Sunday, February 8, 2015

Monday Recap-Good Reading

Link up with Jen at TeachMentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers. and Sheila at Book Journeys.  Come visit, and tweet at #IMWAYR. Thanks Jen, Kellee, and Ricki for a great start to the week!

Fish In A Tree - written by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
           Is it enough to say that I read this book, with the exception of a few pages, all today? Yes, it's not very long, but still, it's been a while since I had a book I just could not put down. It's about Ally, her brother Travis, two classmates who become dear friends, and Mr. Daniels, a teacher. It's about friendship and allies, teachers who dig deeper, and about bullies (their needs too), bystanders as well as up-standers. Lessons learned, many. One is from a Grandpa, now deceased, whom Ally loved, whose words she remembers: "be careful with eggs and words, because neither can ever be fixed." Another is something Ally finally learns: "Now I realize that everyone has their own blocks to drag around. And they all feel heavy." Many rich conversations could be started from this book-a gem!



When Otis Courted Mama – written by Kathi Appelt and illustrated by Jill McElmurry
         Cardell is just fine with his “perfectly good daddy, step-mother Lulu and little step-brother”, but likes having his “perfectly good mama” all to himself. Different suitors come and go, until Otis. Cardell waits a long time for his Mama to send Otis away, but that time doesn’t come, although a bit of a growl from Cardell does. This story by Kathi Appelt is going to be a wonderful addition to a school library for all those children who have to figure out that the step-parent is also going to be an okay member of the family. And for all children to realize there are different kinds of families. The story is also beautifully told, with authentic setting details from the desert (“a handful of ocotillo flowers”), and poetic descriptions that feel good (“When his perfectly good daddy howled, the stars shimmered and the moon beamed”.) The words are enhanced by McElmurry’s illustrations that make coyote life look a lot like human lives, except for the howling!

Magnus Maximus, A Marvelous Measurer – written by Kathleen T. Pelley and illustrated by S.D.
Schlindler
             At my state reading conference, I recently was lucky enough to see Kathleen Pelley present. She lives in my city, too, and what stories she told, of her cultural background (father was Irish, but she was born in Scotland), and what she remembered of the stories she was told growing up. And she shared inspiring quotes, some of each of her books, especially this one, which I purchased at the site. I can imagine using this for many lessons, the least of which is regular measuring. Magnus Maximus was so clever at his measuring and brave, too (the lion event) that he becomes famous, and has a statue created of him by the townspeople. He measures both regular things and unusual things. For example, he measures “the wobbliness of a jellyfish” to the “itchiness of an itch”. He is seen measuring who has the “floppiest of ears.” and “the stinkiest socks”.  What happens to Mr. Maximus is a lesson all of us must learn, that sometimes there really is “too much of a good thing”.   He needs something else, and that is what you’ll discover when you read the book.

Going Over – written by Beth Kephart
            It’s appropriate that I’ve saved an article about the 25th anniversary of the Berlin wall coming down, which was last fall. I planned to share it with students, but found it just recently in a pile of papers. And I was in the midst of reading this book when I did find it. This book, reviewed with love and enthusiasm by Carrie Gelson was one I knew I would enjoy. I was just finishing high school when the wall went up, and spent much of my adolescence worried about the cold war and the possibility of atomic war. We also worried a lot about those in east Berlin. Like all historical fiction, Kephart tells a tale of heartbreak and triumph, and keeps the reader on a sharp edge all the book. There is beauty in her words: “When the magpies are out, they stripe the night.” And the background details of the workers shipped from Turkey to do the jobs that are needed, isolated and in need is a part of the fabric of the tale, too. Ada, a fifteen year old living with her mother and grandmother in the west, and the grandmother’s friend through the war and the terrible time after when the Russians came lives in the east, with her grandson, Stefan. Ada and Stefan are in love, have seen each other only 4 times a year since childhood, and want only to be together. Ada pushes Stefan to find a way to jump, the thread that carries the story all the way with such underlying tension that I almost didn’t want to know the end. “Will he end up safe in the west?” is the question.

Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights – written by Steve Sheinkin
              I’m old enough that I know there was no mention in my history textbooks of this important part of our civil rights history. It saddens me to think I’d never heard of these brave men who did the right thing, and were punished because of racism for that action. Sheinkin tells this story of 50 men who joined the Navy during World War II to fight for their country, and, they hoped, to have the adventure of going to sea. They didn’t know that their superior officers would deem them unfit for anything but cleaning bathrooms and washing dishes in the mess halls, or for loading dangerous explosives, without training too. You’ll be shocked at the story, and intrigued by the details of this story, now written to keep it alive for our children to know and pass on. There are pictures enough to help imagine the scenario of the events, and of the men also.

Next: After this week I have a week's vacation coming, and so many books are in the pile. I just purchased the new Sharon Draper book, Stella By Starlight, so that will be one of them. And I have the NetGalley copy of Elizabeth Wein's new book, Black Dove, White Raven.  I'm excited to have some s.l.o.w reading time!

37 comments:

  1. I need to get a copy of the Port Chicago 50. The art is just gorgeous. It sounds like such an important story. I have Going Over in my to listen/read line on the Kindle. I'll have to plug that one in on the way to school this morning. As always, Linda, I appreciate your title shares each week.

    Thank you,
    Lee Ann

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    1. You're welcome, Lee Ann, hoping you enjoy both these books. Port Chicago 50 was wonderful, & Sheinkin gave them their story well.

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  2. I wasn't sure I would like Fish in a Tree, but I did. Books that are set mainly in schools seem to be more of an elementary thing, but I think this one will hold up at middle school.

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    1. I understand, & hope I'll be able to persuade some of the students to read it. Sometimes there are just small parts of books that are comforting to students, and there are several in this book that can do that. Thank you!

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  3. When Otis Courted Mama caught my eye for the classroom. I think I'm going to need to read Fish in a Tree-everyone keeps writing and tweeting about it. The funny part about having a reading plan, is every time I log onto blogs or Twitter, the plan changes. :) Thanks for sharing these titles!

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    1. I know about that plan, & it's why Carrie & Maria started the #MustRead list, those books that keep getting ignored. Have a happy reading week no matter what's on top, Kendra!

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  4. Oh my word Linda, I can not say enough about Fish in a Tree. She is such a wonderful story teller! I just stopped to request the Magnus Maximus book. Love getting new titles to read. Thank you!

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    1. I know you had Fish In A Tree early, & am glad to hear others loved it too. Enjoy that "measuring" story-lots of fun there!

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  5. Fish in a Tree looks super good. Definitely need to put that on my list. I've been wondering about Going Over as it certainly sounds interesting and I like Kephart's books. I think I might check that one out today!

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    1. Hope you find & enjoy each one-special books for a variety of ages!

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  6. Excited about Fish in a Tree and Going Over! They are both on my list to read! Thanks

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  7. I am so much looking forward to reading Fish in a Tree. Every time eview of it sings its praises. Magnus Maximus, A Marvelous Measurer, and When Otis Courted Mama look like books I will just have to figure out a way to purchase for our school library.

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    1. These picture books were much fun, and filled with good stories as well as great illustrations. Hope you enjoy them, & of course, Fish In A Tree, too!

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  8. Elizabeth Wein's new book?!?!??!! That makes me squeal with delight. Love her so much. I need to purchase the new Sharon Draper too. My Children's Lit students have been on me to read Tears of a Tiger, which I've booktalked so many times but never read myself, LOL. Fish in a Tree is an important one. Trying to get as many of my students to read it as possible this semester.

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    1. I saw Sharon Draper present last year and was so impressed with her story and all she had to say about children's books and writing, too. I am excited about Wein's new book, too Elisabeth, just started and it's going to be another 'women's' adventure!

