Monday – The Reading Challenge Roundups

It’s Monday…What are you reading?? is hosted by Book Journey

Nonfiction Monday is hosted by The Swimmer Writer today.
So, in having enthusiastically signed up for all the reading challenges at the beginning of the month, I neglected to take into account one important factor: Murphy’s Law.  Last week was pretty much spent just trying to get through each day … and my reading life took a back seat.  Here’s what I did manage to squeeze in:
1. 300 pages of Cutting For Stone .  Abraham Verghese’s novel won rave reviews when it was first published, and went on my “must read list” right away. From the jacket copy:
Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles–and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.

 Although the medical descriptions (Verghese is a doctor after all) can be a little too detailed for me at times, the story is so compelling and beautifully written that I find myself completely transported to Madras, India and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and the intertwined lives of these characters .  A great read – and it is good to be enjoying adult fiction again!

2.  Maira Kalman’s Looking at Lincoln.  This picture book biography of Lincoln is told through the perspective of a little girl who sees a man resembling Lincoln and goes on a quest to learn more about this remarkable man.  I first learned of Kalman’s unique way of telling a story through art and text through her New York Times blog “And The Pursuit of Happiness” – she is a visual columnist there (what a totally cool job!).  Her vibrant, quirky and utterly appealing artwork is hard to resist – I can spend hours just looking at her paintings – and her highly personalized way of telling her story (great examples of “thoughts and feelings” lessons for writing workshop) makes you fall in love with her various subjects (Jefferson, Franklin…and Lincoln).  I loved Lincoln before…and now (through Kalman) even more so…

 Here is a reading of the book to give you some idea of the richness of text and art:

3.  We are reading John Boynes’ The Boy in the Striped Pajamas for our historical fiction genre study, and I re-read the book in preparation for this.  Although I remember the story well, using it as a readaloud necessitates knowing it in a whole new way – where to pause, where to provide more information, where to stop and open a line of discussion.   The jacket description reads:

This work was set in Berlin, 1942. When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance. But, Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than what meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

I have not seen the movie version of this book, although some of my students have.  The unusual perspective and the power of the story and its historical context itself make this such a special book to read and think about…especially with a class full of rapt students.

4.  A Long Walk to Water  by Linda Sue Park.  One of my sixth graders insisted that I read this bookon Thursday night so that we could talk about it during our reading conferences on Friday…so I did, and was so very glad!

Based on the true story of Salva Dut, one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan airlifted to the U.S. and safety in the ’90s, this is one of those books you have to read in one sitting – which I did.  Here are the author and subject discussing this must-have book:

…and here is Salva’s website: Salva’s Story, which my students now want to explore and participate in.

I’m hoping the new week brings calm and therefore more opportunities to read and live up to my reading challenge goals!


10 thoughts on “Monday – The Reading Challenge Roundups

  1. Hi Tara, I know about Cutting for Stone & my daughter loved it. I just don't think I can tackle such a big book now, but someday? Thank you for sharing about the Lincoln book and the author. I didn't know about her column so will look her up. And, I loved A Long Walk to Water & have recommended it to some of the teachers for a read aloud. It's written with such mystery that it keeps you wanting more in order to discover the connections. I will continue to be interested in hearing how your students like The Boy In The Striped Pajamas. Although the ending is predictable, it's still so heartbreaking. Thanks for all your ideas!

  2. Thank you for these recommendations. I will be checking them out for me, our children, and the teachers I work with. I'm excited to see those pictures in LOOKING AT LINCOLN too… a.

  3. I'm so caught up in all the winter-spring Young Adult book releases that I just plain forget to read regular fiction!Thanks for reminding us of the wide range of books available to us, from picture books to novels thick-as-your-leg.I'll bet that your young writers would also enjoy reading what their age-peers around the world have written and would like to share their creativity, too. Please check out the (free) GiggleIT Project hosted by the International Association of School Librarianship: – free registration, lesson plans, class page hosting.I wandered over through MotherReader & Lee Wind's Comment Challenge.**Katy ManckRecommending YA books beyond the bestsellers at http://BooksYALove.blogspot.comFollow me on Twitter @BooksYALove

  4. Those are books on my reading list, so I supposed I'll get to them eventually, although maybe in my next life at the rate I'm going. I admit I wasn't as impressed by the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, but I can see it being a good middle school historical read.

  5. I never thought to keep a running blog on my reading efforts, but it makes for very good reading. I certainly know what it's like to have a lovely tempting stack and no time to get to it. Hope you get a bit more time this week!

  6. Hi Tara, it's so good to see that you're also reading adult literature – in fact my Nonfiction Monday contribution is also an 'adult' book (whatever that means). I'm glad to see that you're also making a lot of headway with your reading challenges! I have seen the film The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – my (then) nine year old daughter and I watched it together after we have finished reading Maus I and II – it was truly an awakening experience for her. I am looking forward to reading the book version and seeing the differences with the film adaptation. And yes, I agree with the sentiments shared by the others above, Looking at Lincoln looks luscious!!! :)One last thing, you might want to include your review here in the January link-up post that we have already created over at the mainsite of GatheringBooks. Here is the link where you can post your reviews for January: check out Cutting for Stone soon. 🙂

  7. I still need to read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. I keep hearing how great it is. *must bump up on TBR pile*And loved A Long Walk to Water. An age-appropriate way to let them peek in on another part of the world and what kids there sometimes have to deal with.

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