Sunday, September 16, 2012

Book Discoveries- Um, um, good!

This post is part of a kidlit meme hosted by Jen and Kellee at TEACH.MENTOR.TEXTS.  Come link to their blog to check out all the terrific reviews by others.  
          It's Monday! What are you Reading? is another meme hosted by Sheila at BOOK JOURNEYS where many others share all kinds of books they are reading.
           If you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #IMWAYR when sharing your link!




My Name Is Bilal      by Asma Mobin-Uddin, illus. by Barbara Kiwak
There aren't many picture books that I have found that include background cultural history of Muslim children and the challenges faced today by doing things different than the other kids in school. This is a book that does just that. It is a good story of two US born kids who change schools and find they seem to be the only Muslims. There is a bullying incident, a lesson learned and a good ending. I am less positive about the ending because it seemed too quick to be realistic. Yet, the book offers good opportunities for conversation and learning. The illustrations are well done, realistic acrylic painting I think.

Stitchin' and Pullin': A Gee's Bend Quilt - Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

I recently read and loved Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham, a book that shows a different background than the usual discovery and resulting museum displays about the community of Gee's Bend. This picture book, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera, is beautifully done, giving just enough of the story to help us become more interested in the intriguing story of the people of Gee's Bend and of the quilts they created. It tells of rites of passage as well as traditions, of loving homes and legacies.


Serious Farmer  - Tim Egan, author and illustrator

This book was published in 2003 and a friend whose primary class is studying food this year has an amazing collection of books connected to food:  gardening, farms, farmers, cooking, chefs, etc.  She loaned me a recent discovery last week.  It has a droll sense of humor, perhaps because the animals who live on the farm are working hard to try to get their farmer/friend to be a little bit funnier.  He is quite serious, and we read that he says: "Broccoli's no fun" and "I never laugh at bell peppers."  The animals are frustrated!  They try different things to get the farmer to laugh, and giving up, they walk off the farm into the woods.  What happens next is a surprise, because the book is not as predictable as it seems.  The illustrations are simple and hilarious, especially when the animals are trying to get a laugh out of the farmer. 


Please Write In This Book – Mary Amato and illustrated by Eric Brace

The premise is that a teacher places a blank book in the writing center and everyone secretly (in class) is supposed to add to it, back and forth, throughout the month. I thought it was going to be such fun to see what the kids wrote. Then the teacher said she would read at the end of the month. It is straight 3rd grade stuff, but jokes about worms and stuff up the nose and falling on one's buttocks (ha ha) get stale over and over. I skimmed because there is also name-calling and making fun, which I suppose is construed as funny, but I didn't think so. The teacher, although she had hints, stayed away until the end. I am disappointed.

The Room of Wonders – Sergio Ruzzier, author and illustrator

I am supporting a colleague in a project she has begun where her young primary students are sharing their collections. They are learning about organization and displaying them, sharing them with the class, writing the basic information about them, then will write their stories that come from the collection. My colleague began with this book, a wonderful story of Pius Pelosi, a young pack rat, who has a room set aside to house his collection of miscellaneous items. He loves telling about his pieces, why he collected, where he found them, and so on. But many times the viewers question why he has a plain stone and Pius loses heart, eventually giving away his collection. How he finds new hope is the power of the story. This is a quiet book, with soft watercolor illustrations. It is perfect for discussing collections, of course, but also good for discussing being yourself, and sticking to personal beliefs, listening to your heart. It's a great discovery.

The City of Ember – Jeanne DuPrau

       I just listened to this via audio books. The author is quite good at leaving cliffhangers for the reader throughout the story, and at the end! There is an ending for the main characters, Lina and Dune, but there is also a beginning there. Now my goal is to find the next in the series of four, The City of Spark.
        DuPrau, in the book, tells the story of the life of Lina, a young girl who is twelve and just finishing school, drawing from a bag full of slips of paper with jobs written on them in order to find the job she will take on as a good citizen. Also introduced is the boy, Dune, who like Lina is curious and unwilling to accept all the city's rules and answers to questions given to the citizenry. 
        The city depends on artificial lighting for daily living and the lights go out at 9. At that time, everyone must be in their homes because it is so dark, and it is impossible to navigate the streets. One of the many intriguing problems faced is there is no 'traveling light' (candles, flashlights). Several of the problems serve well to control the citizens.
          The city is old, as is the generator, and some days the lights flicker, even go out for a few minutes. Dune is determined to figure out how electricity works, but there are no books that tell; all have disappeared. With Lina's help, the two begin to unravel the mystery, and discover there is even more to learn than even they expected. This is an exciting book, perhaps a great read aloud for students that will spark many conversations about the individual questioning of rules, how things work, and making tough decisions. I liked the courage of the two children, and the author's showing of their hesitation while working through problems seemed realistic. It was much fun to listen to!

