Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Jane, The Fox, and Me by Fanny Brit/ Isabelle Arsenault

In many cultures childhood and pre-adolescence are considered havens of learning and growing. These are times when joy should be abundant and learning continuous. What happens then, when this is not the case? What happens when a young person struggles at such an early point in life, how can she cope with the flaws she thinks she has and the unhappiness that this implies?


Jane, the fox and me tells the story of Helene. Helene's age is never stated but the reader can infer that she is about 13 or 14 years old. Helene's story begins with her entering a stall only find that offensive comments have been written about her. Helene goes home and infers that the same girl who wrote the rude comments is the girl that used to be her friend. Helene puts up with the bullying in school and develops the idea that the rude comments she receives about her supposed “overweight”, are true. As such, Helene is socially withdrawn and instead finds comfort in reading Jane Eyre. One day Helene's teacher announces that there will be a class wide camping trip to celebrate the end of the school year. Helene suspects that the trip will be a another opportunity for her to be teased and bullied. At first this proves true, but soon and encounter with a fox and a peer turn Helene's life in an unsuspected direction...


This book as a whole is a great read. The book is a graphic novel that is mostly illustrated in a grey scale. Color is used to denote changes in the protagonist's emotional state. This form of storytelling is one that adds strength to the book as it relates to a middle school audience. The fact that the story is presented as a graphic novel allows the reader to be given information without the outright use of text. This is a strength because it allows the reader to develop their own feelings about the story. The general idea will be communicated but by providing pictures instead of text, a reader is allowed a measure of freedom in his/her interaction with the story. Another strength of the book is that it's focus is a teen subject with a very modern problem( as explained in this summary ). And while not every teen or pre-teen has been a victim of bullying, the book's voice handles the conflict in the voice of the protagonist and creates a sympathetic story. A final factor of the book that I believe to be a strength in the construction of the book is its straightforwardness. Jane, the fox and me spans only a couple of weeks in Helene's life and this allows a very concise handling of a complex topic. This book can be used as a great way to open discussion about the topics that are discussed and can even be used as a prelude into the delving of more complex texts.

Ultimately, I think this book is one that will foster a connection with students in elementary school and even first year high school students. The illustrative aspect of the text might encourage reluctant readers to pick up the book and explore the complex topics that are covered. Such topics include bullying about weight, misconceptions of identity, gender, and friendship. I see merit in creating a small lesson plan surrounding this text.

First of all I would like to say that every young adult would love to read this book in my opinion. This is one of the funniest books I have ever read. I was not expecting the tone of the book, so I say it can be very fun to read. The story is a little comical with a very important topic. The author is telling her story about how her family lied about her father being dead. I am not sure I would ever like to be put in this situation, but George’s way of handling the situation would encourage young adults to deal with things in a more positive way. Even through the secrets and lies that were told to George her story is encouraging and her positive outlook with the relationship she has with her mom is something to learn from. This story is uplifting, because although she sees all of her mother’s imperfections she writes how she deals with the disappointment. The cons to this books would be that there is no true conclusion. At least for me the conclusion was a little unjoyful. I guess since it is an autobiography and the topic is a little complicated is expected, because the author is still pretty young. The other thing I noticed from this book is that the title is a little deceiving. The call to Dr. Laura does not really play of a big role in the book. The pictures from this books were amazing. The pictures of Portland are very interesting as well. Artist and common people would love them or hate them. For me it was very entertaining and although the pictures are not perfect they got their point across.  I always have fun with pictures so I believed they were great. This book would be great if offered for young adults. Bullying exist in many schools and I believe this book would welcome diversity and would allow those who are and want to be different to be different. As I was reading I felt the author was young and outgoing so I looked her up and she was. I feel that her book reflects her amazing and brilliant smile.

I would truly recommend this book as a fun reading so that students can learn that there are people with dysfunctional families and that they have succeeded in life with a very positive attitude.
 

Chuck Close: Facebook by Chuck Close

How underrated is the human face? The map and testament of the conditions and experiences that someone has weathered. Those wrinkles there on her face speak on behalf of the constant and monotone rigor she has put up with to clothe her lifestyle. Those laugh lines scream and laugh as they recount all the wonderful times spent smiling under shaded parks. That gaze, situated under two furrowed brows, longs for something dropped on the path to the present. Is a face the communicator of its own language? Chuck Close might say, “yes”.
                                                                                            “Chuck Close: Facebook” is a small book that has Chuck Close answering questions addressed to him by young middle schoolers. Some of the questions asked are, “Why do you only paint faces?”, “Why doesn't anyone in your art smile?” and “How do you make your pictures loo so real?”. The book begins by explaining who Close is, a widely known modern artist whose subject matter is the human face. Close rose to fame by painting photorealist portraits of human faces, all in huge scaled canvases. The book does not have a very distinct plot, instead it presents information in question and answer format. Questions are presented to Close and he answers them while giving information about his trade. In the book, Close does delve into a personal narrative, although it is a very brief one. The book also has a very interesting interactive feature. The first couple of pages in the book contain smaller versions of some of Close's paintings separated into three horizontal pieces. Readers are then able to switch these paintings around to create new views and to see how all of Close's self portraits seem to blend together.

