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review 2018-02-24 23:06
Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles
Freedom Summer - Deborah Wiles,Jerome Lagarrigue

Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles is a beautiful story of friendship between John Henry (a young black boy) and Joe (a young white boy) in the 1960s. The two boys spend their entire summer together, going on adventures and making unforgettable memories. As the boys spend time together, Joe begins to notice all of the things John Henry can't do and all of the places he is not allowed into simply because of this skin color. But despite this, the boys become close friends and embrace each other's differences. This book has a great variety of vocabulary that readers can learn from and excellent illustrations that paint an accurate picture of the South during the 1960s. 

 

I would use this book during a Social Studies lesson and ask students to compare and contrast John Henry's and Joe's lives before and after the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. Using historical facts learned in previous lessons and the book, I would ask them to compare/contrast what they could and could not do and what their daily life would look like. What changed? What stayed the same? They would write their response in a PowerPoint or Prezi presentation that they could share in class. 

Lexile Measure: AD460L

 
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review 2018-02-23 20:21
Martin's Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - Doreen Rappaport,Bryan Collier

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen Rappaport is a great rendition of the history of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This book does an excellent job of explaining historical events and facts of the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King's influence during that time. This book is appropriate for young readers and uses developmentally appropriate language. The illustrations are exceptional. Without too many words and with just enough detail, readers can learn about the life and death of Dr. King as well as the start and end of the Civil Rights Movement.

 

This book serves a great educational purpose in the classroom. After a lesson on Dr. King's influence during the Civil Rights Movement, I would read this book to the class and discuss it afterwards. Then I would ask students to read portions of the famous "I Have a Dream Speech" by Dr. King and to find real word examples of how his dream came true. Then, I would ask students to help write a class "We Have a Dream Too" speech where we would write dreams or wishes we have for the world as it is today (and the issues Americans face today).

 

 

Guided Reading: S
Lexile: 410L
Accelerated Reader Level: 3.4

 
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review 2018-01-07 05:33
Piecing Together a Love Story
The Patchwork Bride - Sandra Dallas
The Persian Pickle Club - Sandra Dallas

Ellen is getting older and wondering how long she and her husband, Ben, can stay on their beloved ranch, when her granddaughter, June, gets cold feet and runs from her wedding. Ellen is working on June’s wedding quilt, which contains pieces of the wedding dresses from the women of the family. As the two women sit together, Ellen tells June the stories of one woman, named Nell, and how it took her 3 tries to find the man she would marry. The story of Nell’s first beau, Buddy, is full of cowboy swagger, the second story, about James, is a bit of a shocker, and the story of predictable, solid Wade has a not-so-predictable twist in the end.

The strengths of this book are the depictions of the relationships between the women characters, and the easygoing voice the story is told in. Readers who liked The Persian Pickle Club (which is referred to in this story) are sure to enjoy this latest novel.

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text 2017-12-21 16:46
Reading progress update: I've read 108 out of 432 pages.
Century of Struggle: The Woman's Rights Movement in the United States, Enlarged Edition - Ellen Fitzpatrick,Eleanor Flexner

I'm finding this to be a highly informative read. I picked it up mainly to learn about the women's suffrage movement, but Flexner demonstrates that campaigners had a much broader agenda than just that.

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review 2017-10-08 14:11
Four stories of the man as a young artist. For lovers of experimental literary fiction and New York.
4 3 2 1 - Paul Auster

Thanks to NetGalley and to Faber & Faber for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

I’ve been following with interest the Man-Booker Prize this year and realised I had quite a few of the books on my list to be read and decided to try and read in a timely manner and see how my opinion compared to that of the judges. When the shortlist was announced, only one of the books I had read so far had made it, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, a book I really enjoyed. And then I got the chance to read 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster, another one of the novels shortlisted, and I could not resist.

I had read a novel by Paul Auster years back, The Book of Illusions and although I remember I enjoyed it, I had never read another one of his books until now. It wasn’t a conscious decision, and I had always kept in mind that at some point I should pick up another one of his books but that day hadn’t arrived.

I hadn’t read anything about this novel before I started reading it, other than it had been shortlisted for the Man-Booker, and therefore I was a bit surprised and confused, to begin with.

