Guys Write for Guys Read

Bibliographic Data:

Skieszka, Jon. (2005). Guys Write for Guys Read. New York: Viking. Print.

Book Summary:

In order to raise money for his website, Skieszka contacted several high-interest authors and asked them to contribute a short story to his book. Full of all the emotions experienced by teenage boys, this book will keep you reading just to see what comes next. From the hazing in Chris Crutcher’s “’O’ Foods” to the James Howe’s struggle to relate to all things manly, this book will appeal to any and every boy. The levity and brevity of the stories will hook the most reluctant reader leaving them wanting to read more from the authors. The stories cover a range of real-life experiences to which boys will easily relate. This book is a wonderful compilation of stories that will keep the reader laughing all the way to the end.

Critical Analysis:

Never has there been a more suitable book for young adult boys to read. Stereotyped as non-voracious readers, boys often struggle finding the right book to read. However, this book will hook even the most reluctant reader with its stories of unbelievable life-experiences. Guys Write for Guys Read is full of “one day we’ll look back on this and laugh” stories written by popular authors. Teenage boys will not only be able to relate to the experiences penned in this book, but possibly could have endured the same torture, hazing or embarrassment the authors have written about. The brief stories deliver their punch lines in two or three pages, keeping a distracted reader engaged for the perfect amount of time. The only downfall of the book is that the stories are arranged in no particular order. However, this lack of organization seems to mirror the life of a seventh grade boy and will not seem one bit out of place to its target reader. A modern day classic, dads will be able to read through these short stories with their sons, getting a story full of life lessons in just a few pages. Parents should be aware that there is a bit of explicit content under the umbrella of hazing and a mention of sex (and the desire for it) as seen through a teenage boys’ mind.

Activity Related to the Book: Our Guys/Girls Write

Students will submit a short story (true or fictional) about their lives to a contest. Boys will write about their boy experiences. And girls will write about their girl experiences. Stories should be no longer that 2 pages typed, include a typical plot and be infused with emotion (humor, empathy, anger, etc.) Stories will be judged by a panel of teachers and administrators for quality of writing, flow of the storytelling and appeal to young adult boys or girls. Once the finalists have been selected, the stories will be published on the school website. Students will vote for the winner of the Our Guys/Girls Write contest. The winner of the contest will receive a prize provided by the library. The librarian will also help the student submit the story to a magazine that publishes student work.

Resources Related to the THEME of the book:

Resource 1:Guys Read Website

Scieszka, Jon. (n.d.) Guys Read. Retrieved on July 26, 2015 from

This website was the inspiration for the book. It contains many more stories that will appeal to boys. The goal of this website is to hook reluctant boy readers. Spending some time looking through the contents of the site will indeed do so.

Resource 2: A Mighty Girl Website

Danckaert, Carolyn and Aaron Smith. (2015). A Mighty Girl. Retrieved on July 26, 2015 from

This website highlight books that feature strong girls as the main characters. Appealing to all ages and reading levels, this website will help encourage all female reluctant readers.

Published Review:

Hastings, Jeffrey. (n.d.) Editorial Reviews: School Library Journal. Retrieved on July 26, 2015 from:


Courage Has No Color

Bibliographic Data:

Stone, Tanya Lee. (2013). Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press. Print.

Book Summary:

While there are many stories about World War II heroes, few cover the intense racism that African American soldiers endured while fighting in our own military. Tanya Lee Stone has gathered research from all over the nation to bring to life the story of the first black paratroopers. When no one thought they were worthy hardly worthy to defend our country, a handful of African American soldiers decided on their own to spend their free time training as if they might actually be sent to war. With a bit of encouragement from Eleanor Roosevelt, the government set in motion the policies and declarations to allow African American soldiers to play a more active role in the military. This included the creation of the first division of black paratroopers. Thrilled that their after hours training was not in vain, the 555th unit now trained with purpose; soon their training would allow them jump out of an actual plane. After not much time at all, the first black paratroopers had completed all five levels of training. Before the Triple Nickles were shipped off to war, racism stepped in once again and they were prevented from seeing the actual battle fields. The paratroopers were side-tracked, sent to fight forest fires supposedly set by Japanese bombs. Still hopeful to see actual combat, the first black paratroopers worked tirelessly. However, their work was not in vain. The Triple Nickles helped shape the way the United States fights forest fires, laying the foundation and establishing protocol for future smoke jumpers. The 555th batallion continued to fight fires until the war ended. Although they did not see the front lines, the Triple Nickles have been praised for their hard work and diligence as an integral part of the military. Paving the road of desegregation in the military, their contribution to equal rights in our country is invaluable.

