Monday, March 19, 2018

Bat and the Waiting Game -- Blog Tour


I'm so happy to join the blog tour for the latest book about Bat by Elana K. Arnold. This one comes out at the end of March!



Bat and the Waiting Game by Elana K. Arnold
(Publishing March 27, 2018) ISBN: 978-0-06-244585-8
The second book in the irresistible and “quietly groundbreaking”* young middle grade series starring Bat, an unforgettable boy on the autism spectrum.

For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life is pretty great. He’s the caretaker of the best baby skunk in the world—even Janie, his older sister, is warming up to Thor. When Janie gets a part in the school play and can’t watch Bat after school, it means some pretty big changes. Someone else has to take care of the skunk kit in the afternoons. Janie is having sleepovers with her new friends. Bat just wants everything to go back to normal. He just has to make it to the night of Janie’s performance…

*Kirkus Reviews



My Thoughts:
I thought I loved the first book about Bat (and yes, I really did), but this one really made me smile. I loved how Bat was so understandable and relatable. He's impulsive and has trouble with his sister and with friendships - and his autism is just one piece of who he is. The people who share his world love him, but they don't handle him with kid gloves. Sometimes they make adaptations for him, and sometimes he has to learn to adapt for them. His family has typical problems getting along. I adore the fact that any child who reads about Bat will be able to relate to him. 

Bat's love for animals is essential. His difficulty dealing with change is just part of him. He makes good and bad choices, and they make his story one that made me laugh and smile as well as hurt for him at times. I love the fact that kids can get to know a kid with autism like Bat, and that the things that help him be more comfortable in his world are treated respectfully and as "no big deal". 

Who will like this book:
Teachers who want a great read-aloud for 2-4th graders.
Kids who love animals
Kids who don't always get along with their siblings
Kids and teachers who want to begin to understand people they may know who have autism. 


(I also joined the blog tour for the first book about Bat! Check it out for some fun veterinarian resources.)



Elana K. Arnold grew up in California, where she, like Bat, was lucky enough to have her own perfect pet — a gorgeous mare named Rainbow —and a family who let her read as many books as she wanted. She is the author of picture books, middle grade novels, and books for teens, including the National Book Award finalist title What Girls Are Made Of. Elana lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. She calls the “Bat” series for Walden Pond Press “books of her heart.” You can find her online at www.elanakarnold.com.
Check out the educator's guide!  It includes resources about understanding autism, social and emotional learning, activities, and classroom read-aloud suggestions.


TOUR STOPS
3/12 For Those About to Mock, @abouttomock Sam Eddington
3/15 Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook @knott_michele Michele Knott
3/15 @iowaamber Amber Kuehler
3/16 The Hiding Spot @thehidingspot Sara Grochowski
3/18 Educate*Empower*Inspire…Teach @guerette79 Melissa Guerrette
3/19 Maria’s Melange @mariaselke Maria Selke
3/20 Nerdy Book Club post by Elana
3/20 Writers Rumpus @kirsticall Kirsti Call
3/22 Bluestocking Thinking @bluesockgirl Nicole Levesque
3/28 Unleashing Readers @unleashreaders Kellee Moye


Source of book -- I received an ARC from the publisher but my thoughts are my own.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Granted by John David Anderson - Blog Tour


It's time to welcome another wonderful book by John David Anderson into the world! Be sure to go all the way to the bottom of this post for a chance to win a signed copy for yourself.




Granted by John David Anderson 
(Published February 13, 2018) 
ISBN: 006264386X  and ISBN13: 9780062643865

Everyone who wishes upon a star, or a candle, or a penny thrown into a fountain knows that you’re not allowed to tell anyone what you’ve wished for. But even so, rest assured: There is someone out there who hears it.

Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets is no ordinary fairy – she is a Granter: one of the select few whose job it is to venture beyond the boundaries of the Haven and grant the wishes of unsuspecting humans every day. It’s the work of the Granters that generate the magic that allows the fairies to do what they do and to keep the Haven hidden and safe. But with worldwide magic levels at an all-time low, this is not as easy as it sounds. On a typical day, only a small fraction of the millions of potential wishes get granted. And even granting those promised few means navigating a human world fraught with danger.

