Walden Award Winner!: A Review

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Today we are happy to share our review of the winner of the

2013 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award!

fault

The Fault in our Stars
Author: John Green
Published January 10th, 2012 by Dutton Books

Summary: Hazel has been preparing to die since she was thirteen and was diagnosed with Stage IV Thyroid Cancer. Now, she is sixteen, a modern medical miracle and living with the side effects of the medication and of the cancer. Hazel finds herself between the levels of normalcy and dying. When she meets Augustus Waters, she begins to feel normal for the first time in a long time. Through this amazing friendship, both Hazel and Augustus learn how to truly live.

Ricki’s Review: Every once in a while, a book comes around that changes you. Admittedly, I am a huge fan of John Green and am always biased toward his books. While others may not agree with me, I would argue that this is definitely his best work. I have twenty books on my “favorite books” shelf, and this addition was a no-brainer. (I won’t tell you which one I removed to put this one on the shelf.) The characters are intelligent and witty, and I was continually laughing out loud. This book sends readers on a roller-coaster of emotions. It is the first book in a long time that made me truly feel a sense of catharsis. And Augustus recognizes my emotions as both worthy and real: “‘That’s the thing about pain,’ Augustus said, and then glanced back at me. ‘It demands to be felt'” (p. 63). The language and word choice make dozens of pages flag-worthy, and teachers will love doing close readings with this text. It is liquid gold for classroom teachers.

This is not a predictable cancer story because it is incredibly honest. Hazel recognizes the “perks” she gets as a cancer patient, and she has no trouble admitting that she doesn’t really have friends. When she goes shopping with her one female friend, she secretly wants to be anti-social and pull out a book to read. But when she meets Augustus, everything changes. If you haven’t read this book yet, be grateful–I am envious of you because I want to read this book again for the first time

Kellee’s Review: I’ll be honest—I had a really hard time writing a review of this book. I just don’t know if I am going to be able to do it justice. It is one of those books that as you read, there are so many good things and so much you love, and you know that it is something so special. Even now, as I sit here, I don’t know what to say. I know that I wish that it was more appropriate for middle schoolers so I could share it with more students, I know that it is a book that everyone should read, and I know that it is a book that I am glad to be sharing.

The Fault in our Stars is not only an emotional and funny book, it is beautifully written. As I read, I knew I wanted to mark quotes for a review, but it was hard to find a page to not mark.

TFIOS

John Green has a way with words. If you have read anything by him, you know what I am talking about. I think what makes this book even more powerful is that it is a combination of John Green’s voice and a deep, amazing story. Put the two together, and you get a masterpiece.

Discussion Questions: Hazel has a book that is her favorite and means so much to her; what book do you love that you could not live without? Choose your favorite line or quote from the book and discuss why  you connected with it so much.; Who is someone who made an impression on you but who you have lost touch with?

We Flagged: “Sometimes you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read that book” (p. 33).

“It wasn’t even that the book was so good or anything; it was just that the author, Peter Van Houten, seemed to understand me in weird and impossible ways. An Imperial Affliction was my book, in the way my body was my body and my thoughts were my thoughts” (p. 36).

“My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations” (p. 311).

Read This If You Loved: Looking for Alaska by John Green, Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green, Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick, The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Recommended For: 

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Have you read The Fault in our Stars? Did it affect you the way that it did us? 

RickiSig andSignature

Walden Award 2014 Finalists: Reviews

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Today, we are excited to review the three Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award finalists, and tomorrow, we can’t wait to review the winner! Please join us in the celebration of these three extraordinary texts which are very deserving of this recognition. We’ll see you tomorrow for our review of the winner!

 

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz
Published February 21st, 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Summary: Aristotle is an angry teen who doesn’t have friends until he meets Dante. Through Dante, he learns about friendship, life, and loyalty. These two boys develop an unbreakable bond that helps them discover themselves.

Kellee’s Review: So beautifully written. This is one of those books that you want to tell everyone to read because it is so literary and lyrical. While reading, I felt I had to keep stopping to take notes because I had so much I wanted to share with you all; Aristotle & Dante reminded me of John Green’s characters in that way. His characters are so intelligent, the voice so pure and mesmerizing, and the story so enthralling- all aspects of a literary young adult novel. I am not surprised at all of the awards that Aristotle & Dante took home from the ALA Awards as it deserved each and every one of them (Stonewall Book Award, Printz Honor, Pura Belpre Author Award). I know this seems mighty gushy, but I really fell in love with this novel.

