It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!
It’s book club time in my classroom, which means that I reach into my book collection and share “oldies but goodies.” These are selections for which I have up to five copies for each title, and since I have to wait until I can get my hands on paperbacks in order to have enough copies to go around, these are most often books that have been published some time ago. But, we are lucky as teachers, for even as amazingly wonderful books are published every day, we have an amazingly wonderful collection of such “oldies but goodies” – titles rich for discussion and enjoyment. Here are three of my favorites, each of them unique”coming of age stories”:
Kevin Henkes’ Olive’s Ocean
is such a perfect book for middle school school. Its themes of friendship, middle school cliques, and middle school loneliness generate so many meaningful conversations. Here is a summary from the author’s website
Martha didn’t know Olive—not really. But when Olive is killed in a hit-and-run accident, and her mother gives Martha a section from Olive’s journal, Martha knows they could have been friends. Now Martha and her family are going to Cape Cod for the rest of the summer, and Olive, who had always wanted to see the ocean, haunts Martha’s thoughts and dreams.
Martha is your typical “popular girl” – well liked and secure in her social status. Olive is the girl she sees but does not really see, until the summer after Olive’s accident when one journal entry changes her perspective and opens her eyes. Henkes allows this story to unfold in a most natural way, and Martha’s journey becomes fodder for deep conversations about middle school life and the way we treat each other, day after day.
Tony Abbott’s Firegirl is also set in middle school, and deals with similar themes as Olive’s Ocean. Here’s the back cover blurb from my copy:
“…there is…” Mrs. Tracy was saying quietly, “there is something we need to know about Jessica…”
From this moment on, life is never quite the same for Tom and his seventh-grade classmates. They learn that Jessica has been in a fire and was badly burned, and will be attending St. Catherine’s while getting medical treatments. Despite her horrifying appearance and the fear she evokes in him and most of the class, Tom slowly develops a tentative friendship with Jessica that changes his life.
Tom’s struggle between doing what his kind heart tells him to do and doing what his classmates expect him to do, makes for a powerful story. This is another book that invites meaningful discussions in our book clubs.
I love anything by Cynthia Kadohata, as do my kiddos, and Kira Kira
is one of our all-time favorites. Here’s the jacket copy from the author’s website
Glittering. That’s how Katie Takeshima’s sister, Lynn, makes everything seem. The sky is kira-kira because its color is deep but see-through at the same time. The sea is kira-kira for the same reason. And so are people’s eyes. When Katie and her family move from a Japanese community in Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia, it’s Lynn who explains to her why people stop them on the street to stare. And it’s Lynn who, with her special way of viewing the world, teaches Katie to look beyond tomorrow. But when Lynn becomes desperately ill, and the whole family begins to fall apart, it is up to Katie to find a way to remind them all that there is always something glittering—kira-kira —in the future.
There are so many important themes woven through this book – but the one that moves my sixth graders the most is the way Katie grows as a character and comes to discover strength within herself. There is also an undercurrent of anti-Japanese racism that has led my kids to important discussions about this topic: what causes people to behave this way? what can be done about it?
So, armed with books such as these, we are off to the races with book clubs in room 202. Lucky us!