November 21, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

The Latest from Sheila Turnage and Tim Federle │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go

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Evict a ghost. Learn to dance. Give a speech. Save the world—certainly not your normal list of tasks for a sixth grader. These middle grade titles combine humor and poignancy creating the perfect recipe for great reads that will bring laughter and tears to young readers. Incorporate the following booktalks and tools when sharing these powerful books with your students.

What we found in tCLARK, Henry. What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World. Little, Brown. 2013. ISBN  9780316206662. JLG Level: HIM : High Interest Middle School (Grades 5–8).

The sofa wasn’t there on Monday but it was there on Tuesday. It sat in the shade just down the road from the bus stop…

”Where’d the sofa come from?” I asked.

“Brought it from home,” he replied as if I might believe it.

“Really,” I said looking down toward the bus stop, where the road curved to the right. When the bus got there, we would have to run to catch it. “You could have put it closer to the bus.”

Looking under the cushions, they found a flattened peanut shell, a chewing gum wrapper, a plaid sock, a funny looking coin, a fish hook and a zucchini crayon. Little did they know that the most important finding was the crayon. With it, they could save the world.

The author’s website is as hilarious as the novel. With links to MAD magazine and the DMV, you’ll also find his blog. You can follow him on Facebook. Readers may want to know more about the illustrator of the new series. Interestingly enough, there are people who collect crayons, so check out the market on ebay, the history on, and of course, Crayola.

Five Six SevenFEDERLE, Tim. Five, Six, Seven, Nate! S. & S. 2014. ISBN 9781442446939. JLG Level: B : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5–7).

With a director that can’t even remember his name, his arch nemesis in the lead, and an inability to dance with both feet, Nate is in for a bumpy ride in his first Broadway backstage experience. As second understudy to E. T. he mostly watches rehearsals, but a surprising alliance with a lead cast member puts Nate in the right place at the right time. Who would guess that anonymous gifts, unpredictable actors, and a sweaty T-shirt would force Nate into the spotlight?

You won’t want to miss the first book in this series, Better Nate than Ever (S. & S., 2013) Check out Federle’s website for all the awards and praise it gathered. You’ll also find a link to forthcoming Common Core aligned lesson plans for the new title―which is also not-to-be-missed. You can sign up for his newsletter, follow him on Twitter @timfederle, or email him. Read an interview and watch a video on Playbill. View the official book trailer. A Pinterest search for Broadway musicals rounds out the resources for the title.

Snicker of MagicLLOYD, Natalie. A Snicker of Magic. Scholastic. 2014. ISBN 9780545552707. JLG Level:  B+ : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5–7).

Making new friends, in a new place, when you’re the new girl, is harder than fractions. Felicity Pickle should know. She’s lived in six states and she’s only 12. Driving into her mama’s hometown, she could only hope that for once they’d settle down. She and her sister needed a place to dig in and grow some good memories. Midnight Gulch seemed like just the spot. Felicity could see the word “believe” as plain as day. And there was still magic in the town. She could feel it shouting, “YES!” in her heart. This is the story of how she turned it loose.

Debut novelist Natalie Lloyd writes a magical story that captivates readers from the first sentence, “They say all the magic is gone from this place.” Put up a large piece of bulletin board paper with the title “Words are Magic.” Ask students to write their favorite phrases or passages. Scholastic provides an activity guide with an emphasis on character and vocabulary. Looking for ideas about creating your own student booktalks? Since words are so important to the plot, teachers may want to have their students play with words either in a game or in word clouds―even those that aren’t Wordle. SLJ has already given it the Pick of the Day honor and it’s been featured on No magic is gone from the book; it shouts “YES” the whole time you’re reading it. A must-read. (Maybe more than once).

Ghosts of Tupelo LandingTURNAGE, Sheila. The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing. Penguin/Kathy Dawson. 2014. ISBN 9780803736719. JLG Level: C : Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9).

Mo and Dale have a mystery on their hands when Mo’s guardian Miss Lana buys a haunted old inn. Who is the restless spirit, and what does it want? During their investigation, the friends are given a school assignment to interview a Tupelo Landing local. When Mo learns that whoever talks with the town’s oldest resident gets extra credit, she decides that she and Dale will interview the hotel’s ghost. After all, ghosts are dead, and who’s older than dead?

Turnage brings back the colorful characters from her Newbery Honor-winning title Three Times Lucky (Dial, 2012). Penguin released a book trailer that you can use to introduce it to your readers. Additional resources incuding an interview on the publisher’s website. Follow the author on Facebook.

Additional Resources

In an effort to organize these links, I have created a LiveBinder. All websites will be posted within the LiveBinder, along with the accompanying booktalk. As I write more columns, more books and their resources will be added. Simply go to JLG Booktalks to Go where you will see LiveBinder main tabs. Each tab is a book title. Under each color-coded tab are gray subtabs with links to media, websites, and other related documents. Everything you need to teach or share brand new, hot-off-the-press books is now all in one place. Please visit JLG’s new LiveBinder, JLG Booktalks to Go.

For library resources, tips, and ideas, please visit JLG’s Shelf Life Blog.

Junior Library Guild (JLG) is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at (NOTE: JLG is owned by Media Source, Inc., SLJ’s parent company.)


Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.

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