Summary and Analysis: This book is a collection of "fairy tales retold" written by many different authors and contains two versions...more**spoiler alert**
Summary and Analysis: This book is a collection of "fairy tales retold" written by many different authors and contains two versions of Little Red Riding Hood, a version of Rapunzel, a version of Sleeping Beauty, and many more. This collection would be appropriate for middle school readers, as intermediate readers might miss some of the humor in the tales. The two Little Red Riding Hood tales within this book are called "Little Red and the Big Bad" and "Lupe".
Little Red and the Big Bad gives the traditional tale an urban setting and the narrator tells the tale in urban slang, "You know I'm giving the straight and deep 'cause it's about a friend of a friend. A few weeks back, just 'cross town, a true sweet chiquita, called Red for her fave red hoodie, gets a 911 from her momma's momma." In this tale, Red is given the task of bringing Chinese take-out to her sick grandmother and meets "Big Bad" along the way. Big Bad appears to be a typical neighborhood hooligan but Red finds him attractive and can't help but flirt a little bit. Turns out, Big Bad sees Red's grandmother's address on the takeout slip and beats her there. Once inside, he threatens them for the Chinese take out. This tale is left open ended, as the narrator does not tell us what happens to the characters.
Lupe, on the other hand, presents a more traditional version of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. In Lupe, a young girl named Guadelupe - Lupe for short - spends a great deal of her time in the woods, in order to escape the misery in her family following the death of her baby brother. Eventually, Lupe is given the task of visiting Old Blanca, the terrifying witch that lives in the woods. Lupe's grief-stricken mother gives her this task because, as she puts it, "'Who else can help me? Who else will give me back what I have lost?'" Lupe reaches Old Blanca's house without incident but is confronted by a wolf after she enters Old Blanca's house. The wolf disappears after frightening Lupe, and Old Blanca is suddenly present. One gets the sense that the wolf was actually Old Blanca and Lupe had just passed some sort of test. Old Blanca does agree to help Lupe and her family and upon returning home - Lupe finds that the deep depression that had a hold of her family is now gone. Soon enough, Lupe's mother announces that she is again pregnant.
Both of these tales are very different than the traditional fairy tale version of Little Red Riding Hood and I enjoyed both equally. Little Red and Big Bad was truly a pleasure to read because it was full of humor and it represented the only "realistic fiction" retelling of the fairy tale I had encountered. However, the author's decision to make this tale a "cliff hanger" did not sit well with me but I did enjoy the suspensful implication at the end that "Big Bad" was not too far away from the reader. I also was a little confused during Little Red and Big Bad because after describing Big Bad as a neighborhood thug, it seemed that he was actually a wolf after all during the climax of the story and the traditional dialogue. I would have prefered that the author did not return to the literal interpretation of an actual wolf as the antagonist in this tale.
On the other hand, Lupe was the stronger story, for me, because it did not have the feel of a Red Riding Hood retelling. It seems to me that Lupe can stand alone in its own right. The only major elements that Lupe and Little Red Riding Hood has in common was the woods as a setting and the presence of a wolf. In Lupe, the woods are portrayed in a positive light, a place to be cautious of - but not to be afraid of. In fact, Lupe finds refuge in the woods when her family falls apart following the death of her younger brother. In Lupe, the wolf is a minor portion of the story - one gets the sense that the wolf isn't even real and the traditional dialogue between Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf is missing from this tale. (less)
American Born Chinese is a graphic novel that would be appropriate for students in middle school or high schoo...more**spoiler alert**
Summary and Analysis:
American Born Chinese is a graphic novel that would be appropriate for students in middle school or high school. In my opinion, some of the humor within this book would not be appropriate for elementary school aged children. American Born Chinese contains three distinct stories that represent different aspects of Chinese culture. The three storylines eventually intersect in a surprising, if predictable way and the book is wrapped up with the meaningful theme - be proud of who you are.
