Saturday, June 18, 2016

Red by Liesl Shurtliff

Have you ever wondered, what’s the “real” story behind the fairytale of “Little Red Riding Hood”?  For example, why does she wear that red cape?  Is she some kind of superhero wanna-be? Why do her parents let her walk through that dark forest all alone?  And by the way, just where are her parents?  Now about the granny, why does she live all alone in the woods? How many grandmothers do you know that prefer to live all by their lonesome in the scary woods?  Then we come to the wolf.  Seriously, how many wolves have you met that dress up in granny clothes and talk?  Does that even really happen?  Read Red by Liesl Shurtliff and find the answers to all these questions and more, so much more!  Red is one twisted fairytale fantasy that takes you on a journey in which you come to expect the unexpected.  Red sets out on a journey to find a solution to help her ailing granny.  Along the way she meets Goldie (future like long friend?), encounters deadly water sprites, dwarves (Snow White did not tell the full story!), an ancient huntsman, a beast, and of course the wolf!  So much happens to Red and Goldie on their quest that it's easy to forget they’re only kids!

As with many fantasies, Red is a wonderful escape from everyday life.  But just when it seems all hope is lost, we’re reminded that in a fantasy anything can happen and magic takes over. What makes this book so special, and different from many other fantasies, is the powerful theme woven throughout the story. The lesson is not readily evident at first, but all at once the readers realize the author's message. I won’t give away the theme here, I’m excited to have students discover the lesson for themselves and share it with me!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Mission Mumbai by Mahtab Narsimhan

Dylan Moore is sure he’s in for the adventure of a lifetime when he’s invited to travel with his best friend's family on a summer vacation to India. Dylan’s excited to learn more about Rohit’s native county, the culture, and of course the delicious food!  Although Dylan does have another reason he's so anxious to escape New York City. A reason he’s not ready to share with Rohit, or even himself yet.

Mumbai proves to be quite an eye-opener for Dylan right from the start.  From upsetting a cow to meeting Rohit’s aunt, who he nicknamed “Boa” for reasons that soon become obvious, the family retreats to the country for what they hope will be a more peaceful vacation.  Not likely.  Dylan does however learn a very important message about family and friendship from an ancient woman. Could her simple wisdom really be the solution he’s been searching for?

This book immediately caught my eye and piqued my interest when I discovered it on the “New Middle Grade Fiction” shelf in the library.  As a sixth-grade teacher, I have had the pleasure of teaching many students either from India, or that have family living in India.  Many of these students travel to India on a regular basis.  I thought reading this book would be a chance for me to peek inside life in India.  Now that I’ve finished the book all I can say is, wow!  I feel as if I have just returned from a two week trip to India myself. Even the terrifying parts (and there are definitely parts of the book that had me on the edge of my seat wondering how anyone could possibly live through what I was reading) left me feeling excited to read more.   However,  from the culture, the food, the city , the countryside, the people, even the monsoons, I want to know more.  I think this book is a perfect example of how books can take readers to faraway places. I am excited to have my students read this book and share their opinions with me.