Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Palacio, R. J. Wonder. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. Print.
image from: http://media.npr.org/assets/bakertaylor/covers/w/wonder/9780552565974_custom-b8367e7a41f7c527051b3b8024b7924b3e0a113c-s6-c30.jpg


My Thoughts
I saw R. J. Palacio at TLA (even took her picture), but thought, "That's a lower grade book. I haven't read it. I'm not interested." YIKES! I wish I had been interested enough to get her autograph. This was a wonderful read, and I can't wait to pass it on to my daughter.

Wonder is the story of August Pullman. He is starting public school for the first time. He's in the 5th grade. He has been home schooled until now because he has had so many surgeries. There is something not "normal" about his face. He's a genetic abnormality--only 1 in 4 million have this combination of syndromes."August had what seemed to be a 'previously unknown type of mandibulofacial dysostosis caused by an autosomal recessive mutation on the TCOF1 gene, which is located on chromosome 5, complicated by a hemifacial microsomia characteristic of OAV spectrum'" (Palacio 104).  As he introduces himself to the reader, he explains, "I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse" (Palacio 3).  August has a great sense of himself and others' reactions to him. He takes it all in stride. He sees even when others pretend not to see him.

The story is divided into 8 parts, with August (Auggie) being the narrator for most of the book. However, we do get insight into other characters' perspectives. There are so many themes in this book that I hope when my daughter does read it, she picks up on a few of them.
  • Be a true friend--always.

  • Don't be one way around certain people & a different way around others.

  • "You don't have to mean to hurt someone to hurt someone" (Palacio 137).

I enjoyed reading this book and hoping that in similar situations, I would have responded with kindness. In fact, on page 299, Mr. Tushman, the middle school director, addresses the graduating class with the idea that they should be "'kinder than is necessary. Because it's not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed'" (Palacio 300). I thought about the "Kindness Matters" signs that our National Honor Society sold a year or two ago. Sadly, I probably acted more like the kids who avoided August because of "The Plague" game. I sometimes wish I could go back in time and be nicer to kids who I now understand needed good friends. Man, growing up is hard! I'm sorry Lisa Jones, Raymond Joiner (elementary school) and "Spaz"--I can't even remember his name from my 9th grade typing class. I often wonder what happened to them and how my hurtful actions and words affected them.

The actions of the characters were realistic, heartbreaking, and hopeful. As a reader, I was rooting for Auggie and felt the disappointment he felt, especially the Halloween episode. I cheered for Summer and her "blindness" in being Auggie's friend.

At one "heavy" point in the novel, Auggie is talking to his mom about heaven. He wants to know how people recognize each other. His mother responds, "'They just feel it. You don't need your eyes to love, right? You just feel it inside you. That's how it is in heaven. It's just love, and no one forgets who they love'" (Palacio 227). Well said, Mom!

The title reference is on page 310.

I know at TLA this year, if there are tons of people talking about a certain book, even if it is a "lower grade" book and I haven't read it, I will pay attention and get into the autograph line.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Diviners

Bray, Libba. The Diviners. New York: Little, Brown, & Co., 2012. Print.
image from: http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1336424966l/7728889.jpg

My Thoughts
I saw Libba Bray at TLA last year and actually got to have my picture made with her. I bought and she autographed my book later that same day. SO COOL!

The Diviners is part murder mystery, part historical fiction and a whole lot of creepy fun to read. "There is no greater power on this earth than a story" (Bray 407).

The setting is New York City in the 1920s. The book follows Evie O'Neill's story, but mixes in others as it progresses. Something is happening. Something is waking up and casting its shadow over the city. Something  is coming. Perhaps Solomon's Comet is the catalyst or maybe it's just a coincidence. There are several murders in the city that seem connected because of the bizarre nature the victims' bodies are left. Is it possible for a dead man to return to life?

Evie has a special supernatural ability. She can tell things about people through touching something they own. This ability is what actually got her sent to New York to live with her uncle Will--a curator at the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies (at least that's its nickname). It's actually named The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition and the Occult, and it is really a treasure house of oddities, including the two employees. Evie wants to have a good time. She's a modern girl, a flapper. These city murders are putting a damper on her carefree attitude and social life. So are her dreams.

"Naughty John, Naughty John, does his work with his apron on. Cuts your throat and takes your bones, sells 'em off for a coupla stones" is a song that reappears often in the story. The mystery around the song is discovered and explained (but not on this blog!). Naughty John is indeed naughty.

There are many plot lines running through this story. The issues of immigration, gang violence, religious fervor,  moral/racial superiority, patriotism are all scratched in this story. It's quite a lot to read (578 pages!)

The Brethren, "a vanished religious cult in upstate New York" plays an important role in what's happening in the city, including religious symbols, talismans and Knowles' End, a once large estate that falls to the young Ida Knowles to maintain (Bray 208).

Memphis's story was very interesting. His brother Isiah seems to be the "special" one in the family, but I was intrigued by Memphis. He's pretty special, too. I thought there might be some more of the story when the beautiful Theta, the Ziegfeld girl,  and Memphis collided, but Bray didn't explore that storyline as much as I hoped.

Blind Bill was another character that I wanted to know more and find out what exactly were his motives. Was he good? bad? both?

Overall, I liked how Bray weaves the stories together. I'd read almost 200 pages and felt like I was just barely started the story (not a complaint, but quite a compliment). The complaint I do have with the book, though, is the ending. For me, it was not resolved. Well, ok, parts were, but then it seemed to have a chapter that should have been at the front of the book, one that seemed like a shift in authorship--I thought I might be reading a Faulkner novel with lots of detail instead of the conclusion to this story (The chapter is titled "The Man in the Stovepipe Hat," and I missed or zoned out to the connection and who was the man). In fact, now that I think about it, there seemed to be several "loose" chapters that were either throwing "red herrings" to the reader or Bray forgot to connect them (or this reader has forgotten the connection). What exactly is Project Buffalo and how does all of this connect to Evie and Sam? I can't wait to read the second book (coming in March) entitled Lair of Dreams.

In the Author's Note section in the back, I appreciate that Bray writes, "I've tried to remain as faithful as I can to the time period and actual history while crafting a story that includes mystery, magic, monsters. and the unexplained---or as we call that around my house, just another Tuesday" (Bray 581). Libba Bray is so funny!