Every day, A wakes up in a different body. It's always been like that as long as he/she has known. A completely accepts this way of life; it's just th...moreEvery day, A wakes up in a different body. It's always been like that as long as he/she has known. A completely accepts this way of life; it's just the way it is. Each day is a new day, learning about a new person, living each day in the moment. As A explains, "Every day I am someone else. I am myself - I know I am myself - but I am also someone else. It has always been like this." As you probably noticed, A is not a girl or a boy. A has an identity that isn't attached to a body or a physical gender. Sometimes A wakes up female, sometimes male. Alex McKenna embodies the A's perspective perfectly in the audiobook narration, bringing the listener into A's perspective, shifting voices just enough to give a sense of different characters A embodies but keeping a solid voice as A throughout. In my mind, I keep switching the pronoun I use to describe A, and will do so in the rest of this reflection.
A goes through life by respecting the body he is in for the day and not making any lasting connections. There is always today, but A can never have a tomorrow since tomorrow A will be in a different body. This existence is lonely, but it is also freeing - A is able to focus on herself. Until she meets Rhiannon. Then life completely changes for A. A falls deeply in love with Rhiannon, perhaps obsessively, and cannot stop thinking about her. The rules A has developed for himself cannot apply any more, because A realizes that Rhiannon is someone she wants to be with every day, no matter what body she inhabits.
David Levithan started this book by thinking about two questions. What would it be like going through life with no connections? And what would it be like to fall in love with someone who was physically different every day? At a recent book talk, Levithan described how this is the first novel he's written where he's started with questions and written without a detail plot outlined. He wanted each chapter, each character A wakes up as to be new for him, to be fresh. Levithan has created over 30 unique, interesting characters - and yet, he has also created a consistent voice for A throughout. It's absolutely riveting.
As the story progresses, A and Rhiannon develop a strong attachment - trying to keep connected as A changes every day. Rhiannon loves A, but she finds it very difficult to ignore his physical body. Sometimes A shows up in a girl's body, other times in a boy's body. Their relationship is fraught with complications that teens will identify with - acceptance, communication, jealousy.
The questions A wrestles with are authentic, organic to the story. They never overwhelm the story. Teens will be fascinated with Levithan's philosophical musings on love, identity, longing, gender and relationships, and yet they will ultimately be drawn to this love story. Can we overcome our physical identities and love someone for who they are on the inside?Can you truly love someone who cannot be there for you every day?
Could this really happen? Well, no - this is fantasy. And yet, this will appeal to teens who love realistic fiction because Levithan writes so well about the real life relationships between these teens. My own teen coined the term "realistic fantasy." What do you think of it?(less)
Have you watched a book spread from one kid to the next? It starts with just one reader connecting to it, telling a friend about it - then that friend...moreHave you watched a book spread from one kid to the next? It starts with just one reader connecting to it, telling a friend about it - then that friend has to read it. A few more try it out. This spring, Wonder has our classrooms buzzing with excitement as kids pass it from friend to friend. This is a book that is truly reaching kids, speaking to them, making them think - think about friendship, about bullies and about what it means to be kind.
currently listening to the audio - great fun, but make sure to avoid during lunch hour: too much gushing blood, dead rodents, and general gruesome hil...morecurrently listening to the audio - great fun, but make sure to avoid during lunch hour: too much gushing blood, dead rodents, and general gruesome hilarity(less)
This story really reached into my soul and I find myself continuing to think about it. But the ending was too abrupt and left me wondering about too m...moreThis story really reached into my soul and I find myself continuing to think about it. But the ending was too abrupt and left me wondering about too many questions. I'm wondering what others thought about the ending and if it affected their overall experience with this book.(less)
Seventh grade: it’s smack in the middle of the tween years, and a time full of transition for so many kids. Seventh graders are standing with a foot i...moreSeventh grade: it’s smack in the middle of the tween years, and a time full of transition for so many kids. Seventh graders are standing with a foot in each side of growing up - one side leaning into their teenage years, yearning to grow up and become fully independent, the other side keeping a toe in their childhood. I just finished listening to The Wednesday Wars, and - oh, how this book spoke to me, made me laugh and cry and feel and connect. I absolutely loved it.