There were so many passages throughout that could be used for exemplar pieces of writing (specifically while reading I picked up on the literary devices, characterization, and voice) and can be used to practice reading strategies.  The book might not automatically be popular because I could see students thinking it was pretty slow because it is more character-driven than plot-driven. It is about Aristotle & Dante growing up and finding themselves (once again, reminds me a bit of a John Green Novel). Though I can see students who give it a chance being as touched by the book as I am.

Ricki’s Review: This beautiful, quiet book is well-deserving of all of the awards it has received. The characters are very special and will stick with readers long after the last page. Adolescents will identify with the boys’ feelings of loneliness and longing, and will be carried away by the magic of their friendship. Saenz’s lyrical language is strong and powerful, delivering undeniable messages to the readers. Readers will grow with Aristotle and Dante and learn what it means to be accepted, to be loyal, and to be a good person.

When I read this book for the first time, I wondered if it would appeal to all types of readers as the beautiful language takes precedent over an action-filled plot. We chose it for our school’s book club before it won the awards, so I was unsure about the students’ reaction. They absolutely adored the characters, and it was one of the most well-received books we’ve done in book club. This text would make for a great choice for literature circles, book clubs, and close analysis, as the language is remarkable.

Discussion Questions: Aristotle and Dante love to make up stories about the people on the bus (see p. 21); go and sit outside where you can people watch and spontaneously write short stories about a handful of them.; What does it mean to be alone? Can another person cure loneliness, or is it something that must be healed from within?; What makes a good friend? What makes a good person?; How do your family dynamics influence who you are as a person?

We Flagged:  “I felt alone, but not in a bad way. I really liked being alone. Maybe I liked it too much. Maybe my father was like that too. I thought of Dante and wondered about him.  And it seemed to me that Dante’s face was a map of the world. A world without darkness. Wow, a world without darkness. How beautiful was that?” (p. 56)

Read This If You Loved: Personal Effects by EM Kokie, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Shine by Lauren Myracle, Ask the Passengers by A.S. King, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Recommended For: 

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endangered

Endangered
Author: Eliot Schrefer
Published October 1st, 2013 by Scholastic Press

Summary: Sophie is a normal teenager who travels between her divorced parents who live in completely different cultural situations–her father has an office job in America and her mother runs a bonobo sanctuary in Congo. Though she was born in the Congo, the last few years have been spent in America with her father and return trips to her mother’s sanctuary. The book begins with Sophie waiting in a check point, where she spots a baby bonobo who is not being treated well and, against everyone’s wishes, she buys him.

Kellee’s Review: With Sophie’s purchase, Otto enters into her life and ours. He becomes the co-star of the book and begins to change Sophie’s feelings about being at the sanctuary. But then, right before she is about to leave, chaos at the hand of revolutionaries envelopes Congo and Sophie finds herself in a completely type of situation.

Now if you follow me here or on Twitter, you know that I am a sucker for ape books and I have been lucky that many people who care a lot about apes write some amazing ape books – this is a book to add to that list. It left me with even more of a passion for saving these animals who are our closest relative. I. Love. This. Book. It quickly moved into my favorites list even while I was only half way through with it. It is such a journey that you take with this young lady and the growth you see in her (and Otto) is incredible. On top of that, Eliot Schrefer is an author who not only can tell a good story, but he can help you become part of the story and visualize and feel everything that is happening. And I am not alone in this love. Endangered was a finalist for The National Book Award and Walden Award, Eliot Schrefer was a hit at the Scholastic Brunch at NCTE, and it is being gushed about on Twitter.

On top of all of this, I read it with my 8th graders this year and they adored it! Check out my End of (School) Year Reflection to see my reflections on teaching the novel as well as Skyping with Eliot.

