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One True Loves

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid – 5/5

Genre: Contemporary Romance

fullsizeoutput_1104One True Loves is my third novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and she does not disappoint. This is a novel that can be devoured in one sitting.

Goodreads Synopsis: A breathtaking new love story about a woman unexpectedly forced to choose between the husband she has long thought dead and the fiancé who has finally brought her back to life.
In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.
On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.
Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.
That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.
Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?
Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.

What I love about Taylor Jenkins Reid is that she takes a light and easy read, and gives it a certain quality that makes it more than. It becomes more than a romance and more than a love triangle. The story is not about which guy is the best, which one is her true love, but rather love itself.

We know that love comes in many forms, but romantic love seems to be put into a box with a set of rules. You can have one soul mate, one true love of your life, or one love that makes you feel complete. However, life is not a box; it doesn’t follow a set of rules. Heartbreak and grief exist yet, one can love again after a heart has been shattered.

Over time people change and dreams shift. Therefore love cannot be recreated, but it can grow again. Love is not just about giving love to someone, but being your true self with that person and when reciprocated, it equals true love. That love can last indefinitely, which does not mean forever, but an unspecified amount of time.

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Akata Witch

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor – 3/5

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

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Akata Witch is the beginning of a fantasy series following Sunny and her friends as they master magic and the supernatural.

Goodreads Synopsis: Akata Witch transports the reader to a magical place where nothing is quite as it seems. Born in New York, but living in Aba, Nigeria, twelve-year old Sunny is understandably a little lost. She is albino and thus, incredibly sensitive to the sun. All Sunny wants to do is be able to play football and get through another day of school without being bullied. But once she befriends Orlu and Chichi, Sunny is plunged in to the world of the Leopard People, where your worst defect becomes your greatest asset. Together, Sunny, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha form the youngest ever Oha Coven. Their mission is to track down Black Hat Otokoto, the man responsible for kidnapping and maiming children. Will Sunny be able to overcome the killer with powers stronger than her own, or will the future she saw in the flames become reality?

I have very mixed feelings about this book. In the beginning I was very excited in where this story was going to take me. Specially when it’s described as the Nigerian Harry Potter. I was ready to be taken on magical adventure in another country with diverse characters. The first themes I noticed were ones of an encouraging message. Embrace all of your qualities. “Embrace the things that make us unique…develop our most individual abilities.” Because this is a middle grade read, this is a very important message that every child should know. What makes us different makes us who we truly are and that is pretty sepactular. The author also points out prejudices between African and African-American. Just because ones skin is darker or born in a different country, doesn’t change their roots or make one better than the other. However, as I continued reading, the messages became more confusing. Ones like strive to be ambitious, but not too much. We expect you to save the world, but will hardly acknowledge it when you do. Or girls can do anything a guy can do, but if you can’t cook your man a meal, you’re done for.

What really bothered me about this book was the corporal punishment. The threats of canning and flogging are consistent in this read, and it threw me off-balance. I’m not sure if this is a cultural thing, but it made the read a little uneasy for me.

The ending is also very rushed. When it came to the final battle it all seems too easy and anticlimactic. I was left saying, “that was it? ” Don’t get me wrong the story is definitely unique, and Sunny is a character I can relate to and root for. The four friends complement each other and each bring a special quality to their coven.

Will I continue the series? That is still to be determined…

The Remaking of Corbin Wale

The Remaking of Corbin Wale by Roan Parrish – 3.5/5

Genre: Holiday Romance

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The Remaking of Corbin Wale follows the perspectives of both Corbin and Alex. Alex moves back to his hometown after a breakup and dissatisfaction with his job. Upon arriving, Alex’s mom gives him the keys to her cafe. His dream of opening his own bakery have come true. Corbin is the town’s outcast, the mysterious man who Alex cannot deny. Because Corbin is alone in the world, he uses sketching as a way to connect and embrace a life of solitude. What unfolds is the tug the two men feel towards one another, and the reason why Corbin is so afraid to let anyone in.

