Monday, September 1, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 9/1/14

 Thank you to SheilaJen and Kellee for inspiring and hosting the #IMWAYR meme.

Well, I have been a blogging slacker over the summer, but I have been reading just about everything I can get my hands on.  The thought of trying to review everything I've read is entirely too daunting, so I decided to jump back into blogging by just highlighting some of my favorite summer reads:

Picture Book:

One of my greatest warm weather pleasures is sitting out on my screened porch with a stack of new picture books.  My favorite of this summer is also going to be a first day read aloud in my library: Flight School by Lita Judge.  Penguin wants to fly, so he heads to flight school.  Although he has "the soul of an eagle," he was not, of course, built to fly.  With a great deal of perseverance and tons of help from his friends, Penguin is able to experience the joy of flight, but most importantly, he discovers that dreams can come true in ways that we don't always imagine.

Middle Grade Chapter Books:

Two middle grade chapter books stand out for me this summer.  The Witch's Boy by Kelly Barnhill is a rich, dark, complex and classic-feeling fantasy.  Three different threads intertwine to tell the story of nine stone giants and the magic they hold.  When Ned unexpectedly becomes the caretaker of the last remaining magic on earth, he also becomes the target of a group of bandits. The daughter of the bandit leader befriends him and together they strive to do the right thing with the magic (which is difficult because the magic has desires of its own). This is beautifully written and I'm curious to see what kids think of it, as I loved it, but wonder if it might appeal more to adults than children.  

My other favorite middle grade chapter book of the summer was something of a surprise to me.  I expected The Time of the Fireflies by Kimberely Griffiths Little to be a bit fluffy (given the title and cover), but found instead a page-turning, spooky, intriguing time travel mystery.  Larissa is recovering from a horrific accident when she receives a phone call on an antique phone, telling her to trust the fireflies, as a matter of life and death.  The fireflies guide her across a broken down bridge, back in time.  Throw in a creepy doll and you’ve got a winner!

Middle Grade Nonfiction:

Hands down, my favorite middle grade nonfiction book this summer was Chernobyl's Wild Kingdom: Life in the Dead Zone by Rebecca L. Johnson (geez, she just keeps cranking out amazing material!).  I have been fascinated by Chernobyl since I lived in Eastern Europe in the mid 1990s, and this book provides an extraordinary look at the “Dead Zone” from the perspective of scientists who are studying wildlife there.  There are two pretty radically different perspectives on the impact the nuclear disaster has had on the area and Johnson presents both of them without choosing sides.  She also makes a compelling argument as to why Chernobyl is still relevant today and includes superb photos and source notes.  This is a winner on all fronts!

Adult fiction:

I am still thinking about the puzzle that is The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman.  Tooly Zylderberg is living quietly in the Welsh countryside, just barely keeping her eccentric little bookstore afloat.  She spends much of her time reading, but her mysterious and inexplicable past comes blazing to the forefront when she receives a phone call from New York telling her that her father is dying.  The trouble is, she doesn't really know who her father is.  Told in a series of flashbacks in the 1980s and late 1990s, it turns out that Tooly was stolen as a child, and raised by a bizarre cohort of adults who had many secrets of their own.  I was slowly sucked into Tooly's past, completely absorbed by the strange adult caretakers in her life (especially Humphrey, the mysterious Russian who is grumpy with everyone but Tooly).  I won't give it away, but the end of the book delighted me in a way that is rare and memorable.  I loved this thick, meandering book!

Back to school... back to book talks!  Happy reading to all.  

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