It's been a terrific week, loving the books I've read, and discovering more. It's busy, but still some time to read! I hope you're having fun reading to (and with) students if you're back in school!
The Secret Hum of a Daisy – written by Tracy Holtzer
For those who believe that children get over a loss fast, this book is for them. For anyone who has had a loss, adults too, this book is for them. Young twelve year old Grace has not only lost her mother, she’s had to say goodbye to many communities while her mother, estranged from her own mother, wanders from town to town, until a tragic accident takes her life. Grace has to say goodbye not only to her mother, but to the good home where she and her mother had been living. Being taken in by her grandmother is not at all what she wants, and Tracy Holtzer describes a mix of strong emotions all through the story as Grace figures things were not exactly how her mother had seen them. Anger, sorrow, and happiness too all play a part in this beautiful story of a young girl grieving and being helped by her grandmother and the small community she eventually calls home. It’s a great read!
Zac and Mia – written by A.J. Betts
I was lucky enough to be able to read this YA novel published in Australia last year, having already won many prizes in that country, and coming to the U.S. on September 2nd. Told in both Zac’s and Mia’s voice, this is a story that will be loved by teens and adults who care about books to recommend to teens. It’s a love story, a story about hope, and one that shows that those with cancer, that big C few want to talk about, have varied feelings, experiences, and one size does not fit all.
Zac is in confinement for the first part of the book; he’s just had his first bone marrow transplant. He “meets” Mia only through his hospital room wall. On the first day she’s entered the hospital, her loud playing of Lady Gaga tunes drives him wild, then drives him to sympathy, because whoever might be in that room is having a tough time, and Zac tries to understand. We get to know this wonderfully thoughtful young man in his strong voice. He cares for his mom’s feelings (she’s also stuck in isolation with him), he cares for those nurses who care for him, and he cares for the other patients on the same floor. On the other hand, Mia is aptly named, because it’s always about Mia-me, me, me. Yet there are glimpses of vulnerability as the story progresses, and while I wanted to yell at her sometimes, I began to hope that she would be all right, and not just because she has cancer. Outside, Mia ends up once at a friend’s slumber party, with one “aha” moment. She watches the other girls, thinking: “I feel like I’m watching through a glass bowl. Is this how life is for them? Is this how it was for me? Am I the fish, or are they?” And later, she says: “Cancer should come howling into a body with sirens wailing and lights flashing. It shouldn’t be allowed to slink in and take root in someone’s brain like that, hiding among memories.” The story is compelling, a sweet inspiring story of two kids facing big odds, and holding onto what they eventually know is important. Few teens have to learn this lesson this soon.
(Note: this next book meet the criteria for Latin@s in Kidlit challenge. See link on the right!)
Gathering The Sun , an alphabet in Spanish and English– written by Alma Flor Ida, translated byher daughter, Rosa Zubizarreta and illustrated by Simón Silva
For children who know Spanish, and for those who are learning, this is a lovely book, dedicated to César Chávez, an alphabet from A to Z about farm workers, the pride in their work, the different work they do, and the family members who do it. Each letter gives us a beautiful image from the fields and from family life. For example, F asks if the flowers are “drowsy stars/that lie sleeping in the fields?” And the S page imagines a seed “all tucked in/like a baby in the crib.” The full double-page spreads by Silva are gorgeous depictions of the people and the fields in which they work.
Eric, The Boy Who Lost His Gravity – written and illustrated by Jenni Desmond
For young children who lose their tempers once in a while, this may be the book to read with them. Eric gets so frustrated when his little sister Alice messes up his train and knocks down his blocks that he explodes with anger, so much that he begins to float up to the ceiling. And then he floats right out the window. As he calms down, realizes that things aren’t so bad, he gains the gravity back, and you’ll have to read to discover what happens next. I’m sure young children will relate to this, perhaps especially those with younger siblings? The illustrations are whimsical, amusing drawings of the family and the children in total action!
Suki’s Kimono – written by Chiei Uegaki and illustrated by Stephanie Jorisch
This is a pretty book and a thoughtful story about a young girl who won’t give up the idea of wearing the kimono and sandals her Obachan gave her during her summer visit. Even through older sibling and classmate teasing, Suki holds to her love, that special outfit from her dear grandmother. It’s a story about knowing what one wants, despite outside pressures, and sticking to it. I’d love to see others sharing this with their young students and having a good conversation about Suki’s choices.
Bird Child – written by Nan Forler, and illustrated by Francois Thisdale
Luckily for one young girl, Eliza has been given ‘wings to fly’ by her mother, and learns that helping someone who’s being bullied is the right action. After seeing Lainey, a girl new in school teased and bullied, and standing back at first, Eliza realizes she can’t just watch anymore. The book will be terrific to discuss with younger students. When I’ve read about bullying, I learned that there are three groups to consider, the bully, the bullied, and the bystanders. All play a role in these terrible acts. It’s good to have a book that shows that so beautifully, and this book does, in words and in the gorgeous illustrations.
Reading In The Wild – written by Donalyn Miller
Reading In The Wild – written by Donalyn Miller
I read this weeks ago with the #Cyber PD group, and loved the interaction and comments from so many educators. I imagine an auditorium filled with readers. When asked if they would use Donalyn’s ideas, embrace her philosophy to the best of their abilities, and share, share, share, there would be all hands raised, shouts of “yes”, then wild applause. This is because many teachers are wild readers themselves, and relish the idea of creating wild readers in their own classrooms. I’ve seen Donalyn present more than once, and she doesn’t waver in her ideals. She wants us to let kids read and to help them find what inspires them and makes them readers who love books. I love that she continues to say that kids cannot do this alone, they need direct teaching of many things, yet always with the move toward independence. I, like that auditorium full (and more), love the book, and will share!
Next: I think the next will Caminar by Skila Brown which I still haven't read, and I need to re-read A Separate Peace by John Knowles, reading with a book group this next couple of weeks. And still there is a stack of picture books waiting! Happy Reading Everyone!