One of the strengths of this book is that it contains some of the works of the subject. While the text in the book has Close explaining the features of his work, there are many paintings of his that add depth to his responses. The interactive element of the book that was mentioned earlier is also a great use of illustration. These paintings are displayed with no text and as such this enhances their presentation. Another strength of the book is the Question and Answer format of presenting information. This format allows the reader (presumably one between the ages of 8-12) to really identify with the text. The questions themselves are worded in a way that they mirror the thought process of someone that age. This allows the reader to form a connection with the information being presented. Yet another strength of the book is the fact that is could easily be implemented as a one day lesson in a middle school art class. Because it is rather short and straightforward, this book could be implemented as an introduction to either Chuck Close, painting, photo-realism, or even perseverance. The book lends itself to be implemented in a variety of ways. One weakness of the book is that it does not provide a very in depth biography of Close's life. The book merely provides the reader with a timeline of events in Chuck's life. The book is more focused on providing the reader with answers to Close's art but it might be helpful to students to have access to a more in depth biography.


This book would be a text that preteens should be exposed to. The text provides students into the art world, an asset in a student's education that often goes ignored. The book creates a relationship with the reader and it efficiently explores the characteristics of Chuck Close's art. The book also gives a subtle lesson on perseverance. It is mentioned in the book that close is a paraplegic but that he still does what he loves and has become successful doing so. This message will not be lost on a young reader. It is books like these with the undertones of perseverance that might positively impact a student's learning experience.


An amazing part of history is giving in this book and the extraordinary stories of people who survived the holocaust is illustrated in such a heart touching way. Bascomb story is in regards a group of spies that are sent out to catch all the officers that committed such heinous crimes against Jews and other minorities in Germany. These spies would go all over the world to catch these officers that fled when they were being prosecuted in world war II. Eichmann was one of the many officers that was being hunted. His job was to get all the Jews to one place and have them shipped to concentration camps. Many Jews did not resist this, because Eichmann would tell them lies like they were going to a place where they can work and their children would go to a good school. These people were then disappointed as they saw their family being separated and then having to go through all the suffering in the camps. The book is very suspenseful, which makes it a great kind of mystery. At times it did seem like the story slowed down as they were explaining some of the spies actions, but overall an extremely good book. Instead of reading history books this would give a more interesting way of learning about the war and the after math. Emotionally students, in my opinion will have a clear understanding of the situation and it would be as good of a book as The Diary of Anne Frank because it is very touching. This book also offers pictures, which to me is always fun to put a face to the characters. http://www.nealbascomb.com/books/The%20Books/Nazi-Hunters/Nazi-Hunters-Photos.html This link allows you to look at more pictures about the characters.   Overall I would agree to recommend this for teachers to use in their classroom to teach about the holocaust and the after math. This gives detail information about how many of the top commanders in charge of the death of eleven million people including six million Jews were captured.      

The President Has Been Shot: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson

Where were you when JFK was shot? A common question for the average American who lived during the tumultuous 1960s, but many younger generations may wonder what would compel someone to assassinate on of our most popular, yet divisive, presidents.  In James Swanson's gripping minute-by-minute account of President Kennedy's murder, the author meticulously details the actions of the President and his wife on the fateful days leading up to November 22, 1963, and he intricately weaves the stories of on-lookers, as well as Lee Harvey Oswald. In fact, The President Has Been Shot is organized into two parts: Part One serves as an introduction to JFK's early years, eventual election, his inauguration, The Cuban Missile Crisis, his connection to the Civil Rights era, and the allure of the Kennedy family. Part Two, on the other hand, is dedicated to the assassination itself; having researched the day leading up to his assassination and the surreal after-math that Jacqueline faced alongside Robert Kennedy and Vice President LBJ, Swanson spares no detail, leaving the reader with the sense of despair, confusion, and impending cynicism that this horrific tragedy caused. Part of his impetus for writing this text came from the following sentiment Swanson shared with  his audience: "We’ve lost touch with the emotional rawness of what the Kennedys and America suffered on November 22nd...Don’t forget, a woman lost her husband, two children lost their father, and America lost its president."  Swanson delivered on this promise and brought humanity and grit to this sad day.

