Best Book I Have Not Read

Writing, Reading, Teaching, Life, Attempting to Balance it All

Couldn’t Put it Down! January 6, 2012

It was unfortunate that both my children were sick today. It was not unfortunate for my reading life though. I finished Jefferson’s Sons, which despite my initial hesitation, completely grabbed me today. I’ve never been to Monticello and have added to the places I would love to go some time. The author did an amazing job with her research with this historical fiction. When part two (of three) of the book started and it became clear to me that each section was going to be narrated by a different character, I was a little annoyed. I can’t really put my finger on why, but I think it’s because the change from Beverly to Maddy was more abrupt than I would have cared for. The change from character two to three occurred without me hardly noticing.

I can see why it is on potential Newbery lists. A story about an American icon, slavery, family and a part of history not known to many all make a great story.

I then picked up The Apothecary, which I read in two long sittings today! LOVE THAT BOOK! The characters are so well developed and felt like real people you’d like to know. A great blend of historical fiction/adventure/fantasy that I can’t really compare to anything else. The preface had me wanting to know about Benjamin. The first chapter had me ready to read a whole book set during the 1950′s when Hollywood movie writers were suspect and often accused of Communism. I then could have read a whole book about an American girl transplanted to a British prep school. If this makes the book sound choppy, it is not at all! It moves seamlessly, weaving in murder, magic, mean girls, espionage, all in a way that I could not put down! I’m having to reevaluate my list after this one.

 

Delirious for Delirium! Lauren Oliver is amazing February 5, 2011

So intrigued by Delirium. Still thinking about it long after, just like Before I Fall.

So excited to be in the countdown to having Lauren Oliver talking to some of our students Monday afternoon.

So excited to share it all with you!

 

#BookaDay #6 One Crazy Summer January 2, 2011

Filed under: #bookaday,Newbery — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:54 pm
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Here’s the 60 second synopsis which is so unfair to such a great book, but…

One Crazy Summer

by Rita Williams-Garcia

 

Definitely a Newbery possibility

Historical Fiction-set in 1960′s Oakland California

I learned interesting things about the Black Panthers that I did not know (and realized I know hardly anything about that part of American history). Was talking with my daughter about the contrast between California during that times and the south like Watsons Go to Birmingham.

Three daughters-Delphine, Vonetta and Fern. Their mother had left them upon birth of third child, supposedly because their mother hadn’t been allowed to name her daughter what she wanted. Mom is definitely not motherly, is a member of the Black Panthers, and a poet.

I agree that the cover does not draw a middle grade reader in. My daughter’s comment was, “I wouldn’t have read it because of the cover looking so unappealing, but did because you thought it might win the Newbery. It’s great and I’m going to tell my teacher about it!”

 

I’m headed over to Amazon to buy the hardbacks at bargain price of $6.40 !

Are they CRAZY!!! Don’t they know it’s getting ready to win the Newbery???!!!!

 

The first review is by Betsy Bird and I certainly can’t beat that!

This review is from: One Crazy Summer (Hardcover)

When I heard that teen author Rita Williams-Garcia had written a middle grade novel for kids I wasn’t moved one way or another. I don’t read teen books. Couldn’t say I knew much of the woman’s work. When I heard that her book was about the Black Panthers, however, my interest was piqued. Black Panthers, eh? The one political group so difficult to write about that you can’t find them in a single children’s book (aside from “The Rock and the River” by Kekla Magoon, of course). So what was her take? How was she going to do it? But the thing is, “One Crazy Summer” is more than merely a historical tale. It’s a story about family and friendships and self-sacrifice. There are so many ideas floating about this little novel that you’d think it would end up some kind of unholy mess. Instead, it’s funny and painful and just a little bit brilliant. “One Crazy Summer” is a book that’s going to earn itself a lot of fans. And a lot of them are going to be kids.

