I had never browsed through a books section on a quest to find books that started with certain letters before, and it was certainly an interesting experience. However, I was dissatisfied with the backup books I had in mind for some of the last letters of the alphabet, so one sunny Saturday afternoon, I spent half an hour going through the middle grade and YA section looking for books that started with U, V, and Z. I actually had a book in mind for V already, but I had never read it, so I needed to borrow it anyway (although I had an idea of what to write if I didn’t have time to borrow or read the book).
I found two books for the letter U, Ugly by Donna Jo Napoli, and Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech. I almost wrote about Ugly because I loved reading about the ugly duckling’s journey through Australia meeting and learning about lots of interesting animals–including humans–and about himself. But in the end, the charming angel with the Italian-ish accent won my heart with this line near the beginning of the book:
An angel does not need a bed, but sometimes I think the bed needs an angel.
And also because of the mention of “those marshmallow candies that look like animals” reminded me of Easter. lol…
(So it has only a little to do with the fact that I already mentioned Spinners, another of Donna Jo Napoli’s books, in my post for the letter B before I went on this strange hunt for books by letter.)
The book takes place in a Switzerland filled with Italians with smatterings of other peoples, and the angel learns English from them somehow. It’s a strange mix of squashed together words and made up words, with wonderfully delicious onomatopoeia like flishing and flooshing.
I am always wary of giving my students books written outside of a typical narrative style like Unfinished Angel is. At the same time, I want to expose them to different ways of storytelling and stretch their imaginations. Besides, it’s just a nice story with a hopeful ending. It also teaches about kids and poverty and family in a very real and sensitive way (this is where the hope comes in, too).
The non-traditional narrative may be hard for younger readers to fully comprehend, but I have seen reviews compare it to a child learning how to talk, so they may understand it better than we adults. It would be great read aloud (in an Italian-ish accent, if you dare!) to middle graders.
I know I knew who Sharon Chreech was growing up , but I guess the only thing she really had out when I was in elementary school that I’d heard of was her Newbery Award-winning book, Walk Two Moons. I don’t really remember what that was about anymore, but I remember my sister loved Bloomability when she was little. I’ve been having fun discovering her books as an adult, and read Granny Torelli Makes Soup and The Castle Corona last year, and now Unfinished Angel. All were quick reads that told very real stories in different but refreshing ways.
This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter U.