Friday, September 21, 2012

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Hunger Games Trilogy: Suzanne Collins

So I was required to read The Hunger Games for my Young Adult Media class this past summer. Well, I got it on my kindle, but ended up having to read a synopsis on Amazon because I ran out of time. That and the fact it was paired with another Sci-Fi book that I was reading (and HATED) so I was a little afraid to read it because I thought it would also be terrible..Well, before that assignment was due I was able to read the first few pages and I was curious. In August when the class ended I thought, why not continue and just see what I think...well...I fell in love! Not just any kind of love either, I spent my whole day eagerly awaiting bed time when i would enter a whole other kind of world of districts, rich people, and survival.
This book is SO rich in content and would be great to use in the classroom. It is a harsh way of life, but it can be compared to the world we live in today in SO many ways. The characters are easy to fall in love with and if you like unexpected twists, THIS is the book for you! It kept me guessing down to the very last page! The best part is, it's really not predictable at all. When I say unexpected twists, I mean, unexpected twists.
I am so sad that this book had to come to an end. I am left without my friends from District 12 and now I need to find something as good, or better to replace that empty feeling. It will be hard to replace, though!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Sledding Hill by: Chris Crutcher

This book was required for me to read for 2 different classes now. The first time I didn't get a chance to read it, but this time I did. This was an easy, quick read and I really enjoyed it. The story is mostly about censorship (which as a librarian/teacher is pretty important to have a good, well-rounded knowledge of). The story follows a 14-year old boy named Eddie Proffit from his dead friend, Billy. Although I have never read The Lovely Bones, it is apparently told from a similar angle. Eddie is a misunderstood, most likely ADD kid who is considered overly curious and his mouth often gets him into trouble. When he loses his dad and best friend, Billy, in the beginning of the story, he decides to go mute. Billy 'bumps' him and tries to get Eddie to go on living knowing that everything will be all right. When Eddie goes back to school and starts a "Really Modern Literature" class requiring them to read only books from authors who are alive, the teacher tells them the only book she is insisting they read is Warren Peece, also by Chris Crutcher. The librarian sends permission slips home for the students to get signed since the book addresses taboo issues like homosexuality, sex and uses bad language. This book does not go over well since the school is affiliated with the Red Brick church that has a preacher who tries to control everything. The book does a great job of showing how religion/church is really not THAT separated from school/education. Beliefs get in the way as the church (through others) try to ban the book. The problem: students who never read are actually reading this book. Many find comfort in the characters, especially a boy who is gay and is too afraid to do anything because of the people surrounding him. Eddie is one of the kids who find comfort in the book, and although he is mute, decides to take a stand.
This book really demonstrates the importance and role of censorship in school. Reading is reading, no matter what the material is. As a librarian, it is hard to decide what is ok and what is not, morally, to be in a library. I'm not sure my job as a librarian will be to protect children's "innocence" by banning books. Reality is real, and everyone finds that out at some point in their life. I think it is more up to a parent if they want to restrict what their child reads.
I was disturbed when doing this particular chapter to see the court cases and people who attack young adult literature. There is a list of titles in my textbook of books that often appear on the censored list (rarely near the top, but still on the list) and I thought I would share..

Judy Blume: Deenie; Forever
Robert Cormier: After the First Death; The Chocolate War; Fade; I Am the Cheese
Chris Crutcher: Athletic Shorts; Running Loose
Lois Duncan: Killing Mr. Griffin
Paula Fox: The Slave Dancer
Nat Hentoff: The Day They Came to Arrest the Book
S.E. Hinton: The Outsiders; That Was Then, This is Now
Robert Lipsyte: The Contender
Lois Lowry: The Giver
Harry Mazer: The Last Mission
Walter Dean Myers: Fallen Angels
Katherine Paterson: Bridge to Terabithia
Robert Newton Peck: A Day No Pigs Would Die
Mildred D. Taylor: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Paul Zindel: My Darling, My Hamburger; The Pigman
Any of the Harry Potter Series

(Nilson, A. P., & Donelson, K. L. (2001). Literature for today's young adults (8th edition). Boston, MA: Pearson.) a quick things on the above..I couldn't believe The Giver was on the list!! That is one of my all time favorite books! There isn't really any violence, curse words, etc. The book is about a utopian society! How does that get banned? Then again, there are several on the list I ask myself, why?

