Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bronxwood describes life in the hood...

Bronxwood by Coe Booth
Interesting Facts: This is the sequel to the novel Tyrell and can be described as realistic fiction. It confronts issues such as prison, drugs, teen pregnancy, foster care, and domestic abuse. Bronxwood is located in the Bronx of New York and it is known for its poverty and violence.
Note: This may be a great guy read! If you like rap music such as Tupac, there are plenty of references to his music here. Something you might also want to know is that it contains profanity which should be expected because of the setting and situation that Ty lives in.

About the Book:
This is the story of Tyrell, a 16 year old that lives in the tough projects of New York. Tyrell's life isn't easy, especially at his age!  His father has been in and out of prison which has forced his family into homeless shelters and all other kinds of ordeals.  Ty has started to DJ in order to make some cash in efforts to support himself, his brother, and his mother.  Even though his father is out of prison now, Ty doesn't expect him to help much.  Ty's 9 year old brother is still stuck in foster care and Tyrell himself hasn't even been asked to move back with his parents now that they have a place of their own. Staying out of trouble gets harder to avoid as his roommates continue to pressure him to join them in the drug business.  He doesn't know if he can move back in with his parents or if he even wants to but he does know that he really needs to find another place to live and it better be soon.  To make matters worse,  his dad is set on proving that he is the only man in the family and that Ty still needs him.  His father acts oblivious to how much Ty has had to grow up in his absence.  His mother is another story, that woman doesn't seem to want to do anything, literally!  Aside from all this drama, Ty has some girls to deal with particularly his "bff," Jasmine, who also happens to be extremely hott. As Jasmine and Ty develop stronger feelings for each other, they are met with a huge barrier that they don't even know how or if it can be overcome.

Why read it?
Some may be able to identify with the issues that Ty faces such as witnessing domestic violence in the family, having a parent locked up, being homeless, or trying to stay out of trouble when everyone around you is trying to pressure you into it. 
Some may have never faced these sort of issues, but it is eye-opening to read about what others may be facing in their homes or communities.  We might not know a close friend in this type of situation but we might be surprised to find that many of our students, neighbors, or co-workers have lived through things like this.  Just because we have not experienced these unfortunate events ourselves does not mean that we have to remain oblivious to them.

This book helps raise awareness about how teen pregnancies can change ones life and responsibilities, the consequences of illegal actions, how parental actions affect their children, and the lack of value a woman sets on herself as she puts up with domestic violence.

P.S. You will more than likely understand Bronxwood even if you haven't read Tyrell but its so much better when you read it in order...its as if you have formed a bond with the characters.

Site to Check Out:
Author's Twitter Page

Facebook Page for Teen Books

Coe Booth's Official Site

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"To Save A Life" Addresses Bullying and Teen Suicide

Interesting Facts: This indie film addresses issues that plague teens today such as social divisions, school violence, teen suicide, divorce, teen pregnancy, disabilities, and cutting.  It also address the effects of bullying and the role that bystanders play in a number of teen suicides. It is rated PG-13.

What is this movie about?
It focuses on Jake, a high school senior who is also the most popular kid in school.  Jake is a talented athlete and is dating the most wanted girl in school.  As he climbs up the social ladder, he leaves his best friend Roger behind. In fact, Jake stopped talking to Roger freshmen year!  Roger has no friends and is constantly ridiculed due to his limp.  Jake witnesses all of this for years but never stands up for Roger or tries to befriend him again.  The constant bullying and loneliness finally drives Roger over the edge. He walks into school one day with a gun and commits suicide as Jake looks on in horror. Jake does try to stop him but Roger says it is too late and points the gun to himself.  The guilt moves Jake to change his life.  He begins to look for a deeper purpose in life and tries reach out to those who are in need of a friend.  In doing so, he receives tough criticism from those around him.  Life becomes even more complicated as he faces some serious decisions that will affect his future.

Why watch this movie?
The real life scenario moves viewers to examine their own dealings with others, especially those that are not readily accepted.  Are we a bully or a bystander? It also helps us examine the way we respond when we are approached by others. We do not always know what people are dealing with in their personal lives. We do not know everyone's life story.  Therefore, it is easy for us to overlook or minimize someone's cry for help.  It is so easy for us to take a call, visit, or conversation as just something trivial. We rarely think that it may actually be someone's last effort to hold on to life. Maybe they are looking for a little hope, a little bit of positive, or a little reason to convince themselves out of taking their lives. Sometimes the smallest action (or lack of action) on our part can either push someone over the edge or help them back up. May we never support bullying in any form, on the contrary may we be determined to save a life!

