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They Never Came Back

Module 8 – Mystery/Series/SLIS 5420

Bibliography:

Cooney, Caroline B. (2010). They Never Came Back. New York: Delacorte Press.

Summary:

Cathy is commuting to another school in Greenwich, CT to take intensive Latin in summer school.  One day in the lunchroom, a boy notices her and thinks she is his long lost cousin.  The students are galvanized by his certainty and they mystery of what happened to his cousin, Murielle.  Tommy swears that Cathy is Murielle, his cousin that got left behind when his aunt and uncle fled the country to avoid going to trial for embezzling from their brokerage firm clients.  Students are searching the internet for clues and gossiping about the case.  Cooney’s matter of fact writing style facilitates a story told by two girls – Cathy and Murielle – who just might be the same person.  The book explores what makes a family a family and the complexity of relationships between children and their loved ones who don’t always act as they should.  Fast-paced, emotionally astute, and suspenseful – a great read for middle school and high school levels.  This book kept me turning the pages, but it also made me cry.

Reviews:

“Although described by its publisher as a thriller, THEY NEVER CAME BACK is more of a mystery. Thrillers might imply murder and violence, none of which is present here. This book is about grappling with family matters, figuring out what really happened with Murielle and what, if anything, Cathy has to do with her. It ends in a way that lets it complete itself, but is also open enough for possible sequels.

Caroline B. Cooney has been writing young adult books for decades and has remained a popular author whose novels grab one’s attention. THEY NEVER CAME BACK is no exception. Fans of her earlier titles in all likelihood will grab this one as well, and even “reluctant readers” are often known to get into her stories. So what will happen to Cathy, Murielle and the Lymans in the end? As they say in Latin, fiat justitia ruat caelum: ‘let justice be done though the heavens fall.'”

Davidson, Danica. (2010). Review of They Never Came Back.  Retrieved from http://www.teenreads.com

Thoughts:

They Never Came Back is a well-written thriller/mystery that could be used for a mystery reading section (SSR) or for a book report list.  Assigning several books by one author (such as Cooney) to a group of students for a mystery book project would be a good way to encourage discussion and comparison of elements (clues, plot twists, dialogue) and to teach about writing.

What the World Eats

Module 7 – Informational Nonfiction/Biography/SLIS 5420

Bibliography:

D’Aluisio, Faith. (2008). What The World Eats. (P. Menzel, Photos). Berkeley, Toronto: Tricycle Press.

Summary:

This book was easily one of my favorites this semester.  D’Aluisio and Menzel have done a phenomenal job with this project.  They traveled the world and ate meals with 25 different families in 21 countries across the continents.  The book is laid out like an upscale social studies text and makes an excellent social studies resource in the classroom or library. Each chapter shows a family and a week’s worth of food and lists how much the family spends.  Narrative includes details of family life, the society in which they live, habits, favorites, and limitations.  The book is chock full of graphs, charts, and facts about the world’s food, water, population, and other facts pertinent to food choices as well as wonderful color photos. The book emphasizes the effects of globalization on eating habits worldwide in a journalistic style.  With so many well-organized facts at their fingertips, readers can enjoy a personal look at the world’s resources and the differences and similarities of families like their own from across the globe.  The authors have brought together wealth of information in this beautifully formatted and accessible book about how we eat.

Reviews:

“Can too much information give readers intellectual indigestion? When is it better to graze through a book rather than consuming it in one sitting? Is it possible to make good-for-you information as delicious as (guilty) pleasure reading? The adapted version of Hungry Planet: What the World Eats (2005) raises all of these questions. Intended to inform middle-schoolers of the wide variety of food traditions as well as discrepancies in access to adequate nutrition, this collection of photos, essays and statistics will require thoughtful concentration. Adapted and abridged text, a larger font size, the addition of small maps and basic facts about each country and the deletion of some photos that might have been judged inappropriate or disturbing help to make the wealth of information accessible to this audience. The plentiful photos are fascinating, offering both intimate glimpses of family life and panoramic views of other lands. Whether used for research or received as a gift from socially conscious adults, this version offers children plenty to chew over–but it’ll take them some time to truly digest. (Nonfiction. 1114)”

Kirkus Review. (2008, July 15). Review of What The World Eats. Retrieved from http://www.titlewave.com

Thoughts:

This book would be perfect for use in the upper elementary, middle, and high schools as a social studies resource and can be used to inspire further study (the comprehensive index is helpful, sources are quoted, but even better there is a “Further Reading” list in the endnotes.  A lesson or booktalk could be built around the book and it could be used in tandem with further information from the cited sources (such as CIA Factbook) and used to demonstrate a number of research sources and tools to students. Globalization and its effect on societies worldwide is a topic that can be mined with rich results for students, and the book could also be used when teaching nutrition or for a multicultural project.

