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A big boy with a big heart

6 Sep

I’m not saying my school is perfect, but we don’t seem to have the quintessential bullying problem you often read about in books about middle school. We do have a lot of kids who look older or younger than they are and get treated in ways that aren’t appropriate to their age.

That is the problem Marcus Vega faces in Pablo Cartaya’s Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish.  Marcus is big for his age and people expect him to be a bully. But he is a kid with a big heart and finds a way to use this expectation to his advantage: he charges kids to protect them from the real bully. It works well, until it doesn’t.

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Brotherhood, friendship, and family

2 Jul

This week I read two books about young men navigating the difficult path of being young and black in America. They were both hard reads because of the subject matter, not the writing, and I wisely chose to read something a little lighter between these two books, which will inevitably be compared to last year’s very popular book, The Hate You Give.

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Pubisher’s Summary: When Marvin Johnson’s twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.
The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it’s up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.

 

 

What a week! Booktalks 2/19-23

23 Feb

Today is the only “normal” day this week.

No school Monday because of Washington’s birthday (aka President’s Day)

Tuesday, we arrived at school at our normal time but dismissed at noon. No book talk.

Wednesday was a snow day.

Thursday we had a 2-hour delay. The roads were clear, once I got off my street AND, I had time for a book talk. I shared Like Water on Stone a novel in verse by Dana Walrath.

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Publisher’s Summary:  It is 1914, and the Ottoman Empire is crumbling into violence.

Beyond Anatolia, in the Armenian Highlands, Shahen Donabedian dreams of going to New York. Sosi, his twin sister, never wants to leave her home, especially now that she is in love. At first, only Papa, who counts Turks and Kurds among his closest friends, stands in Shahen’s way. But when the Ottoman pashas set in motion their plans to eliminate all Armenians, neither twin has a choice.
After a horrifying attack leaves them orphaned, they flee into the mountains, carrying their little sister, Mariam. But the children are not alone. An eagle watches over them as they run at night and hide each day, making their way across mountain ridges and rivers red with blood.

Today, Friday,  I will book talk a new book to my classroom library, One Amazing Elephant by Linda Oatman High.

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Publisher’s Summary:  A poignant middle grade animal story from talented author Linda Oatman High that will appeal to fans of Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. In this heartwarming novel, a girl and an elephant face the same devastating loss—and slowly realize that they share the same powerful love.

Twelve-year-old Lily Pruitt loves her grandparents, but she doesn’t love the circus—and the circus is their life. She’s perfectly happy to stay with her father, away from her neglectful mother and her grandfather’s beloved elephant, Queenie Grace.

Then Grandpa Bill dies, and both Lily and Queenie Grace are devastated. When Lily travels to Florida for the funeral, she keeps her distance from the elephant. But the two are mourning the same man—and form a bond born of loss. And when Queenie Grace faces danger, Lily must come up with a plan to help save her friend.

 

 

Family drama

22 Feb

In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy posits that “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Much literary fiction is built around this principle.

In Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga, our protagonist, Taliah’s problem – the sudden appearance of the father she has never – isn’t unique to literature, but her curcumstances are certainly unique.

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Summary from the author’s website:Taliah Sahar Abdallat lives and breathes music. Songs have always helped Tal ease the pain of never having known her father. Her mother, born in Jordan and very secretive about her past, won’t say a word about who her dad really was. But when Tal finds a shoebox full of old letters from Julian Oliver – yes, the indie rock star Julian Oliver – she begins to piece the story together.

She writes to Julian, but after three years of radio silence, she’s given up hope. Then one day, completely out of the blue, Julian shows up at her doorstep, and Tal doesn’t know whether to be furious or to throw herself into his arms. Before she can decide, he asks her to go on a trip with him, to meet her long-estranged family, and to say goodbye to his father, her grandfather, who is dying.

