What I found in this book was a book of truth. While I normally find a book that has so many topics in it to be cumbersome (just some of the topics hit were: pregnancy, abortion, meth, family, religion, ethnicity, school, homosexuality, sex, death, poetry, college, rape, and gender expectations), I felt that Gabi was just truthful. Her story was just a story full of real life which just happens to be messy. I enjoyed the unique format, the diversity (not just race/ethnicity, but lbgt, body size, class, ELL, etc.), and the amazing cast of characters. Gabi’s voice rang true throughout, and even got stronger as she became more independent within the story. Well done....more
Andrew Smith sure knows how to write a teenage boy’s voice. He gets inside of adolescent male’s mind, and puts it all on paper for us. (It probably has something to do with teaching high school.) Ryan Dean’s voice and his story are so authentic. This book will make you cringe, laugh out loud, shake your head, and cry. I am also so impressed with all of the themes that are dealt with in this book without ever feeling over done. These themes include bullying, absent parents, peer pressure, identity, sexuality, prejudice, and friendship. In addition, Smith builds his characters, setting, and plot seamlessly. You fall in love with all of the characters, main and secondary. Even the antagonist. The setting itself is a character. And finally the plot arc was perfectly done, and was so unpredictable all the way to the end....more
This is such a great book! It is written well, very funny, smart, and has an important theme. What blew me away the most is how it was so humorous when dealing with a tough subject, but never lost its maturity and importance. Sometimes if you add humor to a novel, it becomes slap stick or more of a novelty, but Bill Konigsberg does it perfectly in Openly Straight.
As a teacher, what I immediately find myself connecting to was the journal entries from Rafe followed by Mr. Scarborough responses. Mr. Scarbourgh becomes quite an important person in Rafe’s life, and I feel that only through these journals, reflections, and responses that Rafe was able to make it at the new school. I think much of what Mr. Scarborough does with Rafe could be transferred directly into most classrooms....more
Oh. My. Goodness. I love this book so much! I just finished it, and I immediately had to read the second one. Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle is more than just a funny book about a young boy auditioning for a Broadway musical. It is about a boy who doesn’t feel like he fits in at home because of who he is. There are so many young kids out there that will connect with this feeling. And the prejudice and bullying that Nate faces is so real for so many. However, this book has hope. He finds something he loves and it helps him find a place to be himself....more
*Loved this book. A perfect combination of Spinelli's Stargirl, a John Green book, and a rom-com. Loved the voice, quirks, characters, and plot. A sleeper title from 2013 that you should read.
A couple things I really loved about this book: -The characters are such good people. Although they evolve, they never were kids I wouldn't want my son to hang out with. -A romancey book from a boy's point of view! -Camilla is so cool yet so uncool and just shows how the labels and cliques and such of high school are just so stupid. Oh, and that you cannot judge a book by its cover. -The writing, music, and movie references. Just a bit of geeky, but not too much.
