Category Archives: Point of View

Favorite Middle Grade Novels of 2019 (so far!) for summer reading!

It’s summer!  Time to relax, re-charge, and….. READ!  At this time, I like to put out a list of favorite middle grade novels for summer reading.  I haven’t blogged about middle grade novels all year, but I’ve certainly been reading a lot of them!  Whether you know a child,  tween, or teen who might be looking for some great summer picks or you are on the look-out for a new book for next year’s read-aloud, there is something here for everyone: Sci-Fi, family, friendship, mystery, global issues, immigration, bees, wolves, foxes, and frogs!  What trends have I noticed in MG novels this year?  Stories written in multiple perspectives with extraordinary character voices.  Some very powerful books – well worth checking out!  Happy summer reading, everyone!

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Operation Frog Effect – Sarah Scheerger

Mrs. Graham, my new teacher hero, explains the butterfly effect to her class:  “It’s the idea that a small change in one thing can lead to big changes in other things…Anything and everything we do—positive or negative, big or small—can influence other people and the world.”   Talk about making connections!  I said the same thing to the grade 7’s this year when we started our unit on our developing a positive Social Footprint.  This book is getting a LOT of attention right now and I’m not surprised!  I was SO impressed with the way it addresses many difficult issues, but in a light-hearted format which kids can relate. Told through eight perspectives and through letters, graphic novel-like illustrations, poetry and movie scenes, this book explores how young people can come together, speak up and make a difference.  It is both delightfully entertaining while also sending a powerful, positive message.  A MUST read!  LOVE!

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The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise Dan Gemeinhart

Rodeo and Coyote are a father/daughter duo that live on the road in an old school bus called Yager. They have been roaming the U.S. for five years – ever since a tragic accident that left them both devastated.  This is another “buzz” book that should really come with tissues because I cried happy and sad tears the whole way through.  This story is about family, friends, grief, and adventure.  Amazing, lovable cast of characters, incredible voice, beautiful writing.  It’s perhaps a bit too early to call it my favorite middle grade read of 2019, but at this moment, it is definitely in my top three!

New Kid – Jerry Craft

Wow!  This FANTASTIC middle grade graphic novel is a must have addition for any school/classroom library. Approaches subtle & overt racism in an accessible & understandable way through the lens of the “new kid” at a private school.  Portrays serious “fitting in at school” issues and one I could see sparking a lot of rich discussions.  Major kid and teacher appeal!

The Bridge HomePadma Venkatraman

An absolutely wonderful and heart-wrenching middle grade novel that takes a bleak look at the plight of lower-caste street children in India.  Similar to when I read “A Fine Balance”, this book will stay with me for a long time.  Based on true experiences of two extraordinary sisters who escape an abusive home life and the street boys who become like brothers to them.  In spite of the immense suffering and loss, this is a story filled with hope, beauty, compassion, and love.  Told in the voice of a girl writing to her sister, this book was hard to read at times, but even harder to put down.  This book is one of two choices for the Global Read Aloud this year.  I highly recommend it.

Pay Attention Carter JonesGary D. Schmidt

When Carter Jones opens the door one morning, he discovers a butler, complete with coat tails and top hat, sent from England to assist his family of 6 after their military father is deployed overseas. We “infer” that life is rather chaotic in the house with four kids and a now single mom.  I did not know what to expect with this book but was surprised at how charming, emotional, and unique it was.  While not particularly transforming, I enjoyed the narrative voice of the middle schooler, learned a lot about the rules of cricket, and found it to be both humorous and poignant.

Count Me In – Varsha Bajaj

This book is not released until August but put it on your list or in your cart now!  It is a powerful story about Karina and Chris, two middle school students who, despite their differences, become friends after Karina’s grandfather starts tutoring Chris after school.  When Karina’s grandfather is brutally attacked by a stranger shouting hate filled words and claiming her Papa does not belong in America, Karina and Chris question how such hate could be directed someone who has lived in this country for 50 years.  Similar to  Wishtree, I really appreciate how this book deals with important and current issues on racism and immigration but at a level and book length appropriate for a younger age group.  Perfect read-aloud for grade 5-6 level to spark discussions about hate crimes, immigration issues and using social media to raise awareness.

