Board Book Review: Good Night Families

Between a rambunctious good morning to adoptive parents to a good night to everyone, our 39th board book manages to show a wide variety of families.

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Good Night Families by Adam Gamble, illustrated by Cooper Kelly.
Good Night Books, 2017.
Board book, 20 pages.

A showcase of a wide variety of families going through their days.

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Good Night Families by Adam Gamble, illustrated by Cooper Kelly.

This book is a bit of a mixed bag.  First, let’s get some of the negatives out of the way.  The font is awful – a dead giveaway that this wasn’t produced by a regular publishing house.  There also isn’t a great flow to this book, it’s a series of vignettes that at times feels choppy and awkward.

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Review: Acts of Faith

“How does a teenager come to hold such a view? The answer is simple: people taught him.” p. xii

Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation by Eboo Patel.
Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts, 2007.
Adult nonfiction/autobiography, 189 pages.
Not leveled.

Part autobiography, part nonfiction, this is the story of Eboo Patel’s life, how it could easily have been so very different, and what he feels is most important for young people today.

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This was a very unique read.  Patel intersperses the story of his own life with a look at the way various Western minority youth were influenced by religious extremists and carried out various acts of violence.

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Review: Seedfolks

“All his life in Vietnam my father had been a farmer. Here our apartment house had no yard. But in that vacant lot he would see me.” page 3

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Judy Pedersen.
Scholastic, New York, 1999 (first published HarperCollins 1997).
Adult realistic fiction, 69 pages.
Lexile:  710L  .
AR Level:  4.3 (worth 2.0 points)  .
NOTE: Despite the reading level, I would not recommend this to middle grade readers.

Seedfolks is a collection of 13 short stories by different first-person narrators, all revolving around the first year of a community garden in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Normally with short story collections, I comment on each story and then give thoughts on the whole.  Because these stories are so short, I’m going to write two or three sentences about each one and then give my general thoughts at the end.

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Review: A Special Fate

“There is a bit of Japanese folklore that made Chiune’s parents think that perhaps their son might be special.” page 1

A Special Fate: Chiune Sugihara: Hero of the Holocaust by Alison Leslie Gold.
Polaris, Scholastic, New York, 2000.
Nonfiction, 176 pages.
Lexile:  980L  .
AR Level: not leveled

The story of one Japanese diplomat who followed his conscience to issue life-saving passports to Jews during World War II, against the orders of his superiors.

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A Special Fate: Chiune Sugihara: Hero of the Holocaust by Alison Leslie Gold.

Sugihara was such an interesting figure.  Many of his choices, starting with the one that caused him to eventually become a diplomat, were quite unusual for Japanese society.  His early experiences defying his father look, in retrospect, like preparation for his major act of defiance in issuing the passports.

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Review: I’ll Scream Later

“In February of 1987 when I went on Nightline to discuss Gallaudet University’s controversial Deaf President Now movement, the show was captioned for the first time. Anchor Ted Koppel used most of the intro to explain to the audience about the captioning they would see – technically open captioning, since anyone could see it – interpreters they would hear, signing they would also see.” page 182

I’ll Scream Later by Marlee Matlin, with Betsy Sharkey.
Originally published 2009 Handjive Productions, my edition Gallery Books, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2010.
Autobiography/memoir, 327 pages.
Not leveled.

Marlee Matlin is one of the few Deaf performers well-known to hearing audiences, but there are also many other aspects of her life and self.  She was catapulted to fame with a Best Actress Oscar on Children of a Lesser God.  Now twenty years later, she’s written a tell-all memoir about drug addiction, abusive relationships, and more.

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This was a book full of surprises.  I was moved by what an important part her Jewish faith has played in her life, especially how her childhood synagogue was fully inclusive as a hearing/Deaf worship space, with a signing rabbi.  How beautiful that her early use of language included a rich religious environment where she was able to learn about God through her own language, ASL.

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Review: Perfect

“April used to be my sister. She used to be nine, and charming. […] Now Ape Face is ten and everything is different.” p. 3

Perfect by Natasha Friend.
Milkweed Editions, Minneapolis MN, 2004, reprinted Scholastic, NY, 2006.
Realistic fiction, 172 pages + extras.
Lexile: 590L
AR Level: 3.5 (worth 5.0 points)

Isabelle Lee cannot believe her mom is forcing her to go to group therapy.  Sure, her little sister caught her throwing up one time, but it’s not like she isn’t handling her dad’s death just fine.  Then pretty, popular, smart, wealthy Ashley Barnum walks into group, and Isabelle knows there has to be a mistake.  Because Ashley is perfect – every girl wants to be her and every guy wants to date her.  But as sessions pass, Isabelle starts seeing the cracks in Ashley’s, and her own, life.

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This was a pretty random choice.  Some of my students were reading it so I wanted to see why it was so popular.  I’m glad I read this library book because I definitely won’t be checking this out to fourth or even most fifth graders.  This is a fast-paced novel and very realistic.

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Review: Witness

“i don’t know if he could see me well enough / to judge the color of my skin. / i don’t know if my color mattered one whit to him.” p. 41

Witness by Karen Hesse.
Scholastic Press, New York, 2001.
Historical fiction novel in verse, 161 pages.
This book is not an award winner, but the author has won many awards.
Lexile: NP (What does NP mean in Lexile Levels? )
AR Level: 5.0 (Worth 2.0 points)

This free verse novel tells about when the Ku Klux Klan came to a small town in Vermont in 1924.  The story is told through 11 different voices, some of them sympathetic to the KKK and others in great danger from this change.  Two pivotal figures are 12-year-old Leanora Sutter, a gifted African-American, and Jewish 6-year-old Esther Hirsh.  Although this book seems to be aimed at 5th-8th grade students, since the characters span such a wide age range, it could be used in high school as well.

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Witness by Karen Hesse.

I’m not fond of novels in verse.  I love poetry and novels, but feel the combination usually sacrifices either poetic artistry or the craft of the novel.  When I picked this book at the library (SM), I had no idea it was in verse.  Once I opened it, the poor book languished, being read a few pages here and there while I whizzed through other books (autobiographies of Simone Biles and Trevor Noah).  Finally I finished, then quickly re-read it for this review so I could return it.

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