It’s 1967, and Holling Hoodhood has just started seventh grade in Long Island, New York. He’s sure that his teacher Mrs. Baker hates him, absolutely hates him, and he’s dreading Wednesdays. Every Wednesday afternoon, he has to stay with his English teacher while all the other kids go to Hebrew school or catechism since he is the only Protestant in his class. At first, Holling and Mrs. Baker keep their distance. Holling spends his afternoons perfecting the art of cleaning blackboards and pounding erasers. But soon Mrs. Baker gives Holling a copy of Shakespeare’s collected works, and Holling finds that he actually likes these plays.
Holling’s voice really spoke to me. This was a perfect audiobook, one whose first person narration is brought to life by a versitile, nuanced narration by Joel Johnstone. Holling’s feelings, his uncertainties and frustrations, and his discoveries really come alive with this narration. But it wasn’t just that - Johnstone gave each character his or her own voice. I completely agree with Camille at the BookMoot:
it seems to me that Johnstone understood every word, every syllable and even the spaces BETWEEN the words of this Newbery honor book. … Gary Schmidt is a very clever writer. I burst out loud laughing as Holling attempts to navigate seventh grade in spite of accidents, death threats, deadly rats, diagrammed sentences, a flower-child older sister and a distant and opportunistic father. “ http://www.bookmoot.com/2010/07/wedne...
Gary Schmidt has written a story that is both a funny school story that boys and girls will relate to, and a poignant historical novel that speaks to parents and children about the transitions adolescents go through. I found myself laughing out loud, sighing, yearning for a teachers like Mrs. Baker, and cringing at the chasm between Mr. Hoodhood and his children. I loved the connections to Shakespeare, and I can see reading this again and again.
I have just started the companion novel to The Wednesday Wars that Gary Schmidt has just published: Okay for Now. It is definitely a bit darker, but friends have raved about it as well.
Listen to Gary Schmidt’s recent presentation at the New York Public Library where he talks about Okay for Now and The Wednesday Wars - available here at YouTube. http://youtu.be/Rm--Vl9yWJ8(less)
this book is generating very divergent views, and I bet it will among students as well. I didn't particularly care for it. I found the secondary chara...morethis book is generating very divergent views, and I bet it will among students as well. I didn't particularly care for it. I found the secondary characters to be quite flat and stereotypical, especially Kevin's study partner. I wonder if it was hard for me to connect to an unreliable narrator, but it seemed more that it was hard for me to feel much emotional depth. I do think the other thing was that I went into reading this book thinking it would work for my 4th and 5th graders (cover, size, font seem to target this group), but the sensibility lies much more with middle school students.(less)
When I was a child of about 9 or 10, I used to pour over illustrated fairy tales like Andrew Lang's Red Fairy Book and Blue Fairy Book. My favorite wa...moreWhen I was a child of about 9 or 10, I used to pour over illustrated fairy tales like Andrew Lang's Red Fairy Book and Blue Fairy Book. My favorite was Old French Fairy Tales, by Sophie Rostopchine, Comtesse De Segur. These were long, complicated tales rich with illustrations that captivated me. I was delighted recently to read Tony DiTerlizzi's newest novel, The Search for Wondla, a highly illustrated adventure which draws as its inspiration old illustrated fairy tales, modern quest stories and creates a richly drawn science fiction world.
Young Eva Nine has grown up entirely within the confines of her underground Sanctuary, under the watchful guidance of Muthr, a robot charged with her upbringing. Now twelve years old, Eva Nine yearns to explore above ground and meet other humans. Her dreams are fueled by a scrap of paper that has the words "Wond" and the letters "L" and "a", showing a picture of a young child walking hand in hand with a robot - her "WondLa". But Muthr (pronounced "mother") insists that Eva must wait a bit longer so she is truly prepared.
One day, the Sanctuary is attacked by a vicious beast and Eva escapes with only the clothes on her back and her Omnipod, a handheld computer device. Suddenly Eva is thrust above ground and must survive on her own. All around her are strange plant forms and living things which her Omnipod cannot identify. She meets Rovender Kit, a strange, blue creature who ends up becoming Eva's trusted friend and guide, and she is ruthlessly pursued by the beast who destroyed her Sanctuary. Together, Eva, Rovender and Muthr search this strange, fascinating world for other human life forms.
