Sunday, June 30, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

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.

The Matchbox Diary
I loved this video on Paul Fleishman's website.  Talk about creativity!  Oh, my students would love to make these!

This is a beautiful book about an Italian immigrant grandfather who tells the story of his childhood to his granddaughter through mementos kept in matchboxes in an old cigar box. He inspires her to keep a diary when she is old enough to write, but in the meantime, she looks through her own collection kept in a chocolates box. The illustrations are rich and gorgeous - Ibatoulline was the illustrator of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, which is one of my favorite books as you well know if you read my blog! The present time is illustrated in color while the past is in sepia tones - perfect for teaching flashbacks. This picture book would be great to use with teaching memoir. I think kids would love to tell their stories through collections of their own. You can also pair it up with Machlachlan's Nora's Chicks and Say's Grandfather's Journey for immigration topics and Fox's Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, Smith's Grandpa Green, and Lowry's Looking Back: A Book of Memories for ways to tell stories through objects. Ladder it with Applegate's Home of the Brave, Lord's In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, and Lai's Inside Out & Back Again for experiences of immigrant kids struggling to learn English.  Do you want ideas on how to teach kids how to write memoirs?  I love Writing a Life: Teaching Memoir by Katherine Bomer:
Also, my friend and colleague, Megan Ginther wrote a terrific post today about teaching a memoir unit:
Lottie Paris and the Best Place
This is a cute story about two kids (Paris loves space and Carl loves dinosaurs) who meet up and become friends at the library. They're both a little naughty at the library, but the librarian smiles and shakes her head when they meet, knowing they will become friends.  The illustrations are lively and expressive. I loved the illustration of Carl's hip sister, Eva, driving him to the library.  Lottie Paris was introduced to us in Lottie Paris Lives Here.


Pi in the Sky

This is an incredibly inventive novel about Joss, the seventh son of the Supreme Overlord of the Universe. He lives in The Realms, a universe where things are constantly changing and where he has the seemingly unimportant job of delivering pies. One fateful day, however, someone catches a glimpse of The Realms through a telescope from Earth, and Joss's father has made it a rule that if someone from any planet sees The Realms, that planet must be destroyed. One girl, Annika, ends up in The Realms thinking she is dreaming, but could she be the last survivor from Earth? And how long can she survive in The Realms without oxygen? I think kids who love science will enjoy this adventure. I'll be interested in what my Wendy Mass fans in my class will think since this is a departure from her other books. I bet she had fun coming up with this one, though! My favorite chapter beginning quotes: "There are only two ways to live your life. One is though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." - Albert Einstien "You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down." - Ray Bradbury "The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination - stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern - of which I am a part." - Richard P. Feyman This book also gives kids a good opportunity to learn more about Carl Sagan.
Prodigy (Legend, #2)

Awesome! This sequel, which I listened to on audio, to LEGEND did not disappoint, and of course, has left us at a cliffhanger. This story starts with June and Day in Vegas, trying to be inconspicuous. This proves to be difficult because Day is severely injured. An announcement comes on in the city that the Elector Primo is dead, and his son Anden will take his place. June and Day are perplexed that there is not a bigger deal made about this turn of events in the announcement. The Patriot rebels come to the pair's aid, but they have a tough ultimatum: in return for fixing Day's leg, the two must pledge their services to the Patriots. They must help with the assassination of the new Elector! They feel like they don't have a choice. Besides, Day would gladly kill the leader of the Society. They have done nothing but harm to Day's family, and they still have his brother, Eden. June has also been betrayed - her beloved brother was killed by the Society. June's job is to befriend Anden and lure him to the place where he will be assassinated. However, June learns something that will change everything. Lots of twists and turns in this one! Now we have to wait in anticipation for the third installment to see what happens next...
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Just to give you a taste of Saenz's mastery of language...

I don't know where to start with this book. I have so much to say. I have to be honest - at first, I wasn't sure if the boys were believable. They didn't sound like teenage boys to me. Of course, what would I know? I've never been a teenage boy, and I don't have teenage boys. However, as I read and realized what it was about (somehow I didn't even read a summary and had no idea what the plot was), I became completely in it. The story brought me to tears several times. The tone, conflict, and writing style reminded me of Silas House's Eli the Good and a little of Every Day by David Levithan. Ari and Dante are teenagers who meet and become best friends, sometimes laughing hysterically and sometimes strained with conflict. Ari is angry and withdrawn most of the time. He's confused about what it means to be growing up, and he misses his imprisoned older brother fiercely. His Vietnam War veteran father doesn't talk much, but he adores his mother. Dante is different from anyone Ari knows. His happiness is pure. He knows who he is, and he doesn't run from anything. He's crazy about his parents, which teaches Ari to be more forgiving towards his. Traumatic events interrupt both their lives, but they also teach the boys more about who they are. Resonating lines: "We don't always say the right things. Sometimes, it seems like it just hurts too much to look at something. So you don't." "To be careful with people and with words was a rare and beautiful thing." "I got to thinking that poems were like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn't get - and never would get." "'Yeah, well, moms and God generally get along pretty well.'" Some other things I loved was Legs, the dog, and how he taught Ari to love and just BE. I also love how the book teaches us that traumatic events can transform us and make us better. I loved the way parents were portrayed in the book. If you're a "Glee" fan, Dante's father reminded me of Kurt's dad. I also thought the Mexican background of the boys was an interesting conflict for them. I loved that the story took place in the desert. Such an interesting backdrop for a theme topic of silence and secrets. SO much stuff in this book - can you tell??? This book won't be everyone - preview it first - there is definitely controversial content including drug and alcohol use and sexuality. However, the writing is beautiful, and the possibilities for discussion are endless.

