As me and my teaching colleagues continue to navigate the tricky waters of remote teaching from home I am reading a lot. But much of it is online for students that don’t have books. The engagement level of my students has never been lower. I think I underestimated how much their engagement was a product of us all being together. I had hoped I could duplicate our community online, I am teaching mostly the same stuff with the same technology, but there is something about in-person learning that isn’t the same.
The best online community I am a part of right now, is this group. I enjoy reading all of the blogs that are posted each week and seeing all the great 2020 releases and older books that people are reading. But most importantly, I enjoy seeing how people are handling these crazy times, and the way that what we are all dealing with influences the way we interpret what we are reading. There are some books that I will know I will forever associate with this time period, and their meaning, to me, is wrapped up in the events of the past months. Thanks to all of the people that have kept the routine of reading and writing about what you have read.
Books I Enjoyed This Week
I am not a huge spy book guy, at least in kidlit. I struggle to read parts where kids best adults, but this was a fun book. I enjoyed the settings of New York, Scotland and Paris. The characters were a likable bunch, and the way they worked together (not always smoothly, but pulling together as they learned more about each other) was great too. Mysteries at the heart of the plot was interesting and I would probably read more of this, it seemed like a sequel is likely, although you could read this as a stand alone. I grabbed this book from a table of ARCs at Nerdcamp Bellingham (which seems like a million years ago, not 6 weeks ago. The book was released in March.
This was another ARC I got at Nerdcamp Bellingham, which I feel very grateful to have successfully attended. Along with the Western Washington University Children’s Lit Conference, it is really the only large event I have ever attended. I grabbed this because the Masterminds series has brought a resurgence in the popularity of Gordon Korman books at my school. This wasn’t the page turner the Masterminds series was for me. It had a quirky setting of a small town of Centerlight, straddling the border between Michigan and Ontario. I couldn’t help but wonder how that work with the border being closed the way it is now. I don’t think there is a real town of this size on that island though. Keenan is the new kid in town, and is taken in by Zarabeth (alias Zeebee) a girl that doesn’t really fit in living on the Canadian side when all the kids her age live on the US side. When Keenan starts school, in the US, they drift apart until Keenan starts to unravel some of the mysteries that only Zarabeth believes exist- the mystery of what happened to the worst behaved dog in history (her’s) and what happened to the treasure of Prohibition era gangsters. I just found it a little slow (although it picked up at the end), and the way Korman switched perspectives in most chapters did not work as well for me when they were secondary characters. This book came out in February.
I enjoyed this MG graphic novel, I haven’t read many lately, I think I needed the change. I picked up an E-ARC from NetGalley. It was originally released as The War at Ellsmere, the book has a new look in its colouring and some of the pictures from the first published version 12 years ago. Author Faith Erin Hicks explains some of the differences at the back of the book and that will be interesting for art lovers. The story has two plot points that we see a fair bit. A clique of mean girls doing their mean things to a very likable girl, and also the girl who is not well understood and has no friends, finding her first. The two roomates at the center of this the bullied girl (Juniper), and the girl without friends (Cassie) are great characters and are good for each other. Fans of Raina Telgemeier likely missed the original version and I think will respond well to this new version from Faith Erin Hicks, whose The Nameless City trilogy is well loved in my library. This book is published in July.
This one is not so different from One Year at Ellsmere (a coincidence) as the main characters is starting school at an exclusive private school as a scholarship student. Being a scholarship student makes it challenging in both these books as characters deal with wanting to hide their backgrounds to some extent from their wealthy classmates. This is a huge focus for Pippa, who tries to hide her family business (a laundry service) and aspects of her culture as a Korean-American among other things. Pippa seemed happy before her move to private school, but nonetheless sees the switch as a chance to reinvent herself into the type of girl she sees on magazine covers. Through ups and downs, she learns how to judge what is really important. I obtained a copy of this book from Book Portage, thanks to all my book friends in that group, and to the publisher for this one, which has been out for a little over two months now.
I am about to start reading Wink, another book I picked up at the conference in Bellingham. I haven’t been reading After Zero quite as much, I think because I don’t think my District Battle of the Books will happen and that is one reason I am re-reading it. It’s a very good book though. My family is nearing the end of The Blood of Olympus. My kids still really enjoy these books as re-reads, only my wife is experiencing it for the first time. I think the pacing really appeals to them. I think we finish this week. They will likely pick another Rick Riordan book (my money is on Magnus Chase).
