Endangered won’t be released until October 1st, but I am publishing this early so that you can place your pre-orders now. Endangered was hands-down the best book I read this summer. I read it straight through, in the middle of the night, because I could not put it down. The book made it’s way to the top of my TBR pile after I tweeted a request for realistic YA with a focus on science. When a few Twitter pals recommended Eliot Schrefer’s upcoming book I remembered seeing a few mentions of the book at BEA back in May. The ARC quickly climbed to the top of my TBR pile and I am very glad it did. Like I said, it was my favorite book of the summer!
For those of you who don’t know me in real life, I am a science girl. I went to a pre-engineering and science high school and spent my first year of college struggling to decide between English and biology as a major. I was a part of Project SUPER during my freshman year in college, which “is an enrichment program for undergraduate women interested in pursuing the sciences, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.” We visited labs all over campus, met with mentors, and participated in research. In the end, I became an education major with a double major in English. However, I am still a science girl at heart. All you have to do is look at my involvement with the Monarch Teacher Network to know that!
Back on the subject of Endangered. Books about animals, with a focus on biology or conservation, are my bread and butter. For some reason, there is a severe lack of these books in YA. (Other than dystopian, science fiction books). But Endangered is the book to beat all books in the genre! It’s real, it’s gritty, and it will break your heart. But the best part is the science is all real and the desperate need for conservation is all too real in a part of the world that often can’t feed it’s people, let along focus on the innocent creatures surrounding them.
Endangered is the truly exceptional story of Sophie, a teenage girl whose mother runs a bonobo sanctuary in Congo. Bonobos are our closest relatives (we share 98% of our DNA, more than chimps) and they are surprisingly human-like. However, they live in the war-torn Congo and are in danger of becoming the first great apes to become extinct under our watch. Sophie’s mother works alongside the government to raise orphaned bonobos in order to release them into the wild later in life. But when Sophie personally rescues Otto, an orphaned bonobo, she becomes attached to him.
But Sophie and Otto’s lives are in danger when a coup threatens the stability of the country. Sophie and Otto are forced to flee into the jungle in order to survive and they must make their way to safety. Together, alongside some of the surviving bonobos from the sanctuary, they must fight to stay alive amidst revolution and chaos.
I can not recommend this book enough. However, be aware that it is a war story, and thus I would recommend it for high school readers and not those in middle school. It’s also full of facts that are woven seamlessly into the narrative. I’d love to have my students read this as we study imperialism in Africa. It’s a natural ladder to (and even from) Achebe and Adichi’s works. Endangered is a tale of survival amid violence and Schrefer doesn’t shy away from the gory details at times. And because those details sometimes involve mistreated animals, I found it hard to read at times. However, I also could not stop reading. And that’s the magic of Endangered.
I finished the book a few weeks ago and it’s still on my mind. I immediately passed it on to my co-worker who teaches biology. I plan to place it on my list of recommended summer reads next year. And I can’t wait to booktalk to my students. It’s the perfect mix of humanity, history, biology, conservation, compassion, the human condition, and current events. I find myself still researching bonobos as I type this!
Highly, highly recommended. And I fully expect to hear this title brought up in many awards conversations.
(Eliot Schrefer will be presenting at NCTE in November. I know I can’t wait to be a part of that audience!)
*ARC courtesy of the publisher
I can finally announce that this year I will be dedicating the months of October, November, and December to the Cybils once again! I am on my dream panel, the YA fiction round 1 panel, for the first time and I could not be more excited. My panel is tremendous and I can not wait to work with them. Check out who I am lucky enough to talk YA with!
We have about two weeks until the nominations open, but I will be preparing in the mean time. Start thinking about the books you want to nominate so that you can get started on October 1st. I am looking forward to reading all of the nominated titles!
Just a quick hello to those of you who have found your way here from The Learning Network Blog at The New York Times. I blog about literacy for the most part, with some focus on STEM-related issues. I’m a passionate reader of YA books and post a lot of reviews here on the blog. For more information on me, check out the About tab up top.
RIF is a fantastic organization that I have worked with in the past. Earlier this week I received a press release from them that I am thrilled to share with you. Their new early childhood literacy initiative focuses on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), a cause close to my own heart.
