It’s Monday, February 15 (Family Day in BC!), here is what I have been reading.

I used to post here quite often about my reading week, but in the last year or so I have found it increasingly difficult to find the time to do so. As many of you know, lots of things are just a lot more difficult as we learn to live with this pandemic. I am still teaching grade 5/6 in a face-to-face school and taking all the extra precautions to try and make that safer. BC does not have a mask mandate for students at my grade level, but there are many other safety measures in place. We have been fortunate as a school to have only one covid exposure (a member of the school community tested positive causing that class to self-isolate for two weeks from the date of the person being in the school). There are also a lot of changes in the library but I am still open (this is about 35% of my teaching assignment, and another great teacher covers my class). I guess all of the extra work led to me not doing this very much, but also really missing it. I read some of the great posts and today I decided to try again as I have a holiday day off. The other important factor is that I just learned how to turn off the WordPress block editor (it was not intuitive for me and was doubling my writing time for these posts).

Books I Enjoyed This Week

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I didn’t actually read the first collaboration between these two creative people, Ida Always, although I know I saw it on someone’s blog. My wife purchased this book for her library and I have often really loved Charles Santoso’s illustrations in The Snurtch, Dandy and other books. As the cover reveals, this is a really great animal friendship story that will appeal to any of the animal lovers in your life. Its based on a friendship between two animals at a rehabilitation ranch in Oklahoma. A horse losing its vision comes slowly befriends a prickly goat who, in time, becomes a great support.

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This is another book that my wife bought for her library (we both have time in different elementary school libraries) and while she had it at home to process, I was able to borrow it. The setting is the Okanagan area in BC, about 150 km southeast of where I live (I hope at least one person who lives even closer than I do reads this). The setting is kind of the star of this book. It works as a sort of timeline for the changes that happen in the area, especially the contact between white people and the Indigenous Peoples that are near the area. These are tricky books to write and as a librarian, I always want to buy them if they are historically accurate and sensitive to how contact negatively impacted Indigenous peoples. What I can say about this book is that Indigenous people were consulted with in the writing of the book (I think the author is from a different part of Canada, so that for me was something that could be an issue). This doesn’t give it some more authenticity as a cultural administrator for the Westbank First Nation states that the book’s story reminds us of the need to take responsibility and care for the land. The focus here is really on the land, and if you are using this book (which is a little too long for simple read alouds with primary aged groups in the library) to help study first contacts between Indigenous and Europeans, it is really a jumping off point, and you will need other resources to advance a more thorough discussion of contact. It does have great illustrations and covers a lot of points of history in the area and how they impacted the land such as railway building, the use of the land as a training area for soldiers and more recently, a wildfire. There was some of the Indigenous content I was looking for, and even though I wanted a little more, I will add this to my library.

Spring Stinks: A Little Bruce Book

I typically add Ryan Higgins’s books to my library right away, and if they are Bruce books, so much the better. My students love this grumpy bear. I don’t think this one will disappoint them and it is more accessible than the full-sized Bruce books that seem to work best as read alouds.

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This is a book I remember seeing lots of buzz for in the summer, and I really wanted to read it. I was getting a Rain Reign, OCDaniel vibe off of it. Those two novels, by Ann Martin and Wesley King respectively, are quite popular in my school. I sold them to kids through book talks and their inclusion in our yearly Battle of the Books. I have been surprised by how much students seem to enjoy books that portray characters dealing with mental health issues. In reading this one, I was hoping the portrayal was accurate, and also that the inclusion of a character that is of Ojibwe heritage would also be authentic.

I enjoyed most of the story but I was aware of the main character, Collin’s statements that he know little of his heritage (having grown up in California) and that some of what he thought to be true were really false stereotypical views from media. At one point, I wondered if there were too many stereotypes of Indigenous Peoples in the book itself. It seems the author’s background is similar to the character’s, and I was able to find this blog post at American Indian’s in Children’s Literature that does a much better job of explaining some of the depictions of life on the reserve in the story https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2021/02/an-ojibwe-educators-review-of-brave-by.html . The blog post is written by Dr. Janis A. Fairbanks who writes that “my community is… the setting of the book.” The issues she brings up with the depiction of the reserve in Minnesota are important.

Another major plot point in this book is that Collin displays OCD behaviours such as counting the letters in speech that is directed at him and answering any such speech with the total number of letters. This condition seems to be related to social anxiety. A large part of the book is how poorly treated Collin is as a result of this, particularly at school, and how he comes to deal with it. I think my readers of OCDaniel would need more details about this condition, maybe in the story or maybe in the afterword. I am not really an expert on these types of anxiety driven conditions, but as I did with the handling of culture in this story, I am going to try to find out more for my readers before recommending this book to them. I really loved a lot of the secondary characters, but am worried that the main character’s heritage and medical condition may detract from the plot’s magical realism, which I think might appeal to some readers.

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This is a series that is always must-purchase for me. I had to wait longer than I wanted to for this one, but it was worth the wait. While this is the seventh HiLO book, it feels like the first book in a new series too. This is because Gina is emerging as the main character with her thoughts, emotions and actions at the core. HiLo is still there and provides much of the comic relief with I always love in this series, but Gina dealing with the changes in her life was also really well done.

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I always find it a little confusing about when books arrive. I had a hard time getting HiLo, but I have this book even though the publishing date is actually a week from tomorrow (Feb. 23). This is a local Indigenous author who actually attended the school that I teach at. So, this was a must have book as well. It includes some words in a few Indigenous languages in this part of my province and a glossary at the back that guides readers who do not speak those languages. The book is not so much a narrative (for me, at least) but more an examination of what we see and hear when out in nature and a call to celebrate and sustain our connection to the land.

