Thursday, April 16, 2015

Youtube To MP3

If you would like to convert a song from Youtube to MP3 then follow the directions below...

1. Go to Youtube and select the song you want
2. In a separate tab, go to
3. Copy the URL of the Youtube Video
4. Paste the URL into the designated spot on
5. Once the video is downloaded, drag the file into your itunes account

Happy listening! :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli is another story that I read as part of my preparation for the readers response project. What I liked about this story is how Jerry Spinelli framed the plot of Maniac Magee as a legend because this removes the story from space and time. This then allowed Spinelli to touch upon the issues of race relations and homelessness from a detached point of view. I think that this was a clever move on Spinelli's part because it allowed me to focus more on his message and less on the specificities of a particular place or time in history.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the story was the relationship Maniac shared with Grayson. Their genuine interaction and sweet dependence upon one another was an unexpected bright spot in the novel. It reminded me of the relationship that David and Primrose had in the novel Eggs by Spinelli. I think that these meaningful and important friendships are one of the reasons I love Spinelli books so much. They not only make for a heartwarming read, but they remind me of how lucky I am to have friendships like the ones told in the book. 

Crash by Jerry Spinelli

As part of my preparation for my readers response project, I got to enjoy a few more Spinelli books that I wanted to share with all of you. One of my favorites that I read was Crash by Jerry Spinelli. What I love about this story is that it explores the topic of bullying from a unique perspective. Typically, books about bullying are told from the perspective of the victim, like in Wonder by R.J. Palacio. But in Crash, Spinelli tells the story from the perspective of the bully himself. Although I think that the victim's perspective creates a powerful emotional reaction from the readers, I enjoyed reading from the bully's perspective because it allowed me to get a sense of where the bully was coming from. Furthermore, I liked how the story was told from this perspective because it allowed me to really see how the character, John "Crash" Coogan developed and changed over time. I really liked seeing him mature and grow into a more empathetic and kinder person and to see what kind of things impacted this change. It reminded me a lot of how I felt reading The Julian Chapter. Not only was it a different experience, having to understand who the bully was, but it was so interesting to see their transformation into a more compassionate and gentler individual.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

While reading If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson, I could not help but think about the similarities between this story and the one told in Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. Both stories are about two unlikely people who end up falling in love and have to face what others in society will say and think about their relationship. Furthermore, they face the struggle of seeking acceptance from one another families and the pain that comes from being so misunderstood.  They are also both heart wrenching reads as their endings are devastating and sad. 

Although there are commonalities between these two books, what I really enjoyed about If You Come Softly is that the book was partly about love, partly about race, and partly about these two characters and the way they relate to the world around them. The issue of race and discrimination is not the focal point in the story, but I appreciate how Woodson does not give a stereotypical portrayal of an interracial relationship. She does not make Jeremiah the spokesman for every young black man in the world and Ellie does not speak for every Jewish girl. Neither of them is a stereotype, they are just who they are. But at the same time, their race is something people are uncomfortable with. I like how the book focused more on who they were than what people thought of them because I was able to really get to know, understand, and empathize with the characters. Not only did this help me to enjoy the book more, but it allowed me to better understand their relationship and their individual situations.

My only criticism of the story is that at times the writing is a little too light. I know that Jeremiah and Ellie mention people giving them weird looks, that Ellie's sister is uncomfortable with the relationship, and that they are not easily accepted as a couple, but I never actually see much of the prejudice that they experience. I would have liked a few more tense confrontations or insensitive remarks so that I could see how Miah and Ellie would react. 

Overall, however, I thought that this was an excellent read and am interested in reading more of Jacqueline Woodson's boooks. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

I have heard great things about Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson so I was very excited that Keara chose this book as one of the texts we would read this week. On page 226, Woodson talks about how she felt about reading and being compared to her sister. She says, 

"But I don't want to read faster or older or
any way else that might
make the story disappear too quickly from where
it's settling
inside my brain,
slowly becoming
a part of me.
A story I will remember
long after I've read it for the second, third,
tenth, hundreth time." 

As I was reading, I felt the same as Woodson did at this moment. I wanted to slow my pace down and soak up the skillful way that Woodson weaves her words into beautiful snapshots of her life in a way that helps to build up to the big picture of how each of these moments shaped her life. I think that slowing myself down is my way of knowing that I am truly enjoying a book. I have found that with books we have read this semester, such as Crank and Reality Boy, and books from my past. As always, I can not turn off my teacher brain, and this makes me think about how kids need opportunities to really enjoy a book. To find what stands out to them. To take the time that they need to appreciate the words on the page, the feelings that it gives them, and the sense of appreciation it helps them to gain for the book. This quote made me reflect on how this has helped me as a reader and to realize I need to carve moments out in my own teaching for students to appreciate their reading in their own way.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Loser by Jerry Spinelli

As you all know I am a big Jerry Spinelli fan. I love how quirky his characters are and how I find myself relating to them so easily. Although I am reading him as part of my projects for this course, they are more fun than they are work! I finished Loser by Jerry Spinelli this week and absolutely loved it. It was an extra special read because this is Mikey's all time favorite book. He has begged me to read it for years and I just never got around to it. Now I am trying to avoid him before he wants to talk about the book in depth.

