Mini Book Reviews

So here’s the deal. I’m currently taking a class on library resources for teens so I’ve been reading a lot of YA books. And I mean A LOT of YA books. Too many YA books if I’m being quite honest. It’s not that I don’t like reading YA, it’s just that I don’t like reading too many of the same kind of book at one time. I get bored. So anyway, I’m going to quickly go through some of the books I’ve been reading for class. (Haha, laughing at myself for complaining about reading YA books for a class. It’s just a lot of them at once, okay? Also, I just don’t have time for personal reading when I’m in a class like this so it takes some of the joy out of reading).

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson speak

First of all, you should know that this book deals with some very weighty topics: depression and mental illness, bullying, sexual abuse and rape. I will say that it’s a very well written book. Anderson really captures the mind of a teen recovering from childhood trauma. Because yeah, Melinda is thirteen at the beginning of this book (in my mind that is still a child). I still just don’t get the purpose of this book. So Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls both address childhood trauma but they are both framed in a way that gives you hope for the future. I don’t mean in a “everything is butterflies and rainbows” kind of a way, but in a way that addresses the terrible things that have happened and yet looks to the future. Vance and Walls are both looking back on their lives and reflecting on how they got through the tough periods and made it to adulthood. Speak gives us the fictional story of a teenager who has experienced what far, far to many teens in our world have also experienced (and that is heartbreaking and makes me sick. I cried so many times while I was reading this book). I just don’t know what the message of the book is? What is this book trying to tell the teens who have had a similar experience to Melinda? Maybe there is no greater meaning and Anderson is just trying to give teens a character who makes them feel less alone. I just don’t really understand what the author was trying to do with this book. I think I need to find someone who really loved it and ask them to tell me all the reasons why I should too. I don’t really know how to rate this one. Does an accurate portrayal of a horrible experience make a good book? Idk.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone dear martin

So I thought the content of this book was amazing, I just didn’t think it was super well written. Not terrible, it just wasn’t great either. However, I was really moved by the story and the characters. Also, I will say that the dialogue was great. There are large portions of the book that are written in back and forth dialogue between the characters and those parts were fantastic. It was just whenever the book transitioned back into third person that it felt weird and jarring. I feel like it would have been fairly easy to turn this book into a play and then I would have loved it. This book begins with a racial profiling incident involving a 17 year old named Justyce. After he is released from jail, Justyce begins writing letters to Martin Luther King Jr. as a way of processing what happened to him and reflecting on current issues related to race in the U.S. As the novel goes on Justyce considers the kind of person he wants to be and how he wants to respond to unjust situations. I was really humbled by this reflection because I immediately understood the anger and desire to fight back, and then to turn that around and look at current issues in light of the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. was really humbling. I wish this book had included even more quotes from MLK because when it did they were super powerful. Anyway, I’m actually super glad I read this book because it really affected my perspective regarding unjust situations and the way I respond to them. I wish I could give this book an even higher rating, I just didn’t feel like it was super well written. (Oh, also, all of the summaries I’ve seen for this book give spoilers for something that happens like half way through the book. I’m super confused?)

Rating: 3/5 stars.

I also just finished reading Renegades by Marissa Meyer but I think I’m going to write a longer review of that one at some other point. I am currently reading The Smell of Other People’s Homes, Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and the Invention of Modern Photojournalism, and Looking for Alaska. 

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Eliza and Her Monsters (Book Review)

Okay, so fair warning: this is going to be a somewhat unorganized/rambling review of Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia. I will also be discussing significant themes within the book, which means I might be getting into some spoiler material. I won’t reveal any of the major spoilers regarding the plot, but I will be discussing how some of the relationships (friendships and otherwise) develop during the course of the story. So if you don’t want to know more about the above, please stop reading here.

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The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Book Review)

So I just finished reading The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle for the first time in years, and it did not disappoint. I love this book. It has everything you could want from a book about a teenager embarking on a dangerous sea voyage. Moreover, I still think this book has one of the best opening lines of any book I’ve ever read: “Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty.” I don’t know, I just really like it.

the true confessions of charlotte doyle

Summary: This book begins with thirteen year old Charlotte Doyle boarding the Seahawk as she embarks on the two month long crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. However, we soon find out that the two families who were supposed to chaperone Charlotte on this trip suddenly became ill or were otherwise unable to make the departure. Additionally, Charlotte is warned by one of the sailors that she should not sail with the Seahawk, and should find a different ship. Of course, she doesn’t take this advice and ends up “caught between the madness of a ruthless captain and the rage of a mutinous crew,” as the synopsis on my copy states. In short, it’s all quite dramatic.

