Category Archives: types of conflict

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

140127095838-25-young-adult-book-awards-horizontal-gallery1With four starred reviews and a Pura Belpré Award on the cover, I knew this would be a good book. What I didn’t realize is that I would stay up until 1:30 in the morning reading the last chapters, needing to know how everything turns out for Piddy Sanchez. This is a gritty, realistic, coming-of-age story that ultimately offers hope in the power of making our own choices in life.

Publisher’s description:  One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away? In an all-too-realistic novel, Meg Medina portrays a sympathetic heroine who is forced to decide who she really is.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* has reached a cross-roads and has important choices or decisions to make

* struggles with poverty, or needs to be introduced to someone who does

* is being raised by a single parent

* is exploring what it means to be part of a particular culture or to straddle more than one culture (Piddy is bullied by Yaqui in part because Yaqui doesn’t think she is “Latina enough.”)

* responds to a teen voice that is honest and  unapologetic

Use this to discuss:

* Choices –Piddy has a slew of choices in front of her, and not one of them is easy. We see the choices that her friend Joey makes, and some of the choices that Yaqui makes. What choices does Piddy have in life? What are the ramifications of each? This would make for a good discussion, especially when paired with Steve Watkins’ young adult novel Juvie.

juvie-198x300

* Community–Although Piddy is being raised by her mother and has never met her father, she doesn’t lack for a support network. Lila, her mother’s friend, and the other ladies at the beauty salon where Lila works (and where Piddy works on the weekends) form a tightly-knit community that looks out for each other. Use Piddy’s story as a springboard to discuss various support systems that teens have in their lives.

* Point of View–Although we never get into Yaqui’s head, we get a glimpse of what her life must be like through Raul, a policeman who patrols Yaqui’s crime-ridden neighborhood, and Joey, Piddy’s friend and neighbor who lives with daily violence in his own home. Although Yaqui is the girl we want to hate, Meg Medina won’t let us, even though she keeps Yaqui’s point of view at arm’s length. How would Yaqui describe seeing Piddy for the first time? What bothers her so much about Piddy Sanchez?

* Bullying–One of the biggest choices Piddy must make is how to handle Yaqui’s bullying. Should she try to avoid Yaqui? Confront her? Tell an adult? This would make an excellent discussion starter about how to handle bullying and its lingering consequences.

Visit author Meg Medina’s website here, and read some sample chapters and see the string of honors this book has received here.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: March 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0-7636-65859-5 (hardcover); 978-0-7636-7164-8 (paperback)

Number of Pages: 272

For ages 14 and up

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.

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.

~

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!

Eye of the Storm by Kate Messner

Many of my elementary school students are interested in dystopian stories (having seen The Hunger Games movie). But beyond Lois Lowry’s The Giver Trilogy, there’s not much dystopian out there for a middle grade audience. Kids who aren’t intimidated by the science behind Eye of the Storm will find an adventurous mystery with plenty of twists to keep them turning the pages.

Summary from the publisher’s website:

In the not-too-distant future, huge tornadoes and monster storms have become a part of everyday life. Sent to spend the summer in the heart of storm country with her meteorological engineer father, Jaden Meggs is surprised at the strides her father’s company StormSafe, has made with custom shelters that keep her family safe in even the worst of storms. At her exclusive summer science camp, Eye On Tomorrow, Jaden meets Alex, a boy whose passion for science matches hers. Together, they discover that her father’s company is steering storms away from the expensive neighborhoods and toward the organic farming communities that are in competition with his bio-engineered food company, NatureMade. Jaden must confront her father, but when she does, she uncovers a terrifying family secret and must call on both her scientific knowledge and her faith to save the people she loves most from one of her father’s monster storms.

Hand this book to the kid:

* who loves science and solving problems

* whose parents have divorced and one or both have remarried

* whose interest in dystopian novels has been piqued by the Hunger Games crowd, yet isn’t quite ready for YA content

* who has friends from the other side of the track

Use this to teach:

Ethics–Jaden’s moral dilemma is a tough one; if her suspicions are correct, then she’ll have to out her own father and face who he really is. Excellent fodder for discussion.

* Weather--The topic of weather is a staple in upper elementary science curricula across the country, and kids are fascinated by storms. Pair this with the non-fiction Epic Disasters series.

