Monthly Archives: April 2013

Book Unit Newsletter for “Number the Stars”



     Our class is excited to begin reading Number the Stars by Lois Lowry! It is such an important lesson about the value of human life and the courage of young adults. As it follows the story of a young girl, it is relatable for our students to see that, even as children, they can be brave and make an impact in the world. In addition to reading our textbook, as well as some primary and secondary sources of World War II, we want the students to feel some kind of connection to the lives of the past and understand their feelings. There is some violence and death, as is to be expected with any story about the war, but it is highly appropriate and suitable to the environment of our classroom. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us!




     Number the Stars is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of a Jewish family’s escape from Copenhagen. The story takes place during the German occupation that occurred in World War II. The main character of the novel is Annemarie Johansen, a ten-year-old girl living in Denmark. Annemarie and Ellen see how society changes as the Nazi occupation grows increasingly serious: shops close down, people are watched, and families are ripped apart. When Ellen’s family flees, they leave her in the care of Annemarie’s family who takes her in and keeps her Jewish heritage a secret. Through the help of some close family friends and distant relatives, Ellen and other endangered Jews are sent off in a boat to safety until the German occupation ends. The novel ends with a heartening message, and is an inspirational read about a dark time in world history.




SS6H7 The student will explain conflict and change in Europe to the 21st century.

a.       Describe major developments following World War I: the Russian Revolution, the Treaty of Versailles, worldwide depression, and the rise of Nazism.

b.      Explain the impact of WWII in terms of the Holocaust, the origins of the Cold War, and the rise of Superpowers.



Just a hint of the vocabulary we will be studying:  

  • The Holocaust
  • Nazis
  • Judaism
  • Star of David


For more information on the Holocaust:

 For more information on the rise of Nazism:

 For more information on Judaism:

 For more information about the author:


Ms. Schiveree, Ms. Dowst, Ms. Chrzanowski



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Filed under Essays and Reflections, Young Adult Novels

Book Review for “Ishmael”


Quinn, D. (1992). Ishmael. Bantam Books. DOI: The United States.

     Ishmael by Daniel Quinn takes its reader on a spiritual journey. Meet Ishmael, the namesake of this novel. Ishmael is a teacher, but not the kind you’re probably expecting; I won’t spoil any of the book’s surprises, but Ishmael is a non-traditional teacher to say the least. His subdued life has led him through deep reflections that have given him great insight into the history of the world. This novel is a journey where the reader learns to shed his or her preconceived notions about mankind

            Now, I don’t want to put down any book. I believe every book has some value or merit, even if I can’t see it. I’m sure Ishmael has brought many readers a deep and spiritual experience or helped them look at the world differently; I however, feel differently. This entire novel is a dialogue between teacher and pupil, so then it is also then safe to assume that the reader is a pupil to teacher as well. The teacher is meant to be portrayed as an enlightened, all- knowledgeable being uninhibited by biases and personal beliefs. This teacher serves not to reveal right or wrong but to help open the pupil’s eyes to what they have been missing through their own ignorance. My problem with these types of novels is the very mechanics of how this works. The teacher is supposed to be enlightened and unbiased, but I am also aware that this character was created and written by the author of the novel. Though the author himself does not physically appear in the book, I can see his personal beliefs shine through the words and teachings of the teacher. This presents a hitch in this theory; the teacher, by virtue of being created by the author, is not in fact unbiased or enlightened. He is merely conveying the author’s personal agenda in a way that is meant to persuade the reader that these beliefs are infallible. This is why I had such a hard time reading Ishmael, and this is why I have a hard time reading novels that center around teacher/pupil conversations.

     My other problem with this book is that it was presented to me as a young adolescent novel meant to be read in a middle school classroom. This is something I cannot see. Not only is the language challenging, but the concepts are challenging as well. The pages of this novel boast long and wordy explanations about life and the universe that are often tedious to follow. The teacher and pupil often appear to run in circles talking about much of the same things over and over. I myself don’t even find these arguments compelling, and I can’t imagine a middle school student enjoying it either. That’s not to say that no middle school student will ever enjoy this book; I know there are some out there that will. I just don’t think middle school age students would be the target audience of this book. I can, however, picture an older audience enjoying this selection. It also goes without saying that just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean that it is not worth reading. I’m sure many people will enjoy taking this literary journey, and maybe one day in the future I will revisit this novel with a greater sense of enjoyment and appreciation.

