Most Anticipated Releases: February 2018

There are so many good books coming out this year, and I want to share a few that might be fun to read with your ESL students! While I haven’t read any of these yet, I look forward to all of them and think they might be appropriate for a variety of ESL or EFL classrooms.

As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or through email (eslliteraturelessonplans@gmail.com). What books are you looking forward to reading in February?

Note: Most of these are being released in the US. If you are located outside the US and are interested in these books, you will have to check with publishers in your country.


A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena29451548

Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school.  You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.

This beautifully written debut novel from Tanaz Bhathena reveals a rich and wonderful new world to readers. It tackles complicated issues of race, identity, class, and religion, and paints a portrait of teenage ambition, angst, and alienation that feels both inventive and universal

This book looks incredibly fascinating, and I can’t wait to see how the story plays out. I haven’t read the book, but my students usually tend to like contemporary novels because they can connect with the characters.

35297380American Panda by Gloria Chao

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

I have already shared the title and premise of this book with a few students, and they seemed very interested. One has even preordered it! I can’t wait to get into this book – I think it will work well for an ESL reading class!

34506912The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

This is a graphic novel and looks SO GOOD. I love that it’s a fairy tale, but also deconstructs traditional gender norms. My students are very interested in talking about LGBTQ topics, so this may be a big hit in class!

25797017Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy

At the start of 1991, eleven-year-old Ali Fadhil was consumed by his love for soccer, video games, and American television shows. Then, on January 17, Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein went to war with thirty-four nations lead by the United States.

Over the next forty-three days, Ali and his family survived bombings, food shortages, and constant fear. Ali and his brothers played soccer on the abandoned streets of their Basra neighborhood, wondering when or if their medic father would return from the war front. Cinematic, accessible, and timely, this is the story of one ordinary kid’s view of life during war.

I’m very intrigued by the premise of this book. I think it’s based on a true story (from the co-author). I may end up using this one for a future reading guide, depending on the content. I really enjoy books based on actual historical events.

The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta32618983

MEET KIRANMALA: INTERDIMENSIONAL DEMONSLAYER

(But she doesn’t know it yet.)

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey… until her parents mysteriously vanish later that day and a rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents’ fantastical stories—like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess—and a wealth of secrets about her origin they’ve kept hidden.

To complicate matters, two crushworthy Indian princes ring her doorbell, insisting they’re here to rescue her. Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and slay demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld (who may or may not want to kill her) and the rakkhosh queen (who definitely does) in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it…

This book looks like great fun, and I know my students always love a story with a lot of action and adventure!

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Warcross: ESL Teaching Guide

516zrvqj44l-_sx332_bo1204203200_Warcross by Marie Lu was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017, and it met all of my expectations! I LOVED this story, and thought it was a very fun and exciting read!

If you are teaching an ESL high-intermediate to advanced reading class this upcoming semester, consider using Warcross. The book takes place in a world where a virtual reality game (called Warcross) is so popular that 90% of the world’s population play the game in some way. The book tells the story of Emika Chen, a hacker who accidentally glitches herself into the opening game of the international Warcross championship tournament. If you have students like mine (mostly 18-21 years old, from Asian countries), they will definitely connect with the video game obsessed characters and virtual reality story line! There’s a lot of action, a little bit of romance, and plenty of topics that will lend themselves well to classroom discussion.

Warcross is an especially great book is you are considering gamifying your classroom this semester. There are a lot of concepts in the book that lend itself really well to gamifying, and I’ve written some suggestions in the teaching guide. Having a video game-themed semester sounds like a fun way to get students actively involved in learning English!

Click here for a sample of Warcross: ESL Teaching Guide

Click here to purchase the full, 18-page teaching guide!

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New Year, New Semester!

I’ve had a lovely winter break, and I’m trying to muster up the the energy to go back to work next week! One thing that has gotten me excited to go back to work is thinking about my new classes, and what new, exciting things I have in store for them!

