April 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Web Resources for Must-Read Book Club Picks │JLG’s On the Radar

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Do they really use human bones in bone china? How long can you farm without water? After reading the following titles, selected by the editors at Junior Library Guild, your students won’t need much prompting for discussion. Continue reading to see ideas and resources for using these picks with your book clubs or share them with your teachers.

Doll BonesBLACK, Holly. Doll Bones. illus. by Eliza Wheeler. S & S/McElderry. 2013. ISBN 9781416963981. JLG Level: B+ : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5–7).

A tragic mistake causes a chain of events forcing Zach, Poppy, and Alice on a journey to return a possessed doll to her final resting place. Traveling miles from home, the three adventurers face real danger, far removed from the innocent role-playing games of elementary school.

Creepy, but not too scary, even upper grade elementary students will want to read Black’s newest ghost tale. After reading the book, share and discuss the short video Alma (Fil’m Hafızası, 2009),  a film short in which much is left to the imagination of the viewer. You could also pair this title with The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson (Delacorte, 2011) and Ann M. Martin’s series “The Doll People” (Hyperion). Check out the Doll Bones book trailer, the author’s website (where you can also read chapter one), the Carnegie Public Library (check out the area myths and legends under Local History) and of course, the Museum of Ceramics in East Liverpool, Ohio. Black used the article on Lotus Ware to shape her story of Orchid Ware.

Great American Dust BowlBROWN, Don. The Great American Dust Bowl. Houghton Harcourt. 2013. ISBN 9780547815503. JLG Level: NE : Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6).

On April 14, 1935, sand-filled clouds filled the air, scouring paint off cars and derailing trains, as sixty-five-miles-an-hour winds caused the temperature to plummet and electricity to course through the sky. It wasn’t the first dust storm and wouldn’t be the last. What causes such powerful storms and how can they be stopped?

In graphic novel format, using sepia tones that recall the Great Depression, Brown introduces readers to probable causes and solutions to the dust storms that took so many lives during the “Dirty Thirties.” Pair the title with Matt Phelan’s The Storm in the Barn (Candlewick, 2009),The Dust Bowl Through the Lens : How Photography Revealed and Helped Remedy a National Disaster (Walker, 2009) by Martin W. Sandler, Children of the Dust Days (Carolrhoda, 2000) by Karen Mueller Coombs, Dust Bowl!: the 1930’s Black Blizzards (Bearport, 2005) by Richard H. Levey, or Out of the Dust (Scholastic, 1997) by Karen Hesse. For links to resources and lesson plans on the dust bowl, search Thinkfinity. Visit Don Brown’s website to learn more about the author and his work.

BlufftonPHELAN, Matt. Bluffton. Candlewick. 2013. ISBN 9780763650797. JLG Level: GM : Graphic Novels Middle (Grades 5–8).

For 30 years Bluffton, Michigan was the summer home for vaudevillians like Buster Keaton. Henry, a neighboring resident, becomes friends with young Buster, spending lazy days playing baseball, fishing for perch, and getting into mischief. Phelan’s third graphic novel blends the early life of Keaton with the dreams of a fictional boy who befriends a larger-than-life character.

Share this book with fans of graphic novels, and film or history buffs. Aside from the actor’s autobiography, students may want to read Keep Your Eye on the Kid by Catherine Brighton (Roaring Brook, 2008). You may even want to share it aloud before introducing the graphic novel. Then check out Phelan’s blog, Planet Ham, which has great clips of Keaton videos and information about vaudeville. Kids will want to see video of his stunts and certainly clips of The General. For more about the author and his work, see his website. Comic Book Resources posts an interview with Phelan on their site. And best of all, Bluffton’s publisher, has online resources from a Q & A with the author to a ready-to-use teacher’s guide. A book trailer can be found on YouTube.

Written in StonePARRY, Rosanne. Written in Stone. Random. 2013. ISBN 9780375969713. JLG Level: B : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5–7).

In 1923, 13-year-old Pearl lives in a Native American village that depends on the whale hunt for their winter survival. An unsuccessful expedition leaves her fatherless and the tribe struggling with the balance between the past and the future. Just when the situation seems dire, an art dealer arrives with answers to their prayers. Is it too good to be true? Pearl’s desire to protect her culture and her inquisitive nature send her on a mission that reads like a mystery.

Parry’s book offers teachers an opportunity to explore the culture of the Pacific Northwest Makah tribe. The author includes extensive back matter in the novel, providing you with background information. A glossary is also included. Check out Parry’s website for additional resources, especially her Pinterest board on the title. There’s also a link to a teacher’s guide , complete with connections to the Common Core standards. You can also request printed copies of the guide to give to your teacher’s by contacting her at her site. Using the book trailer on the same page to launch your reading is often a good idea.

Starting a book club?  Please visit JLG’s Shelf Life Blog. There’s a new post about how to do just that.

Junior Library Guild 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 www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com.


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.



  1. Thank you for your review of Holly Black’s award-winning ‘Doll Bones’, in which you mention a connection between the Museum of Ceramics and the story! I look forward to being in touch with the author too to learn more about that connection. I learned about the book today – 3-18/14 – when a children’s librarian traveled two hours south from Cleveland to visit us and our display of the nation’s largest public display of Lotus Ware porcelain, thanks to her knowing of the same connection. Interestingly, there was another children’s book by former area resident and prolific author Jane Louise Curry called ‘The Lotus Cup’ about Lotus Ware and the intersecting lives of a few East Liverpudlian teens. Do visit us in person, and failing that, learn more about Lotus Ware and lots of other area ware here in the nation’s pottery capital by ‘liking’ us on Facebook too: https://www.facebook.com/TheMuseumOfCeramics. If ever I can assist you in identifying any shards you may find, or the origins, the makers, the processes used to make any pottery in your possession, do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you again!