The Rundown- November ’16

511ytvbz02l-_sy344_bo1204203200_The Grey King by Susan Cooper (new read)

True confessions: I was SO BORED during the first half of this book. It took me forever to get through. Add to that the Welsh names and terms, and it was a struggle.

I also found out, as I picked it up to read, that it was Book 4 out of a five book “sequence.” Although a quick recap and prologue was given in the beginning, it felt a bit like picking up Harry Potter right before the final confrontation. There wasn’t enough background for me to be really excited when the climax finally happened.

The Grey King is #4 of The Dark is Rising sequence. Will Stanton has discovered he is the last of the “Old Ones,” who are dedicated to saving the world from evil. In this particular book, he, along with some family members and friends (including the son of King Author?), work together to achieve a defeat of the titular character.

With all I previously said though, I really enjoyed the second half of the book, once the action picked up. It was a great little fantasy, with all the typical things you would expect.

I think many kids would enjoy this book, but I would recommend starting at the beginning of the sequence, so that everything that happens makes sense.

VERDICT: To truly be one of the best, the whole book needs to be on point. For that reason, I would not include this on the list.

 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (new read) monster

I’m not sure where to begin with this book. I guess the first thing to know is that Patrick Ness wrote this book based on an outline from Siobhan Dowd, an author who passed away from cancer almost ten years ago. It’s all explained in an Author’s Note at the beginning, and I feel that Ness evoked her spirit as he wrote this book.

It was incredible– heartbreaking. Deceptively easy to read for such a difficult subject. Conor’s mother is ill and he has nightmares every night.  One night, he wakes to a real life monster, but not the one in his dreams. It tells Conor  he called it, and it wants to know his truth.

When “the truth” is finally revealed, it was like a gut punch, and then a release. It is the single most therapeutic thing I have seen or heard since my father died.  I can’t really talk about it much without giving away some of the story.

I will say this: if you have had someone close to you die after battling a long term illness, you  need to read this book. I think young adults choosing to read this will be greatly moved.

VERDICT: Yes. Yes. Yes. This book has jumped in my top 10 of all time and I plan to read it again several more times in my life.

**Just yesterday, I saw they have made a movie from this! I must admit, I am kind of worried, since I loved the book so much. I hope they gave it the reverence it deserves. Anyway, you should read this before you go check out the movie!

to_kill_a_mocking_birdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (reread)

Is there a person on this planet who hasn’t read this book? Even if you didn’t choose to read it yourself, chances are, you’ve read it for school at some point.

Since the first time I read it, I have said this is my all time favorite book. It’s been many years since the last time I picked it up though, so I was kind of nervous reading it again! I was afraid it wasn’t going to live up to what I remembered.

I needn’t have worried too much. I have read multitudes of books since then, and this still solidly sits in my top five. I do find it interesting how my views towards it shift as I get older. Thinking about some of my more recent Challenge reads, such as Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, this also deals with some heavy issues. I think part of the widespread appeal is the story is palatable to most and relatable to all.

 There were so many details of this story that I forgot, and they were nice surprises as they came up. I did forget how much the “N-word” came up though–off-putting, but necessary. Part of what I love though is the wise words Atticus has, and some of the realizations Scout and Jem come to:

“…before I can live with other folks, I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” (105)

“…you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life…no matter who he is…that white man is trash.” (220)

“If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? “(227)

VERDICT: Of course this should be on the list. Every person should read it at least once in their life, and being a young adult is the perfect time!

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. **