Although I have not read Stargirl yet, I remember how unique and confident you all said she was in your blog posts and during our class discussion. As I read, I found myself thinking the same about Zinkoff. He could probably be Stargirl's little brother. He is so enthusiastic about life, is genuinely kind, and does not hold anything back. I feel like he is someone I should aspire to be like because he is just so self-assured and positive.

In the beginning of the book, Zinkoff is just starting school and he is very excited. On the first day, he runs into school wearing a giraffe hat. I pictured him wearing the hat all proud and ready to learn. But I also knew from that very moment, that he was going to have a hard time being accepted by his peers. This part also made me think about my own first day of school. Although I did not have a giraffe hat, I did have a bright red one hundred and one dalmatians dress, a matching bow in my hair, and a dalmatian print coat. On top of that, I snuck in my favorite dalmatian toys in my dalmatian backpack. It's safe to say I really liked the movie One Hundred and One Dalmatians. However, I never thought about how interesting I looked or what my teacher thought of me when I walked into class. I'm sure she and my classmates were a little surprised by my outfit and obsession.

I'm really excited for you all to read this book! I hope that you will like it as much as I do :)

Sold & Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

Mikey is a big fan of Patricia McCormick so I was excited that we would be reading two of her books this week since he assured me that I would love them. However, after my preview of Sold a few weeks ago, I was very nervous to read this book. Although the topic is interesting, it is also one that leaves me feeling nauseous and deeply disturbed. I'm not sure why, but I have never been able to handle the subject well. I have a lot of difficulty talking about it, let alone reading about it. I am even having trouble right now trying to write about how it makes me feel. Therefore, I found it hard to read and enjoy Sold. I found myself skimming over parts and somewhat rushing through the book to get it done. I regret this since McCormick's style and language is wonderful and I did not slow down to appreciate this. The subject matter got in the way of me enjoying the book.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed Purple Heart.  What I liked most about this book was that it told about the realities of war and its effects on people without hashing out old politics or the news. McCormick does her best to keep her biases out of the way and instead focuses on telling a story about people. Through some research, I found out that McCormick interviewed soldiers from across the United States to help her write this book. The effects of her efforts are evident as I felt like the story was a realistic representation of a war zone. By making me feel as though I was actually in the trenches with the soldiers, I became more engrossed with the book. Furthermore, this sort of reporting and attention to detail reminded me of the books I used to read for my history courses. In that sense, reading this book was kind of like visiting an old friend.

I am looking forward to our discussion about the books tomorrow and am curious to hear which one you enjoyed more.

Also, Mikey has highly recommended two more Patricia McCormick books for us to add to our list. These are Cut and My Brother's Keeper. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bad Boy by Walter Dean Myers

Although I think that Myers' writing style and language are great, I had a tough time reading Bad Boy this week. I kept waiting for the climax of the book to occur and even though the story was interesting, it never fully hooked me in. However, one part of the book really stood out to me. Last week, I did a project on speech and language disorders for another class I am taking. Also, many of the students I am working with at my clinical residency receive speech and language services. When I think about my project, and my students, I realized that I tend to focus on all of the things that parents and teachers can do to support their students and how frustrating it must be for the child to communicate. What I did not consider, however, was how the child might be feeling and how they are probably do not think that what they are saying is incorrect. This was pretty eye-opening for me. As Myers' says on page 25, "The therapist kept trying to get me to pronounce my words clearly, but apparently I did not. The trouble was that to me, the words seemed clear." This part made me really reflect upon how I am supporting my students, and how I need to be more sensitive and mindful of where they are coming from.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Smiles to Go by Jerry Spinelli

Over spring break, I started to read some of the Jerry Spinelli books that I selected for the final project. I began by reading Smiles to Go, and I was excited to read a book that was more positive and joyful than the books we read for this week. Although this is a sweet story about friendship and love, and everything turns out okay in the end, Spinelli's story brought up some not so pleasant memories for me.

The main character in the story is Will and he lives a pretty typical life. He is a freshman in high school, is somewhat of a science "nerd", has a great group of friends, and a good family. His sister Tabby is a lot younger than Will though, and she seems to do anything and everything to get on his nerves. It isn't until Tabby seriously injures herself that Will realizes that her pesky behavior is just her way of trying to get Will to notice her and love her.

Tabby's accident and the scenes in the hospital reminded me of a similar situation that happened to my family. One day in the summer my family was in Syracuse visiting at my Aunt's house and swimming in her pool. When my Aunt and Mom went inside to make all of us lunch, they had us get out of the pool and put me in charge of watching the kids as we colored and waited to eat. I became very focused on the picture I was coloring and did not hear my younger brother Mikey sneak away. He ended up hoping the gate and jumping into the pool without his swimmies on. It was not until I was heading back to the deck that I saw him face down in the water. I don't remember much of what happened next, but I do know that I was the one to pull Mikey out of the pool and call for help. What I remember most about the accident was visiting the hospital and seeing Mikey unconscious and his skin was black and blue all over. We were all very scared that Mikey would not wake up or that he would have permanent damage from the accident. Fortunately, Mikey woke up and was quickly back to his energetic and spirited self.

