Review: George

“The word man hit like a pile of rocks falling on George’s skull. It was a hundred times worse than boy, and she couldn’t breathe.” page 16

George by Alex Gino.

George loves Charlotte’s Web more than anyone in her class, maybe even her school.  She can’t wait to be Charlotte in the 4th grade play.  There’s only one problem – to the world, she looks like a boy, and Charlotte is a girl’s part.  But George is also holding in a big secret…  she’s really a girl.

George-small

This book has been getting a LOT of buzz in the book blogging world, particularly the diverse corner of it.  Let’s face it, there aren’t many books in general addressing the transgender experience, and I cannot think of any other fiction work for middle graders on this topic.  There are a few picture books, but the majority of works are aimed at teens and YA audiences, which is a shame, because many (not all) transgender or intersex people are dealing with this from a much younger age.

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Review: The Warriors

“Although everyone at Weltimore wore the same school uniform, it somehow made the differences more obvious.” page 73

The Warriors by Joseph Bruchac.
Carolrhoda Books, Lerner Publishing Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2003.
Middle grade sports fiction, 127 pages.
Lexile:  810L  .
AR Level:  5.5 (worth 3.0 points)  .
NOTE: Although I’m not reviewing this on Fiction Friday, it is a work of fiction.

Jake’s mother has finally decided they need to spend more time together.  He whole-heartedly agrees, but doesn’t like that this means moving off the reservation, being the only Native in a fancy school, and giving up lacrosse.  Is there any way to make his new classmates understand the true spirit of the game?

The Warriors
The Warriors by Joseph Bruchac.

Well, it had to happen eventually that I would read a book I didn’t love!  So far all the books I’ve reviewed for my #100indigenousbooks project have been great, I must really have been picking them!

To be fair, this is a sports novel, and I dislike most sporting fiction.  I felt about the same as I would about a Matt Christopher sport novel, which is pretty similar to this book.

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Review: A Long Walk to Water

“He ran until he could not run anymore. Then he walked. For hours, until the sun was nearly gone from the sky.” page 9

A Long Walk to Water: A Novel Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2010.
Middle grade realistic fiction, 121 pages.
Lexile:  720L  .
AR Level:  5.0 (worth 3.0 points) .

Southern Sudan, 2008: Nya is a young girl who, for seven months of the year, spends every day walking to a nearby pond and bringing a heavy plastic container back to her family.  After a brief stop for lunch, she repeats the task in the afternoon.  Every day.

Southern Sudan, 1985: Salva is a young boy displaced by the wars and drought that are sweeping through the Sudan.  He, too, walks for miles every day, but without a lunch, home, or destination.  He walks with the hope of survival, unlikely for a young Sudanese boy alone in the world.

A Long Walk to Water

This book has been on my TBR for a while, but originally I was under the impression it was non-fiction.  The afterword has notes from both Salva Dut and author Linda Sue Park, explaining how the story was based on his life, using interviews, personal conversations, and his writings to keep the fictionalized story as close as possible to what actually happened.

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Review: Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream

“When I woke up that morning and saw the red and gold leaves swirling around my backyard, I just knew it was gonna be my kind of day.” page 1

Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream by Jenny Han, illustrated by Julia Kuo.
Little Brown and Co., Hachette Book Group, New York, 2011.
Realistic fiction, 149 pages plus discussion guide.
Lexile:  600L  .
AR Level:  3.8 (worth 2.0 points)  .
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.

Korean-American third-grader Clara Lee has one big dream – to be Little Miss Apple Pie in her town’s annual Apple Blossom Festival.  To make it she’ll need a lot of luck!  But she’s also having bad dreams at night – maybe Grandpa can help.

Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream resized

There are two covers for this book.  I have the version with the red background, which gives the impression that this book is intended for older middle-grade students.  The main character is in third grade and while a somewhat older student could certainly read and enjoy it, this is an elementary school novel aimed at the 2nd to 5th grade chapter book market.

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Review: Monster

“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
Lexile: 670L.
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?

Monster

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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Review: A Time to Dance

“There are no dancers / on this temple’s walls. / Here, even Shiva / stands still.” page 99

A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman.
Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Group, New York, 2014.
Novel in verse, 307 pages.
Lexile:  720L  .
AR Level:  4.8 (worth 5.0 points)  .

Veda is a classical dance prodigy starting out on a glorious career in Bharatanatyam when her leg has to be amputated.  But dance is her life and the center of her being.  Can she forge a new life?  Can dance be part of it?

A Time to Dance

Pretty sure this is going on my favorite 2017 reads list although the competition will be steep this year.  Not what you expected me to say about a novel in verse, right?

My biggest problem with novels in verse is that they are incredibly difficult to balance.  I love novels, and I love poetry, but inevitably most novels in verse lose out either in plot or in poetry.  This book has ample plot and appropriate narrative arc, while still having generally gorgeous poetry.  I’m in awe of how Venkatraman pulled this off, because it is very, very difficult to do.

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Review: The Refugees

“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.
Not leveled.
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.

The Refugees cover resized

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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