Continuing on…

I began this blog as a required project for my Children’s Literature class at the University of North Texas. However, along the way I accumulated many followers and I found that, Surprise! I loved talking, and writing, about books that I love. Coming from a book selling background and entering the library field, I could talk about books all day. So why not continue? What is there to lose?

I will continue to blog about books that I have read, new and old – children’s, young adult, and adult titles.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

© Stephen Chbosky

Module 15: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

Summary

This book is truly a coming of age tale. It tells the story of Charlie, a 15-year old boy who is starting his first year in high school. Charlie’s story is written in a series of letters to an anonymous person, similar to a diary.  He recounts growing up, the tragedy of having a friend die, the effects of losing his favorite aunt at a young age, and the struggles of going through high school, finding new friends, and just learning how and where he fits in despite how he sees himself.

Impression

I had read this book before but it’s been years since the last time so I picked it up again. The module I read it for was about controversial books. I remembering thinking, “This book isn’t that controversial!” until I read it again. Through heartbreaking and tragic events, Charlie remembers some difficult times in his childhood. He has a friend commit suicide, an aunt whose actions Charlie had repressed, homosexuality, sexual abuse and some serious depression among other things. Despite what sounds like a complete downer of a book, it is filled with wonder and excitement at the new experiences and friendships that Charlie makes. Being the wallflower that he is, he sees people in a different way from how they see themselves and his observations can be applied to a ride range of people in real life. If there is one book you read next year, it should be this one because despite the controversy surrounding the themes, it contains a lot of pertinent information about growing up.

Reviews

“Grounded in a specific time (the 1991/92 academic year) and place (western Pennsylvania), Charlie, his friends, and family are palpably real. His grandfather is an embarrassing bigot; his new best friend is gay; his sister must resolve her pregnancy without her boyfriend’s support. Charlie develops from an observant wallflower into his own man of action, and, with the help of a therapist, he begins to face the sexual abuse he had experienced as a child. This report on his life will engage teen readers for years to come.”

– Francisca Goldsmith

“First-novelist Chbosky captures adolescent angst, confusion, and joy as Charlie reveals his innermost thoughts while trying to discover who he is and whom he is to become. Intellectually precocious, Charlie seems a tad too naive in many other ways, yet his reflections on family interactions, first date, drug experimentation, first sexual encounter, and regular participation in Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings are compelling.”

– Sally Estes

Library Use

Perks is an important book for teens to read despite being on the banned book list. It should be included in a display on banned books or used a reference point for kids who struggle with depression, drug use, were sexually molested, or for kids who are questioning their sexuality.

References

Chbosky, S. (1999). The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York, New York: MTV Books.

Estes, S. (1999). Review of The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Book List 95(12), 1038-1039. Retrieved from http://www.booklistonline.com.

Goldsmith, F. (1999). Review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. School Library Journal 45(6), 126-129. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com

Tap Dancing on the Roof

© Linda Sue Park

Module 14: Tap Dancing on the Roof by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Istvan Banyai

Summary

Tap Dancing on the Roof is a collection of poetry by Korean author Linda Sue Park. It consists of sijos, a type of poem similar to the Japanese haiku. Unlike the haiku, the sijo can be about anything, as opposed to just being related to nature. Typically the sijo is split into three parts: the first line introduces the topic, the second line develops the topic, and the third line contains a twist – sometimes humorous or witty.

Impression

This book was a lovely example of poetry. Perfect for children, the poems are short and silly. Typically they cater to the minds of young adolescents, with the final lines inducing giggles. Park’s inclusion of the historical background in the author’s note is helpful. She also includes a list of tips for writing your own sijos in the back of the book that is great for teachers or librarians. Banyai’s illustrations add whimsy to the already fun poems.

Reviews

“This book is an excellent introduction of sijo to a new generation. Notes in the book explain the form and include a sijo from the 1600s. The artwork is a bizarre mix of fantasy and realism, and tells its own story, particularly the endsheets.”

– Daniel Beach

“Park demonstrates with twenty-seven sijo on the topics of seasons and routines of home and school. Perhaps the best example she includes is in her author’s note and is the work of Kim Kwang-uk, who lived from 1580-1656; nevertheless, her own poems have that twist that goes beyond the limits of culture and personal sensibility and strikes at common human experience.”

