Monday, February 18, 2019

It's Monday - "Wow" Books

 Visit Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who post their favorites. 

          Happy to share two brand new picture books, out this month!

I completed quite a few reviews last week, books read from my #MustReadin2019 list & others. I couldn't share them earlier because they were all on the Cybils' Finalists for Poetry list and I was a second-round judge. You can find them on Goodreads if you like. I know that many of you have already read them.

Congratulations to the Cybils winners announced here on Valentine's Day!  I enjoyed being a second round judge for poetry, but it was a hard task to choose among the seven marvelous finalists. You can find all the finalists' lists here! If ever you need a new book to read, find these lists! 

Recent reviews:

In the Past: From Trilobites to Dinosaurs by David Elliott (Candlewick Press)

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness by Lita Judge (Roaring Brook Press) (#MustRead)

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (HarperTeen) (#MustRead)

Traveling the Blue Road: Poems of the Sea edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins (Seagrass Press)

             I struggled to put this down, know many have read ahead of me, some loving the story, others revolted. A personal journey that's chronicled, supported by journals and 'outside' family presents both a tragedy and a triumph (probably I'm repeating others). Sometimes I was frightened by what was happening, for Tara Westover, yet always hoping there would be a path out, a way to escape. Then I realized that physicality aside I could not see a way out until Tara chose it herself. Adults, older teens, need to read this life illumination, perhaps to help one's own self-reflection. My third #MustRead book this week!

        I could not finish this book without looking for the statistics on homeless children in the U.S., could not find very recent numbers. In 2014, The National Center on Family Homelessness says 2.5 million children are homeless, half of which are without shelter. And, as you all probably know, the experiences are worse in other countries, hence this book by Padma Venkatraman, heart-breaking and hard to imagine. Her author's note tells that she's based this story on experiences and interviews with countless people, including children) in her native India.           
        This was both tough to read and equally hard to stop. That young girl, Viji, telling the story, has a voice that's so strong, showing what her childhood with an abusive father has been. She's had to become strong, defending her mother and caring for her sister, Rukku, who has a developmental disability. It's a new look at voice to me. Viji tells this story as she speaks to Rukku, describing her sister's actions, imagining and ensuring her needs, until she can't anymore. 
      The beautiful way Padma Venkatraman offers this story makes me know well that all children have something important to tell us, thoughts that often go unheard. Here is an excerpt of this voice of a young girl who has escaped with her sister and marvels at an orange thrown at them from a rich family's tree: "Until then, I'd thought it was a sad thing that you were sometimes slower than the rest of us. But that day, I realized that slow can be better than fast. Like magic, you could stretch time out when we needed it, so that a moment felt endless. So the taste of half an orange could last and last."
        Viji and her sister, Rukku have run away to live on their own. Life on the streets of their city of Chennai is terrible for girls considered outcasts. These two sisters manage to find shelter on an abandoned bridge and befriend Muthi and Arul, two boys in a similar predicament, who willingly help Viji navigate this new and frightening world. They are often hungry and scared but they have each other and they actually adopt a puppy, Kutti, the best dog ever. Good things happen, like when they visit the garbage after a wealthy family's wedding. Yes, I did write "garbage". This time, it is fresh and they marvel at what has NOT been eaten, has been thrown out, consider themselves lucky. Certain scenes are tender in the relationship--a scene where Arul explains his faith in Jesu, his God and helps Rukku light candles and one where Arul tells of his terrible past and the others comfort. I hope that those children able to read this book, adults, too, will feel it's a life-changing experience, will want to find ways to help the children in our world whose obstacles are many.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Poetry Friday - Mixing It Up

             Jone MacCullough hosts Poetry Friday today at Check It Out. And she is celebrating with a Cybils Party. Congratulations to the Cybils winners announced here yesterday! And hope each of you enjoyed a sweet Valentine's Day, too. I enjoyed being a second round judge for poetry, but what a hard task to choose among the seven marvelous finalists. You can find all the finalists' lists here! If ever you need a new book to read, as Joan's blog title aptly tells, "Check It Out"!

                It has been a busy week. I worked at the bookstore today, a lovely day to be there because of Valentine's Day. There were lots of customers and along with helping them find books to love, we gave out chocolate and bookmarks for the children (or maybe adults) to color.