I would highly recommend this text to high school readers (and adult readers, like me who may have never formally learned about this era in a classroom). Swanson brings each person involved in JFK's personal life, administration, & murder back to life through detail and unbridled honesty.  While theories abound about what may have actually happened to JFK, Swanson takes a clear stance that Lee Harvey Oswald is the only perpetrator, and he supports his argument with evidence. Young adult readers will appreciate the pictures, maps, and other resources referenced throughout the text. Each picture allows readers to envision the events Swanson describes, and historical references are described in a manner that is reader friendly and accessible to students. I would recommend this text be taught in an interdisciplinary unit; perhaps it could be connected with the Vietnam Era to illustrate the historical climate leading up to Vietnam.  Alternatively, an ELA teacher may consider using this text to teach a unit about unfinished legacies. Check out this article as a possible non-fiction text to reflect on this theme. Also, I think political cartoons, much like the one above, could be a great way to discuss JFK's legacy and the historical context under which he led. Click here for a variety of political cartoons that can support the development of a unit related to The President Has Been Shot.

Of course, with the recent 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, there is a myriad of sources that could be used to help students explore this texts and its themes. Click here to find other documentaries that could be paired with this text. If you are interested in learning more about Swanson's latest text about JFK, click here!

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet
Have you ever wondered what would happen if Little Red Riding Hood was a farmer who drove spaceships and the Wolf a hot lupine cross species? No, probably not, but if you want to know what happens when all that collides with a half cyborg alien Cinderella then trust me this book is for you. If you're more in to coming of age stories about self acceptance; or slow forbidden romances with an unrequited love on the side; or quest novels with wicked plot twists and fast action; or even espionage, kidnappings, and alleged assassination attempts, well, this book is still for you. I have no doubt that any and every reader can find a facet of this story to follow. I found most of the characters to be fascinating and their stories generally well rounded. The book begins with some ambiguities that caused me confusion because I was reading closely (such as: how is she driving a ship down a town road? And other seeming inconsistencies, until the far future setting becomes clear,) and had not been pulled in quite enough to suspend my disbelief, however that was all resolved before it became a problem. I saw many opportunities for creative writing assignments through out the text, in the undefined history of the world. By the end of the book I had managed to discern that the United Commonwealth is indeed the future North America though the novel's references to other areas but how the name came to change and how life on the moon was discovered is left unclear in vague mentions of war. So getting students to play the role of United Commonwealth historians could prompt great interpretations of what characteristics put or society in jeopardy, and how that would carry us into global warfare. I think this novel gives young readers cause to wonder about the world around them especially the advances in technology that may be available in their lifetimes!
http://www.marissameyer.com/book/book-two/ -- This is the link is for the book's publicity page, it even has a trailer for the novel!
http://www.ted.com/talks/amber_case_we_are_all_cyborgs_now#t-457880 -- This link leads to a ted talk about cyborg anthropology and a fascinating modern interpretation of what it is to be a cyborg, bringing the possibilities of the book much close to home.
http://www.space.com/tech-robots/-- This site provides a look at our current space technology. The drones, satellites, and shuttles we have are not quite as advanced as those imagined by Marissa Meyer but they are impressive and checking them out along side the text would give the book another in with students who are reluctant to read.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Bomb: the Race to Build and Steal the World's Most Dangerous Weapon, by Steve Sheinkin

In 1938, a German chemist named Otto Hahn discovered that atoms can split--and the rest is history!

This non-fiction book describes the many factors that went into creating the atomic bomb. The author gives accounts of the scientists, political leaders, military, and spies.


This book is perfect for high school students learning about the atomic bomb for the first time and adults who know the history, but would like a wider scope. I think just enough background information is provided along with some basic science concepts to show how and why the bomb was created. The first hand accounts of witnesses, dialog, diary entries, letters, and photos allow the reader to see the emotions of the real life characters as they begin to realize the heaviness of their discovery--and how it will inevitably change the world
 


Picture to the right is Robert Oppenheimer (the Father of the Atomic Bomb). Oppenheimer was a brilliant man and a key player in the creation of the atomic bomb for the United States. Once the incredible destruction of the bomb was made real in Japan, Oppenheimer lobbied for the international control of nuclear power for fear of what could happen. Because he disagreed with the power hungry politics of the time, Oppenheimer's security clearance was revoked from the United States Atomic Energy Commission.

Click here to hear author Steve Sheinkin read an excerpt from Bomb.

Click here to read more about Bomb and other books by Steve Sheinkin.




Bomb reads like a thriller and has something for everyone: history buffs, science geeks, political heads, military enthusiasts, and espionage lovers!
In Courage Has No Color, Tanya Lee Stone explores the long history of racial discrimination in the US military through the history of the first black paratroopers: The Triple Nickles. Though very well-trained they never saw active combat, yet their views and hard work left an impact.
Why would a black man risk his life to help his country? The answer was simple. This is my country, my children’s country, and their children’s. It is up to me and many, many people of all races and cultures to fight the haters and racists to make this a better place to live, said Walter Morris, a member of The Triple Nickles.

The book is well informed using primary and secondary sources, as well as interviews with the remaining Triple Nickles. Stones did her research well and not leaving anything out that was important to tell the story. Readers will find the writing engaging with the story unfolding in each chapter.  Real Black and white photos are spread throughout, making the reading experience even better.