Smile – Raina Telgemeier, author and illustrator

        I don't know why I've put this off. It's been on a shelf for a year now, but finally because of a blogger friend who said her son read it over and over because of his own experiences, I thought I should read it. For all those kids who have braces and other challenges with their teeth AND of course who they are becoming as young adults, this book is for them. I never had braces, but my children did, and my son had to wear headgear, and had 'headgear' hair, too! I had a small mirror in my classroom and noticed that students looked in it often, so telling of what they were constantly thinking: how do I look, do I look okay, did my hair get messed up in pe, why did I wear this old shirt, look-a pimple! 
        This book, Smile, takes dear Raina (yes, it is autobiographical) from sixth grade through her sophomore year of high school, mostly focusing on what's happening to her teeth, but also the rest of her body and the way her friends treat her. It's a lesson for all of us: to choose friends who support instead of those who cut one down (in Raina's case, in the guise of joking). In Raina's words: "Just by standing up to them...It's like I took away their power!!" It took a few years for Raina to figure all this out, to "take life at her own pace" and to find positive friends, but she did. I hope this message will help other kids to make better choices about friends. This is a graphic novel showing such real expressions, deep emotions, backed by city of San Francisco scenes and school scenes. Now it's time to find that new Telgemeier novel just out, Drama.

Papa, Do You Love Me – Barbara M. Joosse, illustrated by Barbara Lavallee

            My son-in-law likes his children to call him Papa, so I'm always on the lookout for books with "papa" in them so he can read them to his daughters, one & three.  I didn't know about this book, and a companion one titled Mama, Do You Love Me. A friend and colleague shared them with me.   This one is a beautiful story, including many cultural traditions and experiences in Kenya and Uganda of the Masai, like the answer to the question of 'how long will you love me?', the answer is "I'll love you as long as the wildebeest run on the mara, the hippopotamus wallows in mud, and the Serenget rolls to the sky."  The illustrations are gorgeous watercolor by Barbara Lavallee.  There is also back matter that shares extra information about the terms and traditions mentioned in the book. 

Mama, Do You Love Me – Barbara M. Joosse, illustrated by Barbara Lavallee

       My daughter likes her children to call her Mama, so I'm always on the lookout for books with "mama" in them so she can read them to her daughters, one & three. I didn't know about this book, and a companion one titled Papa, Do You Love Me, that I also reviewed. A friend and colleague shared them with me. This, like the other one, is a wonderful story, including many cultural traditions and experiences in Alaska of the Inuit. One answer to the question of 'What if I put salmon in your parka, ermine in your mittens, and lemmings in your mukluks?', the answer is "Then I would be angry. But still I would love you." The illustrations are gorgeous watercolor by Barbara Lavallee, a bit more stylistic according to the Inuit tradition. There is also back matter that shares extra information about the terms and traditions mentioned in the book.

Next: I’m nearly finished with Choice Words by Peter H. Johnston and have begun While He Was Away by Karen Schreck.  

27 comments:

  1. I found your comments about Please Write in this Book very interesting. I bought this book but haven't read it yet. My own children found it hilarious but now I would like to read it before I put it out in my classroom. Thanks!

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    1. I will be interested in what you think. It probably is funny to kids, but I just wanted more for the writing part, too.

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  2. Serious Farmer sounds great and also The Room of Wonders. I'm putting those on my wish list. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks Melanie, I found them to be so useful in various ways.

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    2. Those two titles also got my attention. I will add them to my TBR list. :) Thanks!

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  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed Smile. I think one of the reasons that Gearbox keeps re-reading it is because he is entering those murky middle years waters of changing friendships and self-consciousness. When he was on the vault runway waiting for his turn last week, I saw him staring for several minutes at himself in the mirror trying out different postures and expressions. :-)

    The City of Ember has been on my TBR pile for ages. Not sure why it never quite makes it to the top.

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    1. I now see what your son sees in the book, Katya. I hope I can get it into the hands of those who will love it as he does. The City of Ember is an exciting middle grade book. Thanks!

