Book Review, Eleanor & Park

I just finished reading Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, and it was so beautiful, heartbreaking, real, and raw that I wanted to cry. It was also laugh-out-loud funny which, since I listened to it while walking Lucy, must have made me seem deranged! Have you read it, hon?  What did you think of it? How did it make you feel? My youngest daughter is a huge Rainbow Rowell fan and now I know why!

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, March 2013: While Eleanor & Park is technically classified as YA lit and has a cutesy cover, don’t let the stigma of “books for teens” fool or deter you. It is written about teens, sure, but the themes are so universal that anyone who survived high school will relate to the lives of the two protagonists. Eleanor is the new girl in town and her wild red hair and patchwork outfits are not helping her blend in. She ends up sitting next to Park on the bus, whose tendencies towards comic books don’t jibe with the rest of his family’s love of sports. They sit in awkward silence every day until Park notices that Eleanor is reading his comics over his shoulder; he begins to slide them closer to her side of the seat and thus begins their love story. Their relationship grows gradually–making each other mixed tapes (it is 1986 after all) and discussing X-Men characters–until they both find themselves looking forward to the bus ride more than any other part of the day. Things aren’t easy: Eleanor is bullied at school and then goes home to a threatening family situation; Park’s parents do not approve of Eleanor’s awkward ways. Ultimately, though, this is a book about two people who just really, really like each other and who believe that they can overcome any obstacle standing in the way of their happiness. It’s a gem of a book. –Caley Anderson

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.  Goodreads.

Quotes from Eleanor and Park:

“Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.”

“I miss you, Eleanor. I want to be with you all the time. You’re the smartest girl I’ve ever met, and the funniest, and everything you do surprises me. And I wish I could say that those are the reasons I like you, because that would make me sound like a really evolved human being …‘But I think it’s got as much to do with your hair being red and your hands being soft … and the fact that you smell like homemade birthday cake”

“You saved me life, she tried to tell him. Not forever, not for good. Probably just temporarily. But you saved my life, and now I’m yours. The me that’s me right now is yours. Always.”

 

 

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Mike Lupica, The Zach & Zoe Mysteries

Mike Lupica sharing stories of his own children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspired by Sports

Mike Lupica, a prominent sports writer, syndicated columnist, and author, visited Words Bookstore to talk about his middle grade chapterbooks. In the Zach and Zoe Mysteries, a twin brother-sister duo solve sports-related mysteries. Lupica “always loved mysteries that made you want to sleep with the light on.”

Lupica said writing for young readers was not in his thought process, but that his young adult novel Travel Team changed his life. Zach and Zoe are the kids of Travel Team’s main character and, in a way, his kids. Lupica shared many stories of his own children, particularly how his life as a writer changed when his son was cut from a team.” A big part of the appeal of his books, Lupica said, is that “sports is a memory-making business.”

I loved what he had to say about writing kidlit.

Page one, chapter one is more magical and powerful than all the electronics.

Characters get knocked down. It’s how you get back that tells the world all about you.

My books are about loyalty, friendship and teamwork.

Once a good idea gets inside your head, it’s impossible to get it out.

Square by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

Lucky me! I had a chance to hear Kidlit celebs Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen read and discuss their new picture book, Square, which follows their book Triangle.  At Words Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ, the room filled with kids and adults, all eager to see these two funny people in person.

Some of Barnett and Klassen’s quotes:

“When Jon draws a picture, you always have to watch the eyes, especially the animals’ eyes.” Barnett

“When is Circle coming out?” One of the kids.

“Can you speak to my publisher?” Barnett (Circle will actually be a book since it’s part of the trilogy.)

“Why don’t the shapes have hands?” One of the kids.

“They use them when they need them.” Klassen

The beguiling second entry in the innovative shape trilogy.
This book is about Square. Square spends every day taking blocks from a pile below the ground to a pile above the ground. This book is also about Square’s friend Circle. Circle thinks Square is an artistic genius. But is he really? With the second story in a trilogy of tales about Triangle, Square, and Circle, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen nudge readers toward a more well-rounded way of looking at things. Understated and striking in its simplicity, this funny, thoughtful offering from two of today’s most talented picture-book creators emphasizes the importance of keeping your eyes — and your mind — open to wonder where others see only rubble and rocks.   Amazon

Click here to watch a short, funny video of Barnett and Klassen discussing Square.

The One and Only Ivan, Book Review

When you read a story, how does it make you feel? 

THE ONE and ONLY IVAN, a middle grade novel written by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Patricia Castelao, and named the 2013 winner of the Newbery Medal made me curious (Will Ivan and his friends ever live a different life?), chagrined (“I was born in a place humans call central Africa, in a dense rain forest so beautiful, no crayons could ever do it justice.”), and introspective (“Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot. Everyone knows the peels are the best part.”). The story is layered and poignant. I cried.

“The One and Only Ivan is a work of fiction, but the inspiration for this imagined tale lies with a true story. Ivan, a real gorilla, lived at Zoo Atlanta, but on the way to that happy ending, he spent almost three decades without seeing another of his own kind before being moved to Zoo Atlanta in 1994.” (from The One And Only Ivan website.)

