This summer I am participating in the book a day challenge. I have made it a goal to read at least 1 book a day this summer so that at the end of the summer I will have read at least as many books as I have days off. I am starting off the summer way ahead of my goal which is great because then I might be able to pick up one of the books that I need to sink my teeth into later this summer while still meeting my goal. I have to warn you reader, this may be a long post because there are a lot of great books to talk about.
I had some students in fifth grade a few years ago that thoroughly enjoyed Babymouse books. At the time there were only 1 or 2 of them, but I never picked them up to read. This week I decided to remedy that situation and discover what my students had seen and what Colby Sharp kept raving about on Twitter. The four different books I read from the Babymouse series were all fun reads. I loved the many literary references that were made throughout the books and enjoyed Babymouse's exploits in each book. I will definitely pick up some of these for my class library to recommend to students who need a quick and light read some days. Although they seem to be written more for students in middle grades, I think young adults would also be entertained by Babymouse.
Forever by Maggie Steifvater is the third book in a trilogy about the wolves in Mercy Falls. I love all the books that I have read by this author and really enjoy the depth of the characters. Sam and Grace have gone through so many ups and downs throughout this trilogy and they seem to be star-crossed in so many ways. The end of the second book in this trilogy was quite a cliff-hanger so I was excited to read this one to find out how everything is resolved. There were many people who did not give this book very good reviews on Goodreads and I couldn't disagree more. I think the author did a brilliant job of wrapping up this complex plot in a way that really helped me to suspend my disbelief and jump in to the story. I enjoyed getting to know two more characters in this book and I love the way she switches point of view so the reader can see the depth in all the characters. I would highly recommend the whole series starting with Shiver.
One of the things I have been doing for the last few weeks is an online writing camp for teachers and librarians called Teachers Write. There are assignments and prompts throughout the week and plenty of opportunities to post writing and give feedback to others on their writing. One of the organizers who has been extremely generous in giving her time and talent to this program is Jo Knowles. I am ashamed to say that before this program I had not heard of her before...and, boy, was I missing out! This week I read two of her books and realized just how talented she is.
The first book I read was Lessons From a Dead Girl. This book was a haunting tale told from the point of view of Laine, a teenage girl who is telling about the complicated relationship she had with a girl who has just died. Laine recounts how much she wanted to be friends with Leah Greene and how excited she was in fifth grade when Leah seemed to choose her as a friend. Things quickly become strange for Laine when Leah makes her do things behind closed doors that she says are just practice. This book really dives into the difficult topic of abuse and victimization from an original point of view. When I started reading this book I could not put it down and ended up staying up until the wee hours of the morning (way too late in other words) to finish it.
The other book I read this week by Jo Knowles was See You at Harry's. This week the book had recognition as an editor's pick in the New York Times and it is well-deserved. I read this book in one sitting riveted to my spot by the powerful narrative voice. The protagonist Fern feels invisible to her family and annoyed by her baby brother Charlie. Her parents are busy with the family restaurant, her older siblings are wrapped up in their own lives, and it seems like Fern is always stuck watching Charlie, who is three-years-old. All Fern wants is for her family to understand her and for her mother to show some of the affection to her that she seems to reserve for Charlie. Then, tragedy strikes this family and leaves everyone reeling and grieving in their own way. The author captured the moments when tragedy strikes in such a realistic way. Fern's thought processes as she grieves are laid bare on the page and echo the way I was thinking when my father died (I was 13 at the time). The descriptions bring the reader into the moment and help her to see and feel what is happening. I highly recommend this book, just make sure to have some tissues at hand.
Last, but certainly not least, is the book The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It is the story of Hazel, a girl who is living with cancer and her struggle to come to terms with dying. One day at her support group Hazel meets Augustus Waters and the two of them are kindred spirits. The kids in this book have jokes about cancer and understand one another because of the common experience of cancer. I found the voice of Hazel to be honest and witty and just the way I would imagine a teenager with cancer to react to her world. This book is a tough one to read because it is a star-crossed relationship story if I ever read one, but the uplifting power of love is really at the heart of this story and the ending, though not a happy one, leaves the reader feeling satisfied and not completely devastated. Anyone who knows me well knows that I will avoid a sad story like the plague because I just don't want to be brought down by the stories I read. This sad story, however, is one that I am glad I read. I will certainly recommend this book to all my students in the fall and would highly recommend it to all my friends as well. Beware when picking up the book that you will most definitely need a box of tissues by you. I sobbed for the better part of 50 pages at the end of the book, but would still recommend the experience to everyone.