Eleven going on twelve Delphine has always kept a sharp eye on her little nine and seven-year-old sisters Vonetta and Fern. That’s because their mother left them seven years ago and never came back again. “Cecile Johnson – mammal birth giver, alive, an abandoner – is our mother. A statement of fact.” So when their father packs them on a plane and sends them to Oakland, California to see Cecile, their mom, the girls have no idea what to expect. Certainly they didn’t think she’d just leave them in a kind of daycare over the summer run by members of the Black Panthers. And they probably didn’t expect that their mother would want near to nothing to do with them, save the occasional meal and admonishment to keep out of her kitchen. Only Delphine knew what might happen, and she makes it her mission to not only take care of her siblings, no matter how crazy they make her, but also to negotiate the tricky waters that surround the woman who gave her up so long ago.

The whole reason this novel works is because author Rita Williams-Garcia has a fantastic story that also happens to meld seamlessly into the summer of 1968. I’ve been complaining for years that when it comes to the Black Panthers, there wasn’t so much as a page of literature out there for kids on the topic (except the aforementioned “The Rock and the River” and even that’s almost teen fare). Now “One Crazy Summer” is here. Certainly I don’t know how Ms. Williams-Garcia set about writing the darn thing, but if she had stridently set about to teach without taking into consideration the essentials of good storytelling, this book would have sank like a stone. Instead, she infuses this tale with danger, characters you want to take a turn about the block with, and the heat of an Oakland sun.

I mean, take the people in this book! Someone once sold this story to me as “The Penderwicks meets the Black Panthers” and for the longest time I couldn’t figure out why they`d said it. Then I started thinking back to the sisters. Ms. Wiliams-Garcia must have sisters. She must. How else to explain the dynamic between Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern? So it all became clear. If you love the family dynamics of “The Penderwicks”, you’ll probably find yourself loving the same thing here. Of course, when your heroine is an upright citizen like Delphine there is a danger of making her too goody goody to like. But this girl isn’t like that. She has a duty that she believes in (taking care of her sisters) and she’ll do it, even when they fight each other. Even when they team up against HER! The sheer unfairness of what Delphine has to handle, and the cheery lack of complaining (aside from the occasional and very understandable grumble) makes you care for her. Her interactions with her mother are what make you love her.

Because this mother is a pip. Cecile throws a wrench (and a couple of other metal objects besides, I’d wager) into the good guy/bad guy way of looking at things. For kids, she’s a pretty clear-cut villain from page one onward. And adults who have enough historical understand to be clear on why she does some of the things she does still won’t like her. I wouldn’t even be surprised if some parents referred to her as the world’s worst mother. She isn’t really, but many a parent’s ire will be raised when they see how she refuses to call her daughter Fern by her name out of spite, or refuses to so much as look her own daughters for a while. Heck, this may be the only book where the phrase, “Should have gone to Mexico to get rid of you when I had the chance,” comes from the lips of a parental unit (not that any kid in the world would decipher what it means). Under normal circumstances, when you get a kid talking about the selfishness of their parent at the beginning of a book they turn out to be wrong in the end. So naturally I was waiting on tenterhooks for much of this book to see if Cecile would be perfectly redeemed by the story’s end. Williams-Garcia never wraps anything up with a cute little bow, but she gives you closure with Cecile and maybe a drop of understanding. It’s a far better solution.

Williams-Garcia will even use character development to place the story within the context of its time. The opinionated Big Ma who raised the three girls gives her thoughts on any matter rain or shine. Delphine then lists them, and kids are treated to a quickie encapsulation of life in ’68. Pretty sneaky. Teaches `em when they’re not looking. And one of those very topics is the Black Panther party. I was very pleased with how Williams-Garcia sought to define that group. She dispels misconceptions and rumors. Delphine herself often has to come to grips with her initial perceptions and the actual truths. As for the rest of the time period itself, little details spotted throughout the book make 1968 feel real. For example, the girls play a game where they count the number of black characters on television shows and commercials. Or the one time Delphine had felt truly scared, when a police officer in Alabama pulled her father over.

