SATURDAY MORNINGS FOR KIDS (And Others)

Just as Saturday mornings on TV in the 50s and 60s was dedicated to kids, Saturday mornings on this blog are dedicated to them.
Book 1 of the Wallace Family Series finds Meg a gawky twelve year old and Charles Wallace a 6 year old prodigy.
Book two finds Charles Wallace about Meg’s age in the previous book.
Book three finds Meg married (to Calvin) and expecting their first child and Charles Wallace a teenager.

For years, I thought this was it, The Wallace Family trilogy. I read A Wrinkle in Time to my sixth graders every year during the 80s as I discovered it with them. Later, I read A Wind in the Door and reread it recently. I do not think I ever read A Swiftly Tilting Planet until now, as I began my Madeline L’Engle “project”–to read as much by and about her as I could. The first thing I assigned myself was to read this trilogy, only to discover that the characters in these three books were in two other books as well.

Time travel appeared in the first book (My students and I were all enthralled by the theory of the tesseract.), and the book became a classic. It made L’Engle the well-known writer and household name she is today. L’Engle’s granddaughters ended their biography of her with the publication of Wrinkle, establishing her as a writer and as they point out, L’Engle published her own autobiography, A Circle of Quiet, soon after.

Book two, Wind, deals with gene therapy and DNA particles, which was years ahead of its time.

Book three, Tilting Planet, also deals with time travel, but more of a regression into past lives, a “going within” and the concept of changing things for the better. All of this reflected L’Engle’s interest in and experimentation with past lives.

I have read these three and am as enchanted with the rereading as I was with them upon first reading. I highly recommend this series to readers of all ages.

FIRST LINE FRIDAYS

Thanks to Hoarding Books for the image.

Today’s Friday Firstliner comes from Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again.

“Part One, Saigon

1975 Year of the Cat

Today is Tet.

the first day

of the lunar calendar.”

The entire book is written in poems! What a discovery, and what a reading treat. I will write more about this book on Saturday Mornings for Kids, and then I will pass it on to a student I have this semester who is of Vietnamese background, and whose mother’s war experiences resemble this author’s.

SATURDAY MORNING FOR KIDS ON SUNDAY NIGHT

Ok, so I’m behind; waaayy behind: on schoolwork on reading blogs, on writing posts on my blogs, on housework–I’m behind. Usually on Saturday mornings I recommend a book especially for kids, often about kids. An eleven-year-old narrator tells the story of WWII U boats and war efforts near Carucao, “the largest of the Dutch islands just off the coast of Venezuela in Theodore Taylor’s The Cay.

Shown here are Timothy and Stew, the cook’s car with Phillip in the background

When I saw the cover of the book, I assumed “The Cay” referred to the huge Negro, giving him an ethnicity or tribal identity or something. Actually, the Cay is an island, surrounded by a volcano-created atoll and reef, hiding the little island on which Phillip and Timothy are washed ashore after a German submarine torpedoed the ship Phillip and his mother were on. Timothy was a worker on the big ship and has the strength of many men, despite his advancing age.

This is a story of survival, of friendship, and of changing attitudes and prejudices. It is an adventure story, but so much more. Taylor’s imagination for catastrophe will have you holding your breath only to help you release it in moments of warmth and life lessons learned .

This book is appropriate for all children eleven and up, but especially life-changing for middle school students. I highly recommend it.

SATURDAY MORNING FOR KIDS ON SUNDAY

Just like the Saturday mornings during the 50s and 60s, when I was a kid, when cartoons were the only programming on TV, this post is aimed at kids. I’m favoring one of my personal favorite writers and illustrators, Bill Peet.

Doofus the Dragon finds himself in a tight spot, hounded by the knights and citizens of a kingdom he has wandered into. Not knowing that he is a friendly dragon, the king has literally placed a bounty on his head, wanting to mount it on the castle wall, and the hunt is on. In his attempts to flee, Doofus meets a farmer boy and his parents who care for him in return for Doofus’s assistance on the farm. With his spectacular dragon strength, Doofus hauls rocks, harvests hay, and generally helps out.

