Friday, February 22, 2019

The Brainstorm 169: Books for Reading, Writing, and Language Arts

This week we’re looking at books that can be used to help teach language arts (reading, writing, grammar, etc.). There are skills in here for the most beginner of readers and writers, and skills for advanced readers and writers. I’m changing the way I present the books a little bit for this so it won’t take up as much space. I am putting the books under the topic that the book can be used to help teach or does a splendid job of exemplifying. Each book will appear with a summary and an abbreviated list of target readers (who might want to snatch this book up in addition to language arts learners and teachers). If you want to see more of my review and why I list those specific target readers, click on the title of the book. If you’re looking for great language arts resources you may also want to check out Brainstorm 87: Language Arts Lively Lit which includes parts of speech books, punctuation books, and some great simile books, or Brainstorm 123: Excellent Vocabulary & Lyrical Writing which includes more books with excellent vocabulary and amazing writing. I’m not including any of the books that appeared in either of those Brainstorms in today’s blog.

Assonance & Consonance


Earthquack! by Margie Palatini, ill. by Barry Moser
Chucky Ducky feels the ground rumble and quake, and runs to warn the other barnyard animals. Meanwhile, a wily weasel plots ways to fill his tummy using the commotion. And eventually, the truth about the quakes and the weasely plots are uncovered.

  • Target Readers: Art Lovers, Beginning Readers, Chicken Little Rewrite Fans, Humor Fans, Pun Lovers, Picture Book Fans

A Greyhound, a Groundhog by Emily Jenkins, ill. by Chris Appelhans
A celebration of sound with a greyhound and groundhog discovering friendship along the way.

  • Target Readers: Tongue Twister Fans, Read Aloud Fans, Animal Lovers, Picture Book Fans

Nanette's Baguette by Mo Willems
With words that tend to feature the short e sound, Willems tells the story of a little frog, Nanette and the day she is first entrusted to get the daily baguette. If only baguettes were not so tasty, trouble might have been avoided.

  • Target Readers: Beginning Readers, Frog Lovers, Silly Story Fans, Picture Book Fans

Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit by Chris Van Dusen
Randy Riley is absolutely awful at baseball. It isn't that he doesn't try, it's that he gets distracted by the science and misses the ball. When this young genius realizes that there's a giant fireball from space headed to his hometown and no one believes him, he decides to do something about it himself in the day he has to plan.

  • Target Readers: Read Aloud Fans, Retro Setting Fans, STEAM Fans, Scifi Fans, Rhyming Text Lovers, Picture Book Fans

Collaboration in Writing/Creating

Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, ill. by Adam Rex
This is supposed to be a story about Chloe, a little girl who runs into a lion in the woods, but the artist and author have some disagreements on how the story should go and the whole things turns into a big (and hilarious) mess.

  • Target Readers: Anyone Who Has Had to Do a Group Project, Humor Fans, Metafiction Fans, Picture Book Fans

The Element of Surprise

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise by David Ezra Stein
The little red chicken comes home from school announcing to her father that her teacher has told her there's an elephant of surprise in every story and she's supposed to read three stories and find it. Her father thinks it is more likely the teacher said the element of surprise, but they settle in to read some stories and find out which it is.

  • Target Readers: Father-Daughter Story Fans, Humor Fans, Chicken Lovers, Picture Book Fans


The Puppy Invasion by Alastair Heim, ill. by Kim Smith
The people of Strictville have an unprecedented emergency on their hands when puppies start showing up in town.

  • Target Readers: Art Lovers, Dog Lovers, Humor Fans, Picture Book Fans


The Ministry of SUITs series by Paul Gamble
Jack is a pretty normal boy. He's not super smart or dumb. He's not super popular, but he is generally well-liked. There's just one area where Jack stands out. He's super curious. Curious to the extent he gets that thing about cats and curiosity and death quoted to him all the time. After rescuing a man from being mauled by a bear in morning traffic, Jack's curiosity leads him to find the organization the man works for, the Ministry of Strange Unusual and Impossible Things. Becoming an agent for the Ministry of S.U.I.T.s is easier than Jack ever would have imagined. Staying alive as an agent and figuring out how to complete missions... that's a bit more challenging. And it is up to Jack and his partner to figure out what is going on at their school and save several fellow students (and maybe all of Northern Ireland).

