Anna and the French Kiss (ebook)
by Stephanie Perkins
Anna Oliphant is sent to France (poor girl) to go to an American high school abroad. Her father, a cheesy American author, feels she should experience life abroad, but she’d rather stay in Atlanta with her BFF Bridge and her new maybe-boyfriend, Toph. She quickly falls in love with a British-American-French boy named Etienne St. Clair, who has an older girlfriend, and is the crush of most girls at school, including their mutual friend Meredith. Anna and St. Clair dance around the truth of their relationship while Anna learns French and comes to grips with her feelings. It is definitely a book filled with first-world problems (Oh no- my rich father sent me to Paris for a year, and I immediately get asked to hang out with the popular kids, and I’m smart and beautiful, but I don’t realize it because I have a gap in my teeth and I wear Batman PJs).
What I liked about this book was that it was a page turner. Sometimes I want to get caught up in a book, even if it’s bad. It’s a young adult love story, and while the relationships were unrealistic for me, it was easy to get caught up in the lust and passion these high school students were feeling. I couldn’t really relate to ANY of the characters, but it was an entertaining two days of reading. On the bright side, I got to picture the streets of Paris and learn a bit about the sites I’d love to see if I ever make it to France.
What I didn’t like about this book was how sappy it is! Oh my gosh, if love stories make you want to throw up, don’t read it, because all of the love triangles and forbidden romances and lusty longing for a hot guy with a troubled family and a British accent… but as as a warning, once you start reading, you won’t stop. Also, it kind of bugged me that it was so idealistic- all of the broken friendships were repaired and the romantic relationships on the rocks ended amicably. That’s not normal. And everyone seemed to hate their dads.
Book 17 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
Took: A Ghost Story (paperback and ebook)
by Mary Downing Hahn
AR Level 4.3, 7 points
I finally downloaded Overdrive and connected it to my library card! Yay! Now I can read books the traditional way (by holding it and turning pages) and the newfangled technological way (by holding my iPhone and swiping to turn the pages). The latter is especially handy for middle of the night feedings when I can’t turn on the light or hold the book with 2 hands.
Took: A Ghost Story isn’t really a ghost story, but it is a creepy one with a witch (“conjurer”), a scary doll, and a hog made out of various animal parts. Daniel and Erica move to a small town with their parents after their family faces some financial struggles. Their new house is an old run-down house near a forest on the outskirts of their community. The kids are miserable in their new town, and Daniel and Erica hear scary stories about a witch and a little girl who went missing who happened to have lived in their house 50 years earlier. Soon Erica goes missing, and Daniel has to be brave to bring her home.
What I like about this book is it is just scary enough to be entertaining and a page turner, but not so scary that kids (or I) wouldn’t want to read it. It is also far-fetched enough that it wouldn’t give us nightmares or make us afraid of the dark, but it is also about real people and real problems that kids may be able to relate to in order to make it more realistic. I loved ghost stories when I was younger, and I’d read Richard Peck and anything creepy I could get my hands on. I also read Mary Downing Hahn, but not her scary stories. I will have to see if I can get my hands on a copy of Daphne’s Book, because that was a memorable one for me.
What I didn’t like about this book wasn’t really something I didn’t like, but something that worried me about my students reading it. There is a lot of discussion about Daniel and Erica’s parents’ vices, including smoking and drinking. They’re also really mean to Daniel when they find out Erica is missing. I felt really bad for Daniel, because it really did seem like they favored Erica, and I wouldn’t want that to make my students sad or trigger something in their own lives, because I know it is real.
Book 16 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid (paperback)
by Jeff Kinney
AR Level 5.2, 3 points
This is the first book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. I have heard about this series for the last 10 years (since it was published), but I officially got to meet Greg and his friends and family. This is written in diary form, so instead of chapters, there are dates with different events that Greg experienced. He gets himself into all kinds of trouble, but fails to see how he is responsible for any of the trouble. He, like most middle school boys, thinks he can do no wrong. However, the reader laughs at his antics and hopefully sees what he’s doing to sink himself.
What I like about this book was, well, let’s say I was definitely reluctant to read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. It seemed like empty-headed silly boy humor that didn’t further one’s vocabulary or reading skills. I realize it’s written at a 5.2, but I figured it was what I call a “gateway” book to get reluctant readers into reading. If nothing else worked, give them Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Well, most of that is correct. However, it isn’t so empty-headed. It is really witty, and I found myself laughing out loud at several parts.
