Thursday, December 11, 2008


Crank by Ellen Hopkins has got to be one of the best and most powerful books I've read this year. It's the story of Kristina Snow, a 17 year old junior in high school who gets good grades and has a pretty low-key life. That is, until she goes to stay with her dad for a few weeks during the summer. Although she meets a cute guy and falls in love for the first time, she also tries crank (crystal meth) and, after the first time, she's hooked. It doesn't help that her dad does the drug with her. By the time she returns to her mom's house and to her "normal" life, the damage is done and she is officially a meth addict. As her more innocent self, "Kristina" slowly begins to disappear, her more assertive self, "Bree" starts to take charge. Bree likes living life on the edge, taking risks, lying to her family, ditching her old friends, and hooking up with guys who can help her score more meth. Her life starts to go downhill fast, and what happens to her at the end will shock anyone who thinks that meth can be a harmless pasttime, something you can do without repercussions when you're young. Crank is written in free verse poetry, which makes it all the more powerful. 4 out of 4 Bananas!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Give a Boy a Gun: Disturbing Yet Awesome

Mrs. Cabaj's freshman English class is reading Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser, and since I was working with them on a research project about school violence, I thought that I would read it, too. Like Stuck in Neutral (see previous post), Give a Boy a Gun is about high school students struggling with some pretty intense issues. Gary and Brendan are considered outsiders by the popular kids at school. They deal with constant bullying, especially from one of the most obnoxious football players, and often talk about how awesome it would be to slowly and painfully kill the worst offenders. Although it is highly disturbing, I really liked this book because it is told completely in flashbacks and from memories of students, teachers, administrators, friends, and family members of the two boys AFTER they took the school hostage and the town had dealt with the aftermath of their violent attack. Also, facts and statistics about gun violence and quotes from newspaper articles about real life school shootings are at the bottom of most pages. All in all, this was a fast read that spoke to an extremely serious and highly important issue facing our country today, so I'm giving it 4 out of 4 Bananas. For another author's perspective on school shootings, try Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stuck in Neutral: I'm Voting This One "Most Original"

Ms. Hayes' 9th grade English class read *Stuck in Neutral* by Terry Trueman and, since I helped them with a related research project, I thought that I would read the book too. I loved it! It is really short, really fast, and is about a subject that would make even the bravest person weak in the knees. Imagine if you were able to think, feel, and understand things just as you do now, but you were trapped inside your own body? Imagine that you were in a coma, or that you had severe cerebral palsy (like the character in *Stuck in Neutral*) and were unable to communicate with anyone or do anything by yourself, so everyone, doctors included, assumed that you could not understand, think or feel? And what if you found out that your dad was thinking of putting an end to your "suffering" by killing you? Terrifying, right? Shawn considers himself to be a pretty normal teenager: he likes music, girls, and TV, and he loves his family even though sometimes they drive him crazy. The big difference between Shawn and other teenagers his age is that he suffered a stroke at birth and has gone through his entire life unable to communicate or control his own body. No one knows who he really is, and no one ever will. His dad left the family when Shawn was little because he couldn't deal with the pressures of Shawn's disability, and has since become a Pulitzer Prize winning poet. Based on some comments his dad makes, and also on the research his dad is currently working on, Shawn realizes that his dad is thinking about killing him in order to end his "suffering". Does he do it? Does Shawn's dad kill him? Or can Shawn make a connection with his dad to let him know that he's really inside, a thinking and feeling person? Hands down, 4 out of 4 Bananas!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sold (disturbing, haunting... unforgettable)

