Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Quick Review: El Deafo by Cece Bell.

Bell, C.  (2014).  El Deafo.  New York:  Amulet Books.

Appetizer:  El Deafo is the memoir of Cece Bell, who after a bout of meningitis was left severely deaf.  She shares about learning to read lips, going to school and wearing a Phonic Ear, and making (and sometimes losing) friends.

Over the years, I've taught a few students who have requested that I wear a microphone.  I was always thankful that one such student warned me that if I wore the microphone to the restroom, she would still be able to hear everything I was doing.  So, I've been able to avoid the embarrassing fate of some of Cece's teachers:

This dates both myself and Cece Bell, but I appreciated that the book went into her school attempting
to teach about emotional intelligence and the way individuals' words can impact others as "warm fuzzies" or "cold pricklies."  I was actually talking to a few friends recently about how I was taught about giving warm fuzzies or cold pricklies to others, and they attempted to complicate it, noting that a lot of people can give one another warm pricklies or cold fuzzies.  As a child, I don't remember a book ever being attached to learning about fuzzies and pricklies, but apparently (and according to Cece Bell) there is a book.  (Now I know what I want for my birthday....)

I found El Deafo enjoyable, but it didn't blow my mind.  It often felt a little unfocused (which often happens with memoirs), which makes it put-down-able.  But having said that, it's still a very valuable book that I will recommend to my students.  This is a great recommendation for readers who like the realistic graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier.

Dinner Conversation:

Tasty Rating:  !!!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Quick Review: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry (Drink tea as you read this book...make make sure nobody is trying to poison you first...)

I just finished listening to the audiobook version of The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place  by Julie Berry.
Set in the Victorian era, after the seven girls at their finishing school realize that their headmistress and her brother have been murdered with poison, the girls decide to bury the bodies in the backyard.  Fearing that they would all have to return to their families if they summoned the police, the young women scheme to try to run the school for themselves and to find the murderer that may live among them.

This book was an enjoyable listen.  I was thankful that the girls were given epithets to help identify who they were.  I struggle with names as it is.....
Although, some of the epithets were troubling:  Pocked, Dour, Disgraceful.  But, that was part of the point.

Here's the book trailer:

I thought the ending was a little predictable, but the story was still enjoyable enough that it was good to confirm my suspicions.

The author's note at the end left me wanting to research more about Victorian poisons.    This is a good recommendation for students who love this era in history.

Tasty Rating:  !!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Quick Review: The School for Good and Evil (Deconstructing )

I just finished listening to the audiobook of The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.

I really enjoyed it.  The book gave me Harry Potter flashbacks.  It felt like a commentary on how characters from certain houses almost always turned out to be "good" or "evil."  The School for Good and Evil finds best friends, Sophie and Agatha, from a small town forced to attend a school in which the students are automatically sorted into the good side or evil side of the school.  Sophie, who landed in Evil, feels certain that she belongs in Good and Agatha isn't exactly certain that she belongs in Good either.  As the students are prepared to play roles in fairy tales, Agatha and Sophie are uncertain whether their friendship or they themselves can survive.

A former student recommended this book to me almost three years ago.  I certainly took my sweet time in reading the book.  I don't want to be *that* girl, but part of my delay was that the cover didn't impress me.  I know, I know.

I am glad I read it though.  I'll most likely continue with the series and will read A World without Princes at some point.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

REVIEW: Diary of a Wimpy Kid The Long Haul (AKA the worst road trip ever)

Kinney, J.  (2014).  Diary of a Wimpy Kid:  The long haul.  New York:  Abrams.

217 pages.

Appetizer:  Inspired by a Family Frolic magazine article, Greg's mom has required the entire family go on a road trip together.  The adventure that ensues will prove harrowing for poor Greg and will feature a piglet, hungry seagulls, a trip to a vet, underpants bandits, lost keys, and a lack of space in the back of the van.

I laughed out loud a few times while reading The Long Haul, which is a step up from several of the previous Wimpy Kid books.  I really liked the description of Choose Your Own Adventure books and Greg feeling like he was faced with a similar choice.  (Although, this element did make me feel like the end of the book lacked a conclusion.  I kept turning the last page back and forth to see what I was missing.)

I also liked the family trip to the vet's office (see the last two pictures below).

This book left me feeling pleased that I don't have any road trips scheduled for awhile....

Dinner Conversation:

Tasty Rating:  !!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Quick Post: Every day by David Levithan

Levithan, D.  (2012).  every day.  New York:  Alfred A. Knopf.

322 pages.

Appetizer:  Each morning, A wakes up in the body of a new teenager, to live the life as him or
her for a single day.  One morning, he/she finds him/herself in the body of Jason and attracted to his girlfriend, Rhiannon, with strong feelings he's never really felt before.  Now, each morning, A wakes trying to get as close to her as A can, hoping to have his/her first real relationship despite the fact that every physical aspect of A's existence changes daily.  His/her persuit of getting to know Rhiannon will have unintended consequences.

