#IMWAYR October 11

IMWAYR

This will end up being another late entry to the Monday posts at Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts, thanks to our hosts for this link-up. My family and I have been playing more games than reading lately, and it is reflected in many of my posts (and more so in the posts that I do not make). This weekend, a fair amount of volleyball and a lot of D & D. The weather is also beckoning us outside to finish some fall tasks. I actually wrote that before not posting last week. It is all still true. I have started playing hockey again too, which feels both good and bad (after a year of not playing two games in three nights and then our school Terry Fox Run the next morning has me feeling some new pains).

I will include some of what I have read over the last two weeks and try to do so more briefly. Thanks to the hosts of the link-up at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for providing this space week after week for people like me to come back to.

Books I Enjoyed

Across the Desert

I just finished this new book from Dusti Bowling. I read an e-ARC through Edelweiss, but the finished copy comes out tomorrow. I had heard her speak about this book in Zoom events and was intrigued by the premise of a girl, Jolene, searching for a pilot, Addie, who crashes her ultralight plane while livestreaming her flight. The two girls are 12 and adult readers in particular will be wondering where these girls’ parents are. Jolene has no adult in her life that will help her and that is really the story of the novel. It becomes less about Jolene saving Addie, and more about her saving her mother from opioid addiction and saving herself from having the burden of nearly raising herself. Jolene does form some important relationships in her journey to find Addie and these people are key to what happens in the second half of the novel. There are also some notes at the end about some personal connections that Dusti Bowling has to this topic. I have certainly read and heard about lots of books that are out, or out soon that deal with this topic, but there seems to be a real need for it given how much of addiction is playing a role in everyone’s lives, and in particular the lives of young people.

Violets Are Blue

This is a book that I read the week before Across the Desert, and Barbara Dee has a well-earned reputation for handling tough topics like consent or in this case like opioid addiction. Whereas in Across the Desert, Jolene knows that her mother is taking pills and that it is ruining their lives, Dee’s main character Renata, who wants to be known as Wren, is still trying to figure out who she is when life throws her a few more curveballs to complicate her figuring this out. First, her parents separate, and it is not entirely amicable. Wren sometimes feels caught in between. Then her Mom starts acting differently, and Wren knows she is seeing warning signs but is not quite able to piece together what is going on with her Mom. Her Mom is a picture of what we see far too often in our society, an adult who is well-meaning but letting her children down due to substance abuse. All the while Wren is dealing with friend issues, frenemies that can be controlling, and trying to decide how to deal with a crush when she is not ready for that sort of thing.
This is a really well written book where you see how several characters are thinking and how things go very wrong even without someone being a really “bad” person. Both books are excellent additions to the growing body of Middle Grade and YA novels successfully dealing with substance abuse issues in ways that young people will benefit from reading.

The Undercover Book List

This book had its serious moments but overall is a lot more fun compared to the previous two. Jane is a little lonely with her father off on military duty, and her best friend moving. Her friend gives her the idea of adding a note to a favourite book to find someone that has the same passion that helped form their friendship, reading. The plan runs amok when one of the school’s most notorious troublemakers finds the note. The way it all comes together is a bit improbable but a love letter to reading that librarians and readers will love. 

I Want a Dog

This picture book is about a girl that goes to get a dog but found a very odd animal shelter with a man that wants to give the girl just about any animal but a dog. It is all fairly humourous in a way that Jon Agee seems to specialize in. I noticed when I marked the book on Goodreads that Michelle Knott mention that from a Growth Mindset perspective this book shows a girl not getting what she wants, and that it turns out okay. I really appreciated her perspective in bringing an important message along with the humour.

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Here is a picture book that I probably learned about in one the blogs that post in our link-up, thanks to several of you. It does a really great job of explaining some of the aspects of the water cycle in a fun way that very young students will be able to listen to and eventually read themselves. I was finally able to add this at the beginning of the school year and I think the early primary teachers will really enjoy it.

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This was another funny installment in this series, the third, with the Little Chicken interrupting the nursery rhymes this time to make the case for eating cookies for breakfast, and indeed more often. Stay strong father!
Any parent who has had a child wake them up too early for breakfast will also relate. I like this but find these kinds of books difficult with so few students that know the stories mentioned. Still, funny.

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When I see a book that advertises stickers, I get the feeling that the book might not be that good, but this is a beloved character from a series of books that are so popular, I wanted to read it anyways. I didn’t love this as much as the other books by this duo but with Halloween approaching, I think kids will get something out of the message that holidays don’t have to be celebrated in a picture-perfect way that requires tons of work. Focus on fun. Then again, maybe the message is more for the adults.

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This was a nice start to an early chapter series for me. Charlie’s Mom runs a vet clinic, and they live on a ranch. Amy, who has a very opposite personality to Charlie, comes with her mother to live with them and helps around the clinic. It has a bit of Boy Called Bat vibe for me with Charlie being a lot rule-bound and not really being able to read people’s feelings as well (also the vet part). Amy is able to teach him a little so while Charlie is a little neurodiverse, I am not sure how authentically autistic he is. The book doesn’t hand him this label and it might be more like a device to teach readers to think of others than an effort to add an autistic character, but it did make me wonder. I think kids will like the focus on helping animals, and this could become a popular series in my library.

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I loved the humor and the connection in this graphic novel to the author’s MG/YA trilogy of novels, but I wanted a longer story here. If there were three of these already out, I would want them all in the same book. The events here take place after the three novels in The Reckoner trilogy and Cole has left the Wounded Sky reserve and returned to Winnipeg still seeking answers and retribution for the events in the novels. David A. Robertson’s Misewa Saga is sometimes called the Indigenous Narnia, and I think of this series as the Indigenous X-Files. That might be an oversimplification, but it kind of fits in my brain.

Currently Reading

The first book here is a book that I often offer my classes as a read aloud choice and it was picked this year. An alternate medieval series with great young male characters who undergo needed growth. Older characters provide guidance and humour. The Amulet of Samarkand is my oldest child’s choice as our family read aloud. The lead character has an excellent voice, this is one of her(our) favourite writers for his Lockwood and Company series, but this was an earlier best-selling series that only my oldest has read. I just started an e-ARC of the second Aristotle and Dante book. I read the first several years ago, and really enjoyed it, and I hope I can get back into this one. The last two are reads for work that I am slowly going through. Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics was a book I chose to read, and I am slowly implementing the ideas into my practice. I was hoping to read another chapter this (long- Thanksgiving!!!) weekend but I think my District telling me to read Teachers These Days will prevent that from happening. I have seen author Jody Carrington on Zoom and Youtube and I am not as big a fan as many in my District are, but it is supposed to be discussed at each Staff Meeting and I hate to be a librarian that doesn’t support a book club.

