Discussion Questions: Touching Spirit Bear

Touching the Spirit BearDiscussion Questions for Touching Spirit Bear:

 

  1. Do you think that spending a year completely alone on a remote Alaskan island is going to be easier than jail time?

 

  1. Cole is angry with his parents for letting this (facing jail) happen to him. Is it their fault?

 

  1. Do you think Cole truly understands Circle Justice? Do you think he knows what it means and how it works?

 

  1. Cole thinks that if someone (Garvey) is scared of him, he can trust them. Is this how trust works?

 

  1. According to Edwin, in order to survive, Cole will need to learn “patience, gentleness, strength and honesty” (pg. 17). How will these traits help Cole to survive in the wilderness?

 

  1. Cole also learns about Spirit Bear from Edwin. Spirit Bear has “pride, dignity, and honor” (pg. 17). Cole responds by saying he will kill the bear. Why would he do this? Edwin responds to Cole by saying, “Whatever you do to the animals, you do to yourself” (pg. 18). What does he mean?

 

  1. Garvey shares his at.óow with Cole, but do you think he can really trust Cole?

 

  1. Cole thinks that his stay on the island is a “game” of which he is in charge. Is he really? What do his actions show?

 

  1. Cole thinks that if Peter forgives him, his punishment should be lessened. Garvey tells him, “Forgiving isn’t forgetting” (pg. 33). What does he mean?

 

  1. Cole thinks he can escape the island by swimming to another nearby island. He quickly realizes that Nature is not something he can control. How does this make him feel? Does he truly understand Garvey’s comment: “Try manipulating a storm or lying to your hunger. Try cheating the cold” (pg 57)?

 

  1. When Cole sees the Spirit Bear, he challenges it. Why does he do this?

 

  1. How does Cole feel when he sees the baby sparrows after the storm? Has his experience changed him?

 

  1. Why does Spirit Bear return to the spot where Cole lay? Why doesn’t it attack him? Cole feels that at least before his life ends it is important that “He had trusted and been trusted” (pg. 97). Has he really learned about trust?

 

  1. Why has Garvey helped Cole? Is it for Cole or for himself?

 

  1. Edwin has told Cole that “anger was a memory never forgotten” (pg. 112). Are there other memories, too, that are never forgotten?

 

  1. After six months of medical care, Cole is once again going to face sentencing. Since he broke his first contract with Circle Justice, it seems unlikely he will get another. However, with Garvey and Edwin’s help, he does. Do you think Cole should be given this chance? Do you think it will turn out differently?

 

  1. What is the lesson to be learned from Edwin’s stick?

 

  1. In addition to building his own shelter on the island, Edwin gives Cole other daily tasks. These include the early morning swims in the pond, carrying the rock, and animal dances. Why are these tasks so important?

 

  1. When Cole finds the log, his first thought is to make a canoe and escape. However, he changes his mind. Why? And what do you think of his plan for the log?

 

  1. On one of Edwin’s check-in visits, Cole asks about Peter. What does this show about Cole?

 

  1. What do you think about the two questions that are haunting Cole? “What was the one thing that would help him heal? And how could he become invisible?” (pg. 188)

 

  1. What has Cole learned about his anger?

 

  1. Describe Cole’s relationships with his mother and father. How have they changed?

 

  1. As Cole heals, Peter’s situation worsens. What do you think of Cole’s plan to help Peter?

 

  1. Moving forward, beyond the island, what do you think will be the outcome for the boys? How has Spirit Bear helped each of them?

Discussion Questions: The Someday Birds

The Someday BirdsDiscussion Questions for The Someday Birds:

