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review 2017-04-21 04:50
Coach helps teen turn his life around...
Ghost (Track) - Jason Reynolds

 

 

Like, for me, the best way to describe it is, I got a lot of scream inside.

- Chapter 3

 

Castle Crenshaw is in the seventh grade and he is always in trouble, mostly fighting. He doesn't take any crap. But, he sees a team running track in the park, proves he can run faster, and the Coach asks him to join. Castle (nicknamed Ghost) runs fast because he needed to. One night his father chased his mother and him out of their apartment. His father had a gun and was shooting at them. So, Ghost doesn't have it easy, and he doesn't always make the right choices, but this team and more importantly, the Coach are his chance for a new direction.

 

This book is a quick read, written for middle-grade students. The character of Ghost seems real; he is angry, embarrassed by where he lives, and has no father figure. The Coach becomes an important part of his life, not just on the team, but in helping him to make better choices and do the right thing.

 

I read this book for my Multicultural lit class. 

 

Recommended to:

Readers in grades 6-8, especially boys.

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review 2017-04-19 05:03
Two boys face down one bully...
Save Me a Seat - Gita Varadarajan,Sarah Weeks

 

This is a great book. The story follows two boys during their first week of middle school (Ravi and Joe). One is a new boy from India and the other is dealing with social issues. This book depicts what feels like a real-life school experience. The boys think they have nothing in common until they are united by a common enemy - the school bully.

 

The chapters are written in alternating points of view between the two boys, and the book is sectioned by days of the week. We can see how much they have in common and root for them to finally realize it and become friends. There is a lot of Indian culture woven into the story, the food, the language, and in Ravi's home.

 

At the end of the book, there are two glossaries. One is Ravi's with Hindi words and their definitions. The second is Joe's with English slang words and their definitions. There are also two recipes, one from each boy's family.

 

The book is a well written multi-cultural book that accurately depicts the experience of a boy coming from India to the United States. I think children will relate to the characters and their situations. 

 

I used this book in a paper I wrote describing a program promoting kindness.

 

One of my favorite lines from the book:

These candies have four layers. Most people assume there are only three, but assumptions are often wrong. There is more to them than meets the eye.

- Joe explaining why he is like an M&M

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review 2017-04-09 23:10
Dark chick-lit or humorous mystery wonderfully written and with great characters.
Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for offering me a copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I read and reviewed Liane Moriarty’s recent novel Truly, Madly, Guilty and when I was checking the reviews I read many comments referring to the author’s sense of humour that was not so evident in that novel (don’t let that put you off. It’s a fascinating story and the style of the narration is pretty unique) and I read many people referring to this novel. I also happened to watch a couple of the episodes of the HBO series and wondered how they might compare to the book. I haven’t watched the whole series, so I can’t comment in full but I must say the book is fantastic.

The novel tells the story of the events that take place at an Australian primary school (Pirriwee Public School) during an event organised for parents, the Trivia Night (where the participants are supposed to dress up like Audrey Hepburn and Elvis Presley. Yes, you can imagine the scene). To tell the story, the action takes us back to the school’s induction day. While some of the mothers (and fathers, well, only one man is looking full-time after the kids but many fathers attend too) already know each other, Jane is new to the area and doesn’t know anybody. By accident, she meets Madeline, who has three kids and has seen it all. Madeline is a force of nature and adopts Jane, who is much younger and far less glamorous. Celeste, a friend of Madeline and the most beautiful and rich woman around, is the third in the fabulous trio.

The story is told in the third person from the point of view of these three women, and there are interspersed fragments of what appears to be an interview with a variety of characters, all of them parents of the children at the school, that are evidently being asked questions about what happened on that fateful night. It is no spoiler (as that is clear from very early on) if I tell you that somebody has died. The novel builds up slowly, introducing the characters and their personalities and concerns. Jane is a single Mum who’s struggling but loves her son Ziggy and does the best by him. Things start going wrong early on for her and her son due to an accusation of bullying and that sets up a number of things in motion, splitting up the parents and creating a lot of misunderstandings and resentment. Jane is also hiding some secrets that have seriously affected her life and she moved there seeking some sort of closure. Madeline is the funniest characters. She is quick-witted, loves clothes and shoes, does not tolerate fools gladly and hates the fact that her ex-husband (and father of her teenage daughter Abigail, Nathan, who abandoned her leaving her to bring up their child alone when she was only a baby) has remarried and is now living in close proximity. Not only that but, his daughter, Sky, goes to the same school as her youngest one, Chloe. She is not one for forgiving and forgetting and she has a very hard time accepting that Abigail is becoming close to her father. Her character offers light relief as she’s quite extreme in her passions and behaviour and seemingly superficial —hers is a familiar character of chick-lit books — but it’s impossible not to like her or side with her as her heart is in the right place and she is very funny. Celeste is also keeping secrets. The perfect family, and her oh, so perfect husband, is anything but, and the novel is very good at portraying the complex nature of domestic violence and the kind of mental processes the victims go through.

