Sunday, December 28, 2014

Final Books - A Great Year of Reading

           It's the final Monday of the year, time to share the latest books and link to our hosts: Jen at TeachMentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing ReadersSheila at Book Journeys started a meme to share all kinds of books read each Monday, then Kellee, Ricki and Jen formed theirs for only children's lit. Come visit, and tweet at #IMWAYR.
     If you haven't seen it, here is the 2015 challenge by Gathering Books. It's always fun to participate in another reading challenge. Check it out! I'm aiming for level four- over 35 award winning books!

            Here's what I've read in the past week. Vacation, even with family visiting, offers lots of wonderful time for reading!

The Family Romanov – written by Candice Fleming
           This has been a great book to read over break, with long stretches of time to digest all the information about the tragedy of Tsar Nicholas and his family. I use the word tragedy because in the way he was presented here by Ms. Fleming, he seemed weak and stupid to me. I kept hoping he would literally “see the light”, yet he clung to the advice of his beloved and trusted wife, Alexandra. And you know how touched, then heavily influenced she was by the “starets” (Russian work for prophet) also known as Gregory Rasputin. If it weren’t so terrible for millions of Russians who died of either starvation or the war, I might hold some sympathy, but the years under the Tzarist rule as well as then Lenin and Stalin were never kind to the ordinary citizens. The story is fascinating to read and contemplate. Amazingly, at the end, I find that some of this story is still not complete!  You’ll need to read to discover what is still continuing.




Mountain Dog – written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Olga & Aleksey Ivanov
             I have a complaint about this verse novel by Margarita Engle; it’s too short! I enjoyed the way she put the story together, alternating the main character, a boy named Tony, with the experiences and feelings imagined, and told, by the other main character, Gabe, a rescue dog.  Tony’s early life is filled with fighting pit bulls who win or die, and he is in charge of keeping track of the bets and money. His mother is going to prison for animal cruelty, and Tony is headed to live in the mountains to live with a great Uncle he’s never met, who is a forest ranger and a volunteer that helps find lost people in the mountains by using a rescue animal. His “mountain dog” is Gabe. There is so much to love about the story, Gabe has many wonderings from the beginning, he’s scared and lost, just not in the woods, but inside. Eventually he really is rescued by his Tio Leo and that wonderful dog, Gabe.  
             The community plays a small part in his changes, especially a new school friend, Gracie, and her grandmother.  Margarita Engle slips in much information in subtle ways, like the small school that Tony attends is reminiscent of the one-room schoolhouses of long ago. Also, the book includes bits of information about those, like Tio, who escaped an island, nearly dying from the travel on a raft. There is much to discuss within the story. What a great read aloud it will make, with multiple ideas to discuss and beautiful language to share. Tony finds “stars that seem to be cradled by branches”  and hears “an owl hoots in shivery air” while Gabe wants Tony to feel “the floating lightness of never-lonely”. “Fide Ganem” (trust the dog) is shared at the beginning, which is an ancient Roman search-and-rescue proverb.
               Although the book is fiction, it is based on Margarita Engle’s personal experiences helping her husband, owner of search-and-rescue dogs.  


Blizzard – written and illustrated by John Rocco
           My family in Colorado survived such a blizzard as described by John Rocco when all of us neighbors had to dig out our own street, and we even had a sheepdog, just like in the book. I loved reading Rocco's story based on his own adventures as a boy in 1978 in New Hampshire. Using tennis rackets for snowshoes, he made it to the store to get needed supplies for his family and his neighbors. There are two double pages that open up and show his path through the neighborhood. I imagine many kids will love talking about this book, what they would do in their own homes, whether they think they could make it like John did.

The Book With No Pictures – written by B.J. Novak
             Can’t wait to share this with some kids. It may not have pictures but it does have pleanty of funny words, words to giggle, chortle, guffaw, and laugh out loud over. I didn’t laugh very loud (I was in the library) but I started grinning, then at the end, had a big, big smile.

