by Emma Donoghue
No AR Level because it’s not recommended for kids!
This is the story of Ma, as told from the point of view of Jack, a five year old boy. Ma was kidnapped at 19 by a man called Old Nick and kept in a room (an 11×11 renovated garden shed) for 7 years of her life. During this time, she had Jack and taught him that the Room was all there was, and everything on tv was just make believe. Out of desperation, she plots to have Jack escape, and their lives change forever. Despite the depressing tone of the story (how can being locked in a shed for 7 years and suffer from repeated assault not be depressing), it is actually not a downer book. Since the story is told from Jack’s perspective, we see their lives in a blanket of innocence and not what it really is.
What I liked about this book was that despite how hard things were for Ma and Jack, Ma kept Jack protected and sheltered from the truth of their lives. The theme of hope resonated throughout the story, even while Jack was counting the squeaks of the bed when Old Nick “visited”, because it is told by Jack. He does not have the experience nor the knowledge to see their lives through a filter of despair and depression. It also gives me an idea of what women kept in slavery suffer. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to actually experience it.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it took me forever to read. It annoyed me that there were paragraphs that rambled on in nearly unintelligible language (since Jack told the story and little kids don’t always get their words right). There are also things in the story that I just don’t want to think actually occur on this planet. It’s just too real. Also, I swore it took place in England. Some of the words and phrasing just aren’t used in America. That annoys me. I learned the story takes place in America, but the author is Irish. That explains it.
Book 16 of 40 (year 2)
Fish in a Tree (hardcover)
by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
AR Level 3.7, 7 points
Although this is only written at a third grade level, it is a must-read for all teachers! I saw a teacher blogger talking about this book on Instagram. I was skeptical, but since I’d seen it in the bookstore and I had pictures of it (my B&N trick), I thought I’d see what the fuss was about. It is a book every teacher and parent of special needs kids should read.
The title “fish in a tree” comes from the idea that if you tell a fish to climb a tree, it will spend it’s life thinking it is dumb or incapable. Ally is a sixth grade girl who has attended 7 schools in 7 years. Her father is deployed, her mom is a waitress, and her (17 year old) brother is a mechanic with dreams to open his own shop. Because she cannot read, she finds ways to get herself into trouble, and prefers the principal’s office to reading and writing. When her teacher goes on maternity leave, a long-term sub changes Ally’s world by getting her tested for dyslexia and restoring faith in herself. With self-esteem, Ally also makes friends (Keisha and Albert), and they find the courage to stand up to bullies. The story ends on a positive note for all involved.
What I liked about this book was that it is highly motivating as a teacher. It makes me want to give up my gifted class and go back to teaching intervention. I have been teaching for 14 years, and I’ve had my share of students who had difficulties learning, were picked on, got in trouble, etc. This story tells their story from their perspective. It is necessary to see things from their point of view in order to help them. While we can never walk in our students’ shoes, this book is a good reminder to be positive (the more challenging the kid, the more positivity is necessary!), to be on the look out and defense for bullies and bullying behaviors, and to remember that our influence as teachers can make a world of difference.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it made me sad. I was a smart kid growing up. I was reading early, I was in GATE, and I took honors and AP classes in high school. BUT I was bullied. Often. I had a “Shay” in every class, every grade, every school. There were mean girls who picked on me for being white, being quiet, being who I was, and no one stuck up for me. I had low self-esteem until I graduated from college and started teaching. I wish I had even one teacher like Mr. Daniels. However, I hope I can be that positive influence in my students’ lives.
Book 15 of 40 (year 2)