[Monday Reading] Faith, Hope, and Courage in Picture Books and Winner of AWB Reading Challenge for August

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Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

Here are a few of the reviews we have done last week. We are also inviting everyone to join our Award-Winning-Books Reading Challenge. We hosted the AWB Challenge last year and we are thrilled to be able to host it again. Do sign up if you are looking for exciting reading challenges with monthly book prizes. Click on the titles/images below to be taken to our blog posts.

Congratulations to Vera of In Between Covers for her review of A Storm of Swords. Vera, please email gatheringbooks (at) yahoo (dot) com for your mailing address and contact information so that Pansing Books can send your book prize.

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[Photo Journal/A-Z Photo Challenge] I is for Island of Boracay

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Loss, Heartbreak, and Coming of Age in Film Adaptations

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[Poetry Friday] Margaret Atwood’s Postcards

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Further Reflections on Coming of Age in Classics

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[Photo Journal/ Weekly Photo Challenge] Sea

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[BHE 68] More Book Buys from the Philippines, Kinokuniya in Singapore, and Belated Library Loot

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This is the last week for our bimonthly theme on Loss, Heartbreak, and Coming of Age. Rather than focus on death, dying, loss, and heartache – I thought that I would much rather end our theme with a lighthearted rather than a somber mood. Picture books that celebrate radiance, light, courage, faith, and hope; beautifully-illustrated books that shine and give strength to the downtrodden.

IMG_8312If You Listen

Story ByCharlotte Zolotow
Illustrated by: Stefano Vitale
Publisher: Running Press, 2002
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

Among the three books I am sharing with you this week, If You Listen is the only one with a distinct sense of loss and longing. There is a father-shaped empty space in this young girl’s life, and she asks her mother a question that perhaps a lot of people with loved ones far away may be struggling with:

“How do you know if someone far away is loving you?”

The question makes perfect sense, the doubt as thick as a butter spread on toast.

“If I can’t see him, or hear him, or feel his hugs, how can I know he loves me when he isn’t here?”

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And the mother explains that there are things one does not see or hear but you know that they exist anyway: the clanging of bells from beyond the clouds, the darkness enfolding you from your bedroom window, dogs barking from the hills far away. These are distinct sounds or even perhaps faraway scents that remind one of another’s presence (or glaring absence for that matter). There is poetry in this book that will make the reader catch her breath as one imagines a petal falling on a lonely coffee table, or the quiet thump of an apple falling in the grass.

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It is a reminder to listen to faraway voices – and the faith that sustains the promise of distant love and thoughts that bind.

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Story By: Caroline Woodward
Pictures by: Julie Morstad
Publisher: Simply Read Books, 2010
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

The title of this book and the gorgeous illustrations are enough to make me grab this book from off the library shelves. While it does not technically fit our loss and heartbreak theme, I love how this little girl’s fear, her trepidation, her doubts are gradually overcome by “singing away the dark.” There are multiple layers in this book that can be unpacked – and may actually be used in multiple ways to speak of courage amidst darkness.

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The story is based from the author’s experience of walking a mile to her school bus stop and the darkness that surrounds her as she squeezes between the wires and peers at shifting and hiding shapes between the trees.

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She soon realized, however, that when she sings: “the darkness disappears.” And so while the winds come howling, she sings to the “Wild Beast Valley”; while there are still unfamiliar creaks and groans about her, she sings to the quiet sentinel-trees:

I sing for sun, I sing for strength, I sing for warm toes, too.

It is such a simple yet heartfelt book that can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. It speaks of spirit and spunk drawn from music only one can hear. It talks of a melody that fills the heart despite the raging cold outside. It is courage felt through a child’s quiet refrain.

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In Caroline Woodward’s website, she shared how she came to write about the book and her own experience walking through the darkness.

