Friday, September 5, 2014

A picture book with a mentor text or a nonfiction memoir with a mentor picture book?

Trudy Ludwig's brilliant book (illustrated by Craig Orback) offers a unique if difficult window into life in Nazi-occupied  The book is in fact about Alter Weiner's life, before, during, and after the Holocaust. His is a painful and beautiful story, filled with grimness and hate as well as kindness and hope. Here is a particularly meaningful quote from the middle of the book.  A German factory worker gifts him with a sandwich. Midbook, he writes,

"To this day, I don't know her reason for feeding me. What I do know is that she gave me the energy and hope to survive. Her acts of kindness also made me stop and think: How can I believe all Germans are my enemy when this woman, a German, had risked her life for me? That's when I learned my most important lesson in life: There are the kind and the cruel in every group of people. How those you meet in life treat you is far more important than who they are."
Gifts from the Enemy

From A Name to A Number is written by Alter Weiner, the same person who is the sole focus of Gifts from the Enemy.
While I have only read parts of this text, I have found it remarkable. It is a dense text and most definitely a difficult story to hear. Weiner frames his life alongside the happenings in Nazi Germany, his life before, during, and after living in several concentration camps for 35 months!!! Weiner continues to speak publically; his website gives offers a brief glimmer into that world. His purpose remains clear: to not have another Holocaust occur.

Two rich books, filled with stories of an awful time in our history. I struggle to close this entry, wondering what words fit. Maybe his will be the missing puzzle piece. Here is Weiner's closing to From A Name to A Number:

"Just as the homosexuals, the Jehovah's Witnesses, communists, and others were murdered not for what they had done or said, but for what they were. I was a victim of insane cruelty for no offense or sin--just for my faith. I was condemned though never accused of any offense.

I have been clamoring to konw why! Sometimes I wish I could pretend that it did not happen, but it did. Regretfully, it may happen again if we let prejudice and evil rein." (229)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Chu's First Day of School by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex

I don't know what I am going to read aloud on the first day of school yet. I may read Nest, I may read Farmer McPeepers and His Missing Milk Cows, or I may read Chu's First Day of School.

Neil Gaiman has some serious author chops in a number of genres, so he is no slouch. And this book reveals its storyline in unique and pretty darn funny ways. If you read Chu's Day, the first book about Chu, you will already know that his nose does some serious damage to anything around him once things get stirred up. And in this one, the first day of school offers Chu just such a sharing opportunity.
Totally fun, funny, and an enjoyable read aloud.

It's a short book, with a catchy storyline I feel certain young people would enjoy. I mean it sat on the NYC Bestseller book for quite a while. I still don't know what I am going to read aloud on that first day....I may just have to read all three!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Counting to D by Kate Scott

Loved this read! The main character leads us through her teen life living with dyslexia, with a bunch of brilliant friends who come in and out of the picture in really interesting, engaging, authentic ways. I think what I loved most was how the main character and her new boyfriend seemed totally natural to me. I mean I could imagine two teenagers who are like, and my high-school teacher friends could talk about students who seemed like, these students. I also loved loved loved how the author unveils dyslexia. She actually has dyslexia (and figured out which font dyslexics can best read) (seriously!)(I have so much to learn!) and wrote using that lens very effectively.

Sam has some serious baggage that she is trying to cover up as a new student at a high school in Portland (hometown, baby!!) (oh, did I say I loved that too? I did.). Her schedule includes 5 AP classes--a seeming record for a sophomore. But as the story continues, we learn more about Sam and how those challenges twist and tense her life and those she is in relationship with. She hangs out with a crowd of brilliant students who call themselves the Brain Trust, an intimadating group to most, it seems. But the Brain Trust has its own fragile issues, and Sam gets to play a decent role in a key demise of the group. Greater, wicked-smart Sam unearths some of her own confusions and caps down on living life as herself rather than what she believes others want her to be like.

This would be a perfect read for teachers who want to know more about what it is like to have dyslexia, teens who want to read an authentic text with a primary storyline focused on dyslexia, or someone looking to learn more about teens who are struggling to find their foothold in growing up. Can't wait to read Kate Scott's new book, scheduled to come out this fall. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

nest by Jorey Hurley



life cycle






Read this.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs

Combine summer, "geek camp," a teen who plans to leave the state after her senior year, and the twisting surprises of friendship and time, and you have a great book. Sarah Combs crafts a fabulous first novel in Breakfast Served Anytime--I LOVED IT!! Alysa has it now, at my nudging. Hope she reads it soon and gives us all some response. I am guessing she will sit in the same camp as I do on this book.

