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The Science of Breakable Things

Author Tae Keller
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Paperback
$8.99 US
5.25"W x 7.75"H x 0.71"D  
On sale May 21, 2019 | 320 Pages | 978-1-5247-1569-4
| Grades 6-8
Reading Level: Lexile 840L | Fountas & Pinnell V
Natalie's uplifting story of using the scientific process to "save" her mother from depression is what Booklist calls "a winning story full of heart and action."

Eggs are breakable. Hope is not.

When Natalie's science teacher suggests that she enter an egg drop competition, Natalie thinks that this might be the perfect solution to all of her problems. There's prize money, and if she and her friends wins, then she can fly her botanist mother to see the miraculous Cobalt Blue Orchids--flowers that survive against impossible odds. Natalie's mother has been suffering from depression, and Natalie is sure that the flowers' magic will inspire her mom to love life again. Which means it's time for Natalie's friends to step up and show her that talking about a problem is like taking a plant out of a dark cupboard and giving it light. With their help, Natalie begins an uplifting journey to discover the science of hope, love, and miracles.

A vibrant, loving debut about the coming-of-age moment when kids realize that parents are people, too. Think THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH meets THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR * KIRKUS REVIEWS * THE CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY *

"Natalie's Korean heritage is sensitively explored, as is the central issue of depression."
--Publishers Weekly

"A compassionate glimpse of mental illness accessible to a broad audience."
--Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

"Holy moly!!! This book made me feel."
--Colby Sharp, editor of The Creativity Project, teacher, and cofounder of Nerdy Book Club
© Saavedra Photography
TAE KELLER was born and raised in Honolulu, where she grew up on purple rice, Spam musubi, and her halmoni’s tiger stories. She is the Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Trap a Tiger and The Science of Breakable Things. She lives in Seattle. Visit her at TaeKeller.com, follow her monthly love letters at bit.ly/lovetae, and find her on Twitter and Instagram. View titles by Tae Keller
Mr. Neely just wrote our first lab book assignment on the board in his scrunched- up, scratchy handwriting, and he’s getting all excited about this scientific process stuff. I’m not sure why he feels the need to use hashtags and spell perfectly innocent words with a z, but he’s one of those teachers you don’t bother questioning.

He has big plans for this lab notebook. Apparently, he thinks it’s important to teach students “dedication to long- term projects,” and this assignment is his grand solution. Basically, we’re supposed to observe something that interests us and spend all year applying the scientific process to our capital- Q Question. 

As soon as we sat down, he passed out these dorky old composition notebooks and said, “This will be your Wonderings journal! You will record lab notes and assignments, and document the greatest scientific journey of all time— your scientific journey!”

We all stared, trying to figure out if he was for real or not. He was.

“You’ll spend this year developing your own scientific process, and it all starts with one question—that thing that sparks you to life.” Mr. Neely made a weird explosion gesture with his hands, and someone in the back of the room giggled, which only seemed to encourage him. “By the end of the year, I’ll be the one learning. From you!”

Mr. Neely is a new teacher, so he’s still all optimistic and stuff, but personally I think this assignment’s a lost cause. Last year, our English teacher, Mrs. Jackson, thought it’d be really great for us to keep journals. The only requirement: fifty pages by the end of the year, written from the heart. If you haven’t guessed already, that just resulted in everyone writing all fifty pages the day before the journals were due. I mostly filled mine with song lyrics, copied in my biggest, sloppiest handwriting.

And technically, this is supposed to be homework, but I don’t see why I shouldn’t get a head start. Without further ado, dearest lab notebook, I present Natalie Napoli’s Scientific Observations:1
• Mr. Neely waves his arms in big circles when he talks, which makes him look like an overeager hula dancer. His white button-down—bright against his dark brown skin—wrinkles as he moves.
• He tells us he wants us to “embrace the joys of science.”
• Mikayla Menzer raises her hand.
• Mikayla Menzer answers without being called on. She says, “Science is literally the joy of my life. I am literally embracing it right now.”
• Mikayla Menzer is not literally embracing anything. She’s just sitting at her desk, catty-corner to mine, with her hands clasped in front of her, and her thick dark braid twisting over her shoulder.
• Mikayla Menzer smells like sunscreen, which kind of makes the entire classroom smell like sunscreen, and the air in here is damp and hot. I wish Fountain Middle had air-conditioning.
• I wish we had enough money for me to go to Valley Hope Middle, which does have AC, but now that Mom’s “sick,” Dad says we need to “tighten our belt a notch.”
• And anyway, Twig’s here, even though her family can definitely afford Valley Hope, so I guess this place isn’t so bad.2
• Mr. Neely is saying my name, but I haven’t been listening, so I just nod at him and give him my best I’m embracing science smile.
• Mr. Neely says, “I’m glad you’re having so much fun with the assignment, but making observations is supposed to be homework, Natalie. Please pay attention in class.”
• I am paying attention.
• And Mikayla Menzer still smells like sunscreen.
 
