Week 8, Ash by Malinda Lo

Week 8, Ash by Malinda Lo

Lo, M. (2009). Ash. New York: Little, Brown and Co.

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Reading with a sleepy puppy!

Summary:

Ash, the main character, has just suffered through her father’s death and is left to fend for herself with her cruel and violent stepmother. To heal her grief, Ash spends her time rereading fairy tales her mother once told her. One day, Ash meets a dangerous fairy named Sidhean, who can grant wishes for a price. Next thing Ash knows, she meets another impactful soul Kaisa, the King’s Huntress who begins to change Ash’s heart. Eventually, she must make a choice. Who and what will she choose? Her fairy tale dream or the possibility of true love?

Keywords: fairies; huntress; fairy tales; true love; Cinderella

What I Think:

 

I very much enjoyed this retold fairy tale for a two different reasons. First of all, I can always appreciate and enjoy a plot or story that is familiar to me, especially if it is familiar from childhood. This book, Ash, has many similarities to the classic version of the fairy tale, Cinderella. For example, both stories have a character who is truly an evil stepmother. similarity of characters to cinderella. “The candlelight beneath Lady Isobel’s face made her look like a monster. Her lip curled in anger and she said, ‘You have been absent all day and you expect no punishment? Come her!'” (Lo, 2009, p. 70). This is said directly before Ash is shoved into a dark cellar to be alone in the cold for the night.

I also enjoyed this retold fairy tale because it included twists and turns that the original or traditional version of Cinderella  did not include. For example, Ash does not have a fairy godmother like in Cinderella  but rather a dark fairy named Sidhean. This fairy does not grant Ash wishes just to be kind and helpful, yet has his own agenda. This is confirmed when Ash inquires if there is a price to pay for her wish to be granted and Sidhean responds, “There is a price for everything, Aisling” (p. 162). This makes the decision Ash has to make even more intense knowing that, in return, Ash will belong to Sidhean. This intensity attracted me to the book and kept my attention so that I finished it quickly!

What the Experts Think:

An unexpected reimagining of the Cinderella tale, exquisite and pristine, unfolding deliberately. Aisling—Ash—knows the fairy stories and lore told her by her now-dead mother, but she does not know if she believes them. When her father dies and her stepmother and stepsisters move her away from the Wood to the City, she finds herself returning to her mother’s grave, where she meets the fairy Sidhean. Ash barely notes her harsh treatment at the hands of her stepfamily, as she both longs for and fears her glimpses of Sidhean. He longs for her, too, in ways she is slow to understand. Ash also is slow to see Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, as the source of her own desire. When she does, Ash turns to Sidhean to make it possible for her to spend time with Kaisa, despite the price Ash knows she will have to pay. Ash and Kaisa’s dance at the King’s Ball is a wild and gorgeous moment, no less so than the night Ash must spend in Sidhean’s Wood. Beautiful language magically wrought; beautiful storytelling magically told. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Little, B. (2009). Ash. Kirkus Reviews.
Classroom Recommendations:

In order to use retold fairy tales to engage readers, I would first inquire about if Cinderella was a fairy tales the readers were exposed to. I would want to determine if this fairy tale would be of interest to the students to revisit and reconnect with from their childhoods.  Next, I would allow the students to read a short, picture book version of the fairy tale to refresh their memories about the fairy tale. Additional activities could also be implemented to remind the students of the fairy tale, like sequencing or retelling. Finally, I would engage the students in the book, Ash, while guiding the reader to compare and contrast this story to the picture book version read. I find that analyzing the similarities and differences between the classic and retold fairy tales can be engaging to discover. Finally, after reading Ash and comparing it to the picture book version, I would allow the students to watch the movie version and add this to the comparison of the other versions. I think it would be interesting both for the student as well as for myself to discover the similarities and differences between all of these different versions of the same story!

Week 7, Feed by M.T. Anderson

WEEK 7, Feed by M.T. Anderson

Anderson, M. T. (2002). Feed [CD]. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.

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Finishing the last few chapters actually reading and not listening! Phew!

