Saturday, November 14, 2015

It's noisy out there-more CYBILS books

I've been thinking a lot this week about how difficult it is to get noticed.  In particular, I was thinking about the database I wrote-The Booksearch- that lets you search for books based on the skill you want to teach (I'm struggling with marketing it).  But it actually must be exactly the same for authors. I've read some really great books this week that I think my kids will like a lot, but I never heard of them and I'm pretty sure unless someone with a very loud voice stands up to say "This is awesome, don't miss it", it's going to be relegated to a dusty corner of a shelf where in 10 years, someone's going to say "Why on EARTH did anyone buy this book?"  (Which I know happens, because I've been doing THAT this week too.)  So here goes... I'm adding my voice to the cacophony of noise already around you!

The first one is "The Girl in the Torch" by Robert Sharenow.  It's the story of Sarah, who lives in eastern Europe with her mom and dad.  It's not an easy life, but it's the one they know.  One night, a group of horsemen comes through their village and kills Sarah's dad along with several other men.  Sarah and her mom decide they need to leave their village and go to America to find Sarah's aunt, who lives in a beautiful place called 'Brookalin".  They get on a boat and Sarah's mom gets terribly sea sick so Sarah takes care of her the whole time.  When they get to NY, they are separated (at the time, the authorities would not let you in if you were sick, you went to quarantine).  Sarah gets word a few days later that her mom died and she is going to go back to Russia to live with her uncle, who never gave the impression that he liked girls in anyway.  Sarah REALLY doesn't want to go so she decides to make a break for it.  This book is full of action and historical touchstones that make it a really great story to read with kids who might be studying about immigration.  It has pieces not only about Jewish migration but also Chinese, Irish, as well as some of the prejudices of the Native Americans and the African Americans'.  I thought Sarah was a really plucky character and she deserves to be heard.   This one would pair up well with a book like "Big Sky Hattie" by Kirby Larson.

The second one I almost put down.  It's called "Stealing the Game" by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld.  It's the second one in a series (and I TOTALLY missed the first one) about a 8th grader named Chris.  He likes to play basketball and he likes to draw comics (graphic novels) and he doesn't think that either of things will please his high powered lawyer parents.  His older brother, Jax, is the one who is enrolled in Stanford Law School.  But one day Jax comes home.  He's hanging out with people who seem bad.  He's been drinking a lot too and Chris is worried.  The timeline of the book is a little confusing.  There are flashbacks and flash forwards that are labelled in a way that made me go "HUH"?   But trust me, hang in there.  The story was totally worth it.  It would be a serious spoiler to tell you any more but it's really, really good.  This might be a little big for an elementary school (there is come conversation about kissing that I'm pretty sure would make my students squirm).  This would be great paired up with "STAT" the series written by Amar'e Stoudemire.  Here's a little video where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar talks about the book.  

The last one (today) is called "The Secret Mission of William Tuck" by Eric Pierpoint.  This one is also historical fiction and it's set in the Revolutionary War.  William is 12, lives in Virginia on his family farm.  His awesome older brother, Asher, is fighting in the Revolutionary War.  One day, Asher is fighting near by when the British Army approaches the family home.  Asher tries to lead the army away but is caught and executed by Captain Scroope.  They take all of the family's livestock and burn their fields.  William is enraged and decides to join the Revolutionary Army to avenge Asher's death.  He's too young to fight, but Asher taught him all the drumming signals, so William takes his drum to join the army.  During the first battle, William comes across a badly wounded man who begs William to take a message and tells him that this message might turn the war.  William goes and ends up meeting many key historical figures and skirting the edges of many historical events.  The story itself is very exciting and filled with thrilling plot twists and suspense.  It would also serve as a great entry point for learning about the Revolutionary War.  At the end of the book there are many references that would be a good jumping off point for more research.  I liked this one a lot.  

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