          But I am so distracted by the current political state, I was not sure what to share today. I found a poem I wrote two years ago and considering it, I suppose I felt similarly, though I did not know then how challenging these past months would be. The fall elections helped. I am still hopeful. 


I feel the need for a narrative tale,
hard porcelain words, but a sweeter scale - 
no more need to rewrite the tweets
with pseudo illusory echoing beats.
We will continue a skeptic’s cry,
that will not fade in the bye and bye.
The only tears for a twisted mind
will slip down cheeks of a human kind
to rue artifacts of yesterday
that acquired a tarnish we’ll clean away.
But do not plug all past mid-deeds,
or rearrange tales with a goal to please.
Cylinders will spiral; it’s called evolution -
the intent to flourish, in our Constitution.   
      Linda Baie (c) All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Non-Fiction Picture Books Help Us Know!

Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  Thanks to her hosting and sharing and those who add their posts discover and celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books!  I always learn from these books, am happy that they are more and more available today for children, really for every reader!

Tomorrow, Valentine's Day, the Cybils Awards will be announced. I am one of the Poetry Judges, am excited to see all the winners!
            African Americans have had to fight for their freedoms all the years since they arrived here as slaves. Every time I read another book, even in recent time periods, I am saddened and angry by the stories that kept our citizens from full lives. Just imagine if it were different, how much richer everyone's lives would have been or would be if every person could be in the world adding their expertise without fighting for it.
             Here in these picture books are two more stories of those we would not have heard without wonderful authors and illustrators telling about past lives that need to be known.

            The name Walter Dean Myers caught my eye on this book on the shelf at the library. It was published in 2008 and Myers died in 2014. We readers are fortunate he gave us many a wonderful story, fiction and non, including this one. Here, he introduces the extraordinary Ida B. Wells. who as teacher, writer, leader worked her entire life to better the lives of African Americans. She was consulted by Susan B. Anthony, lead an African-American women's group in the women's march at Woodrow Wilson's inauguration. She was one of the organizers of a group that eventually became the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples.

              Ida was born three years before the Emancipation Proclamation, still grew up in a poor black family, but did get to go to school. The book says her mother also went with her for a while in order to learn to read the Bible. By the age of sixteen, her parents and one sibling had died of yellow fever and she took on the raising of her family, taking the teacher's test and traveling six miles on a mule to teach. That was her beginning, but realizing the harm done to her people, she began to protest, to call for more action, especially against lynchings. She wrote a book titled The Red Record for which Frederick Douglas wrote the introduction. 

            Is this enough to show that history books could have written about this amazing woman long ago? We should know about her life! She never stopped writing, protesting and pioneering for equal rights. Thanks to Walter Dean Myers for the writing and Bonnie Christensen for the gorgeous watercolor paintings. There is a timeline at the back and a double-page spread of important quotes by Ida B. Wells, like "I'd rather go down in history as one lone Negro who dared to tell the government that it has done a dastardly thing than to save my skin by taking back what I have said." She died in 1931 at the age of 68 and there is a postage stamp created in her honor.

          Ernest Everett Just died ten years after Ida B. Wells at the age of 58. His story is similar in some ways in that he fought injustices to African Americans through his work. He refused to give in to what people (especially in the U.S.) thought he should be doing, instead was determined to see science through his own observations, fighting against other well-known white scientists, working hard to prove his discoveries. He saw the whole, where others saw only parts. And he noticed details others failed to see. With fabulous illustrations by Luisa Uribe showing what he did throughout his life and what he saw, this is the story of his life of persistence and accomplishments. His discoveries about the cell in the 1930s continue to be important even in today's science. The book shows his childhood working hard in his studies, his fierce determination to keep going. I enjoyed that Melina Mangal included explanations of his ground-breaking work in showing how cells directed their own development, a controversial idea at that time. Eventually, he moved to France which gave more freedom in his work, but was caught when the Nazis invaded. He managed to get free, moved back to the U.S., but died within the year. It is another life story I am glad to know. 

There is quite a bit of backmatter added: an author's note, more about Ernest Everett Just's science, an illustrator's note, a timeline, glossary, and source notes. Also, there are two great photos of Mr. Just.