Category Archives: ESL students

Juvie by Steve Watkins

 

I received this e-galley from the publisher via Netgalley and read it on my ancient Kindle, so I didn’t pay much attention to the cover, including–I’m embarrassed to say–the author’s name. The story is written from a female teen’s point of view, and it’s done so well that I was shocked when I sat down to write this review and discovered that the author is male. I was also surprised to realize that, had I seen the cover before reading the story, I would have thought that was a book about a teen boy. My own misguided preconceptions, of course–girls go to jail, too.

Publisher’s description:  Sadie Windas has always been the responsible one — she’s the star player on her AAU basketball team, she gets good grades, she dates a cute soccer player, and she tries to help out at home. Not like her older sister, Carla, who leaves her three-year-old daughter, Lulu, with Aunt Sadie while she parties and gets high. But when both sisters are caught up in a drug deal — wrong place, wrong time — it falls to Sadie to confess to a crime she didn’t commit to keep Carla out of jail and Lulu out of foster care. Sadie is supposed to get off with a slap on the wrist, but somehow, impossibly, gets sentenced to six months in juvie. As life as Sadie knew it disappears beyond the stark bars of her cell, her anger — at her ex-boyfriend, at Carla, and at herself — fills the empty space left behind. Can Sadie forgive Carla for getting her mixed up in this mess? Can Carla straighten herself out to make a better life for Lulu, and for all of them? Can Sadie survive her time in juvie with her spirit intact?

Heart-wrenching and real, Juvie tells the story of two sisters grappling with accountability, sacrifice — and who will be there to help you after you take the fall.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* is struggling with making good choices in life

* knows someone who has been incarcerated or has first-hand experience with the juvenile detention system

* plays basketball–Sadie is on the college scholarship path when she has to leave high school to serve her six-month sentence.

* has a family member who suffers from agoraphobia–Sadie’s father never makes an appearance in the story because he hasn’t come out of his house in years. Although we don’t get to know him as well as we know the agoraphobic father in Linda Urban’s A Crooked Kind of Perfect,  we can still feel Sadie’s father’s love for her when he does reach out to her via the US mail.

Use this to discuss:

* Character Motivation–Sadie decides to take the fall for her older sister, Carla, who has been in trouble with the law in the past. Should she have made that sacrifice? What if Sadie’s decision can’t save her sister or her young niece, Lulu? Would she have made the same sacrifice if she had known that she’d spend six months in jail?

* Ethics–When Sadie tries to shield a fellow inmate from harm during a prison riot, she is reprimanded for getting involved and told that her only job in juvie is to follow directions. Yet she later risks her own life to save another. Sadie’s choices in these scenes would make good fodder for discussion. And speaking of choices…

* Choices–At first, I was indignant at the unfairness of Sadie going to jail for something she didn’t do. But Sadie eventually comes to the conclusion that although she didn’t knowingly break the law, a series of smaller bad decisions led her to the wrong place at the wrong time. Did she deserve to go to jail? Definitely not. But the ultimate consequences of her choices that led her to the scene of the crime could have so easily been avoided.

*Types of Conflict–There are several types in this story–character vs. character, and character vs. self, but the most interesting to explore might be character vs. society and the role of prisons in our society. The disparity between the crimes that some of the characters commit on the outside and their behavior on the inside would also make for good discussion.

Visit author Steve Watkins’ website here.

Click here for reviews (including starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly) and here to read the first chapter.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: October 8, 2013

ISBN-10: 0763655090

ISBN-13: 978-0763655099

Number of Pages: 320

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Ten Picture Books with Multicultural Casts of Characters (That Have Absolutely Nothing To Do With Race or Culture)

42cc2-pb10for10015-1Many thanks to teachers Mandy Robek and Cathy Mere for creating the August Picture Book 10 for 10 event! Click on their names above to visit their blogs where you’ll find  links to more Top 10 picture book lists from  bloggers around the kidlitosphere.

My list has more than 10 titles, because I’ve included several series–same authors with (usually) the same illustrators and the same lovable cast of characters.

As a school librarian in a culturally and linguistically diverse school district, I’m always looking for books that highlight different cultures and life experiences for my students. Books introduce kids to everything from Cinco de Mayo to Ramadan to the life experiences of an undocumented immigrant child in the U.S. But my students also want stories about fairies and friends, monsters and space travel.