Are you heading back to school soon for a new semester? If you’re an ESL reading teacher, are you looking for a novel to teach in your reading class? Check out some of my ESL Teaching Guides for middle grade and young adult novels! I have a mix of free guides and paid guides, and there should be something that will fit your class. Each guide contains (at the least) suggested vocabulary, comprehension questions, and writing/discussion questions. Most of the guides also have suggestions for pre-reading and post-reading activities.

513hgsybygl-_sx337_bo1204203200_A Wrinkle in Time is a classic, and since the new movie is coming out in a few months, this is a timely read for the upcoming semester! This book is best for an intermediate-level reading class, but can be adjusted to a low- or high-intermediate class as well.

A Wrinkle in Time: ESL Teaching Guide

 

 

 

19351043Nimona by Noelle Stevenson is a graphic novel and a quick, fun read! This book starts off light-hearted, but then delves into deeper and darker issues that lend itself well to discussions and writing. This book would be best for a low-intermediate or intermediate class.

Nimona: ESL Teaching Guide

 

 

 

513jeuiztel-_sx321_bo1204203200_Ms. Marvel is an ongoing comic from Marvel detailing the life of super hero teenager Kamala Khan. It’s a really fun read, and teenage or young adult students will easily relate to her character. The file for this contains two teaching guides for the first two books of this series.

Ms. Marvel: ESL Teaching Guide

 

 

 

 

51ly6rgccjl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Inside Out & Back Again is the heartbreaking and uplifting story of a refugee girl who flees from Vietnam to the United States. This story is told in poetry, instead of prose, which students may have to adjust to, but they will relate to the story’s themes of getting used to a new culture.

Inside Out & Back Again: ESL Teaching Guide

 

 

 

esperanza_rising_coverEsperanza Rising tells the story of the author’s grandmother immigrating from Mexico to California in the midst of the Great Depression. The book is geared towards younger readers, but contains universal themes that can be appreciated by all ages.

Esperanza Rising: ESL Teaching Guide

A Wrinkle in Time: An ESL Teaching Guide

Hope you guys are all having a Merry Christmas, if you’re celebrating! I’ve been on winter break for about a week now, and have been working hard on a new teaching guide!


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As a kid, A Wrinkle in Time was one of my all time favorite books to read, so you can bet that I am SUPER excited about the new movie coming out in March! This upcoming semester I happen to be teaching a reading class that is the perfect level for reading A Wrinkle in Time, and I can’t wait to introduce this childhood fave to my students. I’m planning on scheduling out the chapters so that we finish the novel right around the time the movie comes out, and I’m going to plan a field trip for us all to see it together!

Since I love this book so much, I’ve put together an ESL Teaching Guide for A Wrinkle in Time. Use this guide with an intermediate-level ESL class to support a class read-through of the novel. This guide contains vocabulary, comprehension questions, and writing/discussion questions for each of the 12 chapters in the novel. It also includes some suggestions for pre-reading and post-reading activities. It is written specifically for a university level intensive English program (since that is where my expertise is), but can be adapted for almost any other scenario.

It is my first paid guide, and is available from Gumroad for only $8 (which is definitely a steal since it saves you from having to write any quiz questions or come up with new activities…I’ve done it all for you)! My hope is to bring you a mix of quality free and paid content in the new year! As always, feel free to leave feedback via comments or email me at eslliteraturelessonplans@gmail.com. Enjoy!

 


Click here to purchase A Wrinkle in Time: ESL Teaching Guide

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Book Review: The Bone Sparrow, One Half from the East

In the past few weeks I’ve been pretty slow about reading (I always get into a February slump!), but I have managed to finish reading two middle grade novels that I had been considering for class use. Below are my general thoughts about these books, and whether I’d recommend them for use in an ESL reading class!


(Click on the title for a Goodreads description!)

