The Rundown- October ’16

frindleFrindle by Andrew Clements (new read)

This is another book I had never heard of before this list. I am somewhat familiar with the author though.

Nick Allen loves to, as the back blurb of the book says “liven things up” at school. It may be in the form of a prank, or it may just be his epic ability to lead teachers on a tangent. However, his fifth grade teacher is a no-nonsense kind of woman, so he has to think especially hard to figure out what to do. He finally decides on creating a new word, frindle, and embarks on a quest to spread it to his fellow classmates. Did I mention his new teacher loves the dictionary? His plan soon escapes his reach though and we see the ramifications.

I enjoyed this book a good bit, and flew through rather quickly. I think there’s some good messages in it about perseverance and believing in yourself. It also shows the powerful relationship that can occur between a teacher and a student, in many different ways.

I would say this book skews toward the younger end of the list and I’m not sure kids would want to read it much past elementary school.

VERDICT: I don’t really think that this book should be on the best 100 young adult book list. It’s a good book, but I just don’t think it packs the punch of some of the other titles.

**Click HERE to see Ashley’s take on this book!**

The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo (new read) 510g3ts61jl-_sx334_bo1204203200_

I can say one thing for Kate DiCamillo: she is a very imaginative storyteller. I was eager to read this after enjoying her other entry on the list, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. However, I found that this shared much more in common with her first book, Because of Winn Dixie.

Rob and his father live at a Florida motel after Rob’s mother passes away from cancer. His father forbids him to ever talk about her or even mention her name. In addition to that, Rob has a skin condition that draws unwanted attention from others and he is forced to stay home from school. Needless to say, he doesn’t really have any friends, until one day he meets a girl named Sistine. That also happens to be the same day he discovers a caged tiger in the woods behind the hotel. Coincidence?

What a strange little book. The imagery DiCamillo conjures is breathtaking, but odd. I was certainly invested in the characters and what was going to happen to them. It stirred up lots of emotions, both good and bad. The best part of this story though, for me, comes from the title of the book. I can’t really tell much without spoiling some of the story, but it’s parallel to some advice that Rob is given in the book that is just beautiful!

VERDICT: This one is a toss-up for me. I certainly liked it, and I would encourage others to read it. I just don’t know if it screams “best of.” Why don’t you give it a try and let me know what you think?

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (new read)

51zcs5bmbyl-_sy344_bo1204203200_I gotta say, I wasn’t looking forward to this one when I found out it was a graphic novel. After reading it though, my outlook completely changed!

This book tells three different stories: the first is of Jin, the only Chinese American student at his school before another boy from Taiwan moves there and tries to befriend him. The second story is about Danny, an All American boy whose Chinese cousin comes to visit and effectively destroys his life. The third tale is about the Monkey King, who has mastered many disciplines and wants to take his rightly place with the highly immortal. All three characters feel isolated for different reasons, and must reach out for help to get out of their situations. The three stories intertwine beautifully at the end.

The themes of stereotypes and isolation are woven throughout. In each story, we see how the characters are treated and perceived based on their heritage. It brings to light unpleasant truths in a palatable manner. This selection is certainly for the older end of young adults, but I think it’s more likely to reach people in this format. It was so easy to read!

VERDICT: The Asian point of view is sorely underrepresented on this list and I think this entry effectively shares it. It made this reader think about the portrayals I’ve seen and how they’ve shaped my opinions. I thought this was a great book and definitely agree with its inclusion on the list. I can’t wait to read Yan’s other entry for this challenge!

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February ’15 Update – Ashley

Nothing like the last day of the month to do my monthly update, right?  February was a very hectic month, so unfortunately most of my reading was postponed until the end of the month.

Here’s what I read:

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (reread) – This was my second reading of this particular book.  The first time I read it was actually in college for a Children’s Lit class.  I remember loving it the first time and the second time was no different.

BridgeTerabithia6

Bridge to Terabithia centers around the friendship between its two main characters – Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke.  The two are unlikely friends, but their mutual awkwardness and shared tendency to behave “differently” from the status quo is enough to create a lasting bond.   Together, they create their own magical land, the namesake Terabithia, where they go to escape their ordinary, if not depressing, lives.  The story takes a turn when tragedy strikes Terabithia and Jess is forced to deal with things far beyond his ten or eleven years.  At that point, it’s probably best to just go ahead and grab your tissues.

My Take:  Finding Bridge to Terabithia on “the list” was no surprise.  This is one of those books that makes you reevaluate life and love.   I appreciate that this book, written for very young adults (preteens even), touches on some very heavy topics in a way that is super-relatable.  Being a teacher of young children allows me to read these kinds of books through a completely different lens.  I see the Jesses and Leslies of the world every day in my own classroom – the kids that don’t quite “fit in” because maybe their family is a little bit different or they interested in something considered unusual for their age, gender, whatever.  I’ve seen the way their lives change when they find that one friend with a common soul who understands and accepts them as they are.  I want that for every child.  It also makes me sad to think about how many kids out there are like this, but never find that one friend who will change their life…  Overall, this book is an easy read with a big message and definitely worth the minimal time it takes to read.  I dare anyone to try to get through the whole thing with dry eyes!

* Frindle by Andrew Clements (new read) – I have to be honest about my deciding factors for reading this book first off of my (lengthy) new read list.  #1) I totally judged the book by its cover.  Those kids holding that pen… so cute!  Plus, the cover also included a review hailing it as a “hilarious” read, which I was ready for after sobbing my way through Terabithia.  #2) It was the shortest of all the new reads I just ordered and I was running short on time for my first monthly challenge (aka I started reading it this morning).  Just felt like I needed a disclaimer about my true motivations…  <insert sheepish look here>

frindle

Frindle is story about young Nick Allen who has a knack for causing minor “disturbances” at his elementary school – things like transforming his third grade classroom into a tropical paradise… and getting his first-year teacher to buy into it!  However, after meeting his all-business fifth grade teacher (Mrs. Granger), Nick’s escapades seem to be in jeopardy.  That is, until he spontaneously decides to create a brand-new word: frindle (to name the object formerly known as a pen).  His seemingly harmless prank catches some steam and soon the word has grown beyond Nick’s control.  Meanwhile, Mrs. Granger is doing everything in her power to thwart frindle-users everywhere.

My Take: First of all, I love lovelove the character of Nick!  I love the way his mind works and that his portrayal does not stay true to any one stereotype.  He’s smart, but not nerdy.  He’s unusual, but not a “weirdo.”  He’s a bit mischievous, but not mean-spirited.  Secondly, I love that this book, written for elementary- and middle-schoolers, isn’t focused on the social issues they may face at school, but rather on a child’s growing curiosity and innovation.  So many books directed at this audience tend to deal with those social issues (admittedly important in more than one way), but I feel like we have a generation of children who need to know that creativity is important too.  I feel like they need permission to take risks and to think outside the box, and more importantly, to want to have an impact beyond their immediate scope.  Frindle at first glance is a funny story about a silly, made-up word, but the implications of what Nick created reach towards a greater purpose and hint at what can happen when kids make up their mind to change even one small part of their world!  This book left me smiling and inspired to think big…  Another easy, but worthwhile, read!

So… what do you think?  Has anyone else read Terabithia or Frindle?  Do you agree with my reviews?  I’m excited to hear everyone’s thoughts!

Now, I’m off to decide on what to read in March…

Happy Reading!  🙂