Esparanza Rising is a novel that would be appropriate for intermediate or middle school readers and has both realistic fict...more**spoiler alert**
Esparanza Rising is a novel that would be appropriate for intermediate or middle school readers and has both realistic fiction and historical fiction elements. Esparanza Rising is about a young girl named Esparanza who lives with her mother and father on a grape ranch in Mexico. Esparanza's life is perfect - she loves her home, her friends, her land, and most of all, her father. On the eve of the fiesta in honor of Esparanza's 13th birthday, Esparanza's father doesn't return from the fields. After her father is found dead, Esperanza's life changes dramatically. After Esparanza's uncle burns down their home and the grape fields as punishment for Esparanza's mother denying his advances, Esparanza and her mother are flee their home and move to California in search of work. Esparanza and her mother, who were used to living a life of luxury and being catered to by their many servants, are forced to become field workers and receive little pay and live in poor conditions. In fact, they are now indebted to a family that were prevously in their employ. Although Esperanza has trouble adjusting to the changes in her life - she never gives up hope. This book also portrays the conflict between the rich and poor in Mexico as well as the plight of the farm workers in California.
I listened to this book on CD and the version I listened to was read by Trini Alvarado, not the author. This version was decent, although I almost wish that I would have just read the book, instead of listening to it. In the future, I will try to select audio books that are read by the author. (less)
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is a book that would be appropriate for female students in 5-8th grade, due to the subject...moreSummary and Analysis:
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is a book that would be appropriate for female students in 5-8th grade, due to the subject matter. Although this is an older book, I chose it due to the fact that it is both a "classic" and also controversial.
Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret is told through the eyes of a eleven year old girl named Margaret. Margaret had just moved from New York City to a suburb in New Jersey during the summer before her 6th grade year. In her new town, she makes several friends - known as the PTS's (Pre Teen Sweeties). Along with her friends, Margaret frets over boys, menstruation, their new male teacher, and the fact that her chest has not developed yet. Additionally, Margaret has now realized that the fact that she wasn't raised within any particular religion is very unusual in her new community. This leads Margaret to visit many different churches and synagogues in order to explore which religion she would like to choose. Although Margaret already feels comfortable speaking with God in her own way, Margaret doesn’t feel anything special in any of the services she visits.
As I read this book, I thought about the fact that this book is one of the top 100 most banned or challenged books in America. When you take into account that this book was originally published in 1970, the controversy makes sense. One can imagine that this was one of the first books written for young girls that tackled such taboo issues as religion and puberty. However, I can infer that if such a book was published now, it would not be as big of a deal. Contrary to the way that this book was received, I feel like this is a good read for preteen girls, as many of the conflicts the protagonist faces may serve as a "mirror" of their own lives.
On a side note, I found Margaret's grandmother on her paternal side to be incredibly irritating. In fact, the word meddling comes to mind. I know that Margaret and her grandmother are very close and she serves as a source of comfort many times during the novel - I just couldn't like this character. I was actually happy when Margaret couldn't visit her grandmother in Florida - even though Margret was devastated. I'm not sure if this was Judy Blume's intention for the reader, even though it was implied that Margaret's parents don't like the grandmother either.
I listened to this book on CD and I thought that it was a decent recording. The reader had a childlike voice, which was appropriate for the pre-pubescent protagonist. The only part I found annoying was that the voice actor, Laura Hamilton, would raise or deepen her voice when another character spoke. As is my personal preference, I would rather voice actors not do that when reading a book intended for older readers. However, I would still recommend the audio version of this book. (less)
Joey Pigza Loses Control is the second book in the Joey Pigza series and is appropriate for upper elementary o...more**spoiler alert**
Summary and Analysis:
Joey Pigza Loses Control is the second book in the Joey Pigza series and is appropriate for upper elementary or middle school students.
In this book, the story picks up right where Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key left off. Joey has just finished a year of school and the medicine patches that he now uses as a result of his stint at the special school are still working wonderfully. He feels like he is a different kid entirely. However, Joey is now alone every day, as his mother is at work. He tries to amuse himself by playing with his Chihuahua, Pedro, and practicing the trumpet but he finds himself getting into some trouble - not because he's "wired" but because he's bored. Finally, Joey finds out that he will be spending several weeks with his father in Pittsburg - as his father has approached lawyers about visitation rights and custody issues. Against her better judgment, Joey's mother brings him to see his father, Carter Pigza - who is living with Joey's grandmother.
As he was described in Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, Carter Pigza is truly a large version of Joey. Carter displays a lot of the same ADHD symptoms that Joey had, along with a criminal record, a smoking habit, and alcohol abuse. Although Joey really wants to have a relationship with his father, he feels torn because of Carter's behavior and the fact that they never truly have a conversation due to the fact that Carter speaks a mile a minute. Things begin to look up for the father and son when Carter discovers Joey's amazing pitching arm and Joey joins the baseball team that Carter coaches, as a part of Carter's mandated community service stemming from a DUI. However, problems begin to start for Joey when his father flushes all of his medicine patches down the toilet and begins to talk about Joey moving in with him permanently. Joey becomes frightened of his father's wild mood swings and intense temper as well as his own deteriorating focus and winds up running away during the final game of the baseball championship. Luckily, Joey is able to contact his mother, who comes just in time to take him home safely.
I must say that I enjoyed this book just as much as the first one in the series, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key. Both books were short, quick reads because of the way that Jack Gantos pulls the reader into the story. Joey is a likeable character and I found myself really pulling for his success. The interesting thing about this book is the contrast between how Joey is in the first book and how he is in this book. As Joey says himself in Joey Pigza Loses Control, there are two Joeys - the old wired Joey and the new Joey. He fears that the old wired Joey will come back because he is just around his father and once he is without his patches - the old Joey really does come back. The scary thing is that Joey didn't even realize, initially, when the "old Joey" was back. After a few days of being off of his medication, Joey spent an entire day running around Pittsburg doing the craziest things. Joey, as he described what he was doing, was complimenting himself on staying in control and being normal. It wasn't until the very end of the book that Joey realized how bad things had become for him again, and reached out to his mother for help.
I think the Joey Pigza books are a great resource for anyone who knows a child with ADHD. It was very insightful for me to see into the mind of a child with this condition and to see what their thought processes are and how they really do try to be "normal" even though it might not seem like it. (less)