Ricki’s Review: This is a beautifully crafted novel, one which will stick with me. I learned a lot about the horrors that exist within the war-torn country of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a place which I had limited knowledge about—but it also gave me a look into the life of bonobos. Each year, I give very few books a 5-star rating on GoodReads, but this one is well deserving. I wish I could give it more than five stars, to be frank. Eliot Schrefer does a brilliant job describing the powerful bond between humans and animals. There are so many elements of this text that teachers can use in the classroom that it feels like a gold mine. I’ve recommended it to adults and teens again and again—and with the confidence that I know they will appreciate the intricate beautiful of this novel. Endangered will always rank as one of the best books I have ever read. When my student returned this book, she handed it to me and paused. I waited in anticipation of her response, as she reads over a hundred books a year and is very critical. She chose her words slowly and carefully. “I don’t like animals, so I didn’t want to read this. You kept talking about it, so I finally decided to just go for it. This isn’t a book about animals, and really, it isn’t a book about war. It is a book that is about being human.”

Discussion Questions: Sophie makes many decisions throughout the book that many people, specifically her parents, would not have agreed with. Would you have made the same decisions as her? Were there any you would have done differently? Do you think her decisions were worth it? Use textual evidence to back your answers.; What does this book teach us about being human?; In what ways do the bonobos reflect humanity?; How does the war-torn setting add to this story?

We Flagged: “The man released the bonobo. The little ape sat down tiredly in the dirt and lowered his arms, wincing as his sore muscles relaxed. I kneeled and reached out to him. The bonobo glanced at his master before working up the energy to stand and toddle over to me. He leaned against my shin for a moment, then extended his arms to be picked up. I lift him easily and hugged himself to me, his fragile arms as light as a necklace. I could make out his individual ribs under my figures, could feel his heart flutter against my throat. He pressed his lips against my check , I guess to get as close as possible to my skin, and only then did I hear his faint cries; he’d been making them for so long that his voice was gone.” (p. 3-4)

Read This If You Loved: Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel, Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, The Chimpanzees I Love by Jane Goodall, Tree Girl by Ben Mikaelsen, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Faithful Elephants by Yukio Tsuchiya, Non-fiction books about bonobos or the Democratic Republic of Congo

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passengers

Ask the Passengers
Author: A.S. King
Published October 23rd, 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary: Astrid is very cerebral–she can get lost in philosophical theories and questions about the world. Her favorite pastime is laying on the bench in her backyard so she can send her love to the passengers on the airplanes that fly overhead. At her catering job, Astrid meets Dee, and she falls in love. She isn’t sure if this makes her a lesbian, as she has never loved another girl, and society wants to fit her in a box that she isn’t quite sure describes her.

Kellee’s Review: I am fascinated with the setting of this book. It seems like a perfect place to live, but really everyone is living a lie. It reminds me a bit of “Stepford Wives.” What a sad existence. Maybe I am (the opposite of) sheltered because my parents and my friends always supported me to be who I am. However, because of King’s perfect depiction of Astrid’s experiences, it transplants me right into Astrid’s shoes.

Besides the setting, the characters are what makes this book a star. Astrid is a character that every reader will connect with in one way or another: she doesn’t exactly fit in though she doesn’t stick out, she has a secret she feels like she can’t tell anyone, and as a teenager she doesn’t exactly get along with her family. While Astrid is strong, so are the secondary characters. You know that if you want to jump into a book and just go off on a character that the author has done their job (UGH! The mom will drive you crazy too!).  This book would not move without its secondary characters; although Astrid is our protagonist, it is the secondary characters that drive much of the story. It is amazing how all of the characters are so fleshed out.

Finally, like all King novels, the way it is written just adds that element that pushes this book to being an award winner. King’s ability to give her characters a voice is phenomenal. Each of her novels have such a unique personality and she is able to give them each a unique voice. She also adds humor and intelligence to each of her books.

Ricki’s Review: Astrid’s character felt very real to me. Despite the heartache and lack of love in her own life, she manages to send all of her love to people she doesn’t even know–strangers in the sky. I can’t help but peer up at airplanes now and send my love to the passengers. Astrid is not a typical high school student. She lives by her principles and stays true to herself amidst the pressures that teens face. She is an unbelievable role model for both adolescents and adults.

Astrid teaches us to give our love away when we aren’t feeling any ourselves. She connects herself with complete strangers when those who are closest to her are emotionally failing her. Teens will learn to reach out and grasp love in the most unconventional places. The warmth that emanates from this book makes it incredibly special.