Of note:

Book Links starred 10/1/08

Booklist starred 7/1/08

Publishers Weekly starred 9/1/08

School Library Journal starred 7/1/08

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down

Module 7: Information Nonfiction/Biography/SLIS 5420

Bibliography:

Pinkney, Andrea Davis. (2010). Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down.  (B. Pinkney, Illus.) New York: Hachette Books.

Summary:

Sit-In is an inspiring book about social change and the fight for civil rights.  The authors portray the lunch counter protests of the Civil Rights Movement in a format that emphasizes key themes such as “Be loving enough to absorb evil” and “We are all leaders.”  This book is inspiring in its message and its beauty.  The illustrations and format (with quotes from Dr. King and other leaders in a larger font) teach and exhort.  The author has succeeded in bringing a complex issue to a young audience in a forthright and inspirational manner. I was impressed with the way the authors not only told an important story in a manner that children can understand and enjoy, but they also managed to incorporate and teach the philosophies that were inherent to the movement.  A timeline of the Civil Rights Movement helps the reader to undertand context and history.  This book is emotionally powerful and thought-provoking.

Reviews:

“Andrea Davis Pinkney’s Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down (Little, Brown, 2010) describes the four brave college students who started a protest in Greensboro, NC. African Americans could shop at the local Woolworth’s, but the only black people who were allowed at the lunch counter were the waitstaff, as depicted in Brian Pinkney’s glowing illustrations. On February 1, 1960, four young men sat down and each ordered coffee and a doughnut, with cream on the side. They were ignored, but they kept sitting. White people threw food at them, yelled at them, threatened them. Committed to Dr. King’s assertion that nonviolence was the only answer to racial hatred, the students ignored their attackers. And it worked. The four students were joined by others. It took guts, patience, and determination, but by July of that same year, the lunch counter at Woolworth’s was desegregated”.

Baxter, Kathleen. (2010, June 1). The Civil Rights Movement Through Kid’s Eyes. Review of Sit In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.libraryjournal.com

Thoughts:

This book can bring an historical unit to life when teaching at the elementary (and even at the middle school level) about the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.  It would make a great book for a social studies unit for elementary aged children or middle school (possibly high school) as a teaching aid for reading aloud or to use for a project.  The book could be well used to teach about how to respond to injustice and to facilitate discussions about unfair treatment, standing up for yourself in an appropriate way, and  challenging social ills or inequity in a constructive manner.

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

Module 7 – Informational Nonfiction/Biography/SLIS 5420

Bibliography:

Krull, Kathleen. (2003). Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez.  (Y. Morales, Illus.) Orlando, FL: Harcourt Books.

Summary:

This fascinating picture book biography is about Cesar Chavez and how he became the leader and hero of the migrant farmworker movement in the United States.  The author has done a wonderful job of portraying  the spark that ignited the fire of Cesar Chavez’s activism, as well as his personal struggles and triumphs. The book portrays how he encountered prejudice and injustice and was inspired to help others  who had struggled with the unfair treatment that migrant farmworkers received.  The grassroots movement of the National Farm Workers Association, its nonviolent philosophy and manner of protesting for social change, as well as Chavez’s influences and beliefs are woven into the story in a way that is both educational and inspiring.  The stylized illustrations are fused with vibrant color and make the story come alive.

Reviews:

“In her author’s note, Kathleen Krull points out that Cesar Chavez continues to remain a controversial figure in the United States today. The fact of the matter is, he followed perfectly in the footsteps of the men he admired; St. Francis of Assisi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and Gandhi. Helping to lead migrant workers in the first successful agricultural strike the U.S. had ever known, he is best remembered worldwide as a hero. In her book, Krull follows Chavez from a happy early childhood in Arizona to an unpleasant shift to the fields of California. As we watch, Cesar grows from a boy forced to endure the humiliations of the fields (and the poor schooling as well) to a man capable to leading workers in a non-violent protest against the grape growers of Southern California. Especially impressive are the ways in which Krull ties in young Cesar’s lessons about life (his mother cautioning him to use one’s head to work through conflicts) with their actual implementation years later. Illustrated by Yuyi Morales, the book looks like nothing so much as Jonah Winter’s fabulous biography of Frida Kahlo. Beautiful surreal images meld with sweeping panoramas of a life of difficulty. You’ll find yourself reading it over and over again just to look at the pretty pictures.The fact of the matter is, there’s not a single misstep in this book. Anyone familiar with the previous Pura Belpre winner, “Esperanza Rising” will see that this book succeeds where “Esperanza” was apt to fail. But, quite frankly, it’s unfair to compare the two. Fiction will always pale in comparison to well-written non-fiction. In this book you have an honest story told simply with an elegance all its own.”
Bird, Elizabeth. (2007, September 3). Labor Day Recommendations. Review of Harvesting Hope. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.blog.schoollibraryjournal.com/afuse8production
Ideas:

