Sunday, June 30, 2013

After Iris by Natasha Farrant


After Iris
Farrant, Natasha.  New York: Dial, 2013.  9780803739826

Quantitative Reading Level: There is no reading level set for this book set.  The interest level is for grades 5-8.  

Qualitative Reading Analysis:
I would rate this book as Middle Low on the “Text Complexity: Qualitative Measures Rubric for Literary Text”.  The narrative structure is fairly simple but the format of a movie script and production may confuse the readers at first.  The language is contemporary.  The story does take place in England but there are few cases where readers would even notice.  There is a lot going on as the family works to recover from the death of Iris and find their own place in the family.

Bluebell’s twin sister Iris died three years ago and the family has never been the same.  Flora, the oldest is rebelling, Bluebell has withdrawn behind a camera, Mom works and travels all the time, Dad also travels and is secretive, and the two Babes – Twig and Jasmine barely remember.  This story explores the family dynamics and especially how Bluebell (Blue) learns to go on living after Iris.  There is quite a bit of drama with the older sister Flora and her boyfriend Joss who also happens to be Blue’s “crush”.  Can the family reconnect and be happy once again or will they continue to drift apart?

Personal Thoughts:
This was a pretty interesting book.  Bluebell and her family have all drifted apart after the death of Iris, Bluebell’s twin.  There is rebellion, escapism, misunderstandings, fear, and anger.  The author did a good job of revealing the inner turmoil of the characters and showing how a family in pain can hurt each other deeply without meaning to.  This would be a good book for kids whose families have gone through emotional situations.

Subjects/Themes:  Desire to Escape, Death, Family, Coming of Age

Character Names/descriptions:
Iris – Sister who died 3 years ago
Bluebell – Iris’s twin who has withdrawn and hides behind her camera
Flora – Oldest sister and who rebels as a way of dealing with her sadness
Jasmine – Youngest sister
Twig – Only brother
Mom – Works too much and often travels, escapes to avoid dealing with her sorrow
Dad – A professor who is working on something but is secretive about it, he is gone a lot
Zoran – Au pair who watches the kids while the parents are gone

High Interest Annotation:
How does a family cope after the death of a beloved sister and daughter?  How can they survive after Iris?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Once by Morris Gleitzman


Gleitzman, Morris.  New York: Henry Holt, 2010  9780805090260

Quantitative Reading Level:  Lexile 640, Fountas and Pinnell Y

Qualitative Reading Analysis:
I would rate this as Middle High on the “Text Complexity: Qualitative Measures Rubric for Literary Text”.  The book has several layers of meaning and is quite complex.  What makes it so complex is that the narrator is a young boy who is very naïve.  The reader often needs to use his own background knowledge to figure out what is really happening to the boy and the people around him because the boy does not fully understand.  As an example the boy narrowly misses an execution of a group of Jews and actually goes toward the sound of the guns because he thinks he will find his mum and dad there.  He arrives too late and thinks the blood in the river is from hunters catching rabbits.  A reader would really need a good understanding of the Holocaust and some of the things done to the Jewish people in order to interpret what is going on with Felix.  

At the beginning of the story Felix is living in hiding at a Catholic orphanage.  But when he finds a carrot in his soup he wrongly assumes it is from his parents and that they are coming to get him.  He then decides to go find them in order to save them from the Nazis who he believes are after book selling Jews.  As Felix wanders throughout Poland he narrowly escapes several threats from the Nazis.  This book is told through his eyes and his perception of life as a story.  It is a fascinating look at the war through an innocent child.  Through it all he holds onto hope and love for the other children around him.  

Content Area: Social Studies - Holocaust

Content area standard:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.6 Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.9 Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

MCCL SS.03.WHD.01.02  Understands the significance of major turning points of select international wars and their implications. 

MCCL SS.04.WHR.01.02  Understands how the interrelation of various religions has impacted world history. 

