I am excited to be a part of the conversation at #IMWAYR! Thank you to Sheila, Jen and Kellee for inspiring and hosting this meme.
I got a little sidetracked from my usual middle grade reading this week, as I dove into Tana French's mystery/psychological thriller Dublin Murder Squad Series, but I couldn't put the first book down and since the second book was on my bedside table, just waiting to be read... what could I do?
First on the docket this week is one that surprised me, in a good way. Star Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown is not, on the surface, a book I would generally be excited to read. I hugely appreciate Star Wars books because so many of my boy students love them, crave them, can't get enough of them, but for me... not so much. Usually. Brown's book is brilliant and funny and subversive and I found myself this past week gushing about it to hard core Star Wars fans. Roan is terribly disappointed that he doesn't get into Pilot School, and is instead sent to Jedi Academy. This huge disappointment is magnified by his older brother's success at Pilot School and his parents' attempts to be cheerful about the let down. Once enrolled in Jedi Academy under the tutelage of Master Yoda, Roan learns lessons big and small. The tone of this book is light and very funny, but there are some underlying powerful messages around friendship, fitting in, and persevering that Brown tackles without a whiff of didacticism. I love this book and it is already a huge hit in my elementary library.
Samphire Song by Jill Hucklesby is for the horse lovers of the world. Fourteen-year-old Jodie’s dad has recently died, her brother is suffering from kidney disease and her only solace is riding horses at the stable. When given an opportunity to purchase a horse, she chooses Samphire, a wild stallion seemingly unsuited to a young rider. Although the plot follows a predictable pattern, the strong bond between horse and girl is emotionally compelling enough to keep readers turning pages. Although this might not have wide general appeal, for those who love horses (and I know many middle grade girls who do), this book will be a hit.
Nikki Grimes has created another gem in her latest offering Words with Wings. A poetic narrative about a girl who daydreams all the time, I was struck by the spareness of Grimes' word choice and the images that she is able to conjure up with her language. This book reminded me of the importance of daydreaming and also made me think about ways that I do (or don't) let kids daydream in my library. This would be a wonderful book to read aloud and I'm going to pass it along to several teachers with the hope that they share it with their students.
And finally, my guilty pleasure this week: Tana French. I read the first two books in her Dublin Murder Squad Series and all I can say is: if you want a book that will totally suck you in and make you forget about all your other responsibilities, track down a copy of In the Woods. It's a murder mystery, yes, but also an examination of love, friendship and memory. Many reviewers wrote that they liked the second book in the series, The Likeness, even more than the first. I read them both voraciously and appreciate the way French tells the story from one detective's perspective in the first book and from another's in the second.
Happy reading to all this week! I am looking forward to getting some great new books ideas at AASL in Hartford at the end of the week.