Sunday, September 26, 2010

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

While reading Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, I realized that I had read this novel before, when I was in the target demographic. At the time, I was in early high school and thankfully not dealing with the issues of the book's characters. Now I am a teacher and know that some of my students have the same problems. In my rereading, I see that my interest gravitates to Ms. Lemry, the controversial teacher, in addition to Eric Calhoune, the intended protagonist.

Staying Fat is a story about friendship through the most difficult times. Eric has been overweight his entire life and gained strength from his friendship with Sarah Byrnes, a tough girl who has burns all over her face and hands. The outcasts band together until Eric joins the swim team and begins to gain weight. In order to prove his friendship, he continues to eat and stay big. When Sarah's family issues and Eric's classmates' problems all come to a head, he wishes that all he'd need to do to make things better would be to eat too much.

Chris Crutcher discusses challenging topics clearly and in a clever way. By having Ms. Lemry present issues for discussion in her class, Crutcher is able to use debate to further his plot and increase the tension. Even though I had read the book before, I still didn't know how it was going to end! Any book that keeps me up late, racing through its pages, is a keeper.

PS. Chris Crutcher has some wonderful answers to censors on his website.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Manga Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

The Manga Shakespeare version of Romeo and Juliet is so much fun. I know that people can be hesitant about adapting classic literature into modern formats, but they have worked wonders in my classroom. The reworkings have excited students and enriched their understanding of challenging literature.

This quick read retains the dialogue of the original (although it is abridged) but sets the story in modern Tokyo. The Capulets and Montagues are now opposing yakuza families. I love this twist! The illustrations captivate the reader and explain the plot to young readers. I would love to add more of these books to my library; pre-reading Shakespearean manga is a great way to hook the developing reader.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Peace, Love & Baby Ducks

Now that the GREs are over, I can get back to pleasure reading!

I have previously enjoyed Lauren Myracle's books Eleven and Twelve, so I was psyched when the cover of Peace, Love & Baby Ducks caught my eye at the library. The cover is fantastic and the novel is even better.

It is, simply put, a love letter to sisters. Carly returns from a summer hippie work project full of ideals and granola vibes. These are difficult to maintain in her uppercrust Atlanta neighborhood, at her pretentious school, and in light of the fact that her sister Anna has become a babe. There are very few times in my life that I have wished for a sister (brothers rock!), but reading this book was one of them. Myracle deftly shows how sisters can bond and fight and be jealous and adore each other, usually in a ten minute span.

Aside from the central plot of sisterhood, Peace, Love & Baby Ducks also tackles larger issues. Carly is unsure about how she fits into her wealthy southern world after a taste of something different. She asks herself important questions about religion and the hypocrisy that she sees at her school, Holy Redeemer. Carly also learns more about racism and realizes that she encounters it more often than she ever realized. Of course, there is a love story as well (that's the big heart on the front cover!) when Carly falls for someone she shouldn't, hurting the guy who she should be with all along.

I continue to be impressed by Lauren Myracle's ability to strike exactly the right note. Don't miss this book!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid

I picked this up because I like to have a book full of snippets in my, ahem, 'office'. I am a fan of Lemony Snicket, so I enjoyed the short pieces of wisdom that he shares in this quick read. I would not say it is worth the $13 pricetag, but Horseradish did provide me with a new quote for the bottom of all my emails: "Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them." Words to live by.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Marcelo In The Real World

I had heard of Marcelo in the Real World a while ago and knew that it was a book I wanted to read. I am really interested in Aspberger's Syndrome and thought that a YA novel about a seventeen year old with AS would be perfect for me. I was right.

Marcelo has a life that is exactly what he wants: he lives in a treehouse in his family's yard, goes to a 'special' school, and gets to work with ponies. Still, his father expects more from him and makes a deal: Marcelo can continue at his beloved school if he spends the summer working in the real world, also known as his law office's mail room. Once Marcelo breaks out of his routine, everything changes.

When I was only fifteen pages into the book, I called a friend and insisted that she get it as well. Francisco X. Stork is such a talented writer; his characters are so realistic and the novel was constantly at the point of almost breaking my heart. The honor that Stork shows Marcelo makes me want to read more of his work and also be a more compassionate person. While some of the religious discussions in the book made me skim (the residue of attending Catholic high school, sorry!), there were other passages that had me re-reading for their beauty. This is a book that I will be recommending to everyone who will listen.