Monday, September 15, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 9/15/14

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

What an amazing week of reading I had! I read some pretty special books last week and I am excited to share them with you... and my students.

One of my favorite books last year was Katherine Rundell's Rooftoppers, so I was pretty thrilled to discover that she has another book newly available in the United States.  Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms tells the story of Wilhelmina (or Will) who is shocked when she must leave her idyllic childhood home on a farm in Zimbabwe and attend boarding school in England after the death of her beloved father. The contrast between the beauty and freedom of the farm and the stifling, oppressive atmosphere of a British boarding school is marked, and Will suffers tremendously.  Rundell’s descriptions of life on a farm in Africa are beautiful, as is her portrayal of the loneliness that comes with the move. What I love about Rundell is her gift with words which makes her prose read like poetry.

Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington caught me by surprise.  I read it immediately after Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, so I was expecting to feel a bit of a let down after reading such an extraordinary book.  Happily, that did not happen!  Mysti is in seventh grade and she’s been ditched by her best friend and unintentionally abandoned by her dad (who’s in the hospital). Her mom has severe agoraphobia, leaving Mysti to try and figure out how to keep their household functioning. This all sounds dire, but this book is FUNNY and sweet and Mysti speaks with one of the most genuine and honest voices that I’ve come across lately in children's literature.

The Zoo at the Edge of the World
by Eric Kahn Gale is a rich fantasy that becomes more nuanced and remarkable the deeper you read. Marlin lives with his dad and his older brother at the “zoo at the edge of the world” in Guinea. Marlin stutters and is treated horrifically by his brother; his sense of self worth is decimated until a mythical jaguar is brought to the zoo. The jaguar bestows upon Marlin the ability to speak with and understand animals. What feels like a fairly typical zoo story takes a dark turn when Marlin’s new ability enables him to make discoveries about both his father and brother. The revelations are painful and powerful. Marlin is a wonderfully sympathetic character and this is a heart-wrenching tale. I was actually quite wrecked by one of the turns that the story took towards the end and I am still thinking about the darkness that descended upon the zoo at the edge of the world. While not for highly sensitive young readers, this is a thought-provoking and beautiful tale.

Finally, so many people have already reviewed brown girl dreaming that I really feel there is nothing I can add.  It is a stunning memoir and although it is a "children's book," I appreciated it tremendously as both a book to share with my students and as one that is moving as an adult reader.  It is marvelous and if you haven't read it yet, you should.

May you read words that move you in the week ahead!   

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