The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger's Apprentice, #1)The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus, #1)Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, #2)Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics, Grades K-12: 14 Teaching Practices for Enhancing Learning (Corwin Mathematics Series)Teachers These Days: Stories and Strategies for Reconnection

Thanks for reading this far, truly, it was longer than I intended. I hope you have a great week and I look forward to reading what many of you are posting.

 

 

 

 

IMWAYR September 27, 2021

IMWAYR

 

The start of another week, and I think I had one of the more relaxing weekends I have had in a while, which allows me to write this post a lot earlier than usual. I know I probably ignored some workish things that I thought I would do today, but that is good self-care, or as good as it gets for me. I didn’t worry too much about whether I had enough books read for this blog post, or how much I put into my assessment work. That will happen tomorrow. My wife and I played D&D with our two daughters, I did finish a book I have been wanting to read this morning and I feel ready to for what tomorrow might bring. I might be setting myself up for a bad Monday tomorrow…

At any rate, I hope your weekend was great, and that you are set up for a good week. I am happy to link this post up with other bloggers at Teach Mentor Texts, and Unleashing Readers. Today, I will share a few books that I read over the week and the cover of a book that I excited to read in the future.

New Cover

Two years ago my school used Diane Magras’ The Mad Wolf’s Daughter as one of our Battle of the Books titles. I loved the historical fiction aspect with a Scottish medieval setting, the non-stop adventure, and the way the story played out with not knowing which character’s side of the story was the truth. When I heard that she had a new book out I signed up to an email list to learn more and I was intrigued by a story that features some of the historical fiction elements and also some steampunk, which I am a sucker for. The book seems to put kids in dangerous situations that have more of a fantasy element than Diane Magras’ previous books with some monsters involved and steampunk castles. The cover looks like such a fun read. I wish this book was out sooner than June 2022, but I feel sure it will be something to look forward to.

Secrets of the Shadow Beasts

Books I Enjoyed This Week

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The second of the Misewa Saga picks up where the first one left off. As in the first novel, we are with Morgan and Eli in the earth world, where they are the victims of systemic racism at their school, but do have the support of a good friend, and supportive foster parents. We are also with them in a world that they enter through a portal, Misewa. In the second book their time in Misewa, ends up being a bit about the backstory of some of the events in the first book. Once Morgan and Eli head through the portal they find familiar characters and have to determine how best to help them. In doing so, they also find out how to help themselves as well

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With some powerful themes and inferences to explore, and great art work, this is a series that I have always enjoyed. This is the third Julia… picture book. I think they have the potential to generate some great discussions with older picture book readers, and could be a gateway to author/illustrator two of Ben Hatke’s graphic novel series Zita the Spacegirl and Mighty Jack.

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This was a cute story of a young boy who loves his books, but notices that one seems to go missing each night. He develops a plan to determine what is happening and it works. He is able to solve the mystery and fix the problem of his missing books, while still allowing his books to be lent out and read. An ending that will have every librarian’s heart, this book will be good to share with early learners at the beginning of the year as they start to take out books for the first time.

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A young Metis girl who does not feel like she is very good at anything, learn to do a traditional dance, the Red River jig. She has to be brave to learn the dance, to show her classmates and to enter a competition at the request of her grandmother. She learns to have pride in herself and her culture. I thought the story was good and nice to have a Metis book, but I am not sure how kids will do with this one as there are a lot of words per page for a picture book. 

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A nice early primary book with lots of repetition that will also introduce readers to the syilx (Okanagan) language. Julie Flett’s illustrations are typically beautiful. This book focuses on local (to my area) Indigenous language and it is great to see books like this for representation. Catherine Jameson does a great job of creating a story that young readers will enjoy and learn a few words of local language by reading.

 

Currently Reading

Ship BreakerThe Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger's Apprentice, #1)Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics, Grades K-12: 14 Teaching Practices for Enhancing Learning (Corwin Mathematics Series)Violets Are Blue

I honestly thought my family and I would be done Ship Breaker, but it is so much harder to have a family read aloud now that my oldest is so much more active in high school with things like jazz band, volleyball and debate club. We have only three chapters left, it is an interesting story in a well thought out futuristic world. I am reaidng The Ruins of Gorlan with my class. I seem to do so every two years. I offered them three choices and this is the one that they wanted. I thought it might be Wonder as a read aloud to start the year, but instead it is this coming-of-age novel set in an alternate medieval world. Building Thinking Classroom is a book I am reading to improve my practice in math. I really like it, but honestly, it did not have a chance of being read this weekend. I only just started Violets Are Blue, which releases Tuesday, but I am really excited to read another important novel by Barbara Dee.

Thanks for stopping to read my post this week, hope you have a great week and if you are writing your own post, I look forward to reading about what you have been up to.

#IMWAYR September 20, 2021

IMWAYR

Another busy week as we are trying to get everyone in our family back into the groove of a new school year, and we have been spending more time travelling to visit family now that forest fires are not a concern. My oldest also has a lot more activities now that the school system is trying to return to a more “normal” year here in BC. These are all really good problems to have, but they cut into my reading and blogging time. So, this post is very late in the day on Monday. Whoops! Thanks to our hosts for providing a link-up at Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts to read about the weeks other readers have had. I should be able to handle that, as it seems the latter half of our week has fewer extra-curricular activities and we have no trips planned for the weekend to get ready for.

