Friday, June 27, 2014

The Girl and The Bicycle by Mark Pett

I have been stopped by a bike again.

This time it was "the girl," out with her brother being a kind older sister, when said bike leaps into the picture, demanding mental screen and dream time. Girl heads home to dream and scheme, deciding she can earn money and buy the bike of her dreams.
She works and works, collecting coins and dreaming. Finally the magic moment comes. She goes to the bike shop to buy the bike, but the window is empty.

I refuse to tell you more. It might stop you from seeking out this wordless picture book or from needing to reread to figure out what happened or from engaging your metacognition and the myriad of stories that beg to be grappled with from this brilliant story. Pett offers us readers a sweet set of moments with this beautiful text. I know that my kindergarten students and I will explore this one in depth this fall.

For now, I remain stopped by a bike again.....

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Just finished this revealing gem over a bowl of cereal and fresh raspberries. Ahh, the joys of summer: freshly-picked berries and reading through a meal. Love it!! And I loved this book! I enjoy Sue Monk Kidd's writing, the rhythms and weavings she masterfully places on the page.  This story caught me from the start, and the author's pattern of alternating between storytellers held me close. And the ending: whoa. That is an ending.

Briefly Kidd frames the story of Sarah Grimke, a Charleston-born wealthy slave-owner's daughter, who will grow up to become one of our nation's first feminsts (for real--this story is historical fiction), and Handful, one of the slaves on the plantation, back in the early nineteenth century. Their relationship offers us a window into the trials of boundaries, societal views, and breaking out of the confines at the time and place in the U.S.'s trialful history. Kidd writes with a quiet, growing tension in her work, and The Invention of Wings subtly swept me along until poof! I could not put it down. While I assumed some of the grim actions of slave owners and society in general were true (treacherous and true), I hadn't connected the historical implications of her story until I read her notes after I finished reading the story. I loved learning about techniques slaves used to capture and communicate their life stories on quilts. I also appreciated the author's thorough notes at the end of the book, opening up a whole new world of story-telling for us to witness.

We recently watched 12 Years a Slave, and I occasionally connected the two sets of stories. The most soul-stopping for me is how we treated slaves. I struggle to write about it here; I continue to be both moved and grieved by some of the new details that I have come to understand through these two resources.

The Invention of Wings is most definitely a worthy read. If you like Sue Monk Kidd's earlier work, you will indeed enjoy this one as well.

Friday, June 13, 2014

me since you by Laura Wiess


Books with storylines of loss and turning inward often swallow me, but this one took me by surprise. I was mistaken in my belief that the biggest loss in this book would be the bridge-jump that Rowan witnesses. Rowan loses far more, and author Wiess wisely makes us wait until a third of the way through the book to get it. But still, hers is a grim story...that is until right close to the end, something made me turn my head massively. This is a difficult read, absolutely, but it also is worth it totally.

I heard you: what the heck, Andie? How can you so slightingly say someone committing suicide in a book is not that bad? Not what I meant for sure, but wait 'till you read this to see if you agree with how I wrote what I wrote. This is a tough book to write about, and I wonder how difficult it was for the author to write. She seems to know a whole bunch about the key focal points she writes about. Okay, I heard you: duh, of course she does. But no, wait til you read me since you and you will understand what I am saying. The way she writes this entire book is stunning.

Quick synopsis: Teenager Rowan is struggling and giving her parents a hard time. Father is a cop, comes home to set Rowan straight, gets called to a bridge jumper right near their house, and does not succeed in getting the jumper to rethink things. Father struggles massively, gets put on leave, depression takes over. Mother tries to do what she thinks is best, daughter tries to figure out how to deal with her majorly struggling father. Rowan meets amazing young man who comes with his own significant story. Father hits crisis point, Rowan can't figure out how to help him, mother can't figure out how to help him, he gets worse and Father, Boyfriend, Rowan all have their lives intertwine is remarkable ways.

This book lives on the edge. I loved that. It was difficult to read at times, but if I can't cry while reading a book, where can I cry? Fascinating. Great read. Check it out. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Boy on the Edge by Fridrik Erlings

This could be a hard review for me to write. Have you ever read a story that left you wordless as you read? That is what happened to me while reading Boy on the Edge.

Erlings, an Icelandic author, sets this story out on the edge of alot of things. For one, the physical setting is a home with some property outside of town next to a giant cliff leading down to the Icelandic- frigid coastal waters. Two, he frames the parental figures on their own edge: the mother figure is soft and motherly, warm and compassionate, and utterly unseen and cruely dismissed by the father figure, a fiercely frightening and frightened priest who seeks to command and demand others do his bidding and every single action he spouts off about or utters. Third, the boys who come to stay at this foster home are on their own sort of edge, being removed from their own family-of-origins to stay with this "family" while they serve out a sentence and do their penance. Which takes us to Henry, the main character. Henry has difficulty putting into words his thoughts and feelings. He experienced some pretty judgmental crap early on and has resorted to not talking much to simply survive the trials that make up his life. He makes friends with a giant bull, one of the herd of bovines that he cares for. As a teen, he watches and listens, tossing around in his mind what friendship can mean, what unhealthy relationships do to a person inside, and what kindness can do to one's relationships. In time, Henry finds his own way to "speak" with kindness to humans, and in turn, creates his own home.

This was a powerful read for me. I truly found this quiet book both remarkably written and breathless as I read. A small disclosure: as I came into the final pages, I literally sucked in my breath, stunned at the turn of events. I had not even imagined.....see what you think when you read it. You might be on the edge like I was...