Divergent

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Title: Divergent Author: Veronica Roth Illustrator: Publisher: New York; Katherine Tegen Books

Genre: Fantasy  Level: Upper Number of pages: 487 Pub. Date: 2011

Summary:

On the day of her classification test Beatrice Prior finds out that she is Divergent, but she doesn’t realize what that means. What she does know is that her test won’t help her pick a faction. On the day of her choosing, she decides she is fearless and chooses Dauntless and her life changes forever. Now she’s Tris and she is training for her life because only the 10 best get to become a real initiates. Then there’s the whole problem that if her new faction finds out she’s Dauntless they’ll kill her. To top it off she has a huge crush on her trainer, Four, and he seems to be returning the feelings but he still won’t let her in. It seems Tris is going to need to be brave if she is going to make.

Critique:

This book is a Science Fantasy story about a dystopian society. This story is set in Chicago, which makes it seem very realistic. At the same time the setting is not the Chicago that we know today and there are only small landmarks that help the reader to make the connection. Also this book like many high quality fantasy stories, the characters are relatable and the reader can easily see them fitting into the society that Roth created.

Response:

Divergent was a truly amazing read. This was a birthday present from my roommate and I wasn’t planning on reading it for this project until I saw my sixth graders reading it. Then I decided to give it a shot. I was amazed.  I like this book even more than the Hunger Games series although there are many similarities between the two. I think what made this book better was that there was no love triangle in Divergent. This allows the reader to get more connected to Four and fall in love with him as much as Tris.

Assignments:

After: Write a one page comparison between either the Hunger Games or the soon to be released movie.  

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Underworld

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Title: Underworld Author: Meg Cabot Illustrator: N/a Publisher: London; Macmillian Children’s Books

Genre: Fantasy  Level: Upper Number of pages: 309 Pub. Date: 2012

Summary:

A continuation of the Abandon series by Meg Cabot, this book follows Pierce as she struggles to deal with her budding relationship with the Lord of the Underworld. In a modern day twist on the classic Greek myth about Persephone and Hades. Pierce has been taken to the Underworld so John can protect her from the Furies. Then piece gets a video of her cousin Alex trapped in a coffin. It’s up to Pierce to save him, but to do that she must convince her captor to let her back into the land of the living.

Critique:

I love how this book mixes a Modern Fantasy with the ideas from an ancient Greek myth. This story has many elements of a Fantasy book but the most prominent is the ability to make the reader feel like the events could happen. Also although part of the book takes place on a real island, it also takes place in the author’s interpretation of the Underworld.  These things work to help blur the line between the realistic and unrealistic book. This book is definitely a high fantasy with major undertones of good versus evil.

Response:

I should start of by saying that I am biased, my favorite author is Meg Cabot and I have been reading her books for almost half my life.  I thought this book was super creative. I love how Cabot made a modern interpretation of the Persephone myth. It integrates ancient myths, which I believe most students find fascinating with fantasy, which students also tend to love. I think this book is definitely more geared toward girls because of the underlying romance but that the slight violence would also attract some male students, which is important. Overall, this is one of my favorite books by Cabot yet.

Assignments:

            Before: Students will read the Persephone/Hades myth

During: Students will keep a chart of parallels between the two stories. (Ex: Pierce sounds similar to Persephone)

After: Students will right modern day versions of Greek Myths they’ve chosen.

The Giver Series

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Title: The Giver Author: Lois Lowry Illustrator: N/a
Publisher: New York; Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers

Genre: Modern Fantasy Level: Upper Number of pages: 180 Pub. Date: 1993

Summary:

Jonah is a young boy about turn man. He lives in the community, a dystopian society that gives roles to everybody. Nobody feels emotions and everything is covered in sameness. Jonah doesn’t think anything strange about how the community runs until his twelfth birthday when he is selected to be the receiver of memories. Then he meets the Giver who shares with him all the beauty and horrors that the world has experienced. It is then that he learns that his society doesn’t run quite as wonderfully as he thought. In order to save the life a young boy, Gabe he plans to escape for the community and head into otherness.

Critique:

This is a wonderful example of quality modern fantasy literature. This book is a science fiction dystopian story. It creates a totally knew setting that is believable to the audience. These stories are fantasy based on the ability of the giver to transfer memories but the way it is written makes it seem like it could actually be possible.