  • Target Readers: Humor Fans, Fantasy Fans, Spy-ish/Superhero-ish Story Fans, Middle Grade Readers on up

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl novels by Shannon & Dean Hale
Doreen Green is a pretty typical 14 year old girl, eager to make friends in her brand new neighborhood in New Jersey. She just has one tiny, itsy difference from most 14 year old girls. She has a tail. Oh, and some other squirrel traits, including the ability to communicate with real squirrels. She never lets anyone outside her family see the tail though. The groups at her new school are proving as tough as walnuts to get into, but Doreen does make one friend. Ana Sofía honestly doesn't at first welcome Doreen's olive branches of friendship, but Doreen's knowledge of ASL does break down a little of the wall with a girl who can't hear and then there's Doreen's relentless positive attitude. Doreen also makes some friends among the local squirrels when she destroys some crazy evil traps someone set up around town. When Doreen uses her squirrel powers (and squirrel friends) to help thwart a troublesome gang in the neighborhood, Squirrel Girl gets her first appearance. Doreen always admires the Avengers and other superheroes, but she's never really thought she could be one. Squirrel Girl saves the day a few more times in the coming days, and she gets the attention of local would-be super villain Micro-Manager. He wants to make a name for himself, and what better way to do so than to take down a superhero. Besides, Squirrel Girl has already annoyed him by messing with his rodent traps around town. Can Squirrel Girl really save the day, or is she just a girl with a tail?

  • Target Readers: Superhero Fans, Humor Fans, Squirrel Lovers, Middle Grade/Young Adult Readers

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl series by Ryan North, ill. by Erica Henderson, et al
Squirrel Girl aka Doreen Green is off to college majoring in computer science. Can a mutant secretly superhero girl have a normal college life? That's still to be seen. Doreen can hardly make it through orientation without having to duck out to save the world from Galactus and (with the help of Tippy-Toe and other squirrel friends) stop a bank robbery. She, her roommate, and her squirrel friends help save the day over and over again in this series.

  • Target Readers: Superhero Fans, Humor Fans, Squirrel Lovers, Computer Geeks, Graphic Novel Fans, Psychology Fans, Middle Grade/Young Adult Readers

Foreshadowing/Prediction Practice

Ben Franklin’s in My Bathroom (History Pals, #1) by Candace Fleming, ill. by Mark Fearing
Nolan's summer is pretty humdrum. His dad has moved away to London and his parents are getting a divorce. His mom has serious writer's block, and it's up to him to keep his little sister Olive occupied. But when a mysterious package arrives for Nolan, their humdrum summer suddenly gets much more eventful. After they fiddle with it a little, the strange box with H.H. on it makes some flashes and suddenly Ben Franklin is standing in the living room. Yep, that Ben Franklin. Nolan is immediately trying to figure out how to send Ben back to the past. But Olive is thrilled to show Ben Franklin all the wonders the 21st century has to offer, and Mr Franklin's curiosity is quickly getting the better of him. Before he knows it, Nolan is chasing Ben Franklin and Olive all over town trying to prevent a major catastrophe and figure out how to get Mr Franklin back to his proper time. While most of the book is normal text, it contains flashbacks of Ben’s past in graphic novel format and the book ends with hints of what historical figure is coming to visit them next.

  • Target Readers: Ben Franklin Studiers/Inventor Fans, Time Travel Fans, Humor Fans, Graphic Novel Fans, Reluctant Readers, Middle Grade Readers

If You Want to Bring a Piano to the Beach, Don't! by Elise Parsley
Magnolia is headed to the beach with her mom and two siblings. Her siblings are bringing things like boats and balls, she wants to bring the piano. Her mom warns her not to lose it, and they head off to the beach. Of course, things do not go as planned, and Magnolia realizes what a horrible idea it was to bring her piano to the beach.

  • Target Readers: Humor Fans, Beach Goers, Picture Book Fans

Homophones, Homonyms, and Homographs

All Paws on Deck (Haggis and Tank Unleashed, #1) by Jessica Young, ill. by James Burks
Haggis and Tank are two dogs with grand imaginations. To beat boredom they climb aboard their pirate ship and let loose their imaginations on a grand pirate adventure.

  • Target Readers: Pun Lovers, Dog Lovers, Imaginative Readers, Pirate Story Fans, Lower Grade Readers

Good Night, Good Knight by Shelley Moore Thomas, ill. by Jennifer Plecas
A knight on watch responds to various roars he hears, and finds some rather surprising requests from three little dragons on the other end of those roars.

