Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Most Excellent Year

My Most Excellent Year by Steven Kluger was a book that I knew was going to be good from the moment I saw it. I thought that Kluger was very good at capturing the reader's attention by having it from three different points of view. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

After T.C's mother died, not many were able to help him through it. But one was: Augie. Augie was the only one who seemed to understand. He said the right things at the right moments and didn't try to sugar coat things with sorry. And even though he was only six years old, he knew that Augie would be a big part of his life, so he declared him his brother. And they were truly brothers, living at each other's houses, and calling each other's parents their own.
Now it is their freshman year of high school. T.C has found that he has fallen for Ale', a new student and person to their town. Ale` seems to have fallen for T.C as well, but she is afraid to because of her family structure. That's not the only thing she hasn't opened up to though. Augie has discovered that she has amazing talent as a Broadway star and is determined to show her. Ale`'s stardom future isn't the only thing on his mind. Even though it is obvious to everyone else, Augie hasn't fully realized that he loves Andy Wexler.
And in the middle of all this, there is Hucky. A six year old who is living at an orphanage and is obsessed with Mary Poppins. T.C makes it his mission to give Hucky the life that he has longed for in this charming novel about three friends.

I really enjoyed this book, and I think that you will too.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


When I was a fifth and sixth grader, I could not read enough sports books. I had already devoured every Matt Christopher book I could get my hands on years before and I read nonfiction memoirs of athletes every chance I got. Babe Didrickson Zaharias and Wilma Rudolph were faves of mine, and I longed to participate in the Olympics like they did. Granted I was nowhere near as good an athlete as they but I had the dreams to keep up with them in other ways! But I couldn't find enough engaging and interesting books to read. Greater I couldn't find keen girl characters anywhere. I lost momentum so I stopped looking for deeper, more thoughtful, realistic fiction sports stories. When I came across Soccerland by Beth Choat(2010), I tentatively opened the book. The same feelings came flooding back and I just knew that this would be another book that didn't keep me engaged. I neglected to notice the small smile on my face once I finished the first page. I was about to be wrong!!

Choat's career started with sports journalism where I am guessing that she has spent rich time with key athletes that I would drool to talk with. She knows what the lives of competitive athletes look, sound and feel like from her documented time in Olympic Villages and with numerous teams. She accurately reflects the joys and tensions that come with living in competitive sports in the 21st century. She brings her experiences to the table for those of us less-fortunate but equally fascinated female sports enthusiasts. And it was from that avenue that I enjoyed this read. This was the first time I learned what life might be like on the inside within the covers of a children's book, and I appreciated her engaging voice as well as her psychology-oriented brain.

Soccerland is the story of 14-year-old high school soccer star, Flor. She leaves home with the hesitant graces of her father and extended family, all of whom stay home to cover for her on the family farm while she attends a national soccer camp. She carries with her memories of her recently deceased mother who continues to greatly influence Flor's desire to play soccer at the top of her game, which is likely beyond what her high-school team can offer. Her coach knows Flor's history and serves as a fitting if distant role model as he cheers her on from home. Flor's time in the soccer camp thousands of miles away from home comes at a price, and it is there she comes to terms with what is most important in her life.

I enjoyed this read. If you are looking for a text filled with the world of competitive sports, especially female soccer, I encourage you to seek this one out. Let me know what you think.

The Running Dream

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen quickly rose to a quiet favorite as I read it.

While an accomplished author, Van Draanen is new to me. I know, I know: you are shocked. Heck, I'll be lucky if my close literacy friends don't disown me with that fact: Maika Yeigh has loved Flipped since it came out in 2001. But I digress: In addition to writing Flipped, Van Draanen authored the Sammy Keyes mysteries and Runaway among others. She is well known among the intermediate and middle school grades but this arena was not one I had seen her attack before. Folks who know me likely know my history with sports. While I am not competitive, physical movement has fueled my life. Alysa found The Running Dream in the library, handed it to me and said, "Read the inside cover. You might like this."

Smart girl, that Alysa. Once I started, I had to finish that same day, staying up late to complete the read. I enjoyed the challenges the main character, Jessica, experiences as she learns how to live life fully after having her lower leg amputated. Greater she struggles to unearth who she is, as a one-legged athlete who misses her two-legged adventures desperately. Over time, Van Draanen masterfully catches us in her story-telling web as we learn how Jessica grows into her own presence, journeying with new-found friends whom she would have never genuinely associated with while she had two legs. While I have been blessed with a lifetime filled with physical movement, I treasure looking back at the moments where I found my way through what seemed like impossible challenges, helping me know more of who I was at the time and discovering the community of folks who readily joined my journey.

One of the things I most appreciated about this book is how Van Draanen wrote it. She offers a spaciousness here in this text, which in turn offered me time to negotiate my own fears and discomfort with how living must be different for amputees. It also gave me time to land in a confirmation of the characters, ones whom likely walk around me everyday, just asking to be recognized for who they are not what they are missing.

