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)(less)
Summary: In a dusty field in the province of Mosvingo in Zimbabwe, Deo plays soccer with his friends will his older brother Innocent watches. Then the soldiers show up and Deo and Innocent's world is turned upside down. They are now on the run, refugees from their own village, and must find a way to survive. As Deo works to protect his mentally challenged older brother while still making hard decisions, there are struggles at every turn. And during this time in Africa, refugees are not accepted with open arms. As Deo and Innocent find themselves in Johannesberg, South Africa, they find that the place that they thought would save them is the toughest place they've been yet.
What I Think: This is a book like Patricia McCormick's Sold where you hope it is taking place in the past, but cannot hide from yourself the fact that it is taking place in the present. The horrors that are told in this story are beyond recognition of those of us living in America. Deo and Innocent's struggles are more than just being hungry, they are the fear of being killed. Xenophobia is the fear and hatred of people who come from another country. In May of 2008, xenophobic attacks happened in the Alexandra township of South Africa and these attacks were just one example of the prejudice and violence that refugees in South Africa were experiencing.
This story deals with this hatred and horror; however, it also deals with how one person and one opportunity can change everything. How a sport can bring together people at even the worse times. This story has many underlying elements which layer perfectly into a heart wrenching tale. This one will not be leaving me for a while. It is a true survival story that will keep you on the edge of your seat and with tears in your eyes. (less)
*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.
I am fighting inside about how to rate this one. This book is loved by many, many people who I respect and this is one of the times where I felt a bit...moreI am fighting inside about how to rate this one. This book is loved by many, many people who I respect and this is one of the times where I felt a bit of peer pressure to love a book. But I really struggled between a 3 and 5 star on this one.
Let's begin with the obvious: the writing is beautiful. It is obvious why this book won literary awards. I found myself stopping to take notes about mentor text snatches of text often. The twists and turns of the story definitely takes the reader on a ride and I can see why many people say they want to reread the book after they have the whole story.
However, MAN the book is dense. I fought all the way through. I never thought about giving up because I always wanted to know what was going to happen, but I found that I could only read for a short while. Many people said that at part 2 they really got into it and I agree that in part 2 many very interesting things are revealed, but I felt I was into it the whole time, it just took a while to read it no matter where I was in the book.
I don't know if I am explaining this well... It reminded me of reading many of the books I read during my literature degree. The brain power that is taken to digest, analyze, understand, and enjoy some literary books are at a different level than others.
Teaching thoughts: Allusions to- Shakespeare, mythology (minotaur), Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, A Little Princess, Wizard of Oz, Dickens Mentor text for: Point of view (57-58 et al.), Personification (108) Topics: Green man, Orwell, Green flash, Orwellian socialism, Fears, Kipling, World War II, French Resistance, Nazis, Interrogation, Planes, Weapons Snatch of text: p. 68(less)
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.
In the tradition of Nancy Drew, and, in this case, Sun Tzu, Young and Yang are on the case! This book immediately draws you in and the action never stops. You are predicting and trying to solve the mystery right alongside Sophie and Grace throughout the whole book! Twist and turns keep you guessing and the ending is quite an adventure!
One of the things I liked the most about this book were the characters. There are 3 main girl characters (Trista is a friend of Sophie's from school) and they all three have different personalities yet are still strong. Grace is the girly girl (but isn't an airhead) who aspires to be FBI but is also completely opposite than a Chinese stereotype. Sophie embraces Grace's culture, is obsessed with feng shui, has a war story telling grandpa, and is always along for the ride. Trista never lets the bullies get her down, is BRILLIANT, and ends up being a true friend. What a great example of Girl Power! And what makes all of this even better is that these three very different girls are friends.
Underneath the mystery and amazing characters is a theme that you find often in middle grade books- identity and change. Although it isn't always evident, this book is also about determining who your true friends are, how to deal with bullies, how to deal with boys, how to deal with gossip, and many other things that middle schoolers deal with on a regular basis. Love that Kristen Kittscher was able to put all of this within a nail biting mystery.
Read with: Nancy Drew, Platypus Police Squad, Chasing Vermeer, Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies, Capture the Flag, Shakespeare's Secret (Also, because of their part in the story: Art of War, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Call of the Wild)
Mentor text for: Prediction, Characterization, Mystery
Topics: Friendship, Bullying, Back Stabbing, Art of War, Assumptions (p. 256) (less)
Although ultimately this book is a biography of King Tut, it also is a history book of Egypt. Not much is known about the child pharoah that a small amount of the book is actually about him. More is about his father and other aspects of Egyptian history.
I was a big fan on how the book was set up. There are chapters that are a bit narrative and within the chapters there are extra informative sidebars to add to the story being told. I will definitely get more books from the "Big Head Biography" series in the future. I think they make history and biographies so accessible to children.
