It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/26/14 #imwayr

IMWAYR

Visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to participate in the kidlit version of this weekly meme.

On my blog:

In reading:

courage has no color

Tanya Lee Stone’s Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles tells the story of the first all-African American paratrooper unit, trained for World War II combat but never sent overseas.The experiences of the men who served in this unit are individually interesting, and Stone never loses sight of the people who form the heart of the story. But her larger purpose here is to expose the racism that led to a segregated military where African-Americans were invited to serve, but only in menial positions, where their valor and courage were rarely given full scope, and where their important contributions were rarely acknowledged. This is an important (and infuriating–as books about injustice often are) book that needs to be more widely read. The photographs are absolutely stunning.

freakboy

Kristin Elizabeth Clark’s verse novel, Freakboy, reminded me of Ellen Hopkins’s novels (and features a blurb from Hopkins on the cover). Transgender identity and gender fluidity are the key themes, and Clark uses the trajectory of all three main characters–Brendan, the star wrestler who doesn’t feel comfortable inside his body but doesn’t understand why; Vanessa, his girlfriend, who is also a wrestler and who doesn’t understand why Brandon is increasingly distant; and Angel, an older teen who serves as a mentor and friend to Brandon–to explore her topic. Freakboy is sometimes a bit heavy-handed–it’s very much an issue novel–but the characters’ plights are often poignant, and Angel, especially, is an interesting character.

family man

I’ve read and enjoyed some of Elinor Lipman’s early novels but haven’t read her in years. I picked up her comedy of manners, The Family Man, out of a sudden desperate need for an audiobook. I definitely enjoyed this book–it’s amusing, clever, well-written. I don’t read many books for grown-ups, and the ones I do read are rarely light reads. So this was something new and different for me and a nice change of pace.

timmy failure

Stephan Pastis’s Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is more quirky and cleverly written than the Big Nate or Wimpy Kid series (and I did appreciate that about it), but I just don’t think I can read any more middle-grade series featuring boys who have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I love Captain Underpants; I like irony and recognize that these series are full of it; I like black humor; I don’t like stories that are heavy-handed with morals or messages. So you’d think I’d be able to handle a book like Timmy Failure without losing my mind. But I can’t help asking, Why are all the books most heavily marketed toward middle-grade reluctant boy readers are always about boys who are jerks?  I loved the Wimpy Kid books–until I started reading them out loud at my son’s request. If he read voraciously on his own, I think I would care a lot less what he consumed because he would be exposed to such variety and so many different ways of being in the world and being in books. But as it is, the only books he reads are books I read to him, and I feel like our reading should show him boys who have real feelings, boys who act like real human beings rather than sociopaths or future criminals. I do want books to be funny and fun, but I also want them to have heart. And that’s what I find so frequently missing in these series: heart.

We also read a lot of picture books this week. These were my two favorites:

nightsong

Nightsong, written by Ari Berk and illustrated by Loren Long, is a lovely story of a little bat flying on his own for the first time and learning how to use echolocation (called sense in the story) to find his way at night. I think the word lyrical is really overused in book descriptions, but it’s certainly apt here. And Long’s illustrations are especially strong:  it can’t be easy to make such dark scenes feel somehow light, but he does, and the bat is adorable. A memorable story about independence, love, finding your way, and home. Also, it never hurts when a book has a nice mother-son relationship at its core!

racias thanks

My son really didn’t care for this book, but Gracias Thanks, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by John Parra, was probably my favorite read of the week. This is one I want to own and read again–and share.

Reading Goals Update:

 

Nerdbery Challenge: 0/12 books

 

#MustReadin2014: 6/15 books

 

YA Shelf of Shame Challenge: 5/12 books

 

Professional Development Reading Goal: 2/12 books

 

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 46/100 books

 

Picture Book Reading Goal: 257/350 books

 

Chapter Book & Middle-Grade Reading Goal: 29/100 books

 

YA Lit Reading Goal: 24/60 books

 

Latin@s in Kidlit Challenge: 18/12 books

 

Number of Books Total (not counting picture books): 81/200




 

 

16 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/26/14 #imwayr

  1. One of my favorite quotes from the ALAN workshop last year was from Tanya Lee Stone when she said “Nonfiction is not something we’re trying to inflict on someone. It’s just story. Story that’s true.”

