Review: A Mango-Shaped Space

“I stare at the paper. ‘Other people with synesthesia?’ Jerry nods. ‘All kinds of people with all different types of synesthesia.’ ” p. 107

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A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass.
Little, Brown, and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2003.
MG realistic fiction, 271 pages + extras.
Lexile:  770L  .
AR Level:  4.7 (worth 9.0 points)  .

Eighth grader Mia reads, and hears, with specific colors and shapes in her mind.  It makes otherwise boring moments interesting, gives her headaches when her father is hammering away on their house, causes her to hear her cat as the color mango, and makes learning math a lot more complicated.  But back in third grade, she learned that not everyone experiences the world this way.  With middle-school algebra on the horizon, is it finally time to talk about her experiences?

Mango-Shaped Space resized

This book isn’t ethnically diverse, but the primary topic is synesthesia.  At the time it was first published, it helped raise awareness about a little-known condition.

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Review: The Year of the Dog

“But my friends didn’t call me Chinese, Taiwanese, or American. They called me Grace, my American name.” p. 19

The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin.
Little, Brown, and Co, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2006 (my edition 2007).
Realistic fiction, 140 pages + excerpts.
Lexile:  690L  .
AR Level:  4.2 (worth 3.0 points)  .

In the Year of the Dog, Pacy is supposed to find her best friend and figure out her talent.  But what could it be?

The Year of the Dog cover

This is one of those books that I’ve had for a while but didn’t pick up.  I may have been saving it or planning to wait until we got another in the series, I’m just not sure.  Anyway, this story tells about one year in Pacy’s life, starting with the Lunar New Year for the Year of the Dog and ending with the Lunar New Year for the Year of the Pig.

An aspect of this I didn’t expect was how there were stories embedded into the larger narrative, just like Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.  These stories were realistic fiction instead of fantasy, but they worked the same way and I greatly enjoyed them.  The stories allowed Pacy to be connected even if many of her relatives live far away.

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Review: Celebrate Chinese New Year

“When Asians immigrated to countries like the United States and Canada, they brought these traditions with them.” page 7

Celebrate Chinese New Year by Carolyn Otto and Haiwang Yuan.
National Geographic Kids, Washington, D.C., 2009, my edition 2015 reprint.
Picture book informative nonfiction, 32 pages.
Lexile:  740L  .
AR Level:  3.6 (worth 0.5)  .

How Lunar New Year is celebrated around the world, especially in China.

Chinese New Year cover resized

This is a very comprehensive book.  You could easily do a short unit study using just this text.  The format works for a variety of ages or abilities.  The book is divided into two parts – first the picture book, then the last six pages are mostly text with “More About the Chinese New Year”, a variety of supplemental activities and further information for parents, teachers, or older children.

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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: Tiger Boy

“Theirs was the only property for kilometers where a grove of tall sundari trees provided shade for the house and most of the yard.” p. 22

Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Jamie Hogan.
Charlesbridge, Watertown, MA, 2015.
Middle grade fiction, 140 pages including glossary.
Lexile:  770L  .
AR Level:  5.1 (worth 3.0 points)  .

Neel lives on an island in the Sunderbans, but might have a unique opportunity for a scholarship to a boarding school in Calcutta.  But he’d rather stay on his beloved island with his family.  A tiger cub escaped from the nature preserve, and an unscrupulous man wants to find it to sell.  Can Neel find the cub first?  If he does, will not studying ruin his chances at the scholarship?

Tiger Boy resized

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Review: President of the Whole 5th Grade

“I have BIG plans. I’m going to be a millionaire with my own cooking show on TV. Cupcakes are my specialty.” page 1

President of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston.
Little, Brown, & Co., Hachette Book Group, New York, 2010.
My edition Scholastic, 2012.
Middle grade realistic fiction, 276 pages.
Lexile:  730L  .
AR Level:  4.8  (worth 6.0 points)  .

Brianna Justice may only be in fifth grade, but she’s already planning for her future as a famous chef with her own baking show.  Last year her idol, Miss Delicious, spoke to their class and laid out a roadmap… and it all starts with being president of her fifth grade class.  Only this year the rules have changed – there’s going to be just one class president over all the fifth grade classrooms.  Can Bree still win the new, tougher, competition?  Can she keep her integrity and friends while doing it?

President of the Whole Fifth Grade cover

Brianna Justice is not the most likable character.  In fact, in the beginning I was a bit worried because she is downright mean at times.  In some ways she’s very mature and dedicated to planning for her future, with a hefty savings account and a step-by-step life plan.  However she gets wrapped up in her own plans to an extreme, loosing balance in her life and neglecting her friendships.  Although this worried me, Bree does experience consequences for most of her actions.  Because she starts off as not so likable, she’s able to show a lot of character growth in a short period of time.

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