Sunday, August 4, 2013

Recent Good Reads!



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 link up to share the book's reading the week previous.  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. 
           Don't forget to tweet!  #IMWAYR


Announcing!  Cathy Mere (Reflect and Refine) and Mandy Robek (Enjoy and Embrace Learning) host a favorite PB(picture books) 10 for 10 sharing on Aug. 10th-amazing sharing, your lists will grow!


And-Kellee and Ricki (of Unleashing Readers above) served on the award committee for 2013 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award for Young Adult Fiction.  You can read about the winners and the honor awards here on the ALAN site.  The winner is The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.  I'm happy to say that Endangered by Eliot Schrefer (reviewed below) is a finalist!


Chapter Books

            Beholding Bee – written by Kimberley Newton Fusco
            It’s not an easy thing to tell about a story without telling you ‘all’ of the story, especially when it’s as sweet and satisfying as this one was.  For all the children who feel “different”, who are ridiculed even by those who only stare, this is a book to treasure.  We follow the strong protagonist, Beatrice (Bee), who lives with Pauline in the back of a hauling truck as they work for a traveling carnival during World War II.  And Bee is allowed to stay because she has a diamond-shaped birthmark that covers a big part of her face, and Ellis the carny owner has big plans to ‘show’ her when she gets older.  Pauline is caring for Bee because her parents were killed in a car accident when she was very young. For an eleven year old, Bee has already had a number of tough things happen to her, but also some good things.  Pauline is a thoughtful young woman who makes you feel good that she actually decided to take the responsibility for raising a child.       


             Other characters are important too in the book.  There is the scary, alarming and abusive Ellis; and the kind and gentle Bobby, who runs the baby pig races.  Soon a dog is added, but he must keep hidden because Ellis forbids anyone to keep a dog.  Peabody, the dog, fills a huge void in Bee’s heart, especially as she keeps losing people.  Pauline runs off with a new employee, taking off to a city that will end up being a permanent home to the carnival.  Bobby leaves to work in a factory that builds bombers. 
          And then there is the lady with the orange flappy hat, who first appears at Bee’s parents’ funeral.  That’s when the story gets very interesting.  It is magical, showing Bee’s incredible strength that helps her manage some very big challenges, at the age of eleven, twelve, and at the end, thirteen.  I wondered often if Bee’s aunts who appear real, or had Bee created them through her need for support?  The author weaves some unbelievable scenes into real events, like the parts when Bee attends school and soon encounters the chief bully, Francine, a girl in Bee’s school who has her own troubles, but chooses to act out from those troubles by bullying Bee.  And there is Bee’s new friend, Ruth Ellen, a girl that is crippled and has to wear a leg brace.  Ruth Ellen’s family befriends Bee, adding to her support through their caring ways, despite the fact they are poor and waiting for word of the father who is fighting in the war.
          I don’t want to confuse, but only to emphasize that Fusco has written such deeply drawn characters that it’s difficult not to tell at least a little about them.  Although some aren’t in the book all the time, they all play important parts in Bee’s life as she gains confidence in herself, growing up to be a problem-solver, drawing on inner strength the way many need to do when facing challenges.  It’s a terrific and inspiring story, one to put in the hands of many kinds of student readers.

           Endangered – written by Eliot Schrefer
           I love reading non-fiction about people who do amazing things with their lives, and although this book is a fictional tale, it reads like a beautifully inspiring true tale of an adventurous fourteen year old who knows just enough of her mother’s dedication to the saving of the bonobos in order to survive a journey of survival after the country becomes a dangerous place of revolution.  The book is hard to put down as Sophie, the main character, faces crisis after crisis while on her journey with one bonobo, Otto, to find her mother.  Not only are the rebels killing most, but the jungle is filled with danger.  One passage shows Sophie telling of a new challenge as she enters a marsh:  “But as the sludge came up to my knees, I entered a new realm of worry.  Carnivorous fish. Or snakes. Cobras love to swim, and I’d seen them often enough arrowing through water hyacinth, their wide flat heads spading up out of the water.”   
The book is written in first person, and Sophie shares her thoughts often, how she will solve the next problem, how she finds even the smallest bit of moisture to help quench hers and Otto’s thirst, how they sleep high in the trees.  Philosophical questions arise also, as in her dilemma of choice in protecting humans more than the bonobos. She wonders, “Wouldn’t it be better to protect my own kind first?”  And she follows with “The moment he’d come under my care, it hadn’t been a question how much I would do for him.  Though I knew there was human suffering out there, it wasn’t like there was a tragedy scale where some things outranked others, or that care given to a bonobo meant less left for people.”
          I’d love to read the book aloud to a class of older students, perhaps middle school and older.  It brings such good philosophical questions to consider, it offers much information about the country of Congo (geographically and politically), it tells of a young girl who does what is necessary because there is no one else to do it, and it tells a tale of a group of animals that have been and are still endangered in our world.  There is so much to discuss!


