Sunday, January 28, 2018

Kwame Alexander's novels in verse

I think of my library students very much as my own. I take full interest generally in what they read so when I had several 6th grade students hugging, Kwame Alexander's Solo, lovingly in their arms-I was intrigued. One such 6th grader sighed and smiled as he relayed the plot to me, ending with "you just got to read it Mrs. Holt." So I did.

I'm in awe of Alexander's ability to write in verse. It flows so freely, fluently and is filled with a gentle jive. I could see why these 6th graders in particular were swooning. It has everything; a little bit of rock & roll, a legend, a rich and famous lifestyle, romance but then a feel good trip to Ghana where another way of life is sought. It concludes gracefully without a perfect ending just like life. 

Two other books keep flying off the shelf in our library; The Crossover and Booked both by Alexander.  I'll have to wait until summer to read them as they check out as fast as they come in.

I hope Kwame Alexander continues to write for elementary as well as young adult. He has a fresh voice that keeps my kids looking for more. I love following him on social media as well; he's out there talking books and literacy like an ambassador!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Let's compare; my 2017 books

It's a fantastic feeling to look at my books from the past year and find so many great titles.  I hope your year in reading was just as exciting. I read a good mix of books from my TBR piles and plan to sign up for Roofbeam Readers' TBR Challenge this year to keep me on track.  I also added in stacks of new books about diverse characters, which made me fall in love with some new authors like Jason Reynolds and Angie Thomas.

Longest book: Eragon-I'm glad I finally read this fantasy tale
Favorite Detective-Cormoran Strike (Robert Galbraith)

Top Twelve

1. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (real train, great writing)
2. The Mothers by Brit Bennett (Nadia and Luke, love story but more)
3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (brilliant story of police violence + more, very well written)
4. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (dystopian look at our world if Pence takes over)
5. A man called Ove by Fredrik Backman (sweet story of Ove learning about life)
6. American War by Omar El Akkad (dystopian look at future American w/out oil)
7. Our souls at night by Kent Haruf (sweet tale of neighbors making a connection)
8. To the bright edge of the world by Eowyn Ivey (amazing writing, journal-style about Alaskan exploration, LOVED her 1st book The Snow Child)
9. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (amazing, 300 years of life in Ghana and descendents)
10. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (The Count is imprisoned in beautiful hotel and finds a way to continue living a great life)
11. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (novel in verse, aftermath of Will's brother's death, strong voice)
12. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (1937 New York City, great cast of characters)

Top Elementary Fiction:

1. Shooting Kabul by N.H Senzai (escape from Afghanistan, life in America)
2. Some kind of courage by Dan Gemeinhart (great character western)
3. The Witch's Boy by Kelly Barnhill (well-told fantasy)
4. Save me a seat by Sarah Weeks/Gita Varadarajan (diverse friends have all the fun, after the drama)
5. Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes (9/11; well done)
6. The girl who drank from the moon by Kelly Barnhill (well-told fantasy)
7. Eragon by Christopher Paolini (dragon quest)
8. Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes (excellent voice, plantation aftermath)
9. Pax by Sara Pennypacker (pet fox struggles in the wild while boy tries to get back to fox)
10. A wrinkle in time by Madeleine L'Engle (wild, intergalactic ride, introduced it to 5 unsuspecting 6th graders)

Enjoy! What stories made an impression on you in 2017?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

3 Great Stories

I ended 2017 with three good library books and oddly enough I didn't receive any books for Christmas. Probably good because my own piles are still sky high. Before I share my 2017 stats I thought I'd share these three.

1. The Tie that binds by Kent Haruf (1984): I read this because I loved Haruf's Our Souls at night which pushed me to the library to find his first story of Holt, Colorado. Described as a Greek Tragedy, this story gives us Edith Goodnough, a woman who struggles to make something of her life within the confines of the hand she's been dealt. Her mother dies young and Edith is left to care for her younger brother, Lyman and her abusive father.  The intricate tale of love and loss will make you question how far responsibility carries anyone.

2. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (2011): I picked this one up after reading A Gentleman in Moscow and found this one as clever. Katey Kontent, a 25 year-old New Yorker with her roommate Evelyn meet Tinker Gray, a wealthy and handsome banker in a Village jazz club.  The three of them set off on adventures, big and small, with both Evelyn and Kate hoping for their own moments with Tinker. Evelyn and Tinker eventually pair up but it's not in any way how they expected.  Filled with twists and turns and memorable characters like Anne Grandyn, this first novel by Towles is just as intriguing as A Gentleman in Moscow.

The Dry by Jane Harper (2016): Set in Australia this murder mystery has its own twists and turns in a short amount of time. Aaron Falk returns to his small hometown after his childhood friend Luke and his family are murdered. Aaron agrees to stay for a week to help the new sheriff as they both have questions about what exactly happened. While digging up clues they find simmering hatred and other secrets harbored by the small town residents. As they dig for clues Luke hopes to solve another mystery involving the drowning of his childhood friend Ellie of which he was the prime suspect. For a mystery with a LOT going on this one handled it all with interesting style. I'm looking forward to the next Aaron Falk tale.