Tag Archives: summer reading

Summer Reading with My 3 Nieces: Numbering All the Bones and Chinese Cinderella (and Read Harder Task 11)

13 Sep

I realize that summer may be over as Labor Day has come and gone and school is back in session, but I am holding on to summer until Autumn Equinox on Friday September 22. That means I have a little more than a week to finish the last book of my three nieces’ summer reading assignments.

Click here to read about the books my eldest niece, a high school freshman, and I read over the summer.

Next up is my middle niece, who I introduced in this post about media inspired by Hurricane Katrina. Alyssa is now a seventh grader who loves Pokemon and designed her own video game that included her pet dachshund in summer camp.

Her summer reading assignment was Numbering All the Bones by Ann Rinaldi (fiction) and Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah (nonfiction). The titles were assigned by her school for all rising seventh graders.

The books were similar in that the protagonists are young girls who have lost their mothers and are shunned by their fathers and face abuse. I thought these were horrifying themes to assign to twelve year olds to read over summer (says me, who likes to read about disaster and crime), but the books do offer much for children to learn and think about.

Numbering All the Bones by Ann Rinaldi

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The story follows thirteen-year-old Eulinda who is a house slave in Georgia in 1864. Her mother is deceased. Her father is the master of her plantation who won’t acknowledge her, and she is abused by his wife. Eulinda is separated from her two brothers–one was sold to another plantation and the other is a Union Soldier.

I believe this book was assigned because of the Civil War-era setting, and the discussion of slavery, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the dynamics between the Union and the Confederacy then. There is even a sly reference in the text to a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings.

When assigning this book Alyssa’s teachers probably didn’t foresee last month’s violence in Charlottesville and the resultant discussion of whether or not statues of Confederate figures are still relevant in the twenty-first century. I feel these difficult current events can be connected to the book in a thoughtful class lesson and discussion.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t like this book. Historical fiction is not my cup of tea. Alyssa didn’t like it either. But it was a well-written book with an interesting heroine, and a good historical fiction choice for tweens.

Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah

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This book starts off tragically: Adeline’s mother dies shortly after she is born in 1937. Her family blames her for her mother’s death, and she faces unspeakable abuse by her cruel stepmother, her siblings, and her father.

Her father remarried after Adeline’s mother passed, and had two children who were treated much better than Adeline and her other siblings. The step-mother, definitely wicked per the Cinderella trope, seemed to enjoy mistreating and tormenting young Adeline. There is one particularly awful scene that involves Adeline’s pet duckling.

Readers will learn about China’s history during and after World War II, which is relevant as the country’s profile has risen in recent years. There is an introduction to the Chinese language, with characters interspersed throughout the text. The Cinderella theme makes the book familiar to readers of all ages.

Despite the grimness, I did enjoy this book. It is written beautifully and the story is compelling. Alyssa said the book is “really sad”. Some lingering questions I have about this book are if Adeline forgave her siblings for the terrible way they treated her. She has a memoir called Falling Leaves that I will add to my to-read list.

Reading this book completed the Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location task for the 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge I’m following. You can read more about my Read Harder journey at this link.

I have one more book to read with my little niece, and will report back once I finish it. Hopefully I can get it done before summer officially ends on September 22!

Has your summer reading extended into September? When does summer end for you?

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

 

Summer Reading with My 3 Nieces: The Hate U Give, Into the Wild, and Everything, Everything (and Read Harder Task 10)

11 Aug

In my last post I wrote about recommending books to my eldest niece for her summer reading assignment. This gave me the idea to assign myself the same books she and her two sisters are reading this summer so we can discuss them. This is the first post of that series.

Aimee wrote last week in her post about 1000 Books Before Kindergarten about how she enjoys reading with her son, and the importance of parents and caregivers reading to children before they start school. My nieces are all past kindergarten now, but I think it’s important to keep talking to kids about books even after they’ve learned to read independently. My friend Jenny has a whole blog about this idea called Books, Babies, and Bows, where she writes about reading with her daughters that is worth exploring.

My niece read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (my recommendation!) for fiction, and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer for nonfiction.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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This debut novel by Angie Thomas, whose title references rapper Tupac Shakur and is inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, is hands-down one of the best books I have read this year. Sarah reports that she enjoyed this book, too. After finishing it I took to my social media channels to tell everyone to read it. And I am telling you, dear reader of this blog, to read it too. 

Starr Carter is a typical teenager who loves a fresh pair of Jordans, LeBron James, and Harry Potter, and believes she is somehow related to Jay-Z (aka Sean Carter, aka Mr. Beyonce Knowles) because they share a last name. She finds herself in an extraordinary situation after witnessing her friend Khalil’s murder by a police officer she refers to as One Fifteen. This book follows that aftermath in her gritty community and at her suburban private school interacting with her rather un-woke classmates, including one she considered a close friend.

I was more interested in the adults in The Hate U Give. Starr’s parents, Momma and Daddy (proper names Lisa and Maverick), are well-written and multifaceted. They too struggle with staying loyal to their community and their desire to give Starr and her siblings a better life. I will have to ask my niece for her thoughts about Starr’s parents, but they’re the ones I’m still thinking about after finishing the book.

Reading this book completed the Read a Debut Novel task for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, which I am still working on. More about that journey at this link.

The most important lesson that Starr learns in this story is to use her voice, even when it’s hard and scary and the circumstances are not ideal. I hope that is the takeaway for my niece. 

The Hate U Give will become a film. Click here to see which actors will play Starr, her parents, and her older brother Seven. But … please read the book before you see the movie!

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

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Sarah chose this book (which was published in 1996, seven years before she was born!) on her own. I have long heard of it, but hadn’t read it until now. Into the Wild appears on many school summer reading lists (an edition written for a young adult audience exists), and after reading it I understand why. This story includes science, geography, family drama, mystery, human psychology, history, practical information about survival, and even ethnography. Truly, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this book.

After his 1992 graduation from Emory University in Atlanta, Chris McCandless donated his savings to charity and drove to the American West with the goal to reach Alaska. Two years later his emaciated body was found in an abandoned bus used at shelter in the Denali region of Alaska. The book grew from an article that Jon Krakauer wrote for Outside magazine published in January 1993 about McCandless.

The biggest questions about Chris McCandless start with “why”. Why did he start this adventure? Why did he cut off contact with his family, including his sister Carine, to whom he was close? (Carine wrote The Wild Truth, published in 2014, about her and Chris’s life growing up.) Why did he take on the name Alexander Supertramp? Into the Wild explores those questions, with in-depth reporting from Chris’s family and friends and the people he encountered on his journey to Alaska.

Sarah reported that she is reading the adult edition and had trouble understanding the story at the beginning, but she likes it. What I noticed in the book was what my mother calls “ten dollar words”. Some of the language Krakauer used in the book tripped me up! My hope is Sarah remembers those words when she takes the SAT in a few years.

Sean Penn’s film adaptation of the book is remarkable. Emile Hirsch’s performance, especially in the final scenes of the movie, is haunting. Don’t make my mistake of watching this movie before going to sleep.

Sarah also read Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, which she said was an easy read and really good. Now I feel compelled to add this to my bursting summer reading list because I’ve heard lots of good things about, and was recently made into a movie.

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Stay tuned for the next post, where I write about the books my second niece Alyssa (who I wrote about here) read this summer.

How is your summer reading going? If you have young people in your life, do you talk about books with them?

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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