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Exploring Intersectionality with the Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

Exploring Intersectionality with the Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

This past summer I attended a seminar presented by Sherri from Literary Sherri, about Intersectionality. This is a newer term that may be unfamiliar to many, but it is meaningful and impactful and is worthy of everyone, especially teachers, educating themselves about. From Merriam-Webster, “Intersectionality refers to the complex and cumulative way that the effects of different forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, and yes, intersect—especially in the experiences of marginalized people or groups.” You can read in more detail about how it is all intertwined at the Merriam-Webster website.

I am happy to say I already had several novel studies to support intersectionality in the classroom such as Out of My Mind, El Deafo, Fish in a Tree, Freak the Mighty, and Wonder to name a few. These modern novels help students understand the differences and challenges that others face and help build empathy and awareness that lead to a better educated and caring community.

I had heard a lot of chatter in teacher circles about the 2017 novel, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, as a good one to use to help build a stronger, more caring and kind classroom community. The chatter was right! This book is wonderful to help others really see through the eyes of another the challenges that can be faced by differences and disabilities. In addition to the empathy it sparks, it is hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud many times at the humor of Aven, the main character. Students will relate to her snarky and modern take on living the life of a thirteen-year-old. I dare say, I may have even liked this book more than Wonder!

From the book jacket:

Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus is just so wonderful to use in the classroom to incorporate intersectionality. You have Aven who lives with a congenital disability, Connor who lives with Tourette Syndrome, Zion who deals with bullying over his weight, add in adoption, divorce, and money struggles told from both a male and female perspective and there’s a lot of areas that intertwine in the intersectionality of life to help build the bridges of understanding and empathy.

I offer a full novel study for Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus that you can use with a whole class, small book groups, or individual students. It is easily adaptable and contains both a printable option and a Google Drive™ option.

Desert landscape with the title Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I really, really loved it and I know you and your students will too. Aven’s voice is so funny and she really challenges the readers to open their hearts and minds to the differences of others.


Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank

*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.

Meet the World’s Greatest Underachiever, Hank Zipzer!

Meet the World’s Greatest Underachiever, Hank Zipzer!

Niagara Falls or Does It? is the first book in Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver’s Hank Zipzer series. is a great book to use in your classroom or homeschool for a whole class novel study, small book groups, or individual book studies that present the learning challenges that Hank Zipzer experiences due to his undiagnosed Dyslexia.

Hank Zipzer is inspired by the challenges that Henry Winkler (best known as the Fonz!) faced as a boy. Henry’s undiagnosed Dyslexia made him a classic underachiever and gave him great anxiety about all aspects of going to school. The Hank Zipzer series is about Hank’s funny adventures while highlighting the inner thoughts, doubts, and fears that living with learning differences poses.  Henry himself along with his co-author, Lin Oliver, explain their inspiration for the series here:

I loved the quote from Lin Oliver, ” The most important part for us in creating the series is to speak to kids and let them know that inside each one of them they have a unique and special contribution that they can make to the world.” Kids that face learning challenges, among them Dyslexia, often face depression and low-self esteem thinking they are dumb, or less than their peers. The series gives kids the voice to know that they aren’t “stupid” that they are just wired in a different way and in many ways, this makes them even more talented in certain things.

From the Book Jacket of Niagara Falls, or Does it?:

It’s science project time in Ms. Adolf’s class. This is good news and bad news for Hank-he loves science, but he hates the report part. So Hank turns to TV to take his mind off things. But when the program directory scrolls by too quickly for Hank to know what’s on, he decides to take apart the cable box to try to slow down the crawl. Great! Now Hank has found the perfect science project! But what he wasn’t counting on was his sister’s pet iguana laying eighteen eggs in the disassembled cable box. How is Hank going to get out of this one? 