Summary:

In this strange, disturbing, futuristic world you will find teenagers following the typical stereotype – traveling to the moon to party on spring break, disrespecting adults, and even becoming consumed and essentially brainwashed by the commercial advertisements constantly playing on the feed.  It is almost haunting as a reader to follow the characters in their boring day to day lives which are consumed by the feed telling them what to do, buy and eat. One day, a particularly rebellious and unique teen, Violet, winds up in some serious trouble as her feed shuts down and malfunctions with nobody willing to fix it. Why does this society not want a unique teen like Violet?  Follow along as this dreary dreadful world gets turned on its side.

Keywords: advertisements; implants; lesions; futuristic; friendship

What I Think:

This is another book that I decided to listen to instead of read because I knew I would have to spend a lot of time in the car driving for this week. Although this might have been a coincidence, I was definitely glad I made the decision to listen instead of read. One of the reasons I feel this way is because of the format of the book. At the end of many of the chapters are some weird excepts that appear to be advertisements. For example, there is an advertisement for a radio station, hit song, and restaurant (Lo, 2009, p. 15). These advertisements are meant to show exactly what the characters in the book experience through their implanted feeds that basically take over their lives. I felt that reading these ads would not have given me the same great experience as I had listening to them. By hearing the ads, I could actually experience how the feed would feel and sound as a character in the book, instead of just reading and imagining what it would be like. This allowed me to relate better with the characters. However, regardless if a person reads or listens to the book, the advertisements give the book a unique and interesting structure.

One reason that I did not enjoy listening to this book was because of the person reading the different characters’ voices. There was only one reader, a man, attempting to do all voices in the book. However, when a girl was speaking, this reader sounded almost a bit offensive, like a silly valley girl. Although this is not related to the actual text or content of the book, it was simply an observation and one downside to the audio version of such a great book.

What the Experts Think:

In this strange, disturbing future world, teens travel to the moon for spring break, live in stacked-up neighborhoods with artificial blue sky, and are bombarded by a constant advertising and media blitz through their feeds. They live with a barrage of greed and superficiality, which only one teen, Violet, tries to fight. Intrigued by Violet’s uniqueness, Titus begins a relationship with her in spite of his peers’ objections. Yet even he cannot sustain the friendship as her feed malfunctions and she begins to shut down. “They” refuse to repair her feed because she is too perceptive and rebellious. This didactic, also very disturbing book plays on every negative teen stereotype. The young people are bored unthinking pawns of commercialism, speaking only in obnoxious slang, ignoring or disrespecting the few adults around. The future is vapid and without direction. Yet many teens will feel a haunting familiarity about this future universe. As a cautionary tale, the story works; it is less successful as YA literature. — Frances Bradburn

Bradburn, F. (2002). Feed. The Booklist, 240.
Classroom Recommendations:

In the classroom, I would use this book to talk about dystopian societies and how they might come about. Many great discussions could be prompted by this book. Additionally, I would have my students create an advertisement that they think might appear on the characters’ feeds. This could be an advertisement that would make sense in the context of the book or even an advertisement for the characters to actually read the book, Feed. The students could be creative with this assignment while also having to know about the book to create an accurate advertisement. Students could choose to use a video, podcast, digital story or other form of media for their advertisement on the feed. After creating these advertisements, the students could share these with their peers!

Week 6, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

WEEK 6, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 2.20.05 PMHartman, R. (2012). Seraphina: A novel [CD]. New York, NY: Random House.

Summary:
This enchanting fantasy novel meshes the human and dragon world as the 4oth anniversary of peace between the two species approaches.  In this world, humans and dragons live amongst each other, dragons even folding themselves to look like humans on occasion. Even though 40 years have gone by in peace, tensions grow as Prince Rufus is found beheaded, a typical sign of death by dragon. Seraphina, a half-dragon, half-human with a past meant to be kept hidden, has no choice but to get involved with the investigation of Prince Rufus’ death at Prince Lucian’s request. Will she be able to keep her musical talent and her secret past hidden and protected?

