The Running Dream
by Wendelin van Draanen
AR Level 4.1, 9 points
Schneider Family Book Award
The Schneider Family Book Award is give to authors and illustrators that artistically portray the experience of a person with a disability. Previous winners (I’ve read) include A Mango-Shaped Space, Fish in a Tree, and The War That Saved My Life. They’ve all been excellent books that really showed the difficulties of a person with a disability, as well as the resilience and determination of that person to be successful. The Running Dream is extremely deserving of this award.
Jessica is a junior in high school, and a record-setting runner on her track team. On her way home from a meet, her school bus is hit by an uninsured driver, and she loses her leg below the knee, crushing her dreams of running and earning a college scholarship. After suffering from depression and defeat, she realizes there is still hope, and she works harder than ever to get her dream back. In the meantime, she forms a bond with Rosa, and Jessica realizes there are more important things to focus on.
What I liked about this book was that it reminds the reader to be grateful. It took me as the reader through the pain and suffering and depression that would come after losing one’s leg, but then it also gave us hope and compassion. I appreciated that Jessica shared her passion and new ability to help someone else’s dream come true.
What I didn’t like about this book was that I never found out who the anonymous donor was! I really wanted to know if it was Vanessa’s mother, whom I assumed it was. I guess I’ll never know.
Book 38 of 40 (year 2)
by Svetlana Chmakova
AR Level 2.8, 1 point
Awkward is another really cute graphic novel that I learned about while browsing Amazon books. I added it to my Donors Choose proposal, and was excited when my grant was funded! I am so grateful for the generosity that was bestowed upon my class, and very happy that this book was a part of it, because I really enjoy finding new books for my students to read. I am confident this one won’t stay on the shelf.
Awkward follows a girl named Peppi who is in the Art Club in her middle school. She awkwardly befriends a boy named Jaime, who is a member of the Science Club, and Art and Science are rival clubs. Art and Science fight throughout the story, which makes it difficult for these two awkward tweens to be friends, but they join together to unite the two clubs, and all works out in the end.
What I liked about this book was the well-written (and drawn!) characters. It seems that the author put a lot of thought into character development before she started! There are the typical characters in a middle school setting… nerdy, artsy, bully, strict teacher, flighty teacher, the girl everyone wants to be like, etc. There was also the awkwardness of a boy and girl being friends, while everyone else assumes they’re boyfriend and girlfriend, or one likes the other. I really enjoyed the way the characters were drawn and the dialogue.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it ended! I’d like to see a sequel or more graphic novels by this author. It is a great addition to my library!
Book 37 of 40 (year 2)
A Monster Calls (paperback)
by Patrick Ness
AR Level 4.8, 5 points
Carnegie Medal (writing) and Kate Greenaway Medal (illustration)
This is the story of Conor and dealing with his mother’s illness, an unspecified, but late-stage cancer. In the beginning, we learn two things: 1) his mother is very sick, but hopeful for his sake, and 2) Conor suffers from nightmares involving his mother. However, a monstrous, personified yew tree visits him at 12:07 each night and starts telling Conor stories, and although it doesn’t seem like it, the stories help Conor deal with his mother’s failing health.
What I liked about this book was it gave us insight into what it is like for a 12 year-old boy to deal with something as big as a sick parent. I’ve had students who got into trouble because of what was going on at home, much like Conor, but none of their situations were are serious as an ill parent. It reminded me to think of what my students walk into class with in their “backpacks.” I also loved the illustrations, which really enhanced the reading experience of this story. I read that Jim Kay even used beetles to make the impressions in the illustrations, which adds to the creepiness.
What I didn’t like about this book was how heart-wrenchingly sad it was. Be warned… A Monster Calls is a great book, but it took me awhile to stop crying after I finished. It wasn’t just a few tears… it was full-blown sobbing. Think The Fault in our Stars, but if it involved a scary monster, and not so teen-angsty. I cannot imagine losing a parent, especially I had to watch my mom or dad suffer through a long, drawn-out illness. But what killed me most was the mother having to say good-bye to her son, and realize she won’t get to see him grow up, and trust that he will be raised the way I would. In the end, Conor’s mother held his hand, as well as her own mother’s hand. Ugh… I don’t even want to think about it anymore. Too sad. BUT so well-written at the same time!
I picked up A Monster Calls, because my husband’s school is voting on which book to have all of their students read, and this is one of them. They’ll have to spend a little extra on Kleenex.
Book 36 of 40 (year 2)
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (paperback)
by John Boyne
AR Level 5.8, 7 points
I do love books that tell the story of the Holocaust from different perspectives. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is slightly different… it is told from the point of view of Bruno, the 9-year old son of a German Commander. Bruno and his family are moved to a home in Poland, Out-With (which I assume is Auschwitz, but Bruno mispronounces it throughout the story). Lonely and upset about their move, Bruno goes exploring and discovers a boy sitting on the other side of a tall, barbed-wire fence. He doesn’t realize this boy is a Jew and the fence prevents him from leaving the concentration camp. Bruno, totally ignorant of what is going on in his country and the real job of his father, becomes friends with this boy, smuggling him food, and lamenting on how they can’t play together because of the fence. In the end, they get a chance to be together on the same side.
What I liked about this book is the character and perspective of Bruno. There were many author’s techniques that I appreciated, like the repetition of certain words and phrases. I also appreciated the way the author left a lot up to the reader’s interpretation and inferences. Very little was said directly, and that is because it is told through the viewpoint of an ignorant little boy (ignorant of what was going on, that is). It left me interpreting things based on my prior knowledge.
What I didn’t like about this book (or maybe it’s what I liked the most) was the ending. It was abrupt and unexpected. I won’t give it away, but I will say that throughout the story, I wanted revenge on the antagonists, and I feel the end gave Father the ultimate revenge. You’ll just have to read to find out what the ending was.
Book 35 of 40 (year 2)