Ok so I had to get my students to help me out on this one. I don’t usually read graphic novels, other than the few that I was assigned in my young adult literacy classes in college. So choosing one that I would enjoy was going to take some research. Luckily, my students love graphic novels. When I explained the challenge to them I had several offer up suggestions right away. Smile was one of the ones that multiple students were recommending to me over and over again. Needless to say, my students were really happy to hear that I ended up really liking it. It’s a memoir written about the author’s experience as a teenager. She ends up hurting herself and as a result knocking out her two front teeth. What follows is her experience with braces and just growing up in general for the next four years. Many of us will recognize the same kind of issues: acne, crushes, puberty, losing and gaining friends, and so on. It didn’t take me long to finish but I found that it was a nice change of pace. I thought the art was really well done, especially considering the context and intended age level of the book. Some of us old schoolers will appreciate Raina’s experiences even more since the story takes place in the late 80s and early 90s. There’s even a part where she goes to the movies to see The Little Mermaid. None of the kids have cell phones, notes are passed in class, and Walkman’s are actually a thing. It was fantastic! Overall I gave the book a 3.5 and have since added it to my classroom library. I promised my students that I would pick up her other book, Sisters, soon.
I’ve had Orphan Train sitting on my shelf for awhile now. I had been itching to read it basically ever since I got it, but school, work, and life kept getting in the way. My friend happened to have the audiobook and let me borrow it so I could listen to it on my way to work. Checking my 2016 reading challenge list, I found that I could easily use this book for my New York Time’s Bestseller. It was number one on the New York Times back when it came out in 2012. This probably would have been a good enough reason to pick this book up even if I wasn’t already so interested in the story. And let me tell you, this book delivered. The author does a great job weaving back and forth between the past and present. I will say that the storyline that takes place in the past was a lot more interesting than the modern day plot line, but that might just be my opinion. It really is a heartbreaking tale- think a dark Anne of Green Gables tale. Nothing goes right for our main character as she is shuffled from one tragedy to another. Even though I liked the past sections better, I will say that I really enjoyed Molly in the present day. The fact that she gets in trouble for trying to steal a copy of Jane Eyre from the library just because she wanted to own her own copy attached me to her right away. I highly suggest The Orphan Train to anyone who enjoys reading historical fiction. Even if you don’t, I still recommend you give it a try. The story is a really well told one. Overall I gave it a 4.5 star rating and recommended it to all of my friends and family who haven’t read it yet.Read More »
As a lover of Historical Fiction and Classics I could not have gone wrong with this challenge. After some debate, I finally decided on Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I was absolutely fascinated with the Civil War growing up and I’ve always been kind of ashamed that I had never read Stowe’s novel. I’m so glad that I finally picked it up! This book is not only a wonderful story, but a remarkable representation of anti-slavery feelings in the 1850s. Stowe does not hold back. She lashes into everyone, South and North alike for being responsible for slavery. She takes down the slave owners in the same breath that she criticizes the do-gooder abolitionists of the North, who would send all African Americans back to Africa rather than try to integrate them into the American society. Stowe gave slaves a voice that very few were able or willing to do at the time. Stowe does bring a lot of religion into the story, as well as the perceived notion of the gentleness and moral superiority of women, so I could see how some people might be turned off by the book. But if you think about it as a piece of work that allowed one repressed member of society (a woman) to give power and voice to other repressed members (African Americans) you can see that it really is a powerful work of literature! I can’t believe that throughout all my schooling to become an English teacher, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was never even discussed in any of my classes. God knows I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for about three different class (it wasn’t that bad since I love that book). I’m sure one of them could have found room for Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the syllabus.