Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give Kathryn’s (at Book Date) “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” meme a kidlit focus, reviewing books in children’s literature (picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, or anything in the world of kidlit). If you enjoy this type of reading, join us every Monday!
Thank you for all the well-wishes from last week’s travels. I’m back home and getting back into the swing of things. Even while playing catch-up in the classroom this week, I was happy to still finish some great reading. YAY! I’m posting my #IMWAYR post extremely late in the day, but I’ll be sure to make it around to everyone’s blog by nightfall.
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
May 16, 2017
After reading and enjoying Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish two weeks ago, this earlier work of Cartaya’s was recommended reading. So I didn’t skip a beat to get my hands on a copy. Arturo Zamora was born into a close-knit family that runs a well-loved restaurant. During this summer, his mother’s goddaughter, Carmen, visits and introduces him to new poetry. But he’s suddenly feeling all sorts of awkward and confusing feelings about her (someone he’s usually seen as a cousin). At the same time, Wilfrido Pipo is a newcomer to the community and Arturo’s family soon realizes that he has big plans for their town — plans that do not include their family restaurant!! I loved the Spanish-American culture in this story. The scene is so well written that it’s easy to imagine walking right in to the room. You can just hear the clinking of the dishes in their restaurant, smell the delicious foods, and feel Abuela’s warm hugs. What a precious story of family and traditions and crushes and community and loss.
October 2, 2017
Lee & Low/Tu Books
Ahimsa is the story of Anjali who, at the age of ten, discovers how privileged she is because of the caste system in India. She’s never really questioned the “untouchables” of her society — there are simply people who you must never touch because they have always been the lowest of the low. They just are! Nevertheless, while making comparisons between the British control over India and the caste system within her own culture, Anjali finds herself willing to risk her very life to defend the helpless among her people and reinstate freedom for ALL. Written in such beautiful and descriptive language, Kelkar gives us a glimpse into the past so that we might better understand the connection to what we are currently facing TODAY.
I read The Night Diary a few months before I read Ahimsa and I think they are great companion reads. Each provide very different perspectives of Partition, yet both are important for getting the full picture.
September 12, 2017
This book was such a treat! Told from the perspective of middle-grader Ken, we learn that the EngiNerds is a group of kids who are super-smart, techy-science kids who’ve known each other since Kindergarten. One day, completely out of the blue, a large box appears at Ken’s house. It’s a ROBOT! And Ken’s robot is hungry. I mean really REALLY hungry!! Outside of eating and farting out giant brown squares, no one is sure of the purpose of Ken’s robot. After a couple days, boxes begin showing up at everyone else’s houses. And before too long, the robot creator must come out of the shadows because things are not going exactly the way he intended. It becomes a race against time for the EngiNerds to solve the issue and save humanity! Oh my, I read some pretty serious, tear-filled books over the last week. Therefore, it was great to get to relax and laugh while reading EngiNerds. But this wasn’t just a funny book, there were some seriously interesting concepts to consider (based on the direction our planet is going). With friendship, technology, farts, fast-paced action, and a SAVE THE WORLD adventure, the EngiNerds is not only an engaging read, but will serve as a great discussion starter for cross curricular discussion related to science and technology.
Don’t forget that book #2: Revenge of the EngiNerds, is coming out this February. From the Goodreads description, we know the EngiNerds are “…on the hunt for just one rogue robot. But who knows what kind of mayhem one mechanical creature can cause? And why is Ken the only EngiNerd who’s worried about the runaway robot? The rest of the crew seems be missing in action and Ken fears it’s because of Mikaela Harrington. She’s the new girl in town who’s UFO and alien-obsessed and wants to join the EngiNerds. But as far as Ken is concerned, the EngiNerds are Y-chromosome only, no X’s allowed!” Go ahead and add this second installment to your Goodreads list HERE. If you don’t have a local bookstore, you can pre-order book #2 RIGHT HERE.
Beyond the Green
Sharlee Mullins Glenn
October 2, 2018 (CANCELLED)
This 1970s-era story is based on real-life happenings and told from the perspective of a young Mormon girl named Brittania (AKA Britta) Twitchell. Britta is angry that her Native American foster sister, Dori (AKA Chipeta), is being placed back with her birth mother after living with the Twitchells for over four years. Throughout the story, Britta spouts judgmental or even racist thoughts and feelings toward her foster sister’s family of origin. But time and time again, they’re met with a strong rebuttal from her wise and loving grandfather who teaches her that being from different cultures and doing things differently doesn’t mean one way is better than the other. Britta is also encouraged with sage and peaceful advice from her Aunt Mariah — her only family member who went straight through college and master’s work instead of settling down and having a family. What is clear is that Britta is willing to concoct and carry out whatever plans necessary to keep Dori/Chipeta from returning to her biological family. While some of her plans are absolutely outrageous, there are moments of heartbreaking beauty. We are reminded, throughout, that family is not limited to blood. And it’s clear that this book is ultimately a love letter from the author to her little sister (who in real life went by the name Gina).
Beyond the Green was quite insightful for being a historical fiction novel AND for having been written over 20 years ago. As would have been true of that time period, the characters continually refer to Native Americans as “Indians.” It is also difficult to swallow Britta’s initial racism — it’s very open and honest, yet always met with firm guidance and education as she grows in understanding. Furthermore, it was surprising that the child’s name was changed by her foster family. This would never be allowed, today. From reading the Author’s Note, I see there was a good bit of oversight by local Native American organizations and from a long list of people who helped during the editing process, includes those from the Ute Tribal Offices, the Ute Language Center, from the Navajo tribe, another individual from the Ute tribe, and a thorough reading with helpful feedback from the Director of Utah’s Division of Indian Affairs and Rising American Indian Nations. In the final section of her note, Sharlee Mullins Glenn writes:
While this is just one story, all of our stories are meaningful and compelling–layered, intricate, byzantine, full of heartbreak and joy and piercing beauty. My hope for all of us who enter into these stories is that we may learn to see beyond our own biases, beyond the tight little circles of our own experience, beyond the green.
I was very guarded while reading, because I could just imagine the issues based on its publication being abandoned. However, it stays true to the behaviors and beliefs of the 70s (as awful as they were) and makes no excuses for these thoughts. With some cutting of sharp edges (language and acknowledgements), this story is not beyond redemption. I’m curious to see if Glenn will eventually have a re-instated contract after some serious publication team work.
NOTE: I wasn’t even sure if I was going to review this title on my blog since it’s no longer available. But then I found out that an earlier edition of it was published in 1998 under the title Circle Dance. I’ve not read the first edition, so I cannot say how much has changed in the new one (except that the updated version is much longer). I just thought I would mention it in case others are interested in hunting down a copy to learn more about Glenn’s real-life experiences. My thanks to Netgalley and Charlesbridge Publishing for the E-ARC.
What are YOU reading?