 
1 Only the most brilliant observations you’ll ever read. Imagine you’re hearing a drumroll right now. Go on, imagine it.  
 
2 Twig: best friend in the entire galaxy. (Her words.)  
Educator Guide for The Science of Breakable Things

Classroom-based guides appropriate for schools and colleges provide pre-reading and classroom activities, discussion questions connected to the curriculum, further reading, and resources.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)

Discussion Guide for The Science of Breakable Things

Provides questions, discussion topics, suggested reading lists, introductions and/or author Q&As, which are intended to enhance reading groups’ experiences.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)

  • NOMINEE | 2020
    Indiana Young Hoosier Book Award
  • NOMINEE | 2020
    Kansas William Allen White Children's Book Award
  • SELECTION | 2018
    Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best Books
An NPR Great Read of the Year
A Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year
Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year

A Booklist Reader Best Book of the Month
A Brightly Best Children's and YA Books of March 2018

“Natalie is an engaging narrator whose struggles at home and with her peers ring true.” —Deborah Hopkinson, award-winning author

“Inspiring, emotional, and heartwarming.” —Melissa Savage, author of Lemons

“A compassionate glimpse of mental illness accessible to a broad audience.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred

"Beautifully crafted metaphors, a theme of mending old friendships and creating new ones, and an empowering teacher to a variety of readers. . . . A winning story full of heart and action.” —Booklist, starred 

“Natalie’s Korean heritage is sensitively explored, as is the central issue of depression.” —Publishers Weekly

“Natalie learns that, as with the egg, people, too, are fragile and need support and padding to break their falls. An emotional story that explores parental depression with realism and empathy.” —School Library Journal

"A sweet and hope-filled story.” —Brightly

"Holy moly!!! This book made me feel." —Colby Sharp, editor of The Creativity Project

About

Natalie's uplifting story of using the scientific process to "save" her mother from depression is what Booklist calls "a winning story full of heart and action."

Eggs are breakable. Hope is not.

When Natalie's science teacher suggests that she enter an egg drop competition, Natalie thinks that this might be the perfect solution to all of her problems. There's prize money, and if she and her friends wins, then she can fly her botanist mother to see the miraculous Cobalt Blue Orchids--flowers that survive against impossible odds. Natalie's mother has been suffering from depression, and Natalie is sure that the flowers' magic will inspire her mom to love life again. Which means it's time for Natalie's friends to step up and show her that talking about a problem is like taking a plant out of a dark cupboard and giving it light. With their help, Natalie begins an uplifting journey to discover the science of hope, love, and miracles.

A vibrant, loving debut about the coming-of-age moment when kids realize that parents are people, too. Think THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH meets THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR * KIRKUS REVIEWS * THE CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY *

"Natalie's Korean heritage is sensitively explored, as is the central issue of depression."
--Publishers Weekly

"A compassionate glimpse of mental illness accessible to a broad audience."
--Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

"Holy moly!!! This book made me feel."
--Colby Sharp, editor of The Creativity Project, teacher, and cofounder of Nerdy Book Club

Author

© Saavedra Photography
TAE KELLER was born and raised in Honolulu, where she grew up on purple rice, Spam musubi, and her halmoni’s tiger stories. She is the Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Trap a Tiger and The Science of Breakable Things. She lives in Seattle. Visit her at TaeKeller.com, follow her monthly love letters at bit.ly/lovetae, and find her on Twitter and Instagram. View titles by Tae Keller

Excerpt

Mr. Neely just wrote our first lab book assignment on the board in his scrunched- up, scratchy handwriting, and he’s getting all excited about this scientific process stuff. I’m not sure why he feels the need to use hashtags and spell perfectly innocent words with a z, but he’s one of those teachers you don’t bother questioning.

He has big plans for this lab notebook. Apparently, he thinks it’s important to teach students “dedication to long- term projects,” and this assignment is his grand solution. Basically, we’re supposed to observe something that interests us and spend all year applying the scientific process to our capital- Q Question. 

As soon as we sat down, he passed out these dorky old composition notebooks and said, “This will be your Wonderings journal! You will record lab notes and assignments, and document the greatest scientific journey of all time— your scientific journey!”

We all stared, trying to figure out if he was for real or not. He was.

“You’ll spend this year developing your own scientific process, and it all starts with one question—that thing that sparks you to life.” Mr. Neely made a weird explosion gesture with his hands, and someone in the back of the room giggled, which only seemed to encourage him. “By the end of the year, I’ll be the one learning. From you!”

