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
Hello, Universe (ebook)
by Erin Entrada Kelly
AR Level 4.7, 6 points
Hello, Universe is a book that has been on Mock-Newbery lists, so in an effort to read all of the books before the ALA awards, I had to read it. Virgil is a shy, weak, Filipino boy who lives with his parents, 2 outgoing brothers, and his Lola (grandma). He is friends with a Japanese girl named Kaori who believes she has psychic powers and can tell fortunes, so he seeks her help to become friends with Valencia, a deaf girl, while avoiding a bully named Chet. Valencia also seeks Kaori’s help, and together they have to solve a big problem partially caused by Chet. This story is mainly told from Virgil’s point of view, but it is also told from Valencia’s, Kaori’s, and Chet’s. As we see the story progress and friendships unfold, we are shown several situations, and we have to decide if they are a series of coincidences, or fueled by fate.
What I liked about this book was the coincidences that kept popping up. I like when stories are well thought-out. I thought the stories Lola told and the situations with the friends all coincided well. There are probably a lot of little things that I might pick up on if I read the story again.
What I didn’t like about this book was that Chet was not as well-developed of a character (for being one of the main characters). I also lost interest, and had to power through to finish it. I didn’t feel it would be a Newbery winner, but I can certainly see the merit in the writing.
Book 6 of summer 2017!
Real Friends (paperback)
by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
AR Level (no quiz yet)
Real Friends made my heart hurt. It hit way, way, way too close to home for me. Not the home I live in today, but the one from when I was in elementary school. This is the story of Shannon, a girl with a vivid imagination who enjoyed writing. She wasn’t perfect, and didn’t always do everything right in her friendships nor with her siblings, but she was gravely mistreated by the girls in the popular group and misunderstood/ignored by her mother. Shannon had to find out the hard way that being in the popular group isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, especially with mean girls who often dress better and compete for attention. Shannon finally realizes who she is and she stands up for herself, but not before suffering a lot of hurt feelings and anxiety, basically ruining her elementary school experience.
What I liked about this book is that students can either relate to Shannon’s experience (like myself), or they can see how damaging being in the popular group can be for someone on the outskirts. It was really hard to read this, because it was such an emotional story. I think it is really important for girls to read this book, because it seems like someone is either out with the in crowd, or the in crowd itself.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it did hurt to read it. I didn’t want Shannon to be abused by her “friends” at school or her sister at home, but it is her experience (the author’s), and important to read.
Book 5 of summer 2017!
by Svetlana Chmakova
AR Level 2.8, 1 point
Awkward is another really cute graphic novel that I learned about while browsing Amazon books. I added it to my Donors Choose proposal, and was excited when my grant was funded! I am so grateful for the generosity that was bestowed upon my class, and very happy that this book was a part of it, because I really enjoy finding new books for my students to read. I am confident this one won’t stay on the shelf.
Awkward follows a girl named Peppi who is in the Art Club in her middle school. She awkwardly befriends a boy named Jaime, who is a member of the Science Club, and Art and Science are rival clubs. Art and Science fight throughout the story, which makes it difficult for these two awkward tweens to be friends, but they join together to unite the two clubs, and all works out in the end.
What I liked about this book was the well-written (and drawn!) characters. It seems that the author put a lot of thought into character development before she started! There are the typical characters in a middle school setting… nerdy, artsy, bully, strict teacher, flighty teacher, the girl everyone wants to be like, etc. There was also the awkwardness of a boy and girl being friends, while everyone else assumes they’re boyfriend and girlfriend, or one likes the other. I really enjoyed the way the characters were drawn and the dialogue.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it ended! I’d like to see a sequel or more graphic novels by this author. It is a great addition to my library!
Book 37 of 40 (year 2)