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Resilient Nora

29 Nov

Sometimes it takes a while to get to know – and like – a character. I liked Nora right away. She is the eponymous protagonist of Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz.

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Publisher’s Summary: After a family tragedy results in the loss of both father and home, 12-year-old Nora lives with her mother in Manila’s North Cemetery, which is the largest shantytown of its kind in the Philippines today.

When her mother disappears mysteriously one day, Nora is left alone.

With help from her best friend Jojo and the support of his kindhearted grandmother, Nora embarks on a journey riddled with danger in order to find her mom. Along the way she also rediscovers the compassion of the human spirit, the resilience of her community, and everlasting hope in the most unexpected places.

This engaging novel will give readers a glimpse into what life is like for impoverished children and how resilient they are. Before reading the book, I hadn’t heard about the people who live in Manilla’s cemeteries. This book opened a whole new understanding of poverty I hadn’t had before. Even though the story has a happy ending, it is a realistic ending. I won’t spoil it and tell you exactly what happens. I will tell you that, at the end, Nora is happy and still living in the cemetery.

Another great book to give as a holiday gift for a young reader in your life.

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Conference week booktalks 10/8-12

12 Oct

Because of conferences, I only had Kids three days this week.

Monday

Running on the Roof of the World  by Jess Butterworth

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Tuesday

Those Who Run in the Sky by Akiaq Johnston

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Wednesday

Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen

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It’s as easy as Pi

8 Oct

I am always hypercritical of books set in school. My biggest pet peeve is referring to a Principal as Principal So-and-so. No one does that in real life. Authors take note: you always call the principal Mr/Mrs./Ms. So-and-so.

I also critique what teachers do in class and think,  A real teacher would never do that.  I often have to suspend my disbelief for the sake of the story.

There is only really one small moment  where I had to suspend my disbelief in The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, and it was a small moment with an English teacher. It doesn’t take away from all the good things about the book, which does a great job telling the story of a Math genius in middle school.

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Publisher’s Summary: Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn’t remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she’s technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test–middle school!

Lucy’s grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that’s not a math textbook!). Lucy’s not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy’s life has already been solved. Unless there’s been a miscalculation?

A celebration of friendship, Stacy McAnulty’s smart and thoughtful middle-grade debut reminds us all to get out of our comfort zones and embrace what makes us different.

Tibet or not Tibet

26 Sep

In an interesting twist of reading life coincidences, I started two books set in Tibet this week. It was an unplanned coincidence.

At school, I am reading Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth. In the car, I am listening to Lands of  Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road by Kate Harris. The former is set  almost exclusively in Tibet. The latter opens in Tibet and returns to it near the end after traveling the Silk Road. At least I believe that to be true. I haven’t finished either yet.

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Publisher’s Summary: Join 12-year-old Tash and her best friend Sam in a story of adventure, survival and hope, set in the vivid Himalayan landscape of Tibet and India. Filled with friendship, love and courage, this young girl’s thrilling journey to save her parents is an ideal read for children aged 9-12.

There are two words that are banned in Tibet. Two words that can get you locked in prison without a second thought. I watch the soldiers tramping away and call the words after them. ‘Dalai Lama.’

Tash has to follow many rules to survive in Tibet, a country occupied by Chinese soldiers. But when a man sets himself on fire in protest and soldiers seize Tash’s parents, she and her best friend Sam must break the rules. They are determined to escape Tibet – and seek the help of the Dalai Lama himself in India.

And so, with a backpack of Tash’s father’s mysterious papers and two trusty yaks by their side, their extraordinary journey across the mountains begins.

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Publisher’s Summary: As a teenager, Kate Harris realized that the career she craved—to be an explorer, equal parts swashbuckler and metaphysician—had gone extinct. From what she could tell of the world from small-town Ontario, the likes of Marco Polo and Magellan had mapped the whole earth; there was nothing left to be discovered. Looking beyond this planet, she decided to become a scientist and go to Mars.

