Solo (ebook and hardcover)
by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess
I am a big fan of Kwame Alexander, and I was so excited to get this (preordered) book in the mail, but never picked it up, because it’s just so thick! I kept pushing it aside for shorter books, some of which I spent way too long reading. I started this as a hardcover, but discovered the ebook helped me to get through it faster. It’s easier to sneak an ebook at a party and in the car. A book thicker than my forearm, not so much.
In Solo, Blade Morrison is on the verge of adulthood. He is graduating from high school as a salutatorian, he has a hot girlfriend, and plans for college with a bright future in music. However, his rock star father shakes things up when he crashes his graduation and lands himself back into rehab. Blade relies on the love of his life, his girlfriend Chapel, but finds that their relationship is on the rocks. When he finds out a family secret, Blade sets out for Ghana to find some answers, and learns more about himself than he first set out to find.
What I liked about this book is that it was written in verse, and I love Alexander’s lyrical style. I felt it was especially paired well with the musical theme. Saying I loved his writing style is old news, though. Really, I got sucked into Blade’s story. I wanted the best for him, and while I wasn’t raised in a mansion in Hollywood Hills, I can relate to it seeming like I have everything when people don’t really know what’s going on underneath.
What I didn’t like about this book was that his relationship at the end was left without closure. I spent the second half of the book wondering how they’d make it work from across the globe, and whether she’d give up her simple lifestyle for a Hollywood one.
Book 13 of 40
by Sharon Creech
AR Level 4.4, 3 points
Moo is about a brother and sister who move from a big city to rural Maine with their parents, who are looking for a change. Their mother offers them to a woman named Mrs. Falala, who needs help taking care of her cow, a feisty former prize winner. The siblings are at first afraid of Mrs. Falala and her animals, but quickly fall in love with the farm, and learn that things aren’t always what they appear.
What I liked about this book was the fact that it was partially written in concrete poetry and prose, and partially in standard paragraph, narrative form. I liked the mixture, and while I’ve read many books written in prose, it was a nice contrast to see both forms in the same novel.
What I didn’t like about this book was that I got a little bored at times. I do not blame the book, though. I blame the fact that I’ve only read young adult books lately, and this did not have romance or anything depressing in it, so it didn’t move as quickly for me. I need to diversify my to read list!
Book 60 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
Home of the Brave (paperback)
by Katherine Applegate
AR Level 3.5, 3 points
Kek is a refugee from Africa (Sudan, I believe). He has lost his mother, brother, father, and his whole life as he knew it. The story begins with him arriving in Montana, a white state (due to the snow), and we realize Kek has a lot to learn about life in America and the English language. He takes everything literally, and relies on his friend, cousin, and sponsor to teach him about his new culture. Kek makes friends with a cow, which leads him to a job. Throughout the story, we are hoping for word on Kek’s mom, who was lost during the war, and assumed dead. There are sad parts, happy parts, funny parts, and parts that need to be shared with people who want to ban refugees.
What I liked about this book was that Applegate wrote the whole thing in prose! I’ve never read aloud a book written in prose before, so it was a fun read aloud. My sixth graders appreciated his mistakes and misunderstandings due to the language barrier. There are parts that made us laugh out loud, and parts that made us want to cry. It is very emotional.
What I didn’t like about this book was that there could have been more to it. I felt like Kek was believable as a character, but there could have been more to his story. The end is feel-good, but I’m not sure how realistic it was.
Book 55 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
Paper Hearts (paperback)
by Meg Wiviott
AR Level 4.3, 3 points
Paper Hearts is told from multiple perspectives, but both girls are similar, being Jewish, multi-lingual, and alone in a concentration camp. Both came from good families and lost their families to the Germans. They become friends and help each other through their time in Auschwitz.
What I liked about this book is it is another perspective of the Holocaust. If this is a time period we don’t want to be forgotten (lest we repeat history), books such as Paper Hearts will teach our children the horrors and hopelessness (or hopefulness) of the Holocaust. I also liked that it was written in prose.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it was kind of slow. I also felt like the 2 main characters whose perspectives the story was told from weren’t different enough to sound like individuals. In fact, the girls blended together, and I often didn’t know which girl I was reading about. Most of the time, in fact.
Book 37 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)