Archives for posts with tag: community

9780061728235Walter Dean Myers’s Darius & Twig (HarperCollins, $17.99, out today) packs a lot of big thoughts into a compact book. Darius wants to be a writer, but he’s struggling to understand his story. Twig is a natural runner. The two boys are best friends and fiercely support each other, even when no one else does. This story touches on community, loyalty, family, violence, respect, dreaming big, but it manages to address all of this things with a subtlety that is remarkable. Myers paints a very clear and lucid picture and then steps back quietly, while letting others make observations. He doesn’t set out to teach lessons, or impose anything on his readers. Instead, he tells a deceptively straightforward story about two friends that can be enjoyed on its own. For readers who want to push further into the story, however, the setting is incredibly rich, the secondary characters are interesting and complex, and the representations of class, race, socioeconomics, education, athletics are thought provoking. More than that, however, this story describes how writing forces us to look deeply inside of ourselves. I hope that high schools adopt this book and start using it in their writing classes. The evolution of Darious’s story is phenomenal. There are no easy answers, but what I love are the subtle changes as Darius looks critically at himself and his world. Myers’s reputation proceeds him. There’s a reason.
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If you haven’t read Paul Fleischman’s Weslandia, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick Press, $6.99), I can tell you that this book is like no book you’ve read before. It’s a picture book, but is definitely not for the pre-school crowd. It’s more appropriate for 7-9 year olds, which makes it difficult to place in the bookstore! Wesley is not like other kids. Even his parents acknowledge that, “He sticks out”. He doesn’t want to do what all the other kids do, something the adults around him just don’t understand. So Wesley does the only logical thing he can think of: he starts his own civilization. All civilizations need one thing. Yep, you guessed it, a staple food crop. Wesley’s crop grows and grows, until eventually he’s able to move in to his own garden. Wesley’s garden yields not just food, but enough raw materials to make clothing, hats, and shelter. Wesley’s garden habitat attracts the other kids in the neighborhood and his civilization starts to thrive, blossom, and even expand. Kids interested in nature, community, and innovation will love this unique book.

9780807573167I know, I know. I’m about two weeks late. But I have been looking forward to recommending this book and I really do think it can be read at any time of year. Seven Spools of Thread  by Angela Shelf Medearis and illustrated by Daniel Minter (Albert Whitman & Co., $6.99)  is an excellent book about community, collaboration, and overcoming the obstacles that keep us from moving forward. Seven brothers live in an African village. They fight, bicker, squabble, and are hindered by their own distrust and skepticism. Their father leaves them each a spool of thread with the injunction that they must spin the thread into gold by sundown or be turned out as beggars. The brothers, as expected, bicker, fight, and squabble about the best way to accomplish this seemingly impossible task. They carefully guard their own thread, unwilling to sacrifice or lose it. Ultimately they discover that by combining their seven spools they can create intricate and exquisite cloth, which they then sell at the market (for gold). Normally I’m not a fan of didactic books. Usually these types of books trip over themselves trying to make a point and forget to produce a quality narrative. Seven Spools of Thread is well written and an interesting story. But mostly it is gorgeous. I love the illustrations. Minter’s linoleum block prints are very interesting to look at; each brother has a distinct personality which connects the reader to the narrative. In addition, the illustrations themselves visually reference the importance of fabric and weaving to this particular community. These visual references remind the reader that it’s not the gold so much that is important, but that the brothers create something useful and beautiful for the community.

Minus the teenager part, that’s me. home sick today. ugh. What’s even worse is that I wasn’t scheduled to work anyway. So I spent my day off, which is currently experiencing lovely weather, alternating between chills and a fever. I’m better now and hoping it was a 12-hour bug and not the nasty 48-hour thing that everyone else seems to have. So what to read when you don’t have the energy to do anything else? Well I just finished My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger (Speak, $8.99) and I really enjoyed it. Chapters alternate between three main narrators: T. C. Keller, Augie Hwong, and Alejandra Perez. Each section includes a variety of communication forms, email, text, IM, office memos, about some of which the narrators aren’t always aware. This range of communication offers a more comprehensive picture of these three freshmen’s ‘most excellent year’.

Set in Boston, T. C. and Augie have been brothers since T. C.’s mom died and the two families melded to the point where Mom, Dad, Pop, as well as extended relatives don’t bother to differentiate biological relations. During their ‘most excellent year’ T. C. and Augie maintain their close bond, but they both begin to develop new relationships. T. C. meets Alejandra, who has just moved to town, and Hucky, a six-year old, who alternates between foster care and a home for children with hearing impairments. Augie, more to his surprise than anyone else’s, meets Andy Wexler, who is just as surprised to be falling for Augie. Alejandra, who has spent her life as a diplomat’s daughter somewhat cut off from her peers, starts to make real friends and discover her own talents in theatre. Along the way, each of them fully begins to appreciate that families are made by surrounding yourself with the people who love and support you and that there’s always room for one more.


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