Sold by Patricia McCormick is a novel told in free verse about the horrors of the international sex trade. It's also on the Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award list and the Read for a Lifetime list for this year. It is told from the point of view of Lakshmi, a thirteen year old Nepali girl from the mountains of the Himalayas, who is sold by her stepfather to pay off his gambling debts. She thinks she is going to the "big city"to work as a maid for a wealthy family in order to send money home to support her baby brother and to buy a tin roof for her family's mud hut. In reality, she has been sold to one of several middlemen, who sells her to another middleman, who smuggles her across the border into India and sells her to a brothel in the city of Calcutta. Once she arrives in the brothel, she is locked into a small, dirty room, is drugged into compliance, and is forced to have sex with customer after customer, until she loses the will to struggle. Once she stops resisting, she is allowed to live in the brothel among the other prostitutes, with whom she forges hesitant friendships. She sees much horror (girls contracting AIDS and being thrown out into the streets, girls being brutally punished for resisting, and the futility of trying to pay off their "debts" to the brothel's madame). She also experiences small acts of kindness and, ultimately, is one of the lucky ones (relatively speaking). This book is NOT easy to read (it's a fast read, but its subject matter makes it not an easy one). I read it before bed each night, which may not have been the smartest thing to do, but I feel that it is so important that I bought a copy for myself so that I can loan it to friends and family members. Because of its importance, its free verse style, and its haunting beauty, I'm giving Sold 4 out of 4 Bananas.

Monday, November 3, 2008

What Happened to Cass McBride?

I liked this book. I read it in just a few nights, so if you're in the mood for a fast-paced, suspenseful, fairly easy read, this could be the book for you! It's also on the Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award list for this year, which is why I chose it in the first place. It's the story of three high school students: Daniel, his brother Kyle, and Cass McBride, for whom the novel is named. Alternating chapters tell the stories of Kyle, Cass, and Ben, the officer interviewing Kyle at the police station. The novel opens with Kyle being interviewed by the police for his role in the kidnapping of Cass McBride. It turns out that Kyle's brother Daniel has committed suicide, and Kyle blames Cass because of a cruel note she had written that mocked Daniel and the fact that he dared to ask her out. So Kyle kidnaps her and buries her alive. This is how the novel begins, and it takes off from there, delving into the family histories and psyches of Daniel, Kyle, and Cass. How large of a role do our parents play in our lives? How much do they affect our perceptions of ourselves and the way in which we treat other people? Why did Daniel commit suicide, and. as the title of the novel asks, what did happen to Cass McBride? 3 1/2 out of 4 Bananas.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Northern Light: A Gentle, Inspirational Murder Mystery (Really!)

I just finished Jennifer Donnelly's A Northern Light, which is a Printz medal winner and is also on this year's Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award list. After the Taken debacle (see previous post), I needed to read another Abe Lincoln nominee and have my faith in the list restored. I would describe A Northern Light as Anne of Green Gables meets Little House on the Prairie, set in the Adirondacks, with a murder thrown in to add an air of mystery and to help the main character develop her sense of destiny. It is actually based on a real murder case from the early twentieth century, in which a young woman becomes pregnant and is drowned in a lake by her lover so that she does not get in the way of the life he had hoped to have. Their letters to each other survived, however, and ultimately helped convict him of her murder. A Northern Light is set in the Adirondacks and is the story of Mattie, a teenage girl who hopes to go to college in the city and become an author, until she draws the romantic attention of the handsome son of a wealthy local farmer. She also takes a job at a local resort, where she meets Grace Brown (the woman who is eventually murdered). After the murder, and after Mattie reads the sad letters Grace had written to the man who ultimately kills her, Mattie must decide what direction her own life should take. Should she forego her dreams of independence and education to marry a man who may not love her truly? 3 out of 4 Bananas

Monday, October 6, 2008

Taken (I hate to do it, but I've got to.)