On deck reads
These are some ARCs I am considering next, but I have also read a lot of more realistic fiction lately and I might need to switch it up. That’s why I am eyeing up Shatter City, the sixth Uglies book, second in the newer quartet.
Thanks for stopping by to see what I have been reading, I hope to see how your reading week went soon.
11 thoughts on “It’s Monday, What are you Reading? April 20, 2020”
I haven’t heard of any of the books you shared today, Aaron, & put them on the list. It’s going to be hard to keep up as most of the time I have immediately placed holds at my library! No more is that happening & I really can’t buy them all. I am looking forward to reading Wink someday & the Korman book sounds interesting because of the US/Canada movement. It never occurred to me that there would be a crossover like that. I’m thinking of all of you teachers, knowing that it must be a huge challenge. My older granddaughter (5th grade) is enjoying what’s happening in her meetings & work, but she is a bit of a loner, so. . . The younger one (2nd grade) is sad every time, her mom tells me. She misses her classmates & that fun in the classroom very much. Being together is so important. Best to you this sad time, & thanks for all the book recs!
City Spies looks fantastic. I will definitely have to check that one out. I have Wink on my nightstand but haven’t gotten into it yet. Hopefully soon.
I’m surprised that you aren’t a fan of spy books, but it’s making me question why I like them SO much. I often don’t find fantasy books believable, but there is something that makes me think that maybe I could be a spy. Wink was very good. Have you checked out Edelweiss or Netgalley for Digital Review Copies? I hardly ever have paper ARCs anymore. I feel your pain with the distance learning; there is so little I can do to get books to my students.
So glad to learn about a new middle-grade graphic novel. GNs are one of the few types of books that are easily working for me right now. My son still loves Gordon Korman books, so I may need to get this new one. It cracks me up that I read Korman when I myself was a teen, and now my son reads his books! (Of course I got the really great Korman–Don’t Care High, Son of Interflux–classics!) I think my college students are struggling for the same reason–their engagement was highly dependent on learning in community and in collaboration with others.
Our reading seems to be very similar lately!
I liked City Spies too, and I know exactly what you mean about kids besting adults!
Pippa Park is in my pile. Going to be a little bit before I get to her.
Loved Wink, will be interesting to see your thoughts!
I’m reading The Water Bears, it’s good. Can’t wait until I get into Lauren Wolk’s new one.
Hope you have a safe and happy reading week.
It’s such a relief to make it back to Monday and get to check in with my #imwayr peeps! And my goodness, I know what you mean about some books forever being associated with this time period. I just read Bloom for the first time (pretty sure you first recommended it) and I couldn’t get over the similarities in what they were experiencing (from the US blaming China to the toilet paper shortage to wearing masks in grocery stores, etc.). It was so weird listening about their panic and failing economy while going through the same thing in real life! LOL Anyway, you mentioned Korman’s Masterminds series as a page turner (even though you didn’t review it today) and so now I have to hunt it down. And I just got my hands on Wink yesterday, so I hope to squeeze that in later this week. Have a wonderful reading week, Aaron!
I am with you on the connection with my students. It’s so hard trying to connect with all of them with this digital platform. I want to rev up their reading and get them excited but it’s so much harder than I expected. I loved reading your reviews on your past reads and current ones. I too link to switch up genres when I’ve read several of the same in a row. I’m eager to read The Water Bears and Echo Mountain. I have The Water Bears pre-orders and Echo Mountain on NetGalley. Happy reading this week!
I’ve seen a lot of praise for City Spies and Pippa Park Raises Her Game, and I’m also glad that you enjoyed One Year At Ellsmere—I was thinking of trying it, since I just read her other book Pumpkinheads (which she co-wrote with Rainbow Rowell). Also, I haven’t read Gordon Korman’s books in a long time, but I used to love them, so I’m sure I’d love this one as well! Thanks for the great post!
I’ve been hearing lots of people enjoying James Ponti’s books recently that I’m intrigued.
One Year at Ellsmere is catching my eye. Also, I would recommend The Water Bears. It is realistic fiction, but there is a hint of magical realism too.
That is so funny, I literally just finished it a few seconds ago. For sure a hint, or maybe more.