Holly Valentine | November 2021
C.A.T.C.H. a Spark!
November is an interesting month – a bit disjointed, don’t you think? On one hand, it is leading us into the most magical time of the year, when we all celebrate our families, friends and cultures. Yet, it’s also a month that encourages reflection as the vibrancy of the summer and fall start to give way to the darkness of the winter. But in that darkness, we eternally find hope. It is the visionaries that will carry us forward, moving towards brighter times. This month’s books provide a glimpse into both Novembers: the creative, celebratory side, and the darker, reflective side. Both with many beloved and cherished authors who have brought us brand new publications in the recent past.
The incomparable author of the cherished novel, Wonder, is back with her second novel, Pony. This one is completely different, yet filled with wonder, hope and love, though not always in straightforward ways. Twelve-year old Silas finds himself alone after a troubling experience with only a pony and his companion, Mittenwool, who happens to be a ghost. This book is not jsut for young readers (middle school), but adults as well.
It will spark important conversations about the memories we carry with us, the truths we tell and the truths we hold, and the power of love to bind people together across time. This is one that will stick with you for a bit. It makes you think, and you can’t help but realize that Palacio is a master storyteller and one who can craft characters that we can’t help but be inspired by, despite their challenging odds. Written by R.J. Palacio.
With Veteran’s Day providing so many teachable moments this month, there is one story you might not be aware of. It’s the one of Maya Lin, the artist-architect who created the renowned Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. As a child, Maya always loved studying space, and experimented with light and line. Many details about the creation of art are addressed here, including naming art and symbolism. This is a simple yet powerful look at the mind behind one of the nation’s most moving memorials. Written by Jeanne Walker Harvey.
Sticks and Stones
There likely isn’t a teacher out there who doesn’t have a favorite Patricia Polacco story. Grounded in real stories, often from her past, Polacco is a master mentor author. She brought us this new tale in 2020, based on her own childhood memory of one year in elementary school. Kids know when they are a little bit different, and there us nothing better than finding a group of friends who are able to stick together despite the bullies that exist and the pressures to be like everyone else. Trisha and her friends are creative, talented, and march to the beat of their own drums.
This is a story that might be one of her most heartfelt (which is saying a lot) as it celebrates uniqueness and recognizes that it is our differences that make us special. There’s nothing better than when those differences help you soar to new heights and shine above everyone else. Rise to the top and stay focused on yourself and your strengths, no matter what they might be. Written by Patricia Polacco.
A brand new novel from favorite author illustrator Brian Selznick, and one that is quite different from his others. Written during the pandemic, at a time when life seemed messy, this book justifies the thought that thinking is messy and that’s okay. Reading can be messy too – especially when we think about it. This is a text that will allow you and your students to have very important conversations. There may not be right answers to those conversations, but they will allow you to process, be creative, and grapple with big ideas and topics such as time, dreams, memory, death, love, and friendship.
Told in many very short stories, this book would be perfect for a read aloud. It will provide you the opportunity to watch your students process. Be sure to keep a chart of thoughts and connections, to help everyone grapple with the meaning and interpretations of this new novel. Written by Brian Selznick.
Balloons Over Broadway
We can’t go through November without talking about the creativity and sense of wonder that comes with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! Tony Sarg was a master puppeteer who helped to create the parade as we know it today. Told in a way that will get students curious to dig deeper and learn more about the craft of puppetry, the illustrations are also a study of their own, as author Melissa Sweet uses multi-media collage to create illustrations that leap off the page. Be sure to do this one with your students just before the Thanksgiving vacation, so that they keep thinking creatively when they aren’t in your classroom as they are watching the parade! Written by Melissa Sweet.
The Amazing Trail of Seymour Snail
It’s not always easy to find beginning chapter books that also have great stories. This one is both! Seymour Snail tends to “live in his shell” when it comes to sharing his artistic ability. He wants nothing more than to have a job in an art gallery, but that’s not easy when you are both shy and a slow mover. Filled with puns that will have both students and adults laughing (like the spider who has a big job he’s working on – “the world wide web”), this is a perfect book with a great life lesson for your students moving into chapter books. Everyone will be rooting for Seymour! Written by Lynn Hazen.
Reflecting is a key component of the creative process, and also so important for readers as they comprehend stories. This is the perfect month to find rich, powerful books that will help you do that through meaningful conversations. All it takes is one Spark to get the creative thoughts flowing.
Don’t be left in the dark – check out the previously published CATCH a Spark series!