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Niagara Falls, or Does it? for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

niagara falls with a rainbow

As a parent who has a child that deals with similar learning challenges, I find Henry Winkler and his Hank Zipzer so inspiring. I was so happy to be able to give this book to my son in third grade so that he could read a book that had a character that he could relate to and give him inspiration that he is smarter than he may feel. Add the humor and this kid was hooked. It’s great that there are sixteen more books in the series to keep kids reading.

I’d like to share another video from Henry Winkler where he discusses Dyslexia and shares his experiences. He is an inspiring role model for kids with learning challenges and if you have someone in your life struggling, may it be a student or your own child, please share this with them as well.

Once you’ve moved through the Hank Zipzer series another great book I highly recommend for kids, in grades 4-6, that comes from the voice of a character with Dyslexia is Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mulally Hunt.


Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank


*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.

When Good Grades Break Bad!

When Good Grades Break Bad!

The Report Card by Andrew Clements touches on a lot of hot topics that can bring about some lively class discussions. It is a great book to use in your classroom or homeschool for a whole class novel study, small book groups, or individual book studies.

We read a lot of books about the underdog, the kid fighting learning problems or disabilities in some way and they are fantastic in helping students gain empathy towards others that may struggle in different ways than we do. The Report Card flips the narrative and discusses what it may be like to be the smartest kid in class. What stigma does that give a student? How might it make them feel as much as an outcast as the student with a learning disability?

The Report Card also brings about the controversial topic of standardized testing and how it affects students of all abilities. How valuable are these tests? Do they cause more harm than good? My personal opinion is a resounding YES, but I digress for this book review. 😉

From the Book Jacket:

Nora Rose Rowley is a genius, but don’t tell anyone. She’s managed to make it to the fifth grade without anyone figuring out that she’s not just an ordinary kid, and she wants to keep it that way.

But then Nora gets fed up with the importance everyone attaches to test scores and grades, and she purposely brings home a terrible report card just to prove a point. Suddenly the attention she’s successfully avoided all her life is focused on her, and her secret is out. And that’s when things start to get really complicated….

I offer a complete novel study to accompany The Report Card for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

A report card laying on a desk

I think you will be hard-pressed to find a student who can’t relate to someone in The Report Card. This book will drive some great discussions in your classroom and will help students look at learning and testing in a different light and hopefully realize that a person is so much more than a test score or a grade.


Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank


*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.

What Would You Do in Order to Achieve your Dream… for Freckles?

What Would You Do in Order to Achieve your Dream… for Freckles?

Judy Blume is a legend for telling humourous stories about the angst that kids face while growing up. Freckle Juice is yet another of her masterpieces. It is a great book to use in your classroom or homeschool for a whole class novel study, small book groups, or individual book studies.

Freckle Juice was first published in 1971. The story is one just about every kid can relate to, the desire to have something that a peer we admire has. In this case, Andrew wants to be just like his classmate Nicky who has freckles. The irony is Nicky would love to not have them showing that the grass is not always greener on the other side! Mix in a young entrepreneurial, Sharon and you have a funny story that kids will love.

From the Book Jacket:

More than anything in the world, Andrew Marcus wants freckles. His classmate Nicky has freckles—they cover his face, his ears, and the whole back of his neck. But when Andrew asks Nicky where he got them, Nicky just says he was born with them. Some help he is!

That’s when Sharon offers Andrew her secret freckle juice recipe—for fifty cents, she promises, Andrew can look just like Nicky. His freckleless days are over! He rushes home to whip up the concoction. Grape juice, vinegar, mustard…

But what starts out as a simple freckle juice recipe quickly turns into something disastrous. Andrew is still determined to get his freckles, and to show that pesky Sharon that she doesn’t know everything—and he has the perfect solution! Or does he?

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Freckle Juice for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

Blue-eyed boy with freckles

Just Blume does it again with Freckle Juice. It’s a great story for kids to ponder the “What if only I had…?” and how our desires can make us gullible to people trying to take advantage.


Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank


*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.