Tag Archives: Book review

#BookReview of Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler


Junior Minerva Green and senior Ed Slaterton are over.  Done.  In order to get over her ex-love and explain to him why they broke up, Min is returning a box of momentos she hoarded over the course of their two-month relationship.  The novel is one long, sad break-up letter from Min to Ed, split into chronological segments based on the artifacts illustrated and detailed events that led to the couple’s destruction.  I use the word destruction so dramatically because that’s how Min comes across–annoyingly, but relatably, dramatic.  This was definitely not one of my favorites, but I finished Handler’s Printz honor book a week ago and I am finding Min Green and Ed Slaterton…indelible.  Every person can relate to this story about falling in love, heartbreak, miscommunication, cheating, and the painful realization that love doesn’t always last forever.

Handler’s story has inspired me to learn more about classic and independent films (almost all references in the text are over my head) and he has renewed my interest in oddball cookbooks.  Kudos.

why we broke up

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#BookReview of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand


unbroken

I know I’m very behind on reading and reviewing this historical gem, but since Louis Zamperini passed away a little over a year ago, I figured it was finally time to make this one a priority.

First, I was impressed by how well-researched this biography was.  Laura Hillenbrand has real talent for finding nitty-gritty details and seamlessly weaving them into a beautiful narrative.  Unbroken reads like a novel, making it accessible to those who struggle through most non-fiction.

Louis Zamperini was born in Torrance, CA in 1917.  He spent his childhood causing mischief, stealing, and being the most unruly child ever encountered.  His older brother, Pete, told Louie something that would carry him through the roughest times of his life: “If you can take it, you can make it.”  Pete began training Louie for the track team.  With Pete’s coaching, Louie became the fastest high school kid in America.  He succeeded in qualifying for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where he raced the 5000m event and earned 8th place before enlisting in the army, where he became a bombardier. Louie’s plane crashed on a rescue mission, killing all but two others in his crew.  The men spent 47 days adrift at sea before being captured by the Japanese.

I finished Unbroken at 11pm on Saturday night because I HAD to finish it.  I couldn’t leave Louie in those camps any longer.  We were wasting away on the raft together, suffering on Execution Island, fearing for our lives at Ofuna…but all the while, Louie never gave up.  He was defiant and held to his incredible strength and, even when we thought we wouldn’t survive another minute, Louie persevered.  A few weeks ago I came across a Buzzfeed article titled “31 Books That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity” with Unbroken making the list.  All the heartbreaking news lately about random and school shootings and ISIS attacks inspired us in the library to create our own list and display titled “74 Books That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity”.  The list includes our favorite titles that remind us of the goodness in humanity.  Our collection includes books by Nicholas Sparks, some Laurie Halse Anderson, non-fiction by Fr. Jim Martin, and many more.

On Sunday, I had to see the film directed by Angelina Jolie.  Yes, reading the book before seeing the movie practically guarantees disappointment, but I had to know what many people’s only impression of Louis Zamperini would be.  Honestly, the film didn’t do Louie’s story justice.  I found myself commentating throughout the entire movie about Louie’s childhood mischief and the horrors that were left off the screen.  Poor Chris had to sit through my rants (He says that they made the movie better, but I think he’s humoring me).

Louis Zamperini was an inspiration to all.  Most of us will never know the smallest fraction of the pain that he experienced as a prisoner of war in World War II, and we can’t empathize with him, but we can recognize his unbelievable spirit and draw strength and comfort from his story.

Happy 100th Day! by Susan Milord


Happy 100th Day! by Susan Milord (Susan Milord, 2011)

Bright mixed media couples with the heart-felt emotional turmoil of Graham’s trials and triumphs leading up to the 100th Day celebrations. Miss Currier has implied that there won’t be enough time in the day to celebrate both 100th Day and Graham’s birthday.  The class spends the time leading up to the big day working on their 100th Day projects and learning to count to 100.  Each two-page spread is littered with colorful collages of paper chains, letters, and numbers to help readers and Graham practice counting while reinforcing Graham’s self-imposed isolation from the celebrations. The engaging representational art has child appeal and Graham’s frustrations with reading are easy to relate to, although sometimes the art is too focused on 100th Day preparations and not focused enough on Graham’s story.  In the end, Graham receives a birthday surprise and realizes that he enjoys school after all.  The final endpapers include a legend of the 100 collage objects and which pages to find them on for counting exercises.  Beginning and early readers will get the most out of this realistic tale and its simple, straightforward prose.–Jamie-Lee Schombs, MLIS candidate, Pratt Institute

Social Classification and the Secondary School Library


A Shelfari shelf sampleI love sharing books with friends and family, but as all book lenders alike have certainly experienced, sometimes my lovely books are not returned.  One way for me to share the literary treasures that I discover with friends, family, and other book lovers is to engage in a social classification system / social media website.  As a Library Media Specialist major, social media websites are of particular interest, especially how they could be utilized in a school setting.  A social classification scheme would be an engaging, innovative way to bring students and literature together, both in the school media center and at home.  After much research, Shelfari seems to be an informative, aesthetically pleasing, and easy-to-use website to facilitate a literary community.

