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Summer Reading with My 3 Nieces: Numbering All the Bones and Chinese Cinderella (and Read Harder Task 11)

13 Sep

I realize that summer may be over as Labor Day has come and gone and school is back in session, but I am holding on to summer until Autumn Equinox on Friday September 22. That means I have a little more than a week to finish the last book of my three nieces’ summer reading assignments.

Click here to read about the books my eldest niece, a high school freshman, and I read over the summer.

Next up is my middle niece, who I introduced in this post about media inspired by Hurricane Katrina. Alyssa is now a seventh grader who loves Pokemon and designed her own video game that included her pet dachshund in summer camp.

Her summer reading assignment was Numbering All the Bones by Ann Rinaldi (fiction) and Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah (nonfiction). The titles were assigned by her school for all rising seventh graders.

The books were similar in that the protagonists are young girls who have lost their mothers and are shunned by their fathers and face abuse. I thought these were horrifying themes to assign to twelve year olds to read over summer (says me, who likes to read about disaster and crime), but the books do offer much for children to learn and think about.

Numbering All the Bones by Ann Rinaldi

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The story follows thirteen-year-old Eulinda who is a house slave in Georgia in 1864. Her mother is deceased. Her father is the master of her plantation who won’t acknowledge her, and she is abused by his wife. Eulinda is separated from her two brothers–one was sold to another plantation and the other is a Union Soldier.

I believe this book was assigned because of the Civil War-era setting, and the discussion of slavery, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the dynamics between the Union and the Confederacy then. There is even a sly reference in the text to a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings.

When assigning this book Alyssa’s teachers probably didn’t foresee last month’s violence in Charlottesville and the resultant discussion of whether or not statues of Confederate figures are still relevant in the twenty-first century. I feel these difficult current events can be connected to the book in a thoughtful class lesson and discussion.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t like this book. Historical fiction is not my cup of tea. Alyssa didn’t like it either. But it was a well-written book with an interesting heroine, and a good historical fiction choice for tweens.

Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah

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This book starts off tragically: Adeline’s mother dies shortly after she is born in 1937. Her family blames her for her mother’s death, and she faces unspeakable abuse by her cruel stepmother, her siblings, and her father.

Her father remarried after Adeline’s mother passed, and had two children who were treated much better than Adeline and her other siblings. The step-mother, definitely wicked per the Cinderella trope, seemed to enjoy mistreating and tormenting young Adeline. There is one particularly awful scene that involves Adeline’s pet duckling.

Readers will learn about China’s history during and after World War II, which is relevant as the country’s profile has risen in recent years. There is an introduction to the Chinese language, with characters interspersed throughout the text. The Cinderella theme makes the book familiar to readers of all ages.

Despite the grimness, I did enjoy this book. It is written beautifully and the story is compelling. Alyssa said the book is “really sad”. Some lingering questions I have about this book are if Adeline forgave her siblings for the terrible way they treated her. She has a memoir called Falling Leaves that I will add to my to-read list.

Reading this book completed the Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location task for the 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge I’m following. You can read more about my Read Harder journey at this link.

I have one more book to read with my little niece, and will report back once I finish it. Hopefully I can get it done before summer officially ends on September 22!

Has your summer reading extended into September? When does summer end for you?

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

 

The Last Books Before Kindergarten: A Few More Recommendations from my Son and I before September

4 Aug

I have written two previous posts (click here and here) about the fun and important campaign 1000 Books Before Kindergarten which encourages parents to read to newborns, infants, and toddlers to foster an early love of reading as well as an important bonding opportunity.  Of course grandparents, older siblings, cool aunts, and other caregivers are also encouraged to help meet the goal that before Kindergarten every child has 1,000 books read to them.  As we get ready for my son’s first day of Kindergarten this autumn, we continue to read together; one of the best parts of my day is reading him books before bed.  Several books from the previous post continue to be favorites, but here are several more that we’d like to recommend.  Now is the perfect time to check them out and sign up your child(ren) and yourself for our summer reading challenge (hobokenlibrary.beanstack.org) where reading doesn’t just entertain and educate, but also wins you prizes!

