Tag Archives: fantasy

The Phantom Tollbooth

Bibliographic Information: Juster, Norton. (1964). The Phantom Tollbooth. New York: Random House.

Plot Description: Bored and disinterested 10 year old Milo, is never satisfied with anything. He always longs to be somewhere else and when he gets there he wonders why he bothered going. One day he discovers a package containing a toy tollbooth and map to the Lands Beyond. He sets it up and drives his little toy car through the booth and into a fantastical adventure. He meets an array of interesting and unusual characters, such as Tock the watch dog, who is both figuratively and literally a watch dog, since he keeps watch to guard against time wasting and also has a giant clock in him. Along his journey Milo visits several lands, learning something new in each one, until he finally figures out how to enjoy the small pleasures of life.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile Measure: 1000L Interest Level: Middle Grades ATOS Book Level: 6.7

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The book features black and white drawings and is told by a third person narrator, who is credible, but only knows Milo’s thoughts. Figurative language is used throughout the novel. Many phrases in the story have both literal and figurative meaning. Some students may have trouble discerning the often multiple meanings behind names and ideas. The author uses satire and humor to convey meaning. Higher level vocabulary is used throughout the story. Students will likely expand their vocabulary reading this novel and can use context to help understand new words. There is most certainly a distance between the events of the text and the experiences of the reader and events will be unfamiliar to readers. However, readers may connect to Milo and his boredom, as everyone has experienced it at some point, though hopefully not as severely as Milo. Knowledge specific to the fantastical lands in the story are often explained to help readers understand how things work in the Lands Beyond, though the explanations may not always be clear.

Content Area: Reading, Literature, Mathematics

Content Area Standard:

English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Literature: Craft and Structure: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.

English Language Arts Standards for Language: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 6 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

English Language Arts Standards for Language: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.4.a Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word’s position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

Curriculum Suggestions: Have students identify figurative language in the text and determine the often dual meanings (figurative and literal) using contextual clues. As they read, ask students to record character traits of Milo, Humbug and Tock throughout the story. Have students respond to the following quote about Milo: “He regarded the process of seeking knowledge as the greatest waste of time of all” (p. 2). Do you feel the same way? Why or why not? Why do you think Milo felt that way? How could you show Milo the importance of seeking knowledge?

Supporting Digital Content:




Awards: George C. Stone Centre for Children’s Books Award

Character names/descriptions: Milo, a ten year old boy who is in the doldrums. He is always bored and takes little interest in his surroundings.

Personal Thoughts: I enjoyed this book as a child and think it is still relevant today. Even with all the technology and countless ways to amuse oneself, many children are still bored by everything (maybe even more so than when the book was written). It has a great lesson for readers and it is very entertaining and funny.

High interest annotation: Everything bores young Milo, so perhaps a trip through the phantom tollbooth is just what he needs to embark on a journey of discovery that will change all that

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Offical Artemis Fowl Website

Bibliographic information: http://artemisfowl.com/

Brief description: This transmedia piece links the Artemis Fowl book series by Eoin Colfer, into an number of different formats and reader experience. There are the original books, which are being made into graphic novel format. Then there is an author bio page, as well as ‘secret files’ characters from the series. These files include pictures (graphics), classifications, background, special skills and other intelligence on the assorted characters. The videos tab includes a music video for a song called, ‘Call me Artemis Fowl’, videos of the author performing his novels as ComicCon and various locations across the country and book trailers featuring teasers from the author and graphics of the stories. There is also a game section and a Gnomish Alphabet Decoder.

Qualitative  analysis: This website would be of high interest to Artemis Fowl fans, being well made and featuring lots of graphics, sounds, videos, etc. It may help hook readers on the series and get them even more interested in reading. Knowledge of the characters and their adventures will add to the enjoyment of the site and allow for deeper understanding, but is not necessary for comprehension, as things like book summaries and character biographies are included on the site. There are a wide array of text features, including diagrams, font changes, visuals, sound effects, music, moving graphics and more that compete for the readers’ attention. Graphics and visuals are used to augment and illustrate information. There is distance between the reader and the events of the series, but the website attempts to bring the reader into the story with features like games to get into Artemis’ inner circle.