Response:

The giver was awesome. Jonah is a relatable character who understands what it’s like to go through changes in life. At the same time the community has a creepy kind of control over anything. This leaves the reader gobbling up the story. The ending of this story also leaves the reader wanting more. Thank goodness that Gathering Blue is around to help with that.

Assignments:

Before: Have students discuss difference in society and what makes them so special.

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Title: Gathering Blue Author: Lois Lowry Illustrator: n/a
Publisher: New York; Walter Lorraine Books

Genre: Modern Fantasy Level: Upper Number of pages: 215 Pub. Date: 2000

Summary:

This is the second book in The Giver Series. This book follows the story of Kira a young girl in a poor run down society with a twisted leg. Kira is the only crippled individual in her society and after her mother’s death she worries that she will be put to death. However, Kira has a gift, she is a very talented seamstress and is given a job within the government repairing the story robe of her people. She is chosen to help build the future. Kira’s young friend Matty brings her father, who she thought was dead, to her and tells her of a society of outcasts that exists where she could go. Kira learns that her town hasn’t been telling her the truth but she decides that she will stay there anyway hoping to make life there better. She promises that someday she will join her father in her society.

Critique:

Like The Giver this book is a strong piece of modern fantasy. This book again creates a very realistic setting that is easy for the reader to imagine. The society Kira lives in seems similar to many poor areas around the world. The fantasy portion of this book is Kira’s magical power or “gift” with the needle and thread. Again this is a science fiction dystopian story.

Response:

I enjoyed this story but I found The Giver more interesting. I think my biggest problem with this book is that even though the society is fictional I found it easier to relate it to real life. That’s kind of scary considering how messed up this community was. Also I was surprised that Kira decided to stay in the society that had treated her so badly. This leaves a wonderful cliff hanger for Messanger.

Assignments:

During: Have students try to stich a scene from the story or draw a picture that looks like stitching of a scene form the story.

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Title: The Messenger Author: Lois Lowry Illustrator: n/a
Publisher: New York; Walter Lorraine Books

Genre: Modern Fantasy Level: Upper Number of pages: 169 Pub. Date: 2004

Summary:

This follows the story of Matty from Gathering Blue after he leaves his old community. It is set six years after the end of Gathering Blue. Matty lives in the new society with Kira’s father helping to take care of him. The leader of this new community is Jonah from The Giver. Matty as a messenger between the different communities and is one of the few brave enough to journey into the forest. When the community decides to shut their gates, Jonah sends Matty on a mission to tell all the surrounding towns and get Kira. Unfortunately, the forest doesn’t want to let Matty through and the two character struggle to make it out alive. Sadly Matty must sacrifice himself to save all that he loves.

Critique:

This was the shortest of the series but it packs the biggest punch. In just 169 pages the readers fall in love with and loose Matty as a main character. Just like the other stories this book is set in a realistic place, however, unlike the others the setting of the book in itself has some magic. Furthermore, unlike the other books, the main character doesn’t overcome his obstacle.

Response:

This was the best of the series for me. Matty is my favorite character from this series. I think he was always good even though he struggled more than the others main characters. Matty has more reasons than any to become evil yet he sacrifices himself to save everything he has grown up with. When Matty dies I was skeptical I thought for sure Lowry was tricking her readers, it was very upsetting for me to have my favorite character die.

Assignments:

During: Assign students roles in the classroom society, that they will do well and have them each do only this job during the time it takes to read the book. Discuss successful they think this went.

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Title: Son Author: Lois Lowry Illustrator: n/a
Publisher: Boston; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Genre: Modern Fantasy Level: Upper Number of pages: 393 Pub. Date: 2012

Summary:

This book jumps back to the community shown in The Giver, to a young birthmother named Claire. She was chosen for this job but something goes wrong in the birth and Claire is soon given a new job at the fish hatchery. But Claire can’t forget the son she gave birth to. After finding him at the nurturing center, it is all Claire can think about. She befriends the man caring for him and finds out that he is not doing well and that he has been living at home with the man and his children.  The reader than finds out that this man’s son is Jonah and the baby Gabe.  When Jonah steals Gabe, Claire goes into a frenzy and boards a cargo ship. In a rough storm she is thrown from the ship and the water takes her memory. She is pulled on to a beach into a society that doesn’t have the sameness Claire grew up with. In this society she falls in love with a man named Einar, but she must leave him to find her son. Once she escapes from the new community, Claire must give up her youth to the Trademaster in order to find her son. Here the story changes points of view to Gabe, now a young man living in the community introduced to the reader in Messenger. Here Gabe is trying to escape and go back to community he and Jonah came from to find his mother. Gabe and his wife Kira try to explain to him that he won’t find what he’s looking for. Claire has been living in the community for some time and is near death, she goes to Jonah explaining her fate to him. Jonah divulges this information to Gabe who then takes on the Trademaster, defeating him and saving his mother.

