30 Day Book Challenge: Day 28 – Favorite Title

Studies show that people only have seven seconds to make a first impression.

I think it takes maybe two seconds for a book to make a first impression. The first things a reader notices about a book are its cover and title. Those two pieces can hold a TON of information and function to draw readers.

That’s why titles have to be memorable!

For that reason, I chose Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

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Goodreads Summary:
In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

I LOVED this book! I hope I get a chance to teach it in my classroom. It’s wonderfully written with a balance of humor and heart and honesty.

Some teachable topics for this book:

-Identity, especially for minorities

-Graphic novels

-Banned books

-American history

-Discrimination and prejudice

I think it also appeals to those reluctant readers because the novel is accessible and relatable. It brings home a serious, thought-provoking message without sounding preachy. There are also PICTURES! Like this one!

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I hate the assumption that pictures in books are meant for children. There is an ever-growing audience for graphic novels that are renowned for their literary content. The pictures in this book add to the story and make it more diary-like.

Finally, this book with an amazing title has recently been banned in New York which, as many readers can attest, makes a book even more interesting!

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30 Day Book Challenge: Day 19 – Favorite Book Turned Movie

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Sometimes when the stars align, hell freezes over, and we all hold our collective breath at the same time- a book to movie adaptation is just as good as the book. Obviously, this is a rare occurrence, but it IS possible.

Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those rare occurrences.

The story of teenage Charlie’s adventures were perfectly translated onto the silver screen this past year. I was so nervous for how they would make the movie because the characters and the narration fit together in the novel’s world so perfectly that I didn’t think any adaptation could do it justice. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the movie! I was disappointed that they didn’t play up the whole Charlie being abused thing and they skimmed over some of the other more serious issues, but overall I was pleased. I think it captured the book’s feeling and the character’s heart and quirkiness. The casting was perfect. I also think that it helped that Chbosky, the author, helped adapt the book to a screenplay. I honestly think this should be standard for book to movie translations.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 6- A Book That Broke My Heart

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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I’ve been wanting to write a post about this book for a while, and this is the perfect opportunity. I read a borrowed copy of this book on a road trip to New Orleans for a Sigma Tau Delta English Honors Society convention (It was a blasty blast). The trip was half a day long; I had gotten almost no sleep; I was in a car with people I barely knew (but they were very kind and awesome). So I start reading this book, and I finish it within hours, and I’m just sitting in the backseat of this rental car with tears pouring down my face, trying to sob quietly so these people who barely know me don’t think I’m psychotic. They saw me, but thankfully they’re English majors too so they understood.

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This book breaks my heart because I just really wanted a happy ending, even though I knew there couldn’t possibly be one. I loved the characters so much that I wanted a miracle to happen. I wanted literary proof that bad things don’t happen to good people, especially when they’re young and in love. Green’s writing in this novel is so beautiful and meaningful that it filled my heart with warmth, even after all the tears. Yes, it broke my heart, but, in the end, I was ok with that because, like the characters, I found that the experience was worth the pain.

 

My other posts about John Green: Looking for Alaska    An Abundance of Katherines 

Friday Five: Books I’m Looking Forward to Reading

1. Every Day by David Levithan

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About: There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

 Why I’m looking forward to it: Someone in one of my young adult lit classes read it for a project, and she absolutely loved it. It’s been getting rave reviews everywhere I’ve looked online. I’ve read Levithan’s work before, and the concept is extremely interesting and original.

 2. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

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About: Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well wishers who’ve long forgotten her.

The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details—proof they hope may free Ben—Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club…and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all.

As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members—including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer

 Why I’m looking forward to it: I read Flynn’s Gone Girl (Read my review here), and I fell in love with her style of storytelling. I’ve heard her other books are even better. I’m going to test that theory for myself.

 3. The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

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About: Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her—her identity, her spirit, her will to live—pay.

Josh Bennett’s story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

 Why I’m looking forward to it: I got this book for free from NetGalley a while back, and I’ve been seeing it everywhere since then. I think the story will be really interesting, and I’m ready to see if it lives up to all the hype.

 4. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

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About: In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most.

Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page

 What I’m looking forward to: I read Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns in high school and became a fan. Recently he came to my hometown for a community-wide book discussion and keynote, and I got him to sign my copies (OMG moment). His stories are powerful and life altering. I can’t wait for him to transport me to another world again.

 5. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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About: In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck…A sophisticated, layered, and heart-achingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make, and ultimate choice Mia commands.

