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Monday, November 18, 2013

Module 13: The Clique

Module 13: Graphic Novels and Series

The Clique
Author: Lisi Harrison

Book Summary:
     Claire Lyons moves into the guest house of the Block family. She thinks that she can be friends with Massie Block because of their close proximity, but Massie has other plans. Massie and her clique, Kristen, Dylan, and Alicia, try their best to alienate Claire. But Claire fights back. She tries to turn Massie’s clique against her and break Massie’s heart by introducing her to her crush’s girlfriend. The Clique shows both good and bad sides of the two main characters personalities, Massie and Claire, but both girls come off as superficial and petty. Will they be friends, or will the rivalry continue?
APA Book Reference:
Harrison, L. (2004). The clique. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

     This book was a very quick read; I read the whole thing in one sitting. However, I found myself bothered my all of the characters. Usually there is a protagonist the reader can route for, but this book was lacking in that aspect. I suppose the protagonist is supposed to be Claire, the new girl being bullied by her neighbor. However, Claire even stoops to the level of the clique of popular girls when she sneaks into Massie’s room at night and impersonates her through instant messenger.
     Not only were all of the characters unlikeable, they were not really relatable either. Even though these characters are supposed to be rich kids, I find it unbelievable that they would have their own credit cards and be able to shop for their 600 dollar tank tops with no supervision while they’re only in the seventh grade. The dialogue and some of the girls’ actions were perhaps indicative of someone so young, but the rest just seemed over the top to me. Perhaps it was just a tool the author used to show how different the clique really was from Claire, but I was not deluded by it.
     A lot happens in this short book, but there is really no resolution. The reader gets to see that maybe Massie is not all that bad, but she still does not know what to do about Claire in the end. This book was obviously set up to be part of a series from the beginning. 

Professional Review:
Pierce, D. (2004). The clique (book). School Library Journal, 50(6). 143.
Gr 5-8-- Claire Lyons moves with her parents from Florida to wealthy Westchester County, NY. Until they can get settled, the family stays in the guest house of Mr. Lyons's college buddy, who happens to have a daughter who is also in seventh grade. Expected to welcome her, Massie instead chooses to make Claire's life miserable for no other reason than she's the new girl. Massie enlists her clique of friends at Octavian Country Day School, all part of the beautiful and popular crowd, to help with the harassment, which ranges from catty comments on Claire's clothes to spilling red paint on her white jeans in a conspicuous spot. Tired of it all, Claire tries to fight back, but then the abuse worsens. The book has trendy references kids will love, including Starbucks in the school, designer clothes, and PalmPilots for list making. However, this trendiness doesn't make up for the shallowness of the characters or the one-dimensional plot. Nor is the cruelty of the clique redeemed with any sort of a satisfying ending. The conclusion leaves one with the feeling that a sequel is in the works. Amy Goldman Koss's The Girls (Dial, 2000) shows the same cruelty of girls with a more realistic story and resolution.

Library Uses:
     This book could be used in a book talk about books involving cliques. This book could be incorporated into a library program where young girls talk about cliques and bullying.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Module 12: Hole in my Life

Module 12: Biography and Autobiography

Hole in my Life

Author: Jack Gantos

Book Summary:

   Jack Gantos in his autobiography, Hole in my Life, writes about his journey through a hard time in his life. He got involved in a drug smuggling operation and, although he was young and was slated to just get probation, was sent to jail. He always wanted to be a writer, but never considered any of his ideas pursuable. His time in jail though, while writing in his “journal:” the cramped spaces between the lines of an existing novel, allowed him to realize his writing potential. Although a hard time in his life, it became a turning point. After jail and college, he began writing children’s books.

