Thanks to Jen at Teach.Mentor.Texts and Ricki and Kellee at UnleashingReaders for this Reading community.
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GIVEAWAY! I’m happy to offer one copy of The Great Greene Heist on this post. If you’d like a copy, leave a comment and I’ll draw later in the week from those commenting.
The Great Greene Heist – written by Varian Johnson
Here's a great story of a group of middle schoolers who are growing up with all the usual problems, cafeteria food, popular kids who aren't so nice, and girl-boy problems. It's also a story of a group of friends who carry off a heist that holds a few surprises. It's cleverly twisted when one doesn't always know what's true, but going along with the fast-moving action is fun. I taught this age for a long time, and found the characters realistic and likable, with just the right amount of humor without sarcasm. Mostly, they're nice kids trying to learn how to live life. I also enjoyed the small parts parents played, beginning to be hands-off, but supportive. There's a fun part at the end about rules that wraps everything up nicely.
This completes another of my #MustReadIn2014 list. See the list above! And I've joined Gathering Books for the Check Off Your Reading List challenge. See the button on the right!
Every Day After – written by Laura Golden
I made strong connections to this story of a young girl trying her best to solve big problems during the tough times of the Great Depression. Laura Golden tells the poignant story of eleven year old Lizzie Hawkins whose father has deserted the family after being laid off at a local mill and whose mother has gone silent from that terrible loss. I know that many of us are fortunate enough that we might never endure the poverty that so many faced at that time, although some in the US, and all over the world, still do. My maternal grandfather, with a family of five children, lost the family farm during that time, and his family of seven moved into a house and shared it with a family of six who also needed a home. My mother told of the sadness of the time, but also that the parents made the times happy through looking at it all as if it was a wonderful experience to be together. And so, for the children at least, it was.
The story’s chapters are proverb titles from a book that Lizzie’s mother used to read, and now Lizzie reads to her mother, hoping that soon she will speak again. For a middle grade novel, the story is complex, full of lessons of knowing oneself truthfully, figuring out that people are not always what they seem, that there are lessons to be learned in life like asking for help is not a bad thing at all. Laura Golden weaves the story in and out of the proverbs, Lizzie’s journal writing, and her thoughts beautifully, ending the story with an poem of inspiration everyone will appreciate. It will make a good read aloud for discussions of problems in times past connecting to similar problems today.
Hoops – written by Walter Dean Myers
I chose this book to remind me of the wonderful writing of Walter Dean Myers, and because I’m going to read Crossover by Kwame Alexander next and thought it would be good to compare them. For those older students, 8th grade and up, this is filled with the basketball life of Lonnie, a high school senior who tells his story of living in Harlem, and living with a basketball skill he thinks might make a dream of the NBA a reality. Along comes a man he’s seen passed out on an outside court, Cal, coaching the local tournament put together so college scouts can find players for their teams. Lonnie can’t believe this man can be the coach, yet he doesn’t give up the team. Nothing in Lonnie’s life is smooth, his mother is always yelling, so he stays most of the time in vacant rooms at a local hotel where he works. He isn’t sure he really wants to connect with his girlfriend, and the craziness with those who aren’t to be trusted makes the tension of an already tough life moreso. Cal is immediately on his case, and finally Lonnie realizes that he needs to trust this man. The story weaves in and out of games in the tournament, practices with the team, and descriptions of a life I found hard to read. Walter Dean Myers never tells pretty tales, but he tells real ones, with characters to love and root for despite their imperfections. It is a story worth reading and knowing.
Honeybee’s Adventures At Wilderness Pond – Written and illustrated by Cathryn Carmen Davis
Written in poetry, this delightful book tells the story of an adventurous honeybee who survives her adventures through the goodness of a large bullfrog who lives at Wilderness Pond. There are lessons to discover as one enjoys the exciting story in poems about the dangers faced by this honeybee, saved more than once by the frog, who fills up with ants, and happily sends her on her way, kindly warning about the dragonfly and a lizard. He finally saves her from a spider. After such adventures, she returns home only to find her own hive in danger. Beautiful illustrations enhance the story, sure to be entertaining for young children.
Lilly Babysits Her Brother – written by Brenda Bellingham and illustrated by Clarke MacDonald
This is an early chapter book from a series titled “First Novels”. For students moving into longer books, it provides a more complex story with more character development and added conflict. Lilly gets to babysit her young brother Mac for the first time, but a problem comes up: a dead bird is found in the garden and Mac is allergic to feathers and fur. The story shows Lilly being so caring and loving as she solves the problems of Mac’s allergies and his wonderings about what to do with a dead bird. Themes of kindness and friendship carry the story along.
i carry your heart with me – written by e.e. cummings, illustrated by mati mcdonough
I think this book is going to need to be a gift for a new mother, or for my daughter with two of her own daughters! The poem is another love poem from e.e. cummings, and the mixed media illustrations of mother and child, whether human or elephant or bird will make you feel so good when you see them. It’s a joyful and loving treatment of the poem. Thanks to Carrie at There's A Book For That for the recommendation!
My Little Car – written by Gary Soto and illustrated by Pam Paparone
This is a “find” at the library, an older story by Gary Soto about Teresa, a first grader, whose mother says she’s too young for a bike, but she’s finally happy when her grandfather sends her a lowrider car for her birthday. She loves the attention when she rides around the neighborhood, but soon forgets about it. It is left out in the rain, a bird poops on it, and left in the driveway means her father backs into it. She thinks it’s ruined until grandfather comes for a visit and helps fix the car again. I love the inclusion of Spanish words in the story, and the way the story will support a discussion of taking responsibility for one’s things. Paparone’s illustrations are colorful and filled with family and neighborhood kids.
Interrupting Chicken – written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein
This sweet little red chicken needs to go to sleep, time for bed! He says he can’t go to sleep without a story. Papa begins to read, but each time he gets to a scary part, the little chicken interrupts to help save Hansel and Gretel, and others! There is a fun surprise at the end, and Stein’s illustrations fill the story with warm pictures of the bedtime, along with the stories’ pages being read. It’s a wonderful book for laughing and predicting!
King for A Day – written by Rukhsana Khan and illustrated by Christiane Kromer
This story is told of a little boy who sits in a wheelchair on his rooftop and readies for the kite flying celebration in Lahore, Pakistan. The festival is named Basant, is a festival that crosses all religious boundaries. This is fictional, but includes the kite flying and the boy winning, defeating many others, including a neighbor who’s a bully. The festivals must be amazing to see with many kites filing the air at the same time. The illustrations are cleverly done collages of textured papers and (I think) felt, with drawings of the characters in pen and ink. Two page spreads are the norm and are gorgeous.
NEXT: Already reading Crossover by Kwame Alexander, want to read The Boy On The Wooden Box by Leon Leyson. I'm reading Read Write Teach by Linda Rief and Reading In The Wild by Donalyn Miller to participate in #CyberPD with Cathy Mere, Laura Komos and Michelle Nero. If you want to know more about it, check Michelle's post at Literacy Learning Zone here!