Module 5: Ender’s Game

12 07 2010

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Summary: At some point in Earth’s future aliens that resemble giant bugs, a.k.a. Buggers, have attacked Earth twice and Earth is in fear of a third attack to finish humans off. Though he is only six military commanders believe that  Ender Wiggins is the answer to Earth’s survival and the destruction of the Buggers. For five years he is trained and tested to see if he has what it takes to command the fleets of starships. Ender must prove that he has what it takes to survive his constant hardships and save the earth.

Citation: Card, Orson Scott. (1991) Ender’s Game. New York: Tor.

My Impressions: I had no trouble breezing through this book, but I might have breezed a little too quickly because I definitely missed some key points in the scientific explanations. Despite that I was able to understand the book. Although I enjoy and read quite a bit of fantasy, I don’t often read science fiction so I don’t have a lot to compare Ender’s Game with, but I thought the book was interesting and different. At the same time it was a little unnerving to see how Ender’s freedom and childhood is stripped from him and how he is a pawn, albeit an important pawn, but a pawn nonetheless. While the book was definitely good, I was a little depressed by the end because I didn’t feel like Ender ever truly found happiness. However, I know that Ender’s Game is the beginning of a series so perhaps in one of the later books he truly finds happiness.


“Card has taken the venerable conceits of a superman and an interstellar war against aliens, and, with superb characterization, pacing, and language, has combined them into a seamless story of compelling power.” –Roland Green, Booklist Online review

“Now, in this novel, Card fulfills his early promise…and more.”–Ben Bova

Library Use Suggestion: In the book Colonel Graff suggests that the perpetuation of the war between the buggers and humans is because there is no way for the two species to communicate. This could open a conversation about communication barriers and how to breach them. How deaf people communicate with people who don’t know sign language and how people who speak different languages communicate could be discussed.


Module 5: Speak

7 07 2010

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Summary: Melinda doesn’t have it easy. Not only is she starting ninth grade, but everyone in the school hates her for calling the cops at a end of summer party. Ever since the party she has had to deal with an overwhelming depression due to a horrible event that happened that night which she is unable to speak even to herself. Melinda must learn how to find happiness in her life and move past what has happened to her. She must learn how to find hope and how to find her voice again.

Citation: Anderson, Laurie Halse. (2006). Speak. New York: Penguin.

My Impressions: I had a little trouble getting into this book at first. Not only did Melinda seem a little too insightful, but until I knew why she was depressed I wasn’t able to connect with her too well. However, as Melinda’s story was revealed I wasn’t able to put the book down. It was great watching her work through her depression, to find hope and her voice, and very realistic. I think many young people will be able to connect with this book.


“This is a compelling book with sharp, crisp writing that draws readers in, engulfing them in the story.” –School Library Journal

“An uncannily funny book even as it plumbs the darkness, Speak will hold readers from the first word to the last.” –Horn Book

Library Use Suggestion: This would be a good book to use when talking about rape and depression. Both are more common than we like to believe, particularly among adolescents. Through the main character Melinda the reader can learn how to deal with both subjects. This can open up conversation to talk with students about how to deal with emotional problems and sexual abuse such as who to reach to and what to do if it happens to them or a friend.

Module 4: Hatchet

29 06 2010

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Summary: Fourteen-year-old Brian is going to visit his father for the first time since his parents divorce. But when his plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness Brian is left with the clothes on his back and a hatchet, a last minute present from his mother, attached to his belt. Brian must learn how to survive, make his own shelter, find his own food, while hoping for rescue.

Citation: Paulsen, Gary. (1987) Hatchet. New York: Simon Pulse.

My Impressions: Although I don’t read many survival stories, and when I do I prefer true stories, I enjoyed this book. Brian is a smart, resourceful boy and manages to survive 54 days by his own wits. I particularly like that Brian does not find the survival pack until the day he is found. Before that he had been forced to stop thinking like a city kid, to change the way he views world around him. Had he had the survival pack from the beginning he would have never learned how create fire using only a stone and his hatchet, he would have never had to create a fish trap, a bow and arrow, or a spear, and he would have never had to capture his own food. The reader can see Brian grow as a person, so that by the end of the book the boy consumed with the Secret and his parent’s divorce is much more mature and thoughtful. Anyone who enjoys a good adventure story can enjoy this book.