  1. Charlie admits that he is no expert on feelings, but knowing that he is going to visit his dad in the hospital after sustaining a brain injury, how do you think he might feel?
  2. When Charlie tells people he is ‘fine,’ he says it because he thinks this is what they want to hear. Do you think he is right?
  3. Do you think that Gram is right about Ludmila that she has a story to tell?
  4. Why does Gram get angry with Charlie when he says, “Even if I did say hello… Dad doesn’t hear me” (pg. 17).
  5. What do you think of Charlie’s bird book and his list of someday birds?
  6. Gram cries when she gives the family the “great news” that their dad is going to be receiving treatment from a world-class research hospital for free. Do you think she is happy or sad?
  7. After Gram and dad go to Virginia, Gram’s babysitter plans fall through. Davis and the twins take the opportunity to do as they please, but Charlie is upset and calls Grams to inform. She calls in a backup babysitter. What do you think of her choice?
  8. Now that Ludmila is at their house, Davis decides to make other arrangement for the family. What do you think of her new plan?
  9. After the accident, the twins disappear and Charlie goes to look for them. Charlie makes a find at the junk shop. The twins also come back with a “find.” What do you think of these new items?
  10. Ludmila is back on the scene but instead of heading back home, she is going to take them on a road trip that will bring them to their father. How do you think Charlie – or any of them – feels about this plan? Do you, like Charlie, think she is heading for some scary cult headquarters?
  11. The road trip may not have been Charlie’s idea of a good rime, but it is one that turns out to have unexpected birding opportunities. Joel complains that checking off birds on a list will not help dad; it will only satisfy Charlie. Ludmila says that might just be a good enough reason to do it. What do you think?
  12. At Yellowstone, Joel and Jake discover that bison are not tame, and Davis discovers a new interest. This interest mystifies Charlie. It also seems to point to changes in the relationship between Charlie and Davis. What do you think these changes mean?
  13. Charlie makes an unexpected friend. Why do you think Charlie and Tiberius become so close?
  14. They stop at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument where a reenactment is scheduled to take place. Ludmila doesn’t like war monuments and is strangely quiet after the visit. What do you think is going on?
  15. Ludmila begins to tell her story. Do you think she is like the fire bird?
  16. At Wall Drug Charlie has a run-in with a very unusual bird. Would this encounter make you scared or would you be like Charlie and feel braver?
  17. We learn a little more of Ludmila’s story. How do you think it is going to end?
  18. Charlie’s next experience is with a “bird” of another kind. What do you think of his Duck tour?
  19. What do you think about Charlie’s ride at the waterpark? What does he learn? How does this change things between Charlie and his brothers?
  20. Charlie compares his Someday list to a hundred hand-washings of calm. Why does Charlie need this right now? With that in mind, has it been worth his time keeping the list? Is that the only reason?
  21. At the Hall of Birds at the Field Museum, Charlie gets more new experiences with birds – and people. Why is he frustrated with himself?
  22. What do Joel and Jake do for Charlie that points to the change in their relationship?
  23. While staying with Ludmila’s friend Mariana, Charlie and Davis overhear their conversation and finally learn the connection between Ludmila and their father. What do you think of Davis’s decision to share her father’s files with Ludmila. And after she does, how do you think Ludmila feels? What about Charlie and Davis?
  24. Ludmila finally finishes her story. Do you think she will now be able to take her brothers advice and find that “bit of good” that exists everywhere (pg. 250)?
  25. In the Amish country in Pennsylvania, Charlie has yet another wild experience in the corn field. Yet instead of being overly frightened and running away, he uses it as an opportunity to sight another bird. How does he feel about this opportunity?
  26. In Colonial Williamsburg, Charlie gets involved in the act. Does this surprise you? Would this be something you would expect of Charlie at the beginning of the story?
  27. While trying to plan the last few days of their trip, the family gets a call from Gram. Dad is going in for surgery. Their plans are scrapped as they head for the hospital. How are the children feeling? Do you think Charlie will ever get his opportunity to speak with Tiberius Shaw and have his questions about bird behavior and human behavior answered?
  28. How might Charlie feel when even Davis and Gram struggle to understand the behavior of the doctors?
  29. Charlie is very disturbed by the actions of those around him. Is running away the answer? And what do you think of his choice of location?
  30. What do you think of this quote from Tiberius Shaw’s journal: “Change is possible. It is not to be feared.” (pg. 272) Now think of all the things that Charlie has faced. Think of all his new experiences. Do you think Charlie would agree with Tiberius Shaw?

 

For Teachers: The Wild Robot

Vocabulary for The Wild Robot by Peter Brown:

Now as regular readers know, I am prone to adding something more to books I really love. Often it’s discussion questions, but today I felt like adding something different (although watch out! This book is wonderful and I may change my mind and do discussion questions, too.)

I love books that use wonderfully rich language. The Wild Robot is just such a book and while reading it, I began compiling a vocabulary list. Here it is, for you to share with young readers:

Airship

Assault

Bombardment

Camouflage

Carnage

Celestial

Defective

Eerie

Ember

Fanatic

Formation

Gaggle

Harmonious

Inoperative

Intricate

Lure

Marsupial

Migratory

Murmur

Nimble

Nocturnal

Shimmering

Sweltering

Torso

Transport

Unison

 

 

Discussion Questions: Race the Night

race-the-nightDiscussion Questions:

 

Chapter 1 – The Sea That Was

 

  1. Who do you think Robin is?

 

  1. Why is it important to Teacher that Eider get “the sea out of your system” (pg. 4)?

 

Chapter 2 – The Desert Ranch

 

  1. We learn that the world has ended at least three years earlier. Why is structure so important now that the world has ended?

 

  1. Why do you think the Word Books have missing pages?

 

  1. If the world has really ended and there is nothing beyond the desert ranch, why would anyone need to keep making the fence taller and stronger?