– Deirdre Baker

Library Use

This book is a great example of poetry from another country. It would definitely be a good suggestion for kids looking to explore poetry. It would also be a great reference for teachers who are doing a workshop on poetry.

References

Baker, D. (2007). Review of Tap Dancing on the Roof. The Horn Book Magazine 83(5), 595, 604. Retrieved from http://www.hbook.com/horn-book-magazine-2/.

Beach, D. (2007). Review of Tap Dancing on the Roof. Library Media Connection 26(3), 88. Retrieved from http://www.librarymediaconnection.com

Park, L. S., and Banyai, I (Illustrator). (2007). Tap Dancing on the Roof. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Tap Dancing on the Roof [image]. (2008). Retrieved from https://www.juniorlibraryguild.com/books/view.dT/9780618234837.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

© Jeff Kinney

Module 13: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Summary

Greg Heffley is a wimpy kid – moderately unpopular, one best friend who Greg thinks is a dork, and no real interests in anything but playing video games. Though not a shining protagonist, he meets the criteria of an average middle school boy. He decides to chronicle his year in a journal (don’t let the title fool you, it’s not a diary). Greg experiences many fun escapades throughout the year from learning to wrestle, getting into trouble, playing lots of video games, and possibly getting the “cheese touch”.

Impression

I’ve seen these books around for a while so I was excited for a chance to finally read one. Filled with comical drawings throughout the story, it is fun, hilarious, and oftentimes so easy to relate to that I can understand why kids go crazy for it. Greg is so average that everyone can see themselves in him. The comics add a really fun element to a story with not a lot of pizzazz but one that’s hard to put down nevertheless. The entire book is written like a diary, and in that there isn’t exactly a plot, more of a series of things that occur. Despite that, it is a fun story and a recommended read.

Reviews

“This “novel in cartoons” features a mix of text and black-and-white spot art, and the first-person narration is a hoot, whether Greg is describing the difference between school and TV wrestling, or the reason why his grandma’s house was T.P.’d. Perfect for reluctant readers, this is the first of five promised Wimpy Kid books.”

– Laura Tillotson

“Most revolve around the adolescent male curse: the need to do incredibly dumb things because they seem to be a good idea at the time. Yet, unlike some other books about kids of this age, there’s no sense of a slightly condescending adult writer behind the main character. At every moment, Greg seems real, and the engrossed reader will even occasionally see the logic in some of his choices.”

– Todd Morning

Library Use

This book is a great example of the now popular “diary fiction” genre. It would do well on a book display incorporating some other titles that fall into that genre like the Dork Diaries series by Renee Russel. It could also work for a display on comics which could include Dork Diaries, Big Nate by Lincoln Pierce, or the Babymouse books by Jennifer and Matthew Holm. This book in particular could also work for a display for the beginning of the school year, especially for middle school age kids.

References 

Kinney, J. (2004). Diary of a Wimpy Kid. New York, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

Manny is messy [image]. (2011). Retrieved from http://rich-xmarksthespot.blogspot.com/2011/10/diary-of-wimpy-kid.html.

Morning, T. (2007). Review of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The Book List 103(15), 45. Retrieved from http://www.booklistonline.com

Tillotson, L. (2008). Review of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Book Links 17(3), 19-20. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/offices/publishing/booklist/booklinks

Phineas Gage

© John Fleischman

Module 12: Phineas Gage by John Fleischman

Summary

It was 1848, Phineas Gage was 25 years old when a 13 inch iron rod blew through the front part of his head, and brain – he survived. This is the story not necessarily of Phineas Gage, but of the miracle of his survival and what implications they had on the medical world thereafter. Despite little knowledge of the brain in the mid 19th century Gage managed to survive 11 years after his accident though his personality had fundamentally changed. His case is to this day one of the most important cases in what we know about the brain and the frontal lobe.

Impression

I had heard of this book for years and after taking osteology during my time as an undergrad I absolutely had to read this for class. Fleischman does a fantastic job explaining the important parts of the brain and the implications of where the rod went through Gage’s brain. He explains the story very factually while still emphasizing the importance of his survival. He includes some of the more extraordinary details of Gage’s experience, such as him sitting up and explaining to the doctor what had just happened to him immediately after the accident. Fleischman does a fantastic job fleshing out an already interesting story.