“Readers may wince as Paulsen’s drama unfolds: as night blends into gray false dawn, the grip of the pacing never falters. Brian learns that while smiling at the humor of a funny mistake, he could find himself looking at death; learns that the driving influence in nature is to eat; learns to be full of tough hope. After a tornado ravages his campsite—destroying every fragment of his microcosm of civilization—he’s back to square one, with nothing left but the hatchet and what he learned about himself. Classic action-adventure fiction.” –Phyllis Wilson, Booklist Online Review excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: Brian is left in the wilderness with only the clothes on his back and a hatchet. Children could imagine an climate or ecosystem in which they were stranded and come up with their own survival kit.

Module 3: The Tequila Worm

27 06 2010

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Summary: Sophia is growing up in a Mexican American community in McAllen, Texas, and is learning all the traditions of her Mexican American heritage. However, there is a part of Sophia that wants to experience the other side–to go to college and to experience life outside her little community. The opportunity comes with a scholarship to an exclusive boarding school in Austin. After convincing her parents to let her go, she learns that she can accomplish her dreams while remaining true to herself and her heritage.

Citation: Canales, Viola. (2005) The Tequila Worm. New York: Wendy Lamb Books.

My Impressions: To be honest I didn’t think I’d enjoy this book much. It’s different from the style of books I usually enjoy and I didn’t think there would be much I could relate to. However, the author does an excellent job of describing Mexican American cultural aspects that others would not already know making it easy for the reader to understand the culture Sophia comes from. Children of all cultures can relate to this book because it is a coming of age book in which the character learns not only about herself and her culture, but the importance of hanging on to family, friends and tradition no matter where you are. She has the bravery to step outside of the world she knows and in doing so comes to understand more about herself and where she comes from. This book was an easy read, and I easily felt Sophia’s emotions. I was happy when her parents agreed to let her go to boarding school, I was nervous as she went to school, and I even teared up when someone close to her dies. Although I didn’t originally think I’d enjoy this book, I was glad to be proven wrong.


Each chapter centers on the vivid particulars of Mexican American traditions–celebrating the Day of the Dead, preparing for a cousin’s quinceanera . The explanations of cultural traditions never feel too purposeful; they are always rooted in immediate, authentic family emotions, and in Canales’ exuberant storytelling, which, like a good anecdote shared between friends, finds both humor and absurdity in sharply observed, painful situations–from weathering slurs and other blatant harassment to learning what it means to leave her community for a privileged, predominately white school. Readers of all backgrounds will easily connect with Sofia as she grows up, becomes a comadre , and helps rebuild the powerful, affectionate community that raised her.” –Gillian Engberg, Booklist Online excerpt

“Canales, the author of the story collection Orange Candy Slices and Other Secret Tales (2001), is a graduate of Harvard Law School, suggesting that Sofia’s story at least closely parallels her own. She is an accomplished storyteller, though not yet, perhaps, a successful novelist. The episodic narrative has disconcerting leaps in time at the beginning, and a sense of completion, or a moral displayed, at several points throughout-all lacking the tension to carry the reader forward. This said, the characters and setting are so real to life that readers who connect with Sofia at the start will find many riches here, from a perspective that is still hard to find in youth literature.” —Kirkus Reviews excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: This would be a great book to promote during Hispanic Heritage month or as students are studying Mexican culture. Another idea would be to read either the entire book or relevant chapters about the Day of the Dead to help students understand how other cultures view Halloween. Children could then create their own Day of the Dead items.

Module 3: A Wrinkle in Time

27 06 2010

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Summary: Meg Murray just doesn’t seem to be like everyone else. With her fly-away hair, glasses and braces she knows she is far from beautiful. She can’t seem to control her emotions, she doesn’t do well in school, and she hates that everyone thinks her younger brother, Charles Wallace, is dumb. On top of that her father she hasn’t seen or heard from her father in over a year, and the whole town thinks he ran off with another woman. But one night three strange women take Meg, Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin O’Keefe on a wild journey across space and time in an effort to find Meg and Charles Wallace’s father who has been trapped on another planet. The three children will have to fight for their lives and their identities on a journey full of danger and adventure.

Citation: L’Engle, Madeleine. (2007) A Wrinkle in Time. New York: Square Fish.

My Impressions: I really enjoyed this book, it was a quick, easy read. I think children will be able to identify with Meg as the awkward girl who just doesn’t fit in and isn’t quite like everyone else. At the same time there’s a great sense of adventure that will also appeal to children. The science fiction aspect of the book might turn some children off reading it, but if they give it a chance I think it’s on that can appeal to most children. I was a little surprised by the Christian references in the book particularly the parts that quoted entire Bible verses, although they were not cited so only someone  familiar with the particular verses would notice.


