Tag Archives: ages 12+

[Z] Zazoo by Richard Mosher

30 Apr

Zazoo is the name of a Vietnamese girl who was adopted by a French man who brings her back to France to be raised as his granddaughter. It is a poignant story of a girl who is trying to figure out how she belongs in a world where she feels completely French but looks different from everyone else. At the same time, she has to deal with the loneliness of the only family she has ever known struggling with dementia. In trying to learn about his past and hers, she meets a mysterious boy, uncovers horrible truths, and restores relationships torn apart by war.

I expected this book to be about belonging, but I didn’t expect it to be so sad. Dementia is such a devastating illness to those around the person afflicted, and when that person has also been through several wars in the thick of the fighting locally and abroad, it makes it even sadder still. And the fact the this 13-year-old girl is supposed to take care of him on her own seems like an impossible task.

I was really glad for the ending, when she finally gets some support in taking care of the old man she loves so much, and the love story within a love story was a nice way to weave together all the characters. I cried even more with this book than I did with Kira-Kira (this is what I get for choosing books based on the letter they begin with instead of the content), but there are themes of hope and reconciliation throughout the book.

It’s also a great diverse read that I haven’t really heard much about, maybe because it was published before I started following all the book blogs. I didn’t like the hardcover cover design very much, but the paperback cover is beautiful:

Zazoo by Richard Mosher

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter Z. Yay!

[X] Xanth series by Piers Anthony

27 Apr

The first and only thing I could think of for the letter X was the Xanth series by Piers Anthony. I don’t know if I would consider them YA, but I think I read them in late elementary school because I found the books at the junior high where I had Chinese school on Saturdays. They were probably a little mature for me, but I enjoyed the humor and the fantasy elements. There was also an older girl at church who collected the series, so she let me borrow a bunch of the books in the series after she found out that I liked them.

Considering how much I read them at the time, it’s kind of sad that I can barely remember anything about them. Looking at my bookshelf, I actually own quite a few of his books, but I couldn’t remember which ones were part of the Xanth series and which ones were part of a different series. I remember now that I liked the puzzles in the Adept series, so I bought books from that series, but I didn’t realize that I only bought the second half (I think). I did manage to find an X book under “Anthony, Piers” on my shelf, though–Xone of Contention, which is part of the Xanth series.

Even with the help of Wikipedia, I couldn’t remember much about the book or the series, so that’s all for this very short post… Only two more to go!

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter X. 

[J] Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

11 Apr

Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson was the first story to ever make me cry. I think I have leakier tear ducts now, but growing up, I don’t think I suffered enough hardships for me to feel that emotional about books or movies.

What got me in this story was the plight of the older sibling. In my family, both my parents were the youngest children in their families (of three and six siblings), and my little sister was obviously younger than me. So, growing up, there was a period of time when I felt like no one understood what it was like to be the older sister. But Louise did. And she had it worse, too, because her sister was the same age, so she didn’t have the advantages of being bigger and smarter like I did.

The hardest part for me to understand was why God said, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” I knew the story of Jacob and Esau from Sunday School, but it didn’t seem to fit with the God that they were teaching us. I accepted it like I accepted everything else I didn’t understand at the time (with immigrant parents, that was a lot…). Now I have a better understanding of the theology behind it, but it still trips me up a little when I read the story of Jacob and Esau now.

From Wikipedia:

The book traces Louise’s attempts to free herself from Caroline’s shadow, even as she grows into adulthood.

I’m not sure about being in my sister’s shadow, but I think with a five-years-younger sister, it was easy to feel like my parents were always on her side, and that I always had to make sacrifices because of her. She was also a super cute toddler to primary schooler, which didn’t help.

We are really close now, and I’m way more spoiled than she is. She’s grown into a mature, responsible (and still cute!) young woman, and I love hanging out with her. I’m actually curious to see what she thought about this book now, although I’m pretty sure she just liked how Louise could pole a skiff and catch soft-shell crabs. :P (I know she’s reading, but she’s probably too shy to comment…)

Anyway, this is a great book for big sisters to relate to! It’s not as happy or fluffy as the books I usually like, but I think it is an empowering book for girls, especially those who’ve compared themselves to the popular, pretty girls (which is probably all of them). It would also be appropriate for any kid who feels jealous of their siblings or other kids to help them work through their emotions. I think I read it when I was about nine, but Amazon has it listed as 13 and up. I would say it’s good for middle school (or students at middle school level) and up.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter J. 