Subject area: English, Language Arts

Personal thoughts: I think this website is great. It looks very professional and advanced. There are lots of graphics, sounds and different things happening when you click to different parts of the site. A click can set in motion several different things on the page, so it seems full of action.

Subjects/themes: Transmedia, books, graphic novels, music, games

Series information: Artemis Fowl Series

Character names/descriptions: Artemis Fowl, boy genius who, is not daunted by taking on magical creatures and attempting to out wit them.

High interest annotation: Look at the classified files on various characters and find out all the intel in their reports. Decode a Gnomish puzzle or faces the challenges to become a part of Artemis’ inner circle.

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The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles

Bibliographic Information: Andrews Edwards, Julie. (2004). The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. New York: Harper Trophy.

Plot Description: The Potter children meet an eccentric and brilliant professor who tells them of the special Whangdoodleland where the intelligent and magical creatures have gone when people stopped believing in them. Getting to Whangdoodleland is no easy feat and the children must use their patience and imagination in order to learn to see things in a new light and make the magical journey. Once there, they set out on a search for the last of the really great Whangdoodles (who is the king of the land and the wisest and most generous of all creatures). Along the way they meet a plethora of other magical creatures, such as sidewinders and gazooks. Most are good natured, friendly creatures, but some are not so nice. The ‘oily’ Prock, for example, will do anything he can to keep the humans from reaching the last of the really great Whangdoodles.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile Measure: 620L, Interest Level: Middle Grades, ATOS Book Level: 4.4

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The vocabulary is mostly familiar, but some phrases are a bit antiquated, such as ‘fiddlesticks’ and may be unfamiliar to young readers. There is also some academic language as the professor explains things to the children. As he explains it to the characters, it is also explained to the reader, so should not pose a challenge to comprehension. Some of the characters’ speech in Whangdoodleland is spelled phonetically to let the reader understand how it would sound, which may be a little confusing at first, for students with low reading levels. The novel also contains some more sophisticated vocabulary, which will challenge and help students grow their vocabulary. Illustrations are not used in the book. According to the author’s note in the front of the book, Andrew’s declined having illustrations added to the story because since it is a book about imagination, she felt it was more authentic to require readers to use their own imaginations to ‘see’ the land she creates in the story.

Content Area: Reading, Literature

Content Area Standard:

English Language Arts Standards: Language: Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.6.4.a Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word’s position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.

English Language Arts Standards: Writing: Research to Build and Present Knowledge: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources; assess the credibility of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and providing basic bibliographic information for sources.

Curriculum Suggestions: Make a Whangdoodle dictionary to keep track of all the Whangdoodleland specific terms and creatures you come across in the story. Your entries should follow the same format as a dictionary. Include the parts of speech, as well as a definition and example sentence from the text to show how the word is used in context. The professor explains cloning to the Potter children in the story. Do your own research about cloning (in particular animal cloning) and summarize your findings, using proper citation to avoid plagiarism.

Supporting Digital Content:


Character names/descriptions: The Potter children: Ben (13), Tom (10) & Lindy (7), who meet a strange and brilliant professor and travel with him on a quest to find the last of the really great whangdoodles. Professor Savant, a noble Prize winner who leads the children on their quest.

Edition: 30th Anniversary Edition with foreword by the author

Personal Thoughts: I absolutely loved this book as a child and I think its whimsical world holds up to the test of time. Andrew’s creates fantastical characters and lands that will capture children’s imagination well into the future.

High interest annotation: Join the Potter children as they learn to let their imaginations free and journey to the magical world of the last of the really great Whangdoodles.

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The Wanderer

Bibliographic Information: Creech, Sharon. (2000). The Wanderer. New York: Joanna Cotler Books.

Plot Description: This story is told in alternating viewpoints through journal entries written by thirteen year old Sophie and her cousin Cody as they sail across the Atlantic to England, the home of their Grandfather. Sophie is the only girl in a crew of five men (her three uncles and two cousins). There is another reason Sophie is different from the rest of the crew. They have always been family and Sophie only became a part of their ranks three years ago when she was adopted by the uncles’ sister. Sophie is excited to find adventure on the high seas, but she also takes a journey of profound personal discovery. The second narrator, Cody also takes a personal journey as he proves to himself and his family that he has a deep inner strength behind his clowning exterior.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile Measure: 830L Interest Level: Middle Grades ATOS Book Level: 5.2

