2012 Book 140: The Headless Cupid, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Reason for Reading: This is my first post for Book Journey’s Banned Books Week 2012 blog tour. By reading banned books, I feel that I’m expressing my freedom of speech, but I’m also interested in learning more about WHY people ban books. I don’t approve of banning most of the books on ALA’s top banned books lists, though for some of them I can empathize with the objections. For the most part, I think the people who are objecting to these books need to give their children more credit for non-gullibility. All parents should watch what their children are reading, watching on TV, playing on the computer, etc. I believe that the best way to raise children is through a lot of communication. Banning books isn’t going to save our children from the real world.
David, the eldest of the Stanley kids has had to take care of his three younger siblings ever since his mother died. When his father gets remarried, David has to adjust not only to the new mother, but to a new teen-aged sister. And what a strange sister she is! Amanda dresses in dark flowy clothing, has a triangle in the center of her forehead, and wears an upside-down smile. Amanda begins to teach the Stanley kids about the occult, but soon things get out of hand when they awaken a poltergeist! This book is appropriate for 3rd-5th grade range.
The Headless Cupid is 98th on on the ALA’s list of the top 100 books banned between 1990-2000. The complaints about the book were that kids might become interested in the occult (or even learn to practice the occult) from this book. Of course, this is preposterous. This is not a story about an evil little teen-aged witch–it’s a book about an angry girl who wants to get revenge on her mother for getting remarried. This is a book about the very real emotions children feel when their parents make life-changing decisions. It’s about coping with that anger. It’s about love and forgiveness. Any child reading the book will end on a note of acceptance and forgiveness (unless they don’t finish the book). I think people who fear a book about kids playing let’s-pretend probably ought to lock their doors and hide away…because the real world is a lot scarier than this book.
2012 Book 114: A Bottle in the Gaza Sea, by Valerie Zenatti (7/26/2012)
Reason for Reading: Reading Globally Middle Eastern Theme Read.
As a method of self-defense against increasing Israeli-Palestinian violence, feisty 17-year-old Israeli Tal writes a note and sticks it in a bottle. She asks her brother to throw the bottle in the Gaza sea, with hopes that she’ll meet a Palestinian girl and somehow put a personality to the people she knows must be behind the fence. What she gets is 20-year-old Naim, a scathingly sarcastic, but nice-under-the-surface Palestinian man. The book is a series of emails between the two, and as their understanding of each other grows, so does their affection for one another. This was a really sweet book. It was silly, as are all teenage romances, but actually believable (if you have faith in coincidence). I was surprised while reading because I’d originally thought the author was Israeli, writing for Israeli teens—but the book is written by a French woman who lived in Israel when she was younger. The target audience is therefore teens who do not necessarily know all the background in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. This is something I appreciated, because I felt like I understood what they were talking about when they mentioned political and historical events. This is a quick, enjoyable read.
2012 Book 101: Samir and Yonatan, by Daniella Carmi (7/7/2012)
Reason for Reading: I read this for the Middle Eastern literature theme for Reading Globally
My Review 3.5/5 stars
When Palestinian boy Samir breaks his knee, he must stay in a Jewish hospital for a special surgery. There, he faces his fears of Israelis and make a new friend. This is a cute story with the we’re-not-so-different-after-all moral. Although it may resonate more strongly with the Israeli kids for whom it was originally written, its translation is a good addition to English-language children’s literature as well. It was enjoyable and cute, and has a moral that every child in the world can benefit from.
2012 Book 96: Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher (6/28/2012)
Reason for Reading: This has been one of my top 5 LT recommendations for a while now, so I thought I’d try it out.
My Review 4/5 stars
Upon returning home from school one afternoon, Clay Jenkins discovers a box of cassette tapes in which his crush Hannah Baker explains the thirteen reasons why she committed suicide. Over the course of one night, Clay’s perception of life morphs as he reacts to Hannah’s tragic story. I was prepared to be annoyed at this book–I thought it would glorify vengeful suicide. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I was immediately drawn in to Hannah’s story. I could hardly put it down. I was impressed that there was very little bitter vengefulness expressed. Mostly, she just wanted to be understood. Her story shows the reader in horrifying detail how the little not-so-nice things we do might have a huge impact on others. It’s a story that tells us to look at the way we treat other people…and to pay attention to the signals that they’re sending. It is a heartrending story, and was emotionally difficult for me to get through, but I think it has the potential to change the way teenagers view their own actions. It’s also an amazing hard-to-put-down story.
2012 Book 78: Pictures of Hollis Woods, by Patricia Reilly Giff (5/17/2012)
Reason for Reading: It was there
My Review 4/5 stars
Hollis Woods is a 12-year-old orphan who has run away from every foster home she’s ever lived in. As a last-ditch effort, she is placed with an elderly lady who is “good with girls like you.” In her new home, Hollis is finally happy, until she realizes that her foster mother has a fading memory, and she must hid this fact from the state in order to stay where she is. This book is simply precious. Hollis seems so real–snarky but sad, brave but insecure, and willing to do whatever it takes to care for her foster mother. This short book could be appreciated by adults as well as people in 5-8th grades.
2012 Book 70: Dave at Night, by Gail Carson Levine (4/30/2012)
Reason for Reading: Because it was there
My Review 3.5/5 stars
When Dave’s father dies, Dave is separated from his brother and sent to an orphanage. Dave finds a way to sneak over the wall of the orphanage and wanders the streets at night, where he meets many interesting characters (both high society and from his own social class). In his adventures at the orphanage and the streets, Dave learns a little bit about himself and what he needs in life, he grows to accept his problems and embrace his gifts. This is a sweet little book.