Even though I was the one who saved Mikey, I still feel responsible for what happened to him and my family. Just like Will, I felt like if I had been a better sister, I would have done a better job at watching Mikey and he would never have been in such a risky situation. From this experience, I learned at a young age just how precious our time with our loved ones is and how quickly they could be taken away from us. Although it was a terrifying experience, it is one that has made me prioritize the people most important in my life and the anniversary of the accident every year is a reminder to slow down and appreciate the ones I love.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds

Jason Reynolds may be one of the coolest authors ever. He has an awesome blog and tumblr that he updates regularly, he was the 2015 winner of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award for When I Was The Greatest, and was recently featured on Beyonce's blog! Now if Queen B thinks he is awesome, then he must be.

What I loved about this novel was that even though it featured the elements you would "expect" in an urban novel - violence, drinking and drugs, gangs, and so on - that's not at all what the book was about. Instead, Reynolds’ tells a gentler story that focuses on the power of friendship, the importance of family, and loyalty. The topic of family stood out to me the most because family plays a role in everyones lives, especially teens, but often is ignored ignored in young adult literature for the sake of plot and romance. I also really liked how Reynolds included strong adults in this book who served as role models and mentors. What I particularly liked was how these adults have all made mistakes and not only do they own up to them, but they talk about how much they’ve learned from their past. It shows how every mistake is a learning experience and how there is always room to grow in every situation.

I am so excited that Jason Reynolds will be attending TBF and I hope that I will be able to attend his talk!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy

I am so happy that we got to continue reading historical fiction this week! Not only was I excited that Jennifer Roy's Yellow Star was about WWII & the Holocaust, but I was especially interested in this story because the young girl in the story settled in Rochester after the war. So often when we think about this time period, we think of it happening so far away. That the story takes place somewhere where it could never impact us. But, Roy's book is a perfect example of how history continues to persist through the people who experienced the events of the past and that their stories can travel and have an impact wherever they go. It makes me wonder just how many people in the Rochester area have similar experiences as Roy's aunt, and what their stories may be.

One thing I really liked about this book was how the beginning of each part gave some historical information and set the scene in an understandable and natural way. For a younger reader, this provides them with the background information and historical facts necessary to understand this time. However, I found it helpful to also consider what was going on in Syvia's world at this time and to get a better understanding of why she was experiencing and feeling the things that she did. I think that if the author had not provided this context, the story would be less fluid and understandable. Although it did interrupt the free verse, it was a purposeful and necessary interruption that helped with my own understanding and appreciation of the story.

As I was reading, I could not turn off my "teacher brain" and I kept thinking about how awesome it was that this book could be read by younger readers. Often, the topic of WWII and the Holocaust is reserved for older students. Roy's book, however, makes the topic an accessible one for students that provides them with historical information and an understanding of what it was like to live through this time. I will be adding this book to my personal library and hopefully it will be an addition to my classroom one day.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak #2

A message for The Book Thief: 

I am currently left with a broken heart and a half empty box of tissues. Although I knew what was coming, I still had not fully prepared myself for the way this book ended. I guess a part of me was still holding on to a little bit of hope that someone would survive and be there for Liesel. Obviously, that was not the case. But despite this gut wrenching and depressing ending, I still absolutely loved this book.

I have always been interested in World War Two and the Holocaust and have had a love for historical fiction since I was little. I have read many books about the Holocaust and took several undergraduate courses relating to World War Two at Nazareth. What I loved about The Book Thief, however, was Zusak's ability to give a fresh approach to a story that has been told many times and in many ways. Often, when we think about German's and World War Two, we associate them with the Nazi's, concentration camps, and their unconditional love and commitment to the Fhuer. Zusak, however, offers the view of German's, who, although they were safe from the tragedies of the concentration camps, still faced their own challenges and fears. He reveals how many German's were poor, starving, and losing loved ones in the war. He also shows how some German's resisted Hitler by refusing to join the Nazi party or to hang the German flags in their window. I also enjoyed how Zusak offered a different perspective of the Hitler Youth. From my own experiences, I learned about the Hitler Youth as being made up of "brainwashed" kids who did not know what they were really getting involved in. The Book Thief, however, revealed how kids did not enjoy being a part of the Hitler Youth and often complained about it. I think that it is so important that this book includes multiple perspectives and views because when you learn and think about the past, it is important to consider the voices and experiences of everyone involved. Zusak does a great job at doing this. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Book Thief by Mark Zusak

As I am reading The Book Thief by Mark Zusak, I have been underlining and flagging the story to keep track of powerful quotes and moments that stood out to me. However, I have had to really determine whether or not something is worth marking because I am finding that my book is becoming covered in ink and Post-it notes. It is difficult to be selective, however, since the book is filled with such rich imagery that truly enhances the reading experiences. Since I am a person who has trouble creating detailed visions of what I read, I found this imagery to also help me picture the setting, characters, and scenes in the story. For example, on page six Zusak sets the scene by saying, "It felt as though the whole globe was dressed in snow. Like it had pulled it on, the way you pull on a sweater. Next to the train line, foot-prints were sunken to their shins. Trees wore blankets of ice." Through this imagery, I was able to not only see the winter wonderland that had been painted for me, but I found myself almost feeling cold. I never knew that words could have such power.

