This month I have read through a lot of books, but none that I have really felt compelled to blog about. I read The Uncommoners- a Harry Potter type of story about a hidden magical world where common objects become magical ones. Think a spatula that can turn someone invisible or a suitcase that can transport a person to the other side of town. I liked it a lot, and I think my students will like it as well. I also read Unusual Chicken for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer. It was a sweet story about Sophie Brown a city girl who inherits her uncle's farm and his group of very unusual chicken. She does her best to learn about them and keep them safe. It's a cute story with a hint of a mystery. I also just finished The Warden's Daughter by Jerry Spinelli. I couldn't get into it. I tried over and over but it wasn't for me. I've never been a fan of prison settings.
I don't usually write a full blog about a book unless I REALLY love it. The three books above were good, but not my favorites.
But there was one book in my reading this week that I enjoyed very much.
The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson is incredibly intriguing. It is a page turner for sure. This is yet another book about severe OCD (it seems to be a hot topic this year), but unlike the others I've read, the OCD is a side story to a great mystery. Middle school student Matthew Corbin sits in his window every day watching his neighbors. He waits and watches and writes about their comings and goings. He's nicknamed The Goldfish Boy because people only see him from behind the glass of his window. Matthew has severe OCD that prevents him from going outside or really having any human contact for fear of spreading germs. When he's forced to interact with other people, his skin crawls until he has a chance to wash in scalding hot water. Even latex gloves and being covered from head to toe stop working for him. He can't go to school, go out to play, or even enjoy a game of pool with his father. When a neighborhood child goes missing, Matthew is the last one to see him from his post in the window. He becomes a key witness in the investigation and his weeks of watching and spying lead to some intense theories and clues.
As I was reading this story, Matthew's anxiety and fears radiated from the page. I felt his struggle as he clearly wants to interact with his family and neighbors but just can't bring himself to do it. In one part of the story, Matthew watches a young boy fall into a pond but his OCD prevents him from running outside to help. His frustration and desperation are heartbreaking as he screams from his window. The other neighbors think he's strange but don't really understand the depths of his illness. This is a great book to introduce this difficult condition.
Besides his struggles, there are actually two mysteries here- the first is the missing toddler and the second is the incident that starts his OCD. I was surprised by both revelations! I think upper elementary students will enjoy this story as much as I did.
Monday, May 29, 2017
Monday, May 1, 2017
I've been reading YA books for years, and I thought I had read about every possible heavy topic such as divorce, drugs, grief, self harm, sickness and the like. I was pleasantly surprised to pick up Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes and read about a topic I haven't encountered yet in children's books- hoarding. Hoarding has many psychological facets, but this book by Mary Lambert focuses not on the hoarder, but on the effects for the children living in that house.
Annabelle won't let anyone within five miles of her home for fear that her classmates will see chaos in her house. Over the years, her mother's "collection" has grown to include hundreds of newspapers, canned good, old toys, milk cartons, and a plethora of other useless items. Annabelle struggles with how to help her mom while trying to navigate middle school and the typical drama that goes along with that age. When her little sister Lindsay gets buried in old newspapers one morning and begins to have nightmares, Annabelle frustration grows. Her father leaves seemingly unable to cope with the mess and her grandmother comes to the rescue albeit not in the right way. Her methods of simply trying to throw the mess away makes things even worse.
This book was very well written and Annabelle's voice as the narrator is perfect, This is a very adult topic, but Lambert writes it in a way that is perfectly relatable for a preteen. It's a very moving story about family dynamics. The love and loyalty between the family members is obvious and as much as Annabelle wants her mother to stop, she also protects her mom from their grandmom who isn't exactly warm and fuzzy. As a reader, I felt Annabelle's angst and her embarrassment along with her feelings of helplessness. Her desire to be as neat and clean as possible (actually obsessively) is of course her way of trying to control a terrible situation. This is a great read and stays on the fringe of the horrors of hoarding just enough to keep it perfect for pre-teens. I will absolutely recommend this book to my students.
What a refreshing book for children! The Kindness Club: Chloe on the Bright Side by Courtney Sheinmel is a very cute story about Chloe, the new girl in school. The first day she gets "adopted" by the popular kids and is really excited until she sees their true colors. Led by the sneaky Monroe, the "It Girls" fit the bully stereotype perfectly. The girls in the It Girls Club have rules about what to wear, who to talk to, and even how to wear their hair. Chloe starts to feel uncomfortable by some of these new rules and is torn between finally being popular and doing what she knows is right. Luckily, she gets assigned a Science project with Lucy and Theo (two people she is not supposed to talk too) and they start The Kindess Club. They are out to prove that kindness benefits everyone.
This book was very easy to read and had an AWESOME message for kids. It's ultimately about how kindness trumps bullies and has countless lessons and teachable moments throughout. I think this is a book that will benefit every reader. There is a side story about Chloe's parents getting divorced but even then Chloe tries her best to put the kindness test into action.
I think it's a great story to read to a class or between parent and child. It's the first in a new series, and I'm looking forward to the others.