Here it is, my first negative review. As the title of my post indicates, I do hate to do it, but in the interest of honesty, I've got to. After all, it's impossible to love every book you read, right? And I have had quite a string of awesome reads, so it was probaby time for something not-so-great. Another reason that I'm hemming and hawing so much is that Taken, by Chris Jordan, is on this year's Abraham Lincoln High School Book Award nominee list, which is why I chose it in the first place. I fully expected to enjoy the book because I like suspense-thriller fiction, plus it is on this award list, I actually kind of loathed it.
The plot centers around Kate Bickford, a suburban widowed mother of an adopted child named Tommy. Tommy is abducted in the novel's first few pages by the "man in the mask", who later appears in Kate's home and warns her to follow his "method" if she ever wants to see her son again. A local sheriff winds up dead, and Kate is arrested for his murder, which complicates her efforts to find her son. She is eventually released on bail and takes it upon herself to find the "man in the mask" and, ultimately, rescue her son.
The main problem I had with the novel is that it is sloppily written. I enjoy novels written for children and young adults, so it's not that I don't appreciate writing at a different level: I do, as long as it's good writing. There is a difference, and this difference is evident in Taken. The plot is also inconsistent, and several loose ends are never tied up. Also, the main character, Kate, never seems quite as worried or as devastated as you would probably be if it was likely that your child had been killed by an abductor. That really bugged me. Also, his portrayal of the lone African American character in the book is rife with stereotypes. Jordan even writes this character's dialogue using his conception of African American speech patterns and vocabulary choices, which, to me, is obnoxious and inappropriate. Finally, the climax and conclusion of the novel fell flat and left me with a bad taste in my mouth, plus it made me mad because it ultimately wasted time I could have spent reading something amazing! I keep a reading journal where I write down every book that I read, and, for the first time ever, next to the book's title I drew a little arrow pointing down to remind myself of how much I disliked this book! So, for all of these reasons I grudgingly give Chris Jordan's Taken
1/2 out of 4 Bananas.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


One of the books I read this summer was Firestorm, by David Klass. Firestorm was one of our freshman summer reads and was incredibly popular both this year and last, so I wanted to give it a try. What I liked about Firestorm was its fast pace and action-packed scenes. I also thought that the dialogue was pretty believable, as was the main character Jack's preoccupation with girls (he is 18, after all!).
Jack is the star of the football team and is with friends at a local diner celebrating his most recent victory, when a strange man walks past him and his eyes start flashing silver. Jack tells his parents about this strange occurrence, which ends up changing his life forever: the strange man is from the future and has been sent back to track Jack down and destroy him. As Jack discovers, his parents are not his true parents, as he also has been sent from the future to try and save the world (yeah, kind of like in "Terminator"-- but I forgave the author this obvious similarity because the rest of the book is completely original). The rest of the novel follows Jack as he eludes shape-shifters and makes strange new friends (a talking dog and a beautiful ninja-girl), while trying to understand his past and come to terms with the present.
Firestorm is really exciting and original, so it is definitely a great read for anyone interested in a relatively easy, action-packed, sci-fi type adventure. It also has some fascinating ecological detail worked into the plotline, so you get a little information along the way. It did take me a while to get beyond the author's writing style, however, because he wrote the book almost entirely (it seemed) in sentence fragments. Short. Sentences. Make it exciting. Although sometimes. It drove. Me crazy. You get used to it after a while.
All in all, I definitely recommend Firestorm and give it a hearty
3 out of 4 bananas!

Monday, September 22, 2008

1984 (or, The ORIGINAL "Big Brother": not the game show kind)

The last book that I read this summer was 1984 by George Orwell. It's one of those classics that you'll find constantly referenced throughout your life, in literature, TV (witness the "Big Brother" reality show), movies, and in general conversation. I'd never read it, however, so I felt like it was high time to get on board with this classic, especially since I really enjoy novels of dystopia. It's important to know that 1984 was published in 1949, so Orwell was imagining life thirty-five years from his present time, when the world is divided into three regional groups (Oceania, Eastasia and Eurasia) who are constantly at war with each other. Also, in this future society, Big Brother controls Oceania (the region of which Winston, the main character, is a citizen). Everything that Big Brother says is considered to be Absolute, unchanging Truth, so, when something happens that contradicts something Big Brother had said or done in the past, the past is ALTERED to reflect the new truth (although the new truth is considered to have ALWAYS been the truth). Confused yet? How can you change the past, you ask? In 1984, the past is altered by destroying newspaper articles, fabricating photographs, even eliminating people who may have borne witness to the earlier, contradictory facts. The citizenry is also terrorized and brainwashed by fear into refusing to remember contradictions in the leadership. Human memory becomes alterable, then, because absolute loyalty to Big Brother is the highest goal for all of the citizenry. Independent thought is considered Public Enemy #1, which sets the stage for the plot of this novel: Winston, the protagonist, has independent thoughts. Troubling independent thoughts. And the rest you'll have to read for yourself. 4 out of 4 Bananas

Monday, September 8, 2008

Three Cups of Tea: What Does Education Have to do with World Peace?