  • Target Readers: Bedtime Story Fans, Sweet Story Fans, Dragon & Knight Lovers, Beginning Readers, Prediction Challenge Seekers, Adjective Admirers, Leveled Reader Fans

When I Was Small by Sara O’Leary, ill. by Julie Morstad
A little boy asks his mother to tell him a story about when she was small. Mother has a little fun, purposefully misunderstanding him and instead of telling him tales of her childhood tells him of extraordinary imaginary adventures she had when she was a tiny person.

  • Target Readers: Art Lovers, Imaginative Story Fans, Picture Book Readers

Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, ill. by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
Say hello to some humorous homographs. Each page features an animal (or small human) that is the noun version of a word acting out the verb form of their name. Yaks yak, parrots parrot, etc. The back of the book includes some linguistic history.

  • Target Readers: Humor Fans, Animal Lovers, Word Play Fans, Word History Fans, Picture Book Readers

Idioms/Figures of Speech

More Parts by Tedd Arnold
A boy becomes increasingly worried as he hears his parents, neighbors, teachers, and friends say things about his body coming to pieces. Broken hearts, cracking skin, giving up's worrying stuff! Eventually, his parents explain that these phrases are just figures of speech and he doesn't need to worry.

  • Target Readers: English Language Learners, Humor Fans, Picture Book Readers

You’re Pulling My Leg: 400 Human Body Sayings from Head to Toe by Pat Street & Eric Brace, ill. by Eric Brace
Idioms, figures of speech, and other weird sayings of the English language that are body-related are presented with funny literal illustrations and actual meanings. The book is organized by body part.

  • Target Readers: English Language Learners, Humor Fans, Word History Fans, Middle Grade Readers on up


Migrant by Maxine Trottier, ill. by Isabelle Arsenault
A little girl who is part of a family of migrant workers tries to explain how she feels about her life through a series of metaphors comparing herself to animals that migrate. There’s more information in the back of the book about a real group of Canadian Mennonites who migrate from Mexico to the US and Canada for work and speak Low German.

  • Target Readers: Art Lovers, Empathy Builders, Unique Culture Studiers, Picture Book Readers


Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart, ill. by Steve Jenkins
A survey of different animals that make grunts, barks, squeals, whines, growls, bellows, and laughing sounds. Each animal is labeled and gets a short paragraph about the noises it makes and under what conditions.

  • Target Readers: Animal Lovers, Curious Readers, Nonfiction Picture Book Readers

The Noisy Garage by Dennis R. Shealy, ill. by Mike Yamada
This garage is a busy place, fixing up cars and trucks with all sorts of problems.

  • Target Readers: Motor Vehicle Fans, Animal Lovers, Picture Book Readers

Overall Writing Skills

Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble by Nick Bruel
Bad Kitty, author Nick Bruel, and Uncle Murray help readers get to know the parts of a story and how to write a great book.

  • Target Readers: Humor Fans, Cat Lovers, Future Writers, Graphic Novel Fans, Lower Grade & Middle Grade Readers

Little Red Writing by Joan Holub, ill. by Melissa Sweet
Little Red is a pencil learning about writing stories. She sets out to write an adventure and does just that, meeting some helpful parts of speech as she struggles to create a good plot and make her story flow. Oh, and she better watch out because there is something trying to get her.

  • Target Readers: Fairytale Rewrite Fans, Adventure Story Fans, Future Writers, Picture Book Readers

One Day, the End: Short, Very Short, Shorter-Than-Ever Stories by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, ill. by Fred Koehler
A collection of 2 to 4 page stories that use minimal text and illustrations that must be carefully examined to understand the full story.

  • Target Readers: Future Writers, Art Lovers, Picture Book Readers

Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon
It's time to write stories at school, and Ralph has major writer's block. He can't seem to think of anything to write. With the help of his friend Daisy and encouragement of his teacher and other classmates though, Ralph finally finds his writing voice.

  • Target Readers: Future Writers (& Struggling Writers), School Story Fans, Picture Book Readers

Parts of Speech

Wordplay by Adam Lehrhaupt, ill. by Jared Chapman
Introduces Noun, Verb, Interjection, Adjective, and Adverb as characters in the story. Verb does things. Noun just is. But Verb gets jealous of Noun, until she realizes they are better working together. Interjection, Adjective, and Adverb provide commentary throughout the adventure.

  • Target Readers: Teamwork Story Fans, Language Arts Learners, Picture Book Readers

Plot Diagramming 

Max the Brave by Ed Vere
Max is a kitten. A kitten who prefers the title of brave rather than cute. To prove his bravery he will chase a mouse...if he can find out what a mouse is. Max goes around asking the various animals if they've seen Mouse, they point him along the way and eventually he thinks he's found a Mouse. But is the Mouse really a mouse? Recommended for plot diagramming examples because the plot is simple and the crisis moment is obvious.