Keywords: dragons; humans; silver blood; red blood; musical talent

What I Think:

Unlike most books that I have discussed on this blog, I was not a huge fan of this one. First of all, a dark fantasy book revolving around a conflict between dragons and humans simply isn’t my style. Due to this, I found the book hard to follow and had to continue to re-listen to multiple tracks on the CD. I should have chosen to read the book in print in order to avoid this, but I could still foresee me having to look back and reread pages and sections of the book in order to fully comprehend. Because of having to reread or re-listen, it took a lot longer for me to listen to this book than it has for others in the past. For these reasons, I thought the book was hard to follow and conclusively unenjoyable.

Although I did not personally enjoy this book, it did include some excellent descriptive language. “It was as if I had been watching the world through oiled parchment or smoked glass, which was yanked abruptly away. Everything grew very clear and bright; the music burst forth in majesty; we stood still and the room turned around us; and there was Kiggs, right in the middle of all of it, laughing” (Hartman, 2012, Chapter 17)*. This shows an example of how the narrator uses descriptive language to illustrate a situation. Therefore, excerpts from this novel would be a great model for students who often struggle to add descriptive details.

*Page numbers are not included because I listened to this book on CD and was not able to obtain a print copy.

What the Experts Think:

Hartman proves dragons are still fascinating in this impressive high fantasy. After 40 years of peace between human and dragon kingdoms, their much-maligned treaty is on the verge of collapse. Tensions are already high with an influx of dragons, reluctantly shifted to human forms, arriving for their ruler Ardmagar Comonot’s anniversary. But when Prince Rufus is found murdered in the fashion of dragons – that is, his head has been bitten off – things reach a fever pitch. Seraphina, a gifted court musician, wants only to go unnoticed as the investigation draws close: she is the unthinkable, a human-dragon half-breed, and her secret must be protected. But when Prince Lucían Kiggs asks for her help with the murder investigation, she has no choice but to become involved, even if Kiggs’ acute perceptiveness is a danger to her. Equal parts political thriller, murder mystery, bittersweet romance, and coming-of-age story, this is an uncommonly good fantasy centered upon an odd but lovable heroine who narrates in a well-educated diction with an understated, flippant tone. Fantasy readers young and old who appreciate immersion into a rich new culture will not mind the novel’s slow build, especially as it takes wing and hurtles toward the stratosphere. This is an exciting new series to watch. – Krista Hutley

Hutley, K. (2012). Seraphina. The Booklist, 108(18), 62.
Classroom Recommendations:

As I mentioned in the section titled “What I Think”, this novel had excellent descriptive details so that the reader could truly visualize characters, settings and events taking place during the plot. Conclusively, I would challenge students in my classroom to recreate this novel in the form of a visual representation. This could be in the form of a cartoon, graphic novel, or even video.

For example, if my students wanted to create a graphic novel form of this book, I would have the students create a summary of each of the chapters in graphic novel form to then turn into a full summary of the actual book. This could be done with a graphic novel as well as any other form of visual representation. This activity would encourage and require creativity in order to match to the descriptive details in the novel.

Week 5, El Deafo by Cece Bell

WEEK 5, El Deafo by Cece Bell

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Reading one of my favorite scenes featuring El Deafo, the SUPERHERO!

Bell, C. (2014). El deafo. New York, NY: Abrams.

Summary:
If you thought elementary school was hard simply with the challenges of making friends and avoiding bullies, this graphic novel will make you think twice. El Deafby Cece Bell takes the reader through the ups and downs of a little girl who becomes hard of hearing at an early age after recovering from meningitis. Cece has to overcome the struggles of being a little girl (or bunny in this case) who has wires sticking out of her ears, hearing aids. Her classmates and friends notice these dissimilarities and treat her differently than other classmates throughout her years. However, when Cece figures out that her differences can actually be something positive, like a microphone into the world of teachers, she discovers that she can be a superhero to all her classmates and friends afterall!

