Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Dear Martin blog tour - 10.31.17

About the Book:
Author: Nic Stone
Pub. Date: October 17, 2017
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 224
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook

Find it: AmazonAudibleB&NiBooksTBDGoodreads

Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.

Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Way up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know. Justyce is dying to forget.

I am so excited to have Nic Stone stop by the blog today.  I think this book is so important as a mirror, windows and door book!  It's a needed mirror book for right now, yet it's also an important windows book for right now.  It's a windows book for me and I took the opportunity to ask Nic questions that were rolling around in my mind.  Not surprisingly, her answers have made me think even more!  Without further ado, here's Nic:

Hi, Mrs. Knott! Thank you for having me :)

1.  Can you tell us about the significance of Justyce's name?

So the use of Justyce is a very deliberate double entendre. The book, to me, is really an allegory. If you take some of the things that happen to Justyce, the character, and change the “y” to an “I” so that they happen to justice, the sociological concept, I think you’ll find that the situations are still very realistic. For instance: the novel opens with Justyce being unfairly arrested and made to sit in handcuffs without having done anything wrong. It could be argued that the concept of American justice is currently being unfairly detained.
Also, a fun fact: in a previous draft, Justyce had a sister named Liberty. As I’m sure you can imagine, she had her own set of allegorical struggles, lol.

2. Who do you want most to read this book? 

EVERYONE. I really mean that. I really and truly believe there is something for everyone in this book, whether it’s humanized representation (African American teen boys), encouragement in your power to bring about change (teen girls), or a safe space to examine one’s own biases (pretty much everyone). Also, I worked super hard on it, so the more people who read it, the better I feel about how much went into it.

3.  Race was a factor throughout Justyce's life - friendship, school, girlfriends, the law.  How were you able to weave these strands together so well?  What went into the planning stages of the book?

Believe it or not, this is a VERY different version of the book than the initial draft. THAT draft had eight points of view and was non-linear, so it was very tightly plotted and well outlined. We scaled the whole thing down and simplified it for the final version, but I’m thankful for the heavy planning because it did help to make the shorter, simpler version very tight (at least I hope it’s tight, lol). I will say though: as a black person, all the things you mentioned have always intersected with race in one way or another, so the way you see them come together on the page was very *organic* as they say.

4.  The book mostly takes place at a predominately white preparatory school.  Did you ever consider having it in a different setting?

I didn’t! While I went to public school, that only-black-kid-in-class dynamic was a very real thing for me, and that’s the experience I wanted to reflect on the page in Dear Martin. Oftentimes, when awful and unjust things happen to African Americans, I’ll hear people say “Well if he would’ve just followed the rules…” or “if he’d been an upstanding member of society…” or “If hadn’t looked like such a thug…” the bad thing wouldn’t have happened. But that frankly isn’t true, and that’s what I set out to show in the book: this good, respectable kid wasn’t any more immune to prejudice or racist assumptions than the guy who sags his pants and “looks like he’s up to no good.” It’s a wakeup call for Justyce that being good won’t make people less prone to judge him harshly, and hopefully it’ll be a wake up call to readers too.

5.  There have been more books being published in #ownvoices and books that have resulted from Black Lives Matter and We Need Diverse Books.  Do you think these books are starting to make a difference in the conversations readers are having?

I honestly couldn’t tell you at this point? For me, It’s difficult to say because most of the readers I encounter are readers who already feel these books are necessary. I sure HOPE they are though!

Thank you so much to Nic Stone for answering these questions, and thank you to Rock Star Book Tours for letting me jump on board this tour!

Here's more about the fabulous Nic Stone:

About Nic:
Nic Stone was born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, GA, and the only thing she loves more than an adventure is a good story about one. After graduating from Spelman College, she worked extensively in teen mentoring and lived in Israel for a few years before returning to the US to write full-time. Growing up with a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds, Stone strives to bring these diverse voices and stories to her work.
 You can find her goofing off and/or fangirling over her husband and sons on most social media platforms as @getnicced.

