Sunday, August 27, 2017

Falling in Love With Graphic Novels

While independent reading is always something I've advocated for and lived by in my classroom - graphic novels were sort of the awkward uncle of my library. I knew they were important to show the variety of text mediums, but my inner voice kept saying "come on, they're really not real books..." There were the notable few, Drowned City, and March that were my go-tos, but my knowledge of graphic novels pretty much stopped there.

So throughout my summer reading, I delved into some graphic novels and am happy to report - I am in love. And that weird voice in my head has been forever silenced. Here are a few of my favorite summer graphic novel reads!

Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

Real Friends is the story of Shannon navigating the complicated waters of friendship. From 2nd grade to middle school - making friends, losing friends - seeing friends go in and out of groups, and being in and out of “the group” herself. She discovers the difficulties of cliques and what true friendship looks like. An incredible memoir via the medium of a graphic novel - Hale & Pham have done an stunning job bringing this to life. The illustrations coupled with the narration and inner thoughts will leave you aching for Shannon and connecting to the greatest difficulties and deepest joys of friendship stories.

Just take a glimpse at one of my favorite (and yet so heart-wrenching) panels:

"I could see why Adrienne might want Jen as a best friend instead of me." 

Any upper elementary or middle school students truly could instantly connect to this story. We've all felt 'other' at some point, and this memoir recounts the ups and downs of that like no other.  What a great book to connect to other novels MG & YA dealing with discussions of friendship, loyalty, self-esteem, and so many other coming-of-age stories.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Book Review: Amina's Voice by Hena Khan

Amina's Voice is an exquisite middle grade novel. Amina, despite her incredible singing voice, and adoration of The Voice finds herself losing the right words both with her friends and her family as she navigates middle school.

Amina's best friend, Soojin, is changing in ways she never expected - she is considering changing her name when her Korean family becomes citizens. And Soojin has been hanging out with Emily, who used to make fun of both of them back in elementary school. Amina struggles to understand why her best friend is changing - and that brings her to question herself a lot too.

Amina faces more confusion when her uncle visits from Pakistan. When her Pakistani-American family believes doesn't seem to match her Uncle's beliefs - is she wrong to follow her heart and her voice?

And on top of all that, her mosque gets vandalized in the middle of the night - leaving her and her community shaken up and confused. How will this tragedy and these changes continue to impact her? Can she find her voice?

A novel that is sweet and touching - every reader will identify with Amina feeling like everything she used to know is just so far off normal. It's always hard to understand how life can change so quickly.

Amina's Voice also marks the hallmark publishing of Salaam Reads, Simon & Schuster's new Muslim youth imprint, which highlights just how powerful it is when a publishing company uses their voice to ensure a wide array of stories and perspectives are brought to the table.

"We need voices and positive characters that counter the negatives in the media," author Hena Khan shared in an interview with the Washington Post, On Khan's blog, she reflected before her book's release about her hope for Amina's Voice, "I hope reading about Amina, and seeing her as a friend, will help foster compassion and tolerance among children of all backgrounds and faiths. And I hope that stories like hers, will help create a generation of kids that will vaguely remember the events of today in the future and wonder how it was ever possible."

Beautiful book I cannot wait to get in the hands of children!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Book Review: Solo by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess

"To hear him 


is to know

 his hurt 

is volcanic

 is to know

he is capable 

of loving..." 

I wish there was a pre-order service so I can just be charged for every book Kwame Alexander ever writes from now until forever :) Let's just say, Solo does not disappoint. And after Playbook, Crossover, and Booked, Solo brings a unique and wonderful vibe all its own. Still in Alexander's signature verse, but a bit heavier in subject than the previous few I've devoured, I'd lean this selection to my older middle school students and high schoolers.

Recap: Solo is the story of Blade Morrison, the 17-year-old son of a rockstar who just wants thing to be normal. His father is an addict and seems to get in the way of anything that could possibly be good for Blade, whether his high school graduation speech or his relationship with his girlfriend Chapel. Making things even worse, his sister, Storm, ends up sharing a long-kept family secret during a fight with Blade that shakes him to his core. Yearning for the truth, he seeks out his roots in Ghana and continues on his quest, solo, to understand who he is and who he wants to be. With many wise characters along the way, Robert, Joy, and Sia, the richness of this journey to understand yourself and how you fit into family is one so many can identify with. Being written in verse, with songs that Blade both writes and listens to (very Sheffield-esque), and text messages throughout - it all joins together to create this dynamic, fluid structure that is Blade's voice and Blade's story.

You'll definitely want this in your classroom!

A few more of the lines that make me fall in love with words and books all over again...

"She likes to get real close, eyelash close."

"Don't haiku me, Blade. I want an epic." 

"My family stands for too much and not enough.

Too much celebrity, not enough dignity."  

"We are the sum 

of moving parts

 and adjustable hearts."