Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

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I loved this book! I’m glad I didn’t judge a book by its cover because it is so much more than just two kids on a date. The story is also about betrayals and how manipulative people can be 😦 It is not easy being a teenager and navigating the world of friendships, relationships, all while feeling very insecure about yourself. the author does a really great job of capturing how sometimes you just want to hide from the people you know because you don’t want to face the consequences. Great job, Rebecca Stead!

Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan

img_0642I love Pam Munoz Ryan. She is such a good writer! I read her other books and I loved Echo, The Dreamer, and Becoming Naomi Leon. I wasn’t going to read this one because I’ve never been into horses, but I’m glad I did. It wasn’t a very long book and it’s based on a real person called Charlotte Parkhurst. She had to disguise herself in order to become a stagecoach driver. Her story is amazing because she is courageous.

I love the cover too!! 🙂

Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper

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I’m so glad I read this book. It’s a slice-of-life story of African Americans living at the time of the KKK. They lived in fear but they still went on with life. The description of wilted lettuce sounds delicious! I enjoyed reading Stella’s work as a writer. The only thing I didn’t like about the book was that the plot did seem to lead to the climax I expected. The storyline of the men in the community registering to vote was good. The best thing about this book was how it brought the relationships in their community to life.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

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I loved this book. I read it when I should have been sleeping one night. I got into Kate DiCamillo books in May and wanted to read all of her novels. I saw this one on the shelf and I thought that it was a picture book, so I didn’t pick it up. However, I am so so glad I did. What a heartbreaking story. Edward, the proud bunny, went through what no one (or bunny) should have gone through. A seaside couple, a traveling hobo, a sick boy and girl became his owners. However, he was separated and hurt from them each time. It seemed that Edward should have died because the heartbreak was too much, but he didn’t. He was reunited with the girl who was his original owner.

It is a lovely story!

Rump by Liesl Shurtliff

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I love fairy tales and this one is no exception. So I first heard of this book when a sixth grader at the school I was student teaching at told me about it. I had heard of Rumpelstiltskin but I always pictured him as an old man sitting in a tower spinning. Then I read this book, which depicts him as a young boy named Rump, who is looking for his name. He is short and stopped growing because he didn’t know his full name. It was a fun fantasy story that is appealing to me and to kids. I would like to read more “true stories” of fairy tale characters 🙂 .

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

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The Wild Robot is special. I was interested in the premise of a robot in the wild when it is usually the opposite, like a robot among humans or humans going into the wild. I saw one review that said this book is like a video game. I knew it would be a cool story and it didn’t disappoint.
First, I love the illustrations and the writing. While I was reading I felt that the book was so precious I wanted to take my time with it! First, the book is illustrated and written by Peter Brown, who has illustrated picture books. It gave life to the simple language he uses in this book. I’m a big fan of this writing style that is very clean yet descriptive. Everything sounds factual. It was like reading a picture book for older kids/adults and very unique.
So there are no human characters in this book. It might sound boring reading a book about a robot and a bunch of animals but it wasn’t at all. Roz and her son Brightbill showed emotion as true as any other mother-son pair and by the end of the story, they will have won you over. Roz went from a strange outsider on the island to the sweet robot that the animals all fought to keep.

I was worried that the animals would somehow turn against Roz but they didn’t. There were a couple points in the story that I thought would be a conflict between Roz and the animals, but they turned out not to be because Roz was so understanding (well-programmed?) and the animals have a relationship with her. She learned survival strategies and introduced new and better ways to live on the island. With or without Roz, there exists a delicate balance and harmony among the animals on the island.

Favorite part: When Roz wore her “party dress” for her party. 🙂

TWR reminds of a Ghibli film with the theme of nature vs. technology. Brown has crafted a thoughtful and human robot that doesn’t compete with or replace anything, but still makes you think about what it means to live and how we survive. A robot who is capable of mothering – is there anything more human than that? I highly recommend this book to adults and kids alike. It raises interesting questions and will make you feel and think.

El Deafo by Cece Bell

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I loved El Deafo! It was an adorable look into something tough. The book starts out with a 4-year-old bunny getting a spinal tap and finding out she has meningitis (OMG). 😥 But what follows that is something so inspiring and funny, as a reader I trusted Cece and knew that I wouldn’t be heartbroken or disappointed.

This graphic novel follows Cece, the author, throughout her elementary years. Cece transforms into El Deafo in her mind, but in real life something embarrassing is usually happening. Cece tries to find a best friend, but Martha, the best candidate, is scared that she will hurt Cece and possible make her blind when she is already deaf. What sweet bunnies!

