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)
I learned a lot from this book. The author, Tracey Porter, researched for 5 years to make sure her depiction of what Billy experiences. I love how she...moreI learned a lot from this book. The author, Tracey Porter, researched for 5 years to make sure her depiction of what Billy experiences. I love how she used names of children that dies in coal mining accident throughout the book to pay homage.
But, I think I don't like magical realism. This is the second book in a row where overall the book was realistic, but it has fantasy elements. In Billy Creekmore, Billy can feel spirits. Although Tracey made the fantasy part fit, I just wish that is was only historical fiction. I LOVED the story of Billy's adventures and life, but the "seer" aspect turned me off from the beginning. (less)
I am not sure how I feel about this book yet... Here are my thoughts:
-I know that I couldn't put it down during the last 175 pages.
-I know that I di...moreI am not sure how I feel about this book yet... Here are my thoughts:
-I know that I couldn't put it down during the last 175 pages.
-I know that I didn't like two of the main characters (the dad and 16 year old brother) because they are horribly selfish, but I loved the other two (the 11 and 5 year old brothers); however, the 16 year old was our narrator, so I had trouble feeling sorry for him or connecting with him at points because I just didn't like him.
-I didn't like how the author began with a preface that gave away everything that was going to happen, but I still found it to be suspenseful because you are waiting for the things to happen and you didn't know how or when they would.
-The beginning of the book is really depressing and it doesn't really get much happier.
-The book is a good old survival book, but with some twists. Overall, worth reading.
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. (less)
Beauty Queens follows a mixed bag of beauty queens that are trying to adapt to living on a deserted island after surviving a plane crash. In a parody,...moreBeauty Queens follows a mixed bag of beauty queens that are trying to adapt to living on a deserted island after surviving a plane crash. In a parody, ala Austin Powers (but with beauty queens), Libba Bray makes you laugh out loud with her wit. However, at the same time, she touches on some important issues for everyone to consider.
Throughout the book there are footnotes and commercial breaks, which made it so that all through the book, I had a narrator's voice that would pop in at those parts that sounded like an announcer- made reading quite entertaining :)
Pop culture parodied in Beauty Queens (that I noticed): The Hills, Bratz dolls, Boy bands, James Bond, Over-medicating, Cinnabun, Fast food, Health insurance industry, Emo, Facebook, Bridal competition shows, People famous for being famous, Plastic surgery, Reality TV, Phish, Captain Morgan, Antique's Roadshow, Victoria's Secret and, of course, Beauty pageants.
Favorite quote (not funny at all...): "Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one's watching them so they can be who they really are." -pg. 177
Also- I spy a David Levithan shout out on pg. 271(less)
I marked this book survival, but it isn't survival like the other books in this category- it is survival from bullies; and the worst type of bully- yo...moreI marked this book survival, but it isn't survival like the other books in this category- it is survival from bullies; and the worst type of bully- your best friend.
Jo Knowles read an article about friends bullying friends and decided she needed to write a book about this horrible thing- and BOY! did she it on the head with this book. It is such a horrible scenario. As a reader, you connect with Laine and you are terrified of Leah. She also does a great job at going into the psychological reasons for bullying, depression, and low self-esteem. (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)
Ginny Rorby is one of my favorite authors. Her other books, Hurt Go Happy and Outside of a Horse, deal with animal and human issues; although Lost in the River of Grass does talk about animals and animal issues throughout, this is Ginny's most human of a novel. It is about survival and finding the strength inside of yourself to stand up to anything- even something that has always terrified you. Throughout the novel, Sarah and Andy, who are lost in the Everglades, face things that are only in most of our nightmares. I learned, quite quickly, that I probably wouldn't survive if I was lost in the river of grass. But Sarah, who is scared of EVERYTHING, grows up right in front of our eyes. This book made me gasp, cry, laugh- go through the cycle of emotions, but that is what makes a book so wonderful. Ginny Rorby knows how to write characters that the reader can connect with and this is no exception- Sarah is just a normal girl and Andy is just a normal boy, but through their journey they found out how extraordinary they are.
*1. What amazing world building! Moira Young did an amazing job with not only the setting, but the "government" in her debut novel.
2. The cover of this book truly sets the tone for the story. Even when the story isn't taking place in the desert, the setting plays a major role in the story.
