It’s Monday and here’s what I’m reading: August 26th., 2013

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts
Non Fiction Monday Roundup August 26th
Nonfiction Monday is hosted by Stacking Books

August 28th,. 2013 will mark the 50th. anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, and President Obama will be one of the many speakers who will gather at the Lincoln Memorial to mark that important day.  The power and poetry of Dr. King’s speech, and the impact of that march on Washington has reverberated through the passing years and become so much a part of our nation’s consciousness  – who has not seen video clips of the event, or read about it in history books and newspaper accounts?  who is not familiar with those famous closing lines?  
In Martin and Mahalia: His Words, Her Song  Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney tell the story of that famous moment through the partnership and shared mission of two of it’s spiritual leaders – Martin Luther King, Jr.  and Mahalia Jackson, “each born with the gift of gospel…
Martin SPOKE the gospel.
PRAYED he gospel.
SOUGHT the gospel.
TAUGHT the gospel.

Mahalia SANG the gospel.
WORKED the gospel.
LED the gospel.
SPREAD the gospel.”

With their voices, they worked to spread the gospel of freedom , to inspire and lead the Civil Rights movement.  Their paths unite  on that August day in Washington DC., when Mahalia sang just before Martin preached.  This gorgeous book, full of Brian Pinkney’s characteristically bold and evocative paintings, tells a remarkable story in such an inventive, moving way.   I know that this is a book that I will treasure and share with my students.


Here is Mahalia herself, lifting the spirits of the crowd with her song:

And, here is Congressman John Lewis, who was at Dr. King’s  side 50 years ago, at a commemorative rally on Saturday:

We so loved Clare Vanderpool’s debut novel, Moon Over Manifest, that we had a party in our classroom to celebrate when it  won the Newbury in 2011.  Happily for us, Vanderpool’s next book, Navigating Early, is just as fabulous.

Here’s the jacket copy:

One boy from Kansas

+ one boy from Maine
+ one boat on the   
+ a search for a great bear
+ 3.14 (pi)_________________
= The journey of a lifetime

After his mother’s death at the end of World War II, Jack Baker is suddenly uprooted from his home in Kansas and placed in a boys’ boarding school in Maine.
       Feeling lost and adrift, Jack can’t help being drawn to Early, who refuses to believe what everyone accepts to be the truth about the great Appalachian bear, timber rattlesnakes, and the legendary school hero known as the Fish, who was lost in the war.
       When Jack and Early find themselves alone at school, they set out for the Appalachian Trail on a quest for the great black bear.  Along the way they meet some truly strange characters, several of them dangerous, all lost in some way, and each a part of the pi story Early continues to reveal.  Jack’s ability to be a steadfast friend to Early will be tested as the boys discover things they never knew about themselves and others.
       Navigating Early is a story that will challenge and astound readers as they navigate mysterious and uncharted lands.

Early Auden, the true hero of this book, is one of those characters you hold close to your heart long after you’ve read the story.  He befriends our narrator Jack, and draws him into a world rich in story, and in new ways of considering old truths.  That he was unusual, is something Jack learns right away:

The first time I saw Early he was filling bag after bag with sand and tacking them like bricks.  Just what he was trying to keep from washing away, I didn’t know.  It was a crazy thing he was doing, but something in me understood it.  I just watched him- sandbagging the ocean.
I knew Early Auden could not hold back the ocean. But that strangest of boys saved me from being swept away. 

Like Jack, and like many of the characters one encounters in this story, Early is navigating loss himself. Unlike Jack, Early  is attuned to “the ways our paths cross, our lives intersect, and our hearts collide.” He sees in the story of Pi, a story like Odysseus’  – full of wandering and searching for the way home,  a way to make sense of what tends to happen in life:  we lose the people we love, sometimes we lose our way.  When the boys set off on an adventure that Early hopes will fulfill his deepest  hopes and his singular belief that his brother is still alive and in need of rescue, Vanderpool’s story itself veers into magic.
This is an unforgettable read, and it will be the first book I “booktalk.”  I see it as a wonderful choice for a partner read or book club selection in my classroom – many aspects of this story would benefit from discussion and clarification.  There are so many passages that I’ve marked “share” and “re-read,” that I know I, too,  will return to Navigating Early time and time again.  And, the prologue is a wonderful mentor text for both foreshadowing and close reading.


6 thoughts on “It’s Monday and here’s what I’m reading: August 26th., 2013

  1. Our librarian & I are getting ready to start our Newbery club for those who want to read books that are buzzing for Newbery! I have this book & still haven't read it-it's a must I think, especially after reading your review, Tara. Thanks for telling about the new Martin and Mahalia book, too. Special day coming up!

  2. Thanks for such a detailed description! I had not read this book, but I'll be sure to check it out. My favorite MLK book is Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport.

  3. I've been intrigued by Navigating Early for quite awhile now. I also loved Moon Over Manifest – such a quiet book, one that needs to be relished slowly, the build-up gradual but intense. I have a feeling Navigating Early would have fit our 'coming of age' bimonthly theme from the way that you described it. I shall be on the lookout for Martin & Mahalia – I so love the Pinkneys' book collaborations. I recommended their PBBs when I gave a talk in Manila for the Little Lit Festival. ๐Ÿ™‚ Will definitely add this to the list.

  4. Martian & Mahalia looks like a book that makes this historic event accessible to kids. Unfortunately, I didn't get to Navigating Early this summer, but it's definitely still on my list! Thanks for sharing, Tara!Catherine

  5. I'm excited to read Martin and Mahalia. It looks wonderful! I'd like to invite you to join my all-things-books-and-literacy link-up party, Booknificent Thursday, held each Thursday at We'd love to have you join our little reading community!Tina

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