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Lovely Louies

15 May

My Louie loved everyone.

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A cat once followed us home from the park. Fiona wanted to attack but Louie didn’t bat an eye. He was just that kind of guy. Needless to say, in the cat’s best interest, I did not invite it into the house.

Just like my Louie did, the eponymous Louie of Tony Fucile’s Poor Louie has a great life.

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Publisher’s Summary:Louie’s life is great! A walk on the leash every morning, ice cream on Sundays, snuggling in bed at night with Mom and Dad. Even the playdates with Mom’s friends — despite their little crawling creatures who pull Louie’s ears — aren’t all that bad. But then things get weird: cold food on the floor, no room in the bed, and lots of new stuff coming into the house in pairs — two small beds, two little sweaters, two seats in the stroller. Does that bode double trouble ahead, or could there be a happier surprise in store for Louie? With perfect visual pacing, Tony Fucile takes a familiar story and gives it a comic spin.

The expressive cartoon artwork takes and comic look at how childless people (like me) anthropomorphize their dogs , and at the the arrival of a new sibling.  This would be a great book to share with children about to be displaced by a new baby, or a childless couple who’s pet is about to be relegated to the floor, just like Poor Louie.

Fortunately, the ending provides an excellent solution to Poor Louie’s dilemma.

Realistic, with humor and empathy

27 Apr

Some characters just touch your heart. Bixby Alexander Tam, the main character in A Boy Called Bat, is one of those.

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Publisher’s Summary:From acclaimed author Elana K. Arnold and with illustrations by Charles Santoso, A Boy Called Bat is the first book in a funny, heartfelt, and irresistible young middle grade series starring an unforgettable young boy on the autism spectrum.

For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises—some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat’s mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter.

But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he’s got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet.

Bat is clearly somewhere on the autism spectrum. He has learned some important lessons and is trying to apply them to real life. He is not good with people, but he is great with animals and longs to be a vet like his mom.

Arnold lets us into the anxieties and worries Bat experiences gently and there are moments when I teared up. Some of the writing about eye contact is that touching. Even though the book is about Bat, I really got a sense of how Bat’s mom must be feeling. This is such a lovely book.

The b&w illustrations by Charles Santoso are fabulous. I was reading the book at school during silent reading and disturbed kids sitting near me to show them the illustrations of Thor, the skunk kit.

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They beautifully capture Bat’s isolation, love for Thor and relationship with his mom.

This book is written for readers younger than those in my class but I might just book talk this one, in case they have younger siblings who would enjoy this one. This is the first book in a series and I look forward to reader more about Bat.

AS goes MG

10 Feb

I have made no secret of the fact that I love A. S. King. I will read (and probably buy) anything she writes. Unfortunately, I cannot put her books in my 6th grade classroom library. Until now.

Yes, Amy Sarig King has written a novel for middle grade readers!!!!

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Like her books for older readers, there is a fantasy element. yes,let’s call it that. The eponymous Marvin Gardens is a plastic eating creature that resembles a cross between a dog and a pig…with amphibian-like skin.

I book talked it yesterday, reading aloud the part about Marvin’s first poop – sixth graders still love that sort of thing – and I had them hooked. I told them about Obe’s problems with his friends, with Marvin, and with his neighborhood; problems they can all relate to. I’m hoping this one won’t spend much time on my shelves.

Publisher’s Summary: Obe Devlin has problems. His family’s farmland has been taken over by developers. His best friend Tommy abandoned him for the development kids. And he keeps getting nosebleeds, because of that thing he doesn’t like to talk about. So Obe hangs out at the creek by his house, in the last wild patch left, picking up litter and looking for animal tracks.

One day, he sees a creature that looks kind of like a large dog, or maybe a small boar. And as he watches it, he realizes it eats plastic. Only plastic. Water bottles, shopping bags… No one has ever seen a creature like this before, because there’s never been a creature like this before. The animal — Marvin Gardens — soon becomes Obe’s best friend and biggest secret. But to keep him safe from the developers and Tommy and his friends, Obe must make a decision that might change everything.

In her most personal novel yet, Printz Honor Award winner Amy Sarig King tells the story of a friendship that could actually save the world.

In translation

9 Feb

After a tough day at school, I came home for some bibliotherapy, only to realize I’d taken the book I wanted to finish to school…and LEFT IT THERE. I will put it in my school bag as soon as I get to work, so I have it to finish at home tonight.

Instead, I read a stack of picture books I’d borrowed from the library. Two stood out because both have been translated from French.

The first was My Baby Crocodile by Gaëtan Dorémus. It is a quirky book.

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Publisher’s Summary: Told from two different perspectives, My Little Crocodile is about a chance meeting between a crocodile and what he believes to be a “baby crocodile.” This meeting profoundly changes their lives, which then continue along their own individual paths, though the bonds of love and intimacy remain. The story plays with ideas about the relationship between parent and child as well as with those about how deeply chance and the choices we make affect us throughout our lives.

The second book was also an animal story,  A Well-Mannered Young Wolf by Jean Leroy.