Books I Enjoyed This Week

What About Will

This is the newest novel in verse from Ellen Hopkins, and as is typical for this author, she deftly navigates her readers through some of the toughest moments in the lives of her characters. In this case, twelve year old Trace seems to have it all together. He pitches well on the baseball team, has good grades at a top school, and has a couple of close friends he trusts. But, what about his brother Will? He has had some trouble since a head injury in a football game, and now some of his choices are making things worse. With their single father working a lot, Will has some added responsibilities in helping out Trace, but he is not really up for the challenge with the things going on in his life. Trace is not sure how to deal with this, tell his Dad that Will about Will’s issues, or give him space? Eventually, things come to a head and we get to see how this family supports each other and gets support from others in a way. The healthy relationships between characters and the realistic way that problems are not shown as the result of someone being a bad person, but rather them needing support makes this a great pick for young readers. This one released on September 14th.

What Lives in the Woods

Lindsay Currie has started to routinely turn out entertaining thrillers that are a little on the creepy side, but certainly not too much for intermediate aged students to read. What Lives in the Woods is about a girl who had big plans for the summer, a writing course with her best friend in Chicago. However, her father’s plans to have the family relocate to a small resort town on Lake Michigan kills that plan. Even worse, the family is moving to a very large, mansion that may or may not be haunted. Ginny is a big Agatha Christie fan, and now she is living a mystery instead of reading one. This reminded me a little of Currie’s MG debut, The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street, with a family relocating and a big creepy house. Her characters seem to be able to bond with new people quickly over a mystery. If your readers like their mysteries a little creepy, but not gritty or gory, this one is nice and tidy.

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This book is really designed to look and feel like an Elephant and Piggie book. I didn’t find it quite as funny, but I think younger kids might enjoy it. When Archie finds a “perfectly good pizza” just lying on the ground in its box, he decides to bury it in order to save it until dinner. Later his fox friend Reddie (they are actually both foxes but I totally didn’t pick that up for a while), is investigating this mysterious pile of dirt he has found. Archie tries to distract Reddie away from this mystery, but his friend will not be denied and has piled up a series of clues. It is only when Reddie reveals the third and final clue do we find out why he was so determined to figure out why the pile of dirt is there, and the reason is kind of sweet. This book was published on September 14.

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If you are a cat lover then you pretty much have to love these early readers starring Flubby. If you enjoy laughing at cat lovers, you will also love this. I fall into the first category and I appreciate how J.E. Morris gets all the little details of an aloof cat just right.  Flubby will not go to sleep and everything its owner tries fails to work, until the owner stops trying and Flubby falls asleep in the way that is the least convenient for the owner. This hilarious book comes out on September 21st and I need to have it in my library.

Currently Reading

The Great BearShip BreakerBuilding Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics, Grades K-12: 14 Teaching Practices for Enhancing Learning (Corwin Mathematics Series)

I just started reading The Great Bear, the second in the Misewa Saga that started with The Barren Grounds, billed as an Indigenous Narnia. My family is probably finishing Ship Breaker, a post-apocalyptic YA, this week. My reading of Building Thinking Classrooms has slowed somewhat but I hope to get back to it soon. It is a great math teaching resource, but I am at the point where I can use the ideas that I have from the first ten chapters as a starting point, and I find I am busy enough implementing them that I don’t have the time/motivation to keep going, for now.

Thanks for stopping here to read about my week, I look forward to getting to the other blogs late Tuesday or Wednesday. Have a great week, everyone!

IMWAYR, Sept 13, 2021

IMWAYR

Hi, this is another attempt to get back into a routine of blogging about books that I have read each week. I have been doing this off and on for several years, but with no real consistency since the pandemic started. I am not exactly an avid writer, but I do enjoy the motivation it gives me to read and also to read the other blogs that are posted in the link-up at Teach Mentor Texts, and Unleashing Readers (thanks to Jen, Rikki and Kellee for hosting).

This summer, I was committed to getting back into the swing of this, and then the forest fire season, which was hellacious in BC, really kicked in to high gear near to my hometown. At that point, I spent far too much time scouring the Internet for news. When two of the fires ended up fairly close to my house, we were placed on Evacuation Alert (be ready to go on short notice). My wife and I are privileged to both work as teachers and not have to have second jobs in the summer, so we just decided to pack up and leave. There are many highways in our area but several were closed due to fires at the time. We thought if it got to the point where only one was open to leave the area, it could become quite challenging for people. We thought it wise to limit the congestion by leaving earlier than asked for. We packed our kids, some belongings and our cat and went to a hotel a few hours away, in an area that was not full of wildfire smoke.

It turned out well for us, the weather changed shortly after we left, fire behaviour reduced, and our town was pretty much spared damage. However, west of us there was significant damage to homes. Sadly, I have students in my class this year whose families lost their homes over the summer. Most of our extended family had similar stories of the summer. We all had fires close to our homes but were fortunate to not have to fully evacuate. Most of us decided to stay close to home in order to be ready to clear people and stuff out, or to fireproof our homes as best we could. Once the fire behaviour calmed down somewhat, we did a little more visiting and over the last two or three weeks, we have been able to do slightly more normal summer stuff, which was nice. I won’t take for granted how carefree my summers were three or more years ago.

Now, I have just started my second week back teaching (grade 5/6) and managing the school library (35% of the time). As was the case last year, we are fully face-to-face learning in BC. It is nice to have readers, and I sent out a lot of books this afternoon with my class, a grade 4/5 and a 5/6. Things are surely not “normal” in the pre-covid sense, but we can make the best of it.

Books I Enjoyed This Week

Pahua and the Soul Stealer

This is the newest installment of the Rick Riordan Presents imprint. This one works well for fans of Riordan’s work. It features Pahua, a young girl of Hmong heritage who lives in Wisconsin. She can see and hear spirits, including the cat that appears on the cover and is kind of like her sidekick. Pahua spends most of her time outside of school looking after her little brother, and this is only part of the reason that she does not have much of a social life. She has a difficult time talking with kids her age, in part because the spirits that she interacts with are a distraction that make her appear odd to others. When her brother becomes very ill, Pahua meets another young girl that is at home in the world of spirits and finds out that her brother’s plight is no coincidence. She becomes wrapped up in an adventure to save him from evil, help her new friends, and find out more about herself. I enjoyed adventure, the mythology and the humour (although not a main feature, there was some). It was a tad long for me, but that was maybe due to trying to read it while school was ramping up. In the summer, I might not have felt this way.

