I'm always on the lookout for books that will appeal to the boys in my classes. I struggle toReview originally posted at Heise Reads & Recommends
I'm always on the lookout for books that will appeal to the boys in my classes. I struggle to find those books that will really engage them through contemporary situations and humor - well I've now found another one to add to my highly recommended for boys list with THE FOURTH STALL. Chris Rylander has created a funny book with heart. Mac, so nicknamed because he can get anything kids want and can solve their problems, thinks he has everything under control at his school as he works from his office in the basement bathroom that no one uses. He has long lines out the door everyday at recess of other kids needing help, and he runs a tight ship of a highly organized business with his best friend, Vince, who is the money guy. The two of them pretty much have control of the school and help people with all kinds of problems - whether it be bullies, dating, homework, or loans - Mac has what kids need. He takes payment or favors for his work. The payment is being saved up so Mac and Vince can go see the Chicago Cubs play in the World Series - if they can make it there. He has an internal network throughout the different levels of the school hierarchy who help him do what he needs - for a small fee. He thinks he has it all under control, until the day Fred walks in with a problem to solve that changes it all for Mac. Someone is infringing on his territory. Now he has to figure out how to solve the illegal gambling ring problem Staples has brought to his school.
This book has a full cast of characters who are each entertaining in their own right. As much as I adored Mac, some of his helpers (I'm looking at you M) were laugh-out-loud funny. The way that Mac runs his business is somewhat mobster-style and is impressive as such a well-oiled machine. Mac's voice is also greatly engaging in this book. It's written as if he's talking right to the reader with asides and side notes. It's like hearing a story from a good friend (almost Ferris Buehler style). Chris throws in some great similes that bring more character to the story overall. The one aspect I was a little concerned about was the slight glorification of the school bullies. There is a whole range of types of bullies in his school and Mac (humorously describing them all) uses them to do his dirty work. He pays them to be his muscle and while they have his back in the end, I worry if it puts them in too good of a light. I do think, though, that because of the humor and tone of the book, and the way they help protect Mac in the end, that it overall has a positive message about sticking together and standing up for oneself. The book also deals with friendship and trust and honesty between friends Mac and Vince. There's action and mystery and scheming and humor and friendship. It's a great middle-grades book to recommend to boys that should engage them in reading....more
Susane Colasanti consistently writes contemporary romance novels that are engaging for teens wReview originally posted on Heise Reads & Recommends
Susane Colasanti consistently writes contemporary romance novels that are engaging for teens while still dealing with the ins and outs of high school drama and difficulties. With KEEP HOLDING ON, she's gone one step further. This book introduces us to Noelle who does not have a good home life and does not have a good school life. Noelle is bullied and it makes her day-to-day life in high school a hope-to-get-through-it experience. She seriously lacks self-esteem because of the neglect of her mother and the bullying of her classmates, so even if one is reaching out to her, she can't see it. She lets herself get into toxic relationships because she doesn't think enough of herself, and she avoids other relationships and situations that could be good for her because of her fear that it will increase what she has to deal with on a daily basis.
As a teacher, it is heart-breaking to read the things she has to put up with. As a former teen, it seems all too familiar. Things may be different now with the extent of what kids will do to each other and the age at which it starts, but it still resonates with me having been there myself. My own (or any reader's) situations may not be exactly like Noelle's, but too much of it seems hauntingly familiar. Susane Colasanti has written the story of what too many girls have to go through on a daily basis in high school in a real and honest voice. What they have to be afraid of, what they hope to avoid, how they deal with it. But Noelle's discovery of her own voice and value leaves the reader with a sense of hope.
I appreciated how this book was written as a countdown. Each chapter starts with the date and how many days are left in the school year. It gives it a sense of urgency and nervousness as to whether we will get to the end or not. Also, the way in which it sometimes jumps from one scene to the next makes it feel almost as if we're watching snapshots of the life that Noelle is having to live. It's a short-ish book and written in an easily accessible way, which is what it needs to be for this topic. One of the strongest parts of this book are the cast of supporting characters who actually do help make things better for Noelle. There are individuals out there who are looking out for these kids: teachers, social workers, friends, guys, and girls who want to help them through it. We need to start celebrating these people more in the lives of those who are subjected to the bullying that happens to them in school.
The book ends with a message from Noelle to all of those who have felt like they are outsiders or have no hope. It leaves with a message of hope. Then, Susane tells her story and provides the reader with names and information on many organizations that are out there to help them through. A powerful note to include in a book such as this that may open a teen's eyes to something they didn't realize before - that they can reach out and ask for help, and that they should.
Although it does contain a few mature scenes, I would share it with older middle schoolers, and I definitely think it should be in every high school classroom for teens to read. ...more
There's just something so powerful about what R.J. Palacio has created with WONDER. The worldReview originally posted on Heise Reads & Recommends
There's just something so powerful about what R.J. Palacio has created with WONDER. The world of upper elementary and middle school teachers and librarians has been all abuzz about this book since February, and I knew it was a book I would have to read, but I also knew it would be a book that I would likely want to use for a read aloud with my students, so I held off until close to going back to school so it would be fresh in my mind. If you still haven't gotten to it yet, I urge you to do so as soon as you can because this is one of those books that must be read and shared with children and teens. Even if you don't have or work with kids, read it, and share it with someone who does. This is one of those titles that exemplified for me the power of Twitter - I may not have known about it if it wasn't for my Personal Learning Network out there, and I am so thankful that I have.
WONDER is a book that makes you think. It brings up the hidden parts of all of us that you may be ashamed of, brings it to light, and helps you to know how to do it better. It's about acceptance and understanding. It's about being...no...choosing kind. It's about relationships. It's about family and parents and siblings and friendships and school and teachers and students and principals and how all of those people interact to create someone's experience. It highlights the importance of adult interactions with children. It highlights the importance of both verbal and non-verbal behaviors and how those can impact someone's view of others and one's self. It highlights our fears and our hopes and our dreams. It makes you think and leaves you a better person than when you entered this story. It's the wonder of WONDER (#wonderofwonder).
I could get into some of the specifics of this book. The way Palacio chose to write so splendidly and honestly in Auggie's voice. The way Auggie helps us to see inside the mind of someone we may have known or seen in the past, and what our actions may have meant to them. The way the various voices that get to tell this story enhance the reader's experience so much. The way the use of emails and letters in certain parts highlights important moments in the story. The way Palacio flawlessly interweaves the multiple storylines and characters' experiences to create this complete book. The way that this realistic story can appeal to upper elementary students, middle school students, high school students, and adults. The way it opens a readers' eyes to actions and thoughts that may be hard to be honest about. The way it creates precepts for life that could make all the difference. But the experience of this book is about so much more than that. It's about the human experience, and how we can all be better at it.
I can only be thankful that so many students will be experiencing WONDER in their classrooms this year. I can only be thankful that R.J. Palacio's story may make those children take a second to think differently about bullying, and even more than that, their simpler interactions with others. I can only be thankful that the message to Choose Kind is permeating the world of education this year. We can only hope that more people get this message and pass it on, and the way to start is by sharing this book with others. So I encourage you to read WONDER, to pass it along to others, and to always choose kind....more