Tag Archives: families

Every Single Second

15 Aug

A few days ago, I was talking with a friend about Michael Phelps’ Olympic awesomeness. She started talking about what a great role model he was. He had messed up, owned his  problems, accepted the consequences, worked to fix his problems and rebuilt his career. What  a fabulous lesson for kids. Few of them will be a Michael Phelps, but even ordinary people need to learn this important lesson.

The characters in Tricia Springstubb’s Every Single Second are very ordinary. Things happen. Decisions are made, or not made, every single second. And some of them have long-lasting consequences. But, at the heart of this story is the lesson that Michael Phelps has demonstrated: you can work hard, accept you faults, accept the consequences and just maybe, you can start rebuilding what you once had.  Not every problem in the book is solved. We are, however,  left with the  knowledge that choosing kindness and forgiveness rather than hate and retaliation, is the better path by far. A thoughtful book for upper elementary & middle school readers.

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Goodreads Summary: A single second. That’s all it takes to turn a world upside down.

Twelve-year-old Nella Sabatini’s life is changing too soon, too fast. Her best friend, Clem, doesn’t seem concerned; she’s busy figuring out the best way to spend the “leap second”—an extra second about to be added to the world’s official clock. The only person who might understand how Nella feels is Angela, but the two of them have gone from being “secret sisters” to not talking at all.

Then Angela’s idolized big brother makes a terrible, fatal mistake, one that tears apart their tight-knit community and plunges his family into a whirlwind of harsh publicity and judgment. In the midst of this controversy, Nella is faced with a series of startling revelations about her parents, friends, and neighborhood. As Angela’s situation becomes dangerous, Nella must choose whether to stand by or stand up. Her heart tries to tell her what to do, but can you always trust your heart? The clock ticks down, and in that extra second, past and present merge—the future will be up to her.

Tricia Springstubb’s extraordinary novel is about the shifting bonds of friendship and the unconditional love of family, the impact of class and racial divides on a neighborhood and a city, and a girl awakening to awareness of a world bigger and more complex than she’d ever imagined.

No one ever said life was fair

12 Aug

“No one ever said life was fair,” was my mother’s standard response when I commented on the fairness, or more likely, unfairness, of something. In Elana K. Arnold’s Far From Fair, 

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12-year-old Odette Zyskoski feels that her parents are making a lot of unfair decisions. She has to sell most of her possessions in a garage sale because her parents have sold their house and bought an RV. She has to give up her cell phone and the family will share one. Things are not looking very hopeful.

Publisher’s Summary: Odette has a list: Things That Aren’t Fair. At the top of the list is her parents’ decision to take the family on the road in an ugly RV they’ve nicknamed the Coach. There’s nothing fair about leaving California and living in the Coach with her par­ents and exasperating brother. And there’s definitely nothing fair about Grandma Sissy’s failing health, and the painful realities and difficult decisions that come with it. Most days it seems as if everything in Odette’s life is far from fair but does it have to be?

With warmth and sensitivity Elana Arnold makes difficult topics such as terminal illness and the right to die accessible to young readers and apt for discussion.

Odette starts off as a grumpy middle-schooler. Over the course of the book we see her become less self-centered and more mature. In spite of all the bad things happening in Odette’s life, the book is hopeful and ends in a good, realistic way.  Like many people, Odette can objectively see that her  negative attitude is a problem. We see her struggle and learn to manage her feelings. When her  mother drops the family phone into the water, Odette doesn’t think she has any right to be upset because of her grandmother’s situation. Her mother acknowledges that it’s still okay to be upset about small things.

The book tackles big issues of economic hardship and the right to die effectively, without being preachy. Readers don’t have to like or agree with everything, but they will be left with some things to think about.

Coming Home

12 Jan

A homecoming should be a wonderful celebration, but it isn’t when Margaret returns after 2 years away at a residential school.

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Margaret was sent away from her Arctic home at age 8 to go to school  and was not allowed to speak her language, eat her food, or learn her people’s traditions. So, when she returns home in Not My Girl by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, she is unrecognizable, “not my girl”. As the story unfolds, slowly, Margaret relearns all she had lost during her two years away. She regains her family’s trust and finally feels that she has found her home again.

From the publisher: Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by evocative illustrations, “Not My Girl” makes the original, award-winning memoir, “A Stranger at Home,” accessible to younger children. It is also a sequel to the picture book “When I Was Eight.” A poignant story of a determined young girl’s struggle to belong, it will both move and inspire readers everywhere.

Happy International Dot Day

15 Sep

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Today is International Dot Day, a day to connect, collaborate, create and celebrate all that creativity inspires and invites. If you have a chance read The Dot  by Peter Reynolds, and share it with someone if you can. Even the ordinary can be extraordinary.

With that in mind, I wanted to share Families Around the World  by Margriet Ruurs.

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Based on real people who Ruurs met, Families Around the World   shares what life is like for families  including Chinese immigrants in Canada, a Texas ranch family, a Mayan village family in Mexico, several European families, and a kibbutz family in Israel. Families in Saudi Arabia, Kenya (a Maasai village), Pakistan, South Korea and Mongolia.

Each family’s story fills a tw0-page spread and introduces us to the food, language, custom and tradition of each. There is a biracial family and a family with a single dad. I thin the biggest downfall of the book is that the entire continent of Africa is represented by one family. That said, this is a good introduction to global ideas and might send young readers off in search of more information.

This could be nice way for kids to do a little writing about their own families and create a class book.

Doggedly devoted

30 Aug

It has been whirlwind of a week. My classroom is set up enough to get me through the first week of school. Fiona and Lucy have readjusted to my return to work.

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I have hardly read or knit all week. There’s just been too much to do and I returned home exhausted each evening. My stack of library books needs some serious attention. But here is a pair of picture books that I loved.

Gaston, written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson, is about family.

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Gaston is not like his sisters. He sometimes exasperates his mother.

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When a chance encounter reveals that a mistake has been made, things look right. But they do not feel right. This book is about families, belonging, and square pegs in round holes.

David Ezra Stein’s I’m My Own Dog,  is another story about reversals.

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Narrated from the dog’s point of view, we learn about an independent dog who fetches his own slippers. He can do everything for himself, except scratch that one spot in the middle of his back. So, one day, he lets a human scratch it. That poor human follows him home and eventually, dog finds that the human is a good companion.

Kids will love both of these books and I think they’d inspire some very funny writing by kids. The could tell stories from their pets’ perspective, or from the perspective of an animal in a zoo or in the wild. They could write about interspecies families.  They could also right about how they are the Gaston in their family.

These are also just really great read alouds too, especially as school begins and sometimes, that can have kids and teachers feeling a little like fish out of water.

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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