by Ally Condie
AR Level 4.1, 6 points
Summerlost appeared on my radar when Ally Condie started appearing in the book orders. She has another series in the young adult genre, and she was at the Book Fest signing books, but I’d never read any of her books, so I didn’t stand in the long line of waiting fans. This particular book also appears on some of the Mock Newbery lists, so I thought I should give it a try.
Cedar Lee is 12 years old, and she moves to the town her mother grew up in, but just for the summer. She is mourning the deaths of her dad and brother while her mom builds a deck on the new house and her other brother tries to get her attention. Cedar immediately notices Leo, a boy in her neighborhood who she learns works for the local Shakespeare festival, Summerlost. He is not an actor, but sells refreshments to visitors, although he is very interested in theater. Cedar and Leo embark on a a summer of friendship, mystery, and entrepreneurship as they give tours and talk about a deceased actress who started in their small town. Cedar finds herself struggling with her family’s tragedy while dealing with the ups and downs of being 12.
What I liked about this book was the detailed descriptions. It was almost as though Ally Condie herself lived in a house with a diamond window or a tree with vultures nesting in it. It also touches on some important life events that I think most books don’t talk about- the death of a loved one, and coming to terms with loss.
What I didn’t like about this book was not necessarily the book’s fault. I thought this was a young adult book, so I didn’t buy a hard copy for my class library. It is on the border of being a children’s book and young adult, so I can see why the line would be blurred, but it’s only written at a 4.1 and there is nothing touchy about it that might make it inappropriate for a sixth grader. I regret not looking into it more than I did, but then again, it’s still hardcover, and I don’t think it is worth $16 like other hardcover books I’ve purchased in the past.
Book 5 of 10 (summer goal)
Rain Reign (hardcover)
by Ann M. Martin
AR Level 4.3, 5 points
I had mixed feelings about wanting to read Rain Reign, because 1) it got good reviews and was in the discussion for a Newbery, and 2) it’s be the same author as The Baby-Sitter’s Club, one of my childhood favorites. I think I read nearly all of them at least twice (some more) until she stopped writing them herself. Plus, I had no idea what the book was about, but that hasn’t stopped me before.
Rose is a 12 year-old fifth grader with high-functioning autism (aspergers syndrome). She is obsessed with prime numbers and homophones, which are repeated to the point of annoyance throughout the book, but to me, this emphasizes how some people get so frustrated with her. She lives with her dad, who is a mechanic and frequents the local bar, but her uncle takes her to and from school, and acts as a better role model and seems to understand Rose’s uniqueness. Rose also has a dog named Rain (Reign, the homophone) and one day during a superstorm (Hurricane Susan, aka Hurricane Irene), her dad lets Rain out, and Rain doesn’t come back. Rose is forced to make some tough decisions, as well as the people around her.
What I liked about this book is the development of Rose’s character. Ann M. Martin was always good at writing well thought-out characters, and you could really put yourself in their shoes. Rose isn’t a character most of us can relate to, being autistic, but it helps to see life with her disability through her eyes. For my students, this means teaching compassion and understanding and tolerance, and I am ALWAYS up for a book that will teach these important traits that aren’t in the curriculum.
What I didn’t like about this book was how sad it was. It was sad while being hear-warming at the same time. It restores your faith in people to do what is unselfish, both on the part of Rose and her father. So I guess that’s a good thing, not something I didn’t like! If you’re a reluctant reader, this book will suck you in immediately. It took me a few hours from beginning to end, and I finished it in one day.
Book 4 of 10 (summer goal)
Me Before You (pdf in Google Drive!)
by Jojo Moyes
Not a children’s book
Ugh. This book. If you like tear-jerkers, books that make you frustrated because the characters don’t do what you want, or controversial topics, this one is for you. That doesn’t mean it was a bad book. I read it in 3 days and I am sad that it’s over!
Lou (Louisa Clark) is a 20-something living in a small town in England, and her life is basically going nowhere. She loses her job and her family relies on her for money, so she has to work as a carer for a quadriplegic (Will Traynor) with no use of his arms or legs (other than slight movement in one hand) due to a motorcycle accident. Will was previously an adventurous, successful, and handsome man until his accident, and has lost his will to live since his quality of life is so low. He has plans to take his own life at an assisted suicide place in Switzerland. Louisa is hired on a 6 month basis as a carer for him, because she is vivacious, funny, and his mother thinks Lou will remind him he wants to live.
What I liked about this book was that you were really rooting for Lou and Will’s romance to flourish. I wanted him to realize she was worth living for. The book itself, although a horribly sad situation, was humorous and had well-developed characters, and you wanted them to be happy.
What I didn’t like about this book was the ending. I’m sure you can figure it out that being a tear-jerker, it doesn’t end the way you want, but it isn’t necessarily the saddest book you’ve read, either. I’m also told there’s a sequel.
Book 3 of 10 (summer challenge)
One for the Murphys (paperback)
by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
AR Level 3.4, 6 points
You’ve likely heard of children being put into foster care, or read books about foster kids, but have you read a book told from one of those kids’ perspectives? One for the Murphys is told by Carley, a girl who recently left the hospital after her mother helped her step dad put her into the hospital. Her mother was also in rough shape in the hospital, so Carley was put into the Murphys’ home, where she experienced a life she’d never dreamed possible. Mrs. Murphy is a stay at home mom with 3 sons, and her husband is a fire fighter. Carley expectedly has a hard time accepting Mrs. Murphy’s kindness and affection, and puts up a fight. However, they win each other over and Carley faces the fact that she may have to return to her mother and leave this life behind.
What I liked about this book was that it told a story we don’t normally here. I’ve had foster children in my class as students, and I heard bits and pieces of their stories, but this tells it up close and personal. It’s devastating for the child, and often devastating for the foster and birth families involved. I know that not every child is as lucky as Carley was to have such a loving and welcoming family, but I hope this gives an insight for young readers that there are people who just need extra love sometimes. We don’t know where others are coming from.
What I didn’t like about this book was the end. It wasn’t a super happy story, so I shouldn’t have expected a happy ending, but the end wasn’t what I wanted to happen. However, I also know it is reality, based on what’s been on the news and what I’ve read in the past. Just don’t read it if you expect a fairy tale ending.
Book 2 of 10 (summer reading goal)