Every Monday, it's a pleasure to link up with a group that reviews books they want to share with others. Come discover new books!
Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who link up.
There's still time to nominate a favorite book for the Cybil's Awards. Do it by Oct. 15th Here!
I reviewed Skila Brown's verse novel To Stay Alive for Poetry Friday. Read it here!
I am a grandmother and I was recently a teacher, and sometimes a student would share with me that she or he didn't know the grandparents. They lived far away, the family was somehow estranged, and sometimes they had already passed on. It made me very sad because I had wonderful memories of my own grandparents.
In this wonderful book set in the 1950's by Augusta Scattergood, eleven year old Azalea is about to get to know her Grandmother Clark, no matter how much she does not wish to! Azalea tells her story and begins with her grandmother writing Azalea's daughter to ask for help. The grandmother has fallen, and needs someone to do some gardening and housekeeping while she heals. Although we soon learn that there has been an estrangement between Azalea's grandmother and mother, they have stayed somewhat in touch. The story begins with Azalea's resentment at being sent, her counting the days till she can return to her own home and best friend, Barbara Jean. Now, Grandmother Clark even wants her to get to know a young boy who's a little older, Billy Wong, who will also be a garden helper. Azalea doesn't like to talk to new people. She's shy and wonders why in the world she's landed in this awful little town where everyone knows everyone!
Soon the story widens to include Billy Wong's problems, a bully already in the town who isn't nice at all, but has his own problems. There is a terrific thread about the Chinese grocery in town owned by Billy's Great-Uncle and Aunt, and some added information in an afterword about the Chinese groceries prominent in the south during this time. After nearly every chapter, Augusta has added a short written poetic piece by Billy himself, sometimes funny, often poignant, the words of a smart 13 year old young Chinese boy who just wants to learn and go to a good school. Through conflicts and "have-tos", Azalea begins to learn that she can talk to strangers, stick up for friends against harsh words, and finally, finally get to know her grandmother enough to tell some truths that need to be told. For a middle grade book that seems just right for middle graders, the plot is complicated just enough to make the reader want to turn the page, and discover what will happen next. I enjoyed Azalea's voice, and the discovery about her relationship with her grandmother especially.
I’ve been on two sailing ships, and learned the pirates’ ditties as we hoisted the sails and swabbed the decks. This particular crew of pirates are the stereotyped versions, and a lot of fun, too. They might threaten Ned, who continues to knit, but Diana Murray’s cute story in rhyme relieves us of any stress. When you read the rhyme aloud, and look at the illustrations on each page, all you can do is smile. There are turtles and mice staying in the background as helpers, along with a monkey and a mermaid! (You can see them on the back cover!) The pirate captain is a yo ho ho kind of pirate, especially when finding an island treasure. They celebrate at a table, showing off that “We're pirates, we’re pirates, out sailing the sea,/as scary and hairy as any could be.” They also are “scruffy” and “scrappy” and “happy”, until the rhyme ends, not quite right, with “knit”. There is a scary scene when the ship is attacked by a “briny ocean beast.” That double-page spread is wonderfully full of action, waves high and monster greedy. You’ll need to find the book to see what happens.
I was able to find Shy by Deborah Freedman at my library, and it is newly published. And then I read it with my granddaughter for my first time for both of us. There is this most mysterious "thing" named Shy who loves reading, stories about "once upon a time. . . or in a land far away", but he is lonely. A small yellow bird goes flying by, and Shy becomes intrigued, but also wonders how to talk to a bird. What if he blows it? The beginning of a relationship is hard, but Shy does begin, and because he is too slow, the bird disappears. I don't want to give away the rest. I believe you will be pleased, and there are good surprises. The illustrations fill the page with dreamy color similar to the cover, through day and through night. As you can see, after reading, Imi wanted to look again, and she did!
A surprise find, and the story is lovely. For anyone who has experienced an ice storm and discovered branches falling, this book tells that story. Most particularly, it's about a little girl's favorite branch, one she sat on, jumped from. As the story goes, it was "her castle, her spy base, her ship".
And it fell, broken from the heavy ice. What happens then comes from loyalty, a friendly neighbor, and imagination. The illustrations are kid-friendly bright colors, edged with blacks. Both the author and illustrator, Mireille Messier and Pierre Pratt are well-known Canadian writers and illustrators of children's books. I loved this discovery, will look for more by these two!
Reading: Lots of poetry for the Cybil's competition, and in the midst of Melissa Sweet's Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White. What a treasure this is!