Critical Analysis:

With an intriguing title and an inspiring image on the cover, the reader expects to dive into a novel that will not only inform but also engage. However, Courage Has No Color falls short.  Not only is the writing is less than stellar but also the potential to develop a great story has been missed.

The quality of writing in this informational text is choppy and difficult to read. Stone often exposes herself as a novice writer by using her description instead of the character’s quotations to develop the characters. Well crafted sentences and paragraphs are missing from this story, leaving the reader discouraged and unlikely to finish reading. Although the book contains a vast amount of information, it falls short of a successful information novel because the presentation of this information is confusing. Because many young adults gravitate toward fiction novels, the lack of fluidity in this text will discourage young adults away from this book.

Although it highlights some of the soldiers who made up the Triple Nickles, the book lacks an engaging story. Too many characters, too little excitement. Young adults will not be able to relate to this book as they are eager to follow the story line of a character. Stone highlights several soldiers, yet is not able to engage the reader because the coverage of their life is trivial. Only the avid military enthusiast will enjoy this book, but not even every one of those will sing its praises.

Students today want to read a story. They don’t mind learning history at the same time, but unless they can follow the story as they world a movie, their attention and interest will fade. Although this book is filled with great information, the potential has been missed and the opportunity to retell a crucial piece of American history is lost in this book. Young adults could have benefited from learning this story, however few will realize the greatness of the 555th battalion after reading this informational text.
Activity Related to the Book: Who Am I? Morning Announcements Contest

Much of the research done to compose this book came from personal interviews. In order to promote this book, the librarian will select an interview of a famous African American leader whose name and story is well known. Each morning on the school announcements, the librarian will play a short audio clip of the interview. Students will listen to the bits of the interview and be challenged to determine the person being interviewed and the story they are telling during the interview. From small clips, students will piece together the bigger story. The first student to correctly piece together the person interviewed with the story being told will win a prize from the library.

Resources Related to the THEME of the book:

Resource 1: Miracle at St. Anna

Lee, Spike (Director). (2008). Miracle at St. Anna [Motion Picture]. United States: Disney.

Although this story is told about the Buffalo Soldiers in World War II, this movie portrays all the hardships African American soldiers faced in World War II. Many excellent war movies exist, yet this story is one of the only that addresses the segregation and racism that monopolized the military at this time.

Resource 2: 100 Amazing Facts About the Nero: What Was Black America’s Double War?

Gates, Henry Louis Jr. (n.d.). What Was Black America’s Double War. Retrieved from

This website describes what life as a black man in World War II was like. In thorough detail, Gates covers the campaign to eliminate the inner struggles experienced by African American soldiers as they fought during war. Full of detail, this website will provide a more complete picture of the intense struggle for equal rights in the military.

Published Review:

Bird, Elizabeth. (15 July 2013) Review of the Day: Courage Has No Color by Tanya Lee Stone. Retrieved from:


Bibliographic Data:

Sanderson, Brandon. (2013). Steelheart. New York: Delacorte Press. Print.

Book Summary:

Life is forever changed when David watched as the powerful Epic, Steelheart, brutally murder his father.  Now living as an orphan, David devotes his life to enacting revenge for his father’s death. His one and only focus in life is to kill Steelheart.  However, due to the super-hero like qualities possessed by all Epics, revenge will only be possible with help from the Reckoners, an underground group fighting to take down the brutal tyrants one Epic at a time.  For years David has been investigating the Epics and taking fastidious notes.  These notes, paired with the Reckoner’s extensive training and experience are the only hope for revenge and the death of Steelheart.   However, with little time to prepare, will David and the Reckoners be able to kill the most powerful Epic and his top advisors? Will the team be able to find out Steelheart’s one weakness or will the always-watching surveillance of Steelheart and his men be able to thwart their plans.

