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.
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To share: The Cybil's finalists were announced January 1st, and you can find all of them here. It was a huge pleasure being a Round One poetry judge, but it was a challenge to do other reading and read so many poetry collections and verse novels. Those I have not shared already I will share later. Those who are not the finalists you should find and read, too! It was a tough decision to choose only seven! The poetry finalists are here.
I did not do a #MustReadIn2016 post for Carrie Gelson's group. And I admit that I'm sure the list of books I did not read are wonderful. I just didn't find the time for them. Some I will move to a new 2017 list, omitting a few. I had 23 books on my list (see above) and read ten of them. Of those ten, I highly recommend the following if you haven't read them: Rooftoppers & Wolf Wilder - Katherine Rundell, All American Boys - Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely, and for adults or older teens-Unbroken - Lauren Hillenbrand.
I've read and reviewed quite a few books these last few weeks. Here are some favorites:
Using a variety of poem forms, some of which are explained in a back note, Janice N. Harrington has her main character Katharen tell her story of her family moving to a new place. Katharen, known as Keety, a nickname from “parakeet” - a big talker - is not happy about this and shows us for quite a bit of the story, from sadness to denial to wishing to go back to that original home. She’s from Alabama, and these kids at her new school think she talks funny, says “yella” for “yellow”. She does make a friend finally, Allie, also called Allie-Gator. Slowly we get to know the family, Allie, the new teacher and the librarian, but most especially Grandpa. He’s the one that starts Keety on “a fishing thread”, says she has a storyfish inside, “a fish/made of words./It nibbles, nibbles/when I’m daydreaming.”
Harrington keeps sewing that thread throughout her poems, from times fishing with Grandpa, in “Grandpa Fridays” but starting with Keety telling how the other kids, except one, make fun of her. That one keeps staring, but won’t talk. ‘”Let the fish come to you,” Grandpa says. “Some fish just like to take their time, Fish Bait.’” Fish Bait is his pet name for Keety, and the relationship deepens as Keety does make a friend.
Later, the “crash” happens. Grandpa has a stroke and Keety is crushed. Through fish tales and a friend who makes fish origami, through Keety finally telling her stories again, good things happen. The poem’s fish thread is creative, telling the tale with both funny and poignant metaphors. When Keety’s father assures her that Grandpa loves her he tells her: “He (Grandpa) told me once/that his heart was an old tackle box/and that you were the best thing in it.” There are a few poems where Allegra (Allie-Gator) shares her side of the story. For someone willing to be a friend to a strange newcomer, she slowly shows how thoughtful and willing she is.
About two-thirds of the story was about Keety, her little brother and Grandpa, and the challenges of a new school and feeling so, so left out. The big thing came then when Grandpa had a stroke, and the other problems resolved. Keety had a friend and she started telling stories again, then Grandpa got better, and things were good. It is a sweet story, but I would have liked more development of the characters. All were loving except the few who teased Keety, but there wasn’t much detail about the teacher helping with that. Keety seemed to have to work it all out herself.
Best thing: the fishing analogy
Finally, I had the chance to read this book to my granddaughter, and while I had to explain what a pen pal was (she's five), she loved the book, and asked for a second read. It's a fun story about friendships and making assumptions and discoveries that all you believe that's true isn't necessarily the "real" story. It's cute to read aloud with the clever letters that rhyme, and fun to see all the antics of these two pen pals. I rather like the smiles on the two teachers at the end, too.
I'm sharing the following books I know many have read, but I finally got them from the library, and they are terrific.
Based on the story of Rafael López, the illustrator of this book, who with his wife Candice, moved into a part of San Diego then gray and drab, and gathered together those in the neighborhood to help transform that sad look into happy colors. With F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell's words, the story leaps to life and song with López' vibrant colors. A young girl loves to draw colorful pictures, and hands them out all along her walks, to a shop owner, a policeman, and others. She tapes a drawing of the sun to a gray wall, and an artist approaches her, asks her to join him in painting. Soon others join in, paint and sing and dance. As they paint, they seem to be transformed along with the neighborhood. It's a story that surely inspires. There are many murals on buildings, fences, park benches and spaces found and used in my city. I imagine a class of students painting parts of their own neighborhoods, or school buildings after reading this book.
Katrina Goldsaito fills the story of young Yoshio's search with a city walk, describing sounds in a variety of places like the koto sounds are "twangy and twinkling" and the "thwack of his boots on the pavement." Julia Kuo illustrates the city just as a city is, filled to the brim with sounds and sights. She created with pen and ink, but colored digitally with Photoshop, realistic and detailed. The story shows Yoshio's search for silence after a street koto player tells him that silence ("ma" in Japanese) is her favorite sound. He's curious and wonders how he will ever find it. The reader will love what he discovers!
NEXT: Still reading Fredrik Backman's my grandmother asked me to tell you she's sorry. And I have some arcs I'd like to start.