As I sit here in the magnificent Howe Public Library waiting for my son to finish a final exam at his high school, I’m filled with glee. I am so glad that it is him and not me taking exams. I hated taking final exams in high school and college. They were so stressful and my hand ached with great pain after each one as I had to write a novella to address the questions being asked. I am so happy that instead of sitting in a room filled with tension and teenage hormones, I am here in a cool and quiet library updating my blog regarding my second summer professional goal. The metaphorical sun shines brightly in my epically blue sky today.
After reading the underwhelming Welcome to Camp Nightmare by R. L. Stine, I was worried that all three of my children’s literature selections would be duds. With the plethora of choices and options in this genre, I feel as though I am more likely to read a bad book than a winner. Despite these odds, I persevered, thankfully, and came out on top with much to show for my work. The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce and The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang were both fantastic reads that thrusted me into completely different worlds filled with action, humor, drama, and diversity. In the sea of icky young adult fiction, it’s nice to know that there are authors willing to take risks and write brilliant books for the future leaders and thinkers of our world.
The Unforgotten Coat tells the amazing story of refugee children trying to navigate life in a new land, while always fearing deportation. The author did a wonderful job painting the portrait of differences and compassion with Polaroid pictures and a first-person narrative from the perspective of a sixth grade girl as the backdrop. I absolutely loved every page of the novel and hope that my students choose this book to devour this summer. There are several great talking and discussion points I could bring up with my students regarding this novel as it is filled with lots of examples of great writing, poor choices, compassionate choices, and kindness in a harsh world where a piece of paper is the difference between safety and loss. Wow! is just about all I can say about this great book. If you are looking for a quick read for sixth grade level readers or looking for a new read-aloud to teach your students about diversity and the refugee crisis with which our world is faced, then this is the book for you.
The third book I chose to read that some of my new sixth grade students may read this summer was The Shadow Hero. As I have grown to enjoy graphic novels thanks in part to the author of this very book, I could not have been more excited to jump into this wonderful novel. The author does an amazing job telling the story of a Chinese superhero created during the time when comics were all the rage in our country. Unfortunately, the original story and comic fell to the wayside and never really gained popularity in its own time. Thankfully though, the author and illustrator reinvigorate The Green Turtle narrative by imagining his origin story. The book is filled with creative imagery and crisp writing that moves the story forward like the tracks below a speeding train. Because some of the language used could be construed as a bit mature, this novel would definitely be for more advanced readers or those middle school readers looking for a fun read filled with action. I was transported to a different time where stereotypes and differences abounded like bubbles in soda. This book could be used to teach about the Chinese culture or diversity in general. It might also be a unique way to introduce or teach world mythology to students. If you’re looking for a young adult novel that is a bit different from the norm, then this may just be the book for you.
While my son sits in a hot classroom, frantically moving his pencil across the page as he answers yet another question about American history, I could not be happier sitting here reflecting upon some great books I’ve read this week. After reading these three books, I’m inspired to tackle even more young adult novels as I work my way through the rest of my summer professional goals.