Today, however, is anything but typical. Because today, Ophelia is going out on her first assignment. And she’s about to discover that getting what you truly want takes much more than a handful of fairy dust.


My Thoughts: 

First of all, let me say that I'm so thankful that being asked to join this blog tour made me bump Granted to the top of my TBR pile. I have loved all of Anderson's books, so I already had ordered a copy of the book and I was excited to see it arrive on its book birthday last month. This book was just what I needed.

The world: 
I love books about fairies. I've read a ton of versions of the world of the fey, and I always enjoy seeing how an author envisions their motivations, hidden world, and how they interact with humanity. The crisis of declining magic is often part of these tales, and Anderson did a great job giving us reasons for this decline as well as showing how the fairies are managing the changes.

I thought the idea of the guilds of fairies, with "granters" being held in high esteem, was so fun! I also loved seeing the fairies who scavenge in our world and the ones who try to deal with bringing scraps of our technology to the fairies. The memorial to the fairies lost while granting wishes (the Femoriae) was a perfect touch early in the story to help the readers understand the risks that Ophelia would be facing.

My mind kept trying to decide what my fairy name would be, based on the story's naming conventions. Fairies are given their middle name first -- based on the plant from which they were born. Then they get their last name, based on a character trait they had as infants. Their first name is random. So I'm going to imagine I get to keep my own first name (I mean, why not, right? My parents didn't pick it at random, but they could have!) I'm going to go with Maria Bleedingheart ..... I guess I should check with my Founders on the last name, right? I'll return later today with that bit.


The characters: 
Whoa baby... the characters were so much fun! Ophelia, of course, was a great leading lady. Her strengths and faults were both on full display to help her in her quest to grant her first wish. I loved her struggle between her rule following nature and her growing sense of the need to follow what her heart is telling her to do. Helping kids find and honor their own inner compass is so important!

The dog she met along the way, though, totally stole the show. When he arrived on the scene, I immediately started laughing. Sam's exuberance, loyalty, and the way he always "says" exactly what he's thinking were just perfect. He definitely gets many of my favorite lines in the story.








Overall: 
Granted is just what the fairies... err... doctor ordered. It's the perfect mix of adventure, humor, love, and light to give you and the readers in your life the little lift you need.

YOUR OWN SIGNED COPY!! (US/Canada only)
Just comment below for a chance to win. Please be sure to leave your email address so I can contact you to get your mailing address. The copy will come directly from the publisher, and I will only use your email address to get and share that information with the publisher.

I'll choose and email a winner on March 17th -- Good luck!


I've blogged about other books by John David Anderson too!

Sidekicked        Minion        Posted        Dungeoneers 



About John David Anderson:
John David Anderson is the author of Ms. Bixby's Last Day, Posted, Sidekicked, Minion, and The Dungeoneers. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wife, two kids, and perpetually whiny cat in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at www.johndavidanderson.org.






Source: I purchased a copy of this book myself. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Becoming Madeleine - A Biography of the Author of A Wrinkle in Time - Review


(Updated...2/7/18..) 

Becoming Madeleine: A Biography of the Author of A Wrinkle in Time by Her Granddaughters

by 
Hardcover, 176 pages
Publication: February 6th 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
ISBN 0374307644 (ISBN13: 9780374307646)



(Goodreads Blurb) This middle-grade biography explores the life and works of Madeleine L'Engle --written by her granddaughters--coming just in time for the all-new A Wrinkle in Time film, directed by Ava DuVernay.

This elegant and insightful biography of Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007) was written by her granddaughters, Charlotte Jones Voiklis and Lena Roy. Using never-before-seen archival materials that include photographs, poems, letters, and journal entries from when Madeleine was a child until just after the publication of her classic, A Wrinkle in Time, her granddaughters weave together an in-depth and unique view of the famous writer. It is a story of overcoming obstacles--a lonely childhood, financial insecurity, and countless rejections of her writing--and eventual triumph. Becoming Madeleine will speak not only to fans of the icon's work, but also to anyone interested in writing.



