Books That Bring the Blues

From the Desk of Deb, May 2017

Books That Bring the Blues
by Deborah B. Ford

Last year while I was reading and talking about books, I noticed a pattern. Books with blue covers often made me reach for a tissue or two before the book ended. Think about it. What did you read last year that got your right in the heart? How about a display of blue books: Books that Bring the Blues. Here’s a short list

GRIMES, Nikki. Garvey’s Choice. 120p. Wordsong. 2016.
ISBN 9781629797403. JLG Category: A Intermediate Readers (Grades 3–5).

Garvey deals with bullying and discovering a love of music. Garvey’s father wants him to be on a sports team. When Garvey gets a solo he is worried his father will be disappointed. Isn’t it nice to see a father who just wants his son to be happy for a change?

LIN, Grace. When the Sea Turned to Silver. 384p. Little, Brown. 2016. ISBN 9780316125925. JLG Category: A+ Intermediate Readers Plus (Grades 3–5).

The Tiger Emperor is conscripting all the men of the mountain villages to build the Vast Wall surrounding the kingdom. But when they reach Pinmei’s village, they also take her grandmother, the Storyteller. In order to save her, Pinmei and her friend Yishan embark on a voyage to find the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night—the only thing the Emperor will trade for a prisoner’s freedom. The power of storytelling is woven into this amazing adventure to rescue Pinmei’s grandmother.

SWEET, Melissa. Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White. illus. by author. 176p. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2016. ISBN 9780544319592. JLG Category: BE Biography Elementary Plus.

Didn’t the story of E.B. White just fill your heart? Wouldn’t you liked to sip a cup of coffee and just chat with him? And I definitely need a poster of the quote: “Hang onto your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.” And rereading his stories is a must.

RHODES, Jewell Parker. Towers Falling. illus. by Andrea Vandergrift. 240p. Little, Brown. 2016. ISBN 9780316262224.
JLG Category: CE City Elementary (Grades 2–6).

Three kids learn about an historical event that happened just across the river from their school. It’s 9/11. What else do I need to say?

NOLAN, Janet. Seven and a Half Tons of Steel. illus. by Thomas Gonzalez. 36p. Peachtree. ISBN 9781561459124. JLG Category: NE+ Nonfiction Elementary Plus (Grades 2–6).

I still can’t booktalk it without choking up when the ship comes back into the NY harbor. This picture book is a great partner for Towers Falling.

PECK, Richard. The Best Man. 232p. Dial. 2016. ISBN 9780803738393. JLG Category: B+ Upper Elementary and Middle Plus (Grades 5–7).

School Library Journal said, “Here, the Newbery Award-winning author explores what it means to love and what it means to be a man.” I laughed. I cried. Didn’t you?

GRIFFIN, Paul. When Friendship Followed Me Home. 256p. Dial. 2016. ISBN 9780803738164. JLG Category: C Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9).

So the book is light and dark blue. And there’s a dog on the cover. By the time I got to this book, I had already discovered the pattern of blue. When the dog shows up, I was really worried. It turns out the dog is the least of Ben’s worries. (And no. The dog doesn’t die.) Ben’s optimism in spite of all the angst in his world certainly lessens your own worries, while giving you hope that all will be well.

HOGE, Robert. Ugly : A Memoir. 200p. Viking. 2016. ISBN 9780425287750. JLG Category: PGM PG Middle Plus (Grades 5–8).

Spoiler Alert: The ending. What a surprise. Pair this book with the modern classic, Wonder by R. J. Palacio. Hoge’s story is the real thing.

LENZ, Kristin Bartley. The Art of Holding On and Letting Go. 262p. Elephant Rock. 2016. ISBN 9780996864916. JLG Category: PBH Paperback High (Grades 9 & Up).

Tragedy strikes at the beginning, so I’m thinking, “I’m good here.” The resolution takes me on a turn that brings out the box of tissues. Cara attempts to get back on her feet while adjusting to life with grandparents she’s never known. And then there is a road trip. Buckle your seatbelt and grab the tissues.

I’ve been doing lots of booktalks lately and I’m starting to still see some blue tissue books in 2017. Here are a few:

What do I see in 2017?

CORDELL, Matthew. Wolf in the Snow. illus. by author. 32p. Feiwel & Friends. 2017.
ISBN 9781250076366. JLG Category: P Primary (Grades K–1).

A little girl and a wolf cub meet up when they are both lost in the snow. It poses the question: Can’t we all just choose courage and kindness over fear?

PLA, Sally J. The Someday Birds. 336p. Harper. 2017.
ISBN 9780062445766.
JLG Category: B+ Upper Elementary & Middle Plus (Grades 5–7).

It’s a very blue cover. What a powerful story about Charlie and his family’s journey across America. If you liked Gary D. Schmidt’s Okay For Now, you will adore The Someday Birds. You’ll also want to dust off your big, green volumes of Audubon.

KELLY, Erin Entrada. Hello, Universe. 320p. Greenwillow. 2017. ISBN 9780062414151.
JLG Category: B Upper Elementary & Middle (Grades 5–7).

Virgil is shy and can’t remember his times tables. Valencia is deaf. Kaori is a psychic. Brett is a bully. When Brett’s prank goes awry, the three heroes learn bravery, leaning on the strength of each other and becoming stronger with the bonds of friendship. Sob. Sob. Sob.

MOSIER, Paul. Train I Ride. 192p. Harper. 2017.
ISBN 9780062455734.
JLG Category C: Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9).

When it seems like everyone who takes care of you dies, it’s no wonder Rydr feels lost in the world. On a train ride to meet yet another elderly relative, she begins to learn to find family—even where you least expect it.

I had to put the book down because my heart filled up and spilled right out of my eyes. Rydr will steal your heart too.

Final Thoughts

Do we need “tissue books?” Absolutely. Books that pull on your heart strings may help kids see that they are not alone. They can learn to develop empathy with others. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. And a little bit of crying never hurt anyone. Bring on the tissues!

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