Topic: Children's Literature

ELA

Finding Purpose in "The Wild Robot"

Children's Literature Science Fiction Writing Process Human Connection

A robot is a machine programmed for a purpose—to perform a human task. But can a robot survive on its own? That’s the existential question in The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown, in which a robotic heroine, Roz, breaks during a tornado and gets blown to a remote island. This audio story presents an excerpt from the book, in which Roz interacts with various forest animals. Listen to hear students discuss the characters, events, and ideas in the story, and learn how the author came up with the idea of sending a robot into the wilderness.

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ELA

The Mystery of "The Westing Game"

Fiction Children's Literature Mystery

Reading a good mystery is like solving a puzzle. Readers have to pay attention to the characters and events in order to solve the mystery. In The Westing Game, the millionaire Samuel Westing has died, and it is time to read his will. Sixteen people are invited to the reading, and the will reveals that one of them murdered Samuel Westing! Now it is up to the group to determine which one of them did it. Listen to find out more about Samuel Westing’s will and the characters working to solve the mystery.

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ELA

Scared by "The Jumbies"

Children's Literature Horror Fantasy World Literature Facing Adversity Mythology

Scary, shape-changing creatures are universal elements in folktales around the world. In this audio story, author Tracey Baptiste meets with a group of students to discuss her book, The Jumbies, a story based on frightening creatures who populate the folktales of Trinidad and other places in the Caribbean region. In the story, Corinne, the main character, confronts the jumbies with the help of friends she meets in the forest, including a witch. Listen to hear students discuss why they like scary stories and to hear the author describe how she drew on folklore from her childhood to invent an original tale.

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ELA

Fact and Fiction in "Al Capone Does My Shirts"

Children's Literature Historical Fiction

Alcatraz Island, off the coast of San Francisco, was used as a prison for many years and held some of the most notorious criminals, including the mobster Al Capone. But inmates weren’t the only ones who lived on the island. The book Al Capone Does My Shirts follows the story of a boy who lives on the island with his family because his father works as a guard. He takes advantage of living on this island to make some money and liven up his life. This story explores life on the island and discusses the elements that make the book an exciting historical fiction read.

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ELA

Kids' Book By Kids

Children's Literature Writing Process Fantasy

Narratives imagined by children are often delightfully unbounded by adult conventions and logic. In this audio interview, a 6-year-old author and 13-year-old illustrator describe how they imagined and created an unusual picture book about some chickens who leave their farm to become pirates. Their parents, who collaborated on the project, compare their children’s creative processes to their own and analyze how observing and helping their children changed their own ideas about creativity. Listen to hear about a multi-generational collaboration that transformed one young child’s imaginative tale into an actual book.

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ELA

The Secret of "Tuck Everlasting"

Children's Literature Fantasy Magical Realism

The Tuck family gains immortality after drinking from a magical spring, but living forever brings sadness as well as joy. That is the premise of Natalie Babbitt’s classic novel Tuck Everlasting, about a 10-year-old girl who learns the Tuck family’s secret and wrestles with the decision about whether to drink from the fountain herself. Listen to hear fifth graders share their ideas about the book’s central themes, including death, eternal life, and living each moment to the fullest.

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ELA

James and the Giant Peach

Children's Literature Classics Fantasy Humor

James and the Giant Peach is a classic fantasy and adventure story that explores friendship, family relationships, and the fortunes of a young orphan. James is living with his cruel aunts when a peach magically sprouts in the yard. When the enormous fruit breaks from the tree and rolls into the ocean, James is stuck inside the peach with a group of insect friends, and together they set sail on an epic adventure. Listen to hear an elementary book club respond to the book’s funny and scary moments and discuss the lessons they took away from the novel.

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ELA

Race and "Maniac Magee"

Race Fiction Children's Literature

In Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac Magee, a twelve-year-old orphan runs away in search of a home and finds himself in a small Pennsylvania town segregated by race. There, the mysterious stranger, who earns the nickname “Maniac” for his legendary athletic feats, confronts prejudice and breaks down racial barriers. Listen to hear a fifth grade book club discuss how the lessons of Maniac Magee could be applied to their own communities.

