Last year I kicked off the Newbery Through the Decades very inauspiciously, and I’m afraid I must confess I’ve done it again. Last January, it was sickness that prevented my reading as much as I wanted; this January I’ve read plenty but have had some constraints on what I’ve read due to my role as a Cybils round 2 judge. Also, I must be honest: I have a hard time with this 1920s list. Most titles aren’t very appealing to me, probably because I don’t encounter many reviews of them. (Which is one reason I want to do this challenge. . . !) Also, it has been hard for me to get my hands on some of them.
Anyway, I am about one-third of the way through Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James, a title that I didn’t plan to read but the one I resorted to when I couldn’t easily locate the titles I wanted to read. I do intend to finish it and review it here soon.
What have you read this month for the Newbery Through the Decades Challenge? Share your links below or leave a comment.
The Cay by Theodore Taylor was the January selection for the book club/class that I’m leading at our co-op. I chose this book because I still remember reading it myself when I was a kid, roughly the same age as the students in my class. (The class is for sixth through eighth graders, with a few fifth graders thrown into the mix because we’re homeschoolers and we can do that.) In fact, it made my birthday post a few years ago as one of my lifetime favorite books. In addition to the fact that I personally love the story, it is a fairly short at about 140 pages, and it’s very exciting. These two characteristics are good for the reluctant readers in my class (most of which are boys).
I had forgotten just how good this book is! Set during World War II and in the Caribbean, it’s the story of Phillip Enright, an American boy who lives with his parents on the island of Curaçao. When submarine warfare comes to the Caribbean, Phillip’s mother begins to make plans for her and Phillip to return to the U.S. However, before they can be safely away, their boat is hit by a torpedo and Phillip is thrown overboard. When he comes to, he is onboard a raft with an old black man. Because of a head injury, Phillip soon loses his eyesight and has to depend upon this black man, Timothy, for everything. The novel details the next six months or so of their life on an island and how Phillip comes to trust and even love Timothy.
The themes in this book are so good and easily discerned. We had a lively conversation at co-op about the plot, conflict, and themes, and I was gratified that many of the students seemed to understand them readily. Everyone (at least everyone who participates) had an affinity for Timothy and saw the growth in Phillip. What more could I want? 🙂 I will not be surprised if many of the students cite this book as their favorite of the year.
I can’t end this review without sharing that as a family we also listened to the audiobook version of the novel. Narrated by Michael Boatman, this audiobook is superbly done. The DLM loved it and has requested it numerous times. I love the fact that there is an interview with Theodore Taylor at the end of the book in which he shares how he came to write the story. I give this audiobook a Highly Recommended.
I am participating in Read-at-Home-Mom’s Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge. January’s theme is award winners, and The Cay certainly fits into this category because it won the 1970 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award and it was published in 1969. (The Old School part of the challenge requires that the books be published before the year of the participant’s birth. Ahem.) Apparently its winning this award was controversial at the time (read here, especially the comments). For my class in our racially very homogeneous homeschooling community, I can’t help but think reading this book was a good thing. Your mileage may vary.
Friends, I am so excited to be back in the read aloud reporting saddle again! I have missed sharing our read aloud experiences, and I’ve missed reading yours. 🙂
My reading aloud is divided into two distinct camps these days: the boys and the girls. Oh, I try to make our read alouds overlap at times, but the boys are busy and the girls are over many of the books I read to the boys. Still, I would say that it is the DLM, age six, who benefits the most from the cross-over books. That’s a good thing because he’s definitely the one I feel gets the least amount of age-appropriate, concentrated read-aloud time with me. He is also the only one who would choose reading or being read to only about half the time and would be just as happy to do almost anything else. (Yes, this makes me sad, but I have come to accept that it’s okay. It’s who he is! He’s a busy fellow.)