Lord of The Forest – written by Caroline Pitcher and illustrated by Jackie Morris
             A baby tiger is born, and spends the beginning of his growing up on the search for the  “lord of the forest”. His mother has told him that when all silence simmers in the trees”, the lord of the forest is on his way. As tiger searches, other animals proclaim that they are the “lord”, but the peacock and rhino are too noisy, and the elephant carries someone on his back. The tiger continues his search, as the author writes “his eyes were worlds of wildness”. It’s a lovely story of anticipation enhanced by full color paintings by Jackie Morris. Young readers will wonder and predict what the end might be.

Nana In The City – written and illustrated by Lauren Castillo
            It’s fun for me to read books about grandmothers because I am one, and I enjoy seeing what others write about what grandmothers do. In this special book, whose illustrations reminds me of some earlier ‘looks’ of picture books, colorful and bold, a little boy visits his Nana in a large city which seems very loud and scary to him. It’s so loud he even struggles to go to sleep-noisy trains and traffic! And it’s scary seeing some strange people, some who are homeless. The first day, however, Nana gives him a cape, one we’ve seen her knitting just the night before, and special things happen. The scary and the noisy turn out to be “extraordinary” instead, a very good place to visit. You’ll need to read to see all the details of this sweet story.

Blue on Blue – written by Dianne White, and illustrated by Beth Krommes
               A rhyming story pairs beautifully with the out of doors. Whether sunny day or rainstorm, every part is rhythm and rhyme! “Singing, swinging outdoor play./White on blue on sunny day.” shows a satisfying scene of the mother hanging out the wash, baby playing on blanket, and sister jumping rope. We see that they live either on the ocean or on a bay. The scenes change with wind and then rain, stormy weather, and father hurries in with the horses from plowing, pigs shelter under the tin roof. It’s so stormy that sister hides her head under a coverlet! At the end, calm prevails, but the story has shown us a beautiful day from dawn till bedtime, from sun to rain to moonlight. Beth Krommes’ woodcut pages are gorgeous, show so much detail on each double spread.

Next: There are so many books on my list, but for this final week of vacation, it may be one for adults. I have more than one I really want to read. What's your next book, perhaps the first book  of 2015?

37 comments:

  1. Looks like you are taking advantage of your extra reading time. Mountain Dog is on our 14-15 state award list and I just never got to it. Maybe I will have to look for it at my library. Enjoy your week of reading!

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    1. Mountain Dog is good, Gigi, take a look! Hope you have a good week too, with family & reading!

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  2. Thanks for this terrific list, Linda! I've always been fascinated by the Romanovs, and I love Margarita Engle's writing. I remember the blizzard of 1978 very well. It was quite an adventure! Wishing you a happy & healthy 2015!

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    1. Thanks, Catherine-it's snowing now, but NOT predicted to be a blizzard! The Romanov book was a very good read, as was Mountain Dog. Hope you enjoy them if you can. Have a great start to 2015!

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  3. What a terrific list! And I'm reading a book for adults right now, first one I've read in forever. I forgot how different that can be. :)

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    1. Yes, different, & a lovely change. Happy 2015, Katherine!

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  4. I really want to read The Family Romanov. I may listen to it. I have a copy of The Mountain Dog and know I will love it. You read some great picture books, too! The cover of Lord of the Forest is beautiful!

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    1. The Family Romanov is long and detailed, but oh so good, Holly. As you see, I loved Mountain Dog & wanted more! Lord of the Forest is truly beautiful! Enjoy!

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  5. My first book of 2015 will be The Shadow Hero. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks about things like that!

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    1. I think there's a call for the choice of "first book" on Sheila at Book Journeys' blog, Earl. Check it out! Yep, I might choose The Shadow Hero too. But I also need to finish The Legend Trilogy-Yikes! Happy 2015!

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  6. Wonderful descriptions of all of these books, Linda! I think my husband would enjoy The Family Romanov. (A possible birthday gift...) You certainly have been a busy girl. It looks like you are enjoying your break! Happy new year!!

    Jennifer

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer, I do love having time to read more than usual. I've done some planning for next week, too, but savoring sleeping in & NOT rushing out the door. Hope you are too! Happy 2015!

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  7. I'll have to check out Mountain Dog, Linda. I'm in total agreement about Tsar Nicholas - such a dense man, and so tragically clueless. This is a story I know so well, and yet with every book I read about it, I still yearn for a different ending. It's that scene in the room where they meet their end.... Heading over to Myra's to see about the challenge!

