Every Falling Star

Every Falling Star

By Sung Ju Lee

Amulet Books:  New York, 2016.

Genre: Non-Fiction  North Korea

Grades: 7 and Up

Pages 314

There not many books written about life inside North Korea and when this one debuted a couple weeks ago I knew I needed to read it!  This a powerful memoir of Sung Ju Lee’s life in North Korea.  In the beginning of the book there is a brief history of 20th century North Korea which helps to set the stage for the story.  The country of North Korea is home to about 24 million people and of that 24 million about 72% belong to the military. Military service is mandatory for women to serve 7 years and men to serve 9 years. This is where 10-year-old Sung Ju Lee’s story begins, as his father was in the military an28818317d his mother a school teacher.  They had a very comfortable life, a roomy apartment, a good education, a pet dog and occasional trips to the amusement park.  But one day his mother told Sung Ju that they were going on an “extended vacation”—they packed up some belongings and took a train north.  What Sung Ju did not know that his family had been sent away (somehow his father had offended the government)—they now lived in deplorable conditions and since North Korea was in the midst of a famine, food soon ran out.  With no food and little hope Sung Ju’s Father tried to sneak over the border to China to find work and mother went to visit a sister to see if see could find food—neither of them returned. Now at the age of 12,
Sung Ju is an orphaned and had to run the streets with hundreds of other boys just like himself.  They formed gangs in order to effectively steal so that they could get enough food to exist. This is a survival story of a young boy determined that there was something more in life for him. The amazing part for my students reading this book will be that this book takes place in the early 2000’s—it is North Korea as it exists today.  The author often states that some facts he cannot give as it would mean certain death for friends and family that still live in North Korea today.  It is an eye opening book not to be missed.

Some violence in this book and they refer to Night Flowers (prostitutes) but no details are given.  It is a great book for grades 7 and up!

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

By J.K. Rowling

Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016.

Genre: Fantasy   304 pages

Grade Level: Grades 4 and Up.

Okay, so I saw the movie first and on the way home stopped and bought a copy of the book and finished reading it that evening! I loved the movie and wish the book was more than a script.

This is a Harry Potter, prequel of sorts which takes place in New York City in 1926, when Newt Scamander a Brit gets off an ocean liner carrying a worn leather suitcase that has more than a change of clothes contained within.  His goal is to release a creature that had been captured from Arizona some time ago. But a dark force is at work and when Newt’s 91igigbj0vlarrival is timed with the havoc, he becomes suspect number one by the MCUSA—the Magical Congress of the United States which keeps the magical wizards safe.

Readers will be mesmerized, in only the way that J.K. Rowling can do it, when Newt and muggle Jacob Kowalski step down into that worn piece of luggage. Readers will be introduced to new creatures some that cute and loveable and others that look quite fierce. Tie-ins to Harry Potter? Newt went to Hogwarts where he had Professor Dumbledore and he had a relationship with a Leta Lestrange.

Hang on to your hats and keep your wands at the ready—this book is filled with adventure, mystery and the magic of J.K. Rowling. 

Paper Hearts

Paper Hearts

By Meg Waviott

New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2015.

Pages 337

Genre: Historical Fiction

Grades: 6 and Up

Is the story of two girls, Fania and Zlatka both from Poland and both Jews. Although they did not know one another and they came from different ghettos they became family for each other when their own families were murdered at the hands of Hitler and the Nazi regime.

Fania and Zlatka met while at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, a notorious “work camp” where a million Jewish people died.  The story is written in verse, so it reads like a paper-hearts-9781481439848_hrdiary—a diary that unveils the horrors of daily life among a group of twenty resilient, courageous and defiant young women.  The paper heart was a “birthday gift” given to Fania as an act of total defiance by the women who lived and worked side by side. If any of them were caught while making it or if Fania would have been caught with it in her possession it would have meant certain death. The paper heart survived and is in a Holocaust Museum in Canada.

This is a historical fiction book and the author note at the end of the book tells the reader the facts upon which this story is built and the fate of the twenty women who shared the darkest days in world history. It is a compelling read—don’t miss it!

Crossover

Crossover

By Kwame Alexander

New York:  Houghton, Mifflin and Harcourt, 2014.

