Tag Archives: bullying

Be Who You Are Perfectly: A Review of ‘Chrysanthemum’

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” – Mother Teresa

Reading level   

Grades 1-2

Common Core  

Grade 2

Interest level


Review and Comments

Choosing a name for a child can be quite a challenging decision for parents.  Mr. and Mrs. Mouse considered this obligation thoughtfully and chose the name that was “absolutely perfect” for their new precious baby.  They named her Chrysanthemum – the perfect name for their perfect daughter.   As Chrysanthemum grew, she too found her name to be perfect whether it was written or spoken.  As a matter of fact, she often repeated it to herself because she liked the sound of it so much.

When it was time for Chrysanthemum to start school, she was very excited and full of enthusiasm as most children are.  The first time her class heard her name however, they laughed.  Some students, three girls in particular, continuously made comments about her name and thought of different ways to tell her it was unusual and weird.  Unfortunately, Chrysanthemum listened to the harsh comments of the girls and it wasn’t long before she didn’t think her name was perfect anymore.  She even had the drastic thought that she should change her name.  Alas, the next day of school was not any better.  The three girls treated her the same way, and she felt truly dreadful. She shared all of this with her parents and they assured her that her name was indeed absolutely perfect and then tried to help her see why those girls would say such hurtful things. Continue reading Be Who You Are Perfectly: A Review of ‘Chrysanthemum’

Finding Greatness: A Review of ‘Wonder’

“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.” –from Wonder

Grade Level:

Grades 5-8

Review and Thoughts

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, is one of those great middle elementary books that teaches everyone the struggles and beauties of life and how sometimes they become entwined and we can’t have one without the other.

The story begins with our introduction to August Pullman who has been born with a terrible facial deformity.  In fact, when he is first born, he tells us that the nurses took him away so that his mother couldn’t see him.  He goes on to explain how everyone is so shocked and flustered in the hospital, but when his mother sees him, she notices how beautiful his eyes are and loves him the way any mother would.  And so the book begins with that combination of struggle and beauty and continues throughout. Continue reading Finding Greatness: A Review of ‘Wonder’

The Unloved and the Forgotten: A Review of ‘Wolf Hollow’

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”—Saint Teresa of Calcutta

Grade Level


Review and Thoughts

Our story begins with Annabelle, a young girl who lives on her family’s farm during WWII.  Everything is fine for Annabelle and her family until a new girl, Betty Glengarry, arrives at a nearby farm and starts making trouble.  In fact, in my opinion, she is absolutely horrific.  She begins bullying and torturing Annabelle on her way to and from school and Annabelle is constantly afraid. Continue reading The Unloved and the Forgotten: A Review of ‘Wolf Hollow’

Middle School Perception: A Review of ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’

“The deeds you do may be the only sermon some people will hear today.” — St. Francis of Assisi

Reading Level:  

Grades 4-5 [according to common core]

Grade   5.2 [according to Scholastic]

Interest Level:  

Grades 3-8

Review and Comments:

Greg Heffley reluctantly begins a journal at the same time he starts middle school. The journal is a very detailed record of his private thought process, observations, desires, and schemes. The reader also learns that the journal is primarily a record of his life so when he becomes famous he will only have to reference this history to recall his life story.  From the beginning, he realizes the transition to a new school is an uncertain one and brings with it many challenges.  His anxiety is on high alert as he tries to tread lightly and yet at the same time survive and fit into the intimidating world called middle school. Continue reading Middle School Perception: A Review of ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’

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’

Wounding Others: A Review of ‘Falling into Place’

“No one heals himself by wounding another.”—Saint Ambrose

Suggested Grade Levels:

Grade 10-12

Review and Thoughts

I heard about Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang from the HarperCollins Common Core Reading List recommendations for high school students.  I feel like the increase in contemporary literature in today’s high schools can really help students find that love of reading that they may have lost.  At this age most students have been reading classic literature and may have had trouble connecting with it.   Unfortunately, along with contemporary literature comes a lot of contemporary issues.  I, in no way, ever condone banning a book, but there are times I feel like some literature may not be the best fit for a classroom setting.  I would strongly advise parents to look for an alternative contemporary piece.  I think Zhang’s writing is truly poetic and beautiful, but this book does not portray much goodness in its characters.  I understand that teens are bombarded with these issues in media and even in their own schools, but this doesn’t necessarily mean we need to teach it in our classrooms as well. Continue reading Wounding Others: A Review of ‘Falling into Place’

Friendship Marks a Life: A Review of ‘Amber Brown Is Not a Crayon’

“I want my friend to miss me as long as I miss him.”  Saint Augustine

Suggested Grade Level

Grades 2-3

Amber Brown Is Not a Crayon by Paula Danziger is a realistic story about Amber, a spunky third grader, who is almost always very confident.  She knows she is messy, has a good memory, and can sometimes be sarcastic, according to her mom.  Her teacher says she has “an active imagination,” and she doesn’t argue that point.  She expresses her feelings so well throughout the story that the reader is allowed into the special places in her heart.  When she begins a sentence with “I, Amber Brown….” it signals that she is about to make an important announcement about herself and her present state of mind.  Amber is facing a very difficult year however. Her best friend is moving away. We can see that at the beginning of her story she is struggling with the emotions of losing her best friend when she says, “When I grow up and remember third grade, I’m going to immediately try to forget it.” This is her journey. Continue reading Friendship Marks a Life: A Review of ‘Amber Brown Is Not a Crayon’