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  9. Going Over and Port Chicago are in by TBR pile, Linda - so glad that you loved Fish in a Tree. It is special for many reasons, not the least of which is the authenticity of Ally's longing for honesty and compassion. Enjoy your break! I'm sure that reading will be a big part of it :)

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    1. Thanks Tara, I will certainly enjoy this break. It really seems as if I'm just settling in with the class, & soon it will be over! Yes, Fish In A Tree held quite an impact!

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  10. Fish in a Tree is such an amazing book - It is one we want to read again and again. It is filled with so many important messages. We were so lucky to hear Lynda Mullahy Hunt present - Truly unforgettable!

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    1. I saw Lynda present last year at this same state conference and agree, I loved every bit. The book is good, and I hope many teachers read it-they need to!

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  11. I echo Elisabeth - a new Elizabeth Wein title! OMG Can't wait. I am planning to read this Draper title soon and Fish in a Tree - I need to find a morning where I can start and finish it all at once. Need to get a copy and soon! So pleased you liked Going Over. My husband currently reading it.

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    1. I see echoes of Wein's other novels in this new one, but so far it is a child's story. Later she may take us further into the older life. Love the writing like I did the others. Yes, you'll need time to read Fish In A Tree. As you see, I didn't stop!

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  12. I just got a copy of Fish in a Tree last week. I'm looking forward to reading it especially since I listened to Matthew Winner's podcast featuring Lynda. It sounds fantastic. I just bought Stella too. I also snagged an ARC of Black Dove, White Raven. I have loved Wein's other novels.

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    1. I guess we could say we're on the same pages, Crystal (te he). Reading Wein now, but Stella is next. Enjoy!

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  13. Fish in a Tree IS that good! I knew you would like it, and I am so glad that you did!!!! Otis is also a wonderful picture book :) Two great ones this week!
    I didn't know the others--thank you for sharing.

    Happy reading this week! :)

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    1. OH! And I really need to read the Port Chicago 50! Such an important piece of history!

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    2. I truly enjoyed them all, & Port Chicago is a must read-took me a while, but I was only reading at school until the end. Yep-loved Fish In A Tree! Thanks, Kellee.

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  14. I also saw Going Over on Carrie's blog, and I wanted to read it then. Now, seeing your review, I want to read it even more! Thank you for sharing the book. It seems like a special one.

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    1. It was a good, complex story, Ricki, a sweet love story too!

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  15. Fish in a Tree sounds wonderful and the fact that you read it in one sitting says a great deal! Magnus Maxiumus looks like a winner - and a perfect link to math! I love books that have connections to hearing the author speak - they hold special memories. Thanks, Linda!

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    1. Both books will be good reads, Catherine. Enjoy!

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  16. Great to see you last weekend! I have an ARC of STELLA and am hoping to read it this weekend. FISH IN A TREE has been on my TBR list for a while, now you have given me a couple more! Enjoy your week off! You definitely deserve it!

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    1. I'm looking forward to Stella, too, Carol. It was good to sit together and talk a little bit. Hope your week is going great! When you find it, enjoy Fish In A Tree!

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  17. I just read your comment on my blog and had to come over! You and I had a similar experience with FIAT! I read it late into the night and finished it in the morning. How weird that we both shared the egg line, as there were so many wise words and quippy sayings. We had a good time last night at the dinner table with my family trying to figure out the fox, chicken and grain riddle. Your students would enjoy that!
    Have a great day, Linda!

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    1. I guess we could say "great minds think alike, etc.", Melanie. It was a dear book, & that quote really did catch me, too. Hope your day is good, too!

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  18. Looks like you had a great reading week! So jealous you have a week off coming up. I have a 4 day weekend, so I celebrate that! I hope you enjoy Stella. I thought it was wonderful historical fiction.

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  19. Hi there dear Linda! I've been reading soooo many great things about Fish in a Tree - I really am very excited to get my hands on it as well as Port Chicago 40 which seems like an immensely powerful novel. I was just thinking that Going Over would have been a wonderful addition to our war and poetry reading theme. Thanks for featuring so many lovely books - I look forward to what you'd share with us next week with your week off! :)

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Having a conversation is a good thing!