I know my blog is primarily for reviews of books written for tweens and teens… but I also know that there are adults (parents, teachers, librarians, and writers) among my readers. Therefore, I am taking some liberties and sharing this book review on my own blog as well as my library’s Staff Picks blog. If any of my readers could stand to benefit from knowledge of a book, I think it’s worth making an exception once in a while. :-)
Earlier this summer, a patron came in looking for this book because one of her friends swore it was a life changer. I was in over my head with both personal and professional commitments, sleeping poorly, and desperate for anything that could help me change my “barely keeping my head above water” style of living. As soon as I placed a request for the patron, I added another for myself. The very day that I started reading this book, I read the first couple of chapters and started making lists of my priorities, goals, and routines so I could set up a concrete plan for moving forward. I am sure I probably could have worked through things on my own, but it was so much easier to have a step-by-step plan that was created by an author who had “been there, done that.” Although I would like to say my life turned completely around in the week it took me to finish this book, I have to be more honest and say that I’m simply on my way. I’m working on saying no to things that don’t help me reach my goals rather than over-committing myself; I’m working on finely tuning my morning and evening routines to get all of my “must do” stuff done (while letting go of the stuff that doesn’t truly matter); and I’m trying to live by the OHIO (Only Handle It Once) rule I once learned at a workshop about organizing — don’t put it in a pile or on a list if you can just get it done right now. So far, so good. Wish me luck!
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.
Today’s I Read YA Week activity doesn’t really lend itself to a book review, and I have been crazy busy today anyway, so I am going to just post the results of the quiz I took. I decided to take the “Which Children’s Book Character Are You?” quiz as Hermione Granger [from the Harry Potter series]. To be honest, I chose Hermione because I identified with her quite a bit and felt that I could probably just choose my own answers more often than not. Since there ended up being a few questions where I thought our answers might differ, though, I decided to take the quiz twice and compare the results.
When I took the quiz completely as myself, I got Stellaluna:
When I tried to be more mindful of Hermione’s quirks, though, it nudged me over to Mike Mulligan:
This was one of the most messed up books I have ever read. (I don’t mean that as an insult, by the way. I am referring to the content, not the writing.) It was like driving by a terrible car accident — you know you shouldn’t look, but you just *have* to see for yourself what’s going on. And although I did think it was a bit hyperbolic, it wasn’t completely outside the realm of possibility either. I mean, the Catholic Church is pretty well known for brushing things under the rug and covering things up to save their reputation, so why wouldn’t it be possible for a Catholic school to have insane hazing issues and major problems with student discipline in general? Let alone the fact that there have been so many darn hazing stories in recent years — many of which involved high school students and adults who looked the other way. Part of me wanted to reach into the story to slap the snot out of the so-called adults who let the insanity continue, and part of my wanted to stop reading in case something truly horrific happened because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle it. I think this story is like a more modern version of Lord of the Flies — only with adults who just stood by and watched everything unfold.
As you might recall, my son and I absolutely LOVE to check out all the incredible pictures and stories in these books! When I brought this latest edition home, he was actually disappointed that we had to sit down to eat dinner instead of going straight to the couch to check it out. :-)
Some of our favorite wacky and creepy items in this edition were:
- “Fake Family” [p. 26] — Alice Winstone has spent nearly $20,000 creating a nursery for 50 lifelike baby dolls that she “feeds,” bathes, and even sleeps with.
- “Corpse Bride” [p. 48] — though the owner of the bridal shop says it is only a mannequin in the front window, many people believe that she is really the preserved corpse of the previous owner’s daughter.
- “Speared Skull” [p.110] — a 3D scan of construction worker Eduardo Leite’s skull after a 6 foot long metal bar fell and pierced through his hard hat and his skull. Amazingly, Eduardo lived and was not even paralyzed!
- “Triathalon Juggler” [pp. 170-1] — Joe Salter of Pensacola, FL, completed a triathalon… while juggling the entire way!
- “Candy Magic” [p. 204] — an artist named Jason Mecier created a portrait of Harry Potter using only red and black licorice.
- “Lickable Wallpaper” [p. 215] — inspired by Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, this wallpaper featured cake-flavored stickers — each of which was replaced by an attendant after someone licked it to avoid the spread of germs.
- “Webbed Wonders” [p. 237] — workers from Clearwater’s High Rise Window Cleaners dressed in Spider-Man costumes to clean windows at the All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL. Talk about a great way to raise morale!
I could go on and on… but, really, you just need to get your hands on a copy and check it out for yourself!
So, it appears that people who follow my blog via RSS feed readers got quite the surprise earlier today. I heard from a reader that my work of editing old posts [to consolidate the categories "award winners" and "book awards"] put a whole bunch of posts back through her feed reader even though some of the original posts were years old… Sorry about that! In the future, I will do my best to avoid updating old posts unless absolutely necessary so that y’all don’t have to deal with that again.
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!