It’s Monday! What are you reading? – connecting through fiction

IMWAYRThis week I was thinking about where stories come from. We like to say we just make them up. I don’t think that is quite right – even for our fantasy genre. If we look deeply (some times you don’t have to look deeply at all) stories come from the tiny bits and pieces of our lives – pieces from our experiences, our reading life, the lives of the people around us, the news, the watching of the world around us. Everything I have read in the last few weeks is connected deeply to other events and peoples lives.

The Trial by Jen Bryant is a perfect example of this. (2005)  Bryant grew up bk_trial_120
in Flemington, New Jersey the town where the Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial happened. The writing of The Trial makes perfect sense. This book, told in verse, is the story of twelve year old Katie Leigh Flynn who takes us inside the court room of one of the widely publicized criminal case of the 20th century. 

Katie lives with her Mother and is a natural writer. She is curious, observant, gathers and records the world around her. When the opportunity presents itself for her to help her uncle record the Lindbergh baby trial she is there with pen and paper in hand. She is all eyes, ears and thoughtful reflection on this wild hunt to find out who is guilty of this kidnapping and murder.

This little book is a great text for so many reasons.

  •  A great read – providing a fresh looking into a historical moment, with adventure and lots of facts to learn.
  • It is a perfect text to run along with a non fiction unit in historical events. Bryant is artful in leaving open the question – did they get the right man? Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the accused kidnapper, claims he was innocent right up to the end. Was he?
  • It is a great mentor text to talk about becoming a writer, newscaster and the role of a strong young female character. Katie takes steps into areas that woman were not always seen in during the 1930’s – a newspaper reporter.
  • The use of verse to share this story makes book for a poetry unit. The short poetry lines open up the emotions and deeper questions of the time and trial.

bk_pieces_120The Piece of Georgia is another book by Jen Bryant. ( I clearly got into my own little author study this week.) This book was released in 2006. This text gives us another strong female character, Georgia McCoy, who is living alone with her father in a trailer. Georgia has many of the artist traits of her deceased mother, and it is this artist skill that helps her find her way in a lonely and sad world.

In this text Bryant links to the Brandywine River Art Museum with the work of NC Wyeth and Andrew Wyeth and also with the artist Georgia O’Keefe. This book in verse uses the events of our real world to help us explore the challenges of family, friendships and finding our true selves.

The last big historical text this week was a re-look at The Book Thief. This is a book that was so hard from me to get into. I blogged about it back in late winter (here) but this week I took the time to watch the movie. As with the book I was hesitant to watch it but was so glad I did in the end. It was well done and stayed faithful to the Zusak story line. It you have not read it or seen the movie I suggest you do both. Now!


Possible Reads for this week are: (I am traveling again this week so not sure how much will get read but here is the line up.)

  • Please Ignore Vera Dietz
  • Swallows and Amazons
  • Grasshopper Jungle
  • Big Little Brother




About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
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2 Responses to It’s Monday! What are you reading? – connecting through fiction

  1. Myra GB says:

    The Book Thief, hands down, is one of my most powerful reads this year. I can’t remember crying that much over a book – I must have used up an entire box of tissues. Thank you for sharing these Jen Bryant titles as well. I think I own a copy of The Trial. 🙂

  2. Bryant’s books are a quick read but are great read for students in middle grades. They are short, engaging and connect to real events or people.

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