3. Sada. Wow. She is a strong woman protagonist. Though I found her hard to like at points, I knew it was from her passion boiling inside that she acted the way she did.
4. The best pet in a book every! Nero, the crow, is the secret star of the book.
5. The relationships in this book are things of beauty. The details in characterization that Young meticulously added to the story made it so that you are emotionally connected to all of the characters although there are many of them.
6. Girl. Cage. Fighting. Wow- it is brutal!
Originally read: April 22, 2012 Reread: July 15, 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)
3.5 stars (I kept going back and forth between 3 and 4)
When the snow starts, Scotty and his two friends Jason and Pete assume it is just another New...more3.5 stars (I kept going back and forth between 3 and 4)
When the snow starts, Scotty and his two friends Jason and Pete assume it is just another New England snow storm that will get them out of school early, but this time it turns out to be far worse- the 3 boys with 4 other students and a teacher end up stuck at the high school during a blizzard that doesn't just last a day or two. At first everyone is worried about their cell phones, but they soon begin to realize that they need to worry about food, heat, water and ultimately just surviving.
Teacher head's up: Looking at the cover, I thought this was going to be a middle grade novel, but it is a teen novel (grades 7 and up) with high school jokes and innuendos. (less)
Summary: Samuel is 13 and lives with his parents peacefully on the frontier in America. They live in a small settlement in a dirt floored cabin that backed up to the forest. Samuel loved the forest, he'd become the sole provider of food for the settlement and he enjoyed every minute he spent in the forest. They lived far from any town so that it took sometimes months before any news got to their ears, including the beginning of the war. It was not long after they'd heard about the war against the British that Samuel was out in the woods searching for deer that he noticed smoke coming from where his settlement was- way too much smoke. When he arrived he found destruction and death. All the cabins in his settlement were burnt down and bodies were everywhere; however, it seemed his parents were taken captive. It is now Samuel's only mission in life to track down and save his parents. On this adventure, he learns more about more about the horror of the war that America is now in.
What I Think: I love historical fiction! Well, good historical fiction and Woods Runner is good historical fiction. After first I was feeling so-so about the book, but then on page 20 the book becomes such a page turner. This book is only my 5 historical fiction book about the Revolutionary war, but it is the first that shows what happened from an American that live on the frontier. This book also showed me some of the side work the British army and its allies did. Being in war with someone and fighting them is one thing, but the British along with Iroquois Indians as well as the Hessians, the German fighters for Britain, were ruthless and often committed war crimes. This book is built to not only entertain you, but to teach you. Gary Paulsen puts snippets of historical information between chapters to help the reader understand more specifically what is going on in the book- I loved learning that little bit more!
Next to how much I loved the historical element of this novel, Gary Paulsen also crafts such an amazing survival adventure with a protagonist that anyone will root for.(less)
Summary: Jack is an orphan- his mother died of dust pneumonia and his father hanged himself- and he cannot take it in Oklahoma any more. The dust bowl has officially taken over and is sucking the life out of everything it can. While determining his plan, Jane, a neighbor girl, and her brother, Tony, trudge into his front yard looking for help because they too have lost everything in their lives. The three decide to steal a dead neighbor's car and make their way to Texas where Jane and Tony have relatives. This decision starts an adventure that none of them could have bargained for including mobsters, guns, alligators, slavery, train hopping and a carnival.
What I Think: When you begin this book, you think you are going to read a normal historical fiction book about the dust bowl. The beginning is so depressing- filled with death and dust- expressing the emotion of the era. I felt that it captured the dust bowl so well. Our characters were dealing with tragedies in their life that we can't even imagine happening to us, but the children just breezed over it like it was a normal day occurrence. But then the book changed. I still don't really know how I feel about the book because it was so far from what I was expecting. When the kids meet mobsters on the side of the road, I couldn't believe that the author made that choice for this story, but then everything kind of snowballed from there and I was sucked into this crazy movie-esque adventure where just when everything seemed okay, something else horrible would happen.
Although I question the plot, I did really enjoy the characters. Jack was a simple good-ole-boy and all throughout his narration I could hear his voice in my head. Jane, on the other hand, was anything but your normal girl from this era. She was well read, always comparing their journeys to the quests of Sir Galahad, Odysseus, Jason or another story, and she had a mind of her own. I love that she stood up for herself often and wouldn't waver from what she believed in. Although she was a big liar, she often used it for good, not evil and overall was a fantastic story teller. Tony, her brother, was the side kick and bit of humor in the story. He was a sweet boy who had to make some tough choices. The characters are really what made this story.