 

  1. Why would Teacher interpret meanness as confidence?

 

Chapter 3 – Fairytales

 

  1. If you were one of the only people left in the world, how would you feel? Special? Important? Lonely?

 

  1. Why should Eider feel the need to keep her papers secret?

 

  1. Why does she still think (hope?) Teacher is mistaken about things, for instance, the sea?

 

  1. An alarm sounds. If you are the only people left in the world, what kind of danger could there be?

 

  1. Paper is to be conserved only for important things. Is Art important?

 

Chapter 4 – The Night Lesson

 

  1. What does darkness help the kids to do?

 

  1. While looking up at ‘star soup,” Eider faints. Why do you think this happened?

 

Chapter 5 – Nonsense Things

 

  1. The storage room is filled with food which never seems to diminish. Where does the food come from?

 

Chapter 6 – Bone Deep Kind of Wonder

 

  1. Who is the Handyman? Where do you think he comes from? What about the stuff he delivers?

 

  1. When Eider is discovered at the fence by Teacher, Teacher comments, “I just want to make sure you’re looking inward instead of outward” (pg. 47). Is looking outward bad? Is looking inward good?

 

  1. Later when Eider goes to the fence, she is more careful. Why does she feel the need to hide her curiosity?

 

  1. When Eider goes through the gap in the fence Beyond, what does she find?

 

Chapter 7 – Extrasensory

 

  1. When practicing the mazes, Teacher is trying to learn whether or not the kids are ‘a natural’ at certain activities. What are Eider’s natural talents? Are these valuable things?

 

Chapter 8 – Welcome Home

 

  1. Teacher has begun sharing the results of her lessons with the kids. Eider thinks she did better in the mazes than Linnet, yet she scored lower. What might this mean?

 

  1. What do you think of the paper that Eider found Beyond?

 

  1. Teacher claims she can’t control what the kids think, but she can guide their thoughts. Do you think she is controlling them or is she really guiding them?

 

  1. Families are a distasteful topic. Teacher claims, “Families aren’t special… they were common” (pg. 64). Does the fact that something is common mean it is not special? What do you think of Teacher’s ideas?

 

Chapter 9 – The First Step

 

  1. Eider encourages Finch to go beyond the fence with her. Is this wise?

 

  1. Eider finds a shard of ceramic. She keeps it because she thinks it is pretty. Finch says it is not useful, but Eider asks, “Does everything need to be?” (pg. 71) What do you think?

 

  1. What do you think Finch’s secret is?

 

Chapter 10 – Something Special

 

  1. What do you think of the third Extrasensory lesson?
  2. What do you think of Teacher’s comment: “Brains are like clay. They can become almost anything with the right pinching and prodding.” (pg. 77)

 

  1. Eider gives the pretty shard to Linnet. Why does Linnet think it is so special when it is not useful?

 

Chapter 11 – All That World

 

  1. Finch builds a radio. Why does he think there may be something “out there?” When the results are disappointing, why doesn’t he just give up?

 

Chapter 12 – War Games

 

  1. The kids are all playing pretend war games. During the play, Jay mentions that soldiers sometimes go M.I.A. – like Robin. If Robin is an imaginary sister, why would Jay say this?

 

  1. What is the cause of Teacher’s disappointment?

 

  1. Teacher doesn’t often talk about when or why the world ended. When she does, she says it is because “the world was going rotten” (pg. 95). And she says it doesn’t matter what happened to the Other People. Why do you think Teacher doesn’t want to discuss the topic more thoroughly and deeply?

 

Chapter 13 – Natural Causes

 

  1. Why doesn’t Eider trust Jay? Why doesn’t he trust her? If they are the only ones left in the world, shouldn’t they trust each other?

 

  1. What do you think of Jay’s collection? Why does he hide it?

 

  1. Finch’s radio works and they hear the voice of someone broadcasted loud and clear. What does this mean?

 

Chapter 14 – Other People

 

  1. Now that the kids have proof of Other People existing, Eider feels more confused than ever. Why?

 

  1. Eider guesses that Jay’s word is scorpion. Do you believe this is telepathy?

 

Chapter 15 – The Point

 

  1. Teacher explains the point of all their lessons. The world is beginning again and one of the kids is going to be the leader, not only of each other but all the Other People. Teacher claims the Other People are dangerous and evil. How do you think she can know this?

 

Chapter 16 – Allies, Not Enemies

 

  1. One of the kids is “better and more brilliant and more special than the others” (125). Why is it Teacher’s job to figure out who that is? Who do you think it might be and why?

 

  1. Eider becomes much more focused on her lessons. After all, she wants to be the best she can be. She thinks about Robin much less often. She isn’t interested in the radio any more either because the Other People didn’t matter. She considers them “pointless.” What do you think of this change in Eider?

 

Chapter 17 – Secrets

 

  1. What do you make of Nurse’s words: “the world didn’t end just once”? (pg. 132)

 

  1. Someone has taken Teacher’s permanent marker. She accuses them, saying someone is keeping secrets. She claims keeping secrets, even for someone else, is dangerous. Who is keeping secrets and what are those secrets?

