Book Review: Darius the Great is Not Okay, by Adib Khorram

dariusthegreatisnotokay_khorram2018

Darius Kellner is a teen who does not fit in at school, or really much at home. He describes himself as a Fractional Persian, with Mom born in Iran and Dad in America. Darius and his father share two things in common: a love of Star Trek, and depression. They both take their medicines every day and try to do the best they can, but sometimes life gets in the way.

When Mamou calls and tells Mom that Babou’s brain tumor is making life worse, the Kellner family packs up and travels to Iran to help. What will Darius do now? How will he cope? He’s never really been around his grandparents — only talked to them through the computer monitor. And he doesn’t speak Farsi, although his little sister, Laleh, does. He doesn’t have many friends (just the teasing bullies from school), so leaving isn’t that much of an issue for Darius, but that only makes things more uncomfortable for him. Will there be friends in Iran? Will his family treat him differently once they are in another country?

Darius narrates his own story in this wonderful tale of family and friendships, travel, and learning to appreciate family customs and origins. I loved the voice — the dialogue among characters, and also the way Darius talks directly to the reader along the way.

Darius the Great is Not Okay is a fabulous book you’ll want to think about and savor. You will fall in love with Darius and his entire family, and you’ll find that even with hardships, home is the best place to be.

Note: This title just won the 2019 William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature (YA category). Darius the Great Is Not Okay, written by Adib Khorram. The book is published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, Random House.

My Newbery and Caldecott Predictions – 2019

Only a weekend away now — THE book awards season is upon us, and I’m eagerly waiting for the live webcast of the Youth Media Awards on Monday, January 28th (live from Seattle, 8:00 am PT, during the ALA Midwinter Conference). I’m so sorry I will miss the live event, but I’m so happy that I will get to follow along and watch from my school library.

Here are my predictions for the two most popular awards, Newbery Medal and Honors, and Caldecott Medal and Honors, 2019:

Newbery Medal: The Journey of Little Charlie, by Christopher Paul Curtis 

Newbery Honors:

Harbor Me, by Jacqueline Woodson 

Louisiana’s Way Home, by Kate DiCamillo 

The Night Diary, by Veera Hiranandani 

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster, by Jonathan Auxier 

 

Caldecott Medal: Dreamers, by Yuyi Morales 

Caldecott Honors:

Drawn Together, by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat 

Blue, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger 

What If…, by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Mike Curato 

 

If nothing else, I hope I have given you a worthy reading list here. Good luck to all the authors and illustrators — best wishes to all the readers!

 

 

 

 

 

IMWAYR: Snowy Cold = Reading Time

The snow, cold, and long weekend helped me to settle down and read these last several days. I thoroughly enjoyed mixing it up with several reading genres that all proved excellent choices. It’s Monday! What are you reading?

The Art of Comprehension, by Trevor A. Bryan I have been waiting for The Art of Comprehension for two years! Written by Trevor Bryan, and illustrated by the fabulous Peter H. Reynolds (author of The Dot and others), this book is a needed teacher-tool in the classroom — art class or any other class.

Teachers learn to explore with what Mr. Bryan calls “Access Lenses,” a framework for understanding visual texts, and applying that knowledge to making meaning in general. Readers use the Access Lenses to decode (by listing everything you see), study mood structures, identify connections, etc. so that a reader comes away from a text with greater comprehension and more successful school experiences.
In the author’s words (p. 122): “The Art of Comprehension has completely changed my life. Whether it’s a book, a painting, a film, or some other form of artwork, AoC has given me a way to share the joy that I find in the arts with my students and colleagues as well as a way to talk about how all of the arts can be used to improve students’ academic lives.” I completely agree!
Darius the Great is Not Okay, by Adib Khorram 
I’m about half way through this fabulous debut, and I’ve laughed, gasped, and thought deeply about friendship and family life. I love the language of the text, and the way the story moves me (literally and figuratively) from one setting to another, from one experience to another. I’m already recommending it, so pick it up and read with me!
Over and Under the Snow, by Kate Messner 
I had to re-read a book about snow while I was snowed inside. I love Kate Messner’s exploration of winter wildlife, and this 2011 book is still a must-read today.

