I wasn’t sure I’d have any takers after I booktalked the graphic novel memoir Spinning in my Methods course. I very much admired Tillie Walden’s evocative art, but it is a long graphic novel (400 pages!) and it’s all a bit sad and unresolved and I wasn’t sure what to say about it. Words from an online review I read got stuck in my head–something along the lines of “a book about a quiet, unhappy girl; good to give to other quiet, unhappy girls.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it? But that does capture the essence. The setting (in the world of competitive figure skating) is unique and strong. And although it also frustrated me as I was reading (what is UP with her parents??), I did ultimately admire how so much is left unsaid and unexplored by Walden. I think it’s a book that has the potential to connect deeply with certain readers. Luckily, one of my students immediately snapped it up, so I look forward to hearing another opinion soon.
Carl Hiaasen’s Scat was a read aloud with my son, who fell for Hiaasen’s other mysteries on audio during a road trip this summer. Like all of Hiaasen’s middle-grade mysteries, there’s a strong environmental theme at the center and plenty of very quirky characters. His books read aloud extremely well, though my son did sometimes struggle to manage all the different points of view.
I didn’t take as many notes on Katherine Bomer’s Hidden Gems as I usually do with her books, but that may just be because I already believe every word of it so fervently. Bomer shows how high expectations and rigor (dreadful word) can go perfectly with an approach to feedback that focuses on naming what’s beautiful and amazing in our students’ writing. A must-read professional development book for writing teachers.
Yasmeen Ismail’s exuberant art was my favorite part of Imagine That! I also loved the message, but the rhyming parts of the text tripped me up, of course.
Kwame Alexander’s Playbook is a good book for a classroom library. There are a few short autobiographical or biographical pieces, but it’s mostly inspiring statements from Alexander and a collection of quotations from famous athletes. There are a lot of black and white photos as well, plus engaging design elements.