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Short Review: Esperanza Rising

12 Aug

Esperanza RisingEsperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Esperanza Rising is a gorgeous book about families struggling together to overcome tremendous obstacles in order to stay together and work toward new dreams. Set in Mexico and California leading up to and during the Dust Bowl Era, this vibrant and engrossing coming-of-age story will teach young and adult readers alike valuable lessons about that historical time period in the United States but also about relevant themes to this day: grief, resilience, understanding and appreciating other cultures, and the value of dreaming, hoping, and never giving up.

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Short Review: Our Choice: Young Readers Edition

16 Apr

Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate CrisisOur Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis by Al Gore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Young Readers edition of Al Gore’s Our Choice is not new, but important to highlight. This book takes the very complex issues of climate change and the solutions Gore calls us to enact and makes them engaging and understandable to middle grade-and-older readers. I found this book informative and interesting as an adult, and it is a great resource for inquiry projects around climate change and conservation in school libraries.

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Short Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

6 Apr

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After years of being advised to read this book and never quite finding the time, I finally did it.  I’m so glad I finally did. Junior is what many people would call “an old soul”, but probably not people on “the rez” because they’ve all had to grow up too fast. Just when you think your heart will break for Junior and his family, you are relieved with a belly-shaking laugh. Junior’s sensitivity, empathy and clearly genetic, nuanced sense of humor will make you admire him repeatedly. Junior struggles and thrives as he tries to live two lives – one on the rez and one in a white high school he chose to go to because he knew he deserved a better education than the reservation school could give him. Both supported and humiliated by his family and friends, Junior finds his way and can reconcile the duality of his life through a series of trials and triumphs. Alexie has done an amazing job of writing a young hero that is superb yet believable, and Forney’s illustrations bring Junior’s best qualities to life.

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Short Review: The Fault In Our Stars

22 Mar

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

John Green has done it again. He’s written a refreshingly honest and respectful book – not just about teens, but about young love, grief, family, friendship, dying, and the small moments in life that offer hope even in the darkest of times. This book is sweet, funny, heartbreaking, surprising and predictable – hmmm, which is a lot like being sixteen.

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Short Review: Looking For Alaska

18 Feb

Looking For AlaskaLooking For Alaska by John Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Miles is fascinated by final words, especially those of Francois Rabelais, “I go to seek a Great Perhaps”. Unpopular, awkward and virtually friendless, Miles spends most of his free time at home reading or watching TV with his parents, and he doesn’t want to wait until he’s dead to find his Great Perhaps, so he convinces his parents to send him away to Culver Creek boarding school. Miles falls in with a daring group of friends – pranksters and rule-benders with good hearts, sharp minds, and fierce loyalty. Through these friendships in particular, Miles finds his Great Perhaps and wrestles with some of the essential questions we all struggle with, even after growing up – how to love, how to lose, how to grieve and how to recover – and speaks to the resiliency of youth that young people and adults alike would do well to remember.

Please be advised, this book contains strong language and sexual content.

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Short Review: With Their Eyes

30 Nov

With Their Eyes: September 11th--The View from a High School at Ground ZeroWith Their Eyes: September 11th–The View from a High School at Ground Zero by Annie Thoms

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am soon going to be completing a school library practicum at Stuyvesant High School, in Manhattan. This book is a collection of monologues written and performed by Stuyvesant high school students in 2002, as a way of processing their experiences on September 11, 2001. Stuyvesant is just 4 blocks from ground zero. The project was spearheaded by a Stuyvesant English teacher, Annie Thoms, when she noticed the stories exchanged between students on websites and message boards in the period after 9/11 when students and faculty were unable to go to school. I found this idea compelling educationally and psychologically. I also thought it would be interesting to read these stories and learn a little bit about what Stuy has recovered from. Certainly, none of these students are still there, but perhaps some of the teachers, administrators, custodians and cafeteria personnel who were interviewed are, and their experiences 10 years ago I’m sure inform their feelings about the Stuy community to this day. The stories were insightful, honest, engaging, and full of symbolism.

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Short Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

23 Nov

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I rarely re-read books, but this one held up a five-star rating twice. This book follows the journey of one shy, possibly autistic boy through the course of one school year. Starting out as a loner, Charlie takes the advice of his therapist and tries to make friends and “participate” in life. With the help of some older kids and one attentive teacher who take him under their wing, Charlie shares his favorite songs and books and his best and worst days with us, giving us a glimpse into his honest thoughts. Side by side, we experience the pain of remembering difficult things; beginning to understand adult problems, grieving loved ones and withered friendships, overcoming trauma and the joy of growing into oneself. This highly quotable novel reads like a journal-memoir, and may be a good high school readers’ advisory pick when the film is released in 2012.

Related:
If you are a Spotify user, check out the playlist I created of music mentioned in the book.

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