Friday, April 24, 2015

I Kill the Mockingbird

Acampora, Paul. I Kill the Mockinbird. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2014. Print.
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My Thoughts
This was a cute story. Three friends (Lucy, Michael, & Elena) decide they want everyone to read To Kill a Mockingbird for their required summer reading. They create a movement ("conspiracy") that makes people think the book is one others DON'T want kids to read. "Because wanting what you can't have is the American Way, right?" (Acampora 54). So, they begin hiding copies of To Kill a Mockingbird in local book stores and leaving a flyer stating "I Kill the Mockingbird" with a website address they created. The movement grows (and so does the readership).

The book is only 163 pages and is a fast read. It starts off that Lucy's mother has returned from the hospital. She's undergone cancer treatment. The way the author addresses this real life situation is appropriate and not fully of sentimentality. It also ties in to the Mockingbird conspiracy.

Lucy attends at Catholic school where her father is the principal. I found Acampora's descriptions of Catholic teaching humorous. "We both spend our days in Catholic school. That's where you learn that faithful people can be a little insane sometimes...We're taught that sometimes the world is a puzzle waiting for us to solve it. Other times it's a mystery to appreciate and accept" (Acampora 5).

In fact, there were several times I marked something that I found humorous in this book. For example, "Why do teachers think that shoving summer reading lists down our throats is a good idea?" (Acampora 7). This is timely as many posts on my library list serv right now are talking about summer reading lists.

Another thing that I laughed about was "Fat Bob's" funeral. There is an incident and the funeral director's reaction is simply "Sweet Jesus" (Acampora 12). I know that I found this probably funnier than it is because I just recently attended by uncle's funeral.

I appreciated that there is mention of why libraries weed books. I, however, will probably not use the same technique as the conspirators to rid the library of the discards (Acampora 140).

I have a great display idea to create in my own library to encourage kids to read this book as well as To Kill a Mockingbird. I can't wait until it's built.

Some insightful thoughts from this book:
  • "It's not enough to know what all the words mean...A good reader starts to see what an entire book is trying to say. And then a good reader will have something to say in return. If you're reading're having a conversation" (Acampora 10).
  • "At our house, thank you cards are a big deal" (Acampora 28). YES! This makes me smile because I'm trying to teach my daughter the same.
  • When events happen, "you don't know what will come of it. I don't believe that God has motives that we are supposed to understand or enjoy " (Acampora 29).

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley

Hutchinson, Shaun David. The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. New York: Simon Pulse, 2015. Print.
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Product Details
My Thoughts
from the inside jacket:
"Andrew Brawley was supposed to die that night. His parents did, and so did his sister, but he survived. Now he lives in the hospital. He serves food in the cafeteria, he hangs out with the nurses, and he sleeps in a forgotten supply closet. Drew blends in to near invisibility, hiding from his past, his guilt, and those who are trying to find him."

This story sounded very interesting to me. What happened to his family? How does a kid live in a hospital undetected? How does he work in the cafeteria? Who is trying to find him?

The first line of the book is "The boy is on fire" (Hutchinson 1). A patient comes in with severe burns, and Drew sees him from where he's hiding. Drew also hears the "animal howls" and has "nowhere in this hospital that I could hide to escape his screams" (Hutchinson 2). Some kids doused the boy with alcohol and lit him on fire (Hutchinson 16). Drew visits him in the ICU by sneaking in and finds out the patient's name is Rusty McHale (Hutchinson 18). Drew borrows books from his boss in the cafeteria and reads to Rusty. Drew even confesses what happened to his own family (This happens over multiple secret visits.) and makes the promise that Death will not find Rusty. Drew will protect him. After Rusty begins to recover some from his burn injuries and is awake, Drew and Rusty become friends and eventually kiss (a few times).

Drew also visits "Grandma" Brawley. I really like this character, even though it appears she's in a coma.  "I tell Grandma Brawley everything. She's a vault. Best secret keeper ever" (Hutchinson 41). All of the nurses believe that Andrew is her grandson and gush how he visits her when no one else does. Drew has even created a fiction of her life story, complete with a tragic lost love element.

