Module 8: Coldest Girl in Coldtown

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Black, H. (2013). Coldest Girl in Coldtown. New York: Little, Brown and Company

Summary

Coldest Girl in Coldtown follows the story of a teenage girl who lives in a vampire filled world. Vampires used to be confined and hidden, killing all their victims until one vampire goes on a rampage and turns them, releasing an uncontrollable virus into the population. Once bit by a vampire, humans become cold and thirst for blood. If they meet their cravings, the virus will mutate in their bodies, killing them, and reanimating them as a vampire. Coldtowns are established to keep the virus contained into cities. Tana’s story begins as she thinks she is infected and knows her ex-boyfriend is. With the help of a vampire, they travel to the nearest coldtown making friends along the way, but once within Coldtown, Tana must battle for her life and the life of those she loves.

Impressions

This book is excellent and immersive. Holly Black’s writing is fantastic and brings new life into what is a classic story. The characters especially are well developed, though sometimes easy to predict. Going on the journey with these characters will leave readers wanting more. The concept of the Coldtowns brings a dystopian feel to this novel. The coldtowns are run down, lacking in government, and a free for all in terms of crime and parties. Nothing is nice and no one is safe. The coldtowns felt very real and easily place readers into the setting of the book.

Professional Reviews

This eagerly anticipated novel (based on Black’s short story of the same name) bears little relation to the sparkle-infused vampire tales of the last decade.

Ten years ago, a vampire “started romanticizing himself” and went on a rampage, turning people until new vampires were everywhere. As much as possible, they are contained in walled Coldtowns, along with humans who idolize them—or were trapped when the walls went up. Outside, people avoid going out after dark, watch endless feeds from Coldtown parties and idolize vampire hunters. When nihilistic Tana, whose emptiness seems to stem from events surrounding her mother’s infection with vampirism, wakes up in a blood bath to find her ex-boyfriend infected and a terrifying but gorgeous vampire chained beside him, she is determined to make things right. What follows is a journey that takes her into Coldtown and out of the grief that has plagued her for years, with plenty of sharply observed characters and situations that feel absurdly, horribly believable. There’s dry humor and even a relationship (to call it a romance would be too easy; this is something entirely more complex). Perhaps most unexpectedly, there is no happy ending, just a thread of hope in humanity.

You may be ready to put a stake in vampire lit, but read this first: It’s dark and dangerous, bloody and brilliant.

Kirkus Review (2013). [Review of Coldest Girl in Coldtown]. Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/holly-black/coldest-girl-coldtown/

Library Uses

This book is a staple in the collection as a vampire book that goes beyond what reader’s expect. It has a great dialogue on the spreading of diseases and infections and can always be used as a fun fiction supplement to a virus STEM program.

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Module 7: Thirteen Reasons Why

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Asher, J. (2007). Thirteen Reasons Why. New York: Penguin Group

Summary

Thirteen Reasons Why is a uniquely laid out book that follows the story of one teenagers decision to commit suicide and a narration in the form of cassette tapes delivered to thirteen individuals in a sequential order that allows them to understand the part they played in her suicide. Using a slight form of blackmail and one assistant to play out her wishes, the cassette tapes move from one student to another so that they can understand why she committed suicide and understand all the events, both big and small, that played a part in the end of her life.

Impressions

This book’s format takes a minute to get used to. It consists of the narration of the cassette tapes by a girl, Hannah, who had recorded them prior to committing suicide as they are being listened to Clay. The book consists of both her narration and Clay’s point of view. While this takes a minute to get used to, it definitely adds to the understanding of the book. The book slowly unravels, starting off with small and seemingly petty events that cascade into bigger, more traumatic events as the year unfolds. This is not an easy book by any means. It questions a lot of things that is “typical” teenage behavior. It begs the reader to analyze all the relationships they have and the way they treat people. It explores how a little teasing, bullying, and rumor spreading can catapult a chain of events that no one would want.

Professional Reviews

When Clay Jenson plays the cassette tapes he received in a mysterious package, he’s surprised to hear the voice of dead classmate Hannah Baker. He’s one of 13 people who receive Hannah’s story, which details the circumstances that led to her suicide. Clay spends the rest of the day and long into the night listening to Hannah’s voice and going to the locations she wants him to visit. The text alternates, sometimes quickly, between Hannah’s voice (italicized) and Clay’s thoughts as he listens to her words, which illuminate betrayals and secrets that demonstrate the consequences of even small actions. Hannah, herself, is not free from guilt, her own inaction having played a part in an accidental auto death and a rape. The message about how we treat one another, although sometimes heavy, makes for compelling reading. Give this to fans of Gail Giles psychological thrillers.