This is one of those stories that you have to suspend your disbelief reading as an adult. You kind of have to get back into the mindset of a thirteen-year old and then it’s awesome. As a thirteen-year old I loved some good old fashioned drama: kidnappings, ship adventures, highway robberies, that kind of thing. You catch my drift. Point being, all of the drama of this story actually provides the context for a great coming of age story. We see Charlotte go from a somewhat spoiled child, to a young woman who able and qualified to evaluate the moral character of those around her. In the beginning of this book, Charlotte immediately trusts and respects Captain Jaggery because of his authority over her and his appearance. I think the question of authority is a great theme for a book written for this age group. As children it is natural for us to trust and respect those in positions of authority over us: our parents, teachers, and guardians. However, as you get older you begin to observe and judge people in positions of authority based on their actions, evaluating whether they are using their position of power with justice. We see this theme play out with heightened stakes in The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, as in this period a ship captain was treated as the sole source of authority and law on his ship. (This is also briefly dealt with in North and South if you remember/are interested). So we see Charlotte struggling with what makes a just leader or rule of law. At what point is a mutiny or act of rebellion justified when it comes to an unjust ruler?

All this is supported by the theme of appearances versus reality. Charlotte initially judges those around her by their appearance, and whether they fit her perception of a “gentleman” or “lady.” Basically, it’s an examination of what makes a good man or woman. Is it their clothes? Their education? Or is it their moral character?

Anyway, this book holds up for me. It’s an exciting read with lots of action and tense moments. I’m not a huge fan of how the whole story wraps up, but it makes sense to me considering the intended audience and the build-up. I want to eventually hunt down more of Avi’s historical fiction as I’ve only read this book and The Secret School (which wasn’t as good). I’ve always been interested in Crispin and Sophia’s War.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 stars.

Shakespeare’s Plays: The Taming of the Shrew

One of my reading goals for 2019 was to start reading more of Shakespeare’s plays. I am planning on reading his plays in chronological order as I didn’t want to read by genre and end up reading all the histories at once. Yuck. Anyway, I couldn’t find a copy of Two Gentleman of Verona so taming of the shrewI started out by reading The Taming of the Shrew. This is one of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies and a first time read for me. I learned that one of the interesting aspects of The Taming of the Shrew is the way the play within the play ends up taking over the story itself. The Taming of the Shrew begins with a Lord tricking a beggar into believing he is a nobleman. The whole storyline involving Petruchio and Kate is actually a play within a play, being preformed for the amusement of the lord and the beggar. However, when we think of The Taming of the Shrew we tend to think of Kate and Petruchio Interestingly enough, Shakespeare does not return to the storyline involving the lord and the beggar at the end of the play. That storyline is left hanging and many critics debate on whether that was an intentional choice or whether something was lost during the multiple versions of this play that were written and preformed. At least, that is what the introduction to my copy states, I’m not really an expert.

Summary: so the basic plot of The Taming of the Shrew involves two sisters: Katherine  (Kate) and Bianca. Bianca is being pursued by multiple suitors, but no one wants to get too close to Kate because- she’s kind of mean. However, Kate and Bianca’s father, Baptista, has proclaimed that no one shall marry Bianca (the younger sister) until Kate (her older sister) is also married. Cue Petruchio.

(If you’re wondering, yes, that is the plot of 10 Things I Hate About You.)