#MustReadin2019 — Books From 2018 I Didn’t Finish

Carrie Gelson of “There’s a Book For That”(https://thereisabookforthat.com/) hosts a hashtag for all the readers who didn’t get to finish their TBR lists in 2018 – #MustReadin2019. (Thank you, Carrie! I see I’m not alone.) I read over 140 books in 2018 (I’m terrible at posting on goodreads.com), but these are the titles I didn’t get to yet. As I head back to work tomorrow, my 2018—>2019 list of “Must Reads” looks like this:

mustreadin2019_2018booksleftover
Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorrman
Marshfield Memories by Ralph Fletcher
Blended by Sharon Draper
You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Becoming by Michelle Obama

aristotle-and-dante-discover-the-secrets-of-the-9781442408937_lg
I’m finishing Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (from Simon & Schuster, 2014) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz tonight.

 
What are you reading in 2019? Share with us in the comments, so we can add to our To-Be-Read lists. Happy reading!

 

My 2018 One Little Word — Venture

OLW2018_Venture

My “One Little Word” for 2018 was VENTURE. As I look back over the year, I found that I ventured out more than I ever thought I would. I took risks and made mistakes; I laughed and I cried. I spent more time thinking and planning, but also “doing” in 2018. As I acted out each day, I found that “venture” was the perfect word to guide me.

I wrote for some new projects and I read 140 books this year. I was a member of another Kwame Alexander launch team – this time for the book, Swing (a wonderful and heart-wrenching book by Kwame and Mary Rand Hess).  I traveled to Michigan (for NerdCampMI), Texas (for #NCTE18), and Illinois (for RSAC) for professional development that proved (once again) to be highlights of my year. My friends and I created a proposal for #NCTE19, too, and I’m excited to see if we are accepted for a session.

I lost a job and found a new one — a relief and a dream all rolled up and presented to me as a gift from God. I love being a middle school librarian, and I am working hard to become a literacy leader in my new school. There’s so much more to come! I was able to keep my primary schools (that I oversee) as well, and that was a blessing.

My family encountered many blessings this year, as well: one engaged child, one college graduate, one college-bound child. I’m going to need to eat right and exercise more to keep up with these girls in the future. Health is an issue, always, so I move forward — setting new goals and tweaking my lifestyle just a little more than the year before. Keep moving! That’s the key going into 2019.

So 2018 was a year of adventures, and it was a fabulous year. I wish each of you Happy New Year and best wishes for 2019!

Now…what should my new OLW be?

IMWAYR: H is For Haiku

HisForHaiku_Rosenberg2018

Amy Losak, Sydell Rosenberg’s daughter, sent me her mother’s work, H Is For Haiku. Amy knows I love poetry and short texts I can read to my middle school students for enjoyment and for study. As I read each A to Z poem, I realized that every one was different, and that some didn’t follow the haiku rules — 3 lines with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 on the second line, and 5 on the third line. As I re-read, I reviewed the note to readers at the beginning of the book:

“…But many haiku writers aren’t so strict about syllable counts or the subject matter, including Syd. What’s most important about writing haiku is to focus on those many small moments we may overlook and make them special.” (Amy Losak, “Dear Reader” page)

When I re-read the poems, I enjoyed the small moments more — connecting some poems to my own life experiences, such as “First Library Card,” “Plunging Downhill,” and “Up and Down the Block.” It turns out that Syd, a teacher, was a rebel — one who broke writing rules — and we middle school teachers love the chaos! 

If you’re up for some poetry, colorful and light illustrations (by artist Sawsan Chalabi, whose work reminds me a little of Dr. Seuss here), and another way to write A to Z texts, check out H is For Haiku. Enjoy your reading time!

(H is For Haiku was published in April, 2018 by Penny Candy Books. All pictures were received from Amy Losak, and under copyright.)

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

 

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, at Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

IMWAYR: So Little Time…

With the little time that I have this week, I’m reading…

The New Kid by Jerry Craft

I opened this one just now. It’s a graphic novel, so my middle schoolers will love it, I’m sure. I will use this book to add to my “Fabulous First Lines” list of titles: “This is how I feel every single day of my life, like I’m falling without a parachute. I mean, I’m not really falling. That’s called a metaphor. I learned about them in English.” An English teacher’s dream — students who use the knowledge! The New Kid is due out February, 2019.

