Friday, November 17, 2017

I Met Jason Reynolds. That Is All.

Actually, it's not all. But I am beat, so I will fill you in later on how damn wise he is.

Monday, November 13, 2017

TTT: Books To Share With My Kids

The delightful bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish host this weekly list challenge.  If you want to quadruple the size of your TBR AND find a bunch of great book blogs to follow head on over and check them out!

The topic this week is Top Ten Books I Want My Future Children to Read

Well, I certainly hope I don't have any future children. I've got my hands full with the tween and teen I already have.

So let me tell you about some books I think of when I think of my kids. (No, not Children of the Corn).

The first book I read to my kids was Good night, I Love You. Not only did it teach a basic bedtime routine, the pictures made the meaning clear while they were still learning English, and "I love you, goodnight" is definitely a warm and fuzzy phrase to learn.

The next book I remember making a big impression was Blueberries for Sal. I'm sure I've told this story here before, but the kids had been with us maybe 6 weeks and we were on a trip to the mountains. Someone was counting out something into a container (details are fuzzy--beads in a cup? cherries in a bowl?) and my son said, "Plink, plank, plunk!" His first literary allusion! *wipes tear*

The Harry Potter series started being published when I was about 30, so it's definitely something I experienced only as an adult.  I was a fan--more so than the nieces and nephews who first alerted me to its existence--but there is nothing like reading these books with kids. I read the first book to both kids at their request, and it was a little hard for them to follow, so we watched the movie and tried again, and they did great. Then I started buying the illustrated versions for my daughter as Christmas presents, and we've spent the last two winters reading them aloud. She knows she'll get the third one this year, and it already looking forward to it.

My son still struggles with reading a lot, but he loves being read to, and gets quite involved in the stories. I am so grateful to the teachers that have read him The BFG, Touching Spirit Bear, and The Lightning Thief. He came home talking about each of them in turn--this from a kid who usually has nothing to say about school events, especially of the academic variety.  (Side note: I didn't really like Riordan when I first tried him ten years ago. Then I read him to my kids, and found the humor and subtle education delightful.)

My daughter loves recommending books to me, starting in kindergarten when she came home from school and asked to be taken to the library to look for more Mo Willems books.  "You mean Maurice Williams?" I asked, bewildered.  No, she meant Mo Willems, and what a great time we had with every single Pigeon, Elephant & Piggie and Knuffle Bunny story.  Lately she's gotten me to read her favorite book, Chomp, and then after I suggested she listen to Woof, she got me to read it. Now I'm supposed to read Arf too, so we can read Bow-Wow together.  She's also encouraging me to read Posted, which her 5th grade teacher read to the class. One of my usually disengaged 8th grade boys also read and like that one, so I figure I'd better read it pretty darn soon

I could never get my kids into the Little House books or the Chronicles of Narnia, but I was pleasantly surprised that when I book-talked The Good Master to my daughter, she asked me to read it to her. I hope that soon we can read the even better The Singing Tree together too.

There is so much good YA being published today that they will be ready for in a couple of years. I hope that when they are teens they read Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Grey. There's not a lot written about their homeland of Lithuania, so I'm glad that Ruta Sepetys is a fantastic writer at least.  I think my daughter will like Becky Albertalli, Angie Thomas, and Jason Reynolds, although Jeff Zentner and Adam Silvera might be too sad for her--she has a tender little heart. I'm wondering if my son will ever be confident enough to read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian or We Were Here--there's always audiobooks if the reading part is too daunting. They might be more interested in fantasy and sci fi than many of my students are, given how much of it I read and how imaginative they are. I can see my girl reading Graceling and Girl of Fire and Thorns, and I can see my son reading Ender's Game


I also hope they continue to find books they love and recommend to me.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Six Degree of Separation: Less Than Zero

I've seen this on Wilde on My Side, and she pointed me to Books Are My Favorite and Best as the originator.  Basically, everyone starts with the same title each month, and then using your own personal trains of thought, lead your readers through six books, one to the next to the next.  It could be authors, covers, time of life when you read the book, or any other connection that comes up in your mind.

We start this month's journey with Less Than Zero, which I actually read as a teenager in the 1980s. (I also read Bret Ellis's American Psycho  because apparently teen me was a glutton for punishment.  There's no way I'd plow through two books with unlikable narrators and a cynical view of life now.  So that's not my next pick!)

Instead, I'm taking the Zero over to Holes, the beloved MG novel by Louis Sachar, starring the palindromic Stanley Yelnats and his underrated fellow camper, Zero.

I read Holes to my classes years ago. Around the same time, I also read Ruth White's  Belle Prater's Boy to one class. Turned out to be a weird choice for my students, and I learned my lesson that just because I love a book doesn't mean it's going to be a good fit for my students.

Belle Prater's Boy is set in 1920s Appalachia. It's actually kind of surprising how many books I've read with that setting. For a few years in my late teens, my favorite book was A Vein of Riches, written by John Knowles of A Separate Peace fame. It details coal mining and the push for unions in that time and place. It also is a love story, in which a young man falls in love with his wealthy father's kept woman.

Something about that forbidden love, plus the role trains play in the book, reminds me of John Irving's modern classic, A Prayer for Owen Meany, in which the narrator's mother gets pregnant with him by a man she claims to have met on a train.

At the climax of A Prayer for Owen Meany, the narrator and the eponymous character save a group of Vietnamese children who were airlifted out of Saigon. This brings me to the only 21st century entry on today's list, Thanhhai Lai's Inside Out and Back Again, a novel in verse narrated by a girl who immigrates to Alabama from Vietnam in the early 1970s.


From one of the most distasteful books I've read to one that is decidedly more optimistic about the human condition. Other than Holes, we stayed pretty far east for the whole time.

Feel free to play along! Next month's starting title is It. Creepy!