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
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
When I started Never Fall Down, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I began it because Ricki recommended it to me, but I didn’t read the back or have any prior knowledge about the book. So, when I began, I had no idea how tough this book was going to be.
I also have to preface with my ignorance of the Cambodian Genocide. I blame my lack of world history education because this is a time of history that should be taught. It, along with the Holocaust and Armenian Genocide, was based in racism and the attempt to purify a country. Reading Arn’s story throws you right in the middle of the genocide, and Patricia McCormick doesn’t hold anything back. Every time you think nothing can get worse for Arn and the Cambodians, something does, but you also have such hope for Arn’s survival as you seen him overcome every obstacle he faces. Even though death actually stares him in the face throughout the book, this young boy somehow continues. He continues through starvation, excessive work, lack of sleep, and murder surrounding him. Arn stated in interviews with McCormick that music saved his life, but I think it was more about his willingness to do whatever was needed to survive and especially anything to help those he cared for to survive.
Patricia McCormick tells our story in a broken English dialect that was influenced by “Arn’s own beautiful, improvised English” that McCormick heard in her head after interviewing him and traveling with him to Cambodia over a couple of years. The extent that Ms. McCormick went to ensure that Arn’s story was a true representation of his trials and heroism is honorable....more
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....more
As Americans most of us do not know the fear and horrors that Africans know. Most of us, in general, do not understand or know about the horrors goingAs Americans most of us do not know the fear and horrors that Africans know. Most of us, in general, do not understand or know about the horrors going on in Africa. In this book, Cooney introduces us to these horrors through an African refugee family that has come to live with an American family in Connecticut.
We begin the book by knowing something is wrong. The family of four have arrived in America, but a fifth refugee has arrived as well. The family is terrified of other refuge, but luckily he is whisked away to another state. This does not stop the terror that the family feels, so the fear continues. The book follows the family's transition in America, but they should not forget why they were scared.
Cooney does a great job of introducing a topic that most young adults will not know about, because she gives us a protagonist that has thoughts and feelings that many of the readers will probably have. He has to learn about the family that is moving in with him, so the reader can learn as well. He also has to overcome some misconceptions and generalizations that he feels about the family. Readers may have some of the same misconceptions. Cooney gently guides the reader to really see the truth and also takes them on a great adventure. ...more
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
Jack Pool loves Emaline. He knows that because of their faith, he is Jewish, she is Christian, that it will never happen, but he truly loves her. If hJack Pool loves Emaline. He knows that because of their faith, he is Jewish, she is Christian, that it will never happen, but he truly loves her. If he isn't thinking about Emaline, he is thinking about his cello audition in 4 days for a music school in Syracuse- he'd be able to escape his town without even an orchestra or band. Music is his key to escaping and becoming something. Then on his 16th birthday, he walks home Daisy, Emaline's 4 year old sister and goes to work. Daisy disappears later in the day and the true colors of his neighbors shows even more why Jack needs to get away. Because of his faith and the belief that for certain holidays Jews murder human children to sacrifice, Jack is suddenly a murder suspect.
Whenever you hear about prejudices against the Jewish faith and people who practice the faith, you automatically think of things that happened in other countries such as the Holocaust or unrest in Israel, not here in America; however, the prejudice was (is) alive and well here as well. The Blood Lie is a story that shows the reality of what it was like to be Jewish during the 1920s.
What surprised me even more was in the Author's Notes, Vernick mentions that this horrible stereotype of human sacrifice still exists today. I am always shocked (maybe naively) when I learn about the horrible racism that exists in our present time of diversity. ...more
4.5 stars All I knew about All These Lives is that it was another "cancer book"; however, it is more than that and different from any other book dealin4.5 stars All I knew about All These Lives is that it was another "cancer book"; however, it is more than that and different from any other book dealing with cancer I have read. Our protagonist, Danielle, is healthy and feels guilty that she is, because her twin sister, Jena, is dying from cancer. Dani is convinced that she has nine lives (living through 2 life threatening situations as a child) and feels that it is unfair that she isn't the one that is sick. This book isn't so much about cancer, but about Dani dealing with the enveloping depression that comes with watching your sister die.