[G] The Giver by Lois Lowry

7 Apr

The Giver by Lois Lowry is yet another Newbery Award winner on my list. I’m usually surprised by how many books I own and remember from my childhood were Newbery Award and honor books, but I guess teachers and librarians have been finding and recommending books through that list for a long time.

This book was the first book I did for book club for my current job, and it was an accident. I thought my boss wanted me to do a book from the students’ summer reading list, and one of my students had already gone and borrowed a bunch of books from the list. The only one I had heard of at the time was The Giver, so I told my boss we could do that book. I did borrow The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd (a great book dealing with autism) from the student to read after she was done with it, but I thought I was supposed to do the “classic” book for the book club.

Turns out I didn’t really need to do The Giver (which was nearly impossible to get through for my ESL student who was supposed to be in the class), but the kids seemed to enjoy it more than I did. I remember not liking the book much when I had to read it for school (see the part about how I like fluffy books in previous posts), but it wasn’t too bad reading it as an adult. I got it a lot more, for one thing, and it was an interesting challenge discussing it with my students.

The funny thing is that this book kind of turned into the “legendary book club book” because I never did it again, even though the high-achieving kids all wanted to read it because it looked hard. I had done it with rising middle schoolers, but  all of my classes after that were younger (and I’d found other books I wanted to do with them). So even though they kept asking me about the book, I kept doing different books, which only makes them want to read it more. Now that we have students who weren’t around during the Summer of The Giver, the kids who were around talk about the book in almost hushed tones. It’s pretty cute to watch, actually.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter G. 

[REVIEW] The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

10 Feb

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is about 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take the place of her sister, Primrose, in the Hunger Games run by the Capitol to remind people living outside of the Capitol not to go against their “keepers.” At least, this is what I gathered from reading my advanced fifth grader’s very well-written summary, and from reading the two books after it. I accidentally started reading from the second book, and I could not make myself go back and read the first one. (I had given myself only about six hours to read the three books, and it took me about eight to finish the last two, so…)

This is a violent and emotionally disturbing series, but one with enough action to keep the attention younger readers who may not understand all of the political maneuvering that goes on, which may leave them unsatisfied with the ending. My fifth grade student hasn’t finished the last book yet (they had a project due at school today), but he keeps asking for time to read it.

I have never quite read dystopian literature willingly (although I read a lot either for class or with my students), and even this series was sitting on my bookshelf for months before I finally sat down and plowed through it. I never would have read it if my students hadn’t been reading it and my sister hadn’t recommended it and then borrowed the books from her old roommate (again, because I didn’t read them the first time she borrowed them) for me. Part of me will always prefer the fluffier, less-depressing books that now seem to be middle grade, because YA is leaning towards edgier stuff like this.

That said, I have a lot of respect for Suzanne Collins for putting in so much politics without once making me feel like I wanted to skip ahead to the action. The politics was part of the action, and Collins gave us enough emotional reason to be invested in the politics as well as the fighting. I think it would be a great read for any high schoolers studying Plato’s Republic. I don’t remember it at all from my own experience in high school, but I read parts of it with one of my high schoolers last year. (Having a Plutarch in the book keeps making me want to call Plato “Pluto,” even though I know all three names refer to different things…) I also enjoyed the reference to panem et circenses (bread and circuses), which I vaguely remember from my history classes in high school.

I did a quick search online to see if people recommended this for middle school, and I found that reviews by the kids themselves seemed to agree that this was a book for ages 12+, even if they (or someone they knew) read it at a younger age.

Recommended for middle school and up, although older elementary students may be interested. It contains a lot of graphic violence with a side of romance and kissing (nothing too explicit, and most of it is overwhelmed by the twisted nature of the games, anyway…). Parents of younger readers interested in the book may want to read or skim the book first. 


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