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I am not the biggest Anne of Green Gables fan, but my friend that teaches next door to me would be in the conversation if that title was ever awarded. This made me seek out this early chapter series after seeing it in Cheriee Weichel’s blog post some time ago. I feel like the first two books (this is #2) hit all the right notes: highlighting the most important parts of the story (as I know it) and using some of the really interestingly descriptive language while still keeping the books short and accessible for young readers in a way that reminded my friend right away of Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson books. I am glad I got this one in time for our school’s celebration of Canadian written stories this week. I Read Canadian Day is Wednesday, February 17th.

Currently Reading

Click (A Click Graphic Novel)A Wish in the DarkAirborn (Matt Cruse, #1) 

I somehow missed reading the Click series of graphic novels when they came out. They seem geared to fans of Raina Telgemeier and Shannon Hale’s graphic novels and in the early going that seems to be the case. The main character is not being asked to join some of the social groups forming around a talent show but does not want to approach anyone either. I know of a few kids who could learn how to handle this type of social situation and I want to see where the rest of this book goes. I am re-reading recent Newbery Honor book, A Wish in the Dark as our family read aloud. I really enjoyed my first reading of this book. I am also re-reading Airborn with my grade 5/6 class. We are really enjoying this steampunkish adventure.

On Deck Reading

 

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow GoddessGame ChangerIn the Wild Light

I have a couple of Shari Green’s novels-in-verse that I am going to read as Missing Mike has been very popular in my library right now, and novels-in-verse in general have been more popular this year than the last couple years. I might try this one, or Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles. I am probably going to choose one of these ARCs later in the week, probably Game Changer since it is already out and I meant to read it much sooner.

Thanks for reading my post, it is a little late on Monday, but it was also kind of an impulsive decision to write it. I hope to read more of the other Monday posts this evening and as the week progresses. Have an excellent reading week!

8 thoughts on “It’s Monday, February 15 (Family Day in BC!), here is what I have been reading.

  1. Welcome back to #IMWAYR! I definitely get how hard it can be to cram blogging into an already-crazy life—I have unfortunately dropped off the face of the Earth more than a few times. (Thank goodness graphic novels are short, so I can read them quickly when I don’t have any time!) I’m glad you’re being careful at school, and I’m glad you made the WordPress interface less confusing. (I’ve been battling being marked as a bot several times while commenting today—technology is so frustrating!) I really appreciate your thoughts on The Brave. I really enjoyed Click, but I was less of a fan of the sequel, Camp, so I’m curious to hear your thoughts, especially since there is now another sequel and another one after that in the works. Thanks for the great post!

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  2. AARON!!!!! It’s so good to “see” you since, um, September? I’ve tried to keep up with you on Goodreads, but it’s just not the same as the blog. Nevertheless, I completely understand the difficulty in finding the time to devote to blogging. On books, I’m definitely adding This Way, Charlie, Stand Like a Cedar, and I’m always happy to see a new Shusterman title out. Do you know if this one will be a stand alone? I’ve only discovered Kenneth Oppel this year with the Overthrow series, so now I’m interested in looking into more of this work. I looked it up and my college library has not one, but TWO copies of Airborn. So I’m adding that to my list as well. Our copy of HiLo #7 came in last week and my youngest (six years old) decided to start the whole series over on Thursday. Much to our surprise, she was already to book #7 by Sunday. So she’s just eating it up. I’m sure her older brothers will all grab it once she’s done. Great post and so good to catch up with you. Hope things begin to settle down for all of us, very soon. Have a wonderful reading week!

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  3. I will definitely look for This way, Charlie, new to me, and I love Ida, Always. I am going to bookmark your post & return to read more of the Native American links you shared connected to Growing Up in Wild Horse Canyon & The Brave, also Stand Like a Cedar. At this same time, I am participating in a closed FB group that writes a poem every day connected to a prompt one of us shares. Today’s prompt was a small book discovery by one of the librarians in the group, writing by Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce. Here is the link to the writing but she had the published book which you can find. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2866608/ So now I have some more reading from 2 disparate connections! : ) It’s nice to have you back, Aaron, but I understand about the time, admire all of you who are teaching during this very tough time. Enjoy your reading! I loved A Wish in The Dark!

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  4. I’m so happy to see you back here Aaron! My library has a copy of Growing up in Wild Horse Canyon that I have just put on hold. I live in Oliver, so I’ll let you know what I think after I finish it. I’m currently reading Crossing Home Ground – a travel memoir about someone who hiked the Okanagan Valley from Keremeos to Osoyoos, to Vernon and eventually to William’s Lake. It will be interesting to compare this to his perspective.
    As you know, I am so impressed by how well this Anne of Green Gables adaptation is done. I have one of them from Netgalley to get around to reading and reviewing.
    I had a lot of trouble with Ida, Always. It’s a romanticised version of life for two polar bears in the zoo. Their real story is sadder than this one where one dies. What drove me most nuts is that it ignores that we are driving polar bears in the wild into extinction because of climate change. (Sorry for the rant) Anyway, welcome back.

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  5. I completely understand how you are feeling with the block editor. I started blogging again after a couple years away from my blog and I have spent WAY too much time trying to figure it out. I got stubborn with myself though and haven’t yet turned it off. Thanks for sharing the HiLo book and the Click series of graphic novels. I seem to have missed two great series and I will have to check them out.

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