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The Simple Art of FlyingCorey Leonardo 

Again, I did not know what to expect when I started reading this one but was surprised by how quirky, whimsical and playful it was.  This story is told from several points of view, but mainly from the perspective of Alastair – a grumpy African parrot born in a pet store who is looking for a grand escape to a better life for himself and his sister Aggie.  For fans of The One and Only Ivan, this is a wonderful middle grade story that I think many children will love.  Great characters with great voices.  I enjoyed that the three points of views (Aggie, Fritz, and Alastair)  are told through three different genres (Aggie writes letters; Fritz writes journal entries; and Alastair writes poetry).   Tender, poignant and refreshing.

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Scary Stories for Young Foxes – Christian McKay Heidicker 

I LOVE THIS BOOK!  And don’t let the cuteness of foxes mislead you – this book is scary!  And kids like scary.  Warning – Foxes die in this book.  But don’t let that dissuade you from it.  Because it’s BRILLIANT!  So so SO good!  The writing is incredible –  weaving 8 distinct stories together.   It reads like you’re one of the foxes, listening to the storyteller, travelling through tall grass, wind between trees in the forest, smelling purple, jumping over large barriers, and feeling everything Mia and Uly feel.  I can’t even explain how good this book is.  You MUST read this one!

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The Bee Maker Mobi Warren

In a recent blog post, I featured books about bees – but hadn’t discovered this one yet!  WOW!   This book is highly creative and kept me turning the pages to find out what happens.  Part science-fiction, the main character time travels from a Texas farm in 2039, where the bees have almost disappeared, to ancient Greece to search for a way to save the bees and ends up saving a boy in the process.   This one really sticks with you and I found myself thinking about the story even when I wasn’t reading it.  A page turner with deep themes – this one will appeal to a little older MG tween as well as adults.

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A Wolf Called Wander – Rosanne Parry

Attention animal lovers!  Inspired by the true story of the famous wolf, known as OR7, who wandered 1,000 miles, A Wolf Called Wander is about family, courage and a poignant journey of survival.  I fell in love Swift, the wolf – his voice and his sheer determination to live no matter what loss and adversity he faces.  (Again, I found myself thinking about dear Ivan.)  The writing is brilliant – gorgeous language that filled my soul.  Beautiful illustrations and an extra factual section about wolves and their environment are added bonuses.  Beautiful.  

Shouting at the Rain – Lynda Mullaly Hunt

From the author of Fish in a Tree and One for the Murphyscomes another poignant, moving, beautifully written story of changing friendships, belonging, loss, love, and forgiveness.  So many themes to explore here!   Here is another example of a writer who develops amazing, strong characters – I don’t think there was one character  in this book I didn’t believe in.  Delsie, our narrator, is strong, independent, kind, and accepting.  I felt like I wanted to be her friend!  She deals with friendship problems,  mean girls, abandonment issues, and struggles to define what, exactly, makes a family.  (not to mention, she loves tracking weather and HATES to wear shoes!)  Another winner by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

The Night Diary – Veera Hiranandani

I absolutely love the writing in this book!  Told from the point of view of a 12-year old Nisha through her diary entries to her mother who has passed away, this story is centered around the confusion, frustration, fear, and sadness experienced during of India’s Partition in 1947.  I learned so much history from this book.  Great characters, suspense, adventure, and heartache interwoven into a story of a family caught in the midst of horrendous cultural/political conflict–Hindus against Muslims.  Amazing sensory writing – I felt the wind, the dust, smelled the spices, felt the pencil in Nisha’s hand.   This would make an excellent choice for a grade six or seven read-aloud or Lit Circle book.

Other Words for Home – Jasmine Warga

“I just want to live in a country where we can all have dinner again without shouting about our president or rebels and revolution.”   An emotional, heart-breaking, and brilliantly written story told in verse about Jude, a 12 year old Muslim refugee facing racism in America. This book deals with the struggles and the heart ache of leaving everything you know behind and searching for your identity when facing an  unknown country and culture.  I would definitely use this book in a grade 6 or 7 class for Literature Circles or a class novel.

Sweeping Up the Heart – Kevin Henkes

What does lonely look like?  Feel like?  Sound like?  I can see some people feeling this book was a little slow – “nothing really happens”.  But there is something so very fragile and sweet in this gentle story of Amelia and her longing to be noticed, loved, felt, understood.  As teachers, we come in contact with many Amelias.  Touching and poetic, this book may not appeal to everyone, but for a thoughtful reader willing to explore loss and loneliness, it is a stunner.   Lots of beautiful subtlety in Henkes’ writing – he leaves lots of space for the reader’s thinking.  I found it heartbreaking and beautiful.