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The author uses figurative language, such as personification and similes to make connections within the text. For example, ‘Sophie is like the sea,’ she has different personalities like the sea: calm, still, rough, etc. The author uses alternating points of view in limited first person narration, to show the reader different views of the same story. There is significant complexity and multiple levels of meaning. Some meaning is stated, while others are left to the reader to interpret. Vocabulary is mostly conventional, conversational and familiar. Unfamiliar nautical and boat related terms are explained and easily inferred from context. Sentences are primarily simple and compound, with occasion for more complex phrases and transition words. Experiences portrayed are uncommon to most readers. Not many will have sailed (especially on a long journey) or been adopted (particularly in later childhood). Students may connect with themes of belonging, searching for yourself and grief.

Content Area: Reading, Literature, Geography

Content Area Standard:

English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Literature: Key Ideas and Details: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.1 Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

Curriculum Suggestions: Have students create a map of the Wanderer’s journey across the Atlantic. Label the important places it sails and crucial events that happen there. Chart the changes that occur for key characters over the course of the journey. Support your answers with details from the text. Sophie is like the sea. Have students pick an element of nature that they are like and explain why.

Supporting Digital Content:



Awards: SLJ Best Book; State Award; Parent’s Choice Award; ALA Notable/Best Books; Christopher Award; Publishers Weekly Best Book; BCCB Blue Ribbon Book; Newbery Honor; Young Reader’s Choice Award/Nominee; Carnegie Medal/Honors; Book Sense Book of the Year Award/Honorees; Booklist Editors’ Choice

Character names/descriptions: Sophie a young girl whose parents died and was adopted three years ago, Cody is her new cousin, who is interested and intrigued by her.

Personal Thoughts: Sophie is a brave and tenacious young girl who makes a wonderful narrator. I also enjoyed the view of Sophie from both her words and those of someone getting to know her.

High interest annotation: Come along on an exciting and perilous journey sailing across the Atlantic, which is also a journey of self discovery for the six wanderers on board

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Bibliographic Information: Gaiman, Neil. (1999). Stardust. New York: Avon Books.

Plot Description: Tristan makes a promise to his beloved Victoria, that he will bring back a fallen star for her and then they will marry. This promise is the beginning of Tristan’s adventures. He sneaks through the only hole in the wall (which separates his sleepy English town ‘Wall’ from the world of the faeries) in search of the fallen star. The star turns out to be nothing like he expected and together they meet an assortment of unusual and mysterious characters, while braving all sorts of dangers on their journey through the enchanted world of Faerie. To complicate matters, Tristan is not the only one searching for the fallen star, which holds the key to youth, power and dark magic for evil witches in the land. These witches will stop at nothing to take the star from Tristan and destroy her to gain the magic they desire.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile Measure: 970L Interest Level: Upper Grades ATOS Book Level: 6.2

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The story contains multiple levels of meaning. The genre is familiar, but the text bends and expands the rules of the genre. Organization adheres to most conventions, but often shifts the readers focus to another perspective, time, place or event before returning to the main characters. The story is told in third person omniscient narration, by a credible voice that provides an appropriate level of detail. The same graphic is used to mark the beginning of each new chapter. The text organization has more than one storyline and is at times difficult to predict. The text has complex sentences with subordinate clauses and transition words. The story explores themes of varying levels of complexity. As it is a fantasy story, experiences portrayed will not be common to readers. Though elements of the story will be familiar, as they are conventions used in fantasy/fairytales that readers likely know.

Content Area: Reading, Literature

Content Area Standard:

English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Literature: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Literature: Key Ideas and Details: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9
Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare).

Curriculum Suggestions: Discuss with students some common elements of fairytales. Have students look for fairytale elements in the novel. Have students write about whether or not they think the novel is a fairy tale, providing textual support to backup their claims, then have students share their ideas in a class discussion.

Supporting Digital Content:


Awards: Publishers Weekly Best Book; Alex Award

Character names/descriptions: Tristan, Victoria his beloved, the beautiful Fallen Star, Evil Witches who want the star for her magic and a number of other strange characters from the faerie realm.

Personal Thoughts: A highly enjoyable, magical adventure. Compelling characters who inhabit an interesting, fantastical world. I highly recommend this story and the film version as well.