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Publisher’s Summary: A hilarious story about why manners matter

One morning, a young wolf eagerly sets out on his first hunting trip. But before he can devour his prey, he must honor their final wishes, just as his parents taught him to do. But the wolf’s would-be meals aren’t quite as honorable as he is! Can common courtesy prove effective amidst the wild laws of nature?

Perfect for fans of Jon Klassen, this wryly humorous book demonstrates that good manners can bring unexpected results.

They weren’t the bibliotherapy I was expecting, but they certainly took my mind off the day.

My never ending TBR pile

6 Feb

The TBR pile never seems to get any smaller. That’s not a complaint, just a fact. And a good problem to have.

Besides binge watching season 2 of Narcos  this unexpectedly long weekend,   I read two picture books from my pile. Bothe are  nominees for the Oregon Book Award’s  ELOISE JARVIS MCGRAW AWARD FOR CHILDREN’S LITERATURE.

First,was Hannah and Sugar by Kate Berube. This is a sweet story about a girl overcoming her fear of dogs. This can be a difficult thing to do. I once brought Clara to the kindergarten summer school for migrant kids I was working in because they were so scared of dogs.

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Publisher’s Summary: Every day after school, Hannah’s school bus is greeted by her classmate’s dog, Sugar. All of the other kids love Sugar, but Hannah just can’t conquer her fear of dogs. Then, one day, Sugar goes missing, so Hannah joins the search with her classmates. Will Hannah find a way to be brave, and make a new friend in the process?

Next, I read The Otter, the newest in The Lighthouse Family  series by Cynthia Rylant.

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Publisher’s Summary: Newbery Medalist Cynthia Rylant brings the peaceful sounds, sights, and characters of the coast vividly to life in the sixth book of the Lighthouse Family series, in which the family assists an otter in need.

On a lovely summer day, the lighthouse family hears the bell on the fog buoy ringing. It is an otter, whose sister is trapped in an old fishing net! With the help of some friendly dolphins and sawfish, the lighthouse family devises a plan to free the trapped otter—and makes two new friends along the way.

 

Every breath

19 Jan

I read several books during the snow week we just had, and have written in the past about my Grandmother’s experience in a tuberculosis sanatorium.  Two books I read during my unexpected vacation got me thinking about her again.

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The first, The Secret Horses of Briar Hill,  by Megan Shepherd, was not what i was expecting. I thought it was going to be a war story. It is set during the Second World War, and might even be considered an allegory for it. But the real story focuses on the experiences of a young girl in an isolated hospital (which I suspect was a tuberculosis sanatorium) in the English countryside.

Publisher’s Summary:There are winged horses that live in the mirrors of Briar Hill hospitalthe mirrors that reflect the elegant rooms once home to a princess, now filled with sick children. Only Emmaline can see the creatures. It is her secret.

One morning, Emmaline climbs over the wall of the hospital’s abandoned gardens and discovers something incredible: a white horse with a broken wing has left the mirror-world and entered her own.

The horse, named Foxfire, is hiding from a dark and sinister force—a Black Horse who hunts by colorless moonlight. If Emmaline is to keep him from finding her new friend, she must surround Foxfire with treasures of brilliant shades. But where can Emmaline find color in a world of gray?

The second made me weep. If you haven’t read When Breath Becomes Air  by Paul Kalanithi, you must. If you never read nonfiction, you must read this beautiful reflection by a man, a doctor, as he comes to the end of his life.

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Publisher’s Summary: At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

Another book about the Inquisition in France…imagine!

5 Dec

A few weeks ago, I wrote about The Passion of Dolssa, which was set in France in the 13th century. Narrated in multiple voices, it told the story of a girl pursued by the Inquisition in France.

And here I am again, writing about a very different book.  The Inquisitor’s Tale, Or, The Three  Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz.

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It is set in France in the 13th century. Narrated in multiple voices, it tells the story of a girl, two boys and a dog pursued by the Inquisition in France.

This book is for a middle grade audience and has some funny features, including a farting dragon. But it also treats serious themes.

Publisher’s Summary: 1242. On a dark night, travelers from across France cross paths at an inn and begin to tell stories of three children. Their adventures take them on a chase through France: they are taken captive by knights, sit alongside a king, and save the land from a farting dragon. On the run to escape prejudice and persecution and save precious and holy texts from being burned, their quest drives them forward to a final showdown at Mont Saint-Michel, where all will come to question if these children can perform the miracles of saints.

Join William, an oblate on a mission from his monastery; Jacob, a Jewish boy who has fled his burning village; and Jeanne, a peasant girl who hides her prophetic visions. They are accompanied by Jeanne’s loyal greyhound, Gwenforte . . . recently brought back from the dead. Told in multiple voices, in a style reminiscent of The Canterbury Tales, our narrator collects their stories and the saga of these three unlikely allies begins to come together.

Beloved bestselling author Adam Gidwitz makes his long-awaited return with his first new world since his hilarious and critically acclaimed Grimm series. Featuring manuscript illuminations throughout by illustrator Hatem Aly and filled with Adam’s trademark style and humor, The Inquisitor’s Tale is bold storytelling that’s richly researched and adventure-packed.

As with The Passion of Dolssa, I found that it took a few chapters to get into the book, but it was well worth the effort. The book includes a detailed historical note and bibliography.

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