Between two different strains of the flu and Steady Eddie’s work schedule, I haven’t been able to read as much as I’d like. Hence, I’m setting up this blog post for all the Newbery Through the Decades Challenge participants who did manage to get their books read. 🙂
Different by Sally and Nathan Clarkson. This book really deserves a full review by me, the mother of a “different” child. What our family has experienced over the past year (which was simply the end of a few years of mystery and the beginning of years, or a lifetime, of an official diagnosis) made this book resonate with me on so many levels. One of my children now has an official OCD diagnosis. I could write volumes about what we’ve learned and share our experiences in intensive OCD treatment, but this blog really isn’t the right place for that. However, I can say that OCD is something that is always present in our lives. Thus, reading Nathan’s story from both Sally’s and Nathan’s point of view was comforting and encouraging to me. I found it helpful to read Nathan’s point of view because it helped me understand my own child a little bit better. (For the record, Nathan has more diagnoses than “just” OCD.) I always love getting Sally’s perspective on anything, but reading how she coped with Nathan’s particular struggles was particularly helpful. I wish I knew more about exactly how they handled certain issues (like I wish I could’ve been a fly on the wall!), but that isn’t the first time I’ve wished for a front-row seat to the Clarksons’ lives. I give this book a Highly, Highly Recommended to any parent who has an “out of the box” child.
I snagged The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah when it was a Kindle deal because it seemed like everyone from my cousin, the most voracious reader I know, to the nurse at the dermatologist’s office had recommended it to me. I chose it as my Kindle book-of-the-month (which I mostly read while drying my hair or sitting in a dark room waiting for my boys to go to sleep). However, I finally had to just take this book as my book-I’m-reading-now book instead of just my Kindle book (make sense?) because it is so good! Because it contains language and some sensuality, this is definitely an adult book, but the subject matter itself makes it appropriate only for mature readers anyway. It’s set mostly in France during the Nazi occupation, and through it we see what the people of France experienced both at the hands of the Nazis and what happened when they chose to resist. It follows the lives of two sisters, separated from young ages by grief and tragedy, who are reunited and then separated again by the war. They each respond to the war in different ways, but they both choose in their own ways to resist the evil that has invaded their homeland. Although I wouldn’t put The Nightingale in same literary class as All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale did make me cry twice in public. That’s something. Highly Recommended if World War II is your thing, with the aforementioned warnings.
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park was our co-op bookclub selection for the month of February, so I re-read this gem in order to facilitate the bookclub discussion. I loved this book so much the first time I read it when it first came out, and my opinion now is no different. Thematically this deals with a couple of my favorite issues: coming-of-age and family. Linda Sue Park’s writing sings! From the unfamiliar setting (Korea during the Middle Ages) to the historic details (celadon pottery-making) to the plot (coming-of-age meets quest!) to the wonderful characterization (who doesn’t love Crane Man?), there is so much to love about this Newbery award winner. Highly Recommended.
I’m still reading my Newbery Through the Decades title because this has been the Month of Sickness (not to mention other crazy disruptions) at the House of Hope. I have done an ample amount of reading aloud, though. Check out this month’s Read Aloud Roundup post to find out what we’ve been enjoying as a family.
Hello and welcome to the second edition of Read Aloud Roundup for 2017! I’m so glad you’re here! Today is my forty-third birthday, and I can’t think of many things better to do on my birthday than to share some books we’ve enjoyed.
First, I am sharing some sure-hit titles that my boys have adored. In fact, almost every one of these has been in our library basket more than once, and a few of them have been in there more times than I could count.
We Are Growing! by Laurie Keller is one such title that has been on repeat at the House of Hope for a number of months. I have an admitted prejudice against reading aloud books that include speech bubbles or balloons (I’m looking at you, Magic School Bus!), but with the advent of graphic novels, this seems to be a trend in children’s publishing. Well, I’m warming up to them slowly but surely. This book is golden for the learning-to-read crowd (see the Theodore Seuss Geisel medal on the cover?), but it works beautifully as a read-aloud, too. I mean, what’s funnier than talking grass? An added bonus in this one is that you have opportunity to talk about superlatives (-est word abound) if you’re so inclined. If not, just enjoy the hilarious conversation among the blades of grass (and a couple of grass-munching caterpillars) and Mo Willems’s perfectly pitched illustrations. My personal favorite part is when the dandelion blooms. This is one to add to your early reader collection! (Disney, 2016) Another Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! title is The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat, and my boys love this one almost as much as We Are Growing! In this early reader title, a quartet of unlikely friends try to share three cookies. However, because the hippo is the nervous sort, the three cookies turn to twelve pieces in his highly agitated hands. Fiasco averted! This one could definitely double as a math picture book, a vehicle through which to introduce the concept of division to the youngest kids. I love it because it prompts Benny to say the word fiasco in his heart-melting southern drawl. Mo Willems’s illustrations are again, pitch perfect. I see there’s another Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! title coming out in a few months–The Good for Nothing Button. The title alone assures me that my boys will love it. We give all the Elephant and Piggy Like Reading! titles a Highly Recommended. (Disney, 2016)
My boys, especially the resident almost-four-year-old (!!!), love nothing better than a book about vehicles: dump trucks, monster trucks, “excavazers,” whatever–they love them! How to Track a Truck by Jason Carter Eaton taps into that love and then turns it on its ear in the most delightful way. The opening page sets up the premise:
If you want to a pet truck–and who doesn’t?–you’ve come to the right person! I’ve got two dump trucks and a fire engine myself. I think everyone should have one! And that’s why I wrote this book. By the time you’re done, you’ll know everything you need in order to track, catch, and tame your very own pet truck.