Told in first person, Sarah Wylie takes you deep into Dani's emotions and truly drags you through the mud along with her. You want to stop reading because you want Dani's pain to stop thus stopping Jena's as well, but if you stop reading, you are haunted by Dani's voice. There were times I wish I could jump into the book and just shake Dani a bit and tell her how stupid she was being or give her a hug because she needed one, but you keep forgiving her because you can also feel her pain.
"But you almost need a microscope to find Jena. Her bones and veins are bigger than her. Bluish, greenish, reddish lines that run across her body, rebelliously tattooed all over her, claiming her.' (p. 95)
"Except I don't eat [the M&M's]. I let them roll off my lap when Harry-with-an-i isn't looking. Into the spaces between the couch, empty spaces of nothing and darkness, and I help the ones that miss. When all M&M's are comfortably accommodated and hidden, I point out that it's the end of our time together, pick up the bag from her desk, and haul it out into the waiting room, which would be a lot easier if I could use two hands instead of one." (p. 116-117) ...more
In Trouble explores the options that a young lady had in the 1950s when it came to being "in trouble." Today our options include abortion, adoption anIn Trouble explores the options that a young lady had in the 1950s when it came to being "in trouble." Today our options include abortion, adoption and keeping the baby, but in the 1950s abortion was illegal, keeping the baby was a stigma, so adoption was the option most accepted; however, this was not always the best option for everyone. In the book, Jaime's best friend Elaine figures out that she is pregnant and Jaime tries to help Elaine with her situation thus showing the reader the different options.
In Trouble also gives us a clear look of how the 1950s were by having Jaime's father be a political criminal being charged with communism. He has just been released from prison and throughout the book you learn more and more about his "crime" and punishment.
In Trouble was overall a good book. It grabbed me from the beginning and kept me reading; however, I felt that maybe the book was trying to do too much at one time. For example, randomly the narrative would switch to a script to show that Jaime was viewing her life as a movie. I found myself being distracted by these and would have rather the narrative stay as prose. It also seemed to have so many topics throughout- abortion, adoption, communism, movies, rape, journalism, love... Too much to focus on (though all done realistically and interestingly). ...more
After a classmate of Kana's commits suicide, Kana wonders if she is partially responsible as her and her friends were not kind to Ruth and since her death Kana has learned a lot about her. To help her get through her grief and away from the situation, Kana, half Japanese half Jewish, is sent to stay in her mother's small home village in Japan. Here Kana works in the orange groves and finds peace within the orchards. Though at times she feels out of place or that her grandmother is being too tough, she begins to heal.
When a novel in verse is written well, it can have such an emotional presence and this book is one that is and does. This book not only deals with grief, it deals with being conscious of your actions and being responsible for your words. Kana, being an 8th grader, says that the words were only words, but to Ruth, the words hurt her so much she didn't feel like she could live anymore. This intense novel, filled with beautiful moments (and some funny ones) keeps you emotionally attached throughout the whole novel. ...more
Do you know what a Bushwhacker is? Well I didn't until I picked up this book (they are outlaws that fight over disputed land after major conflicts, just FYI. Jesse James was one.). I knew going it that it took place 10 years after the Civil War, but I didn't know much else. So, when I began reading and Boy Smyth started talking about Bushwhackers and Cole Younger and train robberies I was intrigued. I immediately wanted to know what the history was and what the fiction was, so I jumped on the computer and did about 30 minutes of side research- this time period is so interesting! I had no idea that this border war continued for years after the end of the Civil War.
Once my background knowledge was sufficiently built, I jumped back into the book. It is not only about the history of border wars and bushwhackers, it is a story about loyalty, family, friendship, revenge, and faith (though not too preachy).
