Wednesday, July 22, 2015

the boy in the black suit

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds is a beautiful look at grief and the rituals of bereavement ... listening to Tupac's "Dear Mama" on repeat or sitting in the back pew at funeral services. Seeing others grieve can remind you that you're not alone.

From NPR Books:

One of the novel's memorable metaphors comes when Matt is discussing grief and disappointment with his mentor, Mr. Ray, who has seen his share of both. Life, says Mr. Ray, is like the kid's card game I Declare War: You flip cards, and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. What you can't do, he says, is plan ahead.
"I can lose and lose and lose and I don't know why. But there's nothing I can do but just keep flipping the cards. Eventually, I'll win again. As long as you got cards to keep turning, you're fine. Now, that's life."

The Boy in the Black Suit is a wonderful story of death and life... and how individually and differently... and, yet, similarly each person grieves. Young adult and middle grade readers will enjoy this book and reflect on the importance of community in times of deep sadness.

* Be sure to read the author's bio on the back cover flap. Jason Reynolds is crazy. About stories.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

insanely great

Have you seen the new graphic biography, Steve Jobs: insanely great by Jessie Hartland? I got mine today. It's simple and energetic and informative. I think middle grade readers will love it.

It's about success and setbacks and design and demons. It's about the impossible and the possible and all the contradictions of living an extraordinary life.

Get this book for the misfits you know... for the square pegs in the round holes. Get this book for the young people in your life who see things differently; for those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world.

If you have ever wondered about living an unconventional life in a conventional world, this is the story for you.

Monday, July 20, 2015

true champions leave their heart on the court

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander is an amazing, relatable, poetic novel written in verse. 

I want to introduce everyone to the joys of reading... but it is awesome when you can find a poet who especially wants to introduce boys to the joys of reading.

KWAME ALEXANDER: You want to reach all kids. You want to reach librarians and teachers. But you often hear that boys don’t read or boys are reluctant readers.

The Crossover is the story of twins, Josh and JB. Josh narrates his family's story; and he does it in free verse, list poems, vocabulary poems, haiku, rap... the variety of poetry is beautiful.

It's a book about brothers and family and race and sports and tenderness. 

Most importantly, this book is a model of what poetry can do. It will leave it's reader with the idea that poetry is absolutely cool.

Basketball Rule #1

In this game of life
your family is the court
and the ball is your heart.
No matter how good you are,
no matter how down you get,
always leave
your heart
on the court.

Basketball Rule #10

A loss is inevitable,
like snow in winter.
True champions
to dance
the storm.

Monday, May 11, 2015

summer reading

I love summer reading.

Have you read Donalyn Miller's blog post on summer reading and the 7th annual #Bookaday Challenge?

Please allow for some reading freedom this summer. Make sure there is time to read, access to books, free choice of reading material, and family/community involvement.

Re-read old favorites. Read aloud. Read a graphic novel. Read a picture book. Summer reading isn't a competition or a contest to be won. Let reading be its own reward. 
"Reading belongs to readers, not to teachers. If we want children to see reading as anything more than a school job, we must give them the chance to choose their own books and develop personal connections to reading, or they never will."   -Donalyn Miller

Read together. Read alone. Everybody read.

On that note, I've put together a list of summer reading suggestions that might be of interest.

Fun middle grade series: 
Maybe you know a reluctant reader; or maybe you know someone who needs to take reading back to its fun roots and read below his/her Lexile score...

Timmy Failure Series by Stephan Pastis

Stick Dog Series by Tom Watson

Nanny Piggins Series by R. A. Spratt and Dan Santat

I Funny Series by James Patterson

Justin Case Series by Rachel Vail

Big Nate Series by Lincoln Peirce

Thoughtful middle grade books:
These are great books for the big-hearted middle grade or young adult reader...

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

The 14th Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Two Books Written in Verse:
Everyone should find time to read these two books this summer...

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

And a few more Middle Grade books
Just to make sure that you have plenty of choice, here are a few more wonderful books...

The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh

Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Cody and the Fountain of Happiness by Trisha Springstubb and Eliza Wheeler

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures by Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pearce

Return to Augie Hobble by Lane Smith

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Words With Wings by Nikki Grimes

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Shane Evans

Amazing Graphic Novels
Read anything by Raina Telgemeier; she is the gateway drug to the wonderful world of graphic novels...

El Deafo by Cece Bell

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

The Lunch Witch by Deb Lucke

Hidden by Loic Dauvillier, Greg Salsedo, and Marc Lizano

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Young Adult Fiction
All things John Green and Rainbow Rowell...

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

My Heart And Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

The Heir by Kiera Cass (First read The Selection Series if you haven't already. You will love America Singer.)

The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige (first read Dorothy Must Die)

Bluefish by Pat Schmatz

George by Alex Gino (release date of August 25th)

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead (release date August 4th)

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate (release date September 22nd - I know that's not summer, but it's Katherine Applegate and you need to know she has a new book coming out!)

For All The Graduates You Know
High School or College...