What I didn’t like was the way there wasn’t a solid problem or solution to the story. It followed a diary pattern, not a conflict-resolution pattern. However, I think that’s what grabs students to read it. It isn’t your traditional book.
Book 15 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
American Born Chinese (paperback)
by Gene Luen Yang
AR Level 3.3, 1 point
American Born Chinese is 3 separate stories in one graphic novel, and they’re all connected at the end. The Monkey King struggles with not being recognized for who he thinks he is. Jin Wang is a Chinese immigrant in San Francisco who has a crush on a girl, but he cannot be with her, because he is Chinese. Danny is an American boy with a Chinese cousin who demonstrates all of the American stereotypes of Chinese people (accent, clothing, behavior, etc.). It turns out that Danny and Jin Wang are the same person, and the Monkey King comes and reminds Danny of who he really is. It is a confusing story, to be honest.
What I liked about this book was the way Chinese stereotypes were all laid out there for the reader, so there was no opportunity for them to think of their own. There was also an underlying message to be yourself and not to try so hard to be someone you’re not. Honestly, that was about it. I didn’t really care for this book.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it was confusing. I get now how the 3 stories were connected, but only because I had to look it up. I blame being in a newborn fog from lack of sleep and hormonal imbalance, because I normally love books like this, but it just didn’t interest me.
Book 14 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
Because of Winn-Dixie (paperback)
by Kate DiCamillo
AR Level 3.9, 3 points
Because of Winn-Dixie is another of Kate DiCamillo’s stories where her voice and style is strong. It was very similar to Raymie Nightingale in that the main character, India Opal, is a lonely child who is down a parent while the remaining parent (her dad, a preacher) is suffering his own sense of loss and shuts Opal out. She is new to town and doesn’t have any friends yet, which makes her even more lonely, until she meets a dog who leads her to meet new friends. Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal reconnects with her father and they realize they need to be supportive of one another.
What I like about this book is the language and thoughtfulness of the writing, and the life lessons that DiCamillo works into the storyline. For example, Opal dislikes several boys because of what they said about someone else, not her. She also isn’t sure whether to be afraid of a man because he’d been in jail. A friend of hers tells her, “you can’t always judge people by the things they done. You got to judge them by what they are doing now.” That is a good lesson or reminder not only for children (the intended audience), but for adults, as well.
What I did not like, and I shouldn’t say I didn’t like, because sometimes I do enjoy it, is the whimsical way the story flows. You are on a journey with Opal, and there isn’t a solid plot line until the end when you realize what the story was about. There isn’t a solid “problem” of the story and the conflict is internal. This isn’t always bad, but I’m sometimes not in the mood for it.
Book 13 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
Turtle in Paradise (paperback)
by Jennifer Holm
AR Level 3.7, 4 points
I recently finished Full of Beans at the recommendation of many other readers online since it had just come out. This is the same author as The 14th Goldfish. I didn’t realize Turtle in Paradise is a story similar to Full of Beans, but from Beans’ cousin’s point of view. While it was published first, the story takes place after, so I read the in the right order. You wouldn’t have to read them in order to enjoy them, though.
Turtle is new to town (Key West) and moves in with her Aunt Minnie and cousins. They lived in New Jersey as the housekeeper and housekeeper’s daughter, but the new household has no tolerance for children, so Turtle’s mother sends her away since she cannot take care of Turtle. Turtle, who is a tough and snarky female character, immediately dislikes her equally snarky cousins, and they butt heads until Turtle finds a treasure map, uncovers a secret about her father, and makes friends with her grandmother. Then their relationship takes a turn, and they maybe even enjoy each other’s company.
What I like about this book is the fact that it is a much deeper story than a 3.7 reading level really gives credit for. It isn’t complicated, there isn’t complex vocabulary or concepts, but the level of self-realization from the main character is more than a third grader might catch on to. I’d see this as more of an upper-grade read, especially with the mystery and betrayal involved.
What I don’t really like about this book is that Too Slow got away. I won’t say much more than that, but I’d have liked to see more of him in the end.
Book 12 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)