Wednesday, September 19, 2018

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds

This story is taken straight from the headlines about police brutality in the black community. An innocent black boy in the neighborhood convenience story kneels to get something out of his gym bag, which by the way contains his ROTC uniform. A white lady trips over him. A white cop grabs the boy, accuses him of shoplifting, handcuffs him and throws him on the pavement in front of the store and starts punching him. And of course, there is cell phone video. If not intense enough Rashad the boy who was accused and beaten, Quinn who happened to be on the street outside the store and saw everything and Guzzo whose older brother is the cop beating up Rashad all play for the same high school basketball team and live in the same neighborhood. This is a powerful exploration of this issue.

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Melody was born with cerebral palsy that has left her trapped in her body unable to walk, talk or feed herself. She has a photographic memory, is extremely bright and is unable to tell anyone. She gives us a good look at how we treat those we consider ‘special needs’ and points out how we all have special needs. In the fifth grade, she gets a Stephen Hawking’s style talking board and can show them she is bright. They don’t believe her. When she actually proves it they still mistreat her saying she is an embarrassment. It is a powerful and painful look at us and others. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Awake by Natasha Preston, The Ranger’s Apprentice, Book One The Ruins of Gorlan

Awake by Natasha Preston

The truth is we believe to the fullest what we believe up until the moment we don’t. If that truth is something everyone around us believes and the truth we have been told our whole lives how do we wake up to the fact that not only is it not true, it is actually wrong. That is the question throughout Awake. Beautiful Noah is sent from his family group to win the trust of Scarlett so she can be brought home to her true and right birth parents. And then to fulfill her destiny she will be sacrificed. Talk about a really bad boyfriend. The question reaches beyond the set-up of the book to ask me what beliefs have I been brought up with that need reexamined. Are there truths about my family, my faith, and my country that really aren’t true. The story is told from the point of view of Scarlett and of Noah.

The Ranger’s Apprentice, Book One The Ruins of Gorlan

I only had the Ranger’s Apprentice as the title of this book, so in looking it up I was thinking, Yellow Stone Park. Instead, I am traveling in the Kingdom of Araluen, primarily from the Castle Redmont where Will is to go from a ward of the Castle to become the Ranger’s Apprentice. Think Strider in Lord of the Rings. The author does a great job of using a brief Prologue to avoid weighing us down in backstory or kingdom knowledge. However, the whole book seems to primarily a setting and character development for the following set of 11 more books in the series. It was a good read and looks like a good series. 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Solo by Kwame Alexander and The Big Field by Mike Lupica

Solo by Kwame Alexander

Solo is written
As non-rhyming poetry
With rarely more than three to five words
To a line.
After reading for a while
I found myself
Thinking in this way.
It is the story of the confused
Son of an aging rock star.
And maybe both in different ways
Have lost their mojo.
Their music.
Oh by the way son
We forgot to tell you
You’re adopted.
So the quest begins in search
Of birth mom.
Sprinkled throughout are reference
Rock and roll songs and rock and roll history.
Once I connected with the rhythm of the story I enjoyed the read.

The Big Field by Mike Lupica

You won’t be surprised if I tell you this is a baseball story. A lot of people around me love baseball. To me it’s okay.  This is the story of a team in a high school league in Florida. There is a lot of play by play reporting on the games and I found myself enjoying it. There is tension with Dad who was a High School Baseball star but has no interest in his sons rising baseball fame. And of course the story concludes with a three game championship series. It’s the one time his dad gives him batting advice with a signal from the stands. And that signal is to bunt. Really. The story raises questions about the difficulties children and parents often have when it comes to talking to each other.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Refugee, Along for the Ride, and Uglies

Refugee By Alan Gratz

This is the story of three refugee families fleeing their strife and the threats of their homeland. Each story is told through the eyes of their young teenage child. They are fleeing Germany in 1939, Cuba in 1995 and Syria in 2015. The chapters rotate between the three stories, I thought this might be hard to follow but the chapters are short and makes keeping track of the three different stories easy. I think the stories clearly show the risk of the flight of refugees and the challenge of trusting strangers some who are honest and others who are not. I think the stories raises several important questions. When is it too dangerous to stay? When is it worth facing the life-threatening risk to leave? Doesn’t one have an obligation to stay and fight for their country? How should the outside world respond to the plight of refugees? The stories are based on facts which are illuminated at the end of the book. I think this might be the place to start so the reader understands how the author uses fiction to tell historic facts. This is a Scholastic book and is a fairly easy read.

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dressen

This is the story of one summer in the life of numerous messed up people who are mostly related. Auden’s parents are divorced. Mom is a professor and regularly holds court in the dining room with her mostly male graduate students. Auden the narrator, central charater and daughter mostly stays in her room. She has passed through high school mostly choosing to miss out on the meaningless social interactions of her peers, after all they are all so shallow. Then she chooses to spend her senior summer with her father, his new younger wife, and their new baby at their home near the beach. She learns you can care about your jeans and your shoes and know about finance and literature. We are all more than we seem to be. She also with the help of a love interest starts working through a bucket list of high school experiences she missed out on. Of course there is a boy. He is wounded to the soul and they heal each other. Definitely YA in style but not in sex or language.

Uglies by Scott Westerfield

If you could be beautiful of course you would want to be, right. Well what if being beautiful also meant having a ‘go along get along’ change being put into your brain, that wouldn’t be too bad would it. The author seamlessly introduces us to a world where from the time at twelve when you start to turn ugly until sixteen you live in a dorm for uglies where you are schooled and psychologically prepped for the operation that will make you pretty and allow you to move to New Pretty Town where mostly you just party. Shay doesn’t want to turn pretty and she has found a place to run away to. She convinces Tally of the same but before Tally can go she is caught by the Special Circumstances team who want her to lead them to the camp of all the runaways. Themes include what is friendship, what is betrayal, and do we like who we are. There are four books in this series.