"A self is not something static, tied up in a pretty parcel and handed to the child, finished and complete. A self is always becoming."
-- Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet











What a perfect way to begin this biography, right? When I opened up the book and saw this staring at me, my eyes immediately welled up with tears. This quote sums up the reason I have never stopped loving A Wrinkle in Time (and the rest of the series). Meg and her family have had something to teach me at every single stage of my life -- because I am always becoming.

So who was the woman who created a world that included Meg, Charles Wallace, the "Mrs", and Naming? Who felt so passionate about the differences between "Same" and "Equal" that resonated with me in ever changing but still powerful ways on each read... Who let me travel through space and time while pondering how I could use my life to spread Light instead of Darkness...

I won't spoil all the secrets and surprises in this biography, but here are a few of my favorites:

It was easy to spot some of the personality traits Madeleine would give Meg Murry. Madeleine came across as highly intelligent but always unsure of herself. She had some of the same impulsivity (I was surprised to hear about an unkind prank she played on a classmate) and the bewilderment over how others perceived her actions. In one of her journal entries, she declares "I don't feel a bit older or wiser, but shall try to act older and wiser." That absolutely sounds like something Meg would say!

I was surprised to find out how active she'd been in theater. Her courage in pursuing her goals to write plays that would be performed in NYC was inspiring.

Throughout the biography, it was clear to see her ongoing passion for the written word. Each event in her life, each journal entry, each moment of submission or publication emphasized this point.

The moment that resonated the most for me, as a Wrinkle fan, was when she wrote in her journal about Mrs Whatsit (as she called it at the time). "If I've ever written a book that says what I feel about God and the universe, this is it. This is my psalm to life, my stand for life against death." (pg 143-144). I was so glad to know that even at that time, she understood the depth and power that would be A Wrinkle in Time.


A question I still have about L'Engle:
     -- This biography leads up to the successful sale of the novel that would become known as A Wrinkle in Time -- a genre bending story filled with science that inspired my adolescent mind. Yet this tale of Madeleine's life never really shows how she got interested in adding these kinds of science plot lines to her stories. Since the Meg and Charles Wallace stories ended up being my favorite, I'd love to know how she got interested in the science that filled that series.

Becoming Madeleine was a balanced mixture of photos, journal entries from young Madeleine, and writing by her granddaughters to help me get to know her better. The writing was accessible for a middle grade audience, and I can't wait to have some of the WiT fans in my classroom read about her life.


I have acquired numerous editions of A Wrinkle in Time over the years...
and I'm thrilled to have Becoming Madeleine join the stack.

UPDATE!!

I can't believe I forgot to add this amazing book that also had a book birthday on 2/6! I mean.... L'Engle and Larson.... right? I was skeptical that anyone could turn Wrinkle in Time into a graphic novel, but Hope Larson was exactly the right person for that job. My local bookstore didn't have a copy of this beauty when I went in on Tuesday, but I immediately ordered a copy and it is currently winging its way to my home, where I plan on devouring it post haste....  I highly suggest you do the same.




I received a copy of this book from the publisher for free, but my thoughts are entirely my own. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A Dash of Trouble -- Blog Tour


Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for a really sweet new middle grade novel!





Mmmmmm.... A Dash of Trouble sounds delicious! 

(synopsis from the teacher's guide) 
Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion—and no occasion is more important than the annual Día de los Muertos festival. Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration…but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and to the bakery, she makes a startling discovery: her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a secret. They’re brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake. Leo knows that she has magical ability as well, and she’s more determined than ever to join the family business—even if she can’t let her mamá and her hermanas know about it yet. And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all….What could possibly go wrong?



