*Death narrates this beautiful tale of Liesel, a young girl, who has lost everything, but finds a home in a small community on Himmel Street with her...more*Death narrates this beautiful tale of Liesel, a young girl, who has lost everything, but finds a home in a small community on Himmel Street with her foster parents outside of Munich, Germany during WWII. Death is fascinated with Leisel because she brushes Death three times in her life and he is interested in her life. The Book Thief is the story of Leisel's three brushes with death.
Liesel begins her "career" after her brother dies and she steals The Gravedigger's Handbook from by his grave. His death, on the way to being taken to live with foster parents because her parents are in trouble with the Nazi party because they are communists, is something that haunts Leisel forever. Soon after, Leisel gets dropped off at Hans and Rosa Hubermann's home and never sees her mother again. However, the Humbermanns are the beginning of a large number of people that make a huge, loving difference in Leisel's life; as well as a number of books that make an impact in her life.
Just a warning: This book made me sob. It did make me smile, laugh, and think as well, but there was definitely sobbing as well.
This book shows the healing power of poetry. Lonnie, who has gone through more tragedies than any 11 year old should have, writes poetry to help go th...moreThis book shows the healing power of poetry. Lonnie, who has gone through more tragedies than any 11 year old should have, writes poetry to help go through the grieving process and getting used to living in foster care. (less)
Alcatraz breaks everything. Some say he destroys, but he swears he only breaks and doesn't do it on purpose. Because of this, he is sent from foster h...moreAlcatraz breaks everything. Some say he destroys, but he swears he only breaks and doesn't do it on purpose. Because of this, he is sent from foster home to foster home, being given up on whenever he breaks something that his foster family loves. The lastest is the kitchen. By breaking the gas stove and pot, Alcatraz sets fire to his foster family's kitchen. As he is about to be moved again, an odd, old, spry many shows up at Alacatraz's door swearing he is Alcatraz's grandfather. At first Alcatraz would not go with him, but when he is face to face with the chance of death, a crazy, old man seemed like his best choice.
After going with Grandpa Smedry, Alcatraz soon begins to learn things that turns his world upside down. The world is really run by evil librarians, hiding important information from us "Hushlanders." Alcatraz soon begins to learn that what he has always known is not the truth. (less)
I love that Ellen Hopkins went out of the box and made the last book a complete work of fiction. I think this is even more of a feat because the first...moreI love that Ellen Hopkins went out of the box and made the last book a complete work of fiction. I think this is even more of a feat because the first two books are so based in reality and close to her. (less)
Tom is a loner. He always has been- since he was abandoned in a department store when he was a year old. He's moved from foster home to foster home. T...moreTom is a loner. He always has been- since he was abandoned in a department store when he was a year old. He's moved from foster home to foster home. The only constant has been Brian, an older mentally challenged boy who has moved from the last couple of foster homes with him. One night Tom (and Brian) go to the construction sight across from their school. Tom had felt a pull to the hole ever since they started working on it. The hole is surrounded by a tent and there is a night watch guard, but he MUST go to it. When he does, he is sucked into a world that will teach him so much about himself.
Heneghan mixes the story of Tom's life as a foster child with the story of his journeys in Ireland during the Irish Potato Famine in 1847. It is a good mix between the realistic fiction and historical fiction, although sometimes the jump from one to the other is unexpected. I do love that the book touches on two topics: foster care and the Irish Potato Famine.
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For a challenge that I participated in, I made a playlist for the novel: 1. Live- Alone 2. She & Him- Black Hole 3. Gorillaz- Don't Get Lost in Heaven 4. Hanson- Crazy Beautiful 5. Beatles- A Little Help from your Friends 6. Nine Inch Nails- Big Man with a Gun 7. Al Green- Ain't No Sunshine When Your Gone 8. Eric Carmen- Hungry Eyes 9. Rock Kills Kid- Run Like Hell 10. Ok Go- Hello my Treacherous Friends 11. Jet- Move On 12. John Williams- Finding Satsu 13. Nine Inch Nails- Dead Souls 14. Hanson- When You're Gone 15. Adele- First Love 16. Jill Scott- Family Reunion
I chose the songs based on the plot and feelings portrayed in the novel. (less)
Poor Gabe. This is such a sad and realistic story from the very beginning, but it also Gabe's story of surviving after losing his only living relative...morePoor Gabe. This is such a sad and realistic story from the very beginning, but it also Gabe's story of surviving after losing his only living relative. The book also has a mystery aspect to it- who is it that is leaving Gabe messages and also helping him out. Gabe calls him/her his fairy godmother, but s/he has to be real.