 

Inkling by Kenneth Oppel

I love the cover! I haven’t started yet, but I liked the jacket description: “Inkling is funny and fizzy and brimming with adventure…”

 

 

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, at Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

 

IMWAYR: PD Week

This could be a long post, but I am thinking you would be upset, so I won’t list every picture book from my PD session today at #RSAC2018. If you want the list of books we used in the session, please feel free to ask in the comments (or email me) and I’ll help. In the meantime, the books I’m reading this week are:

GAME CHANGER! BOOK ACCESS FOR ALL KIDS by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp

This book IS a Game Changer for teachers and anyone else who wants to get books in the hands of kids! This text is full of the “WHY” and “HOW”, with researched best practices, personal interviews, and stories about helping students have access to books. ALL students!

 

THE THING WITH FEATHERS by McCall Hoyle

I just started, but I already love the storytelling — McCall Hoyle is one of my new favorite authors.

 

 

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, at Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

 

IMWAYR: My To-Be-Read List Grew After #NCTE18

My TBR list grew exponentially after #NCTE18. It’s amazing to live in the literacy world and I’m honored to meet with authors and illustrators all over the country. It’s a special time to be a reader.

Today I read two new titles (to me) and re-read some Ryan T. Higgins books again to prepare for the upcoming author visit on Saturday. Sunday I travel to the Chicago area again to talk about how “Picture Books are Perfect” in middle school. They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel is one of my favorite picture books to use in these professional development presentations. Another exciting week!

When I Was Eight, by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton  This is the story of an Inuit girl who dreamed that one day she could read like her sister. Through much hard work, far from home, and terrible dealings with the cruel “outsiders,” Olemaun’s determination led her to achieve her dream. I can’t get over the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton’s Fatty Legs, re-written in this book for children. School Library Journal writes, “This book is a small but powerful reminder of the freedom that literacy brings.” I agree.

 

The Word Collector, by Peter H. Reynolds (The Reynolds brothers closed the NCTE annual conference this year, and the session was marvelous!)  This is the story of a boy who collected words. He learns to use the words to write poems, to make songs, and to share with others. “Words connect, transform, and empower” in this splendid tale.

 

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, at Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

 

 

#NCTE18: A Love of Learning

NCTE’s annual conference was an amazing awesome adventure! All my friends were there, from all my groups, and I saw almost all of them (for at least a few minutes each) during my stay in Houston. I loved the theme this year, Raising Student Voice; I learned there are many ways to raise student voices, and that we also have a long way to go in literacy education learning and practice. I’m so happy to be a part of this amazing organization.

#G2Great: The Good-to-Great Teaching team — These are my friends and virtual “cousins.” I was thrilled to meet Brent and Amy in person this year. Nice to see you again Jan, Kim, Kathryn, Gerilyn, JoAnne, Dani, Justin, Todd, Travis C., Mary, Valinda, Fran, Margaret, Erica, Jenn, and Jill!

 

Kwame Alexander, Londa Alderink, Carmen Oliver, Jen, and the rest of the SWING Launch Team members in Houston were able to get together for a while. Thanks, Kwame, for continuing to include me in your travel shenanigans.

 

Nerdy Book Club nerds were everywhere in the Hilton Americas lobby. We definitely took Houston by storm! I can’t name all of you because it would take three pages of blogging to type all your names, but I love you all and it was so nice to see you again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author friends: it was nice to see you again and/or meet you for the first time. Travis, Minh, Kylene, Bob, Teri, Penny, Kelly, Colby, Donalyn, Gae, Allison, Jon, Rachel, Laurie, Olivia, Cornelius, Sara, Jonathan, Lester, Katie, Maggie, Kate, Elissa, Linda Sue, Alex, Dan, and Barbara. Wow! Meeting authors is the best way to learn how to spread the “book love” (Thanks, Penny Kittle and the Book Love Foundation).

 

Michael Guevara, I cannot believe it’s been that long since college, but I guess it was. (I’m not that old, though.) Don and Donalyn Miller, thanks for allowing me to crash your lunch. I’m so happy I got to sit with you all and chat.

Kelly Vorhis, you are the best roommate and friend! I can’t believe we don’t have a picture of the two of us. We will remedy that next time.

 

Look for more posts about #NCTE18 this coming week and plan to attend next year, if you can.

P.S.: I love literacy learning!