When this book won the 2013 Newbery Award, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to read it. It just sounded too depressing. Luckily, a friend read it and said it was actually funnier than it sounded, albeit sad at times, and that she thought my son would also enjoy it. I decided to get the audiobook because my son and I share 60-90 minutes of audiobook time per day in the summer driving together to my library and his day camp. (We share a parking lot with the Y!) This was our first audiobook of the summer, and it was a *HUGE* hit. So much so that my son was pretty much devastated any time that his sister was in the car and requested that we “waste” any of our time listening to music.
Although Ivan and the other animals were being held captive in less than desirable conditions, their actions and stories they told one another were often funny. The humor sprinkled throughout the story definitely helped to keep it light. My son’s favorite new vocabulary word, and the discussion of which he often used to try to convince his sister to listen to the story with us, was me-ball. You may be asking yourself, “What’s a me-ball?” Why, it’s a rolled up, dried out ball of poop that gorillas like to throw, of course! ;-) He thought that was hilarious, and he loved the loving friendships between the animals. The best part of the story, in my opinion, was at the end when the author’s note explained that this story was based on the true story of a gorilla named Ivan. I think it will do a lot to help readers understand that, though the thoughts and specific stories told by the animals in this story were fictional, animals surely want (and deserve) companionship and appropriate living conditions.
After her boyfriend’s death, Zoe is so overcome with guilt that she finds it hard to function. People assume that her reclusive behavior is owed to the fact that she’s grieving for Max, and she finds that their sympathy actually makes her feel even more guilty. In an attempt to unburden herself, Zoe decides to confess to Stuart Harris — a Death Row inmate in Texas who was listed on a website of prisoners seeking pen-pals. She thought writing to Stuart would be a good idea for a few reasons — 1. he killed his wife and would likely understand what she’s going through, 2. he is in the United States while she is in England, and 3. she could use a false name and address to avoid being turned in to the police. (Yeah. Her name’s not really Zoe.) Through her letters to Stuart, which she writes while hiding out in the shed in her backyard, readers learn about the events that led up to Max’s death and why she feels responsible. I’ll admit that I found myself getting a little frustrated at times, but I don’t think it was poorly done or anything. I was just too impatient and wanted to know what happened! I recommend this one to people who enjoy a little romantic drama with their mystery.
Just as it took me WAY too long to get around to listening to this audiobook, it has taken me WAY too long to post my review… Not cool, Chrissie. Not cool! (Especially since it won a Printz Honor and that should have been excuse enough to post about it.) I need to do something about my back log of books to be reviewed, and some of my readers are on February break this week, so I need to get down to business and start pumping out some extra book reviews. Enjoy!
Eleanor & Park takes place in 1986, so it is technically “historical fiction” to the teens I serve today… I mean, they weren’t even BORN yet! (Wow, that makes me feel old!) Though it was fun to reminisce about big hair, bold makeup, “Walkman” tape players, and phones on a cord, this story was not a fluffy look back on the 80s. It was a touching story about how one person can make all the difference when the whole world seems to be against you. About how halting conversations about shared interests, like comic books and music, can open the door to friendship. And about how a barely-there friendship can blossom and turn into love. Park’s family is “Leave it to Beaver” perfect, and he is relatively popular at school. Eleanor’s home life is horrid and the kids at school take great pleasure in bullying her about her clothes, weight, and unruly red hair. And yet, Park can’t help himself. He doesn’t care what everyone else thinks about “his” Eleanor. He only knows he will do whatever it takes to try and make her happy.
To be completely honest, there was only one thing I didn’t like about this book… It ended! Seriously, though, I *really* hope that the ending was not just a “form your own opinion about what happened” thing but, instead, left it open for a sequel. A girl can hope, right?!? ;-)
I absolutely LOVED Code Name Verity, so I had a feeling that I would enjoy this book too. Enjoy feels like a wrong word to use, though, considering all the terrible things that happen. The story is narrated by young Rose Justice, an American ATA pilot who got lost, landed in the wrong airfield, and ended up a Nazi prisoner in the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Though there was so much more to the Holocaust than Rose ever could have seen or experienced in her abbreviated stay in the one small portion of that one particular women’s camp, the horrors still added up rather quickly. I was especially sickened to hear the details behind the medical experiments that were done on the “Ravensbrück Rabbits.” I think readers who haven’t yet learned about the Nazi doctors and the Nuremburg Trials may find these details especially disturbing, since I found it hard to listen to even though I already knew a lot of what had been done. Despite the darkness she revealed, though, I found it heartening that Wein managed to shine a spotlight on the friendship, generosity, and hope that helped so many people survive against the odds.
