Monday, January 6, 2014

What the Heart Knows

Kids everywhere would really appreciate it if this book won the Newbery. Pretty much every kid
(except me) tries to find the shortest book possible for their Newbery book report, and I read this one in only fifteen minutes. However, books of poetry rarely win. Although the poems in this collection are thought-provoking and charming, I don't think that they are special enough for this book to win against the stellar middle-grade novels that are typically chosen. The topics of the poems are many and varied, but the writing style is consistent and high quality. This book also contains beautiful illustrations that make it more interesting, but only the text of a book can be considered when it is being discussed (unless other aspects detract from the text).

Rating: ****

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Center of Everything


As I have been reading this novel, it was know in my mind and to those around me as "the donut book", and that is the reflection of a great first line!  "In the beginning there was the donut", starts this novel, and I was amused, and interested from the start.  Ruby, had a major regret, something that kids and adults can identify with.  Ruby's desire to make things that way they are "supposed to be" drove the story.  We all spend endless time trying to follow rules, and achieve to make things the way they are supposed to be, this novel give us a chance to consider if that is the best use of life.  I liked the story, with our without my new title, but even it is not my lead for the Newbery it is worth a read for kids and adults!  And eating donuts while you read could not hurt! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles


The Newbery rarely goes to a nonfiction book, which matches my preference for fiction reading in general. One of the barriers for Courage Has No Color's change to win the Newbery is that the criteria doesn't allow for appreciating of the value of pictures:
The committee is to make its decision primarily on the text. Other components of a book, such as illustrations, overall design of the book, etc., may be considered when they make the book less effective. 
This book is heavy on photos and they are important to moving the reader's understanding forward.  I am the daughter of a US history teacher, so I hear about history a lot. I like history, so I was somewhat hopeful that I would enjoy this view on a rarely told part of our history. Even though it probably taught me something about a group of soldiers that aren't as well known as they should be, this book did not interest me the way I want a Newbery to draw me in. My older brother Matthew's favorite books are nonfiction war stories, so maybe he would have liked it more. Even so, this book didn't excite me they way I had hoped it would; it read too much like a textbook and unlike a story. Maybe in a few years, what I learned will show up in a history essay, but I highly doubt this book will get its own Newbery speech.

Rating: *****

Thursday, November 7, 2013

More about Wonder


I was recently asked to comment on this article about Wonder by RJ Palacio. My thoughts:

I think that the book is still amazing and wonderful for its kindness and respect, and one word should not change that. I very much dislike words like the r-word and the h-word, and racial slurs like the n-word and slurs about homosexuality like the f-word. That aside, it is sometimes appropriate to use them in literature because they can be a powerful part of a story and a message. Words appropriate in literature are not always appropriate in conversation. I can imagine many reasons that the author would have intentionally used the r-word, and even though the word is not acceptable in everyday conversation, some of those reasons would have justified the use of the word in my opinion. However, the reason that the author gives is lacking. Sometimes people are not the best that they can be, but there are many other words that Auggie could have used to convey his point, even with regard to the fact that he is a modern preteen; if the author was trying to make a point, she could have allowed Auggie's mother to correct him. But maybe part of the point was that the mother and child DIDN'T chose appropriate words because things like that happen in real life. Sometimes unpleasant words and actions are a part of great lives and great books, so I don't necessarily avoid books that use inappropriate words as long as the overall message is positive. Wonder is a great book, and I think it should definitely still be read because it presents a message of kindness, respect and empathy towards everyone.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

P.S. Be Eleven

I absolutely adored One Crazy Summer, and I have been anxiously awaiting its sequel. The chance to spend more time with Rita Williams Garcia’s amazing characters Delphine, Vonetta and Fern is totally worth the wait. Like One Crazy Summer, this book is not only great because of its story and writing, but also because it lets the reader see the world in a new and bigger way. This makes us all better people. While reading One Crazy Summer, I was fascinated by the world of the black panthers (which put me farther ahead of the game in history classJ). This book was more about growing up and family relationships, but the time period and historical aspects still played an important role. I hope you all spend more time visiting Delphine, Vonetta and Fern, because it will be worth it!

Rating: *****

Saturday, July 27, 2013

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet

I was initially drawn to this book because of its bright cover and unique format. I loved the idea of dull homework assignments transforming into an interesting chronicle of finding who you really are. Ratchet's story shows her journey from the embarrassed girl who wants to "Get Charmed" and be more like her mom into so much more. So much of growing up has to do with your family and this story took on the issues that come from parents in an interesting way.  As a writer I like the idea of a book that uses a atypical format to tell a story.  As a reader, I liked Ratchet's story.  I would recommend this book for pretty much anyone (as a bonus, it has been proven [by me] to be great reading material for doctors visits because the sections are short enough that you can get one in before you're pulled away again).  I am not sure what the Newbery judges will think, but I hope they too are drawn to this fabulous.

Rating: *****

Sunday, July 14, 2013

True Blue Scouts of the Sugar Man Swamp

You shouldn't necessarily trust my review of this book because it is sure to be biased.  After all, it was written by my very own fairy book-mother, the amazing Kathi Appelt.  Thankfully, there are other reviewers out there that share my opinion.  The New York Times published a rave review.  I, of course, agree completely. I can chime in that I am totally in LOVE with how all of the different pieces and parts of story lines were woven together by the end.  I have a deeper love for the scouts because I had the amazing chance to see several drafts of the Sugar Man, from when it was a stack of papers held together by a binder clip to the final, published book.  It was like the world's greatest lesson in writing.  Really, at some point a publisher should print a book that shows the drafts and processes; it would give great hope to students everywhere who struggle with the revision process!  So, listen to me and the NYT, run to your local book store and fall in love with True Blue Scouts of the Sugar Man Swamp.  On a related note, it has to be considered a Newbery contender.
And once you read and love this book, you are sure to love all of her other books, past and future, for she is an amazing fairy book-mother, but an even
better author.