Critical Analysis:

Appealing to more than fantasy fiction fans, Sanderson has brilliantly crafted an action packed novel that will leave the reader wanting more. Don’t be fooled to think this novel is another long and dry fantasy novel. The original plot of this novel brings twists and turns on every page.  Sanderson expertly leaves the reader guessing if those fighting for the good of humankind will be able to conquer the power hungry Epics.  Sanderson has created a main character, David, to whom all young adults today can relate.  Born an orphan, David, love me many of today’s teens, feels a that he doesn’t belong. With no guidance from a loving family, he seeks desperately to find his place in this world.  Not only that, young adults will easily relate to the struggle of an underdog living under oppressive decision-makers.  Gamers will find this novel appealing for the intense confrontations between Epics who battle for complete power and Reckoners who fight for the betterment of humankind.  Although the history of how the Epics took over the world is hardly addressed, Sanderson has left the door open to future novels revealing the Epics’ vault to power.  The characterization is deeply detailed leaving the reader to anticipate future stories that will include more quests and battles between the Reckoners and other Epics.  Parents should be aware that although the characters do curse, they use a fictionalized language that expresses their emotions without offending readers and parents alike. The story also includes violent fight scenes, but the description is appropriate for young adults, not one bit gratuitous.  The first in a long series, Steelheart has laid a strong foundation on which to build many excellent novels.  Because of its action and fantasy mash up, this novel will remain a favorite for many years to come.

Activity Related to the Book:

What’s My Style? Become an Investigator Contest

David took fastidious notes.  Just like the main character of Steelheart, students will be challenged to use their best investigation skills. For one week, students stealthily take notes over the wardrobe of their favorite teachers.  Students may use pencil and paper or may create an online journal using a Web 2.0 tool. For several days, students will observe their teachers and note what they are wearing.  At the end of the week-long competition, students must submit a complete notebook with a final style analysis naming the specific style of the observed teacher.  Winners will be awarded on note-taking ability, diligence and creativity.

Resources Related to the THEME of the book

Resource 1: Chicago Top Attractions Map

(n.d.) Chicago Top Attractions Map. Retrieved from:

Steelheart is set in the city of Newcago, a futuristic version of the city of Chicago.  Students will note important landmarks mentioned in the city such as the lake and Soldier field.  A simple map of Chicago will provide students with a better mental pictures of the places David traveled in this fictionalized city.

Resource 2: Oliver Twist

Dickens, Charles, (2008). Oliver Twist. London: Puffin. Print.

David was an orphan from the time he was eight years old. He had to learn to survive school by gingerly walking a fine line between appearing not overly intelligent and not supremely ignorant.  Life as an orphan was also rough among his peers. Violence was a regular occurrence.  Oliver Twist is a classic piece of literature with an orphan as the main character. Set in the past, readers will be able to compare and contrast the hardships suffered by both David and Oliver.

Published Review:

(2013). Steelheart. Retrieved from:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Bibliographic Data:

Alexie, Sherman. (2007). The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little Brown and Company. Print.

Book Summary:

Indian Reservations are not the same as they used to be.  In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie gives a modern day view of life of the rez.  Set through the eyes of a teenage boy growing up on an Indian reservation, Alexie humorously describes the challenges of life as a modern day Indian.  Hindered by physical affects from a brain defect as a child, the main character, Junior, has an especially hard life.  He is constantly picked on by his friends.  He is an outcast in a community of outcasts.  However, Junior maintains a fairly optimistic attitude, despite all the negative in his world. After an outburst at school over antiquated textbooks, Junior is inspired by a teacher to dream big, to have hope, to make something of himself.   He should leave the dead-end reservation and go to school in a community with hope for the future.  Junior anxiously decides he deserves better than a future of drunken poverty and agrees to enroll in the nearby Reardon High School.  As Junior, now known by his given name, Arnold Spirit, struggles to find his place among his white classmates, he expects to be bullied just as he was on the rez.  However, Arnold is pleasantly surprised by the tolerance from his white classmates.  While not fully a part of the Reardon High community and at the same time shunned by his old friends on the rez, Arnold is caught in limbo.  His future depends on Reardon High School, but can he move on without isolating his friends, family and culture back at the rez who defines him? Stuck between a place full of new hope and a familiar home, full of dead ends.  It is a coming of age story, a story of true friendship, a story of hope.

Critical Analysis:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian screams young adult.  Written in colloquial teenage language, this book even draws back adult readers to their teenage years.  Rightful winner of the 2007 National Book Award, this book humorously addresses the most pertinent struggles in a teenager’s life while offering a rare insight to life on a modern day Indian reservation.  Everything about the main character, Arnold, is believable. He struggles with one of the most common teenage challenges, acceptance.  Not only does he obsess over with his physical appearance and impaired capabilities, Arnold wonders where he fits in among two different cultures.  Using pictures to further describe the events of his life, Arnold addresses taboo topics that young adults face but adults ignore.  The illustrations aptly portrays the emotions of a young adult, and they do so in a jovial  way that makes the reader comfortable.  Parents should be aware that the book addresses mature topics such as drinking, gambling, masturbation and suicide. However, all older young adults will eventually need to address these topics as they are part of our modern day world and this book offers a light-hearted approach that can be the beginning of parent and teen conversations.

