A Hodgepodge of Reading and Book News

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For the past few days, I’ve been trying to find some time to write a new post, but between eating chocolate bunnies and other (far less enjoyable) things to do, it’s been hard to find the time. But now, the iPod is playing Ingrid Michaelson and my husband and son are watching a basketball game…

1. Yesterday I read the follow up to Kirby Larson’s Newbery Honor Book, Hattie Big SkyHattie Ever After – and loved it.  I just looked back to see when Hattie Big Sky was published – and it was five years ago!  I’ve read lots of books since then, but as soon as I picked up Larson’s new novel, the story of strong willed Hattie came rushing back. In the first book, Hattie stuggles to make a success of her uncle’s homestead in Montana.  Hattie Ever After opens where the first one left off. The homesteading thing doesn’t work out so well, but our heroine has bigger plans. She gets a job with a group of traveling actors and travels west to 1919 San Francisco.  It’s great fun to experience San Francisco through Hattie’s eyes – the eyes of a young woman with big dreams and full of optimism about the future.

At first, I couldn’t figure out why the book felt familiar to me. But then it came to me….Hattie Ever After brought to mind Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, West from Home, a book of letters Wilder wrote to her husband, Almanzo, during her 1915 trip to San Francisco for the World’s Fair. Both books share a wide-eyed excitement that felt totally genuine.

2. On a completely different note, I read a heartbreakingly sad book last week – Emily Rapp’s memoir, The Still Point of the Turning World.  When Rapp’s son was nine months old he was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs, a rare and fatal disease. It is painful to read, but I wouldn’t take back one minute I spent with this wise book.  Rapp draws on her knowledge of literature, religion and philosophy to help understand and accept what was happening to Ronan. Rapp’s book reminded me of how risky the act of reading can be. I knew what this book was about. I bought it. But…I was not prepared for its emotional impact. It has to be the right time to read a book like this one. For reasons I can’t adequately explain, this was the right time for me. The Still Point of the Turning World is about accepting the unacceptable. 

3. If you’re a fan of the Diary of A Wimpy Kid series, mark your calendar for November – when the 8th book will be published.

4. And…if you read the Matched Series by Ally Condie, you might be interested in her book about a girl living in an underwater city. Pub date is not until fall of 2014.

5. Finally, if you share my enthusiasm for essays, you’ll love this. Flavorwire listed the “25 Greatest Essay Collections of All Time.”  Here’s the link:


It’s time to go check out the basketball game, or better yet – read one of the essays!


Reading About the Great War

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Inly’s middle school students are studying World War I. They are reading “In Flanders Fields,” studying the map of Europe in 1914, and trying to wrap their heads around the unfathomable number of the dead and wounded. In literature class, the students are reading The Lord of the Nutcracker Men by Iain Lawrence and War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. There is even a small group of 8th grade students reading the classic novel, All Quiet on the Western Front

One of their assignments is to find a way to represent the 29 million dead and wounded – to attempt to understand what that number really means and begin to understand the unprecedented toll WWI had on the world. The kids always come up with creative and compelling ways to show the number – like this example using Cheerios:



I also provide them with a list of other books related to the Great War and the early 1900s.  While there are literally hundreds of choices for them when they study WWII later in the year, there are far fewer selections for the WWI-era.  This is the list of books I recommend: 

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance by Jennifer Armstrong

With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman’s Right to Vote by Ann Bausum (The story of the events between 1906 and 1920, which led to women getting the right to vote)

The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane by Russell Freedman (Of course, the students have the opportunity to learn about Dayton, Ohio’s most famous inventors – Wilbur and Orville Wright)

The War to End All Wars by Russell Freedman

Time of Angels by Karen Hesse (a novel about the influenza epidemic of 1918)

Pictures, 1918 by Jeannette Ingold (A 15-year-old girl growing up in Texas during WWI)

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson (The story of 16-year-old Hattie who leaves Iowa and moves to Montana in 1918)

A Time for Courage: The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen by Kathryn Lasky (the fictional diary of a 13-year-old girl growing up in Washington, D.C.)

Charlie Wilcox by Sharon McKay (A good book for young readers about a boy who encounters the horrors of war)

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo (a thoughtful novel about a young English soldier)

Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting by Jim Murphy (the true story of the 1914 Christmas truce)

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (Part adventure novel. Part steampunk. Part historical fiction. This book takes place on a biological airship that looks like a flying whale!)

On Feburary 12, the sequel to Hattie Big SkyHattie Ever After – is being released, and I can’t wait to read it. In the sequel, Hattie moves to San Francisco to follow her dream of becoming a reporter. I’ll “report” back as soon as I read it.