The power of Zusak's imagery and words made me ask myself,  "how could this book have possibly been adapted into a movie?" I don't think that the movie could begin to capture the images that Zusak has led me to create in my head. Furthermore, I fear that if I watch the movie, that the amazing images that I have generated in my head will be completely destroyed or replaced. 

Have any of you seen the movie? How do you think it compares to the book? Is it worth the risk to watch?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Book Trailer for Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty

Since I am going to be making my own book trailer very soon, I thought it would be helpful to look at book trailers for some of the books we have read. I came across this book trailer for Yummy and absolutely loved it! The music was so creative and I thought it captured the literary elements and theme of Yummy perfectly! Although I am not sure if my book trailer will appear as professionally done as this one, it does give me some inspiration for my own!

The story also inspired me to do a little research on Robert "Yummy" Sandifer and the events that took place in Chicago in 1994. What I was most interested in finding was the Time Magazine article published about Yummy. At first I was super frustrated because I could not read the article unless I signed up for a paid subscription to Time Magazine. However, with a little searching on Google Scholar, I was able to finally find the article. The downside is that I could only download a Word Document of the article, so I can't post a link to it for you to read before class. I will print copies of the article for you though and bring it with me! I think you will find it to be an interesting read. 

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri

When I first found out we would be reading graphic novels this week, I was little unsure about how I would like them. I have only read one graphic novel before and I never considered graphic novels to be "real books." After reading Part One of Jesse Karp's book Graphic Novels In Your School Library, I gained a new appreciation and respect for graphic novels. Prior to reading this section, I had never realized how complex and sophisticated graphic novels are. I was amazed to learn how much time, thought, and consideration goes into creating a graphic novel and just how detailed they are. This new appreciation peaked my interest and made me feel more prepared to step outside of my literary comfort zone. 

I began my journey outside my comfort zone with G. Neri's Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty. When I learned that this graphic novel was based on a true story, it made me so excited to read it. It may just be the history geek in me, but I love reading about things that really happened. For this reason, and many more, I absolutely LOVED this book! Not only did I find the story interesting, but Neri asks some hard questions that really made me think. One question that the narrator Rodger posed really stuck with me. He said,

"I tried to figure out who the real Yummy was. 
The one who stole my lunch money?
 Or the one who smiled when I shared my candy with him? 
I wondered if I grew up like him, would I have turned out the same?" (Neri, 63)

This quote stood out to me because while I was reading, I had a hard time determining whether or not Yummy was a victim or the bully. Although he clearly made poor choices and committed horrible crimes, I don't think I can agree that it was entirely his fault. Even if I wanted to dislike him, I couldn't. However, I was hoping that Neri would provide some sort of answer to this question. At first, I was a little frustrated that he didn't. But after I had put the book away, I realized how awesome it is that Neri trusts his readers to reach their own conclusions. Not only was that a great moment for me, but as a teacher, I think it is important for kids to also learn that they're capable of answering the tough questions too. 

Typically when I read, I am so concerned with the author's words that I completely ignore the illustrators contributions. I knew that when I read Yummy, I would have to slow down and allow myself to acknowledge and appreciate the illustrations in the book. Even though this was a little awkward for me at first, I was so glad that I pushed myself to do it because it improved both my reading experience and my overall understanding of the story. Also, I realized that the illustrator can convey messages as well. For example,in the beginning, when Neri is talking about all that Chicago is known for, the illustrator, Randy DuBurke, inserted Rodger into these scenes. He's on the court with the Chicago Bulls, arresting Al Capone, and so on. To me, this was DuBurke's way of making it clear to the reader that Rodger, and all children, have a connection and a role in the history of the city. The fact that I was able to gain so much from just a few pages made me realize how critical it was to not only look at the illustrations, but to question the illustrator as well. By doing so, I was able to realize that the illustrator has things they want to say to the reader as well. This is a huge "ah-ha!" moment for me. 

I think these images of pages 4 & 5 are interesting because they don't have the words. This really allows you to focus on the illustrations and what the illustrator is trying to say.

I am so relieved that venturing out of my comfort zone was a rewarding experience. I look forward to reading Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and to reading more graphic novels in the future. If you have any recommendations for some to add to my list, please put them into the comments! I would greatly appreciate it :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Buzzed Interview with Laurie Halse Anderson

While scrolling through Buzzfeed, I came across an interview with Laurie Halse Anderson, the author of Speak and other wonderful books, promoting her new book The Impossible Knife of Memory and talking about all things related to young adult literature. 

Two things in this article stood out to me. The first was Anderson's response to the question, "What do you hope readers take away from the story?" As part of her response she said, "...Not all people love all books, because you can’t write a book that’s going to speak to the condition of every heart." After reading Feed, this quote really resonated with me. I felt almost guilty for not liking the book and that I was unable to relate to it well. It was comforting to know that it is okay, and normal, that not every book will "speak" to me. What matters most is that it does speak to other readers and helps to provide them with new insights, understandings, and comfort for whatever they may be dealing with. 

The second thing that stood out to me was Anderson's thoughts on why adults should read young adult literature. I think that many adults are afraid to read young adult literature because they may not think of it as being as challenging or meaningful compared to the literature that their friends may be reading. However, Anderson's explanation of why it is important really helps to shine a more positive light on reading young adult literature. She says that adults should read it because, "It gives them insight into what their kids and the next generation of Americans are dealing with, which is important. It can also give them insight into some of their own stuff, some of their own sadness and sorrows, and shine a light on maybe some work that they need to do emotionally, which is very helpful. And also, the writing’s amazing."