O well..that is all for this book review.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Copper Sun By: Sharon Draper

This book was about slavery, but in a different light than I had ever read about it. The story starts in Africa and talking about tribal traditions. The main character, Amari, bumped into the boy, Besa, that she was betrothed to. She was flirty and nervous in love. The setting in Africa sounds so beautiful and the way the tribe takes care of each other. Amari made mention of how all the women in the tribes were mothers to all of the children and helped them all out whenever they needed it. There was such a strong unity and bond in the African tribe. All is well and good until white men were escorted into their camp with another tribe and the Ewe (Amari's tribe) welcomed them with open arms, fed them, and danced for them, and not a few minutes later, the white men started shooting. Amari loses her family and is chained and escorted away with the other survivors.
She has no idea what is going on and is often humiliated and touched in wrong places like she was a piece of meat. There is a long account of how they traveled from Africa in a horrible boat to the "colonies" (US). The boat trip alone was enough to make you literally sick to your stomach. Amari and the other women were raped on a nightly basis, while the men were crammed into the bottom of the boat on top of each other and in their own bodily fluids. Some, who were "lucky" jumped ship and 'disappeared' as gray-finned animals came and created a pool of blood (they were eaten by sharks).
When they finally arrive in the colonies, they are auctioned off where Amari was forced to leave the only people she started to know. She was sent to the Derbyshire farms as a birthday present for the 16 year old boy of the house. She was under an indentured white gal, Polly, who was supposed to 'civilize' her. As the story goes on Polly and Amari become close and learn much about each other and their races. There are lots of tragedies and things that will make you want to stop reading and just cry, but there is a good ending as well.
This book did a great job in depicting the whole process of slavery, starting in Africa. It is a horrible fact that these things actually happened, but it is something that young people should be aware of so that history does not ever repeat itself. I recommend this book!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sold By: Patricia McCormick

This was another Young Adult Realistic Fiction book I was required to read for class. In 2006 this book was a YA National Book Award Finalist and its no wonder due to the very real situations presented in the book. I read this book within 24 hours, but a big part of why was because it was so disturbing I just wanted to get it over with. Luckily it is an easy read and the "chapters" are more like pages with titles. I really liked this design of the book because it felt as though the main character, Lakshmi, was actually telling her feelings along with the story. Personally, I am on the fence on whether or not to have this book available to middle/high school students. The words were not too incredibly detailed, but detailed enough to really make me wince and want to cry uncontrollably. In fact, I read the first half at night before bed and I had terribly violent dreams that involved a man trying to steal me away to rape me from my true love. Unlike Lakshmi though, in my dream, I was able to beat the living daylights out of the bad man in my dream. Anyway, I say all this to show that even me, a 24 year old, had trouble coping with this book. Then again, it certainly raises awareness of how it is for younger girls in other countries; so I have to just say that I am on the fence.

If you are wondering what the story is about, well, I will tell you. The story starts out in Nepal where a young Lakshmi helps her 'ama' (which I believe is the word for woman) around the house with her baby brother and taking care of her stepfather, who apparently was kind enough to take them in after her real father died. Well her stepfather is lazy and selfish and only has 1 good arm. He uses all the money on his own pleasures and eats enough so that the women of the family sometimes go hungry for days. Below is an excerpt from the beginning of the book when she gets her "first blood" and her mother explains to her "Everything I need to Know" (That is the title of this page/chapter)...

"Before today, Ama says, you could run as free as a leaf in the wind.
Now, she says, you must carry yourself with modesty, bow your head in the presence of men, and cover yourself with your shawl.
Never look a man in the eye. Never allow yourself to be alone with a man who is not family. And never look at growing pumpkins or cucumbers when you are bleeding. Otherwise they will rot.
Once you are married, she says, you must eat your meal only after your husband has had his fill. Then you may have what remains.
If he burps at the end of the meal, it is a sign that you have pleased him.
If he turns to you in the night, you must give yourself to him, in the hopes that you will bear him a son.
If you have a son, feed him at your breast until he is four.
If you have a daughter, feed her at your breast for just a season, so that your blood will start again and you can try once more to bear a son.
If your husband asks you to wash his feet, you must do as he says, then put a bit of the water in your mouth.
I ask Ama why. 'Why,' I say, 'must women suffer so?'
'This has always been our fate,' she says. 'Simply to endure,' she says, 'is to triumph.'" (McCormick, p. 15, 2006)