Keywords: deaf; hearing aids; the Phonic ear; superhero; friends

What I Think:

As my first graphic novel, I really enjoyed this story about a little girl going through the struggles of being deaf and having to be introduced to technology like a hearing aid. I enjoyed this book because of how relatable the main character was, while also having one major difference from most readers, hearing problems. For example, as many can relate, the main character, Cece, often jots down notes and thoughts about life, like a pros and cons chart, a list of facts about a cute boy, or even a common sleepover packing list. “Packing list: cute pj’s, toothpaste (possibly just for show), toothbrush, sleeping bag, clean shirt for tomorrow, pill-pill, extra hearing aid batteries (I do NOT want to run down and miss everything!!!), lean underwear, socks, Miss Bunn (may need to keep hidden??), birthday present for Ginny!” (Bell, 2014, p. 87). Even though this action and other events in Cece’s life are relatable, she still goes through unique experiences that can be diverse for readers, like sign language classes.

I also enjoyed this book because of the structure as a graphic novel. This structure allows the reader to experience dialogue and conversations the way a person who is deaf would experience it while also viewing the context of the setting and situation. Without being a graphic novel, the author would not be able to demonstrate this experience. For example, during a sign language class, the batteries in Cece’s hearing aids die (p. 109). This is represented by the words in the quote bubbles slowly fading until nothing is left but blank space. This scene allows the reader to experience exactly what it would be like to be in class listening when all of a sudden there is nothing there to hear. This scene would be a lot more difficult to illustrate through a traditional novel. For scenes like this with dying hearing aids, the structure of a graphic novel is best.

What the Experts Say:

When cartoonist Bell was four years old, a case of meningitis left her severely deaf. In this graphic memoir, she tells readers about the friends and family who help her adjust, the frustration she feels when learning to communicate, and the devices she uses to assist her hearing, most notably the Phonic Ear, a large machine that connects to a microphone her teachers wear and amplifies sounds in her hearing aids. Aside from making school easier, the Phonic Ear gives Bell a superpower: when her teachers forget to doff the microphone, she can still hear them anywhere in the school (including the bathroom!). She keeps her newfound superpower a secret and daydreams about being El Deafo, a super alter ego whose deafness makes her powerful. Bell’s bold and blocky full-color cartoons perfectly complement her childhood stories-she often struggles to fit in and sometimes experiences bullying, but the cheerful illustrations promise a sunny future. This empowering autobiographical story belongs right next to Raina Telgemeier’s Smile (2011) and Liz Prince’s Tomboy, reviewed on page 58. -Sarah Hunter

 Hunter, S. (2014). El deafo. The Booklist, 110(22), 57.
Classroom Recommendations:

Although this falls under the title of graphic novel, it also represents an autobiography as Cece tells her story about going through school as a person with a hearing disability. This book would be a great prompt and introduction for students to unique points of views or perspectives of everyday lives.

As an additional project to add to the discussion about unique perspectives, students could be challenged to write about the everyday struggles of others from different perspectives, like someone with a visual impairment, learning disability, or even nontraditional family. Students could do research on what it would like to live the life of someone different from themselves by talking to others in the actual situation, reading books about the situation or disability, and even searching on the internet for videos and journals from the perspective of people in that situation. After researching, the students could then create their own graphic novel to represent that unique perspective. For example, if a student wanted to write from the point of view of someone who was blind, the student could interview someone who is blind, watch videos about how people with blindness maneuver through busy sidewalks, and read about the accommodations for those that are hard of seeing. Then, the student would create a graphic novel (or simply write a story in this situation) from the perspective of a blind person.

Week 4, Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw

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Late Night Reading: Can you spot the puppy snuggled on the blankets in the background?

WEEK 4, Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw

Burcaw, S. (2014). Laughing at my nightmare. New York, NY: Roaring Brook Press.

Summary:
This biography is about the life of a man bound by a wheelchair since the age of two after being diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy. The book recounts hilarious memories of everyday struggles from the eyes of a man who started a blog about his hilarious life. Events include ones that only someone with spinal muscular atrophy would encounter, like the time his head falls all the way backwards and gets stuck in the middle of class.  The memoir also retells everyday tussles, like attempting to flirt with females in order to find a girlfriend. You won’t be disappointed when you follow this inspiring yet hilarious young man’s story as he experiences everyday life in a not-so-normal way.

