The Rundown- August ’16

Another reason I love my new job: I was able to read three books this month, even with school starting!

16616258._SY540_Everyday by David Levithan (new read)

The blurb I read about this story is what made me want to pick it next. “A” is a genderless, soulless being that inhabits a different body each day. A is aware of what happens to it, and has its own feelings and opinions, but no body to call its own.

Each day A wakes up in a new body. They are all about the same age and live within a few hours of each other. Because of this, sometimes A is able to see people from multiple perspectives. A traditionally tries not to become very involved in the life of the person it inhabits, until he falls in love with a girl named Rihannon. Then all bets are off!

This was a really interesting book, and definitely a new take on the “freaky friday” syndrome. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen after A broke its own rules and became attached to someone it met for a day.

VERDICT: I think this book has a wide appeal and is unlike any other story I can think of. It was also really easy to read and full of suspense, which I adore. I’m going to agree with its inclusion on the list!

 

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (reread) BridgeTerabithia6

I know I read this book in fifth grade for class. I have no memories of whether or not I liked this book, only the tragedy of the book. Something that did surprise me is that there was a good bit of swearing, which makes me wonder if this book was read aloud and the teacher skipped over those words 🙂

Jesse doesn’t have many friends until Leslie moves to town. They bond over their outsider status and create their own magical world called “Terabithia.” At times, their conversations seem much more mature than their ten years, but then you think of all the things they’ve been through in that amount of time.

I don’t want to completely spoil it for those that haven’t read it, but I think most of the reason it is so widely praised is because of its not-so-happy ending. Kids are able to go through it without having it happen to them in real life.

VERDICT: This Newbery Medal winner earns its place for helping children deal with their first dose of tragedy.

*Check out Ashley’s review HERE*

231804The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (reread)

I went from one tragic read to another. However, this one skews to the older crowd. It’s very raw and realistic. I found out after reading that the author wrote it in high school! That makes it all the more impressive.

It has remnants of West Side Story, in that there are rival gangs in a big city around the same time frame. The Socs and the Greasers are divided by their socioeconomic status. The “outsiders” are the Greasers, and that’s the group whose lives we get an indepth look at, thanks to Ponyboy Curtis, our narrator.

It is amazing the relevance that this book still has today. Some of the details could easily be changed and you would swear it was written about life as it is now. It has such a timeless quality.

The importance of this book and the insight it gives cannot be overstated. It peels back the layers of both groups of teenagers and examines their motivations for the things they do, as well as the circumstances surrounding them.

VERDICT: As heartbreaking as this book is, the importance of understanding where others come from is a universal truth that all young adults need to be aware of. Definitely should be included!

 

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.

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.