Sunday, November 10, 2013

It's Monday!

       Another book reviewed by Jacqueline Wilson and another chance for an IPad Mini!

It's Monday! What are you Reading? is hosted by Jen at TEACH.MENTOR.TEXTS, and shared with Ricki and Kellee at UNLEASHING READERS.   
         And, also visit Sheila at BOOK JOURNEYS for more reviews. 
 Tweet! at #IMWAYR

I finished some terrific books this week, and also am reviewing one more by Jacqueline Wilson, a British author being introduced to the US.  Hope you will enter for the chance to win an IPad Mini!

Code Name Verity – written by Elizabeth Wein
          Why did I wait so long?  I've had this book for a long time, even loaned it a couple of times!  Just couldn't get started, but when I did, WOW!  How can I write anything without giving too much away.  This is historical fiction, about, and told by, two different girls fighting in WWII for the British.  One is a pilot; one is a spy.  They become friends, they have crazy and wonderful adventures, and they have terrible, heart-wrenching experiences.  Written in two strong voices, it is an extraordinary story that one does not want to end.  This is how good the writing is for the quite subtle hints of future events:  "Incredible to think what an ordinary day it was for her, to begin with." I loved every bit!

The Longest Whale Song – written by Jacqueline Wilson  
       This is the 4th book I’ve read by this British author, recently introduced to US
readers.  It is a contemporary novel, suitable for middle grade readers, unlike the Hetty Feather series, set in the past.  The story begins with Ella, the main character, and her mother practicing breathing for the coming birth of Ella’s new step-sibling.  This young girl has had lots of adjustments in recent months, new stepfather (father is rarely around), new house (but she gets to stay in her old school), and now a coming baby sister or brother.  Ella is telling her own story, and isn’t pleased with much of her new life. 
            Over the weeks in which Ella’s story occurs, more tragedy happens, things a young girl should not need to worry about, and worry she does.  Friendships at school become difficult; teachers are kind and helpful, but not always, yet through all Ella’s school and home life, one thread of a school project holds her tightly like a hug, and that is the connection to whales. 
            Jacqueline Wilson has written a book I wasn’t sure I would enjoy, but the way characters grow as their lives become more challenging made me want to read on to discover what was next because I had begun to care about these people.  And isn’t that what a good book does, stick to you until you can’t stop till the end?  There will be some young readers challenged by some of the British terminology, like “fringe” for “bangs”, “crisps” for “potato chips” and the reference to “tea” for our “dinner”, easily fixed by a little research.  The relationship between the stepfather and Ella is wonderfully complex.  These are not perfect people and each have their little quirks, but as the story moves, so does the relationship, challenging both to discover that there is a fine part to being together after all.  I’ve tried to give away little about this story because I want the readers to discover and enjoy the book all by themselves.   

How The Meteorite Got To The Museum – written and illustrated by Jessie Hartland
        Like her other books, this one tells the story of a museum artifact, this one, a meteorite, what it is, how it ended up, this time, on earth, then step by step through the parade of experts until it is discussed by the science teacher with her students on a trip to the museum.  Through graphically whimsical illustrations, and easy-to-understand text, Jessie Hartland has written an entertaining book full of interesting information.  I liked it a lot, think it would be a helpful book for teaching organization. 

picture books:

A Firefly Names Torchy – written and illustrated by Bernard Waber
        I discovered this at the library, an older book by Bernard Waber.  The firefly Torchy, born into the world with sweet parents, grew up and discovered he couldn’t twinkle like the other fireflies, in fact his light was so bright that it lit up the entire woods.  As the book reads, “Flowers, with petals unfolded for the night, unfolded again.  Baby birds, thinking it morning, cried out to be fed.” All other nighttime animals could see each other, and alarmed, yelled that Torchy should turn out his light.  The story shows someone who is different who needs to find a way to fit it, but you’ll need to read to discover how Torchy ends his problems.  The illustrations are filled with different and beautiful portrayals of light.  Fun book!

Cat Talk – written by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest, illustrated by Barry Moser   reviewed HERE for Poetry Friday! 


Blueberry Girl – written by Neil Gaiman and illustrations by Charles Vess
       This book was written when Gaiman was expecting his daughter.  It's just gorgeous to hear the words, and to see the illustrations, dream-like and celebratory.  When writing about various girls throughout the book, Gaiman keeps the wishes clear, as he writes about various kinds of girls.  The words are nearly blessings: “Word can be worrisome, people complex, motives and manners unclear, grant her the wisdom to choose her path right, free from unkindness and fear.”  These are but one example of the beauty of these on a two-page spread, shoeing a young girl walking a path with an owl leading.  Gorgeous illustrations, as is every page!

The Lightning Dreamer, Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist – written by Margarita Engle

         I admire those writers who can write a wonderful story in verse, and Margarita Engle can do that very well.  I added so many bookmarks to the beautiful language in this story, an inspiring fictional creation based on the life of real-life abolitionist and poet, Gertrudis Gómez de Avellandea, originally from Cuba, who ended up living (and writing) in both France and Spain.  She left Cuba knowing that she needed to leave in order to be free, free to write, free from the oppression of women.  Her childhood name was Tula, whose name Margarita uses as the main character in her novel.  Each poem is spoken in a different voice, that of Tula, the house cook Caradad, Tula’s brother Manuel, and later the young man Tula falls in love with, Sab, and a few others. 
            Considering the time, beginning in 1827, it is unusual to find any young woman, especially in Cuba, knowing how to read, and writing poetry.  The author tells early on that bookcase cabinets are locked and young Tula was not allowed to use the books.  Tula’s story is one of hope and defiance, hope for a increased freedom for women, and defying the practice of arranged marriages. We see her at 13, at 15, having rejected a wealthy suitor chosen for her marriage, and later, sharing her writing in secret meetings.  Her life fills with passion for her poetry and passion to be free.  She says: “I study verses with a drumbeat rhythm/like pounding music” and “Each swoop of a paintbrush/turns into our own magical/dance/of celebration.”
       Tula volunteers at an orphanage run by nuns.  She is there when a baby is abandoned, probably because of his darker skin, perhaps a brother of someone already in the orphanage.  She writes, “I can hear a story unfolding…”When collecting stories, Tula writes “a wistful tale/of an earthbound turtle/who believes he can learn/how to fly. And continues: “I do believe that someday/silenced words/will rise/and glide.” Finally, one of my favorite parts, by Sab: “I envy the trees/that grow/at crossroads./They are never/forced/to decide/which way/to go…”  In the historical note at the back, Margarita Engle shares that Avellandea published her abolitionist novel 11 years before Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published.  It’s a beautifully written story.

Next:  Still reading the PD books, and would love to start Jen Bryant’s Pieces of Georgia that I won a while ago.   Nice to think about!

You can access Jacqueline Wilson's website right here!
Entry mechanisms are

a)      Answer the question “If you win, which of the new Jacqueline Wilson ebooks will you read first?”
b)      Follow @JWilsonebooks on Twitter
c)       Tweet “Win a mini iPad +10 ebooks from the UK's bestselling middle grade author Jacqueline Wilson! @jwilsonebooks”

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Great books Linda! How the Meteorite got to the Museum looks really interesting. Seeing Blueberry Girl is intersting for me because literally everywhere I turned over the last 2 weeks, I see Neil Gaiman's name. I had never heard of him before then and I have read 3 of his books recently-all of them being very different. Thanks for sharing. Enjoy your week!

    1. I agree, Gaiman is around lately. This was just a find on my bookshelf-found it at a library sale long ago. I thought everyone would like to read about it! Thanks Gigi!

  2. Another wonderful week of reading, Linda. I really am enjoying the Wilson reviews - such rich stories. I am glad that you enjoyed Verity - now I need to read it, too. One of my kids just abandoned it - which makes me all the more determined to read it and see for myself.

    1. Thanks Tara. I think Code Name Verity might be a little daunting for a sixth grader. It's written in a rather complex way, skips around, and the relationship/character work is deeper than the usual fiction for younger adolescents. I loved it, but have found other adults loving it too. So far, just a few older students have read it. FYI-J. Wilson is growing on me!

  3. Linda I had a pretty strong feeling that you were going to love Code Named Verity. It is a powerful novel - I found myself completely engrossed. I would like to get this new Jessie Hartland book - I have the other two How the . . . titles. Wonderful reading this week!

    1. Until I bought the museum book I didn't realize she had two others-just great to see I'm sure! This book is being awed over and passed around at school! And yes, Code Name Verity was fantastic-can hardly wait for Rose Under Fire! Thanks Carrie.

  4. Hi Linda, your review of Code Name Verity convinced me that I should check that out. It sounds like a beautifully written novel. Most of the titles you have here are new to me, so thank you for sharing them. I have a copy of The Lightning Dreamer which Margarita has very kindly sent to me, but I haven't had a chance to read it yet. Given our bimonthly theme on heavenly bodies (lightning hehehe), perhaps I could feature it in the coming weeks. The name Tula is very interesting. In Filipino, tula means poem. :) I haven't read any Jacqueline Wilson novel yet. What would you recommend I start with?

    1. Oh my goodness, the fact that 'tula' means 'poem' is wonderful. I don't believe that was mentioned in the extra material from Margarita. As for Wilson's books, I liked this one reviewed today very much, for younger readers, but they also have to be mature in a way because of the sad thing that happens. It was well-done. The Hetty Feather series, first book was amazing to read the story of the way that abandoned children were cared for (or not). I liked them all, but they were long, for those young and prolific readers perhaps?

  5. I am so glad you loved CODE NAME VERITY. I am really hoping ROSE UNDER FIRE wins some awards this year. I think it was just as awesome (if not, more engaging!). Thanks for sharing these great titles!

    1. Wow, Ricki, now I really want to read Rose Under Fire! Soon! Thank you!

  6. Lovely to read your review of Code Name Verity, I've been avoiding it because of mixed reviews… Happy reading to you. :)

  7. I remember reading The Lightning Dreamer earlier this year and I enjoyed it. I've been surprised at how many novels I've read this year alone that were told in verse.


Thanks for visiting!