Life Spills Over For Better or Worse: A Review of ‘The Great Gilly Hopkins’

“No man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and worse.”  Pope Benedict XVI

Reading Level:

Grades  4-5

Review and Thoughts:

Foster Child: a child without parental support and protection, placed with a person or family to be cared for, usually by local welfare services or by court order. This is Gilly Hopkins.  Gilly, or Galadriel Hopkins, is an eleven year old girl who is starting over yet again in the third foster home in three years through circumstances beyond her control.  Gilly’s life experiences have forced her to create a list of rules written on her heart.  These rigid rules are what she fights to live by:

  1. I will accept no kisses or hugs.
  2. I will be clever and hard to manage.
  3. I will dare anyone to accept me or change me.
  4. I will be in charge of my own life.
  5. I will never appear the fool.
  6. I will never need help.
  7. I will be in charge of my education by making teachers treat me differently.
  8. I will be tough.
  9. I will continue to build a reputation and be proud of it.
  10. I will never attach myself to something that is likely to blow away some day.
  11. I will be Galadriel Hopkins – some day.

Continue reading Life Spills Over For Better or Worse: A Review of ‘The Great Gilly Hopkins’

Courage Under Fire: A Review of ‘I Am Number Four’

“Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.”—John Wayne

Suggested Grade Levels:

Grade 6-10

Review and Thoughts

In my continuing effort to find books that appeal to boys, I stumbled upon I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore.  This book is full of action and adventure and teen love, which is the perfect combination for ANY young adult reader. Continue reading Courage Under Fire: A Review of ‘I Am Number Four’

A Mutual Gift of Love: A Review of ‘Sarah, Plain and Tall’

“Do not be afraid, for she was set apart for you before the world existed.”  Tobit 6:18

Reading Level:

Grades 2-3

Review and Thoughts:

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan is a story about three hearts that still grieve after the death of a wife and mother– hearts that yearn to be filled with love once again.  It is about another earnest heart searching for a place to entrust its love.  Each character is waiting, tentatively looking to the future with hope for a new life as a family.

Continue reading A Mutual Gift of Love: A Review of ‘Sarah, Plain and Tall’

Adventure in the Jungle: A Review of ‘My Father’s Dragon’

“When one is convinced that his cause is just, he will fear nothing.”–St.  John Bosco

Reading Level:

Grades 2-3

Review and Thoughts:

A boy + an alley cat + tigers + a rhinoceros + a lion + a gorilla + crocodiles + a dragon = ADVENTURE!

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett is an exciting adventure story about Elmer Elevator’s quest to free a dragon from captivity, narrated by his son. Elmer faces many dangerous situations along the way with steadfast determination and courage.  The reader experiences the suspense of Elmer’s perilous encounters with anticipation and then his relief as he diffuses each crisis. Continue reading Adventure in the Jungle: A Review of ‘My Father’s Dragon’

This One’s For the Boys: A Review of ‘Guys Reads: True Stories’

“One cannot always be a hero, but one can always be a man.”—Johan Wolfgang

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.  An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”—G. K. Chesterton

Suggested Grade Levels:

Grades 6-12

Review and Thoughts

I was excited to read this book for a couple of different reasons.  First of all, I feel like a lot of books are geared toward women lately.  I’m sure I will have a lot of people who disagree with that comment, but when I read a lot of modern literature, there are so many strong heroines, but few good heroes.  Boys are less interested in reading and some studies show that they are falling behind in school. The Guys Reads series is looking to help bring boys back to love reading again. The series is edited by John Scieszka (The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, and The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales) and includes a great collection of short stories that are meant to appeal to boys.  I must mention here that girls will also enjoy these stories, but it’s obvious that they are trying to appeal to the guys out there. Continue reading This One’s For the Boys: A Review of ‘Guys Reads: True Stories’

Visiting a New Friend: A Review of ‘Owl at Home’

“Never shall I forget the times I spent with you.  Please continue to be my friend as you will always find me yours.”  Ludwig Van Beethoven

Reading Level:

K-1

Review and Thoughts

Reading the story of Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel makes the reader feel like a guest visiting the home of an innocent and trusting friend.  There is time spent by a nice warm fireplace, a comfy bed, and a peaceful seaside setting.  With every vacation however, there are also unexpected events.  This short holiday provides a glimpse into Owl’s simple life which to him is quite extraordinary. Continue reading Visiting a New Friend: A Review of ‘Owl at Home’

The Fantastic Adventures of Nobody: A Review of ‘The Graveyard Book’

“Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”—G. K. Chesterton

Suggested Grade Levels:

Grades: 6-9

(This book may interest students beyond ninth grade as well, however, I think the writing lends itself to this age.)

Review and Thoughts

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman starts out with quite the attention-grabber!  As the story begins, we witness the murder of a family.  The murderer, Jack, quietly goes through a house and stabs everyone.  Luckily, before he can murder the young two-year-old, the baby climbs out of his crib and crawls down a nearby hill to an old graveyard.  Here, he is protected by  ghosts and other creatures who live there.  The mother of the young boy and the rest of his family appear as ghosts, though only briefly.  The mother cries out begging the ghosts to take care of her son.  As they agree, the young family fades into the darkness until they appear in their own graveyard to rest in eternal peace. Continue reading The Fantastic Adventures of Nobody: A Review of ‘The Graveyard Book’

Making a Mark: A Review of ‘The Dot’

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” Edgar Degas

Reading Level:

Grades K-1

Review and Thoughts:

Many of us have confronted a blank paper when faced with the task of writing an assignment or drawing a picture. It can feel overwhelming.  After some initial struggles there is a glimmer of an idea – the promise of something unique and worthwhile.  Then, the first sentence or the first stroke blossoms into an exclusive creation. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds is a story about such an experience. Continue reading Making a Mark: A Review of ‘The Dot’

Friendship is Sharing: A Review of ‘A Mouse and the Motorcycle’

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”–Leo Buscaglia

Reading Level:

Grades 4-5

Review and Thoughts:

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary is a story about a mouse named Ralph and a boy named Keith who develop a true friendship based on a love of motorcycles, speed, adventure, and an impatience to see life unfold.  I must confess that I do not like rodents or anything that I would classify as a rodent.  Ralph, however, is special and not on my mental list of nibbling mammals.  He is endearing, honest, and absolutely a thrill seeker.  Keith is a young boy who is excited about possibilities and savors new experiences. He seems mature in the way he ponders situations and draws responsible conclusions. Continue reading Friendship is Sharing: A Review of ‘A Mouse and the Motorcycle’

Do We Live Here?: A Review of ‘Fahrenheit 451’

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”–Ray Bradbury

Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water,* sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lambadown the middle of its street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life* that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations.”–Revelation 22:1-2

“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.”–Ecclesiastes 3:1

Suggested Grade Levels:

Grade 7-10

Review and Thoughts

Fahreneit 451 by Ray Bradbury is actually my favorite dystopic novel.  It is simple, realistic, and I could probably make a good argument that we are currently living in this media driven society.  I’ve taught this book numerous times, and I love talking about it and drawing comparisons.  My students always found it fascinating that our current society is so similar to the society in the novel. Continue reading Do We Live Here?: A Review of ‘Fahrenheit 451’

Literature reviews from the Catholic side