 

Chapter 18 – Intrepid Explorer

 

  1. Eider decides she must get rid of her book and papers. Will this really get rid of her secrets?

 

  1. What is more important to Eider: exploring or earning Teacher’s approval?

 

  1. In the Beyond, Eider meets a hiker. Does he seem evil to you? He talks about his children. Does he seem like someone for whom the world has ended?

 

Chapter 19 – A Disease of the Mind

 

  1. When Teacher discovers Finch’s radio – and that all the kids know about it – she says his curiosity is “a disease of the mind.” Is curiosity a bad thing? Why would Finch’s curiosity make her so angry?

 

Chapter 20 – The Space Between

 

  1. Finch has been disciplined. What do you think of Teacher’s punishment?

 

  1. Why does Eider think that it is a relief that Robin is not real?

 

  1. How does Eider know that Robin is real?

 

Chapter 21 – Once Upon A Time

 

  1. Eider clearly remembers what has happened to Robin. Why has Teacher lied and told her that she has no sister?

 

Chapter 22 – Memories That Were

 

  1. What do you think has happened to Robin?

 

Chapter 23 – Lies

 

  1. What do you think the point of Teacher’s lies are? What about the lies of the other kids and Nurse?

 

Chapter 24 – Missing Things

 

  1. What does Eider learn during the drill?

 

Chapter 25 – Only Here

 

  1. Where has the world ended? Why has Teacher lied about it to them?

 

Chapter 26 – Choices

 

  1. Eider confronts Teacher about her lies. What do you think of Teacher’s responses?

 

  1. Teacher admits to telling the kids lies, claiming that it was for their own good. Do you think this is a valid argument?

 

Chapter 27 – Darkness

 

  1. The other kids distract Teacher so that Eider can make her escape. Do you think their idea will work?

 

  1. Do you think Eider can make it across the desert?

 

Chapter 28 – The Sea That Wasn’t

 

  1. Would you feel nervous if you were Finch or Eider?

 

  1. How far do you think Robin could have walked?

 

Chapter 29 – Real Leaders

 

  1. Let’s talk about choices. Eider realizes we all have choices: “You could choose to trust. You could choose to listen. You could choose to believe” (pg. 244). What do you think of her choice to jump?

 

Chapter 30 – West

 

  1. Do you think Eider is going in the right direction?

 

Chapter 31 – Birdsong

 

  1. There are clues all around Eider. What are they?

 

  1. What do you think has happened to the other kids as Eider hikes away from the desert ranch?

 

Chapter 32 – Like A Fox

 

  1. What do you think of the world Eider finds? How do you think she feels?

 

Chapter 33 and 34 – Wish You Were Here/Ever After

 

  1. What do you think of Eider’s (and Robin’s) fairytale?

 

Don’t forget to check out my review of Race the Night from earlier this week!

 

Guest Post: Searching Blindly for the “Right” Books

Sarah O’Reilly is a high school Humanities teacher at New Liberty Innovation School in Salem, MA, teaching traditional ELA skills as well as dabbling in history and librarianship. Her master’s degree in children’s literature from Simmons College regularly helps her reframe her expectations for herself and her students, as well as providing resources to find the wide variety of books she needs to do her job well.

I just spent an hour digging into two of this year’s issues of The Horn Book magazine in the hopes that the ad that I SWEAR I saw back in August would reappear. I had thought I had seen an ad for a website that reviewed and developed lists of books that would appeal to the populations that I have the most trouble serving through the library – low-skilled young men, especially those of color. Unfortunately, I had no luck, necessitating this post.

When I started at my first-year teaching job last fall, I discovered that my classroom was also the school library – an odd collection with an even odder organization method – and that I had funds to order books and would essentially be fulfilling the role of a librarian, without the degree or training for it. I was THRILLED, genuinely! And then quickly realized how in over my head I was. And still am.

As I got to know my students, I realized how difficult it is to find the “right” book for each student and that the term “reluctant reader” can be the biggest cop-out in publishing and education. That umbrella term covers almost all of my students, for so many different reasons – low-skill, learning disability, gender norms, disinterest, discomfort, and being unfamiliar with the tools many readers use to determine what to read are just a few that come to mind. I am pretty good at finding a book in our library or in the four other local or online libraries I can access for any student who needs one – finding one for an entire class, well, that’s another story. But I have my limitations. My own reading history leans heavily towards romance and fantasy. And while I have enough knowledge and skill to match most of my students with reading material, I almost always fail to successfully engage the low-skilled young men in my school, students who are the least successful in my school – our fault, not theirs – and in many schools in America.