My Thoughts:

I am thrilled to be able to put A Dash of Trouble in my classroom library. I teach upper elementary students who have strong reading skills. They are always looking for books that include friendship and family. Leo is a lot like them. She’s curious, eager to grow up, and isn’t always sure of exactly the right path to take. The fact that Leo is also part of a loving family of sisters and has a strong friendship with Caroline makes it a great addition to the books I share with my students.

Some of my students are passionate fantasy readers, but others prefer realistic fiction. I love that Leo’s story will interest both groups. The realistic setting with a pinch of magic is a great way to help fantasy readers branch out into realistic books and vice versa.

The icing on the cake is the fact that A Dash of Trouble is another title that helps me continue to diversify my collection. I want books that stretch my students to see things from other perspectives. I also want books that allow my students to see themselves in the pages. Knowing that Anna Meriano brings an authentic voice to the novel makes me feel even better about sharing this story with my students.
 


Trying out the treats....


Someone wanted to investigate my treats!
   


 "Leo's Lucky Pigs" -- though mine didn't fly!

1. I had most of the ingredients already, so you may also have them in your kitchen. I had a big bin of cookie cutters someone gave me years ago, too. I think I used up all of my "luck" when I found a pig cookie cutter inside.

2. My biggest challenge was trying to figure out whether my liquids were at "light syrup" stage. Eventually I just stopped simmering and poured it into the dry mix. It worked out fine, so I'm guessing this isn't a mission critical decision.

3. Working with this cookie cutter took some trial and error. The dough kept getting stuck inside! I ended up dusting the rolled out dough with extra flour to help it not stick as much.

The cookies were delicious - with a mild flavor that was only slightly sweet. I liked them, but I wasn't sure what kids would think. I shared my stash of lucky pigs with some students today, and many of them declared them the “best cookies they’ve ever had!” (Although some did put them second or third on their list after their parents’ chocolate chip cookies.) They also immediately declared that they want to read the book as soon as it ends up in the classroom library. I’m so excited that this is the start of a new series!



This isn't the first time I've dabbled in recipes that are included in books! Check out my "Top Ten Bookish Treats" post with librarian Crystal Brunelle on Nerdy Book Club from 2014.



About the Author 
Anna Meriano grew up in Houston, Texas, with an older brother and a younger brother but (tragically) no sisters. She graduated from Rice University with a degree in English and earned her MFA in creative writing with an emphasis on writing for children from the New School in New York. She has taught creative writing and high school English and works as a writing tutor. Anna likes reading, knitting, playing full-contact quidditch, and singing along to songs in English, Spanish, and ASL. Anna still lives in Houston with her dog, Cisco. Her favorite baked goods are the kind that don’t fly away before you eat them.

Read a fun interview with Anna Mariano on Barnes & Noble's site...

And check out the other two stops on the Blog Tour!

1/21 Nerdy Book Club "COCO, THE FIRST RULE OF PUNK, AND EVERY MEXICAN (AMERICAN) STORY OUT THERE BY ANNA MERIANO" -- read about her concerns that this story "had already been told" and how she realized that her novel was definitely an important addition. 
1/22 Bluestocking Thinking -- with the chance to WIN a copy of the book! 


** I received an advanced copy of the book to read from the publisher, with no strings attached. I was happy to provide this review for a book I loved! **

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Real Us Blog Tour



We all need a little more humor in our lives, right? Our students need to laugh just as much as they need to learn to read, write, and problem solve!  

Welcome to my stop on the Blog Tour for The Real Us! Check out some information about the book and a guest post by the author himself! 


The Real Us
by Tommy Greenwald (Goodreads Author), Lauren Burniac (Editor), J.P. Coovert (Illustrations)
Hardcover, 224 pages
Expected publication: August 8th 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
ISBN 1626721718 (ISBN13: 9781626721715)

Publisher’s description
Laura Corbett and Damian White are loners, and not by choice. Kids make fun of smart, sarcastic Laura for her weight and artistic Damian for his tendency to sweat through his shirts. Calista Getz, however―well, everyone agrees that Calista is the prettiest girl in the whole school. Maybe even the whole state. Let’s just say that she sits at the popular lunch table. Laura and Damian don’t.

