Monday, August 19, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/19/13

I am excited to be a part of the conversation at #IMWAYR!  Thank you to SheilaJen and Kellee for inspiring and hosting this meme.

One of the things I noticed in three of the middle grade fiction books I read this week is the use of what I would call "light" swears.  I used to be very laissez-faire about language in children's literature, knowing that most kids hear (and often use) some pretty heavy duty language on a regular basis.  As a school librarian, though, it presents me with a conundrum.  On the one hand, when a kid reads a swear in a library book and comes rushing to tell me, I welcome the opportunity to have a conversation about language and about why an author might choose to use a particular word in a particular situation.  On the other hand, I can understand why finding certain words on the pages of a children's book might be offensive to some people (children and parents alike).  Sometimes, for some kids, it can be hard to understand why it's OK to read a word in a library book, but not OK to use that word at school.  So, while I'd never censor a book just because it contains certain words (provided it is otherwise age appropriate for my elementary library), I do find myself slightly challenged by this issue.  That said, here's what I read this week - books with spicy language and all!

Recommended for gr. 5-8

The Saturday Boy by David Fleming is a book I will hand to students whose parents have been deployed.  While Derek is dealing with the social stresses of fifth grade and the abandonment of his best friend, he is also missing his father, who is flying helicopters in Afghanistan.  Fleming does a great job letting his readers feel the complexity of having a big stress in one’s life (e.g Dad away at war) and also the normal stress of growing up.  Because of that, although this is an excellent choice for readers who are familiar with the struggles of military families, it will appeal to a wider variety of readers as well.  

Recommended for gr. 5-8
Prisoner 88 by Leah Pileggi is set in the Idaho Territory in the late 1800s and is based on a true story of a boy who is sent to prison for manslaughter.  Jake’s experience is pretty harsh (and fascinating) but his first person telling is matter of fact and almost nonchalant.  Surprisingly, this works pretty well and I found myself hoping that things worked out for him.  As an adult reader, I really wanted to know more about the real-life story that inspired this book, although I think that younger readers will be satisfied with Jake's story.

Recommended for gr. 5-8

Bobbi Miller's Big River’s Daughter is a  river-boat pirate tale told from a girl’s perspective - I love the premise!  This is totally fiction, but real life characters like Jean Lafitte are woven in and if you like action, this book is for you.  It borders on being a tall tale (the main character adopts a wild tiger, who becomes her faithful companion and protector) which at times stretches credulity but it is nevertheless a fun and fast read.  I am a huge sucker for wild animal-human connections, so this most definitely worked for me!

Recommend for gr. 6-9
My nonfiction offering of the week is Russell Freedman's new Becoming Ben Franklin: How a Candle-Maker’s Son Helped Light the Flame of Liberty.  There are a gazillion Ben Franklin biographies out there, so I initially thought “Oh geez, do we really need another one?” but once again, Freedman has created something unique and special.  Primary source usage, archival photos, and comprehensive source notes/bibliography, combined with superb writing make this one a winner.  

For adults
Finally, I thought that The Last Summer of the Camperdowns was going to be my favorite non-kid lit read of the summer, but having just finished Love Water Memory, I might have to reconsider.  This is a beautiful exploration of how we become who we are and why we love who we do.  Lucie has amnesia (I love a good amnesia story - it erases so many potential plot problems because the protagonist simply can't remember anything) and when she "comes to," wading in the San Francisco Bay, she begins the process of rebuilding her whole being.  She is reclaimed by her fiancé, but the life they shared is entirely foreign to her and it seems that she was not, in fact, a particularly pleasant person.  As pieces of Lucie's life fall back into place, she is able to choose who she wants to become... begging the question: if we had the same opportunity, who would we be?

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