Book Review: The Thing With Feathers by McCall Hoyle

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The Thing With Feathers, By McCall Hoyle 

Emilie is a teenager with issues. She struggles with returning to school after homeschooling, with making high school friends, and with navigating her first crush, a handsome athlete named Chatham. She also has two other problems: grieving her father’s death from cancer and living with epilepsy.

Emilie’s mom and Dr. Wellesley, her therapist, desperately want her to succeed in public school, and try to help her gain confidence, but she doesn’t want anything to do with school. She wants to stay at home, where she’s comfortable and unafraid, and where her service dog, Hitch, is by her side. With all the love and care she has around her, from her mom to her teachers to the school nurse, what does Emilie think could possibly go wrong at school? Well…everything.

The Thing With Feathers is for every person trying to survive the ups and downs of daily life: the teen with medical issues, the popular jock, the peers in English class, the cheerleaders, the parents, the teachers, the animal lovers, the poets, and the community volunteers. The setting — a small community in the Outer Banks — is perfect for this twisting, turning plot of changing tides, smooth and rough waters.

This is a story of a teen wrapped up in a life of high school drama, and more. It’s a story of hope in the midst of chaos. Best of all, it’s a story of love against all odds.

IMWAYR: PD Week

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This could be a long post, but I am thinking you would be upset, so I won’t list every picture book from my PD session today at #RSAC2018. If you want the list of books we used in the session, please feel free to ask in the comments (or email me) and I’ll help. In the meantime, the books I’m reading this week are:

GAME CHANGER! BOOK ACCESS FOR ALL KIDS by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp

This book IS a Game Changer for teachers and anyone else who wants to get books in the hands of kids! This text is full of the “WHY” and “HOW”, with researched best practices, personal interviews, and stories about helping students have access to books. ALL students!

 

THE THING WITH FEATHERS by McCall Hoyle

I just started, but I already love the storytelling — McCall Hoyle is one of my new favorite authors.

 

 

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, at Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

 

Book Review: Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

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Hey, Kiddo‘s subtitle is “How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction.” Jarrett’s brave memoir is a graphic novel commentary for our times. Jarrett is brave to share his story in this memoir, and I’m so glad he did. We book lovers say, “Books save lives,” and I’m sure this particular book will help someone going through tough times.

One thing you need to know before reading this story is that, although it’s true that there are terrible forces in the world that overshadowed his family life, Jarrett’s story is not all sad. His grandparents who raised him are funny, smart, and loyal to each other. His mother does love him, although her addiction doesn’t allow her to be there for him. His friends are the same friends you and I have (and had) — they play games, go to dances at school, learn to drive, etc. Jarrett’s teachers in school take care of their students the best they know how, and Mr. Shilale, the art teacher, encourages Jarrett to stick with (and expand) his art studies. Again, I’m so glad Jarrett did. His early creative endeavors led him to write Lunch Lady graphic novels and books in the Star Wars: Jedi Academy series that we all know and love. Once he found his father, their growing relationship helped Jarrett grow to be a stronger man, too.

Why I Loved This Book: I loved that Jarrett Krosoczka opened his world and invited me in. I enjoyed getting to know him, and his family, and his story is one worth sharing. I love that this is a nonfiction graphic novel. The artwork is Jarrett’s own, and I love how he intertwined memorabilia into the pages (all the way down to his grandmother’s pineapple wallpaper). I love that this book is publishing in 2018, when so many students I know are facing hard family lives themselves, and I hope they are able to see themselves in this book.

Why You Should Read Hey, Kiddo: Read Hey, Kiddo to remember your youth. Read it to identify with the people in the book, and around you in your own life. Read the Author’s Notes in the back of the book — they will allow you to become Jarrett’s friend. Read it to enjoy the art and creativity. Read it to inspire you to share your story.

 

 

 

Book Review: A Pocketful of Poems

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I love it when Nikki Grimes shows the reader different types of poetry — She’s a master at placing words to catch your interest and attention. Pocketful of Poems (2001) features haiku. The narrator, Tiana, celebrates the seasons with words she finds in her pocket. Spring, pigeon, homer (reminds me to cheer for my baseball team), pumpkin (which reminds me of my favorite season), and gift are just some of the words Tiana invites you to use to create your own haiku poems. Exploring Javaka Steptoe’s textures and creative placement of color and objects on the page make this book even more fun to read over and over. The hand-sculpted gilded alphabet makes me want some letters for my own pocket. Celebrate the seasons with Tiana, and maybe even write something yourself.

