Happy Book Birthday, Solo!

SOLObookcoverpic2017.jpgSolo is Kwame Alexander’s latest release (from Blink YA Books) and features Mary Rand Hess. These amazing authors expertly weave the story of Blade, a teen who would rather not be associated with his famous father, Rutherford Morrison, a washed-up rock star. Blade’s girlfriend, Chapel, is the light in his life of darkness, but her parents forbid her to see Blade amid continued family drama. Blade finds that his life is not as it seems – is it worse? The one connection that the family shares is music – much music. “But not even the songs that flow through Blade’s soul are enough when he’s faced with two unimaginable realities…”

The music that connects Blade, his father, and the other intriguing characters in the book are the web that Alexander and Hess create to lead the reader (and Blade) from Hollywood to West Africa in search of life’s answers. Tracks from Lenny Kravitz, Metallica, U2 ,Van Halen, Aretha Franklin, and more all bring memories to carry the reader (and Blade) into the future. The story is a true hero’s journey through music and time. (Suggestion: Get the audio version!)

What I loved most about Solo is that it is written in Kwame’s famous novel-in-verse style, and adding Mary’s poetic contributions made my heart sing. The book features nostalgic hits and original music by Randy Preston, Alexander’s talented musical friend. The twists, turns, and surprises throughout the book made this a quick read, yet I revisited pages again and again. I downloaded the music to listen to as I traveled with Blade through my third read! I highly recommend Solo for any teen trying to find him/herself in the world, anyone who loves music, or anyone who loves a fantastic story line. (That means “Go Get This Title Now!”) “When the heart gets lost, let the music find you.”

March: Book One — Read Now!

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March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell

In elementary school I learned about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and I read about his calm demeanor, listened to his moving speeches, and learned about a dark time in my American history. However, I felt like I was hearing only parts of a bigger story; there was something missing. From the time I was in middle school, I acknowledged that civil rights was (and is) a hard-fought battle of minds and bodies, but it still seemed all too easy. One week there was segregation, and then one week there wasn’t anymore? A little colored girl finally got to go to a white school? A lady refused to move from her seat on a bus? I knew I wasn’t hearing everything. I read newspaper articles and archives, and watched movies about history and they way the world used to be before my time. I’m so happy to have found that our current generation of young readers have more answers than I did when I was their age. I’ve been inspired by the work of John Lewis and many other non-violent leaders of our country’s history. Now I will spread the news to others through Mr. Lewis’ books, the March trilogy. I read March: Book One today for the first time.

Riveting! Please read it. Then pick up the other two books, as well. (If you bought the set, you’re on your way!) John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell tell the gripping true stories of life in America, as they happened.

Bonus! March: Book Three won FOUR book awards today. What a fabulous day to be a reader!

Book Review: The Storyteller

Have you ever skipped a meal so you can read a book? I have, but if you haven’t yet, you might find yourself immersed in THE STORYTELLER — and you’d be okay with whatever else you missed. The Storyteller, by Evan Turk,  is many tales weaved into one great story.

While I was reviewing book lists online to prepare myself for the upcoming Caldecott Medal awards on January 23, I came across a picture of The Storyteller. When I researched further, I found this Goodreads description of the book, and I had to read it: “Long, long ago, like a pearl around a grain of sand, the Kingdom of Morocco formed at the edge of the great, dry Sahara. It had fountains of cool, refreshing water to quench the thirst of the desert, and storytellers to bring the people together.”

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I always loved the art of storytelling: live performances in the city, reading of tales, such as The Arabian Nights, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Aesop’s Fables, Readers’ Theater in school, all gave me the storytelling “bug.” I enjoyed a different kind of art — a dying art, it seems. I believe that The Storyteller will bring a renewed fascination to the art here in 2017. I certainly hope so!

Spreading culture through storytelling is a lost art, and this book brings hope that will overfill your cups and your soul.

What I’m Reading

I waited and waited. Yesterday was the “book birthday” for Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin. My friends previewed the book (lucky them!) and recommended it as one of the best books of the year so far. So, of course, I ran to the bookstore to purchase it and started reading.

Wow! My friends were right! I didn’t live in New York City on that tragic September 11th morning, but I know people who were there. I was teaching at the time in Indiana, and I had just walked my 5th grade class to the gym for specials. I heard my neighbor teacher running down the hallway, yelling into classrooms, “Turn on your tv! Something big is happening!” I didn’t know the impact of her words until several hours later. Tragedy. Loss. Pain. Togetherness. Hope. Love.

I loved the different perspectives in this story that starts a few days before September 11th–each person going about his/her own daily business. Just like me. It seems like we never think about the bigger world, until something happens that personally affects us. This book is filled with meaningful stories.

Add Nine, Ten to your reading list. You’ll be glad you did.