Wonder – Review by Samantha Wu

-2What one notices first about Samantha is her smile. She always smiles! Having her in my final class of the day is truly energizing. Whether talking about books or serious moments in history, she is insightful and thrives on sharing her words on paper and aloud. A terrific kid recommending a terrific book – a book I resisted reading for no good reason but loved once I did.
August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid–but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Wonder, a #1 New York Times bestseller, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.  – Amazon


Wonder, by R. J. Palacio is a deep, funny, and sometimes sad story that really makes you think.Wonder_Cover_Art It is a story about trying to fit in when people try to single you out, self acceptance, bullying, friendship, and forgiving. The protagonist, August, was born with what he calls “mandibulofacial dysostosis”- a facial deformity. He has been kept out of school for his entire life- until 5th grade when his parents decide it is time to put him out into the real world. He is bullied and followed everywhere by stares, and when he thinks that he is finally making friends, he overhears a conversation that he is not supposed to hear, and is crushed. School turns his life upside down, and flips it inside out. Over ups and downs, this is a story full of resilience and friendship- told by August, his friends, and his family, as they realize that “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind”. It is wonderfully written, and deserves 5 stars.

“I think that there should be a rule that everybody in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives… since we all overcometh the world”. – R.J. Palacio

Wonder definitely deserves a standing ovation.


Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library – Review by Simrin Reed


IMG_0210-1Simrin has a mysterious smile. She’ll probably think it’s weird that I’m saying such a thing, but she smiles a lot in a way that makes me want to know what she’s thinking about. For all I know it’s, “Crazy teacher lady, stop talking!” Simrin appears to enjoy learning about history and words, and her time with friends. She’s a social, sweet, fun kid and it’s always great to see her at the end of a long day.


Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, by Chris Grabstein

16054808-1 “Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library. Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route.”

– Good Reads


Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is a wonderful book that constantly keeps readers wanting more. The main character(s) are 12- year olds just like us, and you can relate in many situations. You feel like you were there when it all happened, and there are puzzles and clues that you can solve along with the character. Chris Grabstein has crafted a story in which there is comedy, action, and mystery all rolled into one book. Also, there are the classic elements to a great book. The protagonist, Kyle, the antagonist, a boy named Charles Chiltington, a great/ appropriate setting, the wacky, modern library, the conflict, a competition where there is heated feelings, eliminations, and back- stabbing, and the resolution, where there is a surprising ending to the story. These elements all combine to make a funny story. I have read the book at least 10 times and it never gets old! Anyone 10 and up would love this book, as there is humour and ideas that are funny for that age. Anyone younger than that wouldn’t get the references and humour throughout the book. Overall, Chris Grabstein has created a story that constantly makes readers want more, and where it teaches kids all about one of the most prominent things in our world – a library!

Drumroll, Please . . . The First Review is Up! — THRONE OF GLASS

imagesOUR VERY FIRST REVIEW (I’m excited, so I’m going all caps here) is by a fabulous former student of mine named Keira. She didn’t want a picture of herself posted, but having just finished both acting in and making costumes for our school’s production of Alice in Wonderland, I decided to make her image The Cheshire Cat.


Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

★★★★ 1/2 out of 5


[Keira has decided to use a star system. Others can do as they wish. Kind of a free-wheeling blog right now.]

“In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king’s champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.

The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass–and it’s there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena’s fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.”

Ask anyone who’s read Throne of Glass, they’ll recommend it to you immediately. Now, it took me a while to get around to reading it, but I’m so glad that I did! This book was phenomenal, in almost all regards. The protagonist, Celaena Sardothien (according to the exceedingly helpful pronunciation guide included, it’s Sell-lay-nah Sar-doth-ee-en) is an assassin who is stuck in a death camp, until the Crown Prince showed up with the prospect of freedom, in exchange for service to the King. The only thing she needs to do is to beat 23 other contestants in tests of strength, speed, and skill. It’s Hunger Games and Game of Thrones-esque, and yet this is an amazing book all of its own. Although it has an element of romance to it, the romance doesn’t overpower the story in the slightest, and I was left satisfied with where the romance might lead in future books. That leads me to my next point: brace yourselves — this is part of a six book series! In a world dominated by trilogies, it’s incredibly refreshing to have an actual series to look forward to reading. I loved the characters in Throne of Glass. It’s incredibly easy to connect to them. Somehow even in an alternate universe Sarah J. Maas has managed to construct characters that a middle school student can relate to. It has its funny moments, as Celaena is the master of the witty retort. Throne of Glass is heartbreaking as well, and you can never predict what will happen next. Finally, and improbably, in a book about assassins and murder, Throne of Glass has made me go “Awww” at the love between Celaena and her adorable dog. The only issue I had with Throne of Glass is that there was a tad too much world-building for my taste. I realize that this is a six book series, but sometimes I just wanted to get to the action. That being said, the action scenes are so well written, you can’t help but root for the protagonist no matter what she’s doing. The only cautionary thing to mention is that it can be gory at times, and there’s some implied/mentioned sexual content, but nothing graphic. Given that it’s set in alternate-universe medieval times, there’s no swearing at all. I absolutely adored Throne of Glass (I’ve already gone out and bought/read the sequel), and I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who likes high-fantasy books with powerful heroines.

This Blog’s Purpose and Books That Might Change Your Life! (or at least be fun to read)

t_cms_news-44_image_bildIn thinking about my new website and starting a blog, I thought about what I wanted as a reader, a teacher, and a writer. As a reader, I want to know what good books are out there, especially outside of my go-to genres. As a teacher, I want to know what my students are reading and loving. As a writer, I have wanted opportunities to share my thoughts and (to be honest) to get my name out there as a guest blogger. So I thought: why not create a blog that potentially meets the needs of readers, writers, and teachers?

My students, current and former, tend to be avid readers, great writers, and enthusiastic sharers. Many of them love to press books into my hands, saying, “This will change your life, Ms. Ray!”

While I admit few have (I’m an old dog, and there aren’t many new literary tricks likely to be life-changing the way The Outsiders was when I was thirteen or Their Eyes Were Watching God when I was seventeen), I do like trying new things and am open to the possibility that one day, my life might be changed again by a book.d93cfaa9f22f46ee52e0001fe757a355

The plan is to start with the students and eventually open this up to other guest bloggers. If you might want to review a book here, contact me.

The big rule: I’ve asked the students to be positive. Even if they don’t like something about a book, I told them to be kind about it, reminding them that what they are reading is an author’s best effort and to treat the artists gently. Online respect is in short supply sometimes.

So that’s it. I hope you like the new blog and the reviews that follow. And who knows? Maybe you’ll find a new book here that will change your life!