What I’m looking forward to: EVERYONE loves this book. It’s gotten so many accolades and great reviews. My interest is piqued because I thought it was just another drama-junkie YA novel, but I’ve heard the writing is beautiful and that the book changes your life.

Friday Five: My Favorite YA Heroines

  1. Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
    Hermione is my everything. I don’t care if it’s cliché. Harry Potter made me fall in love with reading. I’d read and enjoyed books before, but these books ignited my voracious love for the written word, and Hermione was the first character of her kind that I’d encountered. Unabashedly bookish, brave, clever, loyal, and all around awesome, I wanted (ok, still want) to be Hermione. I love that Rowling wrote such an unapologetic character. Hermione is muggle-born (a stigma in the wizarding world), she’s a know-it-all, and she’s not concerned about being in style or being cool. She works hard and helps her friends.
    Best Hermione Quote: “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things — friendship and bravery.”
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  2. Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
    To understand my deep love for Katniss, you have to know that when I read the Hunger Games for a class my freshman year, I was coming off the cultural high known as Twilight. Yes, I too was once swept up in the madness. This, in addition to reading other sappy YA novels left me looking for a girl I could actually admire. Enter Katniss Everdeen. First off, Katniss is a grade A++ badass. She hunts with a bow and arrow, volunteers to compete in the Hunger Games, and wins. More than that, Katniss has two guys pining for her pretty heavily. BUT- She. Doesn’t. Care. She’s got a revolution to inspire, people! Bigger fish to fry than deciding which guy is more of a dreamboat! Obviously, romance comes into play, but I love that Katniss is a female character whose life DOESN’T revolve around guys. FOR ONCE! Plus, Katniss made braids and archery cool.
    Best Katniss Quote: “No one will forget me. Not my look, not my name. Katniss. The girl who was on fire.”
    Jennifer Lawrence stars as 'Katniss Everdeen' in THE HUNGER GAMES.
  3. Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
    Cinder is the vamped up, modern Cinderella. Except, she’s a cyborg- part human, part machine. She’s still Cinderella in the sense that she’s stuck with an evil stepmom and stepsister who treat her like and indentured servant and refuse to let her go to the Prince’s ball. Cinder, however, is also the kingdom’s best mechanic which I obviously love because mechanics are stereotypically male. She also doesn’t cower in the face of adversity. She’s brave, confident, funny, cool, and someone I could see myself being friends with in the event that I happen to live in the distant future where cyborgs are an everyday thing.
    Best Cinder Quote: “I’m sure I’ll feel much more grateful when I find a guy who thinks complex wiring in a girl is a turn-on.”
    Read my review of Cinder
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  4. Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
    Living under the Nazi regime, Liesel is followed by Death everywhere she goes. Death, the narrator, doesn’t usually stop to pay attention to humans, but Liesel catches his attention. She’s strong. She suffers through the death of her family and moving to a foster home. She steals books before she can even read them. She helps hide a Jewish man in her basement. I don’t even have the right words to describe how beautiful Liesel is as a character. She’s especially important to me because of her compassion and her devotion to the written word, a love I clearly share.
    Best Liesel Quote: “I have hated the words, and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”
    Read my review of The Book Thief
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  5. Lena Haloway from The Delirium trilogy by Lauren Oliver
    Lena lives in a dystopian world where love is treated like a disease. Her society even vaccinates for it. In her world, love is dangerous. You can get infected by it and become an outcast while experiencing the pain that comes with feeling love. Lena is ready to get rid of those pesky feelings. Then a few days before she’s cured forever, she falls in love. I could read about Lena’s life forever, and that’s a true credit to Lauren Oliver. She writes incredible characters.  Oliver seamlessly develops Lena throughout the trilogy and writes her with such rawness, that your heart can’t help but be touched.
    Best Lena Quote: “I’d rather die my way than live yours.”
    book-deliriumIt was hard to pick only five! There are, thankfully, a growing number of awesome heroines in YA lit. Please feel free to share your favorites or let me know if my five would match up with yours.

    Read a great article from YALSA: “What We Talk About When We Talk About ‘Strong’ Heroines in Young Adult Lit” http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2013/03/14/what-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-strong-heroines-in-young-adult-fiction/

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

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I’m ridiculously late to the game on this one. I’ve seen this book’s cover plastered everywhere for years and heard people (including my favorite English teachers) talk about it, but I never took the time to read it until it was required reading for my Young Adult Lit class.

The book has won the Printz award and has topped The New York Times best-seller list for seven years.