I think that young adult literature has done all of that for me and more. I highly recommend checking out this article and reading more of what Anderson has to share with us!

Here's the link to the article!


Feed by M.T. Anderson


Feed by M.T. Anderson was a challenging read for me because I am very resistant to reading science fiction. Although this was not my favorite book, I still found it to be thought provoking and I can understand and appreciate why young adult readers and fans of science fiction novels would enjoy this book. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the book, one thing that motivated me to keep reading was Feed's similarity to our world. Today, we are constantly spending time in front of "feeds." These may not be in our brains, but they are easily accessible on our phones, computers and tablets. We are able to access tons of information and are always being exposed to new information and media. What is scary is that companies are able to access the things that we look at on the Internet and tailor the advertisements that appear on webpages to what we are looking at online. For example, I recently was searching for a new pair of earrings. Now every time that I log onto Facebook or do a Google search, advertisements appear on the sides of my screen for earrings. It is like the computer is reading my mind just as if it were in my brain. After this realization, I thought, maybe Anderson is right; Maybe the Internet does tell us what to think. Or at least, it has an impact on our thought processes and choices. 

Furthermore, like the characters in Feed, information is readily available to us and we can access it quickly and easily. However, it is so accessible that people may be confusing collecting knowledge with thinking critically. A professor of mine once said that everyone today thinks they are an expert but he cautioned that anyone can do a few google searches. But to be a true expert, it is important to take that information and be able to analyze, critique, and apply it. That's a skill not everyone has. 

Although not everyone engages in this critical thinking, I hated how many of the teens in Feed were portrayed as mindless and overly impressionable. They came off as having no authority over their own feeds or technology itself. In our reality, this is not the case. The Internet has plenty of smart teens who are in control of their feeds and "the Network." They use the Internet as a platform to think critically and to use it in productive and meaningful ways. For example, there are numerous teens who blog, join forums, create YouTube videos, and so on to talk about things that matter in our world and to start conversations that may inspire others to think in a new way. I think it is important to remember that there is some good that can come from the use of technology and the Internet and it is important to acknowledge both the good and the bad that comes from it. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

In the book If I Stay, Gayle Forman uses flashbacks to help the reader better understand Mia and the current situation she is. Although these flashbacks did help me to get a better understanding of the relationships Mia had and who she was a person, I felt like there was something missing from the story. As I mentioned in my previous post, after reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio, I have been finding myself thinking about all of the characters in the story and the impact that they have on the main character and the overall book.  When I was reading, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, I think that other character's perspectives were missing from the story. I wish that I had the perspectives of Kim, Gram and Gramps, Adam, and even the nurses, the social worker, and the pickup truck driver. This may have helped to know what happened to Mom, Dad, and Teddy and to gain a better understanding of the relationship Mia had with all of these people. I am also curious to know their thoughts, emotions, and reactions to what is going on. As R.J. Palacio clearly pointed out, there are at least two sides to every story and all of these important for fully understanding what is going on.

On page 82., the nurse tells Mia's grandparents that she has full control over whether she lives or dies. That the choice is all hers. Although I am no medical expert, I did not fully buy into this idea that Mia had the option to choose whether she lived or died. It just didn't make sense to me that in that situation, she would have much control over what happened to her. On p.180, Mia says, "I wonder if every dying person gets to decide whether they stay or go." It seems like she doubts that death is always a choice as well and maybe is even starting to question whether she really has the choice or not as well. Although I enjoyed the story, especially the parts about Mia's relationships with Adam and Kim, I feel like I needed to really buy into this theme of the "power of choice" in order to completely love this book. However, I do think it was well-crafted, because the cliff-hanger ending has me wanting to read the sequel to see if Mia lived and what her life will be like if she did. I am also interested to watch the movie and see how it compares to the book! From my experience, the book is always better!

The Julian Chapter- A Wonder Story by R.J. Palacio

The Julian Chapter is a short sequel to R.J. Palacio's book Wonder that retells the story from antihero Julian Alban's point of view, and was nothing like what I had been expecting! 

Now I must tell you that I can not say too much about the story without giving away both the plot of this sequel and that of the original book, Wonder. But what I can say is that this chapter is an example of how there are at least two sides to every story, and how it is important and worthwhile to listen to all of these sides before forming judgements about people. Julian may have been a bully, but when I read his side of the story, I was able to sympathize with him and to understand the choices he made. I think this is something that R.J. Palacio was trying to point out in Wonder as well. By offering the perspectives of Auggie's sister and classmates, it was not only easier to understand the challenges Auggie was facing, but to also understand the impact Auggie had on them, both good and bad, and how it affected the things they did and said in the story. I think as a reader, it is natural to empathize with the victim and to heavily focus on that one character's story. But as Palacio has pointed out, other character's stories also matter and play a role in the story. 

