In the Bag

What's in my book bag this week? Check back here for reviews, recommendations, and related freebies!

Alan Gratz, author of Prisoner B-3087, hits another home run! My sixth grade GT students are currently in the middle of this harrowing multi-perspective novel. As educators, it's easy to gage the student engagement level in a book by the percentage of students completing the at home reading assignments, aka homework! Imagine my surprise (and my joy!) when the entire class came back after a weekend with the reading assignment complete. Not only that, but some students had finished the entire novel! The cherry on top? Several of my reluctant readers had found their ways to the ending of the book, while asking me what else the author has written. Winner, winner, chicken dinner! The fact this novel beautifully spirals three historical fiction stories through strong and relatable characters ensures this novel will stay on my reading list for years to come. The learning possibilities are endless, and the themes will forever be relevant. Bonus: Surprise ending!

From Amazon:

JOSEF is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world . . .

ISABEL is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety in America . . .

MAHMOUD is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe . . .

All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers -- from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, shocking connections will tie their stories together in the end.

This action-packed novel tackles topics both timely and timeless: courage, survival, and the quest for home.

While the series is an easy read, it provides wonderful opportunities for cross curricular lesson design. I suggest it if you need a high interest read for your younger students. It is especially a perfect pick for your most reluctant readers. I also can't help but appreciate it offers both male and female protagonists. Nobody feels left out of the adventures!

From Amazon: The most exciting road trip in history begins! In this action-packed, New York Times bestselling adventure, twelve-year-old twins Coke and Pepsi McDonald embark on a family vacation you'll have to read to believe. 

With the real-kid humor that has earned Dan Gutman millions of fans around the world, and featuring weird-but-true American tourist destinations, The Genius Files is a one-of-a-kind mix of geography and fun.

As Coke and Pepsi dodge nefarious villains from the Pez museum in California all the way to the Infinity Room in Wisconsin, black-and-white photographs and maps put young readers right into the action.

From the description, you can understand how my mind was immediately overwhelmed with ideas! Mapping skills, history, research, technology integration, journaling... the list is endless. How perfect would it be to have your students create their own Genius Files for Ancient Egypt, Gulliver's Travels, or the life of Einstein? Even better, share their original Genius Files as a preview or anticipation activity with next year's students or use them as final assessments!

You probably know at least one of the author's series! Visit his website here!

I love Neal Shusterman as an author, and this is my new favorite! When I previewed this dystopian book for my kiddos, I actually had them beg me to keep reading. They fell in love! I have four copies in my classroom, and I can't keep them on my shelves.

From Amazon: Two teens must learn the “art of killing” in this Printz Honor–winning book, the first in a chilling new series from Neal Shusterman, author of the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Scythe is the first novel of a thrilling new series by National Book Award–winning author Neal Shusterman in which Citra and Rowan learn that a perfect world comes only with a heavy price.

Keep in mind this book isn't great for some younger readers. It's an easy and highly engaging read, but you can guess by the above preview readers will encounter violence. While it's not overly graphic, it is really descriptive at time when describing deaths and killings. There is mention of blood, descriptions of killing, pain inducing situations and violent situations. In addition, there is a slight romantic tension between the main characters although nothing "offensive" occurs. I was planning on making it a required read for my 7th grade GT classes, but some of the kiddos are really sensitive, and they (and their parents!) might have found it to be too much for the younger kids. Instead, I made it an optional read for our Utopia Unit. 

OOOOOOOOOh.... I also preordered the sequel, Thunderhead. It's due out January 9th, 2018!

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