The first story that appears in American Born Chinese is the tale of a Monkey King that strives to be taken seriously by all of the other gods. This story has the feel of a legend and represents the author's version of traditional Chinese folklore. Initially, the Monkey King gains more and more power through his study of Kung Fu and is able to make some of the lesser deities submit to his will. However, the Monkey King is punished by Tze-Yo-Tzun, the supreme being, and is buried under a mountain of rock. Once a traveling monk shows the Monkey King that it is better to be in your true form, a reoccurring theme in this book, the Monkey King is able to free himself. The Monkey King accompanies the monk on his quest and eventually takes the form of Chin-Kee, a character from the third storyline.
The next tale that is introduced within American Born Chinese is the story of Jin Wang, a Chinese-American boy who had lived in San Francisco's Chinatown for most of his life. However, when his family moves to an area where there is only one other Asian students, Jin struggles to fit in. This is the portion of the novel that may appeal to the greatest number of readers because this character is easy to identify with. Jin Wang finds himself the victim of bullying and has absolutely no friends. When Jin Wang meets Wei-Chun, an immigrant from Taiwan, Jin doesn't want to be friends with someone who is so "fresh off the boat". However, when Jin realizes that him and Wei-Chun have much in common, they become best friends. Later in the story, Jin develops a crush on a Caucasian girl and is eventually rejected due to his race. Jin also betrays his best friend, who is the Monkey King's son is disguise, and tries to further distance himself from his Chinese heritage. Magically, Jin wakes up the next day and his appearance is now that of a Caucasian boy. Jin chooses a new name to fit his new identity: Danny. Turns out, this is the very same Danny from the third storyline.
The third storyline within American Born Chinese, focuses on a typical "All-American" boy named Danny. Danny has a normal life- he joined the basketball team, has many friends, and is about to ask out the girl that he has a crush on. This all changes when his cousin, Chin-Kee, comes to visit. Chin-Kee is the epitome of a Chinese stereotype: he replaces "l" with "r", talks about binding the feet of American girls, eats cat for lunch, is a Kung-Fu master, etc. Danny incredibly embarrassed by his cousin and the combination of his cousins' actions and Danny's reactions to those actions drive all of his friends away. Turns out, this has happened before - Danny has to change schools after each one of Chin-Kee's visits. Once Danny reaches his breaking point and attacks Chin-Kee, the Monkey King reveals himself.
The stories reach their resolution when Jin, back in his true form, makes amends with Wei-Chun - who is actually the Monkey King's son. The book ends by stating pretty explicitly that it is better to stay in your true form - or to be proud of who you are.
The interesting thing about this book is the fact that the author was able to tell three distinct stories that all wound up intersecting at the end of the book. However, the way that he chose to do it caused me to like the book less. Through the beginning of the book, I enjoyed the fact that two of the three stories were realistic fiction, albeit the Chin-Kee story line was really over the top. I accepted the Monkey King story line because it had the feel of a Chinese legend and thus brought that piece of culture to the book. As soon as Jin turned into a Caucasian boy, Danny from the Chin-Kee storyline, the book became a lot less appealing to me - although I did still enjoy it. Due to this, the message at the end - although it was a great message - seemed a little forced to me. If it wasn't for the intervention of the Monkey King, a magical being, Jin wouldn't have felt proud of his heritage.
Another concern I had about this book was the Chin-Kee storyline. A younger reader might miss the purpose of including the stereotypes that Chin-Kee represents. Although it was clear to me, as an adult reader, that this character was hyperbole, I can see how it might offend some readers. Especially if the reader is a Chinese-American child who enters the book the same way I did - expecting a realistic, but also humorous, representation of the trials and tribulations of being Chinese-American and trying to balance two very different cultures.
