Monday, December 17, 2018

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.

It's the most wonderful time of the year, to borrow words from a Christmas song. It's been a busy time shopping, baking, decorating, and getting ready to travel. I've still made time for a few books. I hope you all have the merriest of Christmases! I'm taking a bit of time off to travel and celebrate with family and friends. But I'll definitely keep reading and share each book! Here's what I've been reading this past week:

Middle Grade Fiction

The issues that eleven-year-old Macy deals with in this middle grade fiction novel are pretty heavy, but I think there are a lot of kids who will be able to relate to this book. Macy's father has been away serving in the military, but now that he's been discharged he's still been hundreds of miles away working on a "special project." Her mom has been doing the best she can to take care of Macy and her baby brother, James, but Macy still resents that she's being left out of the loop as far as being told what's really happening with her father. She's also dealing with the passing of her beloved grandmother, who had run the town's coffee shop for many years. She's also dealing with the normal pressures of being an adolescent who's about to start middle school and she is anxious about all of the changes that continue to swirl around her in the town ironically called "Constant." This book is appropriate for kids in grades six and up.

Picture Books

This Christmas picture book uses poetic language and beautiful illustrations to tell the Nativity story with a special focus on the newborn baby. Mothers and those that have baby brothers or sisters will be able to relate to the joy and wonder of a firstborn baby, and the miracle of the baby Jesus is what makes Christmas so special. This would be a great read aloud during holiday story times, especially to church groups.

This is a lovely picture book that helps explain to young readers the holidays of Hanukkah and Christmas. Understanding the way different cultures and religions celebrate important holidays is a great way to start building relationship. Tommy and his family, who celebrate Christmas, is invited over to Sophie's house for a Hanukkah party. When he arrives he learns about the holiday and enjoys the food and spinning the dreidel. But he's confused when he sees their Christmas tree. Sophie explains that her father is a Christian and her mother is Jewish, so the family celebrates both holidays. This book would be a good way to compare and contrast the two holidays.

This lovely picture book shares the story of the first Christmas from the point of view of the shepherds who were tending their flock near Bethlehem on that holy night. The shepherds were each very different from each other - they had different backgrounds, appearances, and ideas. But they each shared an amazing experience that night. They each saw a star brighter than any star they had ever seen and from the midst of that brightness they all heard a Voice proclaiming the birth of Christ. The painted illustrations are beautiful, but this story is unique in that the reader doesn't see pictures of the baby in the manger or Mary or Joseph. We just see what the shepherds saw that night. This story could start a good discussion about point of view and about author's choices - why did the author choose to focus on the shepherds rather than the traditional characters of the Nativity story?

This awesome holiday picture book has a wonderful story of people of different faiths and backgrounds building relationship through a chance encounter. Jonathan's father is a Baptist minister who has recently answered a call to rejuvenate a congregation in Detroit. The family works hard all summer to spruce up the church. But a blizzard results in severe water damage to a wall in the sanctuary right before Christmas Eve. Jonathan and his father find a beautiful tapestry in an antique shop that is the perfect size and design to cover up the damaged wall. But an old Jewish woman recognizes the tapestry as one that she made when she was a young bride many years before in Germany. She lost track of the tapestry when she was captured by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp. She agrees to let the tapestry stay in the church, as it seems to belong there. The magic of this story occurs when the tapestry is recognized by the old woman's long lost beloved husband. This heartwarming story along with Polacco's wonderful illustrations is a heartwarming story to share with young readers during the holiday season.

This beautifully illustrated picture book shares with young readers the story of the first Christmas from the point of view of a young shepherd boy who stumbles upon the Nativity scene while searching for his runaway lamb. The shepherd has lost a lamb and its mother and was desperate to find them as they were important for him to make a living. As he talks with Mary and Joseph and admires the newborn baby, he realizes how much he loves Jesus and decides to leave his animals as a gift for him. This story might be a bit confusing for younger readers, but the Raul Colon's illustrations are gorgeous.

This book, while written about true events that occurred in Billings, Montana in 1993, certainly is relevant today. The story is about a Jewish family that had a rock thrown through one of the windows of their home. When they talk to the police, they realize that hate crimes have been springing up all over the community against Jewish people, Native Americans, African Americans, and others deemed different by the anonymous bullies. The families of the community decide to stand together and support their neighbors by placing menorahs and pictures of menorahs in their windows. The story is well written and illustrated and would be a great way to start a conversation about ways to build relationship and community with our neighbors as a way to counter divisiveness and hatred.

This Christmas picture book shares the story of the birth of Jesus from the point of view of the shepherds who saw the bright star. The shepherds were tending the flock at night when an angel appeared to them and told them to follow the star. As they were traveling they also encountered others who had seen the star - a man tending the well, a fisherman, a farmer, and a pair of winemakers. All of these minor characters had been instructed by the angel to do their own parts to play important roles later on in the life of Jesus. This story might be a bit long and complex for younger readers, but I like that this book shows different points of view and touches on the notion that we each have our own special gifts and talents that are important in God's world and we need to be patient and do the best we can. According to the book's jacket - "Joan Alavedra wrote a poem in Barcelona in 1943 for his five-year-old daughter when she asked for a poem from the point of view of each of the figures in the creche. Since the work was composed in an atmosphere of war, he ended it with a hymn to peace and love. Later the cellist Pablo Casals set the poem to music and it became the oratorio El Pessebre (The Manger). This was Alavedra's contribution to the Peace Initiative, in which he, Albert Schweitzer, and others, struggled for world peace and against nuclear armament."