Tag Archives: reading guide

Girl Rising by Tanya Lee Stone

Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time by Tanya Lee Stone. February 14, 2017. Wendy Lamb Books, 208 p. ISBN: 9780553511475.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1050.

Worldwide, over 62 million girls are not in school.
But one girl with courage is a revolution.

Girl Rising, a global campaign for girls’ education, created a film that chronicled the stories of nine girls in the developing world, allowing viewers the opportunity to witness how education can break the cycle of poverty.

Now, award-winning author Tanya Lee Stone deftly uses new research to illuminate the dramatic facts behind the film, focusing both on the girls captured on camera and many others. She examines barriers to education in depth—early child marriage and childbearing, slavery, sexual trafficking, gender discrimination, and poverty—and shows how removing these barriers means not only a better life for girls, but safer, healthier, and more prosperous communities.

With full-color photos from the film, infographics, and a compelling narrative, Girl Rising will inspire readers of all ages to join together in a growing movement to help change the world.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Human trafficking; Sexual violence and slavery; Murder and genocide; Child brides; Harsh realities of poverty

 

Film Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. Much more than a companion volume to the 2013 semidocumentary of the same title, which portrayed nine girls around the globe overcoming daunting barriers to obtain an education, this vibrant book stands on its own as a source of inspiration. Going into greater detail than is possible in a cinematic format, the author tells the girls’ backstories with empathy and grace; she also provides heartening updates and illuminates the context of the struggle. In 50 countries, education is not free, and in many of these, education for girls is viewed as, at best, inessential, at worst, anathema—60 million girls receive limited or no schooling. Instead, they are required to work: in some of the cases described here, they’re sold very young by their families as virtual slaves (restaveks in Haiti, kamlari in Nepal). Child marriage—14 million cases yearly worldwide—represents essentially the same script. The closing chapter is a call to activism, and close-up full-color photos of the girls profiled will let young readers connect even more. Some of the stories contained here are perhaps too strong for younger readers, although it was a seven-year-old girl in Toronto who came up with the notion of Pencil Mountain, which ships school supplies to Ethiopia. Readers may be moved to initiate projects of their own.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2016)
Although unfortunate circumstances in developing countries prevent girls from getting educations, nevertheless they remain resilient. Sibert Medalist Stone begins by explaining how the documentary Girl Rising inspired a book that further amplifies and explores the heartbreaking and inspiring stories of girls around the globe who are advocating for access to and freedom of education. Collected from over 45 hours of raw video interview footage, direct quotes from women and girls unveil a distressing web of hardships for girls as young as 5 and the unjust factors that prevent them from bettering their lives: poverty, human trafficking, modern-day slavery, child marriage, and, perhaps the most prevalent, gender discrimination. Around the world, the book zooms in on the struggles of girls from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nepal, Peru, Sierra Leone, among other countries. Both portraits and documentary-style photographs are numerous, and infographic designs will appeal to younger readers. Stone’s passionate, deliberate, and compelling narrative explores the culture of gender discrimination and induces a sense of urgency for a solution. The recounted interviews offer insight, candor, and emotion, sparing readers little.A moving account of hardships and triumphs that is bound to inspire future activists, this is a devastating but crucial read. (author’s note, appendix, bibliography, source notes) (Nonfiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Tanya Lee Stone is an award-winning author of books for kids and teens. Her work, which includes YA fiction (A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl), picture books (Elizabeth Leads the Way and Sandy’s Circus), and nonfiction (Almost Astronauts and The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie) has won national awards such as the ALA’s Sibert Medal, SCBWI’s Golden Kite Award, YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction, Jane Addams Book Award Honor, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, NCTE’s Orbus Pictus, and Bank Street’s Flora Steiglitz Award. 

Her website is www.tanyastone.com.

Teacher Resources

Girl Rising Educator’s Guide

Girl Rising Full Curriculum

Around the Web

Girl Rising on Amazon

Girl Rising on Goodreads

Girl Rising on JLG

Girl Rising Publisher Page

Gorilla Dawn by Gill Lewis

Gorilla Dawn by Gill Lewis. January 31, 2017. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 432 p. ISBN: 9781481486576.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.8.

Two children captured by a band of rebel soldiers in the Congo vow to protect an orphaned gorilla baby in this powerful, thought-provoking, and vividly compelling novel from award-winning storyteller Gill Lewis.