One of the things I liked the most about the book, was the father-son relationship that grew throughout. At the beginning, Boy Smyth didn't not really know his father, but through the events in the book, he became proud of and closer to his father.
And- MAN! Around page 50, just as you think you have the story figured out, something crazy happens! I couldn't stop reading. ...more
*Summary: Zan is gone. He left with no good bye, no explanation, no anything. Joy doesn't understand why he left and she misses him. So, Joy feels like she must go find Zan and get closure.
What I Think: I think that teenage Kellee would have loved this book a lot more than I did. Most teenagers at some point fall into what they feel is the love of their life. I did. This is a story about that. And about obsession and heart break. I think many, many teenage girls will connect with this book.
But there are some things about it that will limit the connections and some things about it that I didn't like. The what I don't like gives away the ending, so I, unfortunately, can't rant and rave about it, but I can explain the other thing.
Joy is Mormon. And I truly believe there needs to be a variety of protagonists and a variety of religions represented in literature (specifically YA), but as someone who doesn't know much about being Mormon, I felt disconnected from the characters because I didn't feel like it was explained very well. You were thrown into this town where everything is different than every where else and with a protagonist that doesn't like it, but I just never got it. I never got why Zan would want to leave. I never got why Joy didn't feel connected. I never got why she thought Noah was a bad guy. I just never got it. I wanted to and I kept reading hoping that I would, but the connection for me was just not there.
What I did LOVE about this book was the way it was set up. It was set up as a mix of narration, flashbacks, lists, poetry and vignettes. The vignettes were my favorite! So beautifully written. This format is what made the book a 3 star-er for me instead of a 2.
Lastly, I did like that Joy was a book lover and a good girl. I like that her love is clean and this book is available. She IS really quite different than any other girl protagonist, but this story shows that no matter how different you are, girls still can fall head over heels in love with the wrong guy. ...more
(view spoiler)[2.5 stars It is so hard for me to write a semi-poor review for a book I know took so much courage to write. Mostly when part of my poor(view spoiler)[2.5 stars It is so hard for me to write a semi-poor review for a book I know took so much courage to write. Mostly when part of my poor feelings has to do with my own issues- I just couldn't help thinking about Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak. And because of this comparison, I kept on wanting it to live up to Speak and it just didn't for me. Though it is in no way bad, it just wasn't everything I wanted it to be. It is still powerful and an important book (especially since that author is drawing from her own experiences to tell this story), but I just wanted it to be more. I will say I am a big fan of Valerie's surprising friend after the rape. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>...more
I love historical fiction because it introduces me to history in a way that will suck me into it and help me retain the information. Many historical fiction books also choose lesser known aspects of history to share. Rory’s Promise does all of the above. When I was done with the book, I immediately went and book talked it to my reading class though I found myself talking to them even more in depth about the history it shares (which then make them want to read the book even more). Rory’s Promise touches on orphans, mining, race relations, religion, kidnapping, building of the west, and The Foundling Hospital of NYC and does so in such a fascinating yet educational way. I learned so much from the book, and I immediately went and did more nonfiction reading when finished. AND it was a book I couldn’t put down!...more
I found this book fascinating. It dealt with many different topics from stuttering to racism in the South and definitely shows the power of others in helping a young person find his/her voice (and in this book, that is a literal statement). I loved how it was written because although our narrator wasn't very vocal in his life, he loved writing and found his voice through his writing. It is through this art that he is able to tell his story. It is also quite interesting that though he is writing his story, he withholds his name until the very end because he has trouble saying it himself. He is referred to mostly as "Little Man" throughout the book.
But, by far, my favorite thing about this story is all of the characters our narrator gets involved with when he begins his paper route. First is Little Man's first crush, a pretty young wife who likes to drink and who Little Man cannot figure out. Second is a homeless man who bullies Little Man out of some of his possessions and is haunted by his past. Third, and most importantly, is a Merchant Marine who shows Little Man that there is more out there and that he can be whomever he wants to be. It is through these different adults that our narrator really starts to become his own.
