All posts by Beth Ruggiero

Switching Sides: A Review of ‘Unplanned’

“While you are proclaiming peace in your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.”—St. Francis of Assissi

“God has assigned as a duty to every man the dignity of every woman.”—Saint Pope John Paul II

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”—Dr. Seuss

Suggested Grade Levels:

Grades 10-12

Review and Thoughts

The topic of abortion has always been one of those hot button issues that most people tend to avoid. In fact, for most of my schooling I was told to avoid the topic of abortion in papers because it had become cliché.  Sadly, the avoidance of this topic in Abby Johnson’s family is what leaves her unprepared to discuss the issue when it confronts her face to face. While in college, she becomes attracted to the hot pink Planned Parenthood table at Texas A&M and she realizes she is unable to argue with anything they say.  She is drawn in by their passion and excitement over helping women in crisis.  She, too, wants to help women and quickly signs on as a volunteer at the clinic in Bryan, Texas and doesn’t think anything of what she is doing for many years.  Though her family disapproves of her place of employment, she is always able to justify the work of the organization and is extremely proud of the service they provide for the public. Continue reading Switching Sides: A Review of ‘Unplanned’

To the Shelter of Compassion: A Review of ‘The One and Only Ivan’

“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”—St. Francis of Assissi

Suggested Grade Levels:

Grades 4-6

Review and Thoughts

The One and Only Ivan is a story of loneliness and redemption that is uniquely told through the thoughts of a silverback gorilla named Ivan.  Having been raised by people in an urban setting his entire life, he remembers little of his childhood in the jungle of Africa. Now, Ivan is in a circus-themed mall where he is kept in his very small domain for visitors to come and witness his boring life. He has his friends around him (a small stray dog, a female elephant, the custodian and his daughter),  yet still Ivan is lonely. As a silverback gorilla, he should be the head of a family, and since he has seen no other gorillas, he wonders if he is the last one on earth. Continue reading To the Shelter of Compassion: A Review of ‘The One and Only Ivan’

Of the Golden Future Time: A Review of ‘Animal Farm’

“The historical experience of socialist countries has sadly demonstrated that collectivism does not do away with alienation but rather increases it, adding to it a lack of basic necessities and economic inefficiency.”—Saint Pope John Paul II

“Unless the Lord build the house, in vain do the builders labour.”—Psalm 127:1

Suggested Grade Levels:

Grade 7-9

Review and Thoughts

Animal Farm by George Orwell is one of those novels that every student will most likely read in their lives.  One of the books in the current literary canon, it has helped demonstrate the evils of communism through an allegorical depiction of the Russian Revolution.  By using a seemingly innocent setting, Orwell tells the horrific story of a group of animals as they attempt to overthrow human rule.

The novel begins with an alcoholic farmer who has long neglected his farm.  The great boar, Old Major, starts teaching his new philosophy to the animals.  His philosophy points out the uselessness of humans.  The animals on the farm begin to feel a sense of pride and one day, when the farmer has forgotten to take care of the animals for too long, they fight Farmer Jones and take over the farm. Continue reading Of the Golden Future Time: A Review of ‘Animal Farm’

Let Us Not Forget: A Review of ‘Inside Out & Back Again’

“Dear friends, let us not forget the flesh of Christ which is in the flesh of refugees: their flesh is the flesh of Christ.”—Pope Francis

Suggested Grade Levels:

Grades 6-8

Review and Thoughts

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai is a beautifully written coming-of-age story about a young Vietnamese girl named Ha.  While Ha is a young girl in Vietnam, she witnesses the fall of Saigon, escapes with her family to Alabama, and struggles to learn to adapt to a new life in America.  The innocent viewpoint of the young girl is a stark contrast to the seriousness of the war and of her position as a refugee.  The novel, which is written entirely in poetry, is simple and delicate and tells a story of survival and growth for Ha and her family.

The novel is broken into four parts.  Each part speaks of a different portion of Ha’s journey.  She tells about her life in Saigon before the North comes and her eventual escape from Saigon.  Next, she describes her terrible journey on boat floating at sea and nearly starving until she and her family are rescued by the Americans.  Her family’s “adoption” by a man in Alabama and their struggle to adapt to a new culture is a difficult one.  Finally, she accepts her family’s fate and learns to live as a young girl in Alabama. Continue reading Let Us Not Forget: A Review of ‘Inside Out & Back Again’

Conquered by Love: A Review of ‘Left to Tell’

“Darkness can only be scattered by light, hatred can only be conquered by love.” —Saint Pope John Paul II

Suggested Grade Levels:

Grade 9-12

Review and Thoughts

Truly, Left to Tell is one of the greatest books I have ever read, not only from the perspective of a teacher, but also from the perspective of a young Catholic woman.  This book has touched me more than any other Catholic nonfiction because of the simple and innocent testimony of Immaculee Ilibagiza.

This book tells the story of Immaculee and her family who are devout Catholics living in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.  She is a member of the Tutsi tribe that is mercilessly hunted and murdered by the Hutus during what is one of the most devastating genocides in modern history.  Immaculee is fortunate enough to find a hiding place with a nearby Christian minister and lives in his private bathroom with seven other woman.  It is through her prayer and faith in God coupled with the bravery and charity of the pastor that she is able to survive and emerge from the bathroom a whole woman both physically and mentally. Continue reading Conquered by Love: A Review of ‘Left to Tell’