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I am a really big fan of the novel, and really all of Ruta Sepetys’ novels. I enjoyed reading this graphic novel adaptation, but found that some of the concepts and events were too much to be in a small text box. I was left wanting to re-read the novel. That isn’t really a criticism of the execution of the adaptation, which is partially done by the team that created Illegal, a graphic novel that also has violent atrocities committed against people of particular ethnic groups. I think I personally far prefer this to be a more complete story as it is in the novel, but fully realize that it may reach more people in this way.
I am also a little wary of the way that some younger students like to pick up just about any graphic novel they can find once they start to read things like Babymouse, or Smile, or Phoebe and Her Unicorn, but this is a book that includes a sexual assault and acts of violence that many young readers are not ready to see.
I would be more likely to include this story in my classroom library where I will have greater knowledge of who might be signing it out. It will appeal to students who historical fiction. It is set to appear in stores on October 12.

Borders

This is an adaptation of a short story by Thomas King. The boy on the cover lives in Alberta, and has an older sister that moves to Salt Lake City. There are some picture clues that indicate that she has gone through some tough times and there is certainly some family turmoil, but this is a family that wants to spend time together. So, eventually the family decides to visit Letitia in the US. The problem arises when the mother is not willing to declare herself as Canadian or American. As a result, neither country’s border patrol wants to allow them into the country and they end up in a state of limbo shuttling between checkpoints and spending much of their time at the Duty Free store. I found their way out of the situation quite funny. There are some good discussion to be had for readers here, and I think kids that read New Kid and Class Act might appreciate this. I also found it revealing that both the author and illustrator Natasha Donovan have ties in both countries (Donovan was born in Canada and lives in the US, and I think the opposite is true of King).

Currently Reading

Ship BreakerWhat About Will

My family is reading a darker book for us Ship Breaker is the story of some kids trying to make it in a dark future where flooding and climate change have really wreaked havoc on the world. It is a dog eat dog kind of world. What About Will, is a verse novel I started last night and am enjoying.

My time management is so challenging lately, I am actually finishing this on a Monday afternoon and need to pick up a child from a sports practice. I am hoping to get into more of a school based routine, but getting some badly needed family visits on the weekend made this all hard to squeeze in. Looking forward to reading about other people’s literary weeks! Thanks for stopping to read this.

#IMWAYR August 2

IMWAYR

August is already here. Hard to believe, but it did bring a little rain to much of my province and that was a much needed thing. We have had wildfire smoke over a at least half of our province for the better part of a month, but it got really thick in my hometown for the first time. We had been fortunate that it had been moving in and out but not in the last couple of days. The rain helped a tiny bit on the smoke front, it now smells like an extinguished campfire outside, but I hope it really helps the fire crews do their important jobs.

I certainly spent less time outside with the situation being how it is, and I am trying to start a slow ramp up to my school year, which starts in less than a month for our professional development days and just over a month for our days with students. I am going to start some professional development reading with a focus on mathematics, but while this was on mind last week too, it did not happen. Here is what I was able to read this week.

Books I Finished

Romeo and Juliet

I finished my little run of Gareth Hinds graphic novels that cover some works of classic literature. My oldest got me into his work and I found a couple at a used book store a couple of weeks ago. Last week, I touched on Beowulf. Neither of these are new, this one was published in 2013 but they certainly make the work more accessible. This title features some great research on what Verona would have looked like at the time, a multi-racial cast and a while the text is necessarily shorter, it remains faithful to the original in most ways.

What Comes Next

This book arrived in June, and I got an e-ARC at a virtual event right around the time that it was published. I don’t usually seek out a book that has a dog on the cover for some reason so that might be why I did not read it right away, or it was the end of the school year and I had a huge stack of these books to read. I have only read the author’s first in the Mr. Terupt series, which I should really go back to. I liked parts of this one, but not as much. Thea is a girl grieving after a traumatic event that she witnesses. This causes her to withdraw and even to stop speaking for a while. She remains a reluctant speaker for a while.

To me, this book read as being for kids a little younger than the 12 year old character and I don’t think it would click with many of my students that age. Two characters dealing with tough times or behaviour issues have their problems solved quite easily. A change in scenery and a new arrival helps Thea find joy and become more open to sharing her feelings with others. The hint of magical realism and coincidences would also play better with my younger intermediate aged students, grades three, four and some fives, I think. The story check in at under 200 pages so the length will work as well. It’s a book that will pull on their heartstrings.

Rebound

This is the sequel to the Newbery winning The Crossover, and is also a tale of characters dealing with grief, in this case a boy looking to bounce back, or rebound from the death of his father. The boy is Charlie Bell, who is the father of the twins Josh and Jordan from The Crossover. Rebound has the same rhythmic verse that this author is known for and is a great window to how the character Chuck Bell evolved into the man that he became in The Crossover. Here, young Charlie is really struggling in the months after the death of his father. Living with his grandparents for a while in the summer, and interacting with a cousin at the Boys and Girls Club are some of the things that help him find joy in the world again. The story has lots of humour, and I enjoyed how the reader gets to see that there are several key moments in his life that dramatically impact the path Charlie/Chuck takes in his life. The ending is great, and although I think you should read The Crossover before picking up Rebound, I think I liked this one even more than the first. It took me a long time to get to this one, I think my library had almost no budget when it came out and the other local libraries did not pick it up either, but it was worth it.

Dark Waters (Small Spaces, #3)

This is the fast paced third installment of the Small Spaces series. I enjoyed the action and the return of a secondary character from the first book. For me the ending was a little abrupt, which is hard to talk about in a review, but I almost wondered if my e-ARC copy glitched a little and I missed a few chapters at the end. It had a preview of the first book that appeared twice and showed fifty pages left at the end, so who knows.

The ending that I had was a bit of a cliffhanger that could have been the end of a chapter in the lead up to a climatic confrontation with a villain that I expected to see more of in book three, or it could have been the build up to book four. I will have to check with the published version that arrives August 10, but I have also seen other reviewers say that the ending was abrupt. Overall the series is a very good creepy, middle grade addition to my library as I always have readers looking for this type of book.

The Bug Club

The Bug Club is a non-fiction graphic novel full of the author’s observations and interests regarding bugs in Elise Gravel’s unique style. It comes out August 10th as well. It reads almost like chatting with someone really interested in bugs. Some might think the illustrations target younger readers, but the facts are more for in about grades four or five. The text features a mix of common and lesser known bugs. The author does mention that she just prefers to not draw overly realistic insects, and that it is just a style choice.

Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend!

This picture book came out a couple of years ago, and I think several regular bloggers in this link-up have read and reviewed it, but if you missed it, as I did it is worth a look. It’s about how changes and transitions in life can be really hard, but this story is a really positive look at them. My wife does a lot of photography and posts it in many locations online. One of the things that she does that I really enjoy is she uses song lyrics to caption her photos. This book reminds me of a song lyric too, from the 1998 song Closing Time by the band Semisonic, the line is “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” That is what young readers will see in this book. As one door in life seems to close, another one might open that can also be wonderful. The illustrations are great as well.

Camp Tiger

My last book for the week is another one that has illustrations that pulled me in. I am most familiar with the work of John Rocco through his illustrated versions of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, but his picture books are also striking. Here, the illustrations work very well with the story that is a subtle metaphor for growing up and being given more responsibilities. The boy in the story is moving from Kindergarten to grade one and is a little sad about it. He also has his mother adding responsibilities on him at home as he gets older. The story here centers around a camping trip. I think older picture book readers will appreciate the metaphor more, and make good connections as far as the camping goes. I could see using this with grade 5/6 class.

Currently Reading

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1)Nightbooks

I am making what for me is a rare foray into what some would call an adult book. Ancillary Justice is a book I have had on my shelf for a while and I am happy to finally be starting a new science fiction series. Nightbooks is our family read aloud and we have enjoyed the first third of it.

Thanks for coming here to read about my last week. I am hoping to read more of the reading weeks of other bloggers at the link-up hosted at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. Thanks to the ladies that host us at their sites and have a great reading week.

#IMWAYR July 26

This post is my kind of late submission to the link-up hosted at Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts, thanks to the ladies that host. I haven’t had the most prolific reading week and doom scrolling for wildfire news is pretty much the number one reason. Not the best way to maintain some semblance of mental health and I thought writing this post would get me off the social media and government information websites and also push me to read a lot more in the next week. My region of the province of BC has been fairly hard hit with a number of large fires. I am not on notice to evacuate (Here you get an Evacuation Alert- be ready to go within an hour of the Evacuation Order, which could come at any time and means leave promptly) but a couple of my co-workers are and some of my students. We are fortunate to be sure, but still concerned for others and watching the skies and the Internet far too much. Here are the books I was able to finish this week:

Finished Reading

Children of the Fox (Thieves of Shadow, #1)

I was able to obtain an e-ARC of this book from the publisher at a School Library Journal conference, I think it was Day of Dialog. I am a huge fan Kevin Sands’ The Blackthorn Key Adventures and had been anticipating the start of this new series for about a year. When my youngest child (11) saw it on my device she asked if she could choose it for our Family Read Aloud, and that is the only reason I have not read and reviewed it sooner.

Whereas The Blackthorn Key Adventures are historical fiction with some mystery thrown in, this is a new genre for Sands-fantasy. The setting feels Victorian influenced to me, with a hint of steampunk but there is a moderate amount of world building, creating an original setting for this cast of characters.

The characters include several youth are brought together to pull off a heist by the mysterious Mr. Solomon. The incredibly challenging job they are meant to pull off will require the divergent talents that each individual possess, them to work as a team, and to go against a powerful group of magic users that should not be crossed. To me, it ended up feeling like Oceans 11 meets Peter Nimble.

The story is told through Callan, who has been warned to stay away from magic but needs to pull off this biggest con of his life in order to have the life he never dreamed he could have. He becomes the boy with the plan and feels a lot like Kevin Sands earlier protagonist, Christopher Rowe in that he has had an apprentice in the past that he draws wisdom from but is really on his own now. I mean that a positive because I really enjoyed that character as well.

This is clearly the first in a promising new fantasy series for middle grade readers, complete with its own mythology, magic and world building. It’s current publication date is September 28.

Beowulf

I am not as familiar with the text versions of this story as I probably should be, but I enjoyed this graphic version. The author, Gareth Hinds, chooses to work with a lot of classic material. My daughters have enjoyed his versions of The Iliad and The Odyssey so when I saw this one, I decided to give it a try. Hinds chooses to write it a little like a superhero comic book, choreographing some action scenes to tell the major points from the original story (as best as I can tell). In this chapters of his life, the values and spirit of the title character emerge in his actions, and this might be a good entry point for younger readers. The notes in the front and back of the text shed more light on the process and some of the historical background. I didn’t love the colour palette, as I found it a little dark, but overall the book worked really well for someone like me that hasn’t read the source material in its entirety.

Anne's School Days: Inspired by Anne of Green Gables

This is the third of an early chapter book homage to the original Anne of Green Gables. I have a few superfans of the novels at my school and I buy this series because they sell it to early readers. I think the team adapting the original novels do a great job of highlighting a few of the major events that help shape the character Anne Shirley, including some of the rich and varied language of the original that give it a bit of the same feel as reading the Mercy Watson series.

 

 

The Battle of Hackham Heath (Ranger's Apprentice: The Early Years #2)

This is a spin off of the original Ranger’s Apprentice series that I started reading about 10 years ago. It has become one of the favourite middle grade adventure series in my household. These are set in an alternate medieval world in which Rangers function as kind of a spy service for the king in a sense. There are few Rangers, they are an elite group, but they would handle problems that armies or knights are not discrete or covert enough to handle. This is one of the two prequels, and really are only for fans of the original series. I think the three that take place after slightly better in that it has more female characters in lead roles. I still enjoyed this book, which continues to tell the background story of The Ruins of Gorlan, the first book in the main series.

Currently Reading

Romeo and JulietDark WatersNightbooks

Not much, really. I started the Gareth Hinds adaptation of Romeo & Juliet that I bought at the same used bookstore as Beowulf. I had trouble getting into it, but I am finally starting to. Later today, or tomorrow I am likely to start the third Small Spaces book, Dark Waters, which comes out next week. Tonight we will start our next Family Read Aloud and I think my wife is choosing Nightbooks by J.A. White, a book that none of us have read.

Thanks for taking the time to read through what I have been up to, looking forward to reading about the week that other bloggers have had. Have a great week!

#IMWAYR July 19

IMWAYR

This is another Monday post that I am happy to be linking up to other posts at Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts, thanks to the ladies hosting our link-up at those sites. 

