Module 14: Crank

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Book Summary:

Kristina is a good student who gets good grades and never gets into trouble; Bree is confident, sexy, and an unyielding force that knows what she wants and takes it. What do these two wildly different girls have in common? Kristina and Bree are alter egos of the same person. She’s Kristina when she’s sober and Bree under the influence of the monster, crank aka meth. Bree didn’t exist until Kristina went to New Mexico to visit her estranged father. It’s there that she meets a boy who pulls her into a life of addiction and sends her life into a downward spiral.

APA Reference of Book:

Hopkins, E. (2004). Crank. New York, NY: Simon Pulse.

Impressions:

I’ve avoided this author for a while. It’s not that I’ve heard bad things, but more that I knew the types of books she writes. Hopkins does not shy away from difficult topics like suicide, drug use and sex, and it has landed her on the American Library Association’s list of Most Frequently Challenged Authors of the 21st Century (click here to see more) more than once. I am an empathetic person, and I have to really steel myself to read books like these because I know they’ll put me in a dark mood. But Hopkins’s books have always caught my attention, and I’ve picked them up more than once in contemplation. So I finally took the leap earlier this week and picked up Crank. It is captivating. Hopkins’s writing style will capture your attention immediately, and you will be pulled into Kristina/ Bree’s roller-coaster world. I can definitely see that this book would not appeal to everyone, but I think that it is an important book for teens. When I was in high school, books like these kept me on the straight and narrow. I can personally say that I have benefited from titles that dealt with similar issues in the past, and I recommend them to my younger cousins to this day. They are not easy or happy reads by any means, but I feel that it is important for younger audiences to see that their decision to try drugs once may not be the harmless fun they’re promised.  It certainly wasn’t for Kristina.

Professional Review:

“Nonfiction author Hopkins pens her first novel, written in verse, introducing 15-year-old narrator Kristina, who reveals how she became addicted to crank, and how the stimulant turned her from straight-A student to drug dealer, and eventually a teen mom. On a court-ordered visit to see her slimy and long-absent dad, she meets—and is instantly attracted to—Adam, who sports a “tawny six pack,/ and a smile.” Soon, Adam introduces her to “the monster” (there, she also unleashes a new personality, id-driven Bree). Her addiction grows, as does Bree’s control. Readers get a vivid sense of the highs and lows involved with using crank (“I needed food, sleep,/ but the monster denied/ every bit of it”). Her life changes quickly: Soon she’s dating two guys, both of whom use crank; says “Fuck you” to her mom, can’t keep up with school, and loses her old friends. There are plenty of dramatic moments: The first time she does crank, for example, her dad joins her. That same night, she stumbles into a bad area and is almost raped, and Adam’s girlfriend tries to kill herself. Later in the book, she does get raped and starts selling the drug for the Mexican Mafia. Readers will appreciate the creative use of form here (some poems, for instance, are written in two columns that can be read separately or together), and although the author is definitely on a mission, she creates a world nearly as consuming and disturbing as the titular drug. Ages 14-up.”

(2004 November 1). [Review of the book Crank, by E. Hopkins]. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-689-86519-0.

Library Uses:

This book is written in verse and could be used to help patrons learn about poetry. I would hold a poetry contest to allow teen patrons to submit poems about something that happened in their life.

Module 13: Junie B. Jones and Her Big Fat Mouth

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Book Summary:

Junie B. Jones is having a bad day: she keeps getting in trouble for mouthing off, her mom’s mad at her because she keeps waking the baby, and she keeps getting into fights with her bestest friend. So what’s a girl to do when on top of it all she has to come up with the best costume ever for career day? Junie is determined to beat her classmates by being someone who paints, carries a lot of keys, and saves people. Now she just has to decide what that job actually is.

APA Reference of Book:

Park, B. (1993). Junie B. Jones and her big fat mouth. New York, NY: Random House.

Impressions:

I had never read a Junie B. Jones story before, so with the very passing of author Barbara Park I thought it was time that I read a few. I opted to read Junie B. Jones and Her Big Fat Mouth. This was an easy read, and I do mean super easy read for an adult. I finished the entire story in about 20 minutes, and I am a slow reader. Now, I don’t know if this is because I am an adult trying to read a second grader’s book, but I was not all that impressed. The book itself was fun, but Junie B. Jones was written to make it sound like a second grader is talking. That’s fine to a certain extent, but to constantly use improper grammar and spelling just seems like confusion waiting to happen. Sentences like “I hided my head” made me cringe because children learn grammar from what they read and hear, so to read a book that uses words like “worstest” and “bestest” but then expect the child to know it’s worst and best seems nightmarish. That being said, I also recognize the importance of kids reading anything, especially books that they enjoy, so if this book can be used as a “gateway” book then by all means. However, I would personally try to expose children to stories where proper grammar is used.