Mr. Neely is a new teacher, so he’s still all optimistic and stuff, but personally I think this assignment’s a lost cause. Last year, our English teacher, Mrs. Jackson, thought it’d be really great for us to keep journals. The only requirement: fifty pages by the end of the year, written from the heart. If you haven’t guessed already, that just resulted in everyone writing all fifty pages the day before the journals were due. I mostly filled mine with song lyrics, copied in my biggest, sloppiest handwriting.

And technically, this is supposed to be homework, but I don’t see why I shouldn’t get a head start. Without further ado, dearest lab notebook, I present Natalie Napoli’s Scientific Observations:1
• Mr. Neely waves his arms in big circles when he talks, which makes him look like an overeager hula dancer. His white button-down—bright against his dark brown skin—wrinkles as he moves.
• He tells us he wants us to “embrace the joys of science.”
• Mikayla Menzer raises her hand.
• Mikayla Menzer answers without being called on. She says, “Science is literally the joy of my life. I am literally embracing it right now.”
• Mikayla Menzer is not literally embracing anything. She’s just sitting at her desk, catty-corner to mine, with her hands clasped in front of her, and her thick dark braid twisting over her shoulder.
• Mikayla Menzer smells like sunscreen, which kind of makes the entire classroom smell like sunscreen, and the air in here is damp and hot. I wish Fountain Middle had air-conditioning.
• I wish we had enough money for me to go to Valley Hope Middle, which does have AC, but now that Mom’s “sick,” Dad says we need to “tighten our belt a notch.”
• And anyway, Twig’s here, even though her family can definitely afford Valley Hope, so I guess this place isn’t so bad.2
• Mr. Neely is saying my name, but I haven’t been listening, so I just nod at him and give him my best I’m embracing science smile.
• Mr. Neely says, “I’m glad you’re having so much fun with the assignment, but making observations is supposed to be homework, Natalie. Please pay attention in class.”
• I am paying attention.
• And Mikayla Menzer still smells like sunscreen.
 
 
1 Only the most brilliant observations you’ll ever read. Imagine you’re hearing a drumroll right now. Go on, imagine it.  
 
2 Twig: best friend in the entire galaxy. (Her words.)  

Guides

Educator Guide for The Science of Breakable Things

Classroom-based guides appropriate for schools and colleges provide pre-reading and classroom activities, discussion questions connected to the curriculum, further reading, and resources.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)

Discussion Guide for The Science of Breakable Things

Provides questions, discussion topics, suggested reading lists, introductions and/or author Q&As, which are intended to enhance reading groups’ experiences.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)

Awards

  • NOMINEE | 2020
    Indiana Young Hoosier Book Award
  • NOMINEE | 2020
    Kansas William Allen White Children's Book Award
  • SELECTION | 2018
    Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best Books

Praise

An NPR Great Read of the Year
A Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year
Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year

A Booklist Reader Best Book of the Month
A Brightly Best Children's and YA Books of March 2018

“Natalie is an engaging narrator whose struggles at home and with her peers ring true.” —Deborah Hopkinson, award-winning author

“Inspiring, emotional, and heartwarming.” —Melissa Savage, author of Lemons

“A compassionate glimpse of mental illness accessible to a broad audience.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred

"Beautifully crafted metaphors, a theme of mending old friendships and creating new ones, and an empowering teacher to a variety of readers. . . . A winning story full of heart and action.” —Booklist, starred 

“Natalie’s Korean heritage is sensitively explored, as is the central issue of depression.” —Publishers Weekly

“Natalie learns that, as with the egg, people, too, are fragile and need support and padding to break their falls. An emotional story that explores parental depression with realism and empathy.” —School Library Journal

"A sweet and hope-filled story.” —Brightly

"Holy moly!!! This book made me feel." —Colby Sharp, editor of The Creativity Project

PRH Education High School Collections

All reading communities should contain protected time for the sake of reading. Independent reading practices emphasize the process of making meaning through reading, not an end product. The school culture (teachers, administration, etc.) should affirm this daily practice time as inherently important instructional time for all readers. (NCTE, 2019)   The Penguin Random House High

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PRH Education Translanguaging Collections

Translanguaging is a communicative practice of bilinguals and multilinguals, that is, it is a practice whereby bilinguals and multilinguals use their entire linguistic repertoire to communicate and make meaning (García, 2009; García, Ibarra Johnson, & Seltzer, 2017)   It is through that lens that we have partnered with teacher educators and bilingual education experts, Drs.

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PRH Education Classroom Libraries

“Books are a students’ passport to entering and actively participating in a global society with the empathy, compassion, and knowledge it takes to become the problem solvers the world needs.” –Laura Robb   Research shows that reading and literacy directly impacts students’ academic success and personal growth. To help promote the importance of daily independent

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