Picture Books

I Want To Be – written by Thylias Moss, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
This is a book published in the 90’s that I found in our library, then found my own copy at a used bookstore.  It is pure poetry, so lively, about a young girl who is trying to answer the question adults always ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  I have used it as a way into writing, showing her poetic responses, so that students can write some kind of answer that opens up to any dream they would like to share.  Here are the lines from one page as she walked home, thinking of her answer: “I double-dutched with strands of rainbows.  Then I fastened the strands to my hair and my toes and became a fiddle that sunbeams played.  Then I sang with the oxygen choir.”  Later, when she is saying what she wants to be, Jerry Pinkney’s illustrations show the answers so beautifully along with the words. “Sometimes I want to be invisible, but not gone.”  Here in a garden filled with flowers, she wears a dress with a flower print, that makes her “almost invisible”.  Lovely book for creating!

            Just Behave, Pablo Picasso – written by Jonah Winter & illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
         If you are starting an art unit and wish to introduce Picasso, this is one book you can use.  It highlights Picasso’s drive to be different (another entry point for discussion), and introduces his work throughout his career.  It’s a book full of gorgeous full-page illustrations by Kevin Hawkes that show the emotions of Picasso and his critics as he challenges the art world with new ideas. There is a good page of backmatter at the end.

             The Day The Crayons Quit – written by Drew Daywalt & illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
           I think Daywalt & Jeffers should get an A+ for creativity, too, and when you read this book, you’ll know what I mean.  In class, Duncan gets out his crayons and finds a stack of letters addressed to him, from the crayons!  It’s a cleverly written and illustrated book from the crayons’ point of view.  And when you read the letters, you’ll agree with each one of the opinions.  “Orange” and “yellow” have a competition going about who is really the color of the sun.  “Pink” feels slighted, and “grey” complains about being all used up.  I think everyone will want to read this again, and again, and will look at their crayon boxes a bit more thoughtfully when they color!

              Whoever You Are – written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Leslie Staub
        I discovered this book from a talk by Lester Laminack who suggested that everyone set the goal of showing children that "differences can be interesting", beginning talk to help children learn to be kind instead of being scared and making fun of those who are different. Mem Fox takes us on a trip about "us", saying no matter the differences we might find, hearts are like ours, smiles are all the same, as is love.  Leslie Staub's full page illustrations show many kinds of cultures and people from all over the world, a starting point of discovery of those interesting differences. 

             I Like To Be Little – written by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by Erik Blegvad
            This book is a lovely discovery at a used bookstore, about a little girl who gives so many reasons she likes to be little, like watching rain slide down a window pane, jumping in fall leaves, skipping, and doing nothing.  Her mother asks her why when she tells about these things, and mostly it’s because grown-ups don’t do them, so she wants to stay “little”.  It’s poetic, easy reading for the younger reader, and illustrated beautifully in soft colors.

            Monsieur Marceau - written by Leda Schubert and illustrated by Gerard Dubois
           I was lucky enough to find this wonderful book at our library book sale!  In the book, Marceau said, “The mime must make reality into dreams and dreams into reality.” This book tells a short biography of Marceau, born Mangel, Jewish, who was displaced in France, joined the French resistance, aiding in helping many escape the Nazis.  His father died in a concentration camp, and it is told that because so many could not talk about their experiences there, perhaps that is why he chose silence as his way of performance.  He began to study mime after the war, and the rest of the book tells of his amazing career.  The illustrations by Dubois are as gorgeous as Marceau’s mime’s must have been, showing the imaginative morphing into someone fighting a bull, playing tug of war, or hugging someone.  It’s a book to remember!