Try this…the next time you’re at the library or in a book store, pull some picture books at random from the shelves–books with at least one character who is a child  (not only animals or aliens or monsters), and a story or subject that is not tied to culture or race. Do this until you’ve chosen ten books. Next, count how many of those ten  show children of different races. If you’re coming up empty, check out some of these titles from the following list:

(All summaries come from the publishers’ websites.)

Wokka_cover-330How Do You Wokka Wokka? by Elizabeth Blumle, illustrated by Randy Cecil

Some days you wake up and you just gotta wokka. Wokka what? Wokka-wokka! It’s about movement. It’s about dance. It’s about shimmy-shakin’, be-boppin’, and more! It’s about gathering friends and joining the party. The creative team behind MY FATHER THE DOG returns with a call-and-response for preschoolers, an exuberant invitation to be part of the fun — and show your stuff!

Say “HEY!” to your neighbors and get your dance on! Jazzy rhythms, silly rhymes, and welcoming images are guaranteed to entice little readers.
cvr9781416933625_9781416933625_lgOh How Sylvester Can Pester! And Other Poems More or Less About Manners by Robert Kinerk, illustrated by Drazen Kozjan
Robert Kinerk pokes fun at what can happen when good manners are neglected. From Eleanor Ickity who is served nothing that she likes to eat or Sylvester who can pester and pester and pester, this charming cast of characters will warn the ill mannered about the consequences of their shameful behavior.
ATW_CaldecottAll the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee
All the world is here.It is there.It is everywhere.All the world is right where you are.Now.Following a circle of family and friends through the course of a day from morning till night, this book affirms the importance of all things great and small in our world, from the tiniest shell on the beach, to warm family connections, to the widest sunset sky.
thinkbigThink Big by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Vanessa Newton
Art is so much more than easels and paintbrushes as this delightful new picture book by two exciting talents makes clear. Follow along as a classroom of exuberant young kids explore art and the power of creativity in its most varied forms-painting, music, writing, cooking, performing … there’s no end to where their imaginations can take them! The lilting poetry of Liz Garton Scanlon’s text pairs perfectly with the playful art of Vanessa Newton in this warm, thoughtful, and-of course-creative picture book. Young listeners will want to jump right into the pages to find their own muse.
ray-starsStars by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Marla Frazee
A star is how you know it’s almost night.
As soon as you see one, there’s another, and another.
And the dark that comes doesn’t feel so dark.
What if you could have a star?
From acclaimed author Mary Lyn Ray and two-time Caldecott Honor winner Marla Frazee comes this tender, evocative—and profound—exploration of stars both near and far.
gbm-coverThe Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray, illustrated by Mike Lowery
When a class leaves for recess, their just-baked Gingerbread Man is left behind. But he’s a smart cookie and heads out to find them. He’ll run, slide, skip, and (after a mishap with a soccer ball) limp as fast as he can because: “I can catch them! I’m their Gingerbread Man!”With help from the gym teacher, the nurse, the art teacher and even the principal, the Gingerbread Man does find his class, and he’s assured they’ll never leave him behind again.
GB cover 10.1.12The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck by Laura Murray, illustrated by Mike Lowery
Guess who gets to go along on a field trip to the firehouse? The Gingerbread Man! But when he falls out of his classmate’s pocket, Spot the Dalmatian comes sniffing around. Luckily, this Gingerbread Man is one smart cookie, and he races into the fire truck, up the pole, and all through the station, staying one step ahead of the hungry dog the whole time.
Then an emergency call comes in and the Gingerbread Man knows just what to do:
“I’ll ride to the rescue, as fast as I can.
I want to help, too! I’m the Gingerbread Man!”
With snappy rhymes and fresh illustrations, the Gingerbread Man makes a sweet return in his second school adventure.
fairies400The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies by Ammi-Joan Paquette, illusrated by Christa Unzner
Could a tulip be a good place for hide-and-seek? Could a bit of dandelion fluff be a pillow? They could be, if fairies live nearby. This book invites kids to have a backyard adventure searching for the telltale signs of fairies who might be residing all around them. Not only can children “search” for fairies in the book’s unique blend of art and photography, but they will also be encouraged to discover the wonder and magic in nature, whether in a backyard or a local park.
mermaids400The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Mermaids by Ammi-Joan Paquette, illustrated by Marie Letourneau
Have you ever walked on the beach and looked for shells or clams? There are creatures, more like you and me, who are even more interesting to look for. Most people don’t see them, but they might just not know how to look for signs. That sand dollar – why, that could be a mermaid-size surfboard. Those twisted reeds – a bed for a lovely afternoon mermaid nap. And if you peer closely into the water, you might see a mermaid market.
9780061762758Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein

Your buffalo is growing up. He plays with friends. He shares his toys. He’s smart! But is he ready for kindergarten? (And is kindergarten ready for him?)