28217813One Half From the East by Nadia Hashimi

This book was a very interesting read on a topic I had never heard about – bacha posh. Essentially, in some parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, if a family has all daughters and no sons, they turn a young daughter into a boy until she reaches puberty. This is the story of Obayda, who becomes Obayd because her father is injured and there are no male family members to help support her family. The novel explores all of Obayd’s newfound freedom now that she is a boy – she doesn’t have to do chores, she can run around at school, and she has much more independence than her sisters. However, there are definitely some pitfalls that she runs into, like what will life be like once she is turned back into a girl and her freedoms are taken away?

What ESL Students Might Enjoy: A lot of this story focuses on relationships within a family, which is usually an easy topic to connect to. Students may find some of Obayd’s frustration with her family easy to connect to. There is also a lot of exploration about what it means to be a boy and what it means to be a girl in relation to family responsibility in freedom.

Recommended for an ESL Reading Class?: Yes, definitely! Since the book is middle grade, it is a fairly easy, low-vocabulary read. Non-middle eastern students may struggle a little with some of the culture references, but those are easily explained. Overall, I think this is a great book to use in an ESL class!

 


29223495The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

This is a beautifully written, incredibly depressing story about a boy named Subhi who was born in an Australian refugee camp and has spent his entire life there. What I enjoyed the most was the small magical element of the book called the Night Sea – a mysterious sea that only Subhi can see that leaves him gifts every once in awhile. There is also a strong theme of story-telling that runs throughout the novel. Subhi makes friends with Jimmie, an Australian girl

What ESL Students Might Enjoy: The writing is fairly simple, and the story is very straightforward. There are a few places where Subhi is reading a story that takes place in the past, but this is denoted by a different font. Overall, the readability is fairly simple.

Recommended for an ESL Reading Class?: I’m not so sure about this one. The readability is nice, but the story is very, very depressing. In the past, my students have sometimes complained that there’s not enough action in a book and they get kind of bored. This book is kind of like that – it’s a lot of just daily life stuff in the refugee camp. There’s not really any action until the last 30 pages or so, so students might get a little bored.

Book Theme: Music

Today is National Play Your Ukulele Day! In addition to being a full-time ESL instructor, I’m also a part-time ukulele teacher (just for fun – I don’t get paid!). I’ve even started a club at my university for international students who want to learn ukulele. It’s great fun and I think everyone should pick up a uke and learn!

In celebration, here are several young adult and middle grade books that are focused on music! (The first one is my favorite…I taught it in a reading class last summer and decided to start playing ukulele right then!)


22232Star Girl by Jerry Spinelli

Stargirl. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’ s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first.

Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal. In this celebration of nonconformity, Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the perils of popularity and the thrill and inspiration of first love.

 

15792865Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace by Nan Marino

In Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace by Nan Marino, eleven-year-old musical prodigy, Elvis Ruby, was supposed to win the most coveted reality show on television, Tween Star. None of the other contestants even came close to his talents. But in the middle of the biggest night, with millions of people watching, Elvis panicked. He forgot the words to the song. He forgot the tune. He forgot how to play every single instrument he’d ever known and froze on national TV. So Elvis must run from the paparazzi camped outside his door and spend the summer working with his aunt and cousin at Piney Pete’s Pancake Palace in the remote wilds of New Jersey. It’s the perfect place to be anonymous, that is until Elvis meets Cecilia, a girl who can’t seem to help blurting out whatever’s on her mind.

 

827988The Mozart Season by Virginia Euwer Wolff

“Remember, what’s down inside you, all covered up—the things of your soul. The important, secret things . . . The story of you, all buried, let the music caress it out into the open.”

When Allegra was a little girl, she thought she would pick up her violin and it would sing for her—that the music was hidden inside her instrument.
Now that Allegra is twelve, she believes the music is in her fingers, and the summer after seventh grade she has to teach them well. She’s the youngest contestant in the Ernest Bloch Young Musicians’ Competition.
She knows she will learn the notes to the concerto, but what she doesn’t realize is she’ll also learn—how to close the gap between herself and Mozart to find the real music inside her heart.