Lexi & Trevor who are in the Peds floor, both with cancer. These two become good friends with Drew. Their story weaves nicely with Drew's, and I appreciate their honestly among friends. I was surprised at how the book ended for them. (no spoiler alerts here)

I like that Death (notice the capital letter) "follows" Andrew. Drew's description of Death is clever. "The thing about Death is that's she's predictable. She eats every morning at seven thirty....Death never leaves. Death lives her. She's married to her job" (Hutchinson 65). "Death" is actually a social worker named Michelle (Hutchinson 70). However, the reader can see that Drew has studied and observed her and even fears her, as in his mind, this women personifies death and the loss of his family.

Father Mike plays a pivotal role in the story, although when first introduced, he seemed to be a minor character.  "Father Mike's got these blue eyes like I've never seen before. They're flashlights, shining their holy light into corners of my soul that I don't necessarily want illuminated" (Hutchinson 102). Father Mike symbolizes the moral compass that Drew seeks. Father Mike also gives sound advice. "In order for a hero to be a true hero, he's got to have something worth living for. He's got to love something" (Hutchinson 121). Is Father Mike talking about Drew or the comic book character, Patient F?

By the way, there is a comic book story that Drew creates inserted into his own story. The main character, Patient F, is a hero (or not). His story changes and the last "installment" of the book becomes the epilogue (at least as Drew wishes it to be the journey of his life).

After finishing the book, I'm not sure I understand the "stages" of Andrew. I see some transitions, but I guess I missed what is considered a "stage." I understand that Drew felt he should be punished and must stay at the hospital. I get that Rusty gave him a reason to live (just as Drew gave and took away Rusty's reason). I just don't know if I can classify the "stages" as the title indicates there are.

I liked that the characters, actions, explanations and events were not all as they seemed. Several times in the book I was surprised by what happened or what truths were exposed. I kept thinking about Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem "We Wear the Mask."

As this book is being touted for LGBT audiences, I thought I should read it before putting it out on the shelves. There are a few labels used (queer, gay dude, pervert, cock gobbler). There is mention of relationships between boys (kissing, boyfriend). I like that Hutchinson discusses bullying in this story, but then I am saddened because I know that his commentary is pretty accurate. "While his parents and the doctors and the principal all tell him that he's going back, that he's going to be safe, even thought they all laugh behind their hands with the knowledge that the bullies will get him, beat him, before the end of day one" (Hutchinson 257). Bullies are hard to stop.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Twenty Boy Summer

Ockler, Sarah. Twenty Boy Summer.  New York, Little, Brown and Co., 2009. Print.
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My Thoughts
I picked this book off The Hive (our school district's ebook collection) because I see it come across the counter in my library A LOT! I thought the cover was pieces of torn paper, but now I understand it is sea glass.
This is a typical high school girl love story kind of story. It was a bit predictable and sometimes far-fetched, but the overarching story was pleasant. It is 33 chapters long, 482 pages.
There are three friends: Matt, his sister Frankie, and their neighbor Anna.These three are so close, but one night, Matt & Anna kiss and begin a secret relationship that is more than just friends. Matt & Anna will keep this a secret until Matt can tell his sister on their annual family vacation to the beach. Tragically, Matt dies soon after this romance begins and before he can tell his sister.
After a year of grieving, the family decides to take the annual trip to the beach, and they take the best friend Anna. There, Frankie and Anna declare a contest to have the Absolute Best Summer Ever (ABSE). "We're in California for twenty-three days, right?...that leaves us...twenty days [for] twenty boys" (Ockler 76). You can predict that their plans fall short.
The girls do meet some boys on the beach. They sneak out. They lie to Frankie's parents. They create untrue identities. One girl thinks, "Then I get mad at myself for letting some boy that I just met dictate what I do with my own face" (Ockler 233).  (I was glad to see a glimmer of this message in the book).  The girls attend a party where one of the girls has sex on the beach (not the drink). Frankie learns of her brothers "secret" romance by reading Anna's journal. Tensions build. Truths surface.
The parents in this story are secondary.  The mother is almost a shadow of a person. They are grieving, but I was glad when Frankie explained, "'I wish she'd get just---I don't know, get mad. Yell. Call me out on my lies. Be disappointed. She doesn't even care'" (Ockler 309). The mother does care, but she is letting her grief overshadow her parenting of her surviving child.
This is a book I will recommend to my teenage girl readers (if there are any left at my school who haven't read this already). There are some thoughtful truths that surface in the story. I will also order some of the author's other books. Teen girls especially love a good love story.