Non-fiction!

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Today I have a mish-mash of books that have little in common except that three of of them are in Chinese and part of the Magic Tree House Fact Tracker series. I borrowed them to practice reading Chinese but it honestly is too hard for me. I love non-fiction and I think it’s a great way to get reluctant readers (or language learners) to read, but I think I need to start lower. I can read the Magic Tree House with the help of zhuyin and that’s why I’m a big proponent of it for kids learning Chinese. They can read independently and use context clues to figure out the meaning. I would like to return to these books and try them with Thinking Maps? They are great tools to put me in the position of learners. As a teacher I think it’s really important that I struggle with things too.

On to the three books that I did read!

Beyond the Laughing Sky by Michelle Cuevas – After reading the author’s other books, I became a big fan. She has a huge imagination and I think the best way to describe her books is that they are picture books told in a lot more words. This one is about a bird-boy who wants to belong with the birds, and the effort he made to become a bird. It is sweet and ridiculous and truthful. Which are my favorite kind of books.

The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood – There was a moment when I wanted to read gothic-y books and I came across this one. It was fun! Feral children and wolves. I’m not sure if I will read the rest of the series. This is more like a book I read to get a taste of gothic English old-timey stories? Nonetheless it was fun, like watching an episode of a show about Miss Penelope.

A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin – I saw this book in a classroom and I wanted to read it because the cover is gray and dreary. (I know… but Kate DiCamillo said children’s books should be a little sad.) I read it in a few hours, which is to say that to follow one twelve-year-old girl’s summer doesn’t take long, but so much can happen in a short time that informs the rest of your life. It can take a summer, two weeks, or just one evening for everything to change. I relate to this book because there are people who are like Adam to Hattie. They might not even know the impact they had on my life but I think like Hattie said, they “lift a corner of the universe.”

Chrysanthemum by Levin Henkes

Two teacher friends recommended Chrysanthemum to me and I’m so glad they did! It’s a must-read for kids. I’ll definitely read it to my kindergarteners next year. It’s perfect to read to kids because there is a problem and solution, protagonist and antagonist, and it teaches them about being confident in who you are.

I relate to Chrysanthemum (the mouse in the story) because I think my name is weird too. I’ve wished for another name yoo because I don’t like how Yvonne sounds or looks on paper. But as with anything unusual about yourself, the best thing to do is to own it. Of course it’s very affirming when another person shares that unusual trait with you or likes it! We could all use Chrysanthemum’s music teacher in our lives.

5 stars. I love this book! 🐭💕👍

Diversity in kid lit

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On a recent trip to the library I happened to see many of the books on my to-read list on the shelves. The theme this time is diversity! All of these books are about a culture/time different from mine. It was nice to read them together. There are picture books, poetry, and chapter books too.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena – I think this was a fine book but there are many more deserving books for the Coretta Scott King and Newbery Medal. It wasn’t even the strongest one among these five books. I guess that goes to show more diverse books need to be read and recognized.

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate – I read this within 3 hours and I loved it. It is a little like The Wild Robot and Pax because it reads like a fable. Very allegorical! It was uniquely told from a tree’s point of view. I loved the tree’s flashbacks and how everything connects.

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser – I’ve wanted to read this book for a while and am so glad I finally found it. I think I am into family novels lately. It’s cozy to read books about big families and I love how the hustle and bustle of New York City came through in this story.

Yagua Days by Cruz Martel – I read this book because my mentor mentioned it. She said it had “weird words” that students could figure out using context clues 😛 . Indeed it does! It had a lot of Spanish words but also words that are unusual even in Spanish. I love the illustrations in this book. Here’s to yagua days in our future.

Caminar by Skila Brown – I think this might be my favorite. It is a historical novel-in-verse, set in a context I have never read about. It’s about the Guatemalan Civil War from 1960-1996. It didn’t feel foreign at all because it is told from the point of view of one boy, who became a man, and his decision. Caminar means “to walk” in Spanish, the the reader walks with Carlos over the course of the book. I think the epilogue is the most personal part of the book. I love how years later, when Carlos has a daughter, he saw Flora and remembers. I wonder what it must feel to have an experience like war or other trauma in your past, and to be decades removed from it yet still hold it close in the your heart. I am so so glad I got a chance to read this. Thank you Skila Brown!

Love of Raymie Nightingale

img_0458This book holds a special place in my heart. Of the books I’ve read this past month Raymie Nightingale is my favorite. It is my type of book for the following reasons:

1. I love Kate DiCamillo’s writing. I like simple but unique prose.

2. I read novels, fiction, and mostly middle grade books. Middle grade books just appeal to me the most.

3. I love the characters in this book. Raymie, Louisiana, and Beverly were such a treat.

4. I’m introspective and I loved this book’s theme about struggling with yourself and finding a way out of it.

I related to Raymie. She wants her dad back and she can feel her soul shrinking and expanding. Sometimes things are just the way they are– unfortunate. Whether you are a kid or an adult, people will fail you. Although, I can imagine how much more disappointing it would be as a kid to learn that adults are flawed.

Speaking of adults, the adults in this novel were wacky but fun to read.

DiCamillo did a great job of touching upon some serious themes in a gentle way. Raymie dealt with her dad running away with a dental hygienist, while Louisiana and her grandma were hiding from CPS or foster care. Beverly’s parents were a former beauty queen and a New York City cop. Even though it is unlikely that three unfortunate girls would meet and become friends, I loved that the book brought them together. From my description you would think that their lives are a drag to read but DiCamillo wrote them in such a charming way. Their misfortunes did not define them and perhaps that is the message of the story.