Dobrez, C. (2007). [Review of Thireen Reasons Why]. Bookslists. Retrieved from: http://www.booklistonline.com/Thirteen-Reasons-Why-Jay-Asher/pid=2015974

Library Uses

Last year, a teenager in the community I lived committed suicide. I did not know the teenager, but I knew the teens that were affected by the loss of a friend and by the questions that come from a suicide. It is not easy to answer these questions for them. It is in fact, impossible, to know what to say in these instances other than to listen and provide resources that may assist them in beginning to understand. This book is a tremendous resource to be recommended to a teen or for a teen to discover.

This book also provides a great conversation on bullying. How innocent teasing can lead to horrible things. How one act can trigger off a string of events. It shows what happens when you stand aside and let bad things happen even if you are not the person doing the bad things. It is a wonderful book of what real consequence looks like.
 

Module 7: Wonder

Palacio, R.J. (2012). Wonder. New York: Random House Children’s Books

Summary

Wonder shares the story of a boy named August (“Auggie”) who was born with a facial deformity. Needing more than 20 surgeries at his young age of 10, these deformities have defined almost all of his life to this point. He is aware of the looks he gets from strangers and the staring they do when they think he is not looking. As the book begins, Auggie is accepted into school after years of being homeschooled. Told from multiple view points including August, his sister – Via, and his friends, this book provides an encompassing look at what it is like to be different.

Impressions

The character development in this story is truly some of the best development I have seen in a juvenile book. Immediately, all the characters feel real. They have their good sides and their bad sides. They are all struggling with daily problems, big and small. They all have one thing in common; Auggie and the unique life he leads. All of them must fight their initial reaction to anything different, including fear (of both the unknown and fear of being judged) and sadness. The story tells readers that being different is a problem that everyone has, not just those with face deformities, and that we can all overcome it with grace and humor in tact. What makes you different is not what defines you in every aspect but what you make of those differences and how you interact with the world around you. This is a great story that is aimed at such a crucial age when readers may feel different and out of place.

Professional Reviews

Kids’ books about befriending somebody “different” could fill a library. But this debut novel rises to the top through its subtle shifting of focus to those who are “normal,” thereby throwing into doubt presumptions readers may have about any of the characters. Nominally, the story is about 10-year-old August, a homeschooled boy who is about to take the plunge into a private middle school. Even 27 operations later, Auggie’s face has what doctors call “anomolies”; Auggie himself calls it “my tiny, mushed-up face.” He is gentle and smart, but his mere physical presence sends the lives of a dozen people into a tailspin: his sister, his old friends, the new kids he meets, their parents, the school administrators—the list goes on and on. Palacio’s bold move is to leave Auggie’s first-person story to follow these increasingly tangential characters. This storytelling strategy is always fraught with peril because of how readers must refresh their interest level with each new section. However, much like Ilene Cooper’s similarly structured Angel in My Pocket (2011), Palacio’s novel feels not only effortless but downright graceful, and by the stand-up-and-cheer conclusion, readers will be doing just that, and feeling as if they are part of this troubled but ultimately warm-hearted community.

Kraus, D. (2012). [Review of Wonder]. Bookslists. Retrieved from: http://www.booklistonline.com/Wonder-R-J-Palacio/pid=5101813

Library Uses

This book is a great book discussion book. With the rotating character format, the revolving view points, mixes of characters with their own set of problems and quirks, it lends itself perfectly to discussing being different, perspectives on the world, and the importance of being kind to others.

Module 6: I Want My Hat Back

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Klassen, J. (2011). I Want My Hat Back. Dongguan, China: New Century Schoolbook.

Summary

I Want My Hat Back is the story of a bear who has lost his hat. He walks around asking the other animals if they have seen his hat and very politely thanking them when they say they have not seen it. In one image, there is a rabbit who is wearing a red cone which turns out to be the bear’s hat. The story ends with the bear eating the rabbit.

Impressions

This story is hilarious. The bear walks around asking all the animals very politely if they have seen his hat and then sadly “thanking them anyways” when they turn up with no information. The dialogue with the Rabbit, who is clearly wearing a hat, is fascinating as it explores an overshare of information when a character is lying. The ending is hilarious as Bear is questioned about where Rabbit is and he overshares information about how he would never eat a Rabbit. This book has wonderfully simplistic illustrations and is a great, simple story. For younger children, the ending may be lost on them but provides some comedy for the readers.