Congratulations, By The Way by George Saunders

Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman

This Is Water by David Foster Wallace

Very Good Lives by JK Rowling

The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna

Consolations by David Whyte

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant

The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz

How to Fly a Horse by Kevin Ashton

How To Be Great At Doing Good by Nick Cooney

Read Alouds
I have three books that I plan to read aloud this summer...

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

The One And Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

My Gentle Barn by Ellie Laks

(There's an animal rights theme here. Feel free to come up with your own theme. I would love to hear about it.)

Books I plan to read with my teenager

Unless by Carol Shields

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

To People in Their 20s - From Tiny Beautiful Things:

If you could give one piece of advice to people in their twenties, what would it be?

To go to a bookstore and buy ten books of poetry and read them each five times.


Because the truth is inside.


Anything by Billy Collins, but especially Aimless Love and The Trouble with Poetry.

Anything by Mary Oliver, but especially A Thousand Mornings and Why I Wake Early and Collected Poems and Blue Horses.

And... Marie Howe's The Kingdom of Ordinary Time and What the Living Do.

But... any ten books of poetry read five times each should do.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Have you read I'll Give You The Sun?

I got a text the other day from a friend that asked, "Have you read I'll Give You The Sun? I would have loved to have had it when I was a teenager."

I looked on my Kindle and there it was, unread.

When I opened it up, the book began with four quotes:
"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and righting, there is a field. I'll meet you there."         -Rumi
"I believe in the holiness of the heart's affections and the truth of the imagination"           -John Keats 
"Where there is great love, there are always miracles." -Willa Cather
"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are." -ee cummings 

So I sent a text back to my friend: "Ok... any book that begins with quotes by Rumi, Keats, ee cummings, and Willa Cather needs to be read today!"

I hope you think so too. 

I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson is magical and will leave you pondering the thin line between poetry and prose.

The story is written through the interchanging perspectives of teenage twins, Noah and Jude. It's about becoming who you are meant to be... all the identities you are meant to be, fleeting and eternal. It's about romance and new truths and art.

From the New York Times review:
"Art — its creation, its importance, its impact on identity and freedom — is perhaps the central theme of “I’ll Give You the Sun.” The book celebrates art’s capacity to heal, but it also shows us how we excavate meaning from the art we cherish, and how we find reflections of ourselves within it. I’ve always loved this line from Stendhal: “A novel is a mirror carried down a high road.” Done well, it shows us ourselves even as it moves us forward into new places and new understandings. “I’ll Give You the Sun” is a dazzling mirror, and many grateful teenagers are sure to find themselves reflected in and learning from its pages."

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
“Meeting your soul mate is like walking into a house you've been in before - you will recognize the furniture, the pictures on the wall,the books on the shelves, the contents of drawers: You could find your way around in the dark if you had to.” 
“Or maybe a person is just made up of a lot of people,” I say. “Maybe we’re accumulating these new selves all the time.” Hauling them in as we make choices, good and bad, as we screw up, step up, lose our minds, find our minds, fall apart, fall in love, as we grieve, grow, retreat from the world, dive into the world, as we make things, as we break things.” 
“People die, I think, but your relationship with them doesn't. It continues and is ever-changing.” 
“You have to see the miracles for there to be miracles.” 
“In one split second I saw everything I could be, everything I want to be. And all that I’m not.” 
“This is what I want: I want to grab my brother’s hand and run back through time, losing years like coats falling from our shoulders.” 

This is definitely a book I would have loved to have had when I was a teenager. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

miracles can occur

A woman I adore has cancer. 

News like that can knock you over.

Her mantra has been:
"Where there is hope there can be faith. Where there is faith, miracles can occur."

This has left me thinking about miracles a lot. I have been thinking things like, "What are miracles? Do they exist? Who gets them? Does God give them out or do we create our own?"

Then, at the bookstore the other day, I saw a middle grade novel: The Question of Miracles by Elana K Arnold. I knew I had to read it.

It was truly, wonderfully honest. I love a middle grade book that is willing to explore tough topics like death and hope and faith and religion. This book navigated the tricky waters of looking for answers from psychics, therapists, science, and the Vatican. 

If, like me, you've ever wondered about miracles, read this book.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

capture the feeling of summer

"Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender."
- Alice Walker 

I finally read the graphic novel, This One Summer by cousins Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki. This One Summer is the first graphic novel to ever receive a Caldecott honor and the second to finish in the Printz final circle.

And, after reading it, I couldn't help but think of the above Alice Walker quote.

Do you know a 12 - 14 year-old who likes graphic novels? Or a 12 - 14 year-old caught in that in-between time that can be so beautifully represented in a summer? This is the book for them.

This One Summer lands somewhere between cozy childhood and complex adult life. There were times when I saw myself as inquisitive, sensitive Rose. And, at the same time, I was the confident-in-her-own-skin Windy.

The story skillfully portrays the emotional ups and downs of adolescence, teen life, and womanhood. 

The illustrations are amazing...

Get this book for all the 12 - 14 year-olds you know. Their emerging womanhood will thank you.