Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday Review

I am going to start a weekly Sunday review of the books I read during that week.  I will write a brief review and rate each book.  Be sure to comment and let me know if you've read any of the books I review and any classroom ideas you have for them.  I love to talk books!

  The Fault in our Stars by John Green

allusion, death, empathy, friendship, humor, leaving-a-legacy,theme, young-adult-book
***** 5 stars
The Fault in Our StarsThis was a gut-wrenching, witty, smart, devastating, hopeful young adult book. I read it aloud to my friends on a return long car trip after a girls' weekend away. Wow, was it tough to read aloud. We were so absorbed in the story, the eight hours it took to get home flew. There were several times I just had to stop because of John Green's incredibe lines. I had some intense connections with some parts - the Anne Frank House and Otto Frank's video at the end of the tour and the William Carlos Williams poem, "The Red Wheelbarrow." There are allusions galore that would be great for a classroom discussion, and tons of insight on what it would be like to live/die with cancer at a young age. Much discussion, too, on legacies and life as story. There is so much there, and I think teenagers (as well as adults) would love it. I discuss death and loss in middle grade novels and why books on those topics are important on my blog (Death and Loss in Middle Grade Novels).  The list on the blog post are mostly for intermediate grade kids, but obviously the reasons why kids (and adults) need books like this can apply to young adult readers and books. Read this book! Just have a box of kleenexes close by.

  Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson  **** 4 stars

abandoned, animals, audio-book, character-motivation, intermediate-kids-book, symbolism

Small as an ElephantI listened to this book (terrific narrator) and really liked it. Eleven-year-old Jack wakes up on his camping trip with his mom in Acadia National Park and realizes his mom is gone. We find out this is not the first time she's left him. It's revealed that Jack's mom is suffering from some kind of mental illness and sometimes can't take care of him. Jack decides not to tell anyone and begins a search for his mom and the places they had planned to visit. He steals a small plastic elephant that reminds him of himself to keep him company. He wrestles with several ethical decisions he makes in his desperate journey, and we find out his past with his mother through his thoughts. I loved the chapter openings on elephant facts. The ending is incredibly sweet, and I think kids would enjoy exploring more elephant facts after reading this book.

Art & Max by David Wiesner
  **** 4 stars
art, character-traits, humor, picture-book, predicting, reading-illustrations

Art & MaxBeautiful illustrations and funny! Kids will have fun predicting what is going to happen, and they will connect with Max. Can be used in the classroom for character traits.

A Meal of the Stars: Poems Up and DownA Meal of the Stars by Dana Jensen          *** 3.5 stars

This is a unique book of poems to be read up or down. Each line is only one word. I liked the cute illustrations. The giraffe poem is my favorite. Kids would have fun trying to write poems like these.

 Cats' Night Out by Caroline Stutson
Cats' Night Out

**** 4 stars
alphabet-or-counting-book, narrative-poem   

Since Jon Klassen illustrated this book, I rated it higher than I probably would have based on the story alone. I love the expressions on the cats' faces! Cute ending.

  Blackout by John Rocco      ***** 5 stars

connections, family, picture-book, plot, predicting, problem-solution, setting, theme

BlackoutI loved this book about a girl whose family is too busy to spend time with her, so she abandons her idea of playing a game and goes up to watch t.v. Then the lights go out everywhere in the city. Since the stove, phone, and computer are not working, now everyone can spend time together. They go to the roof and then outside on the street, and they discover people in the neighborhood are enjoying togetherness, too. My favorite illustration is the one of the girl and her cat going up the stairs.

  Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli
*** 3.5 stars
ti-bullying, character-development, friendship, grandparents, intermediate-kids-book, mock-newbery-2013, point-of-view, theme

Jake and LilyJake and Lily are twins and share "goombla," or an unspoken and special connection most dramatically carried out when, on every birthday, they mysteriously end up at the train station in the middle of the night, barefoot and in pajamas, with the smell of pickles in the air. This is because they were born on a train, and their father had just opened a jar of pickles. As get older, the goombla starts to fade, much to Lily's dismay, and Jake starts hanging out with a group of guys who target a "Supergoober" and start bullying him for sport. In classic Spinelli style, the "goober" turns out to not care about being different and teaches Jake about true friendship and growing up. Lily, with help from her grandfather, learns to let go and let life happen. When she does, friendship also comes her way, and her bond with Jake comes back. The first person point of view, switching back and forth between Jake and Lily is unique because they talk to the reader and even leave off ends of sentences as they argue with each other.

Just a Second
Just a Second by Steve Jenkins       ***** 5 stars

This book has fascinating facts about what happens in time measurements: under a second, a second, an hour, a week, a year, and many years. Many of the examples are mind-boggling. You could use this in all subjects. Lots of nonfiction text features.

1 comment:

  1. I totally loved Blackout and Just a Second. They're both really good books.