Sunday, October 1, 2017

It's Monday - Great Reads Again

              Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to discover books you'll love! Thanks to Jen, Kellee and Ricki who share so much from their own reading lives and support this meme, too.
          Those affected by the hurricanes, earthquakes and forest fires are still in need, and perhaps especially Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. I hope you're finding a way to help! 

           REMEMBER, IF INTERESTED, CYBIL'S NOMINATIONS LAST FROM OCTOBER 1ST TO THE 15TH. I'M THRILLED TO BE A POETRY JUDGE AGAIN, BUT WE'LL HAVE NO BOOKS TO READ IF YOU DON'T NOMINATE! FIND OUT MORE HERE!
               I've read quite a few books since I last posted, so am sharing just a few, but still, sorry for the long post. Here are some I loved!
                                                 tweet #IMWAYR

Fiction
        
         During my time as a teacher of middle-school kids, I had one student who had a terrible accident during the summer (I had students for two years.) and he had to have one arm amputated. The year before that, I had read aloud Christy Brown’s My Left Foot to the class, not knowing how valuable the discussions we’d had would be that next year. I would have loved to have such a book as Insignificant Events in the Life of A Cactus by Dusti Bowling to read with students, too. Aven is a charming, smart middle-schooler who happens to have no arms, and also happens to have great friends she’s grown up with. Unfortunately, her parents have decided to move to Arizona to manage Stagecoach Pass, a western theme park.          
       After this move, Aven meets more struggles than how to learn to put on a bathing suit or eat certain things like turkey deli sandwiches. She must face new kids, which doesn’t go so well, causing a lot of eating in the bathroom. Finally, she finds that eating outside can be better, and meets one new friend, Zion, also lonely, also avoiding the social unpleasantness of the cafeteria. In the library, Aven discovers that another boy keeps “barking” at her, and when she confronts him, discovers he, too, is hiding out. This boy, Connor, with Tourette’s syndrome, becomes one more friend, who with Zion, makes Aven consider more of the way she’s running her life than ever before. Connor and Zion have some re-thinking about their own lives, too. Can Aven do anything? Well, maybe not basketball, but she hasn’t tried it yet! The story winds its way through the feelings of these three young teens. While Aven leads the way because of the way her parents have helped her learn how to do so much without arms, the boys help her learn more about being a friend, too. And then there’s the mystery of that locked shed, and a picture discovered that looks a lot like Aven. The story is about being handicapped and making one’s way in the world anyway. And it’s about friendship and sometimes secrets, a good one for reading aloud today, and discussing often. I loved that Dusti Bowling had Aven reading Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli during one scene in the book, another story about keeping strong beliefs about who you are, and who you want to keep on being.

       There is a contented boy who lives alone at the End of The World. He seems content. He finds things in peace. Then, a strange man arrives, a visionary who puts up a sign: CONSTANTINE SHIMMER'S GALVANO-MAGICAL END OF THE WORLD TOURS. FUN ALL THE TIME! True it is that from then on, the priority is to have fun, and while more and more “things” are built to attract those who want “fun”, and while the boy meets some other kids from the city and they play at all sorts of things, one day the boy notices something. He can no longer hear the wind. Fun is not his only priority, but discovering things is. Kevin Hawkes illustrates the boy’s world of simplicity and the fantastical world that of busy! It’s a story like all Anderson’s stories, it poses questions. Perhaps a read aloud with a group will discover answers?