Early Childhood Literacy Initiative Launches
Targeting Next-Generation Innovation with STEM+Arts Approach
RIF Releases STEAM Multicultural Book Collection Connecting STEM, the Arts and Early Learning
– Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) is launching a multi-year early childhood literacy campaign to inspire the next-generation of innovators through an approach integrating the arts with STEM learning (science, technology, engineering and math). The campaign is anchored by today’s release of RIF’s 2012-2013 Multicultural Book Collection, comprised of 40 children’s books and related activities using STEAM-themes.
“The next Mark Zuckerberg may be that 8-year-old child RIF serves whose only books are the ones we provide,” said Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO of RIF. “The skills today’s students need to succeed as tomorrow’s pioneers should start at the earliest possible opportunity with an approach that builds on their natural curiosity. As a country, we’re missing the mark with few resources explicitly aimed at STEAM education for our youngest students.”
Rasco added, “This initiative is about inspiring the innovators of tomorrow early with engaging books and resources that connect the dots between science, technology and the arts from broad-ranging cultural perspectives. From DaVinci to Madame C.J. Walker to Steve Jobs, our greatest innovators are those who are as creative as they are precise, as imaginative as they are methodical. STEAM-based learning aims to nurture every facet of innovation.”
This year’s collection will be accompanied by a set of free downloadable activities for parents and educators to engage children in literacy development, based on the Common Core Standards adopted by 45 states in the nation.
“Out of 30 developed countries, our students in the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science literacy and 25th in math literacy. There are stark gaps here at home with low-income students scoring lowest and white and Asian students outpacing African-American, Hispanic and American-Indian students,” said Rasco, detailing results from the most recent Program for International Student Assessment and the National Assessment of Education Progress reports. “Our focus on STEAM literacy ultimately supports a national priority to ensure all American students receive the skills and knowledge required for success in the 21st century workplace.”
Each book in the collection was carefully reviewed and selected by RIF’s Literacy Services team with guidelines provided by RIF’s Literature Advisory Board and Multicultural Advisory Committee, national panels of educators and experts in books for children.
“What makes this collection unique is our insistence that each book present diverse characters and stories,” Dr. Judy Cheatham, RIF’s vice president of literacy services. “When children see themselves in the books they read at a young age, they are motivated to read more books and read more often. Books are powerful mirrors and windows for all of us.”
RIF has distributed the collection to RIF programs across the country since 2007 as part of its Multicultural Literacy Campaign, a multi-year initiative to promote and support early childhood literacy in African-American, Hispanic and American-Indian communities.
A full list of the new collection’s selected titles is available on RIF’s website along with accompanying activities. This year’s list includes celebrated and award-winning titles such as:
- Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
- Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
- How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
- City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems, illustrated by Jon J. Muth
- Grandpa’s Garden by Stella Fry, illustrated by Sheila Moxley
- 10 Things I Can Do to Help My World by Melanie Walsh
- Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Joy Fisher Hein
Throughout the year, RIF will be distributing 650 collections to local RIF programs across the country. The donation of these book collections is made possible through generous contributions from Macy’s.
“RIF is investing in this vital initiative to provide educators with the resources they need to put our youngest students on the path to becoming tomorrow’s innovators,” added Rasco. “To be clear, this serves far beyond the classroom. It fosters the kind of creativity, drive and determination that will ultimately create a pipeline of American workers poised to not simply compete in a global economy, but to lead.”
Additional components of RIF’s STEAM initiative include:
- National Art Contest sponsored by Nestlé
- Professional Development for Early Childhood Educators and Care Providers
- Family Literacy Celebrations with Free Books for Participating Kids
- Early Childhood STEAM Learning Advocacy
Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) delivers free books and literacy resources to children and families in underserved communities in the United States. By giving children the opportunity to own a book, RIF inspires them to become lifelong readers and achieve their full potential. As the nation’s largest children’s literacy nonprofit, RIF has placed 400 million books in the hands of more than 35 million children since it was established in 1966. Learn more and help RIF provide books to kids who need them most, visit RIF.org.
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