Monday, February 22, 2010

Lunch with Lenin by Deborah Ellis

I'm not usually a short story lover. I always want to know more about the characters and what happens next. I felt the same way here, but I still liked the book.
Deborah Ellis is such an amazing writer. She crafts such rich complex stories for young readers.
In Lunch with Lenin and other Stories, Ellis showcases children around the world and their interactions with drugs. It's so sad that kids everywhere are faced with both personal addiction and family members struggling with addiction.
Many of these stories show the devastating effect of drug abuse. Personally, I would use this book as a read aloud to give me time to discuss some of the situations because I am not sure how many kids would fully understand or grasp what is happening.

Having said this, I did enjoy reading this book.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Greener Grass by Caroline Pignat

I'm continuing to work my way through the Red Maple books I received last week. This one is a Historical Fiction- about life in Ireland during the potato famine in 1847.

The story follows Kit Byrne's family as they struggle to live off the landlords land and survive. In 1847 that's all they really do- survive- and barely. But Kit, like many young women have a strength to them that is hard to beat down. Even when faced with starvation, supporting a family and the constant threat of eviction from their own home.
This is a story that gives the reader a glimpse of life in the 1800's and why people might choose to leave their homes for a better life in Canada and America.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

After by Hazel Hutchins

This is another Red Maple book from 2010- and it is fabulous!
After is the story of what happens after two families are affected by a random shooting. The story unfolds through the words of two characters, who although they never meet, are held together by circumstance and emotion.
The first voice is Kate, a thirteen year old girl who is trying to live with the death of her 'perfect' older brother Josh. Her parents are growing apart and Kate doesn't know how to deal with the death of her brother or the way her family is dissolving. Kate moves to a new city and a new school and needs to learn to make new friends again. Her story is told through letters she writes to her best friend Amy back home. While Kate is trying to hide the fact that she had an older brother, she is also trying to deal with growing up and issues with that as well.
The second voice is Sam. A thirteen year old boy who is trying to live with the fact that his older brother shot and killed someone. He sees his mom and sister trying to deal with their grief, while he tries to hide the fact that his brother is a murderer. Sam also starts a new school, looking to escape from the looks and knowing glances that people who know about him constantly give him. Sam has a real fear that he will end up like his brother.
This book is so well written. I felt so bad for both Sam and Kate, I carried them with me for a while after reading the book. It really makes you think about how both the victim and perpetrator's family must try to move on after a tragic event.
So far this is my favourite Red Maple this year.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Leaving Fletchville by Rene Schmidt

This book is a Red Maple nominee for 2010. I pulled it off my shelf the other day when my 13 year old nephew asked me for a book to read. I quickly read it before I gave it to him and I'm glad I did.

Brandon is a boy in grade 7 who is tough. He comes from a good family, but he doesn't care about school or grades or being popular. He isn't stupid, but it is too much work to really care about all that stuff. What Brandon is really good at is watching and learning about people.

When Leon and his family move into his apartment building, Brandon is curious about them. First of all, they are the only black family in Kingsville, Ontario. Secondly, Leon works a lot, even though he is only 13 years old. Also, when Leon is picked on or teased for being black, instead of fighting back, he walks away. This makes Brandon even more curious because for him, fighting always comes first.

As Brandon gets to know Leon and his family, he learns about himself, what makes a family and whats really important in life.

I love the messages in this book, there are so many great teachable moments. I think this is a great book for boys, Brandon is very likeable and watching him deal with the different situations in the book kept me reading.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Wave by Eric Walters

Eric Walters has done it again- created another book that helps children learn about events in our world.
This story is set in 2004, just before Christmas. 12 year old Sam and his family are getting ready to head off to Thailand for their Christmas holiday. For the first time ever, Sam's older sister Beth is staying home. She has commitments she can't break, which means that the family won't be together for their annual holiday get away.
Sam and his family have been going to Thailand for as long as Sam has been alive. They love the resort they stay at every year and they really feel at home with the Thai people. While Christmas Day is strange for them without Beth, the phone call home helps his mother and his father deal with the separation.
The next day, Sam and his dad plan to go snorkeling in the ocean. Just before they are about to head out to the ocean, they are delayed by an unusual event at the resort. As they look out, the ocean has pulled back- farther than they have ever seen the tide recede. Something just isn't right.
Sam and his family are about to experience the tsunami that struck several countries on Boxing Day 2004. While still safe in New York, Beth learns about the events and realizes her entire family is in danger and her options are limited.
As Walters tells the story through both Beth's voice back home and Sam's voice living through this natural disaster, the readers are given a glimpse into what happens before, during and after a disaster strikes.
This would make a great read aloud. I'm thinking it would be great for my grade 7's during our Geography Unit on Patterns in Physical Geography.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters

This is an interesting topic for a book- dealing with 18 year old Holland who discovers she has a serious attraction to a new girl at school. Holland has been in a serious relationship with a boy for the last year, but she cannot deny her feelings for Cece.

This story is a real coming of age story, with Holland having to deal with issues of homophobia within her school and at home.

The story is filled with sexual experiences that won't be appropriate for everyone. I think this one will be a tough one to give to any student- although for the right student, it might help work through some of their thoughts and feelings.

Click - By 10 different authors

Written by David Almond, Edin Colfer, Roddy Doyley, Deborah Ellis, Nick Hornby, Margo Lanagan, Gregory Maguire, Ruth Ozeki, Linda Sue Park, and Tim Wynne-Jones

Click is an interesting story- on the surface, it is the story of Maggie and Jason. Two young siblings who have just lost their grandfather- world renowned photojournalist George Keane. He leaves them both highly significant gifts that encourage them to see the world. From there, the story takes an interesting twist. Each chapter is written by a different well known author. The stories are connected to the inheritance that Maggie and Jason received from their grandfather- but the link is sometimes hard to grasp.

The story itself is quite interesting, but I think the fact that so many different authors were involved in the process makes it a little disjointed. Kids would need to really work to understand some of the chapters because there are big jumps made between the chapters.