  • Target Readers: Animal Lovers (especially Cat Lovers), Humor Fans, Cute Story Fans, Picture Book Readers

Research Process

Ain’t Nothin’ But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry by Scott Reynolds Nelson with Marc Aronson
Nelson shares how he was researching the men who worked on the railroad, and that led him to start looking for the real John Henry. There were enough details consistent throughout the various version of the song that suggested people were singing about a real man. He shares about his research process and what he eventually uncovered about a man who worked the railroad named John Henry.

  • Target Readers: History Buffs, Real Mystery Fans, Music Lovers, Researchers, Middle Grade & Young Adult Readers on up

Noodleheads series by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton, & Mitch Weiss, ill. by Tedd Arnold
Mac and Mac are noodles. They also aren't very bright and take things a bit literally. In their graphic novel misadventures they do things like try to figure out a way to avoid making their beds, they try to gather firewood and then wonder if their friend can see the future, or try to go fishing. In the front or back of each book is extensive information about folklore featuring fools (aka noodleheads) from around the world similar to the stories featured in each book.

  • Target Readers: Folklore Fans, Silly Story Fans, Graphic Novel Fans, Lower Grade Readers


Builders & Breakers by Steve Light
Two children follow their father to a construction site to give him his lunch. They observe all sorts of things going on at the site, things being built, things being broken, diggers going down, and cranes going up.

  • Target Readers: Readers Learning to Compare/Contrast, Construction/Demolition Fans, Beginning Readers, Picture Book Readers


The Perfect Dog by Kevin O’Malley
A little girl tries to decide which kind of dog would be perfect as her new pet.

  • Target Readers: Dog Lovers, Families about to Adopt a Dog, Picture Book Readers

We are Growing! (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading, #2) by Laurie Keller with Mo Willems
Gerald & Piggie are reading a book about several blades of grass. Each blade is growing, but each one grows differently. One is the tallest, one is the crunchiest, and one is the silliest...but something is coming that will put them all back on the same level.

  • Target Readers: Readers Celebrating Unique Gifts & Talents, Humor Fans, Beginning Readers, Picture Book Readers


Pocket Full of Colors: the Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire by Amy Guglielmo & Jacqueline Tourville, ill. by Brigette Barrager
A picture book biography of Mary Blair, artist and Disney animator who is known for her vibrant, color-filled illustrations.

  • Target Readers: Classic Disney Fans, Art Lovers, Strong Women Story Fans, Picture Book Biography Fans, Nonfiction Picture Book Fans

The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds
Some people collect rocks or stamps or art. Jerome collects words. He loves basking in their sound and look. But then Jerome finds something even better than collecting words...stringing them together and giving them away.

  • Target Readers: Beginning Readers, Fans of Kindness Stories, Realistic Fiction Fans, Picture Book Readers

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Brainstorm 168: Theodore Roosevelt Tales for President's Day

Next Monday is President’s Day in the US and I’ve had a group of books on a US President just waiting for the right time to become a Brainstorm. President’s Day seems like that right time to share several nonfiction books about former US President Theodore Roosevelt, a man who stood out for his conservation efforts and his love of adventure. He definitely had his flaws (don't we all?), but reading about his life and antics is never dull.

Nonfiction Picture Books

Teedie: the Story of Young Teddie Roosevelt by Don Brown
A very simple picture book introduction to one of the more colorful Presidents of the United States.

Target Readers:

  • Quick Read Fans/Just the Basics Seekers/US History Buffs: This is just the most simple of quick overviews of Theodore Roosevelt's life. (Make sure to read the author's notes in the back for a few more details.) If you're looking for a quick read-aloud for kids with short attention spans or for a short time space before talking about this man in a history class, this would be a good pick. This would also be a good book to read along with a book about the first Teddy bear, or if you were just doing a quick survey of the US Presidents.  And if you want more details on Roosevelt’s life, there are more books recommended in the bibliography.

Camping with the President by Ginger Wadsworth, ill. by Karen Dugan
A picture book retelling of Teddy Roosevelt's visit to the West, especially his time in Yosemite with John Muir.

