Monday, April 26, 2010

For the pure pleasure of it.

So many of the books that I recommend here are included because I can see or I’ve been told that they connect to the curriculum in some way.
But for those of us who really love reading there is something more that we like to give besides the title or two of great books. Spreading the love, as it were. And sometimes that will be accomplished with a resource that has nothing to do with a topic taught in school. In fact, promoting those books totally unrelated to curriculum topics might be another strategy to encourage reading. No strings attached just pure pleasure.
And here’s one of my recommendations.

Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine (823 V234F FIC) was one of those finds that was a real delight.

This is not your typical coming of age unless you think communing with the ashes of a once famous pianist, named Violet Park is the norm for adolescents these days. Lucas comes across Violet’s funerary urn in a taxi cab office where it’s been sitting for over eighteen months. He feels an unexpected and unexplainable fascination with imagining who this woman had been. The hunt for Violet’s story intersects with some of the issues he’s dealing with in his own family – his father disappeared several years ago and the family (Lucas, his mom, older sister and younger brother) has been left to wonder what happened. To say the least, the family is stresses and Lucas is feeling it. Lucas is an interminably likable character with a weird and wonderful way of looking at the world. Secondary characters also add layers of interest to the story. Even though dead, Violet too becomes very real to Lucas and us.

I would suggest those in grades 8 into high school would enjoy this book the most.

This book is a British import and has been published under the title Me, the Missing and the Dead in the United States.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spring rituals

I find that I’m trolling the library shelves fairly frequently these days.  Up and down.  Back and forth.  Furtively glancing at book titles.  Surreptitiously running fingers down spines of books.  Until the urge can no longer be resisted and I pull a book or eight (or more) off the shelf.  And   so begins a springtime ritual that goes way back, the collecting of stacks of books in great anticipation of the when I’ll be able to do more reading – LOTS MORE READING!  Its called summer.

So, back to my trolling habit.  It’s sort of like birds in spring; finding the perfect match, building and feathering a nest, and lots of time just sitting around waiting and then enjoying the hatching of my ‘nestlings’.  (I don’t really ‘know’ whether birds are joyful about hatching nestlings or not – but for the sake of my analogy, just go with it, please.)

So, trolling… It does feel like I’m well underway feathering my nest with all the books that I’ve  not read during the school year but thought looked interesting or could have potential tie-ins with school curriculum.  So many books, so little time…

Here are a few that I’ve collected so far:

The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer
 I love Nancy Farmer’s writing and must admit I’ve put off reading this as I’m usually not into Norse mythology.  But, I trust Nancy as a storyteller and have yet to be disappointed.

The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli
Again, a strong storyteller who I usually enjoy.  This one may have some cross-curricular potential with social studies, the Renaissance and art.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming
I’ve always meant to read this book as it takes me back to when I was a kid and how much I really, really loved the movie.  Dick Van Dyke was the man back in the day.  So, I’m curious as to what the book will be like and will be looking for connections with the science curriculum.

Thief of Hearts by Christopher Golden & A Murder For Her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner
These ones are even a bit more indulgent as I love mysteries.  The first one is a contemporary story about a college freshman who works as a pathology assistant and becomes involved in a murder investigation.  The second book is a historical mystery for kids grades 5-8.  The setting is during the reign of Elizabeth I and has a young girl on the run from the men who murdered her father.  Supposed to have fantastic detailing of the time period and great suspense.

The Liberation of Garbriel King by K.L. Going & Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine.
Two contemporary reads about growing up.  Both authors are award winners that I’ve come across previously and I have great hopes for both of these.

That’s the list so far but it certainly won’t end there.  I haven’t even started pulling nonfiction books, yet.  This ‘feathering’ business may be continuous but truly it is the best time of year.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Power of Community

A book recently arrived at the Doucette Library that got me all misty eyed while working at the reference desk.  Not a good look, needless to say.

The book was 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy (327.676 DEF 2009 PIC BK).

It is based on the real life experience of a young Maasai man, Kimeli Naiyomah when he returned home to Kenya telling the village elders of one story that “burned a hole in his heart”.  He tells of the events he witnessed on September 11, 2001 in New York City and that he feels compelled to respond to the tragedy in the way taught by his people, “To heal a sorrowing heart, give something that is dear to your own.”  For Kimeli this can only be done by offering a cow, a symbol of life to the Maasai.  But instead of just one, the village offers a herd of 14 cows which are ceremonially presented to and symbolically accepted by a resident, American diplomat.  The final words, “Because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort” encapsulate the power of compassion and the continuity of generosity between communities.

The illustrations are gorgeous, with luscious tones depicting the African landscape and people.  Recommended for grades 2-5 but could be higher depending on how you are using it.

I had an opportunity to introduce this book to MT students just after reading it for the first time and paired it with another recent acquisition The Grand Mosque of Paris : a story of how Muslims rescued Jews during the Holocaust by  Karen Gray Ruelle, (940.5318 RUG 2009) to address the concept of community.  The instructor had asked me for a range of materials that would engage her students focused around defining what are community and the importance of networking.

Maybe it was because I had read the two books so closely together that I felt the power of both so strongly.  Two very different communities at different points in time but both responding to crisis, showing strength and compassion for those in need embodying what is good in humans and finally, offering hope for us all.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What’s she reading now?

Just finished reading The Grand Mosque of Paris : a story of how Muslims rescued Jews during the Holocaust by  Karen Gray Ruelle, (940.5318 RUG 2009) and found myself in a state of wonderment.

I wondered why I had never heard of this story before, or very much about Muslims during this period now that I think about it.

I wondered if Muslims had ever been persecuted during World War II and if the occupation of North Africa by the Nazis played into it either way.

I wondered what parts of this story are missing because so little of it had been written down and few of the participants are still alive.

I wondered how many other stories like this exist that I haven’t heard of yet that will show me something new and hopeful about relations between Jews and Muslims.

I wondered about human nature.

This book makes you think.   I wonder what more could you ask for?

Update: April 12, 2010
Just saw a commercial for a television program on PBS entitled Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust in Arab Lands about Jews being saved by Arabs during World War II.  Click the link to read a synopsis.

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