Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts, decided to give Kathryn’s (at Book Date) “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” meme a kidlit focus, reviewing books in children’s literature (picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, or anything in the world of kidlit). If you enjoy this type of reading, join us every Monday!
A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
January 23, 2018
This book — it’s a MUST in a young adult library. It was a difficult read because I know this stuff is reality for many people. But we need to understand these inside truths to have a better grasp on what is and isn’t happening. The story begins with Tareq in Syria (where his home was bombed) and follows him on his journey through Turkey and Greece. We witness the story from the viewpoint of “destiny” as narrator, which allows the reader to witness the chorus of voices ranging from the refugee to the “helpers” who come from all over the world to stand on the frigid shores of Greece, welcoming and ministering to all refugee survivors. There were dozens of little details that I was not completely aware of, including the many ways refugees (and their children!) are taken advantage of during the worst moments of their lives. Horrible, horrible examples were shared that disgusted me. But I’m still grateful to have a more well-rounded understanding of what has taken place (and of what is STILL happening, today). These people have experienced the worst nightmare possible and will never fully recover. Ever.
He didn’t want to stay another minute; the sea kept tormenting him. No matter how much he rattled his head, the memories were far stronger. They were all he could see. And the truth is, they will never fully fade. He will continue to have flashbacks and nightmares throughout his life. The memories will fill him, making him anxious. Some humans can shrug off stress better than others. But when your soul feels too much, that trauma makes a home in your heart. But it’s not a weakness or even an illness. To feel so much means you can find empathy–when you can sense the pain of others, that is a power to hold on to. That is a power that can change the world you live in. But it’s also a power that comes with burden and pain.
Tareq’s journey is painful, but powerful. There are moments of despair, but also of rejoicing. And I know these characters will stick with me for a long, long while. They are far too important to forget — both those who reached their destination AND those who were lost during the journey.
Much of what we learn about Middle East violence here in American comes through the filter of white journalism. This book offers a different perspective which is so important for young adults. Atia Abawi is a foreign news correspondent living in Jerusalem. She experiences much of this violence first hand and was raised by refugee Afghan parents. She really did her research for the various individual voices in this book (which is especially made evident in her acknowledgements). A Land of Permanent Goodbyes currently has at least three starred reviews (Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly). I hope to see it making an appearance on the shelves of all my local libraries!
The Science of Breakable Things
March 6, 2018
The Science of Breakable Things is going to be one of my very favorite middle grade novels of 2018. I’m already confident about that. The story is fantastic and realistic and heartwarming and heartbreaking all rolled together. It follows Natalie, a 7th grader, whose botanist mom is suffering from severe depression. Natalie struggles to understand what this actually means and teeters on thinking her mom just doesn’t care about her anymore. Natalie’s best friend is Twig and together with Dari, a sweet, nerdy boy from their science class, they enter an egg drop competition. All the pieces fit in the story — the brokenness of Natalie’s mom, the broken pieces of so many eggs, the heart-wrenching experience of not being understood, and the human need for best friends who really “get” you. It all comes together beautifully in this story. Natalie and Twig have such a quirky (but realistic) middle school friendship. I couldn’t help but love them both:
I forced myself to speak before the words got all gunked up in my throat. “My mom’s depressed,” I explained to Twig. The word depressed felt funny coming out of my mouth. I’d never said it before, and saying it made the whole problem sound too simple. I felt Twig stiffen for a few moments, trying to figure out what to say, and I worried I’d said too much truth–that I’d scared her away. But then she softened and said, “That’s why you’ve been sad.” I hadn’t realized until then just how sad I was, and hearing her say it cracked something open inside me and I started to cry. “I’m sorry,” I said, even though I wasn’t sure why I was apologizing. Twig didn’t respond, just kept cracking invisible eggs over my head and running streams of fingertip yolk through my hair.
^^Just typing this review makes me want to read it all over again. And I typically don’t re-read books. As I disappeared into the story, I was 12-year-old me again—laughing aloud and sobbing tears. So yeah, Tae Keller has dazzled me in one of my very favorite genres. I seriously can’t believe this is her debut novel. More please, Tae!!
I’ve read some great picture books this week, but I am really excited about this one. Shane Burcaw has spinal muscular atrophy. He has become a speaker and author, making it his mission to help bridge the gap between the average able-bodied person and those who are physically disabled. On his website Laughing At My Nightmare, he says, “I’m 25 years old, and I have a disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy that will eventually kill me.” On his website, he promotes humor and positivity, but he is also very honest about the types of daily frustrations he faces. In this book, he uses text and photographs to answer a variety of common questions, sharing how his life is similar and different from most people:
This book is important because it’s natural for kids to have questions about other people who look or act differently. However, very few feel confident enough to walk up and attempt to get to know them. Burcaw makes it evident that he’s just another human being in need of friendship and respect.
To Be Read:
These are two books I’d love to finish this week. Anything else I finish will just be icing on the cake. What are YOU reading?