This month we added some math to our circle time. I haven’t shared the details of January’s circle time yet, but our routine is to sing a hymn, read a Bible passage or chapter, and work on memory work. That’s the general framework, but this month I decided I wanted to read aloud, too, so I chose The History of Counting by Denise Schmandt-Besserat as our first shared math book. At forty-five pages, this is a an information-rich picture book. It deals with some pretty complicated concepts, like abstract versus concrete counting, systems other than base-ten, and more. Michael Hays’s illustrations are helpful and even necessary due to the nature of the information. This book contains a two-page glossary and a two-page index. I learned a lot by reading this book, and all of my school-aged children engaged with it. We read it at the rate of two pages a day, and because it is so information-dense, this was just about right. I’ve had this one on our math shelf for years, and I’m glad I finally pulled it off and read it aloud! (Scholastic, 1999)
Another nonfiction picture book that all of my children (and I!) enjoyed quite a lot is Giant Squid by Candace Fleming. I gush about it here. It’s a not-to-be missed title. Do y’all know Stephen Savage? Oh, my goodness! What a fun author/illustrator! We fell in love with his Supertruck a few years ago, so when I saw The Mixed-Up Truck at the library, I had to bring it home. Bold, graphic (digitally created) illustrations and no more than two sentences (in bold, sans serif font) per two-page spread make this a book that really appeals to little boys with short attention spans. 🙂 It’s the humor, though, that really hooks them. The helpful cement mixer wants to do his part, but instead of mixing up cement, he keeps mixing up the wrong white powder with water. The results are hilarious (and sometimes tasty)! Three year old Benny loves this one. I do, too! Highly Recommended. (Roaring Press, 2016)
One of my read-aloud dilemmas is how to read as much as I want to to both sets of my kids. My girls and I have a good read-aloud routine. It’s my boys who get shorted in the read-aloud department, which causes me no end of guilt. I have finally turned some of their reading aloud over to Steady Eddie. While I definitely miss sharing all the literature with them, I also know that it’s just as important for them to have a read-aloud relationship with their daddy. 🙂 Their first chapter book of the new year was The Hotel Cat by Esther Averill. I actually read most of it, too, so I was able to share a review of it. The DLM has never met a Esther Averill book he didn’t like.
The girls and I always have a couple of books going at once. We finished up Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool early in the month (I reviewed it the firs time I read it here). It was a fun book for us to read together, and the girls surprisingly also picked up a few math-related concepts (which have shown up in their official math lessons) from it since pi figures heavily into the story. The only disappointing thing about this read is that I purchased my copy from Thrift Books and ended up with an ARC instead of the final version. I wondered, especially at the end, if anything about the copy I was reading aloud had been changed in the final version. I couldn’t remember since it had been so long since I read it myself the first time.
The girls and I are still enjoying our Year of Anne, too, though it’s turning into more like Eighteen Months (or more!) of Anne.
Most days I feel like there could never be enough hours to share all the stories I want to share with my children. Some days I get to the end of the day and realize that I haven’t read aloud much to my boys at all. To combat that, I’ve decided this year to make an attempt to keep up with what I read aloud to them on Goodreads. I know I’ve already missed recording a few books, and my Goodreads account is something of a mess right now, but it is motivational for me to have some way to hold myself accountable. If you’re on Goodreads, I’d love to be your friend. 🙂
Well, this blog post is about as chatty as they come. Thank you for reading to the end of it! It feels so good to “talk shop” about reading aloud again! It is the cornerstone of what I do in my home, and I can’t help but love sharing it. I love hearing about your read aloud life, too, so link me up! 🙂
Last year I did my own thing with bi-monthly reading reports, but this year I’m back on the wagon with What’s On Your Nightstand at 5 Minutes for Books. January is almost always a good reading month for me, and this one has been just that.
