Of course I loved Jason Reynolds’s new middle-grade novel about a budding track star, Ghost, who isn’t close to having it all together but sure does try hard. There’s nuance and grit and tenderness to this story. Reynolds’s writing is so tight and compelling, and as always, he develops such rich and dynamic voices for his characters. There is a lot of plot, but the story never feels rushed or overstuffed. And the other kids on Ghost’s new track team seem like they will be just as interesting (and perhaps take center stage in future novels?). In fact, all of the secondary characters are strong. I don’t think anyone writing YA or middle-grade writes better adults than Jason Reynolds. They’re present and complex and real, wanting what’s best for kids but sometimes unsure how to offer support and often struggling with their own demons.
Kevin Sands’s The Blackthorn Key has been bedtime reading for the past couple of weeks. I really liked it; my son was fairly meh. I think the historical setting (England, 1665) was difficult for him to understand, and the details of the mystery can be subtle. But for more mature readers, this book really works. It’s fast-paced, occasionally violent, and full of interesting characters whose motivations are often mysterious.
My son has been reading biographies in the Amazing Athletes series out loud to me. I can see how these books have big appeal for readers. There are lots of photos, and the series profiles a wide variety of current athletes. I just wish the writing were stronger. These books are targeted for developing readers, yet there seems to be little care taken to write with them truly in mind. The writing was cluttered by an overabundance of proper names, especially schools and coaches, that were often difficult for a struggling reader to decode (Perspectives Charter School, for instance, repeated numerous times in the Anthony Davis biography). And details that don’t matter (the names of every sibling or the date of the NBA draft) were continually highlighted at the expense of compelling narrative. When you have such a limited word count to tell a story, every word needs to matter.
A tender and heartfelt story of the special bond between two grandparents and their grandson and the challenges they all face as the grandfather begins to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
A gorgeous exploration of poetry and the wonders of the natural world. I can imagine so many ways to use this book in the classroom.
Another winner about bravery and friendship by Deborah Freedman. Brilliant use of the gutter to portray the main character’s shyness. I marveled all the way through this book at how compelling the main character is–when we hardly ever see him!
Zoey has big dreams of adventure–including space travel! The other farm animals, especially her pig friend who is mostly interested in pie, scoff at her dreams, but somehow she makes them come true. A sweet and charming story of the value of dreaming big.