APA Book Reference:
Gantos, J. (2002). Hole in my life. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 

     This was a relatively short book, so it was a very quick read. I read it within the span of a few hours. I liked the book in terms of the writing about writing, but parts of it did get kind of boring. The chapters set on the boat were boring to me, but perhaps that’s because those were the truest parts of the book. Gantos was not just writing those chapters from memory; he kept a ship log, and it seems the passages were straight from that. Gantos also referenced many books and book characters that I was not familiar with, but I understand the device of comparing life to fiction as the author was interested in reading and writing at the time. I did enjoy this book though; it was short and to the point. It was about a bad time in the author’s life, but he did not dwell on the bad. He simply stated the facts.  
Professional Review: 

Gr. 8-up. Jack Gantos' riveting memoir of the 15 months he spent as a young man in federal prison for drug smuggling is more than a harrowing, scared-straight confession: it is a beautifully realized story about the making of a writer. As Gantos himself notes: "It [prison] is where I went from thinking about becoming a writer, to writing." His examination of the process--including his unsparing portrayal of his fears, failings, and false starts--is brilliant and breathtaking in its candor and authenticity. Particularly fascinating is his generous use of literary allusions to everything from Baudelaire to Billy Budd, which subtly yet richly dramatize how he evolved from a reader who became a character in the books he was reading to a writer and a character in his own life story. Gantos' spare narrative style and straightforward revelation of the truth have, together, a cumulative power that will capture not only a reader's attention but also empathy and imagination. This is great for every aspiring writer and also a wonderful biography for teens struggling to discover their deepest, truest selves.

Library Uses:
     This book could be used in a library writing workshop. Gantos describes how he writes and formats his journals, and this could be helpful to burgeoning writers. This book could also be paired with other “jail” literature (as the author refers to).

Monday, November 11, 2013

Module 11: Bodies from the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii

Module 11: Informational Books

Bodies from the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii
Author: James M. Deem

Book Summary:
     Bodies from the Ash is about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and its effect on the people on Pompeii. Mostly the book goes into detail about what happened to the bodies that were left behind. Many bodies were left casted with pumice and ash and were put on display for tourists. The ruins of Pompeii, along with the bodies, became a big tourist attraction, and a railway was even installed at one point so tourists would not have to climb the mountain. Bodies from the Ash also goes into detail about what archaeologists have learned from studying the remains.
APA Book Reference:
Deem, J. M. (2005). Bodies from the ash: Life and death in ancient Pompeii. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.

     While Bodies from the Ash was very informative, I found it to be quite boring. The “story” was very dry, but the many pictures helped to keep my interest. However the formatting of the story with the pictures was difficult to follow. There was often too much on the pages. The story continued from previous pages, but there were also sub-stories in boxes and pictures with footnotes. With all of that information in one spread, I did not know what to focus on and often got distracted.
     Despite the distracting format, this book could be used as teaching tool in a history lesson on volcanoes and their aftermath. It featured many pictures of the bodies, and a child reading this book would most likely be drawn to that fact alone. 

Professional Review:
Cooper, I. (2005). Deem, James M. bodies from the ash: Life and death in ancient Pompeii. Booklist, 102(5). 39. Retrieved from: http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA138705112&v=2.1&u=txshracd2679&it=r&p=LitRC&sw=w&asid=000efcbc07663e5d0838782e808fb660
“Gr. 5-8. On August 24, 79 C.E., the long-silent Mt. Vesuvius erupted, and volcanic ash rained down on the 20,000 residents of Pompeii. This photo-essay explains what happened when the volcano exploded--and how the results of this disaster were discovered hundreds of years later. A tragedy this dramatic demands an affecting text, but this one begins rather ploddingly with the events of August 24 and 25, and moves through the rediscovery of the city and the surrounding areas, with progressively more being learned. What the text lacks in excitement is made up for by the enormous amount of information Deem offers, some of which was acquired in on-site research. The excavations and body preservation techniques are explained in detail; everyday life in the city and the later tourist activity centered in Pompeii are also highlighted. But the jewels here are the numerous black-and-white (and some color) photographs, especially those featuring the plaster casts and skeletons of people in their death throes. The horizontal format, with pages looking as though they were partially bordered in marble, makes an attractive setting for the art. Excellent for browsers as well as researchers.”

Library Uses:
      This book could be used in a display and or discussion about volcanoes. It could also be featured on display with other informational or history books.