High interest annotation: Tristan’s adventures begin when he promises to bring his love a fallen star. Little does he know, the task will take him to a magical world, where he will need all his bravery and cunning to keep the star safe from the others who pursue her.

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Artemis Fowl

Bibliographic Information: Colfer, Eoin. (2001). Artemis Fowl. New York: Laurel-Leaf.

Plot Description: Twelve year old genius, Artemis Fowl comes from a long line of criminals. After his father disappears, it is up to him to regain his family’s wealth by whatever means necessary. He comes up with an scheme to steal gold from the elves by kidnapping and holding LEPrecon Captain Holly Short ransom. He has his loyal bodyguard Butler at his side, as well as the help of Juliet, Butler’s sister. Artemis’ two sidekicks come from a long line of security experts, who have served the Fowl’s for generations. However, the three get more than they bargained for when they go up against Holly’s Commander, Root, who is determined to get her back and brings elf magic, time-stops and trolls enter into the equation.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile Measure: 600L, Interest Level: Middle Grades, ATOS Book Level: 5

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The book contains some abstract and figurative language, such as the use of alliterations (ex: villainous venture) and similes (ex: mopeds part like fish). Some vocabulary, such as bamboozled, may be unfamiliar to students, but context clues should provide meaning for most. There are many complex sentences, which include subordinate clauses and transition words. Set in our world and a magical world below the earth’s surface, the story will not be familiar to students’ experiences. However, themes of loss, responsibility, and determination may be familiar to some students. The text structure includes subplots and more complex characters. The story is told in the third person and the narrator is reliable, but as the story switches back and forth between the elves’ world and our own, the reader only sees what is happening in one place at a time. There are some references to other works or cultural elements, most are well known, and those of the elf world are explained.

Content Area: Reading, Literature

Content Area Standard:

English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Literature: Key Ideas and Details: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.1 Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Literature: Key Ideas and Details: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.3 Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot).

Curriculum Suggestions: Have students choose two of their favorite characters from the novel and then look for descriptions or passages in the text that explain who the character is (their personality). Students then draw what they imagine the character to look like and copy the passage they found under the picture. Have students look for passages that describe the setting (both underground in the elf world and above ground where the Mud People reside). Compare and contrast the two different settings and discuss how the difference in setting affects the actions of the characters and their strategies.

Supporting Digital Content:






Awards: BCCB Blue Ribbon Book; Young Reader’s Choice Award/Nominee; VOYA Award/Honor

Series information: 1st book in the Artemis Fowl Series

Character names/descriptions: Artemis Fowl, a twelve year old criminal mastermind. Butler, his bodyguard. Juliet, Butler’s sister. Elf Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon, who is kidnapped by Artemis.

Personal Thoughts: I found that I did not sympathize with Artemis as much as I generally do with a main character. He is a cheat and a criminal, but I thought I would grow to like him and I didn’t really. I felt more for the faerie characters.

High interest annotation: A criminal mastermind plots against the elf people to steal their gold. Who would dare invoke the wrath of these magical creatures? Twelve year old Artemis Fowl, that’s who

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The New Kid on the Block by Jack Prelutsky

Bibliographic Information:

Prelutsky, Jack (1984). The new kid on the block. New York: Greenwillow Books.

Plot Description: More than 100 funny poems and illustrations on a plethora of topics, such as why dad is so thoroughly mad, monsters, flying, goopy glue and Greasy Spoon Diners. The silly poems feature all kinds of fantastical creatures: the Flotz, boneless chicken, the Diatonic Sittymunch and the Zoosher, just to name a few. As well as interestingly named human characters like Lavinia Nink and Baloney Belly Billy, among others. The poems and illustrations collected in this book offer amusing looks at topics from the seemingly mundane (homework) to the completely insane (Gloopy Gloppers: oozing creatures looking for people to devour).