But when Calista wakes up just before the school dance with the BIGGEST pimple she has EVER seen right in the middle of her face, and her attempts to hide it backfire spectacularly, Laura and Damian are the only ones who don't ignore her. In fact, they seem to see not only past her pimple, but past her popularity, too. Together, they'll challenge the school's status quo in this hilarious, heartfelt novel The Real Us, by Tommy Greenwald.




Let's hear from the author about why he wrote this book....

************

WE ALL HAVE BLEMISHES


A beautiful girl with a giant pimple in the middle of her nose.

That’s the first thing that popped into my head -- no pun intended, I swear! -- when I embarked on the story that became THE REAL US.

This was a few years ago, and up to that point, all the middle-grade novels I written – the Charlie Joe Jackson series and its spinoffs, the Crimebiters! series – had a broadly comic bent to them. So naturally, as I dove in to this new story, I assumed that I would go down a similarly humorous path. But interestingly, I soon enough found myself writing a (slightly) more serious book about friendship, self-identity and the limits and labels we put on ourselves, and others, throughout our middle school years.

These are issues that I’ve always been fascinated by: it traces back to when I was a kid myself, trying to straddle the worlds between music (I was a pianist and percussionist) and sports (I played soccer). It wasn’t easy, because each of those worlds was so self-contained, and all-consuming. And then I saw it in my three boys, Charlie, Joe and Jack, who each found a world to belong to in school, and then found it difficult when they were interested in exploring beyond the boundaries of that world.

Add the extra complication of looks into it – how the “attractive” kids are expected to act a certain way and hang around with a certain kind of person (namely, each other), and how the “less attractive” kids are supposed to stay in their lane and know their place – and you’ve suddenly got the makings of a story that could go in a lot of different directions. And I was interesting in following those directions and seeing where they took me.

I loved creating Calista, Damian and Laura – the heroes of THE REAL US. My goal was to make them funny, confused, complicated and real, or at least as real as fictional people can be.

But don’t worry. Calista – the beautiful one – still gets the giant pimple in the middle of her nose.

You didn’t think I was gonna let that one go, did you?


Check out the rest of the tour!

7 August Ms. Yingling Reads, http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com review
8 August Maria’s Melange http://www.mariaselke.com/ —Why I Wrote The Real Us
9 August Log Cabin Library http://logcabinlibrary.blogspot.com/ Review, publisher’s description
10 August- Diary of a Happy Librarian https://diaryofahappylibrarian.blogspot.com/- Review
11 August Always in the Middle https://gpattridge.com/ Make ‘Em Laugh
14 August- Randomly Reading https://randomlyreading.blogspot.com/ Review
15 August One Great Book http://onegreatbook.com/ Review
16 August-Unleashing Readers http://www.unleashingreaders.com Giveaway
17 August Mr. D. Reads https://misterdreads.wordpress.com. Interview
18 August Tommy Greenwald http://tommygreenwald.com/blog/ Giveaway

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Two Truths and a Lie - Blog Tour


Can you tell the truth from a lie? 

We live in a world filled with increasingly hyped up news, clickbait headlines, and flat out lies dressed up to look like truth. Parents and teachers are desperate for any tools we can find to help us build critical thinking skills and media literacy.


TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE: IT’S ALIVE!
By Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie A. Thompson
ISBN: 9780062418791
Publication Date June 27, 2017

Two Truths and a Lie is the first book in a fascinating new series that presents some of the most crazy-but-true stories about the living world as well as a handful of stories that are too crazy to be true—and asks readers to separate facts from the fakes!

Did you know that there is a fungus that can control the mind of an ant and make it do its bidding? Would you believe there is such a thing as a corpse flower—a ten-foot-tall plant with a blossom that smells like a zombie? How about a species of octopus that doesn’t live in water but rather lurks in trees in the Pacific Northwest?