Activity Related to the Book:

Pictorial Journal:

Due to his tendency to stutter, Arnold regularly expressed himself through drawing.  Using teacher generated prompts, students will spend two weeks creating a journal using pictures only. Students may use hand-drawn images or may collect images from other sources and paste into the journal.  Journals can be kept in a paper or digital journal.  Sample prompts include:

  • Describe a real made-up dream or nightmare.
  • Think of your favorite childhood toy that you no longer have.  Describe the life of the toy from your first experience to today.
  • Write out the best or the worst day of your life.
  • Describe someone who is a hero to you and explain why.

At the end of two weeks, in a small group discussion, students will reflect on the ease or challenges of portraying their feelings using only images.

Resources Related to the THEME of the book:

Resource 1: Spiral of Fire

In this film, Howe visits her home reservation in North Carolina.  Seeing a video representation of situations similar to those in the book will help students relate to Junior.

Howe, LeAnne (author). (2006). Spiral of Fire [Motion Picture]. United States: PBS.

Resource 2: Map of Indian Reservations in the Continental US
Many students are far removed from Indian reservations.  This map shows the vast number of reservations in our country.  It will help students all across the United States identify with reservations that are local to their area.

(n.d.). Map of Indian Reservations in the Continental US. Retrieved on July 6, 2015 from

Resource 3: Honor the Treaties

Not many people know what life on a modern day reservation is like today. Although Arnold uses humor to address some of the issues, this video faces the violence and poverty head on.  Keeping in mind the fact that reservations were essentially established as prison camps for Native Americans, this video helps students gain a realistic picture of the harsh life on modern day Indian reservations.

Becker, Eric (director). (2012). Honor the Treaties [Motion Picture]. United States: Vimeo.

Published Review:

Barcott, Bruce. (2007) Off the RezRetrieved on July 6, 2015 from:

The Boy on the Wooden Box

Bibliographic Data:

Leyson, Leon. (2013). The Boy on the Wooden Box. New York: Atheneum. Print.

Book Summary:

Born in the small town of Narewka, Leon Leyson lived a peaceful life with his loving family.  In his words, “Life seemed an endless, carefree journey.” That was until the horrors of war saturated his innocent life.  Working hard to make a better life for his children, Leon’s dad took a job in a glass factory in the big city of Krakow.  His father’s skilled hands, hardworking spirit, and proud demeanor would be something that proved far more beneficial than anyone imagined at the time.  While this move to the big city seemed to be a step up the ladder of fortune, life in the city quickly shifted from idyllic to primal. As the war seeped into Poland, Leon’s family was forced to move first to the prison-like Jewish ghetto.  Life in the ghetto was unimaginable, with Nazi soldiers’ violent and unpredictable behaviors. Hunger and fear were the only emotions that survived inside these prison walls.  Yet Leon would soon long for this neighborhood that resembled a cemetery.  In May of 1942, the ghetto was evacuated; Leon and his family were shipped to a deeper level of Hell to live out the remainder of their undeserved death sentence in prison camps.  In a world of darkness, the only light in their life shone from a connection made between his father and an unlikely nazi named Oskar Schindler. Would the positive attitude, fortune and ingenuity of his father, Leon and their family act as a lifeboat on the turbulent sea of their persecution?  Could it be that this relationship with Oskar Schindler stand powerful enough to carry Leon and his family alive to the end of the war?

Critical Analysis:

While the topic of the holocaust is horrific, this memoir by Leon Leyson is well-suited for young adults.  Many readers are easily fascinated with the unbelievable events of World War II, however this memoir distinguishes itself from the plethora of existing holocaust novels because it is told through the eyes of a teenager.  Young adults will easily relate to the feelings of exclusion and confusion Leon experiences. The Boy on the Wooden Box evokes feelings of empathy from all readers as the characters cling to life.  Shock and awe fill the pages of this book.  Just like Leon experiences, the readers will be shocked to see a world seemingly unaware of the genocide next door as the ghetto is evacuated and innocent Jews are carried away to prison camps. Throughout the book, the torture of genocide is evident without being excessively descriptive; death is not written through rose-colored glasses, yet graphic details are avoided.  The reader easily sees the abominable conditions of life in the ghetto and prison camps.  Leon Leyson writes so descriptively, the images jump from the page into the mind of the reader.  Beautifully written, this memoir will stand the test of time, teaching young adults about the horrific experiences of a Jew in Poland during World War II.

