Wednesday, September 11, 2019

THE CLASS by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network and Simon and Schuster for the review copy of this book - all opinions are my own. The Class by Frances O’Roark Dowell releases on October 8, 2019, and you’ll definitely want to get your own copy then!

The Class is told by twenty different characters, all classmates in Mrs. Herrera’s class. Ellie is an aspiring author who needs an idea for her next book, so she starts taking notes about her classmates. She sees a student who used to be a goody-goody starting to turn bad. She sees boys labeled as “jocks” showing more depth and emotion than she would have expected. She watches everyone to see how they interact and what their relationships are like, because Ellie is struggling to find friends herself. When some of Mrs. Herrera’s special things go missing, all of the students have their suspicions of who took what, but all these students also have their own reasons why they might be the thief.

Because of the unique way of storytelling, the reader doesn’t get any foreshadowing, and can’t put all the pieces of the mystery together until the book is finished. Each character has a distinct voice that will make the reader think of students in their own classes - I know it did for me! I can’t stress the positivity of this enough - it makes you see things from other people’s points of view, including how and why they act the way they do. I think this is so important in building empathy, especially in a school setting when it’s so easy to dismiss others as “weird”, “loud”, “good”, or “bad”. I’m going to recommend this as a book club pick for the 6th and 7th graders at my school - or maybe even share as a group read-aloud. It’s very powerful and important, while still being an enjoyable book kids of all ages will want to read.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Back to School in Verse

Last week I shared some of the back to school books I read with young students. This week, I'm going to share one book I was able to read with multiple grades.

A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices 
by Sally Derby, illustrated by Mika Song

This book of poetry features diverse children starting kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth, and fifth grades. Each student has a poem from the Night Before, In the Morning, At School, and After School. Students have different living situations, different ethnicities, and different abilities and talents. I made copies of the poems and had students in each grade read them aloud. 

For one Lower Elementary library class, I have a mix of first and second graders. After first graders read the poems, they shared words that described their night before and first day of school. Some second graders even chimed in with how they remember feeling the year before. The other Lower Elementary class has a mix of second and third grade students. It was interesting to hear their reactions to poems about students in other grades, in other schools (fictional, yes, but still relevant). It was wonderful to see how they could relate to these characters.

One Upper Elementary class has fourth and fifth graders, so we finished up the book with those poems, and then they wrote their own. For the group of 6th and 7th graders, I found an assortment of poems online. Several were about starting school and the end of summer, so we took turns reading those aloud before they wrote their own. A bonus pack of poems was about growth mindset, dreams, and pushing yourself to see what you could accomplish. These were read aloud and then also used as jumping off points for their own poems. I was so impressed at the variety of poetry style and the depth of emotion these students shared!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Happy 5th Blog Birthday, How I Feel About Books!

I started this blog on September 8, 2014. It was a requirement for the course Literature for Children and Young Adults that I was taking as a graduate student in the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman's University. I loved the idea of starting a book blog, because I had previously reviewed books on my personal blog. I'd highlight books I really loved with their own post, and wrote round-ups reviewing books I had read that month.

Reviews for my coursework required a certain format and intense look at the book; once my degree was finished, I tried to keep up that dedication, but it got to be a bit much. I worked as a teen services librarian in a branch of the public library, and read and reviewed at least 4 books a month for their Teen Bookletters newsletter. Then I worked as an elementary school librarian in a public school (we're just not going to talk about that period of my life), and as a librarian in a Montessori elementary school, where I currently still am. I've also been active in the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a branch of the American Library Association (ALA).

Over time, I've started and stopped producing two different podcasts, one book related, one creativity related. I've started an Instagram outlet for the blog. I've been part of wonderful kidlit communities on Instgram, including @KidLitPicks and @KidLitExchange. I've been a member of several different book clubs. I've started (and neglected) a YouTube channel featuring book round-ups, book recommendations, and short reviews called A Book a Minute.

I've read more books than I can count (but I keep track on Goodreads, of course), and reviewed them all with at least two sentences in a personal document, whether I share them anywhere else or not. I've tried to get back to my class-style of reviews, and I've tried to just write quality, personal reviews. I'm still trying to find the balance and merit with reviews on this blog.

I do know that I like adding some personal posts, like this one, and a few I've shared about writing, and some about TV shows I've enjoyed and how they influenced my thought process. I don't have a personal blog anymore, and while I don't feel the need to share everything with the internet like I did in my 20s, I do like sharing things that aren't strict reviews. And I'm not making a living as a reviewer, and this blog is How I FEEL About Books, so I think it's ok to get a little personal, a little informal, a little off-topic now and then.

But basically, I'm just proud of keeping this thing chugging for five years. Here's hoping I can keep it going for five more!

This was my first post.