The Silver Star
I was a huge fan of The Glass Castle, a memoir, and Half-Broke Horses, a novel based on the true story of Walls's grandmother, so I was excited about this fictional new novel. You can definitely recognize shades of characters and events from her real life through the tragic hardships and triumphs of Bean and Liz dealing with a dysfunctional family. Their mother is a manic artist who frequently abandons them for weeks at a time. The sisters take care of each other, but the younger sibling, Bean, has to step up as the novel progresses because Liz is increasingly fragile - brilliant but sensitive and prone to obsessive compulsiveness and possibly schizophrenia. She also suffers a traumatic event when they move to Virginia to live with their uncle, who also lives with his own demons - possibly depression and a tendency toward hoarding. I liked how the story parallels To Kill a Mockingbird. Another interesting aspect of the story is the introduction of the emus. Liz becomes attached to them when they wander onto Uncle Tinsley's property from a neighboring farm. They mirror her own feelings of helplessness: "'They're so weird and so beautiful,' she said. 'Like you,' I said. I meant it as a joke, but Liz nodded. She felt that she was sort of like an emu herself, she said. Maybe that was why she'd had flying dreams ever since she was a little girl - at heart, she was an emu. She was sure the emus also dreamed of flying. It was another thing they had in common. Both she and the emus wanted to fly - they just didn't have the wings they needed." I thought that was so sad. I think this book can also be categorized as a young adult novel. The toughness and survival skills of outspoken Bean would inspire young readers and there would be lots to talk about with teen students.

A Prayer For Owen Meany
Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2)
The Colossus Rises (Seven Wonders, #1)
A couple weeks ago, I started updating you on what my family is reading, also.  My husband decided on:
The 5th Wave (The Fifth Wave, #1)
My 17-year-old daughter:
 The Secret Life of Prince Charming

I love that she has spent the month of June reading anything she wanted, and she read A LOT!  Now she has to start on her AP summer assignments. :-(

My 20-year-old is on a mission trip in Ecuador, so I doubt she's reading a lot right now!!  I'll update her reading choices when she gets back. 

My mom:

And the Mountains Echoed

I sent my mom this book for an early birthday present for her Kindle Fire after I read it.  We're trying to hold our own mother/daughter book club after being inspired by The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe.  Neither of us (God willing) are at the end of our lives, but we didn't want to wait for that to have our own two person book club! ;-)

My dad:

Diamondback McCall

My dad loves Westerns!  My mom gave him a Kindle for his birthday, and he's really enjoying it.

What are YOU reading this week??


  1. I LOVE how you are sharing what your family is reading! What a wonderful idea. The range of ages and interests make for a collection of diverse titles! I haven't seen Wendy Mass' new book yet, kids always seem to love her writing!

  2. Oh how I loved Aristotle and Dante. Loved their characters and the Moms. So many beautiful relationships in this book. I just requested The Silver Star from my public library - I am number 137 on 27 copies Really hoping everyone is reading at quick not lazy summer reading speed. Then again I have so many requests in . . they may all arrive at once. Thank you for all the suggestions of connection books for The Matchbox Diary - many of these are favourites of mine which tells me that I should lay my hands on this book . . .

  3. Thanks for the generous plug, Holly! I remember the Writing a Life book being on our shared bookshelf a few years ago. I really need to check it out! I just might have to steal your idea of posting what my family is reading. Love that!

  4. Love your family-style reading! I am considering The Silver Star (on my wishlist I believe). I read The 5th Wave and enjoyed it very much as a change of pace for me. Enjoy the closeness reading books together can bring. My husband, son and I were all reading yesterday afternoon (hot summer day) and I loved that we shared that.

  5. Wow! You are a family of readers-of-great books! I just finished And the Mountains - so beautiful! Thanks for sharing the book trailers, too. These are so wonderful to share with our kids when we book talk.

  6. I just read The Matchbox Diary recently, and it's currently high on the list of my favorite picture books. So wonderfully done. I also want to read And the Mountains Echoed. I find his books completely absorbing, but they pack an emotional punch. Not light reads, so I need to find the time where I can really sink into it.

    Have a great week!

  7. Thanks for sharing the trailers with the books, really nice to see them. I'd love to hear more about your Mock Newbery summer group some time.

  8. I want to get the Pi book for my math teacher friends. Great reads!

  9. What a post Holly! I think you are reading enough for me and you!!!
    Love The Matchbox Diary and thank you for sharing the video- I hadn't seen it.
    I love Wendy Mass and I'm so happy to hear Pi in the Sky is good as well.
    I so need to read Legend & Prodigy! I think I'll just wait for the series to finish now.
    Aristotle & Dante is a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant book. It is so hard to put into words how amazing it.
    Continue loving Owen Meany- my favorite John Irving book.

    Happy reading this week! :)