I think first and foremost, this book needs to be in libraries so that kids (and adults!) can get their hands on it. In the classroom, it can definitely be used as for a mentor text. I think it is perfect for an example of character development and voice. The characters in this book are so strong and there are lines and passages throughout that show the characters’ personality. There are also parts that deal with writing poetry/music and would be great passages to talk about writing with students....more
Overall a good book, but I just had some issues with it. First, I had a very hard time finding a connection to the protagonist. She is having troubleOverall a good book, but I just had some issues with it. First, I had a very hard time finding a connection to the protagonist. She is having trouble with her identity and that is evident in the lack of voice in the book. I was impressed that as Cass found her "voice" so did the book. However, I think it was trying to do too much in one book: identity, religion, bullying, tarot cards, friendship, sexuality, first loves, etc.. It was just too much and I didn't feel like it was able to focus enough on one of them. ...more
*A very unique idea and executed very well. I loved how the back story of the characters were revealed through "shots" from the past documentaries. Ea*A very unique idea and executed very well. I loved how the back story of the characters were revealed through "shots" from the past documentaries. Each scene gave a little bit of insight. I also really connected with the main character who was just trying to figure out who she was and didn't know if she wanted the whole world to be part of her search. ...more
This book is more than just a retelling of Cinderella, it is a look at our society and the importance (or lack there of) of physical appearance and celebrity. I would love to know which celebrities influenced Rudnick for some of the crazy characters in Gorgeous. I also loved Becky as a person—she is quite funny and a very good person, even after she dives into Rebecca. Readers who love romance, fashion, Hollywood, and royalty will find a winner with this book and will also find a book that delves into deeper issues than it seems originally....more
So beautifully written. One of those books that you want to tell everyone to read because it is so literary and lyrical. While reading, I felt I had to keep stopping to take notes because I had so much I wanted to share with you all. In a way, Aristotle & Dante reminded me of John Green in that way. His characters are so intelligent, the voice so pure and mesmerizing, and the story so enthralling- all aspects of a literary young adult novel. I am not surprised at all of the awards that Aristotle & Dante took home from the ALA Awards as it deserved each and every one of them (Stonewall Book Award, Printz Honor, Pura Belpre Author Award). I know this seems mighty gushy, but I just really fell in love with this novel.
There was so many passages throughout that could be used for exemplar pieces of writing (specifically while reading I picked up on the literary devices, characterization, and voice) and can be used to practice reading strategies. The only thing I worry about is the teen appeal for this novel. I could see students thinking it was pretty slow because it is more character-driven than plot-driven. It is about Aristotle & Dante growing up and finding themselves (once again, reminds me a bit of a John Green Novel). Though I can see students who give it a chance being as touched by the book as I am.
Mentor text for: Characterization, Voice, Descriptive (p. 19 et al.), Compare/Contrast (p. 20), Dialogue, Literary Devices, Vocabulary, Literary writing, Metaphor (p. 261 et al.)
Topics: Poetry (Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams), Philosophers, Literature (Heart of Darkness, Grapes of Wrath, Sun Also Rises, War & Peace), Art History (Mexican Art, Edward Hopper), Comics (p. 19), Identity of 2nd Generation American Immigrants, Light Pollution, Mental Health, Teaching (pgs. 67, 165), Anger, Counseling, PTSD, Survivor's Guilt, Sexual Identity, Puberty, Family Secrets, Hate Crimes, Loyalty, Love (p. 247 et al.), Vietnam, Spontaneous Creative Writing (p. 21 et al.), Guilt/Shame, Family
Writing Prompt: Aristotle & Dante love to make up stories about the people on the bus (see p. 21); go and sit outside where you can people watch and spontaneously write short stories about a handful of them.
"The war changed him. I was born when he came home. Sometimes I think my father has all these scars. On his heart. In his head. All over. It's not such an easy thing to be a son of a man who's been to war. when I was eight, I overheard my mother talking to my Aunt Ophelia on the phone. "I don't think that the war will ever be over for him." Later I asked my Aunt Ophelia if that was true. "Yes," she said, "it's true" "But why won't the war leave my dad alone?" "Because your father has a conscience," she said. "What happened to him in the war?" "No one knows" "Why won't he tell?" "Because he can't."" (p. 14)
"I felt alone, but not in a bad way. I really liked being alone. Maybe I liked it too much. Maybe my father was like that too. I thought of Dante and wondered about him. And it seemed to me that Dante's face was a map of the world. A world without darkness. wow, a world without darkness. How beautiful was that?" (p. 56)...more
3.5 Ysabel and Justin were sure of where their lives were going until their father's secret was exposed and their lives changed.
Sometimes I felt like3.5 Ysabel and Justin were sure of where their lives were going until their father's secret was exposed and their lives changed.
