Holly Valentine | August 2021

C.A.T.C.H. a Spark!

Depending where you are, you’re doing one of two things in August. You are either trying to escape and let summer last for a little bit longer, or you are looking for a great book to share with your readers to hook them on books. This month, we focus on chapter books that will do just that. All of these selections take you on an adventure of some kind. Some are grounded in fact, some in cherished children’s literature, and some are pure fantastical imaginative stories. Be sure to download the individual sheets on each book for more information. 

The Rembrandt Conspiracy 

This is the second book in The Lost Art Series, but it stands alone (meaning you don’t need to read the first one in order to follow this one). Grounded from an infamous, unsolved art heist at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, readers won’t be sure which items are fact or fiction. The story is a fast-paced, twisting and turning adventure, reminiscent of the classic novel From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler. (If you don’t know that one, drop everything now and go get it!). 

A unique twist to this book is that it is filled with QR codes. Readers can scan and instantly be able to see the art being discussed throughout the novel. While some may find this distracting, it is a wonderful way to help students truly escape into the world of the story. And it doesn’t hurt hat it teaches a great deal about art history along the way!  Written by Deron Hicks.

The Many Points of Me

There is so much to love about this book it’s hard to know where to start. It has a powerful, strong emotional side as we follow sixth-grader Georgia, a girl who has lost her famous artist father and is yearning to find and hold onto a unique connection to him. She finds a clue to it in an unexpected place, and sets out to find the truth behind it. It has all the components of a wonderful story – mystery, a strong sense of place (The Metropolitan Museum of Art!), grounded in family and friendship.  

Hard topics such as loss, grief, changing friendships, and struggling with creativity are all handled through beautiful language and prose. You and your learners will get attached to Georgia and want her to find all she is looking for! In the end, not only does she find the unique connection for which she has been yearning, but she also realizes there truly is no place like home, with the people who will always be there for you and love you unconditionally. Written by Caroline Gertler.

The Last Last-Day-Of-Summer

Sometimes we just need a book that lets us completely escape and believe in the fantastical. A bit sci-fi, a bit fantasy, and a bit realistic, Otto and Sheed take us on an adventure we all wish we could have… freeing time and making a moment last forever. But what could really happen in that case? 

Filled with figurative language, and challenging us to think about missed opportunities, all relating to time, we meet characters such as Father Time, Minute Men, Second Guessers, Crunch Time, Time Sucks, and so many more. This is pure fun and will grab your readers from the beginning. Because who can’t relate to wanting that last day of summer to last forever? Written by Lamar Giles.

Forever Neverland 

Who doesn’t love Peter Pan? Wouldn’t you love to go to Neverland to have your own adventure with Peter and the Lost Boys? Clover and Fergus do just that – immediately after finding out they are direct descendants of Wendy… Yes, that Wendy! Clover has always had to be the perfect girl, watching out for her brother Fergus, who is autistic. But in Neverland, he is just Fergus, accepted for who he is. His strengths and talents are valued, giving him the confidence and voice he is often missing back home… because Neverland is a place of fun and freedom. He finds himself wishing the real world could be much more like Neverland. 

Adventures in Forever Neverland are based on the people that come there, and what villains they bring with them. Fergus and Clover bring characters from Greek Mythology that bring new adventures to Peter Pan while paying tribute quite often to the beloved original classic. There is even a scene in the book that would also be a wonderful tie-in to a scene in the movie Hook, in which the children feast on the foods they imagine and bring to life through visualization. A great read-aloud as well, with all of its adventure and beloved characters. Written by Susan Adrian.

Henry and the Chalk Dragon 

Know anyone who has been told they have an overactive imagination? Then you need to introduce them to Henry! This book is a perfect read-aloud for younger readers and an independent book for older readers. It will grab them from the very beginning, having them laughing and begging for more. Despite being unbelievably creative and artistic, Henry keeps his art to himself and is afraid to let it out into the world – until the day his chalk dragon escapes and causes chaos everywhere! 

Not only will this hook your readers, but will also give inspiration to your writers. You will be reminded of the power of an imagination and drawing – skills which all too often are pushed down in order to fit everything else in. We will all be reminded that it is important to create and to ignore that voice we all have that says our art is “not good enough.” Written by Jennifer Trafton.

The One Thing You’d Save 

Sometimes there are books that leave such a powerful impact. This is one of those books. In just 72 short pages, written in a new style to many, it leaves you wishing for more. (And perhaps with a tear in your eye.) What is the one thing you would save if your house was on fire? Do you answer practically or emotionally? Do you come to a decision quickly, or do you change your mind a lot? 

A middle school teacher asks his class this question, and has them justify their choices. Through their answers, we learn so much about these students, and get to know them quite well. What a perfect assignment for the beginning of the year, to allow you (and your students) insight into each other. Be sure you share your choice as well. The book is told through a form of Korean poetry, sijo, which the author shares at the end of the book. A masterful look by a Newbery medalist in the power of language and word choice to develop characters in a quiet, powerful way. Written by Linda Sue Park.

DOWNLOAD ALL SIX

Let a great chapter book transport your young readers and remind them of the fun of reading. It can happen when they read independently, but can be even more powerful as read-alouds as well. These books all will create wonderful common experiences for you and your students, or help you find that “just right” book for your readers that may often search for something to keep their attention.

About the Author

Holly Valentine is the Director of Curriculum and Assessment for the Institute for Arts Integration and Steam. Prior to joining the Institute, Holly worked as an Arts Integration and Classroom Teacher for 20 years in a suburb of Rochester, NY. She is a certified Arts Integration Specialist and has served as an Arts Standards Writer for the New York State Education Department. Holly has been a recipient of the NYC Broadway League's Apple Award for her work in Arts Education. She also serves as the Director of Education for the Rochester Broadway Theatre League, where she has created nationally recognized programs and develops standards-based curriculum for touring Broadway shows in order to bring the theatre to classrooms and classrooms to the theatre. Holly holds both a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre and Psychology as well as a Masters degree in Education from Nazareth College in Rochester, NY,  where she currently lives.