I was first introduced to The Taming of the Shrew through a book called Shakespeare’s Storybook. This book basically compiles folktales that could have influenced or inspired some of Shakespeare’s plays. “The Devil’s Bet” is the folktaleshakespeare storybook Patrick Ryan and James Mayhew present in relation to Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. I thought about “The Devil’s Bet” a lot while I was reading The Taming of the Shew, and the way Ryan and Mayhew discuss this folktale in their introduction. They begin their introduction by saying, “Being married happily ever after is hard work. Many folk tales are about the troubles husbands and wives have- their quarrels and the tricks they play on each other. In some versions, the husband torments the wife, in others the wife torments the husband. Some stories suggest that being kind and thoughtful toward each other is a better route to lasting happiness than quarreling and fighting.” Now, obviously this introduction is written for children, but I think there’s something worthwhile in the way Ryan and Mayhew introduce “The Devil’s Bet,” and by association The Taming of the Shrew. I think The Taming of the Shrew is one of the harder plays for modern audiences to understand or accept. Even the introduction to my copy of the play felt it necessary to begin by discussing sexism and the patriarchal system. I felt like this introduction was preparing me for some dark tale of abuse where Petruchio mistreats Kate in all possible ways. Interestingly enough, I felt like the introduction written for a children’s book captured the meaning and purpose of this play in a better way than the introduction I read for adults. In their introduction Ryan and Mayhew state that the main message of the play is that “a good match of equals is important in marriage.” That is what I took away from The Taming of the Shrew. Petruchio is able to stand up to Kate, but Kate also stands up to Petruchio. The point is that they are equals, and that is the only reason they are able to engage in a battle of the sexes. In many ways this play foreshadows Much Ado About Nothing (which, admittedly, I like better, but I think this helps us to more fully understand this play). I also think it’s a little unfair when we try judge classic literature by the cultural standards and practices of today. The play is meant to be a lighthearted comedy, not a reflection on the patriarchy. I don’t know, maybe we’re just taking ourselves too seriously when we talk about this play. It was meant to be funny.

Overall, I enjoyed The Taming of the Shrew more than I thought I would. It hasn’t become one of my favorite Shakespeare plays by any means, but I thought it was a fun play to read. I think looking at it in context of the folktales that came before it greatly added to my experience and understanding of the play, so I would also recommend a book like Shakespeare’s Storybook to go along with it.

Goodreads rating: 4/5 stars

 

 

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing (Book Review)

I am pleased to announce that we have arrived at the first book of 2019. (That being said, I will probably continue to write 2018 until the year is almost over. I have a hard time adjusting.) Anyway, the first book I finished in 2019 was An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green.

Summary: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing hank greenbegins with April May discovering a large robot-like sculpture in the middle of New York City. April and her friend Andy decide to film a YouTube video featuring this sculpture. This video quickly goes viral and April must learn how to deal with her sudden rise to Internet fame. Additionally, we discover that similar robot-like sculptures have appeared in cities all around the world. What are they and where did they come from?

I’ve been planning on reading An Absolutely Remarkable Thing ever since I learned Hank Green was writing a book. I have followed John and Hank Green for years, and I still frequently watch their vlogs and other YouTube videos. I really respect both of the Green brothers and I think they have done a lot of good with all the attention that has been directed their way over the years. I was a little cautious going into this book however, because I had a gut feeling that it was going to take a little more of a political turn than some of John Green’s books. Here’s the thing, I like and respect a lot of what both John and Hank Green have to say, I just tend to be a little more responsive to the way John Green articulates things. In his videos, John Green tends to emphasize finding the common ground, coming together, being thoughtful and listening to what other people have to say, and that really resonates with me. In my experience, Hank Green can be a little more abrasive and in your face with his opinions. I’m definitely not faulting him for this, I’m just saying that I tend to respond better to the approach John Green takes in his books and videos. All this held true for An Absolutely Remarkable Thing.

A lot of the major themes within this book are clearly drawn from our current political climate and references to current issues, and so there were things that I liked/responded to and things that I disliked. I actually really liked the examination of how polarized politics have become. Green shows how politics can sometimes become more about the political party you identify with and less about the issue at hand. In this book we see characters losing sight of whether they are right or not, and becoming obsessed with proving the other person and the movement they represent wrong or showing them in the worst light possible. I thought that was well done. However, I felt like the ending was maybe a little heavy handed and there were a couple things that rubbed me the wrong way. Basically, if you’re looking to escape politics or political discussion, this might not be the book for you.

I had a little bit of a hard time getting into the writing style. The book is written in first person and sometimes switches from past to present tense (which I found a little jarring). It is also clearly supposed to reflect how we currently use language and articulate ourselves. Which just isn’t my favorite writing style. It can be super accurate and a good representation of how people actually speak and it just isn’t my favorite style of writing to read. However, that is totally a personal preference, so you might love it.

My favorite thing about this book was the discussion of Internet fame and social media use. I think this is a super interesting and relevant topic. Social media has introduced this phenomena of an average person rising to almost instant fame in what can feel like a random chance or fluke. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing examines how this can affect someone and also the people around them. I also loved how Green portrays the addictive quality of social media and how it can take over our lives. I think we’ve all experienced this to some extent or the other. I know that I have gone through periods in my life where I have started constantly checking my email and notifications and it becomes hard to disconnect from that. We all have to learn the right balance for ourselves. Green does a good job of showing what instant fame can do to someone, especially if they already have this strong need for attention.