This month, I am picking away at books that have languished on my list for a while (just due to having too many on my list to read, not because they are not great) and books that I want to read before I put them in my K-7 library in the fall. The former are usually books that are in my classroom (I teach grade 5/6 when the library has to be closed- my split is about 65% classroom/35% library).

Books I Finished This Week

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2)

This is the second of the Lunar Chronicles series, and I have it in my classroom. My oldest (14 yo) read the whole series and has been pushing me to go back to it. I typically read the first of lots of series, enough to let a student know about it and possibly recommend it, and sometimes I just don’t get back to reading the rest of the series as things get busy. I was a little late to the party with this series in the first place, but I got back into this about three years after reading the first. It was still a really good series. These are kind of MG/YA that use fairy tales as a springboard to telling a very original story with extensive world building. In the first, Cinder is an ace mechanic, and a cyborg (which are second rate citizens in this world) who has to deal with an awful stepmother and stepsister. She does meet a prince too. So, elements of the fairy tale are there, but there is also a plague running world wide and a group called The Lunars who are looming from space waiting for the right time to invade and take over. 

In this second story, there is Scarlet, who is not that little but does wear a red hoodie. Scarlet’s grandmother is in trouble, and there is a character named Wolf, who may or may not be trustworthy. This books extends Cinder’s story and adds Scarlet to it, while weaving their tales into the world building that has been done. Very ambitious and entertaining. This book upped the violence level compared to the first one, so these are twisted fairy tales that you do not give to really young students. Upper intermediate in my case, mature grade 5-7 students will be more than okay reading this though. Highly entertaining series.

Geeger the Robot Goes to School: Geeger the RobotLost and Found: Geeger the Robot

This is an early chapter book series with a few pictures and text that is nicely spread out. It is Geeger the Robot’s first day at school in book one. Geeger eats what others do not want anymore (spoiled food, ideally) and is able to turn it into electricity. When he wants to make a friend, he decides to go to school. He has some of the typical first day nerves. His biggest problem is that he does not always know what he should eat and what he should not, and with his lack of knowledge of the wider world things like skipping ropes look like food. His friends and teacher help him out.

I didn’t love how the robot had little background knowledge yet was still worried it would make the teacher mad (not what I really want kids thinking about), but overall the first two books had some good character development and lessons about learning from mistakes, believing in yourself and others and the value of trust and friendship. There is a fair amount of repetition in the second book to remind young readers about Geeger, almost enough that kids could read these out of order. There is some humour to go with the story as well, but I wouldn’t say that going for laughs is the primary goal with this story. This is a good option for early readers with the glossary, and pronunciation provided for some words that Geeger was learning (and maybe the reader too)

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Ame Dyckman books are very popular in my school library. This started with Wolfie the Bunny and Horrible Bear. They are a great mixture of humour, heart and message. They are popular with teachers and students. Her collaborations with former Simpsons artist Liz Climo (You Don’t Want a Unicorn and You Don’t Want a Dragon) tend to be more popular for their laughs.

These two are more like the former in that they are cute and funny but not likely to get the loud laughs that the You Don’t Want… series gets. Tiny Barbarians was my favourite of the two, a very cute story about a young one using their imagination to play. You can see the cover with Tiny using a colander as a helmet, a bath mat that went around the toilet as a cape in order to face down dragons and other enemies along with a trusty cat. You can’t see them wielding his paper towel roll as a fierce weapon. This was an entertaining story and I loved the illustrations from Ashley Spires (a BC author/illustrator whose Most Magnificent Thing is also very popular with teachers and students in my library).

The New Kid Has Fleas is a story about a new kid struggling to fit in, and not being thought of or spoken of in the most flattering light. There are kid talking about her behind her back because she looks and acts differently. When one of the classmates has to work with the New Kid on a project she learns that while the kid is different (there are details that show her being raised by wolves- living in a cave, having a squirrel as a snack), she is actually nice and good to work with. The student that was forced to work with her (random groupings) chooses to work with her later and pull her into a social circle. There is a little karma for the student that started the rumour too. It didn’t all work for me: I thought the raised by wolves thing is kind of joke and kind of serious. Not sure how it will work for kids, but the message was a good one.

Current and Future Reading

Children of the Fox (Thieves of Shadow, #1)The Battle of Hackham Heath (Ranger's Apprentice: The Early Years #2)Dark WatersBeowulf (Graphic novel)Macbeth

Still enjoying Kevin Sands new series, it arrives in stores in October as a family read aloud. We all love his Blackthorn Key adventures and are looking forward to finishing this new book this week. I am reading another second in a series. Like Scarlet, this is a series I started and enjoyed and then moved on to read other series. The Battle of Hackham Heath is a second in a spin-off series based on the author’s Ranger’s Apprentice (RA) series. RA is an alternate medieval world with very well defined characters, and another favourite in my house. After this I might read my e-ARC of the third book of the Small Spaces series or one of the two graphic novels by Gareth Hinds I found at a used bookstore last week (really my first time in a store like that for a while). 

Thanks for reading my post, looking forward to catching up with other readers that link-up as well. Have a great reading week!

Monday, July 12th Reading Update for #IMWAYR

IMWAYR

Happy Monday to everyone! I am happy to be writing this post and linking it up with the others at Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts (thanks to our hosts). We are still in the midst of a tough forest fire season in BC. I am grateful to not have any too close to my home, we haven’t had an evacuation alerts (prepare to leave your home on short notice) or orders (go, right now!) yet and some within a couple of hours have lost their homes. It had put a bit of a damper on the summer, which after having such an odd school year with covid, we were really looking forward to. We have restricted our travel plans a bit, we had planned to travel locally and we can do so somewhat but it is harder with wildfires in all directions. One of the things that we can do as planned is get lots of reading time in. Here are some books I enjoyed this week:

Finished

I Hear You, Forest

This was a nice nature themed book that focus on sensory experience. Teachers might enjoy reading this with their classes before heading outside or to make connections with if students go camping or walking in nature. I am interested to see where this heads, as I read it was the first in a series exploring different environments and ecosystems. I am not sure if the other books are by the same author/illustrator team, or if the publisher plans future books to be by other contributors. I read an e-ARC of this title provided by Edelweiss, it comes out on September 7.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

This was also a title I read through Edelweiss, and it is out in November. It’s based on the famous poem by Robert Frost that was first published in 1923. This picture book version first came out in 1969. I picked this because my wife has long been a fan of his poems. I enjoyed this, and I think there are some opportunities for inference with students here, and the pictures will help steer them as they interpret the poem a little bit for them.