This book has the familiarity of a romance holiday read, but enough diversity to make it different and stand out. The plot follows a protagonist leaving the big city of New York, and heads home because life did not go as planned. Then he opens a bakery in his childhood hometown and falls in love. Sounds like a classic holiday romance. The difference in The Remaking of Corbin Wale is that the author gives you LGBTQ characters and Chanukah (Hanukkah) instead of Christmas.

With a holiday read, there is this certain magic quality. I would not go as far and say it’s in the genre of magical realism, but it’s there. This book has a couple similarities that remind me of Practical Magic. Full disclosure, I’ve never read the book, and have only seen the movie. With that being said, Corbin lived with his aunts growing up and it was rumored in town they were witches. Corbin believes in a curse and for that reason, keeps himself closed off from the world.

While I did enjoy the read, there were a few things that bugged me. This is an adult fiction, however I couldn’t get the thought of Corbin as 17/18-year-old out of my head I’m not sure if it’s because I thought Corbin is too fragile at times, or the feeling that Alex can be tad bit possessive and or over protective of Corbin, or maybe I’ve been reading too much YA. The writing was also hit or miss with me. There were a few times when I thought the sentiment the author was trying to portray didn’t quite land.

Overall, it was a good read. Corbin being my favorite character from the book. He is confident and self-conscious at the same time (if that even makes sense). He is magical and non conforming. I don’t think he is a character I will soon forget.

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – 5/5

Published by Balzer + Bray

Genre: Realistic Fiction

fullsizeoutput_1081The Hate U Give is such a timely and current read. It follows Starr, a 17-year-old as she navigates between her two worlds. The poor area in which she lives and Williamson, the suburban prep school she attends. Starr’s world is shattered when she witnesses a police officer shoot her unarmed childhood friend. As Starr is trying to cope, the world  and especially her neighborhood is demanding justice.  “What Starr does-or does not-say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life.”

Not only does Angie Thomas address racism and prejudices, but she does so with very real and believable characters. She takes a world no one likes to talk about and pulls you in with a story that is beautifully told.

As Starr is trying to deal with normal teen issues such as boyfriends, friendship problems, sex, she also has to cope with the death of her friend. While everyone is marching, protesting (some for the wrong reason) and using their voice, Starr is trying to figure out how to use hers in a way to bring justice to her dear friend. Is there a right or wrong way? She learns more about the vicious cycle of oppression, and how the lack of opportunities can lead someone down a path they are forced to walk.

THUG LIFE –

T he

H ate

U

G ive

L ittle

I nfants

F ucks

E verybody

One quality that I love about this book, are all the Tupac references. There is a negative connotation around the word rapper or rap. Now, that’s not say all rap is good because like with everything else, there is good and bad. However, rap is closely linked to poetry, and Tupac was quite the poet. Check out this interview compilation, Tuapc speaks from the heart and he speaks truth. Also check out his book The Rose That Grew from Concrete.

The Hate U Give is truly a remarkable and relevant read that I highly recommend.

 

 

New Year, New YA Books

I can’t believe 2018 is upon us! Where has the time gone? I guess so many great reads and school work has made the year go by fast. As we enjoy these last few weeks of the year, we might as well be on the look out for the new releases of 2018. You know, so we can plan our future tbrs and Goodreads challenge. Considering it is December, there are so many lists out there to find the right books for you to read in 2018. After browsing a few sites, I can tell there are some great books coming out, and I cannot wait to read them!

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First I want to highlight Bustle’s 17 Ya books by authors of color. There are quite a few on this list that I am excited to read. Also according to this list, I’m most excited for the month of March.

  • Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed. Expected release date: January 16th published by Soho Teen.