We have the industry-recommended staples for this group in our library – Walter Dean Myers, Matt de la Pena, Hatchet, Holes and The Outsiders, and a plethora of nonfiction of all kinds. But what do I recommend when these standbys, many decades old, don’t capture their attention? I bring articles, I’ve solicited publishers and authors at events for ARCs of books I think might appeal to one of my students. My two proudest moments this year – getting a kid hooked on American-Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang when all I had to go off of was that he’s read a few volumes of Inu Yasha (and didn’t even know it was an anime too!) and getting a student who hasn’t read or written anything for me for over a year to read and respond to analysis questions about Steve Sheinkin’s upcoming Undefeated. But those are two glimmers of success amongst my midden pile of defeat.

I’m going into this year’s library ordering with some trepidation. Where do I turn to find the best books to hook my highest need group? WNDB is great for suggestions but they are often fantasy, romantic, middle-grade or younger. And I’m sorry but I may love The Great Greene Heist and it may be the perfect reading level for my boys but you try giving a book about middle schoolers to a 19-year-old-almost-drop-out. And with limited time and budget, I can’t afford to buy and read all the major publications reviewing new literature. And the internet has let me down.

It baffles me that there is no group or organization that compiles lists specifically for books that have been vetted as appealing to young men at different skill levels. Ideally, I’d find a site that has curated lists of books put together by industry professionals – teachers, librarians, tutors, marketers – that is organized around interests, skill-level, audience appeal, diversity of creators, characters, and readers. Where is the list of books that librarians in areas with high minority populations just can’t keep on the shelves? Where is the list of books that teachers have used to springboard further reading with different reluctant readers? Maybe these exist, and I just haven’t found them yet (please do find them and tell me where they are!). But I feel like reviewers, publishers, even authors, don’t know how to create and then market books for the audience that has the biggest need for books targeted to them in my school. Where is the book on par with “Remember the Titans?” Or a Michael Crichton or James Patterson for readers intimidated by high page count? And if they’re out there, who is supposed to tell me about them? Who is giving teachers or librarians sabbaticals or grants to do this or create non-profit organizations to do it for them?

I am always keeping an eye out for the next book to really grab someone’s attention, but I feel like I keep missing the mark, mostly because my resources feel tapped out and I haven’t struck information gold yet. In this age of information and mixed media, it does and does not surprise me that the world of literature seems to keep leaving my boys behind. And it overwhelms me to wonder what I can do to help them meet up with the rest of the world.

So please, open your brains and your archives; go out and create lists and reviews and send them all to me because I want the young men in my school, in all schools, to see themselves as capable and engaged with the world. I want that for all students, but let’s be honest, we know who we’re letting down right now.

Discussion Questions: Watch the Sky

Discussion Questions for Watch the Sky by Kirsten Hubbardwatch-the-sky

 

  1. Caleb is always seeing signs. What might these signs mean? Who do you think will arrive and when?

 

  1. What is the family preparing for? Will these preparations keep them safe?

 

  1. Who do you think Kit really is? Where might she have come from? Do you think the family should keep her a secret?

 

  1. What might be the reason that Kit does not speak?

 

  1. Caleb claims that some reasons for parents’ homeschooling children are acceptable; others are unacceptable. Who makes this decision?

 

  1. School is a way for Jory to “hide in plain sight.” It exposes Jory to new ideas and new ways of thinking. Is this a good or a bad thing? How does Caleb feel about it? Do you think it will keep Jory hidden or endanger the family? Why might Caleb really want Jory in school?

 

  1. Jory doesn’t trust anyone enough to have friends. Why not?

 

  1. What are some of the reasons that the canyon represents Danger. Are these valid reasons?

 

  1. When Mom marries Caleb, she no longer has to work. She can stay at home where she feels safe. Why doesn’t she want to leave home? Does Caleb really make everything safe?

 

  1. Who comes to the house asking about the family, and why does Caleb lie about Kit?

 

  1. Is it safe to keep secrets?

 

  1. What do you think of the plan to dig a tunnel in the canyon at night? How does Jory feel?

 

  1. Caleb and Mom have obviously been preparing and planning while Jory is in school. How does this make Jory feel?

 

  1. Why did Kit and Jory try to keep Worldbuilding a secret from Mom and Caleb?

 

  1. Caleb’s warning about Worldbuilding is to not let their imaginations get carried away. How do you feel about this statement, especially from Caleb?

 

  1. Caleb says you can’t save everybody, though Mom feels that people should try. Who is right?

 

  1. When Mom thinks Kit needs special help but Caleb thinks she is just a problem, Kit’s behavior changes. What could this mean?

 

  1. Reread Caleb’s story on page 78. What do you think of Caleb’s actions? Does this change your opinion of Caleb?

 

  1. Jory decides to use “tunnels” as the topic of his school project. Do you think this might give away the family’s secret?

