#IMWAYR August 14, 2017

#IMWAYR time again, when readers share what they have been reading and find out what others have been up to in the past week. Kathryn hosts the adult version of this meme at Book Date. Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers host the kidlit rendition. Whatever you are looking forward to in your next great read, these are fabulous places to start your search.

My reading life this week is dedicated to all you #IMWAYR participants. Because of you, I've got some brilliant older titles on my list today. I'm also thankful for all the 'hot off the press', and 'you have to wait awhile for this one' reviews. I'm thankful to all of you for introducing me to so many books that I would otherwise have overlooked. You make my reading life immeasurably rich and satisfying.

I got in a bit of reading with my eyes this week, but spent a lot of time listening since I was busy sewing a set of placemats to give away as a wedding present this weekend. I dug deep into my stash and found some leftovers from another placemat project and created four of these. I hope they like them! 

I also spent time babysitting with my grandson and read one of my favourite books to him.


4 stars

The Storyteller by Evan Turk

This is a glorious celebration of the power of storytelling.

The illustrations made me itch to capture some of these designs in fabric. There is so much to gush about: the beauty of the blues, the power of the golden brown and the details in the illustrations. All these things transport us into another world where anything is possible, even human beings' capacity to outwit the djinn of a desert storm.

5 stars
The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild & Freya Blackwood (Illustrator)

This book reminds us that stories in our libraries, especially the ones that show us ourselves, are more important than any kind of monetary treasure.

These gorgeous illustrations and Margaret Wild's prose tell us the story of a special kind of treasure worth more than jewels and gold. When a young boy and his father are forced to flee their homeland because of war, they take with them a book that tells them their history. As they flee they are forced to abandon their belongings. Eventually the boy is forced to bury the treasure. Much later he returns to find it.

4 stars

The Branch by Mireille Messier & Pierre Pratt (Illustrations)

I'm sure I have Linda B to thank for introducing me to this book by two French Canadian artists. It's set at the time of the ice storm in Montreal. When a young girl's beloved branch falls off the tree, her older neighbour helps her to create something new from it. 


5 stars
Grand Canyon by Jason Chin

Holy Carumba!

I really wish that this book had been available for me to read before I visited this remarkable place. The book takes us on a journey through the geological regions that reveal the history of the canyon. At the same time, it introduces readers to the different ecological habitats that exist in these different regions.
Notes in the back matter provide additional information for readers who want to know more. The bibliography provides sources for readers who thirst for even more, as well as showing us just how much research goes into a book like this.

4 stars

The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson (Netgalley)

Publication date: September 5, 2017

This is the true story of Nokomis (Grandmother) Josephine Mandamin who began Mother Earth Water Walkers, a movement of women (and men), who walk to raise awareness of how precious water is to us. The story is told using Ojibwe vocabulary and is filled with colourful bold illustrations. I will have a full review posted nearer to the publication date.


5 stars
Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

It seems that people either love or hate this book. I am one of those who adore it. I love the slow thoughtful pace. I loved that as a reader I was constantly wondering, thinking, and doing my best to make connections in this coming of age allegory. It is exquisitely written. I'm not sure students will fathom the richness of this novel, but I would love to be part of a book club book discussing it.

4 stars
A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

Just Wow! This book is the reason I will join Carrie Gelson and the #MustRead gang again next year. I probably wouldn't have gotten around to reading it if I hadn't put the effort in to identify some books on my Out Of Control to read list on Goodreads. Honestly, there is so much to love about this twisted fairytale starring Hansel and Gretel. I was worried because that is the one fairytale that creeped me out as a child. It is still creepy, but also loaded with humour. If you haven't read it already, go get a copy and read it for yourself!


4 stars
The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum by Temple Grandin, Richard Panek

This is another of my #MustReadIn2017 titles. It is filled with all kinds of important information about cognitive science and how we have looked at autism across time. There is a pragmatic component that makes me think that it should probably be required reading for all people who work with other people.


I'm still reading The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King. I'm having a hard time with Elsie Mae Has Something to Say by Nancy J. Cavanaugh, (a Netgalley title,) and might just give up on it. Just how many pages do you give a book that just isn't working for you? Is 100 enough? I'm listening to Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien. I started it ages ago, but lost track of the story and had to start all over again.


I'm still focusing on books from my reading goals, so I'll start Relish, My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley next. This pile of books is my read with my eyes goal for next week. Unfortunately, I am easily sidetracked by a shiny new hardcover.


