Some books stick with you long after you’ve put them down. Here are four books I’ve read this month that continue to keep me thinking about the characters I met or mulling over ideas from the author:
You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly
You Go First is the new book by Erin Entrada Kelly, who won the 2018 Newbery Medal for Hello Universe. I really enjoyed Hello Universe and even selected it for a 4th and 5th grade book club, but You Go First is her best book yet. I started reading this during my daughter’s afternoon nap last Saturday and ended up staying up late that same night because I had to finish it. Yet, at the same time, I was savoring every page and so did not want it to end–reader problems! This is one of those books where my husband kept giving me the side eye, as I alternated between laughing out loud to myself, tearing up, and practically hugging the book. (For fans of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin it felt like that!).
This book is told from the alternating perspectives of two middle schoolers, Charlotte and Ben, who have never met. They are online Scrabble competitors. They are not totally honest with each other at the beginning, but we as the reader know they actually have a whole lot in common. Erin Entrada Kelly paints such a realistic portrait of life at school and her writing is spot on. This is a book for anyone who has ever felt alone in the crowd. This is for kids trying to simultaneously wade through the waters of changing friendships and school while dealing with a family member’s illness, divorce, or another tough situation. You will root for these kindhearted, smart, interesting, relatable characters with all your heart. I cannot wait to put this into the hands of as many students and teachers as I can. Highly recommended for upper elementary. This is my favorite kidlit of the year.
Check out the wonderful Erin Estrada Kelly sharing a bit about the book and reading a chapter:
Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson
When I saw Piecing Me Together win both a Newbery Honor and a Coretta Scott King Award at the Oscars of children’s books (the ALA Youth Media Awards), I eagerly requested it from my public library. When this YA book finally became available a few weeks ago, I happily downloaded the library ebook on my Kindle and proceeded to completely lose myself in sixteen-year-old Jade’s story. (Ten Steps to Get the Most Out Of Your Local Library)
Jade has a scholarship to St. Francis, a prestigious prep school in Portland, Oregon. When she is pulled into her counselor’s office one day, Jade is sure it’s to find out she has been selected to go on the school’s study abroad trip to Costa Rica. To her dismay, her counselor actually wants her to participate in the “Woman to Woman” mentoring program–an opportunity she is eventually convinced to accept given that it promises full college scholarships to mentees. Jade’s observations about race and class in her experiences both in the program and floating between her neighborhood and St. Francis are sharp and compelling and Watson’s writing is stunning. Jade is a character you have to meet–a must read.
To hear more from author Renée Watson on why she wrote the book and how it relates to her own experiences check out this fantastic 5 minute interview:
The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito and Julia Kuo
In the picture book The Sound of Silence, Yoshio is off to school, walking through the streets of Tokyo taking in a “symphony” of sounds. When a musician he encounters shares that her favorite sound is silence, he begins to look for this elusive sound everywhere. Yoshio eventually finds silence by losing himself in a book–the whole world falls away around him. My students loved sharing which books gave them that wonderful reading experience, where you completely enter the world of the book and are taken out of your own life. (You Go First and Piecing Me Together certainly did that for me!). Perfect for a discussion about mindfulness or getting into a state of flow with a particular activity. The illustrations in this picture book are also so detailed and beautiful and Yoshio’s quest to seek out the moments of “ma” (silence), will inspire you to embrace the quiet in your own life. This would be a stellar addition to any picture book collection.
There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge) by Linda Åkeson McGurk
I shared that I had started There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather in Reads for the Moms in Your Life. I had really been enjoying it and predicted it would be great for fans of Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman. I’ve since finished and have to say it has stuck with me and really led to a mindset shift. I enjoy books that explore the ways in which what makes you a “good parent” in one culture, might make you a bit of an outlier in another. In this case, Linda Åkeson McGurk explores how in Scandinavia getting your children outside every day (in any weather) and giving them free reign to explore and play in nature is woven into cultural norms. This line about the structure of the day in preschool struck me in particular, “A survey of a hundred preschools in Stockholm showed that the average time spent outside was one and a half hours per day-on a bad-weather day in the winter. On a nice day in the summer, the average was nearly six hours”. Holding a children’s birthday party outside in the snow, being encouraged by the government to have your baby nap outdoors, and bringing rain gear to school and playdates (because outdoor play happens rain or shine) are just a few examples McGurk mentions from her own children’s experiences during their 6 month return to her childhood home of Sweden. I don’t know if I will quite reach that level, but this book was good inspiration to provide our little ones with a bit more unstructured, outdoor play and exploration–both for the fun of it and for the benefits. For my toddler, that means the joy (and sensory experience) of digging in the dirt and touching the trees and working on her balance as she happily runs around the yard. I’m beginning to think that in our culture of a million and one activities, my providing of “enrichment” could simply include a library card and time outside.
What are the books you can’t stop thinking about right now?