Keywords: wheelchair; blog; muscles failing; relationship turmoil

What I Think:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book because of the humuourous light it shed on a unfortunate and potentially bleak situation. I can’t count on my hands and feet how many times I laughed or felt like I couldn’t stop reading the account of this man’s story because of the humor found within the events. For example, during a presentation in class one day, Shane’s mouth began to freeze up as his muscles began to tire. “It got really bad really fast, and I could tell from my classmates’ faces that nobody could understand me anymore. Then I made the situation worse” (p. 146). This embarrassing yet hilarious event is just one of the many that ends with the reader in hysterics along with the characters.

I also think this book is a great real life account of a relatable person but with a very unique background, such as a physical disability. It is so important that today’s youth be exposed to all types of people, backgrounds, cultures, religions and more. This book adds to this sort of collection and provides a fresh new perspective on life as a young adult and beyond.

What the Experts Say:

Burcaw has spent most of his life in a wheelchair with progressively debilitating spinal muscular atrophy, but instead of soberly presenting the ups and downs of a potentially bleak existence, he pens an uplifting, laugh-out-loud memoir that calls out the absurdity of his circumstances and the joy he finds in the everyday. He shares such universal moments as cops-and-robbers games in preschool, as well as more unique, intimate details of his physical reality, such as the demands of excretion, or how he pursues a healthy young-adult sex life when he is keenly aware that his weakening neck can’t quite hold up his head. Quick-witted Burcaw demonstrates mastery in expressing accessible insights that are well padded in humor, as well as a realistic awareness of his situation leavened by tongue-in-cheek hyperbole, none of which gives way to offputting egoism or navel gazing. Burcaw’s smart, gracious, and funny take on his life is an object lesson in positivity, and this eloquently written and moving memoir would easily find a home in both adult and youth collections. -Francisca Goldsmith

Goldsmith, F. (2014). Laughing at my nightmare. The Booklist, 111(6), 35.

Classroom Recommendations:

This book would be great to include in an important persons’ study with the whole class. Different groups of students could read different biographies and memoirs of people in unfortunate or underprivileged situations similar to Shane’s. Then, the students could hold a discussion to compare and contrast the different perspectives and how each person recounts their personal story. For example, those reading Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw would point out that although the narrator experiences many hardships and awkward situations, he never fails to find the humor in the situation and ultimately his own humility.

This book would also be great to kick off a writing project with students where they would create their own blogs from their own unique perspectives. The author of Laughing at My Nightmare, Shane Burcaw, has a blog where he continuously recounts his life events in hilarity. Students could use his blog and this book as an inspiration and a model for their own personal accounts of their lives on a blog of their own.

Week 3, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

WEEK 3, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Zusak, M. (2006). The book thief [CD]. Mexico: Random House.

Summary:
This historically rooted book dives into Nazi Germany, only this time exploring the life of a foster girl names Liesel Meminger. The book explores the ups and downs of a girl living with a family with members unsupportive of Adolf Hitler yet just trying to get by unnoticed. Things change when a Jewish friend of Liesel’s foster father comes to stay, and hide, during the WWII events. As if the setting isn’t downcast enough, the story is actually narrated by Death itself. The readers gets to hear and experience how Death sees the events occurring and also has to opportunity to observe the Book Thief in action.

Keywords: all about books; Nazis; death; WWII; history

What I Think:

One positive aspect of this book is how different it is from other books. This book is told from the perspective of death. In the beginning before part I, it takes the reader some time to figure out exactly who is telling the story because the narrator begins by describing colors. Eventually, the reader makes an inference based on the clues in the text and discovers that it is indeed Death who is telling the story. For example, in the prologue the narrator says, “If suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A color will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away” (p. 10). This clue leads us to believe that the narrator takes souls off the Earth. This can be confirmed when the narrator makes the joking comment about not being the grim reaper but often being called that name and playing that role. For this reason, this book would be great to actually use with the students in a classroom, even if it wasn’t the entire book. Although reading the entire book would be valuable for the embedded history, I would focus on the idea of telling a story from different perspectives and how the viewpoint can truly effect a story.