Be sure to stop by the other stops on this blog tour.  Find more reviews, interviews and guest posts!
Week One:
10/16/2017- LILbooKlovers- Interview
10/17/2017- YA BibliophileReview
10/18/2017- Mama Reads BlogGuest Post
10/19/2017- Here's to Happy EndingsReview
10/20/2017- Eli to the nthExcerpt

Week Two:
10/23/2017- Chasing FaerytalesReview
10/24/2017- Omg Books and More BooksInterview
10/25/2017- BookHounds YAReview
10/26/2017- Novel NoviceGuest Post
10/27/2017- The Bookish LibraReview

Week Three:
10/30/2017Never Too Many To ReadReview
10/31/2017Mrs. Knott's Book Nook- Interview
11/1/2017Reese's ReviewsExcerpt
11/2/2017Novel InkReview
11/3/2017Wandering Bark BooksGuest Post

Week Four:
11/6/2017Amanda Gernentz HansonReview
11/7/2017Lisa Loves LiteratureExcerpt
11/8/2017Feed Your Fiction AddictionReview
11/9/2017Lost in Ever AfterInterview
11/10/2017A Backwards StoryReview

Thanks to the generous people at Rock Star Book Tours, they are giving away 3 copies of Dear Martin.  Be sure to enter the giveaway for your chance to win this amazing book.  Open to U.S. residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 30, 2017

#road2reading Challenge - If You Like These, Try series - early chapter books 10.31.17

All journeys have a starting place.
This is a weekly place to find books and tools 
that you may use with readers at the start of their reading journey.
Join in the conversation at #road2reading.

Happy Halloween :)

I can't believe we're inching closer to the end of the year.  Cybils nominations have already closed for the year and the Nerdy Book Club Award nominations will be here very soon.  As I look back at past winners, some of the same authors and series are named every year.  And while those winners are fantastic, there are some other great books out there.  Before we get to the end of the year, take some time and familiarize yourself with some other fantastic reads.  This week I'll focus on some great reads for early chapter books you may want to think about for upcoming awards!

If you like...

Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover
the Rabbit and Robot books
by Cece Bell


Snail and Worm Again (Snail & Worm, #2)
Snail and Worm Again
by Tina Kugler
If you enjoy the humor in Rabbit and Robot books, then you'll definitely appreciate the wacky humor of Snail and Worm.  All of these creatures, and err, machines, see the world around them with a slightly different perspective, but it's one that will always make you laugh!

If you like...

Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon (Tales from Deckawoo Drive #2)       Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package (Tales from Deckawoo Drive #4)
the Tales From Deckawoo Drive series
by Kate DiCamillo


A Wilcox and Griswold Mystery: The Case of the Poached Egg
The Case of the Poached Egg
by Robin Newman
One of my favorite things about Kate DiCamillo's books is her use of vocabulary.  She picks the perfect words to compliment the plot of the story.  Newman's books are just like that - the cleverly placed puns and jokes make up for a delightful read!

If you like...

The Princess in Black (The Princess in Black, #1)       The Princess in Black and the Mysterious Playdate (The Princess in Black #5)
the Princess in Black series
by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale


King & Kayla and the Case of the Mysterious Mouse (King & Kayla, #3)
the King and Kayla series
by Dori Hillestad Butler
The Princess in Black is always up for new adventures just like King and his owner, Kayla!  Their adventures are mysteries and lucky for us, King always uses his nose to sniff out some extra special fun as they go about looking for clues.

If you like...

Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! (Ling & Ting, #1)       Ling & Ting: Together in All Weather (Ling & Ting, #4)
the Ling and Ting series
by Grace Lin


Charlie & Mouse (Charlie & Mouse, #1)       Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy (Charlie & Mouse, #2)
the Charlie and Mouse series
by Laurel Snyder
Realistic fiction with an extra dose of heart mixed in - readers will fall in love with these brothers and their family.  It's just a heartwarming series that is reminiscent of Frog and Toad and Henry and Mudge.

I hope you found some new books to read, or some new books to nominate this year!  I'm looking forward to seeing what your 2017 favorites were at the end of the year.

Be sure to swing by Alyson's blog to see more #road2reading fun.

Want to talk about books for readers who are on the #road2reading?  Link up here!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 10.30.17

This weekly post comes from Jen at Teach Mentor Texts
 and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers.  
It's a great source to find new books to use with your students.

Last Week's Adventures

With the end of the year comes end of the year voting - Cybils and Nerdy Book Club awards!  If you're looking for some new inspiration for early readers, try these books!

I finish up the October "What's in my Nonfiction Pile?" series with a roundup of biographies.

This is a must-add to your MG library - Greetings From Witness Protection!

A great book to use when talking about facing your fears - Willy and the Cloud

Picture Books

Peep and Egg: I'm Not Taking a Bath
Peep and Egg: I'm Not Taking a Bath
written by Laura Gehl
illustrated by Joyce Wan
Oh how I love these characters!  This is another great read aloud, I had second graders lined up to take this series home!

How to Make Friends with a Ghost
How to Make Friends With a Ghost
by Rebecca Green
Perfect book for a fall read aloud!  And if you want a catchy tune to go along with it, don't miss Emily Arrow's video!

