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?

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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

A Book Called Love

Valentine’s Day is the perfect day for Love, a new picture book written by Matt De La Peña and illustrated by Loren Long. Although this exquisite book is for children, it resonates with all ages. I had the opportunity to see Matt and Loren at Words Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ on the second day of their book tour. When they read Love, I choked up. It’s that beautiful.

“In the beginning there is light
and two wide-eyed figures standing near the foot of your bed
and the sound of their voices is love.

A cab driver plays love softly on his radio
while you bounce in back with the bumps of the city
and everything smells new, and it smells like life.”

In this heartfelt celebration of love, Matt de la Peña and illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.  (Goodreads)

Interestingly, the book has a controversial scene. In it, a child and his dog hide under a piano while the boy’s parents fight. In an interview, Matt said he and Loren were told this scene was too raw and should take it out. Matt and Loren insisted the scene stay. Matt said that a child going through something similar might recognize himself in the picture. If not, where better to explore scary emotions than in the lap of a caregiver? As a response to the controversy, he wrote an excellent article, “Why We Shouldn’t Shield Children From Darkness,” in Time magazine.

Click here to see a beautiful 4 minute video where Matt and Loren talk about their book. Hon, have you read it? Do you have a favorite scene?

Book Review, The Girl With All The Gifts

Looking for an “emotionally charged and gripping book from beginning to end?” 

A month ago, if you asked me whether I liked post-apocalyptic zombie stories, my answer would have been, “Definitely not!” Then I read The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey (pub. 2014). This adult novel could easily be YA since it’s told mainly from the perspective of the ten-year old main character. The story gets more and more interesting as it progresses, and the ending blew me away.

Not every gift is a blessing. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh. Melanie is a very special girl. Amazon 

Quotes from the book:

“Melanie thinks: when your dreams come true, your true has moved. You’ve already stopped being the person who had the dreams, so it feels more like a weird echo of something that already happened to you a long time ago.”

 

“Growing up and growing old. Playing. Exploring. Like Pooh and Piglet. And then like the Famous Five. And then like Heidi and Anne of Green Gables. And then like Pandora, opening the great big box of the world and not being afraid, not even caring whether what’s inside is good or bad. Because it’s both. Everything is always both.
But you have to open it to find that out.”

 

“It doesn’t matter,” she explains to Miss J. “I want to be where you are. And I don’t know the way back to wherever I was before, anyway. I don’t even remember it. All I remember is the block, and you. You’re…” Now it’s Melanie’s turn to hesitate. She doesn’t know the words for this. “You’re my bread,” she says at last. “When I’m hungry. I don’t mean that I want to eat you, Miss Justineau! I really don’t! I’d rather die than do that. I just mean… you fill me up the way the bread does to the man in the song. You make me feel like I don’t need anything else.”

 

“Melanie finds this interesting in spite of herself — that you can use words to hide things, or not to touch them, or to pretend that they’re something different than they are.” Goodreads.

 

Related Info:

Click here to see an interview with M.R.Carey on You Tube. A movie based on the book came out in 2017. A prequel titled, The Boy On The Bridge was published in 2017.

Have you read the book? Seen the movie? What did you think?

American Hero, Astronaut Scott Kelly

Captain Scott Kelly
Captain Kelly being interviewed by The New York Times journalist, Jonathan Schwartz, on 10/17 at West Orange High School.

I was on a high! 

It’s not what you think. Accompanying my youngest daughter’s Space Exploration class, I got to meet Astronaut Captain Scott Kelly! “I am so excited to meet you!” I said. “Two summers ago, we watched the International Space Station cross the night sky and you were on it! Did you see me waving?” Kelly responded, “Yes, and I waved back!” Guess what? Kelly is funny!

Kelly, promoting his book Endurance, filled a high school auditorium. According to Amazon, “it’s a stunning, personal memoir from the astronaut and modern-day hero who spent a record-breaking year aboard the International Space Station—a message of hope for the future that will inspire for generations to come.”

Kelly talked about growing up, how he wasn’t the best student, and didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up. In college, he read a book about flight pilots that changed the course of his life.

In October 2015, Kelly set the record for the total accumulated number of days spent in space by an American astronaut, 520. This record was broken in 2016 by astronaut Jeff Williams. For the so-called ISS year long mission, Kelly spent 340 consecutive days (11 months, 3 days) in space. Kelly’s identical twin brother, Mark Kelly, is a former astronaut. The Kelly brothers are the only siblings to have traveled in space. While Scott Kelly spent a year in space, Mark stayed on Earth as a control subject. Researchers are looking at the effects of space travel on the human body, as part of the NASA Twins Study.

Memorable quotes from a real American Hero.
“When I’m in space, I think of earth, and when I’m on earth, I think of space.”
“It would take over 200 days to get to Mars and over 200 days to get back.”
“Flying in space is a privilege.”
“If we can dream it, we can do it.”
Selfie that Captain Kelly took while he was on the ISS.

Want to learn more about Astronaut Kelly’s time in space?

Tonight, PBS is airing Part 2 of Beyond A Year In Space,an Emmy award winning documentary which “follows Scott Kelly’s record-breaking 12-month mission as the Twin Study as NASA charts the effects of long-duration spaceflight for the next generation of astronauts.”

Sources: Amazon, Space.com, Wikipedia, PBS