In the classroom, this book would be a great discussion start about many different topics. Since it is historical, it gives a different perspective into many different topics including television and racism. Vawter also writes this novel with a great voice and makes interesting choices with punctuation that would be interesting to talk to students about.
Snatch of Text: p. 11 (simile), p. 101-102, p. 108-109 (poetry) Mentor Text For: Voice, First Person Point of View, Grammar, Simile, Making Predictions, Contractions (p. 30), Poetry (p. 108-109) Writing Prompts: There are some unexpected players in this young boys life that he would have never thought would affect him the way they did. Think of someone in your life that you thank for helping, influencing, or changing you and write them a thank you letter. Topics Covered: Candide, Voltaire, Speech Pathology, Baseball, Alcoholism, Anxiety, Infidelity, Genetics, Fathers, Heidegger, Existentialism, Segregation, Linguistics, Language, Race Relations, Faith, History of the Alphabet (p. 64-65), Myths (p. 66), Television (p. 44) ...more
4.5 While reading this book, I felt like I was sneaking a peek into a world that I didn't know much about. I was ignorant about the ways of the Amish before this book. I knew they had no electricity and they dressed in bonnets and dresses, but the extent of my knowledge ended there though this is also where my fascination began. Usually I find myself learning the most from historical fiction novels and I extend that knowledge by jumping on the internet and learning more about the history. This book did just that, but about a contemporary topic. I loved learning about their culture. Nancy Grossman allowed us a glimpse into their peaceful and anything but plain lifestyle. Though their lives seem so out of reach for us, isn't it just a culture about family, God and relationships?
For a debut novel, I was very impressed. It was well written, a great plot arc that kept me reading, good research and well rounded characters. I adored the ending that, though resolved, leaves you with a feeling of hope, and I loved being part of Eliza's adventure. It is, underneath it all, a coming of age story about a 16 year old girl filled with trials, tribulations, romance and hard decisions.
Would be a great book to read in conjunction with the study of the Amish culture (cross curricular with social studies?).
Read Together: Grades 10 and up
Read Alone: Grades 9 and up
Read With: From What I Remember by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas
Snatch of Text: "He reached inside his carriage and pressed a small package into my hands. Gently tearing away the newspaper wrapping, I smiled at the wood carving nestled in my curved fingers. "I made it," Daniel said, but I already knew that. I recognized the gleaming finish, the soft curves. It was a small nest with a bird rising from it, wings spread and head turned to the side. The bird's feathers were etched in tender lines, and the nest was a complex tangle of woven twigs. I cradled the carving, letting my fingertips roam across the different textures... "Enjoy your journey, Eliza," he said. "Then come back to your nest." (p. 75-76)
Mentor Text for: Plot development, Research
Writing Prompts: Eliza finds herself in a completely new situation in A World Away, what is a time where you found yourself discovering something new or not knowing what to make of a situation?
Historical fiction fascinates me. I specifically love how you can be dropped in a place and time during history and you can learn about it through a character's story. Often times it is a time and a place that is not often talked about and My Brother's Shadow is no exception. In this story, we get to see WWI from the point of view of the "enemy". It shows that you cannot generalize an entire nation of people no matter how horrible the decisions of the government.
I also learned so much about the socialism movement in Germany at the end of WWI that I did not know about. The risks that Moritz's mother takes to stand up for her beliefs is something that is almost so hard to grasp- reminds me of the civil rights movement here in America. I also didn't know that it was partially because of this movement that the hatred for Jews spread throughout Germany.
And then behind all of this history, there was a wonderful story of Moritz and his journey. His journey to support his family. His journey to find love. His journey to find a career. His journey to find himself. Through these journeys, some tough questions were asked- What will you do to survive? Where does your loyalties lie? ...more
*Summary: Cat and Patrick were best friends. Soul mates. But have grown apart over the past 3 years. However, when Cat hears about the horrible hate crime which has put Patrick in a coma, she knows that is up to her to truly get to the bottom of the story. Shine follows Cat as she finds out the truth to determine who is the one who hurt her friend.
