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If you regularly find yourself lamenting kids’ devotion to electronic devices, texting and their inscrutable, abbreviated secret language, you’ll probably find this story heartening.
And so it begins
LitKid turned 13 recently and was having three friends over for a slumber party. Since this was a big birthday, and she was on board with having a smaller party (I lost my mind and allowed a past slumber party to swell to 11 girls a few years back), I thought it would be nice to get her friends a party favor that was nice/lasting (ie, not made of plastic or sugar).
I asked her what ideas she had, and she couldn’t think of anything right away. We were up against the clock, so I told her I had had an idea on the way to work -– how about giving her a friends a book she had enjoyed? I tossed out Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me as a first suggestion.
(I admit to bias on this one. It is one of my favorite books from recent years, based on its merits – it won the Newbery – and on the fact that I am a child of the 70s, so I felt right at home.)
Thumbs up or thumbs down? Cool mom or hopelessly bookish mom?
My girl obviously loves to read, but I was fully prepared for her to tell me that a 13th birthday party favor needed to be something cool or trendy – or that not all of her friends would be into getting a book.
But to my surprise and delight (after all, 13-year-olds don’t tend to think 49-year-olds’ ideas are cool), her immediate, enthusiastic response was that this was a “perfect idea!” and When You Reach Me was a perfect book to give her friends.
Quail Ridge Books, our favorite store, had three copies (which gave the idea a “meant to be” feel, as girls 4 and 5 had had to cancel at the last minute) and gift-wrapped them for us, as always.
The night of the party, I was very curious (and yes, a little nervous) to see how the girls would react to their bookish gifts.
Again, the tween/teen reaction was heart-warming.
All three girls were genuinely thrilled – not an overstatement, I promise – when they opened their gifts … even the one who had already read When You Reach Me.
“It was my little sister’s book from the library,” she said, “so I love having my own copy: I’m going to read it again … and hide it from my sister.”
Just another bit of unscientific evidence that print is not dead, and it’s always cool to be a reader, even at 13.
My co-blogger is enjoying her stint as a Scholastic Kids’ Press reporter this year. She was excited when her editor gave her the go-ahead when she “pitched” the idea of interviewing this year’s Newbery Award winner, Katherine Applegate, who was honored for her novel The One and Only Ivan.
Through the wonders of technology, LitKid was able to interview the author at her home on the West Coast from our home on the East Coast on a rainy Sunday afternoon. (At one point, a certain canine friend of Ms. Applegate’s joined the interview, too – sorry, but that cameo didn’t make the final edit!)
We hope you’ll enjoy the interview; Ms. Applegate is the perfect person for a young reporter to do her inaugural “on-camera” interview with – she is kind, warm and funny.
You can take a look at the story and listen to the interview on the Scholastic Kids Press Corps website.
- Dead End in Norvelt, Jack Gantos
- The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
- Middle School:The Worst Years of My Life, James Patterson
- Wonder, R.J. Palacio
- Out of My Mind, Sharon M. Draper
- Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, Wendy Mass
- From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L.Koningsburg
- The Wednesday Wars, Gary D. Schmidt
- Airborn, Kenneth Oppel
- The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate
- Jaguar Stones Book 3: The River of No Return, Jon and Pamela Voelkel
- The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee, Tom Angleberger
- The Dork Diaries Books, Rachel Renee Russell
What did you read that you loved last year? Comment below and let us know.
By Jack Gantos
Newbery Medal Winner, 2012
When I glanced at my Middle School Battle of the Books list and saw Dead End in Norvelt, I nearly jumped for joy.
In the beginning of the book, you don’t really expect for a young boy to fire off a WWII Japanese rifle, and cause the town’s obituary writer to drop her hearing aid down the toilet.
Now that the damage has been done, Jack is “grounded for life” and has to help waxy-handed Ms. Volker write the town’s obituaries — and there are a lot of them to write as the original bunch of Norvelt are dieing off. Another thing to add to the sandwich is that Jack always has a nosebleed when he is scared or nervous, but Ms. Volker, who has to heat up her hands on a stove, fixes that.
I like this book because it’s really funny even though it talks about death. It made me want to write obituaries for Ms. Volker, but I wouldn’t want to be operated on by her.
Be sure to check out Jack Gantos’ bio.
Librarians play a big part in the lives of us book-lovers. We become really close to them. My school librarian has played a big part in the last 2-3 years of my elementary school life. And now, without further ado, “Paige Binder” (we all use pen names at ‘Lost in a Book’!):
Librarian guilt. That is what I have about all those Newbery Award winners and classic children’s novels I have never read. It is why I made a list of eight books to read this summer that will reduce my guilt load. They are not necessarily books I want to read, but I’m sure at least half of them will end up as favorites. One classic that has gone unread is Jean Craighead George’s Julie of the Wolves. When George passed away this spring, the world lost a bright star in children’s literature, and I knew it was time to check out her Newbery Award-winning novel.
I have to admit, I was not expecting to enjoy Julie of the Wolves. The plot sounded too similar to another book I never made it through—Jack London’s Call of the Wild. I enjoy being in nature, but “man against nature” survival stories generally put me to sleep. (Please don’t ask if I have read Gary Paulsen’s classic Hatchet.) Therefore it was with some trepidation that I began to read Julie of the Wolves.