Book Review: Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung

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Consider this colorful picture book for your first days of school…for all ages and grades.

Yellows, Blues, and Reds live peacefully in a city, until one day, a Red declares, “Reds are the best!” The whole community is thrust into chaos — so much so that the three color groups must live apart, forming segregated neighborhoods. One day, Blue and Yellow are seen together with a new color…what will become of the union? In Mixed: A Colorful Story, Arree Chung shows us a world of colors, teaches us about tolerance, and how “mixing it up” might just be the best thing for everyone.

Why I Like This Book: My current school is a mix of old and new — students who have attended there and students who are now enrolled due to school closings and consolidation in our district. This is a perfect book to make students (and teachers) think about ways we can come together, and that being united is better than being alone.

Why You Should Read This Book: It’s colorful! (Hint: there’s an art lesson here — primary colors, secondary colors.) It includes simple and fun characters, but it also introduces a big message about communities that we all need.

Book Review: SWING by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess

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In another amazing collaboration from Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess, we follow Noah and his best friend, Walt through the ups and downs of high school life. Noah and Walt are NOT on the school baseball team, but Walt hits the batting cages with fierce commitment and passion, channeling his love of jazz to help him find his SWING. Noah is a faithful friend and follower, while working on his own passions, especially his love for Sam, a beautiful BFF he’s known since “forever” ago. Sam has a boyfriend, though—none other than the buff baseball star of the team, Cruz. 

When Noah finds a birthday gift for his mom at a local thrift store, he also finds his courage in the box — the words of old love letters that were left inside. Noah copies the words for his love, longing to live the life that Cruz now has. When Walt delivers one of the letters to Sam, however, the three friends’ relationships start to change.

Meanwhile, the neighborhood is dealing with bigger issues — there’s life and love, and then there’s allegiance and angst. Patriotic duty vs. empathetic obligation towards our fellow man. Kwame and Mary SWING the readers thinking around, fluctuating with hard-hitting emotion that leaves one breathless, wondering about our own lives in the midst of all that is good and evil. Our own little lives — up against the global society.

What I loved about Swing: I loved ALL the characters in Swing, right down to the grandma who is supposed to be keeping an eye on Noah while his parents are away, and Floyd, Walt’s “love doctor” cousin. Swing will remind adults of their high school days, and help current students find ways to deal with their feelings, all while helping us think about our place on this earth.

Why you should read Swing: You will laugh with, and long for, the characters. You’ll reminisce, and maybe even renew your friendships from high school. You’ll cry. You’ll think. You’ll want to be a better person after reading Swing.

IMWAYR: Solution Squad

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I am NOT a “math person.” Never have been, never will be. But sometimes we “reading people” must learn something new, and share that learning with others. Here is a wonderful example of a math learning opportunity: Solution Squad by Jim McClain. Mr. McClain is a teacher (which makes this book even more important to me) who strives to give his students the most engaging learning possible AND uses his strengths (he’s a comic book maker and connoisseur) to make that happen in his classroom.

When you open the colorful Solution Squad for the first time, you find an introduction written by McClain that explains how he got started with writing books. After the Table of Contents, there are a few pages of “How to Read Comics,” by Tracy Edmunds. This is helpful for people like me, who don’t read comics or graphic novels on a regular basis. Solution Squad continues with “Primer,” the first story, that introduces characters, math vocabulary, and (here’s where it gets interesting) the first problem for the Squad. “Looks like a code,” the character, Ordinate, states. The story continues and the characters use a primitive device (I learned about in my math classes) to solve the problem (You want me to give away the solution? I won’t do it!).

There are a few stories in Solution Squad, all based on math standards and McClain’s artistic way of drawing students into the learning using comics. Nathan Hale, author of the Hazardous Tales series, praised the work in the testimonials: “I wish I’d had Solution Squad when I was trying to learn math…” My personal favorite story was “The Trouble With Trains.” Remember the “train” problems from word problems in math class? Yep, I do. Now I understand not only the problem and solution ideas, but the humor that leads adults to groan at “train problem” jokes.

Jim McClain adds background information for his characters through the newest member of the squad, Radical, reading the book. What a cool way to spread the book love — from characters to real-life students. Reading is important. Reading is crucial for learning. Reading brings math to life!

One last thing — a bonus for teachers — Solution Squad has lesson plan ideas and a guide for the solutions from the stories in the book. Written for teachers, by a teacher. That’s a winning solution for math class!

Jim McClain brings STEM learning to life for students, adults, and comic book fans. Learn more about Solution Squad from the website, http://www.solutionsquad.net.

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