Goodreads Synopsis: A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.
Maya Aziz is torn between futures: the one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter (i.e.; staying nearby in Chicago and being matched with a “suitable” Muslim boy), and the one where she goes to film school in New York City–and maybe, just maybe, kisses a guy she’s only known from afar. There’s the also the fun stuff, like laughing with her best friend Violet, making on-the-spot documentaries, sneaking away for private swimming lessons at a secret pond in the woods. But her world is shattered when a suicide bomber strikes in the American heartland; by chance, he shares Maya’s last name. What happens to the one Muslim family in town when their community is suddenly consumed with hatred and fear?

  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. Expected release date: March 6th published by HarperTeen.

Goodreads Synopsis: A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.
So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. Expected release date: March 6th published by Henry Holts Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Synopsis: Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

  • The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk. Expected release date: March 6th published by Delacorte Press.

Goodreads Synopsis: Autumn always knew exactly who she was—a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan always turned to writing love songs when his love life was a little less than perfect.
But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.
Each of them wonders: How different would my life be if this hadn’t happened? And now that it has . . . what’s next?

  • Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles. Expected release date: March 20th published by Little Brown for Young Readers.

Goodreads Synopsis: When Marvin Johnson’s twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.
The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it’s up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.

That is only a few I’m excited to read. For a very comprehensive list, check out Megan’s blog post at Wanderings of a Book Bird . She has a list for the whole year! Click the month and she gives you a book list. How very kind.

Or if you are all about HarperTeen, check out Epic Reads blog for The Official List of Harper’s Winter 2018 and The Official List of Harper’s Summer 2018.

So many books to look foward too!

What are you excited to read this coming year?

Poetry for YA

Rationale

Literature is one way a teen can relate to the world around them and know they are not alone. Poetry is just one genre and my favorite. Poetry is a creative outlet that allows one to express feelings that may be hard to articulate. Which is why I think poetry is an important subject to be taught and read by young adults. Becoming a teen means new hormones racing, new life difficulties, new school experiences and learning who you are. Sometimes it can be hard to express thoughts without fear of rejection.

Poetry is also a great way to introduce reading to YA. It can be less intimating, but just as powerful. Sometimes with reluctant readers, the thickness of a book or the number of words on a page can scare a reader. Poetry takes away some of the intimidation. Instead of taking on the book chapter by chapter, it is poem by poem.

Poetry is not only a collection of poems, but it can also tell a story like any other novel. These books are written in verse. Meaning it is arranged and constructed with poetic composition. I would like to point out, that is also doesn’t have to rhyme. Like other YA novels, it can have a central theme. In my little collection, I have also chosen books that have poetic prose. These are books written in paragraphs not verse, but they have poetic language and imagery, so I included them. The books I have included are contemporary, historical fiction and one poem collection with a musical twist. I chose this particular book because music is also poetry, it’s just sung. Their stories tackle the concepts of the wider world, self-identity and historical events. I chose these books because they stood out to me. Their titles, covers and synopsis made me reach for them on the shelf.

Books Written in Verse:

Anderson. “The Realm of Possibilty by David Levithan.” YA Love, 7 Dec. 2010, yaloveblog.com/2010/12/07/the-realm-of-possibilty-by-david-levithan/.

Wood, Sarah A. “The Realm of Possibility.” Teenreads, 10 Aug. 2004, www.teenreads.com/reviews/the-realm-of-possibility.

Review and Review

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These citations talk about The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan. Another novel written in verse; however, constructed a little bit different. The book revolves around 20 characters! Each chapter contains 4 different perspectives and according to Mrs. Anderson really captures “the depth of teenage emotion to create an amazing array of voices.” Because there are many voices, it can capture many different readers. Meaning many can place themselves in the book. Referencing from Sarah Woods’ review, “the interconnectedness between the poems and the characters…While the characters feel isolates and alone, they are in fact part of a vibrant, interrelated community.” This shows the plot is also exciting, imaginative and well-structured because the twenty different characters are all connected and show some kind of relationship. Speaking of relationships, the book also shows diversity to which readers can relate to the characters. Not only does it mention friendships, but also gay, lesbian and straight relationships.