  2. I enjoyed Nightsong so much. And I put Freakboy on my list Elisabeth. I’m so happy books about differences are showing up and glad to hear your recommendation, too. I have a former student who has transgendered, & it’s a heavy weight for a long time, will be interested to see how this book shares the feelings. We don’t encourage the Wimpy Kid series, etc. at our school. If students want to read them, it’s fine, but everyone pushes for other choices. Best to you in finding some that your son will enjoy. About that age, if he likes sports, one teacher has had success with books by Matt Christopher.

    • I think Freakboy is an important (and very readable!) book. I really like how Clark included two different characters who are in different places with their understanding and acceptance of their gender identity. I think she’s able to create a more nuanced understanding of what it means to be transgender as a result. Interesting to read your school’s perspective on the Wimpy Kid books. I love heavily illustrated titles for my son–he really needs that extra support and visual interest to keep his attention on a book right now, and it is hard to find books that are interesting for him (not too juvenile) but also have lots of pictures. My son does love all sports, so hopefully we can start reading some Matt Christopher soon.

  3. You are doing great on your picture book reading goal. You will be there in no time. And happy to see that you are halfway to your nonfiction goal. 🙂 Nightsong had beautiful illustrations. And I loved the audiobook of Courage Has No Color.

    • I was so impressed by Loren Long’s work in Nightsong. Not sure how I missed that book when it first came out! I’m getting a little worried about a couple of my reading goals (especially the Newbery challenge!), but I know we’ll make the picture book challenge and I am LOVING all the nonfiction PB’s we’re reading thanks to your challenge and all the Wednesday posts!

  4. I have wanted to read Courage Has No Color forever! I tried the audiobook, but it was when I was pregnant and my concentration just wasn’t there.
    I really need to read Timmy Failure. I just got the second one, and I would love to see more kids read them as I’ve heard more than once what you sent–that it’s more quirky and intelligent than the other humorous illustrated novels.
    The other books are new to me–thank you for sharing.

    Happy reading this week! 🙂

    • I actually didn’t find the writing/story in Courage Has No Color as compelling and engaging as I usually find Tanya Lee Stone’s books, but I am very glad I read it. I learned some things about WW2 history I’d never heard of before too! Even if you read it via audio, be sure to look through a copy at all the photos, because they’re wonderful! Timmy Failure is definitely worth a read, though I wonder if some of the humor is really more for adults than kids. My son didn’t even understand the things that made me laugh!

  5. Courage Has No Color looks so very good. Unlike Kellee, I wasn’t aware it existed! I guess I missed that one somehow, so thank you so much for sharing about it. 🙂 I hope you have a great reading week!

    • I got serious about using my Goodreads “to-read” list yesterday. Looking forward to checking my list on my phone when I’m at the library! Thanks for sharing with me how much you’re enjoying Goodreads–you definitely got me thinking about how I can use it more and better!

  6. If you haven’t read Jordan Sonnenblick I recommend his work. I too hate these books that have stupid jerks for boys. Sonnenblick’s boys are rich and sympathetic characters. His Dodger series are wonderful as read alouds for younger kids. The other thing about Sonnenblick is that his work always tackles bigger social issues.

    • Thanks for this recommendation! I read one Sonnenblick book ages ago–I enjoyed it but haven’t read more. LOVE the idea of reading his books aloud to my son. I’m not familiar with his Dodger series, so I’m off to investigate. “Rich and sympathetic” boy characters are EXACTLY what I want to be sharing with my son.

  7. Very well said Elisabeth about books that are missing a heart. It seems like in an attempt to target the reluctant readers, there is a palpable lack of depth and meaning in most of these middle-grade narratives. However, they do resonate with a few kids who seem to desire an enjoyable light read that they can finish quickly. My 12 year old girl still devours the James Patterson Middle Grade novels, the Dork Diaries, Big Nate, and yes the Wimpy Kid series – but she also reads Harry Potter and Counting by 7s and other novels too. I find though that she still goes back to the former genre as a sort of comfort-food, for lack of a better term, her ‘snacks’ in between full meals, I suppose. 🙂

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