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  4. Loved Smile (my sons have both read it multiple times) and City of Ember is always a favorite when I use it with my third grade group.

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    1. Glad to hear you like Smile Maria. And I know you like City of Ember from our previous conversation. Thanks!

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  5. I, too, love Smile! In fact, I'm leading a book discussion group on it tomorrow for 5th-8th graders. I sure hope they enjoyed it as much as I did! The City of Ember is a book I recommend all the time. Such an exciting, unique story.

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    1. Oh, wish I could hear the discussion! I hope they liked it too! Try to come back to let me know how they felt.

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  6. Hi Linda, wonderful titles here once again! Most of them I don't know, so I'd be on the lookout for them. I found quite a number of Gary Soto titles from the Singapore Library Book Sale and I grabbed all that I could (hehe) and thought about you.

    Too bad that "Please Write in this Book" didn't live up to its promise. I was caught by the title because of our current theme. And I recalled that we did something like this during our Senior Year with my group of friends in high school. I had this gorgeous notebook, leather bound, that we would just pass around, and we'd fill it up with poetry, songs, sweet musings - no name calling, at all. Just great stuff from the heart - and what it's like in that stage of transition. I wonder where it is now. That would have been such a treasure.

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    1. Your notebook is what I imagined this book would have, but it didn't. Maybe I've lost my sense of what 3rd graders might want. It would be great if you could find your book, wouldn't it? Glad you found the Soto's. I really think he writes good stories. Thanks Myra.

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  7. My, what a lot of treasures you have here today, Linda. The City of Ember series has been a class favorite for years, it is a fantasy genre book club selection when we get there and just about everyone in that particular group goes on to complet the trilogy before the year ends. So, the kids do love it! Thanks for pointing me to Irene's marvellous book, and Smile - two books I have in my stack of books-to-read and now must get to! Bilal sounds perfect for today - we need more books that lead us to a better understanding of each other.

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    1. Thanks, Tara. Don't know how I missed The City of Ember. I really liked it! Hope you'll enjoy Irene's book too & Smile will be a good one for your students. Have a lovely week!

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  8. I haven't read it yet, but I'm planning to get Smile for my soon-to-be 11yo daughter's birthday. Perfect book I've heard for those tween years. I love your honest thoughts on Write in This Book . . . And I've heard about, but not read the City of Ember. Glad to hear you enjoyed it!

    Lorna

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    1. I hope she likes Smile-I can see how many would, but perhaps the graphic novel is not for everyone. Great idea for a gift. Thanks, Lorna.

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  9. We have the Papa/Mama books on our bookshelves. I haven't read them with my preschooler yet, but I like them because they are a little different. Different cultures, different "scenery", but a global message.

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    1. My granddaughter is nearly 3 and 1/2, so she will like them, but will understand more later. I like them for that reason too, good to see that all families love their children. Thanks!

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  10. I will be looking for Serious Farmer, sounds great. I love the mama/papa books you mentioned. I always loved reading them to my own children especially but have kind of forgotten about them amid the stacks of books we seem to have accumulated over the years. I will be digging those back out soon. Thanks for the great titles and summaries.

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    1. Thanks Betsy. I hope you like the Serious Farmer. I just loved it, read it several times it was such fun! Glad to know that you like the others, too. I will definitely be getting them for my daughter & son-in-law.

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  11. I've only read good things about "Smile" so I should put it up my reading list. It's weird reading kids books and debating whether the humor is actually funny to kids when I think it's just crude and dumb. Of course, I haven't been a kid in years so my humor may not be the same as theirs.

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    1. You are right, & as you see I had the same problem with the 'write in this' book. Other have said that students love Smile however, & I did too. Thanks.

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  12. Linda
    What an amazing number of books and really helpful mini reviews of them. The only one I have read is Smile and I did identify it because I did have braces as a child. Your review made me want to read it again. It has been popular in my class. I must get Drama too.
    Kathryn

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    1. Yes, we're hoping to get Drama into school too, Kathryn. We have a big drama program at school & I expect the students will like it. Thanks.

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  13. What a great list Linda! City of Ember is definitely a cliff hanger. I loved them, though I skipped #3 which is a prequel.
    I'm so glad you enjoyed Smile- Raina's Drama is great as well.

    Happy reading this week! :)

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Having a conversation is a good thing!