I have only read three books by Elizabeth Wein. Years ago, The Winter Prince, last year, Code Name Verity, and now Rose Under Fire. But, I now know, u...moreI have only read three books by Elizabeth Wein. Years ago, The Winter Prince, last year, Code Name Verity, and now Rose Under Fire. But, I now know, unwaveringly, that this is an author who can steal people’s hearts and cleanse their souls with her storytelling wizardry.
Elizabeth Wein, my friends, has a creative mind that goes forever deepr and her stories always take you to unexpected but exciting places — no matter their subject matters. Her mind is so incredibly nimble that she can organize very complex threads into easily followed paths through intricate mazes she has devised for her readers. Read this book NOW and tell everyone else to read it.
I know that young teen readers will take to Rose’s story more readily than they with Verity and can’t wait to recommend this to them all!t(less)
As I said in my notes earlier, my reactions to this two-book graphic novel set are complex and still unresolved even after several days’ reflection. P...moreAs I said in my notes earlier, my reactions to this two-book graphic novel set are complex and still unresolved even after several days’ reflection. Partly because that I found so much of it outstanding, so I did not want to be nitpicking about certain details and I don’t want to color anyone’s reaction to this historical fiction based on my largely emotional reactions as a Chinese American reader who wants everyone to know THE WHOLE STORY!! I also don’t want anyone to think that I KNOW the WHOLE STORY. In fact, I had to do some research as I read the book since my textbook history knowledge of this rebellion was also mixed with folklore and stories I saw on tv when I was little.
I am quite aware that Yang did not set out to write a historical treatment of the entire movement, but to personalize individual experiences so that he, and the readers, can explore the impacts of these events. He couldn’t have been more successful in reaching his goal. I greatly appreciate how there are never easy answers in Gene Luen Yang’s stories — the readers are left to wonder whether to be angry or sympathetic toward the characters; to admire or abhor what they do; and to be enlightened or perplexed by their reasons for their actions.
I’m glad that Yang included a list of the books he used to create this narrative since the origin of the Boxers and their practices are much debated topics amongst Chinese historians. The references to the boxers’ being spiritually possessed by powerful deities based on folk beliefs are in agreement with most historians’ findings and there was a real leader of the movement named Red Lantern Chu. I wish, however, that some sources translated from Chinese scholars were consulted and that the main sources have more balanced views from both sides.
I wish that I could have been convinced of Bao’s ignorance of Qin Shi Huang who is one of the most famous personalities in Chinese history — even if he might not have featured greatly in the opera — but was glad that the First Emperor is portrayed with a complexity of his own.
I wish that I had not cringed so much by Yang’s referencing/highlighting the more exotic but less significant aspect of the rebellion: how some boxers believed that foreign forces’ success was due to their utilizing the “yin power” (usually refers to the female spiritual power) which is evil and undesirable (drinking menstrual blood, flags woven from women’s pubic hair, etc.) Even if these were documented facts (as Diana Preston claims in her The Boxer Rebellion,) I simply couldn’t help feeling ashamed and hoping fervently that young readers won’t mistake such “foreign” notions as typical of my fellow countrymen in the 21st century. (Does the inclusion of such claims enhance the storytelling and the power of this book? I am too shaken by it emotionally to see it… perhaps someone else could convince me otherwise!?)
I wish that the slogan on the war banner had been written out in traditional Chinese characters because the events happened way before the simplification of the characters.
The above are all pretty much about Boxers — and I didn’t really get a chance to talk about Saints — which, for some odd reason, I found thoroughly convincing and more intense, although it is only half the length of Boxers. I found the timeline crisscrossing of the two books very effective and the two pages (282 in Boxers and 158 in Saints) depicting compassionate deities (Guan Yin and Christ) with the same visual design absolutely breathtaking.
These two books can generate so much discussion and are so thought provoking that I have to tag them Highly Recommended even if I had some personal reservations…(less)
I always wanted to read this book — and more than one teachers at school urged me to read it. Since I can’t really read it this year – I downloaded th...moreI always wanted to read this book — and more than one teachers at school urged me to read it. Since I can’t really read it this year – I downloaded the audio book read skillfully by Marc Thompson. Thompson definitely did the story justice with expertly designed and executed voices for the many characters in the tale. The story itself satisfied: a wonderful blend of life-or-death/survival scenarios and the warmth of friendship and inter-generational support. Although there are some really despicable adults in the tale, there are also so many caring ones that eventually made the three children’s lives better.
