Sunday, November 28, 2010

Heaven by Angela Johnson

This book was hard for me to rate, but I gave it a rating of three out of five. Marley lives in the small town of Heaven, Ohio, and she enjoys the peace and simple life she finds there. She meets a girl named Shoogy who becomes her best friend. Marley also babysits for a man named Bobby, and she loves looking after his daughter. Marley receives letters from her Uncle Jack throughout the book, and she's puzzled about why her family sends him money on a regular basis and what he's doing with himself. The problem arises when Marley receives a letter from Alabama and discovers that her parents have been keeping a big secret from her. The truth is tearing Marley apart, and she's not sure what will become of her life.

This book won the Coretta Scott King Award and has a wonderful message. The main reason for my rating of the book is that it focuses on characterization and not so much on the plot. Most of my students prefer books with more action, entertainment, or suspense, so I'm not sure how they might respond to this book. Their preferences are not good or bad, but they're something I consider when I rate the books on my blog. Marley's conflict is one that connects with many young people, although perhaps not in the exact same way. Adolescents are interested in knowing who they are and how they fit into the world. This book deals with those issues.

Lexile level from 790

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

This book is non-fiction, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. It may not appeal to some readers, since it doesn't have the descriptive plot and character developments. However, it has conflict. Greg Mortensen was coming back down K2, the second highest mountain in the world, when he got separated and lost from his party. He came upon a village in Pakistan and recovered. He decided that he would come back some day and build a school for the children there; they were scratching their multiplication facts into the dirt with sticks! This plan may seem simple, but there were political and cultural obstacles along the way. He was even kidnapped by rebels at one point and was help captive for days. Greg made it his life's work to build more schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan despite the dangers. He felt knowledge and hope would help bring peace to these countries.

I was a bit leery at the beginning of the book, but it was very interesting. I didn't expect Greg to have so many problems getting a school built, but the citizens of Pakistan were so desperate that the different towns were competing with each other for Greg's help. I guess the terrorist danger was foreseeable if I'd thought about it ahead of time. The end of the book is an interview with Greg's daughter, and students may find these pages interesting an revealing. It was hard for her to share her father with the rest of the world.

Lexile level from 910