#MUSTREADIN2017 19/36 1 in progress

#MUSTREADNFIN2017 7/12 1 in progress

50 Books by Canadian Indigenous Authors 23/50 1 in progress

Chocolate Lily (CL) 51/51

Big Book Challenge 3/6 1 in progress

Goodreads Reading Challenge 250/333

#IMWAYR August 7, 2017

#IMWAYR time again, when readers share what they have been reading and find out what others have been up to in the past week. Kathryn hosts the adult version of this meme at Book Date. Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers host the kidlit rendition. Whatever you are looking forward to in your next great read, these are fabulous places to start your search.

It's been a couple of weeks since my last post. We were camping up at far away from far away. It was wild country. I have the mosquito, no-see-um, black fly, deer fly, and horse fly bites to prove it.

I managed to read some stunning literature and had the pleasure of sharing some of the books I brought with me with Payton, an eight year old girl who was with us. Her impressions of them was a highlight for me.

High in the remote mountains there is no internet so I couldn't read the Teachers Write posts, but nonetheless, I wrote every day. My goal for this year was to get into the habit of writing daily, and I managed that. Now I just have to keep at it.

I missed my grandchildren like crazy, but luckily, I had these pictures with me to look at. 

This is how you raise a reader!

Babies at 5 weeks old


Rose's Run by Dawn Dumont

Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz & Sydney Smith

Paris for Two by Phoebe Stone


5 stars
Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz & Sydney Smith (Illustrator)

This historical picture book is going to win awards. Set in Cape Breton, it tells the story of generations of men and their families who mine for coal under the ocean. The prose is profound and the illustrations are gobsmackingly gorgeous! Payton and I had a deep conversation about the darkness in this book. She enjoyed it so much she read it cover to cover, including the notes by the author at the end.

4 stars
Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore & LeUyen Pham (Illustrator)

I picked this sweet story up because it is illustrated by Leyeun Pham.
Freckleface Strawberry is an ordinary girl except for being covered in freckles. She doesn't like being teased about them so she tries to get rid of them. She tried scrubbing them off and putting lemon juice on them. Her freckles remained. She tried colouring herself with a marker, but Mother's don't like it when you draw on yourself. Then Freckleface Strawberry tried hiding her freckles. She wore long pants and a long shirt. She wore a balaclava on her head. It worked. At school no one recognized her, but she was lonely. It's only when a baby laughs at her freckles and the baby's mother tells her that she once had freckles, that our girl finds hope. When her disguise is removed all her friends come to welcome her.
Payton loved this one. I hadn't read it yet and she gave me a complete synopsis of it. I pushed her to think about what the author wanted us to learn, and while it was hard work for her, she figured out that it is fine to just be who you are and that you will probably change anyway.


5 stars

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King (Mighty Jack #2) by Ben Hatke (Netgalley)

I finished reading this while camping and am working on a review. It is as good as the first in the series. I gave Payton the synopsis of the first book and then handed it off to her. She was mesmerized. It was her first graphic novel. You can bet it won't be her last.


4 stars
Odin's Ravens (The Blackwell Pages #2)by K.L. Armstrong, M.A. Marr & Vivienne To (Illustrator)

I read the first in this series a few years ago and was pleasantly surprised. Every once in awhile it's good to read a rollicking adventure novel, and this one sure fits the bill. The series tells the story of a group of thirteen year olds who are Norse gods and goddesses reincarnated. Ragnarok is coming soon and they are working together to ensure that this time round, the serpent of Milgard doesn't win. There are enough epic battles and fights to satisfy nearly all the bloodthirsty readers I know. Add humour, plot twists and turns, betrayal, strong characters, and you've got a truly satisfying read!
I'm looking forward Thor's Serpents, the final instalment.

4 stars
Posted by John David Anderson

I adored the slow pace of this book. It tells the story of a group of geekish boys; misfits who have formed their tribe. Frost (Eric) writes poetry. Wolf (Morgan) is a piano prodigy. Bench (J.J. Jones) is an athlete who doesn't get to play much. DeeDee (Advik Patel) is crazy about Dungeons and Dragons. Aside from the day to day bullying their lives are pretty good.
Cell phones are banned after a student writes a derogatory message on her cell. Soon students start passing messages on post-it-notes. This leads to leaving anonymous insults and threats on lockers. The level of nastiness and general bullying ratchets up.
When Rose Holland, the ostracized new girl, arrives shortly after ban, and sits at the boys' table, she changes the dynamics of the group. Rose intervenes when some bullies attack Frost and DD in the boys' washroom. This culminates in a showdown between Rose and the lead bully. Readers are left wondering if her actions make enough of a difference.
This book is really about friendship and how it evolves over time. It speaks to the importance of standing up when people are being bullied and harassed and reminds us that words matter and that language has power for good and evil.

