And I read this weeks before the National Book Award lists came out. As usual, with these lists, I just shake my head a bit and wonder if my students are just completely unlike any other readers. I have 750 a year, and pay close attention to the books that they ask for, and use this information to form my opinions of what they will like and hence, what I should buy. Really, a good portion of my day is taken up with these conversations, helping students find just the right book. Reluctant readers especially can be very particular about what they will and will not read.
Choosing books that are both well written AND about things students what to read sounds like a successful strategy, but every time one of these awards lists comes out, I doubt myself. Or when I see other teachers and librarians raving about books that my students WILL. NOT. TOUCH.
Doubt makes us better at our jobs, right?
Kadohata, Cynthia. The Thing About Luck
4 January 2013, Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Summer's family works with custom harvesters, and her parents normally travel around the west to run the combines, but this year they have both gone back to Japan to help with elderly relatives. That leaves Summer, her quirky younger brother, and her grandparents, Obaachan and Jiichan, to go with the Parkers and an Irish crew to harvest. Obaachan does the cooking, but her back has been very painful. Jiichan drives the big trucks, but the long hours involved in this work are hard on him. Summer had contracted malaria from a mosquito bite and was very ill, so now if frightened of mosquitoes-- a problem in the field. She takes a liking to the Parker's son even though Obaachan does not approve. When Jiichan becomes ill, Summer tries to help out by driving a combine, but is not skilled enough to do it well.
Strengths: There was clearly a lot of research into the details of this-- custom harvesting, malaria, Japanese culture. The brother might be on the autism spectrum, although he is never clearly identified as such. The touch of ill-fated romance is nice. Summer is a likable character, despite her worries.
Weaknesses: This might be a hard sell to students. There are so many off beat topics all together, and not very much action. Even though Summer is a 7th grader, most of this book might go over better with elementary school students, but the romance is something that older students would take to heart.