“What Are You Reading?” Wednesday (August 6, 2014)

We just got our big shipment from Titlewave of new books for the year, and I’m a little behind on my Goodreads challenge, so I’ve been reading through the new books before they go up on the display shelf. (The students aren’t officially back to school for another week and a half.)

What are you reading?

GrimI got about halfway through Grim before I lost interest. Maybe I just didn’t like that one story? It’s a collection of fairy tale retellings. I was complaining to a friend that I often found them rather boring, but this one had such a nice cover that I had to pick it up. (I always judge books by their covers.)

Some of the retellings were really cool. I loved Puss in Boots, Bluebeard, and Donkeyskin. I admit that I got bored of all the hetero stories… so far, except for one line in Malinda Lo’s Twelve Dancing Princesses, every story has featured straight protagonists. Really? After all this #WeNeedDiverseBooks, it seems like a good idea to publish an anthology with no queer characters?

Well, I’m only halfway through, so maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised…

What did you recently finish reading?

Eliza Bing is (NOT) a Big Fat QuitterI picked up Eliza Bing is (NOT) a Big Fat Quitter on Monday morning when I needed something to read. I loved it! It really resonated with me, not least because I studied Moo Gong Do for ten years. Eliza counting and learning other Korean words in her class brought back memories. I identified a lot with Eliza, too; I was never diagnosed with ADD, but I was tested several times at the recommendation of my teachers because I found it impossible to pay attention. So I got her. I knew what it was like to be an eleven-year-old girl, navigating the strange limbo of just-before-middle school, feeling like I had no good friends and my interests as varied and changing as Eliza’s. I don’t think I got into cake decorating until I was older, but I liked to paint, and write, and I tried knitting, and of course I loved Pokémon and Harry Potter more than anything, but martial arts gave me the discipline and leadership skills that I needed, just like Eliza.

I purchased Gaijin: American Prisoner of War for my library, but after reading it, I think I might bump it up to secondary for language. SLJ has it listed for Grade 5-8, and I think it would do better with the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders than my 5th graders.

GaijinNow, I’m not giving it to secondary because I don’t like it. It was a powerful story of something my history teachers liked to avoid talking about, the internment of Japanese-American citizens. Koji is half-Japanese, a second generation immigrant on his father’s side. His Japanese father returned home to Japan before the war broke out in the Pacific to care for his aging father, so his (white) American mother accompanies him to the internment camp. Koji struggles to fit in at home, where his Japanese father makes him the “other” (and now, the enemy) and has a hard time finding a place in the internment camp, where his white mother marks him as an “outsider.”

The story ends ambiguously, especially if you know the history of the internment camps, but it’s powerful. It’s a good history lesson, and I think Koji’s struggles will resonate with my students; many of them are half-Japanese.

The Shelf ElfOur PTA library committee president recommended The Shelf Elf to me while I was in the process of designing curriculum for the upcoming school year. I think it will make a fun readaloud, and I’ll try using “shh, you’ll hurt the Shelf Elf’s ears!” if the littlest kids get loud, but I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about the whole shelf elf program. Has anyone used it?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Mary Walker Wears the PantsI have so many options. I’m excited about my new biographies. When I talked to the fourth graders about feminism last year, I started with some statistics: my library collection has about 100 books with the BIO designator on the call tag; 30 or so of them were about women.

Ouch.

Part of my presentation was about how my belief impacts my life choices. I told them I would make a point to balance out the biography collection when I did purchasing this year. I’m especially looking forward to Mary Walker Wears the Pants and Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909, and I still haven’t received my shipment of The Thinking Girls Treasury of Real Princesses and that’s gonna be great.

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