“Most disturbing, Anthony regarded society’s low expectations of him as the reason why his school didn’t have the necessary supplies.” page 12
Educating All God’s Children: What Christians Can – and Should – Do to Improve Public Education for Low-Income Kids by Nicole Baker Fulgham.
BrazosPress, Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2013.
Persuasive non-fiction, 235 pages including notes.
Fulgham wrote this book for the sixteen million children growing up in poverty in the United States of America and receiving a drastically different education than their upper and middle-class counterparts. This book is fairly unique to America, because US education is uniquely flawed.
The first time I read this book was as a young educator ready to change the world. This time, I read it having parented, including having parented children in highly segregated schools.
“Violence in here is always happening or just about to happen. I think these guys like it – they want it to be normal because that’s what they’re used to dealing with.” p. 144
Monster by Walter Dean Myers.
HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York, 1999.
Teen fictional chapter book/screenplay, 281 pages.
Coretta Scott King Award Winner, Michael L. Prinz Award, National Book Award and more
AR Level: 5.1 (worth 5.0 points).
Monster is a complicated novel of a story-within-a-story. At first glance it is the straightforward tale of a boy who is accused of assisting in a murder during a robbery-gone-wrong, mostly expressed through his recreation of the trial as a screenplay and his diary notes from prison. But it is also the story of a criminal justice system where the mostly white cast assumes all the power over the mostly black “monsters.” Then there are also flashbacks that add more information about Steve Harmon and the other characters which call into question his real role in the murder. Meanwhile, we are seeing all of this through the lens of one desperate young boy – what is the truth?
Honestly, for a book to get this many awards and never attract my attention is very unusual. This book also has never been checked out of the school library I got it from. But opening the book, I’m not surprised. The format is challenging, the language certainly above the level indicated in many places, and the content seems aimed more at high school students in terms of the complexity of thought required to process the novel.
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“It was a trivial secret, but one I would remember as vividly as my feeling that while some people are haunted by the dead, others are haunted by the living.” page 71
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen.
Grove Press, Grove Atlantic, New York, 2017.
Adult short story collection, 207 pages.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
This collection of eight short stories is tied together not so much by the characters as by a common theme – they all deal with Vietnamese immigrants, albeit in very different and sometimes surprising ways.
I first heard of this book when reading an interview with the author prior to the release. Instantly knew I wanted to read it and put in a library request. Received it at the end of April and was about to send it back unread because I didn’t think I’d have time to read it, but then Shenwei posted about the Asian Lit Bingo Challenge … so I read one story at a time during lunch breaks. Because of the tight time frame for this challenge and needing to return the book, I only read it once.
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This incredibly challenging but worthwhile read is for grown-ups only.
Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan.
Back Bay Books; Little, Brown, and Co.; Hachette Book Group; 2008, expanded edition 2009.
Adult short story collection, realistic fiction, 369 pages including extras.
Selected for Oprah’s book club in 2009.
NOTE: THIS BOOK IS FOR ADULTS ONLY. NOT FOR CHILDREN OR TEENS.
Further Note: This is a work of fiction although I am not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
This collection of short stories deals with the children of Africa. Specifically, children who are individually dealing with a variety of horrific circumstances, many of which do not have happy endings. The author is a Nigerian priest but took care to set his stories in several countries in Africa. There is a handy map in the front of the book for Americans or the geographically challenged.
Before I go any further, EVERY TRIGGER WARNING YOU CAN THINK OF for this book. If you are sensitive to bad things happening to children, you might not be able to read this book or even this review. But, on the other hand, I think every adult should read this book at least once. Because these are real things happening to children, and if we ignore this then it will just keep happening.
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“There’s something fragile about all of them, like they’re holding on to what the world expects of them by some brittle branch that could break at any moment.” p. 24
The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork.
Arthur A. Levine Books Imprint, Scholastic, New York, 2016.
YA realistic fiction, 326 pages.
Lexile: HL680L (What does HL mean in Lexile?)
AR Level: 4.4 (worth 12.0 points)
NOTE: This book is not for 4th graders.
We meet Vicki in the most intimate and vulnerable time in her life – after she’s just attempted suicide and is now hospitalized for severe depression.
I got this book through a branch loan (CSviaS) after Naz recommended it to me when we were discussing the sad lack of books about disability with intersectionality. It took a while to come through with holidays interrupting ILL services and me being on vacation, so during that time, I thought of one book in my collection and accidentally encountered another at the store. I’ve also been hitting up Google with the idea of reviewing a number of books about disability by people of color and generating a list for kids, parents, and teachers. Just like early readers, this is one of those little niches of the book world that we need to diversify.
This book is beautiful. That probably seems like a strange thing to say about a book about depression, but the writing is just lovely. It reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird, not in any way the content, but the writing style. I was quickly immersed in Vicki’s world and wanted her to heal and live.
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An interesting idea but a lackluster novel.
Extra Credit by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Mark Elliott.
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2009.
Middle grade realistic fiction, 183 pages.
AR Level: 5.3 (worth 5.0 points)
Abby is a smart sixth grader who could care less about homework but is obsessed with mountain climbing. Sadeed is the top of his school in Afghanistan, living right next to real life mountains. When Abby’s about to flunk 6th grade, she has an emergency project to complete – write to a pen pal in another country. What starts off as a quick project turns into a real connection.
The premise seemed to work okay, but as I often feel with two-person stories, one side was definitely lacking. The chapters about Abby had a lot more realism and detail. Sadeed’s chapters started off strong but while the premise was interesting, seemed to lack the specifics and connection that would have made me care about him. Even when his village was undergoing a lot of problems, it just felt dramatic and not real. The scenes with him and his sister were probably the best on his side.
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“Most of the homes in the village looked the same, with smooth clay walls, thatched roofs, dirt paths, and large stone thresholds. They only looked different on holidays, when girls decorated their family’s paths and thresholds with painted patterns called alpanas, just as their ancestors had done for generations.” p. 8
Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Jamie Hogan.
Charlesbridge, Watertown, MA, 2007.
Elementary chapter book, 91 pages.
AR Level: 4.3 (worth 1.0 points)
Bangladeshi girl Naima is a gifted painter and a free spirit who spends every moment thinking about her next alpana pattern, until her family experiences a turn of fortune and she desperately wants to help drive her father’s rickshaw, like her best friend Saleem does for his family. But as a girl she can’t even speak to Saleem now that they are older.
This is a library book which I am hoping to use as a read-aloud at school. It crossed my path very randomly but I am starting to get in the habit of noting (and trying to read) any book with clearly non-white characters on the cover. This sometimes pays real dividends as I find new treasures to read and discover new-to-me authors!
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