Module 6: Fever 1793

Book Summary: Mattie lives with her mother, grandfather, and their cook Eliza. Things seem to be ordinary and normal until a family friend drops dead of a fever. The town is then overrun with instances of people passing out or dropping dead of this fever. In a very short amount of time, the Yellow Fever has managed to not only impact the number of people in the town, but has turned neighbors against each other. Mattie’s mother ends up ill, and she is forced to leave home with her grandfather. Mattie eventually finds herself ill, but survives. Upon returning home much later with her grandfather, she worries about her mom after not finding her waiting at home, and a local boy she grew up with named Nathaniel. Her grandfather unexpectedly dies and she is forced to move on and attempts to find her mother or her cook Eliza. She is thankfully reunited with the latter and picks up a child along the way. In the end, Mattie makes it back home and has changed greatly once she is reunited with her mother.

APA Reference of Book: Anderson, L. H. (2000). Fever 1793. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Impressions: This book was incredibly intense. I found myself wanting things to work out for Mattie. Every single time something started to look up for her, another misfortune happened. I expected the grandfather to die sooner, and was genuinely shocked by when and how he died. Everything Mattie endures is amazing and the writing left me turning the pages quickly to find out if she survives or if she’ll ever find her mother. I enjoyed the writing style, as it allowed me to become engrossed in what was happening to Mattie. The pacing was very quick, but the author still remained descriptive and it did not feel as though the story was going by too fast with not enough time for the reader to recover from the previous events. I enjoyed the inclusion of Eliza as more than just the family’s cook, and I was glad that Mattie was able to be reunited with her again. I found the instance of Mattie coming across the little girl and becoming her mother representative of how much growing up she’d done since the start of the novel, and her maturity level.

Professional Review: “The opening scene of Anderson’s ambitious novel about the yellow fever epidemic that ravaged Philadelphia in the late 18th century shows a hint of the gallows humor and insight of her previous novel, Speak. Sixteen-year-old Matilda “”Mattie”” Cook awakens in the sweltering summer heat on August 16th, 1793, to her mother’s command to rouse and with a mosquito buzzing in her ear. She shoos her cat from her mother’s favorite quilt and thinks to herself, “”I had just saved her precious quilt from disaster, but would she appreciate it? Of course not.”” Mattie’s wit again shines through several chapters later during a visit to her wealthy neighbors’ house, the Ogilvies. Having refused to let their serving girl, Eliza, coif her for the occasion, Mattie regrets it as soon as she lays eyes on the Ogilvie sisters, who wear matching bombazine gowns, curly hair piled high on their heads (“”I should have let Eliza curl my hair. Dash it all””). But thereafter, Mattie’s character development, as well as those of her grandfather and widowed mother, takes a back seat to the historical details of Philadelphia and environs. Extremely well researched, Anderson’s novel paints a vivid picture of the seedy waterfront, the devastation the disease wreaks on a once thriving city, and the bitterness of neighbor toward neighbor as those suspected of infection are physically cast aside. However, these larger scale views take precedence over the kind of intimate scenes that Anderson crafted so masterfully in Speak. Scenes of historical significance, such as George Washington returning to Philadelphia, then the nation’s capital, to signify the end of the epidemic are delivered with more impact than scenes of great personal significance to Mattie. Ages 10-14. (Sept.)”Publisher’s Weekly

Fever  1793 [Review of the book Fever 1793. (2000, September 4). Publisher’s Weekly. Retrieved from https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-689-83858-3

Library Uses: This would be a great selection for a book talk involving books about characters forced to grow up.

Module 5: Divergent

Book Summary:  Beatrice “Tris” Prior lives in a faction called “Abnegation” in which everyone is selfless and subservient to an extent. Everyone in this version of Chicago, is born into a faction but gets to choose which of the five factions they want to spend the rest of their lives in at the age of sixteen. Tris is unsure but chooses Dauntless. What proceeds is quite a bit of fighting, train jumping, and other training tasks that occur because only the strong can remain Dauntless. Each candidate/trainee eventually undergoes a dream test where their decisions determine if they are worthy. Like her previous tests, Tris’s come back inconclusive because she circumvented the usual choices that others usually choose when tested. When it comes time for initiation, Tris realizes something is strange with the trackers they are injected with and she makes a run for it. The trackers are a ploy by the powers-that-be to control people. Tris and her friends manage to break out in the intense final chapters.

