Saturday, September 27, 2014

I Stink! by Kate and Jim McMullen

I never thought I would talk so much about garbage trucks. But my students loved this book and asked for me to read it over and over so I thought I would share.

I Stink! is a keeper. Loud, in your face, and straight-up honest about what a trash truck does. The alphabet list of all that a trash truck picks up (non exhaustive, of course!) is funny, the reality of when a trash truck is used helps young people connect with mornings, jobs, and more, and the sound effects are just fun to call out.

This is definitely one to seek out if you are searching for an engaging book all about stinky stuff.  I hear the McMullans have a new one out---I'm Brave!  These reads are just right for my young read-aloud crowd of kindergartners. Happy searching out the stinkiness of life here in the U.S.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

If You're Reading This by Trent Reedy

Reedy wrote a couple of other YA novels, both of which draw on his experience in the military.

Imagine what it might be like for your father to have been killed years ago in the Afghan war, and then one day, mail arrives from him? For you, with no return address? His handwriting, his stories, his voice: all captured within a letter written distinctly for and to you. In If You’re Reading This, author Reedy twists the reader’s perspective into a what-if mystery. When a letter arrives from his father, he doesn’t know what to think or do. The mystery grows as more letters arrive, and the wishes of his father grow more obvious. Since Mike’s father didn’t make it back from the war, he wrote the letters to ensure that when Mike turned 16, he would have the opportunity to hear what his father wished for him as he grows up.

And indeed Mike takes his father’s wisdom and advice, making decisions to join the football team and pursue dating a girl he really likes. But there is a circling tension that comes from Mike not telling anyone about the letters and his decisions sometimes need the support of a parent first. Mike gets himself into hot water pretty deep, pretty fast. But you gotta keep reading to see where it all lands. Find this book if you are hungry for a story about a football-loving, book-smart, curious young man who wants to be like his little-known father in all of the best ways. 

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)