This realization has made me more aware of the characters when I am reading other books. It also has me longing for the perspective of other characters and wondering why the author does not provide them. This has made me more critical of the text, in a good way, and has me thinking deeper about what I am reading. There will be more to come about this in a later post, so stay tuned! 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Wonder by R.J. Palacio is about a boy named August who is as ordinary as any other boy. He loves Star Wars, playing video games, and spending time with his family. But there is one thing that makes August different. He was born with a genetic facial disorder that makes him look very different from other people and prevented him from attending mainstream school due to him needing many medical treatments. That is, until fifth-grade when August is able to start attending middle school. This is an adjustment for both August and his classmates. But along the way, August is able to meet people who opt to "choose kindness" and make his first year of school a success.

Although Wonder has plenty of moments that could break your heart, one of the hardest parts of the book for me to read was when the Pullman's dog Daisy passes away. I didn't expect to cry while reading, but all of a sudden, in the middle of Starbucks, the waterworks were just coming. I connected to this part of the story strongly because my family and I had to put my dog Shadow down in November. He was experiencing health problems just like Daisy so I could easily relate to how August's parents were feeling about having to make the choice to end their dog's suffering. It was one of the hardest things my family had to do and we are all still trying to cope with the loss.

My reaction to this part of the book made me think about something. When I read about the death of a human, I feel sad and upset but I almost never cry (Unless it is extremely sad like The Fault in Our Stars or My Sisters Keeper. Then pass the tissues, please!). However, when the death of an animal is involved, I can't seem to control my tears. This makes me wonder, why am I more likely to cry over the death of an animal than that of a human? I feel like many of my friends and family experience this as well. I'm not sure if we have just become conditioned to hearing or reading about the death of other humans or if it is something else that triggers such a response.

Another thing I thought about after reading was that even though I empathized with August, I could not help myself from putting myself in the other character's shoes. When I think about Jack, Summer, and Charollette, I admire their courage to befriend August and the kindness that they treat August, and others, with. Although I would like to say that I would have made the same choices as them if I was in a similar situation in middle school, I am not so sure that I would. This is not because I am mean-spirited or extremely shallow. I am just not sure if I would have felt confident enough to drift away from the crowd. I wish that I had been able to read Wonder when I was in middle school because I think it would have helped me to consider those who were bullied or treated differently and to try to find a way to "choose kindness" just like Jack, Summer, Charollette, and eventually the rest of August's fifth grade class did. And although I can not go back in time and choose kindness, Wonder was a nice reminder that when in doubt, always choose to be kind.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Reality Boy

While packing for vacation in San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico, I threw a book in my bag in case I got bored on the plane or the beach. To be honest, I did not plan on ever taking the book out of my carry on. I usually sleep on planes and I like to participate in as many vacation activities as I possibly can. However, the plane ride was a lot longer than I had anticipated. After trying to entertain myself with SkyMall and Sudoku for an hour, I reached down for my book. For the rest of the plane ride, I read the beginning of Reality Boy by A.S. King. I was drawn to the story immediately, and the book became a very important vacation activity for myself and my brothers! If only I could read all young adult literature on a warm sunny beach...  

Reality Boy is the story of Gerald Faust, a teen whose early childhood years were played out on a reality television show. Years later, he is still struggling with the anger he felt from the consequences that came from being on the show and the lack of love and support from his dysfunctional family. On the verge of snapping, Gerald is trying to break free from his anger and create the life he deserves.

What first drew me into this book was the show "Network Nanny" because family friends of ours had been on a similar type show before. They had three five year old triplets who starred on the show at the age of five. The same age as Gerald was. I remember gathering around the TV with my family, watching the nanny come in and try to fix these unruly boys. And even more vividly, I remember visiting the family after the nanny had left. I noticed the posters and charts all around the house, untouched since the cameras had left. The boys still unruly as ever. The nanny show didn't fix them. But I had never considered what impact being on the show had on their family or how it has impacted them today. After reading Reality Boy, I feel guilty for getting so much enjoyment and pleasure I got from watching the show. It is sickening to think about how many people also got so much pleasure from watching other peoples pain. It also concerns me how there are so many reality TV shows with children as their stars today. I wonder about the consequences of this form of entertainment and I worry about the kids who have no control or say as to what their parents put on TV for everyone to see. For kids, adults are supposed to be people in their lives that they can trust. But after reading Reality Boy, it's clear that they do not always make the best decisions. As someone whose guilty pleasure is binge watching reality tv shows, Gerald's story really makes me question the type of media that I mindlessly consume. Although I cannot promise to give up all reality tv, I think that this book has helped me to make better choices about the shows that I watch.

Another aspect of reality boy that I could really connect to was the rage that Gerald feels. Even though I have a very supportive and loving family, I still find myself getting very angry sometimes. I have never harmed myself or others, but the words that I say in these moments of rage can be hurtful and something that I regret. After reading this book, I quickly passed the book along to my two younger brothers. Once we had all read the book, we talked about how we all could relate to Gerald's anger.  I am grateful for the dialogue this book inspired between my brothers and I because it helped us to discuss an issue that has affected us all and is difficult for us to talk about. It also helped us to understand one another better and even my parents are now going to read the story to get a better idea of what us kids were talking about.

I look forward to reading more of A.S. King's book. Hopefully I can enjoy them in a beautiful and tropical place again.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Part-Time Indian Book Trailer

While I was doing a little searching on YouTube, I came across this book trailer for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I love how this trailer provides a summary of a story while giving a glimpse into the cartoons and artwork featured in the book.

