It’s Monday! What are you reading? Beyond awards

The Hired Girl by Laura Am Schlitz – this was my read the week before Christmas. I was hooked while reading imgres-1it but keep wondering about what group of girls will read this book? I suppose it is the historical fiction crew. The reason I ask is that there seems to be so much prior knowledge one needs to have to really make this book work.

This is a historical coming of age story. A story of a young girl (14 years old pretending to be 18) who flees her harsh family farm for what she hopes is a better life as a hired girl in the big city. She finds out quickly that she has a lot to learn. The world is a bit different from the stories her teacher has shared with her and then there are the run away emotions of a young lady growing up on her own. There was so much she did not expect to find.

Laura Amy Schlitz has taken us into another time and has connected us to so much classical literature along the way. She has set up two religions in a strong comparison through both actions and story. She has laid out the role of woman in the early 1900’s so clearly. Schlitz has packed a lot into this small novel.

As an older woman I can visualize this story clearly. I can make the text to text connections, the art to story connections and I can see the way the farm and town may have looked in 1912. I can see the clothes they were wearing because of my family history. The question is can 12, 13, 14 or 15 year olds create that same mental image and connections to make this book work?

I can think of all the back fill I would use if  I were teaching with this book. It would be a great book to make a history class come alive. Paired with images, movies and discussion this book would be wonderful to help students see, hear and feel what it was like for women growing up in the beginning of the 1900’s. ( I still think a hard sell for the guys but I might be wrong.)

I am just not sure this is a book that will jump off the shelf into students hands without it being assigned.  What do you think?

imgresMy other read for this last week was a return to Sheila Turnage’s books. No, it is not an award winner but a book that would be fun for young middle grade kids to read and a great one to teach with. The Odds of Getting Even, book three of the Desperado Detective Agency in Tupelo Landing, N. C., is like meeting up with old friends. Turnage does a nice job of giving us a new mystery to puzzle out. If you haven’t read the first two it is just fine but you might want to return to them after reading this one – just for the fun of staying in contact with Mo and Dale.

This is a good 3rd, 4th and 5th grade read. I was wishing I had a group of students that would be ready for a few lessons to explore mystery books, both reading and writing.

In here you will find

  • danger,
  • red herring – the distractions,
  • the deep relationships of a small town – trusting and not trusting each other,
  • clues – some so clearly placed and others that you don’t see until the end
  • secrets – lots of secrets
  • friends – old and new
  • and humor!

As I have been reading books that might get an award this year I am reminded that some books are great material for awards but not widely read and other just reach out to kids for a great read but might not reach the criteria of the awards.

A story is a story no matter what! When writing it really is about who will be reading this book. It is not about – does this story deserve an award.

So what books are kids really reading these days?

(Missing my kid contact to discuss current books)



About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
This entry was posted in Book Review and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to It’s Monday! What are you reading? Beyond awards

  1. Linda Baie says:

    I had quite a few girls in my teaching years interested in historical fiction. The might not connect with every part of The Hired Girl, but the basic feelings and experiences will be accessible I think, Joanne. Now you make me wish I too had a couple of students to lend The Hired Girl to. Thanks for such a thoughtful review, and of the second book too, new to me. Happy New Year!

  2. Tara Smith says:

    I am going to have to read The Hired Girl – it sounds like a wonderful book for our historical fiction study.

  3. Myra GB says:

    Love your musings about award-winning-titles – always a contentious issue – and one we had explored in quite a number of panel discussions here in Singapore at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content – always amazing to hear from publishers, award-winning-authors, and judges about what criteria are used in judging a piece of literature – and great to hear a variety of perspectives as well.

  4. I had an interesting discussion today with a well-meaning mother who was worried that her child wasn’t reading enough “award winners”. She asked me to recommend some books for her child, and when I asked what kind of books the child liked to read or was interested in, she seemed surprised. As far as she was concerned, a book with an award sticker on the front was inherently better than a book without one, even if it meant forcing her child to read books that didn’t interest them or encourage them to enjoy reading. While awards can help parents and educators choose quality books, it is important to be mindful of just how much influence we allow them to have on our book choices!

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