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A funny picture book that starts with a chicken crossing a road, but don’t worry this is not a story you have already heard. This story is not about why the chicken crosses the road, but is the story of what happens after the chicken is killed trying to cross it. Yes, a ghost chicken.
I loved the chicken’s interactions with the other ghost animals as he tries to navigate “the other side”. This is a debut picture book author working with an illustrator that I am very familiar with from The Bad Seed books and Hike, more recently. It has many word play jokes that some of my young readers love and others do not get, but overall I had a few laughs and enjoyed it.

Arrow

This novel tells the interesting story of Arrow, a boy who grew up in the rainforest, raised by animals and mostly by the Guardian Tree, an elder of the forest, of sorts. This ancient tree is the narrator. When other humans arrive in the forest for the first time, Arrow wants to trust them, but the Guardian has been stung by humans before, and wants to hustle them away from the forest it has worked hard to preserve and hide from humankind.
Arrow’s interactions with humans are particularly interesting given that he knows very little about them, about their tech, their motives and their language. As the Guardian does not know that much either, sometimes there are descriptions of human activities or objects that are quite different, through their eyes.
This is contrasted by his interactions with the Guardian who is able to communicate with Arrow and other animals, and also see what other animals are seeing. As more humans find this forest, there is more conflict. The theme of conservation and the need for all creatures to work together to protect the land is well done and there is an author’s note and more resources at the end.

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This is the sequel to the graphic novel All Summer Long, which was really about Bina trying to find herself, and this is a good continuation of that story. She has issues with her best friend, with find a band to play music with (her passion), and relationship issues. Her confusion about how she feels and how to handle things when her friend gets a boyfriend are really well done. This is a very good upper elementary/middle school GN series.

Recipe for Disaster (Didi Dodo, Future Spy #1)

This early chapter book is in the author’s previous Inspector Flytrap universe. It is a silly romp with a lot of characters doing wacky things. I think it’s funny, and if you have readers looking for solely that in a transitional chapter book this one will fit the bill. If you have Inspector Flytrap readers in your library as I do, this will also fit the bill. I didn’t love the colour scheme of the illustrations with them being kind of black and white with a green gradient. I would have preferred more of a full colour mode, I am thinking of Dav Pilkey’s Mighty Robot series (illustrated by Dan Santat). I think some of the same readers would engage in these series.

Currently Reading

Children of the Fox (Thieves of Shadow, #1)Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2)

My family have been reading an e-ARC of Children of the Fox, and we have enjoyed it. We are huge fans of Kevin Sands’ Blackthorn Adventures, which is a historical fiction/mystery, and it has been interesting to see his writing in the fantasy genre. There is significant world building here, and the plot is kind of a heist set in a Victorian-esque kind of fantasy world. My oldest (14) is really excited to see me pick the Lunar Chronicle series back. I just started reading Scarlet, which is a YA-fractured fairy tale. I really enjoyed the first book, Cinder but it was a few years ago.

Thanks for stopping to see what I have been reading, looking forward to reading what others have posted. Have a great reading week!

It’s Monday, July 5: A Reading Update

IMWAYR

My first full week off of school, and I decided to celebrate by writing a blog post, something I did not make time for during the 2020-2021 school year. A lot of this summer will hopefully be making time for things that I wanted to do but couldn’t during the school year, but… we have an early start to the forest fire season here in British Columbia, and that will likely play a role in what I am able to do this summer. Thankfully, we got some relief from the mid 40 degree temperatures (over 110 in Fahrenheit, if you would rather). As tough as that was, we do feel fortunate as a town about an hour and a half from where I live, Lytton B.C., was pretty much completely destroyed in a fire. There are fires throughout the southern half of our province and smoke is present where I live but there is just enough wind that it isn’t too bad.

I feel fortunate to not be directly impacted by a wildfire, and also because later today I get my second vaccination. My wife and I have been pretty patient and are ready to head in this morning. That means we will have to sit and wait at the clinic and afterwards for the fifteen minutes. I don’t have to tell people that read Monday Reading Update blogs what the main benefit of that waiting time is… reading, of course. With that, I will share the four books I was able to finish last week in between cleaning up my classroom and the school library for the summer.

Books I Finished

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms

Originally called The Girl Savage, this was a book that was a recommendation from a student. I introduced her Katherine Rundell early in her grade 5 year. I have really enjoyed a few of her books including The Wolf Wilder and The Explorer. I had this student read The Explorer and The Good Thieves and she wanted more by this author so she read Rooftoppers, which I had in the library and this book which I had yet to read but had purchased for our classroom. It is not my favourite of Katherine Rundell’s, who I really love for some of the unique phrases she has that stick with me. The bar is high for me, so I can say it is not my favourite but still like it. It is an interesting story of a untamed girl living in Africa, who lives on a farm (but she does not have a farm in Africa). Through some tragic circumstances, she ends up being sent against her will to a boarding school in London. It starts about as badly as possible, as the girl, Will, has never really had to follow rules, and she becomes an immediate target of mean girls. She handles things in her usual unique way.

Roar of the Beast

I enjoyed the first Cardboard Kingdom book and this pulled me through the second. I am not sure this one had quite the same magic as the first one. I wanted some of the characters to be a little more developed as I read this one, but that had me wondering if that wasn’t also true of the first book. However, I was pulled in by the novelty and creativity that I remembered from the first book. The kids in this book, and there are a lot of characters have super imaginations and create costumes and whole words really, out of cardboard and other objects. I really recommend the first one, if you haven’t enjoyed it yet.

Grumpy Monkey Freshly Squeezed

My first time reading a Grumpy Monkey book. It was an entertaining, easy to read GN with themes of belonging, and being kind and helpful mixed with humour. I will likely read more of these.

Jim (the grumpy monkey) has some strategies for managing his stress including a stress ball and a walk. When other animals join him on his walk, the strategy does not work as well, his stress ball gets ruined and the walk changes. Jim handles the changes by thinking of others and being kind. In some ways, this becomes a different stress management strategy, but also provides comic relief for the reader.