 

  1. Was there anything wrong with Jory stopping over at Alice’s house? Why does he seem to feel so guilty about it?

 

  1. Alice tells her mother a lie about Jory’s computer not working. Why did she do this? Is it ever OK to lie?

 

  1. What do you think of Jory hiding in the doghouse? Caleb approved; do you?

 

  1. What is Kit’s first sentence after three years of not speaking? What do you think of her choice of words?

 

  1. During the family’s game of Survival, Kit seems to intentionally knock over a glass of milk. Caleb believes it was done deliberately and becomes angry. Do you think Kit did it on purpose? If so, why?

 

  1. When researching tunnels, Jory realizes that tunnels have a purpose: they lead to something. What will the family’s tunnel lead to?

 

  1. Jory is becoming more familiar with the night now that he spends most nights digging. Yet it still does not seem safe. Why not?

 

  1. Do you think Kit really does not remember where she comes from? Is Kit hiding something?

 

  1. Jory and Kit both admit that they hate to dig. Is this a betrayal?

 

  1. Jory brings Kit to meet his friends, and they go to the park. Why does he do this when Kit is supposed to be a secret?

 

  1. Mom tells Jory, “Caleb will tell us everything as soon as it is safe” (pg. 161). Do you think Jory believes her?

 

  1. When Jory snoops in the barn, Caleb finally tells him the truth. How does Jory feel now?

 

  1. What do you think of the statement: “Innocence encourages trust, and trust breeds obedience. With knowledge, however, come questions.” (pg. 170)

 

  1. Caleb claims that Kit never has any ideas (pg. 172). Do you believe him? Why or why not?

 

  1. Jory wonders if anybody else (his school friends, for example) knows about the danger. Why doesn’t he just tell them? Explain his dilemma.

 

  1. Jory wonders how you know a sign is really a sign. Does he believe Caleb any longer? Does Mom? What are her reasons for believing Caleb?

 

  1. What do you think of Alice’s statement: “When you spend so much of your life worried about the future… you forget to live.” Afterward, when Jory “lives” with Alice, he becomes a bubble of glee. Has he forgotten how to live? Has he ever had a chance?

 

  1. Jory realizes that he does have friends. Why does he feel so guilty? Is it because he thinks he shouldn’t have friends or because he doesn’t think it is fair that they have no one to warn them of the danger.

 

  1. “Trust was a fragile thing. So was belief” (pg. 200). If you don’t trust a person, do you believe them? Can Jory trust Mom? Caleb? Kit? His friends?

 

  1. When Officials show up at the door looking for KIt, Jory tries to say it was his friend Alice who was at the house. The Official tells him it couldn’t have been Alice because it was Alice’s mother who called them.
  2. If you were Jory, how would you feel?
  3. Do you think the Official can be trusted? Did he tell the truth?

 

  1. Caleb claims that Kit isn’t special. He calls her subnormal. He claims she has brought unwanted attention to the real family members. Then he asks Jory not to tell Mom about the Officials. He claims Mom is too compassionate and that makes her weak. What do you think of Caleb’s words?

 

  1. Jory sees a sign himself. He knows that it means the danger is real. What do you think the real danger is?

 

  1. Jory doesn’t think Mr. Bradley will chase him, but the teacher does come after Jory. What do you think of the line: “Hiding is much harder when someone is seeking” (pg. 219). What do you think the consequences of this incident will be?

 

  1. Jory knows that danger is brewing. Then Kit is taken by the Officials. What do you think of Mom’s promise that they will get Kit back?

 

  1. What do you think of Kit’s message?

 

  1. “A mother’s love is an invisible cord linking her children heart to heart” (pg. 239). Is Kit Jory’s sister?

 

  1. Jory has to make choices: between daylight and safety, between friends and family. Is it possible to have both?

 

  1. How does Jory feel when he explains to his mother that it was Caleb who called Protective Services? How does Mom feel?

 

  1. What do you think will happen to Jory, Mom, and Ansel? What about Kit?

Round-Up/Activity: Pumpkins

Hi everyone,

For the last round-up of this month, we’re getting ready for carving our jack-o’-lanterns with some pumpkin-themed books.

 

pumpkinville-mystery

The Pumpkinville Mystery

By Bruce B. Cole

Illustrated by James Warhola

Aladdin Paperbacks, 1987

This spooky tall tale explains the origin of the jack-o’-lantern with mysterious magic and bright, colorful illustrations.

For more information:

http://www.jameswarhola.com/ James Warhola’s official website

pumpkin-pumpkin

 

Pumpkin Pumpkin

By Jeanne Titherington

Mulberry Books, 1990

With simple text and plenty of white space, this book works perfectly as an early-reader leveled text. The simple story of the slowly growing pumpkin reminds of classic stories like The Carrot Seed.

 

Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin Piesprout-seed-pumpkin-pie

By Jill Esbaum

National Geographic, 2009

This picture book is perfect for a simple, introductory look into different pumpkins, how they grow, and their different uses with National Geographic’s characteristically interesting, high-quality photographs.

