Saturday, July 16, 2011

DCF number 4

"One CrazySummer" by Rita Williams-Garcia is a great book! It has already won or been nominated for three awards-- King, National Book, and Newberry -- and it is certainly worthy of all of that acclaim. I would not be surprised if it won the DCF as well, though I am not sure kids in Vermont in the current era would be able to relate to the topic and the characters very well.

The protagonist is an eleven year old African American girl who has grown up without the mother who abandoned her and her sisters. Now, after many years filled with only vague memories, Delphine is spending the summer of 1968 with her mother in Oakland, California. Her mother, Cecile, lives a life that Delphine considers "crazy," and most readers would probably agree. The most "crazy" aspect of Cecile's life is her involvement in the Black Panther movement. As Delphine explains it, "I was marching my sisters into a boiling pot of trouble cooking in Oakland" (128).

As Delphine's summer comes to a close, she realizes much about the world, herself, and her estranged mother, and comes to understand that not everything is as it seems.

This is a sweet and sorrowful coming of age novel that is beautifully written.

Monday, July 11, 2011

DCF number three

This evening I finished Stuart Gibbs' first novel, Belly Up. This book was surprisingly well written for a maiden novelist. Gibbs is obviously in his element as a writer, and particularly when writing about zoos and animals. The storyline is quick-paced, and the main character, Teddy, is a bright and lovable boy who has had an enviable life with globetrotting parents. Teddy inadvertently gets involved in investigating the murder of the hippo mascot of the zoo he lives at with his parents. The adults in the novel seem unable or unwilling to help, but at least one if them is willing to do anything to stop Teddy from finding out the truth. He finds himself in grave danger on several occassions. Teddy's mother tries to discourage him from investigating the murder. She points out on page 139, "This is different, Theodore. I knew you could handle yourself in Africa because animals aren't really that dangerous... But humans are different... What you've gotten yourself into isn't a game. This is dangerous and you need to behave accordingly." I strongly encourage my students to read this novel. It is great for both animal lovers and mystery fans.

Sent from my iPod

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Third non-DCF

I just finished Janet Evanovich's latest. Smokin' Seventeen was, as expected, a hilariously sensational read. The story included large doses of intrigue, donuts, romance, death, vampires, spandex, and explosions. Oh, and a dancing bear. The car count wasn't too high this time, however Stephanie did get to drive a Shelby GTO. I'm sure you can imagine that it wasn't long for this world! The book ends with a discovery that I had already pretty well figured out on my own, but it was a fun ride getting there. We are, unfortunately, left hanging on which of her suitors Stephanie will choose. Oh well, that just means we have to read the 18th book when it comes out in November!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Second DCF book


> Today I finished reading "Jake" by Audrey Couloumbis. Jake is an endearing young man who lives with his mother. A few days before Christmas, she is injured, and Jake must rely on his neighbor and family friend, Mrs. Buttermark, and his estranged grandfather to care for him while his mother is in the hospital. Over the course of his mother's hospitalization, Jake learns to love and respect his grandfather. I liked this book a great deal, and found myself drawn to Jake's compassion, intelligence, and even his naïveté. A good example of the latter is this remark: "I learned Mrs. Buttermark had been a rocket. That made me sit up. She and Granddad talked about it a little and I realized it was some kind of dancer." Sweet.

Second non-DCF book

To prepare for humanities camp last week, I started to read Time magazine's "100 Photographs that Changed the World." This was a very intriguing look at world history, science, nature, and humanity through the camera lens. I found myself reacting in a myriad of ways to the collection of photos: hypnotized, shocked, incensed, brought to tears, and more. The photos were accompanied by short descriptive paragraphs, which provided a wealth of information and clarity. This is a book I will return to over and over again.