It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Week 4

A new semester started, so my reading unfortunately had to slow down a little this week. However, I still finished a couple of fantastic books:

 

Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars has been one of my favorite books since childhood, and I was so excited to find Jennifer Nielsen’s A Night Divided this past week to be a close comparison. Also a historical fiction novel, Nielsen’s book is about 12-year-old Gerta, separated from her father and brother in East Berlin overnight by the Berlin Wall in post-World War II Germany. This book had me on the edge of my seat, heart pounding, as Gerta redefines bravery with a daring plan to reunite with her family and live a life of freedom. This was definitely a book I couldn’t put down and will be anxious to hand to any student who loves Number the Stars.
Although dramatically different from A Night Divided in content, character, and setting, I loved Lisa Graff’s Absolutely Almost just as much this week. As a teacher, this book made me pause to think about all of the students I have worked with who have struggled. In this book, fifth grader Albie struggles with unidentified learning issues that are impacting not only his learning, but also his relationships with his family and his ability to make and keep friends. This book confronts the difficult topic of what it’s like to be different without support, especially in the middle grades. This book is one I will hand to both kids and to fellow teachers.
At home this week, I loved sharing Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman’s Bear Sees Colors with my 2- and 4-year olds. I absolutely love Karma Wilson’s books (and our tattered copy of The Cow Loves Cookies is a clear indication that my kids do, too). Bear Sees Colors, the latest in the Bear series, does not disappoint. Gorgeous illustrations and gentle rhymes accompany a storyline perfect for little readers. I have a feeling this one is going to be a bit tattered soon, too!

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. Jen Vincent over at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye from Unleashing Readers decided to put a children’s and YA spin on it and they invite anyone with an interest to join in. You can participate by creating your post then visit one of their sites to add your site. Finally, visit at least three participant blogs and leave a comment.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Week 3

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. Jen Vincent over at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye from Unleashing Readers decided to put a children’s and YA spin on it and they invite anyone with an interest to join in. You can participate by creating your post then visit one of their sites to add your site. Finally, visit at least three participant blogs and leave a comment.

This week I have read:

So B. It by Sarah Weeks (2004). This book touched me immensely as I got to know Heidi, a young girl with a mentally disabled mother who doesn’t know where she came from, who her mother is, or even her real name or birthday. As she uncovers clues about her mother’s past from a word her mother keeps repeating and some old photographs, Heidi sets out on a journey to discover who she really is. This is a story about family, both the one you’re born with and the one you find for yourself, and  a journey of loss, love, and self-discovery.

 

 

Kenneth Oppel’s The Nest (2015) was a book I was too terrified to put down. After hearing all of the rave reviews, I decided I had to pick it up. This book tells the story of Steve, an older brother who wants nothing more than to save his baby brother who is fighting to survive after being born severely ill. As Steve copes with his brother’s medical needs and the potential for losing him, in addition to the emotional toll this has taken on his family, he is haunted by dreams in which an answer is promised to him, one in which horror far outweighs hope. This book was definitely well-written, but incredibly disturbing at the same time.

 

The highlight of my week was finally getting my hands on a copy of The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin (2015). This book has topped many of the lists I’ve seen recently, and for good reason. Another story of loss, hope and forgiveness, the story of Suzy’s struggle to understand the death of her best friend, Franny, was touching and unforgettable. From the organization of the story to the characters to the way you find yourself caring just as much about jellyfish as Suzy does, this is a book that touches your very soul. It was worth the wait.

 

 

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Week Two

After reading Kristin Ziemke’s blog post on “sneaky reading” before Winter Break, I have shifted my thinking about when and how I read. As I’ve transitioned back into work in 2016, I’ve committed to not losing the reading momentum I built up over the break by becoming a more sneaky reader.