Nast, Phil. “Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science.” NEA, http://www.nea.org/tools/lessons/70911.htm.

Review and Lesson Plan

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Finding Wonders is a historical novel verse giving a quick summary of the lives of three woman scientists. While Finding Wonders is targeted for the younger audience, it can be read at any age. It gives a simple, but wonderfully crafted rundown of Maria Sibylla Merian a scientific illustrator, Mary Anning, a paleontologist and Maria Mitchell, an astronomer. Each of these women changed science and were pioneers in their fields. This book gives young ones, especially young girls, the inspiration to pursue careers in the STEM fields. It reminds them, that girls can do it too, all it takes is motivation and determination. This fits the Exeter quality of characters going beyond typical experiences, and the readers can then learn from the characters and apply that knowledge in their own lives. I would also say this fits the exciting plot because of the struggles these women had to face. Their common struggle, being a woman, but they each faces other difficulties; however, they overcame. The language is also informative because it based on real lives. The above citation provides a little more information about the scientists as well as links to more info and lesson plans. As mentioned this book is aimed at a younger generation; however, the cite gives a lesson plan for grades 6-12. It could be done perhaps after reading the section in which the lesson coincides. The book itself also lists its’s own bibliography. I found Women in Science – 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World to be another companion (not in verse, but also YA).

Sheahan-Bright, Dr. Robyn. “Teacher Notes.” Allen and Unwin, Sydney. PDF

Teaching Notes

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The above citation, Dr. Robyn Sheahan- Bright informs about Sold by Patricia McCormick. This book is about a 13-old girl who lives in Nepal and is sold into prostitution under false pretenses. Sold contains a strong female character whose experiences go beyond that of normal teen experiences. Dr. Sheahan-Bright talks about the themes of the book, freedom, strength, cruelty, courage and friendship. These are themes that teens reflect upon. She also develops curriculum topics for teachers, as well as gives other resources. Sold is also an example of a book that informs truthfully about the wider world, and engages readers with difficult and challenging issues relating to global concern. Dr. Sheahan-Bright shows this by giving facts about human trafficking such as outcomes and maltreatment. She also uses quotes from the book to talk about how it portrays what is happening in the world and our communities. In terms of text complexity, Dr. Sheahan-Bright also mentions different types of prose and verses in which the book is constructed.

“Somewhere Among.” Simon & Schuster, www.simonandschuster.com/books/Somewhere-Among/Annie-Donwerth-Chikamatsu/9781481437875/reading_group_guide.

Reading Guide

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Somewhere Among by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu is another excellent example of book written in verse. While the age group is directed at a younger crowd, older teens and adults can relate to the concepts and themes. The main character Ema is biracial, bicultural and bilingual, so the people who are of mixed ethnicities can relate to the everyday plight Ema feels. This coincides with the Exeter quality of characters reflecting your experiences. Because the book’s setting is Tokyo and the characters are Japanese, the reader gets a look into a different culture. Traditions as well as language. Therefore, the Exeter quality of themes that inform truthfully about the wider world is displayed. The above citation is a reading guide and teaching source, and so it lists the Japanese holidays and what page numbers in which they occur. Another common experience some teen/young ones may face is bullying. Ema faces exactly this. Again, the reading guide lists when Ema experiences bullying and when she responds with the same type of behavior. An activity then has the children free write about a time when they or a friend have been bullied and what can be done about it. Including who to rope in, like parents, teachers and the school.

Tara. “ Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott.” The Reading Corner, 17 Feb. 2016.