IMG_8137No One But You

Story ByDouglas Wood
Pictures by: P. J. Lynch
PublisherCandlewick Press, 2011
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

I have always been in awe of PJ Lynch’s artwork – and this book is no exception. With almost life-like illustrations, they seem more like textured photographs. In No One But You, the reader is able to celebrate the “many important things” that make one distinct from everyone else. Douglas Wood takes us through rain puddles and tree tops and sparkles of morning sun on water to remind us of how each one experiences the joy of nature in distinct ways:

No one but you can smell the moist earth 

after a rain shower,

discovering just the way it smells to you,

or catch the fragrance of a tulip

or an apple blossom

or even a dandelion.

IMG_8142As we talk about loss and heartbreak for the past two months, this book is a beautiful reminder of how our unique footprints can leave indelible marks that would stay on despite our absence. It is felt through our gaze in the stars, our faraway smiles, and the tinkling bell of our laughter that echoes from a tunnel of treasured memories. Marjorie Coughlan from PaperTigers has also reviewed this gorgeously-illustrated book here.

Currently Reading…

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Still reading A Feast for Crows by George RR Martin. Now finished reading a quarter of the book. Way too many characters, really. I get confused. It’s good that there’s a Glossary that provides more information about the characters’ genealogy. Otherwise, I would have been hopelessly lost.

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Singing Away The Dark: A 2012 Canadian Children’s Book Centre starred “Best Book” picture book category!
Finalist for the 2011 Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Prize.
A 2010-2011 Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator’s Award Finalist.
Nominated for the 2011 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award (Picture Book category).
Nominated for the 2011-2012 Chocolate Lily Award (Picture Book category).

AWB Reading Challenge Update: 39 (35)

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Read-a-Latte Challenge Update: 180, 181, 182 (150)

11 Comments on [Monday Reading] Faith, Hope, and Courage in Picture Books and Winner of AWB Reading Challenge for August

  1. I know the book, No One But You, & do love it, but it seems that I must find Singing Away The Dark. It looks beautiful, and I love Charlotte Zolotow, so have noted that as well. Thank you Myra-the theme has been quite marvelous this time. Hope your first semester has begun well!

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  2. Singing Away the Dark is a book people keep raving about but I still hadn’t gotten around to reading. It’s so sad when customers come in requesting books about loss but I’m glad I can recommend some titles. Have a great reading week!

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  3. Hi Myra, What a lot of books you read. I am particularly interested Singing Away the Dark. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Okay, Singing Away the Dark is now officially on my TBR list. :-)

    City Dog, Country Frog was on our state list last year, and it was so interesting to see a totally different side to Mo Willems. When I’d ask the younger students at the end what they think happened to the frog, almost no one said that he’d died–he’d gone to visit his mom, or he moved, etc. Interesting.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Natalie @Biblio Links

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  5. If You Listen sounds really good! :)

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  6. Lots of great looking books here! I’m especially enchanted by Singing Away the Dark–lovely illustrations! I also saw your piece on the Coming of Age titles . . . I happened to hear a piece on NPR about Salinger and the new book and documentary coming out about him. Fascinating guy and I learned a lot about him and the book: http://www.npr.org/2013/09/01/217786593/the-private-war-of-j-d-salinger

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  7. I love Singing away the Dark! An absolute favourite title. Morstad lives here in Vancouver. She is so talented as an illustrator. If you Listen looks beautiful. I am going to look for it. Thank you for sharing these beautiful books.

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  8. Oh how I love to see all of these picture books. I am not exposed to them nearly enough.

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  9. beckyshillington // September 3, 2013 at 4:55 am // Reply

    Thanks so much for all of the great recommendations, Myra! Wonderful job!!

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  10. I do love and admire the way you harvest collections of golden picture books for us to savor, Myra – and Zolotow is a true master. So glad to see the Giver included in your coming of age list, where it truly belongs.

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  11. Thank you for this list of amazing books. I read Singing in the Dark when it first came out but your description reminded me of how lovely it is so I’m going to revisit it! I love Julie Morstad – her latest “How To” is a whimsical delight! Also love Douglas Wood and Charlotte Zolotow! Thanks Myra!

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