Overall, this was a 3 out of 5 star book for me.

2019 Reading Goals

So earlier this year I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and in this book Francie and her younger brother read The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Actually, they read it multiple times because it’s one of the only books they own. I maintain my response to this was perfectly reasonable. Whispering “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED” to yourself while you’re reading is really the only possible response to that part of the book. I don’t think that was the point Betty Smith was trying to make, but that is what I took away. So anyway, in 2019 I want to start reading more Shakespeare. Maybe a play a month. We’ll see how motivated I am.

I also want to read at least one book by:

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Evelyn Waugh
  • Graham Green

I know that most of these goals don’t sound terribly exciting, but I’ve reached the point in my life where I’m (almost) done with college, and self-improvement is accomplished through personal goals and challenges. I like to challenge myself, and I don’t want my brain to turn to mush now that I’m not in school anymore.

Apart from that, my plan is to continue getting books from my various lists (recommendations from friends, professors from my undergrad days, and random people from the internet). I want to continue to dabble in different genres and expand my book horizons. Life is too short to only read one kind of book.

Part of the reason I like having several different kinds of books going at one time is that I have found that I end up reading more when I do that. I like having a more serious thought-provoking book going, but I’m just not going to read a book like that right before bed. Earlier this year I decided that I wanted to spend more time reading and less time surfing the internet and watching Netflix before bed. I want this resolution to carry over into the New Year because I have discovered I sleep better and end up feeling better about myself when I minimize my screen time and maximize reading time. Who knew, right? Haha, obviously I’m being sarcastic. Everyone knew that one, Emily. Everyone knew.

I plan on reading between 60 and 100 books in 2019. Not sure whether I should aim for the higher or lower end of that scale. As of right now I have lots of time for reading but I will be graduating in June and I really can’t predict what is going to happen after that.

So those are my goals for 2019, what are yours? I love reflecting on the year as it comes to a close and talking about goals for the year to come. There’s something so inspiring about it. To paraphrase Anne Shirley, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new [year] with no mistakes in it yet?”

Books of 2018 (Young Adult)

I recently finished reading The Remnant Chronicles by Mary Pearson, and I have to say, I haven’t enjoyed a YA series this much since read The Lunar Chronicles. I’ve been in the mood to reread The Lunar Chronicles by the way. GREAT series.

In this post I will be talking about all three books in the series: The Kiss of Deception, The Heart of Betrayal, and The Beauty of Darkness. the kiss of deceptionAs a side note, my twelve year old brothers thought these titles were hilarious. They just kept nudging each other and snickering, “Kiss of Deception…

The Remnant Chronicles basically took all my least favorite tropes and made me like them. For example, the series begins with a princess running away from an arranged marriage. I usually hate this trope because I always find this kind of behavior selfish and annoying. Give me a princess who sacrifices everything for the good of her kingdom (and then finds love in her marriage because love is a choice and not just feelings) any day. However, I felt like this series actually addressed Lia’s behavior, and we end up seeing a lot of character growth from her. Which was such a nice change of pace.

I actually didn’t mind the love triangle in this series either. I kind of understand the appeal of love triangles now. Here’s the thing, love triangles are usually super predictable and again, annoying. I usually know within the first ten minutes which couple I’m supposed to root for and then I spend the rest of the time hating the other guy. In this series, I liked both guys. I saw plausible scenarios in which Lia could have ended up with either of her love interests, although she clearly prefers one above the other for most of the series (again, this was great because it meant we didn’t have to deal with the wiffle-waffling back and forth that we usually get with love triangles).

I will say that I liked the last book, The Beauty of Darkness, slightly less than the books that came before it. However, this would not keep me from recommending the series as a whole and it didn’t actually detract from my overall enjoyment. There were just a couple of things that kept me from rating it as highly as Kiss of Deception and Heart of Betrayal. 

Heart of Betrayal was great. The villain was appropriately evil, in a similar vein to Queen Levana in The Lunar Chronicles. If we’re going to have a villain, I want them to actually be bad, and not have it be some “oh they’re just misunderstood” situation. I also like the whole “held captive” trope. It was enjoyable. Heart of Betrayal is when we see some of the themes of responsibility and a discussion of what a leader owes their country coming into play. We see this in regards to all three different kingdoms: Morrighan, Dalbrek, and Venda. I also liked the way myth and legend was used to pass down history, and the emphasis on understanding history so you don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.