Review and links to other sources

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Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott is another example of a book written in verse. It is also a historical fiction novel about two Holocaust survivors named Zlatka and Fania. The story follows these two girls as they survive the Concentration Camps and Death March. Upon Fania’s birthday, Zlatka made heart (booklet of sorts) for her and the other women in the camp signed it. The heart is laced with words of hope and messages of friendship. This alone was a huge risk and could be cause for death and thus shows the strength of resistance. Paper Hearts is an excellent example of learning about the wider world and global concerns. The citation has links to other websites, one including the Montreal Holocaust Museum where that heart is now on display. Throughout the book, there are words in Hebrew, German and Yiddish and at the back of the book, the author provides a glossary. As well as a section on what she tells is true with her own bibliography.

Books with Poetic Prose:

Clark, Amy Allen. “Sundays With Writers: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone.” MomAdvice, 14 June 2015, http://www.momadvice.com/post/sundays-with-writers-every-last-word-by-tamara-ireland-stone.

Lockhart, Rebecca. “Review: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone.” Unbound Pages, 15 June 2015, unboundpages.com/review-every-last-word-by-tamara/.

Author Interview and Review

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Teens look for diverse characters in which they can relate. This includes characters of mental illness and in Every Last Word, OCD in particular. The main character also deals with scenarios and problems that teen may deal with, including wanting to fit in with the crowd. Another Exeter quality incorporated within this story are characters that go beyond typical experiences to learn and develop in their own lives. Because the main character Sam has OCD, it sheds light on common misconceptions of OCD and how it affects her. With her experience’s, readers can learn from Sam and apply growth in their own lives. Sam also deals with the daily problems in high school that teens can relate to, as well as first love. This book is under poetic prose because as Rebecca Lockhart puts it, “words are truly therapeutic, whether you are reading or writing them.” Words can heal and the main character uses writing (poetry) to express her thoughts.

Dickinson-Ellison, K Ashley. “I’ll Give You the Sun: Book Review and Teaching         Ideas.” Teaching the Apocalypse, 24 Nov. 2015, http://www.teachingtheapocalypse.com/the-apocalyptic-era-teaching–yak-lit-blog/ill-give-you-the-sun-book-review-and-teaching-ideas.

Review and Teaching Ideas

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While I’ll Give You the Sun is not verse, the writing shows elements of poetic prose. The language is magical and colorful where the art comes to life. For example, as stated by Dickinson, “Noah talks in images…interpreting the world through colors and visual analysis.” Dickinson also shows how the book contains Exeter qualities. These being well structured plots. The novel jumps from the perspective of the twins as well as jumps from past to present. As Dickinson mentions, “moves seamlessly between the present and the past, revolving around a critical event that profoundly affects the lives of the twins.” The characters also reflect experiences of teen readers. It is a coming of age story that has aspects of love and sexuality. As well as trying to figure out who you are. Siblings also deal with common experiences teens face like that of applying to school, a death in the family (grief) and a few other heavy topics.

Staff, NPR. “This Weekend, Pick Up the Pieces With ‘Gabi’.” NPR, NPR, 14 Dec. 2014, http://www.npr.org/2014/12/14/370098154/this-weekend-pick-up-the-pieces-with-gabi.

Review

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The above citation showcases Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero as well as an interview with the author. The review expresses Exeter qualities of characters who reflect experiences of teen readers. Gabi is a strong female protagonist that talks about body positivity as well as the standards society shoves on women and girls, sexuality and the differing of rules between boys and girls. With her strong voice, Gabi tells the truth and doesn’t hold back. The text is also lively, varied, informative language. Because the main character is bicultural and bilingual, the text often has Spanish phrases and words. Again, this is novel is not written in verse, but has poetic prose as well as Gabi’s poems. Her poems help her relate and express the struggles of her father, school and well life.

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Erica Odell’s Book Talk

The link above will take you to the site and then click my name for the book talk. Below are few  Exeter qualities and why The Book Thief is an amazing read.

Exeter Qualities 1 and 2: The plot is well structured, imaginative and exciting. Death tells the story, and gives you snippets of the future; then goes back to tell how it happened. So, there is a slight jump in time frames.

