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.