I almost wish that I had listened to the audiobook instead of read it, though, because I would have loved to hear Uncle Vernon's voice as Gabe heard it. Reading it just didn't have the same effect as I think hearing it would have.
Also, I really don't like the cover. I, as most people do, have a tendency to judge a book by its cover. And this cover was boring and seemed girly, when really the book is neither. (less)
Summary: Mandy has never known what it is like to be loved by a mother, so when she gets pregnant she wants to make sure that her baby is always loved and has a good life.
Jill has recently lost her father and while living in a world of grief is shocked by her mother's announcement that she is adopting a baby.
Told from both Mandy and Jill's perspective, we watch as two worlds collide and change.
What I Think: This is one of those books that reaches into your soul when you are reading it and makes it so you can't stop. Then when you are done you feel like you just left someone you love because you feel empty. Both of the girls are just so real! You have Mandy who has left a horrible situation trying to find something better for her baby, but she is so scared of everything because she has never had anything to believe in. Then there is Jill who's perfect life shattered with the death of her beloved father so now she is more of a shell of herself and so angry, sad, and scared of living life again. As the narrative seamlessly switches back and forth, you feel the fears that both girls have and you feel for them.
On top of all of this, Zarr masks both girls in a bit of mystery. When the story begins, even to the reader Jill is jaded and hiding something. It is only through a special friendship that her true self is revealed. (Btw, there is a scene in the coffee shop with note passing that will never leave me.) Then with Mandy, you don't know anything about her and parts of her past are exposed slowly throughout the story as Mandy feels comfortable enough to think about them. And with both girls, your heart strings are pulled in all sorts of different directions. Such a great book. (less)
Once again Lonnie's thoughtful and sensitive voice resonates off of the pages of Peace, Locomotion just as they did off of Locomotion. While Locomotio...moreOnce again Lonnie's thoughtful and sensitive voice resonates off of the pages of Peace, Locomotion just as they did off of Locomotion. While Locomotion was a book in verse, Peace, Locomotion is an epistolatory (written in letters) novel. All of the letters that Lonnie writes is to his sister Lili because they have been separated into different foster homes and Lonnie is to be the rememberer for the two of them. In these letters, he remembers and shares. While both Locomotion and Peace, Locomotion deal with Lonnie coming of age in a foster home dealing with the death of his parents and his sister being taken away, in Peace, Locomotion it is not the main focus- he has become comfortable with Miss Edna and sees his sister often. In Peace, Locomotion, I felt that it was more about Lonnie finding his place in the world now that he has figured out his place in his own little world.
Some quotes: "Ms. Cooper told me the poem wasn't outside the window. I think Ms. Cooper is the one that's not a poet because poetry is everywhere." pg. 32
"There's all kind of mamas..." pg. 35
"'The way I see it,' he said. 'You pray for peace, all the rest of the stuff comes. If there was peace, nobody would be getting hurt or jacked up in a war, right?...Peace covers everything, Little Brother. Everything.'" pg. 40-41
"My mind's always going and going. Been like that since I was a little kid, but it wasn't going like teachers wanted it to be so they always tried to get me to do things different... When I was a kid and even when I was a teenager, I always thought it was me. But when I got older, I started realizing that I just got stuck with some lame teacher... and they made me thing I wasn't a good student, so I wasn't." pg 53-54
"It would be cool... to make some of those kids who think they're not smart suddenly see how smart they really are." pg. 54
Notes: *I think this is a book that all teachers should read, because it shows how a teacher can impact a child negatively and/or positively just by showing them confidence. *While an amazing book, I am not sure why it is on the SSYRA 2011-2012 list. I know it is listed as a companion to Locomotion, but it is more a sequel than a companion (as it obviously happens after) and it makes much more sense with the background of the first novel.(less)
