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Reading on a jet plane

8 Aug

I’ve been waiting all summer, and tonight, I am finally leaving for  Montreal, by way of Ottawa. I’d originally planned to fly out tomorrow morning and booked a ticket to do so, but Fate and Air Canada decided to cancel my original flight and now I am flying all night.

Because I am impatient, I like to travel in the morning. Since Fate has determined that is not to be this time around, I will need to find ways to pass the time today. I will drop Lucy off a little earlier than I planned and come home to pack. Before that happens, though, I am going to reread my favorite DEAR CANADA book,  Alone in an Untamed Land: The Filles du Roi Diary of Hélène St. Onge by Maxine Trottier.

 

51dpNw2HvPL._SX353_BO1,204,203,200_Publisher’s Summary: Young Hélène St. Onge and her older sister Catherine are orphans. When King Louis XVI orders all men in New France to marry, Catherine becomes a “fille du roi,” one of the many young women sent to the new world as brides. Hélène will accompany her on the long sea voyage and live with her sister’s new family. But Catherine dies during the gruelling journey, and Hélène finds herself alone in a strange new country. New France is a far harsher place than she imagined, with bitter winters and threat of attack from the Iroquois. Will the few friendships she has made on her long voyage enable her to survive?

Because I am flying at night and hope to sleep (at least a little) I am only bringing one slim book in my carry on: The First Part Last by Angela Johnson.

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Publisher’s Summary: Bobby is your classic urban teenaged boy — impulsive, eager, restless. On his sixteenth birthday he gets some news from his girlfriend, Nia, that changes his life forever. She’s pregnant. Bobby’s going to be a father. Suddenly things like school and house parties and hanging with friends no longer seem important as they’re replaced by visits to Nia’s obstetrician and a social worker who says that the only way for Nia and Bobby to lead a normal life is to put their baby up for adoption.
With powerful language and keen insight, Johnson looks at the male side of teen pregnancy as she delves into one young man’s struggle to figure out what “the right thing” is and then to do it. No matter what the cost.

This book won the Printz Award in 2004. The title came up at my book club last week – our first meeting after the ALA Conference where the 2019 Printz Awards were handed out and speeches made.

One of my book club friends was on the 2019 Printz committee and several other book club members were in attendance when Elizabeth Acevedo gave her speech. She referenced The First Part Last and her personal connection to the book. If I recall correctly, Angela Johnson visited Elizabeth Acevedo’s sixth grade class. They – and Elizabeth in particular – gave some suggestions to Angela Johnson, which she accepted and acknowledged in the book. It gave me goose bumps to see this.

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I am also packing an adult book, The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez.

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Publisher’s Summary:  In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict zoo once owned by legendary Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The article transports Antonio back to when the war between Escobar’s Medellín cartel and government forces played out violently in Colombia’s streets and in the skies above. Back then, Antonio witnessed a friend’s murder, an event that haunts him still. As he investigates, he discovers the many ways in which his own life and his friend’s family have been shaped by his country’s recent violent past. His journey leads him all the way back to the 1960s and a world on the brink of change: a time before narco-trafficking trapped a whole generation in a living nightmare.

I am also travelling with a list of Canadian books I’d like to get, but more on that if I actually get them.

Reading poetry with Lucy

1 Aug

At some point every day, Lucy and I take a walk and she lays down on the sidewalk to bask in the sun.

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It can get a little annoying, but I have learned to anticipate her need for warmth. Armed with treats, I lure her to my front stoop, pull out a lawn chair and read while Lucy takes her sun bath. I choose my books carefully because, although she loves the warmth, Lucy can only take so much heat. Her sunbath last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, so I like a book I can pick up and put down. Lately, it has been poetry. Each poem is like a short story and I can read one or several, waiting for Lucy to get her fill of the sun.

This week, I’ve been reading Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience. I am already thinking about how I can use it in my classroom. It is that excellent!

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Publisher’s Summary: With authenticity, integrity, and insight, this collection of poems addresses the many issues confronting first- and second- generation young adult immigrants and refugees, such as cultural and language differences, homesickness, social exclusion, human rights, racism, stereotyping, and questions of identity. Poems by Elizabeth Acevedo, Erika L. Sánchez, Samira Ahmed, Chen Chen, Ocean Vuong, Fatimah Asghar, Carlos Andrés Gómez, Bao Phi, Kaveh Akbar, Hala Alyan, and Ada Limón, among others, encourage readers to honor their roots as well as explore new paths, offering empathy and hope for those who are struggling to overcome discrimination. Many of the struggles immigrant and refugee teens face head-on are also experienced by young people everywhere as they contend with isolation, self-doubt, confusion, and emotional dislocation.

Ink Knows No Borders is the first book of its kind and features 64 poems and a foreword by poet Javier Zamora, who crossed the border, unaccompanied, at the age of nine, and an afterword by Emtithal Mahmoud, World Poetry Slam Champion and Honorary Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Brief biographies of the poets are included, as well. It’s a hopeful, beautiful, and meaningful book for any reader.

Art Saves Lives

29 Jul

I’ve been a little absent from this blog. It is not a sign that I haven’t been reading – just a sign that I am knitting like a madwoman and relaxing. I have read a number of really great things, but haven’t had the discipline to sit down and write about them. Such is the life of a teacher in summer.

A recent YA read I really enjoyed was Sorry For Your Loss  by Jessie Ann Foley. Recently, I was talking with a friend about the different ways people process grief, sharing how each of my siblings behaved differently following the death of my mother. Sorry For Your Loss tells the story of how a large Irish-American family deals with an unexpected death. As the youngest (by 4 minutes) in a family of five, I loved how Foley depicts the way birth order impacts your role in a family.

36137535Publisher’s Summary: As the youngest of eight, painfully average Pup Flanagan is used to flying under the radar. He’s barely passing his classes. He lets his longtime crush walk all over him. And he’s in no hurry to decide on a college path.

The only person who ever made him think he could be more was his older brother Patrick. But that was before Patrick died suddenly, leaving Pup with a family who won’t talk about it and acquaintances who just keep saying, “sorry for your loss.”

When Pup excels at a photography assignment he thought he’d bomb, things start to come into focus. His dream girl shows her true colors. An unexpected friend exposes Pup to a whole new world, right under his nose.

And the photograph that was supposed to show Pup a way out of his grief ultimately reveals someone else who is still stuck in their own. Someone with a secret regret Pup never could have imagined.

 

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.

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