Monday, July 10, 2023

It's Monday - Books Loved This Week


    Visit Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts to see what they and others have been reading! Your TBR lists will grow!

          This new book by Chris Baron is marketed for ages 10-14 yet I believe adults and young adults can benefit by reading it as well, for both personal reasons and to learn from a story (a character) they may recognize. A young middle-grader, Sasha, is struggling in school with anxiety issues. He loses his best friend, ends up being bullied by that friend in the friend's new group, and strikes out with his only weapon, a textbook, causing a serious injury. That doesn't end well for Sasha at school and with classmates. He is anxious and trying hard with help from a therapist to overcome what he calls "the gray". Chris Baron's words show the feeling so well that I wanted to read faster to be sure Sasha would work it all out.
          As people who have anxiety issues, I imagine they will recognize some of the descriptions and perhaps want to add more of their own personal ones. Sasha has an aunt who lives in a remote area, in a cabin in the woods near a small town. His therapist and parents believe it would be helpful for him to go there for the summer, to be away from the constant video game-playing that makes him feel safe, in his room, on the computer, with one friend. He hates going, and doesn't feel comfortable without that lifeline online! But he goes, and that is the real story that Chris Baron shows readers so well. 
       Sasha has more challenges and meets some who are also bullies, and some who slowly become friends. There are heartfelt scenes and those that bring anxious moments. Aunt Ruthie's brief words and good food are part of it, as is a pond with frogs, a large stone, and most of all, for readers, really listening to Sasha's thoughts. He shows us through his descriptions how 'The Gray" works within him. some reasons why, sometimes it's rather sly. Hasn't everyone experienced a moment where some event triggers an emotion and we wonder "Where did that come from?" There are many layers of growing up in Baron's story and it's one that should not be missed! 

          It's a great discovery of an older book about the moon, a fantastical journey that a boy takes with his friend, the moon. Be sure to bring your imagination when you read this poetic text with exquisite illustrations when you read this book. There is good information that's true added at the back!

      Each page is a wonderful illustration of a 'witness' tree, some of which have now gone through sad events, and some remain. The opposite page shows a small illustration of one of the events that the tree witnessed. I imagine you've heard of the Callery pear tree which survived after the World Trade Center fell on September 11. Others are older history, like Major Oak, which was the 'rumored hideout of Robin Hood' in Sherwood Forest, and in the 5th Century, Siddhartha "gained enlightenment after meditating for seven days beneath the Bodhi Tree". There are a few trees also noted in the opening covers, then in Ryan G. Van Cleave's note at the back, he tells of visiting a 4,800-year-old Great Basin bristlecone pine called Methuselah. There is added info in the backmatter. It's a very special book! It would be awesome to find trees in one's own area to discover their stories and what they have witnessed! 

       As the subtitle tells, a story of a community who fought to protect their own area of a rain forest after the government of Ecuador gave permission for oil drilling on the Kichwas land. Laura Resau tells this story of a woman named Patricia (Paty) Gualinga, human rights and Indigenous rights defender of the Pueblo Kichwa de Sarayaku who lives in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The illustrations by Vanessa Jaramillo both help tell the story and show the importance of this forest, to the people whose home is there, and further show the importance of forests everywhere! It's both a sad and beautiful, important and inspiring story.
         Thanks to Charlesbridge for this copy. It also comes in Spanish.

Now reading, nearly done: The Labors of Hercules Beal by Gary D. Schmidt
        Don't miss this one!


  1. The Gray sounds great. It sounds like many would be able to relate and I think you are probably right that even adults or young adults would find meaning in the story.

  2. What a great selection of books, Linda! I've seen The Gray but hadn't seen as thorough and thoughtful a review as yours—it sounds like such a powerful look at how anxiety can affect a kid's life, and how different things (ranging from video games to time away from home) can help in different ways.

    I'm in love with the cover of I Took the Moon for a Walk—that is just delightful!

    And The Witness Trees is on my TBR—I've read about the 9/11 tree in the book Survivor Tree, which is amazing, but I'd love to learn about the others.

    Thanks so much for the thoughtful reviews, and have a wonderful week!

  3. I have read Chris Baron's previous novels and somehow did not put The Gray on my TBR. Thanks to your review, it is on my list.

  4. Thanks, everyone. I've been out for most of the day, appreciate your comments. Hope you find one of these and enjoy it!

  5. I can see why you recommend The Gray to all ages. As I was reading your remarks I was reminded of other authors who have shown me what living with anxiety is all about. I've added the last two to my list, although my local library doesn't have either of them!

  6. I love Alison Jay's artwork.

  7. A forest of tree books -- what a great theme. I look forward to your thoughts on the Schmidt book.

  8. I really liked some of Chris Baron's other books and have been looking forward to The Gray. Thanks for your thoughts, it was nice to read a little about.

  9. Thanks again, to Cheriee, Earl, Beth, & Aaron! I'm in a whirl getting ready for a trip. I hope you will enjoy any of these, all terrific!


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