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! **

The Rundown- June ’16

Happy summer! I think I tried to make up for all the books I didn’t read earlier this year by reading them all in June 😛

wrinklecover9A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle (new read)

I still don’t know what I just experienced.

A Wrinkle in Time is fantasy, science fiction, and spirituality all rolled into one.

Meg Murry, her little brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin, are sent out on a journey to find their father. To put it simplistically: with the help of a colorful cast of characters, they travel through time and space to defeat the evil thing that lurks.

And that is very simplistic. There are lots of things about this book that I can’t explain and frankly, that I don’t completely understand. I think that’s part of the appeal though. It was easy to get lost in the story and want to know what was going to happen next—because I couldn’t possibly predict it!

I appreciated the fantasy aspects of the story the most. Most of the science fiction elements bogged me down a little, but I liked the explanation of the title. A cool concept! The spiritual parts came mostly near the end, and it didn’t seem like they really fit with the rest of the story, but it wasn’t distracting enough to take away from it entirely. The variety does broaden its audience. Depending on the kid, I could see someone reading this for the first time all the way from upper elementary to early high school!

VERDICT: I honestly can’t name one other book I’ve read that is anything like this (not even ones that include time travel). For its pure uniqueness, this book deserves to be on the list!

*Once again, apparently this book is the first in a “time quintet” written by L’Engle and she even has written books beyond that featuring the same family. Therefore, you have lots of options to continue if you love this book!

 

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher (new read)5113IWSiaoL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

I had never heard of this book before the challenge, and was only vaguely familiar with the author. When I read the synopsis, it sounded interesting enough. Little did I know what a rollercoaster ride I was about to take!

TJ is a multiracial teenager who lives with his white adoptive parents in an almost all white town in Washington state. Although he has a lot of athletic prowess, he doesn’t participate in any school sports, much to the chagrin of the athletic community at his school. When he decides to start a ragtag swim team, he puts an even bigger target on his head.

I’ll admit, I initially was turned off by this book. The language and plot got raw really fast. This is a book with a lot of “issues.” Adoption, special education, racism, elitism, abuse, bullying—it’s got it all. As I settled in though, I got invested in the characters and what was happening to them. I laughed. I cried. I cringed. It made me think of some of my students I’ve had throughout the years, and how they will turn out when they’re older.

I would say this book skews older based on the subject matter and language. I wouldn’t recommend anyone under 14, at the very youngest to read it. At the end of the book, it had a list of accolades it had received, and the first one listed was that it was one of the ALA’s most challenged books when it came out. They seemed very proud!

VERDICT: This is one of the times I wish I knew what criteria was used to pick these books. I don’t know that this is a book that I think every young adult should read. It does bring in some perspectives that some people may never encounter, so in that way I guess it makes for a good entry. It’s a toss-up for me.

 

N24680The Pigman by Paul Zindel (new read)

Even though I’d heard of this book many times, I had never read it and had no idea what it was about. Long story short, this book is about two teenagers, Lorraine and John, who unintentionally befriend a middle aged man, who comes to be known as “The Pigman.” The story details their friendship over the course of a few months, with chapters that alternate the point of view between the teens.

I can’t really tell you too much more about the plot without spoiling some things. What I will say is that ultimately this book is depressing. I did not enjoy reading it because I kept waiting for something bad to happen. The friendship was odd in general, and I don’t even know that someone would write a book of this manner today. The main character also reminded me of my dad in some ways, and that made me sad.

This book is on lots of high school required reading lists, which is unfortunate, because the last thing teenagers need is to be forced to read depressing literature, with all that angst going around!

VERDICT: Like I said, I’ve heard praise for this book many a time, but I just don’t see it. I think it’s really strange and don’t understand the motivation for writing it, unless it’s supposed to be a cautionary tale. I threw it on the floor when I finished it because the ending made me so mad!

