Tag Archives: Bluebonnet nominees

“Odette’s Secrets” Lyrical and Hauntingly Lovely

24 Sep

Odette's Secrets

I read Odette’s Secrets in an evening, drawn in by it’s lyrical prose and unique perspective on a child survivor of the Holocaust, and found Maryann Macdonald’s novel deserving of a spot on the shelf next to Number the Stars if not quite Anne Frank.

The book is inspired by the real life of Odette Meyers, a young Jewish girl growing up in Paris whose father is taken away to the Nazi work camps. Her mother joins the resistance, and sends Odette to live in the French Countryside, where she pretends to be Catholic and lives with a family there.

The book is written in free verse, all in the voice of Odette, which means it looks at the horrors of the Holocaust through the lens of a child’s innocence. Odette’s family was culturally Jewish but not religious, and she is charmed by the rituals of the Catholic school she hides in, even as she wrestles with what it means to be Jewish.

After I gave a book talk on it to my class, I was surprised to see one of my boys who usually gravitates towards NBA player biographies had checked out Odette’s Secrets for his Readers’ Workshop selection. For the next few days, it was in his hands every time he had a free second — I would catch him with it in his lap, sneaking looks at it even when he was supposed to be doing other things.

I never once considered stopping him. When a basketball-playing boy from Texas is connecting with a girl of the Holocaust through a novel written in poetry, that is a sacred space.

More resources about Odette’s Secrets can be found here.

Holy Bagumba! Kate DiCamillo Pens Another Winner

13 Sep

Flora & Ulysses

Ulysses the squirrel’s day is off to a sucky start — thanks a super-powered vacuum that has run amok and pulled him in tail first. Fortunately for him, Flora, a quirky lover of comic books and a self-proclaimed cynic, is watching out the window and rushes to administer mouth-to-squirrel resuscitation.

When Ulysses comes to, he has incredible new superpowers and a new friend for life. He also has a new arch-nemesis, Flora’s mother, who says her daughter’s furry friend has to go. But a squirrel with super-strength, flying abilities, and a penchant for writing poetry is not easily vanquished.

DiCamillo, best known for the Tale of Despereaux and Because of Winn-Dixie, won the 2014 Newbury Award for Flora & Ulysses, a hilarious and smart book targeted to readers in grades 4-6. The rich vocabulary makes it a challenging independent read for some students in this age group, but it makes a great read-aloud. I giggled as much as my 4th-grade students when we were reading, and by the end of the book, we had all added “Holy Bagumba!” to our classroom lexicon.

The book is one of the 2014-1015 Texas Bluebonnet Award nominees, and the award committee has compiled a great list of resources and recommendations to help your readers get even more out of the book.  Check them out here: Flora & Ulysses Bluebonnet Page.

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