Real Friends (paperback)
by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
AR Level (no quiz yet)
Real Friends made my heart hurt. It hit way, way, way too close to home for me. Not the home I live in today, but the one from when I was in elementary school. This is the story of Shannon, a girl with a vivid imagination who enjoyed writing. She wasn’t perfect, and didn’t always do everything right in her friendships nor with her siblings, but she was gravely mistreated by the girls in the popular group and misunderstood/ignored by her mother. Shannon had to find out the hard way that being in the popular group isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, especially with mean girls who often dress better and compete for attention. Shannon finally realizes who she is and she stands up for herself, but not before suffering a lot of hurt feelings and anxiety, basically ruining her elementary school experience.
What I liked about this book is that students can either relate to Shannon’s experience (like myself), or they can see how damaging being in the popular group can be for someone on the outskirts. It was really hard to read this, because it was such an emotional story. I think it is really important for girls to read this book, because it seems like someone is either out with the in crowd, or the in crowd itself.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it did hurt to read it. I didn’t want Shannon to be abused by her “friends” at school or her sister at home, but it is her experience (the author’s), and important to read.
Book 5 of summer 2017!
Still Life with Tornado (ebook)
by A.S. King
Still Life with Tornado is a strange book, to say the least. Sarah is a sixteen year old aspiring artist living in Philadelphia with her mom and dad. She has decided not to return to school since it isn’t original, but we learn that something happened that traumatized Sarah. She spends her days wandering the streets, following a homeless man, whom she admires and claims is original. We also follow her at age 10 on vacation with her family in Mexico, where she isn’t traumatized, and isn’t aware of the pain she and her family will go through. She doesn’t see her parents’ marriage unraveling, and she’s oblivious to the severity of the abuse her mom and brother endure at the hands of her father. This is an odd read, and very, very sad, but worth it to see it through to the end.
What I liked about this book was the time switching and point of view. That could make it a little hard to follow at first, but it also made the story more engaging and the characters more complex. The point of view was mainly Sarah, either present or from the POV of her 10 year old self in Mexico. A few chapters were from her mom’s POV, and that gave insight into Sarah’s parents’ marriage, which was a major factor in Sarah’s existential crisis.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it was a little hard to follow in the beginning. I didn’t understand that she was having a breakdown, and I really wanted to know more about the problems of the story. I had to get used to the idea that the details of the plot would be revealed as time went on.
Book 4 of summer 2017!
Ramona Blue (audiobook)
by Julie Murphy
Ramona is a high school senior in Eulogy, Mississippi, a small town on the gulf that was impacted by Katrina. In fact, Ramona, her sister, and dad live in an old FEMA trailer in a trailer park. They are very poor, and Ramona feels the financial burden when her older sister gets pregnant. Ramona has always identified as lesbian, but she questions this when she falls for her best friend, who is a boy. She and Freddy recently broke up with their girl friends and have rekindled their childhood friendship. With a baby on the way, Ramona holds several jobs and thinks little of her own needs. This story describes Ramona’s journey and all that she comes to terms with, whether it is her future outside of Eulogy, her sexual identity, her feelings for her family, or her long blue hair.
What I liked about this book was that Ramona is a character you feel compassion for. You want the best for her, and you want others to treat her right. Actually, most of the characters are well-written, and you feel like these are your friends. I like books that appeal to my emotions. I also appreciate books that make me think about things I cannot relate to so I can put myself into someone else’s shoes, and this definitely made me think.
What I didn’t like about this book was that I wanted to know more about Ramona’s future. I guess there wasn’t really anything I disliked. It was engaging and kept me reading.
Book 3 of summer 2017!
MARCH: Book One (paperback)
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
AR Level 4.6, 1 point
Book One of the MARCH trilogy introduces us to John Lewis’s upbringing and entrance into the Civil Rights Movement. Rep. Lewis was raised in the South on a farm. He preached to the chickens while fighting for the chance to attend school and gain an education. Others saw something in him and gave him the chance to use his skill and passion to meet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and join the movement. In this book, he stages peaceful sit-ins so African Americans could eat at food counters.
