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It's Monday! What are you Reading? is another meme hosted by Sheila at BOOK JOURNEYS that offers reviews of all kinds of books.
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Charles Dickens said, "There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts." This week, however, it isn't true at all, and I'm only trying to catch your attention to the gorgeous covers on the books I read. They really are pretty.
Bear Has A Story To Tell – by Philip C. Stead, illus. by Erin E. Stead
This has to be one of the most beautiful picture books I’ve read in a while. Bear is getting ready to go to sleep and goes to his friends to tell them a final story before hibernating. He meets a mouse, a duck, a frog and a mole, all too busy to listen. What happens next will be left to discover. The illustrations are beautiful, spare watercolors, giving the animals such sweet expressions. Each whimsical spread shows both the friendships and the waiting for spring.
Apple Cake, A Recipe for Love – by Julie Paschkis
Julie Paschkis has taken a story and a recipe of her great-grandmother’s to create a sweet love story of courtship by baking a cake. The pictures look as if they could be on a set of dishes, telling a story, and serving up food as well as love. It’s a very sweet book.
Stargirl – by Jerry Spinelli
There aren't too many more good things to say about this book that someone hasn't already said. It's great. It still holds up well. I just finished a book group that read it, and loved it. It starts good and important conversations. I wish there was time to have the group read Wonder next. Wouldn't it be interesting to compare? If you haven't read the book, do, please.
Shine – by Laura Myracle
I finally got to this book, wanting to read it, but rarely finding time, until I checked out the audio edition, southern accents and all. It's definitely for high school, lots of rough language in it, although some 8th graders would enjoy it too. This is a book that was mis-named in the National Book Award craziness last year when the judges got it mixed up with Chime. They both have female main characters, but Chime is fantasy, Shine is not. It concerns a small town and the very real trouble they have with one of their young teens, Patrick, being gay. It seems that he has been bullied quite a lot, although because it's a small town, he still hangs with a group of boys, seeming the leaders in the town. Cat, the protagonist, won't stop investigating who puts Patrick in the hospital in a coma after a severe beating. What happens to her is inspiring as she figures out who she is, and what she is, growing stronger with each scene through the book. Certain characters are very real, sometimes self-protective as we all are, but eventually doing the right thing as they know they should. This is an intricately plotted book that tells the story so well of those students who are trying to be accepted within their groups. For those who work with high school students, it is a must read to see what isn't always seen that happens to those who are on the outside.
A Stick is an Excellent Thing – Marilyn Singer, illustrations by LeUyen Pham
I read this poetry anthology as a memoir, filled with joyful poems about activities mostly outdoors that don’t often happen anymore, like playing jacks or hopscotch, at least not in my recent experience. I wish kids did play outside as much as the poems and illustrations show. Yet, there are joyful games that I hope some kids are playing, like double-dutch/jump rope, monkey in the middle/a basketball game, and playing hide-n-seek. The drawings are joyful depictions of each activity, placing the games in the neighborhoods as background. A favorite is about swinging, showing choices of “on your belly? On your seat?/Do you ask for a push?/Do you use your own feet?” And the book ends with a sweet poem about stargazing at day’s end. It would be great to read this aloud, and let the students write about a memory and draw a picture of that same memory.
A Meal of the Stars: Poems up and down – by Dana Jensen, illustrated by Tricia Tusa
This is a beautiful collection of poems that sometimes read from the top down (as we usually read), but sometimes they also read from the bottom up, like one about a giraffe, the title poem, which imagines that giraffes might make a meal from the stars. Not only is this poem, with all the rest, wonderful, but the drawings by Tricia Tusa are equally whimsical and sweet. Other topics covered are about a ladybug crawling up a stem of a dandelion, the bongs of bells floating down to the ears of those out walking on a street, and the events of an elevator going up and up. I enjoyed this anthology very much.
Virginia Wolf – by Kyo Maclear, illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault
I read about this book and found it at my library. Lucky me! It is a lovely story, words and illustrations, about a little girl feeling a bit wolfish one day, and she won’t even get out of bed! The story says: Bright became dim./Glad became gloom. Illustrations are dark and the dialog is hand drawn. The girl’s sister is determined to help, & has one more idea, and begins drawing a garden and a few other whimsical things onto the walls of Virginia’s room. You’ll need to read to discover how it ends. It is a great book that would help begin a discussion about feelings and being kind to others.
A North American Rain Forest Scrapbook – by Virginia Wright-Frierson
Every student in my school uses a field journal, to capture learning on trips outside the building, many out of doors. I have taught middle school for a lot of years, and own quite a few beautifully done ‘how to keep a field journal’ texts. Most are helpful and inspirational, especially at the middle school and older level. But this time, I have been loaned a gorgeous ‘picture book' that will work for younger students, demonstrating the capturing of discoveries in all the senses, and especially the details of what one sees. It shows the sketches, little bits of when one looked for more information, with the folded over page of a book. This time there are pages shown from a guidebook. As the story is told, the backdrop of the illustrations enhance that story, as in one is of a hiker leaning against a giant tree, using a set of binoculars, looking up to observe the canopy in the rain forest. Another double spread shows the walkers at the edge of a stream that travels fast down a waterfall. They are watching salmon struggle to get upstream to lay their eggs. My words don’t do this book justice; there are many details. If you are interested in a terrific text that’s good for modeling journaling right before a trip, this is one to use.
Next: I'm in the middle of While He Was Away, by Karen Schreck, a book about a girl just out of high school who has just said goodbye to a boyfriend on his way to Afghanistan. So far, it's good, and it is growing stronger. I'm glad to see more books written for kids about the experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I'm listening to the last of the Chaos Trilogy by Patrick Ness. Oh boy!
I have a new stack of picture books from the library, heavy on the Cybil's nominees for poetry. Hurrah!