“Here is a confusion of science, philosophy, satire, religion, literary allusions, and quotations that will no doubt have many critics. I found it fascinating. To children who read and reread C. S. Lewis’ fairy tales I think it will be absorbing. It makes unusual demands on the imagination and consequently gives great rewards.” –Horn Book review excerpt

“With this award-winning story, Madeline L’Engle has captivated millions of readers throughout the world. Her universal themes of courage, perseverance, and love are interwoven with imagination and suspense. A Wrinkle in Time, published in 1962, won the distinguished Newbery Medal for children’s literature in 1963.” – review excerpt

Library Use Suggestions: This book could be used to talk about how differences can be a good thing. If it were not for Meg’s differences she would have not been able to make it off Camazotz and avoid giving in to IT.

Module 2: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

27 06 2010

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Summary: This is the story of twelve-year-old orphan Hugo Cabret in Paris in the beginning of the 20th century. Hugo lives in the train station, secretly tending to its many clocks and stealing food and sometimes items from the toy shop. Hugo needs the things from the toy shop because he is secretly rebuilding an automation that his father had been working on before his death. However, the owner of the toy shop discovers Hugo as a thief and Hugo’s secret is in jeopardy. With the help of a couple friends Hugo discovers an even greater mystery, one that will affect him and those around him greatly.

Citation: Selznick, Brian. (2007) The Invention of Hugo Cabret: A novel in words and pictures. New York: Scholastic.

My Impressions: When I worked at Barnes and Noble I would see this in the picture book section, but I honestly thought it was either placed there mistakenly or put there to fill up some space. I never thought a 500+ page book would be considered a picture book…but then I read Hugo Cabret. The pictures in this book do not even necessarily support the text, at times the pictures replace the text and tell the story just as clearly and vividly. The black-and-white sketches are done with skill and emotion, and the story itself is filled with mystery. It’s truly unlike any book I’ve ever read. It’s somewhere between a picture book and a chapter book, it’s creative, and the connection between illustrations and text is remarkable. I very much enjoyed it.


The Invention of Hugo Cabret is foremost good storytelling, with a sincerity and verbal ease reminiscent of Andrew Clements (a frequent Selznick collaborator) and themes of secrets, dreams, and invention that play lightly but resonantly throughout.” —Horn Book Magazine review excerpt

“This hybrid creation, which also includes movie stills and archival photographs, is surprising and often lovely, but the orphan’s story is overshadowed by the book’s artistic and historical concerns… Nonetheless, bookmaking this ambitious demands and deserves attention—which it will surely receive from children attracted by a novel in which a complex narrative is equally advanced by things both read and seen.”–Jennifer Mattson, Booklist Online review

Library Use Suggestion: This book deals a lot with movies, invention, and machinery. A couple activities could be done with this book. Children could create their own movie using a mix of real life and magic and fantastical elements. Or children could design their own automation and explain what it would do.

Module 2: Jumanji

27 06 2010

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Summary: One afternoon two restless children discover a board game that has been abandoned in the park and they decide to play. However, they soon discover that this is no ordinary board game, this is a board game that comes to life, causing a stampede of rhinos, a pack of rhinos, and other outrageous things to come to life right in their house. The children must hurry and finish the game before their house is destroyed, or worse their parents come home to find what has been unleashed on the house!

Citation: Van Allsburg, Chris. (1981) Jumanji. Boston: Houghton Mifflin

My Impressions: Although I’ve seen the movie a long time ago, I don’t remember reading Jumanji. This was a very entertaining book with great black-and-white illustrations that enhance the text and bring it to life. I thought the characters were believable as well as the scenario–I for one remember clearly the intense boredom that overcomes children with too much time on their hands. Jumanji also reminded me of one of my favorite childhood books, also by Chris Van Allsburg, The Polar Express. Obviously the style of illustration is very similar, but the idea that kids can experience fantastical adventure that is unique to childhood and that adults do not understand is also what I love about both books.


“A beautiful simplicity of design, balance, texture, and a subtle intelligence beyond the call of illustration.” —New York Times Book Review

Library Use Suggestions: A fun story time activity to go along with this book is to have children create their own “board” games on a piece of paper.