What I like about this book is it gives details on something I know bits and pieces about. It is a graphic novel, and non-fiction, which is unusual. It is a great way to retell history in a way that is not exactly entertaining, but engaging. I want to make sure all of my students read this book so they learn about a part of history that is important, but not taught in detail.
What I didn’t like about this book isn’t something that can be helped. Because of the context, there is a lot of language in this book. I know the word nigger is one that is used in must my students listen to and their parents don’t blink an eye, but it different when I am providing a book that includes it. It is important for them to see how this word was used and why it isn’t to be taken lightly. I just worry that not everyone will see that, and I’ll have to take this valuable piece of literature out of my library.
Book 2 of Summer 2017!
Towers Falling (hardcover)
by Jewell Parker Rhodes
AR Level 3.3, 4 points
I got on a 9/11 kick and wanted to read all of the books written for children so I would have them for my class library in September. I feel like we are doing a disservice to our students if we aren’t teaching them what happened to the Twin Towers. I ordered this one and let my students read it first, and each one LOVED it and said I had to try it.
Deja is a homeless girl living in a shelter with her parents and two younger siblings. Her dad is ill and shellshocked, but she doesn’t understand why he can’t work, and she has to pick up his slack. Deja starts at a new school and meets 2 new friends – one boy is a transplant from Arizona whose parents recently divorced, and the other is a Muslim girl who is the kindest person Deja knows. Their teachers spend September teaching them about why history is important, building up to the terrorist attack, and Deja learns a lot about her family, her friends, and her existence.
What I liked about this book was that it taught several important lessons, including the power of friendship, judging individuals instead of groups of people, and the impact history can play on the present. I really appreciate how Rhodes taught about 9/11 through a good piece of literature so our students can learn about what happened somewhere besides a history book. We need to make sure they understand WHY we say “Never Forget.”
What I didn’t like about this book was how ignorant Deja was about the entire situation. It was very frustrating to me that she lived in Brooklyn her entire life, but was clueless about what happened. How is that even possible?!
Book 1 of Summer 2017!
If I Was Your Girl (audiobook)
by Meredith Russo
Amanda is an average teenage girl. She moves in with her dad after living with her mom since their divorce, so she has a little adapting to do. Amanda is also new to being female, having been born Andrew. She starts at a new school and quickly meets friends who are unaware of her transgender status. Several boys become aware of her beauty, and she starts dating a boy who loves her, and doesn’t want to know any of her secrets, so he doesn’t know about her being transgender. Amanda enjoys having friends and being able to be who she really is, until her past comes out.
What I liked about this book was the insight I as a reader was given into a world I cannot relate to and have no experience with. I am not transgender and I don’t have any trans friends. I worked briefly with a transgender woman in a school setting, and that is my limited knowledge, except when it comes to reading. I have no problems with people who identify differently than I do, but I think that reading helps to build understanding, which helps to break down ignorance and intolerance, so I am learning as I live, and hoping I can help my students also build understanding and compassion.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it really bothered me when Amanda left the homecoming dance and ran into a guy who attempted to assault her. I have never been sexually assaulted, but I have a very hard time reading about it, and this seemed particularly vicious.
Book 61 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
School is out! Woot woot! I blasted past my 40 book goal!
by Sharon Creech
AR Level 4.4, 3 points
Moo is about a brother and sister who move from a big city to rural Maine with their parents, who are looking for a change. Their mother offers them to a woman named Mrs. Falala, who needs help taking care of her cow, a feisty former prize winner. The siblings are at first afraid of Mrs. Falala and her animals, but quickly fall in love with the farm, and learn that things aren’t always what they appear.
What I liked about this book was the fact that it was partially written in concrete poetry and prose, and partially in standard paragraph, narrative form. I liked the mixture, and while I’ve read many books written in prose, it was a nice contrast to see both forms in the same novel.
What I didn’t like about this book was that I got a little bored at times. I do not blame the book, though. I blame the fact that I’ve only read young adult books lately, and this did not have romance or anything depressing in it, so it didn’t move as quickly for me. I need to diversify my to read list!
Book 60 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)