It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!
Snow days and a very short February Break allowed for enough time to complete reading a whole bunch of books I’ve been dying to get to, both adult fiction/nonfiction, and YA. Here are two stand outs:
Helen Frost’s Salt.
Set in the time of the War of 1812, this is the story of two nations, two cultures set on a collision course. Anikwa and James are both 12 years old, one a member of the Miami tribe, and the other the son of American settlers. Even as they share an easy friendship and a common love of the great outdoors and the mischief young boys can get into left to roam on their own, they are aware of heightened tensions and imminent war. The Miami want to remain on the land they have lived in for many generations, the Americans want to lay claim to that land as their own. When war comes, as it does, this friendship is tested – nothing can prepare them for the destruction and injustice they witness.
Salt is written in the form of poems: the voices of James and Anikwa, interspersed with poems that speak for salt itself – how it was discovered, used, and became part of the power play between native tribes who had had free access for many generations – until the Americans arrived. It is a powerful story, one that provides real insight into the complexities of that time, when the freedom to expand and thrive for one people was based on the extinction of another. I will use excerpts of this book in my Social Studies lessons as examples of conflicting perspectives, especially as we begin studying the era of Westward Expansion, Manifest Destiny, and Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. This would also make a wonderful book club selection.
Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory:
Everything Anderson writes is impeccably researched and beautifully written – and so it is with this book. Hailey Kinkaid is in her senior year of high school, finally back in the town she was born in after many years away. Hailey’s dad suffers from post traumatic stress disorder – a legacy of his years in Iraq, IEDs, battles, bombs, death, and suffering. She struggles to fit in, to cope with school, to nurse her father. How much of her life should she share with others, and who can she trust? Will her father ever return to the dad she once remembered?
Anderson writes with great honesty, especially the parts in which Hailey’s father share some of his nightmarish memories. This is such an important story, not the least of which is because it is so rarely told. Our brave women and men return from the wars they were sent off to fight on our behalf terribly wounded and scarred, physically and mentally. PSTD in our armed forces is taking a terrible toll, and deserves much more of our attention as a nation. We owe it to them. The Impossible Knife of Memory allows us a glimpse into this world. There is a bit of sexual content that makes this book a bit iffy for my sixth graders, but I could easily see this as a wonderful book to share with seventh graders and above. It, too, would be an excellent book club choice.
Here is a book trailer that would make a great introduction to a book talk: