zoey thinks how much easier everything would be if she were an octopus: eight arms to do eight things at once. Incredible camouflage ability and steady, unblinking vision. Powerful protective defenses.

Unfortunately, she’s not totally invisible, and one of her teachers forces her to join the debate club. Even though Zoey resists participating, debate ultimately leads her to see things in a new way: her mom’s relationship with Lenny, Fuchsia’s situation, and her own place in this town of people who think they’re better than her. Can Zoey find the courage to speak up, even if it means risking the most stable home she’s ever had?

This moving debut novel explores the cultural divides around class and the gun debate through the eyes of one girl, living on the edges of society, trying to find her way forward.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 4-7. Seventh-grader Zoey doesn’t think she’s as good as other kids at school who have nice things. She also doesn’t have the inclination to do homework because she’s too busy taking care of her siblings—Bryce (four), Aurora (three), and baby Hector—all offspring of different fathers. They and their mother live in a trailer with Mom’s fussy bully of a boyfriend, Lenny, and his cantankerous father. When Zoey’s social-studies teacher makes her join the school debate club, she begins to see situations with fresh eyes and from both sides—an ability she courageously applies to the gun debate after a school lockdown occurs. She also comes to understand that instead of succumbing to Lenny’s intimidation, Zoey’s mother has choices, including moving out and getting a protection order. This engrossing debut novel, narrated by the resourceful Zoey, takes the reader on her journey from the dire side of the class divide to a life of cautious hope as she learns the world is big enough for choices, actions, and results.

School Library Journal (August 1, 2018)
Gr 5-8-Zoey is a seventh grader in rural Vermont. Her mother works a low-wage job and the family is impoverished. Zoey must care for her three younger siblings, there often isn’t enough food to eat, and her clothes are almost never clean. Completing homework is often impossible. On top of all this, they live with her mother’s boyfriend, Lenny, who is moody and sometimes mean. Zoey knows that if she could be like an octopus, her favorite animal, she would be better able to handle all these demands, as well as camouflage herself when necessary. Zoey’s English teacher reaches out and convinces her to join the school debate club. While the protagonist is reluctant at first, she finds she enjoys it. Over time, she learns about debate tactics, like discrediting your opponent, and realizes that Lenny has been manipulating her mother. Another plot point involves gunshots in the school parking lot, which are blamed on a student who lives in the same trailer park as Zoey. This heartbreaking, beautifully written book about finding one’s voice will offer some readers a relatable reflection and others a window that can help build empathy and understanding. VERDICT Braden’s story raises many thought-provoking and timely questions about the difficulty of escaping poverty and the prevalence of gun violence. Highly recommended.-Laura Gardner, Dartmouth Middle School, MA

About the Author

Ann Braden writes books about kids struggling to find their voice amidst the realities of life. She founded GunSenseVT, a grassroots group focused on championing the common ground on the issue of guns in Vermont, which recently helped pass landmark gun violence prevention legislation. She also founded the Local Love Brigade, which now has chapters all over the country sending love postcards to those who are facing hate. Ann is the co-host of the children’s book podcast, “Lifelines: Books that Bridge the Divide,” along with Pakistani American author Saadia Faruqi, and is a former middle school teacher. She lives in southern Vermont with her husband, two children, and two insatiable cats named Boomer and Justice.

Her website is www.annbradenbooks.com

Teacher Resources

The Benefits of Being an Octopus Educator’s Guide

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The Benefits of Being an Octopus Publisher Page

Attucks!: Oscar Robinson and the Basketball Team that Awakened a City by Phillip Hoose

Attucks!: Oscar Robinson and the Basketball Team that Awakened a City by Phillip Hoose. October 23, 2018. Farrar, Straus and Girou, 212 p. ISBN: 9780374306120.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1110.

The true story of the all-black high school basketball team that broke the color barrier in segregated 1950s Indiana, masterfully told by National Book Award winner Phil Hoose.