I'll admit it. I wasn't overly excited about reading Three Cups of Tea when I saw that it was a 2009 Abraham Lincoln High School Book Award contender because, although I admire those who commit their lives to humanitarian endeavors, sometimes their stories can be a bit treacly. I enjoy reading blurbs about humanitarian heroes in People magazine, but an entire do-gooder memoir? Luckily, I put my reservations aside and was rewarded with an absolutely stellar account of an unlikely hero and his tireless efforts to build school for impoverished Muslim children in the mountains of the Pakistani Himalayas.
Greg Mortenson had failed to climb K2, the most technically-difficult climb of any mountain in the world. He was descending the slopes when he took a wrong turn, got lost, and ended up spending several weeks in Korphe, a tiny village, where he saw students trying to scratch out their lessons in the dirt. Mortenson vowed to return with enough money to build a school for the children of the village that had hosted him so generously. The rest of the book describes the difficulties Mortenson had finding donors to help Muslims (he points out that everyone wants to help the Buddhist sherpas made famous by Mt. Everest) and explores why that is and why helping Muslims and Muslim countries is necessary in fostering world peace. He eventually found a donor and began to travel down the path that he will follow for the rest of his life.
Three Cups of Tea is important for all Americans to read, in my opinion, and that's not something that I say lightly. It forces us as a country to look in the mirror and ask ourselves what our priorities are and what we can do-- both as a country and as individuals-- to foster world peace.
4 out of 4 Bananas

Uglies: Read This Book!

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld was one of my top three books of the summer. If you haven't read it already, pick it up as soon as possible! As I've mentioned a few times in this blog, I really enjoy books set in a dystopia/post-apocalypse/alternate future where life has taken a turn for the worse, usually because of something we humans have done to our environment or to each other socially. Uglies is an awesome example of what happens after society's obsession with beauty is taken to extremes.

Tally is an Ugly. She can't wait for her sixteenth birthday because, when you turn sixteen, you have the operations to become a Pretty. You have extensive plastic surgery to change the shape of your eyes, cheekbones, arms, legs, nose; your eye color can be changed, your hair straightened or lengthened, and liposuction will make you thin. Even more exciting, Tally will finally move to Prettytown, where her life will be nothing but parties, drinking, sex and fun 24/7. What's not to love? Then she meets Shay, who doesn't want to become Pretty. Through Shay, Tally meets a community of people-- all Uglies-- who are hiding in the Smoke and trying to live life as it used to be, without the debauchery and artificial beauty of Prettytown. Tally's beliefs are challenged in ways she could never have imagined, and in the end she is left with making a monumental and potentially disastrous decision. I can't wait to find out what happens in the rest of the series (Pretties, Specials, Extras).

I loved this book and thought that its social commentary on our obsession with beauty and perfection was right on. A must-read for anyone in high school. 4 Out of 4 Bananas

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Welcome Back, Bulldogs

Welcome back, everybody!

My name is Mrs. Duell and I love to read (anyone surprised that the librarian likes to read?). I also like to talk about what I've read, so I created this blog in order to tell you about my recent reads. I would also love feedback, so if you have any comments or questions, post them! You don't need to login or anything.
So, did anyone read anything good over the summer?
I read a lot and will be posting about the books I read over the next few weeks.
See you soon!
Mrs. Duell :)

Friday, May 30, 2008

So Long, Farewell, Aufwiedersehen Adieu!

