Furthermore – Review by Marcella

Marcella is enthusiastic about everything, whether it’s books, history, connecting books and history, or just chatting with her friends in the hall. Her joy is contagious and her energy boosts my sleepy morning class. Here’s what she has to say about a great book called Furthermore.

Furthermore, the first book in the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi, is a twist on the classic Alice in Wonderland. Alice Queensmeadow, the main character, is albino, but lives in Fenwood, a world full of color and magic. With her bland, pale hair and milk-white skin, she is an outcast, even more so because her father, a respected member of the society and the only one who listened to what she had to say, is missing. 

The Surrender, a competition where 12-year-olds compete with their magic talents and the winner takes it all, is coming up, but Alice doesn’t know what her magical talent is. She feels that the only one who can help her is her father, and she knows in her gut that he’s still alive. Along with her frenemy neighbor, Oliver Newbanks, who won the Surrender last year with his ability to control minds, Alice goes on a journey to find her father and herself in the twisted world of Furthermore. She and Oliver must survive using their wits, courage, and determination, testing their friendship, all while keeping a dark secret from each other.

This book is very well written, filled with action, drama, and humor. Tahereh Mafi opens up the new world of Furthermore full of differences and similarities to Alice as she travels through space and time, but also to the reader, who understands that this society is not all that different from our own. As Alice and Oliver explore this new world with the readers, meeting new characters who confuse and excite. Recommended to anyone who likes fantasy books filled with color, both literally and figuratively, this book is a great read.

Fish in a Tree – Review by Valerie

 Valerie bursts with enthusiasm, especially when it’s about books. When we are reading in class or discussing a story or chapters read at home the night before, Valerie thrills at the chance to share her ideas and insights. She notices aspects of stories that most kids miss, and shares beautifully during conversation and in writing. She’s reviewing a book that really connects with thoughtful middle schoolers, and one which my own kids loved very much.

Ally is different. She has known this her whole life. What she doesn’t know is why she is different. Why she says things different from what she thinks. Why her handwriting is so bad. Why she struggles to read and write while the rest of her sixth grade class does it with ease. Ally feels alone, with no friends in a world that just won’t understand her, but then she meets her new teacher, Mr. Daniels, and new friends Keisha and Albert. Ally has lived her whole life thinking she was stupid, until Mr. Daniels tells her something that will change her life, and the way she sees herself.

I think this is a great book because it teaches kids that just because someone is different, it doesn’t mean they are stupid or weird. It also has a large set of characters, each of whom face their own struggles and have a unique personality. This book will make you laugh and cry, and it shows how great minds don’t always think alike. If you like books like Rules, Wonder, and One For The Murphys, then you will love this realistic fiction book by Linda Mullay Hunt. My favorite character is Albert, and one of my favorite parts is when all the kids bring a bag to school with something that represents them, because it always makes me laugh, and we learn about the characters. I give this book two thumbs up!

The River – Review by Surafel

Surafel is an enthusiastic student. He shares his thoughts on the books we read in class, and happily debates topics from character motivations to history, all while being really nice to others! Enjoy his review of the classic novel, Hatchet.

After Brian’s harsh experience in the Canadian woods for forty-four days is over and he returns home, he meets a psychologist named Derek Holtzer who works at a government survival school. Derek wants Brian do go into the woods and survive so that others can follow his steps and be able to mimic his survival skills. At last, Brian and his mother say yes, but when they get to the woods, a tragedy happens. After a few days, Derek is hit by lightning and falls into a coma. Will Brian be able to use his viability to transport Derek to safety?

This book is the sequel of Hatchet, which has won the John Newbery Award. This is a dramatic and uprising book with plot twists to everything that happens. I would categorize this in adventure because Derek and Brian go on an adventure in the wilderness to learn Brian’s ways of surviving. I loved the fact that Brian had to experience what he barely lived, yet with more tragedy. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes the wilderness or survival books or movies.

Warning: Traumatic flashbacks take place in this book

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Review by George Chang AND Lillian Dow Paterson

x500

This week we have the SAME book independently reviewed by TWO different students. The book was recently made into a movie called Love, Simon, which I saw with my daughter and her friend, and we all loved it. It’s  everything I loved about 80s teen movies with more diversity/true representation of the world they’re growing up in (and none of the creepily questionable depictions of women, which I didn’t notice as a teen). Great acting, great writing, great message, and now I need to check out the book!

