Three Pennies

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Three Pennies (hardcover)

by Melanie Crowder

 

In Three Pennies, Marin is a child in the foster care system, and her social worker is determined to find her a forever home.  After going through three potential parents, she settles on a doctor who lost her partner and is looking to add a child to her life.   However, Marin isn’t as willing to BE adopted, because she hasn’t given up hope that her mom still wants her.  She uses 3 pennies and the I Ching (a book) to tell her future, and it is never positive.  Marin sets out to meet her real mother before conceding to her adoption.  This book sounds like it would be sad, but really, it felt hopeful and ended on a positive note.

What I liked about this book was the way Marin’s character was resistant to being adopted.  It seems like we feel like foster kids should automatically be happy they’re being adopted, but we have to understand that they’re feeling loss and rejection.  Marin’s mom made the choice to abandon her child.  It wasn’t like she was in a bad position or died.  I’ve had foster children in my class, and this story helps me understand the feelings of rejection they may be going through.

What I didn’t like about this book was the fact that the mother and her friend were even in it.  I don’t think it should have been that easy for her to get ahold of them, and it was frustrating that her mom met her and then rejected her to her face.  That wasn’t just heart-breaking, but it seemed a bit unrealistic.

Book 30 of 40

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What To Say Next

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What To Say Next (audiobook)

by Julie Buxbaum

 

What to Say Next is what David and Kit don’t have to worry about.  David is an unpopular junior with Aspergers and Kit is one member of a trio of semi-popular girls.  David is nearly invisible and near the top of his class.  Kit recently lost her dad to a car crash, and she finds herself unable to blend back into her group of friends upon returning to school after the funeral.  Instead, she sits with David, and while he is blunt and honest, she appreciates that he doesn’t ignore her obvious pain.  David finds himself in love with Kit, and his sister gives him a makeover to help Kit see him in a new light.  David helps Kit solve a mystery of her father’s death, and that leads to more pain and heartache for both.

What I liked about this book is that it was a quick, easy read.  When in the mood for something fluffy and entertaining, this is the way to go.  I believe it was the same for her first book, Tell Me Three Things.  I liked that it was told from multiple perspectives and that we were able to see into the mind of someone with Aspergers who is fully aware of his Aspergers.

What I didn’t like about this book was how cliche it was.  Popular, meat-head football players, popular snotty girls, etc.  There was an odd love connection, and all worked out in the end.  This is normally the kind of book I wouldn’t pick up, somewhat equivalent to a romance novel for adults.  However, sometimes that’s just what I’m in the mood for.

Book 29 of 40

Enchanted Air

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Enchanted Air (paperback)

by Margarita Engle

 

Enchanted Air is a memoir about a girl named Margarita whose mother is Cuban and father is American/European.  She spends her summers in Cuba riding horses, playing with cousins, and being an adventurous, outgoing girl.  Back in California, she is quiet, withdrawn, studious, and loves nature.  She is torn between two countries, two worlds, and two versions of herself.  Set during the Cold War, Margarita fears for her Cuban family when war breaks out, and she isn’t sure if she’ll ever see her relatives again.

What I liked about this book is that it teaches a lot about the time period that I wouldn’t normally know.  I got to see what it was like for a Cuban American living during this time- the hostility, the fear, etc.  There was mention of the Japanese internment camps during World War II, and she was afraid that would happen to her mother.  I didn’t think about having to write letters in code.  I think this would be interesting to teach students about since they don’t generally know much about wars other than World War II.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it wasn’t as memorable for me.  It was very well-written and it had it’s merits, but I think memoirs aren’t my genre.  That isn’t a drawback of the book… it’s personal taste.

Book 28 of 40

Beast

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Beast (audiobook)

by Brie Spangler

 

Beast is about a fifteen year old boy named Dylan who is unusually large and hairy.  His dad died, his mom is overbearing at times, and he has a lot of pent up anger because of how people treat him.  His best friend JP uses him to beat people up, and that is his identity.  One day he goes to get a football from the roof and he falls and breaks his leg.  The doctor puts him into a support group after he discovers the fall might not have been an accident.  In group, Dylan meets a girl named Jamie, and they fall for each other.  Dylan then discovers a secret about Jamie that he didn’t anticipate, and he faces much internal and external conflict throughout the rest of the book.

What I liked about this book is that is is a story about diversity.  I appreciate when authors put their diverse works out there, because there isn’t enough.  I don’t want to say what was diverse about this story, but I will say that I was not anticipating it at all.  If you read any other review, it will surely give it away, but I’d rather not.

What I didn’t like about this book was basically all of the characters, the cussing, the violence, and pretty much everything else.  I thought it was going to be a fractured “Beauty and the Beast,” but I was wrong wrong wrong!

Book 27 of 40

Stef Soto, Taco Queen

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Stef Soto, Taco Queen (hardcover)

by Jennifer Torres

 

Stef Soto isn’t actually a Taco Queen, but her dad does operate a food truck that sells tacos and other Mexican food called Tia Perla (Aunt Pearl).  Stef isn’t sure how she feels about her dad’s food truck- it is embarrassing being picked up after school, and her ex-friend Julia starts a rumor that Stef smells like tacos, which is tough in seventh grade.  In their town, the city council will be voting on new regulations for taco trucks, which puts her father’s business in jeopardy.  What Stef soon realizes is that Tia Perla isn’t just a taco truck, but a member of the family.  She has to use her creativity to help her family.

What I liked about this book was that my students would be able to relate to it.  I have mostly Latino students, and it is refreshing to finally read a book about a Mexican-American kid with parents who need help with their English, and who take pride in their pursuit of the American Dream.  I think a large number of my students can find similarities between their own struggles and those of Estefania.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it wasn’t compelling enough to make me want to read.  I should have finished it in a few hours, but instead, it took me a whole week!  Perhaps I was tired this week, but when books are especially engaging, that usually doesn’t matter.  It’s a good book, but not a page-turner for me.

Book 26 of 40

Love That Dog

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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

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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