Sunday, October 4, 2015

Lots of Reading This Monday!



          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!

A Night Divided - written by Jennifer A. Nielsen
          I raced through this story, wanted so much to see it have a good end. You’ll need to read it to discover what happens to this family. A father and mother with two boys and a girl are separated when the father and the middle son cross to the west (before the wall was up) to see about immigrating. They were caught on that side, and could not return. I was nearly grown when the wall went up, and my family spoke about it often, although we didn’t have any personal connection to anyone in the east bloc. The Cold War was a terrible time for many. Jennifer Nielsen has written a good introduction to this time in our history that’s appropriate for middle grade kids. It is not too violent, although there is violence. It seems true to those who wished to stay, but forced to be loyal enough to the government that they often betrayed neighbors and friends. It is hard to believe how strong a twelve year old must be to do what this girl, Greta, in the story must have done. I did a little research, and found children who endured such hardships, although it might be difficult for us to imagine. Greta tells her story, her feelings, her terror, yet continues on to do what she feels she must. Luckily her older brother Fritz does join her in time to work at their goal to escape across the wall to the west. One thing I enjoyed very much was that Nielsen put appropriate quotes at the beginning of each chapter. In the midst of their secret plan for leaving, this quote was at the beginning of one chapter: “To begin is easy, to persist is art.” German proverb. It’s a story one shouldn’t miss reading, and sharing with others.

Lovabye Dragon - written by Barbara Joosse and illustrated by Randy Cecil

           This is the first book when the little girl, so all alone in a castle, meets the dragon, so all alone, and finally they get together. The dragon finds the girl by following the trickle of tears spread by the little girl. The second book, Evermore Dragon, was just published this year, another adventure between friends. It’s a cute sing-songy story just right for young children to follow along when they meet, how it’s discovered that the roar wasn’t a giant, and wasn’t a monster, but the dragon that she wished for all along. The illustrations fill the page in grays and blues, with a touch of starlight, for it seems that most of these adventures happen in the night.






Wherever You Go - written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

             There is much to celebrate in this story of taking off on a road trip. Written in rhyming text, the main character rabbit is told that roads will take you wherever you want to go, just open the door! The watercolor and gouache/black line drawings fill the page with the rabbit’s cycling adventures down roads, but each part begins with what roads “do”. First, they “go”. “Over a hill,/under a bridge,/ deep in a valley,/high on a ridge.” And as they “go”, the pictures show so many others outside, like an owl flying and some crocodiles fishing.  The characters in this book are anthropomorphized. Throughout the book, we see all kinds of animals in activities like humans: riding buses, staying at a seaside inn, climbing mountains and visiting cities. And the definition of the road widens as the story moves along. Roads “bend, reach, zoom, curve, climb” and finally “remember” because they take you back home. The imaginative detail in the drawings is delightful, and the story itself a wonderful adventure.

Boris and Bella - written by Carolyn Crimi and illustrated by Gris Crimly
          Nothing is more amusing than two neighbors who detest each other enough that they don’t even speak, but it’s funnier when it’s a witch and a vampire! Bella Legrossi and Boris Kleanitoff cannot bear to be even close to each other. Bella is the messiest witch in the world, and unfortunately lives next door to Boris, who cannot stand mess. It’s a predictable story of enemies that finally figure out, at a Halloween party given by Harry Beastie that there might be something they can both agree upon. Fun things fill the pages, bat mail carriers, bewitched broomsticks sweeping, and at the party, games like “bobbing for eyeballs”. The six year old I read this too didn’t “get” all the jokes probably meant for older kids, but she asked about them, and also wanted to read the book again. This is an older Halloween book I’ve not known before, and I’m so glad I’ve met Boris and Bella now.

         The following two books belong together. In the backmatter of the second one, the author tells of an organization that promotes children’s literature featuring new arrivals. It is www.imyourneighborbooks.org.