*Inquiry-based learning–The premise of the book’s Eye on Tomorrow summer science camp is to have kids to identify a need and then ask questions, research, and test possible solutions. The process is 100% kid-centered (albeit sinister), and your own students can model the same process.

* Climate Change--Could the super-storms in the book become a reality?  Eye of the Storm is the perfect springboard into the “what-ifs” and cause/effect relationships of climate change.

Curriculum Guide here with a link to more resources on Pinterest.

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for reviews.

Publisher: Walker Childrens

Publication Date: 2012

ISBN:  978-0802723130

Number of Pages: 304

Reading Level: 4.8

Interest Level:  Ages 10 and up

My Very (Un) Fairy Tale Life by Anna Staniszewski

Today Biblio Links welcomes author Anna Staniszewski!

Jacket Summary: Is your magical kingdom falling apart? Twelve-year-old Jenny is on the case, whether she likes it or not. Saving the world might sound exciting, but for Jenny it’s starting to get old — even staying in the real world long enough to take a math test would be a dream come true! And when you throw in bloodthirsty unicorns, psychotic clowns, and the most useless gnome sidekick ever, Jenny decides that enough is enough. She’s leaving the adventuring business and not looking back. Or…is she?

As I read this book, I immediately thought of a dozen kids I wanted to hand it to. The Upper Elementary/Middle School years are rife with friendship drama, and Jenny, the book’s main character, handles her BFF mass exodus in a way that made me both want to hug and cheer for her. Missing her parents, Jenny has to figure out how to get along with her kooky but lovable Aunt Evie, which will resonate with many of my students who live with extended family members. And last but not least, I have a group of 5th grade girls who come into my library asking (in a whisper, of course) for books with some romance. Jenny is the daring damsel and Prince Lamb is the monarch-in-distress, and there are moments when a few cupid-shaped sparks fly–not enough to scare away boy readers, mind you, but just enough to put stars in the eyes of the girl readers who whisper their way into my library. A delightful read!

I asked Anna how her book fits into the classroom.

Biblio Links: A student walks into my library and I think, “That kid needs a copy of MY VERY (UN)FAIRY TALE LIFE.” Who is this kid?
Anna Staniszewski: This student is a girl (or a boy–yes, my book is also okay for boys!) who loves to laugh, enjoys magical adventures, has an interest in fairy tales, and is an avid mini-golf player.
Biblio Links: 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?

Anna Staniszewski: I imagine a lesson on how fairy tales keep changing and evolving. A tale that inspired me as I was writing MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE was “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” which is one of the very few traditional tales that features a heroine who must rescue her prince. I used that idea and ran with it in my story. It would be interesting to have students think about the trends we see in traditional fairy tales and how those trends have changed (or not changed) as writers continue to re-imagine familiar tales.

Biblio Links: Where can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?
Anna Staniszewski: Swing by my website! (www.annastan.com) You can read the first chapter of my book, watch the book trailer, and download a free teacher’s guide (created by the fabulous Natalie Lorenzi herself). You’ll also get info on the UNFAIRY TALE sequels!

Thanks for stopping by, Anna!

Click Anna’s link above to read the magical reviews of My Very (Un) Fairy Tale Life.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Publication Date: November 1, 2011

ISBN-13: 9781402259463 (paperback)

Interest Level: Ages 9-12

Reading Level: 4.5

Number of Pages: 198

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Click here for summary and reviews.

Hand this book to the kid:

* Who loves to draw

* Has moved/is moving to a new school

* Is dealing/has dealt with a tough home life (abusive caretakers and poverty)

* Has a relative or family friend who is a war veteran

* Who needs a little hope

Use this to teach:

* Voice–The narrator, 14-year-old Doug Swieteck (a minor character in Schmidt’s Newbery Honor book The Wednesday Wars), talks directly to the reader at times, inviting us into his tough world laced with hope.

* Types of Conflict--This story has it all–character vs. character (Doug against his father and brother), nature (inadequately-dressed Doug schlepping through snow to deliver groceries), society (poverty, Doug’s older brother stationed in Vietnam)  and self (Doug’s older brother finding the courage to reenter society as a disabled war veteran).

Curriculum Guide here.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Clarion

Publication Date: 2011

ISBN: 9780547152608

Number of Pages: 368

Reading Level: 4.9

Interest Level: Middle Grade (ages 10-14)