Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by James Ransome

This absolutely beautiful book, written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by James Ransome, is just what I needed to share with my 5th graders to complement their unit on the Civil War. It also gave me a chance to discuss historical fiction, the use of dialect, and descriptive language. The story led to some great discussion about slavery and plantation hierarchy as 12-year-old Clara's story brings history to life. I like to follow this one up with the shorter story,
Under the Quilt of Night, which includes a great author's note about Hopkinson's research into the history and folklore of the Underground Railroad.

For more information, be sure to check out Deborah Hopkinson's website at She includes great links to sites with ideas for lesson plans and other activities that go with these books.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Beyonders: A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull

Book one of the Beyonders series starts out with a typical day in the life of Jason Walker, who plays on his school's baseball team and works part-time at the local zoo. On this day, mysterious music leads him to a fall into another world where he soon gets into trouble trying to save a band of musicians who seem intent on riding a raft to their deaths over a waterfall. Forced to go on the run, he discovers that he has entered Lyrian, a world dominated by a ruthless wizard who rules with an iron fist and cruel magics. Curiosity and a strong sense of justice lead Jason into a quest that could mean the salvation of Lyrian--or his own doom. Along the way, he is joined by Rachel and together they makes some powerful friends--but possibly even more powerful enemies. This story will appeal to readers who enjoy epic adventure tales full of intrigue, battles against overwhelming odds, and a healthy dose of fantasy.