Discussion Questions: How do the passengers’ stories add to the richness of this text?; How does the setting influence aspects of the book?; Does society expect us to fit into neat boxes with labels?; What complications exist in Astrid’s life? Which coping mechanisms does she use to relieve her pain? Which other coping mechanisms might she use?

We Flagged: “I mean to say: Everybody’s always looking for the person they’re better than.” (page 231)

Read This If You Loved: Please Ignore Vera Deitz by A.S. King, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King, Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Luna by Julie Anne Peters, Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher

Recommended For: 

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Which of these finalists have you read? What did you think of them?
We’re so excited to review the winner tomorrow!

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Brave Girl by Michelle Markel

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NF PB 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

brave

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909
Author: Michelle Markel
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Published January 22nd, 2013 by Balzer + Bray

Summary: Clara and her family immigrated to New York. They were searching for the American dream. When her father could not find a job, Clara quit school and became a garment worker to support her family. The conditions at her factory were appalling: low wages, unfair rules, and locks on the door. After discussions between the workers, Clara helps urge the girls to fight for their rights.

Review: I am sucker for this biographical picture book for two reasons: 1) I had not known about the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 before and I love learning about new historical moments. I know that it interested me (as I know it would for kids), because after I read the additional information about the garment industry I was on the internet searching for more information. 2) Clara is such a great example of girl power! AND she is a historical figure that shows girls (and boys) that girls can stand up for themselves when they are not being treated well (in real life). I love that she overcame so much to not only stand up for her rights, but also to get an education and take care of her family. What an amazing person to learn about.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The main way that I would use this book is as a read aloud. It will definitely cause a great discussion and may push students to do further research. It would also be a perfect read aloud for a unit on women’s rights, immigration, overcoming obstacles, girl power, labor laws, or the early 1900s to help make connections to history. 

Discussion Questions: Do you think that Clara continuing her education helped her in being able to fight for her labor rights?; Clara made a tough decision between continuing school during the day or working. Do you agree or disagree with her decision? Why or why not? How did her decision affect her life?; What caused the garment workers to strike?

We Flagged: “But Clara is uncrushable. She wants to read, she wants to learn! At the end of her shift, though her eyes hurt from straining in the gaslight and her back hurts from hunching over the sewing machine, she walks to the library. She fills her empty stomach with a single glass of milk and goes to school at night. When she gets home in the late evening, she sleeps only a few hours before rising again.” (p. 12-13)

To see a preview of the illustrations, visit Amazon’s “Look Inside” for Brave Girl.

Read This If You Loved: Here Comes the Girl Scouts! by Shana Corey, The Price of Freedom by Dennis Brindell Fradin, Boycott Blues by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Annie and Helen by Deborah Hopkinson

Recommended for: 

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Who is a female historical figure who shows as much girl power as Clara that you believe should be talked about more?

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Building Our House by Jonathan Bean

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Building Our House
Author and Illustrator: Jonathan Bean
Published January 8th, 2013 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Summary: Based on Jonathan Bean’s childhood experience, Building Our House follows a family who moves to a piece of land and builds their own home over the course of many years.

My Review: What an amazing story! It is even more amazing because it is based off of the author’s true childhood events. In the book, we follow the family from living in a trailer surrounded by bare land to living in their dream home. Though the summary seems so simple, it is much more than just watching a family build a home. It is about being determined, resilient, hardworking, a strong family, and patient. I also see it drawing in readers who are curious by building and tools. Finally, to make this story even better, the illustrations are so intricate and colorful which will also draw in readers (and has gotten it on Mock Caldecott lists).

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The story is told in a very sequential way and would be a great introduction or resource for teaching sequence. Then, I noticed as reading, that often there is more going on in the illustrations then is stated in the words. It would be a great activity to reinforce sequence to tell the other story to the story- the story told in the illustrations.

Discussion Questions: What character traits must the Mom and Dad have to work this long/hard on their dream home?; Put the main events in sequential order.; When was a time that your family came together to do something?

We Flagged: “Our crew works until the sun sets and the frame stands strong in the middle of the field. Mom makes places for everyone to sit around a fire. We eat and talk and play until the stars shine and the owls call.” (p. 24)

Read This If You Loved: Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton, Mitchell Goes Bowling by Hallie Durand

Recommended For: 

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The building of his childhood home is a memory that has lasted for Jonathan Bean. If you were going to write a book about a moment or memory from your childhood, what would it be?