Deep in the heart of the Congo, a baby gorilla is captured by a group of rebel soldiers. Imara and Bobo are also prisoners in the rebels’ camp. When they learn that the gorilla will be sold into captivity, they swear to return it to the wild before it’s too late. But the consequences of getting caught are too terrible to think about. Will the bond between the gorilla and the children give them the courage they need to escape?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns; War; Violence; Genocide; Child soldiers; Xenophobic epithets

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 5-8. As she did in Moon Bear (2015), Lewis shines a light on an industry still relatively unknown among western readers. Here it’s the mining of coltan, a mineral key to the production of cell phones, which is often excavated in places gorillas call home. Imara, kidnapped by rebels years ago, is now a child soldier with a group starting an illegal coltan mine in the Congo. Bobo’s pursuing the rebels in hopes of clearing the name of his father, a ranger accused of leading the rebels to a band of gorillas, the youngest of which they’ve captured and intend to sell to the corrupt white business woman who’s buying the “conflict-free” coltan. Imara, meanwhile, forms a powerful bond with the 18-month-old gorilla, which she names Kitwana, reawakening her long-forgotten compassion and weakening the tough exterior that had been so essential to her survival. Alternating among Imara, Bobo, and Kitwana’s perspectives, Lewis lays out the complicated relationship between widespread poverty, opportunistic groups (including white business owners and corrupt government officials), and environmental threats. The heart of the story lies firmly among the children and their struggle both to survive and not fall for the comfort promised by corrupt adults. Suspenseful pacing keeps the pages turning, and the provocative questions raised about conservation, consumerism, and the global effects of widespread poverty will keep readers thinking long after the last page.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2016)
A child soldier and a park ranger’s son rescue an infant gorilla. Binding together the world’s need for columbite-tantalite for its electronic devices, the fate of lowland gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s forests, the importance of park rangers, and the life of a young female kadogo, or child soldier, Lewis reminds her readers how strongly connected humans are to the natural world. “If we lose our love of it, then we lose everything.” Imara, the “spirit child” of the Black Mamba’s guerilla group, is already lost. Severely scarred on her face by her captor, she believes she harbors a demon. The rebels believe she has supernatural powers and can protect them. But given the care of the baby gorilla captured for the White Lioness—the foreigner who will also buy the coltan they are mining and the book’s only significant white character—she begins a recovery process. It culminates with her helping two other captives, a dead park ranger’s son, Bobo, and a Batwa boy, Saka, save the gorilla baby and being saved herself. Typography distinguishes human voices from imagined gorilla thoughts; chapter headings show changing points of view between Imara and Bobo; and the author emphasizes Imara’s recovery by giving her a first-person narrative at the end. Suspenseful and emotionally intense, this is eco-fiction at its most appealing. A riveting survival adventure with an important message. (Fiction. 9-14)

About the Author

Gill Lewis is the author of the critically acclaimed Wild Wings and One White Dolphin, both winners of the Green Earth Book Award, as well as Moon Bear and Gorilla Dawn. A veterinarian, her love of animals and the natural world plays a big part in her writing. She lives in the UK.

Her website is www.gilllewis.com.

Teacher Resources

Gorilla Dawn Teaching Guide & Lesson Plans

Around the Web

Gorilla Dawn on Amazon

Gorilla Dawn on Goodreads

Gorilla Dawn on JLG

Gorilla Dawn Publisher Page

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. March 7, 2017. Clarion Books, 464 p. ISBN: 9780544586505.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 450.

The first day of senior year:

Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.

Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Underage drinking; Mention of drug use

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 9-11. Seventeen-year-old Sal has had both bad luck and great luck with family. His mother died when he was three, but she ensured he would be adopted by her best friend, Vicente, a loving gay man who brings with him a large, welcoming Mexican American family. He has also been blessed with his best friend, Sam, a girl with mother issues. Sal has mostly led a tranquil life, but his senior year turns out to contain unexpected upsets and sorrows, though also deeper chances to understand love. Sáenz presents readers with several beautifully drawn relationships, especially that of Sal and his grandmother, who is dying of cancer—there is richness even in their silences. There are also some wonderful moments between father and son, though Vicente’s perfection as a parent can defy belief (not surprisingly, he’s compared to Atticus Finch). There are times when the story is weighed down by repetitive conversations, but there are numerous heartfelt moments as well. Sal is one of those characters you wonder about after the book is closed. Maybe Sáenz will tell us more.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
Seventeen-year-old Salvador has always been close to his single, gay, adoptive father; his loving grandmother, Mima; his extended Mexican American family; and his loyal best friend, Samantha. After getting into two fistfights at the start of senior year, Sal finds that he’s “starting to ask myself a lot of questions that I never used to ask. I used to be okay with everything, and now I was going around hitting people.” Things get more complicated after Mima’s cancer returns, Sam loses her mother in a car accident (and moves in with Sal and his father), and Dad reconnects with an old flame and begins dating again. As mild-mannered, self-effacing Sal narrates his story, readers gradually come to feel the profound importance of family and friends, the dignity and worth of the human spirit, and the transcendent power of love. Saenz’s distinctive prose style is lyrical and philosophical: “Salvie, I have a theory that you can’t sell yourself on an application form because you don’t believe there’s much to sell. You tell yourself that you’re just this ordinary guy…There’s nothing ordinary about you. Nothing ordinary at all.” jonathan hunt