That passage alone sets the tone for how women are treated and what the rest of the book is like. Anyway, after a monsoon takes over the rice crop for the season, Lakshmi's family is left needing money. Lakshmi wants to go work in the city as a maid and thinks this is what is happening when her stepfather comes to take her away. She is passed off to 3 different people, each paying a little more. She still has no idea what is happening to her until she is thrown into a room, locked in, and beaten until every part of her body is covered with welts. She then learns she must work off her debt to the fat women who owns the "Happiness House" she is working in. She doesn't find out until the end of the book that all the work and horrible things that she had done were for nothing because her family was never going to see that money. Through out the story there is talk of diseases and different absurd things these young girls endure in this horrible place. The ending leaves you with a sense of peace, although it is still VERY sad to know this is happening as we speak in the brothels of India. The Author has a note in the back about the research she did for the book and the figures are just horrifying.

These young girls and families will be placed on my prayer list from now on! It really makes you step back and evaluate your own life and see that the things you think are so horribly and pain enduring are not near what they could be in other places in the world. Books like this can really open your eyes, but like I said before, I am not sure about the idea of having a book like this in a middle school library. High school, maybe, but middle might be too soon.

Mccormick, P. (2006). Sold. New York, NY: Hyperion Books.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Speak by: Laurie H. Anderson

This book was awarded: 1999 National Book Award Finalist; School Library Journal Best Books of the Year; and Booklist Editors' Choice. After reading (well, actually listening to) this book, I found out there was also a Lifetime movie made out of it starring Kristen Stewart.

The story is about a young girl, Melinda, who was raped at a high school party and then proceeded to call the cops (out of fear of what was happening to her) and ended up gaining a bad reputation (for the cops showing up and busting the party) because no one knew the real reason she called the cops. She enters her first year in high school as a reject that no one (including her ex-best friends) will talk to. She makes friends with a new girl who realizes Melinda is a loser and that the longer she hangs out with her the less popular she becomes. Melinda forces herself into silence refusing to speak or show up to her classes. When her parents (who are barely together) catch wind of her behavior they get angry at her and choose to ignore that there is nothing really wrong. With some other challenging school behavior the story has a happy ending when Melinda is finally able to SPEAK up.

This was a great young adult realistic fiction book that would be great to raise awareness to young teens about high school peer pressure and parties. This book could also show the importance of one finding their voice and the impact they can have on others who might be in the same boat, afraid to speak out.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Catcher in the Rye By: J.D. Salinger

So I am finally don hearing "Old" Holden Caulfield rant about crazy, pointless things in his life..whew!! I had heard about Catcher in the Rye off and on through out my life. I have heard the name in movies, tv and even other books; but I never knew what it was about. I figured since it had so many reference it was this literary gold medal or something. Quite the opposite. I honestly have no idea why people like it so much or are even obsessed with it! It is all about a whiny teenager..Then again, that might be the one good thing I CAN say about the book. It demonstrates a few days in the life of a teenager or adolescent. Many young adults in similar positions might be able to identify with this book, but it does nothing but state the obvious. Maybe they love it because it shows that such crazy feelings and ways of looking at things that more than just 'you' deal with. My thing with the book was that there was no real plot. Nothing was accomplished, gain, or taught. Nothing bad or good happened. Heck, he never even called the girl he was talking about calling and/or seeing the entire book! Never even made contact! I feel that this book is not so influential and could potentially depress someone worse. Although in my teen years I would definitely identify with some of the things Holden felt and did, I can't see my young self really enjoying a book. 9 times out of 10 if I commit to reading a book it is because I want to hear a good story, or want to learn something new, or just feel something other than constant depression. This book did nothing for me!

Now, personally I hated the book, there are lots out there that feel quite the opposite. Here are some things I found (mostly through my learning at school).

A group of boys decided to take a raodtrip in Holden or Salinger's footsteps and record it. You can find that documentery here: Catching Salinger

Interesting fact: Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States. (Welllllllll DUH! Could it be the overuse of curse words? I mean, no one ever needs to say a curse word in every other sentence..Quite frankly I think it makes the story just that much more confusing because I have no idea what they are trying to actually say! I should have counted how many times he used the 'GD' word..gooooooodness!)
According to the American Library Association, The Catcher in the Rye was the 13th
most frequently challenged book 1990-2000.
For a list of banned books, see this.