Target Readers:

  • Unstoppable Roosevelt Story Fans/National Park Fans/John Muir Fans/Conservation History Buffs: I've always liked stories of Theodore Roosevelt and how he probably gave his social planners and security detail ulcers. This fulfills all those desires. It also relates how he helped campaign for more National Parks. A delightful read for nature enthusiasts or history fans. Definitely read this to kids before visiting Yosemite to spark their interest. There's more info on Yosemite, Teddy Roosevelt, and John Muir in the back of the book

Middle Grade Nonfiction

Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt by Jean Fritz, ill. by Mike Wimmer
A chapter book biography of US President Teddy Roosevelt aimed at middle graders.
Note: Some violence.

Target Readers:

  • Quick Read Fans/Biography Lovers/Just the Basics Seekers/History Buffs: This is succinct but sufficient. It tells all of Roosevelt's major accomplishments, introduces his family members, and allows you to get to know the man from his childhood to his death. It is a super quick read, and given that other biographers have been able to spend whole books on just a section of Roosevelt's life, you know this is just the basic facts. But it still gives you a good taste of who Roosevelt was from author to conservationist to soldier to outdoorsman to politician bent on sniffing out corruption. When you think about it, that's quite an amazing piece of work Fritz has accomplished. Anyone can ramble on for pages about someone. Not everyone can consolidate their obvious depth of research into a mere 120-ish pages and keep it engaging for kids. 

Who Was Theodore Roosevelt? by Michael Burgan, ill. by Jerry Hoare
A biography of Theodore Roosevelt for middle grades.
Note: Some violence.

Target Readers:

  • Bully for You Readers/Quick Read Fans/Just the Basics Seekers/Biography Lovers/History Buffs: I picked this up wondering how it would compare to Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt. It turns out the two complement each other quite well. They both cover several things the other missed. This one focuses more on Roosevelt's family life and political highlights. The other one gives more details about his life out West, the tricky spots of his political career, and adventures in war and abroad. So it turns out, if you read both you get a fuller picture of the man and some behind the scenes things about different highlights. Of course, both cover all the biggest events in Roosevelt's career but they do so from different angles. This one is more cut and dry in style, the other is more emotive. They are both about the same length and illustrated. I really can't say which one is a better biography because I think they are pretty equal but better when you read them together.

Young Adult Nonfiction

Death on the River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Amazon Adventure by Samantha Seiple 
Former President Theodore Roosevelt was invited down to Brazil to give a series of lectures. While down there, he was invited to join an expedition to explore and map what was believed to be a new branch of the Amazon, the River of Doubt. Never one to say no to a good adventure, Theodore and his son Kermit joined the expedition led by renowned Brazilian explorer Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon. Instead of finding a nice easy river, though, the expedition encountered numerous difficulties and all of them were in danger of not making it out of the deep jungles of Brazil alive.
Note: Some violence.

Target Readers:

  • Adventure Story Fans/Thrilling True Story Fans/Survival Story Fans/History Buffs/Amazon Exploration Buffs: This expedition is referenced a few times in The Lost City of Z so my interest in it was first piqued when I read that book. This story did not disappoint as an exciting true life exploration/adventure/survival story. It's well-written and outlines a crazy adventure! It is just plain miraculous Theodore Roosevelt lived as long as he did. He must have been part cat or something with all his near-death experiences. (The book does give some background on his life but basically just 2 chapters before jumping into the Rondon/Roosevelt expedition.) Hand this to teens or adults who like exciting and adventurous stories or survival stories, they should eat it up and go away hunting for more info on Amazon exploration or Theodore Roosevelt.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Brainstorm 167: Life-changing Letters

As we look ahead to Valentine's Day approaching next week, I thought it might be appropriate to share some stories of simple acts of neighborly love. I recently read two of these books that both shared stories of how letters exchanged and unsolicited kind gifts helped change lives. It made me think of the other two. All are inspiring stories of how a kind letter and a simple gift at just the right time can change lives. All are true stories and only the picture book is fictionalized a little. All are highly recommended if you're looking for an inspirational true (or based on truth) story about lovingkindness.

Picture Book

Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming, ill. by Stacey Dressen-McQueen
Right after WWII, a young girl named Katje in Olst, Holland receives a package through the Children's Aid Society from a young girl in Indiana named Rosie. When Rosie receives Katje's thank you letter and hears how much the chocolate, socks, and soap meant to Katje and how she shared it with others, Rosie decides to send more. And each time she sends something, Katje shares it with her family and neighbors. What starts with one box for one girl, soon becomes life-saving boxes for a whole town from another town across the Atlantic. The people of Olst are so thankful, but what can they send the kind people in Indiana in return?