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Filed under Adult Novels, Young Adult Novels

Blog Tagxedo

     So I recently became aware of this really cool website (thanks to my LLED5210 professor Beth). This website allows you to copy and paste a portion of text or type in a URL to any page, blog, or link. The web application then logs all the words used in this chunk of text and categorizes them based on their frequency of use; it then creates a picture out of the words used. The biggest words were used the most, and the smallest words were used the least throughout the course of the given text. These computer applications can be cool and artistic, but in addition, they can shed light on the most important elements or themes in a portion of text that you may not have noticed before. Sometimes the most used words give you clues to what the author of the text, consciously or subconsciously, values. There are multiple websites you can visit to access this sort of application, and here they are:


     I made an example of this type of picture art, and I used the website . I simply typed in a link to this blog, and the application did the rest. I hope you think it’s as cool as I did. And maybe you could try making your own!

blog tagxedo

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Filed under Essays and Reflections

Staying Connected

     Staying connected with the popular culture of young adult literature can be difficult, especially if you are not a young adult. This is the situation for me and many other parents, teachers, and librarians who want to help inspire a love of reading in young adolescents. As a pre-professional teacher, I, and many others like me, consider it their duty to stay well-informed and stocked up on the the latest, greatest, and most entertaining literary titles. If you’re not constantly exposed to the popular culture of young adult reading (like me), here’s a couple ways to stay plugged in:

  • Join a Facebook group, blog, web page, or academic site dedicated to young adult literature
  • Follow your favorite young adult authors on twitter
  • Create an account on
  • And it couldn’t hurt to browse the young adult literature section of Barnes & Noble every once in a while

     Personally, I find it easy to follow my favorite authors and young adult literature advocates on twitter. This allows me to see what my favorite authors are creating or reading right on my phone. Personally I follow:

Donalyn Miller


Administrator of the “Book Whisperer” website who seeks to inspire children to love reading.

And Hope Larson


An illustrator and cartoonist who created one of my favorite graphic novels, A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel.

     Another one of my personal favorite ways to stay connected is through my goodreads account.

     Through this website, I guess you could call it literary networking, I can log all of my favorite reads. I can keep track of which books I loved, and which ones I don’t ever want to read again. I can add books to my wish-list, and submit updates of my current reads. The scale ratings and comments for literary pieces can help a reader decide if a book is worth pursuing. As a busy young adult, this also helps me keep track of the plethora of young adult novels I intended to explore for my future students and classroom.

     There are plenty of ways to stay connected  with the world of young adult literature, all you have to do is find the one that works for you!

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Filed under Essays and Reflections

Book Review and Found Poem for Feed


Anderson, M. T. (2002). Feed. (pp. 103-110). Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

     For those of you not familiar with the future-istic, young adult novel Feed, it’s definitely a unique read. This novel takes place in the future when technology has advanced to the point of sending teens to the moon for spring break and using a “feed”, or computer, right in your own brain. Advancements and technology have overrun this new world, but is that necessarily a good thing? On the one hand, people have access to any source of entertainment, information, social interaction, and shopping without even blinking an eye, literally; the feed streams in their mind! On the other hand, old ways of life are dying out. Natural plants and animals are dying off, and even the air is becoming a rare commodity. One young girl, Violet, believes she can see through the facade. Others might be easily fooled by the luxuries of this modern world, but she knows she is being controlled. Violet knows civilization is declining when cutting slits in your skin becomes a fashion statement, and planting trees is unheard of. She sets out to fight the feed as it begins to take a toll on her body. Read M.T. Anderson’s Feed, and join Violet in resisting the feed.

     Now that you know what the book itself is about, this poem will make much more sense. I mentioned found poems in one of my other posts. These kinds of poems are made by changing and rearranging words from an existing work of literature to make poetry. My found poem was taken from the words spanning pages 103-110 of M.T. Anderson’s Feed.