Exeter Quality 5 and 8: The story is lively, varied, informative language that is grammatically correct. First the story is very lyrical and poetic. It also contains phrases and words of another language (German) without making it unreadable because you don’t know the language.

Exeter Quality 6: Themes that inform truthfully about the wider world. This YA book is a historical fiction novel about WWII and Nazi Germany. It also shows the side that not all Germans agreed with Hitler’s philosophy.

Poem Collection:

Gilmore, Darlene, and Edwin F Stevens. Individual Learning Packet. Preswick House, 2005, http://www.prestwickhouse.com/samples/300962.pdf. PDF

Prestwick Lesson Plan

The above citation is a lesson plan for dissecting and understanding The Rose That Grew From Concrete by Tupac Shakur. It covers Exeter qualities like varied levels of sophistication that will lead to the continued development of reading skills. For example, there is a list of vocabulary words, structure of poems and literary terms. Knowing and learning these devices help better understand the meanings behind the poems. The cite also mentions the central themes that teens can relate to, which include survival, self-discovery, friendship, love, drugs, violence, social and political views. The above themes also fit Exeter quality of possible emotional and intellectual growth through engagement with personal issues. Teens can look at these poems and strive to do better, be better. No matter what, they can reach their dreams. They don’t have to be a product of their environment if they don’t want to be. Poems can give inspiration and motivation and I think The Rose That Grew From Concrete is the perfect example of that.

 

Whale Talk

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher – 5/5

Genre: YA Realistic Fiction

Published: 2001

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Chris Crutcher writes the perfect problem novel. This is not to be confused with a problematic novel, in which proper representation of diversity is missing from a novel. A problem novel shows its readers the bad and the good of the society they live in. It is not a happy-go-lucky book, but shows what teens wonder and or worry about in terms of sex, drugs, money, peer pressure, health problems, etc.

Whale Talk has plenty of problems that the main character as well as secondary characters face. This includes, racism, misogyny physical and emotional abuse, child neglect and abandonment. I know sounds like a depressing book and believe me, there were a few moments when I thought “Omg! this actually happens; who could do that?!” However, this shock reaction, I believe is the point on the novel. As stated above, a problem novel shows you the good as well as the bad of a society. Whale Talk, tells the stories of individuals that do not have voice.

On the surface, this book follows a teen in high school (T.J.) while he assembles a swim team with a group of lets say, far from the traditional popular kids. A story about sports, athletics and getting the Letterman’s jacket. However below the surface, this book and these kids tackle more than they should have to. Within the swim team, the group of misfits form some kind of therapy group; a caccoon-like snug where they talk about things they would never mention on the outside. These outsiders form a friendship, a sense of belonging and a relationship they crave.

Whale Talk includes a quest for redemption, and a hero or a Robin Hood of sorts. A novel that ponders humanity for, “If we knew more about humans, maybe we could accommodate one another better.” I love this quote because it holds truth today. We think we know, but voices are silenced and thrown away. However, everyone deserves a safe place to voice their concerns, and everyone should respect and listen. Then maybe we can accommodate one another. Crutcher gives life, light and a voice to those left in the dark.

My favorite part of the book is when the title makes sense. I love that moment when you are reading and it just clicks. “Ahhh, know I see.” I won’t spoil if for you here, but you’ll just have to trust me.

 

 

Somewhere Among

Somewhere Among by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu – 4/5

Genre: Middle Grade Poetry / Historical Fiction

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Normally, I don’t I look at reviews until after I have finished writing my own, but for some reason, this time I took a quick scroll through what other people had to say. The verdict, this book has received a lot of mixed reviews. My thoughts are with those who thought this book deserved a high star rating.