Genre:  Realistic Fiction     Grades 5 and Up

A great book that makes a slam dunk for sure!  Identical twin brothers Josh and Jason are basketball players through and through! Josh is known asCover of The Crossover by Kwame Alexander Filthy McNasty –a little taller with dreadlocks and Jordan goes by JB and shaves his head. You’ll love this book written in verse—who would have ever guessed that poetry could be so exciting! Read from page 27—this book is about brothers, basketball and read from page 16.  That’s right—it’s about family.  Follow along as these boys play basketball and find out that  life doesn’t always play by the rules!  A great, quick read!

Book talk script.

Lost

Lost

By S.A. Bodeen

New York:  Feiwel and Friends Book, 2015.

Grades 5 and Up Pages 137.

It has been a Bodeen Week. After finishing The Compound this week I went right into the second book of the Shipwreck Island series!  Shipwreck Island starts off like most shipwrecks—a deserted island and minimal supplies. But Bodeen spins a new blended family together with a somewhat creepy island—with some unexplained weirdness.

22718677In this second installment the weirdness turns sinister. The family ends up with an addition as they find a girl, Cashmere, who became stranded on their island—a pirate robbery of sorts. But once on the island she tells of a story that she was held captive by the “curator” and just narrowly escapes. Next, Dad, one of the brothers go missing causing Sarah and Marco to head off to find them but they find more than they bargained for—weird and dangerous animals — like a shark that comes ashore because it now has legs.

Stay tuned as island becomes more dark and sinister than you ever thought possible! A great, quick read for reluctant readers!

Next in the series, Trapped. 

 

 

Rhyme Schemer

Rhyme Schemer

By K.A. Holt

San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2014.

Grades 6 and Up  Pages:

Genre: Realistic Fiction Themes:  Bullying, Friendship,   

       Family and Librarian

 Kevin is the baby of the family and he is a seventh grade bully! He bullies other kids, under his breath he bullies teachers and he just is a mixed up kid.rhymeschemer-708x1024

Kevin’s only outlet is his poetry.  There he expresses his inner most feelings and thoughts! Then disaster strikes and he has lost his journal—then the bullied begin to bully Kevin. He becomes known as Poetry Boy. Kevin is sentenced to library duty for his past deeds and that is when he becomes connected to his school librarian, although he will never admit to it!  His life begins to turn around as he embraces his poetry.

Kevin’s voice is told in verse—so it is a quick read that guys should love!

 

 

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel

By Firoozeh Dumas

New York: Clarion Books, 2016.

Grades 6 and Up.  Pages 378.

This is the story of Zomorod Yousefzadeh told in first person by an eleven-year-old who is just trying to fit in, again!  Zomorod is settling in from her fourth move between Iran and California in the 1970’s.  She is really tired of being the new and different student; so she decides to make changes by taking an American name, Cindy.  This she believes will allow her to make an easier transition into school so that each class she does not have to give the origin of her given Iranian name—which makes her stand out.it-aint-so-awful-falafel

I found it delightful and humorous that Cindy wants all the American experiences she can get—food, school, camp, scouts, holidays and that her parents are wanting to maintain their Iraqi culture.  No surprise that there are a lot of parental clashes! At Thanksgiving, Cindy wants to have an American Thanksgiving dinner but she compromises with her parents as they settle on cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie with their dinner.  As they open the can of cranberry sauce the author describes that the “sauce” does not come out of the can. They shake and shake can until all at once it plops out in one big piece—fearing that it is spoiled; they just throw away the can shaped blob.

The 1970’s are a tumultuous time in Iran and for relations with the United States.   The author does a great job of helping the reader to understand the role of the oil industry, the political leadership in Iran and the Iran Hostage Crisis. The latter which causes her family much distress as her father, an oil engineer loses his job in America. Then random acts of hatred begin to occur—blaming her family on the hostage situation—subtle at first and then a dead hamster with a note to go home!   Iran is in so much turmoil they cannot return home and so they are stuck in the United States with their fear, and their family and life falling apart. 

Lucky for Cindy, she has a caring and compassionate friend, Carolyn that helps her to make sense of her world and those who Cindy has touched rally around the family.  When Cindy tells Carolyn they are returning to Iran because they have no job and no money she and others join forces to help Cindy’s family to pick up all the broken pieces and put their life in the United States back together again!

It is a wonderful story that will make you laugh and have an appreciation for those Americans that have a different heritage from our own.  They all have a story to tell!