YA Novel Review
10 Grateful Gifts
I like to give books for presents. I know, shocking, right? So this year I chose ten books I’m grateful to be able to give as gifts (see what I did there – grateful and giving for the Nov./Dec. combined newsletter? I know, I know, so clever.) Okay, here are my ten grateful gifts:
For the Little Ones:
The North Star by Peter Reynolds (Candlewick). A whimsical tale about asking yourself where it is you want to go… I actually read this one to my high school students, especially when we discuss the role of guides in our lives, but it’s a magical journey for the little ones too (who, as children, are much more certain of their stars).
The Lighthouse Family series by Cynthia Rylant (Simon and Shuster). My daughter has been reading and re-reading this series since she was in Kindergarten. The writing is lush and we instantly connected to the characters. Plus, I just have something about lighthouses. I love them – all that craggy coastline and sea-swept imagery. Yes, please.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Finish this Activity Book by Mo Willems (Hyperion). My eight year old spent three full days with this book. She was obsessed! And I’m grateful for any book that absorbs my child like this one did. Perhaps it should be your “Happy December 10th Mom Needs to Get Some Work Done” present.
For Middle/YA Readers:
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick). We read this as a family read this year and it captured my eight year old and my husband and I with its rich writing, emotive story, and its general sweetness. I would give this to any little animal lover on your list.
Accomplice by Eireann Corrigan (Scholastic). I teach this absorbing novel in my combined junior/senior lit class and it never fails to grab my students. Especially around college application season, this is a fascinating look at morals, pressure, and friendship.
The Fault in our Stars by John Green (Dutton). I have a longer review of this in a past newsletter, but the gist of it is this: Just so good at getting to the heart of what it means to be alive. Oh, and it’s a super funny book about cancer. John Green: you’re the Daniel Day Lewis of contemporary YA novels – you make the rest of us look like hacks but we can’t help but love you. 🙂
The following three books have what I look for in a mature read – heart, wit, and a childlike awareness of how damn beautiful this world is:
My American UnHappiness by Dean Bakopoulos (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
How to Buy A Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson (Dutton)
Ex Vivo: Poems by Kirsten Casey (Hip Pocket Press)
And one for the whole family:
The Three Questions by Jon Muth (Scholastic): This gorgeous book is one for display. Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, Muth explores the three questions: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? Three questions worth discussing for all ages.
Write the description of the bookstore you’d live in if you could…build the world first, the way the bookstore would look, feel, smell. Then, add your titles all around you. How would they be displayed? How would they be sorted? Would there be anything besides books in your store?
Outside Reading School Project
In our classroom, the 9th/10th grade lit teacher and I have started a “What We’re Reading” wall. This is a place for students to write reviews and showcase the books they have read throughout the year. We have a lending library there as well as a place for students to tack up messages like “Help me find a book about…” For me, reading should be about building a life-long romance with stories, with different worlds and characters. Mostly, though, as C.S. Lewis said, “We read to know we’re not alone.” Encourage your students to build a reading wall in your classroom. Only rule, no judgement about readers’ choices. Mary Oliver said we have to “let the soft animal of our body love what it loves” and that’s true for books too!