 

22323663The Way To Stay in Destiny by Augusta Scattergood

When Theo gets off a bus in Destiny, Florida, he’s left behind the only life he’s ever known. Now he’s got to live with Uncle Raymond, a Vietnam War vet and a loner who wants nothing to do with this long-lost nephew. Thank goodness for Miss Sister Grandersole’s Boarding House and Dance School. The piano that sits in Miss Sister’s dance hall calls to Theo. He can’t wait to play those ivory keys. When Anabel arrives things get even more enticing.  This feisty girl, a baseball fanatic, invites Theo on her quest to uncover the town’s connection to old-time ball players rumored to have lived there years before. A mystery, an adventure, and a musical exploration unfold as this town called Destiny lives up to its name.

Acclaimed author Augusta Scattergood has delivered a straight-to-the-heart story with unforgettable characters, humor, and hard questions about loss, family, and belonging.

 

22544766Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt

It’s 1948 in Rippling Creek, Louisiana, and Tate P. Ellerbee’s new teacher has just given her class an assignment–learning the art of letter-writing. Luckily, Tate has the perfect pen pal in mind: Hank Williams, a country music singer whose star has just begun to rise. Tate and her great-aunt and -uncle listen to him on the radio every Saturday night, and Tate just knows that she and Hank are kindred spirits.

Told entirely through Tate’s hopeful letters, this beautifully drawn novel from National Book Award-winning author Kimberly Willis Holt gradually unfolds a story of family love, overcoming tragedy, and an insightful girl learning to find her voice

 

 

Book Theme: China

Happy Lunar New Year! Being an ESL teacher in the US (as opposed to an EFL teacher overseas), I know [in theory] all about my students’ special holidays, but I often forget when they actually occur. Luckily, my Chinese students reminded me of their new year this morning when they brought dumplings to class! So in honor of all my Chinese students and the Lunar New Year, here’s a reading list of young adult and middle grade novels set in China, inspired by Chinese culture, or featuring Chinese characters!


5983694Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Grace Lin, author of the beloved Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat, returns with a wondrous story of happiness, family, and friendship. A fantasy crossed with Chinese folklore, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a timeless adventure story in the classic tradition of The Wizard of Oz.

In the Valley of Fruitless Mountain, a young girl named Minli spends her days working hard in the fields and her nights listening to her father spin fantastic tales about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man of the Moon. Minli’s mother, tired of their poor life, chides him for filling her head with nonsense. But Minli believes these enchanting stories and embarks on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how her family can change their fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest.

 

118944American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

All Jin Wang wants is to fit in. When his family moves to a new neighborhood, he suddenly finds that he’s the only Chinese American student at his school. Jocks and bullies pick on him constantly, and he has hardly any friends. Then, to make matters worse, he falls in love with an all-American girl…

Born to rule over all the monkeys in the world, the story of the Monkey King is one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables. Adored by his subjects, master of the arts of kung-fu, he is the most powerful monkey on earth. But the Monkey King doesn’t want to be a monkey. He wants to be hailed as a god…

Chin-Kee is the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, and he’s ruining his cousin Danny’s life. Danny’s a popular kid at school, but every year Chin-Kee comes to visit, and every year Danny has to transfer to a new school to escape the shame. This year, though, things quickly go from bad to worse…

These three apparently unrelated tales come together with an unexpected twist, in a modern fable that is hilarious, poignant and action-packed. American Born Chinese is an amazing rise, all the way up to the astonishing climax–and confirms what a growing number of readers already know: Gene Yang is a major talent.

 

30652334The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim

In the village of Huanan, in medieval China, the deity that rules is the Great Huli Jing. Though twelve-year-old Li Jing’s name is a different character entirely from the Huli Jing, the sound is close enough to provide constant teasing-but maybe is also a source of greater destiny and power. Jing’s life isn’t easy. Her father is a poor tea farmer, and her family has come to the conclusion that in order for everyone to survive, Jing must be sacrificed for the common good. She is sold as a bride to the Koh family, where she will be the wife and nursemaid to their three-year-old son, Ju’nan. It’s not fair, and Jing feels this bitterly, especially when she is treated poorly by the Koh’s, and sold yet again into a worse situation that leads Jing to believe her only option is to run away, and find home again. With the help of a spider who weaves Jing a means to escape, and a nightingale who helps her find her way, Jing embarks on a quest back to Huanan–and to herself.

