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Summer Reading Symposium

By August 16, 2009 culture, language No Comments

As previously promised, here is a summary of the books I read for the library’s summer reading challenge. I finished 18 books out of the 25 required. I had several other books selected to complete the challenge but I ran out time (I was on the road trip described here).

Only a few titles were disappointing, but none were awful. My favorites were:

  • A Crooked Kind of Perfect
  • Scaredy Squirrel
  • Esperanza Rising
  • Fireflies in the Dark: The Story of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and the Children of Terezin
  • The Giver
  • Grow: A Novel in Verse

All in all, great stories, superb writing, and a wonderful break from my usual reading selections. Have you read any of these books? Do share!

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Picture Book or Fiction (4/4)
Flotsam, David Wiesner | Depicts a boy’s discovery of an old camera found washed up at the beach. Upon developing the film, he finds a photo of a child about his age holding a photograph up to the camera. A magnifying glass shows that within the photo is another child holding a photo of another child holding a photo, and on and on. Reminded me of those nesting dolls, stocked with unseen treasure.

A Crooked Kind of Perfect, Linda Urban | A quirky tale that accurately describes the awkward junior-high stage. The heroine, Zoe, dreams of learning the piano and playing Carnegie Hall—sadly, her lovable yet unhinged father purchases an organ instead. Impressive character development; I could know these people!

The Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing, Helen Lester | This is a sweet story about a sheep uncomfortable in her own skin. It stresses the value of being who you are, even if that’s different from others, and finding your place. I loved the illustrations.

Yertle the Turtle, Dr. Seuss | Typical Dr. Seuss—with ingenious rhyme and outlandish story that teach age-old character lessons. Yertle the Turtle is king of the pond with aspirations to rule everything in sight. He builds his throne upon the backs of his fellow turtles, without regard for their welfare. When his throne—and reign—collapse, he becomes what he always was: just a turtle in a pond.

Questioned/Challenged Book (1/1)
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll | My initial A.R.K.S. reading list had this title on it; the very next day I heard of the upcoming movie release based on the tale. Then I knew I needed to read this one in preparation for the movie! From what I knew of the story, I thought I would love it, but I must admit it wasn’t my favorite. The way Alice was stuck in this strange madness made me feel a bit antsy (so sad!)—must be a control issue. Parts of it were amusing, but I was not disappointed to finish it.

Monarch Award or Honor Book (1/1)
Scaredy Squirrel, Melanie Watt | Unexpected depth for a picture book. Features poor Scaredy Squirrel who is so afraid of life (and germs and killer bees and sharks and Martians) that he refuses to leave his nut tree. He assumes that life is best when it’s safe. He discovers that a safe life is often nothing more than a lifeless existence. Sweet illustrations and quite humorous!

Fairy Tale (1/1)
Three Sacks of Truth: A Story from France, Eric Kimmel | Based on a common French fairy tale. Stresses the importance of honesty, valuing people, and finding creative solutions for difficult situations. And yes, I chose this because it was a story from France.

Coretta Scott King Award or Honor Book (1/1)
Toning the Sweep, Angela Johnson | I had no clue what “toning the sweep” meant but the title was intriguing. This is a story about a 14-year-old girl and the connection she has with her grandmother, who is dying of cancer. Oddly enough, the story is saturated more with life than death; it makes life feel alive and active, like something you want to run after. The title was not explained until well into the book—it refers to the drumming of a plow to honor the recently deceased.

Juvenile Biography (1/1)
J. M. Barrie: The Magic Behind Peter Pan, Susan Bivin Aller | Have you seen Finding Neverland? It is an emotionally haunting movie, and it made me curious about J. M. Barrie’s life. When I searched for a biography to meet this category and stumbled across this one, I snatched it up. It seems the movie took some liberty on the timeline of events and perhaps played up the tension between Barrie and his wife in regard to the Llewelyns. Barrie’s life was full of magic and tragedy. A fascinating read.

Rebecca Caudill Award or Honor Book (1/1)
Esperanza Rising, Pam Munoz Ryan | Whimsical is the best word to describe this novel following a preteen who must grow up too fast after family tragedy. Esparanza is the heroine who leaves her homeland of Mexico to work the fields in the United States. The chapter titles follow the harvest timeline and are the  Spanish names for the fruit or vegetable of the season.

Caldecott Award or Honor Book (1/1)
The Egg Tree, Katherine Milhous | This is a simple picture book with illustrations from the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition. It was a quick read; not a favorite but at least it did not take much of my reading time!

Newberry Award or Honor Book (1/1)
Waterless Mountain, Laura Adams Armer | I enjoyed this novel immensely. Read my post for all my thoughts—too many to include here.

Poetry or Illinois Author (1/1)
Past Perfect, Present Tense, Richard Peck | Creative short stories for the preteen. I’ve never read short stories like these—so well done! Quick character development, engaging dialogue, plot surprises; I highly recommend this one.

Beginning to Read or Easy Reader (1/2)
Frog and Toad Are Friends, Arnold Lobel | There used to be a Frog and Toad’s Wild Ride* at Disney World; I have no idea if it’s still there, but my husband and I always went on it even though it was for kids. I guess what I love is the value of Frog and Toad’s friendship; it’s something steady in an unsteady world—Frog and Toad would always be friends, no matter what. When I found this book in the Beginning to Read area at the library, I had to read it. The story was simple and rather humorous; Frog and Toad are a bit snippy with each other and the stories are basic and a bit silly. A quick, enjoyable read. *[oops! I confused toads! Leah from practicingjoy let me know that the Disney ride was called Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Mr. Toad is from The Wind in the Willows (not the Toad of Frog-and-Toad fame). Amazing how the brain splices information together, eh?]

Juvenile Nonfiction (1/2)
Fireflies in the Dark: The Story of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis and the Children of Terezin, Susan Goldman Rubin | Terezin was a Jewish ghetto used by the Nazis during World War II. This book honors the many who died there or were processed out to die in one of the concentration camps. It’s completely heart wrenching, but also inspiring—one prisoner, Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, was determined to help the children in the ghetto deal with the trauma through art and music. Her courage and selflessness did not save her—or the children—from death, but she made the life they did live much brighter.

Your Choice (3/4)
The Giver, Lois Lowry | None of my descriptions would do this book justice! Layer after layer skillfully builds then destroys the case for a Utopian society of “sameness.” Life in this futuristic society is devoid of pain both physical and emotional through heavy regulation and a great emphasis on safety. One of the best fiction books I’ve read!

Grow: A Novel in Verse, Juanita Havill | Written as a free-form poem, this story unfolds to reveal the impact a neighborhood garden has on hearts around the city. I loved it!

Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue, Julius Lester | This is a historical novel based on the largest slave sale in U.S. history in 1859. Many characters were developed from research and historical accounts; others were created to paint the picture of life during this painful and wrenching era. Conflicting feelings, opinions, and actions are woven together as a series of firsthand accounts—from slaves and slave owners alike—as well as dialogue inserted to build the story.
Series or Graphic Novel (0/3)
Juvenile Paperback (0/1)

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