Reading, Teaching, Learning

Sunday, May 5, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Screen-Free Week is over, and I'm very happy to be blogging again!  These are memes started by Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey, and I'm excited to participate, along with many other bloggers, in reviewing books I read the previous week. I'll be reviewing picture books through adult books.

 
Here are the books I read over the last two weeks.  I didn't post last Monday since that was the first day of Screen-Free Week.  I read a lot of novels in verse because my students were reading them in April and finishing this week.
 
NOVELS IN VERSE
 
The Wild Book
 
 
 
 
This is a fictional account of the author's grandmother's life, reconstructed from the stories she told her. Fefa has dyslexia and feels stupid, always trying to read and write, but struggling. Her mother gives her a blank book and encourages her to "Think of this little book/as a garden,/Throw Wildflower seeds/all over each page, she advises./Let the words sprout/like seedlings,/then relax and watch as your wild diary grows." Words are compared to all sorts of things throughout the book, which I enjoyed. Fefa is also dealing with difficulties with her siblings, Cuba's period of lawlessness, a terrible accident, and an attempted kidnapping.  Her diary plays a part in resolving all these trials and tribulations. This little book is rich in imagery and word play, so it would make a great mentor writing text.  Students who read this would also enjoy May B. by Caroline Starr Rose, another one of our novels in verse choices in April since it also deals with the challenges of dyslexia.
 
Hate That Cat
 
 
 
 
We got to discuss Love That Dog and Tweet with Sharon Creech during the April #SharpSchu Twitter book club.  What a treat that was!    My students were excited to read Hate That Cat right after Love That Dog.  It's been fun listening to their debates about which one they liked better.  My students got a kick out of Jack's commentaries about various poetic devices and poets, and they were annoyed by Uncle Bill's elitist view of what "real" poetry is.  Jack seems a little more grown up, and this book explores his emotional readiness for a new pet. It's also interesting that we learn about his mother and her deafness in this story - I love the last of Jack's poems "This Is Just To Say" about how he will listen for his mother. The continuation of his relationship with Mrs. Stretchberry and how he fully realizes his and his family's affection for her is heartwarming.
 
Out Of The Dust
 
 
 
 
 
The difficulties 14-yr.-old Billie Jo had to go through are unbelievable! The setting is in the panhandle of Oklahoma in 1934-1935. Billie Jo is anticipating a little brother or sister, and her parents are trying to make a go of a wheat farm during the Depression and a terrible drought. The descriptions of the dust storms that would come suddenly across the plains are incredible. I can't imagine what it must have been like. Billie Jo also had to endure a terrible tragedy in which not only did she lose loved ones, but because of an injury, she almost lost her ability to play her beloved piano. Told in verse, this book reminds me of the hardships Caroline Starr Rose's May B. and Kirby Larson's Hattie had to go through (only worse!) to survive in a harsh, unforgiving, and unrelenting setting. 
 
Locomotion
 

 
 

 
 
 
Woodson creates a likable and struggling character in Lonnie, nicknamed Locomotion, and tells his story through verse. Terrible things have happened to Lonnie, and he struggles to make sense of his world without his family. He was in a group home, but now he is in the good hands of Miss Edna, his foster mom, who he originally thought was cranky. His only family member left, his little sister, was sent to another foster home, and Lonnie goes through great lengths to keep visiting her. His fifth grade teacher introduces him to poetry, and he uses it to express his feelings. Some of my kids paired this up with Love That Dog during our novels in verse unit, which was a perfect pairing since both Lonnie and Jack work through their pain through poetry, thanks to an encouraging teacher!
 
MIDDLE GRADE NOVELS
Because of Winn-Dixie
 
Reviewed on my blog previously as a Reread in April post:
 
Walk Two Moons
 


 
 
 
My second Sharon Creech review this week!  I can't believe I've never read this before, but at least I didn't miss out on it altogether. Since I gathered all my Newbery winners together from my classroom library for a recent Newbery unit, I decided this was one I've wanted to get around to reading for a long time. I got the audio in order to leave my hard copy available for students. What a gem! The audio was so well done. This story is about Sal who is driving out West with her grandparents to find her mother, and she is not excited about being trapped in a car with them for 6 days. She is determined to make it to their destination by her mother's birthday, but they are so gol-darn slow! While traveling, Sal entertains her grandparents (who are the very epitome of perfectly created characters) by telling them the story of her friend, Phoebe Winterbottom. Be prepared for a tear-jerker!  You'll also have some good laughs along the way.
 
ADULT BOOKS


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
 
 
 
 
 
This nonfiction book about Henrietta Lacks and her cells, taken during her terminal fight with cervical cancer, reads like a novel. Skloot did an excellent job combining scientific information with the human story of this poor Southern tobacco farmer who seemed to be doomed from the beginning. Henrietta was born in Virginia in 1920 and died in 1951, and after she died, her cells, which grew at an alarming and unprecedented rate, has been used for more than 60 years in all kinds of research, including developing the polio vaccine. Her daughter, Deborah, helped Skloot in her research for the book, and was quite a colorful character. We learn all kinds of background on the whole family. This book leaves you feeling like you've been on quite a roller coaster ride. The author's note at the end is interesting and addresses the issue of taking cells without consent. Is it ethical? Would requiring consent and/or compensation halt valuable research?