 

12892470The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng

In Chinese, peng you means friend. But in any language, all Anna knows for certain is that friendship is complicated. When Anna needs company, she turns to her books. Whether traveling through A Wrinkle in Time, or peering over My Side of the Mountain, books provide what real life cannot—constant companionship and insight into her changing world. Books, however, can’t tell Anna how to find a true friend. She’ll have to discover that on her own. In the tradition of classics like Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books and Eleanor Estes’ One Hundred Dresses, this novel subtly explores what it takes to make friends and what it means to be one.

 

 

 

 

27508527The Emperor’s Riddle by Kat Zhang

Mia Chen is on what her mother calls a Grand Adventure. She’s not sure what to make of this family trip to China, and didn’t want to leave her friends for the summer, but she’s excited about the prospect of exploring with her Aunt Lin, the only adult who truly understands her.

Then Aunt Lin disappears, right after her old nemesis, a man named Ying, comes to visit. Mia knows that years ago, when Aunt Lin and Ying were sent to the Fuzhou countryside to work as laborers, the two searched for an ancient treasure together—one that still hasn’t been found. She’s suspicious that their shared history might be linked to Aunt Lin’s disappearance.

When Mia discovers an old map filled with riddles in Aunt Lin’s room, she quickly pieces together her mission: find the treasure, find her aunt. Now, Mia, along with her big brother, Jake, must solve the clues to rescue the person she knows best in the world—and maybe unearth a treasure greater than her wildest dreams.

 

22501055Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

 

13521501Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin

The moon is missing from the remote Village of Clear Sky, but only a young boy named Rendi seems to notice! Rendi has run away from home and is now working as a chore boy at the village inn. He can’t help but notice the village’s peculiar inhabitants and their problems-where has the innkeeper’s son gone? Why are Master Chao and Widow Yan always arguing? What is the crying sound Rendi keeps hearing? And how can crazy, old Mr. Shan not know if his pet is a toad or a rabbit?

But one day, a mysterious lady arrives at the Inn with the gift of storytelling, and slowly transforms the villagers and Rendi himself. As she tells more stories and the days pass in the Village of Clear Sky, Rendi begins to realize that perhaps it is his own story that holds the answers to all those questions.

Book Theme: Civil Rights Movement

Since next Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I thought I’d round up a few novels based on the Civil Rights Movement. I like teaching about the Civil Rights Movement in my ESL reading classes because it’s such an integral part of recent American history, but something that not many international students know much about. Also, understanding the Civil Rights Movement is absolutely key to understanding the current political climate, which I think is something that international students in the US are interested in.


22546133

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

When the Ku Klux Klan’s unwelcome reappearance rattles Stella’s segregated southern town, bravery battles prejudice in this Depression-era tour de force from Sharon Draper, the New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind.

Stella lives in the segregated South; in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can’t. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn’t bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they’re never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella’s community – her world – is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don’t necessarily signify an end.

 

11982396Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

A Mississippi town in 1964 gets riled when tempers flare at the segregated public pool.

As much as Gloriana June Hemphill, or Glory as everyone knows her, wants to turn twelve, there are times when Glory wishes she could turn back the clock a year. Jesslyn, her sister and former confidante, no longer has the time of day for her now that she’ll be entering high school. Then there’s her best friend, Frankie. Things have always been so easy with Frankie, and now suddenly they aren’t. Maybe it’s the new girl from the North that’s got everyone out of sorts. Or maybe it’s the debate about whether or not the town should keep the segregated public pool open.

Augusta Scattergood has drawn on real-life events to create a memorable novel about family, friendship, and choices that aren’t always easy.