Curriculum Suggestions:
This book would be a great book to use in a study of World War II and the Holocaust.  Students could look at how Felix views the events surrounding him and compare to other fiction and nonfiction accounts.  Students could analyze his role as a narrator and how much of what he says can be believed. 

Morris Gleitzman talks about characters:

Personal Thoughts:
I really enjoyed this book.  I have read a lot of books about the Holocaust but it was interesting to see the events through the eyes of a naïve child.  There were several times that I held my breath because Felix was unknowingly walking into a dangerous situation.  It was interesting to figure out what was really happening.  I listened to the audio version of the book and the narrator was the author which was also very cool.  I loved how every chapter started as “Once….”.  This was very well done.

Subjects/Themes: Holocaust, Coming of Age, War, Loss of Innocence

Series Information: This is the first of 4 books.  The sequels are Now, Then, and After.

High Interest Annotation:  Once, a boy Felix was left by his parents at a Catholic orphanage for his protection.  But then he left in order to find them and save them.  Once, a naïve child experiences the horrors of the Holocaust.

Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking: A 14 Day Mystery by Erin Dionne


Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking
Dionne, Erin.  New York: Dial, 2013.  978-0-8037-3871-3

Quantitative Reading Level: Reading Level 4.8

Qualitative Reading Analysis:
I would rate this as Middle Low on the “Text Complexity: Qualitative Measures for Literary Text”.  It has a simple structure with very little figurative language.  It is mainly a simple mystery but there are a few underlying themes of family loyalty that bump this up from Low to Middle Low.  There is some need for cultural / literary knowledge about Boston and art in general.  Students who have this knowledge will be able to visualize the setting better.

Moxie has always known her grandfather “Grumps” was in “the business” but when an old associate comes looking around for some missing items she finds out just how involved he was.  Moxie has 14 days to locate the missing items…or else.  Unfortunately, Grumps has Alzheimer’s and can’t help her out.  Using her skills as a mathematician and with the help of her best friend, Ollie she investigates the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist and the role her grandfather played.  Moxie’s investigation takes her to the State House, the Old North Church, and Fenway.  There is a lot to love about this mystery, especially for New England readers familiar with the setting.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum website with information about the theft:

Content Area: Reading/ELA

Content area standard:
MCCL ELA.04.RLC.01.02  Understands the internal and external challenges and conflicts of character using appropriate qualitative and quantitative measures of text complexity

Understands how and why the character responds or changes as the events or challenges in the story move toward a resolution using appropriate qualitative and quantitative measures of text complexity

MCCL ELA.03.RLP.01.01  Understands plot development creates story meaning through a problem and its solution using appropriate qualitative and quantitative measures of text complexity

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.1 Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.2 Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.3 Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).

Curriculum Suggestions:
Students who are studying Boston in Social Studies classes will find connections to famous historical sites and events.  Students could map out the locations in the book and do extra research on the places mentioned like the State House, Old North Church, and Fenway Park. 
Students could find out more about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist and any progress that has been made on discovering who did it.

Personal Thoughts:
I really enjoyed this book.  It helped that I have been to Boston several times and know the locations in the book.  I thought the author did a good job of integrating Boston culture and history with a famous art museum mystery.  The only thing that was weird to me was that Moxie was entering high school.  She didn’t seem that old and I felt like her character could have been younger considering how she acted and the reading level of the book.  I don’t see this book as being popular with the high school crowd but rather with grade 4-6.

Subjects/Themes:  Coming of Age, Family

Character Names/descriptions:
Moxie: She is about to go into high school and wants this to be the best summer of her life.  Unfortunately she gets wrapped up in a 20 year old mystery and finds out her beloved “Grumps” was involved.
Ollie: He is an avid geocacher and Moxie’s best friend who gets involved with the mystery.

High Interest Annotation:
Moxie finds out that her grandfather was involved in Boston’s most famous art theft and must now recover the missing items…or else.