The Skin I'm In

The Skin I'm In by Sharon Flake is about Maleeka, a seventh-grade girl at a rough middle school where she is teased daily about everything from the color of her skin to her homemade clothes. On top of the endless taunting, her "friends" take advantage of Maleeka's situation and intelligence and have a power over her that she just wants to break free from. Maleeka knows that she deserves to be treated better, but she has trouble coming out of the shadow's of her classmates and feeling comfortable in her own skin. That is, until a new teacher, Miss Saunders, comes to her school. Miss Saunders has a skin disorder and admits to her students that it has taken her a long time to love the skin she is in. It is her story and support that helps Maleeka start to love her skin, and herself, too. 

Even though I am not African-American, I could easily put myself in Maleeka's shoes. In middle school, I was always one of the kids who followed the rules and did their best at school. During lunch time and study halls, I enjoyed reading for pleasure. This was enough to bring upon the bullying. People would say rude things to me as they passed by or throw paper on my table as I read. Although I dressed pretty similar to my peers, I was not allowed to do a lot of what my peers were able to do. I was often mocked for being "sheltered" or "babied." As I read this book, and got to know Maleeka better, I wished that I had this book to read when I was going through middle school. It would have helped me to realize that I am not the only one out there that feels ashamed of who I am and may have helped me to gain some of the confidence I needed a little sooner. Furthermore, Caleb was another influential character because he shows that no matter what you look like, as long as you are a good person, there will always be someone who cares about you. 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is a semi-autobiographical
account about a teenage Native American boy, Arnold Spirit Jr., who struggles with numerous neurological and physical disorders. On top of these complications, he also deals with poverty in the reservation and the complicated decisions he must make in order to pursue his dreams. While reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I was impressed with how Alexie was able to discuss these real and painful issues that Arnold faces.

While reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I was amazed at how the author tackled painful and sensitive issues with humor. I knew that I was going to like this book when it simultaneously broke my heart and made me laugh. Alexie discusses  the challenges that Native American's face in a tone that is not intimidating. Rather, it allows the reader to process the information and reflect and question some of the harsh realities that Native American's deal with and why life on the reservation is the way that it is. Although I have learned about the brutal treatment of Native American's in high school and through some college courses, I have never had the opportunity to read about the issues that Native American's are facing today. The book being set in the year 2006 is powerful because it shows the reader that these issues still exist and are important. It does not allow them to rationalize these problems because they "happened a long time ago." Instead, it makes the confront the fact that the treatment of Native American's is still a problem and is something to be aware of. 
At the beginning of the book, Junior seemed to have a very black and white view of the world. He always felt like he had to choose sides and that the world of the reservation and the world of his white school could never coincide. I feel like this also reflects how many people believe that two different cultures can not live peacefully or co-exist with one another. One of my favorite quotes in the book is...
“I used to think the world was broken down by tribes,” I said. “By black and white. By Indian and white. But I know that isn’t true. The world is only broken into two tribes: The people who are assholes and the people who are not”.
 I feel this quote speaks to this issue and really opens up the opportunity to discuss the sensitive issue of racism today. 
Although the narrative is filled with tragic events, the things that happen do not come across as overly dramatic or shocking. Instead, it feels natural and normal. Almost like you are in an intimate conversation with a best friend who is sharing their deepest secrets with you. This style hooks the reader into the story and allows it to flow with ease. It makes for an enjoyable, entertaining, and thought-provoking read. 

Alexie has received numerous awards for his book, including the National Book Award, and has gotten a ton of praise for his work. If you're looking for a book that will make you think, cry, and laugh all at once then this is the book for you!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


When I finished reading Eleanor & Park  all I felt was heartbroken. My heart was breaking for Eleanor, who had to make the difficult (but brave) decision to endure a tremendous amount of pain by losing two of the things most precious to her; her family and Park. On top of that, she had to make the choice that would ultimately hurt the one she loved. Which led to my heart breaking for Park. Selfishly, my own heart was breaking because I did not want my relationship with the characters and books to end. By the end of the story, there were a whole lot of tears and tissues.

Not only did I fall in love with the characters and their story, but I fell in love with Rainbow Rowell's narrative technique and writing style. Written in third person (omniscient), Rowell lets us jump back and forth between the narrator's who are well in tuned to Eleanor and Park's experiences. In the beginning, they each get longer sections to share their part of the story. But as they begin to get to know each other better, the narratives swap more frequently. I think that this is a great way to reflect how the two character's are coming together. It lets the reader into the world that Eleanor and Park live in while providing us with the emotions, thoughts, and opinions of each other that they experience as they fall in love.

One thing that struck me about this alternation point-of-view was being able to see how Eleanor viewed herself versus how Park saw her. In Eleanor's point-of-view, she refers to herself as fat, ugly, and having terrible hair. I think this is important because every teenager feels this way at some point or another. But what's really remarkable is that while reading from Park's point-of-view, he never once uses these negative words to describe Eleanor. Although he admits that she looks weird or different, he describes her as pretty, beautiful, and cute.

