One of those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies

If you haven’t read a Sonya Sones book – than you must. Stop Pretending and What My Mother Doesn’t Know are two of my favorites from her that I would recommend.  She writes novels in verse that are funny, heartbreaking, and poignant.

One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies is about a girl named Ruby.  We meet Ruby at the airport, where she is flying across the country to meet and live with her father after herurl.jpg mother’s death. Oh yeah, her father is a Hollywood star (think Tom Cruise) and Ruby is furious with him for never contacting her before her mother’s death. Although Ruby misses her mother and is devastated by the loss, she expresses it in a unique way: she continues to email her mother’s old address, with messages full of “LOLs” and “How are things in the casket? Not too damp, I hope.” So, this book isn’t actually “hideous” or depressing. Sones has a talent for creating interesting and introspective characters and this one is no different.

Reading Buddy Programs

Photos by Matt Carr   Reading Buddy programs in school and public libraries consist of paired students of the same or different ages.

In order to promote reading and improve skills, libraries are pairing up kids to read to each other and the idea has become very popular.  Kids are excited and motivated to read with a buddy.  Even younger kids reading picture books to older students can gain on both ends- older students can pick up forgotten skills and words.

“The Wild Robot”

Caldecott Honor winner Peter Brown is known for his picture books for young readers.  “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild” and the “Curious Garden”are two of his recent books that are very popular with readers five through eight.

“The Wild Robot” is Brown’s first chapter book geared to readers 8-12.9780316381994_p0_v2_s118x184.jpg

The crate containing Roz the robot has washed up on the shore of a remote island.  She wonders where she is and more importantly why is she there.  She is worried about fitting in and surviving among the island’s wild creatures, who are equally fearful of this metal creature.

In short, well-paced chapters, Brown tells his story sometimes from the perspective of Roz, sometimes told in third-person.  Through a series of deeds, Roz wins over the island’s creatures becoming an important member of the community.

Friendship, the environment, technology, cooperation are all topics that are interwoven in the plot.  This high interest/low reading level novel is especially appealing to reluctant readers.

Strong women in the movies

Within the last two months, three powerful films have been released on DVD.  All of these films feature strong women in the central roles.  All of these women were portrayed by award-winning actresses.

0025192258879_p0_v3_s118x184.jpgIn this heated political season, we often lose sight of the fact that women gained the right to vote just about 100 years ago.  The fact that today a leading candidate for the presidency is a woman would probably astound women suffragettes of the 19th and 20th centuries.

“Suffragette” is the story of a poor, young, married woman living in late 19th century England.  She works long, tedious hours in a laundry.  Gradually, she becomes involved in the suffragette movement, which results in her going to jail, losing any rights to her son, and being thrown out of her home by her husband. Carey Mulligan portrays the young woman whose entire life is changed by her gradual conviction that woman have the right to vote.

Saoirse Ronan is a young Irish woman who leaves Ireland in the 1950s to seek a better life in “Brooklyn.”  The film dramatically captures how it feels to leave your family, friends, and country and start a new life in a new country.  The film accurately captures the time period and the setting.  Saoirse Ronan’s gives a powerful performance as a woman torn between her Irish culture and her new country.0024543213024_p0_v1_s118x184.jpg

Also set in the 1950s, “Carol” starring Cate Blanchette and Rooney Marra is the story of a love affair between two women.  Blanchette plays the older woman who is immediately attracted to the younger character played by Marra.  0013132630267_p0_v2_s118x184.jpgDirector Todd Haynes has once again vividly captured the time period. “Far From Heaven” another film by Haynes also set in the 1950s dealt with an interracial romance.  The director in both films transports the viewer to another time when anyone who deviated from the strict moral guidelines of the day was risking everything.

These three films were great acting vehicles for these great actresses.  Hurray for the ladies.

Salt to the Sea

index.aspxWhile many are familiar with the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, an British ocean liner torpedoed by the Germans during WWI, Rita Sepetys has based her latest teen historical novel on the little known MV Wilhelm Gustloff. Sunk by the Russians during WWII, this German transport ship was hit by three Soviet torpedoes on January 30, 1945, while carrying over 10,000 passengers. Most were “approved” refugees (almost 9,000, half of which were children), the rest were German soldiers, wounded, officers and crew. The novel is told from the alternating perspectives of the four main characters: Alfred, a German sailor; Florian,a German soldier who has deserted; Joana, a Lithuanian nurse and Emilia, a young Polish girl. Sepetys gives an insightful and sobering glimpse into the plight of refugees in Eastern Europe while the Russians were on the march during WWII. Recommended for grades 8 and up, and has crossover appeal for adults as well.