I read a bit from a variety of genres this week and was once again reminded how much I've grown as a reader as a result of working with kids. I really don't get the argument that children's literature is somehow limiting for adults - in my case it has been entirely expanding!
After reading Jacqueline Woodson's brown girl dreaming, I really wanted to experience Andrea Davis Pinkney's The Red Pencil. Like Woodson's book, it is a novel in verse. Set in the Sudan in 2003-2004, it tells the story of Amira who is twelve and dreams of going to school in the city like her best friend. All dreams are dashed when her village is attacked by the Janjaweed and her father is killed. Amira then goes to a displaced persons camp with what remains of her family. The poetic text and illustrations combine to read almost like a diary - a very poignant and heartbreaking one. Like brown girl dreaming, I almost think this is better appreciated as an adult reader. That said, though, I'm curious to see how my students in Maine react to this story set in a place so far away and so different from their home. I hope that it resonates with them as much as it did with me.
Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald is an art heist mystery with a Holocaust connection. Theodora’s grandfather dies leaving her with a mysterious request about a painting, a crumbling old house and a mother who is at minimum unstable (and possibly mentally ill). Together with her friend Bodhi, Theo attempts to discover the provenance of the painting and along the way meets some amazing people (including a truly fabulous tattooed librarian named Eddie) who help her. The ending felt a little bit too tidy for me, but that same tidiness gave the story a sense of having come full circle. For art-appreciating readers and those who love a good mystery, this will be a hit.
I've had Cleopatra in Space in my library since August, but until now I couldn't wrestle it away from the kids long enough to read it. That alone should serve as highest praise for this graphic novel! What I especially appreciate about it (and the similar Zita the Spacegirl series) is that there is a smart and strong female heroine and readers of both genders can't get enough! I have one 4th grade student who literally asks me every single week if the sequel to Cleopatra has come out yet. He's a "reluctant" reader, but Cleopatra speaks to him. So, I am hoping that Mike Maihack writes many, many more!
Finally, if you've read more than just a few of my blog posts, you know that I am a sucker for nonfiction dog stories (and cat stories, for that matter, although they are fewer and far between). Super Sniffers: Dog Detectives on the Job is a stellar example of informative and engaging nonfiction for middle grade readers. Author Dorothy Hindshaw Patent goes above and beyond the standard jobs that dogs have typically done and includes an array of examples of dogs working in medicine and environmental science. I was fascinated and I am sure my students will be too!
Here's to another great week of reading!