Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Review: You Bring the Distant Near

You Bring the Distant Near You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5/5 stars

This is the story of three generations of the Das family. Ranee and Rejeev Das moved to New York City by way of London, Ghana, and India to make a new life for their children. We follow their struggles and triumphs as they raise their girls, Tara and Sonia. Eventually we meet Tara and Sonia's daughters, Anna and Chantal. First generation American citizens, they still struggle with the balance between being "American" and maintaining their cultural Bengali heritage.

I loved this book. There isn't a lot of action, but the story is beautiful. I knew nothing about Indian culture, and found this book to be a fascinating glimpse into familial expectations, music, food, and dance traditions. The story follows three generations of Bengali women in New York City and New Jersey, so we also get an interesting perspective on important historical events happening in the world around the Das women.

Themes within the story include friendship, racism, women's rights, and family. It also explores the balance between assimilation and maintaining cultural heritage.

Grades 7+ (mild language)

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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Review: A Graveyard Visible

A Graveyard Visible A Graveyard Visible by Steve Conoboy
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Thanks to @kidlitexchange for this advanced review copy. All opinions are my own.
2/5 stars, Grades 7+ (language)

Every time Caleb looks outside his window he sees the graveyard. And it seems to be getting a little bigger every day. Then he notices strange activities including hte odd girl Misha. Should Caleb get involved? What's really happening in th graveyard behind his house?

Ok, I did not get this book at all. I love suspense and horror, but this was a mangled mess of confusion. The alternating third person perspective and stream of consciousness just left me confused. This would have been a DNF for me except I felt guilty not reviewing it for @kidlitexchange. This is a pass for me.

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Review: Sparrow

Sparrow Sparrow by Sarah Moon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks to the #kidlitexchange network for the review copy of this book – all opinions are my own. 5/5 stars

Sparrow has always been a loner. She avoids people whenever she can. She eats lunch in a bathroom stall. She doesn’t think things will ever change. Then she meets Mrs. Wexler, the school librarian. Mrs. Wexler invites Sparrow to join her for lunch in the library. Soon there is a group of Frequent Flyers who meet daily in the library to eat lunch and read together, and Sparrow feels like she is finally part of something.

And then tragedy strikes, and Mrs. Wexler is killed in a terrible accident. Sparrow doesn’t know how to deal with the loss of her teacher, and finds herself on the top of the school roof, looking over the edge. The next thing she knows, she is in a hospital and is given mandatory therapy sessions.

Over the next few months, Sparrow learns about her fascination with birds and flying, and how to deal with the grief that has derailed her life.

This book is a beautiful exploration of grief and loss, loneliness and isolation. Even in the midst of despair, Sparrow finds hope in music and lyrics. As heavy as the story can feel, the mood is hopeful. Moon shows us that everyone feels lonely, that we never know the stories of those around us, and that music can be powerfully healing. Give this book to fans of realistic fiction, or students dealing with grief or mental health issues.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Review: Long Way Down

**The following is based on an ARC received from @kidlitexchange in exchange for an honest review**
Long Way Down Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Talk
Will’s worst nightmare unfolds as he watches his brother Shawn get shot on the street, right in front of him. Shawn bleeds out in the arms of his girlfriend, and all Will can think about is the three rules:

Crying--don’t, no matter what.
Snitching--don’t, no matter what.
Revenge--if someone kills someone you love, find them and kill them back.
As he watches his mother mourn Shawn’s death, Will makes a plan to follow the rules. He finds Shawn’s gun, and gets on the elevator to track down the person he is SURE killed his brother. At least, he’s mostly sure.

On that elevator ride down to the ground floor, with a gun in his waistband, Will meets a series of surprising people who make him question everything he knows about the rules.

My Thoughts
Jason Reynolds writes about race relations and the struggles faced by people of color. Long Way Down follows the same pattern, but focuses specifically on gang violence and drug dealing that often occurs in urban settings.

The structure of the book is verse novel, which has a profound impact on the story-telling. Each “chapter” follows a floor on the elevator, and Reynolds is masterful at sharing lots of information in tiny snippets. For example, one verse describes Will standing in the elevator preparing to make his way down to the ground floor to take revenge on his brother’s killer.
“I put my hand behind my back

Felt the imprint
Of the piece, like
Another piece
Of me

An extra vertebra,
Some more backbone.