Shelfari is a social classification system for literature that asks information about readers’ experiences each time they click on a book to add it to their Shelfari shelves.  Using these prompts, Shelfari gathers the opinions of thousands of readers on almost any book, including textbooks.  The key to this social classification system is the freedom for users to add information to a book’s record, from subjects to Dewey and Library of Congress classification numbers.  The personal benefits of social classification are numerous, but how would social classification be applicable in a secondary school library?  How would high school students use a classification scheme like Shelfari?

A social classification scheme would facilitate a more friendly, interactive library learning environment.  With the right advertisement, demonstration, and enthusiasm, a librarian could create an invaluable online literary community of student readers.  After creating an account, students may personalize their bookshelves, add friends, join groups, and begin discovering new books and resources, as well as add books previously read and record these learning experiences.  In the process of building up their shelves, students can write book reviews and recommend them to friends.  The personalized metadata through social tagging and reviews truly make a bookshelf one’s own; similarly, chat / discussion forums allow students and friends or like-minded people to discuss their favorite books, enabling networking and a more personalized encounter with literature.  Likewise, if the librarian and fellow teachers are friends with students on the social classification scheme, they can follow students’ progress with their personal collection development and literary discussions, enabling librarians and teachers to learn about students’ interests and which genres they enjoy.  Social classification websites encourage independent reading, and friends / teachers / librarians on the scheme can promote independent reading projects.  Moreover, social classification allows for literary interaction outside of the classroom, where students are generally unreachable; students can stay connected to the educational / literary community from anywhere in the world.

Shelfari’s capacity for individuality and its aesthetically pleasing website would be appealing for high school students who prefer a personal connection to learning and / or tend to become overwhelmed by too much text on a page.  The colorful widgets and folksonomy clouds are fun and user-friendly for almost any person’s level of comfort with technology, although using Shelfari would be easier if the librarian gave a demonstration or tour of the website and its benefits before implementing the system in a school.  There are clearly defined tabs and menus for distinct navigation around the website, as well as a search bar always visible and available at the top of each page.  Students who love to read can create a book club group on the website and easily share and discuss their findings with one another.

Depending on the popularity of the book in question, Shelfari’s records will include a thorough amount of metadata about the book, in addition to allowing members to add to the record.  For instance, I chose to peruse Shelfari’s record for Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones because of its overwhelming popularity in secondary schools, assuming that Shelfari would have plenty of information on the book.  The website holds a permanent search bar in the top center of every page for usability; after typing the title, a list of works by Alice Sebold presents itself.  There is a long list of images of various editions of The Lovely Bones, from which users choose a default.  I am redirected to a page beneath the tab “Details,” laden with information about Sebold’s book: a cover, ratings, information about my having read the book, a lengthy description, a short synopsis, a summary, a cast of characters (with links to character pages bearing memorable quotes by them), popular covers, memorable quotes, setting and important places, organizations, the first sentence of the book, the table of contents, a glossary, themes and symbolism, authors and contributors, bibliographic information about the first edition (including ISBN), awards, LOC and DDC call numbers, notes for parents (reading level, red flags), subjects, community lists, popular tags, links to supplemental material, movie connections, and book recommendations.  This does not include the additional tabs for users to click, such as “Readers & Reviews,” “Discussions,” and “Editions.”  This comprehensive list of information is almost everything a voracious reader could want, except for the book itself.

Shelfari would make a good fit as a social classification scheme in conjunction with a high school library’s OPAC.  A classification scheme would unite the student body in an online literary community focused on independent reading, sharing of metadata, and collective analyses.  The Shelfari website is attention-grabbing as well as intellectually advanced, a perfect combination for the high school student population.  Each book’s page on Shelfari includes essential information about the book itself and its contents: summaries, characters, classification numbers, social tags, booklists, etc.  Shelfari is just one example of social classification and how it can collide with school libraries; if librarians, teachers, and students alike were willing to investigate social media websites and how they could fit into the learning environment, the potential educational benefits would be innumerable.

References

Shelfari. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.shelfari.com.

Shelfari. (2010). The Lovely Bones. Retrieved from http://www.shelfari.com/books/11215/The-Lovely-Bones.