It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a meme started by Book Journey. The folks over at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers have given it a children’s/YA spin. I thought it would be a fun way to recap last week’s reading and give a sneak peek of my TBR pile.
Last Week’s Books:
The Fairy Ring, or How Elsie and Frances Fool the World is an informational text about the Cottingley Fairies photos from 1920. When Frances, nine, visited her older cousin, Elsie, 15, in her Yorkshire home, she saw little gnomes and fairies near the beck (stream) in back of the house. Although all of the grown-ups laughed at Frances when she told what she saw, Elsie did not and drew some beautiful cut-out paper fairies for her. Then, the two got the idea to use Elsie’s father’s new camera to take some pictures with the paper fairies. When Elsie’s mother attended a lecture of the Theosophical Society, she spoke of the fairy photos, and the leaders asked for a print of the photograph. This started a snowball of interest in the photos, garnering the attention of movie theaters, The Strand, and famous author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The girls grew tired of all the attention, but kept the secret of the faked photos until very old age. And Frances always maintained that she had seen real fairies, it was only the photos that were fakes.
This book is well-researched and annotated, and covers a fascinating subject, for sure, but it felt very drawn out and, honestly, a bit boring, for the age group for which it is intended. Still, I would recommend it to adults who are interested in the story of the Cottingley Fairies.
I had to drive an hour each way to jury duty on Tuesday morning, so I quickly grabbed a two-CD audiobook for the trip. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer is a book that 6th grade teachers have been using as a whole-class novel since that grade entered our school building. It’s not that I never wanted to read it, I just never needed to promote it. This slim book tells the story of best friends Joel and Tony, who live near Starved Rock State Park in my home state of Illinois. One day, on the way to biking to the park, the two stop on the banks of the Vermillion River and the impulsive Tony wants to go for a swim. Despite Joel’s initial protests, the two enter the water and Joel challenges Tony to swim out to a sandbar. Tony drowns and Joel is unable to save him or find his body. Most of the rest of the book is about Joel’s internal struggle as he first hides the truth from everyone, tries to blame others while really feeling his own tremendous guilt, and finally tells what really happened. It is heart-wrenching to think of a young boy having to go through such an experience. I can definitely see why this novel is taught–it’s a great primer on man vs. self and gives students a lot to discuss in such a small, easily accessible package.
The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata is about Summer, a Japanese-American girl whose family are migrant farm workers. The story tells of one harvest season that Summer and her younger brother, Jaz, spend with their grandparents when their parents must tend to sick relatives in Japan. In addition to providing rich details about the daily life and duties of present-day migrant workers, Kadohata gives readers a quiet, gentle story in which Summer does a lot of thinking about her life, her brother, and her grandmother. Living with Jaz is a challenge because he is “different”–socially awkward and prone to banging his head against the wall when he is upset. Living with Obaachan (Grandmother) is a challenge because she is sometimes critical and sharp-tongued and other times praising and gentle. Summer really comes into her own when her family members fall sick, and she goes above and beyond to help with the harvest. This is a book which I can see offering to individual readers rather than booktalking to a large group–a book for those who enjoyed such titles as Counting by 7s and Moon Over Manifest.
“The President Has Been Shot”: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson is a thorough and engaging look at the events surrounding the president’s murder. The level of detail about Kennedy’s and Lee Harvey Oswald’s movements in the few days prior to the assassination is the best in a book I have seen for readers this age. Swanson’s story fascinates the reader and builds a great amount of tension as the assassination approaches. He also does an excellent job of chronicling the hours and days after his death, up until Kennedy’s funeral. Swanson also does not shy away from the controversy surrounding the assassination, while maintaining that the accepted fact is that Oswald acted alone. As an adult, I learned a great deal from this book, and so I am sure young people will, too.
In addition, the book is an excellent example of an informational text, and includes very health source notes; diagrams and photos of the shots fired at Dealey Plaza, injuries sustained, and more; an extensive bibliography; and a detailed index. And rather than just list sources for further information, Swanson explains and recommends the ones he thinks would be a great starting place for young readers. This work is definitely a solid addition to all library collections serving children.
Currently Reading/Listening To: