“everyone in our school has afterschool activities.//mine is going home.” p. 27 (David Levithan)
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.
Speak, a Penguin Random House company, New York, 2010.
Realistic YA fiction, 310 pages + extras. 2011 Stonewall Book Award honor, and New York Times bestseller.
AR Level: 5.1 (worth 11.0 points)
NOTE: This book is marked as a Target pick, but I bought it ages ago in a John Green set. It wasn’t an intentional diverse buy.
Will Grayson is struggling with love, life, and friendship, specifically his best friend Tiny Cooper. will grayson is struggling with the will to live, his undying love for his boyfriend isaac, and his sort-of-friendship with maura, who wants to date him.
They don’t go to the same school, or live in the same place, or have very much in common at all, until suddenly their worlds collide.
It’s always hard to buck a trend. I didn’t particularly like this book. First I tried to read it when a friend recommended it, but didn’t get very far. Then I stubbornly purchased a copy and made myself read it while working through all of John Green’s novels. Finally, I reread it for this review. I still don’t like it that much, although there are high points.
Lavar Burton’s favorite picture book doesn’t disappoint.
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Caroline Binch.
Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Books USA, New York, 1991, Reprinted Scholastic, New York, 1993.
Picture book realistic fiction, 24 pages.
AR Level: 3.5 (worth 0.5 points)
Grace loves stories, whether they are read or watched or told to her. More than anything, she loves to act out those stories. When her class is producing Peter Pan, classmates say she can’t play Peter because she’s a black girl. But Grace believes she can do anything.
This book is something of a classic. It was featured on Reading Rainbow and became somewhat ubiquitous in school libraries in a short amount of time. Lavar Burton has said that Amazing Grace is his favorite picture book, and it’s easy to see why.
“If I had to choose, I have no idea who I would pick between a biological brother I didn’t know and Felix, who I loved so much.” p. 171
Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emma Shevah.
UK: The Chicken House. US reprint: Scholastic, New York, 2015.
Middle grade realistic fiction, illuminated book, 282 pages (including extras).
AR Level: 4.8 (worth 7.0 points)
Dara Palmer’s life is sooo dramatic. She was clearly born to be a star, you can tell by how much TV she watches! It’s life or death that she gets the part of Maria in her school’s production of The Sound of Music, so when she doesn’t, some family members feel that it’s her dark skin keeping her from a part in the musical, not her overacting.
This was entirely an impulse buy. When I opened the book and discovered that it was illuminated (text is complemented/completed by pictures drawn around the margins and in the white space of the book), I was surprised. Another surprise followed as I found out the book was set in Great Britain. This edition is slightly Americanized (5th grade instead of 6th year), but the characters are still very British.
Dara Palmer is a pretty unlikeable character. She literally states this at the end of the first chapter:
“This all happened a while ago now. Let me just say, I was a different person back then. I don’t know if you’re going to like the old me much when you hear what I was like, but I’ve changed. Stuff happened along the way – all kinds of stuff, actually. Nuns and noodles were just the beginning.” ~page 2
Dara is self-absorbed, overly dramatic, and yet somehow magnetic. She comes off as very unsympathetic, until we get to know her a little more. If it wasn’t for the caveat in the first chapter, I might not have made it past the second. And that would have been a shame.
Summer on the Short Bus by Bethany Crandell.
Running Press Teen, Running Press, Philadelphia, PA, 2014.
Teen realistic fiction, 252 pages.
Note: This is fiction although I am not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
Cricket Montgomery was caught trying to smoke pot in the stables (we later find out it was actually oregano), so her usually lenient father has shipped her off to be a camp counselor. She knows nothing about the camp, so she faints when she finds out she’s going to be working with disabled teens and pre-teens. Her goal is to get out of camp as quickly as possible, but an attractive fellow counselor might change her mind.
“They don’t understand how hard it is for me to follow directions when the electric pencil sharpener is going, or the door keeps slamming, or I’m worrying about whether someone is about to sneak up behind me and do something mean.” p. 54
Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan.
Scholastic, New York, 2016.
Realistic chapter book fiction, 216 pages + extras.
AR Level: 4.8 (worth 5.0 points)
Ravi (pronounced Rah-VEE) is new to America, but confident that he will be the smartest and most popular kid in 5th grade, just like he was back home.
Joe’s no stranger to Albert Einstein Elementary, but he’s facing some new challenges this year. He’s always had Auditory Processing Disorder, but this year his best friends have moved away, and his mother’s taken a job at school, ruining his favorite subject: lunch.
This novel takes place over their first week of fifth grade, broken up into five days and alternating viewpoints between the two narrators. The chapters tend to be short, and between the two narrators they cover a lot of ground.
I had heard a lot of buzz about this book, so I was really excited to read it. It’s a good fit for this blog also as both of the main characters are from traditionally marginalized groups.
The book opens with Ravi’s perspective. He comes off as a little bit arrogant but the reader is still able to sympathize with him. He is the only Indian in the class, at least by his grandmother’s standards. Most of the kids are white, but there is a boy named Dillon who is American-born but from an ethnically Indian family. Clearly, Ravi thinks, they will be best friends.
“The streak test. Hematite was black, but its streak was red. ‘Color is just a part of who you are… like a mineral,” I said. (p.177-178)
Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything In It by Sundee T. Frazier.
Yearling, Random House Children’s Books, New York, 2007.
Ages 9-12 chapter book fiction, 193 pages.
Coretta Scott King Award Winner, 2008 (John Steptoe Award for New Talent)
AR level: 4.0 (worth 6.0 pts)
This book I got from the library (SM) as I found the back matter intriguing. It focuses on ten year old Brendan Buckley over the summer between fifth and sixth grade. Only child Brendan’s Grandpa Clem has just passed away, his father is busy working as a police detective, and he plans on spending the summer hanging out with his best friend Khalfani, practicing Tae Kwan Do, and learning more about science. When his mom isn’t making him go to the mall with Grandma Gladys, that is.
On one of those mall trips, he wanders into a display of the local rock club and can’t wait to sign up. But his grandma sees him talking to the club president and drags him away – it’s his grandpa DeBose, whom he’s never met.
So now Brendan has a lot of questions. Why has he never met his white grandfather? Who is this guy? And what does it mean that he is mixed? What will it mean to look black as he grows up?