          One best thing to say is what everyone else is saying: “Read this book!”  When I bought the home I’m now in, I was sold by a tree more than anything in the inside. MY cottonwood tree is over a hundred years old. As I read this book, I kept wondering what it was thinking about its life all these years. Catherine Applegate lets us know some of that as she lets Red, a northern red oak, tell this latest story in its adventures. She does include some history, an important part of a family’s story, some of which have always lived near and taken care of it. There is the story of the wishing, how coming across the ocean alone, a young girl, then a grown woman named Maeve started the wishing by tying one rag with her wish. But we don’t discover that part until later.
         First there is Red and his friend Crow discussing this new family that’s moved into one of the rental houses. They apparently are from a middle-eastern country, and a terrible thing happens to heighten the tension in the neighborhood. A youth, though we never know who, carves “LEAVE” into the tree. Sadness and fear enters and the current owner of the tree decides that it’s too much trouble to manage. The tree must come down. After all, its roots are also messing up the plumbing.  The story revolves around the tree, a young boy and a young girl, neighbors, but one needs a friend, and the other’s parents are upset with these NEW people. How this all evolves is the tree’s story, and a beautiful one. 
          I admire the way that Katherine Applegate includes knowledge of the science of trees and of the various animals that live in the tree’s hollows, but also shows Red’s optimistic view. “Hollows are proof that something bad can become something good with enough time and care and hope.” We learn how trees acquire ‘hollows’ and the unique way they communicate. She tells us why certain animals’ names happen. And it’s all in beautiful language. This is a part of how Red tells about tree talk: “If you find yourself standing near a particularly friendly-looking tree on a particularly lucky-feeling day, it can’t hurt to listen up.” There is humor. On the day Bongo, Red’s crow friend who plays a great supporting role in this story, reminds Red that it is another year older, Red answers “Another sproutday, I still feel like a sapling.” Bongo answers “You don’t look a day over a hundred and fifty.” And Red replies, “I’m really”--I paused for comic effect--“getting up there.” One funny thread in the story is the idea that trees do not tell good jokes!
         The story amazes, and a bonus that doesn’t always happen in longer chapter books is that it is also illustrated in pencil drawings by Charles Santoso. The beauty is doubled by him as he shows us his own view of nature’s blessings in Applegate’s story.
            
           I’ve had the pleasure of reading an ARC of this debut novel from Candlewick Press by Mira Bartók, who has created a story that begins with sadness and abuse and ends with heroic deeds by those who overcome evil and learn that never giving up helps many a started out, terrible day. It’s the story of Arthur, first named “Number 13” by the terrifying Miss Carbuncle who believes that her charges exist only to serve. It is a dark, dark day when Part animal/part human creatures, “groundlings”, must go to the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, a place not pleasant in any way, a place where even songs and music are forbidden.  The Wonderling emerges as a sweet, one-eared fox-like eleven-year-old who only knows his number, 13, from the etching on his back. His voice is realistic and keeps us intrigued 
            In one brave moment, the small time when Wonderlings are supposed to have an “outdoor” time, Number 13 goes to the rescue of Trinket, a young bird-like groundling, who’s being tossed in the air like a basketball by bullying rats. This, plus the adventure to come with these two working together, is an true quest story, one where Arthur, so named by Trinket, takes us on an adventure that makes us hold our breaths when each new danger emerges. And it makes us sigh when we are glad that the present challenge has been overcome. Mira Bartók has given us high fantasy filled with magic, with gorgeous illustrations throughout, and with steampunk overtones. I am reminded of Bilbo Baggins when I think of Arthur’s adventures, one he is sometimes reluctant to make, but one that he does with surprising courage.

Non-Fiction

             I imagine there are some children who don't know the name Jackie Robinson, perhaps those who aren't baseball fans, but many do know the name and what Jackie meant to baseball and African Americans. This is one of many biographies of Jackie, but it's for younger mid-grade readers, and it tells his story well and simply. From youngster to his playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, who he was as a young boy and why he became that hero for many is one to know, and one that will inspire kids to know more. I enjoyed hearing about his accomplishments as a youth, and what he did later to make baseball and his teammates of color a wonderful place to be. Doreen Rappaport did not make the story easy to read, but she did show Jackie as a light we can follow, still shining from the past. Thanks to Candlewick Press for the ARC!



