Sunday, August 5, 2012

Still Reading While Visiting Family


Jen and Kellee host this kidlit meme at TEACH.MENTOR.TEXTS.  Please take a look at all the great books people have read & are writing about.

        It's Monday! What are you Reading? is another meme hosted by Sheila at BOOK JOURNEYS that offers a variety of reviews of all kinds of books.

Myra, Fats & Iphigene host this meme at Gathering Books, and today I'm reviewing Leaving Gee’s Bend by Irene Latham for that challenge.

       This week, it was a bit slow reading because I had company all week, I but did manage to read a few books to share and to recommend.

             Leaving Gee’s Bend, by Irene Latham, who blogs at LIVE YOUR POEM... is a story of a young girl whose strong voice is the touchstone of this book.  Irene has brought to life a character so real that it’s hard to believe she’s a fictional young woman that does such courageous things for her family.  Ludelphia Bennett is only ten years old, but she takes such steps into adulthood as helping her mother deliver her new little sister, then going away from Gee’s Bend to try to find a doctor for her sick mother.  She rides a raft, which runs away down a river, jumps into the river when she loses the pole, and teaches herself to swim because she has to.  In fact, Ludelphia shows well that she can do anything needed, because she has to.  She might be afraid, but she takes action with little deliberation, when she must. 
       The story offers parts of the lives of the sharecroppers in Gee’s Bend, like their spare homes, their dependence on a few chickens and mules, and what feed for the animals and canned goods they can manage to have from their gardens.  Despite the poor lives with leaky roofs, love abounds in the household from Ludelphia’s parents and her brother, Ruben.  A neighbor and former caretaker of the young girl while her parents worked the fields also plays an important role in their lives, a sixteen year old named Etta Mae, who has knowledge of helping with babies being born, but who is also accused of possible witchcraft.  With the simplicity of a strong first person telling of the story, Irene manages to include the layers of complexity when one struggles to survive.  The small pieces of a quilt that Ludelphia keeps always in her pocket gives strength and the ultimate need for survival because of the loving goal of finishing the quilt for her mother.  It is the weft that keeps the weaving of the story together, along with love and courage.  Ludelphia grows up in this adventure of leaving her home, and finds that all those homilies about home hold so true.  She says it best here:  I reckon when you grow up in one place you just naturally think every other place is the same as your home.  I reckon it takes leaving to appreciate all the things about that place that make it special. (page 166)


             Leaving Gee’s Bend is a book to love with each page showing new adventures for Ludelphia in the historical background of Gee’s Bend of 1932.  Gee’s Bend has been in the news for its beautiful quilts shown now in museums and for other history books telling its story.  Now, this book arrives from Irene Latham so that children might experience the story too.  This debut novel won the Alabama Library Association’s 2011 Children’s Book Award.

Marty McGuire by Kate Messner, illustrated by Brian Floca

I just acquired Marty McGuire Digs Worms & was lucky enough to find this first book introducing Marty in an audio book so I listened to it first. What a personable, funny and likable young girl. I love that she likes to do things with her friend Annie like catch frogs instead of playing dress up as a princess. When she is cast in the school play as a princess, Marty adds her own brand of royal behavior. This is a book that will make students laugh out loud-lots of shenanigans, and Kate Messner uses language that is just right for those younger grades, not too babyish, but just right.

Marty McGuire Digs Worms by Kate Messner, illustrated by Brian Floca

I listened to the first book about Marty and loved it, so now I was ready for the next one, but didn't expect it to be even better. I read someone's review of this book some weeks ago, and remembered how much they loved it. It's true, I think I liked the voice and the adventure in this one even more than the first. There is such a strong voice in this young girl's character that a smile begins from the first pages. An assembly is held in the auditorium that has theater seats, where small kindergarten children (as Marty observes) get "crocodile-snapped" in the seats. Remember that as a child? Those seats were a little scary, and here is Marty observing, using metaphor to describe what happens when the seat folds up because one is too small to hold it down. I liked the language throughout the book and the illustrations by Floco are wonderful, just simple drawings that expand on the story being told. The sketch of the 'crowd of squirrels listening' is priceless to see, and to hear about. One other part of the book I enjoyed, of course, is that there is a very nice and helpful grandmother in this story. Since I love being a grandmother, this is a book I will keep until the 3 year old granddaughter is old enough. Marty's grandmother is helpful, wise and turns up in all the right moments. It's a great book!

