Friday, November 18, 2016

Hurry Up, Henry by Jennifer Lanthier

A charming tale of a boy who always liked to go slow. His slow speed balances with one of his friends who likes to go fast, but mostly folks tell Henry to hurry up. 

When his birthday comes, his grandmother hatches an idea that turns Henry’s world a little bit and changes his idea of time. A lovely, simple, and perspective-offering read. Sweet illustrations that completely expand the text for young readers, this is a gentle new read for those of us who move too fast and those of us who simply need to slow down.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Moo by Sharon Creech

Just finished Moo with my class of fourth graders. I had started reading it by myself and then I landed this sweet teaching gig, so I figured I would read it with them as our read aloud. I am an ardent Creech fan and believed that most of these rural-living students would get the cow focus.

Boy, was I wrong! Most of them hadn't even spent time around a cow. And boy was I right! This book because a community builder in multiple ways, and we all, cow-schemas or not, found ways to enter the book, make sense of it, and connect it to our lives. The students loved it, I loved it, and I wonder what role it played in helping us grow readers in our class.

The main cow, Zora, is grumpy, stand-offish (can a cow be that?), and flat out stubborn at the start of the book. Like many characters, she changed over time but I won't tell you how. A brother and sister move with their parents out to farm-country Maine. Mom meets some rather stand-offish, grumpy woman at some medical office and offers her kids up to help with chores at the lady's farm. The chemistry between the kids and the lady repels each party, causing interesting conflicts, perspectives, and ironic moments. The ending is true Creech, and the story has some rich connections with her granddaughter.

This time it was not just me that loved a book---it was my 22 fourth graders as well!! Moo.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Playing from the Heart by Peter H. Reynolds

Who doesn’t like Reynolds’ work? Author of The Dot, Ish, and so many more, his work is well loved. Another book connecting to our identity and our birthright gifts, Playing from the Heart is the story of a boy who naturally loves to play the piano. 

He is so talented that his father decides to hire a teacher so Raj can learn how to formally play. Over time, the teaching becomes restrictive, and finally Raj stops playing. Only when he is truly asked does he return to the piano. 

This sweet, endearing, important picture book offers us a rich space to either open the conversation of being who we are or continue it. Another keeper from the master himself.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Emerson Barks by Liza Woodruff

Emerson is a barking dog. His way of hello is to bark, and he loves to say hello to everyone and every animal he can find.

Until he gets in big trouble for scaring off a cat. He decides to hold his bark in. He tries and tries and tries, and he succeeds for a bit.

With a surprise ending and a terrific connection with our ways of being, Emerson Barks will be a great read for those seeking a book about sense of self and identity.

Friday, September 9, 2016

as brave as you by Jason Reynolds

A true middle-school novel has to talk about poop. Reynolds gets really smart in his new novel and even moves into poop slinging and the proper way and place to sling. Mistakes are made, transgressions allowed, and chores completed, Genie and his brother add another surprise to their summer vacation at their grandparents' house. Given its tremendous distance from their home in Brooklyn as well as significant internet disconnection, the boys have landed in another world when they arrive in Virginia. Their parents are struggling to maintain their marriage, and they have decided to take some time away from the boys to see what can be glued back together.

In the first few days, Genie and his brother Ernie learn that their grandfather is blind, their grandmother an extreme gardener, and their house is way, way, way out in the boondocks. Ernie decides to chase after a girl, and Genie discovers his grandfather's gun, room of birds, and agoraphobia. Unique characters come in all shapes and sizes in Reynolds' new text, and Genie embraces the new life in grand ways. By the end of the book, the gun, the birds, and the agoraphobia all impact Genie, his brother, and his grandparents, and I have a feeling slinging poop may be a welcomed action. A sweet read,  I loved this book. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

How is it Woodson writes like she does? Her writing is remarkable to me, and her new book is a true testament to her amazing writing skills.

Another Brooklyn, set in the '70s in Brooklyn, frames a teenager's coming of age, friendships, growing up and looking back, loss, life, families, and the truths that we learn in our lives. Woodson writes with such gracefulness in this book. The main character's voice sounds so soft and strong at the same time, wise and curious, engaged and visionary. August leans into the memories and stories that come from a visit with her brother who is soon will be a father. She transports the reader into the life of those stories that begin with a mother whose absence pierces August's heart, a father who remains strong and abiding, and a brother who shares her window view for awhile. The meandering of friendships, linked arms through those difficult teen years, always important, always connecting in tiny and grand ways.

I so appreciated the clear lens Woodson crafted in Another Brooklyn. I felt as if August was talking with me directly, as if she were sitting across from me at a table in a quiet coffee shop, reflecting on her past and exploring how pieces fit together, how people graced and deflected her, talking, talking. And I simply listened, not needing to add anything else except my presence. Even though this is a book about coming of age, it felt peaceful to me. Somehow Woodson ties together strands into ropes of resilience. She gifts us with windows into her life through her books, and Another Brooklyn offers these fragile and super-strong panes of glass through which we experience another's rich life. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Property of the State by Bill Cameron

Every so often I run across a book that surprises me in a unique way. The setting occurs in my backyard, literally, as I visit Mt. Tabor every few days, various coffee shops nearby sound amazingly like what the author writes of in his story, and many of the streets I walk, bike, and drive daily. I loved being able to visualize where the story was taking place as I read. A powerful choice by the author for certain! At least to me.

Joey is in foster care, and after years of struggle, is jonesing to get out on his own. The only problem to him seems to be the system. He would prefer doing everything on his own and believes that everyone is out to stop his quest. As most YA novels go, there is some predictability in this story, meaning that there are several adults I could easily consider throttling throughout the story. Joey is a crafty lad, and he understands loss in a way that blew my mind. He is kind and curious too, and the storyline walks us through his attempts to connect with others. Adults misuse him and his friends who are foster children as well. And yet they survive. They figure out how to keep walking through. and for that, even in the midst of treacherous storylines and lives, he keeps going.