P.S. I would like to dedicate this particular post to all victims of bullying and their families. I can not help recalling the story of Phoebe Prince. <3

Interesting Sites to Visit:
Official Movie Site
Stop Bullying Gov. Site

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Interesting Facts: Wonderstruck is a historical-fiction book which describes New York in 1927 and 1977.  The American Museum of Natural History as well as its exhibits mentioned in the book are real and some are still on display there. The book also tells two stories simultaneously. Ben's story is told through text and Rose's is told through pictures.

About the Book:
1977: Ben's mother (the town's librarian) died in a car accident and he now lives with his aunt, uncle, and cousins in Gunflint, Minnesota.  He feels as though he does not belong and is worried about losing the house he and his mother shared.  His mother never told him about his father, so Ben has no idea whom he is or where to find him.  One stormy night, Ben decides to search through his mother's things and comes across clues that may lead him to his father. It is because of those clues that Ben runs away to New York in hopes of finding his father.  Since he is deaf, he encounters his share of problems trying to communicate with those he comes across.  However, he does find a few people that help him find his place in this world.

1927: Rose lives with her father in Hoboken, New Jersey. She is deaf and makes small models of NY buildings with her books.  She also collects pictures of a famous NY actress. Like Ben, Rose runs away to New York in search of a place where she belongs. 

How will these two characters finally connect? Read to find out.

Why read it?
If you have gone to NY, you will automatically relieve your experience with the city and the museum.  If you haven't, then why not enjoy the journey through Selznick's detailed description of the city.

Sometimes, we tend to take our senses for granted.  This book helps us become aware of our hearing and raises awareness of the challenges that deaf people have to face in the world. 

I also found it interesting that careers such as librarian and curators are featured in the book.

One of the greatest reasons to read the book, is to fully appreciate the intricate artwork!

P.S. If you are not going to read it, please take a moment to browse through the artwork!
P.S.S. Do not get intimidated by the thickness of the book, remember much of it consists of artwork. I read the entire thing in one busy day with time to spare!

Site to Visit: Official Wonderstruck Site        
                      Scholastic's Wonderstruck Site

The view from Hoboken to NY! This must have been sort of what Rose could see from Hoboken.  As I read, I was envisioning everything! You can see the Empire State Building right above my head.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Crossed by Allie Condie

Interesting Fact: This is book two of the Matched Trilogy, which is a dystopian romance and a sci-fiction novel.

About the Book: If you have not read the first book, I recommend that you scroll down my blog and read the Matched summary. At the end of book one,  Ky is forcibly taken away by the Society and sent out the Outer Provinces to war against the "enemy." The Society usually orders this as a punishment and it is pretty much equal to a death sentence.  Cassia was left heartbroken and quickly devises a plan to reach the Outer Provinces (Ky's original home) in search of Ky.  She soon discovers that Ky has managed to escape into the Carving which is a tough place to survive.  Ky unknowingly leaves clues that eventually lead Cassia to him and their reunion plays like a movie scene in your head.  However, it does not take long for danger, deception, and confusion to test their relationship.  Ky holds several involving the Rising and another one about Xander! The reasons for such secrecy involve Ky's past experiences and the fear of losing Cassia. When one of those secretes is exposed, Cassia is left feeling deceived by the one she trusted the most.  Once the truth is out, Ky and Cassia must decide whether they will stick together or follow different paths.

Why read it? Discovering more Society secrets, continues to build appreciation for the freedoms we possess in our societies today. Readers may identify with Ky who is dealing with overcoming his past including the lose of his parents and Cassia who is risking her life not only for love but for a a bigger cause that she believes in.  There are also new characters in the story such as Indie. Although she is brave and intriguing, I find it difficult to like her.  I find it especially difficult to trust her, since she steals from Cassia, is in on Ky's secret, and invites him to join her on a journey while suggesting to ditch Cassia! She also does some things to help Cassia, which is why I have trouble figuring her out.

