It’s Monday! What are your Reading? companion novels

Long ago and far away in Iowa when I was little and looking for books, any books I had hoped I could find a series of books or an author I knew. If I had found an author I like I tried to keep reading them. I was a slow reader and having the familiar tone and structure of a book made my reading life easier. (I didn’t know that them – I thought I just like that author).

This was no easy task in the late 50’s. We did not buy books they were gotten at the bookmobile, the school library, from the large downtown library or from our Aunt’s who lived two hours away and  were teachers. The library visits were few and far between and the book supply for children was not the best.

Books that come to mind are the Box Car Children, and Nancy Drew. They were series which was great but for me they came few and far between. I could go years before I knew there was a new book in the series. No teacher or librarian was sharing with me the next new book that was out.  So today in my old age I still delight in finding books written by authors I know, or books in a series.

I currently like the idea of the companion books. An author who writes a second book that includes ideas or characters from their first book but it is not a series or a sequel. It is just a companion. A familiar friend to read.

You get a chance to visit someone you knew from another book. You get to learn more about a character you met somewhere else but didn’t get to know well. What a fun way to write and just as fun to read.

imgresLisa Graff has done that with A clatter of Jars, her newest book released last May. Lisa wrote A Tangle of Knots which was published in 2013. Her new book takes us back to the land of magical realism and deals with families, talents, forgiveness, jealousy and believing in ones self.

We follow a group of children who are off to summer camp. Each has a talent that allows them to perform special task. Lily is a “Pinnacle” who has the ability to move things with her mind; Renny has a reputation for being a “Recollector” – the ability to transplant memories from one mind to another, and Chuck is still wondering about her talent.

Things are not as wonderful as one would think at Camp Atropos. The director, Jo, has found a way to collect and sell these talents. There is always a market for a bit of magic. So in the summer of “fun” we find children who are unsure of what their talent is, children who are really only trying to fit in and trouble floating up from the lake. It really is not as fun at camp as we might think.

All this gives us a light and fun read with characters to love and confusing times that help us find our way back to family and friends.

This is a quick and enjoyable read for 4th through 6th graders. It could be a great read aloud to start the school year off.

  • What happened when you went to summer camp?

(As noted on another blog post – this could or could not be a good writing prompt. It depends on our students, community and what happened locally or nationally this summer. What is top most in your students thinking and emotions as they begin school this fall. I know my past students living in poverty and dealing with the death of way to many black men this summer would not respond well to this prompt but they might like the fun of “Talents” )

  • What Talent would you like to have? and what do you think might happen if you purchased that talent?

Time to think about reading and writing for the fall!

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About Joanne Toft

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

8 Responses to It’s Monday! What are your Reading? companion novels

  1. Stacy Mozer says:

    I really enjoyed A Tangle of Knots. I would love to have the Talent to find lost things.

  2. Tara Smith says:

    I’ll have to check out Graff’s book – she is always a hit with my sixth graders. Thanks for the writing prompts, too – I might try them out myself for fun!

    • Joanne Toft says:

      I was thinking it would be fun to write about a talent I would like and where it might take me. It would be great to then share with students before they began writing. When teaching I always wished I had written to prompts in the summer so I had personal writing sample for students. Have fun writing.

  3. Kids are just as obsessed with series now as you were as a child, and for the same reasons – familiar structure, familiar characters, familiar writing style. I’ve had students burst in tears when they find out they’ve finished a beloved series!

    • Joanne Toft says:

      I know that feeling and I have had that happen with students as well. There is also the waiting rush of emotion when they know a new book will soon be out – like the waiting for the next Harry Potter!

  4. Linda Baie says:

    I’ve never read A Tangle of Knots, but have enjoyed other books, love Absolutely Almost. You’ve given me some ideas to find more ‘companion’ books, an interesting thought, Joanne. I was lucky enough to have a bookmobile librarian who did bring me books she thought I would like. It’s been years, but I still remember her so fondly.

  5. cweichel says:

    I enjoyed A Tangle of Knots but I’m not sure I want to read any more from this series. I loved James Howe’s Misfits companions books. Have you read them?

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