Today is the last day of school and, I have to say, it's a good feeling. I'm looking forward to enjoying some rest and relaxation, and maybe a summer festival or two downtown, and then returning to school in August refreshed and ready to go. If anyone is out there reading this during the summer, consider joining Lit Club in the fall! I think we'll have a lot of fun and, as always, students choose the books. As you would say in Indonesian, sampai jumpa! See you later!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Life As We Knew It

*Life As We Knew It* by Susan Beth Pfeffer is one of our summer reads for incoming freshman. I thought that I'd better read it in order to be prepared to talk about it next year, and I also wanted to try it because Mrs. Fritz loved it! Its premise is fascinating: Miranda, a teenage girl with the typical joys and frustrations of a high school student, is only vaguely interested in the upcoming lunar event she's been hearing so much about. However, when she and her family gather to witness an asteroid crashing into the moon, her life is changed forever because the asteroid knocks the moon out of position and pushes it closer to Earth. This causes geologic and weather-related catastrophes of global proportions: tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, and eventually drastic temperature changes. In the first few days after the event, Miranda and her family stockpile food, water, medicine, and other basic necessities in case things take a turn for the worse. It's a good thing they had the foresight to prepare, as life quickly devolves into a constant battle for survival.
I liked this book a lot for its realistic take on the aftermath of even seemingly insignificant global changes. It is timely as we witness the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, the cyclone in Myanmar, the tsunami in Southeast Asia, and other catastrophic geologic events around the world.
The only thing I did not like about the book is its unrealistically negative portrayal of two Christian characters (one of Miranda's friends and a pastor). It seems almost like the author has a personal problem with religion and uses her book as a platform for her views. She also makes several barely-veiled vitriolic remarks about the current president: an "idiot" who hides away at his Texas ranch. Hmm, now to whom could she be referring?
Apart from these weaknesses, I enjoyed the book and its realistic imagining of life post-apocalypse. 3 out of 4 bananas.
Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award 2010 Nominee

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

*Touching the Void* is Awesome

I love survival literature like *Into Thin Air* by Jon Krakauer (the true account of the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster) and *Left for Dead: A Young Man's Search for Justice for the U.S.S. Indianapolis* by Pete Nelson (the incredible story of the WWII ship sunk by a Japanese torpedo, leaving hundreds of men floating in shark-infested waters). There is something about the story of the struggle to stay alive in the face of desperate, hopeless circumstances that sort of renews my faith in the worthiness of the human struggle. There is also something to be said for a story that leaves your heart pounding and your jaw on the floor-- which mine certainly was as I neared the climax of *Touching the Void*. I felt like I had left Loca Mocha coffee shop and been transported to the slopes of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. Fantastic!
Back in 1985. Simon Yates and Joe Simpson were a couple of young, daredevil mountain climbers who decided to tackle the West Face of Siula Grande, a 21,000 ft. mountain in the Peruvian Andes. They successfully summitted the mountain using that route, but, on the descent, Simpson fell and broke his leg. An accident like this usually means death for the victim because there is almost no way to rescue someone in that situation. Simpson and Yates, however, manage to work together and get Simpson lowered several thousand feet down the mountain, until Simpson fell over a cliff and, as far as Yates knew, into a deep fissure in the ice. Yates had no choice but to CUT THE ROPE, as Simpsons body weight was beginning to pull Yates off the mountain. The account only gets more gripping and incredible, as Simpson, by himself, with a broken leg, with no food and water, manages to get off the mountain and back to base camp.
If you enjoy taking a glimpse into the minds of those who are driven by challenge, extreme danger, and extraordinary will, you won't be disappointed by *Into the Void* by Joe Simpson. 4 out of 4 bananas.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

