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review 2017-04-22 05:12
Two teenage boys figuring out their identity and their friendship...
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz

 

 

This is an amazing book that seems to truly understand the minds of teenage boys trying to navigate life. It appeals to both boys and girls who are trying to figure out their identity and their lives. Dante seems to know who he is from the beginning, but Aristotle (Ari) is constantly worrying about the fact that he doesn't know who he is or what he wants.

 

Some of the students in my class found Ari's angst to be more than a bit annoying, but I really enjoyed this book. I felt for Ari, even though, at times, I didn't really understand why he was so angry. Dante didn't always understand it either. However, I am certain I was just as confused and confusing as a teenager (especially to my mom). And now, I have my own teenage daughter. Her moods are more than a bit unpredictable and confusing; so now I know what my mother felt like.

 

I think teens, especially those questioning their sexuality, will enjoy this book.

 

Recommended to:

Grades 9-12, both boys and girls. 

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review 2017-04-22 04:51
Sisters sent to Sweden to escape WWII...
A Faraway Island - Annika Thor,Linda Schenck

 

 

During World War II, many Jewish children were sent to other countries and placed with families to keep them safe. Stephie and Nellie were two of those children. They end up on a small island and with two different families. At first glance, Nellie is in the warm, loving family and Stephie ends up with a woman who doesn't seem to even like her. Stephie is holding on to the idea that their parents will join them and they will all go to America. 

 

This is a great story about two girls adjusting to their new life and dealing with bullying and prejudice. I felt so bad for Stephie. She is trying so hard, but she misses her old life and her parents so much. Her parents sent her and her sister away to save them from the Germans and their hatred. But, even in Sweden, they can't avoid it completely.

 

When Stephie finally reveals her pain to her foster mother (Aunt Marta), she finds that Aunt Marta is dealing with her own pain. They both realize they aren't alone and don't have to deal with everything on their own.

 

Recommended to:

Middle school ages, especially girls. Even though it's historical fiction, the problems the girls deal with are easily relatable. The book doesn't deal with the horrors of the concentration camps, but the way the war affects Stephie, Nellie, and their family.

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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 03:52
One Crazy Summer - review
One Crazy Summer - Rita Williams-Garcia

Delphine is eleven, going on twelve and yet she is responsible for her two younger sisters. Their mother left when Fern, the youngest, was still a baby and they are being raised by their father and grandmother (Big Ma). One summer they fly to California to spend time with their mother. She is not what they expect, and she doesn't seem happy to see them. Their mother sends them to the community center to have breakfast and get them out of her house. There the sisters get to spend time with members of the Black Panthers who run the center and provide local children with breakfast and day camp.

 

I liked this story. It gave us a look inside the sixties and what life was like for young black girls. We see how hard it is for the girls not to know their mother and when they finally meet her, she is distant and unfriendly. Delphine is a strong girl who doesn't take crap from anyone. It is hard for her to just be eleven when she has so much responsibility. She stands up for herself and her sisters and by the end of the visit, they finally start to connect with their mother.

 

This is a great book and highly recommended for readers, especially girls. Fans of realistic fiction or historical fiction should enjoy this one.

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