Critique:

The final to this series covers a lot of settings in one short chapter book. All of these settings are very realistic particularly the one in the middle portion of the story. This place is very similar to a colonial one.  All of these things make the story seem possible. The Trademaster is a huge magical power in the story but he seems real because he is evil to the core. Overall this story does a good job at convincing the reader that the story could be real.

Response:

This book was a wonderful conclusion to the series. By having Claire make a journey that covers the time of all three previous books, it helps to tie all of the stories together. Also unlike the other stories this book ended in a way that doesn’t leave the reader needing to know about another character to feel complete. If I could change one thing about this book, I would make it so that Claire and Einar could be together. It seems sad to me that they fell in love and nothing would ever come of it. Also, Claire was restored at the death of the Trademaster so I wonder if Einar was as well. Even if he was he would never find Claire. The ending to this book ends on the perfect bittersweet note to compliment the rest of the series and also to talk about the sacrifice made by all the characters.

Assignments:

After: Have students make a chart connecting all four stories in the series.

Diary of a Fairy Godmother

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Title: Diary of a Fairy Godmother Author: Esmé Raji Codell Illustrator: Drazen Kozjan
Publisher: New York; Hyperion Books for Children

Genre: Modern Fantasy Level: Intermediate Number of pages: 170 Pub. Date: 2005

Summary:

Told from the point of view of young Hunky Dory’s diary, this story includes many famous fairy tales, Including: Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin, Wishing Wells, the Wizard of Oz and many more. Hunky Dory is all set to be the wickedest witch in her grade. But then she is introduced to Fairy Godmothers and the idea of wishes. After struggling with inner conflict, Hunky decides to drop out of school and pursue a career as a fairy godmother. This enrages her mother and she is kicked out of her house. Hunky struggles to make a name for herself while also staying true to what she really wants.  In the end Hunky helps Cinderella and becomes a full fledged Fairy Godmother while also making amends with her mother and other witch friends.

Critique (Include features of genre featured in class.)

This story is a Humorous Fantasy, the book is not very serious and have may comical moments. This book does a good job in making the reader believe that there is a world of magic with witches and fairy godmothers. Although this book is obviously fantasy, princes get turned into frogs for goodness sakes, there are some traits of realistic fiction. Hunky Dory is a very relatable character and she goes on a journey to find herself. I believe characteristics of becoming one’s own self, realistic fiction are very present in this story. Hunky challenges what is expected from her and ends up becoming something greater than she ever imagined.

Response:

This book was adorable. I really enjoyed how it gave a different viewpoint of classic fairy tales. I thought it was clever how the author wove in the fairy tales so that the story still worked if you had never read them. This made the book more universally entertaining. Also at the end of the book is a long list of fairy tales that focus on witches for further reading. This would allow students to pursue the topic further if it was of great interest to them.

Assignments:

            During: Everyday students will be given 5-10 minutes to write a short diary entry about what happened in class that day.

The Blue Sword

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Title: The Blue Sword Author: Robin McKinley Illustrator: n/a Publisher: New York; Puffin Books

Genre: Modern Fantasy Level: Upper Number of pages: 272 Pub. Date: 1982

Summary:

Harry moves to Damar after her father’s death to be closer to her only real family, her brother, Richard. However, when the Hillfolk’s King Corlath comes to town Harry’s life changes. Corlath kidnaps her and she begins to learn the way of the Hillfolk. Soon she is a member of the king’s riders and carries the famous blue sword. She fights with the Hillfolk to save both of the communities that are a part of her life.

Critique:

This book is a high fantasy with characteristics of magical adventures.  Harry is the hero in the story going on a quest to save both her home country and the magical Hillfolk who’s culture she becomes a part of. However, there are also many examples of magic found in this story. Including when Harry is captured and The Hillfolk’s King walks through walls to get to her. This book is set in a made up desert setting in a time that seems stuck between medieval and modern. One characteristic of this book that makes me believe it is particularly good fantasy is that many of the characters don’t believe that the magic is possible. This helps to create a sense of realism in the story that helps to make the magic that much more special.

