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. I'm still reading for the Cybils poetry, round one. I didn't post last week, but today will share some books of those I read that I enjoyed very much. They're about surviving, wishing a better life, kindness, empathy and celebrating, all important things to us, right?
A local drug gang threatens a 12-year-old boy and his 15-year-old cousin who are forced to flee their Guatemalan village and seek refuge in the United States. The Alphas murder his cousin Miguel for refusing to join, and Jaime Rivera receives an ultimatum: join the Alphas or else suffer the same fate. Ángela, Miguel’s older sister, also falls prey to the violent gang’s demands. There are horrors on this journey, and the first one to me is the fact that they must leave home, the only place and people they know. Diaz has kept some of the terrible scenes less vivid, perhaps for the middle grades, but imagining this journey taken by young kids is hard to do.
I liked that the story, told in third person, involves other kids met along the way, their stories and heartbreak, and mostly their kindnesses even while surviving. There are a few others at some "safe" houses, like a Padre in a broken-down church, a woman far into the desert who chooses to help, but most of the time there is hunger and thirst, and terror. Jaime's story is also deepened by his talent as an artist. His sketchbook, the valued possession, takes his thoughts back to family, to Miguel whom he feels is watching over them, and to making a little money in order to survive. Angela takes the role of mother or leader until she is injured, and then Jaime must take charge. Their changes through the trip mirror thoughts of children at first, but sadly one soon realizes they are growing up in order to survive and cross that border. An author's note about her own immigrant background, a glossary, and further resources add to the importance of this story.
If you want a story that has some poetry, a lot of goodness and love, along with magical serendipity, this story will fill your expectations. It reminds me of The Van Gogh Cafe by Cynthia Rylant where magical things happen there too.
How far would you go to help someone? Samson loves his place, a beautiful field filled with yellow flowers. One day a small red bird asked if she could pick a few dandelions for a friend. Samson gladly shares and wonders what it would be like to have a friend. His place may be beautiful, but it's also lonely. A sudden snowstorm sends Samson on his way, and on that path, friendship is found in an unexpected ending. The story of friendship is made better by the gorgeous illustrations.
If you wish to see loneliness "uncorked" in a beautiful story of kindness and also generosity, this is the story. This uncorker of ocean bottles lives on a lonely hill by the ocean, spends much time looking for the glint of glass in order to discover a message in a bottle, and deliver it to whom it should go. The time is chronicled by Erin Stead's lovely drawings, of determination through all kinds of weather and happiness from those who receive their messages. This man holds a tiny wish, that he might receive a message some day. The ending develops his wish in a different way, but you will think it's even better. It's a joy of a story, something to make you smile again and again.
We have more than "Yellow Time" in our fall with a variety of trees turning yellow, but also orange and red, sometimes purple. And, in the Rockies, there is yellow everywhere as the aspens glow. This book doesn't specifically mention aspens, but they do whoosh and finally fall in this season. This is a celebration of autumn, and I love "Everyone is ready. The trees can't hold on forever." There also is a part showing how much crows love this season, and recently as I drive around the city, I see them gathering often. We call them crow parties! The illustrations fill us up with fall, beautifully golden with children happily playing throughout the story.
Next: I'm nearly finished with The Plot to Kill Hitler, am beginning another verse novel, Falling Into The Dragon's Mouth and will try to get to The Girl Who Drank The Moon. It has been given high praise recently! Lots of lists are coming out, and there are some I'd really like to read before award time!
Happy Reading Everyone!