About the Author

Benjamin Alire Sáenz was born in 1954 in his grandmother’s house in Old Picacho, a small farming village in the outskirts of Las Cruces, New Mexico in 1954. He was the fourth of seven children and was raised on a small farm near Mesilla Park. Later, when the family lost the farm, his father went back to his former occupation—being a cement finisher. His mother worked as a cleaning woman and a factory worker. During his youth, he worked at various jobs—painting apartments, roofing houses, picking onions, and working for a janitorial service. He graduated from high school in 1972, and went on to college and became something of a world traveler. He studied philosophy and theology in Europe for four years and spent a summer in Tanzania. He eventually became a writer and professor and moved back to the border—the only place where he feels he truly belongs. He is an associate professor in the MFA creative writing program at the University of Texas at El Paso, the only bilingual creative writing program in the country. Ben Sáenz considers himself a fronterizo, a person of the border. He is also a visual artist and has been involved as a political and cultural activist throughout his life. Benjamin Sáenz­ is a novelist, poet, essayist and writer of children’s books.

His website is http://faculty.utep.edu/Default.aspx?alias=faculty.utep.edu/bsaenz.

Teacher Resources

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life Discussion Questions

Around the Web

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life on Amazon

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life on Goodreads

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life on JLG

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life Publisher Page

At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson. February 7, 2017. Simon Pulse, 496 p. ISBN: 9781481449663.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

From the author of We Are the Ants and The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley comes the heartbreaking story of a boy who believes the universe is slowly shrinking as things he remembers are being erased from others’ memories.

Tommy and Ozzie have been best friends since the second grade, and boyfriends since eighth. They spent countless days dreaming of escaping their small town—and then Tommy vanished.

More accurately, he ceased to exist, erased from the minds and memories of everyone who knew him. Everyone except Ozzie.

Ozzie doesn’t know how to navigate life without Tommy, and soon he suspects that something else is going on: that the universe is shrinking.

When Ozzie is paired up with new student Calvin on a physics project, he begins to wonder if Calvin could somehow be involved. But the more time they spend together, the harder it is for him to deny the feelings developing between them, even if he still loves Tommy.

But Ozzie knows there isn’t much time left to find Tommy—that once the door closes, it can’t be opened again. And he’s determined to keep it open as long as it takes to get his boyfriend back.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Drugs; Alcohol; Drugging and sexual abuse of a minor.

 

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 9-12. The universe isn’t expanding anymore—it’s actually shrinking, and Florida high-school senior Ozzie is the only one who remembers it differently. He’s also the only one who remembers Tommy, his best friend since childhood and boyfriend since the eighth grade. Tommy has vanished, both from Ozzie’s life and from the memories of everyone around him. As graduation approaches and Ozzie’s world becomes literally smaller, he struggles to find Tommy with increasing desperation, even as he grows closer to Calvin, the quiet, elusive boy in his physics class. Occasionally nihilistic but never completely hopeless, the narrative supports multiple topics with grace: gender and sexual identities, mental illness, and the inevitable grief that comes with learning to move from one phase of life to another. A few familiar faces from Hutchinson’s We Are the Ants (2016) make cameo appearances, and fans will recognize similar motifs—Hutchinson writes variations on a theme, to be sure, but it’s a rich theme. Wrenching and thought-provoking, Hutchinson has penned another winner.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2016)
If your boyfriend is erased from history, is it because the universe is shrinking, or have you totally lost your mind?During senior year in high school, college applications and prom dates are the stresses du jour. But Oswald “Ozzie” Pinkerton’s also include trying to convince anyone (family, friends, an alphabetical string of therapists) that his boyfriend, Tommy, ever existed. They theorize that Ozzie is obsessive and slightly touched; he theorizes that the universe is shrinking and that Tommy was a casualty of restricting astral girth. As Ozzie tracks the solar system’s diminishing waist size, his still-existing world unravels and conversely weaves new chapters. One of these chapters is Calvin, a once-golden, now-reclusive student. When the two are paired for a physics project, Ozzie weighs his loyalty to absent Tommy against his growing attraction to present Calvin. A varied cast of characters populates the pages: there’s a genderqueer girl who prefers masculine pronouns, a black boyfriend, an Asian/Jewish (by way of adoption) best friend, and a bevy of melting-pot surnames. Ozzie is a white male, and he is respectfully called out on underestimating the privilege he enjoys for being just that. Though Ozzie primarily narrates in the past tense (with sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll drifting through the background), intermittent flashbacks in the present tense unveil the tender, intimate history of Ozzie’s relationship with Tommy. An earthy, existential coming-of-age gem. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

About the Author

Shaun is a major geek and all about nerdy shenanigans. He is the author of We Are the Ants, The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, The Deathday Letter, fml, and the editor of the anthology Violent Ends.