 

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (new read)838771._UY200_

So, I originally put this on my “reread” list, but after beginning it, I’m pretty sure I’ve never read it. I think I got it mixed up with another title, The Chocolate Touch maybe. This is another book that is on lots of required reading lists and, in many ways, I can see why.

Although it was quite easy to read, the first half of the book was hard to follow. There are SO MANY CHARACTERS and the chapters would jump around and not have the same characters in consecutive chapters. They also had similar names and characteristics, so it was hard to keep track.

At its heart, this is a story about nonconformity. However, it takes a long time to get there. Trinity High School is a Catholic all boys school where they have a “secret” society called The Vigils. Jerry Renault is a freshman, new to the area, who gets tapped for one of the society’s infamous assignments. What unfolds is fairly unsavory.

The second half of the book reminded me somewhat of Lord of the Flies, though in a more formal setting. It presents questions like: Should you fall in line because it’s easy? Or should you do what you think is right, even if it’s hard? What about the repercussions?

VERDICT: I think it’s very telling of the time period in which it was written (1970s), but I think it’s still relevant today. What a great think piece for teenagers and a springboard for discussion and self-reflection. Although it wasn’t immediate, I do think The Chocolate War has earned its place on the list.

 

I’d love to know what y’all think of these books! Have you read any of them?

The Rundown- April ’16

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (new read)Hatchet1

Full disclosure: I am not a big fan of survival stories. That probably explains why I never read this book when I was younger, even though I had plenty of opportunity.

Hatchet is a story about a thirteen year old boy named Brian who, on his way to visit his father, goes down in a plane crash. The pilot dies and he is forced to go at it alone. We read all about the trials and tribulations he goes through as he tries to survive on his own.

Kids could actually learn a lot from this book as far as wilderness skills go. It details the processes of trying to start a fire, how to obtain food, and making a shelter.

Although I didn’t care for the subject matter, in general, it was a well written book. It seemed realistic as far as I could tell and the epilogue at the end even put some specific names to plants and animals that were described in the story. It’s also a great lesson in perseverance.

VERDICT: I will go ahead and agree that this book has earned its place on the “best of” list. Between the story itself, the realism, and the social/moral dilemmas presented, I think it’s a well rounded book. It has a fairly broad appeal.

**If you find that you really enjoy this book, there are apparently at least four sequels that feature Brian, so you could read a whole miniseries if you want!

March ’16 Update – Ashley

At this point, my blog posts may seem arbitrary and haphazard, but if you look closely, I think you’ll notice a trend… My posts fall very much in line with when we have breaks from school – Thanksgiving/Christmas, Spring Break, Summer Break.  That, my friends, is no coincidence!  That being said, I’ve had a very successful Spring Break 2016, reading-wise!

* The Giver by Lois Lowry (reread) – This is a book that I actually read as a “young adult” myself and remember loving.  I read it again in my Children’s Literature class at USC and still loved it.  As a matter of fact, several years ago for Christmas, I loaned my grandmother a bag of young adult books that I thought she’d enjoy reading.  She has always “passed down” books to me that she read and thought I’d like, and I wanted to do the same.  I used my “unique” love of YA literature to share some books with her that she had never read.  This was the first book I put in that bag.the giver

The Giver introduces us to a society where things seem to run like clockwork.  Every person serves a specific purpose, performs specific tasks, and lives in a very specific way.  Everything in this society is decided by “The Elders” – including who you marry, which child you will raise, and which position you will serve within the community.  In this society, there is no pain or suffering of any kind.  No one questions the way things are… until Jonas receives his job assignment as Receiver.  This will make Jonas the one person in the community who holds the memories of what life was like before “Sameness.”  In his training sessions with the former Receiver, now The Giver, Jonas experiences memories filled with the most wonderful feelings and sensations – weather, happiness, love.  But he also bears the burden of receiving less-desirable memories, like war and starvation.  Jonas begins to wonder if living this life of “Sameness” is really worth all the sacrifices that came with it.