Reviews

“The book’s present-tense narrative is inviting and intimate, and the text is crisp and lucid, combining the personal and the theoretical to dramatic effect and avoiding condescension both to readers and to the unfortunate Gage.”

– Deborah Stevenson

“This event is the takeoff point for a basic introduction to the human brain and its functionings. A side foray into phrenology is useful in illuminating the history of beliefs about the brain and will help students understand pseudosciences.”

– Edna Boardman

Library Use

This would be a great book to recommend to any kids with an interest in medicine, bones, or psychology. It would also be a good book to recommend to kids who like “gross” stories.

Referenes

Boardman, E. (2002). Review of Phineas Gage. Book Report 21(3), 66. Retrieved from http://www.librarymediaconnection.com/

Fleischman, J. (2004). Phineas Gage. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Stevenson, D. (2002). Review of Phineas GageBulletin of the Center for Children’s Books 55(9), 321-322. Retrieved from http://bccb.lis.illinois.edu/.

The Nazi Hunters

© Neal Bascomb

Module 11: The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb

Summary

The Nazi Hunters tell the story of finding and capturing Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi behind the German death camps during World War II. The book covers the story from the end of the war to Eichmann’s trial and death. Eichmann fled after the war ended to avoid the trials that other high ranking Nazis were facing and brought his family with him. They moved to Argentina and Eichmann started going by another name. Eichmann’s his sons kept their real surname which ultimately resulted in Eichmann’s capture. The story follows Eichmann’s move along with all of the important players involved in his capture. For fear that Germany wouldn’t put Eichmann to trial 15 years after the war ended, Israel took it into their own hands to bring justice to a man who caused many in their country pain.

Impression

On the back of the The Nazi Hunters it is called “a thrilling spy mission, [and] a moving Holocaust story…”. This sums up the tale well. Bascomb did an excellent job writing out the events that took place to capture and put Eichmann to trial. His research was very thorough – interviewing still living members of the mission and referencing tons of documents.The best part about The Nazi Hunters, that separates it from Bascomb’s adult version of the story Hunting Eichmann, was the inclusion of relevant photographs into the story. Haunting images of the man who caused so much pain and suffering to many along with pictures of the men who helped capture him help the reader stay present and recall that though it is a spy story, it is a true one with real consequences for real people if it goes badly.

Reviews

“Thriller fans will find all their favorite plot points here, from disguises and coded messages to abduction and interrogation; Bascomb keeps on the right side of the fine line that distinguishes suspense from sensationalism.”

– Roger Sutton

“Ideal for middle and high school students, this book is a fast-paced, accessible read that would be a fascinating addition to Holocaust and World War II collections. Historical photographs of the subjects involved, as well as artifacts from the story, add appeal.”

– Candi Pierce Garry and Shelley Glantz

Library Use

As mentioned in the review above, this book would be a great one to include in book talk about Holocaust related literature. It would also work well in a display about World War II or history books in general.

References

Adolf Eichmann [image]. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.juniorlibraryguild.com/images/9780545430999/InteriorArt/9780545430999-nazihunter4_zoom.jpg.

Bascomb, N. (2013). The Nazi Hunters. New York, New York: Scholastic.

Bascomb, N. (2010). Hunting Eichmann. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Garry, C. P., and Glantz, S. (2014). Library Media Connection 32(4), 85. Retrieved from http://www.librarymediaconnection.com.

Sutton, R. (2014). Review of The Nazi HuntersThe Horn Book Guide 25(1), 189. Retrieved from http://www.thehornbookguide.com.

The Wednesday Wars

© Gary Schmidt

Module 10: The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

“If Romeo had never met Juliet, maybe they both would have still been alive, but what they would have been alive for is the question Shakespeare wants us to answer.”

Summary

Holling Hoodhood is starting 7th grade. Usually teachers love him but not Mrs. Baker. Wednesday afternoons all of the Jewish kids go to synagogue and all of the Catholics go to a cathedral but Holling is Presbyterian so he’s stuck spending Wednesday afternoons with Mrs. Baker. Both Mrs. Baker and Holling feel awkward at their one on one “class” time but after reading Shakespeare together, begin to form a bond. Blanketed across the backdrop of the late 60s, Holling’s story tells of coming to love Shakespeare, the incredible perseverance of teachers, the love/hate relationship between a family, and how war effects everyone.

