The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley by Jan Andrews

The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinleyThe Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley by Jan Andrews

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my first read of the 2014-15 Ontario Library Association’s White Pine picks for this year and based on this book alone, I’m very hopeful. Like last year’s Old Man by David A. Poulsen, our main character Kyle McGinley has a very unusual relationship with his estranged father. Here the similarities end though, as Kyle’s father was neglectful and abusive before abandoning his son when he was only 8. Having moved around the foster system ever since, Kyle finally lands with Jill and Scott in a rural location which allows him the peace and quiet he needs to begin healing. Kyle takes his need for silence to a whole new level by refusing to speak with his new wards. However, the threat of his father’s return catapults him once again into turmoil. This book is a fast read of only 198 pages but it is rich in symbolism as Kyle wrestles with noise and silence, hope and despair. Andrews’ characters are very believable and her unique style of creating Kyle’s inner voices allows for some very creative interpretations of his emotional story. I would highly recommend this book to any student but I will urge reluctant male readers to pick it up the most.

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Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden

Through Black SpruceThrough Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Boyden allowed me to feel that I had been to Moose Factory and felt the complicated nuances of self-government and survival that happen there. And yet it’s a wonderful modern mystery as we try to understand what has happened to Suzanne and we hope that her uncle Will’s story is going to end well. The complicated intertwining of these two narratives takes us over much of Northern Ontario and New York State. It crosses all sorts of social boundaries but feels rich in detail and authentic. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and I would highly recommend it to mature young adults and adults.

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The Witch’s Boy by Michael Gruber (audiobook)

Book title: The Witch’s Boy (audiobook)

Author: Michael Gruber

Bibliographic entry Gruber, M., & O’Hare, D. P. (2005). The witch’s boy. New York: Harper Children’s Audio.
Description Long long ago a boy named Lump is born to a witch.  The prejudice he experiences his whole life, because of his facial deformity and strange behaviour, turn him into an angry young man.  His envy drives him to violence and he loses what he loves most.
Reaction  A fantastic tale that weaves pieces of well-known fairytales together while following the journey of the unknown character, Lump.  The themes and topics are universally human and this book would appeal to any fantasy lover.  Denis O’Hare, the performer on the audiobook, is a wizard as he vocally masters dozens of identities in the book.
Recommended age level  Junior/Intermediate/Senior
Subjects/themes  Identity quest, fantasy, prejudice
Curriculum connections  English: extend understanding of both simple and complex texts by making connections between the ideas in them and personal knowledge, experience, and insights; other texts; and the world around them
Awards 2006 Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award for Middle Grades/Young Adults
Miscellaneous  Michael Gruber blogs at http://michaelgruberbooks.blogspot.ca/

Kathleen Horning’s Cover to Cover

I’m going to go way out on a limb here and say that my book buying habits have been inconsistent, to say the least.  I have a very limited budget.  I started developing my collection by really trying to understand what was useful but unpopular, and popular but not very useful academically.  I buy for certain assignments.  I also have found a couple of vendor opportunities where my time is very limited but I need to make purchasing decisions very quickly.  So my latest strategy for non-fiction has been to shop with a particular Dewey area in mind.  I used to be able to have my collection on my phone so I could make sure that I wasn’t buying a double of something we already have.

I’ve always been interested in reviews, of course, but what they lead to is sometimes just a folder full of wishes for new books.   I just finished reading Kathleen Horning’s book on evaluating and reviewing children’s literature: Cover to Cover.   I really appreciated Horning’s advice throughout her book and my next step will be to make a quick buying list.  For example, I always examined non-fiction for its relevance to my students, a table of contents and its index.  New to me are making sure that the font size is relevant, that pictures or graphs are helpful not just decorative, and making sure that the references are current and descriptive.  I would have liked Horning to go a deeper into how to choose fiction.  Mostly I try to make sure there is something for everyone in my fiction collection.

For reviews I often go to the Ontario Library Association and the Ontario School Library Association‘s magazines and websites for recommendations.  Many times my budget dictates that I can concentrate on a certain area of the collection so I go out of my way to find reviews or bloggers with those interests in mind.  An area that I’ve been determined to expand is on teen sexuality and positive role models for my LGBT population.  Last summer I discovered Lee Wind’s blog “I’m Here, I’m Queer, What the Hell do I read?”  Lee has an education degree so he’s not just thinking about books, but also how he would use them in a school setting.  Similarly the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, although under-developed, has thematic listings that I find very useful.  I think if the blogger is focused on young adult (as I am), is Canadian and an educator, then they can be a valid and relevant voice.  However that’s a tall order.  All suggestions welcome.

More than anything, Horning’s book emphasized to me what a need there is for more reviewers! Since Canadian school librarians are such a privileged and elite group, we owe it to the world to review material.  It has given my blog new purpose.  I’m not sure how I will continue to organize my reviews, but I intend to keep reviewing.