Tangi’s Teardrops by Liz Grace Davis

author’s blog                                video trailer by author

Summary: (Cinderella story) Tangi is born with one leg shorter than the other. Two older stepsisters are not close to her and become dismissive after their father passes away. The three girls are sent to live with an uncle who travels often and the servants and sisters make Tangi do the housework. Tangi learns of a strange alternate world of her deceased birth mother that Tangi can transport to with her teardrops and a handsome prince that loves her.

Personal Reaction: Loved the cover! The story was a bit too simple for my taste, so I might say it would be better for grades 4-6 than middle school or YA though the character is 13 to start and ages to 25 in the world of Rosevine. Lots of telling rather than showing.

Curriculum or discussion topics: Cinderella fairy tale versions; forgiveness

Connections to other books: Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella by De La Paz; Adelita: A Mexican Cinderella Story by DePaola;Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China  by Louie; Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale by Steptoe; Once Upon a Marigold by Ferris; Before Midnight: A Retelling of “Cinderella” by Dokey (YA)

Items to display with book: flower arrangements, especially with roses (or single rose/rosepetals will do); beaded gown or tiara; gold ring on a chain;stuffed or photo of a dove (white preferred); water bucket; broom; 3 glass bottles filled with “tears”

Food items connected to story: lisha (or oatmeal); meat stew; bread and strawberry jam; fried cakes & lemonade;  “rose wine” is a beverage made from roses and there’s also a green beverage that takes away nervousness (so you could use Mountain Dew or something similar); water; strawberries; picnic basket fare (bread, fruit, sausages, cheeses, grape juice)

By moviesofthemind Posted in AA, fantasy Tagged , ,

Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri

author’s website including video trailer and teacher’s guide

Summary: Cole has caused his mother too much pain, so she abandons him at the doorstep of the man that abandoned them shortly after Cole’s birth. That doorstep is at a run down horse stable in the heart of one of Philadelphia’s dangerous neighborhoods. His father, Harper, has more talent for communicating with animals than with his own son.  Harper’s got his own problems with the City threatening to shut down the stables which would destroy the possibility of keeping the Cowboy Way for future generations to experience.

Personal Reaction: I felt that the problems are resolved rather quickly and easily and so thought this might be more of an elementary/middle grade novel. There is a heavy dose of historical & contemporary oppression by whites (“the man”), so this won’t soften students with that mindset. I enjoyed exploring all the information on the author’s website about the basis for the story!

Curriculum or discussion topics: This novel could be used by groups meeting to discuss anger management strategies (even paired with snippets from “Pitbulls and Parolees” Animal Planet channel show or I think there’s another show somewhere about animal therapy programs in prison); maybe arranged with a visit by therapy dogs or a field trip to a riding center?

Connections to other books: The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones by Hemphill (or maybe even Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World by Walter); Black Frontiers: A History of African American Heroes in the Old West by Schlissil; biographies of Nat Love or Bill Pickett; books about horses, training and care, racing or even rodeos

Items to display with book: cowboy hat; plastic horses; saddle, brush, blanket, boots, rope; Sixers or Pistons  basketball jersey; photographs of black cowboys (historical and contemporary – see author’s note/website)

Food items connected to story: Cole loves anything from McDonald’s and the horse eats an apple pie and carrots; pop tarts and orange juice; cowboy food like chili, stew, etc.

Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby

author’s website                  fan video book review

Summary:  Sarah is new to her school and very left out. During an Everglades field trip, she receives an offer from local boy (Andy) to take her on an airboat ride, so she lies to her teacher to get out of a morning tour and the two teens take off on their own. When the airboat sinks, they are miles from help and must walk until they find it.

Personal Reaction: I think I’ve found my SSYRA winner. Survival story is perfect.  The duck addition to the plot adds heart – I was more worried for “Teapot” getting eaten than the main characters. Surprise character cameos at the end – I loved that book too!

Classroom use: Excellent choice for Florida units (ecosystems, survival, etc.) whether Science, Social Studies or PE. I even think that Home Ec or Food & Nutrition classes could get in on the unit and talk about wild foods (cattails and sawgrass hearts are edible)

Related books: Everglades River of Grass by Douglas; Sawgrass Poems by Asch; A Land Remembered by Smith; Lostman’s River by DeFelice; Welcome to the River of Grass by Yolen; biography of Marjory Stoneman Douglas; guide book to the Everglades like Paddling the Everglades Wilderness Waterway

Realia: bug spray, stuffed duck toy or photo of mallard duck & ducklings; alligator head; photos of Everglades, airboats (or toy model), Burmese pythons (especially this one), backpack, rubber boots, bandana, empty Gatorade bottle; bowl of minnows; cattails and sawgrass

Food for book parties: Spam, pumpkin bread, canned chili, canned fruit, Gatorade, leather belt!

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Summary: The autobiography of a horse – Sweet and simple, good treatment makes good horses. A sad story of how the life of Black Beauty changes with each successive owner.

Personal reaction: An excellent read aloud with a child, especially if you can get your hands on an illustrated version. Just felt like reading a classic again for sheer pleasure. What kills me is that the style of writing, and the concept of a good/simple life and treatment of others is just not attractive reading to many middle graders today. I wish I had my copy of Serilda’s Star by Cook to read over again too, but I’m not ready to get all the Black Stallion series books done this summer.

Black Beauty is out of copyright and downloadable for free from Project Gutenberg in several formats. The latest movie made from this novel was in 1994.

Curriculum use: would tie in well with character ed discussions or maybe with an animal husbandry unit (animal cruelty, horse study, etc.)

Items to display with book: English saddle, bit, whip, horse figurine and/or carriage; historical photos of period – especially of the painful check-rein, London cabs, etc.

Food: (since this is horse-fare, there’s not much to share with the kids at a book party unless you want them to have a carrot, apple or sugar cube!) You could have hay, oats, bran mash as part of your items on display

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to NOT Reading by Tommy Greenwald

author’s website and book trailer

Summary:Charlie Joe doesn’t like to read and will work twice as hard to find ways not to do it. Timmy is a long time friend who has been doing Charlie Joe’s reading in exchange for ice cream sandwiches. When they argue before a major research project is due, Charlie Joe knows that he needs to find a replacement reader and he’s willing to sacrifce his crush (Hannah) and the trust of his parents to the process.

Personal Reaction: Illustrations for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid set, frequent stops for short lists and less-than-a-paragraph chapters designed to amuse and provide tips to get out of reading. The book feels like it’s for 6th graders, but main characters have insightful 8th grader-ish moments. Best friend Katie is an example of a girl who is older than her years. Charlie Joe definitely has his girl-radar going. Adorable last second plot twist.

Realia: stack of library books (especially books on cliques and baseball fiction – the book Billy’s Bargain does not exist), cell phone, stuffed dogs, a copy of one or more of Charlie Joe’s lists, Beatles album, year end school dance flyer

Foods related to the story: ice cream sandwiches, school cafeteria tray with any selections will do fine

Books connected to the story: (see Realia) biggest book you can find of Mark Twain writings, Cliques, or Heat.