I like the idea of using a group of picture books about the Civil Rights movement together in a class or library for an activity or project for older children (upper elementary, middle school, even high school) that could involve reading the books aloud (take turns being the reader), art/group projects (groups get together and talk about a cause that is important to them – each group decides on a cause and creates a slogan, banner, idea for a means of protest, etc.) and then have the groups present their projects to one another.  This type of project would be good for raising social consciousness and helping kids see how they can get involved and get creative with issues that mean something to them.

Of note:

Pura Belpre Honor Book

2004-2005 Texas Bluebonnet Award Nominee

One Beetle Too Many

Module 7 – Informational Nonfiction/Biography/SLIS 5420

Bibliography:

Lasky, Kathryn. (2009). One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin.  (M. Trueman, Illus.) Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

Summary:

This book is packed with information and is text-rich as well as rich with beautifully detailed yet humourous illustrations.  Lasky has done a pheonomenal job of bringing Charles Darwin to life for the reader as a fascinating and influential person.  The book is longer than most picture books and would not be suitable for early readers; however, child and adult alike can learn some interesting facts from this book about the naturalist who fathered the theory of evolution.  Lasky brings a deft personal touch to her portrayal of Darwin and how he became an astute observer and chronicler of the natural world.  The book is literally packed with information, but Lasky’s writing style and Trueman’s illustrations work together to make the story flow.  I was particularly impressed with what I learned from the book and yet how enjoyable it was to read.

Reviews:

 “Adventure! Travel! Exploration! Discovery! Drama!
All of the above could be used to describe the life of the 19th-century scientist whose work revolutionized how we view and understand the natural world. The bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birth presents a fine opportunity to look at the man, the theories he formulated, and the ongoing controversy that they have stirred. Luckily the occasion has sparked the creation of new books and media, many for young readers, which largely concentrate on his years aboard the HMS Beagle, and the discoveries of that momentous voyage. Books for older readers offer a fuller biography of the naturalist and his life’s work, including a fascinating look at his marriage and the publication of On The Origin of Species. Short of a visit to Down House or a field trip to the Galapagos Islands, the resources collected here are the best way to introduce the ideas and enduring legacy of one of the greatest thinkers of all time, whose theories continue to challenge and engage our beliefs and intellectual debates.”

Editors. (2009, March 1). Celebrate the Darwin Bicentennial. Review of One Beetle Too Many.  School Library Journal.  Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com



Thoughts:

One Beetle Too Many would be a great book to use in the elementary classroom for teaching natural science and would be a great concept book to build a storytime at the library around or to use in tandem with other science picture books. Incorporating a nature walk or other nature activity (such as looking at bugs in jars and talking about them), talking about fossils and possibly seeing some, and using other aids like photos of nature – bugs, animals, fossils, dinosaur models -would be a good idea.

The Devil’s Arithmetic

Module 6: Historical Fiction/SLIS 5420

Bibliography:

 Yolen, Jane. (1988). The Devil’s Arithmetic. New York: Penguin.

Summary:

This stunning book takes Hannah, a modern girl in the United States, from her family’s Passover Seder to a concentration camp in Poland in the middle of World War II.  Hannah is the typical American girl who wants to spend time with her friends at the mall, go to movies, and do modern things.  She is bored with the idea of going to the family Passover Seder and would rather be with her best friend.  When Hannah is given an honorary role in the Seder, she finds herself suddenly transported to another place and time where she is being called by a different name.  Just as Hannah begins to acclimate to her new life in the village, the family and all of the guests attending a family wedding are told they are to be “relocated” by the Nazi soldiers posted in the village.  They must travel in the infamous cattle cars of the Nazi trains that took people to the concentration camps, and they must learn to try to survive the horrifying conditions of the camp. Here she is called by her Hebrew name Chaya, and everyone thinks she is someone else.  She begins to lose her memory of her modern life in the United States.  She must focus on staying alive and helping others to do so, as well. What happens to Chaya, and what does Hannah learn from this horrible experience?  Yolen’s masterful writing brings to life a story that will haunt you long after you put The Devil’s Arithmetic down.

