Smile

#22 A graphic novel: Rating: 8/10

I don’t usually read graphic novels, other than the few that I was assigned in my young adult literacy classes in college. Luckily, my students love graphic novels. When I explained that I wanted to try a graphic novel to read, I had several offer up suggestions right away. Smile was one of the books 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 the it thing! It was fantastic! It definitely got me interested in trying new graphic novels. Thankfully, Telgmeier is an excellent author and has many more books available.

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Orphan Train

#10 A New York Times Bestseller:

Rating: 9/10

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.

Let me tell you, this book delivered! The author does a great job weaving back and forth between the past and present. In my opinion, the storyline that takes place in the past was a lot more interesting than the modern day plot line (even though I loved the connection between the two). It really is a heartbreaking tale- think a dark Anne of Green Gables. 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 9/10  rating and recommended it to all of my friends and family who haven’t read it yet.Read More »

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Rating: 8/10 

#17 A book that's at least a 100 years older than you:

This was one of the books that I told myself that I was going to have read in my lifetime. I grew up infatuated with anything having to do with the Civil War and the time period in general. When I read somewhere that when Stowe was invited to meet President Lincoln, he greeted her with “Here’s the little lady who started the war,” I knew that I had to read this book.

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 of society (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 classes-don’t get me wrong, I love that book- but I’m sure one of them could have found room for Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the syllabus.