What the Experts Say:

The book concerns a young German girl, the titular thief, whose family hides a Jew in their house during World War II. The narrator is Death (yes, that Death), and even though he tells you in advance who won’t survive the war, it’s still a complete punch in the gut when it happens.

Lurye, S. (2012, Sep 13). The book thief. Reader

Classroom Recommendations:

This book is obviously a book that should be tied to history. In the classroom, I would connect the book to the events happening in WWII at the time. For example, the book talks about The Night of Broken Glass and how Liesel experienced this huge event. It is important to investigate this event and others in the book so that the students are familiar with the setting of Nazi Germany and the context of WWII.

Secondly, I would use this book in the classroom to learn about viewpoints and perspectives. One interesting thing about this book is that it is told from the viewpoint of Death. I would be curious to find out from my students how this book might change if it was told from different viewpoints, like Adolf Hitler, Rudy or even Max Vandenberg.

Students could also participate in an activity of actually re-writing an excerpt or chapter from a different perspective. To tie the book back into history, the students could even choose a true event listed in the book, research this event, and then write about it from a completely different viewpoint not even mentioned in the book. This would tie the literature to the true events of history and WWII.

Week 2, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

WEEK 2 PART 2, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Chbosky, S., (1999). The Perks of Being a WallflowerNew York, NY: Gallery Books.

Summary:

51GuzoWiFpL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThis classic idea of alienation and peer rejection comes into full swing in this novel as it dives into Charlie’s first year of high school. Charlie, who is still struggling from his best friend’s suicide and other traumatic incidences of his past, finds it difficult to make friends, until he meets two seniors named Sam and Patrick. Once the group clicks, Charlie is in for a ride as he tries drugs, alcohol and even relationships for the first time. Throughout the ups and downs of this experience with his new friends and some trouble with family members, he emerges as a more mature man ready to take on the world and be a part of life!

Keywords: letters; freshman year; close friends; confusing feelings

What I Think:

After hearing all the hype about this book and movie, I was excited to dive into the literature a few years later. The more I read, the more I realized how relatable this book was to any and all of us. Even as a graduate student years beyond high school, I can still look back and bring up similar situations and confusing feelings similar to Charlie’s experience. This reliability is the reason I would recommend this book to young adults. The book is relatable to young adults by allowing the audience to experience Charlie’s life as he develops friendships and experiences unwanted feelings. Charlie has a hard enough time as a freshman student, let alone when his emotions get mixed up and confusing. “And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be” (p. 2). This frustration and confusion can be seen throughout the book. Another quote that stood out to me said, “I turned around and walked to my room and closed my door and put my head under my pillow and let the quiet put things where they are supposed to be” (p. 28). Even today, I could repeat this quote after an exhausting day, as if I’ve lost all control of the good and bad around me. I think this is a feeling many young adults experience as they are trying to sort through life. With many more quotes like those, this book is an excellent inspiration and outlet for young adults everywhere.

What the Experts Say:

MTV Books has published The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012; Gr 9 Up) with an eye-catching movie-poster cover featuring the trio of stars (a hardcover edition with the original jacket has also been reissued). Written as letters to an unidentified “Dear Friend,” 15-year-old Charlie’s straightforward narrative is filled with innocence and insight. Still reeling from the recent suicide of his best friend, Charlie skates alone on the edge of the social pond, until he is reeled in by two independent-minded seniors who value him for who he is (in fact, it’s Patrick who identifies him as a wallflower, explaining, “You see things. You keep quiet about them. You understand”). Though it’s a tough year—filled with family crises (including his sister’s unwanted pregnancy), ever-changing relationships (his head-over-heels feelings for Sam, his first girlfriend, a best friend who is gay), exposure to drugs and alcohol, and his own breakdown and recovery (sparked by difficult revelations about his childhood)—Charlie emerges all the stronger, ready to step out of his role as observer and participate in life. Events both heart-wrenching and high-flying are described with honesty, humor, and a spot-on adolescent perspective. YAs will find much to relate to here, as they begin to explore and ponder their own place in the world. This edition ends with a reading group guide, and a list of discussion questions is available at Simon & Schuster’s website. Teens may also be interested in exploring some of the works that are recommended to Charlie by his teacher (each of which affects him deeply), including J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