Click here to see the book trailer.

This is a great book to be taught in the class. I found this teachers guide for this book. Here is a clip that can be shown in class as well that gives a good and shorter version of the story. I think this is better for high schoolers than middle schoolers. I also think because this is such a powerful story I think it is important to get to know the author. Here is her website to find more information on her and other books she has written. Also I found this audio of her explain why she wrote the book.
 

Overall it was a great book. I had a hard time coming up with weaknesses. It is a powerful story that all teachers and students should read!

  Have you heard about the Donner Party? Well during the Westward Expanion, they were a group of people from Illinois headed for California in 1846. Nathan Hale’s book tells the story of the Donner-Reed party, focusing primarily on James Reed who told the group about a short cut that would save them more time but the short cut did the opposite. They get stranded in the snow and have used up all of their resources but who in their group will survive?



This book is a graphic novel; Donner Dinner Party is a great read for middle schoolers and high schoolers. The characters are detailed, and kids will love the executioner, who is funny! There are well-drawn maps that show their journal that can be taught in the classroom. It is a fast read but very informative.

I personally don’t like history but this book had me hooked! I love the graphics in the book. It was a page turner and had me wanting to learn more! Here is a documentary on the Donner party from the history channel. Which can be shown to the class after having them read the book. 

Like I mention I’m not a fan of the subject of history and most kids aren't into history either but this book will want them learning more! I found two great lesson plans for teachers to use when they teach about the Donner Party. Also here is a project that high schoolers did on the Donner Party.


This was my first Hazardous Tale from Nathan Hale, but it certainly won’t be my last. Here is his blog to find more of his Hazardous Tales. Stock this book in your classroom! You and your students are going to enjoy this story!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

 Sam is not a star athlete or popular by any means. Not that it really matters since he feels comfortable in his skin. He may not be popular but he has a small group of great loyal friends, who aren't popular either. He enjoys watching horror movies and writes screenplays. Not to mention he is really smart.

His life begins to turn around when his school gets a new student from England. She is pretty and edgy. Camilla fits right into the popular crowd. She begins to show interest in Sam and his friends. He seems confused as to why she would want to hang out with him and his friends when she is already part of the popular kids. He tries to ignore her and is kind of rude to her but then she begins talking about World of Warcraft and Star Wars and their friendship starts to begin.

Their friendship begins to really blossom! But everything else around him is going wrong. His parents decide to separate, he feels that his best friend is keeping something from him; he punches one of his good friends, and kisses another girl. Will Sam and Camilla make it in the end?

I really enjoyed this book! It was funny and cute. And you will fall in love with the characters. The strengths of the book is that it is told from a boys point of view and teen boys will be able to relate to Sam. I feel like there isn't many young romance novels told through a boys view and this is a great one. Some weaknesses are that some of the references the book makes maybe too old for current teens to understand.  An example is Sam talks about Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, The Breakfast Club, Grease, and others. I don’t know if the generation now will now what he is talking about. He also mentions Dr. Who which is a popular show but not everyone knows about it.

Also his and his friends slang is different from what I am use but the generation now may understand him. But other than that I really enjoyed it. I think it brings up good topics like how to help a friend out. Here is a link that I found would be useful for teachers to reference if a student is having problems with a good friend. Bullying is something that happens in the book as well and I found a video about bullying.

One main theme is divorce. It unfortunately does happen in families and here are two good websites for teens and parents that are going through a divorce. Also here is a website for counselors or teachers who have a student going through a divorce.


Overall I think this is a great book for teens to read for fun. I don’t think it is a book to be taught in class. But I would recommend it for a book report or project or for a student who wants to read a new book. It is fun love story but not a book for the classroom.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Crash, by Lisa McMann


Young love, feuding families, pizza, and an ominous vision.  This is the recipe for acclaimed young adult author Lisa McMann’s Crash, the first novel in her Visions series, which is completed by Bang and Gasp.

Sixteen-year-old Jules is not your standard teenager. She has responsibilities that most of her peers wouldn't dream of taking on or even understanding: The responsibility to ensure a smoothly-running pizza parlor; the responsibility to function normally in a house full of her hoarder father's junk; the responsibility to stay away from Sawyer, her forbidden crush; and, of course, the responsibility to save up to nine lives. Going to the movies or mall with friends (if she even had any outside her brother and sister) is not in her realm of thinking.

Instead, her thoughts as of late are preoccupied with an unsettling impending event: a snow plow's crashing into a building, in its wake, leaving 9 body bags in the snow. And only she knows it's coming. 

Every billboard, every television screen, every window reveals the event to her, playing in front of her eyes like a movie. But she knows it's not a movie, and as she receives more clues about the accident site and the victims, she tirelessly plots to halt the disaster--even if it might halt her own life.