What truck-loving little guy or gal wouldn’t be hooked by that opening? What follows are specific instructions from the narrator (dressed appropriately in his explorer’s gear and riding his two-wheeler) on tracking and catching the truck of your choice. My boys’ favorite part is the two-page spread of seven different trucks complete with their names: the ice cream truck named Amelia, the dump truck named Barp, the crane named Professor Porkpie, etc. This always leads to a discussion of which type of truck my boys would choose to track and catch. John Rocco’s illustrations are colorful and appeal to the kid in all of us. Fun! An equally fun companion title to this one isHow to Train a Train. Both have been gold for my boys! (Candlewick, 2016)
I admit, I’ve saved my favorite for last. Egg by Kevin Henkes is one of those books that totally took me by surprise (and it did my children, too)! I’m usually a fan of more words over few words (ha! and no one is surprised by that! 😉 ), though I have learned to appreciate a good wordless picture book, and I dearly love good illustrations. Well, this book has that wonderful balance of fantastic, graphic illustrations (in which color is key), well-chosen words, and, that vital element–surprise! I don’t want to say much more than that so as not to spoil the effect for you–because surely you want to run out and find a copy of this gem now! Kevin Henkes has long been a favorite, but this one makes me appreciate him a bit more. Highly, highly Recommended. (Green Willow, 2017) This little video interview with him gives a lot of insight into both his writing and illustrating processes.
The boys and I also enjoyed The Trumpet of the Swan by the inimitable E.B. White. This was my second time to read it aloud. (You can read my thoughts from my first time through here.) I don’t love it like I do Charlotte’s Web, but I do like it. My favorite parts are the parts in which quiet, wise, observant Sam Beaver makes an appearance. Oh, and the cob–I enjoy his purple prose. 🙂 I also couldn’t help but think about Some Writer! and how much of himself White put into Sam Beaver. The boys enjoyed it a lot, especially the DLM. That makes it a winner in my book.
My girls and I have finished one novel this month, but I haven’t yet reviewed it. We LOVED Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson. Stay tuned for more about this fabulous story. So that’s a little peek into our month of reading aloud at the House of Hope (though I did spare you the seeming dozens of Star Wars books I’ve endured 😉 ). What have you been reading? Link up below or share in the comments!
I finally finished reading Iva Ibbotson’s Journey to the River Sea aloud to my girls, and this passage just about jumped out at me and gave me a high-five. This pretty well sums up what a child’s life should be like, at least in my highly idealistic mind. (Warning: this comes at the very end of the book, so it’s a pretty big spoiler.)
Miss Minton interrupted him. “I will explain. At least I will try to. You see, I have looked after some truly dreadful children in my time, and it was easy not to get fond of them. After all, a governess is not a mother. But Maia. . . well, I’m afraid I grew to love her. And that meant I began to think what I would do if she were my child.”
“And you would let her–” began Mr. Murray.
But Miss Minton stopped him. “I would let her. . . have adventures. I would let her. . . choose her path. It would be hard. . . it was hard. . . but I would do it. Oh, not completely, of course. Some things have to go on. Cleaning one’s teeth, arthmetic. But Maia fell in love with the Amazon. It happens. The place was for her–and the people. Of course there was some danger, but there is danger everywhere. Two years ago, in this school, there was an outbreak of typhus, and three girls died. Children are knocked down and killed by horses every week, here in these streets–” she broke off, gathering her thoughts. “When she was traveling and exploring. . . and finding her songs, Maia wasn’t just happy, she was. . . herself. I think something broke in Maia when her parents died, and out there it healed. Perhaps I’m mad–and the professor, too–but I think children must lead big lives. . . if it is in them to do so. And it is in Maia.”
“You would take her back to Brazil?”
“To live among savages?”
“No. To explore and discover and look for giant sloths and new melodies and flowers that only blossom once every twenty years. Not to find them necessarily, but to look–” (296-97)
It always surprises me when I serendipitously read something that so resonates with how I see life, education, parenting, and I’ve noticed it happens most often when I’m reading children’s literature. I can’t say we’ve ventured off to the Amazon (or anywhere close) over the past decade, but I hope that I’ve maintained that sense of adventure in our studies here at the House of Hope.
Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes is a short novel-in-verse that is written entirely in tanka poems. These poems consist of five lines each, and Grimes follows the format of a 5, 7, 5, 7, 7 syllable-count for the lines of her tanka poems (English syllable count may vary as this is a Japanese poetic form). The story itself is about a young man named Garvey who has lots of things going for him: he’s smart and funny and a good friend, and he knows what he likes, which isn’t sports. However, his father wants him to be a jock, and because Garvey isn’t athletic, they have no connection. As Garvey navigates this personal minefield, he turns to food to numb the pain of rejection. However, an opportunity to display what he is good at opens up at his school, and because he has enough courage to take the opportunity, a new world opens up for Garvey–a healthier world, first, and finally, a world of which is father can also be a part.
Garvey is a very sympathetic character, and I imagine that non-athletic kids might find much to relate to in this novel. (Wait! I was one, so I should know. . . if I could only remember that far back. 😉 ) Grimes’s wordsmithing shines in these short poems:
Mom’s got a talent
for origami, but she
can’t fold me into
the jock Dad wants me to be.
At least, she knows not to try.
(“Origami,” p. 2)
It’s another look at a common theme in middle school literature–being who you are, not who someone else (even a parent) wants you to be. It’s a message that never grows old because there are as many iterations of the theme as there are adolescents. For the right reader, this book might make a difference. (WordSong, 2016)
(This novel was shortlisted for the 2016 Cybils in the poetry category).