He currently lives in South Florida with his dog and watches way too much Doctor Who.

His website is www.shaundavidhutchinson.com.

Teacher Resources

At the Edge of the Universe Reading Group Guide

Around the Web

At the Edge of the Universe on Amazon

At the Edge of the Universe on Goodreads

At the Edge of the Universe on JLG

At the Edge of the Universe Publisher Page

Life in Motion by Misty Copeland

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina Young Readers Edition by Misty Copeland. December 6, 2016. Aladdin Books, 186 p. ISBN: 9781481479790.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.5; Lexile: 890.

Determination meets dance in this middle grade adaptation of the New York Times bestselling memoir by the first African-American principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre history, Misty Copeland.

As the first African-American principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland has been breaking down all kinds of barriers in the world of dance. But when she first started dancing—at the late age of thirteen—no one would have guessed the shy, underprivileged girl would one day make history in her field.

Her road to excellence was not easy—a chaotic home life, with several siblings and a single mother, was a stark contrast to the control and comfort she found on stage. And when her home life and incredible dance promise begin to clash, Misty had to learn to stand up for herself and navigate a complex relationship with her mother, while pursuing her ballet dreams.

Life in Motion is a story for all the kids who dare to be different, dream bigger, and want to break stereotypes in whatever they do.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 5))
Grades 4-8. Copeland brings her adult memoir to a middle-grade audience with this young readers edition. Much of the nation has been captured by her power and grace as a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), an incredible accomplishment made all the more notable because she’s the first African American to hold the position. The challenges of being a person of color in the traditionally white classical ballet world occupy much of the book, but just as resonant are the personal stories she tells of growing up with little money in an unstable home. Even with amazing natural ability and the “perfect” ballerina’s body, Copeland still had to work unbelievably hard to achieve her dream of joining the ABT, and the descriptions of hours-long rehearsals and painful injuries drive this home. Devoted to equal opportunities within the arts, the petite ballerina continues to make a sizable impact both on and off the stage. Dancers in particular will be drawn to Copeland’s story, but everyone will be inspired by her soaring spirit, caring heart, and fierce determination.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2016)
A ballet milestone was reached when Copeland was named the first African-American principal ballerina at American Ballet Theater. Copeland begins her memoir with her difficult childhood of many stepfathers and little money. Recognized by local dance teachers as someone with great potential, she was encouraged to take lessons, apply for summer studies, and pursue what ultimately became her realized dream: a career as an elite dancer. Copeland is open about her mixed-race family’s difficulties and how “Dancing was my escape.” She is frank about discussing her enormous talent along with her conflicted feelings about her mother’s role versus those of her teachers who took her in and provided for her, leading to a court battle for emancipation. Famous black performers sought her out and were a source of strength and comfort; she even performed with Prince. Always present, of course, is the fact that the world of ballet is “full of ivory-skinned dancers.” Skin color, hair, and makeup needs set African-American ballet dancers apart, resulting in many instances of prejudice both overt and subtle. In this young readers’ edition of her 2014 memoir of the same name and with Colbert’s assistance, Copeland writes in a conversational tone. She devotes much space to her innate abilities, her ABT career, and her overwhelming desire to succeed and be an inspiration. As Copeland fiercely reminds herself, “This is for the little brown girls”—and any reader in need of inspiration. (Biography. 11-16)

About the Author

Misty Danielle Copelandis an American ballet dancer for American Ballet Theatre (ABT), one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the United States. On June 30, 2015, Copeland became the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in ABT’s 75-year history.

Copeland was considered a prodigy who rose to stardom despite not starting ballet until the age of 13. By age 15, her mother and ballet teachers, who were serving as her custodial guardians, fought a custody battle over her.

In 1997, Copeland won the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Award as the best dancer in Southern California. After two summer workshops with ABT, she became a member of ABT’s Studio Company in 2000 and its corps de ballet in 2001, and became an ABT soloist in 2007. As a soloist from 2007 to mid-2015, she was described as having matured into a more contemporary and sophisticated dancer.

