Now Read This!

I’m enjoying a growing trend in Middle Grade reading: novels in verse.

book love

These stories have a narrative arc, and character development, and all the things you’d expect from a novel-length work. But, they are told through the medium of poetry rather than prose.

Two of the main things I love about this type of novel are the beauty of the language, and the accessibility of the stories. This style of writing is particularly well suited for people who claim to not like poetry, or kids who are reluctant readers. There is a lot of white space in poetry, which can be very welcoming to readers who feel stuck when they see a page full of words.

Brown_Girl_Dreaming-200brown girl dreaming (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books 2014) by Jaqueline Woodson (newly named Young People’s Poet Laureate) won the 2014 National Book Award.

Through a connected series of poems, Woodson chronicles her life growing up in the 1960s and 70s in both the North and the South. I gained a much deeper appreciation of the landscape of our country at that time while reading her touching, often funny, and deeply personal story.

My favorites were the “how to listen” poems.

how to listen #3

Middle of the night

my grandfather is coughing

me upright. Startled.

***

how to listen #7

Even the silence

has a story to tell you.

Just listen. Listen.

***

Give yourself the chance to listen to her words. They’re beautiful.

Cover of The Crossover by Kwame AlexanderThe Crossover (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014) by Kwame Alexander was this year’s Newbery Award Winner.

The Crossover is a heart-pumping story of basketball phemon twin-brothers Josh and Jordan Bell. But as the jacket flap says: Josh has more than hoops in his blood. He’s got a river of rhymes flowing through him – a sick flow that helps him find his rhythm when everything’s on the line.

This book is a natural summer reading pick for sports lovers. The word play, especially during scenes that describe basketball games, is really fun.

From Dribbling:

…Be careful though,

’cause now I’m CRUNKing

CrissCROSSING

FLOSSING

flipping

and my dipping will leave you

SLIPPING on the floor, while I

SWOOP in

to the finish with a fierce finger roll…

Straight to the hole:

Swooooooooooooooosh.

FREE Basketball Camp for 3rd & 4th Graders

However, it’s not exclusively for sports fans. There’s a tender story of family at the heart of this novel that will appeal to all readers.

Basketball Rule #1

In this game of life

your family is the court

and the ball is your heart.

No matter how good you are,

no matter how down you get,

always leave

your heart

on the court.

***

Happy Reading!

Batter Up!

Summer’s here! Baseball season!  Here are some baseball-themed middle grade reads to take with you to the sidelines:

NO CREAM PUFFS by Karen Day (2008, Wendy Lamb Books)

NoCreamPuffs

Goodreads says: “MADISON IS NOT your average 12-year-old girl from Michigan in 1980. She doesn’t use lipgloss, but she loves to play sports, and joins baseball for the summer—the first girl in Southern Michigan to play on a boys’ team. The press call her a star and a trailblazer, but Madison just wants to play ball. Who knew it would be so much pressure? Crowds flock to the games. Her team will win the championship—if she can keep up her pitching streak. Meanwhile, she’s got a crush on a fellow player, her best friend abandons her for the popular girls, the “O” on her Hinton’s uniform forms a bulls-eye over her left breast, and the boy she punched on the last day of school plans to bean her in the championship game.”

Nancy says:  I’m not really a sporty gal (shocker!), but you don’t have to be a hard-core sports fan to enjoy this book.  I loved how the main character, Madison, wished she could just side-step all the typical pre-teen angst and play baseball.  But there are issues we all must confront when we’re growing up, whether we want to or not.  This is a great story for tween girls who enjoy pushing boundaries, but also want to fit in.

 

HANG TOUGH, PAUL MATHER by Alfred Slote (1985, Harper Trophy)

PaulMather

Goodreads says: “Paul Mather’s a pitcher — a really good one. His off speed pitch is enough to bowl a kid backward, and his fast ball is pure smoke. There isn’t anything he can’t throw, from sliders, change-ups, and sinkers to a mean curve ball that breaks at just the right moment. He’s pitched no-hitters and perfect games. To Paul, pitching is what you live for and why you live.

Lately, though, Paul hasn’t been allowed to do much of anything, much less play ball. He’s got leukemia, and it’s put him into the hospital several times already. His parents are so worried, they’ve forbidden him to play the game he loves so much. They’re afraid that if Paul strains himself his illness may come back a final time…and maybe even take his life.

But Paul is a winner. His team needs him, and he won’t give up without a fight. Paul Mather is determined to pitch every inning…to keep playing baseball, and to keep hanging tough, no matter what the odds.”

Nancy says:  This is an “oldie but a goodie.”  Paul Mather was the first fictional boy to make me cry. (Jesse Aarons came soon after – I was a mess in 5th grade!). Again, the baseball is there as a great hook for sports-loving reluctant readers, but the story also has a lot of heart.  This is definitely one worth going back in time for.

