Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Loser by Jerry Spinelli

Prior to beginning to read Loser by Jerry Spinelli, my little brother tried to stray me away from it. Apparently he read this book last year and in his words, Loser is "boring and made me fall asleep". I was rather surprised by his reaction to it, considering I loved reading Stargirl in the beginning of the semester. Spinelli is a wonderful author and incorporates elements that are relatable to children and teens. Obviously I didn't let my little brother's opinion cloud my judgment! 
Unlike him, I enjoyed reading this book. Like Stargirl, Zinkoff is a bit of an outsider, constantly being ridiculed and judged by his classmates. I like the fact that Spinelli includes characters that are not deemed popular, because after all, how many of us would have considered ourselves part of the popular crowd in school? While reading Loser, I found myself constantly making connections to Stargirl. Ultimately both of these stories focus on not only the main character accepting who they are, but having their classmates realize that "different" does not necessarily mean a bad thing. I think this is something that all kids can relate to. There are many kids who are shy, quirky or seem not to fit in for other reasons. It is because there is something wrong with them, but rather because their peers cannot accept someone who is unlike them. This is something that both Stargirl and Zinkoff struggled with. Obviously they are two wonderful kids who shouldn't have to change in order to please anyone (although Stargirl did change for a while, but that's beside the point). 
I am interested in reading more of Spinelli's books and seeing whether or not the main characters show similar qualities to both Stargirl and Zinkoff. Can you believe that prior to this course I've never read a book by Spinelli? I'm glad that has changed. 

Behind You by Jacqueline Woodson

While in between proctoring exam today at School #9, I stumbled upon Behind You by Jacqueline Woodson, in the principal's office. What a coincidence considering I used her for my reader response! Obviously I had to read the first couple of pages. While only a few pages in, I was hooked. It is interesting to read how the characters are effected by Miah's death. From family members, to friends and of course Ellie, each character has unique experiences and feelings after dealing with just a traumatic loss. I was also intrigued by the fact that Miah narrated portions of the book. This indicates that his soul is still lingering on, watching over those he left behind. Although I was only able to read about 15 pages of the book, I can already tell that this is going to be part of my summer reading list. Behind You has a completely different feel than If You Come Softly. There's more of an eery and ominous feeling to it, as the characters are grappling with the loss of Miah.  One of the chapters I was able to read focused on Kennedy and how he often feels as though Miah is around him, patting him on the back. A bit bizarre considering his soul truly is lingering around! I look forward to continuing to read this book. I can't wait to read the chapters on Ellie and see how she is dealing with this entire ordeal. A definite must read.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson

    Aside from Brown Girl Dreaming and If You Come Softly, I decided to read Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson. Being only 100 pages in length made tackling this book less stressful! I was immediately intrigued by the fact that this book served as Lonnie, the main characters' journal of poetry. After losing both his mother and father in a fire, Lonnie and his little sister are separated and sent to live with different foster parents. Like it would be for any child, this was a difficult thing for Lonnie to adjust to. As a coping mechanism, his teacher asked him to write poetry, although he was reluctant to do so at first. Through words, Lonnie is able to express his feelings and concerns about seeing his sister.
       What I found to be interesting about this book is the fact that as you are reading Lonnie's poetry, you actually feel like you're taking on the role of the main character. It is as if you are reading your own work of poetry. This is exactly how it felt for me when I was reading Sold by Patricia McCormack last week. Told from the perspective of Lakshmi, it's hard not to fall into the characters' shoes. This is a reason why I enjoy reading books told in the first person. They allow me to envision myself as the main character and understand how the situations they are faced with shape who they are.
     Referring back to the topic of adoption discussed throughout Locomotion, I found myself thinking about my older brother a lot. When he was only 3 months old, my parents adopted him. As my brother got older, he often felt different and disconnected from my family because he was adopted. I think it is important to talk about this particular issue discussed throughout Locomotion because it is so prevalent in our society. I wish that my brother had an opportunity to read books like this in school. It might have made it a lot easier for him to accept not only himself, but the situation he was in.

Brown Girl Dreaming....again

    Yes, I am posting about Brown Girl Dreaming again...is it that obvious that I really like this book? I am still amazed by how quickly I was captivated by this book, despite having a limited familiarity with free-verse poetry. Honestly, before taking this course I have never been introduced to books that utilize free-verse poetry as a structure. I'm glad to be taking away a newfound appreciation for this particular style of writing, from this class!
      Last week Dr. Jones informed me that she had been listening to the audio version of this book. What surprised me was the fact that Jacqueline herself was narrating the story! Considering the fact that this is a memoir about her life as a little girl, I was immediately interested in listening to her read the story out loud. It's really weird to listen to an author read a book they wrote about their own life-its mind boggling! As I began to listen, I was taken back by not only the tone of voice she used, but the pace that she read at as well. Needless to say, I was definitely reading her book in a completely different way. I think this just goes to show that their are countless interpretations to how a book can be read. WAIT....I literally just had an "ah-ha" moment. I recall learning about the transaction that occurs between an author and the words they write for their audience (not sure if this was LTED 600 or 609). From the perspective of our good ole friend Kucer, we learned that readers often misinterpret or read a text differently than the author had intended. Obviously the author is the only one who truly knows how their work was meant to be read. It is up to the author to structure their writing and use of word choice to set the stage for how a reader might interpret and read a text.
      Although I finished reading Brown Girl Dreaming a few weeks ago, I would like to take the time to follow along in my book and listen to Jacqueline read more excerpts. I am interested to see whether or not the way I interpret the text or the message I take away from it will change based on the way she narraters it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sold (2014 film adaption)

So as I often do, I went in search of a book trailer for Sold by Patricia McCormick. To my surprise I discovered that there is a film adaption of her book! I am surprised that this movie has not had more media attention (it has only about 12,000 views on YouTube).  Although I often feel as though film adaptions are never as good as the book, I would like to watch this movie. After reading the book (which you should always do first), I like to make comparisons and see whether or not the images I created in my head were reflected on the screen. 

