Monday, November 13, 2017

Muktar and the Camels

Written by: Janet Graber and Scott Mack

First line: Bare feet slap across the hard earthen floor of the Iftin Orphanage as children gather in the dining hall to gobble down bowls of warm posho.

Why you should read this book: Muktar, a refugee nomad boy from Somalia living in a Kenyan orphanage, dreams only of camels, the lifeblood of his people, but the only camels he sees in the orphanage are the ones that deliver books to the school every few months. When he's asked to help care for the camels one day, he notices that one of them has hurt its hoof, and uses knowledge passed down through the generations, his father's last gift, and his own shirt to help the animal, resulting in his being allowed to leave the orphanage and take a government job tending camels at the age of twelve.

Why you shouldn't read this book: I loved this book but it was a bit advanced for my kindergarteners, who were excited to talk about camels they saw at the zoo but didn't seem to get anything out of the story.

You Are My Wonders

Written by: Maryann Cusimano Love and Satomi Ichikawa

First line: I am your teacher; you are my school child.

Why you should read this book: It has sort of a bedtime feel, except that kids don't get nap time anymore, even in kindergarten. Gentle flowing rhymes talk of an elephant teacher's love for her anthropomorphic animal students and offers a sense of dichotomy between child and adult while cementing the bond between them. Great way to calm down a room of boisterous five-year-olds.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You need a break from the five-year-olds and you can't have one.

One Cool Friend

Written by: Toni Buzzeo and David Small

First line: Elliot was a very proper young man.

Why you should read this book: Feeling camaraderie with the penguins at the aquarium, and somewhat ignored by his polite but bookish father, a young boy selects an aquatic avian friend to take home as a souvenir. He does his research and provides the penguin with everything it needs to be happy, and then there's a funny twist ending involving the dad and a Galapagos tortoise. High interest book that will hold kids' attention.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Strict no pets rule.

A Fine, Fine School

Written by: Sharon Creech and Harry Bliss

First line: Mr. Keense was a principal who loved his school.

Why you should read this book: Proud of his students, teachers, and all the learning going on in his school, over-zealous educator Mr. Keene gradually, and without the consent of those involved, expands the school year to include weekends, holidays, and summer vacation. Young Tillie notes that this learning now takes place at the expense of the town's younger siblings, who now have no one to teach them to skip or swing, and their dogs, who have no one to teach them to tricks, and also the students themselves, who are missing out on the type of self-directed learning that doesn't happen in school. In the end, of course, Mr. Keene sees reason and all is restored.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You have some powerful arguments for year-round school.

The Hello, Goodbye Window

Written by: Normal Juster and Chris Raschka

First line: Nana and Poppy live in a big house in the middle of town.

Why you should read this book: A small child relates the magical nature of a particular window in their grandparents' house, a portal around which family life is centered. The window has many purposes and brings great delight to the characters in the book. Warm, accessible, and fun for reading aloud.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You covered all your windows with tin foil.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Written by: JK Rowling

First line: Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

Why you should read this book: Harry Potter is a worldwide phenomenon, a captivating story about the battle between good and evil as it plays out in a British boarding school for the magically inclined. Harry Potter, the boy who lived, is surprised to learn that he is much more than an unwanted orphan who lives under the stairs in his aunt and uncle's house, but actually a famous child from a well-known wizarding family, who is about to embark on his magical education. A year of friendship and discovery is disrupted by the presence of evil forces, which Harry and his friends are determined to expose.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't want to know about what every English-speaking person under the age of thirty knows about.

Dare to Disappoint: Growing up in Turkey

Written by: Özge Samanci

First line: The primary school was across the street from our apartment.

Why you should read this book: I really loved this memoir of growing up in the '80s and '90s in Turkey, where military leadership and economic inequality dictated many aspects of the author's life. Both she and her sister studied seven days a week in the hopes of attending the best schools and getting the best jobs, but Özge, though determined and hardworking, never seems to succeed in reaching her goals or pleasing her parents. Beautiful multimedia illustrations bring the characters, the setting, and the time frame to life.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You have your children's life course planned out, and you're sure they'll never let you down.


Written by: Liz Prince

First line: No, Mommy!

Why you should read this book: This graphic memoir details the development from childhood to young adulthood as the author tries to navigate the social expectations of her female body while finding herself more and more convinced that she has no interest in anything girly. Liz learns to embrace her identity, and grows confident in the knowledge that she is a heterosexual girl who will never be comfortable wearing dresses or acting ladylike. Very potent and believable, Liz's journey spoke to in many ways, and will likely be a comforting read to those who understand what she's gone through, and informative to those who need to know.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You have ever forced a crying five-year-old to wear a dress against her will.

Orwell's Luck

Written by: Richard Jennings

First line: All my life, I have been a person who wakes up with the birds.

Why you should read this book: When a middle school girl finds an injured rabbit in her driveway one morning, her entire life becomes consumed with healing the bunny, and possibly decoding what she believes to be secret messages sent by the rabbit through various means, primarily the newspaper horoscope. It's a strangely magical story, more or less plausible despite the mystic content, and primarily about the narrator's journey from an internal life to one that has room for outsiders. Funny, smart, engaging, and uplifting, this is a lovely book that should appeal to a wide range of readers.

Why you shouldn't read the book: You don't want your kids bringing injuring wildlife into your unfinished home improvement projects.

Samir and Yonatan

Written by: Daniella Carmi

First line: Since morning I've been waiting for a curfew.

Why you should read this book: A Palestinian boy whose mother works at an Israeli hospital finds himself thrust into an alien world when his mother uses her influence to get Samir treated there. Samir knows Jews only in the context of the conflict that took his brother's life, and he is terrified to find himself living among them, without his family for comfort. Living in the children's ward, Samir slowly opens up to the humanity of the people around him, and through the imagination of a boy named Yonatan, becomes confident and happy.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You'll never get over your brother's death.