It’s evident that Elizabeth Wein was very thorough in her research, and the author’s note at the end of the story was a lovely added bonus. I especially liked hearing about how Wein’s stay at European Summer School at the Ravensbrück Memorial site affected her. (You can read journal entries about this stay on her website — http://www.elizabethwein.com/my-visit-ravensbr%C3%BCck-august-2012.) There were only two things that I honestly didn’t like about listening to the audiobook. One was that I had to pull over to cry a couple of times. (That happened with Code Name Verity, too, so I came into the story expecting it would happen again.) The other was when the narrator jarred me out of the story by saying “skuh-lee-tle” as she described the survivors of the concentration camps. I re-played that sentence probably 4 or 5 times before I realized she had mispronounced the word “skeletal”… All of Wein’s tireless research to get the story right, and everyone involved in the audiobook production missed this egregious mispronunciation — and not just once, but twice! /sigh
This has got to be one of the funniest audiobooks I have ever listened to. Seriously! Adam Rex wrote a hilarious story and Bahni Turpin’s narration was absolutely fantastic. It’s no wonder this book received the Odyssey Award! My son and I listened to it together, and we loved it so much that we harassed my husband until he agreed to listen to it too. Even though it’s been more than a month since we all finished listening, we keep talking to each other like the Boov (alien) named J. Lo — and it’s gone on long enough that even my 3-year-old has started to talk like a Boov! I’m pretty sure it won’t matter how many times I hear it; I will always laugh when I hear my son shout, “SHOOT FORTH THE LASERS … FROM MY EYEBALLS!” Priceless family bonding. ;-)
You may be wondering, “What’s this story about?” Well… When an alien race [the Boov] took over Earth and claimed it as their own planet, they renamed Christmas as Smekday and forced all the humans in North America to relocate to Florida. Later, after the Boov were vanquished, students across the US were given the chance to explain the true meaning of Smekday in an essay. This story is Gratuity “Tip” Tucci’s story/essay.
P.S. Random House has an excerpt on their website if you want to check it out for yourself — http://www.randomhouse.com/book/202129/the-true-meaning-of-smekday-by-adam-rex
I hate to admit that it took me so many years to actually read this book. It would have made sense for me to read it after hearing rave reviews from kids and adults alike. It would have made sense to read it when it was turned into a Broadway hit, or later when it was turned into a hit movie… but what finally made me get the audiobook and listen to this story was the opportunity to meet Michael Morpurgo when he presented the 2013 Arbuthnot Lecture. Since I am the Vice President of the Youth Services Section (YSS) of NYLA, I had the opportunity to sit in the VIP section of the chapel and then to sit at the head table with Michael during the YSS Spring Conference Luncheon last week — I *had* to read this book if I wasn’t going to feel like an idiot! Needless to say, I loved the story AND the lecture. And, fortunately, I can tell you that Michael Morpurgo is a very friendly, down-to-Earth man who had no problem posing for a picture with a geeked-out Tween & Teen Librarian. ;-)
15-year-old Evie Spooner is a bit awkward and wishes she could grow up a little bit a lot faster. She wishes she could be more like her mom, Beverly, whom she sees as a beautiful (albeit over-protective) mother and housewife who is capable of making practically anything look elegant. Being a housewife is more of a recent thing for Beverly, though. During WWII, Beverly had to work in a local department store to help support her family, but her husband/Evie’s step-father is back from the war and is able to take care of his family again. Joe’s appliance stores are doing really well, and he is happy to be back home in Queens, but the sudden appearance of a war buddy [Peter Coleridge] gets Joe acting strangely. Apropos of nothing, he decides to take Evie and Beverly to Palm Beach. The town is mostly shut down because they’re there during the wrong season, but they manage to find a room at Le Mirage — where they end up meeting a glamorous couple, Mr. and Mrs. Grayson [also from New York City]. Secrets slowly unfold, as Evie sees and hears things she shouldn’t… But, by the time Evie figures out what’s going on, she is already caught in the middle of a web of lies. This is a great mystery, especially for people who enjoy historical fiction.
There are a host of book awards that are given out by the ALA every year, but I am only posting three categories on my blog. Why? Partially to help them get more web traffic on their own website [http://www.ala.org/news/mediapresscenter/presskits/youthmediaawards/alayouthmediaawards] and partially to make things easier on myself… but mostly because the three that I am posting are the three that I was most curious to hear about this year. I certainly appreciate that all of the awards are important, but I am posting about the William C. Morris YA Debut Award (which honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature), the Odyssey Award (for excellence in audiobook production), and the Michael L. Printz Award (for excellence in literature written for young adults). Makes sense based on what I review, right?
2013 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Winner
by Rachel Hartman
2013 Odyssey Award Winner
The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green, read by Kate Rudd
2013 Michael L. Printz Award
by Nick Lake
2013 Michael L. Printz Honor Books
Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Dodger by Terry Pratchett
White Bicycle by Beverly Brenna
And that means a few things:
- The Teens’ Top Ten list has been announced.
- I will be posting a book review a day, today through Saturday.
- Our library will be hosting it’s 5th Annual TRW Lock-In — with a Hunger Games theme!
Happy Teen Read Week!