Anyhow, the two students writing here today are George and Lillian. Lillian is a returning reviewer (her last one was for Every Last Word), and she’s still great fun and super energetic. George is new to this book review party, and he is a kind, thoughtful, determined guy with a smile that lights up a room. As we fly through the last quarter of the school year, I’m pondering how much I’ll miss then and their classmates come summer.

Everyone deserves a love story.

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: If he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing with, will be jeopardized. -Amazon

George writes: When you read Becky Albertalli Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, there will certainly be tears, laughter, and, most importantly, realness. Simon Spier, a gay teenager who is still ‘in the closet’, is just trying to define himself, and trying to love himself for who he really is, while life just keeps on throwing obstacles in his way. How the book depicts Simon as just a normal high-schooler going through life, makes me so happy. Most times, books with a LBGTQ+ protagonist goes out of the way to center the plot about the difficulties about coming out, and coming to terms about your sexuality, but not this one. It’s a genuinely heart-warming novel, a simple and sweet romance, one that makes you smile when you think of it, one that makes you feel so happy, as if you just ate a rainbow and there’s now flowers growing within your bones. The book really stands for the rights in the community, firmly stating that only you can come out, on your own accords, and that in the end, being gay really isn’t that special. Simon asks, “Why is straight the default?” It’s so sad that even in 2018, people are still homophobic and acts viciously cruel towards gay people. Everybody, whether you’re gay, straight, bisexual, whatever; this novel is truly a must-read, one that will make you think about it months after you finished it.

 

Lillian writes: Simon Vs The Homo sapiens Agenda is a book by Becky Albertalli. Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is about a “Not so openly gay” teenager Simon. This is the one secret that Simon is hiding from everyone, his friends, and his family… except for one person, “Blue”, the one person who Simon trusts with everything, his sexuality, his life, and his thoughts. But… one day . . .  [note from M. Ray – I cut spoilers] Now, what will happen next in this story? Find out by reading this amazing book by Becky Albertalli. This is in my top five favorite books, and it can easily become yours, for this book is a work of art. Out of ten (one being AWFUL and ten being BEST BOOK EVER), I would rate this a 9, it’s an inspiring, funny, heartfelt book that definitely needs to go on your reading list. I definitely recommend this book to kids ages 10 and up.

The Book Thief – review by Uma

 

Uma is in my 6th grade literature course. Serious and fun, sweet and clever, this girl is great to have in class. If you read enough of these posts, my adjectives for student do repeat, but she, like her classmates, really is all that. What can I say? I work with great kids.

Uma has chosen to review THE BOOK THIEF, which I affectionately call “The best book I’ll never finish.” The writing is sublime, but I found it so distressing that I couldn’t make myself read the rest. Uma’s review makes me want to grow up and be more like her because I know I’m missing out. Thanks, Uma, for making me reconsider this one.

 

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusakbook_thief

“It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.”-Amazon

In the past, I have read many different historical fiction novels, (it being my favorite genre) but none can compare to the intricate and beautiful story The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The story explores much more than the Holocaust. It explores how humans love and form inseparable bonds in a variety of scenarios, which is a very creative and interesting topic, in my opinion. Some examples are a  Jewish man and the non-Jewish protagonist creating a friendship that lasts through tragedy and separation, or the main character’s foster father teaching her how to read, which begins her book thievery and constant love for this new parent. Narrated by Death, the book tells the story of a little girl growing up in Nazi Germany and how this time period affects her life. Her triumphs, failures and lessons, are hilarious, heartwarming, and touching. The protagonist is also very charming, for although not relatable by modern standards, she is very brave (such as when she reads in bomb shelters to soothe neighbors) and not scared to stand up for herself, and she has a big heart. Lastly, although this is a fantastic book, it is quite mature. There is loads of cursing and it is very violent, so I would probably recommend this for grades 6 and up. But overall, The Book Thief  is a book with complex, interesting storyline and ideas and a fantastic set of characters that will captivate you!