4 stars
Paris for Two by Phoebe Stone

Ever since Deep Down Popular, I have been a fan of anything Phoebe Stone writes. Her books were always popular in the library. This was so much more than a simple tween romance. Go and read my review if you want to know more. I loved it.


4 stars
The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben, Tim Flannery (Foreword), Jane Billinghurst (Translator), Susanne Simard & Mike Grady (Narrator)

I listened to this book as research for a story I'm working on. It is a fascinating look at how trees communicate and collaborate with each other. Their root systems are like brains. It's loaded with details about what happens as they age. Older trees 'mother' young trees to help them survive. It explains that they are somewhat unwilling contributors to the complex ecosystems that develop in their branches, trunks and leaves. The narrative personifies trees which is both off putting and endearing at the same time.
Even though this book looks more deeply into trees in a beech forest, and I'm focusing on coniferous, I'm getting my own paper copy of this book. It transformed the way I look at forests and trees.


5 stars
Rose's Run by Dawn Dumont

This book embodies everything I've come to expect from a novel by Dawn Dumont and then some. There is her characteristic witty repartee. Her sense of humour is brilliant. Her characters are full-fledged, sweet, albeit imperfect souls. You can't help but love them! Beneath all this, is a deeper political story about being indigenous and living on a reserve in Canada. This time she even delves into the misogyny of men that plays out in all cultures. Add to that a mysterious demon creature, and this is some read!


5 stars
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

This is an exceptional coming of age memoir. It's further evidence that graphic novels can be richly emotional and profound literary works of art.
Bechtel takes readers into her childhood where behind the happy family facade is revealed an essentially unhappy father, trying unsuccessfully, to live a lie. It is layered with heartbreaking sadness.
I enjoyed reading Persepolis earlier this year, but this is easier to read because the font isn't so small.

5+ stars
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

I'm just gobsmacked by this book. I started it, and had to occasionally put it down to process it more fully. I've handed it over to my partner, who reads books about the Vietnam war almost compulsively. The birth of Thi Bui's son set her into learn more about her own parents and their stories. At the same time as learn about her parents early years, we get an education about the history of Vietnam and the roots of the war that eventually brought them to the United States. It is powerfully poignant.


The non fiction title I have on the go is The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King. I'm savouring The Rain in Portugal: New Poems by Billy Collins. I've got Elsie Mae Has Something to Say by Nancy J. Cavanaugh (a Netgalley title) on my device.I'm rereading Mighty Jack and the Goblin King so my review can do it justice. I started and abandoned listening to Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I think I need to read this one with my eyes. Instead I'm listening to A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz.


I'll probably start listening to The Autistic Brain by Temple Grandin. Then there is a stack of books waiting for me from the library. I'm doing my best to focus on getting my reading goals under control!


#MUSTREADIN2017 18/36 1 in progress

#MUSTREADNFIN2017 6/12 1 in progress

50 Books by Canadian Indigenous Authors 22/50  1 in progress

Chocolate Lily (CL) 51/51

Big Book Challenge 3/6

Goodreads Reading Challenge 241/333

Rose's Run by Dawn Dumont

This work embodies everything I've come to expect from a novel by Dawn Dumont, and then some. These days she is my favourite Canadian author. There is her characteristic witty repartee. Her sense of humour is brilliant with guaranteed laugh out loud moments. Her characters are full-fledged, sweet, albeit imperfect souls. Like all of Dumont's novels, there is an abundance of love between them. In spite of their personal failings, it's their relationships with each other that make her books. Yet here, beneath all this, is a deeper political narrative about being Indigenous and living on a reserve in Canada. This time she even delves into the misogyny of men that plays out in all cultures. Add to that a mysterious demon creature, and this is some read!

