Recent Reading: Breakups, Crash Landings, and Other E-mergencies

The NCTE conference last month was an embarrassment of riches when it comes to great books, and now that my fall travel schedule is winding down, I’ve had a chance to enjoy some of the titles I picked up at that conference. Here are three great ones – for three different age groups.

E-MERGENCY by Tom Lichtenheld and Ezra Fields-Meyer is a language lover’s romp through the alphabet – with every letterish pun you can imagine, played out in the house where the whole crew lives together. (P is in the bathroom in the first illustration…if that gives you a sense of the laugh-out-loud humor.)  When E becomes injured, the other letters must come to her aid and take her place (“Boop! Boop!” go the cars) until she has time to recover. This book is simply so much fun – and a great one to share not just with primary students but older kids as well.

Candace Fleming’s AMELIA LOST: THE LIFE AND DISAPPEARANCE OF AMELIA EARHART may end up being one of my favorite nonfiction titles of all time.  I loved the chapters that alternated back and forth between the search for the missing Amelia Earhart and the life that led her to that last voyage. This is narrative nonfiction at its very best…suspenseful, even though you know full well how it all ends. One more thing I love about Fleming’s research and writing is the way she paints a hero as a real human being, imperfections and all, and while this biography most certainly captures the daring and bravery of one of America’s favorite female adventurers, it also shines a light on her role as a self-promoter and marketer, and on her flaws…including the impulsivity that may  have contributed to her disappearance. Fascinating and compelling, this is simply a story you won’t want to miss.

WHY WE BROKE UP by Daniel Handler, with illustrations by Maira Kalman, is one of those books that makes me wish I had a time machine…so I could travel back 25 years or so and hand a copy to my 16-year-old self. I’m not sure I would have gotten it then – not sure I would have seen what Min found so hard to see about the relationships in her life. But I would have loved the writing anyway. Told through a series of illustrations depicting the stuff in a box that a girl gives back to a boy when they break up, the premise sounds simple – and in many ways, it is. It’s the voice and the heart that really won me over here. And probably, too, the fact that I remember all too well being a teenaged girl who fell for the Eds of the world…following around the wrong boys instead of noticing the Als…the friends who were always there with a hug and an old movie. This book is funny and warm and sad sometimes, too, and I liked it a lot.

Note for teacher friends: This is one of those older YA novels – better for high school than middle school, but for older teens, it could be a fascinating literature circles title, inviting discussions of not only relationships but also the role that artifacts play in our lives and memories.

Up next for me: THE APOTHECARY by Maile Meloy, and after that, THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF JACK by Kelly Barnhill, as soon as the library calls to tell me it’s in.  What’s on your nightstand right now?

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