Sunday, February 12, 2012

In My Mailbox: Post Graduation Reading

It's certainly not the first time I've gotten books in the mail but it is my first time participating in IMM. I am getting closer to graduation and the anticipation cursed through my veins and prompted me to order books to read when I'm done. Here's what I got last week:

  • Why Does E=mc2 (And Why Should We Care?) by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw
    • An explanation of Einstein's famous equation. I enjoyed all my hard science classes and think I'll enjoy this book on relativity, gravity, mass, etc. It purports to be in layman terms. We'll see about that.

  •  Keeper by Mal Peet
    • I was first introduced to Paul Faustino, sports reporter, in Exposure. He's an interesting character who's intrigued me despite my utter indifference to sports. 
  • The Abhorsen Trilogy paperback box set with Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen by Garth Nix.
    • I've read the first two and they were instant favorites. I know I'll be reading them again and again. I began listening to Abhorsen but got busy. I'm looking forward to finishing the series after school!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Review: Books: A Living History by Martyn Lyons

Attention Book Lovers! Are you interested in the creation of “the book?” Are you curious about its future at a time when ebooks are gaining popularity? In this fascinating and wonderfully illustrated tome, Martyn Lyons chronicles the development and status of the book.

More than a tribute to the codex (what we recognize as a book with two covers, a spine and paper in between), Lyons looks at how books have come into being -- the reasons people  bothered to write things down, how books were treated and the technological changes that made new formats possible. He covers ancient texts like cuneiform tablets and Chinese bamboo books to the rise of modern publishing houses, genres, the mass marketing of books and finally ebooks.

Lyons creates a flowing account of the book’s history that is easily digested. The photographs of artifacts, rare books, paintings and people that appear on nearly every page make a rich and visually appealing reading experience. If you would like to be a book aficionado as well as book lover then may I suggest Books: A Living History.

Publisher: Getty, 2011     Pages: 224
Rating: 5 Stars     Source: purchased copy

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Ha is ten when war comes to her home. She and her family leave Saigon on the last ship fleeing the city. Even after they land in the U.S. Ha, her  mother and brothers still feel adrift in a new and often hostile culture.

Inside Out and Back Again addresses war (in Vietnam), immigration, racism, bullying and family with simple verse. In each poem, Ha tells about her day, what went wrong and what went right. She talks about what it's like to learn a new language and what it's like to leave one's home not by choice but by necessity.

One feature that stood out for me was how simple cultural misunderstandings were dealt with by various characters. Some were willing to laugh and learn together while other characters let prejudice fuel cruel actions and prevent learning. Another interesting character interaction (or lack thereof) was between Ha and her teacher who seemed completely unequipped and uninterested in learning about Ha's situation and how best to help her feel comfortable and to learn.

Lai's book of free verse is told narratively, like a story, from Ha's perspective. So, don't let the poetry factor get in your way of reading this significant story which, Lai tells us at the end, is partially based off her personal experience. I tend to be critical of issue-oriented fiction and Inside and Back Again certainly is such a book; yet, I enjoyed it for it's rich description of setting and emotion and for the plain fact that it had a good story to tell. This book counts towards the POC Reading Challenge!

The above video is Lai reading her book. My favorite poem begins at 2:53!

Publisher: Scholastic, 2012     Pages: approximately 200
Rating: 4 Stars     Source: borrowed from my teacher =)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

People of Color Reading Challenge 2012 Sign Up

This challenge was such fun and so interesting last year that I am participating again this year.

What it is: "Any book (by any author) with a main character that is a person of color qualifies for this reading challenge, as well as any book written by an author of color. The goal is to encourage readers [to] have a more diverse reading experience and to support diversity in the publishing industry by reading and reviewing books by or about persons of color."

Why I participate: Last year I was motivated to diversify my own reading. This year, I realize more how important it is to encourage our publishing industry to make books available about and written by people of color. As a would-be children's librarian, I've come to realize how few representations there are of people of color in children's books. We can encourage the publishing industry with our purchasing choices and by highlighting books by and about people of color on our blogs. I am signing up for level 5: 16-25 POC books.

POC Books I Plan/Hope to Read This Year: 
Reviews added as I read.

Children's and YA Titles: 

Adult Titles:

  • Sula by Toni Morrison
  • The Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie

Review: Just Juice by Karen Hesse

Juice is nine, the middle child in a family with five girls. Times are tough. Pa is out of work. Ma is pregnant. And Juice struggles to hide the fact that she can’t read. When Pa receives a letter announcing their home has been sold for back taxes Juice devises a plan to pay the taxes and keep their home.

This is a story about learning to read. Neither Pa nor Juice can read and it affects the entire family. Juice tries to hide her inability by keeping away from school and “pretend” reading to her younger siblings. Juice is a smart girl, resourceful, proactive and hardworking; yet, this one thing, her struggle with reading, dominates her life.

Little cues tell the reader that Juice is dyslexic which may need to be pointed out and discussed with young readers. When Juice’s sisters make flashcards with letters made of string Juice is able to touch the letters, to feel them, and a breakthrough is made.

This is a story about poverty. Pa and Juice work hard in their shop but sometimes there isn’t any work to be done. A social worker comes to the house to check on Ma and the baby and to bring food.

There is a lot going on in this story. Mini-spoiler alert: Juice even delivers a baby. Juice is lovable and her iron will to succeed kept my interest. But I could have done with more comic relief, fewer issues (for such a short book), and a more complicated ending than the one we’re given.

Published: Scholastic, 1998     Pages: 138
Rating: 3 Stars     Source: purchased copy