In addition to her dance career, Copeland has become a public speaker, celebrity spokesperson and stage performer.  In 2015, she was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time, appearing on its cover. She performed on Broadway in On the Town, toured as a featured dancer for Prince and appeared on the reality television shows A Day in the Life and So You Think You Can Dance.

Her website is mistycopeland.com.

Teacher Resources

Life in Motion Reading Group Guide

Around the Web

Life in Motion on Amazon

Life in Motion on Goodreads

Life in Motion on JLG

Life in Motion Publisher Page

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Hidden Figures: Young Reader’s Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly. November 29, 2016. HarperCollins, 240 p. ISBN: 9780062662385.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1120.

New York Times bestselling author Margot Lee Shetterly’s book is now available in a new edition perfect for young readers. This is the amazing true story of four African-American female mathematicians at NASA who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in our space program. Now a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. This book brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African-American women who lived through the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the movement for gender equality, and whose work forever changed the face of NASA and the country.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racism

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Christine Darden are names that have been largely forgotten. The four women worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in the mid-twentieth century. Each displayed early aptitude for math, sharp curiosity about the world around them, and marked confidence in the face of discrimination. They contributed to discoveries about space and to sending manned missions into orbit. Their life stories are the perfect impetus for discussion on a host of important historical themes germane to the 1950s, such as gender roles, racial prejudice and segregation, and scientific exploration. In any context, these women’s contributions to science and aerospace technology would be impressive, but the obstacles imposed by the norms of their society make their achievements all the more impressive. Middle-schoolers will find their story, here in a young readers’ edition of Shetterly’s 2016 adult book (the basis of a current movie), engaging and inspirational.

About the Author

I’m the author of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (William Morrow/HarperCollins). I’m also the founder of The Human Computer Project, an endeavor that is recovering the names and accomplishments of all of the women who worked as computers, mathematicians, scientists and engineers at the NACA and NASA from the 1930s through the 1980s.

I’m a Hampton, Virginia native, University of Virginia graduate, an entrepreneur, and an intrepid traveler who spent 11 years living in Mexico. I currently live in Charlottesville, VA.

Her website is www.margotleeshetterly.com.

Teacher Resources

Hidden Figures Teacher Resources

Hidden Figures Teaching Guide

“When Computers Wore Skirts” Lesson Plan

Around the Web

Hidden Figures on Amazon

Hidden Figures on Goodreads

Hidden Figures on JLG

Hidden Figures Publisher Page

The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli

The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli. January 3, 2017. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 352 p. ISBN: 978375931994.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.2; Lexile: 550.

Cammie O’Reilly lives at the Hancock County Prison–not as a prisoner, she’s the warden’s daughter. She spends the mornings hanging out with shoplifters and reformed arsonists in the women’s excercise yard, which gives Cammie a certain cache with her school friends.

But even though Cammie’s free to leave the prison, she’s still stuck. And sad, and really mad. Her mother died saving her from harm when she was just a baby. You wouldn’t think you could miss something you never had, but on the eve of her thirteenth birthday, the thing Cammie most wants is a mom. A prison might not be the best place to search for a mother, but Cammie is determined and she’s willing to work with what she’s got.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Murder; Suicide; Shoplifting

 

Author Talk

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 4))
Grades 4-7. Most people would hate to call the Hancock County Prison home, but 12-year-old tomboy Cammie O’Reilly wouldn’t have it any other way. As the warden’s daughter, she lives in an apartment above the prison entrance with her father and has a commanding presence that’s earned her the nickname Little Warden. Set in 1959, just before Cammie turns 13 and enters junior high, this is a story about facing hard truths and growing up. In the background swirl issues of race, treatment of prisoners, and the arrival of a high-profile murderer, but Cammie’s mounting anger over her mother’s tragic death takes center stage. Spinelli’s latest gives readers an interesting, often heartbreaking glimpse into the 1950s and the timeless need for a parent’s love. Narrated by Cammie as an adult, the carefully constructed story seems a little too neat and purposeful at times, but readers will love the details of having a prison compound for a home and adore the many secondary characters who help keep Cammie’s head above water during her desperate search for happiness.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2017)
It’s 1959, and Camille, a lively, determined, self-described tomboy, is twelve. She lives in a suite inside a prison where her father is the warden. Spinelli makes the most of this distinctive setting as Camille becomes a kind of mascot or pet for the female inmates, has access to historical criminal records, and gains status at school when it is presumed she has inside information on crime and criminals. The driver of the story is Camille’s hunger for a mother to substitute for her own, who died in an accident when Camille was just a baby. It’s a busy, multi-strand plot, including a mystery from the past, Cammie’s growing friendship with a family from the wrong side of the tracks, a framing story involving Cassie as a grandmother looking back (“But now, more than half a century laterâ禔), a friend who gets to appear on Bandstand, and a re-spin of the plot in diary form from the housekeeper/mother-substitute’s point of view. Spinelli’s gift for humorous chaos and his trademark magic realism touches are showcased here, and it is exhilarating to read about kids with so much freedom, but Cammie and her female friends don’t always ring true. For example, discussing Cammie’s flat chest, they come up with three solutions: stuffing her sweater with a pair of socks, holding her breath to make her breasts pop out, and refraining from going to the bathroom for the same effect. This is a good joke, but it sounds more like one a boy might make. Without a convincing main character, the complicated narrative structure doesn’t cohere. sarah ellis

