Monday, December 21, 2015

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.

This story reminds me a lot of Wait!  Like the boy in that story with his mother, the girl in this one with her distracted father stops to notice things along a hurried walk. She notices little flowers growing among the cement of the city, so she picks them, and then notices who needs them. Touching and important. We all need to slow down and pay attention. I love the bursts of color in the black and white illustrations.

I couldn't help but think of Jennifer Holm's The Fourteenth Goldfish and the connections the two books have with jellyfish. Suzy (Zu) broke my heart. Her sadness and desperation seemed too much to bear. Zu has such a hard time accepting her friend, Franny's, death, that she stops talking and starts to investigate her theory that a rare and highly poisonous jellyfish was to blame. The narrative goes from present tense to flashbacks in second person (great for classroom discussion on choices in point of view), Zu agonizing over how their friendship deteriorated before Franny's death. Zu is a gifted character, for sure, and the story explores many themes: fitting in, accepting death, moving on, spirituality, the intellectualism of girls, friendship, family, scientific theories, and more. I was so grateful for Justin and Sarah at the end, and new beginnings for Zu.  I love the way Ali Benjamin describes her book: "But at its heart, it's about the moment when these two things, despair and wonder, come together."
All American Boys
2015-book, audio-book, civil-rights, fears, mock-printz-2016, multicultural, multiple-first-person-points-of-view, racism, social-injustice, violence, weneeddiversebooks, young-adult-book

Wow. I've heard so much about this book, and now I know why. For all of you who have read the print version, don't miss the audio. The narrators are powerful. I appreciate a lot about this book, but what I appreciate most is that so many facets of this issue (an unarmed black teen being the victim of police brutality) were discussed in this novel. Most of the arguments I've heard, the feelings I've had, the confusion, outrage, and fear of both races were addressed. The only criticism I have is that I wish Rashad would have had more empathy for his father's story. It explained so much about him and the way he treated Rashad, but I never felt like Rashad fully got that. Maybe that's the point, I don't know. I loved Rashad and Quinn by the end, though, and I loved how real they both were. Beautiful ending and so well crafted.

The most important thing about this novel is that the voices were loud. Silence was broken.


I'm a huge fan of Gary Schmidt, and books like this are the reason why.  Throughout this captivating story,  I kept thinking of William Carlos William's "The Red Wheelbarrow":

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

This may not make sense to you completely, and I honestly don't know for sure why this poem kept popping up in my mind, but it was the cows that made me think of it. And the farm - the simplicity of work, family, grace, and love and the transformations that can take place when those things are present. Attempting to follow Williams's example, I wrote my own to capture Orbiting Jupiter:

The Dairy Cow

so much depends

a dairy cow
who leans in and loves you

a little brother
who always has your back

a few teachers
who believe in you

a gentle family
who lets you talk

a frozen river
with deep, black ice

and a planet
that shines brightly

hung in
the night sky

waiting for you
to find it.

This is one of those books with a perfect ending, so be ready. You will have a hard time moving on to another book. It's a beauty.
The Hummingbird


  1. I've read the early ones, think Wait is so perfect, something to think about often. Thanks for the last two chapter books, still need to get them & read! I will remember to return to read the poem after reading Orbiting Jupiter. What fun! Merry, Merry Christmas Holly.

  2. You wrote about three of our favorite books - Sidewalk Flowers, Wait and The Thing About Jellyfish. Although these books are all so different, they are filled with layers of meaning for students to ponder.

  3. There are so many books to comment on, and I can't decide which to mention! I have wanted to read The Thing About Jellyfish for some time, but I don't think I have a copy. It looks really good! I have All American Boys on my nightstand and plan to read it very soon! It looks fantastic, according to...EVERYONE!

  4. Wait looks very special. I loved Sidewalk Flowers.
    All American Boys is a must read for me in 2016--I can't wait.

    Happy reading and holidays to you!

  5. Hmmm... you know, I've heard so many people praise Orbiting Jupiter but for some reason it hasn't been on my radar yet. It wasn't until you made that comparison to William Carlos Williams that I sat up and took notice. I adore William Carlos Williams so now I am definitely intrigued.

    I loved the last line of your review of All American Boys. Such an important story.

  6. I too saw the connection between Sidewalk Flowers (which I read first) and wait. I've been reading Wait with kinders and first grade. They can all really relate to the hurried parent and wanting to go slow themselves. I read All American Boys this week also and loved it. I appreciated Orbiting Jupiter, but boy was it hard to read.

  7. Wow some great picture books. I loved sidewalk flowers, now I would have to read weight. All American voice sounds like an amazing read. This one will be on my must-read 2016, as will Orbiting Jupiter.

  8. Jellyfish and Jupiter were both so Sadat! I can only hope that 2016 brings us much happier books than 2015 did!