Next:  There are many, but I now have Twerp by Mark Goldblatt and A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean at the top, plus a couple of PD books and more picture books.  I have to read fast-school is on its way!

19 comments:

  1. I love your review for The Day the Crayons Quit. I always say to our customers it's a great book to read aloud with a crowd, each one pretending to be a different color!

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    1. Thank you, Earl! Isn't it just the most fun? Lots of chuckles when reading, & a terrific book for point of view!

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  2. I've been debating bringing BECOMING BEE with me to Tennessee this week. You made the decision for me -- thank you. Looking forward to seeing you 10 for 10 post.

    Ruth

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    1. I enjoyed it very much, Ruth. Guess I should start my 10 for 10, but it's so hard to choose! Hope your trip is a good one!

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  3. What a wonderful week of reading Linda! Beholding Bee and Endangered were both favourite reads of the year for me. I have been recommending Endangered to anyone who will listen to me - my school custodian and I talk books all of the time and he has now promised he will request it from the library because I keep raving! I hope you enjoy A Dog called Homeless - I think it touches on some important emotions around grief and moving on - in some ways just like Beholding Bee. Happy reading this week!

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    1. Because of your recommendations, I am really looking forward to A Dog Called Homeless, Carrie. Those two-Beholding Bee and Endangered are top notch! Can't wait to share with students!

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  4. I think I need to get my hands on Becoming Bee. And wasn't that Picasso book a gem!

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    1. Yes, I loved the Picasso book & the illustrations were wonderful. I learned some things, too! Thanks, Tara-hope your days at TC are terrific!

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  5. I loved Endangered. I have Becoming Bee on my TBR, but maybe I need to move it up in line. It sounds like a winner. Thanks!

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    1. Endangered really taught me a lot too-amazing story! Hope you'll enjoy Beholding Bee!

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  6. *Sigh* I really need to read Endangered. I have only heard praise, praise, and more praise for that one! Have a great week! http://wp.me/pzUn5-1BQ

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    1. Yes-find a copy & read! Hope your week is good, too!

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  7. Wow - what a great week! It looks like you read some fabulous picture books this week. Did you see that Fuse 8 wrote about the Crayons book? She wondered if the color issue is something no one is noticing.. http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2013/08/05/review-of-the-day-the-day-the-crayons-quite-by-drew-daywalt/ I haven't read it yet, and now I'm sure I'll be looking at this issue when I read it!

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    1. I'll go read right now, Maria. I don't quite understand what you mean, so am really curious. Thanks!

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    2. So I read Fuse 8's review & sad to say I did not see the issues she was discussing, which makes me feel awful really. What I did notice is the talk about things like cowboys maybe needing to be pink & I did wonder about gay issues. I'll have to get the book again to look more carefully, & I will. Thanks Maria-always good to be aware of other opinions!

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  8. Hi there Linda, I love your detailed reviews this week. Beholding Bee sounds like a coming-of-age novel too - may be perfect for our current bimonthly theme. I haven't heard of Endangered so I appreciated your sensitive review and the possible philosophical discussion it could help engender. The picture books also look lovely! How great to find so many during a sale! Such treasures indeed. I think I will fall in love with "I Want to Be" - I feel I need more of poetry now that university term is about to begin - it's food for the soul indeed. As you know I am a huge fan of Oliver Jeffers - I will look out for this new book of his. :) Have a great week, Linda! I hope you had a wonderful time at the beach with family.

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    1. Thanks Myra-looks as if our summer beach time was equally good. I had a wonderful time with my family! I hope you enjoy some of these books-know you are always looking for special reads!

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  9. Loved the variety of titles, loved your review of Beholding Bee, it is on my list of TBR, thanks!

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    1. Thanks, hope you like Beholding Bee!

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Having a conversation is a good thing!