My Two Blankets - written by Irena Kobald and illustrated by Freya Blackwood
          A young girl tells of her move to a new country with her auntie, because of the war. The metaphor of her “old” blanket, holding the things on it she left behind--language, trees and plants, clothes--comfort her in her homesickness. One girl she sees at a playground befriends her by bringing “words” to help her learn, and then create a new blanket. She keeps the old, but now the new one comforts too. The loveliest line shares beautifully of how it must feel to land in a new place, without the words and landscape: “It was like standing under a waterfall of strange sounds. The waterfall was cold. It made me feel alone.” Freya Blackwood’s illustrations complete the images of this young girl’s experience. Seeing her sitting with her blanket as background, the memories depicted on the blanket, is one poignant scene.

I’m New Here - written and illustrated by Anne Sibley
O’Brien
           Here are three children from three different countries telling their stories in brief words, but the scary part of being all alone is so evident. “Back home I knew the language. My friends and I talked all day long. Our voices flowed like water and flew between us like birds. Here there are new words. I can’t understand them. The sounds are strange to my ears.” The scene is both happy and confused words fill another page.  Can you figure out what the following ‘playground’ words are: “kum awn, hedz up, throat heerr, you mist mee, wun too”? Slowly, each finds a way to become part of the community, who welcome them too. The book acknowledges so well how hard it is to be a new person starting in a completely new community, will help children understand and be more empathetic to new classmates.

Finders Keepers - written and illustrated by Keiko Kasza
          It’s a book for the pre-schoolers, a predictable book.  A squirrel finds a little red hat, just right to place over the place where he buries an acorn. Unfortunately as soon as he leaves, the wind carries it away, only to be found by a bird who thinks it would make a fine nest. “Finders Keepers.” But then, something else happens, and you guessed it, “Finders Keepers”. The little ones will love guessing what, or who, might be next, and there is a surprise at the end.








Max the Brave - written and illustrated by Ed Vere

          The simplest of pictures with black outlining tell the tale of Max the Brave, a kitten who is ready to take on chasing mice. The problem is big; he doesn’t know what mice look like. Young children will laugh at the silliness of Max’s search for a mouse. And when he tackles a monster, thinking it is a mouse, alarming things happen. It’s a funny book, just right for big chuckles from little kids.

Room for Bear - written and illustrated by Ciara Gavin
            First, the endpapers are lovely, including the opening of a bear awakening and looking out his cave, ready for a new home. The ending involves a complete little house for ducks, yes, ducks, and they are just outside a cave. The story is what happens in between.

        You wouldn’t ordinarily find ducks and bears living together, yet when you read this story, and discover all the wonderful things they do together, you’ll understand. In the beginning they try to enjoy each other’s company, but either the bear or the ducks don’t quite fit each other’s home.  It’s a big problem! The bear finally leaves to find his own home, and there is a wonderful page that shows all the things he misses by not living with the ducks. Ciara Gavin paints loving pictures of this strange pairing, and you will love how their tough problem is solved.

Currently Reading: Jack: The True Story of Jack & The Beanstalk - Liesl Shurtliff

Next: The Girl On The Train - Paula Hawkins
            I've also been trying to read Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, but the print is very small, so it's not an easy read. I like it so far.

30 comments:

  1. You had quite the reading week this week! I had a lot of trouble getting to my MG book this week, maybe next week will be better :)
    Great review of Night Divided. I loved that book. And am so amazed at Jennifer Nielson's writing talent - to be able to go from adventure to historical fiction and do it well - kudos to her!
    I need to read The Girl on the Train one of these days. Keeps getting pushed down in the pile!

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    1. I thought if I put The Girl On The Train is next that I really would get to it, Michele. I know what you mean about pushing down, & I really do want to read it. I agree about Nielsen, amazing to cross over from her series to this historical fiction. I did love that book! Thanks, it was a good week of fun picture books, too.

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  2. So many great books. Boris and Bella looks like a good one to share with my students this month. I just looked it up on Amazon and I love the pictures! I like the pairing of the two books - I'm New Here and My Two Blankets. I've never read either, but both sound great for creating empathy towards new students.

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    1. Yes, all three are lovely for different reasons, of course. Thanks, Lisa-enjoy!

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  3. I'll have to look for I'm New Here. What I really need are books featuring students from Nepal. That's our biggest new population! A Night Divided was a tiny bit slow, and it's a topic I find it hard to get students to read about.

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    1. I will be on the lookout for your Nepalese students, Karen. As you see, I did like A Night Divided but for young readers who have no background in this, I can see how it would be less interesting. Thanks!