A hilarious look at first-day-of-school jitters from author Audrey Vernick and illustrator Daniel Jennewein.

9780061762536Teach Your Buffalo to Play the Drums by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein

Does your buffalo pound on pots and pans?
Tap out rhythms at the dinner table?
It’s not as unusual as you might think.
He’s simply at the start of an exciting new journey.
A very loud musical journey that begins by teaching your buffalo to play drums.
(Did we mention it might be loud?)

bees-cover-300x220These Bees Count! by Alison Formento, illustrated by Sarah Snow

How do bees count? The bees at the Busy Bee Farm buzz through the sky as one big swarm, fly over two waving dandelions, find three wild strawberries bursting with sweetness . . . As the children in Mr. Tate’s class listen, they learn how bees work to produce honey and make food and flowers grow. Bees count–they’re important to us all.

7688367-300x236These Trees Count! by Alison Formento, illustrated by Sarah Snow

If you listen carefully to the lone tree behind Oak Lane School, it has a story to tell about… one owl, two spiders, three squirrels, four robins, five caterpillars, six ants, seven crickets, eight flies, nine ladybugs, and ten earthworms, all living safe and free in their tree home.

What does this tree need?  The children know — it needs friends!

Formento-cover-300x237These Seas Count! by Alison Formento, illustrated by Sarah Snow

Mr. Tate’s class helps clean up a local beach and listens to the sea as it tells them about all the wildlife that make it their home. One whale, two giant sea turtles, three marlins . . . and more. Of course, the class discovers that “this sea counts!” These Seas Count! explores the environmental impact and importance of the seas, and how crucial it is to keep them healthy.

Alison Formento’s gentle story and Sarah Snow’s amazing collages combine for a powerful message about the environment and what we can do to preserve our oceans.

cover32259-mediumHow Do You Burp in Space? And Other Tips Every Space Tourist Needs to Know by Susan E. Goodman, illustrated by Michael Slack

Want to blast into orbit? Walk on the moon? Snag a personal photo of a shooting star? Well your time is coming! And when it does, you’re going to need How Do You Burp in Space? 

This guide is filled with the kind of information you’d need to plan any vacation including what to pack (hint: no bubble bath or juggling balls!); what to expect from your accomodations (a sleeping bag attached to the wall), and what to do for fun (leapfrog on the moon!). Grounded in the history of space travel and the planned future of space tourism, this guide book will leave young adventurers daydreaming about future intergalactic space vacations. Get ready to rock your rocketship!

Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

This is the next book up in my series on middle grade books that reflect the immigrant experience in the US.

When Fadi’s family flees from the Taliban in Afghanistan, his 6-year-old sister, Mariam, is accidentally left behind. As Fadi and his family try to adjust to life in San Francisco, Mariam is never far from their thoughts. At school, Fadi enters a photography contest, hoping to win the grand prize—a National Geographic photography trip to India. If he wins, Fadi plans to slip over the border into Afghanistan to find his sister. But after the events of 9/11, Fadi’s Pashtun family is fearful in their new home, and fearful that they’ll never be able to get Mariam out of Afghanistan.

Many of my students’ parents who were doctors or engineers in their home countries have to take jobs in the US where they aren’t able to utilize their training and talents. The only job that Fadi’s educated father can get in the US is a taxi driver, and his older sister works at McDonalds as the family struggles day-to-day. I know that many of my students will connect with Fadi and his family’s struggles.

Hand this book to the kid:

* who recently emigrated to the US

* who had to leave family behind in the home country

* whose parents struggle with a career change in the US

* who is going through culture shock

* who is learning English

* who is interested in photography

* who has experienced bullying

* who has immigrated to the U.S. and into your heart

Use this to teach:

Empathy–While Fadi and his community endure acts of hate after the events of 9/11, this story introduces readers to the innocent victims of racial profiling.

* Photography--Middle School Art teachers, this is your book! Fadi’s saving grace at school is the photography club, and there are several details about what makes a good photo–composition, lighting, subject, etc.

