Monday, December 28, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey as a way to share what you have read and/or reviewed in the past week. It's also a terrific way to find out what other people are reading.

Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers have given this meme a children's literature focus: picture books, middle grade novels, etc. They "encourage everyone who participates to support the blogging community by visiting the other bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.
I love Winter Break! We had a terrific Christmas with my husband's family. And now we're enjoying the last week of the year with my family! But with the wintry mix we're having on the Mississippi River in Keokuk, Iowa, it's a perfect time to stay indoors and READ!
Last week was a great chance to start reading some of the YA and middle grade novels that I've been meaning to enjoy.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander   This book is terrific and I'm really excited to share it with my fifth grade students. It's a fast-paced novel in verse that centers on twins, Joshua and Jordan Bell. The story is from Joshua's (aka Filthy McNasty) point of view and we experience the thrill of their junior high school basketball team's journey to the championship tournament. Their father is a former professional basketball player and their mother is the assistant principal of their school.

As the story develops, we see that the relationships among each of these family members is very complicated. I love that this family is so real; there are no easy answers to the challenges and frustrations that come with the changes of growing-up. But throughout the book, we are presented with a set of Basketball Rules that are really great life lessons.

Basketball Rule #1: In this game of life
your family is the court
and the ball is your heart.
No matter how good you are,
no matter how down you get,
always leave
your heart
on the court.

The language that the characters use to express complicated feelings and circumstances goes a long way to helping you grasp the lessons of this story. One of my favorites is used early on in the Second Quarter (the book is divided into the periods of a basketball game) and again towards the end of the novel: "like pushing water uphill with a rake."

Basketball fans will no doubt enjoy all of the game imagery that is presented in verse. The words and the typeset are presented in a way so that you really feel as though you are immersed into the world of this basketball court. Non-basketball fans will appreciate the thrill of the victories and defeats and learn a lot of terminology that will help them come away with a new understanding of the sport. I am really looking forward to using some of my new insights the next time I watch basketball!
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven  This is a difficult book to read in a number of ways. It deals with tough issues - suicide, bullying, domestic abuse - with characters that are very complex and real. The main characters, Theodore Finch and Violet Markey, meet at the top of the high school's bell tower. They're both up there for unclear reasons, but they wind up saving each other. This is the beginning of their relationship. As the story unfolds through each character's point of view, I began to enjoy and care for these two. I relaxed and began to enjoy their trips to different "Wonders of Indiana". Finch and Violet really seem to help each other overcome some deep issues - Violet has only recently lost her sister in a car crash which she survived and Finch's dysfunctional family never seems capable of recognizing his needs and helping him.

But then the relationship becomes complicated and distressful. The book really had a hold on me and I just had to keep reading, even though it's uncomfortable and depressing. I really could see this story from many perspectives - besides the main characters, I ached for the families of these two as they seemed to be powerless over the events swirling around them. I think this is an important book for teenagers to read. Although, I would recommend that teachers or parents discuss the book with kids, especially some of the more emotionally charged parts.


  1. I really adored The Crossover. I appreciate it too because it has such kid appeal. My students really like it.

  2. Both of these books are wonderful reads, as you wrote, serious and sad, but so well done. I'm glad you liked them, too, Jana. Happy New Year, and Happy Reading in this cold snowy weather!

  3. I have read both of these titles as well and found I couldn't put them down.

  4. So glad you enjoyed The Crossover :)

  5. Crossover is a wonderful book - but I have to agree with All The Bright Places, a tough, tough read.

  6. I remember reading Crossover on a plane and sobbing at the end. People must of thought I was crazy. If your students love Crossover, they will also love Booked when it comes out. Enjoy the rest of your break.

  7. I loved, loved All the Bright Places and think about it often. You are absolutely right. It was a tough read for so many reasons. I wish more books like this one were available in schools. It would provide a lot of comfort to teens struggling with similar issues.

  8. I am hoping to read Crossover in January...I'm reading Circus Mirandus and have a STACK of picture books I will dive into soon. I've heard such wonderful reviews about it that even though I haven't read it, and I tell my students so, I also talk to them about what others are saying and they always give it a chance and love it!

  9. All The Bright Places definitely is one of my best YA reads this year. I agree with you that it is indeed immensely powerful. Since I loved Crossover so much, I really am looking forward to reading Booked as soon as it is made available here in Singapore. :) Happy New Year!

  10. I had a student once wrinkle up his nose in disgust when he opened Crossover - "ewww, it's poetry!" Imagine his shock when I argued that rap lyrics are poetry too - it was like his mind had been blown. ;)

  11. You read two fantastic books this week! Both of them are on my favorite reads of 2015 because they are just brilliant (though you are correct that All the Bright Places is a tough one). I cannot wait to read Booked when it comes out!

    Happy new year!