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  4. Wow - big list! I loved A Night Divided and thought the topic was so interesting. Max the Brave looks adorable.

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    1. Max the Brave was very cute, but for younger readers for sure. Thanks, Holly.

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  5. I'm so bummed I missed the author of My Two Blankets when she was in Portland. I still need to read Max the Brave.

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    1. Sorry you missed the author too, Earl. It is quite a wonderful book. Enjoy Max the Brave!

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  6. I had the same problem with Nimona! I'd read a few pages, then have to put it down until the next day. Took me WAY longer than it took student who recommended it to me since she has 22 year old eyes! I'm eager to read Max the Brave. Just love that cover and I'm a sucker for every cat story.

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    1. Yes, Max the Brave is well worth the read, Elisabeth, very cute. I will persist with Nimona, promise!

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  7. You've got so many stunning picture books here Linda. I don't know where to start. I've put My Two Blankets and I'm New Here on order. Boris and Bella are on display with other Halloween books. I just went and reread it. You are right! It is delightful. That is the problem with Nimona! It is worth persevering. I think I put my reading glasses on and read it under a bright light.

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    1. Thanks, Cheriee, I will read Nimona for sure. Too many have praised it to ignore it. Enjoy My Two Blankets and I'm New Here-very well done & both so different which is good. Glad you liked Boris & Bella again, & have it!

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  8. When we read your review of A Night Divided it reminded us of the picture book, Wall by Tom Clohosy Cole. This is also a powerful book about the same topic - http://candlewick.com/bookxtras.asp?isbn=0763675601&id=&browse=Title&view=jacket&jacket=./images/cwp_bookjackets/648/0763675601.jpg&bktitle=Wall

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    1. You're right, I do know it, and liked it. I also read another about an escape, titled Going Over by Beth Kephart, a bit edgier than A Night Divided. Thank you!

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  9. I just got Max the Brave. I look forward to reading it. A Night Divided is going to be at our book fair--I am definitely going to pick it up!

    Happy reading this week! :-)

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    1. Oh, you're right, getting close to book fair time! Max the Brave is fun, Kellee. Thanks! Hope your week is a smoother one than last week.

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  10. I loved A Night Divided. So glad to see Cold War novels start creeping into the middle grade YA historical fiction canon.

    Also, I wanted to address the comment you made on my blog about Fun Home. I just wanted to stress that Fun Home is NOT a single rung up the ladder from Sunny Side Up. Fun Home is an adult graphic novel and it reads very adult. I wouldn't give that book to anyone under the age of 17.

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    1. Thanks, Beth, I did misunderstand, but I rarely recommend a book unless I've read it first, especially now that I'm retired and usually am recommending to former colleagues.Have you read "Going Over", another about the Wall?

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  11. I love all things Jennifer Nielsen, so I was happy to read your review. I need to get a copy of that book! I am hoping to receive it at NCTE this year! :)

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    1. I hope you will, Ricki. It's very good.

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  12. I love all the picture books you shared. They look like such fun. I'm even more excited to learn of a new Jennifer Neilson book. It sounds like it would pair well with the nonfiction text Candy Bomber (the Berlin airlift).

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    1. I imagine it would, & thanks for sharing that title, Kay. It's new to me!

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  13. So much reading here. I love Nielson's earlier work, so imagine I will like this one too. I want to read I'm New Here for sure. I've heard many positive things about Wherever You Go, but I keep forgetting to look for it. Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. Thanks Crystal, I hope you'll enjoy each one. I'm New Here is especially unique in the presentation and will bring so many conversations among students I think.

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  14. Your review of A Night Divided makes me wish I had put it on our Newbery possibilities. I'll request it to share at book club since there are always students looking for something else (I envy fast readers).

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    1. It is good, and some of the kids will love it if they enjoy historical fiction, Ramona. I read it fast!

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  15. Great titles yet again, dear Linda. I learned about Two Blankets while I was in Perth - it does sound like a very special book. I think I also marked I am New Here for purchase for my research project. A Night Divided sounds like a riveting read, thanks for sharing a detailed review.

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    1. You're welcome, Myra. Hope you'll find & enjoy all these titles!

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Having a conversation is a good thing!