4.5 stars This is a book about a boy. His name is Stark, but everyone calls him Stick on account of his height. He is a boy just trying to survive all...more4.5 stars This is a book about a boy. His name is Stark, but everyone calls him Stick on account of his height. He is a boy just trying to survive all the stuff that makes being a boy hard including being bullied because he has one ear and trying to figure out what sex and girls means to him. On top of all of the normal boy stuff, he has a home life which includes being beat on a weekly basis. However, he finds solitude in his time with Emily, his best friend, and Bosten, his brother. This book is as much Bosten's story as it is Stick's. We meet Stick on a Friday where everything seems to change in his life- Emily touches his missing ear, which no one does, his brother beats up a boy for harassing him and he learns that his brother is gay. None of these things bother Stick, but they sure to change his life. This book filled with many different issues (bullying, homophobia, child abuse, survival, sex) doesn't ever become an issue book, though, it is just a book about love (love for a brother, love for friends, love in general) and a boy. (less)
I cannot imagine living in a family who I knew wouldn't approve of me if they knew the truth about me. Alyssa has had to live that way for the last 4...moreI cannot imagine living in a family who I knew wouldn't approve of me if they knew the truth about me. Alyssa has had to live that way for the last 4 years of her life after she came out to her friends at age 13. She knew she had to keep the truth from her father as he was an open homophobe. She Loves You, She Loves You Not tells two stories: one of Alyssa's first real relationship followed by her father finding out she was a lesbian and disowning her. Two of her starting over in a new town where she has been forced to move to to live with her mostly nonexistent biological mother. This novel is a truthful and honest look into Alyssa's life- the peaks and the valleys. (less)
Summary: Jonathan (Jono) and Julie's mother might as well be nonexistent. She sleeps through the day, goes out to drink at night and then comes home to pass out. Jono is in charge of Julie since he is 8 years her senior. It isn't too bad, except when their mom forgets to get their government check for food or if she spends it all on booze. But then their mother goes one step too far- she hits Julie. Jono cannot take the thought of being separated from Julie because of their mother, so the two of them run away to make it together.
What I Think: This is one of those books that when you are done you have to go just sit somewhere and breath. It is too real. By the end you are so attached to the characters that leaving them feels like part of you is being put away with the book. It is so emotionally draining. It is a story of finding hope when there is none. When all choices are poor choices, but you still have to make one.
Siobhan Parkinson is the Children's Literature Laureate of Ireland and she has received this honor for a reason- the writing of this book is phenomenal. The authenticity of her voice resonates throughout the book. Jono is sarcastic, funny, dramatic... real.
I think that this book has just enough drama and realism in it to hook a reader. Often I find that some really well written books just do not have the kid appeal that you'd hope. This book is different because most students can connect with (or find interesting/horrifying) what is going on with Jono and Julie. However, I could foresee a problem with some of the Irish slang in the book. Although the book is universal, Jono is Irish and as any 16 year old boy would, he uses slang just not American slang. I could see how a struggling reader would find this a difficulty. (less)
*Wow. Marissa Meyer completely impressed with this one! I was afraid that it was going to be just another dystopian or fairy-tale retelling, but it was so unique and really was entertaining and well done. I can definitely see why Cinder was a huge hit when it came out and I am so glad that I finally got to read it. What I specifically loved about Cinder is it didn't completely rely on being a fairy tale retelling or on being a pure dystopian novel- it is a unique combo of the two.
Characters: I love how Marissa Meyer didn't overwhelm the story with too many characters, as I have seen in other dystopian novels, she specifically delved deep into the most important characters. It made me, as a reader, feel like I had a deeper connection with the characters who actually mattered.
Setting: Holy world building batman! I am always a huge fan of a character who can build a world that is futuristic yet completely realistic. Although the Lunar colony and the glamours are a bit of a reality stretch, Kai's Commonwealth is completely plausible.
Conflict: Wow! Levana is so evil! She is a great antagonist to go up against the hardcore Cinder and handsome Kai.
In the classroom: The parallels between Cinderella and Cinder combined with many human issues throughout Cinder will definitely make it so it can be part of a classroom read aloud or novel analysis.