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Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems by Jack Prelutsky

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NF PB 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book). Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

 

stardines

Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems
Author: Jack Prelutsky
Illustrator: Carin Berger
Published February 26th, 2013 by Greenwillow Books

Summary: Jack Prelutsky combines inanimate objects with animals to give us a new collection of fun poetry that is accompanied by Carin Berger’s amazing fine artwork.

My Review: I love the concept behind this book. It is set up like an informational nonfiction book with each poem being presented like a specimen. Carin Berger’s artwork is full of found objects that were photographed to add to the nonfiction feeling of each poem.   And, of course, Prelutsky adds a sense of humor to each poem as that is what he does.

The creatures that Prelutsky came up with are so clever – SOBCATS who are sad cats, JOLLYFISH who are happy jellyfish, TATTLESNAKE are snakes that won’t stop tattling, and GLOOSE are a bird that keep sticking to everything. And these are just four examples of sixteen in the book.

I cannot review this book without talking about the artwork. I originally chose this book because I saw it on a Mock Caldecott list and I can definitely see why. Carin Berger illustrates this novel with beautiful pieces of artwork. As stated on the copyright page: “The miniature dioramas in this book are assemblages created using a combination of cut paper, found ephemera, vintage engravings (which were scanned, manipulated in Photoshop, and then printed out), beeswax, wire, thread, and wood. Once each piece was made, it was then photographed digitally to prepare the full-color art.” What a fantastic process to discuss with students and it definitely added an essential aspect to the book.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Each poem is its own discussion starter. First, to separate the title creatures into the two words that were combined and looking at what the animals is and what the word is that it was combined with. For example: “Chormorants” is a combination of CORMORANT and CHORES. Then I’d look through the poem and find where the animal is represented and where the combined word plays a role. And on top of that, each poem can be looked at as a poem and look for poetic elements within it.  Each poem is a stand-alone, well done poem that is sure to start a conversation.

Discussion Questions: Which poem is your favorite? Why?; Combine an animal with a word and write a poem about this new creature.; How do you think Berger’s artwork added to the book? How would cartoon illustrations have made the book different?

We Flagged: Every poem is a gem, but this is my favorite-

“PLANDAS sit around all day,
Planning what to do.
Their plans amount to nothing,
For they never see them through.
They plan to run a marathon
Or take a railroad trip.
They plan to cross the ocean
On a wooden sailing ship.
***
They plan to learn to roller-skate,
To juggle, and to fence.
They plan to go to clown school
And cavort in circus tents.
They plan to play the saxophone
And form their own brass bands. . . .
But PLANDAS never do these things –
They just keep making plans.” (p. 21)

Read This If You Loved: Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant by Jack Prelutsky, My Teacher Likes to Say by Denise Brennan-Nelson,  Lemonade by Bob Raczka

Recommended For:

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More Than This by Patrick Ness

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More Than This
Author: Patrick Ness
Expected Publication September 10th, 2013 by Candlewick Press

Summary: Readers are thrown into the action right from the beginning of this book. Seth is drowning–he is dying. When he wakes up, he is naked, alone, and unfamiliar with his surroundings. Seth knows he has died, but he isn’t sure where he is. In his distant memories, he remembers the English town that he is in, but he moved away after an enormous tragedy in his childhood, so why has he returned? The town looks very different from the way he remembers it–as if no one has lived there in over a decade. Seth sets out to try to discover where he is. He hopes he isn’t alone, the world hasn’t ended, and he hasn’t arrived in his personal Hell.

Review: At the beginning of my reading, I felt the same feelings as I felt with The Maze Runner by James Dashner. I was bewildered, confused, and very curious about where the book was headed. Patrick Ness phenomenally reveals details so slowly that it makes it very difficult to put this one down. It is highly unpredictable and extremely engaging. This book evades the typical features that would lock it into one genre–it is a thriller, an adventure, and a, frankly, an incredibly thoughtful work of science fiction. More Than This teaches readers about loyalty, resilience, hope, and bravery, amongst other messages that I can’t express without revealing details of the plot. Dive into this one–it will send you to a world that will make you ponder elements of life you may not have ever considered before.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This is one of the best books that I’ve read that can be used for helping students make predictions. Teachers can use the whole book or excerpts of the text, and students would love predicting plot details, grounded in the evidence the plot provides. Like all of Ness’s writing, this book experiments with language and sentence structure, and students could examine how Ness uses language to advance the plot and overall meaning of the book. 

