2015 Big Book Summer Challenge: Revolution by Deborah Wiles & East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Big Book Summer Challenge is a challenge hosted by Sue at Book by Book. The inspiration behind the challenge is to push the bigger books to the top of the TBR pile during summer time.
- Anything over 400 pages qualifies as a big book.
- The challenge will run from Memorial Day weekend (starting May 22 this year) through Labor Day weekend (Labor Day is September 7 this year).
- Choose one or two or however many big books you want as your goal. Wait, did you get that? You only need to read 1 book with over 400 pages this summer to participate! (Though you are welcome to read more, if you want.)
- Choose from what’s on your shelves already or a big book you’ve been meaning to read for ages or anything that catches your eye in the library – whatever peaks your interest!
- Sign up on Book by Book.
- Write a post to kick things off – you can list the exact big books you plan to read or just publish your intent to participate, but be sure to include the Big Book Summer Challenge pic above, with a link back to Book by Book.
- Write a post to wrap up at the end, listing the big books you read during the summer.
- You can write progress posts if you want to and/or reviews of the big books you’ve read…but you don’t have to! There is a separate links list below for big book review posts.
Today, we are combining the last three bullet points–we both have finished our big books!
Author: Deborah Wiles
Published May 27th, 2014 by Scholastic Press
Goodreads Summary: It’s 1964, and Sunny’s town is being invaded. Or at least that’s what the adults of Greenwood, Mississippi, are saying. All Sunny knows is that people from up north are coming to help people register to vote. They’re calling it Freedom Summer.
Meanwhile, Sunny can’t help but feel like her house is being invaded, too. She has a new stepmother, a new brother, and a new sister crowding her life, giving her little room to breathe. And things get even trickier when Sunny and her brother are caught sneaking into the local swimming pool — where they bump into a mystery boy whose life is going to become tangled up in theirs.
As she did in her groundbreaking documentary novel Countdown, award-winning author Deborah Wiles uses stories and images to tell the riveting story of a certain time and place — and of kids who, in a world where everyone is choosing sides, must figure out how to stand up for themselves and fight for what’s right.
*A 2014 National Book Award Finalist
Kellee’s Thoughts: What is so amazing about this book is that it doesn’t feel like a big book. Well, it FEELS like a big book because it is heavy and thick, but when you are done reading, it doesn’t feel like you had to trudge through anything. Not once did I feel like there were too many pages. Wiles does an amazing job filling each and every page with important information for the historical context, characterization, or plot development.
Revolution is a perfectly-crafted look at one of the toughest times in American history. What Wiles does is truly delve into the emotions felt during the Freedom Summer and some of the smaller actions that may not have made the history books. One of my favorite things about Wiles’s Sixties Trilogy books is that she includes historical resources throughout the book that truly puts the story in context. The primary sources/stories and other embedded pieces of history really show that the narrative she has created is not truly a work of fiction. It may include fictional characters, but the setting, the feelings, the conflict, the time period, the history–those are all fact.
Revolution couldn’t work without the Sunny and her cast of characters though. This book could have gone terribly wrong if the voice, thoughts, and feelings of our protagonist were not so believable since Wiles was having us learn about such a tumultuous time through the eyes of a child. However, no need to worry about that because Sunny is perfect. She is easy to connect to and seems true. My favorite characters are those around her that push her and help change her: Annabelle, Jo Ellen, and Ray. Annabelle is so patient, truly loves Sunny, and has some of the best lines in the book; Jo Ellen is so head-strong, forward-thinking, and intelligent; and Ray is just crazy but also overwhelmingly brave.
I am part of an informal Twitter book club, and our June read was Revolution. Deborah Wiles even stopped by to chat with us! If you are interested in reading it, I archived it here. Warning: There may be spoilers if you haven’t read the book. Some of my favorite quotes from the chat that truly show the impact of the book are:
“What a brilliant idea Deborah Wiles had with these books–to embed all of the history.” -Carrie Gelson
“Sunny’s story hit my heart.” -Michele Knott
“Countdown and Revolution are like…seeing beyond the headlines.” -Cheriee Weichel
“So hard to read how something you think people could do (register) but couldn’t because of effects (lose job, name in paper, etc.)” -Michele Knott
“It took Sunny witnessing the civil unrest to grow up and realize how to accept her own life.” -Kellee Moye
“There is so much about the Civil Rights Movement that seems like it should be easy, but ignorance stops it.” Kellee Moye
“Immerse as much as possible.” -Deborah Wiles, referencing part of her research process
Favorite quote from the book: “Everything is connected. Every choice matters.Every person is vital, valuable, and worthy of respect.” pg. 361
I also plan to tackle Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, as well, but I am not sure if I will make it by the end of the summer. East of Eden was quite an epic read!
East of Eden
Author: John Steinbeck
Published in 1952
Goodreads Summary: Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love; and the murderous consequences of love’s absence.
Ricki’s Thoughts: I’ve had this book on my to-be-read list for several years. In fact, I realized I own three identical copies of it, so I have considered reading it for quite some time. I love Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath. In fact, I love the six or so Steinbeck books I’ve read. I’d heard this book was related to the Cain/Abel story, so I never got around to reading it because I thought I knew the ending. As an aside, I didn’t, but even if all of my predictions were accurate, it still would have been well worth the read.
The book consists of several interwoven stories and families. Two good friends (who aren’t avid readers) listened to this book in the car, and they continually urged me to read it. When I finally started, they kept saying, “We know which character you will love.” Sam Hamilton is a good man–a salt of the Earth kind of man. He reminds me of Slim for Of Mice and Men. Essentially, he teaches us what it means to be good to the very hollows of our souls. Another character who will stick with me forever is Cathy. Phew. She is quite a complex character—a sociopath, I would say—and her evilness makes my skin crawl. She is unlike any other character I’ve ever read. I could continue forward and describe more characters, but it feels as if I won’t do them justice.
The story does meander at times, but anyone who appreciates Steinbeck’s work knows that this is, in fact, a positive quality. His stories feel very true to life. We don’t follow plot diagrams. I will never forget reading this book. The story and its characters will stay with me forever. I highly recommend it.
A few great quotes that depict the beauty of Steinbeck’s words:
“I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is indestructible.”
“All great and precious things are lonely.”
“I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. . . . Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil. . . . There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”
“There’s more beauty in truth, even if it is dreadful beauty.”
Thank you to Sue for hosting the challenge and pushing us!
What big books do you have planned for the summer? You should join in the challenge too!
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