Glorious Summer

Tomorrow, July 23, is predicted to be the hottest day so far this year. A super hot day is perfect for lying around reading a “cool” book. I have a pile waiting for just such a day. I must admit that the past couple of weeks have been such wonderful weather that I have slowed down on my reading. Hours on my bike and in my kayak are taking my time.
Since July 1 I have read a wide variety of books. Several picture books, a couple of graphic novels and just one Newbery contender.

Picture books:

Graphic Novels:

Novels:

Capture the Flag (Capture the Flag, #1)Capture the Flag by Kate Messner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a wonderful middle-grade mystery. The 4 young characters were diverse on many levels and had to learn the value of collaboration and cooperation. There was a very real crime, true bad guys and plenty of action. I picked this one up to read because I received and ARC for the third installment in this series. After this first one I can’t wait to read #2 and #3. I totally plan on buying all three for the 3rd grade classroom library I am working on this summer.

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Better Nate Than EverBetter Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I start many reviews with the phrase: “I wanted to like this….. ” But this time I am going to flip that. ” I wasn’t really sure I wanted to like this…
I had actually passed over it a number of times. I guess I just wasn’t sure how I felt about an LGBT story for my elementary grade students. Since I work mostly with younger elementary advanced readers I have to be discerning . They have the skills to read almost anything but not the maturity always.That being said, I chose this title for my road trip to nErDCampMI this week. I knew that Tim Federle the author, had narrated this audio edition himself, AND he had won an ALA award for this rendition. My need to have evidence before spouting too strong of an opinion won over and I plugged it in.
It was a contagious story with a sparkling character and Federle gave a wonderful performance. My fears were allayed as Nate himself tells us a number of times that he just doesn’t know and isn’t ready to know where he will land on the sexuality continuim. He is definitely a dramatic and one of a kind personality. Nate delves into his passion of Broadway while navigating the confusion of pre-adolescence and dodging the abuse of cruel middle school bullies. Federle gives him a voice that is driven by Nate’s energy but avoids becoming a cliche. Nate’s open and vulnerable sharing of his journey to New York and the confusion of emotions it evokes is precious and heartbeaking. It was perfect as an audio book and I miss Nate in my car!
I would hand this to some of my 4th or 5th graders without a problem.

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I am totally addicted to this series!
Insurgent (Divergent, #2)Insurgent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is proving to be an amazing dystopia. I found myself struggling a little with believability more with this second installment. However,as it drew to a close and Roth took the reader to the conclusion I was entranced again. As I process the story today I am impressed with how Roth uses the dystopia style to force reflection of our own personalities.
In this book there is still plenty of fast-paced action and romantic tension, but we get a much closer and insightful look at each faction. The factions; Amity, Abnegation, Candor, Erudite and Dauntless each showcase an essential and valuable attribute of society. I have always believed that when we consider our own personality traits we find that our strongest best trait is also the source of our worst weakness. So much of personality is a double-edged sword. Roth shows us the advantages and the pitfalls of each faction.
I think the story of these factions also has something to say about the value of diversity. We need a diverse society, that is willing to work in cooperation and collaboration in order to survive the future.

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This is the one Newbery Contender. I REALLY Liked this one!
Absolutely AlmostAbsolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So many great books to chose from this year!! I totally loved this one. It was a pretty quick read but full of heart. I think I want to make it my go to read aloud next year.
This newest offering from Lisa Graff has an entirely different feel from last year’s A Tangle of Knots. This one had far fewer characters and a gentle, less frenetic flavor. It reminded me a lot of Wonder.
Albie, the main character is a kind-hearted struggling student. Every teacher will want to reach out and hug him.

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A child’s view of Taliban oppression

The Breadwinner (The Breadwinner, #1)The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I downloaded this book from the library as a trilogy. I finished the first book which was The Breadwinner. It is set in Kabul during the early years of the Taliban domination. I have read a couple of novels with this same setting and they all describe the same tragic environment. The oppression of women and educated citizens is hard for Americans to fathom.
This story was rather simply written so it would be good for a middle grade reader. There is plenty of meat to the story, it is just not terribly complicated writing.
Because this is a trilogy, the first book seemed to end rather abruptly. In time I will try to return to finish the rest of the series. I would recommend this book to any readers that are following any current events in the Middle East right now.

Grade level Equivalent: 5.5
Lexile MeasureĀ®: 630
DRA: 50
Guided Reading: V

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Entering the World of GN (Graphic Novels)

118944[1] AMERICAN BORN CHINESE by Gene Luen Yang
…bravely into a new literary world! It was suggested that I start my discovery into the genre of Graphic Novels with this book. While I wouldn’t say I am totally enamored with the style in one sitting, I can add some new enlightenments to my knowledge base. I have argued for several years with classroom teachers to allow certain GN books to qualify as “reading”, without truly embracing the genre in my own reading. In order to stay true to my goal of staying current in Children’s and Young Adult literature I really must break into this world.
That being said, American Born Chinese was a good place to start. It is a stand alone novel, so it bypasses the stereotypical “comic book series” feeling. I must admit this story could not have been told in the same way in any other style. Although listed as children’s lit, I would not hand it to anyone under middle school. There is a lot of girlfriend/boyfriend reference that rings far more relevant for the older grades. The story is cleverly written in three distinct tales that wrap together in a surprising end. The theme itself has stayed with me in subtle ways for several days. I often judge the quality of either a book or movie by how much I think of it in the days following my completing it.
So in that regards, this one popped into my consciousness during quiet moments many times. Leaving me with a “…Umm!!” moment. The theme takes us into the world of 1st generation Americans specifically and being comfortable and true to ourselves in general. It was a poignant voice for Chinese Americans and although the immigrant voice has commonalities, each ethnicity has its unique roots and responses. But the lesson of finding our place in spite of societies’ pressure to conform is universal, especially for adolescents.