My Take: One of my all-time favorite books!  Without question, this book belongs on any and all lists for young adult readers.  This is the book that first exposed me to the world of young adult, dystopian novels – still my favorite genre!  The world created by Lois Lowry seems so comforting at first, so idyllic, but that image is shattered as we delve deeper in Jonas’ training and realize at what cost this society was created.  As a reader, I feel increasingly disturbed at the injustice that these people were facing unknowingly.  In general, I do not like having things decided for me – I like to make decisions for myself.  Imagining a world where that is not tolerated sets me on edge.  In a weird way, this book seems to have foreshadowed the generation of children we are now meeting.  As a society, we are becoming less and less comfortable with allowing our children to feel pain (physical or otherwise).  We don’t want anyone to feel too special or excluded, so we give everyone a trophy.  We are so terrified of our children making a mistake that we tell them every move to make, never allowing them to figure it out on their own.  We are raising a generation that can not think for themselves.  Are we heading for a world where we blindly accept what others tell us what to do and think?  Where we are so afraid of pain and failure that we make joy and success obsolete?  Food for thought…

** Look here for Tiffany’s review of the same book. **


* The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (new read) –
 I’ve been saving this one for a good, long break because a) the text itself is longer than many others on this list and b) I was pretty sure it was going to be good one and I didn’t want to have to rush through it.  Well, it was a good one, but I didn’t need to worry about waiting for a long break because it ended up being an (essentially) 24-hour read!

LightningThief2014The Lightning Thief is the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and chronicles the story of how young Percy Jackson from NYC came to discover his status as a demigod, or half-blood.  This discovery leads to many new adventures, filled with a cast straight out of Greek mythology.  Along the way, Percy meets new friends and learns things about himself that he never imagined possible.  Ultimately, at just twelve years old, Percy is tasked with preventing an all-out war between the three most powerful gods: Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon.  Will Percy, with the help of his friends,  be able to muster up the courage necessary to undertake such an important mission?

My Take:  I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK.  I will, without a doubt, be purchasing the rest of this series ASAP!  It was very well-written yet accessible, which doesn’t always go hand-in-hand.  I definitely think this book earned it’s spot on the list, for a number of reasons.  First of all, I think any book that makes people, especially young people, want to read is worth its weight in gold.  That’s what Harry Potter did for our generation and I could see that being the case with Percy Jackson as well.  Secondly, I see endless value in this book – both academically and personally.  Reading it made me want to go back and reread all those Greek myths that I read back in middle school.  I could easily imagine this book (and perhaps series) being used in classrooms everywhere – the possibilities are nearly infinite.  The characters are well-developed, the plot provides ample opportunities for discussion and comparisons to traditional Greek lore.  That being said, I could also easily imagine this being a great just-for-fun read also!  Overall, this is one of the best books I’ve read so far in this challenge – HIGHLY recommended!

October/November/December ’15 Update – Ashley

Yeah, so…. clearly, my “free time” during the school year is very limited, hence the lack of reading.  😦

** A second note… This draft has been saved since December…  Guess I should probably publish it…

* Monster by Walter Dean Myers (new read) – This is one of the books from the list that was immediately intriguing to me.  I hadn’t heard of it before, which surprised me because it was published in 1999 and won  several notable awards.  The premise of the story also appealed to me, as do so many stories of social injustice and civil rights.  Despite being attracted to this book from the beginning, it was the onslaught of recent events involving black teenagers and police officers that really inspired me to finally open the book.

Monster-Walter-DeanSteve Harmon is sixteen, black, and in jail facing a murder conviction.  Monster follows Steve’s trial through two unique perspectives – one, journal entries recorded by Steve throughout the trial and two, a movie script Steve is writing about the trial in order to help him process what’s happening.  Steve maintains his innocence in the crime, despite a number of other participants who claim his involvement.  His journal entries and movie script flashbacks provide additional background information, while also moving the plot forward.  The most riveting aspect of the novel for me however, was Steve’s self-reflection throughout the process.  He is labeled a “monster” by the prosecutor and begins to wonder if that’s how he is seen by the world.  He relives particular moments leading up to the murder, seemingly trying to decipher his own actions and evaluate his every move.  Even at the end of the story, after the verdict is handed down, Steve’s journey of self-discovery is continuous.