Professional Reviews

Klassen, who illustrated Caroline Stutson’s Cats’ Night Out (2010), pens his first story in this odd, and oddly charming, picture book. A bummed-out bear asks if other animals have seen his lost hat. The fox knows nothing. Neither does the frog. Or the rabbit who is wearing a pointy red hat. No luck with the turtle, snake, or armadillo either. Kids will probably be squirming in their seats at this point, just dying to tell the bear what he missed three page turns ago, but then a reindeer jogs Bear’s memory by asking what the hat looks like (red, pointy). He runs back to confront the rabbit, and when a squirrel asks him later if he has seen a hat-wearing rabbit, Bear is all innocence: “I haven’t seen any rabbits anywhere. I would not eat a rabbit. Don’t ask me any more questions.” This is, obviously, a dark turn, but there is no denying that the devious humor is right at a child’s level. He is a bear, after all; we should be happy he didn’t gobble up the rest of the cast.

Chipman, I. (2011). [Review of I Want My Hat Back]. Bookslists. Retrieved from: http://www.booklistonline.com/I-Want-My-Hat-Back-Jon-Klassen/pid=4908985

Library Uses

This books simple images and contrasting background makes it a great story time book. With its simple theme and definite voice it is easy to adapt for either younger or older story time goers. The funny twist at the end is great for entertaining parents.

Module 5: Going Bovine

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Bray, L. (2009). Going Bovine. New York, NY: Delacourte Press.

Summary

Going Bovine is an eccentric novel about a teenage boy who is living is day-to-day life when he is found out to have Mad Cow’s disease. After a few hallucinations and a few unusual outbreaks, he is hospitalize for the disease which he will ultimately die of according to doctors. This begins his epic journey to find a Doctor while traveling through time and space to find his cure to save his life. 

Impressions

This book starts off tremendously strong. It is amazingly quirky and being the type of person who does not read summaries, I was shocked to find out that it was about the human variant of Mad Cow disease. With the highly improbable situation, this book is still completely relatable. It is about a boy who does not quite fit in in his high school as the popular kid and has a handful of friends. His voice throughout the novel is quite distinguished, snarky, and full of sarcasm. The book is very unlike a book I have read in that it is an epic novel with a long journey and tons of action. Overall, I think the beginning and the end of this book were incredibly strong while the middle was good, but dragged a bit in places due to the nature of the journey.

Professional Reviews

In a giant departure from her Gemma Doyle historical fiction trilogy, Bray’s latest offering is an unforgettable, nearly indefinable fantasy adventure, as immense and sprawling as Cervantes’ Don Quixote, on which it’s based. Here the hero is Cameron, a 16-year-old C-plus-average slacker who likens himself to “driftwood,” but he suddenly becomes the center of attention after he is diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human variant of mad cow disease. In the hospital, he meets Dulcie, an alluring angel clad in fishnet stockings and combat boots, who presents him with a heroic quest to rescue the planet from an otherworldly, evil force. Guided by random signs and accompanied by a teen dwarf named Gonzo, Cameron sets off on a wild road trip across the U.S. to save the world, and perhaps his own life. Talking yard gnomes, quantum physics, cults of happiness, mythology, religion, time travel, the blues, Disney World, the vacuous machine behind reality TV shows, and spring break’s beer-and-bikini culture all figure prominently in the plot, and readers may not feel equally engaged in each of the novel’s lengthy episodes. But Bray’s wildly imagined novel, narrated in Cameron’s sardonic, believable voice, is wholly unique, ambitious, tender, thought-provoking, and often fall-off-the-chair funny, even as she writes with powerful lyricism about the nature of existence, love, and death. Familiarity with Don Quixote certainly isn’t necessary, but those who know the basic plot will want to start over from the beginning and pick up on each sly allusion to the classic story.

Engberg, G. (2009). [Review of Going Bovine]. Booklist. http://www.booklistonline.com/Going-Bovine-Libba-Bray/pid=3535357

Library Uses

This is such a fun and unique book for teens! I would love to host a book discussion in which teens could decide what insane disease they would likely become infected with and what odd symptoms they would get, what their parents would suspect, and ultimately what treatment they would need (both practical and impractical) to survive.

Module 5: Bud, Not Buddy

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Curtis, C.P. (1999). Bud, Not Buddy. New York, NY: Bantam Doubleday Deli Publishing Group, Inc.

Summary

The Coretta Scott King Award Winning, Bud, Not Buddy is the story of a 10-year old orphan named Bud. After his mother dies at the age of 6, he moves into a home where he circulates between different families. The book begins when he is sent to a home with the Amos’ and after being beat up by an older boy, he goes out on the lam in search for a helpful hand. He first searches for his favorite librarian, receives help from a family in the food line, and meets up with his best from Bugs before running off west on a train. When he misses the train, he starts the long journey of finding his father. After receiving a lift from a friendly stranger, he finds who he believes to be his father and the story unfolds on his life and family.

