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Nikki Grimes’ Golden Shovel

6 Aug

Poet Terrance Hayes is credited with inventing Golden Shovel poetry. When you write a Golden shovel poem, you take a line (or lines) from a poem you admire, and, maintaining their order, use each word as an end word in your poem.

Poet Nikki Grimes has taken this strategy and written a beautiful homage to the Harlem Renaissance in One Last Word. 

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Publisher’s Summary: In this collection of poetry, Nikki Grimes looks afresh at the poets of the Harlem Renaissance — including voices like Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and many more writers of importance and resonance from this era — by combining their work with her own original poetry. Using “The Golden Shovel” poetic method, Grimes has written a collection of poetry that is as gorgeous as it is thought-provoking.

This special book also includes original artwork in full-color from some of today’s most exciting African-American illustrators, who have created pieces of art based on Nikki’s original poems. Featuring art by: Cozbi Cabrera, R. Gregory Christie, Pat Cummings, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Ebony Glenn, Nikki Grimes, E. B. Lewis, Frank Morrison, Christopher Myers, Brian Pinkney, Sean Qualls, James Ransome, Javaka Steptoe, Shadra Strickland, and Elizabeth Zunon.

A foreword, an introduction to the history of the Harlem Renaissance, author’s note, poet biographies, and index makes this not only a book to cherish, but a wonderful resource and reference as well.

Books of poetry rarely win Newbery medals, but this one is certainly in the running, although I wonder of the presence of the Harlem Renaissance poems disqualifies it. regardless, Grimes’ book bring artists and writers of the period to a new audience and addresses tough issues that persist.

More riveting than Rosie

8 Jun

I stayed up a little later than I should have last night. I just had to finish Silver Stars by Michael Grant, the second in his Front Lines  series.

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Goodreads Summary: The summer of 1943, World War II. The Germans have been bloodied, but Germany is very far from beaten. The North African campaign was only the beginning of the long journey for Frangie, Rainy, Rio, and the millions of other Allies.

Now the American army is moving on to their next target: the Italian island of Sicily. Frangie, Rainy, and Rio now know firsthand what each of them is willing to do to save herself—and the consequences. With their heavy memories of combat, they will find this operation to be even tougher.

Frangie, Rainy, and Rio also know what is at stake. The women are not heroes for fighting alongside their brothers—they are soldiers. But the millions of brave females fighting for their country have become a symbol in the fight for equality. In this war, endless blood has been spilled and millions of lives have been lost, but there could be so much more to gain.

The women won’t conquer Italy alone. But they will brave terrible conditions in an endless siege; they will fight to find themselves on the front lines of World War II; and they will come face-to-face with the brutality of war until they win or die.

I wrote about the first book, Front Linesback in May. I was riveted to the stories of these women, fighting in WW2.  Michael Grant manages to maintain the momentum of the story and my interest in the story of these three women. Sometimes the second book in a series can seem repetitive, or drag, but this one doesn’t. And, Grant’s characters are so well written, you can;t help but fall in love with them, warts and all.

Unfortunately, I have to wait until January 30, 2018 for book three, Purple Hearts, to find out how the war ends for Frangie, Rio and Rainy. Fortunately, Grant has written two digital novellas that accompany the series. Alas, my library doesn’t seem to have them…yet.

The Great Antonio

5 Jan

I haven’t written about picture books much, mostly because, as a middle school teacher now, they don’t really fall into my purview. Many titles come across my book feeds and a few have captured my interest, either because of the subject or because someone thinks they seem Caldecott worthy. The end of a year brings out many “best”  book lists and there are only 18 days until ALA’s Youth Media Awards.

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A picture book that can’t win the Caldecott (because the author/illustrator is Canadian) is Elise Gravel’s The Great Antonio.

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Publisher’s Summary: What made the Great Antonio so great? He weighed as much as a horse; he once wrestled a bear; he could devour twenty-five roast chickens at one sitting. In this whimsical book, beloved author and illustrator Elise Gravel tells the story of Antonio Barichievich, the larger-than-life strongman who had muscles as big as his heart.

The Great Antonio was a real person, who lived in Montreal. Gravel’s biography reads like a tall tale and celebrates Antonio’s quirkiness. The type style and illustrations bear witness to real feats he accomplished.

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The Great Antonio is published by Toon books, who specialize in beginning readers. Their website for the book offers a teacher’s guide that teaches young readers about biographies and autobiographies and shows students how to examine the boundaries between fact and fantasy and create an autobiographical world of their own!

