As we ease back into the “new normal” here in the Reading Tub, we are tweaking some of our processes. One of the biggest is to do away with our long monthly lists of books we’ve read. Instead, we’re going to talk about 2 to 5 books – that stood out. They will range from board books to young adult; and preschool to teen audiences.
What we write about depends on what we’re reading, so some months it will be book reviews for a set of picture books; other months it may be a single book review on a middle grade audience.
Will you always talk about your favorite books? Nope. We are going to look at the books that triggered a strong reaction because as readers, it is our response to a book that matters. Our monthly Bookmarks column is designed to be a book review with more emphasis on reader reaction than replaying the plot details.
We will still be tracking and doing monthly updates of all the children’s and young adult books we’re reading this year on our 2012 Books We’ve Read Pages. Book reviews on the Reading Tub website will have the requisite link. The new pages are better organized (yea!) AND I’m also including a genre note, too. Library of Congress? Not exactly, but characteristic of the book’s theme.
Each Bookmark will have the basic info (Title, author / illustrator, publisher, audience) and an original blurb / overview. Then we’ll introduce the pivotal players (not necessarily the main character); and give you our reader reaction. We will also tell you where we got the book!
Last but not least, we are going to ask the creator (author and/or illustrator) a question or two. Sometimes while I”M READINg a question pops into my head and I wish the author was right there to ask it. So we’re going to do the next best thing: include it on the Family Bookshelf!
Noteworthy January BookMarks
Forge (Seeds of America)
by Laurie Halse Anderson
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010
Middle Grade and Young Adult Audiences
Having run away from their owners, Curzon and Isabel have made their way north in search of freedom. After Isabel sneaks away in the middle of the night, we must go it alone with Curzon and his mates in the New Hampshire Fourth, a regiment encamped at Vally Forge.
Who are the key players?
Curzon, a runaway slave, narrates our journey through not only the harsh winter of 1775 as a soldier in the Continental Army, but as a man who has no freedom despite fighting for the colonists in the Revolutionary War.
When John Burkes arrives on the scene, you get the sense that there is more to the story. After he seizes power as company commander, he reveals himself more, likely confirming your opinions. Still, he evokes incredible reaction as he exacts revenge and undermines his own soldiers.
In Chains, Isabel tells a significant part of the story. Here, while she is away for most of it, her power as a character continue to emerge, not just because of Curzon’s love for her, but because you miss her.
Like John Burkes, James Bellingham, who reclaims Curzon from the army as his slave, evokes strong, gut-reaction emotions from the reader.
The soldiers of the Fourth New Hampshire. As the story progresses – particularly in the later portion – they demonstrate what it means to be comrades in arms.
A Reader’s Thoughts
This is a powerful, well-told story. I enjoyed reading it curled up in bed, and would love to hear it read aloud, as I can see the captivated faces of even the most dormant reader hanging on every word. This is historical fiction at its finest, as you are part of a time and place, yet it leaves you wanting to learn more about the events and other (more famous) characters.
Questions for Laurie Halse Anderson
Curzon and Isabel are “composite characters” based on details you drew from historical documents. Do they become real for you?
I have heard authors say that a character invades their brain and reveals their own story. In this trilogy, did their personalities/character guide the path, or did you have a plan for them from the beginning?
Where did you get this book?
The Seeds of America books are part of my personal library.
by Mary Rodgers and Heather Hach
HarperCollins Publishers, 2010
Middle Grade Audience
Hadley (13) is quite proud of her 4.3 GPA. Tatum, her gorgeous, highly optimistic older sister? Not so much. Ditto her Language Arts teacher, Ms. Pitt. When Ms. Pitt gives her seventh grade class a “touchy-feely” book report assignment, Hadley thinks she’s going to die! Well, she doesn’t die, she just becomes Ms. Pitt (and vice versa).
Who are the key players?
It goes without saying that Hadley (our narrator) is our main character. She is the person with whom readers connect and how they see the world.
Ms. Pitt takes center stage early, first as herself, and later in the person of Hadley.
Hadley’s sister Tatum, though, is probably the pivotal character. Her bubbly, positive personality is a great c0ntrast to Hadley’s own view of herself, and the relationship she has when Ms. Pitt “takes over,” is equally enlightening.
A Reader’s Thoughts
Initially our 10-year-old reader wanted to put this book away. She spotted a few words that she couldn’t pronounce or didn’t know the meaning of in the first pages and decided it was too hard. A little coaxing and some reminders about how to parse words for sounds and to read them in context got her re-started … and laughing! That initial reaction, however, has hung around and this was not a book she rushed through.
Question for Mary Rogers and Heather Hach
Which came first – the idea for a teacher / student swap or the quote from To Kill a Mockingbird that set it all in motion?
Where did you get this book?
The publisher sent us a copy to review. We received it “automatically,” and did not specifically request this title.
What We’re Reading
The Battle in the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson and the Olympians)
audience: Middle Grade and Young Adult
Reaction so far: Our 10-year-old reader wants to start with Book 4 in the Percy Jackson series. Go figure. She was hooked as soon as Percy set fire to his new school.
Edgar Allan’s Official Crime Investigation Notebook by Mary Amato
audience: Upper Elementary and Middle Grade
Reaction so far: Just started, but it looks clever.
Finish This Book by Keri Smith and [fill in the blank]
Audience: upper elementary to middle grade
Reaction so far: This is a clever way to get kids to read, explore, and write. The initial reaction of a certain 10-year-old was to throw her nose in the air. Now she can’t be separated from it!
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
audience: Middle Grade, Young Adult, adult
Reaction so far: We’ve been reading this for two months. We took a break for holiday books, but it seems our reader has lost interest.
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
audience: Young Adult
Reaction so far: Undecided. A local indie bookseller pitched this book when I said I liked YA. Didn’t know it was going to make an awards list!
Click here to see other Reading Tub book reviews this month. Use these links to take you to your favorite children’s and young adult book categories.
- Picture Books & Bilingual Books
- Easy Readers & Illustrated Chapter Books
- Middle Grade Chapter Books
- Young Adult Chapter Books
- Nontraditional formats
Note: Book covers and titles link to Amazon.com, with which the Reading Tub has an affiliate relationship. We may earn income from purchases made through these links. They are offered for convenience and do not represent an obligation to buy from this vendor.