This week I finished some fantastic YA and middle grade books:

Image result for handful of starsCynthia Lord’s A Handful of Stars (2015) was a touching story of friendship and learning to see the world in new and unexpected ways. Lily’s blind dog Lucky leads her into a new friendship with Salma, a young girl from a family of migrant workers who are blueberries in her community. As their friendship blossoms, both girls confront challenges, particularly Lily as she changes her perspective. With unexpected events happening throughout a book that at first seemed predictable to me, I not only loved the story but also fell in love with Lord’s wisdom as she wrote, “To do huge things, you don’t have to be hugely brave. You only have to be a little braver than you are scared…”

Hate List (2009) by Jennifer Brown was one of those books I couldn’t put down. Valerie, a high school senior, is returning to school and trying to heal from her physical and emotional wounds after her boyfriend, Nick, instigated a school shooting the previous spring that killed six people, wounded countless others (including Valerie), and ended in his own suicide. Valerie is implicated in his crime because of her contributions to a Hate List of students who had bullied and tormented the couple. This book was all about Valerie’s journey to find healing and forgiveness from her peers, her family, and herself.

This week I also brought home the book Crankenstein by Samantha Berger to my 4-year-old son and he is obsessed with this book abImage result for crankensteinout a little boy who turns into a monster at every daily inconvenience–waking up, waiting in line, taking medicine, breaking a toy, and so on. We have cuddled and read and reread this book countless times over the past week, giggling with every “MEEEERRRRRRRH!” and analyzing with every read why this boy gets so angry. Great read for preschoolers!

 

 

The book on my nightstand today is Sharon Draper’s Stella by Starlight Image result for stella by starlight(2015). It’s an insightful view of segregation and the fear felt by families as African American men began registering to vote in the 1930s, all told through the eyes of a young girl. I love the character development and the mixture of innocence and maturity shown by Stella. I’m looking forward to finishing it!

It’s Monday! What are you reading? 2016 Kickoff

After months of sitting on the Twitter sidelines, nervous about doing this whole thing wrong, I stumbled upon #IMWAYR this morning and decided I can’t wait forever to get my feet wet.

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme hosted by Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers as a forum for readers to share their reading.

As winter break wound down this weekend, I returned a stack of some new favorite titles to our local library yesterday (and returned home with an armload more). Here are the middle grades/YA books I enjoyed over break this year:

Image result for home of the braveLast summer, a friend handed me The One and Only Ivan and my reading life was forever changed. When Crenshaw was released in the fall, I made sure it was on my doorstep the day it was released. Like all of my favorite authors, I was discouraged that Katherine Applegate can’t write as quickly as I can read. Home of the Brave didn’t have the same hype as her more recent books, but I decided to give it a try. Several times I shifted it to the bottom of my ‘to read’ stack, not encouraged by the fact that it was written in verse (I’m just not a fan of poetry!) or that it was about a refugee from Africa (How could I relate?). I finally picked this title up on Friday night after my kids went to bed, and couldn’t put it down. The journey I took with Kek was deep and meaningful, a story that anyone who has encountered challenges and change in their life can relate to. This book was beautifully written and touching, one I can’t wait to share with others so that they may also experience the heart wrenching joy of knowing Kek.

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Also a fan of Wendelin Van Draanen since reading Flipped while I taught upper elementary, I decided to pick up The Running Dream, a book for older readers about a high school track star who loses her leg in a tragic accident. I worried that the story was too predictable, too dramatic, but then it began surprising me. The unexpected depth to the characters and their actions made this book worth reading.

 

Chasing SecretsGennifer Choldenko’s Chasing Secrets blends historical fiction with mystery and intrigue. This book was a compelling story about fears of the plague in San Francisco in the early 1900s. Between a deep plot line and a strong lead female character, this book was another title that I found difficult to put down over break. Not only did I learn something new about history and discrimination, I felt as if I rode an emotional roller coaster along with Choldenko’s characters.

 

Today I’m reading Pretty Baby by Mary Kubika, an adult novelImage result for pretty baby about a woman who gets drawn into a mystery involving a homeless girl and a baby she encounters and sets out to help on the streets of Chicago. The woman invites the young girl and baby into her life with potentially dire consequences for her daughter, her husband, and herself. As this story is unfolding, I’m finding it more and more difficult to put down.

 

 

As I kick off 2016, I look forward to a great year of reading and sharing!