Review: Thirty Million Words

Book with excellent concepts for closing the early achievement gap is sadly tainted with audism.

Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain – Tune In, Talk More, Take Turns by Dana Suskind, Beth Suskind, and Leslie Lewinter-Suskind.
Dutton Imprint, Penguin Random House, New York, 2015.
Adult informative non-fiction, 308 pages including index.
Not leveled.

America experiences a significant achievement gap based on socio-economic status.  Which also, based on the systemic racism endemic to America, disproportionately affects people of color.  Dana Suskind has an idea about what might be causing this, and the surprisingly simple way we can close the gap and empower parents.

Thirty Million Words
Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain by Dana Suskind.

I was not planning to review this book here, as it’s a bit beyond the normal scope of my blog – it doesn’t focus on minorities, and the author is a white woman.

However, when reading the first chapter, I found the audism present annoying.  Then, after getting into the book, I found some worthwhile information was presented, which is why this was recommended to me in the first place.  Finally, checking up on the author, I learned that she was in an interracial marriage (before her husband’s tragic death) which I assume would have given her a different perspective.

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Review: Lion/A Long Way Home

“I never forgot my Indian mother and family – and I never will – but being separated from them didn’t create a block that somehow prevented me from pursuing a full and happy life. I’d learned quickly, as a matter of survival, that I needed to take opportunities as they came – if they came – and to look forward to the future.” p. 154

Lion by Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose.
New American Library imprint, Penguin Random House, 2013.
Adult memoir, 273 pages + photo inserts.
Not leveled.
NOTE: Previously published under the title A Long Way Home.

Born into an impoverished but loving family in rural India, Saroo accompanied his brother to a nearby train station and got lost, ending up asleep on a train which took him to Calcutta.  Six emotional months later, he was adopted into an Australian family, the Brierleys.  Along the way, he told many people his story.  Some didn’t believe him, others tried to take advantage of him, but none were able to find his family based on his five-year old recollections.

As an adult with the help of Google Earth, he began an obsessive search to find his home town.  Twenty-five years after he got lost, he came home again.  But is any of his family still there?

lion
Lion (previously A Long Way Home) by Saroo Brierley.

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Review: Dara Palmer’s Major Drama

“If I had to choose, I have no idea who I would pick between a biological brother I didn’t know and Felix, who I loved so much.” p. 171

Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emma Shevah.
UK: The Chicken House.  US reprint: Scholastic, New York, 2015.
Middle grade realistic fiction, illuminated book, 282 pages (including extras).
Lexile: 760L
AR Level: 4.8 (worth 7.0 points)

Dara Palmer’s life is sooo dramatic.  She was clearly born to be a star, you can tell by how much TV she watches!  It’s life or death that she gets the part of Maria in her school’s production of The Sound of Music, so when she doesn’t, some family members feel that it’s her dark skin keeping her from a part in the musical, not her overacting.

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Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emma Shevah

This was entirely an impulse buy.  When I opened the book and discovered that it was illuminated (text is complemented/completed by pictures drawn around the margins and in the white space of the book), I was surprised.  Another surprise followed as I found out the book was set in Great Britain.  This edition is slightly Americanized (5th grade instead of 6th year), but the characters are still very British.

Dara Palmer is a pretty unlikeable character.  She literally states this at the end of the first chapter:

“This all happened a while ago now.  Let me just say, I was a different person back then.  I don’t know if you’re going to like the old me much when you hear what I was like, but I’ve changed.  Stuff happened along the way – all kinds of stuff, actually.  Nuns and noodles were just the beginning.” ~page 2

Dara is self-absorbed, overly dramatic, and yet somehow magnetic.  She comes off as very unsympathetic, until we get to know her a little more.  If it wasn’t for the caveat in the first chapter, I might not have made it past the second.  And that would have been a shame.

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Review: Courage to Soar

“Adam was the one who’d suggested Bannon’s Gymnastix for the field trip. It was just down the street from the day care, and he knew that his little sisters would enjoy it…” p. 44

Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance by Simone Biles, with Michelle Burford.
Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2016.
Young adult biography/autobiography, 250 pages.
Not yet leveled.

This is the story of Simone Biles, a gymnast who came to national and international attention as the first female gymnast ever to win three consecutive all-around titles, and then again as she took the Olympics by storm in Rio this year.

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Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, a Life in Balance by Simone Biles with Michelle Burford.

This book is co-authored by Michelle Burford, a founding editor of O magazine who has assisted several public figures with their biographies, including Gabby Douglas.

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