I wholehearted encourage folks to read this book. The main character is a sophomore in high school, but I could easily see invested and engaged readers from fifth and sixth grade and definitely middle school thoroughly devouring this text. Readers who want to know more about running, amputation, and girl athletes will like this book.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Hunger Games

I am sure that many of you have heard of The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. A book that has swept the nation with its' suspenseful and jarring story of Katniss Everdeen. And for those of you who didn't know, they are going to be making a Hunger Games movie. It will start filming in late spring early summer. I can't wait! Here's a link to find out more:
Here's a link to a very well done fan made trailer on the movie:

And for those of you who have not read the book yet, here is a summary:

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen is dreading the day when one boy and one girl are chosen to compete in the annual Hunger Games, especially since her sister can be entered now. Each year, one girl and one boy are chosen from each of the 13 districts in Panem. They will fight to the death on national TV. The only rule is to stay alive.

When Prim, Katniss' little sister is chosen as one of the competitors, Katniss knows that she must do something. Her sister is too young to die. So, Katniss volunteers to take her sister's place, knowing very well what she is getting in to. Katniss knows that there is a very good chance she will not survive the Games in the harsh arena. Herself and Peeta, the male chosen, will have to fight to survive in this nail-biting book. Katniss will discover the harsh environment that the capitol has created for their own entertainment of watching the lower districts die. The winner of the Games will win a life supply of food and food for their whole district. This is the only good thing about the Games, but it comes with the price of lives.

Quotes from the book:

I'm relieved Peeta's alive. I tell myself again that if I get killed, his winning will benefit my mother and Prim the most. This is what I tell myself to explain the conflicting emotions that arise when I think of Peeta. The gratitude that he gave me an edge by professing his love for me in the interview. The anger at his superiority on the roof. The dread that we may come face to face in the arena.
-page 157

"They're sweet syrup." he says, taking the last spoonful. "Syrup". His eyes widen as he realizes the truth. I clamp my hand over his mouth and nose hard, forcing him to swallow instead of spit. He try's to make himself vomit the stuff up, but it's to late, he's already losing consciousness. Even as he fades away, I can see in his eyes what I've done is unforgivable.
-page 277

Are you on your way to the library yet?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Properties of Water

"...I want to jump off at Turtle Rock!," she adds. "Come with me!"

My stomach turns. Marni knows I am afraid to jump off Turtle Rock, and yet each time they go she begs me to jump with her. I don't think Marni has ever been afraid of anything."

This book caught me by surprise. The cover looks dark, and Alysa told me early on she thought I would like it. She told me she thought the cover implied a dark tale, where someone gets hurt. She couldn't have hit the nail on the head any closer.

The Properties of Water is a story about a young teen whose teen sister is involved in a serious accident and spends most of the story in a rehabilitation center for spinal injuries. Water surrounds the characters in the story and serves a particularly important role in both injury and healing. This debut novel for teens by Hannah Roberts McKinnon really engaged my senses of water and the potential fears involved with peer pressure and families journeying in the aftermath of accidents. I most enjoyed the interaction of time in this novel; it seemed at times as if I could hear the second hand on the clock while other moments sped by, making me want to slow down the words on the page. Family members fill out the cirlce of characters nicely, with actively engaged parents and grandparents showing up in meaningful scenes throughout the book. This book is set back East near Portland, Maine, where houses on lakes seem to be more of a norm than here in the Pacific Northwest. The main character lives on a lovely lake and I ahve a solid mental image of that lake from an expansive back deck off of the house.

I liked reading this book, and I look forward to reading more from this new author.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Im Exploding Now

So i just finished reading this really great book called I'm Exploding Now by Sid Hite. I found it extremely funny with a sort of different sense of humor, but in a very good way. It kept me laughing throughout the book. The whole story is told through journal entries, so it was all through his voice. I thought that was very neat.

So this is a book about sixteen-year-old Max Whooten who is living in New York, which in his opinion is full of boxes. He lives in the Whooten Box with his mother, father, his sister, and his cat Crappy. Crappy's real name is Mozart, but Max calls him Crappy because he poops all over the house. His life is pretty boring. It's summer, his best friend Leila, who he wishes was his girlfriend, has gone away to see cows (the actual animal) in Europe, while is other friend Trevor is still recovering from going crazy after getting a tattoo on his chest that said, "I Love God". His Sister Corey is out actually living a life, has a job, and a boyfriend, two things Max wishes he had, a job and a girlfriend. His dad is a struggling actor, and the only jobs he can ever get is headache commercials or lower.
Quote from book:

"There's one thing I'd like to do almost as much as the deed, and that is figure out how Crappy poops under the couch in the living room. It's only three inches off the floor, and yet he somehow manages to crap under there at least once a week. How he does it, is a family mystery. No one has ever caught him in the act.
I've been thinking about this a lot. My guess is that Crappy craps on the floor behind the couch, then goes away and let's it dry, then returns later and shoves the turd underneath with a paw. It's the only logical explanation."

But when Crappy all of a sudden is found dead by his litter box that he never used, Max is sent to Woodstock to lay Crappy at rest. Max decides that he would much rather stay in Woodstock for a while with his aunt then go back to the weird life in the Whooten box. His family is making it pretty clear that it would be just fine for him to stay there for a while as well, so Max stays.
While he's there, he meets a young artist named Zinny. They become friends, and in the end, Max has learned a lot about himself.

I definitely recommend this book. I thought it was very good.

Book Reviews

Hello! For the rest of 2011 and hopefully longer, my mom and I will be posting book reviews on this blog. We will be looking at new and older books, books we liked and loved. So please read and follow our blog! Also, feel free to comment and sugest books to review on or read! :)