Penguin Problems by Jory John and illustrated by Lane Smith

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You may have heard of First World Problems, well they are nothing compared to penguin’s problems.  Jory John’s Penguin Problems look at the troublesome annoyance that plague a grumpy little penguin.  The message about focusing on the larger positives in one’s life instead of minor daily aggravations is one that I find important to be reminded of not just for my son, but for myself as well.

The Secret Life of Pets by Dennis R. Shealy

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The Secret Life of Pets is my son’s favorite book right now.  We have to read it every night, and as we start him on his journey of reading himself, he is beginning to pick out sight words and sometimes will attempt to read the book to me.  The book is based on the popular animated movie and in my opinion is better since it focuses on the best part the cute and quirky animals that live in a New York City apartment building and what they do when their owners are away, and leaves out the convoluted rescue plot that makes up the second half of the film.  My son’s favorite pets are the zaftig cat Chloe and the hyper Pomeranian Gidget.

Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle

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Another book on almost nightly rotation continues to be the Very Hungry Caterpillar, but Tommy is also a fan of other books by Eric Carle as well.  There are many books that emphasize the special bond between moms and their children, but this is the perfect choice for all the dads out there.  As Mister Seahorse swims around waiting for his own babies to emerge from his pouch he encounters the other paternal caregivers of the fish world including Mr. Tilapia, who shelters his eggs in his mouth.  Mr. Seahorse also swims right past some camouflaged fish as well who are depicted “hiding” behind clever translucent foregrounds.  This is often Tommy’s choice for times his dad reads to him.

The Night Gardener by Terry and Eric Fan

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Who is creating the beautiful topiary around town?  My son loves a good mystery and has a good heart so he can relate to the little boy in the story who not only finds out who the mysterious man who is creating the arboreal masterpieces is, but also helps him with his work in this charming picture book by the Fan brothers.

Nanette’s Baguette by Mo Willems

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The quirky rhymes and bright colors are enjoyable fun as a cute little frog living in France attempts to run her very first errand with tongue twisting hilarity in Nanette’s Baguette, a recent work by the always popular Mo Willems.  My son is a fan of both fresh made baguettes as well as this silly story.

The Man in the Moon and The Sandman: The Story of Sanderson Mansnoozie by William Joyce (Books 1 and 2 Guardians of Childhood Series)

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The Guardians of Childhood Series has been adapted as animated feature, but even more engaging are the original stories.  The first two in the series, The Man in the Moon and The Sandman were gifts from my artistically inclined Aunt and Uncle and the illustrations are gorgeous.  The Man in the Moon tells the story of the very first guardian of childhood who started out as a little orphan on the moon.  My favorite of the two The Sandman tells the story of the guardian who brings children good dreams.

The Gingerbread Man by Nancy Nolte and illustrated by Richard Scarry

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There are many types of literary gingerbread men to choose from including The Library Gingerbread Man (Dotti Enderle), The Ninjabread Man (C.J. Leigh), or Gingerbread Baby (Jan Brett), but my son frequently devours the classic Golden Book about the constantly on the run version that is the same one my mom would read to me as a child and was one of her favorites to have her mom read to her.  This is one of the early books illustrated by Scarry, author/illustrator of the popular Busytown series.

Biscuit Loves School by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

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My son was introduced to the Biscuit series about an energetic little puppy by my mom (aka Meme to my son) and any time he sleeps over Meme and Pepe’s house she would have to read him a Biscuit book before bed. He has started working to read a few at home to himself.  You may want to start your children with Hello, Biscuit which introduces the little pup and explains how he got his name.  If your little one is getting ready for the first day of kindergarten or preschool have them check out Biscuit Loves School.

The Popcorn Book written and illustrated by Tomie de Paola

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The Popcorn Book was a baby shower gift from a family friend who enjoyed reading it to her own son. It turned out to be a great choice since my son LOVES popcorn and finds science and history interesting so this classic work which discusses the background of popcorn is his favorite nonfiction book on our rotation.  Also check out one of my favorite fictional picture books from my childhood Popcorn by Frank Asch which features a bear’s party overrun by popcorn when all the guests bring some to share.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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