Picture Books - Fiction and Non-Fiction
            How can we show our young children that there are things to do to make the world better, to see that it's not all frightening news? Now with the politics, but recently with the hurricane devastation, children even far away hear the news and the family talk. It makes me as an adult anxious, but children do not know that actions can happen and that there are lots of wonderful things happening too. We need to show them, as the parents in this book so lovingly did. With sweet and simple illustrations by Pascal Lemaitre of a little girl, her parents, and other people out in "her" world, Holly M. McGhee shows us a way to make a difference in our children's lives and in our own.
         I couldn't finish without sharing one book to celebrate Fall, and this is a fine one! April Pulley Sayre gave us the wonderful Best In Snow and Raindrops Roll, now offers a book filled with photographs that illustrate her poetic rhyming words, from the beginning fading green-"So long, summer./Green, goodbye!," to brown decomposing and snow! I admire the brief words that relay so, so much science of this season-changing act. A favorite page includes the examination of one leaf: "Limbs and layers. Leafy Lanes./Margins, Midribs, Sunlit veins." April adds a small paragraph supporting each part at the back, how photosynthesis works and when it stops, etc. 

Now reading - Giant Pumpkin Suite by Melanie Heiser Hill and continuing Evicted by Matthew Desmond.

24 comments:

  1. What wonderful books you've read this week. I've read some, looking forward to reading others. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about them.

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    1. You're welcome, Alex. I hope you will find and enjoy some of these!

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  2. Me All Alone at the End of the World is actually one of my very favourite picture books. I love all of the questions it poses. Can't wait to read Wish Tree!

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    1. Yes, Me All Alone makes me want to find a group to read it to, Carrie. I do love how much MT Anderson makes us think! Thanks!

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  3. I really enjoyed Wishtree and Full of Fall. I’m pretty sure Wishtree will be popular in classroom libraries! Have a great week!

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    1. Thanks, Jana, I agree about Wishtree, the sweetest book!

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  4. What a full reading week! A friend loaned me her copies of Wishtree and Insignificant Events--I clearly need to pull them off the shelf and start reading! The M.T. Anderson book also looks terrific.

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    1. This was a couple of weeks, Elisabeth, and thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy Wishtree and the book by MT Anderson.

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  5. Full of Fall has such a great cover. I'm adding it to my list of titles to find for my kids at the library!

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    1. The photos in Full of Fall, including that cover, are marvelous, Katie. I hope you like them and the text, too! Thanks!

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  6. Loved your post about Wishtree too - Such a powerful book! Thanks for telling us about The Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus. It is going on our TBR list.

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    1. Thank you. I hope you enjoy this "insignificant story" (smiling)!

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  7. So many favorites on this list - Cactus, Wishtree, Come With Me, Fall.... loved them all! I've heard several positive rules of Wonderlings now. I need to pull it out and read it!

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    1. I think we may love the same kinds of books; glad to hear you love all these, Michele. Enjoy The Wonderlings, too!

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  8. Wishtree and Cactus and Come with Me! All such wonderful books :)
    I've heard nothing but good things about Wonderling--I'll have to move it up my TBR.

    Happy reading this week :)

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    1. Thanks, Kellee. I imagine that fantasy readers will adore The Wonderling. It's a new world created by this new author, Mira Bartok.

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  9. You read some great books this week! I loved all the novels except I haven't read 42 Is Not Just a Number. I have a copy of that one, but just haven't gotten to it yet.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. The book about Jackie Robinson is just right for middle readers. I enjoyed it! Happy reading!

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  10. Linda, I have Wishtree on my list, but after reading your comments here, I want to read it desperately!

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    1. I hope you love it! I did, as you read! Thanks, Cheriee!

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  11. Thanks so much for the Cybils nomination, Linda! That means a lot to me:>)

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    1. You are welcome, Laura. It is a marvelous book to start younger readers learning about and loving the moon!

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  12. I really need to get ...in the Life of a Cactus. I too always see books on your list that I want to read. :) I also enjoyed Come With Me and will want to get my hands on the fall book. I love her books.

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    1. I hope you love reading about Even in The Insignificant Life of a Cactus, Crystal. I enjoyed it very much. And yes, April Pulley Sayre's books are eye-popping! Thanks!

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