Thursday, October 25, 2012

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

If you are like me, you jump at each Jacqueline Woodson title. I have used several in my classroom practice, and each time, the books served us sooo well, like third things taking us deeper through major thresholds of being in community. Really powerful. Her new book, Each Kindness, is no exception, bringing the reader into an inner conflict familiar to many of us.

Chloe is an elementary student who makes a mistake but doesn't realize the inner ramifications until too late. A new girl enters Chloe's classroom community, but Chloe refuses to spend time with her. Maya, the new girl, tries again and again to connect with Chloe and her friends but the social price simply is too high for Chloe. Until Maya leaves.

Woodson takes us on an deeply personal and familiar inner journey in this book. It is a heartbreaking story, worthy of being told and then dug into with others. Find this one: it is a keeper. Each Kindness: yea, that.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Earwing and the Witch by Diana Wynne Jones

Seeking a laugh out loud and simple read for those new to reading on their own? Or a laugh out loud and simple read aloud as our evenings get darker and the season turns a little spooky? Diana Wynne Jones homered this one! I loved Earwig and the Witch: come on, with a title like that, you know you are in for a good read!

Erica Wigg, better known throughout the book as Earwig, is simply pleased with her life in the orphanage. She loves her days and nights there, and her best friend Custard (real name: John Coster) lives there too. One day a rather odd looking couple visits, and Earwig, ahem, Erica, despite her ugliest face- making goes home with the woman and the Mandrake. The surprising story continues with Earwig journeying into her birthright gift of being a witch and learning the hard and not-so-hard way of getting what you need and want from those around you. A talking cat, rather unpredictable adults, and a humorous storyline leads the reader well. This book is a blast. I encourage you to race right out, find this gem, and set with some youngsters who are ready to giggle. Your painful stomach muscles will not regret it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Black Boy White School by Brian F. Walker

I couldn't stop reading this book. Brian F. Walker writes from his own experiences here in part although it is a book of fiction. I walk around every day, in white skin and white privilege, not knowing what I am missing. I pass through the world with folks not knowing I am gay, but people of color don't have that opportunity. Judgment rides a broad and demanding horse, and this book attempts to shed light on one person's viewing of that experience.

Ant lives in East Cleveland, in a neighborhood filled with violence and anger. In spite of all of the trials Ant witnesses and battles against, he still carries the truth of what "home" can be. He receives a scholarship to an elite, mostly white boarding school in Maine, and once there, he quickly realizes that racism is an ugliness that pervades every community, from inner city to deep forest. He battles back, sometimes in ways that cause people to shy away and other times in ways that invite them to lean in.

In an interview on You Tube, Mr. Walker talks a bit about how much of the book is based on his experiences. The original title of the book was Look Both His story is only enlarged by listening to the words through his voice. Powerful. If you want to hear it from him, here is the link:

I loved how the author pulled few punches, and the realistic way he represents Ant's struggles expose powerfully the heft and tension an African-American male teen must carry these days. The story ends with some hope but no clear next steps. I appreciated the authentic struggles that the author uses to teach through this text, and I am glad he took the risk to name the bitter truth encapsulated and experienced within so many of the neighborhoods that fill our cities across the country. I most wondered how accurate the storyline holds with the author's experiences. I doubt if I would be surprised.