Impressions

I vaguely remember reading this book as an elementary school teacher and remember liking it but could not remember what it was about (other than the fact that Bud does not want to be called Buddy). I was delighted to read it as an adult and feel like this character was so well developed he could be any child that came into my library. The moments in the library with Bud are some of my favorite that I have read as they really portray a library’s role in the community. I loved how this book discovered its own happy ending without resulting in a cliché or atypical plot twist that ended with everyone happy. The story ends in a heartfelt and satisfying way without lowering itself. It is a terrific read for both young students and adults alike.

Professional Reviews

 “Bud, 10, is on the run from the orphanage and from yet another mean foster family. His mother died when he was 6, and he wants to find his father. Set in Michigan during the Great Depression, this is an Oliver Twist kind of foundling story, but it’s told with affectionate comedy, like the first part of Curtis’ The Watsons Go to Birmingham (1995). On his journey, Bud finds danger and violence (most of it treated as farce), but more often, he finds kindness—in the food line, in the library, in the Hooverville squatter camp, on the road—until he discovers who he is and where he belongs. Told in the boy’s naive, desperate voice, with lots of examples of his survival tactics (“Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar out of Yourself”), this will make a great read-aloud. Curtis says in an afterword that some of the characters are based on real people, including his own grandfathers, so it’s not surprising that the rich blend of tall tale, slapstick, sorrow, and sweetness has the wry, teasing warmth of family folklore.”

Rochman, H. (1999). [Review of Bud, Not Buddy]. Bookslists. Retrieved from: http://www.booklistonline.com/Bud-Not-Buddy-Christopher-Paul-Curtis/pid=1707749

Library Uses

With the setting built around a jazz band, I would love to use this book during a jazz music program. During this program, participants could learn the basics of jazz, try a few instruments, and learn about its influence on society.

Module 4: Miracles on Maple Hill

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Sorensen, V. (1956). Miracles on Maple Hill. Orlando, Fl: Harcourt Young Classics.

Summary

Miracles on Maple Hill tells the story of Marly, a young girl who moves out to Maple Hill with her family. Her father has just returned from the war and is suffering from the effects. They move out to Maple Hill to fix up their grandmother’s old house and find new life in the seclusion of the mountains. Marley, her brother, and mother live on Maple Hill during the weekends and summers while their father moves out their permenately to update the house. In no time at all, he is no longer feeling as tired as he was and starts to sing and enjoy himself on the mountain. The story is marked by different miracles that Marly encounters on the mountain, as small or big as they may be.

Impressions

This a sweet book that may be lacking in emotional context. While much of the story is incredibly enjoyable, such as the demonstration of seasons, the wonderful descriptions of smells, and the enchanting rural environment that Marly finds herself in, there is something lacking from the story. Marly’s father being a war veteran makes itself the central part of the story yet it is not clearly defined. Her father is tired, simply tired, and that is all the details on his emotional state of mind that the book dives into. The move to Maple Hill, the miracles Marly tries to find, are all tied to his unstable state but not much is done to elaborate. Marly’s family is perfectly normal in every way except for that it is known on superficial level that her father is tired. Beyond this lack of depth, the book describes lovely scene changes and makes you want to go “sugaring” for maple syrup in the mountains immediately.

Professional Reviews

 This 1957 Newbery award winner is perfect family listening fare, sweet and homey. Father, Mother, Marly, and Joe relocate from the city to an abandoned family farm. The story’s center belongs to Marly, a precocious 10-year-old played by Jo D’Aloisio, who sounds thoroughly charming even when her character is whining about Joe or worrying about her moody, brittle father, who has recently returned from the war and suffers psychic wounds. The book’s narrator, Cynthia Bishop, reads in crisp, pleasant tones. And neighboring maple-sugar farmer Mr. Chris, as played by Willard E. Lape Jr., is as hearty as Santa Claus. Musical interludes signal chapter breaks, and a vocal rendition of a folksong (sung by cast members) adds even more down-home flavor. This production shines.

Cruze, K. (2005). [Review of Miracles on Maple Hill]. Bookslists. Retrieved from: http://booklistonline.com/Miracles-on-Maple-Hill-Virginia-Sorensen/pid=758481

Library Uses

This book’s description of the seasons is a wonderful opportunity to discuss and describe the beauty of different seasons with library children. Crafts on seasons could be done as well as different seasonal activities, such as testing different maple syrup.