And, I’m sorry. You can make amazing, believable characters all day if you want to, but there’s more to writing than just that. This writer doesn’t just conjure up people. She has a way with a turn of a phrase. Three Black Panthers talking with Cecile are, “Telling it like it is, like talking was their weapon.” Later Cecile tells her eldest daughter, “It wouldn’t kill you to be selfish, Delphine.” This book is a pleasure to cast your eyes over.

There is a moment near the end of the book when Fern recites a poem that is just so good that I couldn’t seriously believe that a seven-year-old would be able to pull it off. So I mentioned this fact to a teacher and a librarian and found myself swiftly corrected. “Oh no,” said the librarian. “Seven is when kids are at their most shockingly creative. It’s only later that they start worrying about whether or not it’s any good.” So I’m willing to believe that Fern’s poem could have happened. Otherwise, I certainly would have appreciated an Author’s Note at the end with information about the Black Panthers for kids who wanted to learn more. And I was also left wondering where Delphine got her name. She spends a bit of time agonizing over that question, why her mother named her that, and never really finds out. Some kind of explanation there would have been nice.

It was teacher Monica Edinger who pointed out that “One Crazy Summer” pairs strangely well with “Cosmic” if you look at them in terms of fathers (on the “Cosmic” side) and mothers (“One Crazy Summer”‘s focus). That’s one theme for the book, but you could pluck out so many more if you wanted to. Race and family and forgiveness and growth. Everyone grows in this book. Everyone learns. But you’ll have so much fun reading it you might not even notice. You might just find yourself happily ensconced in the world of Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern without ever wishing to leave it. If this is how Ms. Williams-Garcia writes books for kids, then she better stop writing all that teen fare and crank a couple more like this one. Kids are gonna dig it.

Ages 9-12.

 

#BookaDay #5 By the Time You Read This, I’ll be Dead January 1, 2011

Filed under: #bookaday — bestbookihavenotread @ 12:33 pm

By the Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

intense look at bullying from the victim’s point of view

illustrates how early bullying takes place and how devastating it can be

multiple suicide attempts-last one left her unable to speak

 

 

#BookaDay #3 & #4 Choker, Delirium December 30, 2010

Filed under: #bookaday,book reviews,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:17 pm
Tags: , , , ,

#3

Choker by Elizabeth Emma Woods

e-galley Simon & Schuster

release date January 4, 2011

I wasn’t too sure about reading an e-galley or any e-book on my laptop, but I thought I’d give it a try. A couple pages into Choker, and I was hooked. My puppies who are used to being able to sit in my lap while I read, were not happy that my lap was full of my computer. I would describe Choker a thriller/horror YA novel that I think will be a hit with readers who enjoy books such as Wish You Were Dead by Todd Strasser (see review), Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman, or the Gone novels (see review). Cara’s childhood friend Zoe shows up just when she needs her most. The other girls are cruel and having great fun humiliating Cara with her newest nickname “Choker” based on an ill-fated carrot episode in the lunchroom. Their friendship was obviously flawed and gives off many warning signs. Like watching an accident, I read on, even though I was inwardly wincing every time Cara’s parents didn’t realize Zoe had moved in. Cara’s crush on popular boy Ethan, wouldn’t amount to anything in many YA novels, yet Choker has Ethan and Cara moving closer together even as the end comes rushing up in a manner I never saw coming. Mark your calendar, buy Choker next week.

#4 Delirium by Lauren Oliver (actual cover below left)

release date February 1, 2011

ARC cover- HarperCollins

I LOVED Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver’s first novel (review here). It was one of those books that I just could not stop reading or thinking about. I’ve given it as gifts several times to other YA lovers. My good friend Travis brought home an ARC of Delirium from NCTE for me and I savored having it on the bookshelf until winter break started. Set in the future, love is considered a disease. All citizens have a procedure upon turning eighteen to prevent them from “catching” the disease and experiencing the terrible side effects.  Lena makes the unfortunate mistake of falling in love with Alex. Terrified of being caught, Lena and Alex have to hide their feelings from everyone.