Born Behind Bars

I really enjoyed this author’s The Bridge Home during Global Read Aloud and was eager to read this new novel that comes out in September. I was given an e-ARC at an online conference by the publisher. This is the story of a young boy born to a mother who was imprisoned just before he was born. Set in Channai, as The Bridge Home was, it gently pulls you along through Kabir’s tale. His life is sad but he is with his mother, who he cherishes and there are a few other nice women in their part of the prison as well. One day, Kabir is shocked to find that he has aged out, and will be sent out, alone. He has never been without his mother and never lived outside of the jail. There are great scenes of Kabir seeing many things for the first time, and he also has to deal with the world that he knew was cruel enough to throw his Mom in jail without any read evidence. This was perfect for fans of The Bridge Home (a character makes an appearance here), A Wish in the Dark (the premise is kind of similar) and Amal Unbound. I am really hoping to pick this one up on its release date of September 7.

Dead Voices (Small Spaces, #2)

One of the things I hope I get to do in the next two months is read a lot of sequels that I did not make time for while re-reading my Book Club picks for my students and trying to read widely for the library. The first of these sequels was Dead Voices, which takes place a few months after the events in Small Spaces, that short creepy book your grade four and five students are always asking about (if they are anything like my students). In the first book, Ollie, Coco, and Brian had to work together to face the scarecrows and the Smiling Man. This time, they hope to have a nice relaxing ski weekend in Vermont. They hope to be just like the normal kids they’ve tried to be all fall in school. But, there are things in store for them. This was a very satisfying sequel for me, and I have the third book lined up through NetGalley.

Currently Reading

Children of the Fox (Thieves of Shadow, #1)Arrow

Children of the Fox is my current family read aloud. My 11 year old daughter was looking for a book to choose, and I let her scan the e-ARCs I had. I know she loves Kevin Sands from his Blackthorn Key mysteries and would be curious about his new series that comes in the fall. We are a little over half done and quite enjoying it. It is a fantasy, heist book, kind of like Oceans 11 with kids as theives and a whole lot more world building and magic. I just started Arrow this morning. It is recently released but I am reading an e-ARC through Edelweiss.

That’s my update, thanks for stopping here and I hope to read more from others about what they have been up to.

It’s the last Monday in May, what are you reading?

Hard to believe it is the last Monday of May, and for me tomorrow is the first day of the last month of the longest school year ever. At my school, we continue to walk the fine line between covid protocols and providing kids with a great last month of the year. We are trying to run things like track meets, and year end trips as we have in “normal years”. This includes a District wide reading event that I help run, which will be virtual, but still include students from most, if not all of our elementary schools.

A busy time of year for most educators, and it does cut into my reading time to be certain. But I have finished a few good reads this week that I would like to share with others at the link-up hosted by Unleashing Readers (thanks to Kellee and Ricki) as well as Teach Mentor Texts (thanks to Jen).

Books I Enjoyed This Week

Summer Camp Critter Jitters

I was lucky to get this e-ARC from Edelweiss. I really enjoyed the earlier collaboration from these writers, First Day Critter Jitters, with these animals all struggling with different aspects of their first day of school. This one obviously follows the group to a summer camp. It hit all the right notes for me. Lots of connections here for students as the animals share some of their anxieties about the camp and work together to make it a good experience. Even though this is only the second book with these critters, I can still predict what will happen based on the characters. That is nice with young readers developing their predicting skills as well. I find the sloth to be a great character for that.

The Wolf Mother

I received this e-ARC during School Library Journal’s Day of Dialogue virtual conference. I have been a fan of these non-fiction books that focus on an animal important to the ecosystem of the Gitxsan First Nations in my home province of BC. This might be my new favourite in the Mothers of Xsan series. It shares important stages in the life of a wolf, its importance to the ecosystem and the way it cares for its pack. I enjoyed reading about how this is similar to the way the Gitxsan look after the people in their villages as well. The illustrations are also spectacular.
If you are new to this series, you can really jump in with any of the other books which feature sockeye salmon, a grizzly bear, an eagle and a frog. This book will arrive during the next school year, and will be on my pre-order list for September (it is currently scheduled for a Sept 28 release).

Pleased to Meet Me (Me vs. the Multiverse, #1)

A witty story about a boy who doesn’t believe he has any real strengths. When he discovers parallel universes full of different versions of himself, he needs to use the strengths of some of his new found friends, and the strength in himself to foil an evil plot. The little differences in each of the world were creative and the way that these differences created crazy little versions of our world were super fun and full of laughs. The underdog characters are also worth rooting for. A promising start to a series. I was given a copy by the author and publisher in exchange for a review and I am looking forward to reviewing the second book in the series before it comes out in the fall.

Ghost Boys

I finished re-reading this book yesterday for our school’s book club and the District’s Battle of the Books. In our version of Battle, students form teams and are challenged to answer questions about all of the books against teams of students from other schools. I chose this book because I wanted our book club to be able to engage in many different conversations about racism and we have discussed Black Lives Matter, George Floyd, we have researched Emmett Till and Tamir Rice. Also, we have made connections to systemic racism in Canada, especially targeting Indigenous Peoples (including a horrific discovery last week at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, about 100 km from my school, of what ground penetrating radar has revealed to be a mass grave with over 200 Indigenous children who were forced to attend the school).

In this story, Jerome is a 12 year old boy who is shot and killed by a police officer. He “sticks around” as one of the Ghost Boys (other black boys who were also murdered) and ends up engaging a young white girl in several conversations in order to bear witness and help her learn how to keep his story alive and tell it until skin colour doesn’t matter. Are we making progress? Not enough. This story is great for students who would not really be ready for something like All-American Boys or The Hate You Give.

Currently Reading

BloomEcho MountainChildren of the Fox (Thieves of Shadow, #1)Rez Dogs  

The first two books here are re-reads for our Battle of the Books, my book clubs in class (which we call Literature Circles) should be finishing late this week. Children of the Fox is an e-ARC that we are reading as a family, and Rez Dogs is my next e-ARC.

Thanks for stopping by to view my reads for this week, hopefully I can carve out the time to view lots of other people’s reading weeks.