Monday, March 25, 2019

Back from my Blogging Hiatus

I've been on an extended blogging hiatus (almost three years, which I can barely believe), but I've been thinking about getting back into it, and in my reading year cycle, April is a new beginning.  So, it's the perfect time!

For the past seven years I've served on the Maine Student Book Award committee.  Reading and reviewing for this group has been one of the most rewarding professional experiences that I've ever had, thus I am feeling a little bit bittersweet about it as I head into my last year on the committee.  Choosing a list of 40ish books for middle grade readers seems so straight forward, until you sit down with a group of twelve people and try to do it!  It gets tricky quickly, and every year when we put the list out there into the world, I feel nervous about how it will be received.  I hope so very much that every kid in Maine will find something on the list that they love.  So, our shiny new list is out, after a wonderful, collaborative day of conversations this weekend.

For this return to blogging for me, I'd like to highlight some of my favorites on the list:

Journey of the Pale Bear 
by Susan Fletcher

This is a beautiful historical fiction story about a boy, a polar bear, and a journey that is both geographical and internal in nature.  If I had to pick just one favorite... well, it might be this one.

Class Action 
by Steven B. Frank

A highly entertaining story about a group of kids who become unlikely activists when they protest the overwhelming amount of homework they are assigned every night.  While it is laugh out loud funny, readers are also invited to ponder the nature of the American judiciary and educational systems.

The Eleventh Trade 
by Alyssa Hollingsworth

This was not on my radar until it made the MSBA shortlist, and I am so glad it did! Sami is an Afghan refugee living in Boston with his grandfather; they have just tenuously begun to build a new life after the sorrow of losing their family, when Sami's grandfather's beloved rebab (a musical instrument) is stolen.  Sami feels responsible, and when he finds it in a store, he is determined to get it back.  Thus begins his journey towards "the eleventh trade."  There is both a lightness and a depth of Sami's story, and I just loved him.

Game Changer 
by Tommy Greenwald

I generally really like sports stories (and more importantly, many of my students do too), but this one struck me as truly exceptional.  Written almost entirely in social media posts and texts, Game Changer tells the story of a 13 year old boy who is in a coma after he collapsed at football practice.  Ever so slowly, the truth about what happened emerges.  Every character in this story is complex and fully human. Even if you're not a football fan or typically into sports fiction, this is worth a read - it's thought provoking and powerful.

These are just a few of my favorites from the new MSBA list - I'd love your feedback about the new list!

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