Topics: War, Humanity, Mechanics, Propaganda, ID Chips, Plagues, Politics
Snatch of text: "The screw through Cinder's ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle. Her knuckles ached from forcing the screwdriver into the joint as she struggled to loosen the screw one gritting twist after another. By the time it was extracted far enough for her to wrench free with her prosthetic steel hand, the hairline threads had been stripped clean." (p. 1)
"The lingering moon caught Cinder's attention, and a shock of goose bumps covered her arms. The moon had always given her a sense of paranoia, like the people who lived up there could be watching her, and if she stared for too long, she might draw their attention. Superstitious nonsense, but then everything about Lunars was eerie and superstitious." (p. 43)
(Went back and forth between a 4 and a 5, so sticking with a 4.5 only because I figured out the big secret. Otherwise- Loved it!)(less)
Summary: Jack is an orphan- his mother died of dust pneumonia and his father hanged himself- and he cannot take it in Oklahoma any more. The dust bowl has officially taken over and is sucking the life out of everything it can. While determining his plan, Jane, a neighbor girl, and her brother, Tony, trudge into his front yard looking for help because they too have lost everything in their lives. The three decide to steal a dead neighbor's car and make their way to Texas where Jane and Tony have relatives. This decision starts an adventure that none of them could have bargained for including mobsters, guns, alligators, slavery, train hopping and a carnival.
What I Think: When you begin this book, you think you are going to read a normal historical fiction book about the dust bowl. The beginning is so depressing- filled with death and dust- expressing the emotion of the era. I felt that it captured the dust bowl so well. Our characters were dealing with tragedies in their life that we can't even imagine happening to us, but the children just breezed over it like it was a normal day occurrence. But then the book changed. I still don't really know how I feel about the book because it was so far from what I was expecting. When the kids meet mobsters on the side of the road, I couldn't believe that the author made that choice for this story, but then everything kind of snowballed from there and I was sucked into this crazy movie-esque adventure where just when everything seemed okay, something else horrible would happen.
Although I question the plot, I did really enjoy the characters. Jack was a simple good-ole-boy and all throughout his narration I could hear his voice in my head. Jane, on the other hand, was anything but your normal girl from this era. She was well read, always comparing their journeys to the quests of Sir Galahad, Odysseus, Jason or another story, and she had a mind of her own. I love that she stood up for herself often and wouldn't waver from what she believed in. Although she was a big liar, she often used it for good, not evil and overall was a fantastic story teller. Tony, her brother, was the side kick and bit of humor in the story. He was a sweet boy who had to make some tough choices. The characters are really what made this story.
*secret* I really dislike the cover. I think it looks way too modern and also doesn't capture the essence of the story. *sh*(less)
Take The Secret Garden throw in some folk tales, a dash of mysterious characters, and a handful of Ellen Potter's luscious descriptions and you have yourself The Humming Room. Ellen Potter does a great job of capturing what we all loved about The Secret Garden- the secrets, the mystery, the hope; but she also added in her own touches through a unique setting on the St. Lawrence River and the folk tales that exist in this magical place. I also loved Roo much more than Mary from The Secret Garden. I understood why Roo was angry and acting the way she was while I always felt that Mary was just being spoiled and rude. And Roo is a character than many will connect with. Her subtle way of going about life and appreciating so many little things is a beautiful quality. Also, some readers will connect with her need for isolation and her disconnect from other people- a quality that is not often found in a book and just might be what this reader needs. Overall, a beautiful book giving homage to a wonderful classic. (less)
*I hadn't read the first Tyrell book, but it didn't matter. Tyrell is such a real character that even without the descriptive back story that is proba...more*I hadn't read the first Tyrell book, but it didn't matter. Tyrell is such a real character that even without the descriptive back story that is probably in the first book, I connected with him. He has had a rough life and all he wants is to be a man.
Coe Booth brilliantly captures the voice of a teenage boy growing up in the Bronx. Never does the dialect seem forced, it just flows as if Tyrell was telling you his story.
I truly hope that there is a third Tyrell book, because I really want to know what happens to him. (less)
Ben is introduced to Zan when he is 8 days old. Zan is his new baby brother. At first Ben is resistant to loving Zan, but that changes as he gets to know him. Ben loves Zan more than anything in the world. He would do anything for him. But others, including his father, don't understand why he has such an attachment to Zan. Yes, Zan is his brother, but Zan is also a chimp. A chimp who Ben's father is researching by conducting an experiment to see if chimps can learn language. To Ben, Zan has become a member of the family, but to others, he is just a specimen.
Ever since I started teaching and I was introduced to Willie B. through a short story and Sukari in Hurt Go Happy, I have gotten a mild obsession with apes- specifically chimps, gorillas and orangutans. I have often visited the Center for Great Apes where I learned even more about the life of chimps in entertainment, testing and living with humans.