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Caterpillar Summer – Gillian McDunn

A stunning debut novel so full of voice and heart!  Instead of spending the summer with her best friend, Cat is shipped off to her grandparents with her brother Chicken, and given the responsibility of caring for him.  Oh, and did I mention she has never met her grandparents before?   So much to love about this book!  I love smart, thoughtful,  compassionate Cat and her sweet, creative brother Chicken.  I love that each and every character experiences some kind of transformation.  I love that the “bad guy” in this book is real and not “typical” or “cliche”.   I love the interpersonal relationships of the characters.  I love the visual descriptions and sensory details.  I love the themes of family, friendship, community, responsibility, and forgiveness.  I guess I love this book!

The Benefits of Being an Octopus – Ann Braden

I almost forgot to include this book because I read it several months ago – but it is a MUST read and share book.  (Thanks to Kim Fedoruk for reminding me about it!)  An eye-opening, transforming, and compassionate look at poverty and empathy,  and the right to be treated fairly and equally.  Zoey doesn’t have much of a chance to worry about what other grade 7’s might be worried about – things like homework and crushes. She’s too busy helping her family just scrape by, and taking care of her three other siblings.  According to Zoe – she’d literally have to be an octopus with eight tentacles to juggle all the tasks she faces every day.   Zoey has far more responsibility than anyone her age should ever have, and reading about her made my heart ache. Her character is so strong, complex and believable.  And the writing…. the writing is so beautiful and filled with so many amazing quotes.  This book is not to be missed.  I would recommend this book for your more mature middle grade readers  (end of grade 6 or grade 7) but every adult should read it, too.

And there you have it!  My favorite Middle Grade novels so far this year!

Thank for stopping by!  Hope one or two books have caught your eye!

 

 

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Filed under 2019 releases, Bee Books, Friendship, graphic novel, Grief, Homelessness, Identity, immigration, Middle Grade Novels, New Books, Point of View, Poverty, Sci-Fi

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Best Books for Building Class Community

Well… for many of us – tomorrow we head back to school to begin a new year.  These first few days and weeks are filled with many emotions, new routines, and, let’s face it – a fair share of chaos!  But nothing is more important in these first weeks than establishing your class community.  Creating a positive, welcoming, accepting place will help students feel more connected, empowered, and invested in learning.  Reading stories to your class and engaging in discussions is one of the best ways I know to begin this process.  While there are dozens to choose from, here are a few of my favorite picture books for building a positive learning environment in your class:

(Note:  This is not intended to be a list of “Back to School” books – which are really only shared during the first few DAYS of school.   This list is meant for sharing and discussing over the first few WEEKS of school, while you focus on building your classroom community.   For favorite “Back to School” books, see my post here.)

All Are Welcome – Alexandra Penfold

Oh my.   This book.  It’s a must read for every teacher to share in the first days or week of school.  A wonderful, welcoming picture book that celebrates diversity, inclusiveness, acceptance, and celebration of all cultures in a school community.   I hope this book ends up in EVERY library in EVERY school EVERYWHERE!  If you are familiar with my “One Word” transform lesson – the one word I would use with this book is, of course, “Welcome”.

The Day You Begin – Jacqueline Woodson

“There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.”  And so begins this poignant, powerful story by the amazing Jacqueline Woodson (Each Kindness, The Other Side, Brown Girl Dreaming).  If there is only ONE book you read this summer – this is it.  This is a must-own book for teachers,  librarians, and parents, and a must-share for all kids, no matter their ages.  I am absolutely in love with this story of pride in self, fear of not fitting in, and ultimately belonging.   A PERFECT book for sharing at the beginning of the school year to help build a welcoming community in your classroom and a perfect reminder that we are more alike than different.

Each Kindness – Jacqueline Woodson

Another one of my favorite books by the amazing Jacqueline Woodson is about bullying – the subtle kind of bullying –  the ignoring and whispering and refusal to acknowledge someone. I think this kind of bullying can be the worst. This book is heart-breaking and poignant.   I love the metaphor of the stone making rippling waves in the water representing the effects of kindness upon others and the not so happy but very realistic ending.   Such an important story to share and talk about.