By winning the state high school basketball championship in 1955, ten teens from an Indianapolis school meant to be the centerpiece of racially segregated education in the state shattered the myth of their inferiority. Their brilliant coach had fashioned an unbeatable team from a group of boys born in the South and raised in poverty. Anchored by the astonishing Oscar Robertson, a future college and NBA star, the Crispus Attucks Tigers went down in history as the first state champions from Indianapolis and the first all-black team in U.S. history to win a racially open championship tournament—an integration they had forced with their on-court prowess.
From native Hoosier and award-winning author Phillip Hoose comes this true story of a team up against impossible odds, making a difference when it mattered most.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism, Strong language

 

Book Trailer

Related Video

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Anyone who’s seen Hoosiers has an idea how crazy Indianans are about basketball. What it doesn’t hint at, though, is the story Newbery Honor Book author Hoose tells—that not only was Indiana, and its capital, Indianapolis, nuts about b-ball, but that the success of a black high school, built in the 1920s at the instigation of the Ku Klux Klan, would through its hardwood success drive integration in the 1950s in a place known as “the South of the North.” Crispus Attucks High School didn’t even have an adequate gym, nor were they initially allowed to play other public schools, but in the early 1950s, things slowly began to change. The 1954–55 team won the state championship, finally overcoming bad officiating and gaining the respect of the still largely segregated city. As Hoose puts it, “Attucks varsity were becoming activists for racial justice by excelling at something that was dearly prized by whites.” The story of triumph covers personalities as well as history: Oscar Robertson, the NBA basketball great, was the centerpiece of a team led by Ray Crowe, a remarkable coach. Their backgrounds and what drove them are woven into the exciting descriptions of games. Excessively readable, this should appeal to sports fans and those looking for a good book about the civil rights era. Exemplary notes and sources will push readers—adults included—to learn even more.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2018)
Acclaimed author Hoose (The Boys Who Challenged Hitler, 2015, etc.) returns to his home state with the true story of the all-black high school basketball team that broke the color barrier in segregated 1950s Indianapolis, anchored by one of the greatest players of all time. Recently honored with the NBA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Oscar Robertson is known for his accomplishments both as an athlete and advocate for NBA players. However, few know the story of how the Naptown basketball savant was able to lead his segregated high school to back-to-back state championships. Hoose does a brilliant job of portraying the surrounding historical context, exploring the migration of black families from the South to Indiana, showing how Jim Crow practices were just as present in the North as in the South, and describing the deep groundswell of support for basketball in Indiana. The inspiration for the book was the Big O himself, who told Hoose that the Ku Klux Klan “did something they couldn’t foresee by making Attucks an all-black school. The city of Indianapolis integrated because we were winning.” Could basketball have served as a pathway to racial progress within the Hoosier state? Attucks! doesn’t pretend that we’ve outlived the racism of the American past, all the while showing readers how being grounded in one’s self-worth and committed to the pursuit of excellence can have a lasting impact on a community. A powerful, awe-inspiring basketball-driven history. (biographies, sources, notes, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Phillip Hoose is the widely-acclaimed author of books, essays, stories, songs, and articles, including the National Book Award winning book, Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice.

A graduate of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, Hoose has been a staff member of The Nature Conservancy since 1977, dedicated to finding and protecting habitats of endangered species.

A songwriter and performing musician, Phillip Hoose is a founding member of the Children’s Music Network and a member of the band Chipped Enamel. He lives in Portland, Maine.

His website is philliphoose.wordpress.com/

Teacher Resources

Attucks! Educator’s Guide

Around the Web

Attucks! on Amazon

Attucks! on Barnes and Noble

Attucks! on Goodreads

Attucks! on LibraryThing

Attucks! Publisher Page

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich. October 9, 2018. Poppy, 368 p. ISBN: 9780316420235.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 590.

From the show’s creators comes the groundbreaking novel inspired by the Broadway smash hit Dear Evan Hansen.

