It's Monday! What are you Reading? is hosted by Jen and Kellee at TEACH.MENTOR.TEXTS. Head over to find plenty to choose from! And, also visit Sheila at BOOK JOURNEYS that offers more reviews of all kinds of books, adult and children.
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On this Memorial Day, I wonder how we are approaching books that are about war? Our elementary-aged children have never known when we were not at war, and that we have military men and women serving for our country in various places all over the world. Some of our students have parents far away. It is time to look for books that help all students try to understand, perhaps so they can help find peace in the future.
I haven’t read it yet, but want to thank Tara Smith of A Reading Life for sharing about The Breadwinner Trilogy by Deborah Ellis, about the time in Pakistan and Afghanistan with the Taliban and the war, still going on today. I have the books and look forward to reading them, was happy to hear about them.
I hope that we do not forget the sacrifices that have happened, and are happening today because of the conflicts. My father gave his life in World War II, my stepfather served in several fronts all over the world, as did uncles on all sides of my family. I am grateful.
The Pull of Gravity – Gae Polisner
I am embarrassed that I have not taken the time to read this wonderful book. It’s been on my TBR shelf a long time. I enjoyed seeing the main character Nick Gardner learn that he has more strength of character than he thought he had in both the death of a good friend, Scoot, and his parents’ divorce. With his new friend Jaycee Amato’s persistence, he especially shows that he doesn’t have to keep his feelings stuffed inside, but can act on them. Through Polisner’s use of both Steinbeck’s and Yoda’s wisdom, these two young teens face some rough challenges, and together, find some good things to be grateful for. I think that any younger teen will find parts of himself or herself in this book.
Plague – Jean Ure
I found this book on the shelves in a classroom at school, old and tattered, but looked good. There are some parts that are interesting, the beginning when one of the main characters, Fran, returns from what sounds like an Outward Bound trip, and finds that those 'outside' London are being prevented from entering. She sneaks into her little town, finds many, including her parents, dead of some terrible plague. Teaming up with a friend, Harriet, and a classmate, Shahid, who have both endured the weeks where terrible illness took over their world, they set out on a journey of survival. There are parts that reminded me of The Road by Cormac McCarthy, although the writing is not as good. I'm not sure I would recommend it to anyone but the most diehard of post-apocaplytic book lovers.
Boy Wonders – written and illustrated by Calef Brown
I do wonder why this is only about a boy? Yet it is a clever book, showing all kinds of wonderings, sometimes punning, sometimes rhyming. The book is filled with activity in the doodle-like drawings, set in colorful backgrounds. A young boy wanders through the pages, wondering things like “Are baked clams okay for clambakes and bake sales alike?” or “If I’m too tired, am I a bike?” It’s a terrific book for introducing questions and wonderings!
I have those who link to Teach.Mentor.Texts for the following books, which are absolutely not to be missed. I have had a lovely part of my Sunday being entertained and enthralled by these incredible stories and illustrations.
The Rabbits – written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan
This book would have been so lovely to have read last week when I was with the class on our trip to learn about taking care of the earth and our health through sustainable farming. Its power is in the lean text that tells mostly of the rabbits coming, and coming, not always welcome, but sometimes! The illustrations are filled mostly with mechanical objects, our culture’s contributions, or are they? I discovered Marsden’s dystopian series that begins with Tomorrow When The War Began several years ago and loved it. And of course, there are so many of Shaun Tan’s illustrations to admire. This book is for older children, to show how powerful an allegory can be along with the discussion and inspiration that is sure to come.
Me and Mr. Mah - written by Andrea Spalding and illustrated by Janet Wilson
This heartwarming story tells about a boy moved far away from his prairie wheat farm and his father because of a divorce and a new neighbor, moved far away from his homeland of China. Gardening becomes the link between the two but as they become friends, they share more than their flowers, and the boy Ian learns that change can be accepted. The illustrations are vibrant, almost portrait-like, helping to tell the story realistically.
ellington was not a street - written by Ntozake Shange and illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Ntozake Shange, poet, tells a memorable tale in this somewhat autobiographical story of important people who visited her home as she was growing up. Kadir Nelson’s illustrations are beautiful as always, with this sweet little girl looking, watching, napping, and smiling while she learns from the visitors. In the backmatter, there are a few further biographies of the people mentioned in the text, like Ray Barretto, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie.
Next: picture books coming from the library, more poetry, and Almost Home by Joan Bauer.