IMWAYR

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’re also inviting everyone to join our Award Winning Books Reading Challenge for 2015 (#AWBRead2015)! It’s that time of the year to set new reading goals for the coming year.

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Congratulations to Libby Vine on being the March-April AWB Winner for her review of Snowflake Bentley. Please send your contact details to gatheringbooks (at) yahoo (dot) com to receive your copy of A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond courtesy of Pansing Books.

Here is the sign up page and the May-June linky if you already have reviews up. One randomly-selected participant would receive a copy of Lone Wolf, courtesy of Pansing books.

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Click here to view my announcement post to learn more details.

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We have just launched our new reading theme: Walking the Literary Silk Road – China and the Middle East. Special thanks again to Iphigene for creating this gorgeous poster. She described her creative process for this poster in this fashion:

“The peacock feather has to do with both of the regions’ mythology. The Middle East/Persians call it Simurgh and the Chinese call it Fenghuang. Both creatures are similar to the Phoenix in its bird-like quality and the ‘peacock’ tail. The upper part shows a traditional Islamic tile pattern, while the lower half also shows a traditional Chinese pattern.”

Here are two picturebooks that I thought captured the Chinese and the Middle Eastern experience.

IMG_0708The Camel In The Sun

Written by: Griffin Ondaatje Illustrated by: Linda Wolfsgruber
Published byGroundwood Books: House of Anansi Press, 2013
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

I have been seeing this book make the rounds for quite awhile now, and have been very intrigued by it. Now that we have a China/Middle East reading theme, I deliberately searched for it and found a copy in our public library.

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Set “in the lands East of the Red Sea” this story takes us into a journey of compassion, quiet understanding, and what it means to be tired and alone in the world. The Author’s Note also provides a fairly-detailed account of what inspired the writing of this story (while the author was visiting a family in Sri Lanka) and how this retelling of a hadith (“an account of the Prophet’s words or actions passed from generation to generation”) came into being.

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While the ending of the story felt abrupt for me, it was also a realistic portrayal of life and its many circuitous paths. It also allows space for the reader to draw her own conclusions and imagine how the rest of the camel’s days would be like. A beautiful story that would definitely leave footprints in any reader’s heart.

Red Kite, Blue KiteIMG_0748

Written by: Ji-Li Jiang Illustrated by: Greg Ruth
Published by: Hyperion Books, 2013
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

The setting of this book is during the Chinese Cultural Revolution – a period of unrest and uncertainty. Throughout the story, one is able to have a first-hand feel of this kind of internal turmoil and anxiety from a child’s eyes and through a young child’s voice.

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Tai Shan and his father Baba love to fly kites – they love the feeling of being above but under, neither here nor there, flying free in the skies:

My red kite is small and nimble. Baba’s blue kite is big and strong. Mine follows his, forward and backward, up and down. The kites hop and giggle as they rise and dive, soaring and lunging together. Baba loves telling stories while our kites fly. I laugh and cheer and feel like it’s me up in the clouds, looking down at the dotted houses.

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Things changed when “a bad time” came to their town with people wearing red armbands, smashing signs and tearing into people’s homes. I found the image above particularly striking with the largely monochrome art dotted with streaming bright red and blazing armbands providing a stark contrast to the young boy’s earth tones and bewildered posture.

Tai Shan had to stay with a farmer named Granny Wang in a small village quite close to where Baba’s labor camp was.

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Tai Shan and his Baba was able to communicate to each other through their kites flying in the skies – despite the fact that they are apart from each other. When Baba’s blue kite could not be found in the skies any longer, Tai Shan knew that his father was in grave danger. How the story ended, I shall leave for you to discover.

This book has managed to stir something in me as it provides a snapshot of a father’s love, a young boy’s resilience, and how a child’s innocent eyes remain untainted by a war that he does not recognize as his. The only thing that he knows is that it took his father away from him. Truly a remarkable read.

Currently Reading…

I was able to finish reading Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, a beautiful and heart-wrenching novel-in-verse. I also read two poetry collections (it’s been a poetry kind of week):

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The Flag of Childhood: Poems from the Middle East selected by Naomi Shihab Nye, and Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann.

These are the two books that I am now reading for my two book clubs: Tim Winton’s Eyrie for GatheringReaders at NIE, and The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky for my Saturday-Night-Out with Book-Geeks.

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The Camel In The Sun: Selected for the Middle East Book Award 2014; Selected for the Leserstimmen Prize 2015; Selected for the Austria Children’s Book Prize 2015

Red Kite, Blue Kite:  2013 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People; 2013 Junior Library Guild Selection; 2013-2014 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in the Picture Book

#AWBRead2015 Update: 40 – 41 (35)

9 comments on “[Monday Reading] Of Camels and Kites: “The Camel in the Sun” and “Red Kite, Blue Kite”

  1. Poisoned Apples has been recommended to me a lot recently. I can’t wait to see what titles you’ll share for this theme!

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  2. bluestockingthinking

    You have such cool text sets, I never know what to expect! Have you read Chengli and the Silk Road Caravan? I didn’t care for the story much, but I wonder how it would stack up as part of your text set.

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  3. I just loved The Camel in the Sun and Red Kite, Blue Kite. I thought they had so much to offer kids about both cultures in which they were written. So glad you shared them today.

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  4. Love the new theme… great book selections… 🙂

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  5. Both of these picture books look beautiful. You’ve set my mind spinning thinking about books we have in our library that fit into this theme. Have you read Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine or Chu Ju’s House by Gloria Whelan?

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  6. I am determined to start reading more poetry because I always enjoy it so much when I do. Borrowed a collection by Denise Duhamel from a colleague this morning–excited to start it. Poisoned Apples is sitting on my TBR pile–maybe I need to move it up!

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  7. I fell really hard for GUS AND ME. I so was not expecting a picture book by Keith Richards to move me emotionally.

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  8. Hi Myra,

    We love both of these books – Such powerful stories.
    Best
    Tammy and Clare

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  9. I LOVE your new theme! I do a two-day Silk Route lesson with the kids (reading through John Major’s The Silk Route 7000 miles of History book) as an opener to our Asia unit. Have not heard of Red Kite, Blue Kite, so will definitely check that one out.

    As for your Terry Pratchett questions, I wonder if the problem is that particular book. I haven’t read The Colour of Magic nor any of his books geared purely for adults. The Tiffany Aching series (Wee Free Men is the first) are middle grade/young adult and are so jammed-packed full of delightful descriptions and character insights, that I think you should definitely give it a try and see how it compares!

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