Review: EllRay Jakes is Not a Chicken!

“Alfie told me once that Suzette at daycare keeps wanting to touch her braids. But that’s a secret, we decided, because we don’t want our dad to freak.” page 78.

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EllRay Jakes is Not a Chicken! (EllRay Jakes #1) by Sally Warner, illustrated by Jamie Harper.
Puffin Books, The Penguin Group, New York, 2011.
Realistic Fiction, 2011.
Lexile:  840L  .
AR Level:  4.8 (worth 2.0 points)  .

EllRay Jakes, the smallest kid in Ms. Sanchez’s third-grade class, is dealing with some serious bullying, trying to earn a trip to Disneyland, and navigate the rest of school while meeting his father’s high expectations.

EllRay Jakes is NOT a Chicken
EllRay Jakes is Not a Chicken by Sally Warner, illustrated by Jamie Harper.

This was another Target pick, although it took me a while to review.  It wasn’t until after purchasing that I realized I’ve read a book by this author already.  In fact, this entire series is a spin-off on her Emma series, which has been popular in one or two schools I’ve been at.  A third-grader was lobbying hard for the first Emma book to be the next read-aloud, so I read it, but chose another book.  If I’d realized this was from the same author, I would have gotten it from the library as well instead of purchasing it.

The cover of this book was great, I just wish the rest of the book had lived up to my expectations.

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Review: We’re All Wonders

“I know I can’t change the way I look. / But maybe, just maybe… / … people can change the way they see.”
pages 23-25

We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio.
Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House, New York, 2017.
Picture book, 27 pages
Lexile:  Not yet leveled.
AR Level:  Not yet leveled.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.

This picture book follows a young Auggie, main character of the chapter book novel Wonder, through the park and beyond as he reminds us that we’re all wonders.

We're All Wonders

I’ve seen this in pre-order for a while now, and was interested but also a little worried that the author is just tapping into her previous successful novel rather than doing anything original.  Then I saw it at Target and decided to buy it for my diverse targetpick of the month.  Interestingly, Z picked this off of the shelf and requested that I read it to him.  (I didn’t put it in his bookbin, it was on a family shelf and not in the kids reading area.  Also, yes, our littles have their own bookbins.  #teachernerdparent)

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Review: Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“Yet here she was, three months later, with a full-fledged tumor. Either her doctors had missed it during her last exams – which seemed impossible – or it had grown at a terrifying rate.” page 17

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
Broadway Books, Crown Publishing Group, Penguin Random House, New York, 2010.
My edition 2011, some portions published as early as 2000.
Nonfiction, 381 pages including notes, index, and reading group guide.
Lexile:  1140L  .
AR Level:  8.0 (worth 18.0 points) .

Henrietta Lacks had an usual type of cancer.  Cells from this cancer were able to become the first immortal cell line and have been invaluable to many scientific discoveries and advancements in the past century.  But Henrietta was also a working-class black woman whose family was not informed of the existence of this cell line, and who died misdiagnosed.  This book manages to tell three stories: the story of Henrietta and the Lacks family, the story of her famous and scientifically important cells, and the story of the reporter’s own experiences interacting with the family.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The movie tie-in cover tricked me.  I needed to grab a Target pick quickly, so I grabbed this book without realizing it was one I had flagged as do not purchase/obtain from friend or library.  As you can tell, reading this book was something I was conflicted about, and after finishing it, I remain deeply conflicted and uncertain if I can recommend it (though I know a great deal more about the HeLa controversies than I did before reading this).

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Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

“I don’t know how long I’ve been sitting there crying when another car rolls up in front of me. I look up, and it’s Peter Kavinsky’s black Audi with the tinted windows.” page 36

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han.
Simon and Schuster BFYR imprint, New York, 2014.
YA Romance/realistic fiction, 355 pages plus recipes and excerpt.
Lexile:  630L  .
AR Level:  4.2 (worth 12.0 points)  .
NOTE: Despite the reading level, I would recommend this book for high school students and not elementary school.

Lara Jean is the middle of three sisters and her mother has passed away.  Her oldest sister, Margot, is moving to Scotland, leaving Lara Jean in charge of her younger sister and father.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before resized

I am probably the only person ever to read this book because I first enjoyed Jenny Han’s middle grade book Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream.  This series has been hyped so much that I thought it would be another Everything, Everything, but after reading and liking Clara Lee, I grabbed this at Target.

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Review: The Temporary Bride

“Each time I remove my scarf I pass it through my fingers, in awe of what a simple thing it is, the dilemma it poses. The rules from the Iranian embassy are surprisingly unclear, open to bewildering interpretation.” page 31

The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Love and Food in Iran by Jennifer Klinec.
Twelve, Hachett Book Group, New York, 2014.  My edition 2017.
Memoir, 230 pages including extras.
Not leveled.

Jennifer Klinec is a fearless jet-setter, leaving her London life behind to explore the culinary arts of every corner of the world.  This book is the story of her month in Iran, wearing a headscarf, finding locals who will let her cook with them, and unexpectedly falling in love.

The Temporary Bride

This was so random.  I had a long afternoon and wanted a book, so I grabbed this one, but then ended up reading another book that I already had instead.  It sat on the shelf for a while – I have to be honest that the subtitle reminded me of Eat, Pray, Love which was a DNF for me.  And there were some legitimate concerns about how Klinec would portray Iran, since she’s an outsider, a Canadian with Serbo-Croation roots living in London.

However, once I got started, I enjoyed this book.  Klinec lays everything bare.  She is brutally honest yet insightful, and not afraid to make herself, or her loved ones look bad.  There were points where I disliked Klinec as well as others in the story, but I did feel that she was telling the truth as objectively as she could, given that she was a major participant.  When she’s viewing things through her own unique lens, she’s generally up front about the perspective.

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Review: I Got This

“I’m also incredibly proud of my Puerto Rican heritage, but at first I wasn’t sure why everyone was talking about it. Then I realized that as I was growing up, there hadn’t been any Latina role models in gymnastics!” page 149

I Got This: To Gold and Beyond by Lauren Hernandez.
HarperCollins Children’s Books, HarperCollins New York, 2017.
YA biography, 231 pages.
Lexile:  1020L.
AR Level:  6.8 (worth 5.0 points) .

Laurie Hernandez was a bit of a dark horse.  Just turned 16 and only recently eligible for the US Olympic team, she not only was part of the winning 2016 gymnastics team, she also won the silver medal in balance beam.  Fresh off her Olympic win, she went on to win Dancing with the Stars, a nationally televised ballroom dancing competition.

I Got This Laurie Hernandez

This book is definitely a teen read.  Apparently Hernandez’s nickname in the press is the Human Emoji, and she embraces that as each of the 20 chapters has a different emoji associated with it (a few do repeat).   However, she also manages to pack in information about gymnastics and some startlingly good life advice, coming from a 16-year old.

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Board Book Review: I Like Myself!

Book intended to promote self-esteem for all children is highly problematic for children of color – not recommended.

I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, Massachusetts, 2004.
Board book, 32 pages.

I Like Myself is the story of an exuberant and imaginative little girl* and her dog.  The girl states in first person narration that she likes herself in a variety of ways and circumstances.

I Like Myself cover resized

Each page spread has at least one sentence and some as many as three.  The text is rhyming, but the rhymes are at times spread over multiple pages.  This book reads like a Seuss imitation, with additional words at the end as padding.  It felt like some of Seuss’ affirming early readers, but with a larger vocabulary and a huge disconnect between the words and the pictures.  The pace was uneven and relied heavily on the pictures to form a cohesive story.  Unfortunately the pictures were even more of a disappointment.

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