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.   Goodreads.

Have you read this book? How did it make you feel?

Kwame Alexander and the Rebound Bus

Kwame Alexander at Words Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ.

Lucky me! I got to see Kwame Alexander in action.

Words Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ was Kwame’s second stop on The Official Rebound Bus Tour. REBOUND is the follow-up to his, Newbery-medal winning middle grade novel, THE CROSSOVER. It was standing room only to see this celebrity of Kidlit, but we were told his bus hadn’t arrived. Bus? Who takes the bus when the train station is right in town? I didn’t realize this was the bus…

Wow! Before Kwame read from his new book, he talked about what was in his bus–beds, bathroom, kitchen–the whole shebang!

Then he asked if there was a kid in the audience who could beatbox, and he, the musician who travels with him, and the kid performed an excerpt from REBOUND. Awesome! He said, “Sports are the hook, but the books are really about life.”

Before Josh and Jordan Bell were streaking up and down the court, their father was learning his own moves. In this prequel to Newbery Medal winner The Crossover, Chuck Bell takes center stage, as readers get a glimpse of his childhood and how he became the jazz music worshipping, basketball star his sons look up to.   Goodreads.

Not only did Kwame talk about his new book, he spoke about reading, writing, rejection and perseverance. I wanted to cry.

Kwame said,

If you say something twelve times, your heart catches up.

Books are like amusement parks. You have to let kids choose the rides.

The hardest part of writing a book is actually writing the book.

All the kids need all the books.

Words are the great connector. (Love, love, love this!)

Want to see Kwame in action, too? Click here to see a video of him reading excerpts from The Crossover.

Hello Universe, Book Review

Middle Grade Novel for Kids and Adults

Really!

When I finished reading winner of the 2018 Newbery Medal,  Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly, it felt like my heart squeezed in happiness and I said, “That was SUCH a good book!” The more I think about it, the more I recognize how much I cared for the characters, how poignant Virgil and Valencia’s struggles were, and how every detail in the book played a part in the outcome of the characters’ fateful day.

In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his loud and boisterous family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister Gen is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just act normal so that he can concentrate on basketball. They aren’t friends — at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find the missing Virgil. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms. Goodreads.

Quotes from Hello Universe 

“Crying is good for the soul. It means something needs to be released. And if you don’t release the something, it just weighs you down until you can hardly move.”“People don’t want to listen to their thoughts, so they fill the world with noise.”

“Sometimes life calls on you even when you don’t raise your hand.”

“It’s not being brave if you aren’t scared.”

“Bayani, of all the things you ever tell yourself in life, never say, ‘There’s no chance.‘”  (love, love, love this quote!)

While looking up trailers for this wonderful book, I came across a treat–a video by Kelly on how to make a homemade kaleidoscope.

DIY: Homemade Kaleidoscope with Erin Entrada Kelly

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Sources:Goodreads, You Tube

Frankenstein Is A Household Name

Everyone’s heard of Frankenstein, but have you ever read the book?

My daughter is reading Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley for her high school class “Monsters in British Literature.” I decided to read it, too. I was blown away!

For those who are only familiar with Victor Frankenstein’s creation through his many media incarnations, the original novel comes as something of a shock. Far from being the mute beast that many actors portrayed, Shelley’s creature is an intelligent, sensitive soul who wants nothing more than acceptance into society, fellowship, and friendship. Because everyone with whom he comes into contact rejects him, beginning with his “father” at the very moment of his “birth,” he initiates a campaign of violence and destruction that climaxes at the top of the world with Victor Frankenstein’s death aboard an ice-bound ship and the Creature’s disappearance into the icy wastes.

The book was originally published in 1818 and published anonymously “as it was felt that such a book written by a woman would not be favorably received. As it contained a preface written by Percy Bysshe Shelley (Mary’s husband), many at first assumed that he had written the book.” When a second edition was issued in 1823, Mary Shelley was credited as the author. Her 1831 revision is the story familiar to modern readers.

Did you know Frankenstein is considered one of the first works of Science Fiction?

The whole novel moves around the invention of a scientist and the result of it. Dangerous aspect of experience in the scientific field is the subject matter of the novel.

Frankenstein a classic. One of the main themes: What makes a monster?

The monster is only the most literal of a number of monstrous entities in the novel, including the knowledge that Victor used to create the monster. One can argue that Victor himself is a kind of monster, as his ambition, secrecy, and selfishness alienate him from human society. Ordinary on the outside, he may be the true “monster” inside, as he is eventually consumed by an obsessive hatred of his creation. Finally, many critics have described the novel itself as monstrous, a stitched-together combination of different voices, texts, and tenses.

I’m sure whole term papers have been written about the themes, symbols, and layers in Frankenstein. I asked if I could join my daughter’s class in discussing the novel. She said no.

Hon, have you read Frankenstein? What did you think?

Sources: Goodreads, Heritage Auctions,bachelorandmaster.com, Spark Notes