Fleishhacker, J. (2012). The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Other Tales of Teen Angst and Alienation [Review]. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2012/08/collection-development/read-watch-alikes/the-perks-of-being-a-wallflower-and-other-tales-of-teen-angst-and-alienation/

Classroom Recommendations:

This book is written in an interesting format. The entire book is structured as if Charlie was writing letters to an anonymous person. Therefore, there could be many interesting activities used with this type of book and format. First of all, students could write and even send their own letters to an anonymous person, detailing their everyday lives. The students could send the letters to a pen pal, former teacher, long distance friend or even relative. Another activity using this book that could be fun for students would be to have them write letters actually responding to Charlie. Each student in the classroom would pretend he or she received one of the letters in the book, then must respond to Charlie giving him advice and expanding on what he wrote. Both of these activities would give students practice with their informal writing as well as setting up and formatting a friendly letter.

Week 2, Romiette and Julio by Sharon M. Draper

266668WEEK 2 PART 1, Romiette and Julio by Sharon M. Draper

Draper, S. M., (1999). Romiette and Julio. New York, NY: Antheneum Books for Young Readers.

Summary:

This modern version of the classic story of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette brings in current day issues such as gangs and interracial romances. Julio is the new kid in a Cincinnati high school after moving from Texas to get away from the gangs there. After a rough first day, he logs onto his chatroom to decompress, where he meets a girl that he seems to click with. Soon, Julio and this chatroom girl, Romiette, realize they share much in common, including the same high school! All is well, until one of the local gangs gets word of the interracial couple, and takes steps to break them apart. Although Roomette and Julio stand strong against these gang members, they end up finding themselves in more trouble than they could have dreamed.

Keywords: Gangs; High School; Hispanic Americans; African Americans; Romance

What I Think:

Like my first review of a book, this is another one that I would want to have in my library. This fun and modern twist on the classic is a fast-paced romance that quickly turns into a thriller. First of all, I liked this book for the depth of the content and the themes that flow through the book. This book follows an interracial romance that causes a huge stir in their school, simply because the two people are different. Not only do students at the school feel concerned about an interracial couple, but even Julio’s dad is weary of him dating an African American female as he says, “Julio, you’re not getting too involved with that girl are you? I don’t like it” (Draper, 1999, p. 114) He then goes on to say, “I have had a fear of black people since then, and what they can do. I will not allow you to develop a relationship with one of those people!”  (p. 116). This idea of treating people differently because of their race or other differences pops up throughout the book and is a theme that can truly be pondered by the reader and discussed with others.

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My puppy helping me read Romiette’s Journal

I also enjoyed this book because of the variety of types of text throughout. Each chapter has a different format. Some chapters are the traditional format of a fictional novel. Other chapters take different forms. For example, chapters two(p. 3) and eighteen(p. 69) are in the format of Romiette’s diary. Chapters seven(p. 28) and eight(p. 33) are in varying chat room formats. Other chapters can even be in the form of a TV newscast. “TV Six has been investigating the increase of gang actvity in our schools and our city” (p. 172) This variety in the chapters draws in the reader’s attention even further and gives the reader multiple perspectives of the story.

What the Experts Say:

Romiette and Julio by Sharon Draper is a modern-day take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. We first meet Romiette Cappelle through her journal as she writes about her fear of drowning and her recurring nightmares. Julio Montague is a new student, angry at leaving Corpus Christi, Texas, for Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. The two are introduced through an online chat room where they quickly discover they have much in common, including their school. A local gang, the Devildogs, threatens the budding romance between Romiette, an African American girl, and Julio, a Hispanic boy. Together with their friends Ben and Destiny, the couple decide not to report the gang’s increasingly serious threats to the authorities or their parents. As a result they become caught in a horrifying chain of events, putting their lives at risk.

