Monday, July 7, 2014

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

School has always been a struggle for Albie.  He’s never been the “best” at anything. He struggles both academically and socially. Albie not only has to deal with bullies at school, he has pressure from his parents to do better at school. Fortunately, Albie encounters some wonderful people that help him uncover his hidden talents.  His new babysitter, Calista, helps him believe in himself and find what he is good at. The teachers at his new (public) school help him discover that learning does not have to be difficult. Albie even has an opportunity to be part of the “cool” crowd and learns some important life lessons.

There has been much positive buzz about Absolutely Almost on Twitter lately.  I was excited to the read the book and was not disappointed.  Albie is such a kind, insightful, caring character; it was easy to fall in love with him.  I especially enjoyed his friendship with Betsy, a girl at his new school that has difficulty with stuttering.

I didn’t mind that Betsy didn’t talk too much.  Because it can be hard sometimes, saying what you mean.  And I thought maybe I understood her most of the time anyway.

Without meaning to, Albie teaches others how to be better people. I hope to meet many “Albies” at school next year!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick

“My name is Zane Dupree.  I need to warn you right now, there’s some really gross stuff in this book, and I’m not talking about make-believe gross like plastic poop and vomit, but stuff so awful it made a dog hide his nose….”

Zane and the Hurricane.  This book was so good it terrified me. I thought I knew all about Hurricane Katrina and the devastation it had caused.  Like many others, I had watched the news reports and read the stories about the aftermath of the hurricane and flood.  But never could I have imagined the utter despair, fear and courage the survivors, those that remained in New Orleans, had to go through in their quest to find help.

Zane is a 12 year old from New Hampshire.  He and his dog, Bandit (or Bandy for short) were on vacation in New Orleans, meeting his deceased father’s grandmother for the first time.  Then Katrina hit.  Then the flood came. In Zane’s effort to survive he is helped by the kindness of strangers willing to share what little they had managed to save from the flood. Unfortunately Zane also witnesses the truly ugly side of human nature, actions brought about by fear, racism, and ignorance.

I cannot wait to share this book with my students.  Zane’s story will prompt many questions.  Questions that will not have easy answers, maybe no real answers.  But truly, aren’t those the best books? Books that make us question?  Books that make us think?  Books that make us decide that maybe it’s time we do something to make the world a better, more accepting, place for all.

Zane’s story will be with me for a long, long time.