I love when I end my reading week on a satisfying note. I just finished Silas House's Eli the Good. Beautiful. I loved Same Sun Here, too. I know I will read all his books now. Here are the books I read this week:
Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke
audio-book, fantasy-science-fiction, friendship, intermediate-kids-book
I loved 11-year-old Jon Whitcroft, who goes off reluctantly to boarding school in Salisbury. He's convinced it's "The Beard's" doing, his mother's boyfriend, who's, of all things, a dentist. The narrator of the audio version is fantastic, and I can hear his voice as I write this. Jon wishes it was his sister going because she loves all things Harry Potter. Jon, however, only dreads the thought of cold porridge and drafty hallways. Once he gets there, he meets Ella, and who doesn't think of Hermione, with her intelligence and the way she challenges but supports Jon?! Together they stumble into a bevy of ghosts and battles between the living and the dead. It gets quite gruesome in parts, with buried hearts and ghosts inhabiting dead bodies, so preview before you hand it to younger kids. I think fantasy-lovers will like it a lot, though, and will look forward to a series.
Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
creativity, gifted, picture-book, theme
This clever little picture book shows what can happen when you turn mistakes into works of art. I would love to use it with my gifted kids, some of whom are perfectionists, to illustrate that imperfections can be serendipitous instead of devastating.
A Strange Place to Call Home by Marilyn Singer, Illustrated by Ed Young
animals, mock-caldecott-2013, nonfiction, poetry, writing-connections
My students are going to love this one. Marilyn Singer's various types of poems (all of which are defined at the back of the book) about animals living in extreme environments, are fascinating. Who knew there were flies that hatch in oil or fish that climb trees? More information about each animal is at the end of the book. Ed Young's paper collage illustrations are intriguing and beautiful. I'll share this book to show how you can present nonfiction information through creative writing.
unBeelievables by Douglas Florian
mock-caldecott-2013, nature, nonfiction, picture-book, poetry,writing-connections
Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose by Tina Nichols Coury
art, history, nonfiction, picture book
I didn't know the background of Mt. Rushmore, and I've never been there, so this book was interesting to me. Lincoln Borglum was the son of the sculptor and took over the gargantuan task of finishing the massive sculpture. It's unbelievable how a work of art like that can be imagined and executed. This is a great book to share with kids to talk about art, determination, and human ingenuity.
character-development, character-who-writes, family, friendship, historical-fiction, journey, mood-tone, setting, theme, war, young-adult-book
Wow - this story transports you to the summer of 1976, cicadas and Bob Seger singing in the sultry Southern air, and to 10-year-old Eli's troubled but beautiful family. I was exactly 10 years old in the summer of 1976, too, so I loved reading about the Bicentennial and the 70s music and pop culture. Eli observes everything: his sister's anger, his aunt Nell's wild and wandering spirit, his father's post traumatic stress from Vietnam, and his mother's transcendent beauty. Eli tries to find his way in this stormy world with his best friend Edie, his books, journal, and the cool and calming beech tree. There are several scenes that make your heart pound with dread, but thankfully, there is redemption in the end for everyone. Eli learns through reading The Diary of Anne Frank that the reason for hope in the midst of devastating experiences is that someone like Anne, strong and brave, had once lived. "She had been a child of war, like me, but she made sure that she was more than that. I had to do the same." Bravo to Silas House for creating such a memorable young hero. Thank you, too, Paul Hankins for recommending this title for a unit on a hero's journey.