Sometimes it’s needed to take a break from writing and focus on something else for a bit. These past few months my time has been consumed with all things grad school. It’s a lot of work and time consuming, but it’s also been worth it so far. The work is challenging but rewarding because of the creativity I get to pour into the units and lessons I write and will eventually get to use. With each new activity I plan, I can see how my future students might react, and it only makes me more excited and full of anticipation to get into the classroom. Honestly, I wish I were already teaching, but not all of life has to happen at once.
This semester I’ve had to opportunity to re-immerse myself into one of the things I love the most – reading. I don’t think I’ve read this much since high school, but it’s been a blast reading new books and discovering new ones everyday because of my Young Adult Literature and Multicultural Children’s Literature classes! My friend Catlin and I joke about how our Goodreads “To Read” lists grow ever longer each day and how it’s a never ending list that we’ll never finish. But I think we’re okay with that! It just means we have more room to wonder in the World of Books.
Because my life has become a constant series of what-am-I-reading-next this semester, I thought I would deviate from writing a spiritual post and suggest some of my favorite books from this semester. Maybe you’ll discover your next favorite book here!
Does my Head Look Big in This?: A piece of international literature, this young adult novel is about a young muslim girl in Australia who decides to become more committed about her faith and wear the hijab full time. This would be perfect for a teenager. There’s the general angst that teens instantly relate to. And even though she is Muslim, this book is still very applicable to anyone of faith who has had to ask the tough questions about how big of a roll God, faith, and religion play in their daily life.
Uglies: Scott Westerfeld gives an original take on dystopia fiction that was inspired by an episode of The Twilight Zone in which he takes on issues from body image to environmentalism. In this society, people have complete plastic surgery-like makeovers that take them from being an Ugly to supermodel pretty. Tally, the protagonist, can’t wait to become a Pretty, especially since her best friend Peris has made the change and moved on to New Pretty Town. But that all starts to change when she finds a new friend in Shay. I remember this being a really popular read when I was in middle school but never read it until this past semester. However, I would recommend this to anyone middle school and up.
Home of the Brave: Written in verse, this novel is about a young boy who is a Sudanese refugee who has just come to America. This novel not only gives the reader some incite into the recent history of Sudan but also addresses themes such as what it means to be brave. This novel is a quick read and is great for anyone probably 4th or 5th grade and up. I could see this being a really great novel to introduce topics such as immigration and refugees to a younger age group.
The Ballad of a Broken Nose: From Norway, this international children’s book is about a shy and quirky 13-year-old eternal optimist named Bart who has a talent for opera singing and who hates the boxing lessons his mom pushes him into. One day, his classmate Ada befriends him and encourages him to perform in the school talent show…but Bart is so shy he can’t perform in front of anyone. This was a really cute read but because it hints at some heavier topics I would suggest it to no one younger than 4th or 5th grade. Possibly 3rd grade. It really just depends on the kid.
Chains: Laurie Halse Anderson seems to be the queen of telling stories that tend to go untold, which is why I love this novel even more. So many times we only consider African Americans when it comes to the Civil War and the 1960s Civil Rights movement. But this novel follows the story of a young slave named Isabel during the American Revolution. Isabel and her sister are first promised freedom in her mistress’s will but is only sold into slavery again when her master passes away. Together, her and her sister are sold to a prominent Loyalist man and woman, and Isabel finds herself in the perfect position to help the Rebels by spying and possibly receiving freedom or by keeping silent but also avoiding likely punishment. Just from a reading level stand point, this novel is great for middle school and up. The content itself is not too graphic either so as long as anyone has the ability to read it, there’s no reason why I would not recommend it.
Brown Girl Dreaming: An autobiography written in verse, this novel is about Jacqueline Woodson’s childhood in the 1960s in Ohio, South Carolina and New York. From Woodson’s early aspirations to be a writer to the disjointed family dynamics she experienced throughout her childhood, this book gives incite into the life of an African American girl who was growing up in the 60s. Again, as far as reading level goes, as long as the child can read and comprehend it, there is no reason why they shouldn’t. However, I think anyone of any age would enjoy this book.
The Vanishing American Adult: Though not an assigned book from this last semester, Nebraska senator Ben Sasse’s book is probably one of my all time favorites that I read last year. It provides great insight into my own generation. I would recommend this to any millennial but also to anyone who still has kids at home or is starting a family. I could not agree more with Sasse’s message of raising more self-reliant children to create a more independent and self-reliant society – one of the true crises America is facing and will continue to face if nothing changes.
What Elephants Know: When Nandu was a baby, he was found by Devi Kali, an elephant from the Nepalese royal stables. Since then he was raised by Devi Kali and her keeper, Subba-sahib. But now the stables face the risk of being shut down and it’s up to Nandu to try to save it. This book is perfect for just about any age. If a child isn’t quite at this reading level, it would still make a cute read-aloud. Plus, it’s a great book to teach kids about Nepal and elephants!
The Absolute True Story of a Part-Time Indian: Funny but edgy this book is not for the young ones, but it provides a young adult perspective of life on a Native reservation in Washington and what it means to break out of the path others choose for you. I would recommend this to older high school kids and up because of mature content. (Am I reading like a video game ad or movie trailer yet???)
Monster: This novel was really interesting to read. Not only is it relevant to the discussion of discrimination in the legal system, but it is also written in the format of a movie script from the first person perspective of Steve, an African American teenage boy in Harlem accused of being a part of a robbery turned murder at a local convenience store. I would recommend this to high school and maybe upper middle school depending on the kid. Adults would enjoy this, too. My only beef with this book is that the format makes it hard to read, but once you get used to that, it’s a fast and informative read.
The First Part Last: Finally, this quick read gives the reader an inside look to the rarely told narrative of a teenage father. The YA market is inundated with books about teenage mom’s but rarely of the paternal perspective. I include this one because of the “before and after” style Angela Johnson uses to tell the story. It’s seamless and incredibly well done. Also, not only is Bobby, the father, the one giving the perspective, but what makes it so great is his involvement in his daughter feather’s life and that how he reacts to the events surrounding her birth. This book wonderfully demonstrates that parenting and the responsibility of a child does not fall to the mother alone.
I hope this list gave you a good place to start for possible reading options! Reading recommendations are some of my favorite things in the world – giving and receiving. Hearing what other’s like to read gives you so much incite into who someone is and it is sure to set any intuitive mind on fire!
I’d love to hear some of your favorite books from 2017 so please share in the comments below or on facebook!
(Originally published to my former site, thetakingflightblog.com, on January 10, 2018.)