Thursday, July 27, 2017

Primates

Our school librarian is on a mission to add many nonfiction graphic novels to our library. Primates by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks, is an excellent addition that will span readers from grades 3 - 7.

I love that readers of different ages will take different lessons from the book. In reading about Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas, younger readers might be inspired by these women who dreamed of living in the wild and studying animals. Slightly older readers might be heartened by the fact that none of them were experts when they started out, but rather, they were hard workers who wouldn't give up. An even older audience might read into the references to mentor Louis Leakey's romantic interest in the women and intuit that there is much more to Dian Fossey's life than is laid out in this children's book.

The cover has major appeal; as it sat on my desk, several students gravitated to me and lined up to read it when I finished. They won't be disappointed and I hope they will be inspired to learn more about these complicated and accomplished scientists.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Ghosts

Raina Telgemeier's Ghosts was among the most anticipated books in my class this year. Students would ask me constantly when it would be published. When it finally was, the students tracked who had it and who would get it next. I love a book that the class fully owns with nothing from me except the money it costs to buy it!

Cat's family moves to Northern California because the air will help her younger sister's cystic fibrosis. Cat isn't excited about the move, and even less so when she realizes that the Day of the Dead and ghosts figure so prominently into community life. She rejects it repeatedly, until she realizes that maybe some time with ghosts is just what she needs.

I love Telgemeier's books and artwork, but I really didn't connect with the protagonist here. Cat is so negative about everything that she comes across as a drag. I want to be on the main character's side, but I found myself liking everyone else better than her. There is controversy around this book which is worth considering, but I also know that no amount of controversy will stop kids from devouring everything Telgemeier publishes.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Worst Class Trip Ever

It's safe to say that I am finished with the genre of middle school, silly, growing up, boy-oriented books. There's nothing wrong with the plethora of offerings from James Patterson and the rest of the gang, I have just read too many of them. My students love them and don't need me to recommend them, so I can turn my attention to less beloved genres.

As an addition into this set of literature, The Worst Class Trip Ever, is welcome. Clearly, Dave Barry can write humorous books and I know that my kids will enjoy it. The story follows Wyatt on his eighth grade trip to Washington DC and the hijinks that ensure when he may or may not have prevented a terrorist plot.

I read 100 pages and then said, "I'm done." Kids love these books and I am happy. I just don't need to read any more of them!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Overboard

Every few years I have a student who is obsessed with outdoor adventure novels. Once they breeze through all of Gary Paulsen's work and the Stormrunners series, I often struggle for good recommendations. This is an area of improvement for me, so I am happy to add Elizabeth Fama's Overboard to the list of titles I can share.

Feeling homesick and frustrated with the expat life that feels thrust upon her, Emily decides to hop on a ferry in Sumatra and escape for a little while. Unfortunately, the ferry sinks and Emily must fight for her life against whirlpools, exhaustion, sharks, and other survivors.

In addition to the exciting survival story, there are many cultural tidbits about life in Indonesia. It doesn't feel didactic, but the reader walks away with a broadened worldview. I wish that the ending was fleshed out a bit more, but overall, I thought it was a solid and quick read. Two of my students (not typical adventure readers) had been pressing this book on me all year. It's appeal goes beyond its genre and I look forward to book talking it to everyone next year.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation

Having read mostly young adult and middle grade books for the last ten years has put me at a disadvantage when it comes to adult books. There are many classics that I just haven't read. I was excited to see the graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler's Kindred on Net Galley, as a way to get the story without sacrificing the school-related reading that helps me do my job well.

I'm so happy that this book has been made available in graphic novel format, as I think it will open up the important story to a wider audience. Dana, our protagonist, continues to be dragged from her life in 1976 to the Maryland during the slavery era. There, she must rescue the life of Rufus, a slaveowner and her distant relative. This continues many times: Dana is stuck in the past until almost dying jolts her back to modern life, only to be drawn back to the past when Rufus' life is threatened. She wonders if Rufus' death will lead to her freedom, and what other consequences there may be.

It is so important for people to learn about slavery and the brutality of the United States' history. Addressing it via science fiction in a graphic novel form opens up the topic and text to many people. This is too mature for my sixth graders, but I think it would be an incredible addition to a high school curriculum and would inspire students to read more of Butler's work. I know it has inspired me.