 

108077The Watsons go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Newbery Honor-winning American classic, The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 , celebrates 20 years with this anniversary edition featuring a special letter from Christopher Paul Curtis and an introduction by noted educator Dr. Pauletta Bracy.
Enter the hilarious world of ten-year-old Kenny and his family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan. There’s Momma, Dad, little sister Joetta, and brother Byron, who’s thirteen and an “official juvenile delinquent.” When Momma and Dad decide it’s time for a visit to Grandma, Dad comes home with the amazing Ultra-Glide, and the Watsons set out on a trip like no other. They’re heading South to Birmingham, Alabama, toward one of the darkest moments in America’s history.

 

20821284Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

 

6609764One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

In the summer of 1968, after travelling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp.

In a humorous and breakout book by Williams-Garcia, the Penderwicks meet the Black Panthers.

 

 

 

11699349The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine

Two girls separated by race form an unbreakable bond during the tumultuous integration of Little Rock schools in 1958

Twelve-year-old Marlee doesn’t have many friends until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is bold and brave, and always knows the right thing to say, especially to Sally, the resident mean girl. Liz even helps Marlee overcome her greatest fear – speaking, which Marlee never does outside her family.

But then Liz is gone, replaced by the rumor that she was a Negro girl passing as white. But Marlee decides that doesn’t matter. Liz is her best friend. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are willing to take on integration and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families.

 

18527498Revolution by Deborah Wiles

It’s 1964, and Sunny’s town is being invaded.  Or at least that’s what the adults of Greenwood, Mississippi, are saying. All Sunny knows is that people from up north are coming to help people register to vote.  They’re calling it Freedom Summer.

Meanwhile, Sunny can’t help but feel like her house is being invaded, too.  She has a new stepmother, a new brother, and a new sister crowding her life, giving her little room to breathe.  And things get even trickier when Sunny and her brother are caught sneaking into the local swimming pool — where they bump into a mystery boy whose life is going to become tangled up in theirs.
 

17346698March by John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

 

22504709Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March by Lynda Blackmon Lowery

As the youngest marcher in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Albama, Lynda Blackmon Lowery proved that young adults can be heroes. Jailed nine times before her fifteenth birthday, Lowery fought alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. for the rights of African-Americans. In this memoir, she shows today’s young readers what it means to fight nonviolently (even when the police are using violence, as in the Bloody Sunday protest) and how it felt to be part of changing American history.

Straightforward and inspiring, this beautifully illustrated memoir brings readers into the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, complementing Common Core classroom learning and bringing history alive for young readers

 

2657To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior – to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.

Book Review: Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone had a fantastic transition into 2017! I’m technically still on holiday hiatus, but I just finished reading this book last night (my last book of 2016!), and I wanted to write a review right away.

In addition to writing up literature lesson plans for ESL instructors, I also want to do reviews of books that I read for fun. This way, even if I don’t write a lesson plan for the book, instructors might be able to find a book that fits their reading class. This is my first review of 2017, and I loved this book SO MUCH…I hope you and your students enjoy it as well!

26192915Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

Goodreads Description: San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.

On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help—she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?

What I Enjoyed About the Book: I loved almost everything about this book! The main character, Mercy Wong, was smart, independent, and funny. She’s a self-made business woman with a lot of dreams. There was also very little romance (which I think tends to take away a lot from a story) – just enough to be cute, but not enough to be overwhelming. I also really liked that there was a lot of discussion about immigrants and non-white people in San Francisco in the 1900s – how they were treated by white people, how they were segregated to their own neighborhoods, how laws were passed targeting specific groups (such as the Chinese Exclusion Act)…but the main theme of the story is overcoming these barriers in the face of adversity. Overall, I’d give this book 5 stars!

What Students Would Enjoy About the Book: Even though my program has students from lots of different countries, we tend to have mostly Chinese students – as a result, we end up with a few classes every semester that have only Chinese students. I think Outrun the Moon would be perfect for when you have an all-Chinese class. The main character is a Chinese-American girl living in Chinatown in San Francisco in 1906, and the novel contains a lot of references to Chinese culture. Chinese students will have an easy time understanding the cultural references in the book, so they will mostly be doing language processing while reading, while non-Chinese students would have to do cultural processing on top of language. There are also universal themes that all students enjoy – action, adventure, family relationships, friendships, and people following their dreams.