One day the king arrives with the hundred golden quadruples, the reward offered for the dragon’s head, telling the boy and his parents to stand aside in spite of their protests that Doofus is “as tame as a kitten…”and even sleeps with the boy each night. Will the boy come up with a compromise that will save Doofus’s head? Read this Scholastic publication and find out.

TWEEN TREASURES

418-JybCiwL    Carolyn Macklin has written about a problem many tweens face in Not if I Can Help It,  remarriage. However, there is a twist–Willa’s father wants to marry Ruby’s (Willa’s best friend’s) mother. Both girls are heading to middle school as sixth graders, and all their friends, teachers, and even the principal think the situation is “cool.” Willa does not agree. How to handle the girls’ mutual friends and Ruby’s excited anticipation of becoming “sisters” is a bitter pill to swallow!9781250166784

All the Ways Home by Elsie Chapman presents a boy’s story. Kaeda, a Japanese Canadian is in 8th grade, facing the strong possibility that he will have to repeat 8th grade in the fall, when his mother is unexpectedly killed in a car crash. Facing the unpleasant fact that he may have to live with his surly grandfather, Kaeda travels to Japan to plead with his much-older musician brother, Shoma. Kaeda has a summer to get his life on track in a challenge few boys his age must face.

UnknownMaggie “saves” little things, anchors to keep her Altzheimer’s-afflicted grandmother grounded. She refuses to let her mom or anyone throw her “treasures” away. This is a story of “loss” and “leavings”; it is a story of anxiety and hoarding in children, a real and challenging problem.

 

 

“J” and “K” ALPHABET SOUP CHALLENGE 2020

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Learning to teach on line has put me behind on this challenge, so I have read two children’s chapter books for letters “J” and “K.”

The Doughnut King by Jessie Janowitz is a book I would recommend to/for reluctant readers, especially boys in grades 6-8. Tris Levin’s family moves from NYC to Petersville,  due to a family situation. A dying small town, Petersville is very different from New York. Tris, a middle schooler, whose talent is baking, begins a donut business and puts some new energy into the town’s economy. Will Petersville disappear forever, or can Tris’s entrepreneurship save the day? This is a 2019 publication and should be available wherever books are ordered.

“K” stands for Amy Sarig King’s The Year We Fell from Space, which is the story of Liberty and her little sister Jilly who see and discover a meteorite. Is this a sign from the Universe that their mom and dad will get back together after a recent divorce? Will the family fall apart like something that fell from outer space, or will the efforts of the sisters make a difference? The answer might be surprising. It definitely is satisfying. This book was also published in 2019.

For letter “L,” I am continuing to read Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vileshopping-1 which I’ve had to return to the library, but I have requested it again, and may have to finish it out of order. Later today, I will search my TBR shelves for my selection for the letter “M.” Does”M” mean I’m halfway through the alphabet? I’m hoping to finish this challenge by the end of the year.

Until next time…READ ON!

TUESDAY TEASER

The idea is to copy a sentence or two from a book you are reading and “tease” other readers into reading the same book. My book this Tuesday is one that was donated to my Little Free Library, The Mouse of Amherst by Elizabeth Spires and illustrated by Claire A. Nivola. It tells of a mouse who lives in Emily Dickinson’s house and “helps” her write her poetry.

“I am a mouse, a white mouse. My name is Emmaline. Before I met Emily, the great poet of Amherst, I was nothing more than a cheese nibbler, a mouse-of-little-purpose. There was an emptiness in my life that nothing seemed to fill.”

This may be classified as a children’s book (recommended by a local private school for ages 9+), but its delightful text and special illustrations make it a must for a lit major like me. One of the poems “inspired” by Emmaline when Emily introduces herself starts like this:

“I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you–nobody–too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t tell! they’d banish us you know!

 

How dreary–to be–Somebody!

How public–like a Frog–

To tell your name–the livelong June–

To an admiring Bog!”

 

Emily Dickinson

TOMORROW IS THE LAST DAY OF CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK

In honor of Children’s Book Week, May 4-10, I am offering a longer version of Saturday Mornings for Kids

saturday-morning-for-children.jpgAnd a big thank you to Carla of Carla Loves to Read for the awesome logo!