Rowell's careful crafting of the narrative structure allowed her to share a subtle but very important message about self-image. Eleanor and Park both suffer from a lack of self-confidence, issues with body image and social status, and the nagging question every teenager faces, "Do I fit in?" This is something I could relate to, as I felt the same way throughout high school. It makes me think about some of the people in my high school graduating class. It makes me wonder how many of them felt the same exact way and if we had known that at the time, would we have been a little kinder to each other? Thinking about the answer to that question leaves me feeling one way. Heartbroken.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Eleanor & Park

When I was selecting the books I would read this week, I was having trouble deciding which ones I wanted to read from the list. A good friend, however, made my decision a little bit easier after she highly recommended the book Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Set in the late 1980's, this book follows two sixteen year old misfits and captures the highs and lows of first love. As my friend explained to me, this book is not your typical love story. But this honest and relatable story of high school love is exactly what drew me to this book. Unlike most teen love stories, Eleanor and Park are not perfect. They are not the most attractive, smart, or popular people in school (according to today's societal standards) but they are all of those things in their own way. This book shows that their perceived flaws are what make them beautiful and unique. I think that is an important and strong message for anyone.

From the book cover and what I have read so far, music is extremely important to Eleanor and Park. I can totally relate to that because I always have some sort of music on in the background no matter what I am doing. Rainbow Rowell also likes music and, fortunately for us, she created playlists based on her characters Eleanor and Park. I love how she created the playlists to be similar to the cassettes that were played in Eleanor and Park's walkmans! It's so creative! On her blog, she includes a very long post with music videos and her thoughts for all four playlists. But if you would rather just listen to the playlists, click on the links below...

"I just want to break that song into pieces and love them all to death.” - Eleanor (p.54)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

Crank by Ellen Hopkins is about high school junior Kristina Georgia Snow. From the outside, she looks like the perfect girl. She lives in a beautiful home with a nice family, earns good grades, has quality friends, and always makes the right choice. But when she visits her father, Kristina disappears and is replaced by Bree. While visiting her father, Bree meets "the monster" and her life is changed forever

Due to the quick read on Thursday, I reread the beginning of Crank to refresh my memory. As I read, I realized that I had made a major mistake! I originally thought the main character's name was Bree. However, after rereading the beginning of the book, I realized that her real name is Kristina and Bree is who she becomes when she wants to escape her good-girl self. Rereading became a strategy I used while reading this book because it helped me to clarify any confusions (such as the main character's name) and to catch all of the small details in the book. 

Once this confusion was cleared up, I started to really get into the story and I found myself unable to put the book down. There were so many times I wanted to stop and blog about my reading, but I did not want to break away from the book. Instead, I covered the book in Post-it notes and pencil, marking up all the spots that evoked a feeling, reaction, prediction, or thought as I read. A few hours later and my book looked like this... 

If you read the book, you will understand this Post-it notes madness. 

Although I've never had experience with addiction or drugs, I found myself relating to Kristina. I understood those issues she had with her mom, the pressure she felt to maintain her grades, and so on. I think a lot of teenagers can relate to that as well. I think that they can also relate to the allure of Bree because sometimes that pressure can become too much and the desire to just let go overpowers all reasoning and logic. And despite how smart you may be, it can be hard to make the right choice with how to escape who you are. 

My professor, Dr. Jones, told me that a young girl at a conference she was attending described Crank as a vaccine. She said it was like a vaccine because you have to get a little bit of the disease in order to be able to defend yourself from it. So, reading Crank gives you a little bit of an understanding of what it is like to lose yourself in the world of addiction and the consequences that come from how one tries to lose themselves. I could not think of a better way to describe this book. It is honest and brutal. It really portrays the horrors of addiction and how it tears people and families apart. For those who may be feeling that tug of who they are and the person that they could become to escape that reality, Crank can be the vaccine for them so that they choose healthy coping methods rather than turning to drugs. 

I was beyond excited to learn that there are two more books in this series entitled Glass and Fallout. I am adding these to my reading list and look forward to completing the Crank trilogy. I have recently created a GoodReads account to keep track of the books I have read, would like to read, and to see what other books people are recommending. 
I'd love for you to also make an account, add me as a friend, and we can recommend books to one another! 

I also came across Ellen Hopkins' blog! Although she shares in her Author's Note that Crank is loosely based on her daughter's experience with "the monster," she provides more insight into her life and blogs about other projects she is working on. To get the latest news about her books, visit her young adult website.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Preview of Crank

As part of the first night of class, I was given the opportunity to preview one of the many young adult literature books that we will be reading this semester. After listening to the rave reviews from my peers, I chose to read a few pages from the book Crank by Ellen Hopkins. My first reaction to this book was that this was not going to be something I would enjoy. I am not a huge fan of poetry and the way the text was formatted was off-putting to me. Needless to say, I was cranky about the eight minutes of DEAR time I had to spend on this book. However, after an attitude check, I began to read and realized that my first reaction to the book was wrong. Although it was different from the books I typically choose to read, I found myself being drawn into the story. I wanted to know more about this girl Bree, her family, and the challenges she is facing in her life. I even found myself beginning to enjoy the stylistic elements of the book. On pages ten and eleven, I loved how the author structured the text and really showed off the comments and thoughts that Bree's mom had said to her. At one point, I even laughed out loud because it reminded me of my own mother and some of the crazy things that she occasionally shares with me. After this preview of Crank, I have been reminded of an old and important lesson; Never judge a book by it's cover.