>Sue Speaks – Nancy Pearl Entry #2

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Recent Reading:
That seems like a long winded introduction to summer reading doesn’t it?? But I’ve been reading (and listening) to lots of books this spring, and now am trying to fit them into doorways. Here are my favorites so far, in no particular order:

The Willoughbys, by Lois Lowry – Character Doorway, because of all the quirky characters (and the family name is in the title); however language is a big doorway through which to enter, since she uses many big words a la Lemony Snicket.
Plus it’s Lois Lowry, who writes extremely well. A very fun read aloud too. And the story? Parents that work to rid themselves of their three children, three children who want to rid themselves of their parents, a baby, a candy inventor. Grade school.

Shooting the Moon, by Frances O’Roark Dowell – Language Doorway. And Character. Because you’ll feel for this twelve year old daughter of a colonel whose brother joins the army and is sent to Vietnam. And he starts sending her film to be developed. And she sees another side of war. Because her whole upbringing has been gung-ho military. Language Doorway because I wish I could write like this. Total coming of age, for middle schoolers.

Keeping Score, by Linda Sue Park –This is set during the Korean War with a baseball theme. I get teary thinking about this. I was looking for a baseball book with action for boys; I found a coming of age story with lots of history (Korean War; Fire Stations; scorekeeping of every play (do people still do this?); Brooklyn Dodgers) with loads of Character and Language Doorways. Of course it’s historical fiction, so does that make it Setting too? So, this would be my read alike for those who loved Shooting the Moon.

Trouble, by Gary D. Schmidt – Character. And Language. Probably language first. Coming of age, beautifully told story of a troubled family by the author of The Wednesday War. With a journey, two journeys, one real, one metaphorical. Upper middle school/high school.

Amulet, book one The Stonekeeper, by Kazu Kibuishi – Son Tim (age 10) read this graphic novel which came last week. He read it 10 times and wants the next one. I asked what he liked about it, “Kids try to get back the mom who is taken hostage by a gigantic squid type spider. And the great-great grandfather’s pink bunny helps them.” Umm, I’m putting this one into the Story Doorway. I wonder if there’s a preponderance of graphic novels in Story? Grade school. (I did skim it…. Loved the pink bunny!)

Jellaby, by Kean Soo – Tim’s other favorite graphic novel that I’ve brought home lately, a purple monster that is trying to go home with the help of a young girl. Character Doorway. I think. And story? I obviously need to work on identifying the graphic novels, tough since am not that comfortable reading them. He likes the gentle characters. Grade school, for the Bone and Owly lovers.

Clementine’s Letter, by Sara Pennypacker – Totally character doorway. Clementine writes a letter to keep her teacher from leaving for a year in Egypt. Totally heart warming and funny. Grades 2-3 especially!

Smiles To Go, by Jerry Spinelli – Geeky middle school boy learns that a proton has died. During his school year, he deals with changes in relationships with his two best friends, one a boy, one a girl; and his little sister. Very character driven; very much a story about the warm and not so warm relationships between family and friends; I would love all kids to be like these kids, with heart. One of those new books that I have a hard time setting in time, because there’s a computer, and one cell phone, but these modern contrivances don’t predominate, so it feels time warpish. Also language doorway. Middle school.

My One Hundred Adventures, by Polly Horvath – Tres quirky, totally Character. Totally Language. I totally adore the way Polly Horvath tells a story. How does she think of these bizarre adventures? Jane, another twelve year old, tells the summer of living on the beach (surrounded by sand) with her poet mother and three siblings, and her desire for 100 adventures. Slow moving, well worth it for upper grade school.

Forever Rose, by Hilary McKay – Character Doorway. All the Casson series novels are Character and Language personified. And English. As my daughter Sam says, “I love Rose. I just love the way she thinks.” The finale to a wonderfully, satisfying series. Grade and middle school.

Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor – Set in Schenectady, so around here will fit the Setting Doorway. And it belongs in the Character and Language Doorways. Dysfunctional family, coming of age for a twelve year old, living with her crazy mother in a trailer off Erie Boulevard/Nott Street by the railroad tracks. We read for our Mother Daughter Book Group, and Janet Hutchison from The Open Door Bookstore arranged for us to meet Leslie Connor. The girls all agreed that they wished that these characters were real. Grade and middle school.

My Most Excellent Year: a Novel of Love, Mary Poppins and Fenway Park, by Steve Kluger – This fits Character, Story, and Setting. It is told from three juniors’ points of views through their journals, emails, notes, and more. The Two boys (best friends) and a girl (who becomes a best friend) come of age and come out. Nice, nice kids, kids that you’d like to have as your kids, or as your kids’ friends. Kids with heart. And besides, any story with Julie Andrews and Mary Poppins in it has to be grand. It is. Middle and high school appeal.

The London Eye Mystery, by Siobhan Dowd – This has it all – Character, Language, Setting, And Story. A boy with Asperger’s tells the tale wherein the boy and his older sister solve the mystery of how their cousin disappeared from a ride on the London Eye (a giant pod like Ferris Wheel in London). The relationships of the eccentric family members and the thought processes pull the story through. Upper middle school and beyond. Especially for fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog….Middle and High School.

Me, The Missing, and The Dead
, by Jenny Valentine – I didn’t want this to end. Total Character and Language Doorway. And Story too with the mystery. How does Jenny Valentine get into the heads of these characters? I just felt for them all. And Lucas the 16 year old races around London trying to discover the whereabouts of his missing father and the history of an urn of Violet. I guess the title says it all. Give to those who like Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident…, The London Eye Mystery above by Siobhan Dowd, and even the Cottrell Boyce’s stories. Kids who grew up loving the Konigsburg novels with quirky twists and turns and characters would appreciate this. Older Middle School and beyond.

And what have I learned about doorways? It’s definitely a mindset to look at a book through the four doorways rather than to tell the plot. And I obviously read for character and language. And character/setting. With a story. Which means that I need to spend more time reading outside my comfort zone.

One way I “read” outside my comfort zone is to listen to books. Our family just finished listening to Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel, 2004. (I started it, they came home and pirated it from me) Picture me multitasking. Picture husband, 14 year old daughter and 10 year old son sitting mesmerized on couch listening with wide eyes. For three days! Airborn is Story and Setting; an action story taking place on an airship. A cabin boy born to the ship. Air pirates. Wow. Middle school, but younger if they listen! Especially for boys! (And a sequel finally out on audio, hurrah!)

Now, we’re listening to The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan. It’s not the weekend so it’s taking longer, with the three of them eating breakfast while listening (progress!). Again, Story, and Setting, with Characters. Upper grade and middle school.

That brings me up to today. I’m finishing The Penderwicks of Gardam Street, by Jeanne Birdsall, (adore, adore, adore: Character. Story. Language. An American Hilary McKay family. And since I didn’t adore her National Book Award Winner The Penderwicks, I really want to get that again and find out what mood I must have been in when I read it, because how could I be so wrong??) Grade school.

For the weekend, I have about 8 million boy books checked out. Real sports and action packed adventures. I’m definitely going out of my comfort zone. I’ll let you know how it goes. Any questions? Contact Sue.

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