Impression

I was really impressed with Schmidt’s writing. The Wednesday Wars are technically historical fiction but Schmidt’s writing blends so easily with what’s going on around Holling and his family that it feels seamless. Holling, though very juvenile at times, is a lovable character reminiscent of most 7th grade boys. One of his most endearing qualities is that he insists on learning the curses that Shakespeare makes Caliban say in The Tempest – “A southwest blow on ye and blister you all o’er!”

Reviews

“Ultimately, Mrs. Baker steps out from behind her desk as a multilayered individual who helps Holling (often through their discussions of Shakespeare’s plays) to dare to choose his own ending rather than follow the dictates of others. Schmidt rises above the novel’s conventions to create memorable and believable characters.”

– Betty Carter

“This is a wonderful book, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a heart-warming read. I also recommend it to teachers looking for a way to show students how Shakespeare can teach life lessons to meet a variety of situations.”

– Jean Boreen

Library Use

This book would be a great book to coincide with teaching children Shakespeare or at least introducing children to his stories without them seeming drab. It would also work well for a display about modern historical fiction – something other than a medieval type story.

References

Boreen, J. (2007). Review of The Wednesday Wars. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 51(1), 77-78.

Carter, B. (2007). Review of The Wednesday Wars. The Horn Book Magazine 83(4), 403. Retrieved from http://www.hbook.com/horn-book-magazine-2/.

Schmidt, G. D. (2009). The Wednesday Wars. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The Book of Blood and Shadow

© Robin Wasserman

Module 9: The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

Summary

Nora’s seemingly normal life is rocked one day by the brutal murder of her best friend Chris – and supposedly at the hands of Chris’ roommate, and her boyfriend, Max. Nora grew up translating Latin as a hobby with her father, a Latin professor. Now doing it as an intern for “the Hoff”, a professor at her school, along with Chris, and Max, she is surprised when the letters she is translating prove to be more ominous and meaningful than she originally thought. Following the suspected Max to Prague after Chris’ murder, Nora and Adriane (Chris’ catatonic and left behind girlfriend) are encountered by an underground organization trying to solve the same mysterious puzzle as Nora’s professor – how to build the machine used to talk to God.

Impression

The beginning of this book is strong and an interesting page turner. Learning about the relationships and interactions between Nora, Chris and Adriane prior to Max’s arrival are enjoyable to read about. The work they are doing for the professor is interesting – Nora translates the letters of Elizabeth Weston, a real 16th century Czech poet, who wrote to her brother to describe the machine their father helped build with which one can talk to God, while the boys attempt to translate the Voynich manuscript, also a real piece of writing written in a language yet to be decoded. The story gets more interesting as a cult-like group is discovered to also be searching for this information and willing to kill for it. However, Wasserman’s writing is not for Hemingway fans – i.e. her sentences are long and drawn out (the book is 448 pages long). The story is intriguing but gets a little outlandish and unbelievable once Nora has been in Prague for sometime and the intentions of the cult are more explicit. Though a good read in many senses, the story could have been severely edited for extraneous story deviations that could have improved the flow and kept the story fast paced.

Reviews

“Readers who enjoy fast-paced, bloody, historically inflected thrillers in the vein of Dan Brown will be riveted.”

– Barry Goldblatt

“The teen designation feels less content- than market-driven. While depictions of violence and sexuality are more muted than the title suggests, Nora’s sensibility, casual independence and vocabulary are entirely adult.”

– Kirkus Review

Library Use

This book has been compared many times to The Da-Vinci Code by Dan Brown so I believe that in a library setting it would be perfect to introduce teens to the suspense/thriller genre while also encouraging them to look up information about history and geography. The book often mentions real events and describes Prague in some detail.

Referenes

Goldblatt, B. (2010, 13 February). Review of The Book of Blood and Shadow. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-375-86876-4.

Kirkus Review. (2012, 3 December). Review of The Book of Blood and Shadow. Kirkus Review. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/robin-wasserman/book-blood-and-shadow/.

Wasserman, R. (2012). The Book of Blood and Shadow. New York, New York: Random House Children’s Books.