The description of the gun as both a physical and metaphorical backbone is powerful.

Time is another powerful element used by Reynolds. He uses it to bring a sense of urgency to the story. The story unfolds floor by floor, and although Will experiences the conversations in extended time, each stop only takes a few seconds. The reader gets to see the dichotomy between Will’s experience of a lengthy interaction with characters and the reality of the short trip in the elevator from the 8th to the 1st floor.

The theme of revenge is interwoven throughout the story. Each character that Will meets in the elevator has been impacted by the rule of revenge. For example, Will’s father was killed for avenging the death of his brother Mark. Each revenge killing set of a terrible chain of events. Reynolds emphasizes the emptiness of revenge as a motive.

Long Way Down is a quick but extremely powerful read. It was much more emotional and relatable for me than Reynolds’ book All American Boys. This is a great addition to a diversity collection and will appeal to students who are fans of Reynolds’ other books, as well as The Hate U Give and Monster.

My Recommendation
Gradues 8+ (language, violence)
4.5/5 stars

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

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

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Arnold Spirit, better known as Junior, knows what it means to struggle. Born with hydrocephalus (water on the brain), he was prone to seizures in childhood. He was bullied and targeted for his looks and disabilities. His home life wasn’t much better, living in abject poverty with an alcoholic father and an overworked mother.

Junior realized that remaining on the Spokane Indian reservation would result in more of the same...hunger, poverty, a dead-end job, and little or no education. So he makes a difficult decision that forces him to leave his lifelong best friend and all he knows behind. He transfers to the local white school over 20 miles away.

With no car, limited assistance from his family, and no money, Junior has to figure out how to not only get himself back adn forth to school, but also to practice for the basketball team for which he was unexpectedly chosen.

Junior faces great challenges in his life. He teaches us to respond to challenges with bravery, humor, and grit.

This book is a strange and wonderful mixture of narrative and verse poetry, along with cartoon illustrations. It deals with issues of racism, discrimination, bullying, and poverty with humor and finesse. Alexie doesn’t tiptoe around the issues, he deals with them head on. He also addresses common teen experiences such as masturbation, drug use, and alcohol.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Review: Quicksand Pond

Quicksand Pond Quicksand Pond by Janet Taylor Lisle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Talk
Jessie's dad decides he and his kids need a vacation and packs up the family for a 6-week stay at the beach. No Internet, no iPods or phones, nothing but peace and quiet. And Jessie is BORED. Until she meets feisty and adventurous Terri Carr, and the two of them find a raft for exploring nearby Quicksand Pond, where people have gone missing and a mysterious murder occurred in the past.

My Thoughts
I enjoyed this book a lot, but I felt like it couldn't figure out what it wanted to be. It was a little realistic fiction, a little historical fiction, some mystery. I wanted each piece of the story to be fleshed out more. I wanted more of the older woman's story who watched the girls from the window. I wanted to know more about Terri and her life. And what was happening in Jessie's family with her parents? The story tried to cover too much territory in too short of a book.

My Recommendation
3.5/5 stars
Grades 5+

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Review: The Forgetting Spell

The Forgetting Spell The Forgetting Spell by Lauren Myracle
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book Talk:

Do you remember your 13th birthday? Closing your eyes, making your wish, and blowing out your candles? What would happen if your wish actually came true? In The Forgetting Spell, this is exactly what happens to Darya on her Wishing Day. But Darya should be careful what she wishes for, because it just might change everything about her life.

My Thoughts:
This book was all over the place. In hindsight, I should probably have read #1 before reading this one, but I jumped right in. I was confused and really had no idea what was going on or why. I still don't really know who Emily is, or why she mattered so much to the story. I don't get the mother character at all, or why she felt the need to leave her children and husband. Why would leaving fix anything? I am just so very confused by this story.

I feel like this book wanted to be so much more, and could have been, if there was any sort of logical story line. I just truly did not get it.

My Recommendations:
2.5/5 stars
Grades 5+

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