Visit Jen at TeachMentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who link up. Others join Sheila to share adult books at Book Journeys.
Come visit, and tweet at #IMWAYR. Thanks to Jen, Kellee, and Ricki for hosting!
I didn't post last week, traveled to a special zoo with my granddaughters, a wonderful day! So, I've read many books since the last post, labeled them in groups so you can read what you're most interested in.
novels - Middle grade and YA
Took - by Mary Downing Hahn
This next “chiller” story from Mary Downing Hahn will be out mid-September, and it is filled with goose bumps for those who love them. Noted for a long time for writing this kind of book for pre-adolescents, Hahn has written another one that is both scary and sad, too. Daniel, a seventh grade boy, his little sister, Erica, seven, and his parents have moved to an old farm house outside of a forlorn town in West Virginia from an upscale neighborhood in Connecticut. His father has lost his job, they’ve had to give up their home and private schools, and are surviving the best way they can, by relocating. The house is in disrepair, and there are some creepy things going on from the first day. Daniel sees a shadow at the edge of the woods that first evening when they arrive, and the days and nights don’t improve. They’re the first family to live in the old Estes place since that family left fifty years ago. All the community, including the kids, knows why no one has lived there, but Daniel and his family don’t. And when they’re told of Auntie and her companion, they scoff at silly folk stories. Hahn layers on the bad times quickly, starts with someone watching them, and we read: “They’re ignorant fools, but they have something she wants, and she aims to get it.” Daniel tells this story of a family pulled apart in a house and community that does not welcome them. Hahn writes: “The past clung to them like a stain you couldn’t wash.” One must suspend one’s own beliefs when reading, and enjoy this roller-coaster ride into dark woods, a conjure or two, and a boy who won’t stop until he makes things good again. For those kids who enjoy reading scary tales, this one will suit them well. Thanks to Net Galley for the chance to read it early.
The Thing About Jellyfish - written by Ali Benjamin (just made the National Book Award long listfor Young People's Literature!)
I am grateful for the chance to read this astounding debut novel before it's published, thanks to Net Galley. Suzy, or Zu, as her mother calls her, is twelve, a seventh grader, who hasn't spoken since the early summer when she found out her used-to-be best friend Franny has died, drowned. The story is told by Zu in remembering the friendship with Franny, flashing to the present when chapters begin with the science teacher Mrs. Turton's instructions for the coming science project and presentation, alternating with some of Zu's science report about jellyfish. Zu becomes immersed in the possibility of Franny being stung by a deadly jellyfish, and all her thoughts and research focus there.
Benjamin writes poetically beautiful words of Zu's strange and mixed-up thoughts of her time with and without her friend. This whole story is not a new one, but of those challenges of middle-school friendship when Franny starts growing into liking the fun of having a boyfriend, and Zu can't understand how or why the friendship is changing. I taught middle school, and the parts Benjamin shows here are both the heart-breaking experiences of those on the 'outside', and the sweetness that does show when someone steps outside the group to be a friend. There is an adventure, yet most of this young adolescent's adventure, and learning, happens in her reflections. Franny's family and the science teacher show patience and kindness, loving examples of the good support she needs during this part of her life. The story of Franny reminds me of the quote that we must be kind, for we don't know what battles another is fighting. It is a beautifully satisfying story of growing up. Thanks again to Net Galley
Lost In The Sun - written by Lisa Graff
I barely stopped reading this once begun, took a little while to get started, but thenI didn't stop until I finished. And now, I had to wait a while to find thoughts to write. I am reminded of the quote sent around quite a bit recently: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." (John Watson) The central character, Trent, who tells the story certainly is. He's only twelve but when the story begins we learn that a hockey puck that he sent flying struck another boy, whose heart was weak, and killed him. That's just the beginning, and it is clear that Trent has a battle to fight, with family, friends, and a few enemies too. The wise young girl, Fallon Little, who befriends him, and the wise "old bat of a teacher' (Trent's words), Ms. Emerson, touch the heart as Trent works his way through this troubling sixth grade year. Lisa Graff has written a story that will help others, just as Absolutely Almost taught us life lessons, too.