Tony DiTerlizzi, author of the Spiderwick Chronicles, has created wonderful illustrations to highlight his richly imagined world. Each chapter begins with a double-page illustration that captured my interest. I actually listened to this as an audiobook, but each night found myself pouring over the illustrations in the book. In some places, I found the text did not provide quite enough description, as it assumed readers were also looking at the illustrations. But Teri Hatcher's narration captured the voice of Eva perfectly, combining an annoying Tween girl's attitude with her mother's restrictions, with her wonder and fear as she explored this new world. DiTerlizzi has also created an interactive visual map which you access online through WondLaVision. This intrigues some students, but I found it hard to break away from my reading habits, bring the book to the computer, and explore this world.
Several students in my elementary school have started this but not finished it. Its length is definitely daunting. But for those who want to get lost in another world, I'd highly recommend this. Another excellent science fiction series is Mortal Engines, by Philip Reeve. Several of my 5th grade students have loved Fever Crumb and are thrilled that the Mortal Engine series is being re-released in paperback this spring.(less)
Scholastic has relaunched its Dear America series of historical fiction written in a diary format, and this is the first new title published since 200...moreScholastic has relaunched its Dear America series of historical fiction written in a diary format, and this is the first new title published since 2004. Larson, winner of the Newbery Honor for Hattie Big Sky (Delacorte, 2006), creates a compelling story that documents life in World War II, first in Seattle and then at the Minidoka Relocation Center, where Japanese Americans were incarcerated for over two years. Thirteen-year-old Piper Davis begins her diary in November 1941, just as her older brother Hank is leaving to serve in the US Navy in the Pacific. She shares her concern about her brother’s safety, especially after Pearl Harbor is bombed. But Piper’s world is also consumed by first crushes, first kisses and “getting pinned”, and Larson conveys the setting of the early 1940s with humor. Soon, however, Piper’s world changes dramatically and she wrestles with her reactions as many of her schoolmates start to act cruelly towards Japanese Americans, many of whom are Piper’s friends. Piper’s father, a pastor for a Japanese Baptist church, decides to follow his congregants to central Idaho when they are sent to an incarceration camp in Minidoka, where about 10,000 Japanese Americans were held. Life in Minidoka is very hard, and Piper is aware that it is even harder for the Japanese held there against their will. Larson creates a realist portrait of a thoughtful young girl, and Piper’s voice is strong throughout. The secondary characters are not developed fully, but that can be expected in a diary format. Larson provides interesting historical context for young readers to understand the many of the cultural and social pressures during this time, while still keeping it appropriate for middle grade readers. Particularly thought-provoking is the author’s note at the very end, where Larson explains that although she grew up in the Seattle area, it wasn’t until she reached college in the 1970s that she learned about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. This fictional diary is based on the real experiences of Pastor Emery “Andy” Andrews who followed his Japanese congregation to Minidoka. Four websites are provided for young readers to explore to learn more about the incarceration of Japanese Americans, but no other suggested reading is included. Scholastic Audio has also produced an audiobook available electronically or on a Playaway. Scholastic also has created websites for students and teachers to explore the Dear America series.(less)
I found this a very mixed bag. The audio version of Jon Scieszka and Kate diCamillo reading their story about a boy who writes letters to an author fo...moreI found this a very mixed bag. The audio version of Jon Scieszka and Kate diCamillo reading their story about a boy who writes letters to an author for a school assignment was absolutely hilarious, for me worth the price of admission. And yet my kids found it so-so, just couldn't get into the dry humor.
But the other stories were often read by the same narrator, so it was hard for me to distinguish the stories from one another - even though they were written by different authors and in different styles.(less)
The audio has a fun southern accent for Gooney Bird - I probably wouldn't have picked up on this without hearing the audio. I think it would make a fu...moreThe audio has a fun southern accent for Gooney Bird - I probably wouldn't have picked up on this without hearing the audio. I think it would make a fun classroom read for 2nd grade as students get into writing their own stories.(less)