Saturday, February 27, 2010

Belle

When I held up Belle to my class and said, "It's about a runaway slave--", all the girls leapt up and yelled "ME!" The cover and the story of Belle, a runaway slave that falls in love with Daniel Best, an educated northern man that takes her into his family, are instantly appealing to middle school students.

Anyone over fourteen will see the ending coming a mile away. Actually, all of my students probably will as well, but will be so caught up in the sweet love story that they won't care. I won't completely dismiss the book as fluff, because there are historical facts mixed in that will hopefully seep into the reader's consciousness. Still, I was happy to wrap up this book in order to sink my teeth into more weighty young adult fare.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sweet, Hereafter

Wondering where I've been? I've been struggling to get through Angela Johnson's latest, Sweet, Hereafter.

You know it's a bad book when it makes you question other books you've read by an author! I thought I enjoyed Johnson's other works, but now I wonder if I really did. How could the same author have written this and The First Part Last?

Sweet, Hereafter is written in Johnson's typical sparse style, this time about a girl who is dealing with running away from home and a veteran lover that may have to return to Iraq. The main character is not developed enough for the reader to care what happens; I wanted to write "add more details" in red ink and return it like I was at school. Whatever you do, don't waste your time or your library's money on this one.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Quiver

I had really high hopes for Quiver. The cover is really appealing (it's really banana yellow, not like that image to the righ) and it's about Atalanta, the fastest mortal in Ancient Greece. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my hopes.

This is a really challenging novel to get into--note that I'm not saying that it's a challenging story to get into. Atalanta's history, as a devotee of Artemis that vows to remain unmarried until a man outruns her, is fascinating. Stephanie Spinner just wasn't able to pull it off. She uses far too many challenging Greek names right off the bat; I wanted to stop reading and I used to live in Greece! A guide to the characters would do well at the front of the book. Also, she has a chorus of the Greek pantheon narrating in little asides at the beginning and end of chapters. There just serve to take the reader out of the narrative and wonder why bother reading more. Finally, it seems like Spinner didn't write enough, so they had to space the novel out with very few words on a page, effectively wasting a ton of paper.

My class is going to be reading The Lightning Thief next, but I have a student who has already read the entire series. In my quest for a few novels that he can read while we read out class novel, I have failed. Don't read this!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Speak

Somehow, I managed to miss Speak for the past ten years. Someone donated it to our school library this week and I snatched it up, having heard such amazing things about it. Even though I already knew the big secret that was haunting Melinda Sordino through her first year of high school, I was still unable to put this book down. I started it this morning and wrapped it up after eating it through cooking dinner (and instead of correcting essays).

Speak breaks my heart, feeling for this young girl that is so traumatized that she stops speaking entirely. Laurie Halse Anderson's writing lures the reader in and then shocks them. There were two specific times in the novel that I gasped, hoping that what was occurring was only a dream. Unfortunately for Melinda, this wasn't the case.

The subject matter is too intense for most of my classes, but for a few mature ninth graders, this will be a book to discuss. After reading it, I know that I will be even more protective of any outcasts I know.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Secret Life of Prince Charming

Whoa. I am only about 100 pages in this novel, but I know I won't be adding The Secret Life of Prince Charming to our library. It is just far too mature for middle school students.

The plot is fun: two sisters and their newly-met half sister decide to return items that their unpredictable, estranged father has stolen from his past girlfriends. I am interested in all of the characters, especially the juggling (literally) larger-than-life father. I will continue to read it on my own and maybe share it with a few older community members that have graduated or are in the later stages of high school.

There is a lot of cursing in this novel; too much for me to rationalize. There is also a lot of discussion of sex, which won't work here. It seems like a great book, just not age appropriate for my students.