Sunday, July 16, 2017

Book Review: Undefeated by Steve Sheinkin

The books I end up learning the most from are the ones I never expected. Or should I say, under-expected?

Undefeated caught my eye earlier this year, more for the history than the sports connection, but because it was all about football... I kept moving other books in ahead of it on my to-read pile as I had the 'eh... sports...' reaction I tend to have around sports books. I figured I'd get to it later and then now it's July and goodness gracious, do I wish I'd opened it sooner!

Steve Sheinkin is a legend all his own, though I'm embarrassed to admit this is my first Sheinkin book. (I've now added all of his books to my Goodreads TBR list). WOW, is he a non-fiction writer to end non-fiction writing! MENTOR TEXT ALERT. The sources, narrative-esque storyline, graceful text splits, so many beautiful writerly moves!

OK - so now that I'm done word-vomiting and have confessed my sports reading problem, let's get to the good stuff - the book.

Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team.

Why should you read this book? 

1. Have you ever heard, read, or seen in detail stories of how families were forcibly moved by U.S. troops? Not just numbers and stats, but actually a multi-generational family story of lineage and the wreckage U.S. troops and policy caused?

2. Can you imagine being schooled by a military leader in the army that conquered your family's lands?

3. Did you know that the most iconic football strategy and moves as we know it today came not from a big state school or private university, but from the innovations of a much smaller team, the Carlisle Indian School?

4. Have you ever been betrayed by a close friend, mentor, or ally?

5. Did you know that Olympic gold medals could be taken away, without cause for recourse even if done so unjustly? Did you know Jim Thorpe's were?

Undefeated tells a lot of stories - football stories, Carlisle stories, U.S. Government stories. It shares the joy of victory and the agony of defeat. It shares the pain of military and cultural attacks on Native American life. It shares the interconnected nature of many iconic historical figures and how they all individually impacted Thorpe's life and career.

But most importantly, Undefeated has a non-sugar-coated portrayal of  one slice of our shared history as Americans. It's not all neat and happy endings, and all people's stories deserve to be told. History doesn't always end with justice, but we need to see and learn from these examples so that the past does not continue to be prologue. In seeing such betrayal and pain, may we learn something from those who have come before us.

In the classroom, I'd say this novel would be great for 7th grade and up, possibly 6th - you'd know your kiddos best! Great as a whole-class mentor text for a non-fiction research novel, shared inquiry unit in LA or SS, and for book clubs/independent reading. Happy reading!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Book Review: Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz

I am a HUGE fan of Kate Schatz. So when I spotted this now worldwide Rad Women book (don't know how I'd missed it!) I snatched it up immediately! Much like her previous bestseller, Rad American Women A-Z, which was on my favs list in 2015 - this brings the stories of so many women to light that we all should know! I love the interconnectedness that this worldwide approach brings, and I feel like I'm learning about so many women that should be household names (which begs the questions... why aren't they? and how do we get to that point?). Major thank you to Kate Schatz and incredible illustrator Miriam Klein Stahl (your papercut illustrations are beyond amazing!) for this beautiful second collection of Rad Women, please keep collaborating!

In approachable 1-2 page summaries, you'll learn the stories of 40 incredible women side-by-side their papercut illustration, and a notable quote from each of them highlighted. In the back too, is a list of 250 more women - can you say research project time? Or Volume 2, I hope? :)

While every single woman is pure heroine material - some of the most "What?!!" moments I had while reading this book to just give you a sampling of the amazingly Rad Women you'll meet -

Friday, July 7, 2017

Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Y'ALL. I think we may be reaching a peak book-year here in 2017. The 2017 releases I've had the pleasure of reading thus far are not playing and majorly raising the MG/YA bar! 

When Dimple Met Rishi is just the latest 5+ star YA I've gotten my hands on and the sweetest coming of age/not-love-love story. So many things to LOVE about this book. You know how you know it's top shelf? I started this, cooked dinner (read this while waiting for things to pre-heat, boil, etc.), and was also able to read while video games, tv shows, and everything else was background for the evening- and lost zero focus! You will be enraptured that quickly and completely! And of course, stayed up past my bedtime book-goodness level to finish it in one sitting (so, so, so good!)!