Poor grammar aside, this book also had a lot of good aspects. It explored gender bias, career opportunities, and the importance of respecting others for the work they do. I know that when I was in school the students largely ignored the janitor or looked down on them. But Junie befriends the janitor and shows the class (and readers) that a janitor’s work is important and that it is a valid career option. I felt like this was one of the more redeeming aspects of the book. The book can also be used as a teaching tool to show children how they should not behave. Junie is loud mouthed and easily excitable—she yells out in the middle of class and around the new baby often causing the baby to wake up and her mom to get upset. Some people may view this as a bad thing, but I think that it introduces some teachable moments. I mean, what second grader isn’t easily excitable?

Professional Review:

“Park convinces beginning readers that Junie B.—and reading—are lots of fun.”

(n.d) [Review of the book Junie B. Jones and her big fat mouth, by B. Park.]. Publisher’s Weekly. Retrieved from: http://www.amazon.com/Junie-Jones-Her-Big-Mouth/dp/product-description/0679844074/ref=dp_proddesc_0?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books

Library Uses:

Like Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors, this book automatically lends itself to an introduction on career options and the importance of people in every job. I think that it would be a good idea to have some people from different jobs come to talk to young patrons like the teacher did with her students in this book.

Module 12: Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors

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Book Summary:

Elizabeth Blackwell wanted to be a doctor. She dreamed of going to medical school and helping others. But despite her desire to become a doctor, she was met with scorn and a chorus of NOs. However, tenacious Elizabeth doesn’t take 28 NOs for an answer. Instead, she perseveres to overcomes the odds and become the first female doctor in America.

APA Reference of Book:

Stone, T.L. (2013) Who says women can’t be doctors. New York, NY: Christy Ottaviano Books.

Impressions:

The illustrations in the book are phenomenal, very colorful and captivating. I found this book to be a wonderful, smart substitution for the typical princess and Barbie book. It is important for children to understand how recently women were considered inferior, and it’s doubly important for girls to see a strong woman rising above her opposition and conquering the NOs. This book is full of lively detail. Anecdotes about Elizabeth carrying her brother over her head until he stopped trying to fight with her and sleeping on the cold wood floor to toughen herself up made me instantly relate to and like Elizabeth’s tenacity. The specific details of Elizabeth’s character added a lot of color to the story and really show Elizabeth in a relatable light. I highly recommend this book for woman needing a boost or any girl learning to come into her own. Fantastic book!

Professional Review:

“You might find this hard to believe, but there once was a time when girls weren’t allowed to become doctors,” opens this smart and lively biography of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America. Stone develops Blackwell’s personality through childhood anecdotes—as a child Blackwell once slept on a hard floor just “to toughen herself up”—before detailing her career path. Priceman’s typically graceful lines and bright gouache paintings make no bones about who’s on the wrong side of history: those who object to Blackwell’s achievements are portrayed as hawkish ladies and comically perturbed twerps in tailcoats. Ages 5–up.”

(2013, Feb. 04). [Review of the book Who says women can’t be doctors, by T.L. Stone]. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-8050-9048-2.

Library Uses:

I can think of a myriad ways this book could some in handy. It could be used in a Women’s History Month display or as a tool to help student’s study up on careers. A library could even hold a costume contest where young patrons dress up as their favorite real life hero or career goal.

Module 11: Bomb—The Race to Build—And Steal—The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon

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Book Summary:

In the late 1930s a German chemist made a discovery that would change the world forever: fission. The discovery that radioactive material could be used to split a uranium atom sent scientists, and their countries of origin, into a tizzy. This new discovery could be used to make a bomb the likes of which the world had never seen before. The race was on; everyone wanted to get their hands on the atomic bomb first, even if that meant stealing it. Bomb provides a comprehensive story of the bomb race spanning America, Great Brittan, and the Soviet Union during World War II.

APA Reference of Book:

Sheinkin, S. (2012). Bomb-the race to build-and steal-the world’s most dangerous weapon. New York, NW: Flash Point.

Impression:

This was an incredibly interesting book! There is often a stigma surrounding informational texts, people feel that they are dry and boring. But this was not the case with Bomb. Sheinkin compiled a ton of information from a huge number of sources, made it read like a fictitious espionage story and gave the reader several points of view surrounding the bomb race to consider. Bomb has been marketed for children and teens, but the scope of the book is so large—he writes about the small details in the science as well as overarching ramifications of atomic bomb creation—that it makes the book readable for adults too. Sheinkin provides a lot of detail in the science, but also does so in a narrative manner that lets the book read like a story—a huge feat considering that he compiled a lot of his information from declassified FBI documents. Sheinkin used a multitude of sources to create a “book [that] weaves together three basic story lines: the Americans try to build a bomb, the Soviets try to steal it, and the Allies try to sabotage the German bomb project” (Sheinkin, 2012, p.243). His narrative writing style draws the reader in without skipping the facts. He also provides a lot of thinking points on the creation of atomic bombs once it was all said and done. If anyone is interested in science or history—or wanting to become more interested—then this is the book to read.