APA Reference of Book: Roth, V. (2011). Divergent. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Impressions: I actually did not like this book as much as I thought I would. I love dystopian but this one left a lot to be desired. The Hunger Games began and ended before this series came out, and I honestly felt as though this one was trying to be like it. I think the concept of factions and making decisions based on what you want, not what your family wants you to be, to be an excellent message. However, I could not get behind Tris or the concept of the kids who chose Dauntless having to hunger games fight their way in. Tris was not a very compelling character. I wanted to root for her, but I found myself honestly not caring what happened to her. Her romance with Four felt way too rushed and incredibly cliche. The reason why Four was called Four wasn’t much of a surprise, and it bugged me because I wanted it to be, but that was also obvious. I could go on. My strong feelings aside, I can see why teens like this one. It has action, romance, and teens bucking the system. Overall, I think this book will be a good one for young adults wanting to get into dystopian works either before or after reading books like The Hunger Games and The 5th Wave.

Professional Review: “Cliques writ large take over in the first of a projected dystopian trilogy.

The remnant population of post-apocalyptic Chicago intended to cure civilization’s failures by structuring society into five “factions,” each dedicated to inculcating a specific virtue. When Tris, secretly a forbidden “Divergent,” has to choose her official faction in her 16th year, she rejects her selfless Abnegation upbringing for the Dauntless, admiring their reckless bravery. But the vicious initiation process reveals that her new tribe has fallen from its original ideals, and that same rot seems to be spreading… Aside from the preposterous premise, this gritty, paranoid world is built with careful details and intriguing scope. The plot clips along at an addictive pace, with steady jolts of brutal violence and swoony romance. Despite the constant assurance that Tris is courageous, clever and kind, her own first-person narration displays a blank personality. No matter; all the “good” characters adore her and the “bad” are spiteful and jealous. Fans snared by the ratcheting suspense will be unable to resist speculating on their own factional allegiance; a few may go on to ponder the questions of loyalty and identity beneath the façade of thrilling adventure.

Guaranteed to fly off the shelves. (Science fiction. 14 & up)” Kirkus Reviews

Divergent [Review of the book Divergent. (2011, April 5). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/veronica-roth/divergent/

Library Uses: I would use this book in a Read the Book/Watch the Movie summer reading program or book club. Getting together a small group to discuss the book one day, then watching the movie another would be good for school libraries. A same day set up of this would be good for public.

Module 4: Ivy + Bean

Book Summary: Bean spends her days playing outside and annoying her older sister, like most seven-year-olds. She plays with everyone in the neighborhood, except the “nice girl” Ivy. Her mother thinks she should play with Ivy, who sits on her porch and wears dresses and is a complete opposite of Bean. When Bean plays a trick on her sister, she ends up finally talking to Ivy and realizing that Ivy is exactly opposite of what she thought. They play together and make Ivy’s dream of being a witch come true in the most unexpected way.

APA Reference of Book: Barrows, A. (2006). Ivy and bean. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.

Impressions: I found Ivy and Bean to be a fun book that’s perfect for middle grade readers. Bean’s character is quite vivid and a realistic depiction of a seven-year-old. Her reluctance to befriend a new girl is an overdone story, but this book took that trope and made it interesting. I found Ivy’s desire to be a witch an odd decision, but it was bizarre enough that it made sense why Bean would want to be friends with her. I found the illustrations to be helpful, particularly when the author began describing Ivy’s room, because I did not understand the lines. It also helps young readers who are just starting with chapter books.

Professional Review: “A charismatic duo makes their debut in this new chapter-book series. Barrows provides a fresh take on the standard odd-couple tale of friendship, with a caveat to readers of not judging a book by its cover—or the new girl by her seemingly goody image. Bean, an energetic girl with an inclination for mischief, just doesn’t see the appeal of her new neighbor Ivy, whom her mother extols as such a “nice girl,” which Bean readily translates to mean dull. However, when she needs to escape the wrath of her bossy sister Nancy, Bean discovers a whole new dimension to the quiet girl next door. Together Ivy and Bean concoct a plan to cast Ivy’s fledgling dancing spell on Nancy, with unexpected and hilarious results. With a hearty helping of younger sibling angst, a sprinkling of spells and potions and a dash of nosy neighbors, Barrows has the perfect recipe for solidifying a newfound friendship. Blackall’s saucy illustrations detailing the girls’ hijinks and their calamitous outcomes are liberally featured throughout the text. Readers are bound to embrace this spunky twosome and eagerly anticipate their continuing tales of mischief and mayhem. (Fiction. 6-10)”Kirkus Reviews

Ivy and Bean [Review of the book Ivy and Bean. (2010, May 20). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/annie-barrows/ivy-bean/

Library Uses: I would use this book for a lesson for third or forth grade about character voice and character identification, as the voices of the characters are so distinctive.

