Review: Perfect

“April used to be my sister. She used to be nine, and charming. […] Now Ape Face is ten and everything is different.” p. 3

Perfect by Natasha Friend.
Milkweed Editions, Minneapolis MN, 2004, reprinted Scholastic, NY, 2006.
Realistic fiction, 172 pages + extras.
Lexile: 590L
AR Level: 3.5 (worth 5.0 points)

Isabelle Lee cannot believe her mom is forcing her to go to group therapy.  Sure, her little sister caught her throwing up one time, but it’s not like she isn’t handling her dad’s death just fine.  Then pretty, popular, smart, wealthy Ashley Barnum walks into group, and Isabelle knows there has to be a mistake.  Because Ashley is perfect – every girl wants to be her and every guy wants to date her.  But as sessions pass, Isabelle starts seeing the cracks in Ashley’s, and her own, life.

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This was a pretty random choice.  Some of my students were reading it so I wanted to see why it was so popular.  I’m glad I read this library book because I definitely won’t be checking this out to fourth or even most fifth graders.  This is a fast-paced novel and very realistic.

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Early Chapter Book Review: A Man Who Changed Things

“She told M.L. how white people brought black people to America. They made black people slaves. Then in 1863, the United States government said black people were free. But some white people still thought they were better than black people.” p. 7

Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Man Who Changed Things by Carol Greene.
Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1989, this edition 1999.
Early chapter book nonfiction – biography, 46 pages + index.
Lexile: Not Lexiled
AR Level: 2.7 (worth 0.5 pts)

This book is a prime example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (although we all do sometimes).  When I was on a buying rampage as we began the thirty day project, this title came up on my Amazon suggestions repeatedly, but the cover was so irritating that I couldn’t stand to waste money on a book with such lackluster pictures.

Sometime later, I was browsing my local used bookstore and saw the book again, but at a steep discount.  I decided to glance through and was delighted to see that 1) It is not illustrated as the cover would indicate but uses photographs, and 2) it is an early chapter book.  I immediately bought it and am so glad I came across it in person.

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Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Man Who Changed Things by Carol Greene.

This book is part of Houghton Mifflin’s Soar to Success reading intervention program, which is used in some schools as extra help and others as a reading program.  Some teachers also use the books to supplement their classroom library.  Although it might sound weird because this is a very thin chapter book which looks more like a picture book than your typical chapter book, this is a textbook and will likely come with textbook markings.

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Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

“everyone in our school has afterschool activities.//mine is going home.” p. 27 (David Levithan)

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.
Speak, a Penguin Random House company, New York, 2010.
Realistic YA fiction, 310 pages + extras.
2011 Stonewall Book Award honor, and New York Times bestseller.
Lexile: 930L
AR Level: 5.1 (worth 11.0 points)
NOTE: This book is marked as a Target pick, but I bought it ages ago in a John Green set.  It wasn’t an intentional diverse buy.

Will Grayson is struggling with love, life, and friendship, specifically his best friend Tiny Cooper.  will grayson is struggling with the will to live, his undying love for his boyfriend isaac, and his sort-of-friendship with maura, who wants to date him.

They don’t go to the same school, or live in the same place, or have very much in common at all, until suddenly their worlds collide.

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Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

It’s always hard to buck a trend.  I didn’t particularly like this book.  First I tried to read it when a friend recommended it, but didn’t get very far.  Then I stubbornly purchased a copy and made myself read it while working through all of John Green’s novels.  Finally, I reread it for this review.  I still don’t like it that much, although there are high points.

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Review: Happy Birthday, MLK

This picture book has been a staple of classroom celebrations for more than a decade.

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King by Jean Marzollo, illustrated by J. Brian Pinkney.
Scholastic, New York, 1993.
Picture book nonfiction, 28 pages.
Lexile: 800L
AR Level: 4.2 (worth 0.5 points)

This simple text describes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and death to help children understand why we celebrate on the third Monday of January.  It is titled Happy Birthday because originally MLK day was on January 15th to commemorate his birthday, but it became a move-able celebration when it became a federal holiday.

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Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King by Jean Marzollo, illustrated by J. Brian Pinkney

Here we have an all-star team who really know their audience and work splendidly together.  Marzollo is best known these days for her I Spy books, and prolific illustrator (and sometime author) Brian Pinkney has many books about African-American history and culture.

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Review: Amazing Grace

Lavar Burton’s favorite picture book doesn’t disappoint.

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Caroline Binch.
Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Books USA, New York, 1991,  Reprinted Scholastic, New York, 1993.
Picture book realistic fiction, 24 pages.
Lexile: 680L
AR Level: 3.5 (worth 0.5 points)

Grace loves stories, whether they are read or watched or told to her.  More than anything, she loves to act out those stories.  When her class is producing Peter Pan, classmates say she can’t play Peter because she’s a black girl.  But Grace believes she can do anything.

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Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch

This book is something of a classic.  It was featured on Reading Rainbow and became somewhat ubiquitous in school libraries in a short amount of time.  Lavar Burton has said that Amazing Grace is his favorite picture book, and it’s easy to see why.

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Review: Born a Crime

Tale of a mixed-race South African childhood is a surprisingly gripping and fast read.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah.
Spiegel & Grau, Imprint of Random House, 2016.
Autobiography, 285 pages.
Not leveled.

Purposefully born to a Xhosa mother and a Swiss/German father in South Africa, the act of Trevor Noah’s very birth was a crime in apartheid South Africa, so he spent the first five years of his life inside except for the occasional carefully orchestrated outing.  Visibly lighter skinned than his family, but not quite white either, Trevor holds a unique, insider/outsider perspective on the South Africa of his childhood.

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Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

I bought this book at Target thanks to my new policy.  Quite honestly, I wouldn’t have chosen it on my own.  I actually flipped through this book previously and then found a children’s book instead.  It was presented like a comedy book, not something I would seek given my unusual taste in humor.

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