Activity Related to the Book:

The Holocaust in Pictures via TedEd:

As a pre-reading activity, have students watch the video by Garrett Shryock about the Holocaust.  After the video, students should answer the questions under the “think” and “dig deeper” tabs.  As a class, the question under the “and, finally” tab should be discussed.  The teacher should facilitate discussion while a student records the student responses on the board.

This activity addresses some of the exact situations that Leon Leyson experienced and described in his book The Boy on the Wooden Box.  Watching this video and discussing the related questions will provide the students with a factual account of the atrocities of the holocaust.  With this general knowledge, students will have a deeper understanding of the pain, fear, and torture experienced by Leon and his family.

Ware, Reginald. n.d. Holocaust Documentary. Retrieved June 30, 2015, from:

Resources Related to the THEME of the book:

Resource 1: The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The entire website of the Holocaust Memorial Museum is full of outstanding information.  This holocaust encyclopedia provides students with vivid snapshots and articles of the experiences of Jews and nazis during the genocide of World War II.

Holocaust Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved June 30, 2015, from

Resource 2: Schindler’s List

Told from a different perspective, this movie creates a visual story of how Oskar Schindler saved thousands of Jews in Poland during World War II.  Although the entire movie may not be appropriate for all students, many clips can be pulled to help the students experience a second view of this nazi and the people he saved.

Schindler’s list [Motion picture on DVD]. (2004). United States: Universal.

Published Review:

Weinstein, Bruce. n.d. Review of The Boy on the Wooden BoxRetrieved from:

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Bibliographic Data:

Angelou, Maya. (2009). I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. New York: Ballantine Books. Print.

Book Summary:

In the book I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou records the comings and goings of her life as a child growing into adulthood.  As a young girl, Maya is raised by her grandmother in the small Southern town of Stamps, experiencing the weight of racism on a regular basis.  She describes her intense relationship with her brother Bailey as they cling to one another navigating their life under the house of Momma and Uncle Willie.  Into her grandchildren, Momma instilled a sense of respect and proper-ness that would please any Southern woman.  As concern for their safety in a racially volatile town grows, Momma decides the children should return to California to live with their Mother.  As different as night and day, Maya Angelou adapts to this new world, her maturing body and her changing relationship with her brother Bailey.

Critical Analysis:

With emotional yet aloof description, Maya chronicles the fantastical stories of her childhood.  Simple stories are woven into a beautiful quilt of words by Angelou.  Horrific stories are described with class and as little detail as possible so as to not push the reader away.  However, her honest depiction of challenging situations do not evoke pity from the reader; they simply strengthen respect for the author.  Her description of everyday life instills a colorful heartbeat into the very situations.  The characters in Angelou’s life seem like friends known for so long that details over time are intimately shared.  It is shocking to the reader to realize Angelou does not make her first friend until she is a young teenager.  Her detailed description of the people in her life lead the reader to believe that she shares an intimate relationship with dear friends in her town. While not full of suspense, this book is inspiring and delightful.

Activity Related to the Book:

One Month in a Junkyard

In small groups, students will create a plan to survive one month as a teenager living in a junkyard.  Being one of the events that accelerated maturity in Angelou’s life, students will create a journal and record their imaginary happenings over a one month period.  As happened in the book, students will have a short period of time to determine that they will live on their own  What will they bring?  How much money will they need?  What emotions are they feeling? Scenarios and prompts will be provided by the teacher and students will journal their responses on a daily basis.  The month-long journaling activity will end with a prompt that lets the student determine if they will return to a safe home or remain living independently.

Resources Related to the THEME of the book:

Resource 1: “Sympathy” by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Angelou borrowed a line from this poem in the title of her book.  As is the nature of the figure of speech, allusion leads the reader to a different document, adding a depth of meaning to a few words.

Dunbar, Paul Laurence. (1899). “Sympathy”. The Poetry Foundation. Retrieved on 22 June 2015 from

Resource 2: USA and Mexico Combo Map

Angelou describes the events of her childhood as they happen all over the Southern and Western United States and Mexico.  This map would help students understand the physical lengths (as well as emotional lengths) Angelou traveled as a part of her growing up.

“USA and Mexico Combo Map. United States:BJ Design.