Professional Review:

“In his highly readable storytelling style, Sheinkin (The Notorious Benedict Arnold) weaves together tales of scientific and technological discovery, back-alley espionage, and wartime sabotage in a riveting account of the race to build the first atomic weapon. The famous (Robert Oppenheimer) and infamous (spy Harry Gold) headline an enormous cast of characters, which also includes Norwegian resistance fighter Knut Haukelid, whose secret wartime missions prevented Hitler from acquiring an atom bomb. B&w portraits of key players appear in photo- montages that begin each of the book’s four sections. Sheinkin pulls from numerous sources to supply every chapter with quotations that swiftly move the narrative forward. Suspenseful play-by-play moments will captivate, from the nuclear chain reaction test at the University of Chicago to the preparations for and dropping of the first bomb over Hiroshima. In a “genie out of the bottle” epilogue, details of the Cold War’s escalating arms race and present-day weapons counts will give readers pause, especially Sheinkin’s final thoughts: “It’s a story with no end in sight. And, like it or not, you’re in it.” A must-read for students of history and science. Ages 10–up.”

(2012, August 13). [Review of the book Bomb-the race to build-and steal-the world’s most dangerous weapon, by S. Sheinkin]. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-59643-487-5.

Library Uses:

This is the book to use to introduce readers to a non-fiction story. This could be particularly interesting to patrons who need research for Chemistry or science experiments. You could also include it in a book display for science experiments, World War II or Hiroshima. Bonus, show students this video to get their ideas flowing. It shows some high school kids doing an experiment to explain fission using ping-pong balls and mousetraps.

Module 10: The Book Thief

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Book Summary:

Liesel is a young girl living in Germany during WWII with her foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann. She never intended to become a book thief, but when Liesel’s mother could no longer keep her and her brother she arranged for them to go to a foster family. However, Leisel’s little brother does not survive the trip and his death traumatizes Liesel. It’s on the day she buried her little brother that she steals her first book, and through it she bonds with her foster father as he teaches her to read late into the night. But life during World War II isn’t easy and as Liesel gets older she begins to understand the weight of Hitler and of the world.

APA Reference of Book:

Zusak, M. (2005). The book thief. New York, NY: Random House.

Impressions:

This was an emotional read. Since I used to work in a bookstore (RIP Borders) I understand that there are a few books that really get people buzzing. Person after person who read this book would tell me how it was a life-changing read, that I absolutely must drop everything and read it instantly. With books like that I tend to take the recommendations with a grain of salt, because surely something so overhyped would just let me down. But I generally put the books on my to-read list and figure I’ll give them a chance. After all, not all buzz worthy books turn into the Twilight franchise. So when this title showed up on the reading list for one of my classes, and I got news of the upcoming movie release the stars seemed to finally align. As I sat down to read it I don’t know what I expected but this book was certainly not it. For one, Death (!) narrates the book. That was the last thing in the world I ever expected upon opening it up, and I was surprised that in all the times I had this book suggested to me no one ever let that fact slip.  But Death as the narrator didn’t deter me so I kept on. I will have to say that I didn’t get into this book easily. I found Death’s narration to be very disjointed and jerky, especially at first. But as I made it past the first 50 pages and finally got into the book I found myself captivated.  I have to give it to Mr. Zusak, he wrote a good book. A book about WWII is rarely a happy one, so a book about WWII that has Death as a narrator should send out some warning signs. But oh is this book worth it!

I have studied world cultures and history (especially European history) extensively, even traveling to Europe to do so, and this book transported me to the cobble stone streets of Germany once more. It is one thing to read about the Holocaust from the perspective inside the concentration camps (see Playing for Time by Fania Fenelon or Night by Elie Wiesel if you’d like to read more), but for me it was interesting to see an historical, albeit fictitious, take on the children growing up in a world with disintegrating morals. It was interesting to see how Leisel goes from believing that Hitler is great to understanding the impact his actions are having on the people she loves.