The books I am recommending today are all Cybils contenders from last year for grades 5-8, grades I am familiar with because I teach 5th graders in Sunday school, and I also spent nearly twenty years teaching 6th-8th graders in Alvin Public Schools in what seems like another lifetime ago. Here we go with the recommendations:

Pay Attention Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt had the most grabbing gimmick as its opening of all 200+ books I read for Cybils. It begins on a dark, stormy night with a  pounding on the front door. When Carter opens the door, there, drenched on the mat is…A BUTLER! This “Jeeves” type character is sent to help out a frantic mom and her four kids, who are experiencing hard times. With his butler, Carter is able to “save the day” and save the future of the world as we know it. Hilarious!

On a more serious note, Melanie Sumrow’s The Prophet Calls is a thought-provoking look at New Mexico polygamy. Gentry Forrester, the young protagonist has to save herself and her family from The Prophet and his teachings and control.

Set across the world in India, The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman is also very thought-provoking. Runaways from a poverty-stricken, abusive home must make their way in a city inhabited by “slavers.” This story was inspired by children the author met in India.

On Snowden Mountain by Jeri Watts deals with 12 year old Ellen’s difficulties during WWII. Her father is away and her mother is severely depressed, leading to Ellen and her mother having to live with Aunt Pearl, a hard, demanding woman.

Finally, Where the Heart Is by Jo Knowles, an author I’ve read before, addresses diversity in an outright manner. Basically, it is a look at the emotions and impressions of 13 year old Rachel, who is dealing with multiple family problems as she deals with the inner questioning of whether she even likes boys.

All of these are books that deal with the questions and issues their target audience deals with on a daily basis, if not for themselves, vicariously with their family members and friends. Isn’t it good to have authors who are not afraid to address the issues parents and teachers are sometimes uncomfortable discussing? These books are a good “jumping off places” to begin such conversations with simple questions of “What did you think of the book?” or “What was the book about?”

 

 

SATURDAY MORNINGS FOR KIDS: CELEBRATING CHILDREN’S AUTHORS’ BIRTHDAYS

Last week, specifically September 16th and 17th, was a spectacular birthday week for children’s authors. The following “classic” children’s authors were born on those two days:

H.A. Rey, author of The Curious George series

Bjorn Berg, author of The Mrs. Pepperpot and The Emil series

Paul Gobel, children’s author specializing in Native American children’s books

Gail Carson Levine, author of The Ella Series and fantasy YA novels

September is a good month for reading for and to children, and these authors deserve to be celebrated for the laughter and joy they have brought to children the world over.

 

SATURDAY MORNINGS FOR KIDS ON SATURDAY AFTERNOON

Today’s recommendation is not for kids, but for their parents, teachers, and other adults who wish to recommend books, kids will love.  It is a literacy “classic,” Nancy Pearl’s Book Crush (published 2007).

In the introduction, Pearl states, “I thought it would be fun for me and useful for parents, teachers, and other adults who lived or worked with children; to write a book devoted solely to great reads for kids and teens.”  The book is divided into Part I, “Youngest Readers”; Part II, “Middle Grade Readers, ages 8-12”; and “Part III, Teen Readers, ages 13-18.”

As she ends the introduction, Pearl adds, “My hope is that you’ll find here hours and hours, days and days of wonderful reading for the child and teens in your life.”

Here is a sample from the many sections (Adventure, Goosebumps, Good Sports, Girlpower, etc.) aimed at Middle School readers, titled “Guaranteed to Grab You, Memorable First Lines”:

“I love first lines of books. I can’t imagine a better feeling than opening a book to the first page and coming across a line or two that is so compelling you just can’t stop reading. Here are a few of my favorites.

Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee begins, “I have been accused of being anal retentive, an over-achiever, and a compulsive perfectionist, like those are bad things.”

Deborah Wilds starts Each Little Bird That Sings with this come-hither line,  “I come from a family with a lot of dead people.”

You get the idea, first liners that grab the middle school reader’s attention. I think this was my favorite age group and my favorite section within that group. Grab a copy of the book, be sure to have pencil and paper nearby to make lists, and soon you will be known for your “cool” recommendations. (You’ll also find some interesting books YOU will enjoy, I betcha’!