by Torrey Maldonado
Tight is about a boy named Bryan who lives in the projects in Brooklyn, New York. His dad is in and out of jail for fighting and teaches Bryan it is better to be feared than liked. His mom and dad introduce him to a boy named Mike who seems great at first, but soon pressures Bryan into doing things he doesn’t want to do, but Bryan doesn’t want to be “soft” in front of Mike, so he does them. Bryan just wants to live drama-free where he can draw and read comics, but Mike wants to go subway surfing and skip school. Bryan finds himself in a tough position and has to make some tough choices for himself.
What I liked about this book is that I was picturing who I was going to hand it to in my class first. It has everything that many of my sixth grade boys need- drama, not wanting to look soft or like a snitch, bulling, peer pressure, etc. What I really appreciated was that there was no talk of drugs, alcohol, sex, or violence with weapons, elements that could push this into more of a YA or mature book. This was just about a sixth grade boy and common pressures on him, things my own students are dealing with. Plus, it’s easy reading, and short. I already have a student to hand this to.
What I didn’t like about this book was that I really wanted Mike to get busted. I know this had more of a lesson at the end, which was really, really awesome, but the teacher in me wanted Mike to get caught and disciplined.
Book 6 of 2019
by Sharon M. Draper
In Blended, Isabella, or Izzie (as her mom calls her), is a sixth grade girl whose mom is white and dad is black. She isn’t sure about her identity, but is leaning more towards black since her skin isn’t white and her hair isn’t blonde like her mom’s. Not only is she a “blend” of colors/races, but her parents are divorced and each have a new family, so she is part of a blended family. Isabella is put in the middle of her parents’ custody disagreement when they start to fight in front of her, and Isabella can’t take it anymore. To top it all off, someone at school has played a racist prank on one of her best friends, and Isabella is sick of fending off comments about her identity as a mixed race girl. A major event causes her family members to look deeper at their relationship with Isabella and with each other.
What I liked about this book was that it addresses the issue of being mixed race in today’s climate, which you don’t see much in literature these days, especially children’s literature. It also addresses the bitterness that can come from divorce, and putting children in the middle of it. I can already think of at least 3 students in my class who will be able to relate to that aspect of the story, although really, it’s the parents who need to read this book.
What I didn’t like about this book was that the issue of rude comments wasn’t really addressed with one of Isabella’s friends. I am white, but my children are mixed race, and I am not sure if they will have to address these questions. I’m not sure they’d be offended by them, but that is my white privilege, not knowing and not fully understanding that perspective.
by Tillie Walden
Spinning is a graphic novel memoir about the author, Tillie. She says her book is about ice skating, but it is really about her youth while ice skating. Tillie struggled with coming out as gay to her conservative family and friends in Austin, Texas. She also struggled with a mother who seemed less than supportive and her absent family. Tillie needed a place to fit, but didn’t feel like she belonged anywhere. Although she was a successful ice skater, she didn’t enjoy it, and ended up quitting once she started to take control of her life.
What I liked about this book was the emotion Tillie put into her memoir so the reader feels her struggles. I am not gay, I have never been sexually assaulted, and I have never been pressured in a competitive sport, but the author writes so we can have compassion for Tillie’s experiences. That is the one thing that people wrote when reviewing this graphic novel- we feel Tillie’s heartbreak, depression, frustration, embarrassment, etc. as we read her words. Although it is kind of an aside, I also enjoyed learning more about competitive figure skating.
What I didn’t like about this book was the way people were so unaccepting of Tillie when they weren’t in a place to have a say in her life. I hate when people are bullied and the bullies aren’t punished, or the protagonist isn’t avenged. However, that’s life. My bullies are probably still bullying, or basically being awful people to others. I wanted to see her mother redeem herself or her girlfriend get back into contact with her, or the man who assaulted her- he needed to be caught and punished! Those things never happened (in the book).
Book 3 of 2019
Echo’s Sister (hardcover)
by Paul Mosier
Echo’s Sister‘s name is Laughter, or El, for short. On El’s first day of seventh grade at a new school, she finds out her younger sister Echo has cancer, and this news devastates her. She goes through all of the emotions- abandonment, fear, grief, resentment, anger, etc. as Echo goes through chemo and her family learns to deal with the news and reality of cancer. However, El finds herself surrounded by love and support, but it takes her awhile to realize it.
What I liked about this book was the positivity the characters had, despite the cancer. It really made me want to go and join a group to support cancer patients, or fundraise for someone who needs the support. I think that if you aren’t directly affected by cancer, it is something you just won’t think about supporting, but there are so many needs that the families have. Cancer is honestly my biggest fear, and I hope and pray no one in my family ever has to experience it. This book gives a perspective that makes me really feel for the families of patients.
What I didn’t like about this book is that it gave me a sore throat, because I kept trying not to cry! I hate crying. My throat hurts, my nose is running, and my eyes are still watery. Plus, I used many tissues. Ugh too many emotions! 😉
Book 2 of 2019
The Science of Breakable Things (audiobook)
by Tae Keller
Natalie is an average middle school student. She has a very excited science teacher who has everyone think of a question and answer it via the scientific method. Natalie lives with her therapist father and her botanist mother, but she is a bit lost when her mother falls into a depression and Natalie is afraid she stopped caring about her. Because neither of her parents are communicating with her, Natalie fears she is to blame for her mother’s depression, and she sets out to make her happy again by winning an egg-drop contest to buy the orchid her mother once loved to research. Natalie uses the scientific method to try and solve the mystery of her mother’s depression.
What I liked about this book was the way it approached a sensitive and relevant topic, depression. Although it is more commonly spoken about these days, it stigmatizes the depressed person and those around them, and so fewer people are willing to admit when they are depressed, much less seek help. This book shows that depression isn’t something to be embarrassed about, and it isn’t the fault of the family members. It is an illness that needs to be dealt with professionally. I feel like many of my students would be able to relate to that. I, personally, have many family members who suffer from depression, and this might have helped me when I was younger.
What I didn’t like about this book was the way it made me feel very sad for Natalie. I can’t imagine having a mother and then not. It made me think twice about whether I abandon my own kids emotionally at times. It’s not that I’m depressed, but sometimes I have so many other things going on, I am not giving my children the support they need, much like Natalie felt abandoned by both of her parents.
Book 1 of 2019