The Rundown- October/November ’17

Secret series by Pseudonymous Bosch (new read)

imageThe “Secret” series is five books about a group of kids in middle school, starting with Cass and Max Ernest. They get involved with a secret society that tries to keep a huge secret from a group of alchemists up to no good. As you can imagine, lots of excitement and adventure ensues. There are lots of twists and turns: some I saw coming, and some I didn’t. That was all part of the fun!

The books each revolve around one of the senses, and I think the names are so enticing to readers:

The Name of this Book is Secret

If You’re Reading this Book, It’s Too Late

This Book is Not Good for You

This Isn’t What It Looks LIke

You Have to Stop This

My favorites were the first, third and fifth. Which brings me to a point– I don’t know if five books was really necessary. I was somewhat fatigued by the time I got to the last one!

The style of this series reminds me of A Series of Unfortunate Events, so if you like the way those are written, I think you’ll like these too. They also had several unique features for young readers, such as a TON of footnotes, and an Appendix in every one full of interesting ways for the reader to expand their experience. There was also a good bit of history and mythology, so young adults might even learn something (I sure did!).

VERDICT: The Secret series was enjoyable and unique. Guys and gals alike will find the subject matter intriguing and absolutely want to know what happens next. For those and the aforementioned reasons, I completely agree with these books’ inclusion on the list!

**You can find Ashley’s review of the first book HERE**

 

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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!

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. **