My Take: An important book to read, for sure.  I think the content is incredibly important now, in that it challenges some notions that need challenging in terms of social justice and our legal system.  I can see this book as an excellent starting place for classroom and/or dinner table discussions.  I also think the book is worth reading for it’s unique format alone.  As a teacher, I want students of all ages to understand that not all books look, feel, or sound the same.  Walter Dean Myers chose to write this book this way for a reason – it really provides some humanity to a character labeled as a “monster” from the outside.  As the reader, we get exclusive access to Steve’s thoughts, fears, worries, and self-doubt.  The irony is that this is the part of Steve that the jury deciding his fate never gets to see, yet it’s also the part that makes him more relatable and raw, which made me believe in his innocence far more than any evidence provided by his attorney.

** Look here for Tiffany’s review of the same book. **

The Rundown- March ’16

519HKX9M69L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (new read)

I don’t feel like there are many people who don’t know anything about this book, so I will make the synopsis brief.

Anne Frank had to flee her home and go into hiding with her family when the Nazis invaded Holland during World War II. They spent over two years living in what came to be known as “The Secret Annexe.” This book is the collection of entries from her diary that she received on her thirteenth birthday, which just happened to be about three weeks or so before they went into hiding.

There are many things that struck me about this book. The first — how eloquent Anne was. She was so young, but such a talented writer. Her vocabulary, phrasing and overall ideas about ideas reached well beyond her short years. On the flip side though, many times she wrote about things you would expect from most teenage girls: love and longing, movie stars, friendship, the day to day. She often wrote about feeling that she had two personalities, which was reflected in the diary.

While some entries were difficult to make it through, other days had me flipping feverishly to see what was going to happen. As optimistic as her worldview was, at the same time, it was as if she knew she wasn’t going to make it. Her last few entries were so reflective and a perfect conclusion to this life cut short.

I was very grateful that the book included a multiple page afterword to let the reader know what happened to all of the “characters,” and the impact that the book has had since publication.

It’s shocking to me that I have never read this book before now. I think it should be required reading in middle or high school during  a study of World War II. I can’t think of many other primary sources that hold the impact that this book does.

VERDICT: Thinking about what this book actually is, it’s kind of a weird thing to include, as it was never something intended for publication. However, it’s actually more well written than some of the other things I’ve read thus far. I think it should be included on the list as its historical impact cannot be matched by another young adult.

The Rundown- December ’15

Yes, I know it’s February. This school year has been a little rough, what can I say? I read both of these books during Christmas break and haven’t finished one since 😦

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers (new read)

51CAsHD9YfL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_I didn’t really know quite what to expect going into book. We watched Saving Mr. Banks this summer, so I did have some background that the movie painted Mary Poppins in a different light than her original portrayal.

Everyone knows the basic premise of the story: Mary Poppins comes in as the nanny for the Banks children. They go on lively adventures, and along the way, meet all sorts of interesting characters.

The premise is one of the few things that is actually the same in both places. Turns out, Mary Poppins is not actually a very pleasant person. She’s snooty and full of herself most of the time. She has strange acquaintance that are sort of creepy. There’s also three additional kids in the book, including a set of twins! She has supernatural power of some kind that leads her to be called “The Great Exception.”

While different than I expected, it was still enjoyable. I think it transcends age and gender, and provides quite an escape. Such fantasy!

VERDICT: Honestly, the verdict is still out. I think it’s good, but I feel like the movie is more of a classic than the book is. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

 

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (new read)

Here’s another fantastical read that was an interesting deviation from the norm.51C67Y0JT3L

The only book I’ve ever read by DiCamillo is Because of Winn Dixie, which is a completely different kind of story, realistically speaking.