The Invisible Boy – Trudy Ludwig

This powerful, heart-breaking story is one of my very favorites.  Brian is so quiet, he is “invisible”.  He is not included, invited to birthday parties or is really noticed.  Then Justin, the new boy, arrives and works with Brian on a class project, giving him a chance to shine.  This gentle book is a valuable one to include in your class collection, showing children how small acts of kindness can help others feel included.  The illustrations by Patrice Barton are soft and gentle, just like Brian.  LOVE!

Quiet Please, Owen McPhee! Trudy Ludwig

From the amazing team who brought us “The Invisible Boy”, Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton’s new book “Quiet Please, Owen McPhee!” is a must have for a first week read-aloud to help build your classroom community. Owen McPhee loves to talk… and talk and talk and talk! (connections, anyone?) But when he develops laryngitis one day, he discovers the the value of being a good listener. Wonderful depiction of the social dynamics of a busy classroom with a gentle message about the importance of listening. LOVE!

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We Don’t Eat our Classmates – Ryan T. Higgins

Oh my goodness – SUCH a funny book!   Yes, there will be many “back to school” books being released this month… but this is definitely the one I recommend.  So fresh and funny, but teaches empathy so beautifully.  A perfect read-aloud or gift for that young one who might be experiencing “back to school jitters”.

                                                 How to Be a Lion  Ed Vere

Melt my heart.  I love this book.  SO simple yet such an important message:  there is more than one way to do something. Or be something.   Leonard is not your typical lion. Leonard is not fierce but enjoys the great outdoors and loves words.  He befriends Marianne, a poetic duck and, together, they compose poems.  When other lions hear about unconventional Leonard – they confront the pair.  A unique and beautiful story about celebrating individuality and diversity; for standing up for your gentle self and befriending who you want.  SUCH a great book for building classroom community!

I’m the Best! Lucy Cousins

Some children like to brag.  And while the line between being confident and being a “swagger-bragger” is often thin, it is an important distinction to discuss with your students.   This cheerful, humorous book is a wonderful way to spark that discussion.  Dog is “the best” at everything and likes to tell his friends all about his “amazingness”!  Eventually, his friends are tired of his bragging so they start a little bragging of their own, helping Dog realize how it feels to be on the receiving end of a “swagger-bragger”.   I love how this book gently shows how bragging impacts others.

Steve, Raised By Wolves – by Jared Chapman

LOL!  This book is hilarious and would make a brilliant back to school read-aloud for any grade! Young Steve is literally raised by wolves.  Mother wolf sends him on his first day of school with this advice:  “Just be yourself!”.   So Steve proceeds to do just that – howling in class, shredding homework, marking his territory, drinking from the toilet and pouncing on his classmates!  His behavior does not go over well!  In the end, Steve saves the day and helps to find the class pet.  Great book for discussing appropriate school behavior as well as what it means to “be yourself”

Do Unto Otters:  A Book About Manners – Laurie Keller

Based on The Golden Rule, this book reminds young readers to treat others the way you would like to be treated. Simple message that being kind and using your manners will go a long way when interacting with other people.   Love the word play and puns and quirky, fun illustrations.

A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices – Sally Derby

I love this unique look at the first day of school told through the voices of six diverse children, ranging in age from kindergarten to grade 5.  Each child tells the story of their first day of school, beginning with the night before where readers will see that even children who are older worry about school and who their teacher will be.  Excellent book for inferring, voice and point of view.

The Bad Seed – Jory John

This humorous tale of a bad sunflower seed who eventually turns good makes a great read-aloud for primary students.  Sunflower is a BAAAAAAAAAD seed!  How BAAAAAAAAD?  He cuts in line, lies, doesn’t listen, has no manners…the list goes on!   I like how this book explores how he got to be so bad as well as focusing on his transformation to the “good side”.   Expressive illustrations – lots of laughs but great message.

What if Everybody Did That? – Colleen M. Madde

A wonderful book for teaching your students about following rules, making good choices, consequences of action or being conscious of your community – perfect for the beginning of the year.   What if Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick has simple, up-beat text,  colorful illustrations and gives a new perspective on how our choices impact the world around us.  A good reminder to us all – before you do anything or say anything, ask yourself, “what if everybody did that?”

 This School Year will Be The BEST! – Kay Winters

Fantastic beginning of school read-a-loud. Great for starting the conversation about what students are nervous about, thinking about, and hoping to get from school.  Also a great anchor for writing about school goals and wishes for the new school year ahead.