Recommended ESL Level: High-Intermediate to Advanced

Have you read this novel? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Book Theme: Hurricane Katrina

Though it’s been over ten years since Hurricane Katrina, many Americans are still dealing with the after-effects of this event. While most ESL students will probably not be too familiar with the details of Hurricane Katrina, these books are bound to generate some worthwhile discussions in your class. All of these books are related in some way to Hurricane Katrina. All descriptions are from Goodreads, and the books are all middle-grade novels (I tried to find some young adult novels for more advanced readers, but no luck!).

7118768Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. She doesn’t have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like the other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya’s visions show a powerful hurricane–Katrina–fast approaching, it’s up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm.

Ninth Ward is a deeply emotional story about transformation and a celebration of resilience, friendship, and family–as only love can define it.

 

17815784Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana

Armani Curtis can think about only one thing: her tenth birthday. All her friends are coming to her party, her mama is making a big cake, and she has a good feeling about a certain wrapped box. Turning ten is a big deal to Armani. It means she’s older, wiser, more responsible. But when Hurricane Katrina hits the Lower Nines of New Orleans, Armani realizes that being ten means being brave, watching loved ones die, and mustering all her strength to help her family weather the storm.

A powerful story of courage and survival, Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere celebrates the miraculous power of hope and love in the face of the unthinkable.

 

18222549Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina by Rodman Philbrick

Newbery Honor author Rodman Philbrick presents a gripping yet poignant novel about a 12-year-old boy and his dog who become trapped in New Orleans during the horrors of Hurricane Katrina.

Zane Dupree is a charismatic 12-year-old boy of mixed race visiting a relative in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hits. Unexpectedly separated from all family, Zane and his dog experience the terror of Katrina’s wind, rain, and horrific flooding. Facing death, they are rescued from an attic air vent by a kind, elderly musician and a scrappy young girl–both African American. The chaos that ensues as storm water drowns the city, shelter and food vanish, and police contribute to a dangerous, frightening atmosphere, creates a page-turning tale that completely engrosses the reader. Based on the facts of the worst hurricane disaster in U.S. history, Philbrick includes the lawlessness and lack of government support during the disaster as well as the generosity and courage of those who risked their lives and safety to help others. Here is an unforgettable novel of heroism in the face of truly challenging circumstances.

 

23395689Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith

In this stunning debut novel, two very different characters—a black boy who loses his home in Hurricane Katrina and a white boy in Vermont who loses his best friend in a tragic accident—come together to find healing.

A hurricane, a tragic death, two boys, one marble. How they intertwine is at the heart of this beautiful, poignant book. When ten-year-old Zavion loses his home in Hurricane Katrina, he and his father are forced to flee to Baton Rouge. And when Henry, a ten-year-old boy in northern Vermont, tragically loses his best friend, Wayne, he flees to ravaged New Orleans to help with hurricane relief efforts—and to search for a marble that was in the pocket of a pair of jeans donated to the Red Cross.

Rich with imagery and crackling with hope, this is the unforgettable story of how lives connect in unexpected, even magical, ways.

 

15377798Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick

Reesie Boone just knows that thirteen is going to be her best year yet—this will be the year she makes her very first fashion design on her Ma Maw’s sewing machine. She’ll skip down the streets of New Orleans with her best friends, Ayanna and Orlando, and everyone will look at her in admiration.

But on Reesie’s birthday, everything changes. Hurricane Katrina hits her city. Stranded at home alone, Reesie takes refuge with her elderly neighbor, Miss Martine. The waters rise. They escape in a boat. And soon Reesie is reunited with her family. But her journey back home has only begun.

This is a story of a family putting itself back together, and a young girl learning to find herself.

 

Thanks for reading Book-Theme Tuesday. Have a great day!