This book is a poetic memoir of a young girl through her high school years and beyond. We find her struggling with many of the problems adolescents fa...moreThis book is a poetic memoir of a young girl through her high school years and beyond. We find her struggling with many of the problems adolescents face during these difficult years. In addition our young writer is slowly starving herself to death in an attempt to become the perfect girl she imagines the object of her affection desires her to be. Daniel, the object of her affection, is struggling with his own demons, drugs, manic swings, and self-isolation. The two are bound by a strange interdependent relationship that allows each to spiral further into despair and obsession.
The author describes her self-destructive behavior in excruciating detail as she is hospitalized time and again as her family desperately tries to keep her alive. We get to see inside the writer's mind as she searches her own need for self-starvation, and her need to be taken care of by Daniel and by everyone around her.
Daniel's journey of self-destruction is less documented however we are told right at the start that he has attempted to end his life with a gun and has not succeeded. We find our emaciated author by his bedside attempting to coax him back into living.
The verses are disturbing however they do seem very in touch with what many teenagers feel during these troublesome years. Love, obsession, isolation and self-destruction are the common themes running through the somewhat disjointed verses as we flip back and forth between the present and the past.
This memoir would be very useful in a high-school classroom, however there are several situations and topics covered which may be deemed inappropriate for students. I would imagine this book would be challenged by parents for a variety of reasons, however it accurately conveys feelings and emotions in their rawest form. There is no holding back or sugarcoating the realizations the author comes to looking at herself both past and present.
The book would lead to many discussions and could also serve as a mentor text for students writing free verse or perhaps even jounaling their daily challenges. (less)
**spoiler alert** This was a delightful book which could have multiple uses in the classroom. It could be used for children dealing with divorce, step...more**spoiler alert** This was a delightful book which could have multiple uses in the classroom. It could be used for children dealing with divorce, stepbrothers or sisters, or any other significant life change. We find Xavier dealing, quite happily with his Mami's new boyfriend, who is very attentive. Then enters Chris, his soon-to-be stepbrother who does everything perfectly. He not only does his chores, but Xavier's as well. Chris doesn't even spell Xavier's name right, and he appears to be making his way into Mami's heart.
Xavier finally confronts Chris in a poem entitled, 'Showdown' and finds out that Xavier fears that if he isn't 'perfect' his father will leave as his mother had done. Xavier finally sees Chris for who he truly is, a scared young boy like he is. Chris starts to see the similarities they share rather than the anger that has clouded his eyes when he looks at his new stepbrother.
At the end of the book the boys become big brothers to a beautiful being, with 'eyes like the ocean', and 'skin like silk'' named Melodye.
The boys make a pact that no matter what they are brothers and 'nobody leaves'.
What a powerful book of poems! The illustrations are enormous and the characters' eyes look as if they allow you access to their very souls. The artwork only adds to the beauty of the author's words and makes us feel what the characters are going through. This book of verse would be a wonderful mentor text for students to use as they try their own hand at poetry.(less)
The book begins in pre-war Poland, with a fourteen-year-old Jack Mandelbaum living a very comfortable life with his family in the small town of Gdynia...moreThe book begins in pre-war Poland, with a fourteen-year-old Jack Mandelbaum living a very comfortable life with his family in the small town of Gdynia. The story takes us through the transformation of Poland from a peaceful European country to a place embroiled in the second World War. Jack changes from a happy-go-lucky teenager into a prisoner desperately trying to stay alive in multiple concentration camps. We vividly see the struggle for survival that Jack goes through on a daily basis.
The book is written so that we can see the world through a teenage-boy's eyes. A world that he is able to deal with because through all the death and destruction he witnesses, he truly believes that he will be reunited with his mother, father, sister and brother. As an outsider looking in, I knew the fate that had most probably befallen his mother and brother. After Jack was separated from his mother and younger brother I knew that they had probably been sent to a concentration camp where they were immediately killed in a gas chamber, but I found myself hoping, as Jack did, that they had somehow survived. Throughout the book, I found myself denying the reality of what had probably happened to Jack's family, as Jack continued to do through most of the book.
We learn what life was like in a concentration camp and what a human being can truly endure. Jack talked about his state of mind from day-to-day and what he saw in the faces of the men around him. He becomes an old soul who knows by looking at a fellow prisoner's face, that they have chosen to die and will do so within the week.
Unlike many of the books about the Holocaust that I have read, this story was told from the perspective of a teenager and kept the story focused on survival. There was no venturing from the story or an attempt to make the events portrayed anything other than what they were. At the end of the story, Jack, now an old man, takes the time to reflect on this time in his life. Prior to this, he had done his best to live in the present, however he never forgot his past, but he did not make being a concentration camp survivor the sole focus of his life.