This book piggie backed nicely with Athena's Son which I read a week ago and would be a great nonfiction connection with it, the Kane Chronicles, Aphrodite the Diva, and any other book with Egyptian mythology. (less)
I loved this book so much. I know that I love a book when I am listening to the audio book and I don't want to get out of my car. Also, I normally do...moreI loved this book so much. I know that I love a book when I am listening to the audio book and I don't want to get out of my car. Also, I normally do not bring my audio books inside, but with this one I had to because I didn't want to stop. I was fascinated by the modern history it shared with me about Philadelphia as well as the history about cowboys and horses. I was enthralled by Coltrane and his coming of age story. I loved most of the minor characters and I rooted for everyone throughout. The book teaches you to stand up to the man, but how to do it respectfully and maturely. I couldn't speak more highly of this book. I was so excited to get the book and book talk it (which I did as soon as I could and it was checked out right away). I also found a video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcEMgh... showing the Horses in North Philly that I watched and shared with my students because I loved seeing the amazing reality of the setting that G. Neri shared with us. If you want to hear me rave more, just let me know :)(less)
The Queen of Water reminds me of Sold by Patricia McCormick. It is one of those books that you begin reading and you hope that it takes place a hundred years ago, but then throughout the book, you begin to realize that it only took place a decade or two ago. Virginia is an indigenous girl living with her family in a small village in Ecuador. When she is only about 5 or 6, her parents sell her to a rich mestiizo (Spanish) family with the promise of trips back to her family and money; however, neither of these things happen- Virginia is treated like a slave and dreams of a better future.
This book is about overcoming and discovering all that you can do. And what makes this book even more powerful is that it is based off of a true story- Maria Virginia Farinango told her story to Laura Resau who molded it into this beautiful novel. (less)
Summary: Lupita's family came to Texas to follow the American dream when she was a child. Her father is always working and her mother's only job is to be a mother. Lupita had a life that she adored- She is the oldest of 8 siblings and has always had a set role in her family: a mini-mom helping her mother raise her siblings. She couldn't ask for anything else. But then Lupita notices her mother acting depressed and crying by the mesquite tree in the rose garden. Then Lupita eavesdrops and learns that her mother has cancer. Now, everything that was predictable and normal about her life are no longer her focus. Will her life ever return to normal again?
What I think: This book is a beautiful book in verse that not only has a touching narrative, but has exquisite verse. The narrative deals with a topic that many readers will have some sort of connection with, cancer, as well has coming of age in a household where the disease has struck. But what makes this book different than other stories about the effects of cancer is that it also tells the story of growing up as a Mexican-American here in America.
Snatch of Text: These are just three of almost a hundred amazing snatches of text that would be great mentor texts for different poetic elements.
"and the moon in this place is wearing a pale, thin dress as it seems to jump from behind one cloud to another, hiding its exquisite face from us." (p. 144)
"For my sisters, senorita means having someone to worship: it is the wonder of seeing their oldest sister looking like Cinderella on her way to the ball." (p. 76)
"The other girls follow them, a convoy of high-heeled hyenas in mass migration." (p. 81)
Originally read: October 10, 2011 Reread: July 13, 2012(less)
Summary: In 1939 Stalin was expanding the USSR and invaded the Baltic countries of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. He then started deporting anyone who he deemed a threat to his vision. This included scholars, reporters, or anyone that has been outspoken against him. Between Shades of Gray is about 15 year old Lina who, along with her mother and brother, is ripped from their home one night in 1941 and thrown into a truck to be deported to Siberia. They are separated from her father and their only hope is to stay together so that maybe they can be together as a family one day.
What I Think: This one is hard to put into words. This is such a powerful story with characters that you grow to love as they are put through hell. What makes the hell even more grotesque is that it is based off of stories that really happened during a time of history that does not get spoken of too often. Like Holocaust books, this book is one that will rip you apart as you read it. It starts so suddenly and you are breathless as Lina and her family are dragged from their home and put into trucks and trains with conditions none of us can even fathom. Since the book is told from Lina's point of view and she had no idea that her family was even in danger, the fear and shock that she feels resonates with you as a reader and lends the the horror that you will feel. But the true theme behind this book is love & hope and how important they are and how they can be found even in the most horrible of situations.
Ruta Sepetys did a couple really brilliant things with this book that I really appreciated. First, I loved the theme of art throughout the novel and how it is what kept Lina sane. How she weaved Munch and his artwork throughout the story really captured my attention. Second, I really appreciated the way that she would use a single word to trigger a memory that Lina would share with us. It is exactly how real life is when you make connections between the present and memories.
I will say that the only negative thing I have to say is that I wanted more. I really felt that it started to rush a bit towards the end and then it ended too suddenly. However, it was not done in a way that hurt the brilliance of the book, but just enough to bother me.