Published Review:

Gross, Robert A. (28 May 2014). Newsweek’s Original Review of Maya Angelou’s ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.’ Retrieved from:

All The Light We Cannot See

Bibliographic Data:

Doerr, Anthony. (2014). All The Light We Cannot See. New York: Scribner. Print.

Book Summary:

Set during the days of World War II, Doerr presents two characters, Marie Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig who grow from children to adults through the experiences brought on by the war.  Marie Laure’s father, a locksmith at a museum in Paris is charged with saving a precious jewel by swindling it out of the city and hiding it from the Germans.  Not knowing that the jewel is in their possession, Marie Laure attempts to make sense of the changes in her life, tracking the sounds and smells of her sightless world.  At the same time, Werner Pfennig, a mechanical savant, is selected to train to become a member of the German army.  Impressing his teachers, Werner excels in all things mathematical and electronic.  However, as Werner climbs higher and higher as a successful cadet, his spirits sink lower and lower as he struggles to determine right from wrong in this new world.  The two main characters struggle to establish who they are based on where they came from, and all the while their paths inch closer and closer to one another.

Critical Analysis:

Drawing the reader into the lives of Marie Laure and Werner, Doerr creates a strong empathy for characters, desperate to see an unknown future blossom into happily ever after for both.  Beautifully written, the author mimics Marie Laure’s compensation for blindness in her writing  by including striking detail.  The senses of the reader transition from simply seeing text on a page to hearing the sounds of the cities and the crashings of war, tasting the salt of the sea air and the blood running down the soldiers’ faces, and smelling the delicious meals of Madame Manec and the ash-filled air of the bombed cities.  Doerr writes of a father’s intense love for his child and a child’s desperate love for her father.  A weaker soldier separates himself from his friend so that he does not weigh down the success of his friend.  The struggle of the characters is intense; all seeking right from wrong, success from failure, safety from danger.  The reader will not be able to put this book down until the last page is turned.

Activity Related to the Book:

Maker Space Mechanics

So many libraries are now including a maker space for their patrons to learn through invention.  Grouping students into small groups, allow them to use a limited amount of materials to create a new invention.  Students should write a paper indicating how this invention was made and whom this invention can help.  After each invention has been made, all groups reflect on how this new invention can be used for destruction, opposite of the intention of the engineers.

Resources Related to the THEME of the book:

Resource 1: The Monuments Men

During World War II, Hitler confiscated some of the greatest pieces of art in all the world.  In the book All The Light We Cannot See, Marie Laure LeBlancs father is commissioned to hide a priceless stone that is highly sought after by the Nazis.  Watching portions of this film will help students gain a greater understanding for the importance of preserving these cultural works of art.

Clooney, George (Producer/Director). (2014). The Monuments Men. [Motion Picture]. United States: Columbia Pictures.

Resource 2: The War

World War II was a complicated war on many levels.  Exploring the depth of this war would be beneficial and intriguing to any student who read All The Light We Cannot See.

Burns, Ken and Lynn Novick. (Producers). (2007). The War. [Motion Picture]. United States: Florentine Films and WETA-TV.

Published Review:

(2014). All The Light We Cannot See: Kirkus Review. Retrieved from:

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Bibliographic Data:

Taylor, Mildred D. (1976). Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. New York: Dial Books. Print.

Book Summary:

Set in the deep South, Taylor has created a loving, black family whose children seem to be unaware of the predejuces that hang in the air of their small town.  Cassie Logan and her brothers live on land owned by their family.  As the months pass by, the Logan children become more and more exposed to the racial hatred in the South.  When local white men decide to call the loan early on the family property, the Logan family makes tough and potentially life threatening decisions to save their land, their family and their integrity.


Critical Analysis:

What a treasure it is to read a strong piece of literature.  Mildred Taylor writes with colors, texture, passion and conviction.  Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry brings the Logan family to life in the mind of the reader; writing a of a family that could live in your neighborhood today.  The unfortunate injustices suffered by Cassie, Little Man, Stacey, Christopher-John, Mama, Papa, Uncle Hammer and their friends create disgust in the reader.  However these themes of racial predejuce are still front page stories today.  Cassie’s feelings of confusion and anger are felt by many still today.  Standing the test of time, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry lives up to its title as a piece of classical literature.