Discussion Questions: How does Ness reveal plot details as a way to engage his audience? Is he effective?; Where is Seth? What might Ness be telling us about the world we live in?; In the beginning of the book, Seth wonders if he has woken up in his personal Hell. Where would your personal Hell be?; What memories shape who you are as a person? Have you learned from them? How?

We Flagged: “There’s an unreality under all the dust, all the weeds. Ground that seems solid but that might give way any moment” (p. 51).

“A book, he thinks at one point, rubbing his eyes, tired from so much focused reading. It’s a world all on its own, too. […] A world made of words, Seth thinks, where you live for a while” (p. 143).

Please note: The above quotes are from the Advanced Reader Copy. They may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: Maze Runner by James Dashner, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

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Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending me the Advanced Reader Copy!

Any Patrick Ness fans out there? Have you read this one or pre-ordered it?

What are your favorite science fiction books?

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

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And the Mountains Echoed
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Published May 21st, 2013 by Riverhead Books

Summary: Told from various points of view, this novel is a collection of powerful stories, woven with the rich history of Afghanistan. All of the characters are linked in some way, showing the profound impact that seemingly small decisions can have on others in the world. After finishing this story, the character’s voices still speak in my head: Three-year-old Pari and ten-year-old Abdullah, villagers in rural Afghanistan…Nabi, an elderly Afghan who is devoted to the care of the wealthy Mr. Wahdati…Nila, a tortured soul, who is lost in her poetry and past…Idris, a man visiting his homeland of Afghanistan, who recognizes and is embarrassed by his privileged life in America…Markos, a plastic surgeon living in Afghanistan, who works to fix the deformities caused by the war…Adel, a young Afghan boy living in a mansion with bodyguards…these characters and a few others are richly realized and will tug the heartstrings of readers.

Review: Spanning five decades and multiple generations, the stories cross paths in unbelievable ways. Readers might, at the beginning of each section, feel a bit uncomfortable with the shifts in narration, locations, and time periods, but Hosseini makes the connections clear, and the story’s structure is essential to the central messages of loyalty, family, and the devastating effects of war.  I experienced many similar emotions as when I read Hosseini’s other books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Sons, such as grief and anger, and when this book ended, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of catharsis. Emotions aside, this book is quite different. The writing felt more lyrical and complex (if that is even possible) than Hosseini’s other works. I couldn’t help but put the book down at several times because I was in awe of the craftsmanship of the text’s structure and connectedness.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Kite Runner has always been a literature circle choice in my classroom. This novel is much more complex and would need a lot of teacher support, but it would be a fantastic literature circle choice for advanced, high school readers. If used as a whole-class text, teachers might have students diagram the relationships between characters, write journal entries from the perspectives of different characters, or write letters from one character to another. Many of the characters don’t interact at any point, but it would be enlightening to consider what messages they might have for each other. It would be helpful if teachers gave background knowledge of the political situation in Afghanistan to support the reading of this text. This is a great text to teach structure and narration, but additionally, it is a great model of voice. Ranging in age, race, and personality, these characters all have varying insights of the world, and these are reflected in their words and actions. Students would have to think critically to analyze their voices.

Discussion Questions: How might our decisions affect others indirectly connected to us?; What responsibility does a child have to his/her parent?; Am I privileged? How are my life experiences different from those around me?; What will we remember most as we age?

We Flagged: “They say, Find a purpose in your life and live it. But sometimes, it is only after you have lived that you recognize your life had a purpose, and likely one you never had in mind” (p. 127).

“‘J’aurais dû être plus gentille–I should have been more kind. That is something a person will never regret. You will never say to yourself when you are old, Ah, I wish I was not good to that person. You will never think that'” (p. 382-283).

Read This If You Loved: Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Sons by Khaled Hosseini, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Recommended For:

litcirclesbuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

What do you think about using contemporary adult bestsellers in the classroom? I try to mix classics, YAL, and other bestsellers, while still allowing students the choice to select the texts they read. Do you agree with this philosophy?

Oh, and have you read this one? I would love to hear your thoughts because the characters are still interrupting my daily thoughts. 🙂

RickiSig