Mid-August’s #IMWAYR Post


As a teacher on a Sept-end of June schedule, mid-August is kind of the marker that you are going back to school soon. For me, this has always meant me telling myself, you need to squeeze out any summer activities that you and your family wanted (needed) to get in. You might even want to start getting prepared (just mentally? or physically going into class/library) for the school year.

So, this week there was a fair amount of reading at the beginning of the week centered around what new books I might want to add to my K-7 library, or my 5-6 classroom, or to my School District’s Battle of the Books list. Later in the week, plans focused more on visiting family out of town, and virtually no reading. I am also shifting to more time spent on podcasts that are focussed on structured literacy. I am the Professional Development rep at my school and we have a session to kick off our school year that is two weeks from today (my District start with a three day Summer Institute for teachers and then student come the following week).

There were a few books I enjoyed this week and I am hoping to squeeze in a bunch more this summer. I let my list of ARCs guide my reading choices quite a bit this week. I keep a spreadsheet with them listed by release date, and try to read books about 2-4 weeks before their release. Sometimes I get behind and read them just before they come out. When I get a bit ahead, I pick an older book I have been wanting to read and just not making the time for. I am curious how others figure out what to read next. I know most of the people that come here, particularly those that blog and post to the link-up at Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts (thanks to our hosts for keeping this going) have massive to-read lists and there are just so many great choices out there.

Books I Enjoyed This Week

The third installment of the Nico Bravo graphic novel series continues the fun adventures of Nico and friends going up against or alongside figures from mythology. The plot separates Nico and his friends from his boss at the “celestial supply shop”, Vulcan and we see alternating parts to a related “crisis” that needs to be solved to save the world. To tell more, would spoil the second book for those that haven’t read it. If you have, rest assured that this book picks up where the second one left off. The humor is good and the art is excellent as one who has read this series has come to expect. My twelve year old was eager to continue in this series and it has a following in my library at school as well. I almost missed reading this one, as I didn’t record the expiry date of the ARC I got through NetGalley. It published Tuesday, August 9, and my daughter and I both had to read it on the 8th.

A thought provoking novel that takes place in Indonesia, Berani deals with some of the complexities of environmentalism, local government, and the economy while showing readers that life is full of difficult choices that require us to go outside of ourselves and understand how our choices impact others. The story is told from three different perspectives.
Malia is a young girl whose family has roots in Canada and Indonesia. While living with her mother in Indonesia, Malia enjoys a relatively privileged life attending a private school. One of her passions is environmental activism, but when she provides information to her fellow students that is not in line with how the local government views the issue, it causes problems for her teacher, principal and friend. Malia needs to reconcile the consequences of her activism on those around her, and learns about the challenges local economies face.
Ari is a young boy who lives and works with his uncle while attending a better school than his tenant farming parents would be able to send him to. He recognizes this is a privilege that comes at the expenses of his cousin, as his family could not afford to send both of them. His uncle’s restaurant has an orangutan, Ginger Juice, as an attraction, and Ari begins to see that it is wrong to keep the animal in captivity, but is not sure how to make his Uncle see this.
We also get brief passages from the perspective of the Ginger Juice, who has some memory of living in the wild before being captured, and see the descent in his physical and mental condition.
Ari struggles with understanding the responsibility to his family back home to obey and work for his uncle but also to stand up to his uncle about Ginger Juice’s condition.
The strength of the book is how the characters are able to learn that even things that seem black and white are quite complex. The resolution to both plots are satisfying as is the look at how things work in a society that is quite different to what North American readers are used to.

I was fortunate to get an ARC of this book from NetGalley and it’s initial publishing date was tomorrow, I am pretty sure it was pushed to August 30.

I just read an e-ARC that I received from NetGalley of this very sweet picture book. In this book, a daughter begins to see the differences in the way that she and her mother look with respect to her hair and skin colour. Her Mom’s soothing, calm words tell her that they are both beautiful in their own ways, and that there difference is okay. While walking with her Mom, the young girl sees animals and their babies that are different in appearance and this helps her to learn that it is okay that she doesn’t look exactly like her mother. Tasha Spillett-Sumner biography on her website states that she gets strength from her “Inninewak (Cree) and Trinidadian bloodlines,” and that is likely partially the inspiration for this story. I was only familiar with her graphic novels in the Surviving the City series which are short, but more in the YA category. I plan to track down her first picture book which published last year, I Sang You Down From the Stars, I know a few of the regular bloggers, Cheriee and Linda have read it, but I totally missed it when it came out well after our book budget was spent for the school year. Beautiful You, Beautiful Me is her second picture book and is publishing in mid-October, I have seen the 15th and the 18th but believe the latter to be correct.

