Very simple biography of Pope Francis. Loved learning that he enjoyed dancing and playing soccer when he was young. Didn't know his given name was JorVery simple biography of Pope Francis. Loved learning that he enjoyed dancing and playing soccer when he was young. Didn't know his given name was Jorge. The book really shows that he is a regular guy who has a special job.
This is extremely simplistic, but it is written for a series of beginner biographies so that totally makes sense....more
This is a pretty typical retelling of the story of Noah and the ark. The illustrations and design of the book make it standout. The pages are really oThis is a pretty typical retelling of the story of Noah and the ark. The illustrations and design of the book make it standout. The pages are really one long page in an accordion style. The pages unfold. You can read them the way you usually read a book or unfold it completely on a large surface to see it in sequence. I have another book designed similarly, Migrant by José Manuel Mateo, and students love to unfold it and spread it out.
The images are gorgeous and the Bengali style creates a unique view of this story. The only image that is a little jarring is the one during the flood when readers see the people who are drowning. They look relatively peaceful, but it could certainly be unsettling for some readers....more
This was certainly a new perspective for me. I have not heard about Islam from this viewpoint before. Once started, I had difficulty putting the bookThis was certainly a new perspective for me. I have not heard about Islam from this viewpoint before. Once started, I had difficulty putting the book down. The development of her personal beliefs was interesting. I appreciated her need to ask questions and try to match what she was learning about Islam to what she saw in her daily life growing up.
I don't know if I share the same beliefs or agree with all of her political views, but there is no doubt that she is a brave person and admire her willingness to speak her beliefs in the face of opposition....more
This is a book that has layers on top of layers. Gilbert definitely made me want to keep reading to find the answers to my questions. There is an inteThis is a book that has layers on top of layers. Gilbert definitely made me want to keep reading to find the answers to my questions. There is an intensity throughout that made this a page turner.
I appreciated that the book delved into religion since there aren't that many young adult books doing that outside of the Christian publishing houses. The characters showed a variety of beliefs even within Braden's own church.
Some of the beliefs and statements expressed by a few characters were hateful towards people who were perceived as different, for example, Latinos or homosexuals. That was hard to read, but unfortunately seemed all too realistic. It was balanced a little, but still left me with a slightly icky taste in my mouth.
It's hard to give this a rating. I liked the book in that it kept my attention and made me think. I also found the family dynamics to be very interesting, but some of the characters and situations were very frustrating to read. It was an uncomfortable book. I'm going to leave off the stars at least for now.
As a side note, I was a bit confused by the main character being a pitcher familiar with the pressure of being on the mound when he was in first grade and only six years old. I don't know of little leagues or teams that allow or encourage that so young, but they may exist. Perhaps this was a sign of how much his father was pushing him, but as the mother of a former little league player, it popped me out of the story as I wondered how that was possible....more
Laura Amy Schlitz had me from the first chapter. Young Joan Skraggs wants more from her life than the drudgery of farm work. Her father and brothers seem to see her as a worker rather than a person. Her father is particularly horrible in this way. He doesn't want her reading because that would be a waste of time. She can no longer go to school and he doesn't want her former teacher encouraging her to learn or do anything to change her lot in life. He wants her to cook, clean and do what he says for the rest of her life.
Joan's mother had always planned more for her though. After her mother died, Joan has trouble finding a way to get beyond the farm. When her father punishes her harshly for standing up for herself, she finally figures out another path.
I was cheering for Joan the whole way. She made many mistakes, but never gives up.
Schlitz kept a perfect balance of tension throughout the book. Just enough to keep readers flipping pages.
I also loved the inclusion of religious discussion. Joan is Catholic and comes into contact with a Jewish family. This could have been a surface detail, but Joan questions and ponders what she believes and why. This presents a fascinating glimpse into two distinct faith backgrounds.
This will be a great book for fans of historical fiction. It really reminded me of Hattie Big Sky. Hattie and Joan have huge challenges, but they're strong, intelligent young women that go after what they want.
I loved Konigsberg's book Openly Straight so I went into this with high expectations. Part of the issue with this book is that the main character wasI loved Konigsberg's book Openly Straight so I went into this with high expectations. Part of the issue with this book is that the main character was not terribly likeable. He was mostly accepting that his best friend is a lesbian (he's cis & straight), but he is also hoping to convince her otherwise. He's pretty self-centered and I just didn't enjoy being in his head.
Once the road trip started, the story became more interesting and I enjoyed the second half of the book much more than the first. I wanted to like the book more, but it was just okay for me....more
Deep in the Sahara is a beautiful book in more ways than one. The text is lyrical and almost sings. "Trees of red flowers blReview copy from Edelweiss
Deep in the Sahara is a beautiful book in more ways than one. The text is lyrical and almost sings. "Trees of red flowers bloom with heat. Acacia pods rattle, and fruit bats sleep." My fifteen year old picked it up and started reading silently, but then decided it needed to be read aloud. I loved that she read it to me. We agreed that it sounds like poetry even if it isn't labeled that way. The illustrations are fantastic too. The endpapers look like cloth and the rest of the book is filled with wonderful scenes created with collage. The colors are vibrant and the patterns are interesting, but not so busy that they are distracting. Each character in the story is unique and I loved seeing the individual women. The video below introduces the artist and shows a bit of her technique. (The video may be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1QAR...)
