Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This week I realize how dependent I am on the twitter, blogs and the Goodreads community especially Mock Newbery 2013.
Mock Newbery 2013
 These networks have helped me to read some fantastic books that I would never have found on my own.   We can really celebrate how technology brings our teaching community together - glad to finally be joining in on a more participatory way!

My last post talked about how many YA books have parents who are missing in the young characters lives.  I felt like a was still on this theme a bit lately.  
Since that post, I finished  As Small as an Elephant.  This boy gets abandoned by his mother while they are on a camping trip.  For the most part the child remains sympathetic and understanding about his mother's condition.  What I loved about this story was that it reopens our eyes to the idea that things are not always as we think they are.  You witness this theme unfold with the main character's ah-ha moments, his moments of clarity.  

Fitting in the foster child theme I absolutely loved    One for the Murphys.  This book is beautifully written and warmed my heart.  I don't want to ruin the story for anyone but I have to share this quote from page 12: "The tone, the look on her face and the look on his, a gentle brush of his hair. A kiss on top of the head.  I struggle to decipher a foreign language.  She's looking at him like she's seeing the best thing ever. Even though he's done something wrong."  This is how I hope my face reads with my students every day - whether when giving a simple hello in the hall to instructional times.  This quote just struck a chord.  Kids know.

 After reading   Jake and Lily, I knew the perfect two people to share this book with - a set of twins in our 5th grade, boy/girl twins just like in the book.  I have read with these two in after school club and the brother is always trying to slam his sister.  I think he would truly love this book.  And possibly admit, if only to himself, his love for his twin sister.  This is a great story about growing up with the message of finding yourself rather than depending on others for your happiness. While the main characters are twins, many readers will be able to relate and grow from reading this book. There is a great side character in the book too, a self-admitted hippy grandfather who is very wise and quirky and adds a humorous dimension to the book. 

I just started Inside Out and Back Again.  I look forward to blogging next Monday about this book and any other reading I can squeeze in during our last week of school.  Until then... happy reading to all of you as you wrap up another school year.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Here's to the Moms in Story and in Life

Thanks to Donalyn Miller at Nerdybookclub for calling for favorite book moms.  This call started me thinking about the moms in the books that I have most recently read and the role of the mom character in YA books.  My first reaction to her question was "Are there moms in the books I read?"  I giggled to myself as I posed that question because when our girls were growing up and we shared books I always teased them about how the mom was missing in the story.  I know you have noticed this pattern, the mom is either missing, unable to care for the young adult, or has passed away.  Our running joke was, 'and yet another mom killed off.'  My insightful friend explained to me that by leaving the mom out of the story the characters were free to adventure off into learning and experiencing, finding their own way - the story could take flight.  That makes sense to me.  I just finished reading The Summer of the Gypsy Moths, beautifully written and features two foster children - one mom died in an accident and the other is finding her way.  Meanwhile these two twelve year olds find their way without any adults.
I am just at the beginning of Small as an Elephant, but clearly this mom is missing.

But this is not always the case in YA and I'm glad for the exceptions, especially right now as I am reflecting on the mom characters and what that means to me as a mom.  I have been on a YA quest recently and some of these books have featured incredibly strong mothers.  The kind of mom that you hope you'd be under the same circumstances.  Here is a quick recap of just a few that have stood out:

The Mighty Miss Malone - This mom shows us that no matter what our circumstances, no matter how devastating, we should not compromise our values and we should not lose our faith.  I absolutely loved the lessons these parents instilled throughout the book.

In How to Save a Life the mom is grieving yet she puts her daughter first and listens to her daughter. Together they find a way to put their family back together.  
In Bystander, this single mom works hard to keep her family together and is in touch with her son's feelings and well being.  

The following two moms have to be on my favorite list.  I read Wonder and Out of My Mind as a comparing set- while different, there were strong similarities in these mothers.  They both teach us the truth of being who we are meant to be and to believe in our gifts and purpose.  As a mom, these mothers make me remember to rejoice in the gifts we each have and bring to our family.  I can only hope I would be as strong as they both are.

Thank goodness that not all the moms are missing in YA. There are beautiful moms.  Some quiet to the story, some central strength.  Many remind us to keep teaching and to keep believing.  Some remind us to give our kids some space, a lesson I need from time to time!

And stories remind us that we don't have to be a mom to be a mom! In my life I have been blessed to know that not all moms are "moms" some are aunts, friends, neighbors, teachers etc. who are superb at mothering.  We all know people like this.

So here is to the "moms" those in the stories we read and those in our lives.  These are the ladies who teach us, guide us, support us and remind us to find our way.