What I Think: This is a book about more than just finding a criminal. This is a book about overcoming past injustices and obstacles and ultimately finding out the truth. The truth not only about the hate crime at hand, but also Cat finding out the truth about herself and others in her town. It is also about the thin line between good and bad. It is always not clear which side of the line someone falls. And sides change easily. This is an important book to have around and ranks up there with books like Speak as a book that is just so tough to read, but so important to share.
I loved how the plot was put together as well. As you read, you become one with Cat. You feel her pain, her frustration and her joys. You cry with her and you laugh with her. You truly love her by the end of the book. And as you follow her, the book unfolds like a road map with more and more of the information being given to you each day that Cat investigates Patrick's attack. Then at the end of the book, all the information fits perfectly together and the puzzle becomes clear to all.
I have heard nothing but good things about this book from the minute ARCs were given out at ALAN 2010. However, I was still worried about the integrity of the book since it was dealing not only with a very touchy subject, but also could easily offend a whole region of people. But Lauren Myracle wrote this book with polished purity.
Snatches of Text (some of many that I could have chosen from): "I felt blurry around my edges, like smoke, or the soft ssssss of a snuffed candle." (Ch. 1)
"Her wisdom applied to more than butterflies and roly-polies, because life was fragile. Things happened. Things changed. A girl full of light could get that light snuffed out, and when everything around her was dark, she could roll up into a ball and ignore the whole world, starting with her best friend." (Ch. 1)
"I told myself it wasn't a big deal. Patrick liking boys was part of who he was, but it was hardly the whole picture." (Ch. 2)
"My humiliation turned to rage, and that was good. But it would take longer still for it to shift into something I could control. Something I could fight back with..." (Ch. 9)
"She said God had blessed me with an abundance of spirit, and not to ever squash it down. She said there was goodness in everything and everyone, and it was our job to let that goodness shine...
'God loves you even on your blackest days, and He will always, always be there to guide you home. All you have to do is look for the light of his love. As long as you remember that one thing, why, then you can cast off the darkness and shine again, can't you?'"(Ch. 9)
Originally read: October 9, 2011 Reread: July 12, 2012...more
When the First Escape begins, it reminds me of a mixture of Matilda and Oliver Twist. In an orphanage run by a mad woman ala Mrs. Trunchbull, the DoppWhen the First Escape begins, it reminds me of a mixture of Matilda and Oliver Twist. In an orphanage run by a mad woman ala Mrs. Trunchbull, the Dopple twins (Sadie and Saskia) with the help of a servant (Erik Morrisey Ganger) are quite the trouble makers. [Get it: Dopple & Ganger, hehe] And in this world, all adults seem to have an evil side to them as the sisters are separated and promise to find each other. What ensues is an adventure that you could not even imagine.
There is one aspect of the novel that seemed pushed to me: the paranormal. A very small part of the story deals with a ghost and the "Companion," who resembles God in all descriptions. I am not sure of Mr. Taylor's purpose of throwing in these two aspects as I felt they didn't add much to the story.
The format of this novel is beautiful. It is a mixture of comics, prose, and illustrations. And when the novel isn't illustrated, G.P. Taylor includes vivid figurative language to help the reader visualize. The only aspect of the format that I didn't like is that when the book was just an illustrated novel, the mood was very sinister and Victoria-era mystery-esque; however, the comics were much more cheerful and really changed the mood. I don't know if this was because of the different illustrators or because it was color vs. black and white, but the switch often threw me for a loop because it wasn't consistent.
Overall, a fun read and I will be reading the sequel....more
*In Darkbeast, we meet Keara, a young girl who has been bound to Caw, her raven darkbeast, since she was 12 days old; however, on her 12th birthday, it is her duty to slay Caw and to welcome adulthood. Keara, though, does not know if she can live without Caw and makes a decision that changes her life.
