Friday, October 30, 2015

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner

As I was searching for some books on political leaders, I found this amazing text by Bildner. Illustrated by John Parra with capturing artwork, I cannot put this one down. I keep returning to it, and so do my second graders.

The story of a sanitation worker who loved his job, Cornelius is one of those amazing humans who seems always happy and upbeat. Then Katrina hits and presents him with a job seemingly too large to combat. Based on a true story, Cornelius must have been one of those people who enrich your life. A lovely text that captures and holds....I often wish these were the people who we elect to office....or at least they are placed in jobs where that resilient characteristic shows up!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of A Broken Heart by Jane St. Anthony

Adults deal with grief differently than children. My father died a few years ago after a prolonged illness, and as an adult, I journeyed with him until his death and negotiated his loss in my own way. Last year I witnessed and supported a five-year-old student whose father passed away during the school year. When I learned of John's passing, I knew that our classroom would feel the ripples of grief with my student, each in our own way. For the rest of the school year, this father's passing was carried with all of us in that class, and each child knew it.

Isabelle Day, the main character in the book, is an eighth-grade student whose father had recently passed. She and her mother made a major move to try and settle some of the inevitable dust caused by such a tragic and devestating loss. For Isabelle, the move only seems to escalate the difficult time. But wonderfully, Isabelle, just like my student last year, refuses to be captured and swallowed by the losses. Rather she finds her way in realistic ways, and she finds some friends who are just as committed to creating their own meaning during their adolescent lives.

At first I worried that this book was too short, that the author might not be able to accomplish her goals in this 140-page novel. My worry was completely off-base; this is a rock-solid and complete novel, one that left me wanting to know what happens next to many of the characters even after the book had ended. St Anthony is a new author to me, and I will seek out her books in the future. Very interesting read for me. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon by Kate DiCamillo

Long a fave of mine, I will read just about anything by Kate DiCamillo. And I will read just about anything by said amazing author/ America's Children's Literature Laureate. So with my second graders, I just launched right in with Francine Poulet. They had no background schema, no knowledge of any of DiCamillo's work ( tragedy right there for SURE!). And we went into the story.

At times, it was a little slow for my guys but there is absolutely no question that they wanted to know what happened, that they wanted to see the pictures, that the y wanted to laugh and guffaw with Francine and the other seriously crafty characters in the book. And they wanted to know about the ghost raccoon. They savored the last little bit of the book, they kept demanding more, they knew we had something crazy on our hands. And they smiled at the end. All 23 of them. What a sweet moment.

You probably want to know why Francine Poulet, of fame and fortune around all things involving animal rescue, had a little loss in her life. Maybe if you are lucky, you have read the prior adventures involving Francine and the porcine wonder Mercy Watson. Maybe if you are really lucky, you have read all of the Mercy Watson series and know exactly where DiCamillo is going. All I can say is read them, all of her books that involve Mercy Watson and/or Francine will want to know the twins for sure. And more, so much more....butter!