Throughout all of the chaos of Jules' teenage life, she must avoid her childhood crush like the plague--all because of a feud between her family, the Demarcos, and Sawyer's family, the Angottis--both of whom own a rival pizza place.  For this reason and more, Crash would be a wonderful novel for teachers to pair with Shakespeare's classic play Romeo and Juliet. (and connect to the most well-known family feuds in our country: 4 Bloody Family Feuds in American History)

Yes, the families of Crash are the modern-day Capulets and Montagues; the children are the ones who have the common sense to wriggle free of the idiotic, pointless feud and come together. Well, they try, anyway.   


McMann's novel touches on many issues that teenagers and their families of today experience, often behind closed doors. Jules' father suffers from depression, a struggle which seems to have flipped the entire household upside down over the past years. Her brother, Trey, is gay, and often finds his family (especially Jules) to be his safe haven, as he is unaccepted by his peers. And through much of the book, we see Jules and her siblings taking on adult roles--not only physically, but also emotionally. 

Crash is well-written from Jules' point of view. The teen language and phrasing that Jules uses will be relatable for adolescent readers across the country. In fact, Jules speech sounds exactly like that of some my own high school students.

One of the novel's prominent messages is to do what you know to be right, even if it may be a struggle; always give it your all.  This is sometimes a difficult lesson for students to learn and apply, and this novel will assist them in understanding the importance of motivation and effort.

Please click the following link which contains an article about a teenager who takes on an adult role: Teen Shoulders Adult Responsibilities

Please click the following link which contains an article about ways for students to handle parental depression: 6 Things Every Kid Should Know


Friday, April 25, 2014

Tiger Eyes Judy Blume

Judy Blume (author of book Tiger Eyes)


This book was written by Judy Blume and mostly because she lost her father as well as the main character in the novel Davey. Davey is a 15 year old girl who lives in New Jersey with her family and in the first chapter losses her father. She is crying and has a lot of pain and sees her dad's body inside the coffin. Then after this horrifying tragedy, her mother decides to move to Los Alamos, New Mexico with her daughter Davey and son Jason.  

Davey has an aunt and uncle who lived in New Mexico and flew to her father's funeral. After a few months, the aunt Bitsy and Uncle Walter both pick them up from the airport of New Mexico, and now live with each other as a big family. Davey then meets a guy named Wolf at a canyon and helps her way out of the canyon. Davey says her name is Tiger, and they become very good friends. Wolf is the only person who understands her and helps her overcome fear, guilt, anger, and denial. And one day, Davey can see the same suffer in Wolf, since Wolf's dad is in a comma but why not read more about the adventure and never seeing of Davey and Wolf.
 
Book Review made by: Evelyn Lopez
        
This book is an extraordinary novel/story for all young adult literature people, who will love the book. It is a very detailed, sad, funny and interesting story about a young 15 year old girl whose father dies. This young girl lives a hard and rough life without her father and different changes in New Mexico. Though besides all the affects, she is a strong girl who meets Wolf the only guy who understands her and helps her overcome all of her fears.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman


Seraphina is a musically talented girl who lives in a world where humans and dragons co-exist. For years, they have lived at peace under a treaty that makes requirements of both sides—one being that dragons remain in their “human” form. Despite the treaty, there is some mistrust from both parties, and when a nobleman is murder (which appears to be by a dragon) there are twists and turns about who done it and who can be trusted.

Seraphina herself is what her community would call an abomination. She is half human, half dragon. Only her father and uncle know this truth about her. Her dragon mother died giving birth. Seraphina has dragon scales on her arm and around her waist. She keeps this covered with layers of clothing. Seraphina has vivid visions that cause her to faint. Her (dragon) uncle and teacher shows her how to enter her subconscious to control these visions. Seraphina creates a garden in her mind where several “grotesques” live. She visits and maintains the garden regularly to insure they are all happy. For when one is unhappy, she faints into a vision. Seraphina later realizes that her “grotesques” are real people as she meets three of them. There connection—they too are half human, half dragon!

Dragons are naturally intellectual and knowledgeable in mathematics. When they take their human form, they experience human emotion. Guilt, fear, joy, and most dangerous of all—love.

The contrast between human emotion and dragon reason is well written. Author Rachel Hartman tests her reader’s vocabulary throughout the book. Seraphina’s subconscious world is eerily mesmerizing. And, like in any great book, there is a love story that develops at the perfect pace. Even for someone who is not into “dragons”, this book is well written with amazing characters.
 
Although this does not do the book justice, here's a book trailer of Seraphina.
 

The book is on the long side and would probably not be best is a classroom. I personally have not read much fantasy and was unsure about the book at first. I really enjoyed it! I switched between reading and listening to the book on CD. I think being read to is something we think of when it comes to younger children, but I liked listening to the story and was able to keep “reading” even while driving!
 
Click here to check out the book website.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Myths Busted! By Emily Krieger

"So was Napoleon really that short? I bet he struggled to fit in and that's why he was so power hungry". Well actually, Napoleon Bonaparte was, for his era, an above average height. While the rest of his countrymen were about 5 foot 4 inches to 5 foot 5 inches, records indicate that Napoleon was about 5 foot 6 inches to 5 foot 7 inches.