Stated to be the first in a trilogy, I look forward to everyone of the books! Lauren Oliver is on my watch list for any future books.

 

#BookaDay #2 Ruby Lu Star of the Show December 29, 2010

Filed under: #bookaday — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:18 am
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I LOVE Lenore Look! The Alvin Ho books are among some of all time favorites to recommend to middle grade readers the past couple years. I haven’t known anyone who has been able to not enjoy Alvin Ho, his troubles, and fears.

I am always on the look-out for new middle grade fiction series and I would classify Ruby Lu in that category. First there was Ruby Lu, Brave and True, followed by Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything (starred review, School Library Journal). Ruby Lu’s father has lost his job, her extended family from China is living with them, and Rudy desperately wants to be able to help.

Due out February 8, 2011, add this to your winter reading list!

 

#bookaday #1 Grace by Elizabeth Scott December 28, 2010

Filed under: #bookaday — bestbookihavenotread @ 1:12 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Having read Love You, Hate You, Miss You, as well as Living Dead Girl, I was prepared for an edgy subject matter. Once again, Elizabeth Scott did not disappoint. I sat down to take a look at the first chapter and didn’t stop until the book was finished.

After I finished reading Grace, I told my husband that I would like him to read it as well because I need to talk about the book with someone to  fully understand it.

The inside flap’s first paragraph gives you a good glimpse into the book. “Grace was brought up to be an Angel, a herald of death by suicide bomb. But she refuses to die for the cause, and now Grace is on the run, daring to dream of freedom.”

Is it the near future, as the flap alludes? Is it the present? Is it statement about politics in any certain country, past or present?

I think that young adult readers will be intrigued by Grace’s story, as it is so different from what they live daily. The idea of being “given” to a cause, the idea of being so trained to be a suicide bomber that you consider it an honor, is just not a reality to us.

As you get to know Grace, you also get to know Kerr, the young man who is posing as her brother as they both attempt to escape over the border. Having both endured so much, at such young ages, they are both very similar and different at the same time. Being a survivor is what ultimately brings them to an understanding.

I do believe that there are some people whose psyche’s are such that they are survivors, leading them to not just survive unthinkable horrors, but even be able to move on to having a life after those events are over. Others are not. Put two people in the same horrific situation, and there is no telling which one might end up the survivor. I think of Schindler’s List, of other Holocaust stories, of people who escaped over the Berlin Wall in a hot air balloon, of people over the centuries who have survived dictators, death marches, massacres of their people, and lived to tell the story.

Both Grace and Kerr are those type of survivors. Brought together through no desire of their own, with only their strong sense of survival to keep them going, the book leaves the reader on a hopeful note. That perhaps not only will Grace and Kerr survive, but that they might even find comfort in each other and go on to have a relatively normal adulthood, where the horrors they have survived eventually fade into nightmares of the past.

A quick, gripping read, Elizabeth Scott’s Grace is a must-read.

 

What are your holiday reading plans? #bookaday December 22, 2010

Filed under: #bookaday — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:37 am
Tags:

I was reading Tweets between DonalynBooks and PaulWHankins last week and it reminded me that it is time for ME to make some reading plans for the holidays. If I don’t I know the time will get away from me. I also know that I do better with a reading goal-somehow I feel less guilty spending the time reading if it’s part of a goal. I know it makes no sense, but if it helps me relax, so be it!

Besides the obvious trying to read as much as I can:

I also plan on

trying to blog about a different picture book each day–

read and blog about–

The Defense of Thaddeus Ledbetter by John Gosselink

Sappique by Catherine Fisher

Choker by Elizabeth Woods

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

By the Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

Necromancer by Michael Scott

Keeper by Kathi Appelt

Big Nate by Lincoln Pierce

Now I need a snazzy picture of my TBR pile for #bookaday


 

 
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