Sunny Side Up - written by Jennifer and Matthew Holm and illustrated by Lark Pien
This wonderful, sad and happy, poignant, and heart-breaking comic/graphic novel moves back and forth at a rapid pace that had me questioning, re-reading, then looking carefully at dates at the beginnings of each part. Sunny, a sweet young blond with a "try-to" Dorothy Hamil wedge is seen waiting for her Grandpa in the airport, time to spend the summer with him. It's the seventies and she thinks it will be great fun; he lives in Florida. But wait, he lives in a retirement home, and all Sunny sees are old, old, old people. The first 'fun' thing they do is go to the post office, the outing of the day. And it seems to get worse, not better. Meanwhile, a next chapter goes back in time, and I began to see how the Holms would build the story, back and forth, slowly filling in what's been happening in Sunny's life and why she really is in Florida with Grandpa. She's learned well how to keep secrets and be "nice", especially when it involves someone she loves. Her brother is in trouble with drugs, Sunny finds out, but is forced to lie to hide it. No one tells her that her original summer plans are changed because the brother needs help. Also, her grandpa has bought a hide-a-bed and expects Sunny to say she's sleeping great. Luckily, she does make a friend, who introduces her to comics and super heroes, and she begins to work out that being honest is a good way to live. I hope this book lands with many young people who see Sunny's problems and discover that their problems connect. Then they might see that telling the truth can be important. The Holms have written a lovely story showing that having big struggles in a family is tough, but hiding them makes it even tougher.
Red - written and illustrated by Jan De Kinder
A young girl makes a teasing remark bout a boy who blushes, hence the "red", but others take her teasing to a mean level, until finally a bully gets rough. She does speak up first, scary as it is, and helps stop it, learns that others will back her, too. This book comes from Belgium, with what seems to be charcoal sketching, each page showing action on the playground, but especially wonderful expressions on the kids' faces. This will be a great book to start conversations about teasing, bullying, and being an ally.
One Word From Sophia - written and illustrated
Sophia wants a giraffe, really. And finally she discovers that there is one right word in order to get one. Fun story, lots of interesting vocabulary lessons, really.
P. Zonka Lays An Egg - written and illustrated by Julie Paschkis
There are chickens who lay eggs every day, and some who only lay five per week, but P. Zonka, thus far, hasn't ever laid one. She travels around the chicken yard noticing beautiful things "day in and day out, staring at flowers and gawking at clouds." Other chickens around her pester her, constantly asking "why, why, doesn't she lay any eggs?" There is a fun surprise as P. Zonka finally answers. For those families who create "pysanky", this will be a treat to read around Easter time.
Waiting - written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
The minute I started reading this, I knew I wanted to have it. then when I read it to my granddaughter, she said, "They're like the toys in my room. They like each other, and probably talk when I'm not around." It's the sweetest story straight from the imagination. Kevin Henkes uses beautifully subtle movement in the illustrations to show these creatures' actions. Look carefully!
The Little Yellow Leaf - written and illustrated by Carin Berger
A story about the reluctance to do something daring, to let go, but also would be a good beginning book to talk about autumn. One yellow leaf hangs on, when all the other things are changing, the pumpkins growing and deepening in color, the apples ripening, trees are nearly bare. No matter what, the leaf continues to stay the same, on the branch, even in a snowstorm. Excitement grows page by page as we wonder what will happen, and finally this leaf spies another, a red leaf way up high. It's always easier to do something new with a friend. The collage art by Carin Berger is wonderful. It's a mentor text for art projects, too.
picture books that rhyme
Anna's Table - written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Taia Morley
Written in verse, the story takes us along as Anna shows the beautiful pieces she finds outdoors to keep on a table in her room, a shell, a bird's skull, a dried pomegranate. Colorful memories painted by Taia Morley and poetic words by Eve Bunting keep the story going as Anna celebrates all the things she loves and has collected. I enjoyed this because I too have things from nature in various places at home. And I am reminded of a story about William Faulkner who said that he kept a 'pretty table' where he displayed things he thought 'pretty'. This could be a nice book to start a table in a classroom for displays.
An Ambush of Tigers - written by Betsy R. Rosenthal and illustrated by Jago
Delightfully rhyming, filled with realistic and then humorous illustrations to support the rhymes. "Can a parcel of penguins/be sent in the mail?/An intrusion of roaches/be thrown into jail?" The author does use the group names. Some are familiar to me (a murder of crows) and some are new (a walk of snails). For older readers. Some of the concepts are abstract enough that they may be difficult for the youngest readers.
Just finished: The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad. I'll review on Goodreads, definitely for high school and adult.
Starting: A.S. King's new book, out this week, I Crawl Through It.
Starting: A.S. King's new book, out this week, I Crawl Through It.
Happy Reading Everyone!