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

We are also very honored to have been featured in Vamos a Leer’s blog a few days ago. Adam, one of the contributors in the blog, has done such an amazingly-detailed post about everything that we do in GatheringBooks. We are overwhelmed and we want to send our deepest thanks and appreciation to the Vamos a Leer Team.

Most of the contributors are graduate students who are affiliated with the University of New Mexico’s Latin American and Iberian Institute. Thank you so much Ailesha, Adam, Katrina, Keira, Neoshia.

We’re also inviting everyone to join our Check Off your Reading List Challenge 2014.


Click here to sign up. If you have already signed up, here is the April-June linky where you can link up your reviews or updates from your reading list. We are also very excited to share that Pansing Books will be giving away copies of Julian Sedgwick’s Mysterium: The Palace of Mystery to two lucky CORL participants from April-June. So link up your posts now!

Carrie Gelson of There is a Book for That is also hosting #mustreadin2014.


Set in Tehran and Kenya, these two books celebrate that which is “invisible to the naked eye” as the Fox said to The Little Prince.

IMG_2085The Girl with a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran

Written byRita Jahanforuz  Illustration by: Vali Mintzi
Published by: Barefoot Books, 2010
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

While the setting of the book is in Tehran, I realized that the story has the universal elements of the folktale woven into it. The story begins with the orphan girl (Shiraz) whose father had died, leaving her alone with her stepmother and stepsister who mistreated her and made her do all the chores at home.

Things suddenly took a turn for Shiraz when her ball of wool, one of the few things left to her by her mother, fell into a neighbor’s courtyard. The neighbor turned out to be a strange old woman with wild white hair who promised to return Shiraz’ woolen ball under the condition that Shiraz does a few things for her.


The old woman asked Shiraz to destroy all the stuff found in her kitchen, as they are all in a mess. She also asked Shiraz to cut down everything in her neglected garden, then finally asked Shiraz to cut off her dirty hair because she doesn’t need it anymore.


Instead of doing what the old woman wished, Shiraz in her gentle ways did the exact opposite: she cleaned the kitchen, tended the garden, washed and combed the old lady’s beautiful white hair. When she got her woolen ball back and went home, her stepmother and stepsister did not recognize her since she was so beautiful. When they found out what happened to Shiraz, they both connived for woolen balls to also fall in the old neighbor’s house so that the step sister could go in Shiraz’ stead and be as beautiful as she is. How the story ends, I think you can already guess.


The story actually reminded me of folktales that I studied and analyzed from the Philippines (The Magic Lake) and from India (Sukhu and Dukhu), where the wicked get their comeuppance and the pure of heart get their rewards. I especially loved the ending in this particular story as the narrator describes why Shiraz did what she did:

… And everyone remembered Shiraz, too – the girl with a brave heart, who had listened and had understood that when people are sad, they do not always know how to ask for what they need.

My Name is BlessingIMG_2093

Written byEric Walters Illustrated by: Eugenie Fernandes
Published by: Tundra Books, 2013
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

Muthini is a young boy from Kenya who was born with only two fingers on his right hand and no fingers on his left. He lived with his grandmother along with eight other young cousins whose own parents had either died or left. There was always barely enough food for the whole family to eat, but there was lots of love to go around.


Muthini’s name meant ‘suffering’ – a name his mother felt suited him given his physical disfigurement. He knows that other people whisper about him and others are mean enough to say cruel things to him and taunt him. When he asked his grandmother why he was born that way, she replied:

We are each given more of some things and less of others.

When Muthini asked what is it about him that is ‘more,’ his grandmother replied that while other people may have ten fingers, Muthini has a heart larger than others, a head and brain bigger than most, and a greater spirit.


This book is actually based on a real story of a boy named Baraka who lives in the Mbooni Region of Kenya, in East Africa. Find out how Muthini’s name was eventually transformed from misfortune or suffering to ‘blessing’ (Baraka) in this uplifting and inspiring story.

Currently Reading…

I was able to finish reading two novels last week: Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan which I absolutely adored and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, a book that came highly recommended by Iphigene in her review.

This week, I am reading The Shadow Throne by Jennifer Nielsen and still reading Anne Fadiman’s Ex-Libris.





Reading Challenge Update: 66, 67 (25)

*** Video ads other readers may find at the bottom of this post are NOT endorsed by GatheringBooks but are randomly included by WordPress to maintain their site. ***

14 comments on “[Monday Reading] Of Blessings and Brave Hearts and a Huge Thanks to Vamos a Leer!

  1. You finished two books I LOVED – Counting by 7s and Aristotle!! The books you shared, My Name is Blessing and The Girl With a Brave Heart look beautiful!


  2. Great books this week! I definitely need to check out A Taste of Colored Water and Giant Steps to Change the World.

    I absolutely loved My Name is Blessing.


  3. bluestockingthinking

    The title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, triggered an “Oh Yeah!” for me. As in, oh yeah, I’ve heard that’s a good book, but I never got to read it! Same age range as Counting By 7s? Have a great week!


  4. Brunette Librarian

    Have a lovely reading week 🙂 The Brunette Librarian’s Blog


  5. Love the look of A Girl With a Brave Heart – beautiful illustrations! My Name is Blessing was on my list of books to read – now I MUST get it! Congratulations on being featured and recognized for all your great work on this blog! Well deserved, Myra! I do love visiting you here! Have a wonderful week.


  6. I like the art work in The Girl with a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran and I don’t think I’ve read a book set in Tehran before – have to check it out! 🙂


  7. I will have to look for The Girl With a Brave Heart and My Name is Blessing. They both sound very moving.


  8. I bought My Name Is Blessing a few weeks ago after seeing the title featured on Carrie’s blog. I’m saving it for a night when I want to get my son thinking about his past, because his own story is similar in some ways to the character in that book. I started Counting by 7’s and ended up loaning it to a student in Children’s Lit so I will have to get back to it after she’s done. Think I’m going to like it a lot too! Aristotle and Dante was one I couldn’t get into–seemed like a very slow start with too much extraneous detail shared. But I am trying to read all of the Printz Awards, so I am sure I will eventually get to it. Will look forward to your opinion!


  9. We love the way you wrote this post. It is really helpful how you tell the story interspersed with illustrations from the text. Thank you for sharing so many terrific titles with us.


  10. I loved My Name is Blessing and The Girl with a Brave Heart is on my TBR list – looks incredible. I read and so enjoyed the post about your blog. What a lovely tribute.


  11. The books you shared look wonderful, Myra, & I loved the two longer books you finished, too. I’ll look forward to seeing what you think of Ex Libris, which I also enjoyed every much.


  12. You have so many wonderful books here. I have wanted to check out Ex Libris, and your post inspired me to get going. I hope next week is as fruitful as this week for you!!!


  13. What lovely titles – with beautiful art work. Thank you!


  14. Pingback: [Nonfiction Wednesday] Dream Big, Start Small in Katie Smith Milway’s “One Hen: How One Small Loan Made A Big Difference” – Gathering Books

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