Sunday, March 4, 2018

More Books I Loved

It's Monday - Sharing Favorites
        Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to discover books you'll love!  Thanks to Jen, Kellee, and Ricki for hosting this meme.

     Every book I'm sharing today touches on the importance of kindness. Through being an ally, doing kind deeds, writing about others who are good, each one tells us how much better life is when being kind in some small, or big, way.

        Teens have a tough time being who they are or who they want to be. Gae Polisner knows that, has written a poignant story of one struggling high school senior, Klee, whose father is so important to him, an artist who gave it up to make a better living as a lawyer. But as an artist at home, he spent special time telling Klee stories, teaching him about artists and art. He did that until he died.
      Now Klee had not only to give up his life with his father, but his mother forced him to move to the suburbs from NYC with its city life full of his friends and museums. In his new school, he’s isolated, not much caring about making new friends. After all, he’ll be out of there soon and off to college. But, in his art class is a girl named Sarah, wild and free, the only thing in Klee’s new life that brings some happiness. He’s hurting, but with her, he’s finding solace. Polisner handles the scenes with complexity. The plot moves from the bigger crisis, back to the story’s beginning, then to another place in time, back and forth in Klee’s life that keeps your heart in your throat, wondering, as teens will, “OMG, that is what’s going to happen”. It felt sad to read of Klee’s sinking emotions, soaring up when he exuded happiness, only to sink again.
     All this time Klee was hiding all the hard emotions of loss and anger, and when still another betrayal occurs, he lands in the “Ape Can”, a psychiatric hospital for teens. Piece by piece he learns to look closely at the real and the fiction with his therapist, a wise woman who helps him navigate the hard truths and learn to celebrate the good. It’s a great story, one that I recognized connecting to a few of my own students in various times of my teaching life. What will it do for students? It may show them that they are not the only one who has feelings like Klee, that if they don’t feel those feelings, they might know someone who does, someone who needs help. You might yourself know a child or adult who’s struggling. Reading Klee’s story will aid understanding.

        It's always interesting to read about the ways other people live, how they keep links out of need, forge links that help, make mistakes, and finally, finally realize they've ignored the one person they couldn't have survived without. It helps to reflect upon one's own life and the connections kept and also broken. If that sounds too mysterious, then read this memoir, see what you wonder about this life, then your own.   


            Brian Selznick and David Serlin did not disappoint. This is a book for all, but a special surprise for beginning readers. I bought it for my youngest granddaughter in kindergarten. It was time for her Tuesday visit, I gave it to her, and she read all the way through. Then, she turned to the beginning and started again. She said, she'd never thought she was ready for a real chapter book! I imagine she’s been watching others, like her older sister, read those “long” books and wished she could too. With pictures like we love from Brian Selznick, a very fun story and repetitive phrases of rather easy vocabulary and a few 'new' challenges, delights come on every single page. It’s terrific!




       From a young girl's point of view. she shares how hard it is sometimes to be kind, to choose what's a "kind" thing to do.  She begins with “Tanisha spilled grape juice yesterday. . . All over her new dress." Their classmates laugh, Tanisha flees the room, and the narrator’s efforts to comfort her (“Purple is my favorite color”) fall flat. One's thoughtful deed isn't always the "right" thing for that particular person. With lovely illustrations of a diversity of people enjoying a kindness or giving one back, Jen Hill shows Pat Zietlow Miller's words of wisdom. This book will give everyone a chance to talk about kindness and "maybe" how it works from each point of view. Classrooms should grab it for helpful conversations. 


         This is a story about a trip, with a snail! And it's also about that sweet snail who whines, but so nicely, that no one ever chooses a snail as a favorite animal. It considers its beauty, its ability to make a fierce face, its "shimmery" trail, and its speed. In fact, it challenges the person to whom it's speaking to a race, to the salad at the end of the book! With lots of challenges to react to, young readers will delight in this story and play along with excitement. The pictures are soft watercolors, and I love the creative and numerous expressions that Sydney Hanson finds in those darling "googly eyes" of sweet Escargot!


        It took a while to get this book. Kristy Caldwell has arranged the colors in her beautiful illustrations as often illustrators do, somber browns and grays reflecting the tone, bright colors appear when kindness does. I remember how beautiful the Olympic Games were in Sarajevo, the first time a Communist country had hosted. Then not much later, the places there, among so many others, were destroyed. It was a terrible time. This book is perhaps the most poignant, focusing on a young boy, Drasko, whose father sold flowers in the village square, then the boy had to take over because his father had to go to war. Added is a background of those in the square, unpleasant scenes showing the merchants making Drasko move into a far corner. Shockingly, a bomb hits, killing 22 people lined up for bread. The story then connects to what's true, when a cellist, Vedran Smailovic, from the town's orchestra brings out a chair and his cello, plays a special piece, at exactly 10 o'clock, the time of the tragedy. Every day, for 22 days, he plays, one day for each victim. He is now known as the Cellist of Sarajevo. Drasko watches and wonders about this, but begins to give some of his flowers to others, learning about kindness from Vedran and the others who also show a change in demeanor. The book is layered, offering a story of the experience of children whose parents go off to war, but also the experience of seeing what the boy does and notices after this tragedy after his father is not there to talk. 

           This is a book I’ve already enjoyed these past months because I was a Round Two Cybils Judge and it was a finalist, then won the Cybils’ Poetry award.