I anticipated a lot more “magic” due to the title and the cover design and felt slightly disappointed when I realized that it’s mostly a tale of young immigrants and their struggles finding their places in the world and supporting their families. All three protagonists’ stories are definitely compelling. Kirby then introduced some magical elements in the form of the golems and the golem’s “heart” for the clockwork man. Being a picky and sometimes narrow-minded genre-purist, I found this mixture a bit disconcerting — although it was quite satisfying to read those fantasy bits. I don’t think any child reader will be bothered by this mixture of historical/realistic story telling and elements of magic.(less)
Who would have thought? Richard Peck: the 21st Century Austen for the 8 to 10 set? But he IS! This little gem of a book has all the good stuff:
A cast...moreWho would have thought? Richard Peck: the 21st Century Austen for the 8 to 10 set? But he IS! This little gem of a book has all the good stuff:
A cast of talking mice whose actions and living conditions are completely believable and are in tune with children’s fantasy play; a twisting, surprising, and humorous upstairs/downstairs comedy that involves Royalty and seafaring; the perennial favorite plot progression allowing the lower class main characters go up the social ladder due to good luck and hard work; and clean grown-up romances.
Peck’s deft hand also created a great protagonist in the no-nonsense Helena and made her think and speak properly like one would have from the late 1800s. I was completely charmed!
(And the full-page incidental illustrations add to its charm even more!)
Quick – go and get a copy and treat yourself and your young readers!!(less)
Tenderness. As a reader, I felt surge after surge of tenderness toward this 14-year-old young man, emotionally and physically abused by a few, support...moreTenderness. As a reader, I felt surge after surge of tenderness toward this 14-year-old young man, emotionally and physically abused by a few, supported and understood and nurtured by many. And, so tenacious, so strong, and so smart, not to mention, so talented. Yes, Schmidt did create a character that is much larger than life whose story would have been implausible or unbelievable. In Schmidt's apt hand, however, with genuine emotions and a large dosage of wit, Doug's 8th grade year in Marysville feels archetypal and heroic. Like the Audubon paintings that serve as the scaffolding for the plot, the artistic stitchings and planning for the storytelling are visible every step of the way, and yet the final outcome is a pure force of nature. How does one explain it except that the story obviously came from both deep within a compassionate heart and a practiced and diligent hand.(less)
I really enjoyed the many bits and pieces of humor that is a somewhat tamed version found in Gantos' earlier works. The characters are more eccentric...moreI really enjoyed the many bits and pieces of humor that is a somewhat tamed version found in Gantos' earlier works. The characters are more eccentric than completely out of control (with perhaps a couple of exceptions.) Most of them are quite endearing and are what hold the story together and pull me through -- especially Ms Volker and Jack the first person narrator. Jack's narrative voice is so lighthearted that the deaths and destruction simply don't seem that dire. The mystery aspect only gains momentum toward the very end of the tale and the resolution is fairly uneventful, in keeping with the tone of the rest of the book.(less)
I adored The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian's Caldecott winning, form-innovating, ground-breaking novel told in text and pictures. I have been waitin...moreI adored The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian's Caldecott winning, form-innovating, ground-breaking novel told in text and pictures. I have been waiting for Thunderstruck with both happy anticipation and a slight dosage of anxiety: what IF it is not as good? What if it feels like the author has set a trap for himself and cannot top his last achievement? Would I be as taken by this story as the mysterious tale of Hugo? Would I feel that it is merely a repeat of what he already did once and since it is such a singular and unique format, it might not bear the weight of a second attempt...
And I am so pleased that the book is not at all these What Ifs... Instead, it tells a fascinating and moving story succinctly and attractively with text and pictures. And instead of a novelty, it might start a different kind of storytelling form for others who are similarly minded and have suitable tales to present in this way.
I did so want to SEE Ben's story, though. I was craving pictures for his part of the tale! That, to me, is a strength of the book: I can see how young people can be compelled to "illustrate" parts of the text. Others might be inspired to curate a personal "Cabinet of Wonder" (a personal museum.) And all of us will learn to appreciate all the connections that we make throughout our lives with others.