Sam and Eva
Sam and Eva
by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
This is my favorite Debbie Ohi so far!  So much to look at as you read this silly story about drawings that go a little too far!

Alfie: (The Turtle That Disappeared)
by Thyra Heder
Heder's stories always surprise me.  You think you know where the story line is going... in this one we learn about perspective and thinking of others.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut
written by Derrick Barnes
illustrated by Gordon C. James
Beautiful beautiful book.  I would love to hear this one narrated by the author.  Important #ownvoices book and one you'll want in your library.  Don't miss the author's note at the end and I also recommend reading his Goodreads bio.

Most People
Most People
written by Michael Leannah
illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris
So this is a book I will read every school year here on out.  It's a book about most people but it's one that everyone needs to hear.  I 

Informational Texts

My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis
My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis
by Paul Meisel
I classified this one as informational because it is full of fascinating (and weird and amazing and gross) facts about the praying mantis.  However, it is told by a praying mantis, so not sure if that negates the nonfiction part.  (this post that Melissa Stewart pointed out to me is still swirling around in my brain)  I love the use of the end pages to place facts that do come up throughout the story (which means you'll miss some if you get a library copy like I did).  This humorous story almost made me like the praying mantis.  Maybe!

Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters
Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters
written by Michael Mahin
illustrated by Evan Turk
Wow, what a fantastic biography.  The words spoke to my heart - they were soulful and moving.  I think the artwork is some of Evan Turk's finest.  Definitely a Caldecott contender.

Middle Grade

Revenge of the Christmas Angels       Revenge of the Happy Campers (The Brewster Triplets)
Revenge of the Christmas Angels and Revenge of the Happy Campers
by Jennifer Ziegler
These are the second and third books in the Brewster Triplets series and I'm so happy I got to spend more time with them.  What I love about Dawn, Delaney and Darby is they are unexpectedly different - they each have their own characteristics, but they have similar interests in...  democracy! presidents! history!  These girls know what they want and they go after it.  Great role models for kids today.  If you aren't familiar with this series, change that now.

Currently Reading 

The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming
The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming
by J. Anderson Coats

Had to skip on some reading to continue with my NCTE panelists books, but it's ok.  I'll get to them at the end of November.  No stress with books, right?

Happy Reading!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Spotlight Friday - Willy and the Cloud 10.27.17

Time to get ready for the weekend!
Kick up your feet and find a good place to read.
Sharing #booklove for your classroom or library.

Spotlighting a book or two because these books deserve the spotlight!

I love finding books that serve multiple themes/ideas.

Willy and the Cloud
Willy and the Cloud
by Anthony Browne
published by Candlewick Press
November 7th

Goodreads summary
When a niggling worry begins to cloud Willy's whole day, Anthony Browne shows readers that facing your fears head-on can clear the skies once more. 
One warm, sunny day, Willy the Chimp decides to go to the park. There's not a cloud in the sky -- well, except for just a little tiny one. It doesn't bother Willy too much at first. But as the cloud follows him, it grows bigger and bigger and becomes harder and harder to ignore. Pretty soon the cloud is all Willy can think about, and he has no idea how to make it go away. Quietly powerful and remarkably perceptive, Anthony Browne's thoughtful tale depicts worry and anxiety in a way readers of any age can understand. And as Willy discovers, sometimes a little bravery -- and a willingness to face your problems -- can make a world of difference.

After sharing this book with students, I would sit back and let them take over the conversation.  What do they notice?  Does this remind them of anything?  I'm hoping the conversation will go a couple of ways.

  • The students will notice how Willy had to face his fears.  He had to confront them, and tell them to stop.  Confronting your fears/worries can be hard, yet rewarding.
  • The students will notice that Willy had to make the decision to not concentrate on what was troubling him.  He took control of his own attitude, and by deciding the situation wouldn't control him, made his day positive again.
This past summer my 12yo daughter went through her fourth limb lengthening surgery.  Her physical therapist, who has worked with her since she was seven, has always drilled the idea that you choose your attitude - you make the decision of how you will act - into her.  You can confront negative situations with a strong attitude or you can sulk and let them take control.  I think Willy would approve of taking control!

I really enjoy Anthony Browne's books.  They are great for conversation!  Look for Willy's Stories.  I shared this book in this post.

I hope you find these books and see where the conversation takes you!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Greetings From Witness Protection! - a review 10.26.17

The heart of a story is what gets to me.  Sometimes it's the heart of the characters.  Sometimes it's what happens in the book that carries the heart of the story.  This one has both - lots of action throughout the book - but it's the need to belong, to a family and to friends, that made me love this story.