About the Author

When Jerry Spinelli was a kid, he wanted to grow up to be either a cowboy or a baseball player. Lucky for us he became a writer instead.

He grew up in rural Pennsylvania and went to college at Gettysburg College and Johns Hopkins University. He has published more than 25 books and has six children and 16 grandchildren.
Jerry Spinelli began writing when he was 16 — not much older than the hero of his book Maniac Magee. After his high school football team won a big game, his classmates ran cheering through the streets — all except Spinelli, who went home and wrote a poem about the victory. When his poem was published in the local paper, Spinelli decided to become a writer instead of a major-league shortstop.

In most of his books, Spinelli writes about events and feelings from his own childhood. He also gets a lot of material from his seven adventurous kids! Spinelli and his wife, Eileen, also a children’s book author, live in Pennsylvania.

Her website is www.jerryspinelli.com.

Teacher Resources

The Warden’s Daughter Teaching Guide

Around the Web

The Warden’s Daughter on Amazon

The Warden’s Daughter on Goodreads

The Warden’s Daughter on JLG

The Warden’s Daughter Publisher Page

An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpugo

An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpugo. January 17, 2017. Feiwel & Friends, 144 p. ISBN: 9781250105158.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.8.

England, 1940. Barney’s home has been destroyed by bombing, and he and his mother are traveling to the countryside when German planes attack. Their train is forced to take shelter in a tunnel and there, in the darkness, a stranger― a fellow passenger―begins to tell them a story about two young soldiers who came face to face in the previous war. One British, one German. Both lived, but the British soldier was haunted by the encounter once he realized who the German was: the young Adolf Hitler.

The British soldier made a moral decision. Was it the right one? Readers can ponder that difficult question for themselves with Michael Morpurgo’s latest middle-grade novel An Eagle in the Snow.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Xenophobic epithets

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 5-8. Morpurgo’s gentle WWII tale is loosely based on a real British soldier who may or may not have spared Adolf Hitler’s life during WWI. Barney and his mother are traveling to Cornwall by train after their home in Coventry is bombed. Another passenger joins them in their compartment, and when the train takes refuge from German fighter planes in a tunnel, to pass the time, the man tells them about his friend Billy Byron, who, during WWI, let a German soldier go instead of shooting him. Later, he learns that the soldier was Adolf Hitler, and he missed his chance at preventing WWII. The narrative is deceptively simple, and while Barney is the narrator, most of the narrative consists of the man telling Billy Byron’s story. The casual tone of the story the stranger tells is in compellingly sharp contrast to the powerful questions it raises about duty and honor. A couple of light twists at the end are not entirely unexpected. Morpurgo concludes the book with information about Henry Tandey, the real Billy Byron.

Publishers Weekly (November 14, 2016)
What if a British soldier had a chance to shoot Hitler on a WWI battlefield but opted to let him go instead? Morpurgo’s incisive historical novel draws inspiration from the life of Henry Tandey, the war’s most decorated British private, who allegedly had just such an encounter. Naming his protagonist Billy Byron, Morpurgo tells the story in flashbacks, as a boy named Barney and his mother flee Coventry on a London-bound train in 1940. Another passenger, who introduces himself as one of Billy’s lifelong friends, describes Billy’s self-doubt, guilt, and dismay when lingering battle wounds prevented him from serving in WWII, since “as far as Billy was concerned, this whole war is his fault.” The stranger’s descriptions of Billy’s compassion and emotional turmoil are gripping in their own right, but Morpurgo will catch some readers off guard with supernaturally tinged twists he drops in the final chapters and epilogue. Originally published in the U.K. in 2015, this is an intricately crafted contemplation of the wrenching consequences of good intentions gone awry. Ages 10-14. (Jan.)

