It's Monday! What are you Reading? is hosted by Jen at TEACH.MENTOR.TEXTS. And shared with Ricki and Kellee at UNLEASHING READERS. These sites host a meme where many of us link up to share the book's reading the week previous. Although my list grows longer, it's always fun to visit other's sites to hear what they're reading! And, also visit Sheila at BOOK JOURNEYS that offers more reviews of all kinds of books, adult and children.
Eleanor and Park – written by Rainbow Rowell
I haven’t read a chapter book this fast in a long time. It’s a love story, but my immediate expectation as I read was that it is tragic. It’s a love story between two older high school-aged kids, definitely written for that age, and it’s romantic, really, really romantic. It’s a love story that shows two quite different kids loving each other, but the tension in the story that includes Eleanor’s mother who’s borne 4 younger siblings with an abusive stepfather does not lessen. It’s a love story that should be offered to both male and female students, although some will not like it. The author lets both Eleanor and Park tell the story, alternating between the two, and builds the story beautifully. I enjoyed the writing very much, showing the two characters’ feelings deepening along with their thoughtful introspection. For example, after a conflict, Park admits to himself that, “he kept finding new pockets of shallow inside himself. He began finding new ways to betray her.” In another part, Eleanor cries, “I don’t want your mom to see me like this. I don’t want to hurt her feelings.” There are so many wonderful, heartfelt places. And we get to see just enough of background characters that give a lift to this sad story: Park’s parents and two girls in Eleanor’s PE class show that some will step forward to do what is right. They are not perfect, however, and neither are Eleanor and Park, and perhaps that is what is so great about the book, showing that lives are not perfectly lived, but there are those sparks of goodness that keep us going.
The Real Boy – written by Anne Ursu
I loved Breadcrumbs, every single bit. So when I heard that Anne Ursu had a new book “almost” out, I was excited, and then I saw that others had advanced copies. Argh-I wanted one too, and from the Walden Press Facebook page, I discovered Edelweiss where one can request downloads, and I got it! I cannot quote from this copy, and may need to re-write the review a second time when the REAL BOOK comes out of The Real Boy! The language is beautiful, just like Breadcrumbs. Anne Ursu really knows how to take your heart and give it a very large squeeze.
In The Real Boy, she tells the story of Oscar, a young boy who is the ‘hand’ for Caleb, a Master Magician in a part of this imaginary place called the Barrows. There are several other places of intense interest, and as the story moves, more details of those places emerge. Loving Oscar, the young boy, is easy from the beginning, at first because he is bullied by the Magician’s apprentice, Wolf, but later because of his pure actions. Yet Ursu never allows us to relax into the story, because bit by bit, she reveals more information, the goodness of some people and the darkness of others. We see the interactions of the cats with Oscar, who much prefers those to being with people. There are five of them, and we get to know them and their importance to Oscar as the story moves. We are introduced to Callie, who emerges as Oscar’s advocate, pushing into his life rather without his permission, and it is comforting to see that. Because there is much tension in the book, Callie serves as a relief over and over again. Yet, the strength that shines through Oscar even at the beginning also creates a comfort. We see that, although shy, he will do things that seem “right” to him as he can, and his strength and daring increase with both need and through his strong compassion for other people and things. It is a wonder-filled read, and I look forward to having my own copy when it’s published!
Chester – written and illustrated by Melanie Watt (despite what Chester says)
This is a laugh-out-loud book, a book for cat lovers because I’m sure Melanie (of Scaredy Squirrel fame) knows exactly how cats are demanding, jealous, but then very, very sweet. There is a push/pull here between the author (Melanie) and Chester (who wants to be the author). Guess who wins? Are you confused? You’ll need to find the book (which I got because of another recommendation) and read it to see what I’m talking about. Then you’ll laugh out loud!
Chester’s Back - written and illustrated by Melanie Watt (despite what Chester says)
Yes, Chester is back, with a bigger ego than ever. Mouse is there too, but Chester and Melanie again argue over what Chester really wants to have as “his” story background. It’s as fun as the first book, with different scenarios from each side presented, like Chester the Cave Cat or Chesterdini. They finally agree on one story, but the expectations of Chester are different from Melanie’s. A silly story, but full of laughs.