I truly enjoyed how this book was written, however I did not enjoy the subject matter. This book would be quite useful in a middle-school classroom. I feel that the majority of students would be able to connect with Jack, even though it took place in a world so different from the one in which they currently live. The photographs and the informational afterward provide the background knowledge students may need to create a historical context for the time Jack had lived through.
I had heard the story of Owen and Mzee years ago and had read several news articles about the strange relationship between the two animals. I had neve...moreI had heard the story of Owen and Mzee years ago and had read several news articles about the strange relationship between the two animals. I had never read this book nor did I use it in a classroom setting and regret not having done so. It is an amazing story and a very beautiful book with it's endearing pictures of Owen and Mzee. I also see the usefullness of this book as a mentor text, due to the fact that the book was written not only by an adult, but also his young daughter, who contacted Dr. Paula Kahumbu, the General Manager of Haller Park, where Owen and Mzee now live, and got the whole story of the unlikely couple.
Owen, a young hippo, started out near the Sabaki River in Kenya, living a pleasant life with his mother and other members of his herd. Around December 26, 2004, the river surged and washed the hippos down towards the small fishing village of Malindi. The residents of Malindi see the hippos but are too busy trying to survive the rushing river waters themselves. The rushing river waters are an after-effect of the tsunami which occurred in southeast Asia and the seasonal rains which occur in the region. The villagers soon turn their focus on the isolated baby hippo struggling to survive in the swelling river. Residents and tourists undertake a very perilous and difficult rescue mission of the confused and angry baby hippo. Owen Sobien, a visitor, makes the brave decision to tackle the baby hippo and finally the rescuers are able to transport the young hippo to an animal sanctuary, named Haller Park, about 50 miles away.
Upon arriving at the animal sanctuary, the young hippo, now named Owen in honor of the visitor that finally was able to contain him, begins a very strange relationship that will captivate people around the world. Owen decides to befriend a 130-year old giant Aldabra toroise named Mzee, who is living in the same enclosure as Owen. Much to Mzee's chagrin, Owen decides that Mzee will be his adoptive parent whether he wants to or not. So begins the miracle relationship between Owen and Mzee, which still captivates the world.
The relationship between the two creatures is unlikely and unexpected by the caretakers of Haller Park, Dr. Paula Kahumbu and Stephen Tuei, the chief animal caretaker, but is very welcomed and is believed to be what perhaps saved Owen. The two creatures seem to fill a place in each other's lives.
The book could be used in a preschool classroom up through a high-school classroom. The book is inspirational and engaging and shows how love and friendship can cross all barriers, and be life-saving. The photographs in the text are amazing and truly speak to the reader, and enrich the text. (less)
**spoiler alert** I loved this book and would suggest its usage from 1st grade up through 5th grade. The story is told from a young girl's point of vi...more**spoiler alert** I loved this book and would suggest its usage from 1st grade up through 5th grade. The story is told from a young girl's point of view who we find out has escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto with her sister Mira. They are the only two members of her family that are still alive. The young girl and her sister live amongst the other poles in Warsaw but no longer wear their yellow stars.
Mira and the her younger sister decide they are going to continue to help the resident inside the ghetto. A group of friends, Mira and her sister decide to smuggle a large amount of food into the ghetto. Throughout the story our young narrator has described her journey around the city and her growing relationships with the stray cats left behind by former Warsaw residents who are now fighting for survival in the ghetto. She cannot spare any food for the strays, however she realizes that what they truly crave is love and kindness.
Throughout the story certain phrases are repeated: 'I wear my Polish look, I walk my Polish walk. Polish words float from my lips and I am almost safe, almost invisible....'. This is the author's way of describing the constant vigilance the young girl must maintain in order to escape detection by the Germans. But then we learn of the plan to smuggle food into the ghetto and to her friend, Michal, who now lives on the other side of the wall separating the ghetto from the rest of the city, we realize that the young girl and her sister and not just hiding but actively trying to help others who could not escape the Germans.
Mira, her sister and other friends decide to smuggle food from the country into Warsaw via train, and then place the food bundles in the cracks in the wall for the starving ghetto residents to claim. The young narrator knows where most of the cracks are due to the fact that she watches the cats travel through the wall on a regular basis. The girls learn that the Gestapo have learned of the plan and are going to intercept the food smugglers at the train station using dogs to sniff out the food.
Our young narrator realizes what she must do to save her fellow resistance members and their food parcels. Her and several friends gather the stray cats in baskets and then release them at the train station, distracting the dogs and causing chaos. The food smugglers escape unharmed and the food is delivered to the ghetto residents.
