Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Wonder by R.J. Palacio with updates

After reading all summer about the Wonder of Wonder on Twitter, I finally got around to ordering it. I started it this morning and finished it this afternoon, it was that brilliant!
To any of my teacher friends reading this blog- you need to pick this book up RIGHT NOW! I would love to know what kids think of this book, I think it has potential as an amazing reading aloud- there are so many wonderful stopping points and places you could have really really deep discussions about many important topics and concepts throughout this novel. Wonder is the story of how August, a 10 year old boy with a severe facial deformity learns to deal with the harsh reality of middle school. But, it is also about how his peers, friends and family learn to deal with getting to know who someone really is outside of their appearances. This is Palacio's first novel and she has hit a homerun with it. Wonder is told mostly from August's perspective, but there are times when you hear from his sister, and a few of the other kids at school. It is really interesting to read how they all deal with his appearance and the pressure they feel by knowing him and even befriending him. This book teaches empathy, kindness and how to stand up for what you believe in. I just checked out Palacio's website and I really like the questions she has posted for discussion. This is an incredibly powerful story, I know August will live with me for a very long time. UPDATE- January Many classes have been reading and discussing Wonder. A friend of mine read it aloud to her class and then had her students create a blogpost about the book. She shared one amazing post with me, and I had to share it here. You can check out Mackenzie's thoughts about the book http://mackenziec206.edublogs.org/2014/01/21/wonder/ But you also need to see the Wonder video the class made- you can see that below. UPDATE- May I just found out today that R.J. Palacio has written a chapter from Julian's point of view. You can only buy it as an ebook, which of course I did. This chapter allows the reader to catch a glimpse of what motivates Julian. Here is a video that has R. J. discussing why she wanted to write this chapter. You can check it out here.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

So many people have talked about this book and for some reason I didn't pick it up. It wasn't until two friends told me they were reading it to their class that I decided I had better read it. I think what was stopping me was the fact that the target audience was a little younger than I usually read. However, now that I have read it, I can't see any reason why Intermediate students wouldn't want to read this book. Actually, now that I think about it, I can see kids of all ages enjoying this story. The One and Only Ivan is written from the perspective of Ivan- a silverback gorilla. And when I say it is written from his perspective, I really mean Ivan is the narrator of this story- the book is written as if he did the writing. As we learn Ivan's story, we learn that he has been in captivity for a very long time. He has some memories of his life in the jungle, but he tries his best to block those out. Ivan lives at the mall, and at one point he was the main attraction. He lives with a collection of other animals and they have all been friends for a really long time. When Ruby, a new elephant joins the gang, Ivan comes to realizes that being held in captivity isn't right and he decides to take a stand for his new friend. Of course being a gorilla, his options are a bit limited, but Ivan is an incredibly resourceful gorilla and he is determined to make a better life for Ruby. I am so glad I read this book. In many ways Ivan reminds me of Charlotte in Charlotte's Web, but the unique writing style allows the reader a glimpse into the world of being an animal in captivity. I think what is most remarkable, is that this book is actually based on a true story. No matter what age you teach, you should really read this book!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Last summer, I read the book Eleanor and Park by this same author and fell in love with her writing style. I have been reading a great deal about Fangirl and didn't realize it was written by the same author, or I would have picked it up sooner. I am so glad I read it this weekend. I started it Saturday morning and could not put it down until I finished it Saturday afternoon. What a great way to spend a Saturday! Fangirl is written for students in high school, although I think I would put this one in an intermediate classroom, there is a bit of swearing, but not much else. The main character Cath is just starting her first year at university. She is nervous about going because she doesn't like meeting new people, and her twin sister declared that she doesn't want to share rooms when they are away. Cath struggles to really find her place at school. What keeps her going is her obsession with Simon Snow (a character from a book/movie) and her ability to write fan fiction online for her followers. But what Cath doesn't realize is that there are people out there who are going to pull her into the land of the living, regardless of how she feels about it. Cath is a really interesting character. I can relate to her complete obsession over a character. Reading about how she learns to navigate life, school and relationships was very rewarding and I can see that many readers would identify with her challenges and struggles. I will admit that at first, the similarities between Simon Snow and Harry Potter put me off the book, however, once I got over that, I found that the way Rowell wove in Cath's fan fiction, the author of Simon Snow's story and Cath's story was really fascinating. I don't usually tend to read or look for meaning in quotes/poems etc. that are shared in fictional novels, but I found myself looking for links between the different stories. This was a fabulous book, but I would warn anyone teaching grade 7 & 8 to read it first before giving it to students. I wouldn't hesitate to give it to students, but I would want you to make that decision yourself. Regardless, it is a great read!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Counting by 7's by Holly Goldbery Sloan

Counting by 7's was a quirky little book. I have been reading many reviews of it on blogs and Twitter, so I decided I had better see what all the buzz was about. Counting by 7's is the story of a young odd girl named Willow. Willow doesn't have many friends, but is happy in her own world. She loves reading, gardening and learning. Early on in the book, tragedy happens and the rest of the story deals with how Willow copes with the situation she finds herself in. As I was reading this book, I was reminded of other books I have read like Stargirl and Wonder. Like Stargirl, Willow has a profound affect on everyone she meets. Once Willow enters a person's life, she has the ability to change their life for the better. Willow doesn't set out to change people, it is just that once people get to know her, she inspires them to make changes that they didn't even know were needed. I like that about this book- watching the impact Willow had on the people around her. Counting by 7's is a really nice book- I can see kids who like Stargirl enjoying it, but also kids who enjoy reading about a character who doesn't really fit in at first glance, but when other's look past what they see on the outside, they discover a person who they need to be in contact with. I am wondering if it would be a good choice for a read aloud- perhaps for a younger grade- maybe grade 6. I'd love to hear what other's think about this book.