Clayton Byrd Goes Underground


Clayton Byrd Goes Underground (audiobook)

by Rita Williams-Garcia

AR Level , points


Clayton Byrd Goes Underground follows Clayton, a boy who basically worships his grandfather Cool Papa, a jazz musician and former soldier in the Navy.  Clayton’s mother is not as fond of her father, and reacts coldly and callously when Cool Papa passes.  She has previously unresolved issues with her father, and throws out all of his possessions without considering Clayton’s feelings.  Clayton does not react well, and starts having trouble at school.  The last straw is when his mother takes away his blues harp (harmonica), so Clayton decides to leave home and go underground (ride the subway).  Clayton runs into some boys who are up to no good, and gets caught up in their schemes.  Things do not go well for Clayton, but it is a happy ending for Clayton and his family, so all is well in the end.

What I liked about this book was the way Garcia-Williams approached the subject of death with children.  It is a sensitive topic for children, and there aren’t many books out there to help children through the loss of someone important to them.  This book also showed a child’s perspective of his mother not listening or trying to understand his grief.  I think it would be really helpful for a student who recently lost a grandparent or a close relative to read this book, and perhaps even their parent who might not understand how their child feels.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it was infuriating that his mother was so cold and indifferent to Clayton’s feelings.  I hope that as a mother, I am more sensitive to my kids’ emotions.  As a teacher, I will be aware of reading a group novel that not everyone is interested in, because I felt Clayton had valid feelings about the book he was being forced to read.

Book 3 of 40

One Last Word


One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance (hardcover)

by Nikki Grimes


I’m getting off to an awfully slow start this school year.  I think it’s because I moved the week before I had to be back, so I’ve been unpacking and settling in.  I also have 2 kids in school now, and my almost 10 month old is a mama’s boy and has to be near me all the time.  Today I decided it was time to finish this book I’d been nursing since last Monday, so I took it into the pool and sat in a big round donut until I’d read the last word (ironically, part of the title).

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance is both a collection of poems written by African American poets about the Harlem Renaissance, and a play on those poems by Nikki Grimes.  Grimes takes a line (or many lines) from poems by other poets and makes each word the last word in her original poems.  It’s a style of poetry I’ve never heard of, called Golden Shovel.  I really enjoyed learning about this form, because I enjoy structure, and it’s new to me.  Grimes’ poetry touched on several relevant subjects African American youth face, such as police brutality, interracial couples, and self-image.  She writes to her own children, which was what I found the most touching.

What I liked about this book was the carefully selected poems.  Although the Renaissance was nearly 100 years ago, many of the conflicts faced then are still very relevant today, unfortunately, although different.  I think it would be a meaningful book for our youth looking for poetry they could relate to.  I can only appreciate it.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it wasn’t my favorite genre, but that isn’t a fault of the book.  While I enjoy novels written in verse, poetry in general is something I have always had to work hard to understand and enjoy.  I know this is a high quality novel, but it isn’t something I’d say I read for fun.  Although, readers sometimes read out of their comfort zones, right?  A lesson for my students.  🙂

Book 2 of 40

Forget Me Not


Forget Me Not (hardcover)

by Ellie Terry

AR Level 4.1, 3 points


In Forget Me Not, Calliope is an eighth grade girl with Tourettes syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes her to make sounds and movements that she doesn’t do willingly, and this causes her to be embarrassed and pull out her hair.  She also has low self esteem and not many friends.  Compounding this is the fact that her mom can’t go without a boyfriend, but every time she breaks up with one, she packs Calliope into their Bug and they move to another city.  Calliope has been to 10 schools, but this time is different, because she meets Jinsong, a boy in her building who secretly likes her, despite the fact that he’s popular and his friends make fun of Calli.  Jinsong has to find the courage to come forward with his feelings.  Unfortunately, he wrestles with his own disappointment in himself when he fails to defend her.  The unlikely couple then has to face the possibility of never seeing each other again when Calli’s mom runs off and gets married.

What I liked about this book was that it highlighted a disorder that people have heard of, but aren’t really familiar with.  The reputation of people with Tourettes is that they will say bad words or get violent, but that isn’t everyone.  Calliope made sounds and hurt herself, and had to eat in a certain way, but the book showed that they were impulses she couldn’t control.  Hopefully this book will serve to educate others, who will then be more understanding and tolerant.

What I didn’t like about this book was Jinsong.  I understand as an eighth grade boy, having a friend like Calliope would be embarrassing, and could damage his reputation.  As an adult, I wanted to yell at him and tell him he was a horrible person.

Book 1 of 40

*Would have been book 20 of 20 for my summer reading goal had I finished it on time!  Unfortunately, this first week of school (and the weekend before) is crazy busy, so I kept falling asleep when I tried to read before bed.

Flat Out Love


Flat-Out Love (ebook)

by Jessica Park


Flat-Out Love is super cute!  It’s that love story genre that isn’t always my first choice, but I usually enjoy the books when I read them.  Julie Seagle is a college freshman in Boston, a city she’s completely unfamiliar with.  She finds herself homeless, duped by a fake Craigslist ad, but her mom’s college roommate comes to her rescue and lets her stay in their home with Celeste and Matt, her two children.  Matt is a geeky college student, and Celeste is a “different” eighth grade girl.  There is also a mysterious brother named Finn who isn’t around, but Julie has a Facebook romance with him.  Their mother Erin and father Roger are absentee parents, being busy with their careers, so Matt is left to take care of Celeste, including carting around Flat Finn, a cardboard cutout of Finn.  Julie steps in to be Celeste’s friend, take some of the load off of Matt, and help Celeste fit in and be a little less strange.  Of course, there is love and everything hits the fan.  This is also a bit of a mystery (slightly predictable), but it was a fun read, and engaging until the end.

What I liked about this book was the romance, of course.  Without the romance, I’m not sure the storyline would have been nearly as engaging.  A mysterious brother?  Drunken phone calls?  A nerdy but handsome brother who goes out of his way to be a knight in shining armor?  It has everything.

What I didn’t like about this book was the shocker with Finn.  That was upsetting.  Predictable, but upsetting none the less.  I am not sure how I felt about his story.  That’s all I can say without giving away too much.

Book 19 of summer 2017!


Wolf Hollow


Wolf Hollow (audiobook)

by Lauren Wolk

AR Level 4.9, 9 points


Wolf Hollow is the second book I’ve read by Lauren Wolk, although I liked Beyond the Bright Sea better.  Both are mysteries, but this one seemed to have less action.  It follows Annabelle, an almost 12 year old girl living in a farming town during World War II.  Annabelle is an average girl, but is full of grit and compassion, except for when it comes to Betty, the school bully.  Betty is relentless when it comes to bullying Annabelle and her brothers, but when she throws a rock that hits Annabelle’s friend in the eye (causing her to lose the eye), Annabelle can’t stay quiet, especially when Betty blames a local strange homeless man, Toby.  Toby soon has to go into hiding when Betty goes missing, but Annabelle is certain Toby didn’t take Betty.  She has to prove Toby’s innocence while protecting him from being found.

What I liked about this book was that it got me emotionally involved.  First of all, I really had a lot of questions that needed to be answered.  I needed to know where Betty was, and I was anxious to find out what would happen with Toby.  I had to see this story through to the end, even if there were slow parts.

What I didn’t like about this book was how many slow parts there were.  Oh my goodness… If I had been reading and not listening to the audiobook, I might have put this book down.  While it is really well-written and a great example of small moments, it is like an Oscar movie, where I can see why it won an award (Newbery Honor), but it didn’t keep me entertained.  It was almost artsy.

Book 18 of summer 2017!