Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles

Read Between the Lines

Candlewick, 2015

Nine teenagers, one adult, one day, and one rude gesture that connects their stories. Told in ten vignettes, Jo Knowles’ story shows the face of human life and of the personal struggles that underlie each character’s actions. It also shows the real and tenuous connections between both friends and strangers.

I’m a fan of Jo Knowles’ books, and when I read an interview about this book I was intrigued enough with the premise to look for it at my local library. Read Between the Lines is built on a universal experience; I expect we’ve all been flipped the bird unfairly at one time or another. What makes this story rich is the way it portrays both how the “flipper” was provoked and the reaction of the “flippee.” I appreciated the insight into all of the characters’ lives. Every one of the characters is dealing with public perceptions, personal problems, and life. Reading Jo Knowles’ newest book is a sure way to spur deeper thought about rules, everyday misunderstandings, and the forces that drive us.

I checked this book out of my local library.

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The Queen’s Shadow: A story about how animals see by Cybele Young

The Queen's Shadow Kids Can Press, 2015.

The queen has lost her shadow, and all the animals at the ball are suspect. How will their unique ways of seeing help Mantis Shrimp, the royal detective, solve the mystery of who stole the queen’s shadow?

Cybele Young’s detailed but whimsical illustrations and engaging story present the mystery as a way to explore how different creatures see. From a goat’s blind spot to the depth perception of a chameleon, the guests at the queen’s ball all have different ways of seeing the world. As each suspect is accused, we see through the illustrations how that suspect sees the room. Detailed sidebars explain how each animal’s eyesight works.

End matter provides even more science information. One endnote explains in detail how human vision works, another gives more information about the animals featured in the text. A glossary page gives detailed definitions of terms used in the text.

The Queen’s Shadow is a creative and engaging treatment of an interesting subject. This would be a wonderful book to introduce to students who are particularly interested in science or animals. It would also be great to use in coordination with the Next Generation Science Standards as there are specific standards related to eyes and vision. Though this is a picture book, it is geared toward older elementary and middle school readers.

I read this book as an electronic Advance Reader Copy courtesy of Kids Can Press and NetGalley.

Holes by Louis Sachar

Holes (Holes, #1)

Scholastic, 1998

Stanley Yelnats has been sent to a juvenile detention center for a crime he didn’t commit. It’s just one more incident of the bad luck that has plagued Stanley’s family since his great-great-grandfather left Latvia. At the ironically named Camp Green Lake Stanley learns to endure the forced labor of digging holes in the sand each day and he also begins to solve the mystery of the Warden and her camp. If only Stanley’s discoveries were enough to break the family curse.

The humor in Louis Sachar’s books always tickles my funny bone. My family still quotes Sideways Stories from Wayside School regularly, even though my kids are teenagers now. It took some time for me to get around to reading Holes. I’m so glad I did. Sachar’s story is amusing and outrageous, like the Wayside School stories, but also there’s a good bit of truth in it, truth about loyalty, about hard work, about making the right choices.

Thanks to my friend Sarah Endo for suggesting I read it and lending me her copy!

The Way to School by Rosemary McCarney

The Way to School Second Story Press, 2015

What would you go through to get to school? As children in the United States and Canada prepare for a new school year with anticipation or trepidation, they’re likely to be focused on who their teacher will be, which friends will be in their class, or how much homework will be required this year. In many countries, however, simply getting to school requires a very real and physical commitment. They way may be long and treacherous; nevertheless, as is evidenced in The Way to School, children in many parts of the world work hard to simply get to school.

Though the text in this book is quite simple and meant for younger children, I think this book could have a place in a classroom for older students. I love the gorgeous photographs. There’s a wealth of information in every image that will intrigue older readers, too. I found myself pouring over the photographs and comparing them. Which groups had an adult accompanying them? Who wore uniforms to school? Which children had to bring necessities like water and furniture? Every photograph helps readers understand that required school attendance and a school bus to ride are indeed privileges.

Each photograph is identified by country, which provides a great jumping off point for further research on education in specific countries. There are also many points of comparison to research between the photographs. Which countries have mandated education? How many days a year do children go to school? What sort of geographical features limit some communities’ access to education?

Proceeds from the sale of this book go to Plan Canada, one of the largest international development agencies in the world.

I read The Way to School as an electronic ARC courtesy of Second Story Press and NetGalley.