I was happy to find out that George created a compelling backstory for her spunky heroine Miyax, known to her penpal in San Francisco as Julie. As the book opens, the reader learns that Miyax has lost both her beloved parents and was married off at age 13 to a man named Daniel. Clearly, the marriage was an unhappy one, as Miyax has taken her chances in the Alaskan wilderness in order to escape it. Lost and alone, she attempts to join a pack of wolves in order to survive. Knowing that more will be revealed about Miyax’s past, as well as the anticipation of how she will survive once winter sets in, has kept me reading. George’s descriptions of Miyax’s attempts to communicate with the wolves are incredibly realistic and well-researched. The author’s lifetime of studying the ways of animals allows her to bring the wolves to life as characters that can hold their own against human ones.
Jean Craighead George had her own fascinating life story. She grew up with parents who were naturalists and spent most of her childhood days outdoors. As an adult, she became a journalist and was one of the first women to join the White House Press Corps. After her children were born, she made outdoor adventures a big part of her family’s life. The menagerie of wild animals that made a home in her house and yard provided inspiration for her books. She was opinionated and strongwilled when it came to her beliefs, which perhaps made it easier to stand her ground when Julie of the Wolves was challenged by censors.
As I make my way through the list of “Books I Should Have Read” this summer, I hope to find more unexpected favorites like Julie of the Wolves. A balanced reading diet can be made up of reading what we like as well as what is good for us, but for this librarian, the real pleasure comes when I find both in one novel.
‘Paige Binder’ is an elementary school librarian and former middle school teacher. This summer she will be buying her first Kindle and making her way through that list of award winners. We hope she will come back and tell us about her award winners reading adventure at the end of the summer!
LitKid recently posted an excellent list of books she hopes to read and/or wishes to add to her library when her 11th birthday rolls around later this month; she later announced she hoped to read 2,000 books this summer.
When I gave her a cocked-eyebrow, incredulous-but-trying-to-not-crush-her-dreams sort of look, she was unfazed, though a few days later, she did allow as how she might revise her goal to 2,000 books by the end of the year instead.
My goals are more modest, especially since I have a non-kidlit stack to read this summer as well:
1) When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead; I’m flipping back and forth between the hardcover and the audiobook on our July 4th holiday road trip. This one has been at the top of my reading wish list for awhile.
2) Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. By now, who hasn’t heard of the wonder of Wonder? My girl has done a class book report on it (complete with a way cool “Prezi” visual presentation for class), as well as reviewed it here. I can’t wait to read it.
3) The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall and The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. I hope to read Book 1 of at least one of these by the end of summer, and ideally I’ll fit in both.
4) Bunnicula, by Deborah and James Howe. Rosemary, our kidlit expert at Quail Ridge Books, highly recommended this one, and LitKid loved it. This is one of those books I’d want to read based solely on the title (maybe we’ll make a list of those books here one day; there are many strong contenders).
LitKid’s librarian has instigated two book club events for fifth-grade girls to pair up with an adult partner to read a book and then come together after school to discuss it. The first selection was Cynthia Lord’s Rules, and I enjoyed that book and discussion very much.
When time came a few weeks ago for us to read Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, I had deadline after deadline and time got away from me. Suddenly it was the day of the discussion, and I had barely read one chapter. Not one of my stellar parenting moments.
Then I had a crafty thought – my 83-year-old mother was visiting and recovering from a whirlwind few days (including representing the Class of 1951 in cap and gown at her alma mater’s inauguration of a new president). Could I convince her to spend her rest day reading Walk Two Moons? Being a saintly sort of mom, she said she would give it her best shot.
By 4:30, she had read all but a few chapters, and accompanied my girl to the discussion. I sat in on it, too, so we had three generations of readers
there; even though I could offer very little of substance to the discussion, I loved listening.
In the end, I believe my poor planning in the reading-ahead department led to a wonderful gift for my LitKid and her grandmother. What a cool thing for them to sit there together that day and talk about this wonderful story in which grandparents play such an endearing and important role for a young girl, just as my mother has for my daughter through some difficult Big Life events, including early-life medical challenges and divorce.
I will let my LitKid write the true review, telling you about the plot and characters, and I’ll just share the sort of perfect way I came to finish the book.
This past weekend, LitKid and I headed to Asheville for a visit with close friends; I also attended an excellent SCBWI Master Class on Plot with editor Cheryl Klein of Scholastic Press/Arthur A. Levine. I was happy to find that the audiobook version of Walk Two Moons was in the car, as a road trip is the perfect setting for this story. It is among other things, a road trip tale, and beyond that, what could be better than listening to such an engagingly plotted book on the way to and from my class?
I loved the plot setup, the characters, the voices and the sense I had of going back in time to the feeling I had reading my favorite books as a child; I don’t always get that feeling reading contemporary kids’ literature, so when I do, it is special.
I can use that joking phrase “I laughed, I cried …” with complete sincerity when it comes to Walk Two Moons. Driving through the rain, I laughed out loud with my girl, who was sucked back into the story even though she had just read it a few weeks back, and at the end, the tears (of joy and sorrow) came. Without giving away any plot points, I will just say that I walked two moons in Salamanca’s shoes as a young girl, and the book had deep personal meaning for me in addition to being a memorable story well-deserving of its Newbery Medal.
If you have not read it, please put it on your list (no matter how old a kid you happen to be).