The Rundown- July ’16

Sachar_-_Holes_CoverartHoles by Louis Sachar (reread)

My first reread of 2016!

I read this book for the first time back in college for my children’s literature class. I should have known I would love it. Louis Sachar is the author, and he wrote one of my faves from when I was little: Sideways Stories from Wayside School. One way I heard this book described was as a “mystery comedy novel,” which I like! It also has elements of a tall tale woven throughout.

Stanley Yelnats, a 14 year old boy, is wrongly accused of stealing a famous baseball player’s shoes and is sent to Camp Green Lake in lieu of jail. His misfortune, as all that happens to his family, is blamed on his “no-good-dirty-rotten pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather”. He is dubbed “Caveman” upon his arrival and spends his days, along with the rest of Tent D, digging five by five feet holes. If anything interesting is found, they may get the rest of the day off! The camp is run by The Warden, with day to day operations being split between Mr. Sir and Mr. Pendanski: not the team you want in charge of your well-being. We see Stanley’s journey, along with the rest of his group, as they try to figure out just what might be interesting enough to get The Warden’s attention. In addition, we also find out some history of Camp Green Lake and of Stanley’s family.

This is just a totally fun book. It’s easy to read and keeps you guessing! Not to mention, the way Sachar weaves the background stories into the main narrative is magical. It was a wonderful reprieve from the foul language and depressing subject matter that I’ve been reading recently.

VERDICT: No question about it—this should absolutely be on the list! With broad appeal, and a unique story, it stands out as a wonderful piece of young adult fiction.

**This is a rare case in which the movie does the book justice. I encourage you to check it out too!

 

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Stewart (new read)510cd0w1aUL

Another great summer read!

This is a classic “save the world” adventure featuring four children, who are identified by a series of tests as having exceptional qualities needed for the task set out by Mr. Benedict. Kate, Reynie, Constance, and Sticky are sent to a school run by evil Mr. Curtain. By working together, they must stop his plan for humankind. Of course, you must read the book to find out what that plan is, and if they stop him!

This story was a real page turner. Lots of suspense and twists, which kept me reading, as the book was close to five hundred pages! I think it would appeal equally to boys and girls, and a myriad of ages.

I know this review is short, but I feel with this particular story it’s better not knowing what you’re getting into!

VERDICT: I loved this book and think it totally deserves to be on the list. I’m looking forward to reading the other books in this series down the road.

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April/May/June ’16 Update – Ashley

Yeah, I know… It’s kind of cheating, but life happens!  I’ve also read the second book in the Percy Jackson series, which I still love!  🙂

* Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary (reread) – This is a book that I read for the first time many, many years ago.  It wasn’t one that I revisited often, but I always remembered being beezus-and-ramona-book-cover-author-beverly-clearyfond of it.  I was excited to see it on the list and to have the chance to see if it lived up to my memories.

Here are the basics: Beezus is the big sister.  Ramona is the little sister.  Beezus is trying to grow up and do typical ten-year-old things. Ramona doesn’t get it and wants to do typical preschool things.  This causes predictable, yet amusing, mishaps.  They’ve got the underlying sisterly love thing going on, but that doesn’t mean they always have to like each other, right?

My Take: What a fun book!  Easy, but fun.  And classic.  And  relatable and non-intimidating.  It was such a relief to read a book from this list that wasn’t heavy and didn’t require a whole lot of depth in thought.  But yet, this is easily the most I’ve identified with any book in this challenge so far.  I mean, who can’t relate to classic older-younger sibling dynamics?    However, one of the 100 best YA novels of all time???  If best = classic, absolutely!  If best = most forward/moving/provocative?  Not so much.  Not a clear choice for me…

** Click here to see Tiffany’s review of this book! **

 

* The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (new read) – Everything I knew about this book excited me from the beginning – it was one that I was looking forward to reading as soon as we found “The List.”  The title, the premise, the cover art… everything abwesting gameout it appealed to me.

Samuel W. Westing, mysterious millionaire, has died.  One of the sixteen (seemingly random) tenants of the Sunset Towers is the heir to his fortune.  In order to claim their inheritance, the group is divided into teams of two and then given a check and a clue.  They are tasked with using those clues to uncover the murderer among them.  The first to do so will win the remaining Westing fortune.   As the teams gather more and more information, secrets are uncovered, relationships formed, and motives questioned.

My Take:  Really wasn’t a fan of this one… It was fine.  I think my main issue was that I didn’t like or care about any of the characters.  They were well-developed in the sense that we came to know different layers of them throughout the story, but that didn’t ever change my feelings towards them.  I also found the supposed mystery element lacking.  It was infuriating to know “the answer” the whole time, but still suffer through the characters’ ridiculous attempts to solve it.  I certainly don’t think this one belongs on “The List.”  How ’bout a good ol’ Agatha Christie instead?

** Click here to see Tiffany’s review of this book! **

 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (new read) – I was very hesitant to read this book.  I had heard such high praise for it, that I assumed there was no way it’d live up to the hype.  I wanted to enjoy it so badly that I worried that I had jinxed myself.  Of course, in the end, I had nothing to fear!

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Set in Germany during the second World War, this is the story of Liesel Meminger, who lives with foster parents after a devastating separation from her natural family.   At only ten years old, Liesel is still a child, but yet old enough to notice the horrors happening all around her every day.  She struggles  to understand the very grown-up world she’s living in, all while trying to hold on to her childhood.  She ends up finding comfort in the words of stolen books and the friendship of the Jew hidden in her basement.  What results is a story of self-empowerment and a gut-wrenching, emotional testimony to the power of the written word.

My Take: This might be my favorite challenge book so far!  The writing is absolutely brilliant.  It took me a minute to adjust to the unusual narration, but then I was hooked.  For me, the best part was the development of Liesel’s relationships throughout the story.  Each one was so perfectly complicated and beautiful.  Plus, as  reading teacher, I love any story that speaks to the oft-unnoticed power of reading and writing!  This was one of those “I-can’t-put-it-down-until-I-finish” books.  It went everywhere with me until I was done – car, purse, pool, lake…  Worthy of a spot on this list?  Without a doubt.  This is one I will come back to over and over again!

** Click here to see Tiffany’s review of this book! **