This is a book I actually read a couple of weeks ago and missed writing about. I couldn’t add it to my Goodreads account (I still can’t find it there) and forgot to mark it down elsewhere. I really enjoyed the picture book’s simple statements about aspects of our character that we hope to see in ourselves and others. It works with translations in Cree from Delores Greyeyes Sand and illustrations from Gabrielle Grimard. It reminded me of an earlier book by this author, When We Are Kind. That book was popular with young listeners in the library and I think this one will be as well. I read an e-ARC from NetGalley but this one publishes in September. My indie bookseller says it arrives on the 13th.

Earlier, I had mentioned that I have a lot of books that I just haven’t made the time to read but really feel I should, and this is the only one that fits that criteria for this week, the rest were ARCs. I also don’t think I read quite enough non-fiction (NF) at the MG level, and that was why I chose this one. I have been wanting to add more NF to my classroom library and added this one a while ago but only just now read it. I loved Soontornvat’s A Wish in the Dark and with the buzz and awards that this book was getting I should have read it much sooner. This is a well researched book that tells a story most adults heard about at the time that it happened but that many of the kids I teach now might have forgotten or did not hear about as they were pretty young. It is a thrilling rescue of 13 members of a soccer team from a cave that flooded in Thailand.

Soontornvat grew up in the U.S. but her parents are Thai, and she wanted the story told from a Thai perspective. Her family helped her interview people who were there, and one of the many interesting things is how many people were involved in this rescue: literally thousands, from the US, UK, and Thai military people and diving experts, to the locals who had knowledge of the area including where water needed to be diverted to help save the kids and allow the divers access. Christina Soontornvat tries to balance telling as much of this story as she can while editing for length and showing how the complicated pieces came together. It has short chapters that should pull kids in the way it pulled a NF adverse reader like me in.

Lastly, we have an ARC from Edelweiss that I started reading shortly before I was getting set to travel last week. I wasn’t sure I wanted to take the tablet I use for e-ARCs but once I started this I had to keep going so I decided to bring it. In reality, I finished it before traveling because I had to keep going. I think my students will feel the same way. I read and enjoyed this Canadian author’s The Skeleton Tree and used it for my District’s Battle of the Books, and this one has some similarities in that there are kids who are separated from their parents/adults that are trying to survive in the wild.

Virgil is a twelve year old with some anxiety over being in an isolated forested area, especially without his mother who recently passed. However, he and his two older siblings are making the trip in their camper van to spread their mother’s ashes in a place that was special to their family. Their father just can’t handle making the trip but his older brother Josh (late teens? early 20s) can handle the driving and his sixteen year old sister is also an experienced camper whose sasquatch story inspire Virgil’s anxiety. The family has made this trip often. What could go wrong?

Just about everything, including the fire suggested in the title. To survive this ordeal, Virgil needs inner strength but also the science based teachings of his mother. Much of these are passed to the reader as flashbacks from Virgil’s memory. These flashbacks reminded me of the way Iain Lawrence told his main character’s story in The Skeleton Tree, as did the hint of supernatural, introspection and darkness. I have a lot of kids that love survival books and I will be adding this exciting story to my list of recommendations for them.

Currently Reading and On Deck Reads

It’s been a while since I have read a book by Dan Gemeinhart, whose writing I feel in love with while reading another survival story, The Honest Truth, so I was eager to start an e-ARC of The Midnight Children. I also have the second graphic novel in the newest series from the author of Bird and Squirrel, a popular early-mid graphic novel series.

That’s all I have to share this week. Thanks for stopping here to see what I have been reading. If you have a post to share as well, I hope to read what you have been up to. Have a great week, everyone!


6 thoughts on “Mid-August’s #IMWAYR Post

  1. I bookmarked quite a few, like Berani and Fire on Headless Mountain, Aaron. When I searched for Berani, I found that our Denver Zoo has an orangutan named Berani. I’m glad you finally read All Thirteen, an amazing story! Best wishes for these final days before school begins.


  2. You made a lot of reading progress this week! I swear I started thinking about going back to school on July 1. We started August 8, so not that unreasonable. Glad you are enjoying your summer still.


  3. I hope getting ready for the return to school is going well, Aaron! It sounds like there’s a lot going on between finding new books for the libraries and preparing professional development materials for other teachers—it’s all very impressive! And it looks like you’ve been reading some great books too—in particular, Beautiful You, Beautiful Me looks like a lovely picture book, and All Thirteen is obviously one I’ve heard so many great things about as well. I hope you enjoy your reading this week, and thanks so much for the excellent post!


  4. This is a fantastic collection of books Aaron. I want to read all of them.
    The best thing about being retired is not having to worry about returning to work. My anxiety level used to start ratcheting up August first.
    I have taken a break from Netgalley this year. Otherwise I put what books I had to read and review into my calendar.
    I added I Hope to Goodreads. You can find it here. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/62003765-i-hope-nipakos-yimon


    1. Thanks Cheriee. Yes, the anxiety is real! Thanks for sharing the link to I Hope. They must have just added it. I was thinking of sending something to someone… somewhere… I considered taking a break from e-ARCs for a year and reading a lot more of the books that already have, but it has been kind of useful to prioritize my budget (which is quite lean). Tough call.


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