Although this quote represents a common bit of information that people hold, it's false. This is where Myths Busted! comes in. This short book, it's 206 pages long, sets out to explore common bits of information that are false. The book presents the "myth" and then provides the information that proves the myth false. The information is provided in small sentences, usually a page has no more than four sentences at a time. However, the book is illustrated with photographs and collages that decorate each set of busted myths. An example of this layout can be seen here. The book explores a wide range of myths ranging from different disciplines. For example, Myths Busted! explores myths, superstitions, and misconceptions dealing with animals, physics, history, and even gastronomy

This small book contains a good number of strengths.Because the book is very nicely illustrated, a student who learns visually would be sure to enjoy the format of the book. Every "myth" is accompanied by a collage describing the myth in a somewhat silly depiction, and an actual photograph adding to the explanation of why that myth is false. These rich illustrations are a great way to complement the short and straightforward sentence structure used throughout the book. This sentence structure can also be a strength in the book. While some of the information deals with some very interesting concepts, it is done so in an accessible diction. One of the weaknesses that, I think, comes from the book is its very short length and its simplicity. The book just focuses on small bits of information and, as such, it does not provide enough material to be taught at length in a classroom.  However, the previously mentioned strengths lend this book to be assigned to very reluctant readers. The format, subject, and illustrations of the book mean that a student unwilling to read conventionally formatted books would give this one a try.

This book, because of its simplicity, would be hard to incorporate as a class lesson. The book analyzes the idea of misinformation and some possible sources of said erroneous information. However, in my opinion, this book belongs in a younger class (12 year olds ) and should be presented in the form of independent reading.
       
   Wilhelmina, Will for short is a creative soul. Will is an artistic girl living with her aunt who runs an antique store that was owned by her grandmother. She helps her aunt with the store whenever she can but her life wasn’t always like this. About a year ago Will moved in with her aunt Ella, after her mother and father died tragically and suddenly. Her aunt Ella is all she has left. Will has yet come to terms about her parents death, she pretty much ignores that it happened.

School just ended for the summer and Will planned on spending a quiet summer with her friends and helping her aunt out with the shop. You also learn her passion for making lamps but you find out that her passion for lambs is because she is afraid of the dark.

Unfortunately for Will she doesn't get her quiet summer but a very eventful one. She meets a group of teens that are playing a carnival and her and her friends decide to help but than a storm named Whitney hits her town making the power go out for days. Now she is left to confront her fear of the dark and to face the reality that her parents are never coming back and fall in love all at the same.

Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge is a great graphic novel. It is well drawn and a story that many teens can relate to. One of the main themes of the story is learning how to cope with death. I think this is a great novel for middle school and high school. Death unfortunately is something everyone can pretty much relate to. I found this great blog that a teacher had her students read the book than as an activity they made their own small graphic novel. 

I also find this website that the author talks about how she came up with the cover. I thought it would be a great activity for students to write down what they think the story is going to be about before they read it. I honestly thought it was going to be a love story but I was wrong. I think this would be a great lesson for students not to judge a book by its cover.

Here is a great trailer of the book for you guys to check out as well.

I found this book that can be useful for teachers to read to learn about grief and healing. I think it is good to be prepared because you never know when you will have a student experience a loss in their life.

Page by Paige is also a graphic novel by Laura Lee Gulledge. This novel was compared to Will & Whit in many blogs I found.

Overall I think this a great quick read for teens and teachers. It is face pace with a great story line. The graphics in the book are great and will keep your attention the whole time. It will also make you want summer to get here faster!                                                                   

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Have you ever thought you were peculiar? Have you ever had a talent or the ability to do something that no one else could? Perhaps write a 12 page paper in one night or run faster than anyone else you know? In reading a new novel called Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, readers are introduced to some of the most peculiar characters they may ever see. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a mixture of The Chronicles of Narnia, Groundhogs Day, and Supernatural all mashed up in one.

Author Ransom Riggs opens the book to us with two characters, an elderly grandfather and his 16 year old grandson named Jacob. As a small boy, Jacob's grandfather often told Jacob interesting stories about growing up in an orphanage on a mysterious island. At this orphanage, there were very peculiar children that many people did not want. These children had special talents such as being invisible, floating, and being able to lift impossibly heavy things. He also told Jacob about a monster that was out to get him but was now safe from. As a young boy, Jacob loved these stories but as he grew up, he came to the realization that they were just stories his grandfather had made up to entertain him. Or so he thought. One day, Jacob's grandfather called him in a frantic episode saying that his monster had found him and he needed help. Jacob ran to his grandfathers house, thinking it was just his old age that was playing tricks on him, but arrived to a torn apart house. Jacob looked for his grandfather and found him on the floor, bleeding, fighting for his last breath. He told Jacob, "Find the bird..." and then died. Jacob sat there confused and alone until he looked up and saw two glowing devilish eyes starring at him through the outside window. From then on, Jacob begins a quest to unravel his grandfathers past to solve his murder. Through his journey, he is confronted with many decision that lands him in a world that he never thought possible.