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    1. I hope you'll like Mountain Dog, perhaps for just your youngest readers, Tara, but good! And, as for the Romanovs-what a waste for a vast country of able people!

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  8. I just found a great find at the book store: The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport. It focuses on the daughters and how their lives were affected. It looked great, and I know we can find more sympathy for them rather than their parents. I'll look into your find as well!

    Amber @ Dystopian Wonders

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    1. Thanks, Amber, I'll definitely put it on my list. I read Nicolas and Alexandra a long time ago, which focused on Alexei and his hemophilia & I remember such sympathy then!

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  9. The Family Romanov wasn't on my radar until the Nerdies were announced but now that I see it here on your IMWAYR post, I'm thinking I might need to add it to my TBR pile.

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    1. Definitely take a look, Beth. It's great n-f for our older students!

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    2. Beth - I listened to the audiobook which was an interesting way to "read" it. Hope you enjoy it.

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  10. The Family Romanov is going on my #mustreadin2015 list. I've owned it for awhile...
    Do you use monkey pic to make your book collages? That's what Carrie recommended but I couldn't figure it out!

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    1. Hope you will enjoy the Fleming book, Michele. No, not monkey pic, but Picasa. It's easy & has some variety of choices. I've also used Fotor, more choices!

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  11. Reading some books for adults is one reading goal I'm setting for myself for 2015. I have a whole challenge cooked up so that I can catch up on some of the 2014 titles I've read reviews of and thought sounded interesting. I think my first read of 2015 is going to be Nina Lacour's latest novel. Her wonderful YA, The Disenchantments, was my first read of 2014, and I like the idea of starting my reading year in 2015 with the same author! But who knows?! Family Romanov is going on my #mustreadin2015 list as well!

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    1. I'm reading a small memoir now called the Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, & then perhaps I'll start with Anthony Doerr's All The Light We Cannot See, which has garnered such praise! Best wishes to you in the new year, Elisabeth!

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  12. we're looking into having a grandparent theme at one point in 2015, dearest Linda! I just borrowed Nana in the city from the library and looking forward to drowning myself in picturebooks at the start of the year, which I sorely missed while in the US. One of my reading resolutions as well is to read more adult novels next year. Hope that one pans out well. :)

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    1. Wonderful to hear about a grandparent theme. What fun that will be, Myra. I hope you find the picture books absolutely delicious. There are so many wonderful ones! Thank you for all the commenting recently. I appreciate it, & also hope you found more books for your list! Happy New Year to you & your family!

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  13. And so happy that you're joining the award winning books reading challenge! Yey!!!

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    1. Me, too. I loved the award challenge a year ago!

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  14. The Romanov book looks so interesting. I have been fascinated by their story since middle school.

    Happy new year, and happy reading! :)

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    1. Thanks Kellee. When time, find the book, a fascinating story. Happy New Year to you, too.

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  15. I laughed when I read "he seemed weak and stupid to me." You crack me up, Linda. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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    1. I think that the expectation of monarchs is so often intelligence that I'm always surprised to learn that each is unique in many ways, including intelligence. I also know the saying "ignorance is bliss", so perhaps Czar Nicholas was simply ignorant? Ha! Happy New Year to you, too Ricki!

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  16. I too enjoyed learning more about the Romanovs. It was truly a tragedy.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the book, too, Crystal. It is a sad tale.

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  17. I love to read your descriptions of books Linda. You make me want to go out and get the ones I haven't read. Mountain Dog sounds beautiful. I need it for our school collection of books in prose.

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    1. Thank you, Cheriee. I read books mostly from others' recommendations, so often they are good, & worth reading! Mountain Dog is worth having for sure!

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  18. FAMILY ROMANOV is at the top of my TBR list right now, but I'm waiting for a library hold. Can't wait to read this one. And I definitely need BLIZZARD this week. BRRR! I have read some fabulous nonfiction for CYBILS and would be glad to share titles if you tell me what your teacher is looking for.

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    1. Thanks Carol. This teacher just wants each student to read some non-fiction, so I told him I'd look for him, mostly in our library. If you have to wait a long time, maybe we can have coffee this weekend & I'll loan you mine? Keep warm!

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Having a conversation is a good thing!