Saturday, May 2, 2015

May day readings

I've been on a real reading jag this week.  The stars have aligned and I have had both time and opportunity so I have made the most of it.

I started with "The Red Umbrella" by Christina Diaz Gonzalez.  I met Christina a few years ago at an April is for Author's event and I wanted to read her book then and something happened (something shiny!  Or maybe a squirrel!) and I completely forgot about it.  Until this week when I was wandering through the YA section at my local library and found it again.  What a treat this book is.  It's about a girl living a privileged life in Cuba just as the Revolution starts.  Her biggest worries are what her hair looks like and if her nails match her outfit.  Things change fast though and at first, Lucia just wants to play along.  She wants to go to parties with her friends (even if they are sponsored by the party), she wants to go shopping, she wants to read fashion magazines but her mom wants her stay in the house and after some pretty awful things, Lucia wants to stay in the house too.  Her parents though, are so worried, that they decide to send Lucia and her brother to America.  Her parents can get visas for the kids but not for themselves.  So they put the kids on a plane and hope for the best.  It's an awesome story to show our kids what it must have been like to live during a revolution and how even people we think we know and trust can change.  It also shows how kind people can be.  I loved this story.

I also read "The Young Elites" by Marie Lu. I got to meet Marie Lu in October at the FAME conference and I really enjoyed her presentation about becoming a writer but I'd never read any of her books until now.  I wonder why I waited so long!  It was awesome!  It's a great combination of fairy tale and what feels like dystopian future.  It's about a society ruled by a king.  There has been a terrible blood plague that kills adults and some kids, but some kids get the plague and survive but are marked.  The main character, Adelina has been marked in a pretty significant way.  Her beautiful black hair has turned gray (and seems to mirror her mood) and she has had one of her eyes removed.  Some of the kids who are marked also seem to have magical kinds of power.  Unsurprisingly, there are people who are afraid of these kids with magical powers and some of them think killing these would help out society in general.  One of these people is very close to the queen and is ruthless.  It was a great combination of political intrigue, romance, and magic.  Loved it.

I also read
 "The Boy in the Black Suit" by Jason Reynolds.  I loved the voice of this author!  Matty is 17 and is struggling to deal with the death of his mother.  His dad is dealing with her death badly and so Matty is basically left to his own devices.  He has arranged a work program for his senior year but lost the job while his mom was in the hospital.  He is approached by the funeral director to come to work at the funeral home and after his initial wiggins at working around dead people, he finds he really likes the work.  I really loved this character and I really wanted to be friends with him and the people he knows.  Thanks Jason Reynolds, for taking me some place I didn't even know I wanted to go.

The last one I read because one of my fifth grade students put it into my hands and said "Mrs. Tanner, you really have to read this.  It's my new favorite book."  So I came home, sat down in my hammock and read the whole thing.  It's called "The Island of Dr. Libris" by Chris Grabenstein and there are so many things to like about this book, it's hard to know where to start.  First of all, you have this really great main character named Billy.  Billy's 12 and his parents are splitting up and he REALLY doesn't want that to happen.  Billy's spending the summer in a cabin by a lake with his mom (she's working on math Phd and is SUPER busy).  The cabin is completely without electronics but it does have a really great library.  Second, there is a science experiment going that is alluded to from little asides in the story.  Billy finds that when he reads, the characters actually come to life and he can interact with the characters.  And third,  because Chris Grabenstein is a genius, he weaves in great traditional literature (like Hercules and the Three Musketeers) as well as new things that he invented.  It's funny and has a ton of references to other great books, which will probably send many kids scurrying to the library!  It was awesome!

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