It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/19/15

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a meme started by Book Journey. The folks over atTeach 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:

I read Curtains!: A High School Musical Mystery by Michael Dahl so I could booktalk it early in the week to a group of instructional students. It is written at about a third grade reading level. In this story, new student Kyle Sutton gets a part in Harrison Ford High School’s student-written production Starcups!  When a rig of lights nearly falls on the drama teacher and set pieces nearly crush the star of the show, all eyes look to Kyle. He strives not only to prove his innocence but to find the real culprit, following the clues until he does. The glossary in the back of the book includes many mystery-related words that the class had studied prior to tackling this genre. It was a great fit, and a student grabbed it right away.

Jerry Spinelli’s Jake and Lily told of the growing pains of eleven year old twins. While Jake is enjoying having his own room and branching out to hang out with the guys instead of his sister, Lily is heartbroken and wondering what happened to the special connection they once shared. The story has great voice–two distinct ones actually, as Jake a Lily take turns recounting the events in alternating chapters. I generally enjoyed this book; however, the word “goober” started to wear thin–it’s the word Jake’s new friends used to describe  what I think of as a nerd or a geek (emphasizing the negative connotations). I’m not sure why Spinelli chose this instead of other words, but it was a bit tedious to hear after a while. In all, though, I feel that his character growth was gradual, believable, and spot-on, as usual.

Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur has been on my TBR list ever since I read Love, Aubrey.  Elise lives with her aunt and uncle, as both of her parents are deceased. She and her best friend, Franklin, have great fun playing Knights, exploring, and more until middle school starts up and Elise begins to feel pressured, babyish, and bullied. Her lockermate is the worst–smashing Elise’s lunch every day and constantly putting her down. Not long after she turns 12, Elise finds a key in the barn which unlocks not only a door in the barn loft but also a treasure-trove of memories left by her father…and it leads to another key. Elise’s growing pains are vividly portrayed, especially her struggles with her friendship with Franklin. LaFleur has created another heartprint book, and one which I am eager to share with my students.

Steve Sheinkin does it again with The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights. What an excellently researched book, and one which is sure to illuminate a historical event for young and old readers alike. Sheinkin recounts what happens when a group of African American men in the navy survive a horrific explosion (that killed many others) and then refused to load ammunition onto ships due to fear of unsafe working conditions that might cause a similar disaster. Key to understanding this issue is that only African American sailors were given this job and that their superiors often bet money to see which divisions could load the fastest. Fifty men were imprisoned, tried for mutiny, found guilty, and imprisoned again after an unfair trial. However, their actions did illuminate discriminatory practices in the U.S. Navy and lead to positive change. Sheinkin tells the story in a very readable and relatable way without downplaying the injustices these men endured. This book counts for my Award-Winning Book Challenge, as it was a 2014 National Book Award Finalist, Young People’s Literature).

The last book I read this week was Mike A. Lancaster’s Human .4, and I must say that I have mixed feelings about it. The book is set up to be a transcript of the Kyle Straker tapes, which an unknown person? is presenting and sometimes commenting upon. Kyle and three other people were volunteers in a hypnotist’s act and when they “returned” they found the world was not at all how it was supposed to be. At first, all the people of the town are frozen in place, and later they are just not quite themselves anymore. Kyle, Lily, and two adults spend much of the book trying to figure out what’s going on, and Kyle’s prevailing theory is that of alien invasion. Interjected periodically throughout the text are sidebars which attempt to explain to readers what certain familiar terms mean, so the reader knows that such explanations are for the people who have changed. This sort of story is usually right up my alley, but I never quite seemed to settle down with this one. While Lancaster has an interesting idea here, the pace of the story seems too slow in some spots and too fast in others, and the anonymous narrator and sidebars don’t seem to go together as well as they might. Still, I find myself intrigued by the concept of humans being upgraded, and the fate of those who just didn’t “take” to the upgrade.

On Deck: 



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