OH, and one of the best reasons to read this book is that it is filled with so many great quotes!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Speak English, we live in America...

Dancing Home by Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel M. Zubarreta

Interesting Facts:
Alma Flor Ada wrote this book with her son Gabriel M. Zubarreta.
The alternating focus in narration, gives readers a glimpse into the lives of each girl.

About the Book:Margarita is proud of being born in Texas because to her it means that she is American.  However, she is ashamed of her Mexican heritage being that her parents and the rest of her family are from Mexico.  For years Margaita has tried to "Americanize" her parents.  She has taken measures to ensure that she does not deviate from the American way by only speaking English and changing her name to Margie. So obviously when her Mexican cousin Lupe moves into Margie's home and begins to attend school with her she is horrified at what others will think of her.  Will they tease her about her Mexican heritage?

While Margie is dealing with accepting who she really is, Lupe is also going through her own crisis.  She is dealing with living away from her family, her parents' seperation, going to a new school, and learning a new language.

Margie based her negative views on Mexico and being Mexican on the limited knowledge she had about the country. She also allowed herself to be influeced by the prejudices of others around her. In Margie's mind, Mexico was simply a place where people were filled with problems such as lack of money and medical care. She saw no point in learning Spanish since in her mind, "English was the language of anyone who amounted to anything."

Why read it?
Being of Mexican heritage but being born as an American, I recognized some of the same stereotypes and predjuces that I once had as a child.  I remember when teachers would discourage us from speaking Spanish in elementary school. When they would hear any of us speaking Spanish they would say, "Speak English, we live in America!" That influenced my view of the language and convinced me that retaining this language was wrong and looked down upon. It was not until I got older that I truly appreciated being bilingual and saw the value of being able to communicate with my family in their native language. This book can help Mexican-Americans examine their views towards their own heritage. English Language Learners and students from other counties may also identify with the struggles that Lupe faces in moving to America.  In a way this book reminded me of Home of the Brave.

One of my favorite quotes:"The United States is made up of all different kinds of people. And most of their ancestors came here form other places, even though they may have forgotten about it or may be trying to pretend that their family has always been here." (pg. 73)

Interesting Sites: - Meet the authors, watch videos, and get extras
Alma Flor Ada's Official Site

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Guys Read and Chick Lit Sections

I took advantage of our district's Open House to visit the newest high school campus in Brownsville, Texas. I mainly did this because I was curious to see their library! The result: I absolutely loved it and the librarians were very welcoming.  My favorite part was the Guys Read and Chick Lit Sections, which are side by side.  These sections are also near the Library's Cafe and a comfy sitting area. Something else I noticed is that on the spine label under the call number there was a little image.  For example, books under Guys Read had little sneakers and the Chick Lit books had either heels or purses (can't remember).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Playing Matchmaker?


Matched by Allie Condie
Sci-Fi YA Lit
1st book of the trilogy

Interesting Fact: There are many real-life love stories that started out with helpful friends and family members playing match makers.  Some people even dash out big bucks to find a "significant other" with the help of dating sites and professional match makers.  However, even in these cases, each person makes their final decision regarding whom they select to pursue a relationship with.

About the Book: In the Society, that decision along with many others is not for individuals to make.  Only authorized officials can decide whom you will end up with and this happens at your Match Banquet.  The fact that the Society will be choosing her future husband seems fine to Cassia.  Everything within Cassia's life has always seemed to work out so perfectly and Cassia credits the Society for this perfection. At the Match Banquet, Cassia has surprisingly been matched to her life-long best friend, the handsome Xander.  Cassia's happiness with Xander is quickly threatened when she notices the mysterious and intriguing Ky whom officials warn she should stay away from.  Soon Cassia finds herself utterly confused.  She knows that there are always consequences to disobeying the Society but she also wants to follow her heart.  Will she choose a secure life with the boy she has always known or will she pursue a romance with the boy she knows so little about? Find out for yourself and believe me, you will not be disappointed.

Why read it?
Even though being confused about the decisions we face in life can be frustrating at times, it is a privilege to be provided with choices.  This book helps readers appreciate freedom of choice and the importance of fighting for that freedom. 

P.S. It also an awesome love story for all those romantics out there. ;)

Interesting Site:
Official Book Site