The story itself is also beautiful as we see a young girl yearning to be like the women around her with their lovely malafas. This is a coming of age story and it is a story of women. I loved that the entire book is showing how the women in the community support a young girl. Lalla is finding out about wearing the malafa from the many women in her life. In the author's note at the end, Cunnane explains that she lived in Mauritania for a time and the people there taught her about the Muslim faith and how they lived it. She wanted to write this book to share what she had learned especially since before she lived there, she had believed that the veil was repressive to women and after sharing in their lives, her opinion had changed.
Cunnane was writing as an outsider, but she has been traveling, teaching, and living among many cultures for years and writes carefully with much research and seems to have worked closely with the people she is representing. The book appears to be done very respectfully and in a spirit that celebrates the culture.
I am looking forward to sharing this with my students and will likely pair it with Time to Pray by Maha Addasi and/or The Swirling Hijab by Na'ima B. Robert, two books that also touch on the subject of Muslim prayer from a female perspective.
There were many things I enjoyed about this book. First, the mix of formats kept things interesting. Zia provided a brief traditional story at the begThere were many things I enjoyed about this book. First, the mix of formats kept things interesting. Zia provided a brief traditional story at the beginning followed by narrative and then there were also letters sprinkled throughout the text. Following her great-grandmother's advice, Aliya chose to complete her Sunday School assignment through letters to Allah. Second, I loved seeing the intergenerational interactions of Aliya's family. I especially appreciated that Aliya went to her mother, father, grandmother and great-grandmother expecting advice. It showed a beautiful respect and trust. As a person who hasn't experienced living with extended family (at least not for long periods of time), seeing how it might work was definitely interesting. Zia showed that Aliya liked some things about that situation, but that sometimes it was annoying - like when her great-grandmother required her to practice Urdu three times a week in addition to her piles of homework. Third, learning more about Islam and the wide variety of ways it is practiced was fascinating. I read and enjoyed the non-fiction book Growing Up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam earlier this year, but seeing those beliefs and practices through a fictional text made it even easier to see how it could look.
The glossary at the back was very helpful. There were two sections: one for the Arabic and one for the Urdu. There I found that imaan means belief. Aliya is struggling with her own beliefs. She doesn't know exactly what she believes and even if she does, she is not certain how to act on those beliefs. Aliya worries a lot about how other people see her. Regardless of culture, most middle grade students can relate to that concern. One of the reasons she worries is related to the bullying she sees. She doesn't want to stand out and give anyone another reason to pick on her. Marwa, the new girl, wears the hijab seemingly without concern. This gives Aliya a lot to think about. She wonders if other people are just braver.
Also, Aliya's mother explains what makes Aliya who she is - "A tasty concoction of American and Muslim and Indian and sugar and spice and everything that is very nice." This book celebrates the idea that we are more than our race, we are more than our languages and religions. Many things shape us and contribute to who we become. We see this through Aliya's friends with their differing backgrounds too.
Beliefs are obviously a central focus in this book, but bullying and getting along with others also plays a huge role. I loved that Aliya's father provides a "recipe for getting along." He says it's "A twist of good, a sprinkle of kind, and a dash of nice."
I would highly recommend this as a class read aloud. I think many students who enjoyed Wonder would also enjoy The Garden of My Imaan. It is a wonderful contemporary middle grade story about a girl trying to find her voice, and she will likely win your heart as you experience her story.
This is a coming-of-age novel. Tara is dealing with several relationship issues with friends and a potential boyfriend, but she is also working througThis is a coming-of-age novel. Tara is dealing with several relationship issues with friends and a potential boyfriend, but she is also working through her spiritual beliefs. She is from a Hindu family and a Jewish family and is working through what she believes and why. It reminded me a bit of Garden of My Imaan. I appreciate this look into religious culture and think readers of any faith or readers who are non-theist can relate to the questioning that Tara experiences....more
I enjoyed the facts throughout the book. The problem though is that sometimes the text is too fact heavy and I don't think it would keep the attentionI enjoyed the facts throughout the book. The problem though is that sometimes the text is too fact heavy and I don't think it would keep the attention of children. It would work if an adult is reading portions aloud to a class or if a child skims and reads the parts that are of interest.
Interesting fact: Muslims had first hospitals. They were funded by the wealthy. Patients didn't get a bill at discharge, they got a stipend. ...more
I immediately thought of Rachel Field's Prayer for a Child when I saw this. No wonder. The illustrator is the same. She creates very sweet/romanticizeI immediately thought of Rachel Field's Prayer for a Child when I saw this. No wonder. The illustrator is the same. She creates very sweet/romanticized pictures to go with well known and often loved verses from the Bible....more