Monday, March 11, 2019

Monday - Book Favorites

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. 


While weaving text and art in a way that shows the hodgepodge of that part of history to tell Bonhoeffer's story, John Hendrix has managed a story of persistence in the face of known danger, never giving up when he is sure that he and his co-conspirators must proceed. As he chronicles the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, of course, he must detail the rise of Hitler and Germany's Nazi part. Here is one quote: "Dietrich's conception of the nature of evil had changed. In the form of the Nazi ideology, evil could no longer be a theological tool. The rigid concepts of simple "right" and "wrong" had proved too simple for defeating Hitler. Those stark boxes were all too easy for Hitler to escape. Evil had totally surrounded Dietrich and the conspirators. On all sides were ethical booby traps. Yet he had come to believe he must step into one, if he was to act at all." He is a pastor who makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to free the German people from oppression during World War II.




         I spent a good deal reading this book angry at the mother. Then I realized that I had no way to empathize with her, no way to understand that some have so much heartbreak in their lives that it plays out in their choices even as a parent. But this is really about the parent Astrid's son, twelve-year-old Felix Knutsson. Underlying the story is Felix's knack for trivia. His favorite game show is Who What Where When; he even named his gerbil after the host. Felix’s mom, Astrid, is loving but cannot hold on to a job. Her "knack" appears to be words that alienate. She has a bitter tongue that will not stop. When they are evicted from their latest shabby apartment, they have to move into a van. Astrid swears him to secrecy; he can’t tell anyone about their living arrangement, not even Dylan and Winnie, his best friends at his new school. If he does, she warns him, he’ll be taken away from her and put in foster care.
        Life for these two does not improve, then Felix gets a chance to audition for a junior edition of Who What Where When, and he’s hopeful when he is accepted. The time surrounding these days are harrowing. I couldn't stop turning the pages, wishing someone would help. I felt it wasn't a twelve-year-olds' responsibility to save the family. He thought winning the cash prize could make everything okay again. But things don’t turn out the way he expects. . . .  I loved this boy, so full of what are the right things to do, sometimes helpless to change his mother, but continuing to make his own life right while caring for her, too. 
       I am grateful for what I learned: that friends (allies) make a huge difference in kids' and adults' lives, but sometimes it's even hard to accept that friendship. That adults' childhoods keep them from change for better. Turning away in defense seems easier. And when one opens up to trust, things do get better, but it's hard, so, so hard. This story about the hidden homeless is one I would recommend to middle school and up, but also to adults, especially teachers. There is a teacher that steps up to help Felix, too! 




           Anne Ursu has set up a book for tweens about survival, a theme that her earlier novels shared. This time it's fifth-grade twins who are going to be in different classrooms for the first time. While that's going to be hard, this time there's also an underlying tone of creepiness, first read when the third-person narrator adds one personal line: "And so I followed." This happens after a strange encounter at a new local antique store with the proprietor. It is a bit unnerving and Lark and Iris, the twins, laugh, albeit nervously. As Ursu writes so beautifully, it follows that she writes that laugh "seemed to release something into the air, like a flock of birds bursting up from the ground and filling the sky." We begin even then to wonder who is this narrator and wander into the story of the new challenge for Lark and Iris.
            Iris has taken on the role of taking care of Lark since Lark was very ill when they were four. She's become her protector and the tangle of this responsibility becomes more complex as mysteries appear. There are other new ideas that both girls not only will have different classes but go to different after-school activities. In between their alarmed feelings and challenges in interactions with other kids, art thefts happen in the city, crows become close to Lark, things keep going missing, and Iris learns her after-school group knows things she had never considered before, especially about fairy tales. The relationship between the girls is like no other. They are twins, after all. One time they are nestled in bed together, Iris making up with Lark for a late arrival home.  Their closeness shown by Ursu might be envied: "And here, again, was a place where time did not seem to matter, a pocket in the world to crawl into." 
         Seemingly much and then not much happened in nearly the first half of the book. I felt as if the real stuff might never arrive. But then the monster appeared and the ending came in quite a rush. The underlying message could connect to females banding together. I am not sure about this being for younger mid-grade readers. I loved Ursu's writing, but must admit it was not my favorite of her books.


       Don't miss reading this wordless adventure. There is a surprise and it's wonderful! I adored the illustrations!

             It's hard to read this story and yet then I feel guilty because I feel I'm stealing those feelings, will not ever have this kind of experience of saying goodbye unless one counts the passing of a family member. Through the week, a young slave girl in a family relates her day, same thing every day, until it isn't. "Monday, "The bell rings, and no sun in the sky. Daddy gathers wood. Mama cooks. We eat." James Ransome's illustration shows a family, though slaves, enjoying their meal before the fireplace. I imagine they're happy even with their hard days. The tension tightens as the days go by, and the older brother, Ben, does not return on Thursday after "the bell rings". The feelings that they may never know if Ben will fly free, make it through the woods are shown with quiet sorrow. They cry and pray, they don't speak, they hope. The briefest of text is all that's needed. The faces in the illustrations show this event that surely occurred many times during slavery, another sadness made very real.




          I checked this book out because my younger granddaughter loves insects, especially spiders. And we loved reading (mostly looking at) it together. Isabelle Simler, author and illustrator, has allowed the spider to create its own masterpiece. With poetic text, it travels from wonder to wonder doing art, sometimes camouflage. On one page, with catkins and seeds, it hangs while drawing in its legs, hiding in plain sight! There are pages of seeds and sticks, beetles and flying insects, flies and thorns. The illustrations are extraordinary in their details. It is a fabulous book.



