Summary: Sarah feels caught between her older sister and her mentally retarded younger brother and feels at odds with growing up. When her brother get...moreSummary: Sarah feels caught between her older sister and her mentally retarded younger brother and feels at odds with growing up. When her brother gets lost in the woods near her house, she realizes just how important he, and the rest of her family, are to her.
Response: This was a book I have heard of for a long time, and i was glad to have a chance to finally read it. While some elements of the story feel a little dated, the character development is strong and we get to know Sarah, her brother and her aunt as the book moves forward. Betsy Byars sensitive portrayal of all the characters is very lovely; not only is Charlie portrayed respectfully and fully, but all the characters are given depth and dimension that allow us to feel as though we learn more about teach of them and the relationships between the characters.
Summary: Gilly Hopkins, who has lived in several foster homes, finds herself moving in with yet another foster family. She doesn't feel at all that th...moreSummary: Gilly Hopkins, who has lived in several foster homes, finds herself moving in with yet another foster family. She doesn't feel at all that this is the right home for her, and she harbors dreams of going back to live with her mother.
Response: I had a very mixed response to the book. On the one hand, it is a very well-told, hard-edged story that respectfully explores the feelings of a girl who has had a difficult time. Gilly has grown so distrustful of forming attachments, that she tries really hard to push people away before they can begin to get close. Katherine Paterson has a great deal of respect for Gilly, and Gilly comes across as very real - neither the tough-as-nails orphan or the lovable, misunderstood imp. Likewise, the new foster "family" starts out as three people for whom Gilly feels only contempt, and both the reader and Gilly get to know them in all their complexities throughout the novel. On the other hand, Gilly is such a tough character, that I had a hard time picturing how I would introduce her to my students or my children. Perhaps Gilly is someone older kids would be ready to meet. Gilly is so mean and unpleasant at times that, although the portrayal is realistic, I almost felt like I would hesitate to introduce her to kids just the same way Mrs. Trotter hesitates to introduce her to W.E. Perhaps, like Mrs. Trotter and Ms. Harris, I need to give Gilly a chance - a chance that I would be willing to take with older readers who would not be put off by (or be only to happy to follow) Gilly's initial example of behavior, but who would be willing to wait to find out how Gilly might turn out. From a multicultural literature perspective, Gilly represents a less-than-visible member of society by being a foster child. Telling Gilly's story is presenting us with a picture of a non-traditional, but ultimately loving picture of a family. Her story also gives voice to children who might otherwise remain unheard. The story also presents Gilly with a blind, African-American next-door neighbor, a developmentally-disabled foster brother, and an African-American teacher. Gilly is forced to confront some of her own preconceived notions and get to know each of these people on their own merits, and each relationship ultimately helps her grow stronger.
Summary: Joey Pigza feels wired, and it makes it hard for him to succeed in school. When Joey has one accident too many, he has to work with his teach...moreSummary: Joey Pigza feels wired, and it makes it hard for him to succeed in school. When Joey has one accident too many, he has to work with his teachers, his mom, and himself to learn to make better decisions.
Response: I loved this book. I could not believe how much Jack Gantos put me inside Joey's head - his emotions, his intentions, and his energy level. I felt as exhausted and wired reading each sentence as Joey seemed to feel by telling it. I knew from the beginning that Joey had a big, kind heart, and I was so glad when one of the mom's told him so. I felt myself cheering for Joey, and I was so glad when the adults in his life not only showed good intentions but actually knew what he needed. I could also appreciate how complex his situation was, and I could appreciate the struggles of his teachers and mom to understand why he truly could not get his own behavior under control. Despite the fact that I could feel how much everyone cared for him, it wasn't working to give him reminders - he could not do it. Joey not only has a disability, but he has his own preconceived notions of what other "special education" kids might be like. Jack Gantos not only gives insight into how Joey feels inside, but how he regards other kids from the outside. Joey grows by not only finding out what's "messed up" about himself, but by discovering what is wrong with and what isn't wrong with other kids, both those whose disabilities are visible and those whose aren't. By asking his readers to get to know Joey, Gantos also helps young readers hear Joey's thoughts on the other kids, which may be similar to their own, and they, along with Joey, can challenge their ideas of what those other kids might be like. Gantos writes so respectfully, sincerely, humorously, and deeply that this book is one of the most well-developed stories I have read.(less)
Summary: In this story, a boy and his father are homeless and describe what it is like to live in the airport.
Response: This book is a very good way t...moreSummary: In this story, a boy and his father are homeless and describe what it is like to live in the airport.
Response: This book is a very good way to introduce the concept of homelessness to young children. Although it is probably no longer possible for this family to live in an airport, the idea that being homeless presents specific challenges is clearly told. Also clearly portrayed is the loving relationship between father and son and the way they face their challenges together. This book would pair well with "December," also by Eve Bunting.
Summary: When Molly's kindergarten class gets ready for Open School Night, Molly discovers that her classmates don't understand how she can have a Mom...moreSummary: When Molly's kindergarten class gets ready for Open School Night, Molly discovers that her classmates don't understand how she can have a Mommy and a Mama Lu.
Response: This is a perfect example of a book that has merit from a multicultural perspective if not from a literary perspective. Written in picture book form, geared towards very young children, and told in straightforward and kind tones, this book presents the concept of families with two mothers as well as presenting other less-traditional families. While the book is told in narrative form, its strength lies in the window and mirror Molly provides; for children who don't know any two-mom families, this book expresses their curiosity and doubt, being honest to the self-centered nature of children this age (if a family doesn't look like mine, it must not be possible). If a child lives in a two-mom family, he or she may have experience with trying to "explain" their family to other children, and the book describes Molly's trying to figure out how to explain something she just knows to be true - that of course she can have a Mommy and Mama Lu. The teacher serves to guide the children through their discussion and the book ultimately celebrates all families.
Summary: Chloe has a special relationship with her Uncle Bobby, and she worries that will change when he gets married.
Response: I found this book on T...moreSummary: Chloe has a special relationship with her Uncle Bobby, and she worries that will change when he gets married.
Response: I found this book on The Rainbow List - had I not, I my have dismissed it as an "authentic" and respectful book about two gay men. It is the first book in this course where I have read an animal story, since I had been trying to avoid cute animal versions of other people's cultures. This book, however, shows darling guinea pigs doing people things; in fact, Bobby's "friend" Jamie has a name that makes it hard to tell his gender and, since he is a guinea pig, it is hard to tell anything from the illustrations, too. It is not until halfway through the book that we learn Jamie is a "he" and we see him wearing a tuxedo for the wedding. I figure these details are designed to down-play the gender issue; whereas "Molly's Family" is explicitly about a same-sex couple, "Uncle Bobby's Wedding" seems to be more about the wedding and Chloe's relationship with her uncle than about the same-sex couple. Both books are important as the concept of same-sex marriage should both be a topic for picture books (culturally specific) and less-featured detail of a story about loving family relationships (culturally-neutral).
Summary: A little girl discovers that, while her mom is pregnant, she will put the new baby up for adoption.
Response: This beautifully written story p...moreSummary: A little girl discovers that, while her mom is pregnant, she will put the new baby up for adoption.
Response: This beautifully written story portrays a different view of adoption - while many books are written for the child who has been adopted, this book is written for the children whose parents chose not to raise their siblings. Written by a social worker who has worked in adoption issues, this book gives parents and children some strategies to approach this difficult issue, and it ultimately shows how the siblings can still be in each others' lives even if they don't grow up in the same home.(less)