The Shape of My Heart – written by Mark Sperring and illustrated by Alys Paterson
This sweet story tells of the shapes of one day, beginning with what appears to be a parent and a child. It shows the sun rising, and in brief poetry, takes us on a trip of important things in our lives, like our eyes, and things we might see, birds that chirp and tweet, and so on. In simple drawings, Paterson shows the details that the words don’t, filling the pages with brightly colored drawings. This would be a book for young children to enjoy in the naming of things, and the listening of the rhyming words.
Little Beauty - written and illustrated by Anthony Browne
The “beauty” of Brown’s drawings take one’s breath away. It’s a brief story, of sadness and friendship and actual fright, for a while. Once there was a gorilla who was just fine, but lonely. And that’s where Beauty comes in, a little kitten, a new friend. And the rest you will need to discover or I will give the story away. It’s one of those stories, brief and powerful, but one to anticipate page by page.
A New Year’s Reunion - written by Yu Li-Qiong and illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang
This is a sweet story about celebrating New Year’s in a family, especially because this is the only time in the year they get to see the father, who builds houses far away. The full-color illustrations are gorgeous, with lots of red in them (Chinese New Year red), and some loving family scenes. There is a thread about a fortune coin hidden in a rice ball and the story includes other traditions like the dragon parading through the streets. The ending is a bit sad to see the father go away again, but one something makes it better. It’s a good story to use for discussion when people are far away, and we don’t get to see them very often.
Polka Dot Penguin Pottery-written by Lenore Look and illustrated by Yumi Heo
This book is unusual in one way because it’s created sideways; the bind is at the top of the book and one reads it top to bottom. The pages are filled with interesting little characters along with drawings of the amazing little girl, Aspen Colorado Kim Chee Lee. Actually that’s her writing name and she is an author! Unfortunately she has writer’s block and the different things that happen to help her ‘unblock’ fill the story with brightness and silliness, but it all ends up just fine. This would start some grand conversations about writing and the feelings when one just can’t find something to put on the page.
The Rabbit’s Judgment - written by Suzanne Crowder Han and illustrated by Yumi Heo
Ms. Heo creates the illustrations with oil paint, pencil and collage of this Korean folk tale, written in both English and Korean. They are stylistic renderings of each part of the story. I can see children sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to see what happens with the tiger who is saved from a pit by the man, but then claims it is so hungry that it’s going to eat the man anyway. How the pine tree, the ox and the rabbit help solve the dilemma is the main part of the story. It’s a terrific story that will start discussions about integrity, promises, and trickery. Loved it!
Two books written and illustrated by Aaron Blabey.
Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley
It is often said that friends, and sometimes husbands and wives, find they connect with opposites. This story is about just that, why Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley are two great friends who are quite different from each other. Pearl is loud and daring and loves, as the book tells, “to run amok”. Charlie is quiet and conservative and very shy, likes to “be safe and sound”. Aaron Blabey’s art fills the pages with giggles as he “shows” the words written about these friends. For example, when we see that Pearl is very loud, the illustration shows her playing a drum (really a saucepot). And when we learn that Charlie is very quiet, he is shown to be reading a book titled “The Benefits of Wearing Felt” (giggle, giggle). It’s also delightful to see how these friends compliment each other. When Pearl gets so tired of ‘running amok’, Charlie tucks her into bed with a mug of warm milk. And when Charlie feels lonely, Pearl assures him she “thinks he’s great.” Fun book about friendship!
This story tells of an unusual little girl, Sunday, who talks about moving too much, and how that’s hard to be the ‘new girl’ so often. Aaron Blabey tells us many things about her, her likes and dislikes, including an optometrist because of her ‘lazy eye’. He shows a wonderfully interesting girl who embraces life despite all that moving. I can see reading this to young students to help them find topics to write about in their own lives. How are they like Sunday, and how are they different? What are their likes and dislikes? There’s a lot to enjoy in this book!
Next: I still have more picture books at home to read, and from Tara at A Reading Life I got the recommendation weeks ago for Deborah Ellis' The Breadwinner Trilogy. Plus, I'm participating in the Cyber PD discussion. We are reading Who Owns The Learning? by Alan November, Wednesday with Laura Komos on July 10th at My Primary Passion. That's next!