I really love the concept of this novel:  Of someone with no physical presence experiencing all of these different lives.  It is a wonderful vehicle to explore some great issues.  One of the most notable moments is when A wakes up in the body of a girl with depression and he/she disccuses the cycle of depression:

"The body is working against you.  And because of this, you feel even more despair.  Which only amplifies the imbalance.  It takes uncommon strength to live with these things.  But I have seen that strength over and over again.  When I fall into the life of someone grappling, I have to mirror their strength, and sometimes surpass it...I have to keep reminding myself--this is not me.  It is chemistroy.  It is bilogy.  It is not who I am.  It is not who any of them are." (pp. 119-120.

Very powerful!

I found the ending to be a little disappointing.  The plot had finally increased the tension in a way that could have opened the door to a suspense series, then dismissed the conflict.  It was a little frustrating.  I know Levithan wasn't interested in writing a suspense thriller so much as he was interested in exploring some philisophical questions regarding gender and love, but it felt like a dropped possibility.

Dinner Conversation:

"I wake up.
Immediately I have to fiture out who I am.  It's not just the body--oeping my eyes and discovering whether the skin on my arm is light or dark, whether my hair is long or short, whether I'm fat or thin, boy or girl, scarred or smooth.  The body is the easiest thing to adjust to, if you're used to waking up in a new one each morning.  It's the life, the context of the body, that can be hard to grasp." (p. 1)

"As I take Justin's books out of his locker, I can feel someone hovering on the periphery.  I turn, and the girl standing there is transparent in her emotions--tentative and expectant, nervous and adoring.  I don't have to access Justin to know that this is his girlfriend.  No one else would have this reaction to him, so unsteady in his presence.  She's pretty, but she doesn't see it.  She's hiding behind her hair, happy to see me and unhappy to see me at the same time.
Her name is Rhiannon.  And for a moment--just the slightest beat--I think that, yes, this is the right name for her.  I don't know why.  I don't know her.  But it feels right." (p. 4)

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Audio Book Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

The third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cress, is a very enjoyable read.  I enjoyed it more than Scarlet, the second book in the series.

Like the fairy tale of Repunzel, Cress has been trapped in a satellite orbiting Earth.  Her path will soon collide with Cinder, Scarlet and the rest of their little band of rebels.

As a whole, this series has a bit of a Star Wars vibe:  the team forced to separate to go on various misadventures only to come together at just the right moment to help each other.

Overall, I am enjoying this sci-fi interweaving of various fairy tales.  I look forward to reading the next book.  Hopefully I won't have to wait too long!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Just One Year Audio Book --A quick and dirty review

So, for those of you not in the know, Just One Year by Gayle Forman overlaps with the events of her previous title, Just One Day (which I always struggled with the name of, because while must of the focus is on one day, a lot of the story was about the following year as well).

So, this book was kind of a do-over, title-wise.  And instead of following Lulu, this novel shows Willem's perspective on the events of Just One Day, beginning with the moment that he disappeared from Lulu's life after their momentous day together and then following his year-long search for Lulu and resolutions of his familial conflicts.

*Vague Spoiler*  The plot lacked tension for much of the story because, if the reader had picked up the companion book, then he or she knew that most of Willem's initial search wouldn't turn up Lulu.  The story did pick up speed, but I still found the ending to be dissatisfying because Lulu makes a choice to bring the story to a resolution.  Willem's a bit passive in the final exchange.  And since one of the main tensions of the book is whether or nor he will be more assertive over his choices, this ending left a lot to be desired.  *End vague spoiler*

Daniel May, the reader for the audio book, did an excellent job!  The various accents he had to take on throughout the story were done very well!

So, pick it up if you feel like a light romance that will take you around the world.  But be sure to have read Just One Day first!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

REVIEW: Bink & Gollie: Two for One (A light tale of friendship)

Yay, first post of 2014!  Happy new year, few but dear readers!  May your year be filled with many enjoyable books, but no paper cuts!

One of my resolutions for the year is to try and focus more on my writing.  I may try to post about my progress on my blog to help keep myself accountable.  Another goal will be to post more about what I have been reading.  And with that goal in mind, here's my first review of the year...

DiCamillo, K., & McGhee, A.  (2012).  Bink & Gollie:  Two for One.  Somerville, MA:  Candlewick Press.

80 pages.

Appetizer:  Bink and Gollie decide to tackle the state fair.  But there's a chance the fair may not be ready for the two friends.  In three short episodic chapters, Bink attempts to win the world's largest donut, Gollie appears in a talent show, and they both visit a fortune teller.  At the heart of all three stories is a sense of friendship and love and support.

I loved the first Bink and Gollie book and I actually think I enjoyed Two for One even more.  Set on an ordinary day and in relatable experiences, the illustrations and word choices and humor and delight to the story.  I giggled in surprise when Bink's first ball toss didn't hit its intended mark:

The illustrations are in black and white with a accents of color.  (I know that as a wee child, I would have wanted photocopied pages to color in the rest of the scenes.)  They include a lot of signs and cues that an adult can point out to kids to help them read both the written text and the images.  A teacher could emphasize some of the vocabulary and idioms (like fearing "this can only end in tragedy" or "in a manner of speaking."

I also love the different characterizations of Bink and Gollie (and this would be a good book to start a discussion of characterization or foils with young kids).  From their size differences, clothes and language choices, and attitudes they're easy to contrast.

Dinner Conversation:

Tasty Rating:  !!!!


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