Quantitative Reading Level : Lexile Measure: N/A, Grade Level: 3.7, DRA: 38

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The poems feature figurative language such as rhyme schemes, alliteration, simile, metaphor and personification. The vocabulary is mostly familiar and conversational. However, some vocabulary may be unfamiliar to readers. Words like nitroglycerine, condescending, resounding and hullabaloo may be challenging, but they add to the cadence of the poems and their meaning can usually be gleaned from context. The poems are composed of mostly simple and complex sentences. Illustrations support the meaning of each poem and themes are clear. Some of the themes and experiences portrayed are common to readers, such as being disgusted with your brother, having a sister who is a sissy, homework, bullies and being forced to eat something they don’t like. However, many of the poems feature silly made up creatures, whose experiences are distinctly different, but are meant to be silly, strange and amusing, like the Gloopy Gloppers who are oozing their way over to find if you are ‘gloppable’.

Content Area: Language Arts (Poetry)

Content Area Standard: English Language Arts Writing

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.5 With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.

English Language Arts Reading: Foundational Skills

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.4.4.b Read grade-level prose and poetry orally with accuracy, appropriate rate, and expression on successive readings.

English Language Arts College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

Curriculum Suggestions: Use in poetry unit to discuss rhyme schemes and have students look for examples of figurative language such as alliteration, simile, metaphor and personification. Hear the author read a poem from the book and have students practice reading it with the same intonation and rhythm as Prelutsky. Activity sheets to get students brainstorming ideas and sounds for writing their own poems.

Supporting Digital Content: 


Awards: Rebecca Claudill Young Reader’s Book Award Nominee

Personal Thoughts: This is a great book for getting students interested in poetry. It has silly topics that will grab student’s attention, as well as funny illustrations.

High interest annotation: More than 100 comical poems and illustrations on a variety of childhood topics and imaginary creatures.

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A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Bibliographic Information:
L’Engle, Madeleine (2005). A wrinkle in time. New York: Laurel-Leaf.

Plot Description: Meg is a Teen girl who doesn’t feel she fits in, the only one who understands her is her young brother Charles Wallace. These two must go on a fantastical journey through time to find their missing father, who may be in danger. They are accompanied on their quest through time and space by Calvin, an older boy from Meg’s school and aided by three strange ‘unearthly’ old women: Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which, all of whom are certainly much more than meets the eye. Their journey takes them to several planets, one of which is ruled by ‘IT’ an evil disembodied brain that bends the population to its will and forces everyone into conformity. The children try to resist being hypnotized and taken over by ‘IT’. In order to save them from evil Meg must discover on her own, the one thing she has that ‘IT’ does not.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile Measure: 740L Interest Level: Middle Grades ATOS Book Level: 4.7 Common Core State Standards Appendix B Titles-CCSS Grade Band 6-8

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The book contains figurative language such as symbolism, metaphors, allusions and imagery. There is also some science vocabulary relating to physics concepts and time travel. Multiple themes such as struggle to fit in, conformity, good vs. evil, fate and free will are familiar to many readers, however the experiences in the book are not. First person narration provides accurate but limited perspectives or viewpoints. The text structure includes shifts in time and more complex characters, such as a 5 year old with special gifts that make him wise far beyond his years with an ability to read people, in addition to other worldly creatures that can change their appearance. The book contains elements of both moderately and very complex texts according to the SCASS Rubric, thus I would simply call it complex. However, the CCSS call it somewhat complex.

Content Area: Reading, Literature, Science (Physics & Astronomy)

Content Area Standard: English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Literature

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.3 Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.

English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Writing

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

Curriculum Suggestions: Examine literary devices, plot, theme, figurative language, character development, etc used in the novel. Discuss themes of self-perception, courage and place in family & school. Write a continuation to a chapter or end of novel. Create your own fictional planet and its inhabitants. Use the special edition of the book and read the essay on science in the novel as an opener for further learning and discussion of scientific theories related to the story.

Supporting Digital Content: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/sites/default/files/asset/file/a-wrinkle-in-time-bookfile.pdf



Awards: Newberry Medal, NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts, School Library Journal Best Book, Lewis Carroll Shelf Award

Series information: Time Quartet

Character names/descriptions: Meg an awkward high school girl who travels through time to rescue her father , Charles Wallace Meg’s highly intelligent 5 year old brother who has a gift for reading people, Calvin a popular neighbor boy who accompanies Meg and Charles Wallace on their journey.

Additional Information: This Special Edition includes an essay about the real-life science that inspired the book.

Personal Thoughts: I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to middle and high school students, especially those who enjoy fantasy or adventure.

High interest annotation: Three young people travel through space and time to fight evil.

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