I Am the Messenger

I just finished Markus Zusak's *I am the Messenger*, which was a 2006 Printz Award Honor Book (The Printz Award is given annually to outstanding YA titles). It's also been chosen as an 2009 Abraham Lincoln Award contender. So... I wanted to like it. I really wanted to like it because I loved *The Book Thief*, and I was anticipating another beautifully-written novel full of the figurative language I had grown to expect from Zusak (see previous post). I will say that *I Am the Messenger* has an imaginative plot that is always surprising and sometimes fulfilling: Ed Kennedy is a 19 year old underachiever who drives a cab for a living and lives in a shack with an odiferous dog named "The Doorman". Ed suddenly begins receiving playing cards in the mail, each marked with an address in the beginning or, as the novel continues, increasingly mysterious words or phrases which Ed must interpret. He must go to the home of the message's recipient and then figure out what message he must deliver. Like I said: clever, right?
I think that what I objected to in this novel was the voice of the characters, particularly of Ed himself. I loved that, as an Australian author, Zusak set his novel in Sydney and uses delightfully colorful Australian slang. My problem is that I felt like Ed is too whiny and navel-gazing, as are his friends. I felt like reaching into the pages and slapping him, saying "Get a life and quit your whining!" I also felt like some of the things the characters say (especially his rough-around-the-edges friends) are too romance-novel to be realistic. I don't think I'm a heartless reader, but it made me wonder if Markus Zusak himself is still going through some sort of "she loves me, she loves me not" teenage angst. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
My final issue with *I Am the Messenger* is the ending. I was gearing up for at least a satisfying answer to the question of who is sending Ed these messages for him to deliver, when... what? It was sort of a weird and all-too-quick wrap up for me.
Has anybody else read this? If you have, or if you do, let me know!
I hate to say it but I'm giving this one
2 out of 4 Bananas.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Book Thief

It's been a month of Markus Zusak. I finished *The Book Thief* a few weeks ago and am now reading his *I Am the Messenger*. I was startled at the night-and-day differences between the voice of *The Book Thief* vs. *I Am the Messenger*, but I'll save that for the next post. This post will be devoted solely to *The Book Thief*: an honor I think it surely deserves.
I actually didn't like *The Book Thief* very much at first; in fact, not until I was well over halfway through the book did I experience a massive shift from ambivalence to awe. I almost didn't type that last sentence because I don't want to sway potential readers away from giving it a try, but I also want to assure them that, even if it takes a while to get into, it's well worth the effort.
OK, I can't believe I've typed all that and still haven't described the book. Sorry. It takes place in Hitler's Germany, with chapters alternating between first and third person narration. The third person narration tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a little girl who is adopted by a German couple after her mother becomes unable to care for her. The novel's title comes from Liesel's habit of stealing books and the importance that each title has in her life. The first person narration is by Death. You heard me right. Death is the narrator. In the author section at the end of the book, Markus Zusak explains how he originally had given Death a cruel persona, but changed his mind and instead made Death a sympathetic narrator. This device is what made the book so shattering to me. The idea of Death being tormented by all of his "work" during the Holocaust years is really haunting; in fact, at one point Death explains that he is "haunted by humans." Beautifully tragic, no?
The other element of *The Book Thief* that I loved was Zusak's use of figurative language. He combines metaphors and switches up images and descriptions to create new ways of explaining and looking at feelings, events, and objects. He also uses colors to lend additional meaning and feeling to events and people (hello, F. Scott Fitzgerald!).
Anyway, my point to all this is: Read it. Love it? Think it's too contrived? Let me know!
4 out of 4 Bananas
Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award 2010 Nominee

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Good Earth and Postmortem! Or, It's Cool to Mix Up Your Genres.

Over break I finished reading the Pearl S. Buck classic *The Good Earth*. I've been loving Chinese-related literature for the past few years, so it was only a matter of time before I read this one. It's the story of Wang Lung, a poor Chinese peasant who relies on the "good earth" for everything: his house, his food, and his work. He makes a special plea for a wife to the local rich family, and is given a servant woman named O-Lan. *The Good Earth* is the story of Wang Lung and his family throughout their multi-generational transition from poor farmers to wealthy city dwellers. It examines the importance of land and the inevitability of self-destruction as one moves away from valuing and respecting the land to valuing money, high society, and the acquisition of material possessions. My only problem with the novel is its lack of redeeming female characters. Wang Lung's wife O-Lan is regularly described as having "dull eyes" and having the dim intelligence of a farm animal. The rest of the women are lazy, greedy, slothlike, or shrill nags. On the other hand, there really aren't many redeeming male characters, either! So, in spite of a lack of likeable characters (or perhaps because of?), *The Good Earth* is a fascinating, riveting read and and I give it
4 out of 4 bananas.
So after *The Good Earth*, I was in need of a good, fast-paced, Spring Break read. I turned to Patricia Cornwall's *Postmortem* ,recommended to me by Mrs. Cabaj. It was just what the Spring Break doctor ordered! I whiled away my vacation hours reading about Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta, who ended up being instrumental to the capture of a dangerous serial killer. I finished it last night and was cringing as I turned the pages of the book's final scenes. Scary and fun, for sure! Sometimes you just need a little brain candy, you know? Thanks, Mrs. Cabaj!