As for the genre of the book, I was pleasantly surprised. Although I read comic books as a child, I have yet to read a graphic novel that didn't involve superheroes and the like. The illustrations were awesome; they enriched the storyline immensely. I don't think the stories within American Born Chinese could be told as effectively in traditional novel format. However, my concern is that a younger reader might pick of this text due to the graphic novel format. This book is not appropriate for younger readers due to some of the illustrations and content. (less)
Life As We Knew It is a science fiction novel for middle or high school readers. Specifically, Life As We Knew It falls under th...moreSummary and Analysis:
Life As We Knew It is a science fiction novel for middle or high school readers. Specifically, Life As We Knew It falls under the surviving environmental catastrophes category of science fiction and is told through diary entries. The protagonist within this book is a typical sixteen year old named Miranda. Miranda has conflicts with her friends, crushes on a local figure skater, and is honored to be asked to be the godmother her new step-brother or step-sister. Everything is normal, until the day an asteroid was supposed to hit the moon. At first, the only impact this event had on Miranda's life was that all of her teachers assigned homework focused on the moon. However, as everyone stood outside to watch the big event, things went horribly wrong. Turns out, the meteor was denser than the scientists had anticipated. The impact actually knocked the moon out of its orbit, bringing it closer to earth. This had catastrophic consequences for planet Earth, as anything from tsunamis to earthquakes to volcanoes ensued. Although Miranda and her family were safe from the natural disasters, they experienced hardships in other ways. Electricity, telephone communication, food, gas, and later, water were extremely limited or nonexistent. When freezing temperatures start in late August and the number of people dying around the world increases, Miranda and her family know that their lives depend on the firewood and food that they were able to stockpile.
I listened to this book on CD and I found that I really enjoyed it. My only complaint was about the reader. This is the 3rd audio book that I have listened to, both for this class and in general, and I still believe that audio books that are not read by the author are of a lower quality. The version of this book that I listened to was not read by the author and I found that the actor they chose to read the book had a voice that was too juvenile for the 16-year old protagonist.
Life as We Knew is was definitely full of suspense and the reader (or listener- in this case) really joined the characters on their emotional rollercoaster - as they lost and regained hope due to various events in the book. The only part that seemed less authentic to me was the ending. Miranda has accepted her fate toward the very end of the book until she received unexpected news that turns things around completely. This seemed a little too "convenient" to me. Not that I minded the "happy" ending - it just could have been set up differently. (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)
Lon Po Po is a picture book for older readers (or younger readers, with support) that won the Caldecott Medal in 1990. Lon Po Po, as the cove...moreSummary:
Lon Po Po is a picture book for older readers (or younger readers, with support) that won the Caldecott Medal in 1990. Lon Po Po, as the cover describes, is a Red Riding Hood story from China. In Lon Po Po, the protagonist is not one girl but three young children and the problem is not that they have to travel through the woods to their grandmother's house but that they are left alone at home when their mother leaves to travel to their grandmother's house. Soon enough, the children hear a knock on the door. Although they were told not to let anyone in, the voice at the door identifies itself as their grandmother. The children accept the explaination that their grandmother and their mother must have just missed each other on their travels by taking different routes. Upon letting their visitor into the house, the children discover that it is actually a terrible wolf that wants to eat them. The children must not let on that they know their "grandmother's" true identity while coming up with a plan to rid themselfs of the threat.
The illustrations combine the traditional techniques of Chinese panel art with more modern watercolors and pastels and help contribute to the overall mood of the book. (less)
Into the Forrest is a picture book for younger readers that loosely retells the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. In Into the Forest...moreSummary:
Into the Forrest is a picture book for younger readers that loosely retells the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. In Into the Forest, the young male protagonist is given the task of bringing items to his sick grandmother. In order to do so, he must travel through the woods. In this story, there is an additional problem - the boy's father is missing, which cause the boy much distress. As the boy travels through the woods, he encounters many different characters - none of which happens to be a wolf. The characters that he encounters happen to be characters from other fairy tales (Jack from Jack and the Bean Stalk, Goldilocks, and Hanzel and Gretel)- which is something that I did not realize until a read it a second time, as the characters are not identified by name and therefore the allusion is subtile. Finally, the boy realizes that he is very cold and luckily, finds a red jacket hanging from a tree. Now he has the appearance of the traitional protagonist. Finally, the boy reaches grandma's house and the story concludes with a happy ending. (less)