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.

3 thoughts on “IMWAYR, Sept 13, 2021

  1. Forest fire season has not been kind in recent years. Our city fire alarms are going off more than I’d like, but thankfully our actual town has been spared an evacuation, this year. We’ve been evacuated before and we’ve been “on call” for evacuation before, and there’s nothing like waiting for the alarm telling you that your home is in imminent danger. It’s also heartbreaking when someone completely loses their home. I’m sorry your surrounding area is experiencing such devastation, Aaron. On books, I don’t know how to say this. But. *sigh* I’ve not yet read any of Ruta Sepety’s novels. 😳 I know. I know. It’s a terrible thing. I do have several on my “want to read” list, but I just haven’t gotten to them. On Between Shades of Gray, I’m getting the feeling I should go for the novel before hunting down the graphic novel. So that’s my plan. If I were to ask you which of Sepety’s books to start with, do you have a recommendation?

    I’m also adding Ship Breaker to my list. Sounds like an interesting read aloud that my kiddos might dig. Thanks for all the shares and it’s good to see you, again. I’ve struggled to stay consistent over the last few months. I’m sure moving, Covid, death in the family, and vacation all play into the chaos, but I’m really going to try to keep up the habit this school year. There’s something comforting about regularly being in this community while simultaneously keeping a weekly record of my reading journey. Have a great week, Aaron!

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  2. I’ve been trying to be more consistent as well. It’s hard but worth doing. Pahua and the Soul Seeker looks great. I always love books from that imprint.

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  3. I think you should 100% give yourself some credit—even if there wasn’t a forest-fire fiasco (perhaps the fun of alliteration will make up for the misery of the situation), trying to blog consistently (or read consistently!) when you have a full life to deal with is always a tough thing! I know I’ll look forward to your posts whenever you’re able to get them posted.

    It is enraging to me that there are forest fires DESTROYING PEOPLE’S HOMES, and then people just deny that climate change exists and go, “Huh? Forest fires? How weird.” I am so sorry you all had to evacuate, and the damage sounds like it must be a lot for other people.

    These books all sound wonderful! I have forgotten to pre-order Borders even though I pretty much read every graphic novel that exists, so I will try to order a copy. Between Shades of Gray sounds like a great read, but I can understand the graphic novel not being the one to start with. Thank you so much for the wonderful post!!!

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