The release date of the book is September 13th, a day after the start of the year at my school, and I can't wait to have it on display to herald a year of reading with a wonderful new book for all my students! Let's shout HURRAY together for another tour de force by Brian Selznick!(less)
The quiet power of the book builds and builds and builds until at the end, my heart is squeezed and my eyes are wet. I feel for these characters as if...moreThe quiet power of the book builds and builds and builds until at the end, my heart is squeezed and my eyes are wet. I feel for these characters as if they are my closest friends and Delphine's resilience and vulnerability and her final "triumph" made me want to hug her and tell her how incredibly proud she should feel about herself and also to "be eleven" and to perhaps now relax just a smidgen and to be loved and cuddled once in a while. And what a hard thing to achieve portraying a young woman whose sole focus is on herself and her craft as a poet, who comes off as uncaring and abusive, but the entire time, this reader senses an admirable dedication and stoicism and does not view her as a monster mama. The final explanation of her hard life comes at the right time and gives just the right amount of information to let me know that she is just coming out of her own protective shell and there will be some softening and relationship building in the future. (But, no false hope of her suddenly and irrationally becoming a pampering, snuggling kind of mother.) (less)
Judging by the somewhat muted and sleepy cover, I thought I was going to read a "pensive, quiet" coming-of-age, historical fiction. It turned out that...moreJudging by the somewhat muted and sleepy cover, I thought I was going to read a "pensive, quiet" coming-of-age, historical fiction. It turned out that the story is NOT all that quiet: every episode falls on an All Hallow's Eve from early-40s to late-40s. You get the thrill of the secret Society's weird, slightly off and scary way to honor a recently deceased member; you get the Halloween prank gone awry; you get the blood-pumping, almost heart-stopping football game actions; and you get the death and danger working on the steam-engined trains. But then, you also get so much HEART between the main character and his father. It is an entirely "male" book, glaringly so -- you hardly see a female character and they hardly have even a speaking turn. It's all... very, macho, but oddly also very tender. And so much humor and humorous wisdom. I am not ashamed to say that I cried hard at the end of the tale... mourning the passing of a man and of an era so lovingly and convincingly portrayed by the author.
I am completely delighted by this book. I really enjoyed the first one and this one holds up, well and strong, and I think it works even better. Maybe...moreI am completely delighted by this book. I really enjoyed the first one and this one holds up, well and strong, and I think it works even better. Maybe because I thought, "What can she come up with that can top the first book?" before starting to read this one.. and Choldenko absolutely pulled it off. There is humor and tension all throughout the book, not to mention some hard-to-sort-out moral dilemmas. Over the years, my students have loved the first book -- from really strong readers to really reluctant ones - and both girls and boys do, too. I can see this one achieves the same effects: not a book that gets everyone super-excited, but one that gets talked up by young peers and gets passed around without making too big a wave. Its "beloved-ness" will last quite a while, I believe.
I also really appreciate the author's notes. This will make for a good historical-fiction writing assignment starter book. (I can see a whole class reading the book, discussing the facts and fiction aspects of the story, and doing some sort of historical research and writing a short story. <-- with my librarian's hat on, of course.)(less)
This book is truly amazing -- in its artistry and immaculate execution of the author's ideas. I did not love it as a reader. My reaction to it felt mo...moreThis book is truly amazing -- in its artistry and immaculate execution of the author's ideas. I did not love it as a reader. My reaction to it felt more like a scholar, not a passionate reader: I congratulated myself upon finishing some hard passages and upon completing the entire book. I recognize the importance of the story as well and am totally floored by Anderson's ability to sculpt words and phrases. But, I felt being hammered on the head and punched in the guts -- without wrenched in the heart. With all those horrifying scenes and situations, this book still manages to give me the feeling of an "objective science experiment." Is it because I have to unpack so much of what those sentences and scenes mean that I simply couldn't get closer to the soul of the characters? I wonder if I can read English better, faster, and less laboriously, would I have loved it more?(less)
I would not label this book as verse novel since I can't agree that the "poems" in the book count (for 90% of the time) as poetry. They are just chopp...moreI would not label this book as verse novel since I can't agree that the "poems" in the book count (for 90% of the time) as poetry. They are just chopped up lines. Is it an interesting historical topic and something that is worthy of writing about and worthy of letting young people know? You betcha! But if all the lines are compressed into short chapters/vignettes, we'll have even fewer pages than this slim-as-can-possibly-be book -- it is just a pamphlet. There are some imagined characters and a straightforward storyline. But there is little character development and almost no real tension or dramatic arc. So, my comments are all about what this title is not: It is NOT a Novel; it is NOT poetry; and it is NOT even a book. (less)