Rising senior Gloria heads off to "Geek Camp," a few weeks at a local university with other teens she has never met from around the state, all of whom Kentucky wants to dangle a carrot in front of hoping each of these brilliant top-of-their-class students will choose to attend college there. She and the few others in her writing class receive cryptic notes from their professor, initiating the first of many mysteries and explorations together. Through the practices of solving these mysteries and in turn figuring out what their teacher wants them to connect with, they find themselves and each other, unfolding answers to their life questions and creating solid friendships during the journey. The writing is superb, the storyline tremendously solid and unique, and if I were a teen, I would really want to read this book. I loved it. Seriously.

Find it. See what you think....I am guessing you will be like me and want Sarah Combs to keep writing! 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Another fabulous summer read!!!

Isn't that a lovely cover? Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague just rocketed my faves of the summer list last week, and the cover shot offers a sweet capturing of what readers are in for. I am not usually a big time-travel kind of gal, but this one sold me caught me off-guard and hooked least how the authors told this story. This weaving of current day with the 1930's was a tall order, and twisting two seemingly separate storylines together encouraged me to imagine the authors plotting and scheming over morning cups of coffee. However they came up with their ideas, I enjoyed the read.

Short synopsis: teenage Margaret is confident her father is innocent, but she cannot figure out how to prove it. In time, she concocts the plan with the help of best friend Charlie, his grandfather, and a few other supportive characters. The time travel piece works, the seemlingly real ways the characters work together, and the visual images the write conjured for me all helped me really get into this book. I loved sitting in the sunshine, eating lunch and reading about Margaret, Charlie, and their attempts to unearth her father's freedom.

It has been rainy here in Portland these last couple of days, but the sun is trying to come out. Maybe this book and a lunchtime read are in your future.

Friday, July 25, 2014

2 more great summer reads!!!

My book cup continues to runneth over. Lots of books waiting for me to dive are two recent reads that I really enjoyed.

Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes

Grimes is a brilliant author, and Words with Wings lies within that brilliant category. Written in verse, she captures the mental meanderings of one young middle-grade daydreamer. As is most often the case, the adults around her blame her for screwing around, not focusing, being lazy....until they see under their judgments. Kudos to Grimes for the multiple angles she crafts for us to spend intentional moments focusing into the world of daydreams.

The author brings quiet and introspection to the pages in this book. I read it in one sitting, unable to stop reading I was so engaged. Grimes does a masterful job of helping us think like her main character and further offers the reader occasional hints on how to daydream ourselves. She also documents again how young people will teach us, if we will only listen.

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
The third in a series, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette was a perfect summer read. It is placed in summer at a beach cottage with the ocean licking the coastal seawall just steps away. As usual, the Penderwicks are a tight-knit bunch, although oldest sister Rosalind is away with friends on her own vaca and recenlty-remarried father is away with new (and endearing) wife and newly-youngest son on their honeymoon.  Second-oldest sister Skye is in charge of Batty and Jane, and while stressed that she will never live up to Rosalind's competence, she gives it a good go. The girls are staying with their aunt, and good-friend-who-comes-with-serious-history Jeffrey becomes a houseguest as well. Some neighbors throw in a few twists and turns making for an exciting summer vacation for all involved. Count on moose sightings, a billion golf balls, piano playing, and one gigantic huge massive surprise in this read. I am serious: huge. Smart move by the author to tie this in, really smart and engaging!

Birdsall writes with a quiet calm in her Penderwick books. The first book in the series The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy would be a lovely read aloud. I really enjoyed meandering through a few days with the clan in that book. I have not read the second one The Penderwicks on Garam Street, but I would not be surprised if it offers a similar engaging calm that great summer reads offer. I may have to seek it out when I crawl out from under the pile I have gathered for myself this summer.

Evidently there will be five books when the series is complete. Her website states that she will not review screenplay possibilities until then. Ohh, might there be a Penderwicks movie in our future? What fun!!