Monday, February 20, 2012

Reviews for Monday - Reading Wrap-Up

You can hook up with this kitlit meme: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA at teach mentor textsthanks to Jen and Kellee!  Please visit to find out what others are reading!

  It's Monday! What are you Reading? is another meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys, a variety of reviews to find even more books for your TBR list. 

There are some wonderful reviews already written about the book I read this week.  You can find two here and here.  Sometimes I think books that are reviewed as wonderful are challenging to get into.  This was one for me that started slow, and turned out, well, wonderful, just as everyone said. 

I read The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis this week, and found that this young woman, Deza, grew more beautiful as a wonderfully strong character as I read page after page.  She did what she had to do to survive some very hard times in the Great Depression.  After hearing the terrible news about her father missing from a fishing trip on Lake Michigan, Deza shares her feelings:  And as I sat on the couch wrapped in Mother’s arms, I felt big hunks falling off of me and thumping to the ground.  This must be how a tree feels in autumn when it watches the leaves that have been covering it all summer start to be blown away.
It must feel this hopeless and lonely.
Curtis’ writing is filled with metaphors like the one above that show feelings so real I can imagine the young readers he writes for relating to the feelings even if their life’s challenges are different.
Deza’s next words show her strength, that she must not give up.  She thinks:  I knew I really had to reach out and pick up the fallen pieces and pull them back.  This young woman keeps this strong core through all the book and as she matures, she manages to do some amazing things that support her mother, too.  Later in the book she says:  I’d learned not to cry or even get angry when all sorts of calamity befell us.  I’d learned not to take it personal when people barked at Mother and Jimmie and me about walking across their property.  I knew how to swallow the sadness that washed over me when Father used to come home and we could tell by the way he worried the brim of his hat when he asked how we were doing that there’d been no work.  I thought I could control it all.
 And then this man called Jimmie “sir” and all my hardness melted away.
I believe this is why everyone’s hardness melts away as they read about this character who is called “My Darling Daughter Deza” by her father.  Toward the end of the book, she again shows she is a survivor.  Hoping is such hard work.  It tires you out and you never seem to get any kind of reward.  Hoping feels like you’re a balloon that has a pinhole that slowly leaks air.  But she doesn’t quit, she doesn’t give up, and although hoping is hard, she does keep hoping.
How can one not like this young woman who has overcome hardships we only imagine?  Not me, all the previous reviews are right; it is a terrific book.

As I wrote last week, I am preparing for a short story reading group that will examine short stories and those that speak to the immigration experiences in California today.  I haven’t read all of the following books, but they are full of good stories, some essays, and poems that are specific to my group.  Here is the bibliography:

Neighborhood Odes by Gary Soto
A Fire In My Hands a book of poems by Gary Soto
Living Up The Street  short stories by Gary Soto
Leaving Home  stories collected by Hazel Rochman and Darlene Z. McCampbell
First Crossing-stories about teen immigrants edited by Donald R. Gallo
Border Crossings - Emigration and Exile  Icarus World Issues Series 
American Street, A multicultural Anthology of Stories - edited by Anne Mazer

The first story we will read together is the title story “First Crossing” by Pam Munoz Ryan.  It is about a young Mexican boy whose rite of passage is to steal across the border to begin working with his father so they both can send money back home.  Men do this and return home about every six months just to see family.  It’s both a scary and a sad story about sacrifice and courage for loved ones.  The introduction of this anthology states more than 70 different languages are spoken in the public schools of Sacramento, California.

What’s Next:  Mostly stories from above and The Boy In The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne for another book group coming up.  I brought home A Step From Heaven by An Na (about immigrant’s experience) and Bigger Than A Breadbox by Laurel Snyder (which I still haven’t read).  


  1. That's a beautiful ist you have here. I have just recently finished reading Linda Brown, You Are Not Alone - and found it to be truly moving. There are facets/dimensions about segregation that I have not realized. One of the key topics I discuss in my graduate class is identification of culturally-different gifted and I felt that some of the essays shared in that book would have been perfect supplementary reading materials. There are a number of titles by Gary Soto in your list too. I should check him out then! :)

    1. Myra, thank you for this title. I am not familiar with it, looked it up & find it looks terrific. I will try to find it at the library & if not, off to Amazon. At my school we do struggle with culturally identification of gifted children to admit to the school. This will aid in that as well.

  2. I have read a few short story anthologies recently but it's really hard to review them as a whole because there are definitely some stories that stand out more than others. It seems to be the same with some poetry I have read recently, too. I like the idea of looking at them individually...but I have no idea how to review it that way.

    Happy reading this week! Boy in Striped Pajamas is haunting and Bigger than a Breadbox is great!

  3. I'm excited for you to read Bread Box. It is amazing.

  4. I haven't read many short stories (since finishing school anyway!) - this sounds like an interesting concept for a book discussion.

    I still need to read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, too - I have had the audio on my shelf for years now!

    Thanks for telling me about L'Engle's connections between her books - I am very intrigued and will have to look for some of her others!


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