Monday, January 1, 2018

Reflecting on my 2017 Reading

2017 was another amazing reading year! It included titles that my Book Club(s) read, MG and YA titles from all of the bookish Twitter hashtags that I (try to) keep up with, and some books that were "just because" (2017 was the year of Pride and Prejudice!). 

I'd like to share just a few of the titles that had a significant impact on me, in the order that I read them. 

I don't think I can add anything about The Hate U Give that hasn't already been said. Starr is sitting in the car when her friend Khalil is shot by a police officer. Needless to say, the event has a huge impact on Starr, her family, and her neighborhood. For me, the most intriguing thing was the duality of "Starr" Starr, and "Williamson" Starr. I have to admit, I highlighted something on pretty much every page. Oh, and I loved each and every one of the Harry Potter references! 💖

Takeaway quote: "Goodbyes hurt the most when the other person's already gone."

I simply can not say enough about Refugee by Alan Gratz! I received an ARC at the Scholastic Reading Summit, and finished it in 2 days. I read parts aloud when presenting PD sessions, and recommended it to all participants. I am thrilled that the good, kind people of Donors Choose made it possible for Refugee to be one of our Project Lit Book Club titles!

Refugee is the story of 3 young people: Josef (a Jewish boy in Nazi Germany in the 1930's), Isabel (a Cuban girl in 1994), and Mahmoud (a Syrian boy in 2015). It is an extremely timely read, and masterful in the way the characters' stories are interwoven. I loved all of the characters, but would like to give a special shout-out to Mahmoud's dad, who was often comic relief in the midst of some very dark situations. 

Takeaway quote: "But a funny thing happened while I was waiting for the world to change, Chabela: It didn't. Because I didn't change it."

An ARC of Dear Martin was graciously given to me by our Reading Council. I passed it on to one of our high school teachers, then bought myself a copy and purchased another one for a friend. The story begins with Justyce being handcuffed because of a misunderstanding by the police. He journals letters to Martin Luther King, Jr. as a way to explore his feelings and try to wrap his head around what's happening in his life. There is a LOT to discuss and learn from this book, but for me, the most powerful parts were the discussions that took place between Justyce and his classmates. 

Takeaway quote: "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality."-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Alan Gratz also provided another excellent title this year. Ban This Book is outstanding! Amy Anne is incensed when the school bans her favorite book from the library--and it doesn't stop with just one book! She and her friends come up with ways to get the books into students' hands, and ultimately take the fight all the way to the School Board. 

Takeaway quote: "Everybody had the right to interpret any book any way they wanted to. What they couldn't do then was tell everybody else their interpretation was the only interpretation." 

I purchased Restart for our classroom based on reviews that I had seen on Twitter, and was inspired to read it because of one of my 6th graders, who devoured it and then exclaimed, "You have to read this one next!" She was so right! Chase wakes up in a hospital room after a fall and can't remember who he is. When he returns to school, it becomes clear to him that maybe he wasn't such a swell guy. I found it touching to see some humanity develop in a kid who was so clearly a vicious bully before his accident. 

Takeaway quote: "Sometimes a whack on the head is exactly what a fellow needs."

Our Book Club (as well as #2jennsbookclub) finished the year with Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Will is heading downstairs from the seventh floor in an elevator to avenge his brother's murder. At each floor, someone from Will's past who has been shot gets on. Will receives insight from each character as he tries to decide whether or not to follow the rules (No crying, No snitching, Revenge). The imagery is absolutely beautiful, and the story is completely compelling.

Takeaway quote: "Blood soaking into a T-shirt, blue jeans, and boots looks a lot like chocolate syrup when the glow from the streetlights hit it. But I know ain't nothing sweet about blood. I know it ain't like chocolate syrup at all." 

Earlier this year, I read that Angie Thomas said, "empathy is more powerful than sympathy." Each of these books exemplifies that idea to me. What books have you read recently that inspire empathy? I would love for you to share titles!

Happy Reading! 📖

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