Each month I spotlight two books guaranteed to delight readers and provide fun activities to further extend the meaning of each reading experience. With so many wonderful titles available, this is no easy task! I bring a 33-year teaching career, literacy expertise and a passion for creating joyful readers to every column I write. I certainly hope you enjoy this month’s picks as much as I do. They are perfect for everyone 9–90.
Prepare to be Enmagicked!
When I hear about a new book that is destined to become a modern classic, my ears perk up. Kelly Barnhill’s 2017 Newbery Medal winner, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, is lyrical storytelling at its finest. It is being likened to such legendary greats as C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a delightfully written, high-fantasy adventure of determination, family (in all its many forms), bravery and faith in the power of love. The tale begins when a compassionate witch, Xan, accidentally feeds baby Luna moonlight instead of starlight—moonlight is dangerous magic. To keep Luna safe, Xan tucks the extraordinary magic deep inside infant Luna until she is much older. As the story unfolds, 13-year-old “enmagicked” Luna and an irresistible cast of characters, including a poetry-loving monster, paper birds and a pocket size dragon, take readers on a magnificent journey that proves once again, love triumphs over evil!
Prepare to be Enchanted!
Grace Lin, author of 2010 Newbery Honor Medal winner Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, categorizes her book as “a Chinese Wizard of Oz.” The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, originally published over 100 years ago, is the measuring stick for every fantasy novel I read. Let me tell you, Lin’s novel measures up! This charming fantasy centers on a young girl, Menli, who lives with her poor family in the Valley of Fruitless Mountain. Each night, Menli’s father tells her stories of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon (who knows the answers to all of life’s questions). Menli sets out on an epic journey to find the Old Man on the Moon and ask him how she can change the fortunes of her family and the villagers. Along the way she meets many unique characters, including a talking fish and a lost dragon, which share tales with Minli that affect her journey in profound ways. This story, inspired by Chinese folklore, is a reminder to be grateful for the time you have with those you love.
Poetry: Long before Barnhill begins drafting a novel, she tosses ideas, quotes and sketches into a box as a way of prewriting. In a recent interview, she revealed one of the scraps of paper for The Girl Who Drank the Moon: “Poetry…there must be poetry.” Her affinity for poetry is evident in both her writing style and the inclusion of a poetic Swamp Monster. Have a go at writing a “found poem”—great fun! From one of the featured novels this month, highlight 50–100 words that speak to you in some way (keep them in the order you find them in the text) and then select the “best of the best” (about half of your original list) and arrange them to look and read like poetry.
Art: Japan is credited with origami, but it is actually a derivative of traditional Chinese paper folding—zhe’zhi. While Japanese origami consists primarily of animals and flowers, Chinese paper folding frequently portrays common objects like pineapples, hats and boats. Try your hand at paper folding (there are plenty of websites with directions for this) and if you are feeling especially creative, make your own paper! Directions are available at dnr.wi.gov/org/caer/ce/eek/cool/paper.
Folklore: Dragons are prevalent in both novels. As well-known creatures in mythology, legends, and folklore, dragons are a mainstay of fantastical storytelling. Using the Internet, conduct research to learn about dragons from around the world, making note of characteristics that distinguish one from the other. Using a combination of characteristics discovered in your quest, 1) design your own dragon; 2) name it—be creative; 3) write, illustrate, and publish a modern day tale; and 4) share it (www.scribblitt.com).
“Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.” ~ “Dilbert,” by Scott Adams