Here it is:


I wonder about resisting

I asked her whether she was sure

I looked back at her

Standing by the door

Pinching and pulling

I went to bed

Something was wrong

“never mind”, she said


Just for practice

Everything from the feed

It’s going crazy

Crazy for me

Sites, spotlights

In flurries they started coming

Winking beautifully

Our eyes opening and closing

Whoa! Whoa!

She said no

Because she was too smart

To be used like our feeds

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Filed under Young Adult Novels

Book Review for “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda”


Angleberger, T. (2010). The strange case of origami yoda. Ambrams.

     If you’re thinking Tom Angleberger’s “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda” sounds, well, strange, then you’re correct! This novel is indeed about an origami finger puppet created in the likeness of everybody’s favorite inverted sentence-using Jedi master. Tommy, Dwight, Kellen, Harvey and their friends are about to find out just how wise Yoda is. Origami Yoda has been giving almost every student at McQuarrie Middle School advice and answers to life’s toughest questions; Yoda seems to know everything from girls, to grandmothers, and softball. If this still doesn’t sound strange to you yet, meet the man behind the finger puppet: Dwight. Dwight is a person you could definitely call “different”. He spends much of his time sitting in holes and yelling the word “purple”. What’s even stranger is that his origami Yoda creation seems to have a mind of its own; the finger puppet seems a far cry from his usually spaced out creator. Yoda seems to know everything, even things Dwight is clueless about! So what makes Yoda so wise? Does he really have a mind of his own? Read the personal stories throughout the pages of Tom Angleberger’s The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and find out. Who knows? You just might become a believer.

     Want to make your own origami Yoda? Whether it’s for fun, or to ask it one of life’s most pressing questions, here’s a page in the back of the book that shows you how:


     And last but not least, here’s my own origami Yoda! It’s not the best, but I had a blast making it. I hope you enjoy it too!



Filed under Young Adult Novels

A Poem About “Esperanza Rising”


Ryan, P.M., (2002). Esperanza Rising. 1st ed. : Perfection Learning.

      If you’re not familiar with the young adult novel Esperanza Rising, I would highly recommend reading it. This book is a historical fiction novel about a young girl from Mexico. Esperanza is the daughter of a wealthy land owner; to many during this time of economic hardship, she seems to live a charmed life. Her family has a beautiful home and more than enough money to dote on their only daughter. She is showered with beautiful gifts from her mother, father, and grandmother from the time she is little. Though she has many beautiful things, one of her most prized possessions is something you cannot buy; it is the heartbeat of the earth. Esperanza loves her home in Mexico, and at a young age her father teaches her that if she lies on the ground in perfect stillness, she can feel the earth’s heart beating against her own; this stays with Esperanza for the rest of her life.  Unfortunately for Esperanza, her charmed life is about to come to an end. Her father is killed by bandits, and her home is burned down by a forceful suitor of her mother’s. To save their lives and their dignity, Esperanza and her mother must flee to the United States. Though they have opportunities here, things are not much better. The United States is experiencing the Great Depression, and immigrant vegetable pickers do not make much money. Even worse, they live in cramped, dirty conditions which are a far cry from Esperanza’s former life. Throughout the novel she struggles with her loss, her sadness, and her pride. She must learn to do many jobs she has never done before. At many times, it seems as though all hope has abandoned Esperanza, and she wants to give up. In the end, however, she finds that she is not alone; her father’s memory lives on as she hears the earth’s heartbeat in her new home.

     Instead of writing a review for this book (which I guess I kind of just did), I decided to write a poem. This is a poem about Esperanza’s harrowing journey.

A life

A dream

A fantasy



The earth’s heartbeat



13 porcelain dolls



Safe, high walls

A flash

A blast

A flame

A shame

What’s done is done

Things will never be the same



A family now poor

The dreams of the past

Are no more



Long and hard



Beautiful no more

Lost, scared

In a faraway place



Insults in one’s face


But why?

When it all is no good



Trouble in the neighborhood

But faith


And love in what’s true

And you’ll feel the earth’s heartbeat

Come back to you

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Filed under Young Adult Novels