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Suicide, Suicidal thoughts

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Evan Hansen, a teen crippled by anxiety, starts each day by writing a letter of encouragement to himself. When loner Connor Murphy finds one of the letters at school and dies by suicide days later, his parents deliver the “Dear Evan Hansen” to Evan, who lies about being Connor’s best friend. As the Murphys embrace Evan, his lie goes viral, giving comfort to the grieving family and making him a social media darling. But as the lies build, Evan’s guilt forces him to admit the truth. In this stage-to-page adaptation, characters’ back stories offer depth only hinted at by the Tony Award–winning musical. Connor’s posthumous narration offers insights into his mental state, while Evan’s voice and interior monologues reveal the intensity of his own. The ending eases some of the rockiness of Evan’s life, and while there are no overt consequences for his deception, he is seemingly left to ponder his actions. Readers who long for acceptance will welcome this opportunity to experience Evan’s story.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2018)
Emmich (The Reminders, 2017) joins the team behind the Tony-winning musical to create this novel adaptation. Awkward high school senior Evan Hansen has zero friends and a debilitating mixture of depression and anxiety. As a coping mechanism, his therapist assigns him to write letters to himself to reframe his thinking. When one of those letters is found on the body of Connor Murphy, a loner classmate and brother of Evan’s crush, Zoe, the Murphys assume that Connor addressed a suicide note to Evan and that the boys were secretly friends. Evan does nothing to dissuade this notion, and soon his lies build as he experiences belonging and acceptance for the first time. But as his anxiety winds ever tighter and others notice loopholes in his story, Evan begins to unravel as he fears exposure. Evan’s first-person narration is simultaneously sympathetic and frustrating, female characters feel underdeveloped, and the story’s representation of mental health issues is at times underwhelming. Inserted interludes of Connor’s ghostly first-person, post-death perspective provide marginal insight into his character, although it is here that readers learn of Connor’s fluid sexuality. Whether or not they’ve seen or listened to the musical, many readers will latch on to the story’s message that “no one deserves to be forgotten.” Evan presents as white, and other major characters are African-American and Latinx. Without the rich music and stage performance it’s a middling story with themes better handled elsewhere; impeccably timed for the musical’s national tour, however, teens will clamor to read it. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Dubbed a “Renaissance Man” by the New York Post, Val Emmich is a writer, a singer-songwriter, and an actor. His first novel, The Reminders, was a Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers selection and his follow-up, Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel, based on the hit Broadway show, was a New York Times bestseller. He’s had recurring roles on Vinyl and Ugly Betty, as well as a memorable guest role as Tina Fey’s coffee-boy fling, Jamie, on 30 Rock. Emmich lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.

His website is valemmich.com

Teacher Resources

Dear Evan Hansen Educator’s Guide

Dear Evan Hansen review on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

Dear Evan Hansen on Amazon

Dear Evan Hansen on Barnes and Noble

Dear Evan Hansen on Goodreads

Dear Evan Hansen on LibraryThing

Dear Evan Hansen Publisher Page

Trinity by Louisa Hall

Trinity by Louisa Hall. October 16, 2018. Ecco, 336 p. ISBN: 9780062851963.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

From the acclaimed author of Speak comes a kaleidoscopic novel about Robert Oppenheimer—father of the atomic bomb—as told by seven fictional characters

J. Robert Oppenheimer was a brilliant scientist, a champion of liberal causes, and a complex and often contradictory character. He loyally protected his Communist friends, only to later betray them under questioning. He repeatedly lied about love affairs. And he defended the use of the atomic bomb he helped create, before ultimately lobbying against nuclear proliferation.

Through narratives that cross time and space, a set of characters bears witness to the life of Oppenheimer, from a secret service agent who tailed him in San Francisco, to the young lover of a colleague in Los Alamos, to a woman fleeing McCarthyism who knew him on St. John. As these men and women fall into the orbit of a brilliant but mercurial mind at work, all consider his complicated legacy while also uncovering deep and often unsettling truths about their own lives.

In this stunning, elliptical novel, Louisa Hall has crafted a breathtaking and explosive story about the ability of the human mind to believe what it wants, about public and private tragedy, and about power and guilt. Blending science with literature and fiction with biography, Trinity asks searing questions about what it means to truly know someone, and about the secrets we keep from the world and from ourselves

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war, Mild sexual themes, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Most think of Robert Oppenheimer solely as the father of the atom bomb. Hall’s (Speak​, 2015) literary novel attempts to elucidate this multifaceted man more fully. Hall alternates short, third-person vignettes from the day of the first detonation of a nuclear device, the Trinity test, and seven longer “testimonials,” first-person chapters told by various people who knew Oppenheimer from the 1940s to the 1960s. This book is as much about those narrators—a troubled young wife, a former academic from Berkley, a secret service agent—as it is about Oppenheimer. These individuals are complex. Most are damaged in some way, Oppenheimer included, and some teeter on the edge of sanity. With war, McCarthyism, and nuclear proliferation as backdrop, Hall’s observers paint a picture of not just one man but of humanity. What are the secrets we keep? What price will we pay to keep them? Can anyone truly know another human being? Each narrator has a unique and convincing voice in this compelling novel centered on the man who saw himself as “Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2018)
Seven fictional characters tell the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the A-bomb, reflecting on his complicated legacy as they talk about their own lives, which intersect with his. Much has been written about Oppie, as friends called him, the renowned physicist hailed as a hero for his work on the bomb, then pilloried for his left-wing views and Communist Party connections during the McCarthy era. (After JFK was elected in 1960, Oppenheimer’s reputation was rehabilitated.) But in this boldly imagined, multilayered novel, author Hall (Speak, 2015, etc.) takes a new approach. Through her invented narrators, she explores themes of guilt and betrayal as well as the fallout from lies and self-delusion—in the process bringing Oppenheimer, an often aloof, conflicted man, to vivid life. Among those offering “testimonials” as she calls them: Sam Casal, a military intelligence operative, who one evening in 1943 tails the married Oppenheimer from the Rad Lab in Berkeley, California, to the San Francisco apartment of his (real-life) former lover, Jean Tatlock. Then there’s Grace Goodman, a young WAC assigned in 1945 to Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the A-bomb was built and tested under Oppie’s supervision. Only the last story, narrated by Helen Childs, a journalist who comes to interview the disillusioned and fatally ill scientist in 1966, goes on too long and strains to make the necessary connection with the man himself. Oppenheimer chose the code name “Trinity” (a reference, apparently, to a John Donne poem Jean Tatlock introduced him to) for the A-bomb test that preceded the historic August 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At the beginning of each chapter, as a framing device, the author provides a glimpse of Oppenheimer at work in Los Alamos in the tense hours and minutes leading up to the test. Lushly written, this is an ambitious, unsettling novel that takes on big issues in a passionate, personal way.

