Sunday, November 27, 2016

Some Favorite 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. 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!

25 comments:

  1. The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles is a beautiful story. Lovely illustrations, too. Samson in the Snow sounds like a great book. I think you'll like The Girl Who Drank the Moon if you get to it. It's unique and sweet.

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    1. Nice to hear that you liked The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, Lisa. I'm looking forward to The Girl Who Drank The Moon! Thanks!

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  2. All of these look excellent! Thanks for sharing. I'm going to add The Only Road to my list to read. Have a great week!

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  3. Samson in the Snow and The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles are books we will add to our collection of texts about kindness - such important books to have in classrooms.

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    1. You are right! They will be wonderful additions! Thanks!

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  4. I'm looking forward to reading all of these, Linda. I note that the Steads have done several well-reviewed books about loneliness, a part of the human condition.

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    1. I love every one of their books, Jane. They give us hope, too. Thanks!

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  5. This is the second or third time I have read about The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles - I am going to have to get it now.
    Thanks for the book ideas -

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    1. It is a wonderful book, Joanne. I hope you like it, too!

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  6. I enjoyed The Only Road for the same reasons you did, Linda - it's an important book to read these days, I think. Love your picture book selection, too!

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    1. Your review caused me to find The Only Road. It is one that every older classroom should have! Thanks, Tara!

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  7. I've ordered The Poet's Dog from the library and I can't wait to read it! Have a great week!

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  8. The Only Road sounds like one I will want to read. I really enjoyed the uncorker. :)

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    1. Yes, The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles is wonderful. I hope you enjoy The Only Road. It is sad to consider the children who are doing what the book told. Thanks, Crystal!

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  9. The Only Road looks excellent! I am going to look for it! I really enjoyed The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles. What a fantastic text!

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    1. Yes, both are very good, Ricki. Thanks!

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  10. Love The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles which I read to our book club this fall. The Poet's Dog is a new favorite. Yellow Time is in my book basket, unread. And I'm thinking I need to request the other two titles. Thanks for all your great recommendations.

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    1. You're welcome, and FYI, I just got Bettyville from the library. I can't start it yet, but soon! I really loved "uncorker" too! The Poet's Dog is very sweet!

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  11. I think I'm bound to fall in love with The Uncorker of Ocean bottles - sounds exactly like my kind of book. :)

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  12. Thank you so much for sharing about these books!

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  13. The Poet's Dog sounds lovely! Cannot wait to read it.
    Happy reading this week! :)

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