A great addition to beginning biography unit.

Coping with Portland’s Snowmageddon

16 Dec

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Yes, Portland was brought to its knees by two inches of snow. I will save the recounting of my 7.5 hour trip home until Tuesday’s Slice of Life post. Suffice it to say, I am reveling in two extra days of Winter Break, knitting the Cooped Up sweater

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while listening to And I Darken  by Kiersten White.

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Publisher’s Summary: No one expects a princess to be brutal.

And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

This is a Dracula story my reading friends, with Vlad the Impaler reimagined as a young woman!  Lada is the ugly daughterr of Vlad Dracul. As characters and events appear in the boo, I have enjoyed looking at what really happened in history and White has done an excellent job taking the realities f history and using them to create this enthralling, dark tale.

Going Back in Time

20 Oct

The last book I reviewed, The Mark of the Plague, was set in the mid 17th century. As a lover of historical fiction, it was a delight to read a book set in a time period that rarely appears in kid lit. Today’s book, The Passion of Dolssa,  by Julie Berry is set even further back in time.

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Publisher’s Summary: Buried deep within the archives of a convent in medieval France is an untold story of love, loss, and wonder and the two girls at the heart of it all.

Homo neanderthalensis

16 Sep

Neanderthals were a species of humans that went extinct. They co-existed with homo sapiens, made  tools,  kindled fire, and probably had a language. It seems like dry stuff, but Jeffrey Brown has brought homo neanderthalensis to life in his graphic novel Lucy and Andy Neanderthal.

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Publisher’s Summary: For fans of the New York Times bestselling Jedi Academy books comes a hilarious new graphic novel series about two young cave kids living 40,000 years ago.

The laugh-out-loud adventure features Lucy and her goofball brother Andy, as the duo take on a wandering baby sibling, bossy teens, cave paintings, and a mammoth hunt. But what will happen when they encounter a group of humans?

Humorous and entertaining, Jeffrey Brown’s signature comical touch enlivens the scientific and historical content, including a special paleontologist section that helps to dispel common Neanderthal myths.

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The book was really quite captivating. Brown has clearly done his research. The humorous story has bits of factual information dropped into the narrative just when I was wondering about some of the details.

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Curious readers who like a little humor with their facts will find this an enjoyable read.

J’ai fait mon métier

24 Jul

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There is a line in Pilote de Guerre, one of my favorite Antoine de Saint-Exupéry novels, in which the pilot, in describing his mission, says, “J’ai fait mon métier.” It means, simply, “I did my job.” It is a statement of fact that sees no particular glory or heroism in doing what needs to be done.

And this sense of simply doing one’s job, a job which to the rest of us seems rather heroic, pervades Alan Furst’s A Hero of France.

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This is an adult novel that tells the story of Mathieu, a  French Resistance leader, over  five months in 1941. His Gallic acceptance of doing what must be done is marvelously contrasted to the delight in things that seem ordinary: the smell of potatoes fried in beef fat, the taste of black-market cheese, the feel of a cashmere sweater. This is my first Furst novel, but I think it won;t be my last!

Publisher’s Summary: Paris. 1941. The City of Light is dark and silent at night. But in Paris and in the farmhouses, barns, and churches of the French countryside, small groups of ordinary men and women are determined to take down the occupying forces of Adolf Hitler. Mathieu, a leader of the French Resistance, leads one such cell, helping downed British airmen escape back to England.

Alan Furst’s suspenseful, fast-paced thriller captures this dangerous time as no one ever has before. He brings Paris and occupied France to life, along with courageous citizens who outmaneuver collaborators, informers, blackmailers, and spies, risking everything to fulfill perilous clandestine missions. Aiding Mathieu as part of his covert network are Lisette, a seventeen-year-old student and courier; Max de Lyon, an arms dealer turned nightclub owner; Chantal, a woman of class and confidence; Daniel, a Jewish teacher fueled by revenge; Joëlle, who falls in love with Mathieu; and Annemarie, a willful aristocrat with deep roots in France, and a desire to act.

As the German military police heighten surveillance, Mathieu and his team face a new threat, dispatched by the Reich to destroy them all.

Shot through with the author’s trademark fine writing, breathtaking suspense, and intense scenes of seduction and passion, Alan Furst’s A Hero of France is at once one of the finest novels written about the French Resistance and the most gripping novel yet by the living master of the spy thriller.

 

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