About the Author

Louisa Hall grew up in Philadelphia. She is the author of the novels Trinity, Speak, and The Carriage House, and her poems have been published in The New RepublicSouthwest Review, and other journals. She is a professor at the University of Iowa, and the Western Writer in Residence at Montana State University.

Her website is louisahall.net

Teacher Resources

J. Robert Oppenheimer & Manhattan Project Lesson Plans

Around the Web

Trinity on Amazon

Trinity on Barnes and Noble

Trinity on Goodreads

Trinity on LibraryThing

Trinity Publisher Page

How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson. October 16, 2018. Viking Books for Young Readers, 160 p. ISBN: 9780425287781.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.7.

Did you drink a glass of water today? Did you turn on a light? Did you think about how miraculous either one of those things is when you did it? Of course not–but you should, and New York Times bestselling author Steven Johnson has. This adaptation of his adult book and popular PBS series explores the fascinating and interconnected stories of innovations–like clean drinking water and electricity–that changed the way people live.

Innovation starts with a problem whose solution sets in motion all kinds of unexpected discoveries. That’s why you can draw a line from pendulums to punching the clock at a factory, from ice blocks to summer movie blockbusters, from clean water to computer chips.

In the lively storytelling style that has made him a popular, bestselling author, Steven Johnson looks at how accidental genius, brilliant mistakes, and unintended consequences shape the way we live in the modern world. Johnson’s “long zoom” approach connects history, geography, politics, and scientific advances with the deep curiousity of inventors or quirky interests of tinkerers to show how innovation truly comes about.

His fascinating account is organized into six topics: glass, cold, sound, clean, time, light. Johnson’s fresh exploration of these simple, single-syllable word concepts creates an endlessly absorbing story that moves from lightning strikes in the prehistoric desert to the herculean effort to literally raise up the city of Chicago to laser labs straight out of a sci-fi movie.

In other words, it’s the story of how we got to now!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Talk

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Adapted for young readers from an adult book and PBS series, this volume explains six innovations that have changed the world: glass, cold, sound, clean (water), time, and light. It explores how these building blocks have inspired technological breakthroughs that have transformed our lives. The discovery of glassmaking, for example, led to the creation of clear glass, eyeglasses, microscopes, telescopes, cameras, fiberglass, laser beams, and fiber optic cables. Readers may be surprised that some technologies common today were actually developed more than 100 years ago, even if they weren’t refined until more recently (electric cars were first developed in the 1890s). Although it mostly features contributions by men from North America and Europe, Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie are mentioned. Not only does this praise scientists’ successful undertakings but it also recounts their erroneous beliefs and failures. Vintage photographs, recommended resources, and further back matter are included. The intriguing information here (Louis XIII didn’t bathe at all until he was seven!) will inform and fascinate report writers and casual browsers.

Kirkus Reviews (September 15, 2018)
Beginning with ideas that emerged thousands of years ago, Johnson tracks a series of innovations that led world culture to where it is now. In an adaption for younger readers of his adult work of the same name (2014), he tracks six pathways arranged along the following themes (which also serve as chapter titles): glass, cold, sound, clean, time, and light. The chapter on glass begins with the discovery of natural glass in the Libyan desert about 10,000 years ago and tracks it through use as jewelry, the creation of windowpanes, the development of glass that was clear, the creation of eyeglasses (necessary as books became more common), the development of other types of lenses and the scientific advances they inspired, and finally to fiber-optic cables in the digital age and creation of a massive telescope in Hawaii. Each engaging chapter remains fully grounded in the fundamental concept that advances inspire further developments, serving to present history in a nutshell that is still shown as a grand sweep of progress. A single minor gripe is that in the chapter on time, a detail on early photography is off by a few years. Excellent backmatter rounds out a balanced and thoroughly engaging presentation. Altogether, a fine exploration of technologies emerging over the eons and their remarkable interconnectedness. (Nonfiction. 11-14)

About the Author

Steven Johnson is the bestselling author of ten books, including Wonderland, How We Got to Now, Where Good Ideas Come From, The Invention of Air, The Ghost Map, and Everything Bad Is Good for You.