Response:

I love, love, loved this book. Harry was a very relatable character. She is sad about her father dying but at the same time is excited to be in her new home. Then after the Hillfolk abduct her; she struggles with her fear and curiosity. These feelings are all one’s that most can relate to.  I feel like I am like Harry in that I am curious about surroundings when ever I am some place new. I have moved seven times and each time although it is frightening I am interested to find out about the new surrounding.

Assignments:

            During: Students will imagine they are in Harry’s place and write about what they would do.

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins

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Title: Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins Author: Eric Kimmel Illustrator: Trina Schart Hyman
Publisher: New York; Holiday House

Genre: Fantasy Level: Primary Number of pages: 30 Pub. Date: 1989

Summary (Use your own words; 3-4 sentences; setting, characters, plot, conflict, resolution): Hershel of Ostropol comes across a small village on the first night of Hanukkah, but not a single Hanukkah candle is lit. He finds out the town is tormented by goblins that hate Hanukkah. The town’s people explain that the only way that they would be able to celebrate Hanukkah is if someone went to the old synagogue and lit the Hanukkah candles each night. Then on the eighth night the Goblin King would have to light the candles himself. Hershel agrees to challenge the goblins and proceeds to the synagogue to spend the eight nights of Hanukkah. Each night Hershel tricks the goblins that come into letting him light the candles. Finally Hershel tricks the Goblin King and Hanukkah is saved.

Critique (Include features of genre featured in class.) This book is a modern fantasy book. It has elements of high fantasy. Hershel acts as the hero in this story, risking himself to save a small village he happens upon. While the town is made up and there are Goblins in the story many of the Hanukkah elements are factual which gives the story believability. The setting of the small town is made up but could represent a large number of small towns across Europe. Together these elements work to create a strong fantasy story.

Response:

This book does what a good fantasy book is supposed to it fuels the imagination.  The goblins in the story are the perfect villain for a children’s story ominous but easily tricked so that it is less scary. The drawings in this book are amazing which is what won it a Caldecott Honor in 1990. I particularly like the part of the book with the Goblin King. By never showing the Goblin King totally Ms. Hyman leaves it up to the reader’s imagination as to what the King really looks like.  Following is my interpretation to the Goblin King.

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I used crayons for my interpretation because I believe that it matched the original illustrations best.

Assignments:

After: Students will have their own artistic interpretation of the Goblin King. Paper, crayons, markers, colored pencil, scissors and glue will be provided so that they can use any materials they want.

A Read Aloud:

Charlotte’s Web

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Title: Charlotte’s Web Author: E.B.White 
Illustrator: Garth Williams
Publisher: New York:  Harper & Row Publishers, Inc.

Genre: Modern Fantasy Level: middle/intermediate Number of pages: 184 Pub. Date: 1952

Summary : A young girl named Fern saves a pig named Wilbur.  He lives on Zuckerman’s Farm where he meets Charlotte a grey spider.  Charlotte befriends Wilber and creates a plan to save him by writing in her web.  Wilber is awarded a special medal at the fair and his life is saved.  Charlotte dies alone but 3 of her children live on in the barn as Wilber’s friends.

Critique The setting is realistic; the barn is a real place.  The characters, particularly Fern and Charlotte, grow and change over the course of the narrative.  This story falls into “becoming one’s own person” category of realistic fiction.  There are elements of fantasy in this story.  The animals in Zuckerman’s barn can talk to each other and Fern can hear them; the author continually makes this fantastic element believable.

Response:

The part of this book that I reacted to the most was when Charlotte dies. Particularly when EB White tells us that “ No one was with her [Charlotte] when she died” (171). This part speaks to the humanity in all of us. Charlotte is a human character who is a true friend to Wilbur. Because of these characteristics it makes it more relatable for the reader.  This humanity makes Charlotte’s Web a great story but it also makes it that much more upsetting when Charlotte passes away. I feel like everybody can relate to losing someone, or something close to you. For me Charlotte’s death reminds me of losing my cat, Spike. However, I know for some students it will remind them of losing a grandparent, parent or friend. I think this book does a good job of bringing up the idea of life and death in a way that allows for conversation.

Assignments:

Before:  Students will predict what they think the story is going to be about based on the art of the cover.

During: Students can pick one scene from the book and do a small picture book without staples of what happened in the scene

After: Students will be given fake spider webs and a piece of black paper and asked to make a web describing the book. For example: the teacher’s web could say heart warming.

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