Review: Fire from the Rock

“I have to suck up as much pride and dignity as I can while it’s there for me.” page 200

Fire from the Rock by Sharon Draper.
Speak, Penguin Group, New York, 2007.
YA historical fiction, 231 pages.
Lexile:  760L  .
AR Level:  5.0 (worth 9.0 points)  .

Sharon Draper detours from her usual realistic fiction for a historical novel set in 1957 during school integration at Little Rock.

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The novel opens with a bang as a white man’s vicious dog is turned loose on Sylvia’s 8-year old sister.  Several incidents throughout give a realistic portrayal of what it was like to live during that time period.  For example, although Sylvia takes great pride in her mother’s sewing ability, it’s also a practical necessity since she explains that at the time only white people were allowed to try on clothes in department stores or return them if they didn’t fit.  The nature of historical fiction also makes these glimpses more interesting and memorable to the reader than say, a textbook.  I think this book would work well in a high school history course.

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Review: Amal Unbound

“This is what I now remember most about my last afternoon at school – the smell of the dusty chalkboard, the sound of the students lingering outside the door, and, mostly, how easily I took my ordinary life for granted.” page 4

Amal Unbound: A Novel by Aisha Saeed.
Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House, New York, 2018.
Realistic fiction, 234 pages.
Lexile:  HL600L  ( What does HL mean in Lexile? )
AR Level:  4.2 (worth 6.0 points)  .

Twelve year old Pakistani Amal dreams of being a teacher someday.  When family circumstances force her, the oldest daughter, to stay home for a while, she is disappointed but finds a way to go on learning.  But when an incident at the market leads to indentured servitude, are her dreams lost forever?

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As soon as I saw the ARC review over at Huntress of Diverse Books, I knew I’d be buying this book.  The gorgeous cover was a lure, of course, but also I was extremely curious how Saeed managed to write a book about indentured servitude appropriate for middle-grade readers.

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Review: Reading Lolita in Tehran

“She resented the fact that her veil, which to her was a symbol of her sacred relationship to God, had now become an instrument of power, turning the women who wore them into political signs and symbols.” page 103

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi.
Random House, New York, my edition 2004, originally published 2003.
Adult memoir, 358 pages including reading group guide.
Lexile: not yet leveled
AR Level:  8.4 (worth 25.0 points)  .
NOTE: Despite the reading level, this is an adult book not recommended for children.

As the title states, a memoir of the author’s career in Tehran told through the lens of various literature she read and taught.

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Review: Code Talker

“But I had no idea, even in my wildest dreams, that the very language those bilagdanaa teacher tried to erase – the way you wipe words from a blackboard – would one day be needed by important white men.” page 27

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac.
Speak, Penguin Group, New York, 2005.
Historical fiction, 231 pages.
Lexile:  910L  .
AR Level:  6.4 (worth 9.0 points)  .

This novel follows fictional narrator Ned Begay through his life, focusing particularly on his experiences as a Navajo code talker.

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The framework of this story is that it is a story that a grandfather is telling to his grandchildren.  This idea is presented in the introduction and mentioned sporadically throughout the novel as well as in the final chapter.  I was a bit iffy about this device, but Bruchac used it beautifully.

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Graphic Novel? Review: Tina’s Mouth

“Even here things are pretty divided. Except that the breakdown is different. The aunties hang out with the aunties and the uncles hand out with the uncles.” page 53

Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary by Keshni Kashyap, illustrated by Mari Araki.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2011.
Illuminated realistic fiction, 247 pages.
Lexile:  not leveled
AR Level:  4.7 (worth 3.0 points)  .
NOTE: This is a YA book, not intended for younger children.

Tina Malhotra is the youngest in a family of five and a sophomore at the mostly white Yarborough Academy.  She’s taking an Honors English elective course in existential philosophy, and has taken on an assignment to write letters to Jean-Paul Satre about the process of discovering who she is and who she is becoming.

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Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary by Keshni Kashyap, illustrated by Mari Araki.

The format of this book was different to any I’ve read before.  I hesitate to call it a graphic novel (although the dust jacket does so) because large portions of the story were carried through text only.  Neither was it an illuminated work because whole pages at a time would be done in a comic style relying on both text and illustrations.

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Review: Come to Believe

“The typical higher education board is 30 percent women, and 10 percent people of color. At Arrupe, 50 percent of our board members are women and 57 percent are people of color.” p. 65

Come to Believe: How the Jesuits are Reinventing Education (Again) – Inside the First Year of the New Arrupe College by Stephen N. Katsouros.
Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2017.
Non-fiction, 181 pages.

The first year of Arrupe college, a two-year, debt-free Associate’s Degree program aimed at providing low-income, first generation minority college students with a high quality liberal arts education.

Come to Believe

A friend recommended this.  First, I will mention that this is religious because the author is Jesuit priest.  So he talks about homilies and Bible stories and there is a religious motivation behind this college (the name of it is based off of a famous Jesuit apparently).  However, I did also feel that this book could be read by non-religious people too.  Most of the book is focused on creating the college whether it’s the practicalities or the stories of different students.

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Review: Hope Against Hope

“Unlike most literature about New Orleans, this book focuses on what makes the city ordinary rather than extraordinary.” page 5

Hope Against Hope:  Three Schools, One City, and the Struggle to Educate America’s Children by Sarah Carr.
Bloomsbury Press, New York, 2013.
Nonfiction, 317 pages including notes, bibliography, and index.
Not leveled.

The story of how a wave of mostly outsider-led charter schools are dramatically changing education in New Orleans, through a year long 2010 study of three different schools.

Hope Against Hope

Carr took such an interesting tactic in this book, and not one I would have thought of myself.  She worked closely with three different people: a student, a teacher, and a principal.  They are all at different schools, each with its own take on solving the education crisis and its own method for resolving the problems that the 2005 hurricane have only exacerbated.

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