The afterward provided by the author indicates that the story is fictional although many stories of resistance during the German occupation of Poland have been recorded. This portion of the book provides the reader with true historic information regarding this period of time. This book would be usable in a classroom to prompt multiple projects, discussions, and/or compare and contrast this book with non-fiction literature from this period of time.(less)
**spoiler alert** This was an amazing story and I was able to read it within 2 days. I would recommend this book for 5th through 12th graders and even...more**spoiler alert** This was an amazing story and I was able to read it within 2 days. I would recommend this book for 5th through 12th graders and even beyond. I have to admit that I love historical fiction, but even for someone who doesn't love this genre, this is truly a remarkable book. I saw the world through Mattie's eyes and felt what she felt. I commend the author on their research of this time period. Being able to see the world through a character's eyes only occurs when an author 'sets the scene' with authentic time period details and historical accuracy in regard to the place, people and characteristics of speech and behavior. Laurie Halse Anderson, the author, did all of this and more.
We find the main character, Matilda aka Mattie, living with her mother above a family-owned coffeehouse in Philadelphia, shortly after the American Revolution. George Washington is president and the city is currently the capital of the newly established United States of America. Mattie is constantly hounded by her proper, image-driven mother, Lucille. Mattie father was a simple painter, which caused her mother's wealthier family to disown her for marrying below her station. Lucille makes Mattie's teenage life a nightmare and expects her to do her bidding without question. Eliza is a black, free-woman, whose now-deceased husband bought her freedom before his own untimely death. Eliza, throughout the story, is the voice of common-sense and silent strength for almost all the characters involved.
Shortly after the story begins the city of Philadelphia is attacked by yellow fever. Mattie and her grandfather, Captain William Farnsworth Cook, a delightful character who loves the women in his life with all his heart, are sent into the country after Lucille comes down with yellow fever. Unfortunately, they never make it to the country and after the Captain falls ill by the side of the road, Mattie sets out to find help for her grandfather. Mattie falls ill shortly after she begins her search and ends up in a makeshift hospital being run by French doctors who have treated yellow fever in the West Indies. After Mattie becomes well she and her insufferable grandfather, who did not have the fever, again set out to return home.
The Philadelphia, Mattie and Captain Cook find, is not the same one they left weeks before. The city is practically vacant and those that remain cling to life by robbing others or remaining locked in their homes. We travel Philadelphia and see it through Mattie and the captain's eyes. One evening, the coffehouse is set upon by thieves and the Captain succumbs to injuries he suffers at the hands of the robbers. Eventually Mattie finds Eiza, who has remained in the city to provide care and solace for all and everyone left in the sickened city. During her travels Mattie has aged and has acquired a young child, Nell, whose mother died from the fever. Eliza takes Mattie and Nell with her to Joseph's house, her brother who has been widowed with two small boys to care for.
Throughout the yellow fever outbreak we see the person Mattie is becoming yet still not embracing. As the fever begins to abate and life in Philadelphia begins to return to some state of normalacy, the coffeehouse is reopened and Mattie decides to make Eliza an equal partner in the business. Mattie has finally taken control of her life and is creating her own destiny. As Mattie begins to adjust to her life as business owner, and mother to Nell, Lucille returns from the country, a shadow of the woman she once was. Mattie becomes the her mother's care-taker and looks forward to life on her own terms.
This book would be a wonderful addition to any unit study of this period of time in American history. Even though it portrays fictional characters, the yellow fever outbreak and its effects are accurately portrayed. This book could be used with a true, historical account in a compare and contrast activity. This book could also serve as a mentor text to inspire students in their own writing pursuits.(less)
I loved this book and forgot it on Thursday...This would be a wonderful book to use with in the primary grades to explore different kinds of families....moreI loved this book and forgot it on Thursday...This would be a wonderful book to use with in the primary grades to explore different kinds of families. I especially liked the dedication the author wrote to his family: 'To my family-who sometimes did not understand me, but encouraged me to go after everything I wanted even when we did not agree. As I now realize-this takes a lot of love to do. -T.P.(less)
I liked this book and even though it has one line of text per page, I would recommend it as a picture book for older children. The book captures the r...moreI liked this book and even though it has one line of text per page, I would recommend it as a picture book for older children. The book captures the relationship between a young boys dad and his partner, Frank. At the beginning of the story the young boy, probably about 8 or 9 years old, talks about his mom and dad getting divorced. Then he explains that his dad has a new relationship with Frank. The boy compares the life his dad and Frank have to the life he had with his dad and mom when they were married. It doesn't state this outright but it is implied.
At one point in the book we see the young boy and his mother having a discussion about his dad and Frank. This is the first time the word 'gay' is mentioned. The boy doesn't know what his mother means when she says that his dad and Frank are gay. I think the other does a wonderful job in his explanation of the relationship between the young boy's dad and Frank. The mother describes being gay as just one more kind of love and that love is the best kind of happiness.
