Browsing Tag

fifth grade

Books We Love: My Brigadista Year

#DiverseKidLit, Books We Love

Did you know that in 1961, 100,000 Cuban youth between the ages of 10 and 19 left school and moved to the countryside to serve as literacy teachers? Did you know that their work raised the literacy rate in Cuba from between 60% and 76% to 96%?

I didn’t, either.

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, but in taking a closer look at the books I’ve read, most of my historical fiction reads tend to be about American history or European history. I was so excited to read the Katherine Paterson’s latest title, which takes place in Cuba in the 1960s.

Lora, a thirteen-year-old from Havana, decides to leave the only place she’s ever called home in order to serve as a literacy teacher in the countryside. Her journey requires leaving the comforts of home behind in exchange for demanding physical labor and no electricity access. While in the country, she lives with two host parents and their three children. Luis Santana, the father, simply wants to learn to write his own name so he no longer has to sign with an “x.” Having a brigadista in the household, however, may bring danger to the Santana family and to Lora herself.

While the Cuban Literacy Campaign came about under the rule of communist politician Fidel Castro, whose administration oversaw numerous human-rights abuses, the mission of the brigadistas was to bring education to everyone regardless of class. The experiences of the main character in the book represent the experiences of tens of thousands of volunteers who left their homes in order to serve their country and the ideals they held true.

I learned so much about Cuban history from My Brigadista Year, and I am sure this book will drive interest in a fascinating time period of Cuban history.

Classroom Connections

This middle grade title discusses the transfer of power before the administration of Fidel Castro. It may pair well with The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! and other tales from Carmen Agra Deedy. Deedy is a children’s book author who arrived in the U.S. as a Cuban refugee in 1964, just three years after the events of My Brigadista Year.


My Brigadista Year will be released in October 2017 by Penguin Random House.

Note: I received a digital Advanced Review Copy of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Books We Love: Read, Read, Read!

#bookexcursion, Books We Love

There are certain poetry books that I return to over and over again in my classroom. Books with poems that reflect my students’ experiences show up as read-alouds every year. The books then find worthy places on our classroom bookshelves where they are adored by dozens of third graders. Read! Read! Read! by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater may become an instant classic, too.

This book is a celebration of what it means to be a reader. Much of the book explores the magic of the written word and how we carry it with us as we grow. While many of the poems are inspiring, they are funny and clever, too. The poems are inclusive of many different reading experiences, from the child whose favorite reading material is on the cereal box to the child who lost a grandmother, but found healing in Charlotte’s Web.

As I read the poems, connections to students past and present were swirling around in my head. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has given us a gift: poems that will meet readers where they are on their reading journeys. Every child reading this book will find a poem that makes them feel celebrated. It is my hope that this book finds its way onto the bookshelves of classrooms and homes, and into the hands of young readers everywhere.


Read! Read! Read! will be released in September 2017 by Wordsong Books.

Huge thanks to Amy Ludwig VanDerwater for sharing a copy of Read! Read! Read! with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

Books We Love: What Makes A Monster

#bookexcursion, Books We Love

This week marked a book birthday for Jess Keating’s What Makes a Monster?! After the success of her Pink is for Blobfish, my students became captivated by Keating’s writing. With fascinating facts and strong nonfiction text features, the World of Weird Animals series draws in many young readers. Keating’s website describes the series as “a must-read series for curious kids,” and I can’t think of a more accurate description.

What Makes a Monster pulls readers in to the respective worlds of the aye-aye, the vampire bat, the prairie dog, the tyrant leech king, and other scary animals. The book explores what makes the animals dangerous, as well as how many “monsters” contribute positively to our ecosystems.

Each two-page spread features a large photo of each animal, along with a vivid description and fast facts. Funny illustrations add humor to the pages and make this book a great fit for young readers.

One powerful section in the book talks about “misunderstood monsters:” the animals who are less likely to be included in conservation efforts because they aren’t cute or furry. This serves as a call-to-action for readers as they think about how ugly or scary animals can still add to our world. By the end of the book, readers will be questioning what it means to be a monster.


Huge thanks to Jess Keating for sharing a copy of What Makes a Monster? with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

 

Books We Love: I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

Books We Love

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark
by Debbie Levy
Illustrations by Elizabeth Baddeley

 

Over the past two days, our nation has seen two historic events: the inauguration of our 45th president and the Women’s Marches in sister cities all over the world. One of the things that makes our country great is the ability we have to freely express our views. Oftentimes, disagreement helps us move forward. I Dissent tells the story of how Ruth Bader Ginsburg resisted and persisted to make her voice heard.

I can’t wait for this book to make its way into the hands of little girls around the world. It tells the story of a girl who wanted to change little things, and built her way up to changing big things. This story teaches a powerful lesson about activism. It proudly proclaims that even young children can work to change things in their communities.

With rich vocabulary and beautiful illustrations, I Dissent is sure to become a classic for classrooms. It tells how a young Justice Ginsburg was inspired by the women who came before her, and how she didn’t let disagreement get in the way of her friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia. Messages of hope permeate through the book’s pages as it tells us dissent can be productive, positive, and powerful.

Favorite Quotes

On RBG’s impact:
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg isn’t a rock star, a queen, or a goddess. But to many, she is a hero. She made change happen, and she changed minds.”

Words from RBG herself:
“Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”