Target Readers:

  • Inspirational and Touching Story Fans: Such a heartwarming tale of how kindness can be contagious and the way even small gifts can mean so much to others in need. I love the way that Rosie read between the lines in Katje's thank you letters and figured out what else would help them most. Katje never asked for a thing. 
  • Historical Fiction Fans/Post-WWII Buffs: Make sure you read the author's note about how this story is based on true events. And it would make a good read for those studying or interested in post-WWII history.

Middle Grade Biography

Candy Bomber: the Story of Berlin Airlift’s “Chocolate Pilot” by Michael O. Tunnell
Candy Bomber is a touching story of how one man's small act of kindness grew to bring hope, reconciliation, and joy to many young German children after World War II, and spurred many other allied troops and citizens to also reach out with love and kindness. Filled with original pictures and letters from Lt. Gail Halvorsen's (aka the "Chocolate Pilot") personal collection.

Target Readers:

  • Fans of Inspirational People & Stories of Kindness Restoring Peace: The story focuses on showing how the acts of kindness touched lives on both sides (givers and receivers). Perhaps most touching were the letters from the German children pouring out thanks and love for a man who a few years previously would have been their enemy. Halverson is a great role model, especially since he didn't just do one act of kindness, he has lived a lifestyle of caring for others. The book also shares how he went on to provide the same acts of kindness in many areas of conflict after WWII.
  • WWII & Post-WWII Buffs: Beyond the story of Halvorsen, Mr Tunnell also includes a brief but very well-written and helpful historical summary of WWII and events after for the reader. 

Young Adult Autobiography

I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin Ganda with Liz Welch
In the fall of 1997 two tweens are connected as pen pals through school assignments. Caitlin was a typical American girl living in Pennsylvania who loved to go to the mall. Martin was a boy from Zimbabwe with a brilliant mind but whose family struggled to find the funds to keep him in school. For a few letters the two just conversed on a surface level, but when Caitlin finally realized the dire situation Martin and his family were in, both of their lives changed as Caitlin's eyes were opened to the hurting people of the world and Martin gained a friend willing to invest love and her babysitting money in his future. Eventually, Caitlin's entire family got involved in helping Martin and his family survive the tumultuous recession in Zimbabwe and figuring out how to help Martin come to the States for university.
Click on title to see content notes.

Target Readers:

  • Inspirational & Touching True Story Fans/Those Who Want to Learn More about Life in Recent History Zimbabwe: This is an incredible story, made all the more powerful because it is true. What Caitlin did will not seem like much to teens who are well off, but it made a world of difference for Martin and his family (and even saved some of their lives). I sometimes rolled my eyes at Caitlin's tween and teen drama, but she does mature over the course of the book and ultimately the overall message makes it worth plowing through her teen experience. Hopefully tweens and teens reading this will be inspired to take action themselves, that having their eyes open to how others live in this world will inspire them to see what "little" things they can do will mean the world to someone else. I don't see how you could read this and put it down unmoved. 

Adult Autobiography

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
The first half of the edition I read of this book is the original 84, Charing Cross Road which consists of correspondence between Helene Hanff, a TV script writer in New York City, and a used book store’s staff in London. Over many years of ordering books from this company, she strikes up relationships with several of the staff members and their families through correspondence back and forth. Eventually, she turns the letters into a book which funds the trip to London they've all wanted her to take for ages. And her diaries of this trip to London make up the second half of the book, originally published as The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street.
Click on the title to see content notes.

Target Readers:

  • Quick Read Fans/Lighthearted Read Fans: I devoured this in less than 24 hours. It is a quick read thanks to the epistolary and diary formats. And the topics covered are lighthearted and easy to read.
  • Dry Wit Fans: It took me a little while to catch on to Helene's dry wit in her letters, but once I did I found them very entertaining. 
  • Inspirational Story Fans/Friendship Story Fans: It was amazing how many friends Hanff made in this bookstore just through her letters about ordering books and through her Christmas and Easter gifts she sent them and vice versa. The letters start in the late 1940s, soon after WWII so the Londoners were still under rations and she quickly won their hearts with generous and unsolicited gifts of meat and eggs. It is eye-opening to hear how much her little gifts and letters meant to the Londoners of that time.
  • London Travel Fans/Author Memoir Fans: Her adventures once she got to London and her experience of going from a solitary writer to celebrated writer are most entertaining. As a classic book lover, her tours of London are largely guided by history and literature so it is like a classic book lover's tour of London which was delightful.