Review: Martha’s Vineyard Deafness

“The community’s attitude can be judged also from the fact that until I asked a direct question on the subject, most of my informants had never even considered anything unusual about the manner in which their deaf townsmen were integrated into the society.” p 51


Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha’s Vineyard by Nora Ellen Groce, foreward by John W. M. Whiting.
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1985.
Academic nonfiction, 169 pages including notes, bibliography, and index.
Not leveled.

This classic work of American Deaf history shines a light on the isolated early community of Martha’s Vineyard, where a high rate of deafness resulted in normalization of sign language and an integration that the world could stand to learn from.

Everyone Here Spoke Sign Lang Martha's Vineyard

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time, so was thrilled to be gifted a copy.

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Review: Tears of the Desert

“The onrush of bodies approached in a heaving, panicked mass. Sayed and I went forward to meet them.” p. 209

Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur by Halima Bashir, with Damien Lewis.
One World Trade Paperbacks, Ballantine Books, Random House, New York, 2009.
Adult memoir, 335 pages including extras.
Not leveled.

Halima Bashir was an unusually lucky girl from birth, when her white eyelash was a good omen.  Combined with hard work, her luck held as she was able to gain an education (unusual for a village girl) and even became a top national scholar, gaining a rare admittance into medical school.  Unfortunately, she lived in Darfur and was a witness to the genocide there.  This is her story of survival among unspeakable horrors.

Tears of the Desert cover resized

This memoir was quite difficult to summarize.  Bashir’s life is a true story that reads like a novel.  Any small portion of this book could be seen as remarkable, but the fact that it all happened and she stood to tell the tale is a miracle.

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Review: Fried Green Tomatoes

“By now the name of the cafe was written on the walls of hundreds of boxcars, from Seattle to Florida.” page 30


Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg.
Random House, 1987.  My edition McGraw-Hill, New York, 1988.
Adult fiction, 403 pages including recipes.
Lexile:  940L  .
AR Level: 5.6 (worth 15.0 points)  .
NOTE: Although the reading level is low, this is an adult novel.

This is going to be a complicated review.  There are two main threads to the storyline, which covers events in the fictional town of Whistle Stop, Alabama (just outside of Birmingham) between the early 1920s and the late 1980s.

Fried Green Tomatoes

The story is told through four different elements.  Evelyn Couch is struggling with her weight, her marriage, menopause, and an inevitable feeling of doom.  She accompanies her husband on visits to his mother’s nursing home every Sunday, but can’t stand to sit and watch TV, so she finds herself in the visitor’s room with Ninny Threadgoode.  At first she just wishes the old lady would shut up so she can eat her candy bars in peace, but then she gets interested in the stories and they forge an unlikely friendship.  When the novel was first published, these scenes would have been roughly contemporary – it’s now historical fiction.

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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: Stories Julian Tells

“If she was laughing at me, I was going to go home and forget about her. But she looked at me very seriously and said ‘It takes practice,” and then I liked her.” p. 62


The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron, illustrated by Ann Strugnell.
Random House, New York, my edition 2006 (originally published 1981).
Realistic fiction, 71 pages.
Lexile:  520L  .
AR Level:  3.4 (worth 1.0 points)  .
NOTE: This is the first book in the Julian series.

Six first-person short stories revolving around Julian Bates.

The Stories Julian Tells resized
The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron, illustrated by Ann Strugnell.

I’ve already reviewed two later books in this series, Gloria Rising and Gloria’s Way.  Series order isn’t strictly necessary, although a few things change as the series progresses (new characters are introduced, the boys get a dog).  At this point, the main characters are just Julian, younger brother Huey, and their parents.  Gloria is introduced in the final story of this book.

First, I’d like to give some credit to Ann Cameron.  It was unusual in 1980 for a white woman to chose to write a book about middle class black children.  (Keep in mind this was less than 20 years since The Snowy Day.)  And generally speaking, her books still hold relevance today and I haven’t spotted any major issues in the ones I’ve read.

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Review: Gloria’s Way

“My dad was supposed to take care of me, but I didn’t know if he could.” page 83


Gloria’s Way by Ann Cameron, illustrated by Lis Toft.
Puffin, Penguin Putnam books for Young Readers, New York, 2001.
Realistic fiction short stories, 96 pages.
Lexile:  600L  .
AR Level:  3.1 (worth 1.0 points)  .
NOTE: Technically part of the Julian/Huey/Gloria series, but could stand alone.

Six short stories about Gloria, best friends with Julian Bates and his little brother Huey.

Gloria's Way

Some of the stories in this collection include Julian, Huey, their dog Spunky, or new friend Latisha while others focus on Gloria.  As I usually do with short stories, I’ll briefly discuss each individual story.

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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.

The Spirit Catches You resized

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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