Edward Tulane is a china rabbit. We first meet him when he is owned by Abilene, a little girl who loves him dearly. However, he is soon lost. The remaining pages follow Edward’s journey and road to redemption.

One of the most intriguing things about this story is that, while Edward doesn’t talk aloud to any other characters, the reader gets to “read his mind,” so to speak. At all times, we are privy to his thoughts and desires, as if he were a real person. I don’t want to give away the ending, but it was very satisfying… and I may have teared up a little. Don’t judge.

VERDICT: I don’t think I’ve ever done this in the same post, but I can’t decide on this one either! It was a very well written book, and the story was original. I just don’t know if years from now it will be considered one of the best ever. I was actually surprised that one of DiCamillo’s other books, The Tale of Despereaux, was not included instead.

Help me out guys! Have you read either of these? What do you think about their inclusion?

The Rundown- November ’15

Well, I have my first official fail of the challenge. I was only able to read one book in November, and technically finished it one week into December. Boo!

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan (reread)

Esperanza_Rising_coverI first read this book about ten years ago for an American children’s literature class. I didn’t remember much about the story, but remembered enjoying it. It was one of my first forays into Hispanic literature, as no one had placed much emphasis on it before then.

Esperanza is about to turn thirteen and her life is amazing. She has two loving parents, who own a large ranch in Mexico. They have lots of friends and servants, and her Abuelita (grandmother), lives with them as well. She has everything she could possibly want. Then, the unthinkable happens and she and her mother are forced to relocate to California. It is the middle of the Great Depression, and Esperanza must make hard choices and get used to her new circumstances before it’s too late.

*****WARNING: THE NEXT PARAGRAPH CONTAINS A SPOILER*****

(but it happens in the first chapter)

 

This book is an easy read and moves like a fairy tale. Even though the time period and setting might not be immediately accessible, the trials that Esperanza faces are very relatable. This book took a completely different meaning for me upon this reread, as I have now lost my father (although in different circumstances), as Esperanza did. I was able to sympathize with her and understand some of the emotions and feelings she was battling.

I would heartily recommend this book. Esperanza is a strong female protagonist and I think her perseverance and determination are characteristics any young adult would be well to emulate.

VERDICT: I think this is a great addition to the list. As I said, this story of riches to rags, and overcoming difficult circumstances, is relatable and gives students something to strive for themselves. It is also one of the few books that features a non-white main character, and it’s important that people see portrayals of all cultures.

September ’15 Update – Ashley

So… the title of my post may be a bit confusing.  September Update?  Isn’t it currently November?  Yes, yes it is.  Fear not, I know what month it is and, no, I don’t plan on skipping October either.  Truth be told, these books were both read all the way back in September… I just haven’t had the time to do the blog post until now!  On a related note, look for an October post coming in the very near future…

* Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (reread) – I couldn’t even tell you, with any accuracy, how many times I have read this book in my lifetime.  Let’s just say that my copy is “well-loved.”  I absolutely adore Roald Dahl and every book/story he’s ever written.  This was definitely a reread that I was looking forward to and enjoyed thoroughly!

0140328696Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the story of young Charlie Bucket, who along with four other youngsters, wins the prize of a lifetime – the opportunity to tour the famous (and mysterious) chocolate factory in town!  The owner of the factory, Willy Wonka, is equally as famous and mysterious and has plenty of surprises in store as he opens his doors, which have been sealed shut for so long.  The characters in this story are rich with details and really come to life on the page.  Charlie is a boy that most of us can relate to, and one with whom we can all empathize. He is poor in a way that most people can’t even begin to imagine, but with a family system that is far richer than many will ever know.  Hard-working parents who will sacrifice anything to care and provide for their loved ones, aging grandparents who are living life vicariously through their precious grandchild, and a young boy who, at such a young age, already has such a deep understanding of what’s really important in life – these are characters that we, as a reader, can really “get behind” and understand.  So, to read a story where the good guy (the really, really good guy) gets what he deserves is a beautiful thing.  Plus, who doesn’t fantasize about exploring a huge chocolate factory, not to mention one as magical as Willy Wonka’s???