This is a unique book that I don’t think I will find again. I loved that it was based on the author’s own experiences, rather than what a hearing person thinks a deaf person lives through. I especially loved the way that we get to “hear” what Cece hears with and without her hearing aid! El Deafo offers a unique perspective on hearing loss that is funny and sweet.

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In the end, friendship prevails and El Deafo finds her sidekick ❤

My Reading Journey

 

Hello. I started this blog to talk about what I read. Lately, I’m reading a lot middle grade fiction! I should start backwards. I first learned to read in Chinese and I don’t remember if I was an avid reader when I was a kid. There were some books at home that I liked to look through but I never sat down by myself and finished a book cover to cover. I guess I didn’t have the patience or imagination hehe.

When I was 10 I started learning and speaking English. My mom would take my sister, brother and I to the library where I checked out fun series like Boxcar Children, Magic Treehouse, Junie B. Jones, Nancy Drew, etc. I didn’t totally understand them but it was fun enough that I kept going back. I did see Newbery Award winners and “novels” on the shelves but never thought I would read them, since I was still in ELD. I loved the American Girl series with all the dolls, historical background, and illustrations! There was a brief period when I was obsessed with everything Harry Potter. When I was in 7th/8th grade I volunteered at the library during the summer and it was fun! Clearly I was super nerdy and a library gal.

Then, high school started. I was so obsessed with doing well in Honors and AP English classes. This was good because I think it brought my reading and writing to a higher level. However, I still struggled with the novels we were assigned. As an English learner it took huge amounts of effort to get through something like Wuthering Heights and House of Mirth. To be honest I probably still wouldn’t understand it today! I shelved books at the library and loved volunteering there. That didn’t change. However I hardly read for fun in high school. (I don’t think I read a single novel outside of school.)

After that was college and the adult life!!! Again, I didn’t read for fun in college due to the huge amounts of reading for class. However, during one internship I had a young supervisor who would read a book during lunchtime. I just thought she looked so chic reading a book on her break! By then, as a 22-year-old, I never saw anyone read for fun. I did know a few English majors and thought it was cool that they studied something different. It sounds so fancy to say that you study “literature” or “Shakespeare,” hee. I admired girls who read a lot but couldn’t get myself to do it. I followed the bandwagon to read Hunger Games on Kindle but that was it.

After college I had a really hard time finding a job and I was frustrated. With all the free time I thought I should read. But after years of not reading for pleasure, I had no idea what I even wanted to read. I just looked through old books at home, like the classics and assigned books from HS. You can imagine that I didn’t get through them and they were no fun. When I started working full time I definitely did not have the time, focus, or energy to read either.

(Wow, there have been so many chapters of my life already!) About 3 years ago I decided to go back to school to become a teacher. This is when I sort of started getting back into reading for fun. I had a student teaching teaching placement in a 6th grade English class. The teacher assigned them to read 20 minutes everyday. I thought it was so cool and started seeing the value in it right away. I got to know students by them telling me about what they’re reading. I became familiar with books like Wonder, Fish in a Tree, Princess Academy, and Rump. Many of the titles I’m reading now come from what the kids were reading. Now I see this was a huge turning point in my reading journey.

After that, I became a teacher and had a super rough first year of teaching 😦 . It got to a point when I had to take leave from work  in May 2017. All of a sudden, all the time in the world was mine. I decided to fill it with reading. I went to the library every couple of days and checked out 2 books each time. I would finish them quickly then go back for more. In the past 2 months I’ve read 30 some books! I don’t plan to stop because I love it so much. This is my reading journey and I want to remember the books I read when I’m 80, ha. So I will write about them here and hope some find it interesting!

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

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One thing I’ve noticed about middle grade books is that they’ve gotten so much more dramatic and complex. Many of them are like adult books! They for sure are not about babysitting, family and friends, and what happens after school. I guess things like are no longer exciting enough for kid readers today.

This book is not like that. When you read it, it sounds like children’s novels from the 90s. There is a lot of dialogue and the characters feel very average. They don’t have special powers, they are definitely flawed, and this book is a slice of their lives. What’s interesting is that this book was inspired by A Wrinkle in Time, and the protagonist Miranda reads and talks about it throughout the book. Which makes sense because her story has to do with time traveling too! She gets messages throughout from this stranger, and she is supposed to save one of her friends. Basically

I am the Messenger + A Wrinkle in Time = When You Reach Me

Rebecca Stead does a wonderful job of providing just enough details and clues to make the story feel realistic, but too descriptive.  Everything feels like it has a purpose in this story, and it does. I would like to re-read this novel in the future and pick up on the clues and significance. I highly recommend this book!