About the Author

Michael Morpurgo is the author of many books for children, five of which have been made into films. He also writes his own screenplays and libretti for opera. Born in St Albans, Hertfordshire, in 1943, he was evacuated to Cumberland during the last years of the war, then returned to London, moving later to Essex. After a brief and unsuccessful spell in the army, he took up teaching and started to write. He left teaching after ten years in order to set up ‘Farms for City Children’ with his wife. They have three farms in Devon, Wales and Gloucestershire, open to inner city school children who come to stay and work with the animals. In 1999 this work was publicly recognized when he and his wife were awarded an MBE for services to youth. He is also a father and grandfather, so children have always played a large part in his life. Every year he and his family spend time in the Scilly Isles, the setting for three of his books.

Her website is www.michaelmorpurgo.com.

Teacher Resources

An Eagle in the Snow Teacher Resource Kit

Around the Web

An Eagle in the Snow on Amazon

An Eagle in the Snow on Goodreads

An Eagle in the Snow on JLG

An Eagle in the Snow Publisher Page

Last of the Giants by Jeff Campbell

Last of the Giants: The Rise and Fall of Earth’s Most Dominant Species by Jeff Campbell. March 1, 2016. Zest Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9781942186045.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1180.

Today, an ancient world is vanishing right before our eyes: the age of giant animals. Over 40,000 years ago, the earth was ruled by megafauna: mammoths and mastodons, saber-toothed tigers and giant sloths. Of course, those creatures no longer exist, due to the evolution and arrival of the wildly adaptive human species, among other factors. Many more of the world’s biggest and baddest creatures—including the black rhino, the dodo, giant tortoises, and the great auk—have vanished since our world became truly global. Last of the Giants chronicles those giant animals and apex predators who have been pushed to extinction in the modern era.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of the wilderness

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 16))
Grades 8-12. Bigger is better—except when it comes to wildlife. Or at least that’s how mankind has reacted against giant species, causing what scientists are now calling “the sixth extinction.” Campbell opens with an explanation of this widespread wave of extinction and our crisis of coexistence with wildlife. He then focuses on 13 giant species that once thrived—until humans arrived. Using the unscientific term giant loosely, he includes 10 megafauna (a scientific term referring to animals 100 pounds or larger) as well as smaller species that dominated their surroundings. Also representing a variety of species alive in the modern era (the last 500 years), individual chapters are devoted to a range of animals, from lions, tigers, and the California grizzly to the giant tortoises of the Indian Ocean, baiji (a river dolphin), and the passenger pigeon. Complemented by graphic novel–style illustrations, each chapter looks at what life was like when humans were introduced to the animal and the role they had in the animal’s extinction. Campbell is careful, however, to place the human activity in its historical context. Emphasizing the connection between extinction and conservation throughout, the author also relates how scientists are trying to save similar, sub-, and hybrid species of those now extinct. These timely, important, and fascinating stories will encourage readers to save all life, no matter its size.

School Library Journal (April 1, 2016)
Gr 9 Up-The extinctions of giant (both in size and number) species at the mercy of nature and humanity turn out to be a fascinating and jarring lesson for our present. Chronicling the fates of aurochs, moa, passenger pigeons, and sea cows, alongside the unresolved destinies of today’s lions and tigers, this work gazes back at evolutionary history through a retrospect that, with the aid of Campbell’s humorous and scientific tone, is truly 20/20. Thankfully, the text’s explorations of these annihilated species are complex and perceptive and go beyond the usual worn conclusion of human-wrought woe. Mixing geology, ethnography, history, zoology, biology, industry, and sociology, Campbell demonstrates how interconnected Earth’s species and societies-human and nonhuman-are. By examining the complex web of evolution through the misfortunes of these lost species, the author drives home that our present is not a final, linear result of history but rather an ever-evolving system that needs care and attention. To that end, a “Call to Action” section laden with resources for the aspiring activist appears at the end; though there is no index, an extensive list of works cited illuminates a path for those who wish to read further. VERDICT Required reading for the budding naturalist and a good pairing for a STEM or history curriculum, too.-Chelsea Woods, New Brunswick Free Public Library, NJ

About the Author

Jeff Campbell is a freelance writer, book editor, and creative writing teacher. Most recently, he’s published two nonfiction books for young adults: Last of the Giants (Zest, 2016), about extinct and endangered animals, and Daisy to the Rescue (Zest, 2014), about animals saving humans and animal intelligence. For twelve years he was a travel writer for Lonely Planet, coauthoring over a dozen guidebooks to US destinations. As an editor for over twenty years, he has specialized in pop culture, self-help, sports, and YA fiction. He also teaches creative writing to kids and adults with the Writers Circle (NJ).