Getting to know your father after sixteen years of estrangement doesn’t happen in one car ride. But as Tal spends more time with Julian and his family, she begins to untangle her parents’ secret past, and discovers a part of herself she never recognized before.

Songs have always helped Tal ease the pain of never having known her father. Her mother, born in Jordan and very secretive about her past, won’t say a word about who her dad really was. But when Tal finds a shoebox full of old letters from Julian Oliver – yes, the indie rock star Julian Oliver – she begins to piece the story together.

She writes to Julian, but after three years of radio silence, she’s given up hope. Then one day, completely out of the blue, Julian shows up at her doorstep, and Tal doesn’t know whether to be furious or to throw herself into his arms. Before she can decide, he asks her to go on a trip with him, to meet her long-estranged family, and to say goodbye to his father, her grandfather, who is dying.

Getting to know your father after sixteen years of estrangement doesn’t happen in one car ride. But as Tal spends more time with Julian and his family, she begins to untangle her parents’ secret past, and discovers a part of herself she never recognized before.

Taliah is an introvert and the book reflects her quiet exterior life, chock full of a rich interior life. Her awkardness around her new family is understandable. There is a small romance with a neighbor that I think wasn’t necessary, but it doesn’t take away from the essential story. This was a pretty good read – not an over the top book, just a really good read on a snowy day.

 

Morris finalist #3

8 Jan

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This weekend, I read my third Morris Award nominee – Dear Martin by Nic Stone. I can see why it was nominated and it pairs nicely with The Hate You Give, giving a different perspective on the same subject. Interestingly, both books, the main characters go to a predominantly white private school and have significant others of another race.

I felt that it took me a while to get into Dear Martin,  and it was a bit didactic in places, but, by the middle of the book, I was hooked.

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Publisher’s Summary: Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

 

 

A Winter Break Fave

4 Jan

I have to go back to work today. It is a good thing I love my job,

Fortunately, I will have the lingering memory of one of my favorite Winter Break reads to soothe my heart.

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The main character in Jared Reck’s debut, Matt, is just an all around nice guy. He has nice friends, and a nice family. He is nice to his little brother. He isn’t the star player on his basketball team, but he aspires to it, and we know he will be in a few years.

As in many YA novels, something bad happens and he tries to deal with it on his own. What sets this one apart is how his family rallies to help him. It is a lot quieter than other debut novels, but it is wonderful.  Just a lovely, lovely book!

Publisher’s Summary: Seriously, how can you see a person nearly every day of your life and never think a thing of it, then all of a sudden, one day, it’s different? You see that goofy grin a thousand times and just laugh. But goofy grin #1,001 nearly stops your heart? 
 
Right. That sounds like a bad movie already.
 
Matt Wainwright is constantly sabotaged by the overdramatic movie director in his head. He can’t tell his best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her, he implodes on the JV basketball team, and the only place he feels normal is in Mr. Ellis’s English class, discussing the greatest fart scenes in literature and writing poems about pissed-off candy-cane lumberjacks.

If this were a movie, everything would work out perfectly. Tabby would discover that Matt’s madly in love with her, be overcome with emotion, and would fall into his arms. Maybe in the rain.

But that’s not how it works. Matt watches Tabby get swept away by senior basketball star and all-around great guy Liam Branson. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough, but screwing up and losing her as a friend is even worse.

After a tragic accident, Matt finds himself left on the sidelines, on the verge of spiraling out of control and losing everything that matters to him. From debut author Jared Reck comes a fiercely funny and heart-wrenching novel about love, longing, and what happens when life as you know it changes in an instant.

 

Perfection

29 Nov

We often make things so black and white for girls. You are either a good girl or you are a bad girl.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L Sanchez, is narrated by Julia, the eponymous imperfect daughter. This is a really great read and was a National Book Awards finalist.I think every young woman who reads this will connect with Julia, who never measures up to her family’s expectations because they never really see her for who she is.

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Publisher’s Summary: Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

Jone Rush MacCulloch

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