Below is a video made by the author, Ransom Riggs. It is actually very interesting because Riggs created a Book Trailer for Miss Peregrine. In it, he finds almost the exact replica of the house he imagined while writing his first novel.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a great novel for Young Adult readers. It not only relates to popular genre's today such as Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia but it captivates the reader into a world that is unlike their own. With mysterious photographs scattered throughout the pages, it keeps the reader motivated and critically thinking throughout the course of the novel. This book could be used in English Language Arts to teach symbolism, foreshadowing, and examine plot twists. With its science fiction essence, it could also simply be read for pleasure.

Some weaknesses I could see this book having could be that Ransom Riggs is quite wordy throughout the novel. It almost reminded me of F. Scott Fitzgerald because he, too, loves strong descriptions and details when writing. For some readers, this could be a bore or too much for a young adult reader's attention. I could also see the cliff hanger ended be an annoyance because students would want to read the sequel in school but it could also promote further pleasure reading.

As a reviewer, I would definitely recommend this book to young adult readers. While it can be a little wordy, I really enjoyed the plot and it made me want to read until I was finished. I think this book would be great for young adult readers because it expresses that being different is not wrong. All of these peculiar children had something different about them yet they were like anyone else. They had feelings, ambitions, and experiences like any person. Many young adults face challenges with being different or feeling different but this novel shows a positive light on those aspects. Additionally, while I could see this novel being in English classes, I could also see it being read for pleasure too. Another great thing about this novel is that it has been made into a graphic novel, check that out here! This is great for students with reading problems and could be used as a differentiated instruction method for students.


To learn more about the author, Ransom Riggs, here is his own personal blog. Barnes & Nobles also had a personal interview with Riggs here, click the link to read it!

Lastly, if you want to read this novel, click here!

Monday, April 21, 2014

And We Stay, by Jenny Hubbard

Jenny Hubbard's And We Stay touches on an all-too familiar tragedy that occurs in America today: school shootings.  Over the past fifteen years, our schools, which used to be universally viewed as safe havens for students of all ages, have become seen as less and less sacred.  This is because of shootings such as Jonesboro Middle School's, Virginia Tech's, Northern Illinois University's, Sandy Hook's, and, of course, the one that truly opened the world's eyes to the danger, Columbine High School's.

Following these horrific events, everyone discusses guilt--the guilt of the perpetrator(s). What people rarely discuss is the guilt of those who are left behind: survivor's guilt.  Readers of And We Stay are let into one young girl's struggle with living a "normal" life as a survivor.
The novel focuses on seventeen-year-old Emily Beam, who has recently lost her boyfriend, Paul, to suicide. If his suicide wasn't traumatizing enough for everyone close to him, the location and circumstance in which he chose to take his life certainly added a tragic effect. In fact, Emily cannot even mouth the word "library" anymore. Since that day, the word that used to connote peace, quiet, and tranquility has been replaced in her vocabulary with "lieberry."

A devastated and confused Emily is enrolled in a Massachusetts boarding school shortly after the tragedy. There, she is taken under the wings of her extrovert roommate and an unlikely friend, who both do everything in their power (including something pretty darn illegal!) to help Emily open up about her struggles and secrets, including one that she has kept hidden from almost everyone. Except Paul.

Paul has gone to his grave with Emily's secret, but it still weighs heavily upon her. But she realizes that the words that are so difficult to express verbally are far easier to write on paper, where she can be honest, outright, and candid.  As her new school is in Amherst, the town which houses renowned poet Emily Dickinson's home, Emily has plenty of literary inspiration all around her.

Born over a century apart, Emily Beam and Emily Dickinson are kindred spirits. The novel illustrates the unique connections between the two Emilies, and Dickinson's role as Emily's muse. She finds solace in writing, her works acting as much needed therapy for a girl wildly confused by her purpose in life thus far. 


The novel is told through both prose and verse, with each chapter ending with a piece of writing that Emily has composed. Emily's entries allow the reader to connect with her feelings and understand and sympathize with her struggle through different types of tragedy.  

And We Stay is a wonderful book for adolescents and teachers to read alike. Everyone has experienced some sort of tragedy in his or her lifetime, some kind of loss. This novel helps readers to discover the rainbow after the storm of loss. It doesn't always appear right away, but eventually, it is visible to all. 

The content of And We Stay covers day to day activities of adolescents, some of whom are struggling with their identities. What adolescent has not experienced the confusion of his or her teenage years? Of friendships? Of a sense of belonging? Adolescent readers will certainly be able to identify with Hubbard's characters.