In between studying at Oxford and MIT, Harris set off by bicycle down the fabled Silk Road with her childhood friend Mel. Pedaling mile upon mile in some of the remotest places on earth, she realized that an explorer, in any day and age, is the kind of person who refuses to live between the lines. Forget charting maps, naming peaks: what she yearned for was the feeling of soaring completely out of bounds. The farther she traveled, the closer she came to a world as wild as she felt within.

Lands of Lost Borders is the chronicle of Harris’s odyssey and an exploration of the importance of breaking the boundaries we set ourselves; an examination of the stories borders tell, and the restrictions they place on nature and humanity; and a meditation on the existential need to explore—the essential longing to discover what in the universe we are doing here.

Like Rebecca Solnit and Pico Iyer, Kate Harris offers a travel account at once exuberant and reflective, wry and rapturous. Lands of Lost Borders explores the nature of limits and the wildness of the self that can never fully be mapped. Weaving adventure and philosophy with the history of science and exploration, Lands of Lost Borders celebrates our connection as humans to the natural world, and ultimately to each other—a belonging that transcends any fences or stories that may divide us.

Life on the move

24 Sep

 

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Kids shouldn’t have to wish for a toilet, but Felix does. That’s because he and his mom are living in their Westfalia van. They’d had a house, but  due to a series of unfortunate events, they became homeless.

Nielsen does a great job illustrating what it is like to be homeless – how to tay clean, eat, cover-up that you aren’t – in a way that let’s the reader understand how exhausting it can be. I loved Felix’s voice. He felt like an authentic 7th grader and I pictured him in the halls of my middle school, trying to keep everything together. When you pick up the book, keep an eye on Mr. & Mrs. Ahmadi. They are the real heroes of this story.

 

 

A Canadian Gem

19 Sep

One of the Canadian books I picked up this summer was Ebb & Flow, a novel in verse by Heather Smith.

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As soon as I saw the cover, I knew I would love it. When I picked it up I was even more certain. The book had heft. The paper was a better quality than most books giving it a little more weight, and the trim size, 5 1/4″ x 8 3/4″, makes it just a little taller and narrower than the more traditional 5 1/2″ x 8 1/4″.  It is the perfect size for the sparse language of Smith’s poems, that slowly unfold Jett’s story.

This is a quiet tale, of a complex character. It is heart-breaking and uplifting.

Publisher’s Summary:

One summer,
after a long plane ride
and a rotten bad year
I went to Grandma Jo’s.
It was my mother’s idea.
Jett, what you need is a change of scenery.
I think she needed a change of scenery, too.
One without me.
Because that rotten bad year?
That was my fault.

Thus begins the poignant story, told in free verse, of eleven-year-old Jett. Last year, Jett and his mother had moved to a new town for a fresh start after his father went to jail. But Jett soon learned that fresh starts aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. When he befriended a boy with a difficult home life, Jett found himself in a cycle of bad decisions that culminated in the betrayal of a friend – a shameful secret he still hasn’t forgiven himself for. Will a summer spent with his unconventional grandmother help Jett find his way to redemption?

Writing in artfully crafted free-verse vignettes, Heather T. Smith uses a deceptively simple style to tell a powerful and emotionally charged story. The engaging narrative and the mystery of Jett’s secret keep the pages turning and will appeal to both reluctant and avid readers. This captivating book offers a terrific opportunity for classroom discussions about the many ways to tell a story and how a small number of carefully chosen words can have a huge impact. It also showcases the positive character traits of empathy resilience, courage, and responsibility.

 

This week’s book talks 9/10-14

14 Sep

Monday

The Last Boy At St. Edith’s  by Lee Gjertsen Malone

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Tuesday

Train I Ride by Paul Mosier

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Wednesday

The True Meaning of  Smekday by Adam Rex

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Thursday

Zombie Baseball Beatdown  by Paolo Bacigalupi

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Friday

The Whydah by Martin W. Sandler

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