Greetings from Witness Protection!
Greetings From Witness Protection!
by Jake Burt
published by Feiwel & Friends

We meet Nicki and quickly put a few basics together:  she's a foster child, her dad is alive but not in communication with Nicki, she's had some tough things that have happened in her life, and there's something about her hands.  Right away someone is at her foster home and it looks like Nicki is going to be placed with a new family.  And that's when things start moving and they don't slow down!

Nicki is placed with a family who is going into the witness protection program.  The mom has just testified against her brother who is leader of a well known mob family and now her immediate family is in danger.  By adopting Nicki into their family, it makes them not stand out as a family of three, since they will now be a family of four.  Oh, and we also find out about now that Nicki is a very very good pickpocket.

Nicki meets her new family - Harriet, Jonathan and Jackson - and picks a new name for herself, Charlotte.  Before she can even find out their favorite food, she's in the car with Harriet and off to their new home in North Carolina.  Right away, Charlotte learns all about southern hospitality when their neighbor and daughter comes over to snoop, I mean introduce themselves!  Luckily, Charlotte quickly becomes friends with the daughter and starts to learn what having a friend is all about.

Sibling rivalry is explored, and even though Charlotte just gained her brother, it's like they've been siblings all of their lives.  The fights are perfect, with each one knowing exactly what button to press to instigate matters!

But Charlotte and her family can never fully relax and just be themselves.  They have to always remember their story and stay true to their new characters.  But how hard is it to lose who you are?  And is it worth doing that in order to gain what you've always wanted - a family... a sense of belonging... and a real friend.

I never had a chance to catch my breath with this book.  Just when you get ready to relax, something else happens to a character that made it impossible to put the book down!  I quickly fell into the story and rooted for Charlotte in her family.  But my heart also went out to her because I think everyone recognizes that need to belong.  No matter what your family situation is, you'll understand Charlotte's plight of wanting and needing a family of her own.

It was difficult to finish this book because I wasn't ready to let Charlotte go.  I'd love to see her in more stories (hint, hint, Jake Burt.....)

I hope you can introduce Charlotte to your readers soon.  I imagine she'll make an impression on a lot of readers!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - What's in My Pile? series 10.25.17

Every Wednesday I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

I have had such a large number of nonfiction picture books in my piles lately that I decided to make October into the "What's in My Pile? series".  Today I'm spotlighting the picture book biographies that were in my pile during the month of October!

A Spy Called James by Anne F. Rockwell
A Spy Called James: The True Story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War Double Agent
written by Anne Rockwell
illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Interesting story about James, a slave, who was able to be released by his owner in order to become a spy for the Americans during the Revolutionary War.  James had a big hand in helping the Americans win the war at Yorktown because of the information he was able to give General Lafayette about the British plans.

Mama Africa! by Kathryn Erskine
Mama Africa! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope With Her Song
written by Kathryn Erskine
illustrated by Charly Palmer
This book should not be missed, especially by middle school readers.  An excellent look at the apartheid movement in South Africa, this book really helped me understand the fight that occurred.  I've always known some history, but this opened my eyes more to what was happening.  A really fascinating look at Miriam Makeba and how she used her gift of music to raise awareness and spread word all over the world.

Fallingwater by Marc Harshman
Falling water: The Building of Frank Lloyd Wright's Masterpiece
written by Marc Harshman and Anna Egan Smucker
illustrated by LeUyen Pham
I really did not have much information about this book and after reading it, I really do want to know more!  Foremost, what a fascinating piece of information about Frank Lloyd Wright.  I have not read much about him, but his architecture genius is well known.  I like that this book focused on this one piece of work, instead of on a grander scale.  
I'm also a big fan of LeUyen Pham's work.  While there were parts that I definitely recognized as pure Pham, it also was a bit of a departure from what I usually see.  Such a talented lady!

A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White
A Boy, A Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E.B. White
written by Barbara Herkert
illustrated by Lauren Castillo
This is such a gorgeous book!  The text is put together with perfection - every word is precision!  Illustrations are stunning.  Every book Lauren illustrates just makes me in even more awe of her talent.
Such an accessible biography of E.B. White.  I can see this book being used for many mentor text reasons.  The writing of course, but I think teachers are going to find uses of the reading of this book to introduce E.B. White's texts, or maybe even a ladder for Melissa Sweet's biography, Some Writer!.
I think you'll find this book on my Mock Caldecott and Mock Sibert lists!

Lots of new biographies!  I hope you find more for your TBR lists!