Category Archives: point of view

Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin

hi_res_FLF_COVER_2-330 The first time I heard Charlotte’s Web was while sitting on the carpet of my 4th grade classroom in 1975 when Mrs. Smith read the book aloud to us. I was captivated. At the time, I had no idea that the book was already more than 20 years old. Fleabrain Loves Franny opens in the early 1950s, just after E.B. White published Charlotte’s Web, and main character Franny is just as smitten with Charlotte as I was. We meet Franny not long after she’s recovered from polio and is grappling with life in a wheelchair. She’s still considered contagious by her friends and their parents, and she wishes for a friend like Charlotte. Fleabrain is no Charlotte, but his imperfect love for Franny sets her off on a journey–both fantastical and internal–that provides both a needed escape from reality as well as a solid plan for her new normal. Franny is a sympathetic character who doesn’t evoke pity, but respect. One of my favorite lines is when Franny’s former gang of friends parades by her house yet again, waving and saying how much they miss her. She thinks: “Which Franny do you miss? Because, actually, I’ve been here all along. In the flesh.” She doesn’t want or need to be treated with kid gloves, and the resolved friendships in the end are both satisfying and realistic.

Teachers and students often ask if we have any new historical fiction titles on the shelves, and I’m looking forward to recommending this one in the fall.

Publisher’s description:  This gem of a novel takes place in Pittsburgh in 1952. Franny Katzenback, while recovering from polio, reads and falls in love with the brand-new book Charlotte’s Web. Bored and lonely and yearning for a Charlotte of her own, Franny starts up a correspondence with an eloquent flea named Fleabrain who lives on her dog’s tail. While Franny struggles with physical therapy and feeling left out of her formerly active neighborhood life, Fleabrain is there to take her on adventures based on his extensive reading. It’s a touching, funny story set in the recent past, told with Rocklin’s signature wit and thoughtfulness

Hand this book to the kid who:

* enjoys historical fiction

* is interested in science (especially microbiology and germs/bacteria/viruses/medicine)

* loves a light touch of fantasy

* is struggling with feeling different from his or her peers

* would like to vicariously visit the Seven Wonders of the World

* is a fan of  E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web and Katie Speck’s Maybelle series.

Charlotte_Maybelle

Use this book to discuss:

* Differences–So often we highlight ways in which we are different from other people, instead of celebrating the many ways that we are alike. Having a peek into Franny’s point of view, we realize that the kernel of who she is has not changed; it’s her community who has changed the way they see her through a lens of fear

* The science behind vaccines –As I looked through our library’s online catalog, I realized that we have quite a few non-fiction titles about epidemics and the role/effects of disease throughout history. Jonas Salk, the man who discovered the polio vaccine, is mentioned several times in the book.

* Points of View–While most of the story is told from Franny’s point of view, we do see snippets of Fleabrain’s point of view, as well. Especially in the end, when Fleabrain can’t communicate with Franny, students can discuss misunderstanding, intentions, and forgiveness all within the context of friendship.

For schools with Internet filters that block YouTube, click here for the trailer on School Tube.

Visit author Joanne Rocklin’s website here and my interview with her here in 2012.

Many thanks to the publisher who provided this e-galley via Netgalley.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams Books

Publication Date: August 2014

ISBN-13: 978-1-4197-1068-1

Number of Pages: 288

For ages 9-12

Paradox by Ammi-Joan Paquette

paradox_thumbToday Biblio Links once again welcomes prolific author Ammi-Joan Paquette! She’s had three picture books and two middle grade novels published so far, with another picture book coming out this fall.

Today’s review is for her thrilling sci-fi debut young adult novel Paradox.

Publisher’s summary:  Fans of James Dashner’s Maze Runner series will love this postapocalyptic adventure about a girl who must survive an alien planet in order to save the Earth.

Ana only knows her name because of the tag she finds pinned to her jumpsuit. Waking in the featureless compartment of a rocket ship, she opens the hatch to discover that she has landed on a barren alien world. Instructions in her pocket tell her to observe and to survive, no doubt with help from the wicked-looking knives she carries on her belt. But to what purpose?

Meeting up with three other teens–one boy seems strangely familiar–Ana treks across the inhospitable landscape, occasionally encountering odd twists of light that carry glimpses of people back on Earth. They’re working on some sort of problem, and the situation is critical. What is the connection between Ana’s mission on this planet and the crisis back on Earth, and how is she supposed to figure out the answer when she can’t remember anything?

~

Once I realized that I could NOT put this book down, I immediately thought of several reluctant readers in my library who would love this fast-paced, sci-fi mystery. It’s got a strong female main character, an unfolding mystery, high stakes, danger, and a fascinating other-world setting. Really, what’s not to love?

As a librarian in a very culturally diverse school district, one of the things I appreciate most about Paradox is something I haven’t seen mentioned in other reviews:  the book’s multicultural cast of characters. Ana Ortez is the main character, and she is eventually joined by three other teens, Todd Oslow, Ysa Klein, and Chen Wai. Race or culture doesn’t factor into the plot or dialogue at all. Love that.

JoanI asked Joan to tell us how Paradox might fit into your library or classroom.

BiblioLinks:  A student walks into my library and I think, That kid needs a copy of Paradox. Who is this kid?