 Reviews:

“Further, we suggest that traveling into the past along with a fictionalized teen helps to connect young readers with their own pasts, bringing history alive in a particularly meaningful way. For example, in the 1980s, Jane Yolen reported her dismay at the reaction of junior high students to her explanations of the Holocaust. They were so disconnected from what they were hearing that they suggested she was making it up. This experience inspired her to write one of the finest time-travel novels available. In The Devil’s Arithmetic (Viking, 1988), Yolen takes a modern Jewish girl, Hannah, who has little understanding of or patience with her own heritage and transports her back to a shtetl on the Polish-German border in 1942. She confronts what she had considered meaningless historical events and comes away a different person. Not only does the Holocaust become real for her, but she also develops a deep sensitivity and love for her roots.”

Darigan, Daniel L. and Tunnell, Michael O. (2003, May 1). Two literature specialists examine the popular genre. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com

Thoughts:

As the review and the book itself suggests, many young readers feel a disconnect between their modern lives and the history of their families or of their society.  The events of the Holocaust may sound horrible to them, but be completely unfathomable or unrelatable.  The Devil’s Arithmetic is a great way for readers to experience on a personal level what this part of history really meant to the people who experienced it.  This book would be a great book for a book club at the library to use with other books about the Holocaust or alone with study questions, discussion, and content mastery activities.  It would also be ideal as an interdisciplinary resource for teaching reading and social studies and could be utilized during the WWII section of history class in tandem with an English assignment (essay, for example).  Having the students read from their essays might spark discussion of their perceptions of the book and the historical time it portrays.

Winner of the National Jewish Book Award

The Book Thief

Module 6 – Historical Fiction/SLIS 5420

Bibliography:

Zusak, Markus. (2005). The Book Thief. New York: Borzoi/Knopf.

Summary:

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, and I wasn’t disappointed, either.  Unusual and powerful, lyrical and poetic, this book is nothing short of a masterpiece.  The book is narrated by Death, and he is an unusual character who doesn’t think like we do; nor is he cruel or frightening.  He is an observer and at times whimsical lover of humanity, perplexed by them and fascinated.  Death is drawn to a girl named Liesel.  She lives in Germany during WWII with a foster family and the book chronicles her learning to read, her theft of books (which are profoundly magical objects to her), and her experiences of loss and love.  This beautiful novel is dense and at first difficult to get into, but once you become engaged in the story you will not want to put it down until the end. Liesel is a beautiful creation of Zusak’s, as is his prose and his view of the human spirit.  Zusak drew upon his parents recollections for background material.  A haunting story written in an unusual and literary style, The Book Thief is nothing short of a classic novel of endurance and the strength and goodness that can be found in people even in the most horrible circumstances.

Reviews:

Gr. 10-12. “Death is the narrator of this lengthy, powerful story of a town in Nazi Germany. He is a kindly, caring Death, overwhelmed by the souls he has to collect from people in the gas chambers, from soldiers on the battlefields, and from civilians killed in bombings. Death focuses on a young orphan, Liesl; her loving foster parents; the Jewish fugitive they are hiding; and a wild but gentle teen neighbor, Rudy, who defies the Hitler Youth and convinces Liesl to steal for fun. After Liesl learns to read, she steals books from everywhere. When she reads a book in the bomb shelter, even a Nazi woman is enthralled. Then the book thief writes her own story. There’s too much commentary at the outset, and too much switching from past to present time, but as in Zusak’s enthralling I Am the Messenger (2004), the astonishing characters, drawn without sentimentality, will grab readers. More than the overt message about the power of words, it’s Liesl’s confrontation with horrifying cruelty and her discovery of kindness in unexpected places that tell the heartbreaking truth.”

Booklist. (2006, January 1). Review of The Book Thief. Retrieved from http://www.titlewave.com

Thoughts:

It would be great to see this novel on the high school reading list for eleventh or twelfth graders.  The insight into history from a personal perspective gives the book a power to transcend the dry recounting of facts of WWII and allow readers to see through the eyes of a child the effects of politics and war. A bookstudy for teens featuring this novel would be ideal for allowing readers ample time to enjoy and analyze the book’s layers of meaning and insight.  For a history block about WWII, excerpts chosen carefully (chapters taught as a short story) could work in tandem with other books about the holocaust and the War (such as The Devil’s Arithmetic, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas).

Of note:

Honor Book: Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred 5/1/06

Horn Book starred 10/1/06

Library Media Connection starred 3/1/06

Publishers Weekly starred 1/30/06

School Library Journal starred 3/1/06