For me, the best part of the school day is right after noon recess, when I get to read aloud to my students for 20-30 minutes. Not only do I get to reconnect with my favorite childhood books, I also get to share those books with kids who've never read them. The fact that I've been able to introduce dozens of students to Mrs. Frisby, Maniac Magee, and Johnny Tremain is a privilege I don't take lightly. Here are two favorite books from my favorite era in United States history:
Johnny Tremain...my current read-aloud and a long-time fave. An imperfect and oh-so-sympathetic hero, secondary characters who actually existed (Hello, Paul Revere!), and a wonderful setting in pre-Revolutionary Boston.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond isn't just a favorite kids' book; it's one of my favorite books, period. The two main characters charm you right off, and the book gives such a picture of how suspicion and gossip can ruin people's lives. (I often edit this book as I go, because there are quite a few prim colonial courting scenes and I don't want to lose the interest of 6th grade boys and such. I do tell the 8th grade girls they can borrow the book later and read all the skipped parts!)
One of the best things about having kids--or in my case, students--is introducing them to your old favorite books. This school term I again shared my dear Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh with an appreciative juvenile audience.
The story starts out with good conflict: Mrs. Frisby's son is sick but her cozy mouse house is in the way of the spring plowing. She goes to The Rats for help.
Things get a bit annoying when the story goes into flashback mode for a good share of the book. (The rats' backstory is fascinating and could easily have been the focus of the book, in my opinion.) However, it's a good opportunity to talk about flashbacks and story frames. There are a lot of fun "ah-ha moments" for the kids, and the rats' advanced civilization amazes me every time.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh won the Newberry Award in 1972. What a wonderful, timeless read by Robert C. O'Brien!
Now, for the first time, we as a class are following the Rats of Nimh further. I wish the kid me had known there were more books in the series, but at least I get to enjoy them now.
The last two books--Racso and the Rats of Nimh and R-T, Margaret, and the Rats of Nimh--are written by O'Brien's daughter. The writing style is a bit different--lots of short scenes hodgepodged together--but my audience's enthusiasm hasn't waned. As long as they're gasping, cheering, and chuckling, I'll keep reading.
I spent a lot of time in the car last week. Thankfully, audiobooks shortened the road and propped open my eyes. Since my mom and niece were along, and since we all have different reading tastes, I chose two middle-grade books at random. They turned out to be almost equally enjoyable but very different, and I'd recommend both Inside Out and Back Again and Liar and Spy for easy summer reads.
I expected Liar and Spy to be more mystery/external conflict and less emotional/internal conflict, but I did enjoy it a lot. The secondary characters are great (love me some secondaries!) and I especially liked the chapters set during science and gym class.
Inside Out and Back Again opens in Vietnam. I loved the way the author wove the Vietnamese culture throughout the story, and the main character is very likable. If you like bittersweet, this book is for you.
A funny thing about audiobooks: you don't see the formatting. I noticed a poetic feel to the short, almost dreamy chapters, but not until today did I use Amazon's "look inside" feature and realize the entire book is told in free verse! Wow. I love poetry, and I love middle-grade books, but I would never have willingly spent time on a combo of those two things. Had I picked this book up at the library, I would never have read it.
But I'm really glad I did.
Just a reminder: there's one day left on my Goodreads giveaway, so if you haven't signed up, head on over and do so!