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Be Where Your Feet Are! – Julia Cook

A simple, child-friendly book about mindfulness and creating a positive classroom environment.  Too often, our students are overbooked with school, homework, projects, sports, extra-curricular activities, family time and so much more.  The main character in this book is so focused on his band tryouts that he can not focus on anything else.  Mindfulness tips are included in the back of the book and would be great to kick off a class created list of ways students can work together to be present as individuals, supporting each other throughout the year.

Thanks for stopping by!  What is your favorite book for building class community?

 

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Filed under Class Community Building, IMWAYR, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Picture Book, Point of View

Top 10 Books for Teaching Point of View

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This term, I’m working with one of the grade six classes on writing from different points of view, skills which they will later apply to a unit on immigration they are working on in social studies.  Each week, I have been reading one of these books and the students have been practicing short writing pieces. I have been searching for different anchor books which can be used for introducing Point of View to the class so thought it would be a great topic for this week’s Top Ten List!  Many of these you will likely have or know… but there may be a few new titles for you!

1.Voices in the Park – Anthony Browne

Possibly the best book for teaching point of view – four “voices” tell their version of a walk in the park.  Anthony Browne is a master of telling a story without telling too much but leaving the reader a lot of spaces to think.  He also leaves clues in his illustrations that help tell the story.  I also love using this book for teaching inferring.

2.The Teddy Bear – David McPhail

This heart-felt story of a boy who loses his favorite teddy and the homeless man who finds and loves it is a perfect one for having students write in first person from the different characters’ perspective.  I even had them write from the teddy bear’s point of view!

3. The Day the Crayons Quit – Drew Daywalt

When you first see the crayons, you may think the story is too young for your middle grade students – WRONG!  This story  is filled with sophisticated humour that could be a little over the heads of some younger students.  I used this book to explain how different points of view can often reveal personality.  A great anchor book for writing, too!

4. Seven Blind Mice – Ed Young

Different points of view often depends on the perspective, connections and vantage point of the character.  In this clever book based on a classic South Asian tale, seven blind mice investigate the “strange something” in the Pond.  Each one views one portion and comes back with their theory.  It is only when the seventh mouse views the “whole something” that the truth is revealed.

5. Hey, Little Ant – Phillip and Hannah Hoose

To squish or not to squish? – that is the question.  Love this story, told in two voices; a conversation between the “squisher” and the potential “squish-ee”.  Perfect for discussing perspectives.

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School’s First Day of School – Adam Rex

This was one of my favorite new “back to school” books this fall!  A unique look at the nervousness and excitement about the start of the school year, told from the point of view of the school!

6. They All Saw A Cat – Brendan Wenzel

Brilliant and simple!  With each turn of the page, the reader is given the opportunity to also see how the cat is viewed from perspectives – from a bee, to a fox, to a child.  Bright, colorful illustrations.  After I finished reading it to the grade class, they wanted me to read it again!  I predict this book may be on a few award lists this year!

7. I am the Dog, I am the Cat – Donald Hall

Another perfect anchor book for point of view, as the contrasting voices of hilarious, affectionate companions converse together.  Gorgeous illustrations and beautiful words and I love the recognizable qualities of both animals that come through.  Kids love this book!

9. The Pain and the Great One – Judy Blume

An eight year old girl and her six year old brother take turns describing each other.  Hilarious and  another great example of different points of view, as well as a perfect connect book!

10. Two Bad Ants – Chris Van Alsburg

If you have not read this clever book by the amazing Chris Van Alsburg, you should!  I never get tired of reading this book aloud to students.  Two Bad Ants allows the reader to experience the world through two mischievous ants’ point of view as they explore a kitchen.  Ah-mazing, spell-binding, genius!

8. The Wolf Story: What Really Happened to Little Red Riding Hood Toby Forward

A funny, fractured fairy tale that replays the story of Little Red Riding Hood from the wolf’s point of view.  This would be a great anchor book for re-writing a fairy tale from different points of view.

11. The Very Smart Pea and the Princess-to-Be – Mini Grey

Another clever version of a fairy tale, this one told from the point of view of the pea!  Very witty!

Thanks for stopping by!  What is your favorite book to teach Point of View?

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Filed under New Books, Point of View, Top 10 Tuesday