Today, the fight for equal rights has broadened to include more than black Americans.  Students these days are well-aware of the fight for gay marriage and the continual struggle for equal rights among all peoples no matter what race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and more.  This novel takes a young adult back to a time before the phrase “equal rights” was common knowledge.  Taylor brings to life a time in our history that sets a foundation upon which all modern equal rights struggles are built.  It is imperative that a young adult read this novel in order to understand more fully how long this struggle has endured, how far we have come and how far we still have to go.

Activity Related to the Book:

Modern Day Predejuce:

After students read the book, create a web (using Inspiration or other Web 2.0 tools) showing all the main characters.  Have students choose one word to describe each character’s reaction to the injustice in their life.  Next, have students research modern day articles that report situations that evoke the same reactions as the book characters.  Link these articles to each character on the web.

Resources Related to the THEME of the book:

Resource 1:

The importance of family is a major theme in this book.  The Logan family is so intimately woven together that they often make major sacrifices for one another just as when Uncle Hammer sold his pristine car to pay off the note on the family land.  This website is a great tool to track your family and their history.  Learning more about where you came from helps one appreciate the family in your life today.

(2015). Genealogy, Family Trees and Family History Records. Retrieved from

Resource 2: “Why We Do What We Do,” a TED talk by motivational speaker Tony Robbins

Many of the decisions that the Logan family and their friends make stem from an intense emotional experience.  Tony Robbins, a motivational speaker, addresses what he calls the unseen force behind all human action, emotion.

Robbins, Tony (speaker). (2006). Why We Do What We Do. Retrieved from:

Published Review:

Bird, Elizabeth. (2012). Top 100 Children’s Novels: #32 Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. Retrieved from:

The Arrival

Title: The Arrival
Author: Shaun Tan
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
ISBN: 978-0439895293
Rating: 3/5 Stars


New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award
2006 Cybils Award
Bologna Ragazzi Award, Special Mention
Spectrum Award
Junior Library Guild Selection
World Fantasy Artist of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2007
A New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2007’s Best Teen Book of 2007
2007 Parents’ Choice Gold Award
A Book Sense Winter 2007-2008 Top Ten Children’s Pick
A New York Public Library Best Book for Reading and Sharing
A New York Times Notable Children’s Book of 2007
Rocky Mountain News, A Top Ten Book of the Year
The Columbus Dispatch, A Best Book of 2007
Booklist Editors’ Choice 2007
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2007
A Washington Post Best Book for Young People for 2007
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Blue Ribbon for Fiction
ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2008
ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults, 2008
ALA Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens, 2008
Horn Book Fanfare Book 2007
Metropolitan Home Magazine’s Design 100, 2008
An IRA Notable Book for a Global Society, 2008
2008 Locus Award, Best Art Book
2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, special citation for excellence in graphic storytelling
CCBC Choices 2008
Nominated for an International Horror Guild Award, Illustrated Narrative
New York Public Library’s 100 Best Children’s Books from the Last 100 Years


Using only pictures, Shaun Tan has written a beautiful book that illustrates the emotional journey of an immigrant from the comfort of home to a new and scary land.  Following the main character as he leaves behind his family for a new land, Tan lets the reader experience a life lived in an unknown world.  With demons and dragons lurking in the shadows, the main character searches for work and attempts to navigate the new land, at the same time as he strives to make money and bring his family to this new place.  Although the pictures lack color, the emotions are strong with the turn of each page.  An older reader will not be disappointed simply because this book has no words.  In fact, the lack of words create the perfect sense of lonliness.  A novel for middle grade students, this work will serve as a wonderful resource for schools in multiple subject areas.

Review Excerpt:

“Shaun Tan not only makes the old immigration story new again, he also ingeniously puts the reader in the immigrant’s position to give the experience an immediacy one would have thought impossible to obtain from a fictional exploration. . . . Tan turns this classic story into an imaginative as well as a visual tour de force by making the elements of the immigrant’s new country as strange, fantastical, and incomprehensible to the reader as to the new arrival. . . . Tan’s fictional newfound land is overwhelmingly glamorous, alien, and plausible, conveying culture shock in a way that straightforward historical chronicles simply can’t manage. This could electrify a curriculum, provoke conversation if shared within a family, or simply bring a reader a startling new way of seeing a familiar story.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, starred review


As students study about Ellis Island, teachers should read this book to their classes.  Assign each student to read this book through the eyes of an immigrant from a different country.  Use the images in this book as symbols of their immigration experience with regard to the country and life they left behind.


Arthur A. Levine Books. 2014. “Arrival, The.”

Tan, Shaun. 2007. The Arrival. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books.