The illustrations, rather than the text, in my opinion, are what make this book more appropriate for older readers. The illustrations are simple, however they do depict the father and Frank in couple situations which are not explicit in any way, but would be the subject of conversation amongst students. The conversations that would ensue would probably be better handled with older students. (less)
**spoiler alert** This book tells the story of Shauzia, a fourteen-year-old girl, who left Kabul, Afghanistan and is now living in the Widow's section...more**spoiler alert** This book tells the story of Shauzia, a fourteen-year-old girl, who left Kabul, Afghanistan and is now living in the Widow's section of a refugee camp in Pakistan. Here at the camp she has become the focus of her old physical education teacher from Afghanistan, Mrs. Weera. At first we get a picture of Mrs. Weera as being a boss,insensitive dictator who lords over all the residents of 'Mud City'(what Shauzia has named the refugee camp). But as the book continues we find out Mrs. Weera is actually a gentle, yet strong woman who is trying to liberate as many women as possible from the Taliban in and around Afghanistan. When the story begins, the United States has not yet invaded Afghanistan and the Taliban are still in control over much of the country. Thousands of refugees have fled from the country and are now in refugee camps in Pakistan, where they are forced to beg for work and food.
Shauzia's constant companion is a dog she has named Jasper, which followed her from a shepherd's camp months earlier. Shauzia and Jasper leave the camp so that she can find work and save money to get to France. Shauzia, throughout the story, clings to a picture of a lavendar field in France where she hopes to one day live. She has left her family and their oppression and is off to find the means to achieving her dream. Shauzia travels to the closest city of Peshawar, where her and Jasper encounter both friends and foes. Her eyes are opened to the precarious nature of life in the city and suddenly the refugee camp doesn't look that bad.
After several mishaps and life-changing adventures, Shauzia finds herself back at the refugee camp and is able to see her surroundings and Mrs. Weera with new eyes. At the end of the story we find Shauzia giving her picture of France to a newly-found friend and running to catch up with Mrs. Weera who is going to sneak across the Afghanistan border and assist the hundreds of thousands of people trying to now escape US bombs and soldiers invading the country. Shauzia decides her dream can wait, and that she can no longer close her eyes to the suffering all around her.
The cover illustration depicts the refugee camp and Shauzia as both being formed out of what looks like mud. In the story, this is Shauzia's biggest fear, that she will become just like the mud around her, stuck. The illustration is perfect and truly captures her character's personality: a child with the eyes of a very old soul.
I would recommend this book for fifth graders on up through high school. The subject matter lends itself to many possible discussions and debates.(less)
This is my book club book and I plan on reading all the others in the series, even if I have to wrestle the tweeners trying to scoop all of them up. I...moreThis is my book club book and I plan on reading all the others in the series, even if I have to wrestle the tweeners trying to scoop all of them up. I never give books 5 stars, but this one absolutely deserves it. I finished reading it in 2 hours (hence the sickness I now have since those 2 hours were from 3-5am) and am telling everyone I know to read this book....(less)
**spoiler alert** I have to say that this was quite the silly book. The premise is that a young boy, William, probably a third-grader, gets a filling...more**spoiler alert** I have to say that this was quite the silly book. The premise is that a young boy, William, probably a third-grader, gets a filling at the dentist. It turns out that William is able to pick up radio broadcasts from around the world, and around the universe through his new metal filling. After confirming that this is a rare occurance with his dentist, William decides to use his dental phenomenon to its fullest. After driving his classroom teacher over the edge with the sounds of radio broadcasts, for which there is no source the teacher can locate and turn off, William and his entire class are suspended for the day.
William learns how to extend his fillings reception by placing different metal objects in his mouth. He begins to pick up strange transmissions from outer space and learns of an impending alien invasion of Earth. William is abducted by aliens who turn out to be obese men in plaid sportcoats, dacron pants, knitted neckties, and wide plastics belts, with cheeseburger shaped belt buckles.
The aliens explain to William that their main objective is to travel from planet to planet, stealing all the junkfood they can find and then enslaving the population and forcing them to continue manufacturing junkfood for them. William is troubled by these facts and begins to worry about his mother and father. He continues to receive broadcasts from earth as the aliens invade and begin to take hotdogs, cupcakes, and the Earth's supply of chocolate and sugar.
The broadcasts received from Earth are told in great detail and are hysterical. At once, the space aliens begin to float back up to the spaceship abandoning Earth. One of the aliens tells William that a giant potato pancake has been launched into space and that they are going after it. William pleads with his captors to allow him to return to Earth and they finally agree and give William a rather large sportcoat, which will allow him to float back down to his home.
The end of the story finds William, his parents and the rest of Earth's population being forced to live without sugar or junkfood for an extended period of time, until they are able to build up their stores of sugar again.
The illustrations are very sparse and are in black and white. The descriptive language the author uses and the cover illustrations however really do create a hysterical picture of what the aliens look like and the situation on Earth when they invade.
This book would be a great read-aloud for the primary grades and probably would be enjoyed by children from first to fifth grades.(less)