Here is the link!    Sold (2014) -movie trailer

Sold by Patricia McCormick

      Although this weeks author study consisted of novels which discuss sensitive topics, I enjoyed both Sold and Purple Heart. Out of the two, I would have to say that Sold was my favorite...clearly I have developed an interest in free-verse poetry! Like Libby, Patricia McCormick's efforts to bring light to sensitive topics such as human trafficking, have sparked my interest. I think this is mainly due to the fact that I know little about the subject matter and reading about it in a novel seems far less intimidating and disturbing to me. Maybe this is because of the fact that the information is not directly linked to a true story? Yes, McCormick did use her visit to the Himalayas as inspiration for her novel, but it is not blatantly clear to readers how much is fictitious or not.
       With that being said, I still found myself in awe of Lakshmi's experience as a victim of sexual slavery. How could things like this occur around the world? I cannot begin to wrap my head around the fact that sexual slavery is something that continues to exist, often without anyone knowing.  Lakshmi was simply a young and naive girl who wanted to ensure that her family had means of survival (food, shelter, money, etc.). It broke my heart when she unknowingly was sold into this lifestyle. At the tender age of thirteen, Lakshmi did not fully understand what was happening to her and why. All she knew was that her life would never be the same.
         One page of this book which really stood out to me and sent an ache in my heart can be found on page 125:

I hurt. 
I am torn and bleeding where the men have been.
I pray to the gods to make the hurting go away.
To make the burning and the aching and the bleeding stop.
Music and laughter come from the room next door.
Horns and shouting come from the street below.
No one can hear me,
Not even the gods.

I think this poem captivates the essence of how all victims of sexual slavery feel.There is a constant sense of physical and emotional pain that they must deal with. Although Lakshmi is describing the physical pain that she endured, I think the last 4 stanzas reflect the pain of knowing that no one can hear her or save her from this lifestyle that she wants to get out of so badly. As I was reading this page,  a visual immediately came to my head. I could picture Lakshmi in a vulnerable state, knowing that no one was there to protect her. It amazes me to think that Lakshmi's experience can reflect the feelings of so many children who are victims of sexual slavery. After reading this page, I wondered if the people she heard outside would have helped her if they had known what was happening.  

Monday, March 30, 2015

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

     I thought I'd start off the week by posting the book review I wrote for the TBF blog. Monument 14 was definitely unlike any other book I have read. I have always considered myself a bit of a science fiction nerd, although my interest simply spans to The Hunger Games Trilogy and The Divergent Series. Considering Monument 14 is another science fiction book series, I thought choosing this for my TBF blog would be the perfect opportunity to introduce myself to other works of science fiction literature.
     One aspect of Monument 14 that I particularly enjoyed was the authors' use of imagery and rich details. This allowed me to not only comprehend the storyline, but create mental images as well. This is a quality of literature which led to my love of reading as a child. As a reader, I have understood that books are simply more than words on a page, but rather they evoke a message and allow readers to escape. Science fiction novels are one of my favorite genres for this very reason. Obviously the events that occurred in this novel are unlikely to ever happen in our society. This allows me to escape into a world that is unreal and unlike anything I know.
    From what I have learned in my literacy courses thus far, children tends to lean toward works of literature that they are able to connect to, ones that contain elements they can relate to. Yet, for me the opposite tends to be true. Like many readers, I enjoy reading books that contains characters I do not necessarily relate to nor storylines that are similar to my own life.

Below is the bulk of my TBF book review!
       It all starts when brothers Dean and Alex woke up late for school and in a panic, rushed down the stairs to catch their bus. Without even a "goodbye" or "I love you" to their mother. Would the two brothers have taken the time to say these things if they had known what was "in store" for them?(This "pun" will make a lot more sense as you continue to read my review!)  What seemed like a normal ride to school, quickly turned into a catastrophe complete with a giant hailstorm falling from the sky, destroying everything in its path. After Dean's bus crashes, the high-schoolers are luckily picked up by the elementary school bus and taken to seek refuge in a Greenway superstore.
       Things start to get really interesting when Mrs. Wooly, the bus driver, leaves the group of students on their own while she goes to find help. Forced to create their own "society" in the superstore, the students begin to understand the importance of teamwork, rationing food and living together in harmony. As if being on their own doesn't prove to be enough of a challenge for the students, the Network is knocked out as a result of the hailstorm. The ability to communicate with others and use the internet have been destroyed. Honestly, losing the Network would be enough to send me into a panic! After hailstorms, the Network outage and a nuclear power plant spill, the students are simply put over the edge.
       Things start to look really bad when Mr. Appleton and Robbie inform Dean and the others that their only hope is to seek refuge in Alaska.  With a plan in motion to drive the school bus to the Denver airport, Dean, his twin neighbors and Astrid decide to stay in the superstore.
        Will the others make it to the airport and safely land in Alaska? What will happen to Dean and the rest of his classmates who stayed behind? I'll let those questions linger with you for a while! Again, I would highly recommend Monument 14 for those of you who enjoy scientific fiction novels or would like to step outside of your comfort zone. And when this book captivates your interest and reels you in, you'll be glad to know that it is part of a series!