The short interludes, at the beginning of each chapter, of fragments of interviews with other characters manage to create a sense of what the whole community is like, and by contrasting two completely opposite answers to the same question (some hilarious, others in earnest) one easily gets a sense of how what happened, happened. Of course, the real causes of the incident go much deeper than the disagreements between the parents and the amount of alcohol consumed, as will be slowly revealed. One of the reviewers compared these fragments to a Greek chorus and it is a very apt comparison (minus the moral undertones).

This novel is very good at creating characters that we can care for, although perhaps we might not fully identify with any of them. I’ve laughed out loud at Madeline’s antics quite often (although not all is fun and games for her either) and I have worried with Celeste and Jane. The writing is agile and fluid, with the different character’s voices well captured, differentiated and believable. The small community, that becomes also another character, is vividly portrayed and the ending is surprising, as it should be in all good mysteries (I kept worrying about who the dead person might be and just worked out what was going to happen a couple of paragraphs before it did), positive and heart-warming (despite the tragedy). The book’s lightness of touch and the interspersed comedic events make it easy to read but it does not detract from the seriousness and the sensitivity with which it touches upon serious matters. Bullying, family relationships (especially the complexities of non-traditional families), domestic violence, the influence of our childhoods and the experiences we go through in later life, and of course, the dangers of secrets and lies, are all important elements of this novel, that despite the style and the subject matter fits also within the mystery category.

I recommend this novel to any readers of women’s literature, chick-lit with a sting, domestic mystery and in general to anybody who wants to have a fun time whilst reading about serious matters. Now I know for sure I must read more books by this author.

 

 

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review 2017-04-09 05:12
Friends come in unexpected ways....
Making Friends with Billy Wong - Augusta Scattergood

 

I didn't know why so many Chinese people lived here and I sure didn't understand why one school needed to be better than another school or why you couldn't go to whichever school you wanted to. If I paid attention and listened, maybe I'd find out.

- Chapter 6

 

Azalea doesn't want to spend the summer with her grandmother, who she barely knows. But, her grandmother is injured and needs help, so her parents take her there and leave her for the summer. Azalea doesn't like meeting new people and she doesn't do well with strangers. A bunch of local kids come to the house to help with her grandmother's garden, so she is forced to interact with them. She meets a strange delinquent boy, a nice Chinese boy, and a stuck up girl who wears dresses to help in the garden. But, people are not always what they seem, and friendship comes when you least expect it.

 

Azalea is a great character who does her best to do the right thing. She comes to town to help her grandmother but ends up finding friends she didn't expect.

 

The book is inspired by true accounts of Chinese immigrants who lived in the American south during the civil rights era. It is told from two points of view, Azalea's in prose, and Billy's in verse. It's a cute, well-written book that will appeal to boys and girls who enjoy realistic or historical fiction.

 

 

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review 2017-04-09 04:50
Full Cicada Moon - review
Full Cicada Moon - Marilyn Hilton

 

"Girls learn how to cook and sew so they can be good homemakers. Why would you want to make a bookcase when you can make a cake?" But I want to ask her why wouldn't I.

- Flying to Vermont - January 1, 1969

 

It was like we were all in the Other check box, having in common speaking English, being American, and feeling that we didn't belong either in our parents' worlds or in this one.

- Flying to Vermont - January 1, 1969

 

Even now, that day reminds me that raindrops are stronger than hammers.

- Summer 1969

 

 

Half-black, half-Japanese Mimi just moved to a mostly white town in Vermont. It is 1969, and girls are expected to take Home Ec and grow up to be housewives or maybe teachers.  Mimi is different. She wants to take Shop class and she wants to be an astronaut. Her teachers and classmates may laugh, but Mimi is determined. When the people in town look at her, they see what is different about her and make comments about her race. Mimi wants to take shop and she won't let anything stand in her way, not even the rules or the principal.

 

I liked this book. Mimi is a strong female character. She doesn't let people tell her no. Even when people look at her and judge her by her looks or her sex, she doesn't let that stop her from trying to get what she wants. The novel is written in verse and takes place over the course of a year as she adjusts to her new town.

 

This is a good story to show kids what it means to be a friend and how one person standing up for what they believe in can make a difference.

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