Zonnenberg, A. (2002). Romiette and Julio. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 45(7), 660-661.

Classroom Recommendations:

In the classroom, I would use this book to spark discussions about the deep seeded issues and themes within. I recommend having students answer questions and talk with their peers on issues related to gangs, interracial romances, moving schools, or even simply the idea of treating people differently just because of their differences.

This book would also be great to incorporate into writing projects. Students could be encouraged to write their own version of the classic tale, Romeo and Juliette after reading both the Shakespeare version and Sharon Draper’s version. Students could also be prompted to take this book and re-write it into play format so that it could be acted out for the school or even just with a Reader’s Theater activity.

Week 1, The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

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Reading my ebook on Kindle for iPad

WEEK 1, The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Cormier, R. (1974). The Chocolate War [Kindle iPad version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com

Summary:

This compelling  book dives into the heavy young adult choice of having to stand up for yourself and your beliefs, or adapt and blend in with those around you. This novel follows a boy who chooses to do the former. At the start, the students at Trinity High School seem to support Jerry Renault’s refusal to partake in the annual chocolate sale. This decision eventually backfires and lands Jerry in a world of trouble. Will he break down and finally conform? Or will he maintain his ground and truly defy his universe?

Keywords: The Vigils; football; assignments; boxing; defiance

What I Think (Assessment):

I really enjoyed the content and morals learned in this story. This is one I would definitely recommend to young adult readers for two reasons.

First of all, the moral or lesson of the story is one I think young adults and teenagers could benefit to learn and read about. The main character, Jerry, had a poster in his locker that said, “Do I dare disturb the universe?” (Cormier, 1974, p. 128). Many times Jerry found himself pondering this statement and wondering what it meant. By the end of the book, he made a decision, ultimately deciding that society may tell us to be ourselves, but in all truth and reality people are looked down upon when they do disturb the universe. I think this book and theme challenges young adults to ponder the same question for themselves and truly attempt to think about they’re own beliefs.

Secondly, I would recommend this book to young adults because of the fact that it is a classic novel, yet it appeals to so many of the teenage population today. This book includes adventure, drama, real-world teenage issues, and of course, an emphasis on sports. This book seems to have a little bit of everything to offer teenagers with all sorts of tastes. For example, the book starts out with action and adventure, describing the setting as if it were a war zone. “They murdered him. As he turned to take the ball, a dam burst against the side of his head and a hand grenade shattered his stomach” (p. 1). Yet soon, the reader discovers the true scene is of a freshman trying out to play football for his high school team. The reader also discovers the emphasis of boxing at the school, as one of the leaders of the school, Carter, “appreciated the fight concept. He loved boxing” (p. 239). These examples from the book show the variety the reader gets from action to sports even to some drama, which ultimately appeals to all teenage readers!

Overall, I highly recommend this book for young adult readers. It was a very interesting and fast-paced book that was hard to put down. I also very much enjoyed the ebook version because it was nice to have a version on my iPad to carry and whip out anytime I had a minute to spare!

What the Experts Say (Review):

Gr 8 Up–Still as powerful and disturbing as it was when published in 1974, this classic of a lone student confronting the system relates the story of a high school freshman who refuses to participate in the annual chocolate sale. In doing so, he invokes the rage of a corrupt and bullying school authority, challenges the ruthless school gang, and pays a terrible price for his nonconformity. Audio version available from Listening Library.

Ralston, J. (2005, May). Cormier, Robert. The Chocolate War. School Library Journal, 51(5), 51.

Classroom Recommendations:

This book would be a great one to just have in the library for students to read. As a teacher, I would recommend this book to students who might have trouble fitting in and could relate to the main character, Jerry Renault.

This book would also be great to use with groups of students and then have them respond to writing prompts. For example, students could write an opinion piece responding to, “If you were in Jerry’s position, would you sell the chocolates? If so,when would you start selling them?” The students could also write a persuasive piece to the principal on if they think their own school should rely on a similar candy sale to raise money or if another option would be better.