*World Events–The story provides a straightforward explanation of the rise and fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the fear and hope that Afghanis experienced with the US invasion of their country.

Curriculum Guide here.

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for reviews.

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Publication Date: 2010

ISBN:  978-1-4424-0194-5

Number of Pages: 272

Reading Level: 5.4

Interest Level:  ages 8 and up

Thanks to Teach Mentor Texts for hosting today’s What Are You Reading?

Thanks to Shannon Messenger for hosting Marvelous Middle Grade Monday!

Lowji Discovers America by Candace Fleming

Hard Cover

Paperback

This is the next book up in my series of reviews of middle grade books that reflect the immigrant experience.

When Lowji and his parents move to America from India one summer, Lowji finds himself without friends and with nothing to do. He’s always dreamed of having a pet, but the no-nonsense landlady, Mrs. Crisp, does not allow pets in her building. But Lowji doesn’t give up, and finally convinces the hard-working Mrs. Crisp that she needs a mouse-catching cat, a friendly guard dog, and a lawn-trimming goat. In the end, Lowji befriends a girl in his neighborhood who helps him take care of Mrs. Crisp’s newly-acquired menagerie.

While many immigrant families struggle economically after settling in the US, this story offers a refreshing reminder that not all newly arrived families struggle financially. Lowji’s mother has a high-tech job, and his father does the cooking at home.

With its sparse text and humor, Lowji Discovers America makes a good read-aloud and is recommended for kids who are moving into chapter books.

Hand this book to the kid:

* Who recently emigrated to the US

* Who is beginning to read chapter books

* Who loves animals

* Who is going through culture shock

* Who is learning English

* Who needs to know that there’s a “silver lining” to some obstacles in life

* Who has immigrated to the U.S. and into your heart

Use this to teach:

Empathy–Immigrant children will certainly identify with Lowji, and for children who have never been the “new kid” at school, readers will empathize with Lowji’s bewilderment as he’s introduced to American culture and slang.

* Letter Writing--Lowji’s letters to his best friend back in India are sprinkled throughout the text.

*Voice and Humor–Although Lowji learned English in school back in India, his voice is distinct and reflects the cadence and grammatical patterns of a second language learner. His voice would also make a good study in humor for student writers.

Curriculum Guide here.

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for reviews.

Publisher: Aladdin

Publication Date: 2005 (paperback version 2008)

ISBN: 978-1-416-95832-1 (paperback) 978-0-689-862991 (hard cover)

Number of Pages: 160

Reading Level: 3.1

Interest Level:  ages 7-10

Drita, My Homegirl by Jenny Lombard

Summary (from the author’s website: http://dritamyhomegirl.com):

Drita and her family come to New York as refugees from war-torn Kosovo. Even though she barely speaks English, Drita can’t wait to start school and make a new best friend. But her new classmates don’t make it easy, teasing her about virtually everything. The worst is Maxie, a tough African-American girl whose sassy attitude hides a painful secret.

When Maxie takes things too far, their teacher assigns Maxie a paper on Drita and her journey to America from Kosovo. Suddenly, Maxie realizes she and Drita have more in common than she thought. And when Drita’s mother gets sick, there’s only one person who can help—Drita’s new homegirl.

A sensitively written story of two worlds coming together, Drita, My Homegirl touchingly explores the effects of war on a family and how friendship sometimes appears in the unlikeliest places.

Click here for  reviews.

Hand this book to the kid:

* With a divorced or widowed parent

* With a newly-minted or soon-to-be stepparent

* Who has a loved one suffering from depression

* Who is going through culture shock

* Is learning English for the first time

* Who has immigrated to the U.S. and into your heart

Use this to teach:

* Dual Point of View–The narration alternates between fourth graders Drita, a recently-arrived Muslim refugee from Kosovo, and Maxie, a popular and precocious African-American girl dealing with the death of her mother and her  father’s new girlfriend. Both voices are distinct and equally empathetic in their own unique ways.

* Immigration--This book would add contemporary relevancy to any unit on immigration, past or present.

*Friendship–For any school counselors out there who run friendship groups, and/or work at schools with high immigrant populations or high student mobility rates

Curriculum Guide here.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: G.P. Putman’s Sons (Penguin)

Publication Date: 2006

ISBN: 0399243801

Number of Pages: 176

Reading Level: 3.9

Interest Level: Middle Grade (ages 8 and up)