The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle

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The Infinite Moment of Us
Author: Lauren Myracle
Expected Publication: August 20th, 2013 by Amulet Books (an imprint of ABRAMS books)

Summary: Wren Gray has always been perfect. As high school graduation approaches, she realizes that she doesn’t want to go to Emory, the college she was accepted into (early decision, of course), and she wants to do charity work in Guatemala through a program called Project Unity. Wren hasn’t told her parents this plan, and she knows they will be heart-broken. She has never dated a boy, but when Wren meets Charlie Parker, she wants to know more about him. Charlie is a hard-working student who spends most of his time helping his foster father in their family-owned cabinet shop. With a troubled past, Charlie is battling demons that constantly tell him he isn’t good enough. It isn’t until Wren waves back to him in the parking lot that he has the guts to pursue the girl of his dreams. This is a beautiful story of what happens when two souls collide—it explores love, a powerful force that is much deeper than just two physical bodies interacting with one another.

Review: Told from alternating perspectives, this novel seamlessly transitions between Wren’s and Charlie’s thoughts. As always, Myracle’s work embodies the culture of the environment she writes about. The language and details of the setting took me straight to Atlanta. As I am a Northerner and have never lived outside of Connecticut, I always love getting lost in Myracle’s settings. The characters are wonderfully complex. They have quirks and elements of their personalities that make them feel quite real. As an aside, I also found the names to be interesting. I don’t suspect it is intentional, but Wren Gray is best friends with Tessa. Tessa Gray is the main character in the Clockwork Angel Series. It made me think of many other characters in literature with the last name Gray. Overall, I loved this book. I am still madly in love with Myracle’s Shine, but I like how she can step inside the perceived boxes of many genres, as her focus here was a more romantic novel. The philosophical conversations between Wren and Charlie were my favorite part of The Infinite Moment of Us.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: A warning of sorts—Lauren Myracle begins the novel with a note to readers. She says, “This book has sex in it. It’s not about sex, not exclusively, and I’m more interested in the mingling of Charlie’s and Wren’s souls than in the ways their bodies come together.” The sexual detail is certainly graphic, so I recommend this for mature readers. I have a special signature form for certain books in my classroom, and I find that this often inspires more kids to sign them out. I completely agree with Lauren Myracle after reading this book. It is about the way these two souls come together, and the sex is not a focal point.

Teachers could have students closely analyze the passages of dialogue between Wren and Charlie, where they philosophically debate life (see the sections I flagged below for a start). Additionally, the setting adds richness to this novel, and it would be great for students to analyze how these details add to the story. Many of the characters in this book act and respond in different ways (Wren, Charlie, Starrla, Tessa), and I think students would enjoy investigating the ways Myracle develops each of her characters.

Discussion Questions: What happens when two souls collide?; Is there a such thing as true love?; How does family influence a person’s actions?; Should our significant other be placed in a higher position than our friends and family?; What is home to us? Is it just a place?

We Flagged: “Sometimes the things we hide—aren’t they the parts of us that matter most?” (Chapter 1).

“‘I guess I think the world is more connected than people realize,” […] ‘I think…sometimes…that scientists…some scientists…want to package things up into neat little boxes. Explain, explain, explain, until there aren’t any mysteries left'” (Chapter 7).

“‘I’m just not sure a person’s home is determined by where he or she lives. I think home is more than that'” (Chapter 10).

Please note: The above quotes are from the Advanced Reader Copy. Chapter numbers are included instead of page numbers because the e-reader did not provide page numbers. The quotes may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles, Sarah Dessen’s books, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Recommended For:

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I would use a parent signature form for this one due to strong sexual content, but this is a definite must-have in the classroom library.

How much do we love Lauren Myracle? Have you read this one or pre-ordered it?

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**Thank you to NetGalley and ABRAMS books for sending me the Advanced Reader Copy for review!**

 

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:

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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

Tom T’s Hat Rack by Michele Spry

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Tom T’s Hat Rack
Author: Michele Spry
Illustrator: Peggy A. Guest
Published January 2, 2013 by Spry Publishing

Summary: After Mr. T’s bout of cancer, he has decided that he wants to help make other people’s journeys during their chemo and radiation a bit easier. To do this, he asks his young friend Shelby to help him make a special project. Shelby Summers is one of those young people who understands the golden rule- she is good to all around her because she knows that is the right thing to do. This book shares with us the story of Mr. T and Shelby building their gift for others and what it is like to pay it forward.

My Review: This book’s purpose is more than just a narrative. The author, in her letter to me that came with the book, shared how she hopes the book would inspire others to pay it forward. “This simple act of kindness towards others is so simple to do and encourage others to do.” Too many children are growing up without thinking about this important aspect of humanity. Tom T’s Hat Rack is a great platform for starting that conversation.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: In the back of the book, the author has laid out ways for students to pay it forward just like Mr. T and Shelby. First, there is a brainstorming page to consider how the reader could help his or her community. Then the author’s page shares with the reader the story behind the book (Michele’s inspiration was a friend of hers that was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and was still positive and upbeat during his treatment). Finally, the hat rack plans are included so that the readers could make a hat rack for their community just like Mr. T and Shelby. I think that this is an important book because of what it teaches and the conversations that it’ll start. It’ll be perfect for a read aloud or book club in middle elementary grades. You could even combine it with the amazing picture books I’ll list below to make a kindness unit.

Discussion Questions: What can you do to help others in your community? List some ways you can help – big or small – it doesn’t matter as long as you are doing something positive to help others. (p. 91)

We Flagged: “Tonight, Mr. T talked about how he wanted to have Shelby help him with a little project. After going through these tough health issues with his cancer, he decided to do something positive to benefit others. He knew with Shelby’s caring heart, and vision to help people, he and Shelby would be able to accomplish this idea over summer break.” (p. 22)

Read this if you loved: Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein

Recommended for: 

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**Thank you to Michele Spry for providing a copy for review**