Module 3: Cook-A-Doodle-Doo

Book Summary: A rooster who is the descendant of the Little Red Hen decides to bake just like her. He first asks three friends who decline to help him bake a strawberry shortcake. Next, he asks Turtle, a Pig, and an Iguana, who happily opt to help the rooster with his task. The book gives excellent instructions on how to bake a strawberry shortcake in the book-verse, and in real life. The characters use teamwork to complete the cake. When Pig eats the first cake, Turtle and Iguana grow upset with him and feel saddened that they were unable to try it. Rooster gets the group back on track, and the team completes a second cake much faster for everyone to enjoy.

APA Reference of Book: Stevens, J. (1999). Cook-a-doodle-doo. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Impressions: As an adult, I found the prose of this book just okay. Despite this opinion, I think this would be great for students in grades 3-6, which is fitting as this was a Bluebonnet winner. The repetition of “Not yet, pig!” and “No, no, no.” from Rooster is an important for young kids and reiterates what not to do and the difference between literal meaning and the instructions. The addition of an actual strawberry shortcake recipe on the edges of the pages with helpful hints makes the book a viable option for an at home or in class activity.

Professional Review: “Stevens (Tops and Bottoms) and her sister cook up a boisterous romp as four animal friends set out to bake a strawberry shortcake. Rooster, tired of pecking for chicken feed, remembers that his famous great-grandmother (the Little Red Hen) wrote a cookbook, and in it he finds the recipe. Turtle, Iguana and Pig volunteer to help. If left solely to the text, the rest of the comedy-cum-cookery lesson would be fairly predictable: Turtle, reading the recipe, announces they need flour and Iguana rushes outside to pick a petunia; asked to beat an egg, Iguana hoists a baseball bat. (Handsomely illustrated sidebars explain most of the directions in depth.) Rooster sets Iguana straight while Pig keeps wanting to taste everything in sight. The illustrations, however, are startling in their pop-off-the-page dimensionality. In her characteristic style, Stevens mixes media, seamlessly combining paints, photos and computer art to witty effect; readers will want to look very closely to determine what’s from real life and what’s from a palette. Wearing their silly chef’s hats (an inverted saucepan, an oven mitt, a kitchen towel and an apron), the four animals create a whirlwind of activity on every spread. Presiding adults should note that the strawberry shortcake recipe at the end is not as foolproof as the story would imply, even with the information in the sidebars; kids, enthused by the kitchen frolics depicted here, will surely want to attempt it. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)” – Publisher’s Weekly

Cook-a-doodle-do! [Review of the book Cook-a-doodle-doo!]. (1999, March 29). Publisher’s Weekly. Retrieved from https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-15-201924-2

Library Uses:  This book works well for a lesson on homophones. Students could make their own story from a list of homophones and describe how using the opposite meaning affects the story. This could also be used for this book, and students could explain what opposite meanings do for the outcome of the book.

Module 2: The Widow’s Broom

Book Summary: A witch’s broom that can no longer fly ends up on at the home of a widow. The widow uses the broom to sweep. Later on, the broom begins to sweep by itself. The widow quickly learns that the broom can do other things, such as feed chickens, around the home and town where she lives. The broom eventually catches the eyes of two boys who bully it. The broom launches the boy’s dog across the forest. Townspeople learn of the broom and come to the widow for it, wanting it burned. They believe they burn the broom and that the ‘problem’ that is the broom is handled. They see a white ‘ghost’ of the broom in the forest, when in actuality the widow simply painted the broom to keep it safe.

APA Reference of Book: Van Allsburg, C. (1992). The widow’s broom. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Impressions: This book was remarkable. The idea that brooms run out of flying power and just simply end up anywhere with a bit of magic left in them is quite interesting. The illustrations were the detailed type that I have come to expect from Van Allsburg, and I felt that they contributed to the darkness of the book. It is not that the book was dark as in demonic or scary, but it was dark in coloring, the circumstances of the main character being a widow, the broom being left for nothing, and the town’s witch hunt for the broom. The themes were somewhat dark and the illustrations appropriately conveyed this. This would be a great book for older readers as young children might not fully understand what is going on, or be willing to sit through the book as it is a bit long.