Her website is www.jeffcampbellbooks.com.

Teacher Resources

Last of the Giants Educator’s Guide

Around the Web

Last of the Giants on Amazon

Last of the Giants on Goodreads

Last of the Giants on JLG

Last of the Giants Publisher Page

The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande

The Distance Between Us: Young Readers Edition by Reyna Grande. September 6, 2016. Aladdin, 336 p. ISBN: 9781481463713.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.1; Lexile: 780.

When her parents make the dangerous and illegal trek across the Mexican border in pursuit of the American dream, Reyna and her siblings are forced to live with their stern grandmother, as they wait for their parents to build the foundation of a new life.

But when things don’t go quite as planned, Reyna finds herself preparing for her own journey to “El Otro Lado” to live with the man who has haunted her imagination for years: her long-absent father. Both funny and heartbreaking, The Distance Between Us beautifully captures the struggle that Reyna and her siblings endured while trying to assimilate to a different culture, language, and family life in El Otro Lado (The Other Side).

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns; Child abuse and neglect; Domestic violence; Harsh realities of poverty; Corporal punishment; Death of a child; Graphic description of a dead body; Allusions to suicide; Alcoholism; Gang violence; Shoplifting; Ethnic slurs

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 1))
Grades 5-8. Reyna’s parents have moved to El Otro Lado (The Other Side) and have left her behind. In this young readers edition of her memoir, Grande writes about a difficult time in her childhood when her parents moved to the U.S. and she stayed behind in Iguala, Mexico, with her older siblings. Grande shares a timely story of a transnational family and the economic and emotional hardships she endured—such as not being adequately taken care of by her grandmother and being called an “orphan” by other children. While her parents have left in search of work, Reyna just wants her family back together and does not entirely understand why they had to leave in the first place. Readers will be captivated by Grande’s beautiful and heart-wrenching story, from her detailed inner thoughts to the descriptions of the environment around her. Her longing to reconnect with her father, whom she refers to as the “man behind the glass,” because she only knows him through an old framed photograph, is one readers will avidly follow. Grande’s memoir offers an important account of the many ways immigration impacts children. Similar stories that touch on themes of immigration and family include the young-adult adaptation of Sonia Nazario’s Enrique’s Journey (2013) and Margarita Engle’s Enchanted Air (2015).

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2016)
This moving coming-of-age memoir by novelist Grande was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist in 2012. It has now been adapted for a younger audience.The grown-up Grande writes credibly in the voice of her younger self about growing up in Iguala de la Independencia in southern Mexico. The book starts as her mother is leaving for the United States to join her husband, who left two years before. Grande and her older siblings are left in their grandmother’s care. Life in Iguala is one of grinding poverty and abusive treatment. Their parents have left with the dream of earning enough money to build a house back in Iguala; meanwhile the children have their own dream of being reunited with their parents and once more being a family. As Grande’s parents’ marriage collapses, their mother returns only to leave again and again. Eventually, their father takes them to the U.S. The author describes a life that, though different, is not easy on the other side of the border. They must live in fear of deportation, learn a new language, cower under their father’s abusive treatment, and make do, always on the financial edge. Though redacted for young readers, this edition pulls no punches, and its frank honesty does not read “young” in any way. Read this along with Francisco Jimenez’s biographical series, starting with The Circuit (1997). This heartrending and thoughtful memoir puts a human face on immigration’s personal toll. (Memoir. 12-18)

About the Author

Reyna Grande is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, The Distance Between Us, which the Los Angeles Times hailed as “the Angela’s Ashes of the modern Mexican immigrant experience.” A National Book Critics Circle Awards finalist, The Distance Between Us is about Grande’s life before and after coming to the U.S as an undocumented child immigrant. It is about what is lost and what is gained in the pursuit of a better life. The Common Reading book selection at colleges and universities across the nation, in September 2016, The Distance Between Us was republished for young readers ages 10-14.

Born in Mexico in 1975, Grande was raised by her grandparents after her parents left her behind while they worked in the U.S. She came to the U.S. at the age of nine as an undocumented immigrant and went on to become the first person in her family to obtain a higher education. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing and Film and Video from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University. She is a sought-after speaker at middle/high schools, colleges and universities across the nation, and teaches creative writing workshops.

Her website is www.reynagrande.com.

Teacher Resources

The Distance Between Us Discussion Guide

The Distance Between Us Lesson Plans

The Distance Between Us Reading Guide

Around the Web

Seriously Shifted on Amazon

Seriously Shifted on Goodreads

Seriously Shifted on JLG

Seriously Shifted Publisher Page