Artemis Fowl

© Eoin Colfer

Module 8: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Summary

Twelve year-old Artemis Fowl is both a genius and the son of a criminal mastermind. In an attempt to redeem the Fowl name, Artemis wants to capture the unconquerable (a fairy) and ransom it for fairy gold. With calculating precision, Fowl kidnaps Captain Holly Short – a member of the Lower Elements Police force – and a fairy. The story follow Artemis and his cohorts and he attempts to gain access to the fairy gold by preventing Holly’s rescue; simultaneously, Commander Julius Root is working with a special ops team to try to get Holly out of Fowl manner without sacrificing the gold.

Impression

The battle of the minds between Holly and the fairies and Artemis and his cohorts is entertaining, humorous, and tense. I can understand why Colfer’s world has attained so much praise over the years. He maintains an aura of suspense and provides thoroughly complex characters.  Artemis, though detestable at times, maintains a childlike yearning to please his parents which makes him much more endearing than he should be. The character of Holly Short is intriguing though frustratingly stubborn. It is easy to become attached to these characters and where there story will end but it’s hard to decide who to root for, Artemis or the fairies?

Reviews

“Fairy folk notwithstanding, Golfer’s novel is more suspense than fantasy, and the rising action supports the pace. The paramilitary humor leans a tad toward the adult, but the characters’ motivations are easily recognizable, and readers will appreciate Artemis’ growing conscience, Holly Short’s compulsion to heal even the deadly Butler, and the camaraderie of the ground troops.”

– Janice Del Negro

“A zany cast of magical characters, from the cigar-chomping LEP Commander Julius Root to the tunnel-digging dwarf, Mulch Diggums, populates this clever, funny, action-packed thriller. Adventure, fantasy, and science fiction lovers will devour this story.”

– Susan Spaniol

Library Use

This book would be good to use in a book talk about fantasy and adventure books for young readers. Many kids liked Harry Potter but are unaware of other similar series to sink their teeth in to and I think this would fit that category wonderfully, along with others like the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan.

References

Colfer, E. (2009). Artemis Fowl. New York, New York: Disney-Hyperion.

Del Negro, J. (2001). Review of Artemis Fowl. Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books 54(11), 406-407. Retrieved from http://bccb.lis.illinois.edu/.

Spaniol, S. (2001). Review of Artemis Fowl. Book Report 20(2), 60. Retrieved from http://www.librarymediaconnection.com/.

Stargirl

© Jerry Spinelli

Module 7: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Summary

The story begins with the arrival of a new girl at school who goes by the name of Stargirl. The narrator, Leo, is enthralled by this strange person who plays the ukulele and dances and sings Happy Birthday to the students she doesn’t know. Leo, now attentive to Stargirl’s actions without realizing, sees her cheering for the other team, attending the funerals of strangers, and leaving gifts at the house of people she doesn’t know. After Stargirl and Leo finally acknowledge each other’s presence publicly, Leo is caught between his eagerness to be with Stargirl, and maintaining the normalcy so valued at Mica High School.

Impression

I have seen this book on shelves at bookstores and at the library for many years so I am glad to have finally read it. Though my expectations were high, I did not love Stargirl. The character of Stargirl is so outlandishly unbelievable that I had trouble relating to the story. Leo’s depiction of Mica High seems normal enough – students shun the outsider – but Leo’s complete social leveling by associating with Stargirl seems a bit far-fetched. Spinelli wanted to point out the importance of non-conformity and believing in yourself but it was very apparent and felt didactic. The story kept my attention, and was a quick read, but it’s not something I’ll likely be going back to.

Reviews

“Spinelli portrays an elegant and lifelike microcosm of high school life and the conflict between conformity and individuality… Spinelli’s newest novel can be called a humorous tragedy and a unique love story.”
– Dale Vande Haar

“Leo is torn between the inspiring feeling of love for Stargirl and his loyalty to his peers. In this tense, emotionally charged story, Jerry Spinelli captures the readers with poetic images of an almost mystical quality. It is a thoroughly compelling and moving story.”

– Sylvia Loh

Library Use

This book would be really useful in helping kids cope with their perceived differences. It could be useful, as mentioned in the previous post, on a display about bullying.

References

Loh, S. (2001). Review of Stargirl. Childhood Education 77(4), 244. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/uced20/current#.VHwCKjGjOm4.

Spinelli, J. (2000). Stargirl. New York, New York: Scholastic.

Vande Haar, D. (2002). Review of Stargirl. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 46(3), 218. Retrieved from http://www.reading.org/general/publications/journals/jaal.aspx.