SCREAMING AT THE UMP by Audrey Vernick (2014, Clarion Books)

ScreamUmp

Goodreads says: “Twelve-year-old Casey Snowden knows everything about being an umpire. His dad and grandfather run a New Jersey umpire school, Behind the Plate, and Casey lives and breathes baseball. Casey’s dream, however, is to be a reporter—objective, impartial, and fair, just like an ump. But when he stumbles upon a sensational story involving a former major league player in exile, he finds that the ethics of publishing it are cloudy at best. This emotionally charged coming-of-age novel about baseball, divorce, friendship, love, and compassion challenges its readers to consider all the angles before calling that strike.”

Nancy says: This one’s on my to be read pile; I’m intrigued. I’ve also recently met the author, and if her writing style is anything like her personality, this story will have a lot of pep and zing!

KING OF THE MOUND: My Summer with Satchel Paige by Wes Tooke (2012, Simon & Schuster)

KingMound

Goodreads says: “Nick was going to be a star baseball player, no doubt about it. People for miles around talked about the twelve-year-old boy with the golden arm. And then Nick is diagnosed with polio; a life-threatening disease in the 1930s. Everyone is devastated, especially Nick’s father, who copes by closing off from his son. When Nick finally leaves the hospital he wants nothing more than to get back in the game, but he seems to be the only one who thinks it’s possible. But after he begins working for Mr. Churchill, the owner of a minor league team, Nick meets Satchel Paige, arguably the best player in baseball. Satchel faces obstacles of his own; his skin color prevents him from joining the major leagues; and he encourages Nick to overcome the odds and step out of the dugout.”

Nancy says:  This one is also on the TBR pile. When I saw the name Satchel Paige, I thought of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement. The basic idea of this campaign, is to bring attention to the need for diverse characters in children’s literature, as well as to help support authors of color in the marketplace. There has been quite a bit of attention given to this topic at book conventions and on social media sites. I wonder if sales would have been better for KING OF THE MOUND had it come out now vs. two years ago? (I have no idea what the sales figures were -they may have been fabulous! But it would be an interesting comparison if one had a crystal ball.)

That’s all, sports fans!  Enjoy your summer reading!

Summer Reading: July Kindle Fire Giveaway Hop!

kindlefireSummertime, and the reading is easy!  If you are like me, your TBR (to be read) stack is teetering with juicy stories waiting to be devoured like a ripe summer peach. Maybe you’ve been able to steal away to the quiet of a hammock, or have enjoyed getting lost in a book with the ocean’s dull roar as a backdrop.  (Or perhaps, more likely,  you have to swat kids away like mosquitoes and fight for every chapter!

However it happens for you, I do hope you’re enjoying a good book this summer.  With that in mind, I’ve hooked up with the good folks at the above blogs (inspired by Kathy http://www.iamareader.com ) to offer you a chance to win a Kindle Fire!  If you haven’t joined the age of digital readers, I must say it is so satisfying to be able to get that new book you’ve wanted instantly!  For me, it’s also fun to be able to read after “light’s out” without balancing a flashlight on my shoulder so as not to bug my husband.

And for those of you who swear by good old-fashioned hold ’em in your hands and smell ’em books, I will also be offering the winner  five fantastic middle grade reads (suitable for adult readers, too!):

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Here’s how to enter:  The contest runs JULY 8 – July 29.


Welcome to our Kindle Fire HD giveaway!

Sponsored by 
Kid Lit Frenzy
Read Now Sleep Later
Nite Lite Book Reviews
The Windy Pages
The Book Pixie
There’s a Book
The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
Teach Mentor Texts
The Reading Date
Nancy Tandon
Read Write Mom

Show our blogger friends some love and at the same time earn entries into the giveaway!

The Kindle Fire HD winner (US only) will also get their choice of

1 July or August Kindle eBook from Kid Lit Frenzy
1 YA Kindle eBook from Read Now Sleep Later
1 MG Kindle eBook from There’s a Book

If you are not from the United States, use the second Rafflecopter to enter to win

up to $20 worth of books from BookDepository.com 
and an ARC or signed copy of a book from Kid Lit Frenzy
(A list of possible prizes will be posted after July 14, so check back!)

If you are a blogger, you can earn an extra entry by re-posting the giveaway. Copy the HTML from this page and paste it into a new post. We cannot count your entry unless you leave us the link, so remember to paste the link into the Rafflecopter widget. If you cannot embed the Rafflecopter widget, here is the Share Link for the Kindle Fire HD (US only) and the Share Link for the International $20 bookdepository.com widgets.
Rules:
1. You must be 13 years of age or older to enter, or have a parent/guardian enter for you. All entries are subject to verification.
2. We will notify the winner via email within 48 hours after the contest’s end (11:59 pm on July 29).
3. The Kindle Fire HD winner must have a mailing address in the United States. The International ($20 bookdepository.com books) winner can be anywhere except the United States.
4. The winners will have 48 hours to reply with their mailing address or another winner will be chosen.
5. Contest sponsors are not responsible for items lost in the mail.
6. We love comments, but please do not leave personal information such as email or mailing addresses in the comments! We are using Rafflecopter because it will keep your information private.
Questions? Please email the organizer, Alethea, at frootjoos at gmail dot com.
Good luck!