Somewhere Among is about an eleven year old Japanese-American named Ema, who finds herself between two cultures, worlds, languages, and families. Within this mix she finds herself alone. She lives with her Japanese grandparents in Tokyo because her mom is pregnant and on bed rest and her father is always away at work. Because her mother is on bed rest, her summer plans of going to California to visit her other grandparents have been changed. This means new school after the summer is over and new friends.

Ema struggles with identity because she feels split in two. Then feels like she must prove her knowledge and show that she is not missing anything. Meaning just because she is half of two different cultures doesn’t mean she is not whole. Ema is a relatable bi racial/cultural/national character. Growing up, I often found myself feeling split down the middle with two ethnicities or two sides instead of a blended and mixed me. It was easy for me to instantly be drawn to Ema. Ema also faces issues that any child may face, one example is bullying.

Looking over some of the other reviews, some thought that adding the event of 911 was not a good idea. They didn’t see how it related to the story or it wasn’t developed enough. I would disagree. First, this novel is inspired by the author’s life and some of these poems are snippets and memories from her own experience. Second, I think it weaved into the story well because is further shows Ema’s feelings of being split. Two countries who are now at peace with each other, but there was a time when they were at war. This is then further shown in the pieces when Ema talks about Hiroshima and Nagasaki and well as Pearl Harbor. Anniversaries that show how humanity can really hurt one another. Then September 11 happens and there is a new war and within the poems, you see how it affects the family.

I like that through this reading, you get to experience Japanese culture; however, I wish the author explained the terms a little better.

Because this novel is written in verse, I think it tones down the harshness of what this book could have been. Making it easier for a young child to read, understand and realte. This is not a lighthearted read, but it’s not a depressing read either.

All in all, I think this book is about being grounded. Finding the center in all that you are. It also shows the importance of family. There may be times when they drive you crazy and if you’re an eleven girl, they may suck the fun out of everything, but they have your back and are there to support and love you.

Finding Wonders

Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins

Genre: Historical Fiction, Poetry/Prose

Middle Grade Read (10+)

“Her art is a science, which wants questions as much as answers.”

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This was a quick read about three women scientists: Maria Merian a naturalist and scientific illustrator (1647-1717), Mary Anning a paleontologist (1799-1847) and Maria Mitchell an astronomer (1818-1889). All three women looked at the world with wonder and curiosity and changed science.

I think this book is a great read for young readers, especially little girls. It shows them that science is not just a boys subject. I remember when I was younger and thought math and science were the boys’ subjects, and English were the girls’ subject. I easily went along with the gendered system and no one told me otherwise. I believe books like Finding Wonders can spark interest of science in the minds of young ones and show them they can do anything. I almost wanted to switch my major after reading it.

I also think this book could be used as a tool in the classroom for a science, women’s history or english lessons. More of a companion piece to the lesson plan or textbook. Because it is short (182 pages) and written in verse, it could be a book the class reads together. Also at the back of the book, the author lists the bibliography. Some of the works listed are for young readers.

The writing is beautiful, it combines art and science and the result is a poetic prose.

 

 

Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban

This review will be a little different and contains spoilers.

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is widely known and showered with praises. Why? What makes this series stand out in a sea of books? Yes the series is a fun magical read that young readers and old alike can get lost in, but there is more between the pages of this tale.

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I read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as part of my reading assignment for my YA Lit class, so I will be focusing on this particular book. As I started reading, I realized how much I missed the wizarding world of Harry Potter and because of my class, loved the story so much more this time around.