Quick Summary: Dimple Shah is setting up for her perfect summer - post-high school graduation and waiting for college to start (she'll be heading to Stanford). She is looking forward to Insomnia Con 2017 - a web development conference/camp at a local college. She is from a conservative Indian family, and while she is a proud, independent young woman with her career (not marriage) on the brain, her mother emphasizes looks and marriage, and well, finding her that perfect match. Rishi Patel is her complete opposite - he is also from a traditional Indian family but cherishes those traditions. He's heading to MIT in the fall and excited that his parents have arranged for he and Dimple to meet at Insomnia Con. But what he doesn't know... is that she doesn't know about any of this, not him, not the arrangement, not anything. This darling story... well... you'll have to read to see just exactly how that plan works out :) 

From friendship to romance and heartbreak, career choices to religious choices, honoring tradition to modernizing values, from the moment coffee gets thrown to the final Insomnia Con awards - you will be up past your bedtime too! 

And I can't close without just talking about the writing. Menon has a gift and craft for YA unlike many voices in the genre - it is fresh, genuine, and sounds entirely like the conversation you hear in classrooms and in the hallways of school everyday. I'm lacking a word other than real, but for kids (8th grade+ I'd say) who are looking for that book to hook them, this very well may be it! 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Book Review: Dear Martin by Nic Stone (ARC)

There are not enough stars in the galaxy to give to this book. Thank you Nic Stone & Crown for giving #bookodyssey the chance to preview an ARC (Release: Oct 2017). If only we could require common reading for, well, everyone! As moving as it is heartbreaking, as inspiring as it is tragic and rage-inducing, may this book help us grapple with the questions and answers we all must face, together.

Quick Summary: Dear Martin tells the story of Justyce, an All-American high-school teen on top of it all. He's kind, friendly, smart, and hard-working. An Atlanta prep-school student, he is looking forward to his Ivy League Future that he's worked so hard for. But after being handcuffed and punched by a cop while trying to help his ex-girlfriend get home safely - his world shifts. While he did get released, afterwards he started to notice all these things he hadn't before. He doesn't fit in in his mostly-white upper-class prep school, and also feels out of place in his old neighborhood. He starts journaling to Dr. Martin Luther King to process and try to live the way he thinks Dr. King would if in his place. As Justyce continues his day-to-day, from debates in school classes to off-campus parties, from decisions about girls to his family (mom) back home- Justyce tries to act as Dr. King would, but it gets harder and harder with each passing slight. After continued incidents with classmates, things escalate in an incident with an off-duty copy... and you'll have to read for the rest.

Without sharing too much (you need to pre-order this, yesterday) here's a few things that make this book so incredible: 
  • Nic Stone's opening Dear Reader note. I'm talking a full-page origin story. It's so rare for authors to disclose feelings of vulnerability - thanks to this added gift, I feel like I know Nic and the heart of this book so much closer before even beginning.

Book Review: Shadow Girl by Liana Liu (ARC)

Dear Reader,

Remember that fabulous #BookOdyssey I started telling you about? Well, it has brought even more gifts of ARCs to share with fellow #sisterhoodofthetravelingbooks educators round the country!

OK - so Shadow Girl by Liana Liu (Release: December 2017, you'll want to pre-order!).

Shadow Girl is the story of Mei, devoted daughter and hard-working student who just graduated high school. After being a camp counselor, babysitter, and tutor in previous years, she accepts a summer position to be a live-in academic tutor for Emma, the youngest daughter of the Morrison family. During the summer, the Morrison family lives at their house on Arrow Island, so with an offer for double her normal pay, a beach-side home with a pool, and her own room, Mei is soon saying goodbye to the city!

While it sounds like a dream set-up... is it really that great of a place? Why did the mother ask if she was superstitious? Why did she not get to meet Emma before she arrived? What really has happened on this island? In this house? To this family?

Some things I really love about this book (and I loved every single page!):