For more information:

http://www.jillesbaum.com/ Jill Esbaum’s official website

 

The Pumpkin Bookpumpkin-book

By Gail Gibbons

Holiday House, 1999

Gibbons provides a clear but detailed explanation of how pumpkins grow, discusses some relevant historical information, and lists the steps to complete different activities, like pumpkin carving or drying pumpkin seeds.

For more information:

http://www.gailgibbons.com/ Gail Gibbons’ official website

 

I especially like The Pumpkinville Mystery from this round-up. I love the tall tale format and think the mysterious atmosphere is a lot of fun. However, there’s a lot of non-fiction available at different reading levels and with different levels of content, and I think the books suggested above might be a good starting point before making your trip to the pumpkin patch.

donutfeedEvery year, I carve a jack-o’-lantern right before Halloween, but I also like to try something a little unusual. Last year, I tried the melted crayon pumpkin – which was surprisingly messy – and this year, I have a lot of little pumpkins to decorate. I was inspired by this photo from @thedonutfeed on Instagram and wanted to try making my own donut-inspired pumpkins.

I think mine look more like cupcakes because I decided to attach “sprinkles” rather than paint them on. To make these little pumpkins, I painted the bottoms with tan paint and, once that dried, used the colored paints to add the frosting. You might need to do this step a few times to completely cover the pumpkin, depending on the type of paint you used. While the paint was still wet, I sprinkled different decorations on top. The glitter on the white “cupcake” holds really well on wet paint, but larger objects might need a stronger glue to hold them in place. I think the white “cupcake” is my favorite with all the sparkles, but it can also be one of the messiest if you’re not careful with your glitter. I also love that the stems look like little candles!

For more pumpkin-themed activities, head over to our Pinterest!

Help us decide what kind of literary-themed pumpkin carving we should attempt this year! Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

Julia

Round-Up/Activity: Monsters

 

Hi everyone,

This month, I’ll be sharing a few picture book round-ups and corresponding activities to get you in the fall spirit! Today’s theme: monsters!

 

Marilyn’s Monstermarilyns-monster

By Michelle Knudsen

Illustrated by Matt Phelan

Candlewick Press, 2015

Everyone has a monster except Marilyn! Everyone knows you’re not supposed to look for a monster, but Marilyn is tired of waiting and sets off to find her perfect monster.

For more information:

http://www.michelleknudsen.com/ Michelle Knudsen’s official website

http://www.mattphelan.com/ Matt Phelan’s official website

 

Leonardo the Terrible Monsterleonardo

By Mo Willems

Hyperion Books for Children, 2005

In this simple, playbill-inspired picture book, Leonardo discovers that even though he might not be a very good monster, he can certainly be a great friend.

For more information:

http://www.mowillems.com/ Mo Willems’ official website

 

Monsters Eat Whiny Childrenmonsters-eat-children

By Bruce Eric Kaplan

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2010

Reminiscent of classic fairy tales, these monsters argue over how best to eat the whiny children, who learn their lesson (mostly) and outsmart the dimwitted monsters.

For more information:

http://bruceerickaplan.com/ Bruce Eric Kaplan’s official website

 

Here They Come!here-they-come

By David Hyde Costello

Farrar Straus Giroux, 2004

Costello’s first picture book includes funny illustrations, entertaining rhymed text, and a twist ending about the scariest monsters of all.

For more information:

http://www.davidhydecostello.com/ David Hyde Costello’s official website

Jeremy Draws a Monster

The Monster Returns

By Peter McCarty

Henry Holt and Company, 2009/2012

Jeremy draws himself a monster companion but finds the monster more difficult than he’d ever expected. How will Jeremy respond when the monster decides to come back uninvited?

For more information:

http://www.petermccarty.net/ Peter McCarty’s official website

 

These are all great suggestions if you’re looking for a few monster-themed titles for this month! Here They Come! is one of my favorite books by Costello, and I think the illustrations in Marilyn’s Monster particularly set it apart!monster-activity-sample

If you’re looking for a monster-themed activity for your classroom or library, try having
your students use cut paper shapes to make their own monsters. This activity works well with preschool-aged children who are learning their shapes and colors. You can provide pre-cut shapes that they can glue down on a larger paper. More advanced students can cut their own shapes to make their monsters. Leave out a marker or two for some extra details. Here’s a sample monster I made using my own cut paper shapes! Make sure to send us your monster creations – we want to see your ideas!

For more monster-themed projects, check out these ideas on Pinterest! Some of these activities look awesome – I kind of want to try them myself!

Julia

Literary Halloween 2016

Hi everyone,

We are so excited that it’s finally October! We have some really exciting books and activities to share this month, as well as a lot of literary events we’re planning to attend. We’ll also be celebrating Teen Read Week and Fire Prevention Week. And, of course, no October would be complete without a few books to celebrate Halloween!