*secret* I really dislike the cover. I think it looks way too modern and also doesn't capture the essence of the story. *sh*(less)
Summary: August, Auggie, has never been to school. It isn't because he never wanted to, it was because he never could. After being born with an almost unknown birth defect, he has had over 25 surgeries in his short 10 years of life. Now, after a time of surgery-free life, Auggie's parents have decided that it is time for Auggie to go to school. As a 5th grader. Which is the first year of middle school. As Auggie's dad says, it is like leading a lamb to slaughter and the ride that Auggie goes on is a roller coaster of emotions.
What I think: There are certain books that while you are reading, you wish that you could share it with every person, adult and child, that you know. This is one of those books. It is almost too hard to explain because of how wonderful it is. It is a book that will make you want to be kinder to every person that you meet. It is already a lesson that I try to teach my students and a book like this will assist me in showing them how words and actions can affect another person.
Although August is amazing and you cannot feel for and love his character, there are 2 other characters that made this book for me. First, Summer. She shows that there are 10 year olds that are still loving and thoughtful. The other is Mr. Browne. I love his precepts and how he teaches his class. What a way to make students reflect about their lives and to think deeply.
"I know I'm not an ordinary ten-year-old kid. I mean, sure, I do ordinary things. I eat ice cream. I ride my bike. I play ball. I have an XBox. Stuff like that makes me ordinary. I guess. And I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don't get stared at wherever they go... My name is August, by the way. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse." (p. 1)(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)
Sam "Smith" hardly remembers his mother's face anymore. Over the 10 years he's been on the run with his father who abduct...moreThis is a very special book.
Sam "Smith" hardly remembers his mother's face anymore. Over the 10 years he's been on the run with his father who abducted him and his brother, Riddle, his memory of her has faded along with his hope of her (and normalcy) returning. The "Smith"s move constantly on Clarence's whims and based on his criminality in the town. Presently, Sam finds himself in a town where he is noticed for the first time ever and not just noticed, but loved by a young lady named Emily who could change his life. I'll Be There is about love in the end. Brotherly love. Romantic love. Motherly love.
This is one of those books you leave feeling fuzzy all over with tear streaks down your cheeks. The voices and presences of all the characters make you become part of the novel and truly care what happens to Sam and Riddle.
I loved the way the book was constructed. Holly Goldberg Sloan shifts between characters' voices throughout giving you all points of view of the situation. (As an intensive reading teacher, I will say that it would take a strong reader to be able to keep up with all of the changes.)
Oh- and I loved how the pets played a roll in the book. So awesome! And I will have to say that I think Riddle is probably the most dedicated, loyal and wonderful brother in any book ever. I love that boy. (less)
Guantanamo Bay is a very secretive part of American present history. It was a place where the American government acted as if they were above the law torturing and detaining suspected terrorists, including children, without a fair trail, much less much evidence. And although it has now been found that complete horrors were happening there, it is still open and housing approximately 169 prisoners (as of 4/12). It is hard to imagine the violations of civil rights that happened at Guantanamo Bay and this novel lays them all out for you.
Anna Perera takes a young boy named Khalid and puts him through what some young Muslim men went through during the War on Terror after September 11th. Khalid is visiting his family in Pakistan when he is attacked and kidnapped by a group of men and then handed over to the American military who pay for any suspected terrorists who are turned over to them. Then through torture, including water boarding, they force him into confessing to terrorist acts which makes him end up in Guantanamo.
This is not an easy story to read. It is a part of our history that most Americans wish wasn't true. This book is tough and puts the reader is a tough situations, but there is a lesson to learn by the history portrayed. (less)
*I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed a book about bats; though I shouldn't be because I have enjoyed everything I've ever written by Kenneth Op...more*I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed a book about bats; though I shouldn't be because I have enjoyed everything I've ever written by Kenneth Oppel. This book is not just about bats, but about an underdog overcoming. It is adventurous, filled with twists and turns. Definitely would be loved by fans of animal fiction like Redwall or Erin Hunter books. (less)