Sometimes I felt like the twins' personalities were made to fit the situation that the author wanted instead of fitting the characterization that was set although this did not take away from the story and the message that the author set out to send. Overall, (view spoiler)[Happy Families is a real and raw fictionalized-account of a family dealing with their father as a transgender person. (hide spoiler)]
"It's not just that love BEARS all things. It believes, it hopes, and it endures. A million broken promises, and love is still there. Ysabel. Love. Does. Not. Give. Up." (p. 222)
Would be a nice pairing with I am J by Cris Beam and Cadillac Chronicles by Brett Hartman["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This is a book that surprised me. I'll admit that I definitely judged a book by its cover and when I decided to read this book, I assumed it was going to be boring. I am so glad that I still chose to jump in and I am so happy to be able to share this book with others.
Alex is a boy much like many of the teens we know- a loner, over medicated, depressed, yet brilliant and talented and no one sees it. Also, he has a mother who just doesn't see that he should be a priority. Lucky for him, his mother's need for publicity and acceptance brought him face to face with a man that changed his life.
Even reading this summary, it almost sounds cliche and didactic, but it is more than that. It is a road trip book that doesn't fit into the fold of other road trip books. I am a fan of road trip books because they are definitely a way to help characters unfold and for hope, realization, epiphanies, etc. to play a part and although this book does do that, it's clicheness ends there.
And what makes this book so special? Lester Bray. Lester Bray is the man that changes Alex's life. Lester is a man that outside of our story, changed many lives. He is so real that I feel like I know him and also makes me wish I could.
This is beautifully written, about prejudice but not in a didactical sense, and truly is a great story. I recommend highly.
What makes me sad about this book is that Astrid has to hide who she is even though she is an amazing person. The book begins with her sending her love to others hoping that they have a better life; such a selfless idea. Yet, Astrid even keeps this secret. She keeps everything true about her secret and all because it is not what is expected. I think that this shows something that is so wrong in our society. Differences should be embraced as long as someone is a good person. ...more
I just love that feeling of reading a really superb book. One that has it all- story, characterization, theme, grippingness, relevance, etc. etc. etc. It is very similar to eating a perfect meal, but this give you satisfaction in your body, heart and soul. To someone who has never experienced this feeling unless they have read some of those great books out there. I'll never forget the first time I got this feeling- The Giver. 7th grade. I've been lucky to experience this feeling often in the last 18 years and this was again one of those times. From the beginning, I wanted to know Matt. I wanted to know his secrets and the reason he hurt so much. I wanted to protect him and save him. And I was so glad to be able to go on this journey with him. I also really enjoyed the cast of characters the supported Matt- Shauna, TJ, Curtis... I actually left the novel with more of a sorrow for Curtis than for Matt.
It is hard for me to sit here and share with you the emotions you feel as you read this book. You'll feel anger, sadness, sorrow, grief, but also an underlined joy at the end. Kokie has captured these emotions in a book and throws them at you throughout.
My only criticism is Matt's parents. Their inclusion seemed hollow and stereotypical and I wish I understood them more. It is such a source for so much that runs Matt that I wish there was more of a back story (prequel?).
This book will be a great book for discussions and deals with some heavy issues that are never more relevant than they are today.
"After I've folded myself into the chair next to her desk, she hands me a large plastic cup of water. The first tentative sip slides around my mouth. Relief, cold and clean and so good. Maybe the best-tasting water I've ever had. I take small sips, swirling it around my tongue each time before swallowing, just to savor it." (p. 17) [The rest of this page to 18 is all very good]...more
I was a junior in high school at a fine arts school of choice when Matthew Shepard was murdered. My two best friends were both gay. I remember that they were afraid of going anywhere alone after Matthew was killed. We cried for him. However, over time Matthew has become one of a way too big statistic. Though his horrendous death got a lot of press, hate crimes on gay, lesbian, queer, transgendered, bisexual and transsexual people happen daily.
Leslea Newman takes us into the night of Matthew's death. Her poetry examines the smallest detail of the night (the buck lying near Matthew) to the motives behind his murder. The poems' narrator range from the fence he was found tied to to his mother to the murders to the reactions of the gay community. It shows how this crime affected a nation of people and what we can learn from it.
