Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow

The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow
from the Dear America series

Ann Turner (1999)

A story of the Navajo people forced from their homes, as told from a young girl's view; tragic, but not harsh, some danger but with the book beginning as the girl a grandmother telling her story, we know it has a "happy" ending... strong on family values and respect for elders, also with encouraging journal writing...

the folks at Oyate ( ) don't like the book, because it doesn't adhere to Navajo storytelling tradition, but it seems like nitpicking -- it's more important to get the story told and sometimes changes need to be made to appeal/communicate to the intended audience; although this could be brought into a discussion with students, as well as reviewing historical accuracy...

connections: Native Americans, southwest US, origin myths, Sing Down the Moon, diary/journal writing, oral storytelling

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Horton Hatches the Egg

Horton Hatches the Egg
by Dr. Seuss

We have invited a special guest reviewer for this book: Son #3, age 6...

In Horton's life, he asked a bird if he could sit on the egg ("he cohd siht an thi eeg") and the bird said yes. Horton did go on the egg but he got caught by the hunters. My favorite part is when the egg cracks and out came a bird mixed with an elephant. Regular people would love this book because it's a little funny and the elephant hatches the egg not the bird.

and yes, he is that ugly. must get it from an uncle or somethin'...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Lemony Snicket's The End

The End

A Series of Unfortunate Events
Book the 13th
"Lemony Snicket"
I liked these... got a little much at the end, glad I took a year or 2 break since reading my last installment... I think this book was half recap of the preceding 12 and half attempting to wrap it all up, and in this case the phrase "wrap it up" means make it up as you're typing and when you run out of paper, send in to the publisher...

Chasing Vermeer

Chasing Vermeer

Blue Balliett (2004)

special guest reviewer Son #2:

"I think that Chasing Vermeer was one of the best mystery books I have ever read.The boy uses pentominoes to tell the future because if he pulls out the P pentomino he finds a word that starts with p to predict whats going to happen
next.the two main characters are trying to find out who stole a lady writing , a famous picture by Vermeer.they notice small things like a code in a grocery list .i think that people who love mysteries should like this book."

(he's the one in green)

"find the art" : pgs 31, 36, 46, 80 ("everyday items as art"); pentaminoes

Monday, March 10, 2008



Lois Lowry (2006)

I know, I know -- so I have a little crush on Ms. Lowry. It's not like I'm hoping her next Newbery winner is titled "TeacherDad" or includes a special dedication to her #1 fan...

I think one of her talents is making the reader feel a part of the story right away; within the first few pages I feel as if I'm in the room with her characters, actually turning my head to hear one speak. Gossamer is about dream-fairies, and I found myself being quiet, holding still and listening carefully as I read of them sneaking into a house at night while people slept. When her characters are concerned or hurt, or in danger, I'm not only apprehensive because it's a good story, I'm emotionally invested, I care for them...

Lowry also uses very precise language, both as a plot device and as an art form; her characters are often named for their job or personality, or become "named" as a rite of passage. Especially in Gossamer her characters discuss the proper word for a situation or an emotion, making sure it expresses the correct tone and conveys the correct meaning to those hearing the word used. Perfect for vocabulary lessons!

This book is also about a boy from a broken home, abused by his father, shuttled around foster homes while his mom puts her life back together. He's taken in by a retired teacher and her dog, and we see how their memories and dreams help them to cope with life.

connections: divorce, foster care, Dear Mr. Henshaw

Number the Stars

Number the Stars

Lois Lowry

Newbery Medal 1990

A story of WWII in Denmark and helping Jews escape to Sweden, tense at times but not over-dramatic or preachy. Mention of the food and supply shortages, the resistance fighters, strong bonds of family and faith. Historically accurate.

connections: Anne Frank, Holocaust, Zlata's Diary, current event examples of oppression/genocide

Sunday, March 9, 2008



Lois Lowry (2004)

The continuing story from The Giver and Gathering Blue, but different than the others by the more supernatural element throughout. I think the book suffers some for this, especially the weak ending; unlike her others, where the conclusion comes too soon because you want to read more, this ending comes at the point when she just can't add anything else or it will really get strange... adding the magic takes away from the strong characters, from the personalities and wills that were special in the other books.

But it's still good, worth the read. Family relationships, societal relationships and responsibilities, thinking for yourself vs. crowd mentality, materialism, use of talents and "gifts" for the greater good, or for personal gain?

connections: any of Lowry's other books I've read, gardening, healing

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Gathering Blue

Gathering Blue

Lois Lowry (2000)

I believe this is a "companion" to The Giver, but it's not technically a sequel; there's another book that somewhat ties the two together... futuristic dystopian society, very primitive, cold hearted in its treatment of the ill and children, unless you have artistic abilities, then you get indoor plumbing! There's a clear sense (the theme?) that basically without art, we rot. The "Gathering" scenes remind me of long and boring, especially for children, holiday church services, where the tradition and the message is irrelevant and un-spiritual. With Lowry the ending isn't always an ending -- should she stay or go? -- but this one satisfied me (not that I don't want to read more)... Very well done; I'm starting to rank Ms. Lowry higher and higher on my list of best authors around...

connections: artists and culture in society, disabilities, ethical dilemmas, Shayamalan's "The Village"