3 out of 4 bananas.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jodi Picoult's *My Sister's Keeper* Movie-- They're Changing the Ending!

Mrs. Fritz just showed me an email written by a member of the Illinois State Library Media Association. This woman had recently attended a book signing by Jodi Picoult, who mentioned to the audience that she had just found out that the movie currently being made of her popular novel *My Sister's Keeper* will have an ending DIFFERENT from the one that she had written. When she tried to convince the producers to keep the original ending, she was told, "Readers don't matter." What!? I am outraged! Ms. Picoult encouraged the book signing attendees to write directly to the directors, asking them to keep the story's original ending. So here are their addresses, and I, too, encourage you to write to them and tell them that readers DO matter!

Mark Johnson (producer)

Tony Emmerich (director)

Can you imagine what would happen if they had changed the ending to any of the Harry Potter movies? When they finally make the movie for *Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows*, what if Harry dies and Voldemort becomes Hogwart's headmaster? What if Ginny marries Draco Malfoy? The Readers of the world would revolt, and rightly so!
P.S. I haven't yet read *My Sister's Keeper*, so if you see me in the halls, don't spoil the ending-- I'll read it soon and would love to discuss!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Year of Living Biblically

I just finished reading A.J. Jacobs' *The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible*. It was one of our Lit Club choices and was also recommended to me by a good reader friend. Jacobs' previous book is called *The Know It All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World*, which describes his effort to read the entire *Encyclopedia Britannica* from cover to cover, in one year. He must be crazy, right? As you can see from the book's cover, he actually went so far as to grow a beard, dress in clothing from Biblical times, and carry around a variety of props, musical instruments, etc. He didn't just jump into it haphazardly, however. He consulted lots of experts from many sects of the Jewish and Christian faiths; books; various versions of the Bible; websites; and even attended a Jerry Falwell church as well as a snake-handling church. He also visited Israel to meet a long-lost and vigorously shunned ex-member of his own family, a man he refers to as "Guru Gil". I liked this book a lot because in addition to being hilarious and different, it clears up some common myths about both the Christian and Jewish faiths.

As part of my new ranking system, I'll give this book 3 out of 4 bananas.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

*Nineteen Minutes* by Jodi Picoult

I just finished reading Jodi Picoult's *Nineteen Minutes*, which is about school shooting, bullying, and popularity. I think that everyone either in high school or teaching high school should think about reading it, even though it's not the most pleasant or comfortable experience because, let's face it, the topic hits pretty close to home. Jodi Picoult obviously took a lot of her material from the Columbine shooting as well as other school shootings that have been in the news in the past few years. One of the coolest things about Picoult is that she presents an issue from many different angles, so we are experiencing this event (a school shooting that took 19 minutes-- hence the title) through the eyes of the shooter, his friends, his enemies, his parents, his defense lawyer, and the detective working the case. Reading the details of the shooting itself made me want to put the book down and stop reading because it was pretty awful, but the book is so well done and the subject treated so honestly, that I'm extremely grateful I made it through the entire thing. Having said all of that, I highly recommend *Nineteen Minutes* because it provides a lot of food for thought, is well-written, and confronts head-on a subject that makes a lot of people (myself included, sometimes) want to bury their heads in the sand.
3 1/2 out of 4 Bananas
Has anyone else read it? Tell me what you think!
Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award 2010 Nominee

My Brand New Blog

Welcome to my new blog! I'm hoping to post what I'm reading, what's new in the library, and any random library-related ramblings I might have. Join me by posting your comments, suggestions, and questions!