Love That Dog (paperback)
by Sharon Creech
Love That Dog is a quick but meaningful read. I bought it, because it is by a reputable author and I wanted another (free form) poetry book for my library. I didn’t realize the value I’d find in it! This is written from the perspective of a young poet who doesn’t realize he’s a poet, but learns about poetry from a teacher who sees value in his writing. He is resistant to writing poetry, but learns that a poem doesn’t have to follow a format and can be fun and meaningful. His teacher shares his poetry, and he gets the opportunity to meet with his favorite poet, Walter Dean Myers, who visits his school.
What I liked about this book is it reminded me that what I am excited about (as a teacher) can positively influence my students. If I am excited about poetry and I encourage them to read and write and discuss poetry, they will eventually become less resistant. I do that daily with reading with my reluctant readers.
What I didn’t like about this book is that is was very short. I really enjoyed it, and I didn’t want it to end. However, it is also good for my kids who don’t want to read.
Book 25 of 40
Scar Island (paperback)
by Dan Gemeinhart
Scar Island is the nickname given to Slabhenge, where kids go when they are sentenced to serve time in a correctional facility, like juvenile hall, but on an island where they will be reformed. Jonathan arrives with so much guilt and self-hate, he isn’t scared about what will happen to him. He feels he deserves whatever he has coming to him. His crime isn’t made known to us until later (although I guessed early on), but he is on the island with 15 other kids with abusive caretakers. About a 1/4 of the way through, the kids find themselves on their own to fend for themselves, and it is much like Lord of the Flies with a kid who is picked on, a kid who is power-hungry, one who is smarter and braver than them all, and the followers. The kids find themselves in some real danger when a hurricane arrives on the island and Scar Island begins to fall apart, brick by brick. You will want to keep reading to find out what Jonathan’s crime was, and how they get off the island.
What I liked about this book was that it kept me reading. I don’t normally like to take a week on a book, and this only took me 4 days, which is longer than I’d want to read a book during a vacation. What was more compelling was Jonathan’s story and watching him change as he came to grips with his “crime” and his view of himself.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it was kind of predictable. I was wondering the whole time if William Golding knew Gemeinhart took his idea from Lord of the Flies, but then I realized that was intentional, as Gemeinhart referred to the book (and several others, including Treasure Island). I thought that was an interesting thing to include, but I still found parts too predictable for me. Perhaps not to a kid, though.
Book 24 of 40
Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life (hardcover)
by Rachel Renee Russell
The Dork Diary author, Nikki Maxwell, is a middle school girl living a not-so-fabulous life, including bullies, an annoying little sister, and embarrassing parents. She keeps a diary to document everything in her life. In this first book (of a 12 book series, I think?), Nikki is being bullied by the most popular girl at school, who is rich and beautiful and blatantly mean. Nikki thinks a lot of things in her head, but doesn’t say any of them out loud, much like I think a lot of us with self-control do. I could relate to her wanting to tell people off or say what she was thinking, but instead, keeping her mouth shut. Nikki ends up making friends with two girls who support her and come through for her at the end when the bullying takes a turn for the worst and Nikki doesn’t want to come to school.
What I liked about this book is that is has my kids reading. That is always a plus! They are fun and engaging, entertaining and positive. I bought them at the request of my students, and I got a good deal on them used from Thriftbooks, my go-to for used books. I’m not sure how good a deal they were, but $3.75 for a used $12 book is good enough for me! They won’t stay on my shelf now. My biggest readers? My boys. Maybe they will take the information and it will come in handy when they have crushes on girls next year in seventh grade.
What I didn’t like about this book is I expected it to be more similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but the Wimpy Kid books are awesome and clever and I loved them, and the Dork Diaries were just okay. That kind of bummed me out, but I also had unrealistic expectations. This series is clever and entertaining, but not for me, which is totally fine, because kids are reading!
Book 23 of 40
Long Way Down (audiobook)
by Jason Reynolds
Long Way Down is a powerful book about what it’s like to live in a place where people suffer from gun violence whether they are in a gang or not. Will’s brother was just shot. He and his mother are grieving their loss, but Will has to follow the rules: don’t cry, don’t snitch, and get revenge. He takes his brother’s gun and goes to follow rule number 3 when he is visited by the ghosts of several people he knows who died of gun violence.
What I liked about this book… first of all, the audiobook is read by Jason Reynolds himself, which to me, MADE the audiobook. I may need to relisten just to get it all again. Second of all, the language is beautiful (yet the subject is quite the opposite). The entire book sounds like it should be read at open mic night. I want to share this with an old friend who teaches kids to write poetry. The use of repetition and metaphor make it sound like a poem. Third, the power of the subject matter… I’m a middle aged white lady who lives in a nice neighborhood (although I did grow up in the projects and heard gunshots at night, but never knew anyone who was gang related growing up). I cannot relate to any of it, but the power of the story gave me insight into a world I will never know first-hand. I could go on with what I loved about this book, but nothing will stick with me more than the end. Those last 2 words. Just read it.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it’s a pretty short book. However, the length of it was appropriate. I just wanted more.