Overall this is an enjoyable, fairly fluffy but fun series. You can expect a lot of popular YA tropes, but I totally enjoyed them. I will probably be reading this series again at some point.

 

Books of 2018 (Nonfiction)

I always like to have a really specific kind of book to read while I’m drinking my coffee in the morning. Usually it’s a nonfiction book, the kind that has a lot of pictures and that you can read a few pages of at a time and still appreciate. The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables by Catherine Reid perfectly met all of these requirements.

the landscapes of green gablesFirst of all, this book is gorgeous. Every page is just so aesthetically pleasing. There are full page landscapes of different locations in Prince Edward Island, old black and white photographs, and quotations from both L. M. Montgomery’s novels and her journals in beautiful fonts. I love looking through this book and admiring the different layouts.

We learn that L. M. Montgomery had a special connection with Prince Edward Island from her novels, and this is even more apparent in her personal writings and journals. Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables opens up with a quote from Montgomery’s autobiography, “‘Old Prince Edward Island’ is a good place in which to be born- a good place in which to spend a childhood. I can think of none better.” Montgomery’s love for Prince Edward Island remained with her long past childhood. Even when she wasn’t living in Prince Edward Island she was thinking of it, missing it, writing about it. Montgomery writes so passionately about Prince Edward Island that for many of her readers it is synonymous with one of the magic fairylands of childhood: Neverland, Narnia, or Hogwarts. Except you can visit Prince Edward Island outside the pages of a book.

I grew up reading all of L. M. Montgomery’s novels and watching the Kevin Sullivan show Road to Avonlea. So Prince Edward Island and the fictional town of Avonlea are near and dear to my heart. It felt like I was visiting the place of my imagination in The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables- without any of the tourists or gift shops.

IMG-4940.jpg

I think this book also gives you a new appreciation for the way L. M. Montgomery describes nature and the landscape of Prince Edward Island. I’ll be honest, as a kid I always started skim reading whenever Montgomery started describing the landscape, flowers, or weather. L. M. Montgomery’s waxing lyrical about gardenias again, I would sigh and quickly cut to something more exciting. However, Catherine Reid does an excellent job of establishing why the natural world was important to L. M. Montgomery and the role it played in her life.

In an earlier post I reviewed House of Dreams: the Life of L. M. Montgomery. In her biography, Liz Rosenberg discusses the struggles L. M. Montgomery experienced with her mental heath. Reid also brings this up in Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables, but really expands on how Montgomery found peace and consolation in the natural world and how it became one of the only things that comforted her during her dark days. I love one of the quotes Reid includes from Montgomery’s journals: “I had…then, as now, two great refuges and consolations- the world of nature and the world of books. They kept life in my soul; they made me love my homes because of my dreams and rambles and the deep joy and delight they gave me.” This quote, as well as the context Reid provides for it, really helped me to appreciate L. M. Montgomery and her writing in a new way. Instead of feeling tangential to the plot, suddenly the descriptions L. M. Montgomery provides in her book are yet another way she is sharing something joyful and optimistic with the world.

There’s a lot more to this book and I think it would be a wonderful addition to any collection. I get most of my books at the library, but I think this one is worth purchasing. It’s a good book to keep on your coffee table and read in the morning before the busyness of the day begins.

 

Books of 2018 (Young Adult)

So I just finished reading The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins, and I’ll be real… I didn’t like it. I feel like this is exactly the kind of book that is perpetuating unrealistic standards of beauty for both men and women. Not only that, I honestly felt like every character was being reduced to their body type and level of attractiveness. Women were objectified. Men were objectified. Everybody was objectified. It was like every description had to include some physical detail or another, Aerity’s “tiny waist,” Paxton’s “strong arms,” “calves,” and basically everything else. I wouldn’t have minded so much if either of them had even a semi-interesting personality. But honestly, they were both kind of boring, and having nice abs doesn’t make you a compelling character.

I sound like I’m being harsh, but honestly it made the great huntme mad. Seriously, Paxton is unbearable. The first time he meets Aerity he just assumes that she’s self absorbed and spoiled because she’s a princess, but does that stop him from staring at her chest? No, no it does not. “Paxton then did something that none of the other tables full of men had dared to do, Still holding her hand, he dropped his gaze down to the swell of fabric at her chest, and kept it there too long, his hand tightening and seeming even hotter around hers.” Why am I supposed to like this guy again? Oh that’s right, he has abs.

