It’s Monday! And here’s what I’m reading!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts

Nonfiction Monday is hosted by Shelf-employed

I love our local library. Within ten minutes of my foray there on Saturday, I found a stack of books to lug home and lose myself to. Here were the ones I was able to complete:
Just Behave, Pablo Picasso! written by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes is about the early period is Picasso’s life – when his restless imagination allows his artistic abilities to explore color, form, and composition with irrepressible abandon.  When Picasso feels himself constrained by the art pundits of his day:

This makes Picasso mad. All anyone wants for him is to paint the same old picture over and over again.  Well, guess what? He doesn’t want to, he doesn’t have to, and he’s not going to! HAH!

He does exactly as he pleases…and the world is captivated after all.  I loved the exuberance of the text and the paintings – I can imagine reading this aloud to my sixth graders and having some interesting discussions about artistic vision and staying true to one’s own vision about art, writing, etc. 

The House That Baba Built  is the incomparable Ed Young’s story about the house his father designed and erected in Shanghai.  War comes to China and the family home becomes a refuge for many, even as it remains a place of love, familiarity and comfort for Ed and his family.  After the war, Ed and his siblings leave China and scatter across the globe, but the memory of those war years in the house their father built remains a powerful thread of family love and memory.  Mostly, it stands as a testament  to their beloved Baba, who writes to them, even as they are oceans away:

Dear Children,

…You may put down as rule No. 1 that life is not not rich, not real unless yo partake in life with your fellow man.  A successful life and a happy life is one as measured by how much you have accomplished for others and not one as measured by how much you’ve done for yourself.  

It’s no wonder that Young treasures his memories of his father, who built a house to keep them safe and gave them words of wisdom to last their entire lives.  This is a special book, dreamlike and lovely in the way in re-captures long ago days and loved ones with  specificity  and immediacy.

Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper written by Ann Malaspina and illustrated by Eric Velasquez is one of those remarkable stories we stumble across and are just amazed by every time.  Alice grows up in a segregated Georgia which offers its African American citizens barriers to everything from the town pool to access to education.  Alice may be dirt poor, but she is fleet of foot…and she can jump.  
Fields shut.
Tracks shut.
Doors shut
to girls like Alice.
No place to practice.
No crossbar to raise.
Alice and her friends got busy,
Knotting rags.
Tying rags to sticks.
Planting sticks
in the red Georgia clay.
Then her friends stood back and let Alice jump.

And jump she does! She is discovered by a track coach and soon finds herself at Tuskeegee Institute High School, where her talents earn her a berth at the “48 Olympics in London.  Alice sets an Olympic record at the Games for her sport, and an American record for breaking racial barriers and excelling against the odds.  I plan to use this as a mentor text for my unit on biographies next year – it’s an engaging and inspiring read.

 Finally, I picked up What You Wish For which is a collection of short stories by a variety of authors in honor of the children of Darfur, who live in, suffer though, and dream beyond the refugee camps they have come to call home.  From Jane Yolen’s haunting poem “Wishes” to Karen Hesse’s remarkable “Nell” – each selection speaks to what children the world over yearn for – “home, family, safety and love.”  Poignant in their own right, the stories and poems in this collection become even more so when one considers those they were written to honor and help – two thirds of the 250,000 Darfuri refugees are children.

The website for What You Wish For is also well worth investigating as it provides avenues through which we can contribute and assist these refugees.


6 thoughts on “It’s Monday! And here’s what I’m reading!

  1. I haven't seen What You Wish For but will definitely be looking for it. We often need to be reminded that in comparison to others', our lives are quite wonderful.Thanks for participating in this week's Nonfiction Monday.

  2. You found some beautiful books to read & inspire this week, Tara. I will look for the Baba House. I know about it, but still haven't read it. This final one, What you Wish For sounds lovely. Thanks for sharing about it!

  3. Very nice collection of books here, Tara! I've also reviewed the house that baba built several weeks back, and loved it! great companion book as well for Allen Say's memoir. I've been seeing the Picasso book around and I'm intrigued! Hopefully I find that back in Singapore in our libraries. 🙂

  4. Great reviews. I'm intrigued by What You Wish For also — I'll be looking for that to read. And I too love my local library. I just stopped in there and the children's librarian has initiated the summer reading program. There were many children there writing their names on yellow paper stars that were being posted around the shelves. I have such fond memories of summer reading programs. And I see that you teach middle school language arts and writing workshops. That's just what I did for several years. In fact, today I was the guest lecturer in three 7th grade classes — I read my book and then the students did their own "life journey" collage. Fun!

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