Escaping reality

23 Jul

Summer is a time when I escape into the things I love.

Escaping isn’t only for the happy. It is also a refuge for those who don’t want to face difficulties, as john Boyne shows us in Noah Barleywater Runs Away.

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Goodreads Summary: In Noah Barleywater Runs Away, bestselling author John Boyne explores the world of childhood and the adventures that we can all have there. Noah is running away from his problems, or at least that’s what he thinks, the day he takes the untrodden path through the forest. When he comes across a very unusual toyshop and meets the even more unusual toymaker he’s not sure what to expect. But the toymaker has a story to tell, a story full of adventure, and wonder and broken promises. And Noah travels with him on a journey that will change his life for ever.

A thought-provoking fable for our modern world from the author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

This was John Boyne’s second novel. It followed his hugely successful The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Although a very different sort of book, more magical realism than fairy tale, it also carries a sadness. Noah’s mother is ill. The toymaker has regrets. But Noah’s story has a happier ending than The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. 

The Course of True Friendship

21 Jul

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I was excited when my hold on Real Friends came in. I was ecstatic when I saw there was a character named Adrienne, then, disappointed to find out she was the antagonist. Sigh. But that is probably the worst thing I can say about Shannon Hale’s graphic novel, excellently illustrated by LeUyen Pham.

Publisher’s Summary: 

Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little. But one day, Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of a circle of friends called The Group. Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen’s #1, and some girls would do anything to stay on top . . . even if it means bullying others.

Now every day is like a roller coaster for Shannon. Will she and Adrienne stay friends? Can she stand up for herself? And is she in The Group—or out?

Drawing on events from her own youth, Hale tells a tale most kids can relate to. In her afterward, she admits that she is telling only her side of the story. She also tells readers to be patient if they haven’t found their “group” yet.

In addition to tackling friendship issues, Real Friends gives readers a glimpse into life in a Mormon family, something we don’t often see in kidlit.

This is a book that is getting some Newbery buzz, and I highly recommend it.

 

The Further Adventures of Arabella Ashby

19 Jul

Last night, David D. Levine spoke at Powells and introduced the second novel in his Arabella of Mars series to a very enthusiastic crowd.

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Publisher’s Summary: The thrilling adventures of Arabella Ashby continue in Arabella and the Battle of Venus, the second book in Hugo-winning author David D. Levine’s swashbuckling sci-fi, alternate history series!

Arabella’s wedding plans to marry Captain Singh of the Honorable Mars Trading Company are interrupted when her fiancé is captured by the French and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp on swampy Venus. Now, Arabella must find passage to an enemy-controlled planet in the middle of a war, bribe or fight her way past vicious guards, and rescue her Captain.

To do this she must enlist the help of the dashing privateer, Daniel Fox of the Touchstone and build her own clockwork navigational automaton in order to get to Venus before the dread French general, Joseph Fouché, the Executioner of Lyon.

Once on Venus, Arabella, Singh, and Fox soon discover that Napoleon has designed a secret weapon, one that could subjugate the entire galaxy if they can’t discover a way to stop Fouché, and the entire French army, from completing their emperor’s mandate.

It was a very entertaining evening that opened with Mr. Levine announcing that two books makes a series and every series needs a theme song – and he played a theme song for Arabella! This got the crowd excited for the read aloud from the book that came next and the short talk that followed. Next came a Q&A where Levine explained how he worked around the laws of physics, and where and how he changed human history. Finally, we were treated to a read aloud from the third and final Arabella book. We all promised to keep silent about it, so I can’t tell you anything other than I look forward to this third book.

 

2017 Oregon Basset Hound Games

18 Jul

When the police car pulled up, I took my attention away from what I was doing at the raffle table. I watched the officer as he stepped out of the car and moseyed over to the ring where all the action was happening. He was a very tall man and one of his strides was probably two of mine.

What have we done?  I wondered.  Did someone call in a noise complaint?

I continued watching him as he stood at the edge of the ring. From my angle at the raffle table, I couldn’t see his face, and I could stand the mystery no longer.

“I’m going to take some photos, ” I told the two people at the registration table. “Can you take over raffle ticket sales for a few minutes?” I said, not really asking.

Camera in hand, I wandered over to the ring where the Limbo was going on, and stood right next to the police officer. He reached into his breast pocket, (Will he write us a citation?) pulled out his phone and, like me, started taking pictures.

“Are you a basset hound lover?” I asked.