Also, in the last couple of years, I have been introduced to Kenneth Oppel through his other books- Matt Cruse series, Victor Frankenstein and Silverwing- and I have adored every word of his that I have read/listened to.
So, when Half Brother came out, I knew it was a book I had to read. But then it got pushed aside again and again. For some reason, I just never got around to it. Until my best friend listened to it and insisted it be the next audiobook I read- and I am so glad she did! Half Brother is such a touching, suspenseful, well-done, amazing story. It pulls at your heart strings throughout and makes you think about all that it means to be human.
Kenneth Oppel obviously did a lot of research for this project. Half Brother is set in the 1970s at the peak of chimp research including research for the space program, medicine and language acquisition (Project Nim & Project Washoe) and also the beginning of protest against such experiments. This book teaches you the history of this time through a fictional experiment that is not much different than the real ones.
Half Brother is an emotion-filled, thought-provoking book which brings Zan and his family to life in 1973. This book is made to be a discussion as it introduces so many tough topics and is one that I cannot wait to discuss with students. (less)
Sophie is a normal teenager who struggles with going between her divorced parents mostly when they live in completely different cultural situations- her father has a office job in America and her mother runs a bonobo sanctuary in Congo. Though she was born in the Congo, the last handful of years have been spent in America with her father and returning to Congo and her mother's sanctuary. The book begins with Sophie being picked up and while waiting in a check point, she spots a baby bonobo who is not being treated well and, against everyone's wishes, buys him. Otto now enters into her life and ours. He becomes the co-star of the book and begins to change Sophie's feelings about being at the sanctuary. But then, right before she is about to leave, chaos at the hand of revolutionaries envelopes Congo and Sophie finds herself in a completely type of situation. Now if you follow me here or on Twitter, you know that I am a sucker for ape books and I have been lucky that many people who care a lot about apes write some amazing ape books - this is a book to add to that list. It left me with even more of a passion for saving these animals who are our closest relative. I. Love. This. Book. It quickly moved into my favorites list even while I was only half way through with it. It is such a journey that you take with this young lady and the growth you see in her (and Otto) is incredible. On top of that, Eliot Schrefer is an author who not only can tell a good story, but he can help you become part of the story and visualize and feel everything that is happening. And I am not alone in this love. Endangered was a finalist for The National Book Award, Eliot Schrefer was a hit at the Scholastic Brunch at NCTE, and it is being gushed about on Twitter: "ENDANGERED is one of those books that has a powerful impact, makes you think, and sticks with you long after you've closed the final pages." -Jillian Heise (@heisereads)
"ENDANGERED was a can't-put-down book with an emotional and intelligent story that left me wanting to learn more about bonobos and the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I enjoy books that engage me and leave me thinking, and Eliot Schrefer has balanced that beautifully in this novel." -Jillian Heise (@heisereads) "ENDANGERED is so, so good! Highly recommend to everyone, even though I am only halfway through it. @kelleemoye, you weren't kidding." -Ricki Ginsberg (@ReadwithPassion)
"@kelleemoye @eliotschrefer It is such a complex book. Would be great to teach! Very accessible for kids, too." -Ricki Ginsberg (@ReadwithPassion)
Read Together: Grades 6 and up
Read Alone: Grades 7 and up
Read With: Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel, Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, The Chimpanzees I Love by Jane Goodall, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Faithful Elephants by Yukio Tsuchiya (via Jillian Heise), Non-fiction books about bonobos and the Democratic Republic of Congo
Snatch of Text: "The man released the bonobo. The little ape sat down tiredly in the dirt and lowered his arms, wincing as his sore muscles relaxed. I kneeled and reached out to him. The bonobo glanced at his master before working up the energy to stand and toddle over to me. He leaned against my shin for a moment, then extended his arms to be picked up. I lift him easily and hugged himself to me, his fragile arms as light as a necklace. I could make out his individual ribs under my figures, could feel his heart flutter against my throat. He pressed his lips against my check , I guess to get as close as possible to my skin, and only then did I hear his faint cries; he'd been making them for so long that his voice was gone." (p. 3-4)
Mentor Text for: Imagery, Emotional Impact, Figurative Language
Writing Prompts: Sophie makes many decisions throughout the book that many people, specifically her parents, would not have agreed with. Would you have made the same decisions as her? Were there any you would have done differently? Do you think her decisions were worth it? Use text evidence to back your answers.