In the world of high fantasy, very rarely is there a middle grade novel that fits the definition, but Darkbeast is just that. Morgan Keyes has built a world that is unique filled with traditions and mythology from her imagination. Her creation of 12 gods and goddess who are worshiped is a bit reminiscent of Greek or Roman mythology, but includes its own flair. Keara's world also is a bit dystopian with a ruler who ensures that all of his subjects worship the gods he worships and has inquisitors to patrol his kingdom to scare the belief into all. The world also celebrates the arts with the Travelers which are a well respected group who go from town to town performing plays either about The Twelve or about traditions within their culture. Overall, Morgan Keyes built a pretty solid world for her story to exist.
In the classroom, this book would be a great read aloud. It would cause a lot of discussion about Keara's decisions and what it means to be an adult. Keara's story is very similar to many coming of age/rebellion stories yet throws in another aspect with the duty that looms over her head. Parts of Keyes's story would also fit well within a mythology unit because it could take traditional literature and transform it into a creative writing activity about creating gods/goddesses of different realms. You can even have the students use word parts. For example, Keyes's goddess of death is Mortana which literally has the word death in it. So, if a student wanted a goddess of life she could be Biotina.
Snatch of Text: "The Traveleres were even more magnificent than they'd been the night before. Their voices were louder, more sure. Their costumes were brighter. Their story was even more compelling. The goddess Pondera was visiting a market town, watching over all the goods in the market place. A merchant cheated one of his customers, placing false weights on his scales. He wasn't evil, though. He cheated because he needed coins to clothe his family, to buy new shoes for his youngest daughter, whose feet were chapped and bleeding in the winter cold. The merchant's crimes were discovered by a boy. The boy wore a costume, like all of the Travelers, but he did not wear a mask. Instead his face was bare to the world, his dark eyes huge in his pale face. Even though this was only the second time I'd seen the Travelers, I understood that the boy looked that way so we all would trust him, we all would understand the struggle he undertook." (p. 33-34)
Mentor Text for: Suspense, Setting, World Building, Mythology
**Thank you to Morgan Keyes and Simon & Schuster for providing a copy for me to review**...more
I was enthralled by this smart, yet still accessible middle grade novel. Once I began it, I did not want to put it down. I cannot wait for the next book which I hope will be in my hands sooner than later.
The book was not only packed with an interesting concept (Mira and her mother travel through time to try to right wrongs that haven't happened yet), but the book was filled with information about late 19th century Paris, French history and art. Although some may feel like there was information overload, I found it all so fascinating. I am primarily sucked in when a book includes history that is less well known and that is exactly what this book did. Do you know about the Dreyfus Affair? After reading you will. I was also so excited to read a book so full of art history and art elements. Each page includes sketches from Mira and throughout the book you meet incredible artists such as Degas, Monet and Rodin. A cast of characters that is better than any fiction. This part of the book actually reminds me a lot of Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris except Mira is trying to fix something instead of fixing herself.
One wish I had while reading was wanting to see the artists' works as each artist was introduced. I was blessed enough to have an art-filled childhood so I could picture many of the pieces; however, many students do not have that background knowledge. I would love to see a non-fiction companion book that includes more history on each artist including copies of their artwork to really connect the students with the brilliant pieces that are being discussed in the novel.