So a little while later Aerity and her cousin Wyneth are talking about the incident and then Wyneth says something truly insightful. “I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t be so quick to take up for him if it’d be one of the other men who ate you up with his starving eyes.” THAT’S RIGHT, BECAUSE ABS. Honestly, Aerity is pretty unbearable too. Wyneth is like “Truly, Aer. I thought at first you were going to smack him, and then just as quickly it looked as if you might kiss the lad!” SMACK HIS GOOD FOR NOTHING FACE, AERITY.

Okay, and you know how the author makes up for objectifying women? She introduces a matriarchal tribe of women to join the men in hunting down the beast. Which would have been cool, but apparently, the only thing these women are good for is treating Paxton’s 17 year old brother like he’s a piece of meat. Because this makes me feel a whole lot better about the group of guys drooling over Aerity.

I was just kind of disappointed because the premise made it sound promising. It sounded like a fun, if slightly fluffy, fairytale retelling. In all fairness I will say that the last 100 pages were slightly better than the rest of the book, but not enough for me to actually recommend it.

Major complaints aside, most of the book was just kind of dumb. For example there was that scene where Aerity makes fun of Paxton because he doesn’t know how to tie his hair back, and then she proceeds to do it for him. Paxton just sits there thinking to himself, Gosh, I think the last person who did this for me must have been either my Grandmother or my Mom. How long has it been since someone has done such a basic service for me? Like, okay Paxton. If you’re old enough to go hunt down a man killing monster, I think you can learn to tie your hair in a ponytail. It’s not rocket-science.

Also, Aerity did a lot of running around the castle in her nightgown. It was a little bit confusing. Honestly, half the novel I just felt bad for her poor bodyguards. She puts them in a lot of weird/awkward positions. Like, they just sit there while she’s running her hands through Paxton’s hair or whatever. Gross.

Anyway, I guess I don’t have anything else to say. I wish I could say something nice about this book but I really wasn’t feeling it. I might hunt down the Grimm’s fairytale it was inspired by, “The Singing Bone.” So there’s that.

 

Books of 2018 (Picture Book)

One of my assignments this quarter was to write a School Library Journal style review of an informational picture book. I reviewed Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet. It seemed fitting to include my review here, especially because I would like to work on writing more reviews in this style in the future. I think it’s a good skill to develop, and while I won’t be writing all my reviews like this, I might occasionally write some more reviews of picture books.

balloons over broadway

If you’re interested in learning more about School Library Journal reviews, I will include the assignment guidelines at the end of this post. Again, this was for a class assignment and was not actually submitted to SLJ or published.

 

 

SWEET, Melissa. Balloons Over Broadway. illus. by Melissa Sweet. 40p. HMH Books for Young Readers. Nov. 2011. HB $16.99. ISBN: 978054719940.

Gr 1-5 –Like many other children, Tony Sarg liked to figure out how things worked. He began designing his famous marionettes as a child and would later create mechanical displays for the windows of Macy’s Department Store. However, Tony Sarg is not remembered for his window displays. He is remembered as the man who designed the first balloons to float above the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In her delightful picture book, Melissa Sweet masterfully captures the creative imagination of Tony Sarg, both in her charming narration and outstanding artwork. Sweet provides a natural organization for the story, beginning with the childhood of Tony Sarg and ending with his biggest accomplishment. Balloons Over Broadway is an excellent text for children interested in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) skills, as Sweet intentionally engages her readers in the design process. Throughout the story, Sweet asks her readers to ponder questions that Sarg also considered while creating his marionettes and balloons. Moreover, Sweet frequently provides examples of the creative process in her artwork. Along with the soft watercolors which are featured throughout the story, Sweet includes drawings which appear to be the work of a child, complicated mechanical designs, layouts featuring toy marionettes, and historic photographs. It is clear that Sweet is asking her readers to think, not only like Tony Sarg, but like a child, as she introduces them to a world of imagination and design.

Assignment Guidelines:

  • Include a brief statement of the content or plot.
  • Critical Appraisal of the literary and/or artistic quality
  • Clarity and organization of information.
  • Illustrative material is as important as the text.
  • Recommended grade level at the beginning of the review.
  • Must be 200-250 words.