It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/18/16

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.

This week has been history week, so it seems….

Last Week’s Books:

I was apprehensive in tackling The Winter Horses by Philip Kerr. I am a known hater of “horse books.” For a long period of time (starting in my childhood) it seemed that every other book published for young girls was about horses, and many either had the same plot or were poorly written and (I think) only sold because there was a beautiful horse on the cover. So I fully admit that I am biased against “horse books.”

As I started The Winter Horses I was presently surprised to find that it was set in The Ukraine in World War II at an animal preserve that was occupied by German soldiers. Alone, cold, and starving, Kalinka finds her way to the preserve and meets its old caretaker, Max, who has stayed even though the soldiers are in charge. When the Germans begin to execute the rare, ancient, Przewalski’s horses, Max helps Kalinka flee towards the Red Army’s line with the last breeding pair of horses and Max’s faithful dog. So far, so good.

And then the highly intelligent animals started to communicate with Kalinka via meaningful looks, head tosses, and foot stomps, and they also saved the day (multiple times) in unbelievable ways. It went way beyond what some might call “magical realism,” and I just can’t abide that much anthropomorphism in a book of this type 😦 The story was interesting enough without it.

Russell Freedman’s Because They Marched is a thorough look at the struggle and efforts to obtain voting rights for African Americans in the 1960s, and particularly focuses on the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. As usual, Freedman’s research is vast, and he provides archival photographs and source notes. However, the text is very dense, and I would recommend that middle school students use parts of the book for research rather than attempting to read it from cover to cover.


The Boundless by Kevin Oppel is a rollicking adventure that takes place just after the Canadian Pacific Railway was finished. Most of the action is aboard the Boundless, a gigantic, fictional luxury train that boasts 987 cars, making it the longest train in history. Teenager Will is traveling on the train’s maiden voyage, as is father was appointed head of the company just before its founder Cornelius Van Horne’s death. There is an evil brakeman, Brogan, who plans to steal from the riches contained in Van Horne’s funeral car, which is guarded by an electric field as well as series of locks. Will tries to thwart his plan, helped by a circus troupe aboard the train, headed by the mystical Mr. Dorian. There are also Sasquatches, hags, and a variety of other fantastic creatures and situations that impact this adventure, making the book tons of fun. This book counts for my Read Harder Challenge 2016–a book of historical fiction set before 1900.


The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley was just chosen as a Newbery Honor Book for 2015. It is the story 10-year-old Ada, who lives in a squalid flat in World War II London with her brother, Jamie, and terribly abusive mother who keeps Ada hidden from the world because of her clubfoot. When Jamie is evacuated to the English countryside, Ada runs away and joins him on the journey. They are sent to live with Susan, a sad and lonely woman who reluctantly accepts them despite not having much experience with children. With Susan’s help, Ada begins a long journey of moving about on her own, interacting with other people, learning to read and write, and, most importantly, gaining a sense of self-worth and confidence. Ada’s struggle to overcome her heinously abusive past is heart-wrenching and inspiring all at once. I am joining countless others in praising this book and saying the Newbery Honor was well-deserved.

Currently Reading/Listening To:

On Deck:


9 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 1/18/16

    1. Thanks for providing the link. I did read the article just now.

      Although I think Debbie Reese made some valid and interesting points about the inconsistencies in Mr. Dorian’s character, I cannot agree that hurtful words should never be used in historical context, even by bad guys. While I am not sure that they are necessary in this book, I do think that to never include hurtful slurs in books would do a disservice to historical accuracy and might mislead readers by not giving them the full scope of racism and prejudices. However, I am also aware that I am viewing this from my own lens, not from the lens of a first nations student, and I feel it is healthy to have these sorts of discussions.

  1. I have yet to read The War that Saved My Life – I will have to find that one and see how it resonates with me. Great to see how much progress you’re doing with the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge – I think I’ve only managed to read one so far. Boo. 😦

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