Snatch of text: "Dad was right - [Notre Dame is] truly a wonder of the world...// Usually when you go into a building, it's lighter or darker, cooler or warmer than outdoors, but it's still part of the same world. Stepping into Notre Dame was like changing time zones or countries, crossing some magical border. A hush filled the cavernous, echoey space of the cathedral, despite all of the voices of tourists murmuring and people praying, as if the sound was absorbed into the bones of the building itself.//Light streamed in from the windows like a physical presence, the kind of light you think you can reach out and touch...The air itself felt still and chilled by the stone all around. The walls were stretched thin between the pillars that soared into a vault overhead, like the skin of a massive beast taut between its ribs." (p. 14-15)
Topics: History, Paris, Art (Photography, Sculpture, Drawing, Painting), Jewish ghetto, Notre Dame, Eifel tower, Madeline books, Anti-semitism, Degas, Van Gogh, Mary Cassatt, Monet, Gauguin, Seurat, Renoir, Manet, Whistler, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rodin, Patriotism, Oscar Wilde, Emile Zola, Zionism, the Dreyfus Affair, Military, Conspiracy, Human Rights, Justice system, Journalism, Race/Religion...more
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. ...more
When I took adolescent literature during my master's degree, my professor assigned this book and I read it and I didn't like it. When I think back, I can't really tell you why- I think I just didn't connect with the format then. I read Archie comic books when I was younger, but that was the closest to graphic novels I got. So, when I picked up Maus, I think it was too much for me at the time with the symbolism, history and time change. Also, it was black and white. Now, though, graphic novels have become a big part of my reading life, so when I saw the two Maus books sitting on my sister's shelf in Syracuse, I asked if I could borrow them for the bus ride.
I am glad I did. Maus is brilliant. Art Spiegelman knows what he is doing. The symbolism doesn't outweigh the story, the present & past story are perfectly balanced and the history is terrifying & informative. ...more
Everyone thinks that Sam's family is perfect- she IS the pastor's daughter. But her life is anything but. Her mom is in rehab after being receiving aEveryone thinks that Sam's family is perfect- she IS the pastor's daughter. But her life is anything but. Her mom is in rehab after being receiving a DUI and crashing her car. Her dad is being her dad- a pastor; he is realiable and a great listener to everyone but his immediate family. And none of her friends understand how she feels. She just wants to be alone. Not at church, not at youth group, not at her friend's house.
Then, a young girl from town disappears and Sam begins to question her faith even more. With two tragedies circling her, Sam's "perfect" life begins to disappear even more.
In this thought-provoking novel which deals with human weakness, faith and depression, Sara Zarr brilliantly speaks to young adults. ...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
I have to admit something. I did not know who John Brown was. To be honest, I thought it was a book of tall tales John Henry as the back said "I willI have to admit something. I did not know who John Brown was. To be honest, I thought it was a book of tall tales John Henry as the back said "I will raise a storm" and I just grabbed it and brought it home. BOY, was it not what I expected, but I am so glad I read it! I once again was able to bulk up on my history. ...more
In the tradition of Wintergirls and Lessons from a Dead Girl, Without Tess takes the reader on a psychological journey of a young girl suffering fromIn the tradition of Wintergirls and Lessons from a Dead Girl, Without Tess takes the reader on a psychological journey of a young girl suffering from the death of a loved one. Lizzie's sister, Tess, died 5 years ago, but Lizzie has always blamed herself and has yet to forgive herself. But what she doesn't realize is that she isn't to blame- only Tess and her illness are. Through the help of her school psychologist, a surprise friend and Tess's battered journal, Lizzie tries to find herself again.
I felt disconnected from the book at the beginning, but I think it was the uniqueness of the book and Tess that made it hard to delve into at the beginning; however, as the book progresses and the relationship between the sisters is explored, it becomes memorizing. ...more
*Told in a very matter-of-fact tone and style, Hanna's story does not hold back from the horrors of the Holocaust and shows how one piece of good luck*Told in a very matter-of-fact tone and style, Hanna's story does not hold back from the horrors of the Holocaust and shows how one piece of good luck can change your life. (I am glad the name was changed for the US release. Much more about playing than boys.)...more
Told in fragments, Judith's story slowly comes together leaving you on the edge of your seat until the reveal. A mystery mixed with romance and findinTold in fragments, Judith's story slowly comes together leaving you on the edge of your seat until the reveal. A mystery mixed with romance and finding ones identity. A unique book....more