Every Shiny Thing (paperback)
by Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison
Every Shiny Thing is told from dual points of view. Lauren, a well-off seventh grader, lives with her parents and is devastated when her older brother is sent to a special school for students with autism. Sierra is also in seventh grade, but she was just placed in foster care when her mom gets drunk and lands herself in jail and rehab (her dad was already in jail from the beginning of the story). Lauren decides to raise money for kids with autism to receive therapy from her brother’s therapist by stealing things from people who already have more than they need and selling it online. She asks Sierra to hide the items in her foster family’s house, and Sierra agrees, because Lauren has been so kind to her. When the stealing becomes a bigger issue, Sierra starts to feel uncomfortable and their beliefs are put to the test.
What I liked about this book is that it is told from two characters’ points of view, and in two forms. Lauren is written in narrative with paragraphs. Sierra is written in verse. I like for my students to be exposed to more poetry so they see it isn’t all Shakespeare and love poems, but another way of communicating through writing. It is similar to Forget Me Not, but verse and narrative are equally represented. I think it is a good book for kids to read so they can question their own actions. It was pretty obvious that Lauren was in the wrong, and I hope my students will see that and recognize the ethical dilemma she put herself in. I think this story would also be refreshing after reading One for the Murphys, because we didn’t like the ending to that one (or at least, it didn’t end the way most of my students hoped it would, but it ended the way it should have).
What I didn’t like about this book was the anxiety I had over Lauren’s cleptomania. I understood that she thought it was helpful, but I really wanted her to get caught earlier so she’d stop. I didn’t like the way she felt Sierra owed her.
Book 13 of 20 (summer goal)
(Book 59 of 2018)
Salt to the Sea (ebook)
by Ruta Sepetys
Salt to the Sea… so good! I had heard of this book, seen the cover, etc., and finally decided to read it when I saw it was on my husband’s high school’s potential summer reading list. (To clarify… he’s a teacher, not a high school student.) Although I’m madly trying to read all of the notable 2017 books before the ALA awards, I paused to read this one, and I’m so glad I did.
This book is told from four different points of view. Joana is a Lithuanian nurse, Emilia is a 15 year old Polish girl, Florian is a 19ish year old who restores art, and Alfred is a German sailor. Joana and Emilia are refugees escaping the Russians, and Florian has stolen an important piece of art in retaliation against his boss, who is just under Hitler himself. Alfred appears to be a dim-witted, brainwashed Nazi who writes mental letters to the girl next door about how important he is, although we see through the story, he is the lowest on the totem pole. They travel together to board a boat of refugees escaping the war, along with the shoe poet, a large woman, and an orphan named Klaus. This is a snapshot of one group of people- refugees of world war II, displaced due to the Nazis and Soviets closing in on their homes.
What I liked about this book was… everything. I really enjoyed this book. I’ve read that Sepetys writes about the untold stories, the ones we’ve never heard of. The fictional refugees in the story board a doomed boat, and it was a boat that really did sink with nearly 10,000 refugees aboard in 1945. I really liked the chemistry between Joana and Florian, and I could see it becoming a movie someday. This book reminded me of The Book Thief, and anyone who’s asked me for a recommendation should know my feelings on that book.
What I didn’t like about this book was that I felt like the ending was abrupt. There was a chapter of many years later, but I wanted another book to tell me about the many years after. I also felt the beginning could be confusing for someone who didn’t have the patience to learn the characters right away.
Book 33 of 40
Every Soul A Star (paperback)
by Wendy Mass
AR Level 4.7, 11 points
Every Soul A Star is about 3 kids from different backgrounds who bond over an eclipse and form an unlikely friendship. Ally lives in a campground in California where she has little knowledge of the outside world, including appropriate social cues. She is devastated and terrified when she learns her parents have sold the campsite to Bree’s family. Bree has her heart set on becoming a model, and is into fashion and make up and everything superficial. She is devastated and terrified when SHE learns her parents bought a campsite and intend to move there! Jack is a boy who has to join his teacher on a camping trip to see the eclipse in order for him to avoid summer school. These three bond together over the impending eclipse and discover their places in the universe.
What I liked about this book was that it is laden with science and astronomy. My students learned about science, even though we finished reading it about 8 weeks post eclipse. They also learned not to judge others, and hopefully to always brush their teeth in the morning.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it took forever to finish. It is long and the kids sometimes lost interest.
Book 15 of 40
by Gordon Korman
AR Level 5.1, 9 points
Imagine coming out of a coma and learning you were the most hated, feared, and worshipped person at school. Chase Ambrose fell off a roof, and when he woke up, he’s horrified to learn that he, the star quarterback, used to beat people up, break the law, steal, tease, and it got so bad, one kid even moved to a boarding school. Chase, who had a serious head injury, now wants to change his life. He enjoys spending time with the elderly in a retirement home, and makes friends with an old war hero. He joins the video club, despite his former friends making fun of him and his new friends. Chase is put into several situations that prove while he has changed, he is still not perfect. He is, however, taking advantage of his second chance, as though he has gotten a “restart” in life.
What I liked about this book was that it was told from multiple perspectives, but it didn’t repeat the same situations. For example, if something happened through Chase’s perspective, the story picked up from someone else’s POV after that situation. There was no overlap in narration. I, as an adult, felt for Chase’s character, so I’m sure that students will also be able to relate to either being bullied or the remorse of being the bully themselves. I think it has a good message.
What I didn’t like about this book was that his friends didn’t get what was coming to them. It bothered me that his friends were so awful, yet Chase kept his mouth shut and didn’t let them get what was coming to them. It was kind of hard to believe that 13 year olds could be that evil without getting themselves into more trouble that they did. Surely kids with that kind of record get caught. That may be my thinking as a teacher and an adult. I’m sure it’s more believable to child readers.
Book 16 of summer 2017!
Fenway and Hattie (paperback)
by Victoria J. Coe
AR Level 3.6, 4 points
Fenway and Hattie is about a little girl and her dog. Only, the little girl, Hattie, is growing up, and the dog, Fenway, doesn’t understand, and feels that he’s losing her. Fenway is a Jack Russell Terrier, which is a very intelligent and energetic breed. They move to a home with a huge back yard (“dog park”) and Fenway is faced with his nemeses… the awful squirrels. Hattie meets Angel, a girl next door who plays baseball, and they start playing together. It is clear to everyone but Fenway that Fenway is in desperate need of some training, and everyone’s frustration stems from lack of understanding. Did I mention the entire story is told from the point of view of Fenway? That is what makes this book; it’s (only) saving grace!
What I liked about this book is that it will get the attention of my lower readers. It is only a 3.6, and it is a cute story. I really like that the POV is that of a dog, because we often wonder what our pets (and babies) are really thinking. It doesn’t have a lot of higher level vocabulary, but readers are forced to make inferences and draw conclusions left and right due to the fact that a dog narrator doesn’t understand what is going on, but we as humans do!
What I didn’t like about this book is that I wanted to like it, but couldn’t really get into it. I got frustrated with Fenway, because he was being annoying. I didn’t blame Hattie for putting him in his own room and putting up the gate. I cans ay that as a grown up pet-owner, but I’m sure most people would see this as a cute, heart-warming story of a girl and her dog.
Book 41 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)