At thirty-six, Rose Okanese has two girls and a husband who is absent emotionally and financially. Sixteen year old Sarah is sassy, solid, and a brilliant student.  Eight year old Callie is wise beyond her years, but still her mother's baby. Her husband, Gilbert, is a rock and roll musician who is often on the road touring. Rose has managed to ignore Gilbert's philandering until she comes home one day and discovers her cousin and Gilbert in bed together. She begins running while chasing this cousin in a jealous rage.  It is the beginning of Rose's metamorphosis. She wakes up the next morning without a car so she can't get to work and ends up getting fired from her job at a pig farm. It's as bottom as it gets, for soon, Rose ends up working at the band office. New romance in the air for her when Taylor, a young, urban, educated friend returns to the reserve and wins an election for chief. This story line of Rose coming into her own would have satisfied me, but there is so much more going on. 

Sarah and her best friend have unwittingly performed a ceremony that has woken up a dream woman who turns out to be an evil demon creature. Soon Sarah, her friend, and all the woman on the reserve are having nightmares as the dream woman invades their sleep and takes control of them. Eventually Rose figures out that her dead mother, who has been haunting her while she runs, is protecting her from the dream person. That leaves Rose and Jane, Sarah's friend's mother, responsible for saving everyone on the reserve.

By the time it is over, the men on the reserve learn an important lesson about women. Even Gilbert begins to realize how he has failed his family and the magnitude of what he has lost. 

This novel is just riveting. I started and finished it in one day while I was camping in the high mountains. I can't remember the last time I stayed up late reading by flashlight to finish a book.

Paris for Two by Phoebe Stone

In my opinion, Phoebe Stone doesn't get nearly enough kudos for her writing. I've been a hard core fan since I first read Deep Down Popular. Stone writes brilliant, realistic, middle grade fiction. They are charming stories with endearing characters. If I'm looking for tween romance, she is my go to person. 

When I started this one I wasn't looking for much more than a sweet satisfying read. It didn't take long for me to become completely absorbed in the story and the characters. I admit that at first I was uncomfortable with the sibling rivalry and the mother's favouritism of the older sister. That was just plain creepy. In spite of this, the novel suprised me with the many layers and strands of plot that come together at the end. It was beyond satisfying!

The Beanly family is in Paris while the father is on sabbatical writing about Flaubert. Petunia, the younger sister, is happy to be away from America where she made a fool of herself because of a crush on Windel Watson. Unfortunately, Windel is also in Paris. 

There are three story lines weaving their way through this book: 
Petunia's humiliating crush on Windel Watson, a piano prodigy from her school, is told in flashbacks. 
The adversarial relationship between Petunia and her older, beautiful sister, Ava, is both backdrop and foreground to the other story lines. 
Through Petunia's relationship with the elderly concierge, Collette, an historical component takes readers into the history of the Jumeau doll company and the Second World War. 

As someone who sews many of her own clothes, I was fascinated by the fashion and fabrication of clothing aspects to this novel. I hope that while the actual sewing might not appeal to readers, the fashion aspects will. 

Although it isn't apparent early on, a Cinderella theme permeates this novel. Just like the fairy tale, the ending is happy.

Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz & Sydney Smith (Illustrator)

I expect this book to be a contender for the Governor General picture book award this year. It exemplifies the perfect marriage between words, image, and graphic layout. It is both informative and engaging. I read it at least three times and after each reading, my heart was inundated with wonder, awe and fear. Each time I pick it up, I am again breathlessly enthralled. 

Schwartz' prose tells the story of a day in the life of a young boy whose father works under the sea as a coal miner. His day is partitioned into sections that begin with the refrain, "This is how it is," and end with a vista of the sea and in the next illustration, the words, "And deep down under the sea, my father is digging for coal."

I was overwhelmed by the beauty and detail of these watercolour and ink illustrations. There is stark contrast between the light and open space of the carefree summer day and the dark ominous place where the boy's father and other miners work underground. 
These pages, streaked in black, show the miners working at the bottom. 

While danger is never mentioned in the text, Smith's illustrations depict it clearly.

There is an ambience of timelessness to this story. At the same time as it takes us through the cycle of a young boy's day, it hints at cycles of years and when the boy visits his grandfather's grave, cycles of life.

This historical picture book provides for a window into the past to a time and way of life that if it hasn't already disappeared, it probably soon will be. It is set here in Canada in Cape Breton, but the universal story of a coal mining town could be from anywhere. 

The back matter contains additional information about the culture of mining villages across the world. 