 
        
 
 
        
 
I LOVED this book! I finished the audio (NOT narrated by the author, interestingly), and I am going to miss hearing the story of Will Schwalbe and the time he spent with his mother during her battle with pancreatic cancer. I felt myself cheering her on right along with Will and was so sad at the end when he described her death. When Will's mother, Mary Ann Schwalbe, was diagnosed, they decided they would start a two-person book club since they were already in the habit of asking each other what they were reading. They would each read the same book and talk about it during the many hours of treatments and hospital stays. I loved hearing about the many books they read, a lot of which I've also read, and a lot of which I haven't, but will now! I even have some of the titles they talked about sitting on my bookshelves, unread. I also loved hearing about each family member and all their extraordinary travels, accomplishments, and careers. Mary Anne's passion was caring for refugees - I was amazed by how much she did even after she was diagnosed. Truly inspiring! One of my favorite things about the book was how respectful and caring Will was toward his mother, and even though they shared very different spiritual views, he spoke of hers with the utmost respect. I think Will gives us readers (or listeners, in my case) a great model for how to treat someone with a terminal illness. I think this book would be a great gift for people. It doesn't have to be the end of anyone's life to start a book club with someone - even if it's only two people. Schwalbe reminds us just how powerful books are - thankfully he provides the bibliography of all the books they read at the end.
 
I was inspired to gather the books I knew I had in my personal library that they had read:

 
I was looking for my copies of People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini but couldn't find them.  I think I lent them to friends. 
 
CURRENTLY LISTENING TO:
 
Eleanor and Park
 
CURRENTLY READING:
 
Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers
 
Hurt Go Happy
 
If you enjoyed stopping by my blog, I would love it if you would consider joining it or signing up for an e-mail subscription! Just scroll to the bottom of the blog, and you will find those opportunities at the bottom right. It would make my day!
What are YOU reading this week?

19 comments:

  1. The Cincinnati Zoo is the BEST zoo. I was so disappointed with the Columbus one in comparison.

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    1. It really is one of the greatest zoos in the country!

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  2. Replies
    1. My students and I have really enjoyed reading novels in verse! Thanks so much for stopping by - I'm honored!

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  3. I absolutely love novels in free verse, and I had not read two on your list. Adding them to my list now! Loved Out of the Dust by Hesse.

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  4. What a wonderful myriad of books for the week! I can't wait to read The End of Your Life Book Club! Thanks for all the recommendations...

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    1. I don't think you'll be disappointed! I'd love to hear what you think when you're done!

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  5. You did well!! I am STILL going slow! Too slow!!

    Here is my post!!

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  6. Hi there Holly, you have a lot of great titles here. My eleven year old daughter just finished reading Grandma Torrelli Makes Soup - a Sharon Creech novel and she enjoyed it thoroughly. Read it in less than three days - sped through it. While we own a lot of Creech titles, I haven't had a chance to read and enjoy them myself as yet. We did a novel-in-verse theme a few years back (tail-end of 2011 if I am not mistaken), and I just love love love novels in verse. Margarita Engle is a personal favorite. I received an advance review copy of The Wild Book from her and I adored it - the notion of 'word blindness' just struck me deeply. Out of the Dust is a personal favorite. I always buy the copies I see of this title in used bookstores as gifts to my friends. Very powerful.

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    1. I haven't read Grandma Torrelli Makes Soup - I've wanted to! I agree that Out of the Dust is powerful! Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. What an awesome list! I just popped in to let you know you won a prize in my blog contest for When the Butterflies Came. Here's the link so you can check out what you've won. http://joanstradling.com/2013/05/02/contest-winners/

    Congratulations!

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    1. How exciting! I'll check it out right now. Thanks! :-)

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  8. Lots of great titles and yay! for Screen Free Week (or, well, mostly Screen Free Week for me!). I love that you had a classroom them of novels in verse! I am in a very, very, very long hold line at our library for Eleanor & Park. And both of your adult titles are on the TBR!

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    1. Eleanor & Park is fantastic. I only have a little over an hour left on audio, and I'm already sad it's going to be over.

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  9. I'm really excited to read Henrietta Lacks. I always hear such fantastic things from the people who have read it!
    Have a wonderful week. :)

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    1. Thanks for stoppin by, and Ihope you enjoy Henrietta Lacks. It's fascinating!

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  10. I want to read Eleanor & Park. Happy reading.
    Thanks for stopping by My It’s Monday!

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    1. You definitely need to read Eleanor & Park!

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  11. Novels in verse is a great theme. There are more than I knew. You have done so much reading. The Wild Book looks great!

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