Review: The Lucky Few

The Lucky Few: Finding God’s Best in the Most Unlikely Places by Heather Avis.
Zondervan, HarperCollins, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2017.
Adoptive parent memoir, 223 pages.
Not Leveled.

This is the story of one woman who couldn’t become a mother even though all she yearned for was motherhood.  This is the story of her three children, and the journey she and her husband went through to bring them home and accept them as forever family.

The Lucky Few

This was a fairly light and quick read.  (I finished it in a few hours, your mileage may vary.)  I think if I didn’t know so many people in situations very similar to hers, this might have had more impact.  As it was, I felt like she kept the story extremely positive and glossed over a lot of the harsh realities.  However, that makes sense given that the goal of this book is to reach as many people as possible.

In parts it is more obvious than others that Avis was extremely lucky.  She glosses over the birth family of their daughter Truly Star, which makes sense because she is quite young yet and not ready to decide if she wants to disclose that information to the world.  She has close and loving relationships with the birth families of her other two children.  That’s fairly unusual, especially the birth family reaction to her.  Perhaps it’s a different scenario because they have Down Syndrome as opposed to other challenges.

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Review: The Outside Circle

This gorgeous and gritty graphic novel will educate everyone, not just indigenous Canadians, about institutional racism and other topics.

The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson, illustrated by Kelly Mellings.
House of Anansi, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2015.
Adult graphic novel, 120 pages.
CODE’s 2016 Burt Award for First Nation, Inuit and Métis Literature Winner.
Not leveled.

Pete and his younger brother Joey only have each other and their drug-addicted mother to get through their violent, gritty urban life.  But when their mother’s boyfriend pushes them too far, Pete ends up in jail and Joey in foster care.  What will happen to their family?  Can Pete’s gang become their new family?

The Outside Circle

This book is about Canadian urban aboriginals.  Because I am American and not indigenous, I was surprised by the way it sucked me in as we read about generational poverty and the systematic dehumanization and institutionalized racism that had affected Pete’s entire family.  So much of what I read applies to so many other groups, and reading about Pete and his family was an easy way to absorb how these things can alter a family for generations at a time.

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Review: The Girls in the Circle

“The girls in the circle / have painted their toes. // They’ve twisted their hair / into big yellow bows. ” pages 4-7.

The Girls in the Circle by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson.
Produced for Scholastic by Color-Bridge Books, Brooklyn, NY, 2004.
Poem illustrated as picture book, 32 pages (including back matter).
Lexile: 490L.
AR Level: 1.9 (worth 0.5 points).
NOTE: Part of the Just For You series, level 2.  This book is poetry.

The Girls in the Circle is a well-known poem, here presented with illustrations and additional commentary and activities.  A group of girls staying at Grandma’s dress up in all her things.  But when Mom arrives, she won’t let them leave until they change back… or have they?

The Girls in the Circle cover resized

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Review: The Snowy Day

A favorite read-aloud for generations.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.
Viking, New York, 1962.
Realistic fiction, 33 pages.
1963 Caldecott Medal Winner
Lexile:  AD500L  (What does AD mean in Lexile levels?)
AR Level:  2.5 (worth 0.5 points)
Note: This is the first of seven books featuring Peter.

Young Peter’s day in the snow is a classic for all children, as well as a book of historic importance.

the-snowy-day-cover-cropped
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

I posted some time ago about how I originally got this book – however a friend recently gifted me a new hardcover copy!  There is a book by Andrea Davis Pinkney about the making of The Snowy Day that I can’t wait to review as well.

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Review: Hidden Figures

“They would prove themselves equal or better, having internalized the Negro theorem of needing to be twice as good to get half as far.” p. 48

Hidden Figures:The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly.
William Morrow Imprint, HarperCollins, New York, 2016.
Adult non-fiction, 346 pages including notes and index.
New York Times Bestseller.
Lexile: not yet leveled
AR Level:  9.7 (worth 18.0 points)

In 1969, a human being set foot on the moon for the first time.  Although you wouldn’t know it from the all-white, mostly-male camera coverage, the calculations of a black woman helped him get there.  But this story starts much earlier, when the labor shortage of WWII allowed highly qualified, extremely intelligent, and very respectable female African-American mathematicians a chance at a job with pay and work closer to what they deserved.

They came in droves to Langley, in Hampton, Virginia, for a unprecedented opportunity in the midst of a heavily segregated community.  Those who stayed, and their white female counterparts, spent decades breaking barriers and proving their value to aeronautics over and over again, so that when John Glenn needed the numbers for his first spaceflight checked, Katherine Johnson would be in the right place to be able to perform those and other calculations.

hidden-figures-resized

This book is so superb you should run out and get it right now.

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Review: State of Wonder

“Her skin was all cream and light in comparison to her father’s and very dark when she held her wrist against her mother’s.” p. 35

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.
Harper Perennial, HaperCollins, 2012.
Adult fiction, 353 pages plus extras.
New York Times Bestseller
Best book of the year 2011 from ten different news sources
Lexile: 990L
AR Level: 6.7 (worth 21.0 points)

Dr. Marina Singh has no interest in going to Brazil.  She’s quite happy sitting in her small windowless lab running pharmacological tests, and her lab partner Anders Eckman was happy to go into the Amazon as long as he could take some side trips to photograph rare and unusual birds.  But Marina’s plain, comfortable world shatters when a letter arrives relating his death.  The company wants to know what happened, and so does his widow.

state-of-wonder
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.

This was a free book from the library that I grabbed after forgetting my bag so I couldn’t read Hidden Figures on my break.  It was surprisingly gripping!  There are so many points to discuss which are major spoilers, but I’m going to limit the spoilers here as much as possible.

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Review: Singing for Dr. King

Learn more about two third-graders who participated in the Selma marches with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Singing for Dr. King by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu.
Produced for Scholastic by Color-Bridge Books, Brooklyn, NY, 2004.
Picture book non-fiction, 32 pages (including back matter).
Lexile: 660L  (for some reason, the illustrator is listed as the author)
AR Level: 3.8 (worth 0.5 points)
NOTE: Part of the Just For You series, level 3.  This book is non-fiction.

This book is about Sheyann Webb and her friend Rachel West, two third graders who marched in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  These nine year olds also sang for Dr. King and attended civil rights meetings, defying and later inspiring their parents and teachers by doing so.

singing-for-dr-king-cover
Singing for Dr. King by Angela Shelf Medearis

This book instantly stood out from the pile of books because anything about Dr. King is hugely popular in my house.  Then when I opened the book and read the first page, I knew it was non-fiction partly by the way in which the characters were introduced.  Here is the opening:

“In 1965, Sheyann Webb was in the third grade in Selma, Alabama.  She was smaller than most third graders, including her best friend, Rachel West.  //  Rachel was nine.  She lived with her family in the apartment next door to Sheyann’s.” p. 5

Fiction books for young children simply don’t open that way, giving the full names, ages, and year on the opening page.  It happened that I had just been reading A Child Shall Lead Them, so I quickly recognized the names and scenarios from that book.  However, a reader who was not already familiar with these events could easily have mistaken this book for fiction that was written oddly.

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