Professional Review:

“This hefty volume is an achievement—a challenging book in both length and subject, and best suited to sophisticated older readers. The narrator is Death himself, a companionable if sarcastic fellow, who travels the globe “handing souls to the conveyor belt of eternity.” Death keeps plenty busy during the course of this WWII tale, even though Zusak (I Am the Messenger ) works in miniature, focusing on the lives of ordinary Germans in a small town outside Munich. Liesel Meminger, the book thief, is nine when she pockets The Gravedigger’s Handbook , found in a snowy cemetery after her little brother’s funeral. Liesel’s father—a “Kommunist”—is already missing when her mother hands her into the care of the Hubermanns. Rosa Hubermann has a sharp tongue, but Hans has eyes “made of kindness.” He helps Liesel overcome her nightmares by teaching her to read late at night. Hans is haunted himself, by the Jewish soldier who saved his life during WWI. His promise to repay that debt comes due when the man’s son, Max, shows up on his doorstep. This “small story,” as Death calls it, threads together gem-like scenes of the fates of families in this tight community, and is punctuated by Max’s affecting, primitive artwork rendered on painted-over pages from Mein Kampf. Death also directly addresses readers in frequent asides; Zusak’s playfulness with language leavens the horror and makes the theme even more resonant—words can save your life. As a storyteller, Death has a bad habit of forecasting (“I’m spoiling the ending,” he admits halfway through his tale). It’s a measure of how successfully Zusak has humanized these characters that even though we know they are doomed, it’s no less devastating when Death finally reaches them. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) “

(2006, January 30). [Review of the book The book thief, by M. Zusak]. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-375-83100-3

Library Uses:

I personally feel that this book lends itself to a book talk quite nicely. I would use this book to give a book talk in April leading up to Holocaust Remembrance day (Yom HaShoah).

Module 9: 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones

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Book Summary:

After their grandmother Grace dies, Amy and Dan Cahill get a glimpse of their family’s true nature. At Grace’s exclusive last will and testament, Amy and Dan, along with every family member who received an invitation, are given a proposition: They can take their $1 million inheritance and never look back, or they can receive the first of 39 clues that promise to send them on an adventure and the possibility of winning unimaginable power. But with the possibility of power also comes the promise of grave danger as each team tries to eliminate the other. So who will accept the challenge, and who will win?

APA Reference of Book:

Riordan, R. (2008). 39 clues: the maze of bones. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Impressions:

Believe it or not, this was my first experience reading anything by Rick Riordan. I didn’t go in expecting much (I honestly had no idea what to expect), but this quick paced, action filled book captured my attention. Even though this is a story aimed at kids, it does not underestimate their intelligence and sense of adventure. The characters are relatable; there’s the painfully shy Amy who is an intelligent but stuttering 14-year-old bibliophile, and Dan who is a precocious 11-years-old math genius.

I genuinely think that this is a story for both kids and adults to enjoy. That being said, the one complaint I really have is the ending. I don’t know much about the series, but I hope that the second book picks up and allows for some closure. Be warned, if you read this one you will in all likelihood have to read the next and the next. I am also a little wary about each book in the series being written by a different author, but I think that this could also be a good opportunity to experience the writing styles of more authors I am unfamiliar with. I can see where this author swapping could be both a positive and a negative on the series, but I guess I’ll just have to pick up the next one to find out.

Professional Review:

“Built around a ripe conceit—wealthy matriarch scatters cryptic clues to a mysterious fortune around the globe—this first installment in a projected 10-book series is tons of fun. Lead-off hitter Riordan (The Lightning Thief ) mixes just the right proportions of suspense, peril and puzzles in a fast-paced read (Riordan mapped the narrative arc for all 10 volumes, but other high-profile authors will be writing for the series, too). Likable orphans Amy and Dan Cahill have moxie (plus Dan can memorize numbers instantly) and frailties (Amy hates crowds). As the siblings compete with less honorable members of the Cahill clan, all distantly related to Benjamin Franklin, to win the fortune by collecting all 39 clues (only two are found in this first book), they learn about their dead parents, each other and world history. The humor is spot on—one uncle is credited with inventing the microwave burrito. The only flaw? The story does not end so much as drop off a cliff. (The second book, One False Note by Gordon Korman, is set to arrive in December.) While waiting, readers can collect cards, each of which contains evidence, and play the online game (www.the39clues.com ), for which Scholastic is offering over $100,000 in prizes. This ought to have as much appeal to parents as it does to kids—it’s Webkinz without the stuffed animals, and a rollicking good read. Ages 9–12.”

(2008, September 22). [Review of the book 39 clues: The maze of bones, by R. Riordan]. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-545-06039-4.

Library Uses:

I would like to see a yearlong creation of a father-son reading club that centers on this series. There are 10 books in the series so it would fit the time frame and allow for a couple of months leeway. I also think that the fact that the series has multiple authors would be beneficial in introducing young boys to a variety of writing that might inspire them to pick up more books by any given author.