The founder of a variety of influential websites, he is the host and co-creator of the PBS and BBC series How We Got to Now. Johnson lives in Marin County, California, and Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and three sons.

His website is www.stevenberlinjohnson.com

Teacher Resources

How We Got to Now Classroom via PBS

Around the Web

How We Got to Now on Amazon

How We Got to Now on Barnes and Noble

How We Got to Now on Goodreads

How We Got to Now Publisher Page

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor by Sonia Sotomayor

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor by Sonia Sotomayor. September 4, 2018. Delacorte Books, 352 p. ISBN: 9781524771157.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.4; Lexile: 1070.

Discover the inspiring life of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, in this middle-grade adaptation of her bestselling adult memoir, My Beloved World
 
Includes an 8-page photo insert and a brief history of the Supreme Court.

Sonia Sotomayor was just a girl when she dared to dream big. Her dream? To become a lawyer and a judge even though she’d never met one of either, and none lived in her neighborhood.

Sonia did not let the hardships of her background—which included growing up in the rough housing projects of New York City’s South Bronx, dealing with juvenile diabetes, coping with parents who argued and fought personal demons, and worrying about money—stand in her way. Always, she believed in herself. Her determination, along with guidance from generous mentors and the unwavering love of her extended Puerto Rican family, propelled her ever forward.

Eventually, all of Sonia’s hard work led to her appointment as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 2009, a role that she has held ever since.

Learn about Justice Sotomayor’s rise and her amazing work as well as about the Supreme Court in this fascinating memoir that shows that no matter the obstacles, dreams can come true

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Drugs, Racism, Alcoholism

 

Author Videos

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 19))
Grades 7-10. After seven-year-old Sonia, recently diagnosed with diabetes, awakens to the sound of her parents arguing over who will give her a daily shot of insulin, she decides to take on that responsibility herself. It was the first of many decisions that would challenge her and move her forward. Judiciously pared down from Sotomayor’s My Beloved World (2013), this autobiography for young people records her memories of growing up with her father (who died when she was nine), her mother, her brother, and her extended Puerto Rican American family in the Bronx. She also discusses her education in Catholic schools, at Princeton, and at Yale, her pro bono advocacy work, and her career as an assistant district attorney and a partner in a private law firm. The story concludes as she begins working as a district court judge. Readers will come away with a strong sense of Sotomayor’s background, her steadfast values, and her ability to stand up for herself and for others. Written in a clear, direct manner and enriched with many personal stories, the book also conveys a sense of her gratitude to family, friends, teachers, and mentors. A lively autobiography of the third woman and the first Latina on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2018)
The memoir of a woman who rose from the housing projects in New York City’s South Bronx to become the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. This is the story of a woman who as a 10-year-old fell under the spell of Perry Mason, a fictional TV lawyer. Her life course was set: She would become a lawyer and, dare she dream it, a judge. With a clear vision, hard work, and determination she set out to make her dream come true. In a series of vignettes that help to illustrate her remarkable spirit and motivations, Sotomayor recalls some of the salient moments of her life. Readers are introduced to her close-knit family, friends, colleagues, and mentors that nurtured her along the way. She chronicles her academic and professional achievements and what it took to be successful. She also presents her core beliefs and struggles, never shying from coming across as human. The account of this exceptional trajectory, told with a storyteller’s talent, is filled with a candor and honesty that make her story eminently accessible to young readers. Adapted from her memoir for adults, My Beloved World (2013), in the hope of inspiring children to dream even the dreams they cannot at first imagine, this book should thoroughly achieve that goal. A must read. (glossary, Supreme Court overview) (Memoir. 10-18)

About the Author

Sonia Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976 and from Yale Law School in 1979. She worked as an assistant district attorney in New York and then at the law firm of Pavia & Harcourt. She served as a judge of the US District Court, Southern District of New York, from 1992 to 1998, and from 1998 to 2009 served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In May 2009, President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; she assumed this role on August 8, 2009.

Teacher Resources

Soina Sotomayor Biography Lesson Plan

Around the Web

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor on Amazon

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor on Barnes & Noble

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor on Goodreads

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor Publisher Page