Monday, February 24, 2014

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

It was definitely the black and white photos that drew me to this book. A fun addition to the book was the addition of the author's notes, where author Ransom Riggs shared more information about these peculiar pictures. How grand to find that every picture is, in fact, an actual photograph!

This fanciful tale had some intriguing characters that were very likable. Although I have it in my high school library it is certainly a suitable book for younger ages as well. Jacob's "real life" is only described briefly before he and his father head out, so most of his character is developed around his friendships with the peculiar children and his interactions with adults. I think this makes him seem younger than his age. 

I loved the open-ended ending, which is saying a lot, because typically I like books best when all the loose ends are tied up tightly with no unanswered questions. This book begs you to read more because you just have to find out where the next loop will be found and whether or not the children will be able to save Miss Peregrine. 

All in all, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a fun, delightful adventure that doesn't make the reader work too hard. Filled with some historical events, wacky characters, not-too-bright adults, time travel, and peculiar talents that become positive strengths, this book is certain to entertain. 

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Revolution (a book that was recommended to me by a student of mine who proclaimed it as the "best book every written! - so I couldn't pass it up).

I loved the historical fiction aspect of this book. Having Andi become interested in, and connected to, a young girl from the French Revolution sucked me in completely. I was concerned as I read further into the book that I would not know the conclusion to the mystery surrounding Alex and the young king.

I didn't always feel as close a connection with Andi as I thought I would have, partly because I wanted her to act differently in her grief. It might have helped me if I had known a little more about her brother's death and why she felt so responsible. However, I felt very sympathetic toward her and liked her more as the story continued.

I was not expecting time travel at the end of the book, and I have to admit to feeling a bit disappointed by that. It made a realistic piece of historical fiction suddenly feel a little silly to me. The story did end beautifully though, and I would still have to say that I loved the book even no matter what.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

Wow. I just finished reading Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kristin Cronn-Mills, and "wow" is pretty much all I can say.

The story is amazing. Gabe is learning to be a DJ, and being mentored by his next door neighbor John. He has a crush on his bff Paige, is being flirted with by a hot girl named Heather, and is deciding what to do with his life after high school. The problem? Gabe has been living as a girl named Elizabeth his entire life.

I love the analogy he uses early in the book (that continues throughout the book) where Gabe talks about how we all have an A side - the side we share with the world. Just like a record has an A side, this is usually our good side - the one we're known for. But we also all have a B side - one that may not be as well known. So what do we do with our B sides?

Through his late-night DJ show Gabe gains a following of kids called the Ugly Children - and he encourages them to let their B sides show.

Throughout the story I was touched, moved to tears, and at times laughing out loud. Gabe is a very likeable kid, and one who cares deeply about his family and friends. Although I was at times super-uncomfortable with the content of the book, and concerned how my high school students would react to the mature theme and language, I do not regret for a moment having spent time getting to know Gabe.

I especially appreciated author Kristin Cronn-Mills explanation of the issues under the transgender umbrella. I learned so much from that discussion and its inclusion in the book was so appropriate! I can't begin to imagine the struggles a person dealing with this tough stuff would have growing up in this way.

This is definitely a book for mature readers! The language and adult situations can make the reader very uncomfortable. This is, by far, the most complicated book I have reviewed. I loved it in a totally different way than I loved many of the other books I've reviewed. And I appreciate author Kristin Cronn-Mills' guts in telling Gabe's story.

I must add that author Kristin Cronn-Mills was incredible in accepting an invitation to skype with my high school book club! We had a wonderful conversation, and the students were thrilled to talk to a real live author! I thank her so much for her willingness to take time out of her busy schedule to share with us. 

I've had 100% success in asking authors to skype with my book club this year. If you love books and work with students I would encourage you to be brave enough to seek out the author and make an online connection. It's a wonderful experience, and one that adds so much to the lives of our young people. Thank you, authors, for your willingness to talk to us!