“Nah, just a dog lover in general,” he replied.

“Great!” I said. “Enjoy the day. It is good for some laughs.” I moved into the ring to take more photos.

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The families we make

17 Jul

I’ve been thinking about starting  Mock Newbery Club at my school next year. Rather than being a year-long club, it would begin in October and the students in the club would initially read off a list I suggest, but they would be free to add titles too.

One of the titles that will appear on that list is Beyond the Bright Sea  by Lauren Wolk, who wrote last year’s Newbery Honor book,  Wolf Hollow

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Publisher’s Summary

Each new bit of information Crow learns about her origins only raises more questions. But Crow is determined as she peels away the layers of mystery to get to the heart of the matter: love makes a family.

Happy Bastille Day!

14 Jul

On July 14, 1789 a Parisienne mob stormed the Bastille, a notorious Parisienne prison. Considered a monumental moment in the French revolution, Bastille day (or La Fête Nationale) first became a holiday on 14 July 1790.

Since I won’t be in France this Bastille Day, I can, at least, read about it. And the perfect summer read for an armchair traveller  is I See London, I See France by Sarah Mlynowski.

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Publisher’s Summary:  I see London, I see France…I see Sydney’s underpants.

Nineteen-year-old Sydney has the perfect summer mapped out. She’s spending the next four and a half weeks travelling through Europe with her childhood best friend Leela. Their plans include Eiffel Tower selfies, eating cocco gelato, and making out with très hot strangers.

Her plans do not include Leela’s cheating ex-boyfriend showing up on the flight to London, falling for the cheating ex-boyfriend’s très hot friend, monitoring her mother’s spiraling mental health via texts, or feeling like the rope in a friendship tug of war.

In this hilarious and unforgettable adventure, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Mlynowski tells the story of a girl learning to navigate secret romances, thorny relationships, and the London Tube. As Sydney zigzags through Amsterdam, Switzerland, Italy, and France, she must learn when to hold on, when to keep moving, and when to jump into the Riviera…wearing only her polka dot underpants.

Vive la lecture d’été!

 

Other people’s lives

13 Jul

When I was in high school, mom volunteered at a shelter for women fleeing domestic abuse. She was shocked that it happened in “good families”.  She is still shocked by stories that she hears in the news about dysfunctional families.  As a teacher, I’ve seen, or heard, a lot of family stories. There is very little that shocks me anymore, but my heart breaks with every sad story I hear.

Gem and Dixie by Sara Zarr is the sort of story teachers know. Gem is the sort of kid a teacher encounters and miss because she tries to maintain a facade of normalcy. She doesn’t ask for help, even though she should. He dad has left and her mother

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Publisher’s Summary: Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table, and definitely not their father, whose intermittent presence is the only thing worse than his frequent absence. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other.

When their dad returns home for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie—on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she’s tried so hard to keep.

This is not a happy book, though it ends with hope. It certainly captures the instability of too many kids’ lives. It also reminds me of a few other books for adults.

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Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill

Goodreads Summary: At thirteen, Baby vacillates between childhood comforts and adult temptation: still young enough to drag her dolls around in a vinyl suitcase yet old enough to know more than she should about urban cruelties. Motherless, she lives with her father, Jules, who takes better care of his heroin habit than he does of his daughter. Baby’s gift is a genius for spinning stories and for cherishing the small crumbs of happiness that fall into her lap. But her blossoming beauty has captured the attention of a charismatic and dangerous local pimp who runs an army of sad, slavishly devoted girls—a volatile situation even the normally oblivious Jules cannot ignore. And when an escape disguised as betrayal threatens to crush Baby’s spirit, she will ultimately realize that the power of salvation rests in her hands alone.

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Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard by Liz Murray

Goodreads Summary: Liz Murray was born to loving but drug-addicted parents in the Bronx. In school she was taunted for her dirty clothing and lice-infested hair, eventually skipping so many classes that she was put into a girls’ home. At age fifteen, when her family finally unraveled, Murray found herself on the streets. She learned to scrape by, foraging for food and riding subways all night to have a warm place to sleep.

Eventually, Murray decided to take control of her own destiny and go back to high school, often completing her assignments in the hallways and subway stations where she slept. She squeezed four years of high school into two, while homeless; won a New York Times scholarship; and made it into the Ivy League. Breaking Night is an unforgettable and beautifully written story of one young woman’s indomitable spirit to survive and prevail, against all odds.

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