I extricated myself from the library at 2:30 pm last Thursday; let summer break really begin! Not quite ready to dive into my professional reading, I whittled a few books from my kidlit pile this past week.
Poems in the Attic by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon is a picture book of paired poems. A young girl finds a box of poems in her grandmother's attic, and discovers they were written by her mother during her travels as a military BRAT. The girl decides to write a poem to capture her thoughts about her mother's experiences and how they compare to her own. The daughter's poems are free verse, while the mother's poems are written in the Japanese tanka style of five lines, with the syllable pattern 5-7-5-7-7. (I caught myself checking on my fingers as I read each one!) I'm a military BRAT, too, so the mom's experiences resonated with me. I am looking forward to displaying this book in November alongside other books about military service for Veterans' Day. I also think it would be a fun exercise to get parents to write a poem for their students to mirror, perhaps for Mother's Day.
The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Don Tate (local favorites here in Austin, Texas!), is a nonfiction biography. John R. Lynch was born to an Irish overseer and slave mother, and lived in slavery until the Emancipation Proclamation, leaving the plantation as a teenager to work as a free man. Ten years later, he would become a state representative for Mississippi. This picture book gives insight to the struggles black people faced during the Reconstruction, and raises the question of why it took 100 years after the Civil War for the Civil Rights Act to happen. The illustrations, though quaint, are serious; one spread depicts black men about to be whipped and hung by white men. The author's and illustrator's notes can be shared to further convey the importance of Lynch's story and the reasons it should be told.
Last, but not least, I finished Kate Messner's The Seventh Wish. Charlie is a middle-school girl, little sister to college-freshman Abby, friend to Dasha and Drew, and competitive Irish dancer. While ice-fishing with Drew and his grandmother, she finds a talking fish who grants her a wish in exchange for its life. Charlie is doubtful at first, but when her first wish comes true, she begins to seek out the fish to solve problems her friends and family are facing. The results seem promising at first, but don't work out the way she intended. During the course of the story, we discover that Abby is battling an addiction to heroin, sending Charlie's world into a tailspin. Her seventh--and final--wish is made without fish in hand; it's the "Serenity Prayer", recited by addicts and their families in AA meetings.
I don't want to spoil the ending, but do want readers to know that the story is not neatly wrapped up at the finish, echoing the ongoing daily struggle and impact of addiction. The Seventh Wish is a thoughtful story to start a conversation about drug use and its dangers. Kate Messner's author note is an emotional and informative segue to that discussion.
It's Monday! What are you reading this summer?