Review: A Mango-Shaped Space

“I stare at the paper. ‘Other people with synesthesia?’ Jerry nods. ‘All kinds of people with all different types of synesthesia.’ ” p. 107

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A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass.
Little, Brown, and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2003.
MG realistic fiction, 271 pages + extras.
Lexile:  770L  .
AR Level:  4.7 (worth 9.0 points)  .

Eighth grader Mia reads, and hears, with specific colors and shapes in her mind.  It makes otherwise boring moments interesting, gives her headaches when her father is hammering away on their house, causes her to hear her cat as the color mango, and makes learning math a lot more complicated.  But back in third grade, she learned that not everyone experiences the world this way.  With middle-school algebra on the horizon, is it finally time to talk about her experiences?

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This book isn’t ethnically diverse, but the primary topic is synesthesia.  At the time it was first published, it helped raise awareness about a little-known condition.

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Review: A Single Shard

“The rice was harvested, and the poor were allowed to glean the fields for fallen grain-heads. It was an arduous, backbreaking task: hours of work to gather mere handfuls of rice.” p. 53

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park.
Dell Yearling, Random House Books, New York, 2001.
MG historical fiction, 152 pages plus extra back matter.
2002 Newbery Award Winner.
Lexile:  920L  .
AR Level:  6.6 (worth 6.0 points)  .

This novel follows a 12th century Korean orphan who is happy at first just to scrounge enough food to survive, but gradually becomes immersed in the world of the master potters of Ch’ulp’o, known for their breathtaking celadon ceramics.

A Single Shard

I was first given this book back when it was released and a friend told me I had to read it.  For whatever reason I resisted.  Perhaps because I didn’t care much for historical fiction at the time.  Another reason could have been the nearly all-male cast.  Tree-ear’s world is full of men and boys, with only one female character of any notice.  While it wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test, the characters do come from a wide economic spectrum.

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Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

“Like you, I was brought to a family who loved me and whom I love. I cannot stop loving that family, and I don’t want to. I can only allow my love to increase.” page 377

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.
Algonquin Young Readers, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2016.
Middle grade fantasy, 386 pages.
Lexile:  640L  .
AR Level:  4.8 (worth 12.0 points)  .

Xan is the witch of the forest.  Every year, the isolated people of the protectorate leave a baby in the forest for no reason she can fathom.  Not one to let an infant die in the forest, she takes it on the perilous journey to the other lands, where the children are heralded as Star Children, and adopted into carefully chosen families.  On the way, she feeds them starlight.  Until one day the aging witch feeds a child moonlight instead…

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I enjoyed this book, but wouldn’t recommend you buy it.

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Review: …and You Fall Down

“I have come to believe that her life was ruined not by septic shock or noncompliant parents but by cross-cultural misunderstanding.” page 262

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman.
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, my edition 1998 (first published 1997).
Nonfiction, 341 pages +reader’s guide.
Not leveled.

This is the story of a severely epileptic Hmong girl and the family and doctors who wanted what was best for her but disagreed about what that was.  It’s also the story of the Hmong people in America, and their experiences with the medical establishment.

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This is technically a re-read.  However, I didn’t remember much, so it was like reading a new book.  The primary story in this book is Lia’s life and the friction between her family and the medical staff caring for her, but it has a wide scope.

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Web: Lia and the Hmong

At first I was going to try to fit these links into my review… but they just made it far too long, so here are some further links for tomorrow’s review.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting my review of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.  I hadn’t planned to add this book to my collection, however, as A. M. Blair stated in her review, it can be reread at different stages of life.  Already my reactions to it as a parent are now drastically different then when I read it before.

After rereading this book, I looked for other books about the Hmong-American experience.  Two Wisconsin books are Mai Ya’s Long Journey and Hmong in the Modern World.  There’s an early chapter book called Pa Lia’s First Day.  Pang Xiong has a series of children’s early readers.  Several memoirs also exist.

The Atlantic also has an interesting article about Hmong in Wausau (an area of central Wisconsin).  The court case described is definitely worth reading about.  The article also mentions this song as a source of inspiration:

This last one is a bit of a spoiler, so you may want to stop now if you haven’t read the book yet…

Lia lived for an extraordinary 26 years in a persistent vegetative state due to the loving attention of her family.  This article reviews the book and includes information on her 2012 death.

Review: Felix Yz

“The day before yesterday, when I wrote about Flatworld, there was a reason I didn’t say anything about the day, which was that when I woke up, I couldn’t move at all.” page 43

Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker.
Viking, Penguin Random House, New York, 2017.
MG science fiction, 283 pages.
Lexile:  940L  .
AR Level:  not yet leveled

Felix is your average kid, trying to do enough school work to get by, dreaming about his crush, drawing in class, and trying to avoid the school bully.  However, he’s also a very special kid, because at three years old, he was fused with an alien from the fourth dimension.  With Zyx inside of him, Felix has a lot of disadvantages, and a few advantages, that most kids don’t.  But the biggest problem is the Procedure, which is designed to finally separate them but might also kill them both.  And it’s happening in 29 days.

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This book had a great tagline: “It’s what’s inside that counts… and what’s inside Felix is an alien.”  Also, the cover is fabulous, simply presenting the style and major problem of this stand-alone book.

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