Professional Review: “When Minna Shaw comes into possession of a witch’s broom, it is as if good fortune itself has dropped from the sky. The broom sweeps on its own and does other chores; it can even pick out simple tunes on the piano. The widow’s ignorant neighbors hate and torment the implement, though, fearing what they cannot understand; but in the end the widow and her broom triumph. This resonant tale, one of its gifted author/illustrator’s most impressive efforts, effectively draws on mystery and whimsy alike–both human nature and the supernatural are powerful forces here. Van Allsburg’s grainy, sepiatone illustrations variously evoke brooding, suspicion, grandeur, humor and serenity. Many individual pictures are haunting–amid a tangle of squash vines, for example, lies the fallen witch, with only one of her hands visible–and in composite they reverberate powerfully indeed. The narrative’s subtle conclusion will evoke pleasurable shudders, as readers (gradually, perhaps) become aware of what has transpired. Both visually and narratively, a provocative and altogether satisfying work. All ages. (Sept.)” – Publisher’s Weekly

The widow’s broom [Review of the book The Widow’s Broom]. (1992, September 28 ). Publisher’s Weekly. Retrieved from https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-395-64051-7

Library Uses: Using this book in a library lesson about illustrations and how they impact the meaning of a story. The lesson could involve students listening to the book once without looking at the pictures, then again with the pictures. The students could then describe the difference between the two readings and list what about the pictures added to the story.

Module 1: It’s A Book

Book Summary: It’s a Book by Lane Smith is the story of a monkey who just wants to read, and a donkey is is trying to understand what it is the monkey is reading. As the donkey asks questions usually related to technology, the monkey shuts down his questions by reiterating that it is a book. There is a clever joke with a mouse appearing when the donkey asks if the book has a mouse. The monkey gives the donkey the book and the donkey begins to read it. The book ends with the monkey answering the donkey by saying “It’s a book, Jackass” (Smith, 2010, p. 32).

APA Reference of Book: Smith, Lane. (2010). It’s a book. New York, NY: Roaring Brook Press.

Impressions: I wanted to like this book. The illustrations reminded me of comics I read when I was younger. It is entertaining and kept me turning the pages. However, I could not like this book. I think the author meant well, but the overall tone of the book came off as rude. What struck me as harsh was the ending where the monkey calls him another name for a donkey that can also be construed as an insult. This book was a commentary on how young people are so into their devices that some do not understand how a physical book works. This is where I see the book becoming holier-than-thou. If one person prefers digital books, okay. If someone prefers print, that is also fine. The joke of not knowing how a book works comes at the expense of the donkey, or in this case the children reading the book. This book is for adults, who will find more enjoyment out of it and likely agree with the author in his belief that there is too much technology. Perhaps I am being too sensitive, but I cannot get behind this book given how mean-spirited it is. I also cannot accept that it is being marketed as “lighthearted” and “for children”, when it is more for anti-technology parents and adults.

Professional Review: “Saucy hilarity and clever visual characterization make this wide-audience treat delectable until the potentially off-putting final page. A laptop-toting jackass is baffled by a monkey’s unrecognizable possession. “What do you have there?” “It’s a book.” “How do you scroll down?” “I don’t. I turn the page. It’s a book.” The answer to “Where’s your mouse?” is universally comical—a live mouse cheekily appears from under monkey’s hat. Despite advanced vocabulary (wi-fi; tweet), the refrain and pacing hit the sweet spot for preschoolers, while a Treasure Island passage reduced to AIM-speak will have middle schoolers and adults in stitches. Spongey-textured colors inhabit thick, sketchy outlines; composition is lively, facial expressions understatedly sharp. When the tech-savvy ass finally succumbs to the book’s charms but still wants to “charge it up” like a computer, the mouse snarks, “You don’t have to… / it’s a book, Jackass.” Despite Smith’s sly title-page introduction of “jackass” as a legitimate animal label for donkey, this closing gibe refocuses and cheapens the humor into a gratuitous insult that yields no benefit beyond a feeling of superiority. (Picture book. 4-11)” – Kirkus Reviews

It’s a book [Review of the book It’s a Book]. (2010, June 16 ). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/lane-smith/its-a-book/

Library Uses: This book could be used in a lesson with older children discussing words that are homonyms. This book could also be used to have a debate regarding print books versus digital books.