             What I Liked: The clever threads that keep repeating and enticing readers to read on. There are “doors” to open, then hippos jumping on the bed, then a sweet poem about loving the room, but, oh my, the bed is broken “Let’s go get those hippos” - now I wonder where that’s going? If that doesn’t make much sense to you now, it will when you read the book, follow the fun paths that have been created.
            Also, there is a sentimental quality to the writing spread among the poems. The final “long” poem is lovely, then he laughs at himself and adds a few more “really, really” final ones.
         I like that this is a fresh bounce from the Silverstein books, has a bit of their flavor, yet is so different and new. It made me want to re-read it and I did.
            My daughter began to love reading with James Howe's Bunnicula. I have that first one still. I've loved Chris Raschka's book for so long, cannot pick a favorite, but perhaps this book from them both is going to be the latest one I love. I'm going to read this to my kindergarten granddaughter and I wonder what she'll think. She will pull a young person's thoughts from it, I'm sure. I think it may be a book that transcends ages, one for all of history's tough times and for our times today. It is a story of "what others think should be" and "that change is possible in order to solve life's problems", a story of love. Raschka's crayoned drawings feel a perfect fit for a child's lesson, and a lesson for grown-ups to consider, too.

Just Starting: another arc from Candlewick, a verse novel about the beginnings of the Revolutionary War, Siege, by Roxane Orgill and The Serpent's Secret by Sayantani Dasgupta! I've also been re-reading Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird that my book group decided to do. Whew, I need more reading hours!

26 comments:

  1. I can't wait to read this new title by Gae Polisner - I am such a fan. It looks amazing Appreciated hearing about Baby Monkey Private Eye. Think this is one I should pick up for my classroom. Thanks for the lovely detailed reviews Linda.

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    1. Enjoy Gae's book when you can, Carrie. And yes, Baby Monkey Private Eye is a gem for several ages. Thanks!

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  2. I just love some of the books you have here. I particularly loved Flowers for Sarajevo. In Sight of Stars is new to me but sounds really interesting. I see you are going to be reading Siege this week. I am looking forward to that book as well. Enjoy!

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    1. Flowers for Sarajevo is wonderful, and heartbreaking, too. I'm glad you like it, Alex. And Siege will be a good read, and interesting, too, I think. Thanks!

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  3. What a great selection!! I'm really looking forward to Be Kind, and Otter and Odder is such a strange but touching story! I've been seeing Baby Monkey Private Eye popping up everywhere recently, it looks so good!

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    1. I agree about Otter and Odder, didn't suspect that story at all, but I loved it! You will love Be Kind, I think, & Baby Monkey is quite fun.

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  4. Always a treat to peek into your reading life and then add to my holds at the library. Adding Flowers for Sarajevo and Otter and Odder today. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Ramona, enjoy what you find!

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  5. Escargot and Flowers for Sarajevo are both awesome. They were finalists for the CYBILS in fiction picture books. I definitely want to get a hold of Be Kind!

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    1. I'm glad you know them, Jana, & think they are great, too. Enjoy "Be Kind", lovingly done.

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  6. So sweet about your granddaughter and Baby Monkey. Love Be Kind and Escargot. I have to get around to reading The Tender Bar at some point.

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    1. She does love Baby Monkey, as other young readers will, I think. The Tender Bar took me a long time, but I was reading others as well. I enjoy memoirs quite a bit.

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  7. What a lovely reading week you had Linda! I was already looking forward to reading Gae Polisner's new book, but now I want to read it even more. I have Flowers for Sarajevo in my book bag and will get to it this week. My library has Baby Monkey Private Eye on order so of course I had to put a hold on it! Happy reading this week.

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    1. The wonderful books seem to be coming every week, Cheriee. We are lucky to have so many to love. Enjoy "In Sight of Stars", so well told, and I know you will also like "Flowers for Sarajevo" & "Baby Monkey". Thanks!

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  8. Baby Monkey Private Eye is one of our favorites! It is so great!
    And I cannot wait to read Gae's newest :)

    Happy reading this week!

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    1. Thanks, Kellee. Yep, Baby Monkey is a hit!

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  9. Great minds read alike! I just bought Baby Monkey and absolutely love it on so many levels. I also just borrowed Escargot from the public library and plan to read it for #classroombookaday.

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    1. Wonderful to hear, Laura! Perhaps you'll share how the class responded to Escargot. It is so cute!

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  10. Wah! I have been really excited to read In Sight of Stars and also Baby Monkey, Private Eye! Both are on my TBR list. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about them. I always enjoy seeing what you are reading.

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    1. Thanks, Ricki, I imagine you'll get to them when you can!

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  11. I absolutely adored Escargot - very excited about Baby Monkey Private Eye - my experience in Cybils this year shows me just how much work and attention need to be given to early reader books that are clever, well-written, and not disappointingly-repetitive to the point of absolute boredom.

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    1. Imi has continued to carry Baby Monkey everywhere! It really is the right one for her! Yes, as you read, I loved Escargot, too, cute and clever! Thanks, Myra!

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  12. These all look SO good. I can't wait to read Baby Monkey Private Eye and Be Kind. I just added both of those to my TBR list. Also looking forward to hearing your thoughts on The Serpent's Secret. And OH how I know what you mean about needing more reading hours. Have a great week!

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    1. Thanks for coming by, and enjoy the books you can. Baby Monkey and Be Kind are bit hits with my granddaughters!

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  13. Lots of really great books today. I loved Escargot so much. Can't wait to check out Be Kind and I'm Just No Good at Rhyming.

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    1. Thanks, Rebecca. I hope you enjoy them as I did!

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