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
The Thing About Jellyfish (ebook)
by Ali Benjamin
AR Level 5.0, 7 points
The Thing About Jellyfish is a story of heartache, mourning, science, and growth. Suzy’s best friend drowns before the story begins, and Suzy has flashbacks to their happy times. She also shows us when they started to drift apart, and finally when they were no longer friends. Suzy has also decided to stop talking, despite her family’s efforts and support of her. She has the idea that her friend was actually stung by a deadly jellyfish instead of drowning, and Suzy begins researching jellyfish and decides to travel to Australia to meet the scientist she believes can help her prove her theory.
What I liked about this book is that it includes so much scientific background, and the chapters are based around the scientific method. Any science enthusiast will appreciate this aspect. I personally learned a lot about jellyfish. The author did a lot of research and based the scientists and several events and locations on real people. It isn’t just a compelling story, but it will also teach its readers a thing or two about science.
What I didn’t like about this book is that it was frustrating that the other girls at Suzy’s school were so mean. I wanted to stop reading at certain parts, because some of the kids were inhumane (murdering a frog?). It was also really sad, and I’m sure if someone has lost a friend or family member suddently, it would be even more upsetting.
Book 32 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)
The Fourteenth Goldfish (hardcover)
by Jennifer Holm
AR Level 4.1, 4 points
The Fourteenth Goldfish is the story of a girl named Ellie and her grandfather. Ellie lives with her mom, a nutty high school drama teacher, and is mourning the loss of her best friend to the volleyball team, as well as her goldfish. In the beginning, we learn her mother replaced the goldfish each time it died. The fourteenth goldfish is when the lesson is learned. Her moody grandfather comes to live with them after being arrested. The only thing is, he has been transformed from an old man into a teenage boy. As a scientist, he has invented something similar to a fountain of youth, and tested it on himself. Ellie has to help her grandfather adjust to being a teenager again, while dealing with being without her best friend. She also learns some science along the way, which sparks her interest in famous scientists like Marie Curie and Jonas Salk. It seems that in the end, each character learns a lesson about life and grows a little as a person.
What I liked about this book is that it piqued my interest in famous scientists. It snuck science education into a cute, feel-good story about a girl and her grandfather, almost tricking a student to learn, which is my favorite thing about good literature. Aside from rich characters, of course. This story doesn’t stand out as having rich, well-developed characters, but that’s not to say they aren’t sufficiently developed. Ellie walks the line between science (her grandfather) and fantasy (her mother), and finds a healthy mix of both.
What I didn’t like about this book is that it wasn’t challenging reading. Or maybe that’s what I did like, because some of my lower readers will still enjoy a fourth grade reading level book while learning science at the same time. The cover is quite attractive, and it has the tagline “Believe in the
impossible possible,” making me think there was more to it, but there really wasn’t. It was a cute story, but not too deep.
I would recommend this book to someone who didn’t like Tuck Everlasting but is interested in the pros and cons of eternal youth.
Book 7 of 40 (year 2)