Monthly Archives: April 2017

Review: The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles
The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So beautiful. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” This book illustrates the quote perfectly. My family loved it. Now if we could just get the courage to act on it…

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Review: March: Book One

March: Book One
March: Book One by John Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished this series, and I feel like it gave me an understanding of the Civil Rights movement that I missed in my US history classes. John Lewis’ story makes the struggle for equal rights personal, and the graphic novel format is engaging and so well done. It is a little more graphic than I’m ready to give my ten-year-old, but I think it’s necessary to bring home just how how much violence African-Americans and those who stood with them endured.
A few highlights:
-The explanation of the different groups working for civil rights. SNCC, SCLC, NAACP…this was all lost on me before. March functions as an introduction to the groups, but it was interesting to see their different priorities and philosophies, as well as how they worked alongside each other.
-The focus of Lewis and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee on only nonviolent action. This was so refreshing, especially in that they don’t gloss over the challenges of not reacting to violence with violence.
-March also functions as a timeline – putting all the events I’ve always heard about all jumbled up into a cohesive, orderly narrative, but not so long and detailed that I lose track of it all over months of reading.
Overall, I highly recommend March, both for personal growth and as a supplement to a middle school or high school US history curriculum. It stands alone as an excellent introduction, but also sets the stage and raises interest for deeper study into the time period.

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Review: The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Angie Thomas was one of the guest speakers at the Louisiana/Mississippi SCBWI KidLit conference this February, so I heard about her book in emails for weeks. I looked at the title, and the jacket, and thought, “This is probably a good book, but I don’t think I’m the target audience.” And I left it at that.
After hearing Angie describe her book, and why she wrote it, and what she hoped the book would say to the world (and the fact that it had just hit #1 on the NY Times list didn’t hurt), I changed my mind. Clearly, I was very much her target audience. I bought the book. I read the book. I passed on the book.
I highly, highly recommend The Hate U Give. The synopses are out there already, and I just have to echo so many other reviews in saying that this book is both timely and extremely well done. There are moments when I thought, “Yeah, I guess this is a first novel,” or “She is really driving home this point,” but it is all done so well within the world of the characters that it is totally believable. It is painfully enjoyable, in fact. Angie Thomas allows her characters to preach her truth through their lives, and her truth is beautiful.
What I loved about the characters in this book is the love they have for each other. Especially within Starr’s family. They are not perfect people, and they are not caricatures; they are ready to walk off the page, and I wanted to hug them all in their pain. But I realized I didn’t need to – Starr’s family is strong enough to support each other through anything. I especially appreciated Angie Thomas’ treatment of Starr’s parents: they are thoroughly real, not just a foil to create conflict or advance the plot. Honestly, Starr’s dad, Maverick, is my favorite character. For me, the fierce love and loyalty of Starr and her family is what makes this book shine.
Bonus: as intense as parts of the book get, the comic relief is perfect. It’s been awhile since I laughed out loud at a book, and this one had my kids running to see what I thought was sooo funny.
Angie Thomas took me to a world that white, suburban-born me had never encountered. And she welcomed me into it with open arms. I can only thank her for helping me see the world from that vantage point for a little while.
My concern is always, “Can I give this book to my daughter?” She’s 10, so for now, the answer is no. The language is strong, and while it’s not overdone, there are a couple of romantic scenes that would definitely be way too much for her. But when she’s older, I will expect her to read it. And I imagine she will love it as much as I have.

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Review: The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Review: The Pox Party

The Pox Party
The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fantastic. This book was not like anything else I’ve ever read. The premise of a slave being raised as the subject of an experiment in the nature of humanity and race was so interesting to consider. Anderson succeeds in pointing out the hypocrisy of the seperationist slaveholders who call for “freedom” from tyranny while continuing to deny their own slaves any hope of freedom. It is in-your-face, but so elegantly done that it is not offensive, but humbling and heart-wrenching.
This is not a book for the queasy; there are passages that will turn your stomach. The themes Anderson considers and his masterful way of handling them makes me want everyone to read this – but my kids will have to get a little older first.
In short, don’t be turned off by the length of the text, it is well worth it. Octavian is a character you want to root for, who succeeds, even in his own failures, to cry out for truth and dignity.

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