Not only is this a story that needed to be told to young adults, but it is done in a beautiful novel-in-verse. Also, she makes sure to make the poetry accessible- she added "Notes" and "Explanation of Poetic Forms" for each poem. Each poem was set up so methodically and were based on truths. Both of these elements make it even more powerful. ...more
June Farrell is 12 years old wants this summer to be perfect. She is going to spend her time with her best friend Luke, swimming and boating, and entering her delicious pies into the Champlain Valley Fair pie competition. But this summer was more than she bargained for. Everything changes for June when her mother's girlfriend Eva moves in with them and they decide to get married as Vermont has just passed civil unions.
My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer is a fresh early middle grade novel which deals tactfully with a relevant present topic that many children are dealing with but struggle with finding themselves in books. June will be a great addition to protagonists that they can connect with. I also find that although the book is pro-civil union, it never is preachy, it just shows how normal June's family is and the book is about June herself getting used to a change just as any child would when their mother is getting married and they will have a step-parent.
I also loved how food and the ocean were described throughout. June is a master pie maker and the way that pies and berries are talked about in the book are so full of gustatory imagery- YUM! June also lives on Lake Champlain and would rather live in her bathing suit on a boat or in the water than do anything else and the way the lake is described makes me want to join her.
Snatch of Text: "Unlike some people, Lake Champlain was a friend I could count on. I knew her every mood - sometimes she was flat like a cookie sheet, and other times she was whipped up like meringue on a butterscotch pie." (p. 1)
"Then I smelled sweetness. Or maybe just the sight of the ripe blueberries made my mouth water. They were perfect - a foggy blue that turned purple blue when touched." (p. 96)...more
My friend Jen has been bugging me to read this book since February. I was lucky enough to have a copy, but didn't get around to it until now and I wisMy friend Jen has been bugging me to read this book since February. I was lucky enough to have a copy, but didn't get around to it until now and I wish I had read it sooner. This book has everything. Romance, adventure, drama, humor- it was a roller coaster! I loved it so much. It read like a movie making you feel like you were there and I loved how distinctly different the multiple point of views were. The book seamlessly swapped between each giving the reader a full view of the story.
Also, I usually do not like books which begin with an event and then flashback, but with this book it worked. With the beginning scene- Kylie in bed with Max in Mexico and his girlfriend yelling at them from the door- you HAVE to read to know what happens and BOY! is it a fascinating ride!
This is going to be a book that is going to be talked about- it will have fans that adore it. I cannot wait to find a teen to talk to this book about!
I am so glad I read this book. I support all lifestyles; however, transgender (as well as the idea of other gender variance) is one I knew a4.5 stars
I am so glad I read this book. I support all lifestyles; however, transgender (as well as the idea of other gender variance) is one I knew about only in definition and was so happy to learn more about it through Cris Beam's novel. ...more
What I loved about this novel: that it was about more than just the story. It was about identity and love and fate. Some reviews have pointe4.5 stars
What I loved about this novel: that it was about more than just the story. It was about identity and love and fate. Some reviews have pointed out plot holes or coincidences, but I feel like David Leviathan made all of these decisions because this book was about the heart at the center of the book not the plot.
What I only liked about this novel: (view spoiler)[ The ending! I felt that it was such a scam that A was so easily replaced. I almost wish there wasn't a "happy" ending as anyone reading the book knows that there was going to be one. I usually try not to dwell on something like this with books because I try to respect the decisions the author makes; however, I just wonder why this was the choice he made? I wonder if there were other options he was considering? (hide spoiler)]
Raina Telgemeier does it again. She has a knack for telling a serious yet humorous story with colorful, fun artwork. I loved her main character Callie- she was a very real 7th grade girl. I also loved that this book was not about the lead actress in a musical- it was about the stage crew (though some actors did play a part). Raina also does a wonderful job at introducing middle school boys who are questioning their sexuality in an unbiased, nonjudgmental way. It is completely appropriate for middle grade and it is very accessible to readers. Well done!!!...more
Lance is gay and has a family who accepts him for who he is. He meets Sergio and really likes him, but isn't sure if he is the right boy for him. SergLance is gay and has a family who accepts him for who he is. He meets Sergio and really likes him, but isn't sure if he is the right boy for him. Sergio is bi and his mother still prays for him every night. Although Sergio likes Lance, he is still heart broken over Zelda dumping him. Kimiko is a lesbian but hasn't yet come out to her judgmental family. She has never dated anyone, but is crushing on Allie. Allie is confused- she has dated Chip for two years, but since meeting Kimiko, she cannot stop thinking about her.
