It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and Sheila at BookJourney
I’ve left the house very rarely over the past few days, which has been a deliberate choice to live a more relaxed pace over the Christmas break. After all, these two weeks will fly by and then it’s back to being busy, busy, busy. One place I had to get to was our local Barnes & Noble – those holiday gift cards from my students were calling out to transformed into books for our classroom library. Here were two books I got to right away:
Ann M. Martin’s Rain Reign has been on my TBR list for a while, and I was so glad that I finally got to read it. Rose Howard is a fifth grader whose love of homonyms, numbers, and following rules are all ways which help her function in spite of being on the autism spectrum. “No one is sure what to do with me in school,” Rose says, and nether does the father who is raising her as a single parent. He was the one who had “found” Rose a stray dog (Rain) one lucky day, and he is also the one who lets Rain out one stormy, unlucky night. He may be her father, but it is her Uncle Weldon who seems to be the one who is interested in homonyms and numbers, who is patient when she feels like crying or banging her head, who takes her to school every day and brings her home. Uncle Weldon is also the one who helps her find Rain after the storm, although it is Rose who must decide what to do when they discover that Rain actually belongs to another family.
Rose’s point of view lent a poignancy to the story, I felt privy to the way making adjustments (however small) was difficult to Rose, and how hard she had to struggle to find her own way to cope with a world that was often inexplicable and hopelessly confusing. But, this is also a story about being brave and patient, about trust and love. It would make for a wonderful read aloud or book club selection paired with Mockingbird, Counting By 7s, and Rules. I can’t wait for it to be issued in paperback so that I can purchase more copies for my classroom library.
Cynthia Kadohata’s Half A World Away was another powerful story by an author who never disappoints. Twelve year old Jaden lives with his adoptive parents, Penni and Steve, who had thought they were adding a four year old to their family only to have been surprised by the 8 year old boy who walked off the flight from Romania and into their home. Jaden still grieves for the mother he vaguely remembers, the one who gave him away and set him on the journey from one orphan’s home to another until he arrived at Penni and Steve’s home home. Now, he is a Kincaid, and about to become an older brother to a new baby his parents want to adopt from Kazakhstan. Are his parents so disappointed in Jaden that they need another child to love? And, what is love anyway? Jaden doesn’t think he has it in his heart to love anymore, not after all he went through in the years between his mother’s abandonment and his adoption, not after learning so young that love can coexist with abandonment. When the Kincaids arrive in Kazakhstan to the bewildering world of orphanages, paperwork, and adoption, each of them learns something about love and family. And Jaden learns the answer to the question that has gnawed away at his heart and soul: why did my biological mother abandon me? an answer that will finally open his heart to loving and being loved.
I loved the way Kadohata told the story from Jaden’s complicated point of view, his embittered by events perspective. But Jaden is also a perceptive kid, conscious of the way his destructive actions impact the parents who love him, and just want him to be a “normal” boy they can love joyously. Half A World Away is a compelling story about the difficulties of adoption: couples who yearn for children, the often exploitative and arduous process of adoption, and the expectations and prior experiences of the children themselves. It is a must read for fourth grade and up, and would also be a wonderful choice for book clubs and read alouds.