Title: Savvy
Author: Ingrid Law
Publisher: Penguin Group
ISBN: 978-0-14-132419-7
Rating: 5/5 Stars


2009 Newbery Honor Book

Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award

New York Times Bestseller

An ALA Notable Book for Children 2009

Midwest Booksellers Association Honor Award 2009

Lamplighter Award 2011

Judy Lopez Honor Award

A Kirkus Best Children’s Book of 2008

A Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of 2008

Booklist “Top Ten First Novels for Youth 2008”

Booklinks “Lasting Connection 2008”

#1 Children’s Booksense Pick

Publisher’s Weekly Flying Start

Borders Original Voices Selection

Association of Booksellers for Children New Voices Pick

Oprah’s Reading List Pick

New York Public Library “100 Best Books for Reading and Sharing”

A San Francisco Chronicle Best Fiction Book for Young Readers 2008

A Kansas City Star Noteworthy Children’s Book 2008

A Chicago Tribune “Book Not to Miss” 2008

A Bank Street College of Education’s Best Books of the Year

2008 Cuffie Award: “Book We Couldn’t Stop Talking About”

2008 Cuffie Award:  “Favorite Jacket”

2009 Cybil Award nominee

2009 Andre Norton Nebula Award Nominee

2009 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award nominee for Children’s Literature

2009 Indie Choice Nominee: Best Young Adult Buzz Book

2014 Youth One Book, One Denver

Selected as a 2011 Massachusetts Children’s Book Award Honor Book

Selected as a 2011 Nebraska Golden Sower Award Honor Book

2009-2010 Texas Bluebonnet Nominee

2009-2010 Virginia Readers’ Choice Award Nominee

2010 New York State Reading Assoc. Charlotte Award Suggested Reading List, Primary

2009-2010 Keystone State Reading Assoc. Young Adult Book Award Nominee (PA)

2009 Kansas State Reading Circle Recommended Reading List

2009-2010 Maine Student Book Award Nominee

2009-2010 Black Eyed Susan Book Award Nominee(Maryland)

2009-2010 Rhode Island Children’s Book Award Nominee

2009-2010 Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award Nominee(Vermont)

2009-2010 North Carolina Children’s Book Award Nominee

2009-2010 Nene Award Nominee, Hawaii

2009-2010 New Hampshire Great Stone Face Book Award Nominee

2010-2011 Volunteer State Book Award Nominee, Tennessee

2010-2011 William Allen White Nominee, Kansas

2010-2011 Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Awards Nominee

2010-2011 Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award Nominee, Illinois

2010-2011 South Carolina Children’s Book Awards Nominee

2010-2011 Georgia Children’s Book Award Nominee

2011 Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Readers Choice Award Nominee

2010-2011 Land of Enchantment Book Award Nominee (New Mexico)

2010-2011 Arkansas Charlie May Simon Children’s Book Award Nominee

2011 Oregon Reader’s Choice Award Nominee ORCA

2011 Garden State Children’s Book Award Nominee, New Jersey

2012 Colorado Children’s Book Award Nominee

2012 Grand Canyon Reader Award Nominee, Arizona

2011 – 2012 Iowa Children’s Choice Award nominee


In a lighthearted novel, Ingrid Law has created lovable characters in a family we all would like to be a part of.  Providing personalities that almost everyone can relate to, Law has written a fun-loving novel that embodies the spirit of a determined group of children.  Mibbs, the main character of Savvy is about to celebrate her 13th birthday and eagerly awaiting her special power which comes to all the children of her family on this momentous occasion.  Not knowing full well what exactly is her talent, Mibbs and two of her brothers sneak off on adventure with two of the local preacher’s children.  Wanting to heal her father who has been in a coma since his trucking accident, Mibbs sneaks away from her thirteenth birthday party on to a bus she thinks is headed to the town which houses the hospital.  The bus drives off in the opposite direction, and that is only the beginning of their problems.  With words coined only by imaginative and creative children, Law draws the reader into the exciting world of the Beaumont family and their savvies.


Review Excerpt:

“Law’s storytelling is rollicking, her language imaginative, and her entire cast of whacky, yet believable characters delightful. Readers will want more from first novelist Law; her first book is both wholly engaging and lots of fun.”


This book would be a wonderful read aloud book.  Teachers and students alike would enjoy the wholesome message and entertain antics of each character.


Ingrid Law. 2014. “Savvy Awards and Accolades.”

Ingrid Law. 2014. “Reviews for Savvy.”

Law, Ingrid. 2008. Savvy. New York: Penguin Group.