Sunday, December 13, 2015

Trying to finish! CYBILS books 2015

I'm getting down the end of the list (and sadly, the end of the time frame!).  We are supposed to come to consensus this week about which books made the short list.  Fortunately, the other people on the committee are WAY more decisive than I am so it sounds like the process shouldn't be too painful, I hope!  I did read a few this week that I really loved.

The first one is historical fiction.  It's called "I Don't Know How the Story Ends" by J. B. Cheaney.  It's set in Hollywood during the first World War, which, in my opinion, is an underserved era of historical fiction.  What's great about this book is that the war serves as a backdrop to the story, it really isn't THE story.  THE story is about the beginning of the film industry and telling a story and it is terrific.  Isobel's dad has gone off to serve in the war and rather than stay in their home town of Seattle during the summer vacation, Isobel's mom decides to take her and her sister Sylvie to visit her sister (the girls' aunt).  Aunt Buzzy has married a studio executive and has a stepson named Ranger who is DYING to make movies.  He enlists the girls in a movie making project and we all learn a lot about making movies.  There are also tons of references to early films and directors that would make for a terrific research project.  The story also gets a helping of the usual middle grade drama with the dad's return home from war.  One of the things I really loved about this book was the language.  There are lots of great similes and the language the author uses (the period slang) was terrific).  I think kids will really love this one.

The second one is one that felt really familiar.  It's called "Extraordinary" by Miriam Spitzer Franklin.  It's modern fiction about Pansy who starting fifth grade.  Fifth grade is going to be really different for Pansy because she's going to be without her best friend, Anna.  Anna contracted spinal meningitis and then had a stroke and has severe brain damage.  Pansy feels badly that she and Anna had argued before Anna left to go to camp and that she never had a chance to apologize, so Pansy sets out to be extraordinary, so when Anna is better, she will see what a good friend Pansy really is.  It felt a lot like "The Thing about Jellyfish" by Ali Benjamin, where the main character was trying to make amends and it's also sort of like "Out of My Mind" by Sharon Draper because you can come to understand what it must be like to live with a long term disability.  In either case, my students seem to love dramas like this one, so I think it will be a big hit.  

This last one is one I'm rooting for to be on the shortlist.  I read it back in July as an advanced readers copy and I really liked it.  It's called "Night on Fire" by Ronald Kidd.  It's about two girls growing up in Alabama in 1961.  One is white and one is black.  When the Freedom Riders come to town Billie (the white girl) finds herself questioning many things she believed to be true.  Is it ok for black people and white people to be separated?  To what lengths should we go to keep things the same or make changes?  Is it ok to be look the other way when people are being hurt?  Do the people I know love me the way I thought they did?  Are my family members good people?  Am I good person?  I loved all the questions Billie raised and I thought it was a thought provoking read.  I can't wait to get it into my library.

And that's the end of the CYBILS reading!  YAY!!!

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