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ELA

The Story Behind "Esperanza Rising"

Immigration Great Depression Class Children's Literature Ethnicity

The novel Esperanza Rising tells the “riches to rags” story of a girl who lived comfortably in Mexico in the 1930s until her family’s situation changed. She and her family had to move to California, where they worked in farm labor camps and lived in poverty as migrant workers during the Great Depression. Listen to hear an excerpt and a book discussion and learn how the author’s grandmother’s experiences inspired her to write the novel.

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Current Event April 4, 2019

Remembering Dr. Seuss and How He Grew

Culture World War II Children's Literature Visual Art

Dr. Seuss is well known for his popular children’s books full of fanciful rhymes and whimsical illustrations. His earlier cartoons, however, include many racist and anti-Semitic images, which the artist later regretted. Listen to this commentary by another children’s book author and illustrator who reflects on the importance of explaining Dr. Seuss’s evolution as an artist and a person in an exhibit of his work at the Dr. Seuss Museum.

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ELA

Actor Says Dyslexia Helped Shape Him

Education Psychology Arts Children's Literature Entertainment Learning Writing Process Media Neuroscience Humor Perseverance

In this interview, actor Henry Winkler discusses his own learning difference and that of Hank Zipzer, the main character in Winkler’s children’s book series. Hank, who is based on Winkler’s own experience as a child, struggles with learning to read, but works hard to succeed despite his challenges. Listen to learn more about Winkler’s story, how he persevered through his dyslexia and achieved success, and what he considers his greatest accomplishment.

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Current Event October 19, 2017

A New Book by Mark Twain

Race American Literature Children's Literature

Even though Mark Twain died more than 100 years ago, a new book was recently published based on his writing. Taking 16 pages of handwritten notes by Mark Twain, two authors collaborated to write a children’s book based on the bedtime stories Twain told his children. They discuss decisions they made throughout the process, including the main character’s race, and the goal they set as they wrote the story. Listen to hear more about this collaboration and the challenges of writing this book.

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ELA

Diversity in Children’s Literature

Race Education Children's Literature

Many of the characters in books written for children don’t reflect everyone’s background. One girl became frustrated when she couldn’t connect to the characters. In response, she began to gather books about black girls and then give these books to schools. Now that she has exceeded her original goal and collected almost 4,000 books, the girl has started to consider how to impact schools in an even larger way. Listen to hear what actions this girl decided to take to promote diverse books in schools.

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Current Event March 17, 2016

Book Characters of Color

Race Gender Children's Literature

Many of the characters in books written for students are white males. They don’t reflect everyone’s background. One girl became frustrated when she couldn’t connect to the characters. In response, she began to gather books about black girls and then give these books to schools. Now that she has exceeded her original goal and collected almost 4,000 books, the girl has started to consider how to impact schools in an even larger way. Listen to the story hear more about this remarkable campaign.

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ELA

"A Wrinkle in Time" Continues its Journey

Gender Fiction Children's Literature Science Fiction Young Adult Literature

"A Wrinkle in Time," a famous novel by Madeleine L’Engle, is the story of teenager Meg Murry. Meg is transported on an adventure through time and space with her younger brother and friend as they try to rescue her father. When it was originally published in 1963, no publisher knew how to promote it. What is it about “A Wrinkle in Time,” and why is it so controversial 50 years after its publication?

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ELA

Roald Dahl's Motivation for Writing

Biography Fiction Children's Literature Writing Process Narrative

Roald Dahl’s life was plagued by tragedy, and yet he wrote some of the most famous children’s books of our time, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. This public radio story takes you into Dahl’s life and explores what motivated his writing. Listen to learn more about his relationship with his wife and children, his special writing hut, and the legacy he left behind.

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