Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Book-a-Day #3

This week I read mostly graphic books, but I did squeeze in an adult book Even though I love the kid lit world, it's still important to keep my own reading level up!

In the comments, have you read any "grown-up" books this summer? What's been good?

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishael Beah
I highly recommend this to all grown-ups out there looking for a narrative nonfiction book (nonfiction that reads like a story). Beah tells of his harrowing experience as one of the "lost boys" during the civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990's. Orphaned boys were routinely enlisted as unwilling members of the rebel forces, made to use their horrific methods to decimate entire villages. We instinctly know that this will happen to our narrator, but in the first half, he relates only his journey by foot out of the war zone, away from his village and others like it that have been mowed down and burned by rebel forces. He joins other travelers along the way, sometimes choosing to hide out alone (for as long as month) in a dense forest, and other times hooking up with fellow travelers again. 

Because a band of boys is a feared sight, they are not welcomed along the way when they finally reach different villages. But one village IS quite welcoming. A village of soldiers mixed with civilians. Our storyteller and his friends accept their offered food and shelter willingly, and before they know it, they also become willing participants in a ring of drugged-crazed guerrilla fighters.

A gripping read with a happy ending for one but not for most, this eye-opening personal account of how it feels to be ripped from one's home and enamored with the enemy is a must-read.

Owly, Volume 1: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer, by Andy Runton
Although drawn in just black ink and told without words, the expressive faces and detailed sequencing of the panels makes these two stories effortless to understand and a pleasure to read. Simple on the surface, we can all learn something from Owly's deep sense of compassion and empathy.

The Way Home tells the story of how Owly and Wormie meet and share the adventure of helping Wormie find his way back home.. 

The Bittersweet Summer takes Owly's enormous capacity to love to the next level as he and Wormie begin a new friendship with a pair of hummingbirds. He needs to figure out what the new friends like to eat, how to rescue one from captivity, how to keep them happy and safe throughout the winter, and how have faith in the relationship when a parting is necessary.

All ages will enjoy this tender graphic book.

To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel, by Siena Cherson Siegel
Color graphic memoir of a girl's passion for ballet, her early training at the American School of Ballet in New York with George Balanchinie and her rise to performing in ballets at the NewYork Ballet company with Barishnokov. 

She does not become a principal dancer, which gives the narrative an inclusive feel since we see her transition out of the intense life of ballet training and into normal college life, a change that other girls might also struggle with. In closing, she reaffirms her love of dance, even as an adult, even out of the spotlight. 

Personal connections: her brother went to Concord Academy (across the street from my childhood home) and she was obsessed with the photo-biography A Very Young Dancer (as was I).

Dance enthusiasts in grades 3+ will enjoy this one.

Alia's Misson: Saving the Books of Iraq, by Mark Alan Stamaty
This is a slim graphic about the true story of the librarian of Basra and the incredible feat she accomplished by saving 30,000 books before the library was burned during the Iraq War. 
Best features: realistic illustrations in pencil create a gritty effect, clear block letters, and expressive faces that draw us in to the emotional content of the scenes.

Recommended for grades 3+

Chapter Book
Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze, by Alan Silberg
Milo is struggling on many fronts: making friends at a new school, navigating a confusing friendship (or romance?) with a girl who keeps putting notes in his locker, and quelling a massive crush on the "it" girl at his school. But the mountain of hurt underneath it all is the death of his mother, now gone two years, that he has not been able to come to grips with. 

What's it going to take for him to begin facing it? To begin breaking his father's shell of silence? To begin to feel again? A surprising new friendship makes the difference, and his method for healing is unusual and heart-warming. 

Written in the style of a journal with cartoon sketches interspersed, this will appeal to fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but is thematically very different.

Recommended for grades 4+


  1. Long Way Gone is so powerful and interesting. In grown-up land lately I read Science Fair Season (awesome for teens too) and Miss New India. I try to read one adult nonfiction & one adult fiction each month, but there are so many good kids & ya books out there that it doesn't always happen!

  2. I loved A Very Young Dancer and A Very Young Rider. My friend also had a spoof called A Very Young Housewife. It looked so authentic it was creepy!

  3. Amy and Andrea,
    Thanks for your comments. I will check out Science Fair Season and Miss New India. Both sound interesting!
    Amy, the "Very Young..." series was so great. I haven't seen anything like that for kids today. We were lucky!
    Thanks again,