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Home going

11 Jul

I have a trip planned for August. Until then, I am enjoying being an armchair traveler- visiting various times and places through literature. Recently, two books stuck me because, in both, the main character travels back to a country in which they’d been born in an effort to make sense of the world.

In Forward Me Back to You  by Mitali Perkins, tells the story of two characters, one who is recovering from an attack and another who was adopted and an infant and is struggling with what to do after high school.

 

Publisher’s Summary: Katina King is the reigning teen jujitsu champion of Northern California, but she’s having trouble fighting off the secrets in her past.

Robin Thornton was adopted from an orphanage in India and is reluctant to take on his future. If he can’t find his roots, how can he possibly plan ahead?

downloadRobin and Kat meet in the most unlikely of places—a summer service trip to Kolkata to work with survivors of human trafficking. As bonds build between the travelmates, Robin and Kat discover that justice and healing are tangled, like the pain of their pasts and the hope for their futures. You can’t rewind life; sometimes you just have to push play.

In turns heart wrenching, beautiful, and buoyant, Mitali Perkins’s Forward Me Back to You focuses its lens on the ripple effects of violence—across borders and generations—and how small acts of heroism can break the cycle.

 

I received an ARC of Randy Ribay’s Patron Saints of Nothing at ALAMW in Seattle and only just got around to reading it.

 

Homecomings and goings

26 Jun

Yesterday, as I waited for news about my job for next year, I read Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga.

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From the Author’s Website:

Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind her, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her home town start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the U.S. –and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

This lyrical, life-affirming story is about losing and finding home, and most importantly, finding yourself.

Quite frankly, it was the perfect thing to read as I found out that friends were being moved to other schools, while I got to stay with my team in a job I loved. Like Jude, my emotions were conflicted. I was relieved for myself, disheartened for friends. A school staff is like an extended family. You see some a lot, others rarely. You like some members more than others. And when you have to move on, you have to create a new home with strangers or very distant relatives.

Other Words For Home has a happy-ish ending. Jude realizes she can be at home in two places, but her family, though safe, is still separated. Middle grade readers get a great snapshot into the life of a recent immigrant and the realities of being a Muslim in America. The novel is written in free verse making it a quick read that gets to the heart of the matter.

In her afterward, Warg write that she wanted to show that children fleeing a war zone “want the same things all of us do—love, understanding, safety, a chance at happiness.” I think she succeeded.

My summer Solstice Book

21 Jun

The Summer Solstice occurred at 8:54 a.m. this morning here in Portland. Although my summer reading started a few days ago, today, I started a perfect summer read: Hot Dog Girl  by Jennifer Dugan.

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Publisher’s Summary: Elouise (Lou) Parker is determined to have the absolute best, most impossibly epic summer of her life. There are just a few things standing in her way:
  *  She’s landed a job at Magic Castle Playland . . . as a giant dancing hot dog.
*  Her crush, the dreamy Diving Pirate Nick, already has a girlfriend, who is literally the Princess of the park. But Lou’s never liked anyone, guy or otherwise, this much before, and now she wants a chance at her own happily ever after.
*  Her best friend, Seeley, the carousel operator, who’s always been up for anything, suddenly isn’t when it comes to Lou’s quest to set her up with the perfect girl or Lou’s scheme to get close to Nick.
*  And it turns out that this will be their last summer at Magic Castle Playland–ever–unless she can find a way to stop it from closing.

Jennifer Dugan’s sparkling debut coming-of-age queer romance stars a princess, a pirate, a hot dog, and a carousel operator who find love–and themselves–in unexpected people and unforgettable places.

Well, I am not very far into it, but I am looking forward to reading something a little bit funny.

With the Prose on High

17 Jun

Today is the teacher’s last day. It’s all over except for the packing – and there will be a lot of that today. I might write more about that another time. Over the weekend, I read or finished the books we will be discussing at book club tonight. One of those was With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo.

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Publisher’s Summary: Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.

Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.

Like most people, I loved The Poet X.  When I first learned this book was all prose, I was a little concerned. Before my library hold came through, I heard Elizabeth Acevedo interviewed on NPR and she said that she chose prose for this book because Emoni wasn’t a poet like Xiomara. This might be a novel in prose, but there are places where that prose is pure poetry.

This week’s book talks 6/10-14

14 Jun

I am so excited that today is the last day of the school, that I got up early and wound up some yarn so I can do celebratory cast on of my first socks of summer tonight.

This week, I talked about books I’ve taken out from the public library and plan to read this summer.

Monday

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Rising Water: The Story of the Thai Cave Rescue by Marc Aronson

Tuesday

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The Line Tender by Kate Allen

Wednesday

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Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn

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Finding Orion  by John David Anderson

20 May

Books set in summer seem to be finding their way to me. Thoughts about summer are certainly making their way to me, and my students. I was grateful for the return to rain after three weeks of summery weather – it helps keep students focused.

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The main character of Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s  Shouting At the Rain also appreciates a good storm.

Publisher’s Summary: Delsie loves tracking the weather–lately, though, it seems the squalls are in her own life. She’s always lived with her kindhearted Grammy, but now she’s looking at their life with new eyes and wishing she could have a “regular family.” Delsie observes other changes in the air, too–the most painful being a friend who’s outgrown her. Luckily, she has neighbors with strong shoulders to support her, and Ronan, a new friend who is caring and courageous but also troubled by the losses he’s endured. As Ronan and Delsie traipse around Cape Cod on their adventures, they both learn what it means to be angry versus sad, broken versus whole, and abandoned versus loved. And that, together, they can weather any storm.

As a teacher of 6th graders, I see this sort of relationship struggle frequently. Kids come into 6th middle school with friends from their neighborhood and elementary school. Middle school is a bigger pond. Some friendships endure. Some are abandoned. Some take a new shape. Watching my students negotiate this can be tough. Right now I am watching a good kid fall under the spell of someone with, shall we say, less of a work ethic. I have a feeling he will be all right, but I am am watching him and will intervene if I think I need to.

 

OBOB – bob – bobbing along

16 Aug

One of my annual summer goals is to read the OBOB books for the upcoming season. I like to have a general understanding of each book so I can be a better coach.

Here is the 2018-19 list. I have read the titles in bold.

6th to 8th Grade Division

  • Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick
  • Avenging the Owl by Melissa Hart
  • The Body in the Woods by April Henry
  • Cryptid Hunters by Roland Smith
  • Doll Bones by Holly Black
  • The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi
  • Ghost by Jason Reynolds
  • I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin Ganda
  • The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham
  • My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin
  • Restart by Gordon Korman
  • Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney
  • Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
  • The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
  • The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
  • Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

It’s been a weird sort of summer – and short – so I have only reached 50%. Fortunately, I don’t start talking to kids about it until October and the battles don’t begin until January, so I still have ample time to read the other 50%.

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