This book is about tolerance and acceptance which is what Alex Sanchez is all about. Accepting each other and accepting our selves for who we are. Tolerating all.
Mentor Text note: This book has some great references to poetry as well as some poetry written by Kimiko....more
I have read a couple of books recently that were really hard to review (Wonder, The Fault in our Stars, The One and Only Ivan) because they are books that reach into your heart and settle there. It is hard to write a review of a book that becomes so personal. See you at Harry's is one of those books. As I sit here trying to write a review, I don't know how to put all of my feelings into words. I keep on trying to write more, but the words just don't sound right...
*** Summary: As Fern enters middle school, everyone in her family is dealing with their own problems. Her father is worried about the business, her mother only pays attention Fern's baby brother Charlie, her sister Sara is miserable working at the family diner while all of her friends have gone off to college, and her brother Holden, who she is normally close to, is dealing with his sexual identity. In the middle of all of this, Fern feels ignored- well except by Charlie who is always following her around and annoying her. The only person keeping Fern sane is her level-headed and optimistic best friend Ran. He almost makes her believe that everything will be okay. But then everything changes and even Ran cannot believe that all will be well.
What I Think: This book is brilliant. Jo Knowles has taken a story that seems like a coming of age story and made it about not only her, but her family and so much more. Now, I don't want to say too much as the devastation in the book was not what I expected and I want to allow you to feel the same shock as I did. What I thought this book was going to be about ended up being a subtext to what the family must really wade through.
I read this book in one sitting and the emotions I felt through this book were such a roller coaster ride. I cried for about 1/3 of the book, I laughed often and was so very proud by the end. My heart was exhausted by the time I finished.
I love this book very much. I will give you three reasons. 1) Very rarely (like only 2 other times) has a book made me laugh out loud and cry within pages of each other. 2) Fern is a young girl that is so relatable and likeable that you can't help loving her and her voice. 3) This book is beautifully written and will stay with you for a long time.
Snatch of Text: "When we finished sniffling, my mom adjusted herself in the bed so she could look at me. 'Fern,' she said softly. 'Do you know why I named you Fern?' I nodded looking at the drawing of the girl on the cover of the book. 'Why?' she asked. 'Because Fern is one of your favorite characters?' 'And why is that?' I shrugged. 'Because Fern cares,' she said. 'From the moment you were born, I could tell you had a special soul. I knew you'd be a good friend. A hero.' I looked at my chest and tried to feel my soul buried in there, deep in my heart. 'It's true,' my mom said. 'Not everyone would share a sandwich with Random Smith.' I smiled, feeling my soul stir a little." (p. 3)
"Holden is always running off in a huff, and I am always the one searching for him and bringing him home. Holden's named after the main character in The Catcher in the Rye. I wasn't supposed to read it until I'm older, but I snuck my mom's paperback copy out of her room last year. The pages were all soft from her reading it so many times. The book is about this boy who's depressed because he things everyone he knows is a phony, so he runs away. I understand why my mom liked the book and all, but I personally think is was a big mistake to name your kid after a boy who tries to kill himself, even if he is thoughtful and brilliant. My favorite parts in the book are when the main characters talks about his little sister, Phoebe. Sometimes I think I'm a little like Phoebe to our Holden. Because in the book she's the one he goes back for. And that's sort of like me. Only I have to go looking for him first." (p. 25-26)...more