Monday, May 22, 2023

ICEBERG by Jennifer A. Nielsen -- an exciting adventure with a 12-year-old aspiring journalist


Why this book?

The story of the Titantic is always intriguing. I was drawn to the idea of a stowaway aboard the ship--and what an interesting character she turned out to be! Hazel’s dream of being a journalist was a great way to bring in bits of the history of what happened to the Titantic. There was also a storyline of Hazel collecting information to solve a mystery about some swindlers she came across on board. The friends Hazel makes give us different perspectives on life at the time of the Titantic. From a writer’s perspective, I think this would be a great read for anyone writing historical fiction. It’s a wonderful example of how to incorporate history into a compelling story!  

Connections: mysteries, the Titantic, journalism, adventure, icebergs

Activity Ideas:

Literacy: What are some of the clues Hazel collected about what was going to happen to the Titantic?

Discussion: Consider Mrs. Abelman’s statement: “We must live the best we can until we gracefully accept our fate.” Do you think Hazel had any regrets about any of her actions on the Titantic? Was there something she could have done differently?

STEM: Look up Morse Code and try to write a coded message to a friend. Tap it out and see if your friend can decode your message.

STEAM: Create a piece of art using a collage technique that contains a coded message.

STEM: Make a list of the things Hazel learned about icebergs. Write three question you have about icebergs. Do some research to see if you can find out the answers. Or research the question: What are some ways ships can avoid or be protected from colliding with icebergs?

Additional Resources: 

Also by Jennifer A. Nielsen and still one of my favourites is The False Prince (click here for my thoughts)

 Description from the publisher:   

Hazel Rothbury is traveling all alone from her home in England aboard the celebrated ship Titanic. Following the untimely death of her father, Hazel's mother is sending her to the US to work in a factory, so that she might send money back home to help her family make ends meet.

But Hazel harbors a secret dream: She wants to be a journalist, and she just knows that if she can write and sell a story about the Titanic's maiden voyage, she could earn enough money to support her family and not have to go to a sweatshop. When Hazel discovers that mother didn't send her with enough money for a ticket, she decides she must stow away onboard the storied ship.

With the help of a porter named Charlie and a sweet first-class passenger named Sylvia, Hazel explores the opulent ship in secret, but a haunting mystery quickly finds her. The danger only intensifies when calamity strikes, and readers will be caught up in the terror and suspense alongside Hazel as she fights to save her friends and herself.


Iceberg, written by Jennifer A. Nielsen was published by Scholastic Press in 2023.



To find more middle grade books to read, check out Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, organized by Greg Pattridge over at his blog.


Monday, May 8, 2023

THE BIG STING by Rachelle Delaney

Short girl and taller boy carrying books in front of a hill with bees around them

Why this book?

Since I love books about nature and all its creatures, I was intrigued to read a story involving bees. I also know that Rachelle Delaney’s books usually have some kind of mystery to solve—and missing beehives is certainly a unique premise.

 I was having so much fun I read this story in one day, and actually laughed out loud a few times. The characters are believable and I loved the idea that Grandpa was leading his more cautious grandson on adventures.

This story also referred to some interesting professions (such as auditor) and included some fun names for computer games, like Applewood Acres. The games sounded so fun I wished they were real! I really enjoyed this book! From a writer’s perspective, I think it would be a good mentor text for anyone writing a contemporary middle grade novel.

Connections: mysteries, neighborhood adventures, bees

Activity Ideas:

Social Emotional Learning: The story mentions several personality types related to an online personality quiz: Auditor, Adventurer, Problem-Solver and Counselor. List the characteristics of each personality. Which ones do you most relate to? What kind of career interests you? Does it fit with your personality type?

Literacy: What are some of the obstacles that Leo faced as they worked to find the missing beehives? How did his character change by the end of the story?

STEAM: Research bees and design a model of a beehive using materials of your choice. Or build a real bee habitat to install outdoors.

MEDIA: Design your own computer game idea by making up a name and rules for how to play. Create an ad for your game in a format of your choice (poster, video).


Additional Resources:

25 Bee Activities for Middle Schoolers - Link here.

For my thoughts on some other books by Rachelle Delaney, click on the titles:

The Metro Dogs of Moscow  

Alice Fleck’s Recipes for Disaster

Book description from the publisher (to visit the publisher click here):   

A visit to Leo's grandfather's farm turns upside down when his grandmother's bee hives are stolen. A light-hearted and funny middle-grade novel for fans of Rebecca Stead and Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

Eleven-year-old Leo is an "armchair adventurer." This, according to Dad, means he'd choose adventures in books or video games over real-life experiences. And while Leo hates the label, he can’t argue with it. Unlike his little sister Lizzie, Leo is not a risk-taker.  

So when he, Lizzie, Mom and Dad leave the city to visit Grandpa on Heron Island, Leo finds all kinds of dangers to avoid — from the deep, dark ocean to an old barn on the verge of collapse. But nothing on the island is more fearsome than Grandpa himself — Leo has never met anyone so grumpy! According to Mom, Grandpa is still grieving the recent death of his wife, a beekeeper beloved by everyone on the island.

Despite Leo's best efforts to avoid it, adventure finds him anyway when Grandma’s beehives go missing in the dead of night. Infuriated, Grandpa vows to track down the sticky-fingered thieves himself . . .  with risk-averse Leo and danger-loving Lizzie (plus a kitten named Mayhem) in tow.

The Big Sting, written by Rachelle Delaney was published by Tundra Books in 2023.

 Other reviews of this book (click on title):



 To find more middle grade books to read, check out Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, organized by Greg Pattridge over at his blog.