Sunday, July 5, 2015

Hereville: How Girls Can Be Inspired

2011 Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner, Older Readers
2011 Nebula Award Nominee
2011 ALA Great Graphic Novels for Teens, Fiction
Kirkus Reviews 2010 Best Children’s Books
Children's Book Committee Bank Street College of Education Children's Choices--Best Books of 2011, Fantasy, ages 9-12
Children's and Young Adult's Cybil Winner
Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor AJL Winner
Oregon Book Awards Winner
Oregon Council of Teachers of English Oregon Spirit Award Winner

Mirka is no ordinary Orthodox Jewish girl. She is stuck at home with knitting needles listening to advice about getting a husband, but she longs to wield a sword and do battle with dragons. Haunted by the loss of her mother and annoyed with her sharp-tongued step-mother, Mirka finds that she must defend herself and her brother against bullies, do battle with a talking pig, and accept a challenge from a local witch.

Part fantasy tale, part cultural documentary, part story of preteen angst, part family drama, Orthodox culture comes alive in the pages of this fresh, unique graphic novel about a brave girl. The universal truths will inspire all girls to make their dreams come true.

Classroom Connections:
The author’s website has useful information about creating graphic novel panels. Click here for more information.

Because Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword is accessible for almost all readers, it is model text for teaching RL.6.3 (Describe how a particular story’s or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution). The text contains a series of episodes that are readily recognizable, and classroom discussions about how Mirka changes as the plot moves toward the resolution will be rich and interesting.

Book Information:
Title: Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword
Author: Barry Deutsch
Age Range: 8-12 years
Grade Level: 3-7
Lexile Measure: 380L
Paperback: 144 pages
Published: 2010
ISBN-13: 978-1419706196
Dewey Decimal: FIC or 741.5973

Friday, June 26, 2015

Counting by 7s Should be Savored

A New York Times Bestseller 
An Amazon Best Book of the Year 2013 
A Kids’ Indie Next List Top Ten Book BEA Buzz Book 2013 
A Texas Bluebonnet Award Nominee 2014–2015 Master List 
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year 
An E.B. White Read Aloud Honor Book 
A Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Nominee 
A National Public Radio Best Book of the Year

This is not a book that is easy to describe. It’s about Willow Chance, a 12-year old who is intellectually gifted, loves to count by 7s, diagnose diseases, and loves plants and nature. She has trouble making friends and talking to anyone other than her parents. She’s adopted and she’s a little different. When her parents are suddenly killed in a terrible car crash, Willow finds herself in need of a home.

This book seems like it might be sad and full of tragedy, and it is, but it isn’t really. It’s about unlikely friendships, surrogate families, and helping one another.
This is a book “about finding families and finding yourself” says author Holly Goldberg Sloan. It’s a book about belonging. It is heartbreaking, and it is beautiful.

Here’s a link to the author talking about the book:  Click here

Classroom Connections
Teachers should include this book in a classroom collection for students to read independently or to be read aloud to the class. The book includes a character who most likely has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) although it is never named, and by exposing students to characters who are likeable, intelligent, and interesting who also have conditions like OCD, it helps to make those conditions seem ordinary.
Discussion Question:
Willow states, “In my opinion it’s not really a great idea to see people as one thing. Every person has lots of ingredients to make them into what is always a one-of-a kind creation.”
**Correlates to Common Core Standard Reading Literature: Key Ideas and Details C.C.S.S.E.L.A. Literacy. R. L. 4.1, 4.2, 4.3; R. L. 5.1, 5.2, 5.4; R.L. 6.1, 6.2; R.L. 7.1, 7.2.
Link to 6-week unit plan from Penguin Books: Click here

Book Information
Age Range: 10 and up
Grade Level: 5 and up
Lexile Measure: 770
Paperback: 400 pages
Published: 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0142422861
Dewey Decimal: FIC or 813.6

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Secret Lives of Hens

I’ve been raising four hens since October, and so when I came upon The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, touted as the Korean Charlotte’s Web by many critics, I jumped in.

Sprout is a plucky hen who has stopped laying eggs.  She lives on a farm and has never left her cage. When she is culled from the coop, she flees into the barnyard and narrowly escapes the clutches of the one-eyed weasel, but none of the farm animals will help her except for Straggler, an odd mallard duck. Sprout then finds an abandoned egg and begins brooding, and she doesn’t realize that the egg is not what it seems to be.

The book, like many good fables, seems simple on the surface, but it’s about freedom, individuality, the dream of making one’s life meaningful, the meaning of friendship, parenthood, and the cycle of life and death. It’s part fable, part philosophy, part animal story, part self-help, and it is as wonderful as Charlotte’s Web.

The book has sold more than 2 million copies and has been made into the highest-grossing animated film in Korean history.

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly: A Novel
originally published in Korea in 2000, published in U.S. in 2013
written by Sun-mi Hwang
illustrated by Nomoco
translated by Chi-Young Kim
ISBN: 978-0143123200
Grades: 5+
Dewey Decimal: FIC or 895.735

Classroom Connections
Discussion Questions to ask students that address CCSS [RL.7.3 Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot]:
  1. How do names affect who we are? And how others see us? Consider some of the other characters’ names in the novel, such as Straggler.
  2. Sun-mi Hwang’s novel has been described as a modern fable. But what is a fable and how does this story conform to your understanding of the genre?
  3. Sprout is amazed to discover that the weasel is female – and a mother. Many readers also make the assumption that she is male. Why is this?
  4. Consider the relevance of the novel’s title. Perhaps start by considering both the literal and metaphorical meanings of the word ‘flight’.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Tween Roller Derby starring Astrid, the Rosedud

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (2015). 
ISBN: 978-0803740167. Reading levels grades 4-7, ages 9-12. 
Dewey Decimal: 741.5

Twelve-year old Astrid has always done everything with her best friend Nicole, but this summer is different. While Astrid goes to Roller Derby camp, Nicole goes to ballet camp with Astrid's mortal enemy, Rachel. Astrid struggles through the weeks of the camp as the newest skater by tripping, crashing, getting hit, and falling, but she learns that hard work pays off. The book is about more than roller derby: it’s about friendship, growing up, and identity.

Author Victoria Jamieson is a roller derby jammer from Portland, Oregon, and her characterization of the excitement and challenges of skating will make you want to see a roller derby match!

I recommend the author’s website as a resource for this book. Her website is located at and includes links to her two Web comics. One is about her true roller derby experiences as an adult. The other is an illustrated version of her diary from 1989. Both help the reader of Roller Girl understand how the book is part memoir and would be useful for identifying genre with students.

Roller Girl is an excellent text to work with for addressing CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.5--Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot. Students can examine the scene in which Astrid dyes her hair and how it contributes to the development of her characterization, identity, and independence.