I don’t know how many times in the last year I have read Facebook posts asking for book recommendations. It is exciting as an educator to see that former students are still reading for pleasure, and promising as an author to see that people are still interested in buying and discussing books. I tend to post book lists throughout the summer months when I have more time to read, but with a baby on the way, I have read through many sleepless nights this last trimester. So, I present to you, the March Mishmash List: a hodge-podge of what I have read lately in no particular order or genre, and why you, too, should pick up these books!
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Having the hubs around this whole pregnancy has been nothing short of amazing. He recently received this recommendation from a professor, and purchased this book for me when I finished my last read. He told me it was about running, and similar to Born to Run, and that is all he had to say. I was smitten. And then, then I realized, this was a war story. An Olympic runner turned soldier turned slave. As I sobbed my way through this story, I kept telling the hubs about each new aspect of World War II that I was learning. Little did I realize, World War II was not necessarily compartmentalized into two categories that I held in my head- the attack on Pearl Harbor and Nazi Germany. An entire war happened in POW camps that I am quite embarrassed to admit that I had very little knowledge about. It is a compelling non-fiction read that captivated and even compelled this non-history buff to research further.
Viral Bound by Dan Waltz
If you are a fan of the Walking Dead (graphic novel and/or AMC television series), chances are high that you will thoroughly enjoy Waltz’s, Viral Bound. Unlike Dead, Waltz provides a reason for the zombie outbreak, but it’s unclear at first to the average reader. The quickness of the outbreak is realistically tragic. It reminded me of films such as 1995’s Outbreak, and the more recently, Contagion, which both illustrate the severity of pathogens and air borne viruses. Likewise Waltz respectfully crosses the Dead line by placing his readers in situations where the television series has only shown us with the character Sophia. Many of Waltz’s situations involve children who have turned; including a scene where Steve, our adult protagonist, stumbles upon an entire school that has been afflicted. What happens to the still-human children on the bus is almost as tragic that what has happened to all the children who were not able to escape the lockdown of their safe, secure school. These images resonate with this reader who tends to read nightly before bed. Overall this novel is a captivating read for any fan who enjoys the flesh-eaters known only as ‘zoms’ in Waltz’s tale.
The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
A cliche recommendation from an English teacher? Perhaps. However, here is why I think you should read it…again…and again…as an adult. This semester I taught Gatsby differently than I ever have in the last eight years. I wanted my students to look for author’s purpose in writing the “Great American Novel.” We analyzed purposes such as mafia tale, romance, the classic American Dream, a social commentary, and historical point of view. Doing this, and listening to the kids debate why it was more mafia tale than love story, or vice versa, allowed me the freedom to inspect the foreshadowing and dialogue more carefully than I have before. Sure I know the plot, but I honestly see new perspectives when students ask questions and make comments that I’ve never thought about. For example, without spoiling it for those who have not read the classic, one student wondered just how manipulative and powerful Gatsby really was. Did Nick just happen to find a place next to Gatsby’s and the roommate bail for a new job, or were the roomie and Gatsby ‘friends’? Comments like this allow me to fall in love with Fitzgerald’s somewhat challenging style all over again. Plus it wouldn’t hurt if you read the book before seeing Leonardo DiCaprio in the latest film this May! How will he compare to Robert Redford?
The Mystery at Motown by Carole Marsh
This read was a Davison All Read Book that the district provides for every elementary student. It led to a family fun literacy night where I face painted the Detroit Tiger Old English “D” on very patient little people. What I loved most about reading with this book with my son (4) and daughter (7) was that they both were captivated for 2-3 chapters due to the cliff hangers. I also like Marsh’s use of Detroit landmarks and history and fun way to teach children about the positives the city offers…still today. In fact, we are headed to the Hitsville USA museum after this baby joins us, and then over to Lafayette for coneys. Did I forget to mention that the two adult protagonists are mimi and papa? This is what the kids call my parents, so that made it even more realistic. I think we are going to check out her other book set in Michigan titled, The Mystery on the Great Lakes.
Diggin for Dinos: A Real Heroes Read Book by Charles Davis Clasman and Davis Anthony
I met these authors last summer and boy were they fun! Little did I know, their books would be even more entertaining than they were at a book signing in Flint. Again, both kids loved reading this book aloud and were captive for 2-3 chapters which is really motivating for Leo who tends not to sit still for too long…even when food is present. Similar to the mystery books by Marsh, each chapter ends with a cliffhanger and moves rapidly through the mysterious plot. Also similar is the Michigan setting, but in this series, every story take place in Michigan. This one happens to be set in Traverse City. Add evil talking dinosaurs, sibling superheroes, and archeology to the mix, and you have a winner in my book!
The Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
If you are looking for a younger children’s story, this one is hysterical! I bought it for my son as he tends to frequently interrupt, especially during story time. Stein uses classic children’s tales to create a relationship between chicken and papa that most parents and grandparents will recognize. This is a tame, children’s version of “Go the F-to Sleep,” that I can relate to. Maybe even more than my children! The dialogue is captivating and realistic, especially for talking chickens. Do I dare compare it to…no, I won’t. Just read it!
Little Girls Can be Mean by Michelle Anthony and Reyna Lindert
As the mother of a little girl, I never realized how early the mean girl stuff begins. I’ve read Ophelia Speaks, and Reviving Ophelia, but this research based text focuses on the younger child and a plan to help strengthen the tools our daughters carry around with them daily. It helps discuss how to implement these tools from a parental point of view, and a teacher point of view. There are realistic situations provided along with activities that parents and teachers can work on with their students. It is practical, proactive, and informative. A must read for every parent and every elementary teacher!
With that note, I am looking forward to reading more often as number three arrives within the next three weeks. I hope you find something here that speaks to you, and if not, please send recommendations my way in the comments below! I have a few other Michigan authors lined up to read in the near future with Jessyca Mathews’ debut poetry book, Simply, and a re-read of Susan Sage’s sci-fi fantasy novel, Insominy. Happy March. Happy reading.