Joan: The ideal PARADOX reader is a student who looks for fast-paced stories and benefits from highly active, engaging storylines. It’s a spare, quick read that would be ideal for reluctant readers. It’s also great for kids with a scientific inclination, and those who like to puzzle out problems and collect data to come to a conclusion. The perfect read for analytical thinkers who want to put their active brains to recreational use!

BiblioLinks: I agree, Joan–this book will definitely appeal to reluctant (and avid!) readers. If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using Paradox in a lesson or with a small group, what might we see?

 Joan: There are many science-based springboard discussions that could arise from this book: the development of disease and how contagious agents could be spread across a global landscape; the very real developments of space travel and the recent discovery of potentially habitable planets; rotation of binary solar systems and how they differ from our own. There’s also a lot of story connections to be made, connecting the generational links and organizing them into a time-sequential storyline, understanding the logic of how the different elements in the book all fit together. Students might also use the enclosed news articles as a springboard to writing their own articles highlighting recent real-life scientific breakthroughs they find exciting and groundbreaking.

 BiblioLinks: Lots of STEM connections for educators to explore. In addition to using the newspapers articles as springboards like you mentioned, the interview transcript with Ana’s mother could also spark spin-offs where students could create mock interviews with other characters in the story. The present-tense, third person point of view would also make for some interesting discussions.

Where can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?

 Joan: You can find me on the web at www.ajpaquette.com, and for more about PARADOX specifically, visit the Random Buzzers forum to read some Q&As from teen readers here, or drop by here to read the opening chapter.

Biblio Links: Thanks for joining us, Joan!

Teachers and librarians, click here for rave reviews of Paradox.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: June 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0375869624

Interest Level: ages 12 and up

Number of Pages: 240

Visit Shannon Messenger's website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

Although Paradox is a young adult title, it’s recommended for ages 12 and up, so I’ve included it in Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday round up. Click here to visit her blog for more middle grade recommendations.

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!

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!

Parched by Melanie Crowder

parched Melanie Crowder’s debut novel Parched is stunning, haunting and, in the end, hopeful. The prose is just as spare as the setting–an unnamed swath of Africa that has been struck by extreme drought. The story opens and ends with brief chapters that are narrated by main character Sarel’s dog, Nandi. In between, this story is told at times by Sarel, at times by Nandi, and at times by Musa, a boy with a gift for finding water who has escaped from an abusive gang who try to profit from Musa’s special gift.

Publisher’s description:   In this haunting, lyrical novel told from three perspectives, Sarel has just witnessed the violent murder of her parents. But she is not completely alone on the drought-ridden land.

Nandi is the leader of a pack of dogs who looks out for her pups and for skinny Sarel-girl. Nandi knows they are all in trouble, and she knows, too, that a boy is coming—an escaped prisoner with the water song inside him. A hard-hitting but ultimately hopeful survival story.

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Melanie Crowder Author PhotoMelanie Crowder, author and teacher, stopped by Biblio Links to talk about how her novel Parched can be used in the classroom.

Biblio Links: Welcome, Melanie!

A student walks into my library and I think: That kid needs a copy of PARCHED. Who is this kid?

Melanie: He or she is probably a pensive kid, a thinking reader with a big heart.  PARCHED is a slim volume, so it may appeal to reluctant readers and English Language Learners as well.

Biblio Links: As a former ESL teacher I agree with that last suggestion! It’s often hard to find stories that have themes that older readers want to explore, yet have text that is accessible to a wide range of readers. Parched will definitely spark some interesting discussion for a wide range of readers.

If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using your book in a lesson or with a small group, what might we see or hear?

Melanie: You might see kids experimenting with the narrative voices of different animals, or describing their classroom through Nandi’s eyes. You might see them consulting encyclopedias or online resources to complete the PARCHED field guide (coming soon–check my website this fall). Perhaps a small group is preparing a report for the class on water as a resource and how its scarcity or quality affects people in different parts of the world. And the teacher is probably consulting the discussion guide found here.

Biblio LinksWhere can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?

Melanie: The best place to look is my website: www.melaniecrowder.net. I hope to see you all there!
Biblio Links: Thanks for stopping by, Melanie!

Hand this book to the kid who:

* enjoys survival stories,

* has lost a loved one,

* is concerned about/interested in environmental issues, or

* loves dog stories.

Use this to teach:

Points of view–This story is told from three points of view: Sarel, a girl who has just lost her parents and must keep her dogs (and herself) alive; Musa, the boy with the gift of finding buried water sources, and Nandi, Sarel’s trusted canine friend. How might certain scenes in the story be told from other points of view–not just one of the other three main characters, but what about the band of thugs who kidnapped Musa? How about Musa’s brother?

* Earth Day--Parched would pair beautifully with Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water and Mindy McGinnis’ Not A Drop to Drink (a young adult novel coming in September 2013). Display these books in the months of March and April and launch a book talk/discussion on Earth Day, April 22.

*Types of Conflict— Lots of examples to choose from in this story–character vs. character (human and canine), self, society, and nature.

Curriculum Guide here

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for glowing reviews from the likes of Kathi Appelt, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Franny Billingsly.

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: June 4, 2013

ISBN-10: 0547976518

ISBN-13: 978-0547976518

Number of Pages: 160

Reading Level: 5.4

Interest Level: Ages 10 and up

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!

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!

Visit Shannon Messenger's website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

Visit Shannon Messenger’s website for more marvelous middle grade titles!