Last year, we started off our October celebration by sharing a few ideas for costumes inspired by classic books and stories.  This year, why not try dressing up as your favorite author!?

Wear a black suit, a mustache, a frown, and a raven to be Edgar Allan Poe, a perfect author to get you in the Halloween spirit! Bring back your Roaring Twenties costume to be F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Or go back even more to the Elizabethan era to dress as Shakespeare with some tight pants or leggings, a tunic style shirt and a lacy collar! Or be something a little more recent and get out your beanie and totally unnecessary hipster glasses to be the Guy in Your MFA!

Here are a few more author-themed suggestions for anyone feeling particularly crafty. This article links to suggestions for diy-ing everything from generic authors to today’s popular authors to creepier ghost versions of authors: http://www.wordhelper.com/blog/2014/10/3173/do-it-yourself-author-costumes-for-halloween

As usual, we have even more Halloween activities on Pinterest to help you out if you’re still looking for the perfect costume idea or reading suggestions to get you and your friends in the spooky, autumn spirit!

Are you planning a literary-themed costume for Halloween this year?! Do you have another suggestion for an author costume? Let us know in the comments below!

Julia

Teacher Thursday: Dot Day

Hi everyone,the dot

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Teacher Thursday post, so I wanted to make sure we had something a little special for our teachers who’ve just headed back to school this month. September 15th is Dot Day, and it’s a great way to celebrate reading, creativity, and getting to know each of your students’ strengths. Last year we asked how you were planning to celebrate Dot Day, but this year we’ve decided to give a couple suggestions for anyone who’s looking to join the celebration for the first time or thinking of trying something new.

If you haven’t read The Dot before, here’s a little background. It’s a picture book written and illustrated by popular children’s author Peter H. Reynolds. Protagonist Vashti can’t draw and thinks that means she can’t be an artist. But when her art teacher shows her the value of one little dot, Vashti allows her creativity to flourish and shares what she learns with others. Dot Day is an opportunity to bring Vashti’s experiences into everyday life and experience some collaboration, creativity, and positivity for yourself!

There’s plenty of information available at the official website: http://www.thedotclub.org/dotday/. You can also check out our Pinterest board. “Teacher Thursday: Dot Day,” for even more suggestions. Here are a few additional reading suggestions and activities to get you started.

 

Reading Suggestions:

Of course, The Dot is essential reading to prepare for Dot Day, and several of Peter H. Reynolds’ other titles are equally relevant. Here are a couple other reading suggestions that work well for a Dot Day celebration:

I will never get a star

 

I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson’s Blackboard by Jennifer K. Mann

Rose is determined to earn her own star on her teacher’s blackboard, but things never seem to work out quite right. Luckily, the classroom tries out a more creative project, and Rose finally finds her time to shine.

This is another great book about valuing creativity and a teacher who encourages her students to be different and recognize their greatest skills.

What Do You Do With an Idea

 

What Do You Do With an Idea? written by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom

What do you do with a particularly troublesome, potentially brilliant idea that just won’t go away? Find out in this powerful picture book!

Here’s a great picture book for discussing how to accept differences and allow creative ideas to grow.

 

Matthew’s Dream by Leo Lionni

This picture book is about a mouse who follows his creativity to make his dreams become a reality.

We’ve mentioned Matthew’s Dream a few times before to celebrate Lionni’s birthday and as part of another Teacher Thursday about art in the classroom, but this is the perfect time to bring it up again! Matthew and Vashti have similar strengths and end up with such positive views of themselves and their skills that they’re able to accomplish an incredible amount.

 

Activities:

If you’re looking for a quick activity on short notice, ask your students to look for dots or circles in the classroom after you’ve read the book aloud! Or provide a range of supplies and ask your students to create different kinds of dots, just like Vashti. These would be great activities for young students, especially as part of a math activity that requires shape identification. I think the most important thing to remember with any activity associated with this book is that it shouldn’t be a contest! It’s not “who can make the most dots” but “how many dots can we make together.” Because The Dot is about supporting one another and being open and collaborative, it’s important to foster a similar feeling in your activities.

Dot Day could also be a perfect time to try making your own BookWorm for your classroom. Give each student a circle cut out of heavy colored paper and ask them to write the title of their favorite book on it. You can tape all the circles on the wall of your classroom or library so they look like the body segments of an inch worm or caterpillar. All you need to do is use another circle and draw a face to make the head! We had one of these BookWorms in our home when I was a kid, but instead of writing our favorite books, we added a new circle to the body every time we finished a new book. The goal was to see how long we could make our BookWorm, and that could be a great challenge for you and your students if you have plenty of space around your classroom walls!

 

As usual, we want to hear from you! What activities will you be trying out this year? Are there any books you think should be included in our list? Let us know!

 

Happy Dot Day!

Julia