And We Stay would make a wonderful addition to a high school English curriculum. According to Jenny Hubbard's website, her novel is a Common Core book. In fact, her site provides an extensive guide for teaching the novel in a classroom. Click here to access the pdf file.

Please visit author Jenny Hubbard's website to read about her life and other novel, Paper Covers Rock

For information about survivor's guilt, please visit the following link (with video), which includes an individual's experience with survivor's guilt after the Aurora movie theater shooting: Survivor's Guilt

The poet Emily Dickinson is a prominent character in Hubbard's novel. Below is a video from author John Green's Crash Course Literature series covering Emily Dickinson and her poetry.





Thursday, April 17, 2014

Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington


When most people hear the word "Holocaust" many of them think of the extermination of Jewish people under Adolf Hitler's reign. While this is very true, many other people were additionally affected by Adolf Hitler in the early 1900's. Jews, Political Figures, Criminals, Anti-Socials, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Homosexuals were all in fear of their lives during the 1930's and 40's. A novel by Ken Setterington depicts and explains specifically the lives of many homosexuals during this time period and what they endured when being seen as a disease. Branded by the Pink Triangle is a chilling piece that analyzes what it was like to be persecuted for being gay.

Ken Setterington starts the novel with an overview of how Germany was before the reign of Hitler. While it had always been illegal to have same sex relationships, this was law that was rarely enforced. In fact, Berlin, was once one of the most lenient countries to allow homosexuality in its borders. This once unenforced law known as Paragraph 175, however, would soon be seen as the most fearing law for all homosexuals. When Adolf Hitler claimed his place as Germany's leader, he not only enforced Paragraph 175 but revised it throughout his time to make it harsher than ever before. Instead of a fine or a night in jail, homosexuals were imprisoned and then sent to concentration camps to "work for their freedom" which usual meant until their death. Hitler saw homosexuality as a threat to the pure German race that he wanted and called it a disease that needed to be exterminated or separated from the Aryan race. His rationale to his hatred toward homosexuals was that they would weaken the German race because they were feminine and would not reproduce to create more German babies. He also did not want any men to recruit others into the homosexual lifestyle to make the race weaker. Due to this, countless men were arrested, persecuted, and sent to concentration camps for their "lewd" behaviors. At these camps, thousands of men unjustly died due to the awful conditions and the work they were forced to do on a daily basis. This book honors the men who were additionally a part of The Holocaust but were never really recognized following the war. The video below interviews one of the survivors that Setterington talks about in his book. This gentleman's name is Rudolf Brazda and he recently passed away in 2011. As one of the survivors, he was named a knight in France's Legion of Honor by the president just before his death.
The above photo shows a man with the pink triangle sewed into his uniform to determine his sexuality much like the Star of David was sewed into the uniforms of Jewish prisoners. Branded by the Pink Triangle is a stimulating book for young adults to read in school. It does not only explain personal stories from actual survivors but explains the time period's historical facts that led to these events. This novel could be used in both English Language Arts and History classes to engage the students with an eye opening story. While many students typically learn about the Jewish Holocaust, learning about the Extermination of Homosexuals during the same period could be another side of this fatal time in history. On the back of the book, Toronto Stars states, "Should be in schools, synagogues and human rights museum everywhere." To read and hear more about Toronto's review on Branded by the Pink Triangle, here is a podcast they had with the author. In it, Setterington explains why he specifically wrote this piece for young adult readers. While the book states a lot of historical facts, it is also very easy to comprehend and read. It additionally involves historical photos to help the reader understand the material. With its photos, graphs, and tables from the time period, the reader is critically engaged with a piece of literature that is both historical and educational.
 
The only problem I could see with this book being in schools is depending on the schools philosophy. If the school is very religious and does not care for this lifestyle, it may be deemed as a "bad" book for their students to read. There are additionally some graphic photos and information that the book provides to the reader that parents may not want their children to read. Many students read war novels in high school, however, so I would not see this being a huge problem in many schools.

To learn more about The Holocaust and The Persecution of Homosexuals, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has a lot of insight and information about it. Here is a link to an article talking about the subject. I would also recommend visiting it in person for more information. Additionally, here is a link to a website made in dedication for the homosexual men who lost their lives during The Holocaust. It gives additional information about the arrests, the camps, the pink triangle, and Paragraph 175.

As a reviewer, I would strongly push this book into high school classrooms today. It depicts the untold story of homosexuals at the time and expresses their influential stories to the public. While many people only think of Jewish people when thinking about The Holocaust, millions of other men and women were affected during Hitler's reign of terror. Much like Jewish people, homosexual men were specifically looked at as a disease and were sought to be exterminated. Their story, too, deserves to be told to our students in remembrance of their sufferings. The unfair and untold stories of these men should be taught in schools to promote social justice among all people. By expressing these stories, it could put in perspective the fight we are still having today about Gay Rights in The United States and many other countries.

If you're interested in reading this novel by Ken Setterington, click here!