The One and Only Ivan

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The One and Only Ivan (hardcover)

by Katherine Applegate

AR Level 3.6, 4 points

*I have to admit that when I finished this book, I completely forgot to blog about it, so I am predating this entry to reflect when i took my AR test.  I also have to say that my recollection of this story might be a little fuzzy since it was nearly a month ago.

The One and Only Ivan is the story of a male silverback who lives in a mall with an elephant and a stray dog.  He has memories of his life as a wild gorilla in Africa, as well as his parents’ murder and his sister’s kidnapping and death.  He has become a lazy sort of gorilla, and completely misunderstood.  However, he values his friendships, particularly with an elephant in the pen next to him.  Ivan experiences love and loss, and has memories and emotions not unlike humans’ experiences.

What I liked about this book was the realness of living in captivity from the perspective of the animals actually experiencing it.  I love zoos and basically anywhere I can see animals up close.  I realize these animals have been taken from their natural habitats, but I rarely consider whether they had families they left behind, or if they are happy, or if they actually love and respect their keepers.  I see a cute animal and want to observe it.  Now, obviously, this story was written by a human and not a gorilla, but it put captive animals’ possible thoughts into perspective.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it makes me not want to go to zoos anymore, even though in the end, the zoo was the happy medium.  I would hate it if the animals I enjoy looking at had to experience what Ivan experienced.  Deep, I know.  I apologize for the cheesiness of this post, but while it was a good book, it didn’t grab me like others have.

Book 29 of 30

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Wonder

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Wonder (Hardcover)

by R.J. Palacio

AR Level 4.8, 11 points

There is nothing I can say about this book that you won’t see on another website that raves about awesome books.  Wonder is just that- an awesome book, but it’s more than that.  August is an incoming fifth grader with a facial deformity.  He has, prior to fifth grade, been homeschooled and sheltered from the meanness of kids, although he is aware that it exists.  His parents get him into Beecher Prep as a middle school student, much to his dismay, and 3 students are assigned to show him around and help him adjust.  They do not all prove to be the best candidates for the job, one making Auggie’s life more difficult than necessary.  Throughout the story, we see the meanness that we can expect from ignorant people, as well as the reactions that would be expected from kind people when they see his face for the first time.  (I had to ask myself whether I would flinch when seeing it for the first time, and I think I probably would, not because I am a terrible, but it wouldn’t be expected.)  Auggie persists and carries on, even in the toughest of situations, and we see not as much how he changes because of his experience, but how others change because of him.

What I liked about this book was the message, of course.  I said before that I have this obsession with books about kindness and tolerance.  I’ve read Rules, Out of My Mind, and now Wonder.  (BTW- what the heck took me so long?  It’s been in my classroom for over a year and has passed through the hands of nearly all of my students!)  There is something about Auggie that is so likable, and the reader feels compassion for him.  I can only hope that the message is spread to those who need it the most.  Another thing I really liked about this book was the precepts.  I would love to have a wall in my classroom where students can write their own precepts, inspirational quotes, or something that made them think.  Because really, that is what I want my class to do- think.  Not about the book, not about the assignment, but about themselves and how others see them.  What is their legacy?  What is it that they want others to think when they hear their names?  Right now, I have several who need to think long and hard about that.

What I didn’t like about this book was that Julian never got burned!  I like a good revenge embarrassment.  But really, the book would not have been the same if revenge was a theme.

This is an absolute must-read.  Unfortunately, I cannot read it to my class since I am one of the last to get my hands on it!

Book 28 of 52

Out of My Mind

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Out of My Mind (paperback)

by Sharon M. Draper

AR Level 4.3, 8 points

I’m on a “books about people with disabilities and/or teach kids to be tolerant and kind and aware” kick.  There was Because of Mr. Terupt, Rules, and a few others.  Out of My Mind gives a different perspective, that of the person WITH the disability.  We normally see from another person’s perspective how people treat a person with a disability, whether it is a physical, academic, behavioral, or something like autism.  This story is written solely from the perspective of someone with a lot to offer but without the ability to offer it.

Melody is a fifth grader with cerebral palsy.  She is in a wheelchair and cannot talk, so she has been overlooked all of her life.  Her class is (from my experience as a special education teacher) a moderate to severe special day class, and she has had a series of terrible teachers who did not last.  She finally gets a good teacher who recognizes her potential, gets her a 1:1 aide, and mainstreams her into the general education program.  Melody’s potential is soon recognized (and doubted) when she wins a spot on the quiz team at her school.  I won’t give away the story, but there are a few horrible things that happen, things that would make you want to make phone calls and write angry emails and hire a lawyer if they were to happen to you.  Other things are accidents.  Regardless of the situation, Melody is a strong, determined, brilliant young girl who handles most situations with grace and a maturity beyond her years.

What I liked about this book was the change in Melody.  She started out telling her story to us, but she couldn’t really tell her story.  She almost seemed depressed, not being able to communicate or get what she wanted.  She was misunderstood, too.  Her mother thought she killed her own goldfish, and her father didn’t understand that she wanted a burger and a shake.  Her classmates and teachers didn’t realize that she was NOT mentally retarded, but quite the opposite.  I really liked how she was able to prove them wrong and get control of her life.

What I didn’t like about this book was it didn’t really feel like Melody got justice.  I wanted to see her classmates learn their lesson through a crushing fall, an injury, a major burn to their ego.  That didn’t happen.  I wanted the man in the ugly brown suit to get fired or written up or quit due to public shaming, but he did not.  I guess that is reality, though.  The lesson might be learned later, or it may never be learned at all.  It left me with a frustrated feeling, but as I mentioned before, sometimes frustrating endings make it a good book, because it draws out your emotion and causes a reaction.

Book 27 of 52