Have experienced varied reading over the past six weeks and the lists below include adult, YA, Middle Years fiction, one nonfiction title and yes, one poetry anthology (for grown-ups)

FIND ME by Andre Aciman (Adult Fiction)

The author of the novel Call Me By Your Name (loved it!) re-introduces some of the characters and is true to form in presenting stories about deeply falling in love. Told in separate sections (father falls in love with a girl on the train, Elio has an affair, and Oliver wants to return to Europe to pick up the pieces from long ago. The narrativess unfold in Rome and Paris, where music and food illuminate the settings.

KING AND THE DRAGONFLIES by Kacen Callender (Fiction, ages 11 – 14)

Author Kacen Callender won the 2019 Stonewall   Book award for her debut novel Hurricane Child and with the author was inspired to write a novel after their editor Andre Davis Pinkney said she ne er read a middle-grade book with a gay Black boy.  Kingston Reginald James (King), and his family are grieving over the death of Khalid. King is certain that his older brother continues to live as a dragonfly, who visits King in his dreams.  King keeps this secret to himself along with the secret that he might be gay. An incident  with a friend (a former friend)  forces King and his family to live beyond secrets. This book might (should) win the author another Stonewall book award.

ONE by Sara Crossan (YA Fiction)

A powerful story, told in verse form of two conjoined twins, who after sixteen years of surviving symbiotically, are forced to make an impossible decision of being separated.  Winner of the Carnegie Medal. A knockout!

TOFFEE by Sarah Crossan (YA Fiction)

After reading ONE, I will definitely be seeking out titles by free verse novelist Sara Crossan. In this book, a teenage girl runs away from home and eventually finds herself hiding in the shed of a house, where a lonely confused elderly woman, named Marlo lives. Marlo, who is living with dementia is convinced that Allison is a long lost friend from the past named Toffee. In an attempt to survive, Allison assumes Toffee’s identity and provides a comfort for Marlo. A book about identity, belonging and mental health.

AMERICAN DIRT by Jeanine Cummins (Adult Fiction)

Despite controversy of misappropriation – because of controversy about misappropriation – I picked up this novel with claim to fame as being Oprahs’ book choice of the season. My attention was caught in the opening pages of the book, when 16 members of a Mexican family are slaughtered by powerful drug lords. A mother and her son, are desperate to survive and so unfolds the against-all-odds journey of immigrants desperate to find a better world in the U.S. Certainly a novel of the times. A novel of fear, resilience and hope.

CLOSED, STRANGER by Kate De Goldi (YA Fiction)

This is an early novel  by Award-winning New Zealand author Kate De Goldi (author of The 10 PM Question). It is the story of a strong attachment between two adolescent boys who seem to be joined at the hip. Max Jackson recounts his experiences with golden boy Westie. When love and lust enter each of the boys’ lives, their relationship becomes tumultuous, especially when Westie meets up with his birth mother who had abandoned him.  For mature YA readers.

THE 13-STORY TREEHOUSE by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton (Fiction, ages 8-11)

Funny! funny! funny.1For young readers who are fans of Bad Guy, Captain Underpants, Dog Patrol and Diary of a Wimpy Kid., this is the first of a terrific series by Australian author Andy Griffiths and Illustrator Terry Denton. Enjoy the first book in the series and then climb higher to the 26-Story Treehouse, The 39-Story Treehouse, the 52-Story Treehouse and beyond.

THE WOMAN IN THIS POEM by Georgia Heard (editor); (Adult Poetry)

How many poetry anthologies do you buy/ read in one year? I challenge myself to go beyond poetry collections written for young people and was pleased to come across this special creation (2015) , by a special poet. Georgia Heard has collected  over seventy classic and contemporary poems written by women about women’s “lives and dreams, thoughts and experiences.” The book is divided into five thematic sections (Love, Motherhood, Work, Family and Friends, Balance. An exquisite – and tough – collection that shines a light on women voices.

SCARY STORIES FOR YOUNG FOXES by Christian McKay Heidicker (Middle Years Fiction; short stories)

Heidicker is a great storyteller. The book is divided into 8 sections, with an older fox  recounting eerie tales of young foxes, forced to escape danger, challenged to survive in the wild and bravely confront enemies – and ghosts. Newbery Honor Book, 2020

SONG FOR A WHALE by Lynne Kelly (Fiction, ages 9-13)

A deaf girl longs to be understood and connected to others. When she learns about a whale who longs to be understood and connected to others, she sets herself on a mission to join an Alaskan Cruise (along with her deaf grandmother) and meet up with Blue 55, a real whale who is unable to speak to other whales. Readers will root for Iris and her determination at the same time as they will learn much about the aquatic world of whales.

OUTWITTING HISTORY: The Amazing Adventures of a Man who Rescued A Million Yiddish books  by Aaron Lansky (Adult Nonfiction)

An amazing story that documents the journey of one man to save the worlds’ abandoned Yiddish books before it was too late. Lansky’s tenacity take him throughout America and beyond to eventually collect more than an a million books. This true to life adventure introduces readers to a cast of characters, an array of Yiddish authors as Lansky crosses the bridge from the old world into the future. A fascinating, entertaining read about history and literature and the preservation of culture.

HARVEY COMES HOME by Colleen Nelson (Fiction, ages 8-11)

Harvey, a Westland Highland Terrier, beloved by his owner, Maggie, runs away from home. Austin volunteers in the retirement home where his grandfather works as custodian. Told in alternating chapters, this entertaining novel tells about Harvey’s adventures when he meets up with Austin. Readers will care about about what happens to this dog  but also gain compassion as they read about Mr. Pickering, a senior who is coping with memory loss, as he recounts  stories growing up in poverty during the Dust Bowl. (Curious that the title of thew book gives away the ending!) Forthcoming sequel: Harvey Holds His Own.

A GENTLEMAN FROM MOSCOW by Amor Towles (Adult Fiction)

This book has been on my bookshelf for a couple of years (hardback and paperback) and I was determined to dig into, and finish, it at last because it came highly recommended from friends. I loved the authors storytelling and backstorying and the blossoming of details.  An atmospheric and character driven book… but not enough carry forward plotting for me.  I liked it but didn’t love it. Now I can dig into at least ten other books on my pile that  I’ve promised myself to get into.



How does children literature help deepen understanding of social justice, diversity and equity?

I am quite proud of this just-released publication which encourages teachers to choose and use children’s literature to unpack and dig deeper into topics that may seem tough (challenging, risky) but are vital to weave into our programs if we hope to enrich compassion, understanding, tolerance and kindness with young people as they become caring citizens of the world. Tough Topics include: Race and Diverse Cultures; The Immigrant and Refugee Experience; Indigenous Identities, The Holocaust; Physical and Mental Challenges; Poverty: Death, Loss and Remembrance, Gender Identity and Hom0phobia; Bullying; Ripples of Kindness,. 

Format: Each Tough Topic Chapter Includes;

  • Quotations from Children’s Literature
  • An Essay Introducing the Topic
  • Perspective Voice (s)
  • Language and Vocabulary Focus and Activities
  • Minds On lesson to open up the topic
  • Two model lessons , each using children’s literature and a focus response strategy
  • LiSTS: Great Books for a Great Topic