#IMWAYR July 24, 2017

#IMWAYR time again, when readers share what they have been reading and find out what others have been up to in the past week. Kathryn hosts the adult version of this meme at Book Date. Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers host the kidlit rendition. Whatever you are looking forward to in your next great read, these are fabulous places to start your search.

Hello everyone, I didn't get much reading in this week. I've been busy, busy, busy doing other things. When we were in the Okanagan it was mostly about listening to audiobooks while working around the house. I finished up and dropped off a quilt at the quilters. My mother started it years ago and but didn't complete it before her death. I've been participating in Teachers Write and so writing, or thinking about writing every day, has taken time away from reading. I've posted one piece below if you want to read it.

We went through a bit of an environmental shock last week. In the space of 5 hours we went from Oliver, where it was so hot that by the time a load of clothes had been hung on the line, the first of them were already dry, to back here in Vancouver where we've been wearing sweaters and long pants.

Babies update: Isn't it amazing the things we forget about our times with our own newborns? Do you remember just how much work they are and how their crying instantly invokes anxiety in the listeners? I had forgotten how hard bodily functions are for these wee people, nevermind how fast they grow. I was away for less than a week and swear they almost doubled!

Here is what they look like now!


Miles Morales (A Spider-Man Novel) by Jason Reynolds

Teachers Write - July 20, 2017 The Waiting Room


4 stars
The Journey That Saved Curious George : The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey by Louise Borden & Allan Drummond (Illustrator)

The graphic format of this book is really appealing. The text is interspersed with photographs, original images and Allan Drummond's modern whimsical ink and watercolour illustrations. It's written chronologically and provides a history of Europe and the world, at the same time as telling us the story of Margret and H.A. Rey. At the end of the book is additional information about their lives after they escaped.

4 stars
The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue by Suzanne Slade & Stacy Innerst (Illustrations)
I can't gush about this too much. Stacy Innerst's illustrations with all those blues just WOWED me. I'm compelled to return again and again to admire them. The typeface, text, and these illustrations are inseparable from the narrative. It all came together i
n this picture biography of George Gershwin to just enthral me. At the end of the book there are notes from both the author and illustrator. There is a timeline and a bibliography. I was left feeling sad that George Gershwin died so young and wondering what else he might have accomplished if he had more time.


4 stars
Miles Morales (A Spider-Man Novel) by Jason Reynolds

Sijo poetry plays a significant role in this book, so I'm going to give one a try here. Click on the link above to read my full review if you want to know more. 

Miles Morales is Spider Man, a black, teenage superhero

Having extraordinary powers requires much soul searching
How can he save the world if he can't even save himself?

Serafina and the Splintered Heart (Serafina #3) by Robert Beatty & Cassandra Campbell (Narrator)

4 stars

When I discovered this book was available as an audiobook that I could download and listen to immediately, it was a 'be still my beating heart' moment. If you have not been introduced to this series, I am very sad for you. It's part folklore, part horror, and mostly just really good stories about the bonds of family and friendship against a backdrop of a battle between good and evil. Beatty's characters are impossible not to connect with. This story begins with Serafina waking up in a coffin. You will have to read the book to find out what happened to her, how she manages survive, defeat her longstanding enemy, and save all the people at Biltmore who she loves. Along the way she makes new friends and comes into her own. 


3 stars
Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Anne Lamott

I started this because one of the #IMWAYR participants wrote about it, and I loved Bird by Bird. I had no idea what to expect. I'm not at all religious in a traditional sense, but appreciate Lamott's honesty and ability to examine her own life. I found the last half more inspiring than the first, but it was all good. 


I'm trying to limit how many books I have on the go at a time. On my device I started a Netgalley title, Elsie Mae Has Something to Say by Nancy J. Cavanaugh, but need to postpone it because of a pressing need to finish other titles that have to be returned to the library before we head off wilderness camping. I'm listening to Posted by John David Anderson. I've just started The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins.


Figuring out what to read next depends on what has to be returned to the library first. I have to finish Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel, The Rain in Portugal: Poems by Billy Collins, and Odin's Ravens by Kelley Armstrong. I'm saving Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke, Rose's Run by Dawn Dumont, and a pile of other books for when I am away.


#MUSTREADIN2017 16/36


50 Books by Canadian Indigenous Authors 21/50

Chocolate Lily (CL) 51/51

Big Book Challenge 3/6

Goodreads Reading Challenge 233/333

Miles Morales (A Spider-Man Novel) by Jason Reynolds

It's Jason Reynolds! 