One book that I started in 2016 but finished this month is Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. I read this for my small group study at church. This was the third of TerKeurst’s books I’ve read, having read Unglued and The Best Yesin the past few years. I thought this book was worth the time, especially if you’re a Christian who struggles with feelings of rejection from others. Some of what TerKeurst discusses I didn’t identify with much, but some of it stepped all over my toes. There is a page or two in this book that describes me to a T and served to draw me up short and take account of my life and especially my attitude. I wouldn’t consider this a theological book, but more of a slightly Christian-ized spin on some established therapeutic practices like cognitive behavioral therapy. Also, if you don’t like books that have lots of alliterative lists (to help us remember the points, no doubt) and the like (and might read more like a blog post than a book to study), you won’t like this one. However, if you want a light, encouraging “spiritual” read, this might be the book for you. (Nelson 2016)
Living Well, Spending Less by Ruth Soukup is another one of my 2016 reads that I finished this month. In December I read her book entitled Unstuffed and found it both enjoyable and beneficial, so when I realized that I also had Living Well, Spending Less on my Kindle (acquired, no doubt, when it was cheap or free), I plunged right into it. While Unstuffed focuses on decluttering and minimalism, Living Well, Spending Less focuses on personal finances and how to live a “good life” while also maintaining financial solvency. Both of these topics have been a theme I’ve explored over the past few months, and Soukup doesn’t say anything new. However, I do find people who have turned their lives around to be inspiring, and Soukup definitely has. (You can read the first part of her story here.) Either of her titles is worth your time if decluttering or making responsible financial decisions is your thing. Of the two, Unstuffed was more beneficial for me personally, but I enjoyed them both. (Zondervan, 2014)
Other books I read this month:
The Pearl by John Steinbeck–my thoughts are here. That means I’m one down and five to go for the Back to the Classics Challenge.
The Cay by Theodore Taylor. What a joy it was to revisit this favorite from my childhood! I hope to share some thoughts about this story soon.
Booked by Kwame Alexander
Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes
To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Story of the Donner Party by Skila Brown
The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan
The last four books are novels-in-verse that I read because I am a second round judge in the poetry category for the 2016 Cybils. I’ve enjoyed this so very much, but mum’s the word on which book I like best until after the awards are announced on February 14.
Last but certainly not least, I am pleased to announce that I have finally come to the Harry Potter party (just a couple of decades late). This is actually not the first time I have attempted Harry Potter, nor is it the first time I’ve made it through one of the books (this one, to be exact). However, this time it “stuck.” I listened to the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as I walked, drove, or puttered around the house. (I actually started it in 2016 and re-started it–and finished it–this month.) I’m definitely more of a visual than auditory learner, but Jim Dale’s narration of this story is just so good that even I don’t have a terrible time following it. I’ve already started book two. I’m in.
Of course, most of my reading time each month consists of reading aloud to my children. This year I’m bringing back my read aloud reporting with the Read Aloud Roundup the last Thursday of each month. Come back this coming Thursday to read more about what we enjoyed together as a family, or better yet, come back and share your own post!
January isn’t over yet, so I still have at least one more title I intend to finish before it’s over. Stay tuned!
A long time ago–in fact, a decade ago this very year–a mama of two little girls started a blog. She did it on a whim. Why not?
After she had been blogging for just a little while, she realized something: she needed a focus. She wasn’t the smartest or the most stylish or the best writer, but one thing she did know, and that’s how to engage her children with books. So she decided to start posting once a week about what she read to her girls that week, and she invited others to join in. They did! Read Aloud Thursday became one of the delights of this mama’s life.
Then she had two more babies, all the while homeschooling the girls. All her bloggy friends were just as busy as she was.
And then social media happened, and everyone began sharing their ideas and inspiration immediately, instead of in carefully-crafted blog posts. Blogging began to lose ground. Then it turned into a business, and the “old school” bloggers lost their appeal to many. This confluence of events brought the end of Read Aloud Thursdays at Hope Is the Word.
But this mama kept blogging, mostly because if she doesn’t blog it, she doesn’t remember it. And even though she’s busier now than ever before, she has missed something: she has missed sharing her family’s read aloud life on a regular basis.
2017 is the year this mama is bringing back the read aloud. Well, she has been reading aloud all along, and she has even been sharing here what she read. This year, though, she is bringing back a monthly dedicated read-aloud post, and she’s inviting you to join in. There will be a linky and everything. 🙂
Will you join this read-aloud mama for a monthly Read Aloud Roundup on the last Thursday of each month? Any sort of post–a list, book reviews, insights about read aloud–is welcome, as long as it’s family friendly.