I finished it a few weeks ago, but I haven’t been able to put the experience into words. All I can say is that it has earned a permanent spot on My Favorite Books list. There aren’t even the right words, only feelings.

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Let me first say that, in my years of schooling, I have read MANY books about the Holocaust. MANY. I understand why, and I find the subject fascinating, but, at the same time, it can get tiresome. When I heard this book was about Germany in WWII, I was ready to be bored. What more could be said about the subject? What could be different? I’ve never read a story from the German perspective on WWII, and it’s incredibly humanizing.

Liesel Meminger, the main character, is not Jewish. She is an orphan who has lost her mother and brother and is shipped off to live in a foster home. I feared the worst for Liesel, as many foster home stories become horrific, but her new family is anything but. She lives outside Munich at the beginning of Hitler’s reign. Her new home on Hummel Street (German for “heaven”) and everyone she knows is changed by the Nazi regime.

Liesel copes with growing up and everything changing through the power of words. She begins to take books when she can, clinging to them as they serve for milestones in her life. Her foster father teaches her to read, and she shares this gift with her community during bombing raids as well as a Jewish man her family hides in their basement.

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There is so much to this story, but I don’t want to give everything away. Yes, it is unique in that it is told from the Germany perspective, but the most interesting aspect of the novel is that Death is the omniscient narrator. Yeah, the old grim reaper, though he claims he doesn’t carry a scythe or anything foolish like that.  Death is intrigued by Liesel and follows her throughout her life as he carries out his duties.

The way Zusak crafts this story is so beautiful. There are so many phrases in the book that must be read and enjoyed over and over again like a savory food. His stylistic and artistic choices are so different from anything I’ve ever read. You know the ending from the very beginning, and the beginning is divided into several prologues that are unexpected in a young adult novel because of their sophistication.

This novel is a great example of how young adult literature is not only for young adults. The profoundness of the story is something all ages can appreciate. You’ll fall in love with each character. I especially loved Liesel who is an incredible character because of her innocence and her love for words. Obviously, as a fellow bookworm, I appreciate this. She is also, like me, extremely close to her father and credits him for teaching her important tools for life.

Ultimately, I walked away from the book with this deep love for the story Zusak crafted. As a reader, you’ll find a kindred spirit in Liesel. Furthermore, Zusak’s words will stir a familiarity within you that is rare in other stories. There will be images from the novel both beautiful and horrifying that will be burned into your mind.

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Like my last post, The Book Thief was featured on Buzzfeed’s “14 Books to Read Before They Hit the Big Screen” http://www.buzzfeed.com/ariellecalderon/books-to-read-before-they-hit-the-big-screen. It will be interesting to see how they translate Death’s narration onto film. It’s set to release in January 2014 starring Sophie Nélisse and Geoffrey Rush.

Finally, I’m most excited about this book because I can’t wait to teach it in the classroom. I would love to discuss it with my students and study it academically because I believe it is a true piece of literature that will be relevant long after its popularity. I would love to have feedback if anyone has taught this novel in the classroom or had a book discussion.

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Rapunzel’s Revenge by Dean Hale, Shannon Hale, and Nathan Hale

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I absolutely loved this book. I was surprised to find it in the juvenile section in the library since it was featured in the YALSA list. It’s also about a fairy tale character so I wasn’t sure if this would be advanced enough for young adults.

I was pleasantly surprised at the level of humor and narration in the story. There was also a lot of violence as Rapunzel used her hair to whip and tie up the bad guys. The authors took a classic story and revamped it for a modern audience and an older reader demographic with great success.

The pictures in it are great because they look like the type that would be found in a young child’s picture book, colorful and cartoony, but also take on a comic book vibe with all of the action in each panel.

What I loved most about this book was how Rapunzel was an Annie Oakley style heroine instead of a damsel in distress. She’s funny and brave. She was a joy to read about.

The only criticism I have is that I found it difficult to read, but I believe that’s just because I’m not used to reading graphic novels. I would absolutely recommend this. AND there’s a sequel: Calamity Jack!

Curriculum Connections/ Caveats: I would suggest this book for a middle school reader, especially a girl. It’s a great transition from juvenile to young adult literature. It’s a more mature Junie B. Jones fun in graphic novel form. I think it’s also important that it features a girl protagonist since many super heroes and graphic novel characters are geared toward males. However, I would also suggest this book to young boys because it’s action packed enough to keep them interested, and it allows them to see a girl in a role that is not often seen.

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