I'm such a fan I would probably pay to read his grocery list. 

Thank you Netgalley, for letting me read this book in exchange for an honest review. 

I figured it would be a snap, but at first it didn't work for me. I struggled and kept starting and stopping, starting and stopping. 

Jason Reynolds excels at creating genuine, true to life characters. As you read his words, they come to life seamlessly. You believe they exist beyond the pages of the book. It's this ability that finally allowed me to focus on the story and revel in his writing. 

So what the heck was the initial problem? I've been wondering if it had to do with reading on my device. It isn't the first book I've had trouble with there. That light is hard on my aging eyes. And truthfully, I'm easily distracted, so device reading can be deadly. Perhaps I just had too many books on the go. Of course it might be that I had a hard time in the first place because I'm not really a superhero fan. 

It was when I finally committed myself and sat down and finished the book that I was blown away. I went back to reread the beginning. After shuffling off my biases and letting myself embrace these characters and the story, I really fell head over tail in love.

At one point I went to Wikipedia to research Spider-Man. (I told you I was easily distracted.) It helped. The last time I paid any attention to superhero comics, was when my sons were reading them. They are now 33 and 36, so that was quite some time ago. I discovered that Miles Morales came onto the scene in 2011. He is an Afro Hispanic teenager with the same abilities as the original Spider-Man. Background knowledge is important. 

In this novel, based on that character, Miles, an A student, attends an elite school, Brooklyn Visions Academy, on scholarship. Miles has loving parents who have his back at the same time as they take him to task for any misbehaviour. I appreciate the way Reynolds captures their neighbourhood in an array of beautiful, damaged characters who never really had a chance to fulfill their potential. He shows us that the story of a black skinned Spider-Man can't be told without understanding the context of being black in America.  

At school Miles rooms with his Korean American best friend, Ganke. Their relationship is brilliantly, lovingly authentic. Ganke often gets them into some kind of mischief where Miles is forced to use his super powers. Afterwards, his conscience fills him with anxiety and regret. I appreciated Miles' ambivalence and the dilemma he faces over using his special powers. He's conflicted between saving the world and saving himself. He tells Ganke, "to have the time to be a Super Hero, you got to have the rest of your life laid out. You can't be out there saving the world when your neighbourhood ain't even straight. I just got to be real about it."

Miles is lucky to have mostly stellar teachers at school. The one exception is his history teacher, Mr Chamberlain. Mile's spidey-sense is triggered regularly in this class. The racist Mr. Chamberlain is truly creepy. In Ganke's words, "he keeps talking about how the Civil War was like this beautiful, romantic thing.… He was going on about how, depending on how you look at it, slavery was kind of good for the country." There are a lot of important lessons on power relationships, how to engage in activism, resist oppression, and act collectively that emerge from the time spent in that class. 

Part of what wowed me in this book was the integration of Sijo poetry. The examples in the book are spectacular, like the one Alicia, Mile's romantic interest, shares in their English class, on the theme of love:

A romantic mountain top view of the world is love for most
Being that close to clouds strips them of form, turns them to fog
Perhaps the real beauty is on the way up, where like it is.

Here's one Miles wrote while thinking about his family. 

What I Hate
I hate my father's face when he tells me my block is my burden
Like my job is to carry a family I didn't create
Like my life is for fixing something I didn't even break

Miles loved his Uncle Aaron and visited him regularly against his parents' wishes. It was because of Aaron's criminal endeavours that Miles was bitten by the radioactive spider that gave him his powers. Miles' dreams are haunted with the same recurring nightmare: a battle to the death with him. He's terrified that his uncle's taunt, "You're just like me," is true.

At the school's Halloween dance, Miles discovers an insidious conspiracy designed to destroy the lives of black students. He realizes that he is only one of many individuals who have been victimized across time and space. It's up to him, on his own, to stop them.

This is a book I wish I could read out loud to a group of students. I envision many thoughtful conversations about how we use power, about what it means to be a person of colour, about how we can be manipulated by others based on our preconceived assumptions. Writing our own Sijo poems would have to be part of the experience. I expect students will clamour for teachers to read just one more page. 

I know of at least a dozen students I would hand this book over to. 

The release date for this book is August 1st. You are going to want to preorder a copy and read the book yourself to see how good it is.