Another round up of reading for you to enjoy. We’ve recently moved to doing more independent reading at bedtime. It’s a challenge to find the right balance in reading for my boys. They like to read and don’t hate it. On the other hand, if given a choice, they’d usually rather do something else. And if given complete choices about what to read, they’d usually rather read a graphic novel they’ve already read. That’s so important to do, but I also want to expand their reading time. Doing it with snuggles on the bed and asking them to rotate between new and old, challenging and less challenging books, seems to be working right now.
Always Remember Me: How One Family Survived the Holocaust by Marisabina Russo
We read a number of books about World War II and the Holocaust this month, but I really liked this very gentle introduction to the Holocaust that was one of the first we read about the topic. This true story begins with a little girl asking her grandmother to talk about her photo album at a family dinner. The grandmother keeps going where she usually breaks off and tells the story of how she and her three daughters all separately survived the Ho
locaust and managed to meet up again in the United States after the war. The family’s good times in Germany before the war are the main focus and while the book doesn’t shy away from a difficult topic, it introduces it in a very child appropriate way, explaining the tragedy without focusing on the details. The grandmother focuses on her good luck to have survived with so much of her family and to have the delights of a granddaughter to enjoy. We did go on to read some slightly more difficult Holocaust stories, but I really liked this short picture book’s hopeful tone as a first stop.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
I chose this to be our second World War II read aloud after last month’s The Winged Watchman. This one takes places in Denmark and tells just a tiny piece of the inspiring story of how the Danes smuggled more than seven thousands Jews out of the country just before they were scheduled to be rounded up for relocation by the Nazis. The book focuses on one fictional family’s role. Annemarie and her family must hide her best friend Ellen and get her to her uncle’s fishing boat to be taken away with her family to Sweden. It’s a short book and like everything by Lowry, excellently written.
Another Read Aloud
Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech
As you’ll see from their required reading choices, both the boys have been keen to do “average kid” stories lately. For the car, they want light fantasy (we’re still wrapping up Percy Jackson on audiobook), but for bedtime they want real kids. I pulled this one off my shelf, remembering how great an “average kid” storyteller Creech is, but I admit I had forgotten how much the book focuses on main character Mary Lou’s first romance and kiss. I remembered more about the book’s other main plot, involving Mary Lou’s cousin and the death of a neighbor, as well as the everyday trials of living in a very large family. The boys both adored the book, especially Mary Lou’s slightly snarky voice and her ramblings about reading The Odyssey. And they didn’t mind the romance a bit, interestingly.
Mushroom’s Required Reading
The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff
This contemporary middle grades novel is about a boy facing a lot of everyday kid problems: his parents are about to have a baby, a new kid seems to be luring away his best friend, and a girl at school seems to really dislike him. However, there’s a twist. Main character Georgie is a dwarf and will never grow much taller than his current short height. The book challenges the reader to see into Georgie’s world by asking them to do things that are very simple and realize that Georgie will never be able to do those things. Mushroom found it to be a quick read and while it didn’t get raves, he said he enjoyed it very much.
BalletBoy’s Required Reading
The Landry News by Andrew Clements
Yet another contemporary, “regular” kid book was needed for this month, so I pulled out this title from Andrew Clements. We’ve read many of Clements’ books over the years and the boys always enjoy his characters and learning about the topics the characters learn about. I think they also really enjoy reading about the dynamics of everyday classrooms. In this book, the main character Cara learns about newspapers as she publishes her own, one that criticizes the teacher of her class. BalletBoy finished it with new ideas for our co-op newspaper. Good thing we’re editing it next.
Farrar’s Good YA Read
The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
I really enjoyed this contemporary YA novel about a former sports star named Ezra who suffers an injury that leads to a life changing senior year with new friends and a new romance. The opening part, about a gruesome accident the main characters witness as children, is a little much, and a series of coincidences informs the neatly tied up ending, but overall the writing style was great, and I have to admit that even the gruesome accident made me sit up and pay attention. I also really appreciated the end message of the story. While Ezra wants to pin changes on the world around him, he has to realize that he’s really the master of his destiny.
Farrar’s Bad YA Read
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Why am I such a glutton for punishment? I think it’s because I like a light series sometimes that I keep going back for more with these crummy dystopians and mediocre YA fantasy series out of the hope that I’ll find one that is actually fun (to be fair, sometimes I do find one, but not often enough). I had a few mediocre YA reads this month, but this was the worst by far. The book opens with an intriguing and promising beginning about a girl imprisoned in solitary for a mysterious but terrible crime. A new person tossed in the cell adds tension, so I kept going. Turns out no one can touch Juliette or she may kill them with a mysterious power she doesn’t understand. Soon Juliette is out, there’s two guys interested in her (it’s like a formula with these things), there’s an oppressive military dictatorship with sinister goals (did I mention the formula?) trying to use her, and everything is just overemotional why can’t we be together nonsense with her true love (did I mention she’s named Juliette?). I just skimmed the second half, but very little about it made much sense in terms of decent world building. I guess there’s a resistance and she’s going to become a superhero. Or something. Not recommended for anyone with a brain.