        Celebrating a different look at this phrase is a black girl in all her activities.  She holds hands up for a hug, hands up in class, hands up for a high five--before culminating in a moment of resistance at a protest march. It is a young black girl who lifts her baby hands up to greet the sun, reaches her hands up for a glass of juice, and her hands up for help after a bike accident. In ballet and in basketball--"Hands up!" and raises her hands up in praise at a church service. Shane W. Evans knows how to show the joy on every page. On one, even the cat leaping, yes, has hands (paws) up! And, it's wonderful as we readers see her growing up, living through daily moments of joy, love, and sadness. 



       I adore Sergio Ruzzier's wit, just perfect for young readers, maybe for all of us to sit back and enjoy a brief story, a happy one. This is about a boy and his dog, he writes, or about a dog and his boy! From simple tasks to complex adventures, it's terrific, with details to discover! I think I like the "pedal" page best. Now you have to find the book so you can see it, too!


Now Reading: a book I saw recommended at my local Indie, a YA survival book - I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall. Next: Blood, Water, Paint by Joy McCullough on my #MustRead list.

25 comments:

  1. I too am a Sergio Ruzzier fan and am sad that my library doesn't carry this one. I'm looking forward to reading Hand's Up, and The Little Barbarian. (my grandson's middle name is Conan) I'm glad you enjoyed No Fixed Address. Astrid reminded me of my bipolar sister. It was indeed challenging to read about her, but what a story. I'm looking forward to reading The Lost Girl. Anne Ursu's books always have that otherness to them that I usually end up loving even if they don't always work for everyone.

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    1. Glad to hear your personal connection to No Fixed Address. I knew she needed help, but it was hard not to want to help Felix first. Enjoy The Little Barbarian, perfect for your grandson. I hope you love it. The Lost Girl, fascinating. Will look for what you think, too. Thanks, Cheriee!

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  2. Wow, the illustrations for "A Web" look beautiful, and "The Bell Rang" sounds like such a deeply powerful read.

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    1. Yes, you're right on both. Hope you'll find them soon. Thanks, Jane.

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  3. As a Lutheran, I've read quiet a bit about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I'm looking forward to finding The Faithful Spy and seeing if it would be a good one to share with the youth group at our church. Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful week!

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    1. There was more about the religious aspects than in others I've read, Jana. It was interesting and gave more of his character than I had known. Hope you like it!

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  4. I have The Bell Rang on my list, but I'm not sure that I knew it was a picture book. That cover is so beautiful, I cannot wait to get to this one. I also hope we'll get No Fixed Address in a local library. I keep seeing it pop up and am anxious to read it for myself. I can definitely appreciate what you said about The Lost Girl, Linda. That was actually my very first Anne Ursu book (and while I did enjoy it, I was surprised by the eventual events in the antique shop). Have a wonderful reading week!

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    1. Yes, The Bell Rang is a picture book, sweet and so sad, too. I hope you'll get No Fixed Address soon, too. I enjoyed it very much, but it was heartrending. The Lost Girl, as you saw, is not my favorite by Anne Ursu, but I liked it, though I loved the others by her.

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  5. I have heard quite a bit of mixed reactions to The Lost Girl. I'm starting that one next, so I will let you know!
    I'm on hold for The Faithful Spy (2nd time.... couldn't read it in time last go round), have heard so many positives for that one!

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    1. I'm interested to see what you do think of The Lost Girl, Michele. Intriguing story! Enjoy The Faithful Spy when you can. I enjoy reading the history.

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  6. I have not read Fixed Address yet, but it sounds like one I should read sooner rather than later. Have a great week!

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    1. It is good, Lisa, complex just like life!

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  7. The Lost Girl seems perfect for our upcoming reading theme on Sisterhood and Female Bonds - will try to find it in our library. :)

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    1. Wow, yes, it will be perfect for it, Myra. Your theme will be intriguing to see what you share!

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  8. The Little Barbarian is such a treasure. Reminds me of Carson Ellis' works.

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    1. I went into it knowing nothing, and loved every bit, Earl. What a lovely surprise!

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  9. OMG Linda I just went to library and thought I was getting all caught up and now......... arrrgggghh!

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    1. I can't keep up, either. There are many coming out today! Hope you find a few for your class here!

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  10. I am really looking forward to reading No Fixed Address and The Lost Girl. Some of your picture books are new to me and I will have to go check them out too. Thanks for the post!

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    1. Thanks, Aaron, enjoy those two chapter books. They are special. And find the picture books that feel good to you!

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  11. I've read The Little Barbarian and just picked up Hands Up and The Faithful Spy (for the 2nd time) from the library. I attended our grandparents' meeting last night and they want a list of bloggers I follow for book recommendations. You'll definitely be on the list. I'm not getting nearly enough time for reading this month since it's SOL challenge time. And then you remind me of my #mustreadin2019 books. Sigh!

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    1. Requesting A Web and Good Boy for grandson Jack!

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    2. I'm scrambling with the reading, too, Ramona, love that I'm sharing books that you'll read to Jack! It was my second time to have The Faithful Spy, too, but this time I read and enjoyed it. Thanks!

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  12. I saw John Hendrix speak about Spy, and I cannot wait to read it, but I just haven't gotten to it yet--so many book!

    Happy reading this week :)

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    1. Enjoy it when you can. I know what you mean, a good thing, but awash in books! Thanks, Kellee!

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