Tag Archives: Kevin Henkes

Bunnies, hearts and grief

8 Apr

As a middle school teacher, I sometimes forget how young my students are. I spend so much time with them everyday, that their age falls away, until they say or do something that makes me say, “Oh yeah, they’re twelve.”. Those middle years, with one foot in the teen world and on foot in the world of young children – can be hard to capture. Kevin Henkes does a wonderful job in Sweeping Up the Heart.

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Publisher’s Summary: Amelia Albright dreams about going to Florida for spring break like everyone else in her class, but her father—a cranky and stubborn English professor—has decided Florida is too much adventure.

Now Amelia is stuck at home with him and her babysitter, the beloved Mrs. O’Brien. The week ahead promises to be boring, until Amelia meets Casey at her neighborhood art studio. Amelia has never been friends with a boy before, and the experience is both fraught and thrilling. When Casey claims to see the spirit of Amelia’s mother (who died ten years before), the pair embarks on an altogether different journey in their attempt to find her.

Using crisp, lyrical, literary writing and moments of humor and truth, award-winning author Kevin Henkes deftly captures how it feels to be almost thirteen.

This is a slow quiet book, named for an Emily Dickinson poem, and a little melancholy in places. It tackles complex themes with beautifully simple language that will touch your heart.

At the beginning, it is made very clear, that the book is set during Spring Break in 1999. I was expecting that to have some significance beyond worries of the Millennium Bug, but it didn’t. I suspect the year only served to orient readers to a world without cell phones. There are points where Amelia feels younger than twelve, but then I think about my students. They are an inconsistent lot. I think fourth or fifth grade readers are probably the target audience, as young people generally like to read about characters who are a bit older.  Overall, a lovely book that addresses issues around grief, change, and communication.

ALA Youth Media Awards

27 Jan

WOW! I got up 15 minutes earlier than usual today, so I’d be showered and have coffee when they announcements began. And I made a second pot of coffee part way through. Here’s what I am most excited about:

THE NEWBERY: Flora & Ulysses!!!!!  and  The Year of Billy Miller  was an honor book.

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THE BELPRE AWARD: Niño Wrestles the World  and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass!!!

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SCHNEIDER FAMILY AWARD:  A Splash of Red  and  Rose Under Fire

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YALSA NONFICTION AWARD:  The Nazi Hunters

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What an emotional morning. I have to go and present to 4th grade teachers now,all wired on caffeine and excitement.

ALA Youth Media Awards Predictions & Musings

24 Jan

They’ll be here Monday.

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8 am ET, so 5 am here, I will be up & ready to watch before I go to work. You can, too, by clicking HERE.

What are the ALA Youth Media Awards, you might ask. My funny answer is the OSCARS of the youth book world: The Newbery, Caldecott, Prinz, to name a few. The YALSA Morris/Nonfiction Challenge I;ve been reading is about the nominees for 2 YA awards. So, let me begin with those.

1. Morris Award for a debut YA novel: I really hope Sex and Violence  by Carrie Mesrobian wins this and I think it will.

2. YALSA Nonfiction Award: This is more complicated. I want Neal Bsscomb’s  The Nazi Hunters to win

but I am pretty sure that Courage Has No Color by Tanya Lee Stone or Imprisoned:The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War  II by Martin W. Sandler will win.

3. The Caldecott is awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.I’m torn here between The MightyLalouche and Mr. Tiger Goes Wild.

4. The Newbery is given to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. You have to be American to win this one. As much as I’d like to say Kevin Henkes’ The Year of Billy Miller  will win this one, I think it’s intended audience is to young & the committee won’t pick it. I also wish they’s pick Flora and Ulysses  by KAte Di Camillo, but humor rarely wins. That said, I’d like it to be The Center of Everything  Linda Urban but it will probably be The Thing About Luck  by Cynthia Kadohata, which I still have not read because I can’t get into it.

5. The Prinz Award is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. I hope Reality Boy by A S King os somewhere on the list.

6. The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.My top 2 are Loteria  and  The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

7. The  Pura Belpre Award   is presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. Hands down, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina should win this one. I also predict that Yuyi Morales will win for Niño Wrestle the World. 

8.The Robert F. Sibert Award goes to the the most distinguished informational book published in English. This one always overlaps with the YALSA Nonfiction award, so my prediction there also applies here. I hope to see Elizabethe Rusch’s  Eruption  as well. This list also includes informational books for younger readers so I’d like to add a  A Splash of Red by Jen Bryant or  Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909  by Michelle Markel or Who Says Women Can’t be Doctors: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone.

My favorite books of 2013

31 Dec

Although I still have a stack of books to read, here are my 2013 favorites so far:

Picture Books (Fiction)

UnknownThe Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

UnknownThe Mighty Lalouche byMatthew Olshan

Unknown-2Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

UnknownUnicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea

Picture Books (Non-Fiction)

UnknownHoop Genius: How a Desperate teacher and a rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball by John Coy

Unknown-1On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne

Chapter Books 

UnknownThe Center of Everything by Linda Urban

UnknownCounting by 7’s by Molly Golberg Sloan

UnknownFlora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

UnknownThe True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathy Appelt

Unknown-1The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes

Graphic Novels

UnknownBluffton by Matt Phelan

UnknownOdd Duck by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon

UnknownRelish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

YA Lit

Unknown-1Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

UnknownReality Boy by A. S. King

imagesA Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger

UnknownWinger by Andrew Smith

UnknownYaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

Adult Lit

UnknownLoteria by Mario Alberto Zambrano

Unknown-1The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Oh, that Kevin Henkes

18 Nov

We thought it was a good idea, so we played nicky-nicky nine doors at Pauline Mary Knowles’ house. You may have called it something else but that was our name for it. We were on our way home from roller skating on  Friday night in grade 8 and decided to play this little joke. We certainly didn’t expect Mr. Knowles to chase us down the street. He was really nice about the whole thing. But my sister and I felt guilty when we got home. Even though we tried to go to bed, we couldn’t sleep, so we got up and told our mom, who was also pretty nice about it, too.

I got thinking about this while reading Kevin Henkes’ Penny and Her Marble.

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Penny finds a marble in her neighbor’s yard. Then, one day, she sees the neighbor and thinks she has lost the marble Penny now has, and loves. What should she do? The problem gnaws at her.

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I won’t spoil the ending for you, but young Henkes’ fans will really enjoy this book.

For older readers, Henkes has  The Year of Billy Miller. 

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This is a chapter book, cleverly divided into 4 chapters entitled Teacher, Father, Sister, Mother. While moving the story along, each chapter gives us a glimpse into an aspect of Billy’s life. This is not a wacky novel full of second grade hijinks, but a quiet collection of important moments in a little boy’s life, that I think a lot of kids can connect with.

I always like to balance out my read alouds,  alternating male & female protagonists, action and quiet novels, comedy and drama. This would be an excellent read aloud right after something like Clementine. It is definitely well worth it.

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