Wow. I often worry about reading a book that has a lot of hype around it because I fear that I will not love it as much as others do. I should not have been worried about this book. It is beautiful. As Ricki said, I found myself rereading portions of the text just because of how well the verse flowed. By the end of this book, you will wish that you were Woodson’s friend and that you you could write as well as her. The stories she tells are so true and heartfelt that you live her life along with her through the pages. You experience with her the hardship of growing up in the 1960s and 70s during the Civil Rights movement; the challenge of religion and finding the truth in it; the loss, addition, and conflict of family and everything that comes with these changes; and trying to find an identity as a person, sister, daughter, student and a writer. It is only a truly powerful, well-written book that can make you feel all of these elements.(less)
This is a special book. First, because of the characters who tell the story. K.C. is a young girl with learning disabilities which have caused her to hate reading, writing, and school. Nawra is a refugee in Darfur who continues to have an optimistic view of the world even after she has been surrounded by horrors that I can’t even imagine. Both of these girls are not represented very often in books, and they are both so important to know. Through this book, the reader gets to see the intensity of the situation in Sudan and refugees’ power in overcoming however they can. They also get to see the brilliance of students with learning disabilities. There are so many students in our school just like K.C., and too many of their peers would judge them by their struggles instead of by their heart and soul.
Second, this book is special because of the way the author is able to intertwine these two stories in a flawless way, and a way that keeps the reader engaged in both stories simultaneously. Third, the lyrical writing of Whitman makes this story not only interesting and important, but also beautiful to read. Last, the power of this book lies in the book, and how the book will change those who read it.(less)
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.(less)
My Review: In the world of illustrated novels, we have many a class clown: Greg, Nate, George & Harold. But now we have our very own genius, and he is a genius that kids are going to love! This book combines the humor and fun plot that Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, and Captain Underpants have, but adds in science (though the kids reading it will be none the wiser). The way that Sciezska combines humor, adventure, twists & turns, and science is perfection that will have a whole slew of readers waiting for the next Frank Einstein book.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book has so much that a teacher could touch on while reading it. It would be a perfect book for a read aloud in reading with cross-curricular activities based on the book in science. I was very lucky to once again be able to write a teaching guide, this time for Frank Einstein. To see more specific class activities and discussion questions, view my teaching guide at the Abrams website. http://www.abramsbooks.com/academic/F...(less)
Dr. Bird’s is a very special book. On a Top Ten Tuesday list, I wrote that I wished there were more books about kids with chemical imbalances, and Dr. Bird’s is the closest I’ve read yet. Evan Roskos captures the feeling of a manic depressive state. The energy of the writing actually changes as James’s state of mind changes: anxious, manic, depressed. However, what makes it truly special is that even in the end, there is optimism. Although James is fighting his own chemical imbalance, he keeps doing just that—fighting.
Another thing I adored about this book is the idea of art and writing as therapy. James finds solace in photography and poetry, which is a positive lesson for teens because it shows the power of art, writing, and poetry.(less)
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.(less)
Another novel filled with smart high schoolers—that makes me so happy!! I hope this is a trend because I love seeing brainy characters in my book and not stereotypical ones. The Beginning of Everything is described as witty, and it is very much so. The sarcasm and wit just bleeds out of this book. I found myself laughing out loud at parts, and usually just because a character had the audacity to say something they shouldn’t have.
In The Beginning of Everything, I actually connected more with the secondary characters than the protagonist. They were so well established and had such unique voices while Ezra sounded like any good-0le boy; however, I will say that by making his voice less distinct allowed for him to grow even in his prose. As he found his new, true identity, his voice became to ring out more true. I am not sure if the author did this on purpose or not, but either way it worked!
Oh, and the final pages. Guys, they were so good! Although it felt a bit rushed to me, the lyrical writing got me in the end. Perfect.(less)
What I found most intriguing about this book is that Wilson was able to allude to Beowulf in a middle grade book without completely scaring away the reader. Although I have read in multiple reviews that this book will grab reluctant readers’ attention, I think that some of the allusions are hard to grasp without prior knowledge, so reluctant readers may need some assistance understanding thus making the book a great read aloud as it will grab attention and start deep discussion (see Tools for Navigation). In addition to the allusions, there are opportunities to discuss hero’s quest, abuse, and loyalty.
You will also find some beautiful writing in this novel. Wilson has a way with words that made this novel lyrical yet easy to read. From the very first line: “When the sugarcane’s burning and the rabbits are running, look for the boys who are quicker than flame.” I was impressed with how literary the novel was. (less)
*This book took me a while to get into, but once I did, I had to know how it ended. I loved the unique narrator and the fairy tales throughout. I will...more*This book took me a while to get into, but once I did, I had to know how it ended. I loved the unique narrator and the fairy tales throughout. I will say half way through the book changes directions drastically and it surprised me, but the ending redeems and weirdness about the change. overall a beautifully written book full of mystery.(less)
I really think these wonderful woman created this book for just for teachers. It is a perfect, perfect, perfect book for a read aloud AND for a mentor text!
First, the book is a direct allusion to Red Riding Hood and is a great book to throw into the mix when looking at different versions of Red Riding Hood. I can just picture this book, with a version of the original story, Hoodwinked the movie, and Lon Po Po. Wow! What great discussions and activities you could do with this.
Second, this book is not just an awesome narrative and it includes a great lesson about writing a narrative. Red, our main character, is given the job to write a story and the book takes us through her journey of writing the story where she needs to include characters, setting, trouble, and fixing the trouble. A perfect opportunity to discuss narrative elements. Taking this even further, it would be so much fun to look at the ideas that each of the other pencils had for their stories and write the entire story. You would have to look at each pencil’s personality and think about how s/he would write the story.