Every story in this book is strange and astounding. But not all of them are real. Just like the old game in this book’s title, two out of every three stories are completely true and one is an outright lie. Can you guess which? It’s not going to be easy. Some false stories are based on truth, and some of the true stories are just plain unbelievable. And they’re all accompanied by dozens of photos, maps, and illustrations. Amaze yourself and trick your friends as you sort out the fakes from the facts!

Acclaimed authors Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson have teamed up to create a series of sneaky stories about the natural world designed to amaze, disgust, and occasionally bamboozle you.

My Thoughts:
Two Truths and a Lie: It's Alive! is a wonderful book to add to your media literacy arsenal. It is filled with fascinating truths (and lies) that will spark the imagination and curiosity in the readers. I especially like how several of the pieces bring up the ethical concerns that are associated with the stories, which could be a source of rich classroom discussion!

Students could easily read the book all at once, or they could read separate sections for discussion. Two Truths is split into three main parts: Plants, Animals, and Humans. Each of those parts has three chapters. (Three groups of three... it's a number nerd's dream, too!)

Following those sections is:
-- a research guide with suggestions for how the reader could go back and analyze the information in the text. All of that advice is applicable to any nonfiction piece they may read - which makes it a fabulous tool.
-- the answer guide. This part is well explained, but also quite humorous.
-- the bibliography. I love this part, and it factors into my strategy suggestions below.


Strategy Suggestions: There are several ways I think you could attack this text in a classroom setting. I'm planning to do each of them with different parts of the book.

1) Read, Reveal, Analyze
Have students read all three pieces in one chapter. Let them discuss which one they think is the lie. Then reveal the answer WITHOUT sharing the "answer guide" analysis. Have them go back through each piece, now that they know the answer, and look for the "tells". Give them the bibliography as well, so they can look at the names and types of sources used. This would lead to some great discussions about sources, quotes, etc. 

2) Use step 1's analysis on the next set of passages
After you've done step 1 - try it again. I'd suggest having a classroom created "analysis" chart that reminds them about the types of information that tends to suggest a fictional piece. See if that first step's discussion helps them find the error with more accuracy.

3) Start at the Source(s)
For this method, give them the source list first. See if they can make a prediction JUST from the sources listed as to the fake story. Then read and analyze. After reading, they can look up any of the internet sources listed to see if that helps them determine the fake story.


I'm guessing you can come up with other ideas, too. I'd love to hear them! 

About the Authors


Ammi-Joan Paquette has traveled to twenty-four countries, has the ability to wake herself up at a given time without an alarm clock, and once climbed Mt. Everest. (Not all of these are true!) Joan is the author of the novels Rules for Ghosting, Paradox, and Nowhere Girl, as well as the picture books Petey and Pru and the Hullabaloo, Ghost in the House, The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Mermaids, and The Tiptoes Guide to Tracking Fairies. She lives outside Boston, Massachusetts, where she balances her own writing and her day job as a literary agent. You can visit her online at www.ajpaquette.com.

Laurie Ann Thompson has ridden a pig, gotten stuck in an elevator overnight, and jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. (One of these facts is not true; can you guess which?) She is the author of Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters, My Dog Is the Best, and Emmanuel's Dream, a picture book biography about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, which was the recipient of the Schneider Family Book Award and was named an ALA Notable Book, a CCBC Choice, and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year, among dozens of other accolades. She lives outside Seattle with her family. You can visit her online at www.lauriethompson.com.



Visit the other stops on the blog tour! 

5-Jun Librarian's Quest
7-Jun Flowering Minds
11-Jun Pragmatic Mom
Geo Librarian
13-Jun Smack Dab in the Middle
14-Jun Bluestocking Thinking
15-Jun Novel Novice
Library Lions Roar
16-Jun Archimedes Notebook
18-Jun Nerdy Book Club
19-Jun Cracking the Cover
20-Jun Writers Rumpus
The Hiding Spot
21-Jun Maria's Melange
23-Jun Unleashing Readers
24-Jun This Kid Reviews Books

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder Blog Tour





Once again, I am thrilled to support another amazing book published by Walden Pond Press... Be sure to scroll all the way down to enter to win a copy of the book from the publisher. I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher, but my thoughts are all my own. 



Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder
To be published by Walden Pond Press on  May 30, 2017
ISBN-13: 978-0062443410

On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.

Today’s Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now—to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they’ve always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back—and take her away forever from the only home she’s known?


My Thoughts: 

This book appealed to so many of my “reading self” layers…

Book lover:

I adored the fact that the Island had a library, and I loved trying to figure out which books they were discussing and reading. They don’t mention any titles, but some were obvious and some were trickier. I also loved that they gave books that completely fell apart a special burial. The kids on the Island knew how important and special books are, and even made sure that each child was taught to read and write.

Reluctant Childhood Leaver:

Some children are ready and eager to move into their teenage years. Those kids jump into middle school and barely wave goodbye to their little selves. That was absolutely not me. Jinny watching, puzzled, as Deen eagerly heads out into the unknown resonated with my own preteen self. Jinny spends the next year trying to figure out how she’ll know she’s ready… and then still isn’t.

I was the child who wept when the older children were told they weren’t going to be able to go back to Narnia. I recognized that I was being pushed out of childhood, just like they were, and I was devastated. I love that this book showcases Jinny’s uncertainty. Not being sure you are ready to take on bigger responsibilities and explore the wider world is a perspective I think will also resonate with many of my upper elementary readers.


Ambiguity Seeker:

I won’t give too much away, but I do want you to know that many of the mysterious elements in this book will not be resolved for you as a reader. Laurel Snyder gives us the chance to come to some of our own conclusions about the nature and history of the Island. This kind of open-ended narrative is powerful for readers, and leaves open the possibility of many rich discussions and “pondering” time.


Feminist:

I debated whether or not to use the word feminist here, but I’m leaving it. To me, feminism is about allowing everyone the chance to take whatever role they want for themselves. Do you want to be a nurturer? It doesn’t matter what your gender is. Do you struggle with a nurturing role? It doesn’t matter what your gender is. Do you want adventure? You get the idea.


In Orphan Island, all of the children are expected to take their turn in every type of role. They all help gather food. They all help cook. The Elder orphan is expected to take on the youngest child as their “Care”; teaching and nurturing that child. Jinny struggles with her role as the teacher and nurturer, even though she absolutely cares about the little girl who becomes her responsibility. I loved seeing that.


Parent:

I also empathized with many of Jinny's concerns in her caregiving role. She was so cautious with her Care because she didn’t want to see the child hurt.  We know that real learning requires risk, but it is so hard to let our children go into situations that could be dangerous in any way. I know that can be incredibly frustrating to our children, and maybe seeing Jinny have these same struggles will help them gain some understanding and empathy for their own parents. 


Overall, I absolutely loved Orphan Island. It was a tale that included adventure, wish fulfillment, and a touch of the mysterious. This book should appeal to students in 5th grade and up. I can’t wait to have my students read it and see what they think!

Don't just rely on MY judgement.... These are the authors of some of my other recent favorite books.... 


Praise for Orphan Island:
“Laurel Snyder has written a story that curls around the heart and pulls in tight—a meditation on the power and wisdom and closeness and sorrow of childhood. A wondrous book, wise and wild and deeply true. I loved every second of it.”
                  Kelly Barnhill, Newbery Medal-winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon

“An elegant and thoughtful meditation on the joys and sorrows of growing up, with lyrical prose, characters that feel as alive as your dearest friends, and a vivid setting sure to enchant young readers. A work of extraordinary heart.”
                 Claire Legrand, author of Some Kind of Happiness

“A visionary, poignant, astonishingly lovely fable of childhood and change. This is a book to lose yourself in, and to never forget.”
                 Anne Ursu, author of The Real Boy


Laurel Snyder’s Bio:
Laurel Snyder is a poet, essayist, and author of picture books and novels for children, including Orphan IslandCharlie and MouseBigger than a Bread Box, and Swan, the Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova. She is also a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a faculty member of Hamline University's MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She lives in Atlanta with her family and can be found online at www.laurelsnyder.com.



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