First, lets talk about fantasy. This genre is more than an escape read. The Latin and Greek word for fantasy is phantsia, meaning the power of imagination, image or appearance; making visible. With the power of imagination, fantasy makes visible the truths of our reality. It forces us to look at our world and our lives as what is and what it could be. While the world or the story may not be true, there are universal truths weaved into the novel. One example, is racism and discrimination. This affects people all over the world and is also shown in Harry Potter. Not only do The Dursleys discriminate against the magical beings and creatures of the magical world, but there are also characters like the Malfoys who discriminate against humans (muggles) and those who come from non-magic parents (mudbloods). There also characters like Professor Lupin, who is discriminated against because he is a werewolf. His transformation to fur and sharp teeth once a month precedes the kind of person he is. Which brings me to the concept of dualities. Things that stand in contrast to one another. One one side of the story, Lupin is a kind and skillful teacher. The opposite is a monster that emerges on a full moon. A teacher that is trusted yet mistrusted by his peers. Hermoine is another example. She is struggles with loyalty to her friends as well as being a good student.

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In fantasy, the hero works in the realm of morality. In this case, it’s a thirteen year old boy learning what is just and what is revenge, another duality. While Harry’s struggling with justice and revenge regarding Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew, Snape is feeling quite vengeful regarding Sirius, Lupin and the past. Which puts Harry and Snape on the same level. It’s not teacher over student. This is also the perfect example of the Junex vs the Senex archetype. A conflict that exists in both young and old alike.

Other archetypes (a very typical example of a certain person or thing; representative) include the trickster or joker. This character archetype plays tricks or disobeys normal rules to get away with something. I believe Peter Pettigrew fits this mold because he fakes his own death and lives the life of a rat for 12 years and essentially fools everyone. Other archtypes include the orphan (Harry), the sage (Professor Dumbledore), and the caregiver (Madam Pomfrey). Those are just a few. Archetypes are important because they fit into every genre. It connects the reading to reality. There is comfort in being able to relate and connect with the characters.

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I also think Rowling brings up two types of fears. The first are boggarts. Which are kind of described like the boogie man or the monster under your bed or in your closet. This layer of fear is more surface; more common fears. For example, being afraid of the dark, spiders, teachers, snakes and what not. But, with comical thoughts and mind over matter (and of course a charm) those fears can be defeated. Now Rowling goes a step further and brings dementors into the mix. The dementors are horrifying creatures that suck the happiness out of you and if unfortunate, your soul. These creatures represent a soul crushing spirit and that is something different in each person. This could be mental illness, war, addiction or any kind conflict the makes you feel the state of nothingness. Just typing this is not pleasant. Of course there is way to beat said fear and conquer this dark duality with that of silver light. The happiest memories conjure a patronus that, propels the dementors away. The patronus takes a particular shape and form depending on each person and this reminds me of a support system one needs to fight away the fears. We all need a little help.

Which brings me to another point, language. Rowling is a master of manipulating words. When I see and think about dementors, I think demons. When I see the word “expecto patronum”. I see expect a patron. Which is fitting because the patronus takes a form. In Harry’s case it is a stag, which represents his father. Sirius Black’s name has meaning. Sirius is the dog-star in the constellation. Sirius can turn into an animal, that animal being a dog. Professor Minerva McGonagall, her name Minerva meaning the Roman Goddess of wisdom. Severus Snape looks like severe snake. Also fitting because he is head of the Slytherin house and quite the severe professor. One more example, Draco Malfoy. The word draco comes from the Latin word draconem meaning huge serpent or dragon. Mal is latin for bad. Again quite fitting for Draco is quite the malevolent character belonging the Slytherin house.

Besides everything mentioned above, what makes the Harry Potter series a good YA book? It is a well thought out, structured and exiting plot. The characters reflect experiences that of teen readers. This includes fights between friends or being jealous of your friends or those nervous butterflies you get when you see someone you like. Teens tend to be a little selfish and have a one track mind or exaggerate things and spread rumors; yes that is portrayed in the characters as well. Strong female protagonist are also included. Also this story breaks gender stereotypes. Quidditch is a highly dangerous sport, that both boys and girls play on. A sport where skill is recognized, not gender.

I can go on and on about this book, but for the sake of not writing a paper, I’ll stop here. For these are just a few examples in which why this particular book is amazing and why the Harry Potter series is one that will always be a favorite.