A Boy Called Bat (hardcover)
by Elana K. Arnold
AR Level 4.6, 3 points
This book is so cute! A Boy Called Bat is about a boy called Bat (a nickname) and he is somewhere on the autism spectrum. Bat’s mother is a veterinarian, and she brings home a newborn orphaned skunk to care for until he is ready for release. Bat becomes very attached to the baby skunk and names him Thor. He sets out to find a way to keep the skunk long-term, despite the advice of his mother and a skunk expert he writes to. The bigger storyline that might not be as obvious to child readers is the way he navigates his every day life with autism. We are able to see social situations and family issues from his perspective, which is one that most of us don’t see, and I really appreciated that.
What I liked about this book was the perspective. Autism is something that is a mystery to those who do not live with someone with autism. I have had many students with autism, but it is a whole different way of thinking, and I think it builds understanding and compassion when we are able to learn more about it. People, including students, are afraid of what they don’t know, and education is the best way to build that understanding. For me, reading about it is the best way to share the knowledge with students.
What I didn’t like about the book is that it wasn’t a quick-moving story, and while it should have taken me an hour or two to finish, it took me 4 days. It may not be the book’s fault, though. I was especially tired this week and just couldn’t stay awake while reading it.
Book 8 of 40
Cloud and Wallfish (hardcover)
by Anne Nesbet
AR Level 5.8, 12 points
Cloud and Wallfish is about a boy named Noah who had to forget everything he thought he knew about himself when his parents pick him up from school and move to East Germany during the Cold War, right before the Berlin Wall was torn down. Noah is given a new name (Jonah), a new birthday, and a new identity, including a book of class pictures that aren’t really of him. He is given a set of rules that require him to be seen and not heard, lest he give away their true identities. Noah is told it is so his mother can study children with stutters (like himself), but he later finds that may not be the complete truth. Noah, lonely and confused, makes friends with a girl named Claudia whose parents died in a car accident and is being raised by her frightening grandmother. Claudia (Cloud) and Noah/Jonah (Wallfish, which sounds like the german word for whale) become friends and create a bond that cannot be broken by time.
What I liked about this book was that I learned a lot about what life was like for East Germans during the Cold War. It is a time period I was never really interested in, so I don’t have a lot of knowledge about it, and I appreciated that this book broke it down through both narrative and “fact files” so I could have a background. That was a clever strategy the author used.
What I didn’t like about this book was that I was disappointed. I had high hopes for this book and REALLY thought I’d love it. It is well-written, but it was a little slow for me. I actually had to renew this book from the library, because I couldn’t finish it in the time I had it. I also have questions that have yet to be answered. There were things that either weren’t explained or weren’t clear, possibly because I rushed through the ending to finally see the finish.
Book 7 of 40
by Jason Reynolds
Patina is the second installment in the track series. I’m not sure how many there will be, but Ghost was the first book, and I loved it! Patina is still a great novel, but I wasn’t as attached to the main character, Patina, as I was to Ghost. Patty (Patina) is a young woman who has a lot on her plate. She is the only African American girl at her fancy private school, and has put up a wall that makes it hard to get to know anyone. She takes on a lot of responsibility with her little sister Maddy, even though she lives with her aunt and uncle (who adopted them) since her dad passed and her mom had her legs amputated due to diabetes. Patty’s aunt Momly works hard to make sure everyone is well taken care of, but Patty still has the burdens of school, pleasing her mom, being poor in a rich school, having a white Momly, and being the best on her track team. When there is an accident, Patty’s life takes a turn and she starts to realize what is important to her.
What I liked about this book is the compelling character that Reynolds has written. I really enjoy his writing style, and I wish he had more middle grade-appropriate literature, but he is more of a young adult author. For me, Patty is relatable, even if I am not in her situation. I can relate to feeling like I have to take on more responsibility than I actually need to, and then feeling the weight of that choice.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it left me with a cliffhanger! I don’t need a cliffhanger to keep me returning for more… I will continue to read Jason Reynolds’ books, regardless. NOW I have to WAIT for his next one to come out to find out if Patty actually won the relay (although I think she did).
Book 6 of 40
Swing It, Sunny (paperback)
by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm
This is the second book about Sunny that the Holms (brother/sister duo) have written. In Sunny-Side Up, Sunny went to Florida to stay with her grandpa while her parents figured out what to do with her older brother Dale and his drug problem. In Swing It, Sunny, Dale is at a military school, angry that he has lost his freedom. Sunny is home and navigating middle school. She enjoys a lot of tv with her friend, learns to swing a flag from a new neighbor, and dresses up like a nurse for Halloween (although she wanted to be a swamp thing). The biggest concern for Sunny is her brother. She loves him and misses him, but he is not himself.
What I liked about this book is that it is great for a students who has a relative with a drug or alcohol problem. It shows that there are pressures for the entire family, not just the parents, when there is a family member who is sick. Her dad did a good job of trying to explain that Dale was not himself, but Sunny had to experience the pain for herself.
What I didn’t like about this book is that it didn’t have a strong plot with a problem and solution that would be a good model for my lower readers. It had a lot of internal conflict, which made it a great story, but harder for my struggling readers to understand.
Book 5 of 40
Flat-Out Celeste (ebook)
by Jessica Park
Not too long ago, I read Flat-Out Love at the request of a friend, and while I started out cynical, I’m a sucker for a good love story. Or a bad one. Or one that is only so-so. What ever the quality, this is a love story, and I got sucked in right away, and wanted more from the characters. Flat-Out Celeste is the third installation, and a secondary character is now is the main character.
Celeste struggles socially. We as the readers might immediately think aspergers, but she is never actually diagnosed. Celeste is beyond smart academically, but does not have any friends because of her awkwardness. She has her choice of colleges, including Ivy League, but she starts getting emails from Jason, a student liason at Barton College, and they correspond regularly until it becomes flirtatious. They finally meet, and go out on a very awkward date. Celeste’s social anxiety starts to improve, and she and Jason make an instant connection. Despite some tough situations, Celeste’s life seems to be on track with Justin. She decides to try and fix her brother’s relationship with his exgirlfriend Julie (whose romance began in Flat-Out Love). All in all, this is a book filled with hope (for the socially awkward) and love (for all). It isn’t cheesy, but you may throw up a little in your mouth during some of Celeste and Justin’s conversations.
What I liked about this book was that it gives me hope for my weirdos. I have had several students with autistic-like behaviors, students who wouldn’t understand a social situation no matter what drawing or map you made for them, etc. If Celeste and Justin can kindle a relationship and keep it going despite a distance, then there’s is hope!
What I didn’t like about this book was that there were so many errors! It was like the book had never seen an editor and was just published to the Internet. It bugged me, but it didn’t take away from the story itself.
Book 4 of 40