My Take:  Without a doubt, this book is worthy of inclusion on this, and any other, list!  I think Roald Dahl’s style of writing is absolutely delicious (pun only slightly intended) and that this is a book that can be appreciated at any age.  The quality of the character depictions in and of itself is worthy of a book study at a higher level.  A must-read for children and young adults everywhere!

** Look here for Tiffany’s review of the same book. **

* The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander (new read) – Well, this is one of the first books that I purchased after Tiffany and I started this journey.  It seemed like exactly the kind of book that I would get into and I was really pumped that it was a series.  That was why I waited so long to start reading it – I wanted to make sure to have the time – ha! – to read more from the series if I liked the book as much as I thought I would…  I should not have worried so much.   : / 9780805080483

The Book of Three is the first book in the Chronicles of Prydain series.  It tells the story of Taran, who carries to not-so-prestigious title of Assistant Pig-Keeper.  When Hen Wen (the future-telling oracular pig he’s in charge of) runs away, Taran seeks to find him which sends him on a dangerous journey involving the ominous (and creepy!) “Horned King.”  Along the way, a motley crew of characters joins Taran on his quest, which seems to keep changing throughout the story.  The story concludes with a battle between good and evil, but (spoiler alert) the main character isn’t even awake for it!

My Take:  Ugh.  This was difficult for me to get through.  The character names alone were burdensome enough to make me want to put the book down.  I didn’t really care about any of the characters either, which is always a serious struggle when it comes to reading a book (or watching a TV series… ask Tiffany about Breaking Bad!)  I am so torn here.  I wanted so badly to like this book.  Even afterwards, I did additional research and found out that one of the subsequent books in this series was named a Newbery Honor book and the final book won the Newbery…  It appears that I am missing some appeal here, but no, in my opinion, I would not put this book on the all-time-best list.  😦

The Rundown- October ’15

Monster-Walter-DeanMonster by Walter Dean Myers (reread)

Sixteen year old Steve Harmon is on trial for murder. To pass the time in jail, Steve envisions his life as a movie. The structure of the book goes back and forth between Steve’s journal entries and his scripting of the actual trial. The title comes from the prosecutor’s description of him when she is speaking to the jury.

I first read this book in graduate school, but don’t really remember much about my feelings towards it then. Upon rereading, the issues addressed are particularly timely, even though it was written over 15 years ago. Although it is a fictional narrative, there are many parallels to situations that have been in the news the past couple of years.

While this book is difficult to read at times because of its subject matter, it’s an important book. It humanizes a teenager who many see as an adult and a “monster.” Unfortunately, that occurs in real life and I would love to hand this book to those who have some more extreme views.

VERDICT: I have no doubts that this book should be included in the list.

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (new read) mixed-up-files

This is the fourth book I have read by E.L. Konigsburg, and is probably her most famous. Despite that, I actually had no idea what the story was about, even though I had heard of it many times. Then, this summer, while browsing the gift shop at the Met in New York City, I noticed this book there. Turns out that’s where it takes place, so then I definitely wanted to read it!

Claudia Kincaid feels unappreciated by her family and decides to run away. She brings along her younger brother Jamie to help with the finances. They set up camp in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and adventure ensues!

The best word I can use to describe this book is “charming.” Pre-teens on a journey of self-discovery is universal. Kids and adults of all ages enjoy it, which is proven by the fact that it’s almost fifty years old and still read frequently.

VERDICT: I think this is an excellent book, but, once again, I would include this in a children’s list, rather than a young adult list. Konigsburg wrote one of my all-time favorite books, Silent to the Bone, which I think would be a more appropriate inclusion.

**You can find Ashley’s review for the book HERE.