And now, I am intrigued by this time of history. As I've stated in the past, I didn't feel like I had a very good history education and often learn new things from historical fiction- this was no exception. I'd always known Stalin was evil, but I never knew why. This book taught me so much and has made me want to learn more. I was talking with a friend about it and she made a very good point- we often don't learn about genocides or other hardships within a country if the dictator doesn't cross borders. It is only when it starts to affect us do we begin to care. That needs to change and this history is one example of why.
Originally read: January 20, 2012 Reread: July 16, 2012(less)
Summary: Anya isn't exactly the most popular girl in school. She has one friend and they spend most of their time skipping class and feigning interest. She'd give anything to be more popular and be noticed by Sean, the basketball player, but that doesn't seem likely. She is ashamed of her Russian heritage and wishes she could look like Elizabeth who doesn't even have to try. But then when she falls down a well and spends 2 days hanging out with a skeleton and the ghost of a girl who has been dead for over a century, her life changes. At first it seems like a blessing because it is really helpful to have a friend no one else can see who can help you pass tests and get a cute boy's phone number. It all seems so perfect, but is it?
What I Think: My summary and thoughts cannot do this graphic novel justice. First, Neil Gaiman has a blurb on the front! He calls it a masterpiece, so obviously it is going to be good. And it was. This graphic novel is brilliant. It is funny, smart, real and creepy all rolled into one. Vera does a perfect job showing the angst of living as a teenager. Anya represents just about every teenage girl I can think of because she is trying to find her identity (even more specifically, her identity within her ethnicity). I knew the ghost was going to show up at some point and I was skeptical that it would work out, but it did. The ghost just gave Anya one more thing she had to overcome to find herself. I also love the artwork. It reminds me a bit of Raina Telgemeier's artwork (who is another one of my favorite graphic novel artists) in that it is clean and bold yet cartoony with minimal shading and looks like it could easily be turned into an animated work. Also, the format was easy to follow and the font was very legible. So, overall, I am a big fan. (less)
The wars in Sudan and Darfur are the most violent and long lasting wars in the world; however, most Americans are unaware that they are even occurring. Linda Sue Park took a true story of a lost boy's survival after being chased from his village because of war and transformed it into a novel that will leave the reader with a feeling of awe. Awe of the bravery and pure fearlessness of Salva and the other Lost boys of Sudan and awe of the world of riches and blindness we live in while a horrendous war wages on the other side of the world. I love this book because it is very accessible to children, it won't bog them down with too much history; however, it will definitely make them aware of the situation in Sudan. (less)
A beautifully written book about a truly heinous situation.
When I began this book, I really didn't know what it was about since I hadn't read anything about it except that it was loved. Starting out, I thought it was a historical fiction novel about the past where families had to sell their daughters to help pay debts; however, as I read more and things such as TV, cars and Coke were introduced, I began to realize that this wasn't historical fiction at all- it was contemporary. This was something that is happening on our planet right now. I am not ignorant and know that human trafficking exists, but I just had never realized to the extent. Maybe it is that we don't want to think about it, because we feel helpless. That is how I feel now. Helpless. And thankful. (less)
A good follow up to the first Hereville. I praise Barry Deutsch for giving us Mirka, a strong young lady who has faith and a good family. And once aga...moreA good follow up to the first Hereville. I praise Barry Deutsch for giving us Mirka, a strong young lady who has faith and a good family. And once again I learned even more about the Jewish faith which is so well represented in this graphic novel. I also like how each book Mirka is given a situation where she has to use her brains to get her out of it even when her opponent is bigger or stronger than her.
Since the artwork was not finished in the e-galley from Netgalley which I was lucky enough to read, it makes me even more anxious to see the completed book. (less)
Isabel is good at feigning weakness, but underneath it all, she is stronger than all of those that "own" her.
Once again, Laurie Halse Anderson takes...moreIsabel is good at feigning weakness, but underneath it all, she is stronger than all of those that "own" her.
Once again, Laurie Halse Anderson takes a protagonist completely different than any she has written before, gets in her head, and intimately shows us a part of her tough life. And Isabel's life is as tough as it can get- a slave without an owner in 1776. (less)
Esperanza has a blessed life. Her father is a land owner in Mexico, with thousand of acres, servants, and money. But this is not a peaceful time in Me...moreEsperanza has a blessed life. Her father is a land owner in Mexico, with thousand of acres, servants, and money. But this is not a peaceful time in Mexico and bandits took Esperanza's father's life the day before her birthday. Because of corruption and technicalities, Esperanza and her mother decided to flee Mexico for California. Life in California is very different. No longer does Esperanza have everything at her beck and call, she must work.
Esperanza has always had everything given to her- will she be able to change and learn to live without the wealth? (less)