Write Beside Them, by Penny Kittle
I've waited too long to read this. It's a terrific book for teachers, and can apply to all ages even though Kittle talks about her high school writing class exclusively. It's about choice and empowerment and creating community with students instead of for them. Also, I read and discussed this in a Google Group with a few blogging friends, which made the book even better. Please don't wait too long to read!  In 2009, Kittle won the NCTE Britton Award for this book.

Next:  I’ve begun another by Kate Messner,  Eye Of The Storm.  After about 50 pages, I’ve begun reading faster! It’s that intriguing to want to know what’s going on.  And I’ll start reading Choice Words by Peter H. Johnston and listen to the first of The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall.

23 comments:

  1. Linda
    Yes indeed Marty is a wonderfully strong character, it reminds me I must get both of these books covered and put into my class library.
    Kathryn

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    1. I really enjoyed them, Kathryn. Hope your students do, too!

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  2. Hi Linda, what a beautiful review of Irene's book. I know how exquisitely-distilled her writing is through Poetry Friday - is Leaving Gee's Bend a novel-in-verse? I've also seen Marty McGuire a few times, but didn't realize that it was such a fun book. Once again, I am amazed by all that you're reading and have read. The book by Penny Kittle also sounds like a must-read and a book that I can recommend to my own teacher-students.

    I've been reading Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom as compiled by Leonard Marcus - that, and The Game of Thrones Book 1 by George RR Martin - are competing for my attention. I have a bit of time to read this week as I am on medical leave until Friday (dental surgery for my impacted wisdom tooth). I thought that I might as well use the time to read in between the bouts of extreme pain. :)

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    1. Sorry about the dental problem, never fun. I hope it goes well! No, Gee's Bend is not a novel in verse, just wonderful prose. My daughter is caught up in the Game of Thrones sagas. On our trip I think she couldn't wait until late evening when the babies were in bed so she could read, read, read. Maybe someday I'll get to them. Thanks, Myra.

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  3. Marty is awesome! Have you read Capture the Flag? That's our favorite book by Kate Messner.

    Irene's book sounds fascinating.

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    1. I haven't read Capture The Flag, but do have it. Guess I'll be reading Kate's books for a while! Thanks!

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  4. I'm glad to read your comments about Write Beside Them. I work with elementary students so I picked this book up and then put it back down since I was thinking it would be more relevant for high school students. It's still on my night stand so I'll pick it back up! Thanks!

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    1. I think it could easily be applied, just adjusted according to your needs. Even parts of the mentor texts she shared could be cut to make them more appropriate. It was great.

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  5. Great choices in reading - will have more to add to my list! Will have to look at Choice Words - have found his other book very powerful.

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    1. Thanks Beverley. I'm excited to read the book, especially here at the beginning of the year!

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  6. I am going to rush out to get the Gee's Bend one. Ever since I saw a special about Gee's Bend, I've thought about it. I can't wait! Thanks for sharing.

    Also, Kate is coming out with a third Marty. I think it'll be even better.

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    1. Hope you enjoy Leaving Gee's Bend as much as I did, & thanks for telling me about the new Marty. What fun!

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  7. Linda, thanks so much for sharing about Ludelphia and these other great titles. You are the Reading Queen! Now hurry up and finish one of your own so we can all enjoy more gentle, inspired words by Linda Baie. xo

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    1. You are so welcome Irene. I meant every word! Thank you for your inspiration. Someday!

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  8. I adore Write Beside Them! I can't wait for Penny's next book to come out in November.

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    1. Me too, Beth. I enjoyed it very much, as you can tell. Thanks for reminding me about the next one!

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  9. Hi Linda - yes I am on Goodreads but really haven't updated in a bit. I better do so!

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    1. It would just be fun to share since we seem to be hitting many books alike. Thanks for telling me!

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  10. I love the Marty McGuire books, such funny and spirited characters. Penny Kittle is amazing. I haven't read her book but I have heard her speak and seen some of what she has been able to accomplish with older students and she is incredibly good at what she does. I really need/want to read Choice Words as well, I look forward to hearing what you have to say about that one too!

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    1. Quite a few good books out there, aren't there? I hope it is as inspirational as the Kittle book was. Thanks, Betsy.

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  11. Don't you LOVE Marty?!?! She is a great young lady.

    I love to hear about the Gee's Bend book. I know about Gee's Bend from a quilt exhibit at the Orlando Museum of Art and was fascinated.

    Happy reading this week! :)

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    1. Thanks Kellee. I saw the quilts online, but have not had the opportunity to see them in a museum. Lucky you! Yes, Marty McGuire is just the kind of little girl I love.

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  12. I loved Leaving Gee's Bend. Your review is well-done! I have not explored the Marty books. Need to bring myself up to date there.

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Having a conversation is a good thing!