Finally, the book also deals with some parts of speech and how to use them. First are verbs where Red looks for more interesting verbs. She then looks for adjectives to add description. Then learns the importance of conjunctions (but watch out! They can lead to run-on sentences). Finally came adverbs with a bit of punctuation and capitalization discussion. Each part of speech is discussed in a nonboring way and the introduction could be a jumping off point to a deeper discussion.(less)
You know a book is good when in the first 5 pages you already know and feel for you main character. Cath is like many college freshman--afraid. She has known one world for so long and everything around her is changing. This book is about her figuring out her way. Anyone that went to college will connect with Cath and her struggles of finding a balance between who you were in high school and who you are becoming. I really appreciate Rainbow Rowell's main characters and how they are not perfect--this makes them so much more relatable. (I just give a shout out to the Emergency Dance Party scene--this made me love Cath so much!)
Oh, and the dialogue! I love the way her characters converse. The banter is hilarious and just perfect. Also, I cannot review this book without giving props to the secondary characters. They are so solid and thought out. Although Cath is the main character, no one feels like Rainbow Rowell didn't put love and time into them. I especially love their father who is probably the most flawed character but is so full of love. (Oh, and Levi. Who cannot love Levi?!?!?!)
[As a teacher, I also liked the look into Levi's struggle with reading yet his amazing intelligence. I think it is a great conversation starter and a great example of many of the students I encounter. Pg. 168 is Levi's explanation of his struggles--powerful.]
And all of the book love! Anyone who has ever loved a book or series will adore the fangirl moments. Although an obvious allusion to Harry Potter, Cath and Wren's love of Simon Snow will make any reader think about their favorite novel which they lose themselves in.
Also this book is about writing: the beauty of good writing and the struggle of good writing. Cath can write in the world of Simon Snow, but struggles in finding her own world. This actually runs parallel quite beautifully with her finding of her self. She is literally and figuratively trying to find her own voice. (And I love that a teacher plays a role in this.)
Overall, a just-right book. I read it in one sitting and didn't want to put it down. Does remind me a lot of Anna and the French Kiss (maybe that's what is keeping me from giving it a straight 5 stars?), but it really was a solid story filled with just enough love, nerdy, and soul searching.
Teacher's Tools for Navigation: I can see how many aspects of this novel could be used in a creative writing course. So much of Cath's story revolves around writing and different scenes or pieces of fanfiction could be pulled out to use in class. I especially like the discussion about "Why write fiction?" on pg. 21-23.
I also would love to analyze more the excerpts that are put before each chapter and how they connect with the chapter. Many have theme connections or direct character connections. They were placed very intentionally and discussing why would be so interesting.
We Flagged: "Cath wasn't sure how she was going to keep everything straight in her head. The final project, the weekly writing assignments--on top of all her other classwork, for every other class. All the reading, all the writing. The essays, the justifications, the reports. Plus Tuesdays and sometimes Thursdays writing with Nick. Plus Carry on. Plus e-mail and notes and comments... Cath felt like she was swimming in words. Drowning in them, sometimes." (p. 100)
I own many of the Amelia Rules series, but I had not read them before; however, when I got Jimmy Gownley’s memoir graphic novel, I knew I had to read it. I am always looking for ways to get my students to read more nonfiction and a graphic novel autobiography (like Smile) is definitely one of the ways to get them more interested in nonfiction. And, like Smile, Jimmy’s story is one that students will definitely connect with and, hopefully, enjoy. It deals with not only Jimmy’s journey of writing his graphic novel but also many the transition to high school and first love.(less)
I love the Squish series. The series is so wonderful for many reasons, but I like them specifically because it balances humor, entertainment, and education. I also really like the characters, especially Squish, and one of the things I love about Squish is his love of comic books and his chosen hero, Super Amoeba. This book in the Squish series deals with a dilemma that many children face: books vs. video games and balancing time. Will Squish be able to fight the video game addiction?(less)
I will say that I struggled a bit with getting used to the British lingo, but once I did, it was free sailing. I loved Pearl. She was someone who I wish was my friend. She loved books, had a great imagination, was empathetic, and overall a good person. Jodie was harder to swallow. She was going through what many girls go through in their mid-teens, trying to find herself, and I wish the book had been from her point of view because I wish I understood her more. Instead, we see her from Pearl’s point of view and Pearl loves her sister, but just doesn’t understand her. Also, Pearl, once they reach the boarding school, is working on finding herself and finally making friends. Now, the one person that I probably flat out disliked was their mother. I’d love to talk to someone who has read the book to see if you took her the same way I did…
Also, just for fair warning, this book does elicit many different types of emotions—be ready!(less)
4.5 stars Wow. I am very reluctant to read “scary” books because I too often find that they rely too much on the scary and not enough on the writing. However, with Doll Bones, Holly Black was able to write a well-written middle grade novel with a good plot arc and characterization mixed with a lot of creepy. Within her “scary” book, Holly Black is able to capture a very awkward time in one’s life– middle school! –in a very realistic way. Her characters are believable, completely filled with the internal debate of growing up or staying a child a bit longer. Then, on top of her great middle grade story, she has included a completely creepy aspect of the story that I even had to put down a couple of times because I knew I was reading some creepy stuff too close to bedtime. (less)
This book has two very magical elements: the rhyming story and the fun illustrations. The story is one I cannot wait to read to my children. As Brian Selznick says, ” So wonderful it demands to be read out loud.” However, I feel that it is the illustrations that make this book really come to life. It is because of how much I loved the illustrations that when I was asked if I wanted to be part of The Snatchabook blog tour with a guest post, I knew I wanted to hear from Thomas. I am so happy to have his post here sharing what it was like to illustrate The Snatchabook.(less)