Sunday, September 25, 2011

A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith, 1943

Years ago, one of the teachers in the building asked me if I had read A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. When I told her no, she gasped and told me I must. I had forgotten about it but something led me to buy it on Audible so I could listen to it. (The audio was fantastic and I would highly recommend it.)

It wasn't anything like what I had expected. First, for some reason, I thought it was a book for young adults. It is not. I think every person should read this book at some point in their life but I wouldn't suggest this to students until high school.

Then every time, and I mean EVERY time, I mentioned to someone who had read it themselves, they would gasp and get that look on their face of pure love.  Many of them put their hands to their heart while talking. It's THAT kind of book.

I had no idea that it is a classic right up there with my favorite book of all time, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, by Harper Lee. TREE is now in my number two slot. 

It's the writing you notice first, it's just exquisite. I bought a paperback copy so that at some point, I can go back and read it again, highlighting my favorite passages.  A little hard to do when you're listening in the car.

The book starts in 1912, in the tenements of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. It is about the Nolan family, a poor Irish-American family just trying to survive. The young daughter, Francie Nolan, 11, is the main character. The details of everyday life are written in such great detail that you feel as if you are living this life with Francie and you root for her every step of the way.

As I started reading this book, I kept thinking, "Really? This book was written in 1943?" It is such a realistic look at how people lived their lives that I've been searching for information on whether it was ever banned. Betty Smith writes in excruciating detail how hard  life was for this family. She never omitted any of the realities. We get the truth, and sometimes truth is much harder than any fiction from someones imagination. You know in your heart that these incidents were real.

I learned a lot about our country through this book and it never felt "preachy". Horrible things that happened that eventually changed our country for the better. It is one of my favorite ways to learn history, through a great book.

I can now imagine that this had to be like how my mother lived in the coal camps of southern Colorado. Very poor, just squeaking by, but able to enjoy life despite everything. Desperate at times but because of the character of the people,  there was always hope and joy.

I was sad, and cried at times while reading this book but I truly don't think I felt depressed. And I believe that's the joy of this book. Hope.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I'M A SHARK by Bob Shea AWESOME book trailer

From MrSchuReads and Watch Connect Read

Awesome Book People

Being a librarian means I need to keep up with the best books in the business. One of the ways I do this is to go here first every morning:

Anita Silvey's Children's Book-A-Day Almanac

Daily children’s book recommendations and events from Anita Silvey.
Discover the stories behind the children’s book classics . . .
The new books on their way to becoming classics . . .
And events from the world of children’s books—and the world at large

Here is her impressive bio from her site:
Anita Silvey has been the editor of The Horn Book review journal and the publisher of children’s books at Houghton Mifflin. She estimates that she’s read about 125,000 kids books over the past 40 years. When she’s not reading, she teaches courses in children’s literature, writes nonfiction, and travels all over the country talking to parents, teachers, and librarians about the best books for kids.
She not only gives us book titles but amazing extra information about the books and authors. What she packs into this daily site is astounding without being overwhelming. I LOVE ANITA AND HER ALMANAC!
John at one of his many stops on his summer vacation. This one is in Colorado...sort of. =)
Being an elementary librarian also means that I have to promote books that kids will read. So the second place I go every morning is Watch Connect Read This blog is made by John Schumacher, elementary librarian extraordinaire! John gets more done in one day than I do in a month. He's amazing! He keeps winning awards and making the cover of library magazines because he is one of the finest and hardest-working teacher/librarians in the country. I don't think he sleeps much because he lives and breaths children's books and getting children excited about reading. And you will not meet a nicer young man on the planet. We've been featuring his book trailer videos from his website on our morning news at school. The kids LOVE them and the books go flying out of our library faster than Skippy Jon runs to his closet! I LOVE MRSCHUREADS AND HIS BLOG! 
The third place I go to every morning is Twitter. That is where I met these two people and all of the other people I follow. No matter what business you are in, if you want to learn, promote your business, or keep up with news at the second it happens, you MUST be on Twitter. If you haven't tried it for one reason or another, start with something you love and are passionate about and you won't be sorry. I get so many amazing ideas off of Twitter that sometimes it IS overwhelming. But I believe that it has made me a better librarian, teacher, and person. I LOVE TWITTER AND ALL THE PEOPLE THERE THAT HELP ME!