Book 22 of 40
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway (paperback)
by Jeff Kinney
The Getaway is officially my favorite of the Wimpy Kid series! I made the mistake of just reading “the first few pages” while my class took the writing benchmark, and ended up finishing the entire book at school while giggling and distracting them in my silent testing environment. Luckily, most of my students have read at least one of the books in the series, so they could relate. Several have even read this newest book in the series, and they kept asking what part I was at.
Greg and his family go on vacation to a warm, sunny, tropical, Spanish-speaking resort for Christmas. From the time they left home for the airport, they all got themselves into dilemmas as a family and individually. Greg, as usual, is ignorant to his parents’ wishes and finds himself in awkward situations, but always finds his way out of them. This book was laughs from beginning to end.
What I liked about this book, besides the humor, is that I finally realized it is small moment after small moment, which serves as a great example for my students who are working on narratives based on small moments during Writer’s Workshop. I still can’t believe I was such a snob about this series, because it has turned out to be one of my favorites.
What I didn’t like about this book... I have nothing. There was a big hairy situation with a big hairy spider, but since it was all drawings, it didn’t bother me like I thought it would, although parts were a little cringe-worthy, like when the spider lost a leg.
Book 21 of 40
by Svetlana Chmakova
Brave is about a seventh grade boy named Jensen who is an easy target for bullies- he’s overweight, he doesn’t have many close friends, he struggles in school, his mom is busy, he daydreams often, etc. He thinks he’s a part of the Art Club, but his “friends” forget to include him in group texts and projects. He is friends with several from the newspaper, but they really just ask him to do little projects FOR them. He is forced to do a group project, and doesn’t have a partner, until a jock volunteers to work with him, and eventually protects him from bullies. There are a few blatantly mean boys who pick on Jensen, and these are the boys the reader wants to squish between the pages. Jensen has to learn about standing up for himself, and what it means to be a real friend.
What I liked about this book is the message. I’m a sucker for a book with a good moral. Jensen has so douchey people in his life, but he also has some that are kind and strong and teach him to stand up for himself. They are willing to be role models and help him make good choices for himself. I think seeing a situation with obvious examples of bullying (like Yanic) and less-obvious examples (like most of the Art Club) is good for students who are unclear.
What I didn’t like about this book isn’t something I didn’t like, exactly, but something that was upsetting when applied to students. In the beginning, the book was kind of boring. I was getting annoyed that it was just about this wussy kid who let others walk all over him. It bothered me that Jensen didn’t realize he was being bullied. He accepted his treatment as normal, or just the way people are treated. The turning point for me was when his newspaper friends gave him the survey and he started to realize that it was bullying. Exclusion is a subtle example of bullying, but often more painful than being pushed around. Loneliness is why people hurt themselves. I would really like to see this in the hands of my students, bullies and victims alike.
Book 20 of 40
Dear Martin (ebook)
by Nic Stone
“Dear Martin” is how Justyce starts off his letters to Martin Luther King in a project he has created for himself. He decided to research and read King’s sermons and teachings and “be more like Martin.” Justyce is a high school senior in a private school in Atlanta. Justyce grew up in a poor neighborhood and knew kids who ended up making poor choices. Justyce is also one of a few black kids in school, and he participates in discussions and debates over race issues, especially after being arrested for allegedly trying to steal his exgirlfriend’s car (he was helping her since she was very intoxicated). Justyce becomes more and more angry and frustrated with the way other kids treat him and his friend Manny, and then there is a tragedy that flips his life upside down. I can’t say anything more without giving it away, but it shocked me, and I’m still trying to get over it.
What I liked about this book… well, I really enjoyed this book. I started it at 10:30 last night and read as much as possible with 3 kids and a day of errands, and finished it by dinner this evening. I couldn’t put it down. But to say I enjoyed it… that’s a little awkward, because it is about an African American boy who is racially profiled, discriminated against, and treated less than how he should have been treated. It is the story of a hard-working, intelligent, talented, well-meaning, young black man who had to work harder to break stereotypes, even though to some, they couldn’t be broken. So to say I enjoyed a book with so much injustice, frustration, anger, and unrest doesn’t mean I enjoy others’ struggles (because this is a very relevant story), but I couldn’t put it down due to the strong emotions I felt about the subject, and I felt it was very well-written and made me want to stand up when I see injustice, and teach my students and children about what is really going on in the world.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it made me a little uncomfortable. I know I have, at times, stereotyped people (in my head, not so much out loud). I have believed what I heard on the news instead of seeing both sides clearly. And I have definitely wondered (not disagreed with- just wondered) about affirmative action when it comes to college acceptance. It was definitely an eye opener for this middle aged white lady.
If you haven’t already, read The Hate U Give. You won’t regret it.
Book 19 of 40