Friday, January 25, 2013


Author: Lois Lowry
Pages: 393
Rating: G

They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn’t exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been carved from her body. Stolen. Claire had had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive?  She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. when he was taken from their community, she knew she had to follow. And so her journey began.

But here in this wind-battered village Claire is welcomed as one of their own. In the security of her new home, she is free and loved. She grows stronger. As tempted as she is by the warmth of more human kindness than she has ever known, she cannot stay. her son is our there; a young boy now. Claire will stop at nothing to find her child....even if it means trading her own life.

Son thrusts readers once again into the chilling world of the Newbery Medal winning book, The Giver, as well as Gathering Blue and Messenger where a new hero emerges. In this thrilling series finale, the startling and long-awaited conclusion to Lois Lowry’s epic tale culminates in a final clash between good and evil.

My Thoughts: I have to say that The Giver  is still my favorite of the four books, but this one definitely tied up some loose ends. In the end of The Giver Jonas runs away with Gabe, but the book leaves you with a bit of a cliffhanger. You never find out if Jonas and Gabe actually make it anywhere safe or what exactly happens to them. There are hints at their whereabouts in Gathering Blue and Messenger but Son makes it all clear. Jonas and Gabe eventually came to a village full of other cast-offs and runaways, a sanctuary of sorts. They remain there, but Gabe is very curious about his past, where he came from, and especially who he came from. He has it in his head that he is going to go back and find his mother, even though Jonas told him that he was a manufactured product and his mother probably doesn't care about him. (In the community where they come from, people took pills to keep them from feeling any emotions, such as love, compassion, etc).

Little does Gabe know that his mother, Claire, is out there desperately searching for him as well. She never took the pills, and so was not like the other Birthmothers. As soon as she had Gabe, she felt an intense longing to be with him. She even visits him several times in the nursery without anyone knowing her true identity. As soon as she hears that Jonas has left the community with her son, Claire leaves too, in search of him.

I do have to say that some of the ideas of this book were a little far-fetched and also....very fairy-tale-ish. Also, I wish there had been some kind of explanation about the general government of the land they live in. There's a lot of communities, all with different lifestyles and technologies and systems of control, but they don't seem to be connected in any way, and there's no explanation as to how life got that way. For example, the community Claire comes from has figured out how to control the weather so that it is always perfect, and they have advanced medical procedures, electricity, and medications. The society Jonas brings Gabe to is somewhat early 1800's. People don't ever really visit other communities, and the only movement seems to be people escaping from their communities into the sanctuary Jonas found. I just feel like Lowry could have gone a lot further with that.

However, the book still holds a lot of value to me since it wraps up everything you ever wondered about when you finished reading The Giver and Gathering Blue. 

By the way....if you haven't read the other books in this series, don't worry, this one can stand on its own pretty well, but I would still recommend reading The Giver. It won awards for a good reason. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

Author: Paul Tough
Pages: 197
Rating: G

The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs.

But in How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter most have more to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control.

How Children Succeed introduces us to a new generation of researchers and educators who, for the first time, are using the tools of science to peel back the mysteries of character. Through their stories—and the stories of the children they are trying to help—Tough traces the links between childhood stress and life success. He uncovers the surprising ways in which parents do—and do not—prepare their children for adulthood. And he provides us with new insights into how to help children growing up in poverty.

Early adversity, scientists have come to understand, can not only affect the conditions of children’s lives, it can alter the physical development of their brains as well. But now educators and doctors around the country are using that knowledge to develop innovative interventions that allow children to overcome the constraints of poverty. And with the help of these new strategies, as Tough’s extraordinary reporting makes clear, children who grow up in the most painful circumstances can go on to achieve amazing things.

This provocative and profoundly hopeful book has the potential to change how we raise our children, how we run our schools, and how we construct our social safety net. It will not only inspire and engage readers, it will also change our understanding of childhood itself.

My Thoughts: I found this book completely fascinating. I was seriously hooked from beginning to end. The only thing I have against the book is that there are a lot of explanations of WHY kids sometimes don't succeed, or detailed explanations of certain programs that work, but not a lot of information about how to help the kids in your own personal life succeed. There are a few tips about that, but not too many. However, I still found the entire thing fascinating. It gave me a better understanding of the disadvantages that kids in poverty deal with  and that seem impossible to overcome.

The book also argues something that I have been feeling for a long time. No matter how much we reform schools, there's really only so much the school system can do. We need to have parents involved, and really try to improve the quality of each of these kids' lives.

On a personal level, there's a lot in the book about the types of character strengths kids need in order to succeed. These strengths turn out to be better predictors of success than IQ or (surprise surprise) standardized test scores! Basically, kids need to learn when they are young how to properly manage stressful situations, and how to learn from their failures and move on. In order to do this, we have to ALLOW them to fail at some things. So, parents should be sure not to hover, but to be there when stressful situations arise, to comfort, talk through, and help the children deal with the disappointment or failure, or hurt.

I would definitely recommend this. It's written by a talented journalist, so it reads easy, even though there is a lot of research shoved in there. It never becomes dry or overly statistical. I recommend this one.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Artichoke's Heart

Author: Suzanne Supplee
Pages: 276
Rating: PG

Summary:It's not so easy being Rosemary Goode and tipping the scales at almost two hundred pounds, especially when your mother runs the most successful (and gossipiest!) beauty shop in town. After a spectacularly disastrous Christmas break when the scale reaches an all-time high, Rosemary realizes that things need to change. (A certain basketball player, Kyle Cox, might have something to do with it.) So begins a powerful year of transformation and a journey toward self-discovery that surprisingly has little to do with the physical, and more to do with an honest look at how Rosemary feels about herself.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. Rosemary is a character that is easy to identify with, at least in some way. She has extremely low self-esteem because of her weight, and seems to think that everyone in her life is just disgusted by how fat she is. She also has this idea that if you are skinny and beautiful, your life must be easy and perfect.

After Rosemary finally decides to start losing some weight, she begins to make friends, and even gains the attention of Kyle Cox, the cute new basketball player. What she doesn't seem to understand is that her new friends and Kyle don't care at all how much she weighs. They're interested in her because of who she is, and that's a nice, funny, and caring person.

This is definitely a fantastic teen read, because it really teaches a lot about how to have your self-esteem come from just being who you are, instead of thinking you have to be like someone else in order to be accepted. I would totally recommend this one.