First, as happens with e-books, I had no idea how long it was. It’s around the 900 pages mark. Second, I didn’t realise it was a fairly experimental novel, or, at least its structure was not standard. The novel starts as if it was going to be a family saga, with the story of a Jewish immigrant arriving in New York, and we follow his story and that of his family for a couple of generations until we get to the birth of a boy, Archibald Ferguson. He doesn’t like his first name that much and for the rest of the novel he is referred to as Ferguson. When things start getting weird is when at some point you become aware that you are reading four different versions of his life. These are narrated in the third person, although always from the point of view of the character, and yes, they are numbered.  So the first chapter (or part), you would have 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 and then, the next part would be 2.1… and so on. The story (stories) are told chronologically but chopped up into bits. Some of the reviewers have commented that you need to be a member of MENSA to remember and differentiate the various stories, because yes, there are differences (fate seems to play a big part, as sometimes due to incidents that happen to his family, financial difficulties, relationship issues… the story takes a different turn and deviates from the other versions), but these are not huge, and it is difficult to keep in your mind which one of the versions is which one (at times I would have been reading for a while before I could remember how this version was different to the one I had just been reading). Because the differences are not major (yes, in one version he ends up going to a university and in another to a different one, in one he works at a newspaper and in another starts writing books, in one he goes out with a girl and in another they are only friends…), and the characters are pretty much the same in all versions (although sometimes their behaviour is quite different) it makes the stories very similar. Added to that, all versions of the character are also very similar as if the different circumstances were not earth-shattering and had not affected that much the development of his boy (in the debate of nature, nurture, it’s safe to say Auster supports nature). The devil seems to be in the detail, or perhaps the point is that we might strongly believe that there are moments when our decisions could have sent us down one path or a completely different one (Sliding Doors anyone?), but the truth is that of all the infinite possibilities (and that makes me think of a book I read very recently, Do You Realize?) only one is conducive to life as we know it (the Goldilocks theory of life. Neither too hot nor too cold, just right) and our life was meant to be as it if.

Ferguson loves films and is a bit of a film buff (there are lengthy digressions about Laurel & Hardy, the French New Wave, American Films…), he also loves books and writing, and some versions of the story include his translations of French poets, or his own stories (that sometimes end up being exactly the same as the story we are reading, and others are either full stories or fragments of the books he is writing), and sports, mostly baseball, although also basketball.

Towards the end of the book (well, it’s a long book, so let’s say from the time the characters goes to college), we get much more detailed information about politics and historical events in America. There are lengthy descriptions of reactions to the murders of J.F.K, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, race riots, the Black Power Movement, the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement, the Columbia University demonstrations and student political organisations, and also about New York and Paris (more New York than Paris) in the 1960s and early 70s. Although in one of the versions Ferguson is attending Columbia, he is a reporter and even when he is physically there, he narrates the events as an observer rather than as if he was personally involved. His engagement seems to be intellectual above all, no matter what version of Ferguson we read, although the reasons for his attitude might be different.

I don’t want to end up with a review as long as the book itself, and after checking other reviews of the book, I thought I’d share a couple I particularly liked, so you can have a look.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1909935118?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/paul-austers-novel-of-chance

What I thought the book did very well, in all its versions, was to capture the feelings and the thoughts of a teenager and young man (although, as I’m a woman, I might be completely wrong). Although the emphasis is slightly different in each version, that is fairly consistent and rings true. As a writer and film lover, I enjoyed the comments about books and movies, although these could be frustrating to some readers. I also enjoyed the works in progress of the various Fergusons (some more than others) but this could again be annoying to readers who prefer to follow a story and not wander and float in flights of fancy. I agree with some of the comments I’ve read that the latter part of the book is slowed down even more by the endless description of incidents at Columbia that, no matter the version of the story we read, are analytically reported rather than brought to life.

My main problem with the book is that I did not connect that much with the main character. Considering the amount of time readers get to spend with the different versions of Ferguson, we get to know him, but I did not feel for him. Strangely enough, sometimes I felt more connected to some of the other characters in the story (his mother in some versions, some of his friends, a teacher…) than I did to him. I’m not sure if it was because it all felt very artificial, or because none of the versions completely gelled for me. I admired his intellect but did not connect at an emotional level and I did not care for him. I’m aware that readers who know Auster’s oeuvre better have commented on the biographical similarities with his own life, and I’m aware that he has denied it is (or are) his story. There are, for sure, many points of contact. Some readers have compared it to books that have used a somewhat similar format to tell their stories, but as I haven’t read any, I will not comment on that. The ending, metafictional as was to be expected, will probably satisfy more those who enjoy formal literary experiments than those looking for a good story. I do not think many people will find it surprising, but I don’t think that was the author’s goal. The writing is good, sometimes deep and challenging, others more perfunctory. And yes, I still intend to read other Auster’s books in the future.

In sum, a fascinating exercise in writing, that will be of interest primarily to followers of Auster’s career, to those who love experimental literary fiction, particularly those interested also in films, literature, the writing process, sports, and New York. Not a book I’d recommend to those who love dynamic stories with exciting plots, or those who prefer to emotionally engage with characters. Ah, and it requires a reasonable memory and a serious investment of time.

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