Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Review: Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

About the Book

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
Published by Feiwel & Friends on August 21, 2007

GoodReads Description

Kek comes from Africa. In America he sees snow for the first time, and feels its sting. He's never walked on ice, and he falls. He wonders if the people in this new place will be like the winter – cold and unkind.

In Africa, Kek lived with his mother, father, and brother. But only he and his mother have survived, and now she's missing. Kek is on his own. Slowly, he makes friends: a girl who is in foster care; an old woman who owns a rundown farm, and a cow whose name means "family" in Kek's native language. As Kek awaits word of his mother's fate, he weathers the tough Minnesota winter by finding warmth in his new friendships, strength in his memories, and belief in his new country.

Bestselling author Katherine Applegate presents a beautifully wrought novel about an immigrant's journey from hardship to hope.

Home of the Brave is a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

My Thoughts

I am definitely becoming a big fan of Applegate's writing!  I love that she finds ways to address important issues in ways that can be easily understood by younger students.  She not only teaches children about these issues, but finds ways to encourage empathy.  I think this is a phenomenal way to encourage our youth to become caring members of society.

I loved that Kek is such a complex character.  He wants to learn and he is so grateful for his new place in Minnesota.  In fact, he is so truly thankful for most things that are generally taken for granted.  Although he is overwhelmed by all that is new and exciting, he strives to hang on to the ways of Sudan.  He wants so badly to be considered a man by his people.  He wants to care for cows and be kind to people.  He is a strong little guy going through challenges that would be hard for most adults.  The fact that he takes it all in stride and does his best with every situation is absolutely inspiring.

I can't say that I had a least favorite character in this book.  However, I would have loved to have heard more from Ganwar.  He was definitely the strong and silent type, but something was eating away at his insides.  I would have loved to see him get a little more resolution as well.  I know that sometimes in life, that resolution just isn't coming.  Perhaps that was the point Applegate wanted to make here as well.

Overall, I absolutely devoured this book.  As a verse novel, it was a quick read.  It was a very meaningful read, however.  I definitely think that a lot of the substance and poignancy would have been lost if it had been in prose form.  I look forward to reading more from Applegate!

My Rating

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Neliem by Clare DiLiscia

Clare DiLiscia
Published by: Month9Books
Publication date: May 21st 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Half the population of the island of Madera are dead, killed by an unforgiving and indiscriminate plague. Oriana dreams of escaping her life of ruthless cruelty from the people who now rule over those who remain. No telling whom the plague will strike next, Oriana means to find freedom for herself and her people. Drawing strength from ancient tales of her enemy, young Oriana transforms herself from victim to warrior with the help of a mysterious and powerful dagger given to her by a kind and dying boy.
Years later, during her enemy’s betrothal ritual, Ezra, a boy she has never before seen, selects her as his mate. With servitude her only option, Oriana accepts the offer. Whisked away to a seemingly perfect world, Oriana discovers sinister secrets at every turn, including the identity of Tristan, a boy with whom she shares an undeniable but impossible connection.
Why would a boy she doesn’t know wish her to be his betrothed? Why does she feel such a strong pull toward a stranger? Someone in Ezra’s family not only knows the answer to both those questions, but also about the dagger Oriana possesses. He will do anything to stop the union. Now, with everything on the line, Oriana turns inward to find the strength she needs to seize the full power of the dagger so that she may protect herself and save her people.
I cringe; not wanting to confess the extent of my obsession of finding the boy I’ve convinced myself for too long never existed. After I’d miraculously healed from the fever, I went half mad looking everywhere for him. Like a maniac, I searched in every room, closet and under every desk at the schoolhouse for any indication where he might’ve gone. Then I took it one step further. Dressed like Neliem himself, I snuck at the crack of dawn into the Untouchable section of town which we are forbidden to enter. I scourged the marketplace, the temples of their false gods, the fields, the hills, our cave, any place I could think of, going as far as to risk my own life for weeks to find him. Just for the chance to see him and touch him again, I would’ve done anything. Me, who hated to be touched, ached for this boy the way a dying man aches for water in the desert.

Author Bio:
Clare Di Liscia grew up near the hills surrounding Dodger's Stadium. For University, Clare attended KU Leuven, in Belgium. She graduated with a Film Degree from Cal State Northridge, earning Dean's List recognition. Neliem won 1st place HM in SCBWI's Sue Alexander.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Review: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

About the Book

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Published by Feiwel & Friends on September 22, 2015

GoodReads Description

In her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience.

Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There's no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.

Crenshaw is a cat. He's large, he's outspoken, and he's imaginary. He has come back into Jackson's life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary.

My Thoughts

After reading The One and Only Ivan, I was absolutely drawn to this book.  I knew that I would love it because I love Applegate's work.  I was a little nervous, though, because I don't usually read Middle Grade books.  I was concerned that it would be a bit too "young" for me.  I am pleased to report that I was absolutely amazed by this one.  In fact, I am looking into getting a full set of this novel for my classroom.

Growing up, life wasn't always perfect.  There were deaths and illness in our family, much like in every other family.  However, my parents strongly believed that my brother, sister, and I were kids and should be able to act like it.  We knew when people were sick and we were glad to help out, but it was not something that constantly burdened us.  If there were any financial troubles, I still don't know about them.  We were kids. They were the adults.  We had our places and our jobs.  I bring all of this up to explain the absolute shock and dismay I felt when I realized that Jackson knows exactly what's going on with his family and that he felt responsible for his family.  Jackson's ability to care for them and to do what he intuitively knew they needed him to impressed me.  I really struggled with the fact that any kid should have to live like that.  I'm not completely naive.  I know that there are several kids who are in the same position as Jackson, but it was a massive wake up call to see what that role might be like.  I am not the only person who needs this jolt, however. There are many people in our nation who strongly believe that the only reason a person would be homeless is if they are lazy.  Applegate's writing calls attention to the truth of the matter.  That homeless people may simply be suffering as a result of bad circumstances.  That we are all able to lend a helping hand.

Applegate's ability to build unbelievably dynamic characters permeates this novel.  Jackson is a funny kid with a very old soul.  He needs friends and he needs to be honest with himself and those around him.  He is a kid that any of my students would be able to relate to.  He demonstrates what youth is like in today's world.  Applegate's creation of such a realistic character was a wonderful pairing for his imaginary friend-a giant cat.  Jackson and Crenshaw represent the worlds of realism and imagination respectively and demonstrate the need for both parts of life.  

I am absolutely in love with this novel. Even though it has been a few days since I finished it, I am still considering the many themes that Applegate brings to life. Although this is a Middle Grade novel, Applegate makes sure that there is something for everyone.

My Rating