YA Reading Log

Fiction

Hinton, S.E. (1988). The outsiders. New York, NY: Viking.

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Goodreads

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is a coming of age story that depicts roughly two weeks in the life of Ponyboy Curtis. During this time he struggles with finding his place both socially and morally in life. Ponyboy, his two brothers, and their four friends are what their community consider “Greasers”, which are seemingly the anti “Socs”, the rich preppy kids in town. The two groups constantly fight and squabble. Ponyboy is regularly caught up in these incidents, often times attacked both physically and mentally. During one of these fights Ponyboy along with his friend Johnny are attacked and one of the Soc’s in the fight is killed by Johnny. The two boys decide to run, during their time away they both struggle with the moral implications of what happened. When they finally decide to return home and face the consequences, Johnny is injured and later dies. Ponyboy is left again feeling responsible for someone else’s death and battles survivor guilt for some time before he is able to write about everything that happened during those two weeks, and hopefully goes back to living his life.

I was looking forward to reading this book because it is considered a classic teen novel and I had always heard good things about it. When I first began reading the book I was slightly surprised about the level of violence, or implications of violence. I appreciated the first person narrative and was surprised at the ending that tied the whole story together nicely. I was amazed that the author wrote this book when she was only a teenager, something that I could not even imagine being able to do at that age.

Book Discussion Reflection: During our group discussion we talked about what age group that this novel seemed most appropriate. While most of us had heard this novel was primarily read in middle school, we came to an agreement that it would mostly likely be best for students in 8th grade or higher. We felt that this age group would be able to handle the content and would optimistically have the maturity level to handle it. I was glad that this was a group discussion book because I felt that some of my classmates brought up things that I had not recognized. I initially talked about my surprise at the level of violence in the novel, but as one classmate pointed out, the violence was actually glossed over mostly and left the the reader to fill in the blanks. We discussed the possibility that this may have been because the author herself was only a teen during the time and might not have wanted to actually write out detailed descriptions of these events. We discussed the classic themes of the novel, loyalty, social class animosity, and love/family. Ultimately, we agreed that the story was able to conclude with a little surprise ending that left the reader with a sense of hope for Ponyboy’s future.

Murphy, J. (2015). Dumplin’. New York, NY: Balzer + Bray.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy is a story about Willowdean Dickson, lover of Dolly Parton and self proclaimed ‘fat girl’ (2015). She’s your typical teenager, hangs out with her best friend, has a crush on a boy at work, and has moments of self consciousness and insecurity. When her secret summer fling with the boy from work ends and she feels like she’s drifting away from her best friend, Willowdean, or as her mother calls her, Dumplin’, does something drastic; she enters the local beauty pageant that her mother runs. Three other girls from school decide to enter with her to prove that you don’t have to have stereotypical looks to be happy with yourself. During this time she has a falling out with her best friend and gets herself involved in a love triangle. While struggling with the demands of the pageant, Willowdean learns more about herself and begins to build up her self-confidence. She completes the pageant with her best friend and the new group of friends she’s made along the way and ends with a possible start to a romance she can finally feel confident about.

I’ve had this book for awhile and just got around to reading it, and it was a cute quick read. I felt that it gave realistic portrayals of the struggles and self doubt that all teenagers go through, the highs and lows in life. I myself am also a self proclaimed ‘fat girl’, so I am always interested in stories that have a plus sized main character being awesome in life. One of my favorite things about this book was that Willowdean was always happy with her body, she wasn’t doing crazy diets or hiding herself behind baggy clothes. This novel was very body positive, but in a realistic way, just because Willowdean was happy with herself she still had to deal with other people’s opinions about her. I also enjoyed the fact that this was a romance-light novel and the focus tended to be more on the friendships between the different girls introduced. Yay female empowerment!

Kennedy, K. (2016). Learning to swear in America. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.

Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy is an interesting take on a well known story line, an asteroid is coming towards Earth and needs to be stopped. In the case of this story, the asteroid is heading towards America and Yuri Strelnikov, or rather Dr. Yuri Strelnikov, a 17-year-old physicist prodigy has been leant to America from Russia to help solve their problem. While Yuri is having difficulties getting the other physicists he is working with to actually listen to him and his ideas he meets a girl, Dovie, who teaches him there may be more to life than antimatter. Dovie and her family befriend Yuri, something he is in dire need of, and he is welcomed into their families and lives. Yuri goes on to juggle helping to stop the asteroid, dodging government officials who think he is a spy, and trying to have some normal teenage life experiences.

I was surprised by how much I ended up liking this book, usually I try to avoid end of the world type novels, but this book flips that genre on its head. It was so refreshing to see the scientific perspective of this story mixed in with the classic teenage coming of age story. This book was really funny, Yuri’s interactions with Dovie and learning American idioms kept me laughing and wanting to keep reading along. Even with Yuri dealing with a completely stressful situation (the country’s safety was literally depending on him and his physicist peers) he was still identifiable in his struggle for confidence and understanding of American culture.

Telgemeier, R., & Lamb, B. (2016). Ghosts. New York, NY: Graphix.

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier tells the story of Catrina and her family as they move from Southern California to Bahía de la Luna in Northern California. Cat is not so happy about the move, but her dad got a new job and being on the coast should help her sister Maya, who has cystic fibrosis. When they arrive Cat and Maya meet Carlos, a boy from their neighborhood. It is through Carlos that the girls realize that the whole town is fascinated with ghosts, they even have a day where they celebrate the dead and their loved ones ghosts visit. Maya is overjoyed with the idea and can’t wait to see these ghosts Carlos and everyone else talks about, while Cat is anxious, doesn’t believe the others, and worries about her sister’s safety. When the girls see the ghosts for the first time and Maya becomes sick, Cat is fearful that the ghosts are going to hurt her sister even more and wants to protect her. Slowly Cat makes friends in the town and starts to become more accepting of ghosts. The Day of the Dead celebration helps the sisters come to terms with Maya’s mortality and makes them stronger as a family.

This was one of my first experiences with a graphic novel after The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian and it really made me interested in the genre. Raina Telgemeier’s images are so descriptive and bring the story to life. On the story aspect, even with the title Ghosts I was honestly a little surprised at the level of physical ghosts in the story. I had heard the Telgemeier’s books tended to be more realistic, so I was not expecting the paranormal to be involved. While I found the story to be a beautiful depiction of sisters who love one another, I could have done without the level of fantasy towards the end.

Book Discussion Reflection: During our discussion we discussed both Ghosts and Roller Girl. One of my classmates pointed out that in Ghosts Maya is less afraid of everything; ghosts, her future, making friends; while Cat is more anxious and worried throughout most of the novel. We talked about the possibility of this being because of the age difference between the sisters or that Maya may have already come to terms with her condition and her future while Cat was still being a protective older sister who wanted her to be safe. Another classmate also brought up that this novel could be seen as cultural appropriation and that it depicts The Day of the Dead differently than it is actually celebrated. Some of us felt that this may be true, but the fact that the novel is from a teenager’s point of view, Cat, she probably would not have had an understanding or been aware of the cultural implications. Concerning both novels, we discussed the fact that they both could be seen as coming of age stories and had an underlying message of bravery.

Jamieson, V. (2015). Roller girl. New York, NY: Dial Books for Young Readers.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson tells the story of 12-year-old Astrid as she struggles with getting older and changing friendships. Astrid has been BFFs with Nicole since fifth grade, they do almost everything together. When Astrid’s mother brings the two girls to the roller derby, Astrid is amazed. When she finds out that they have a summer camp she can’t wait for Nicole and her to join, but she soon finds out that Nicole has other plans, ballet camp. The causes a major rift between the two, they start to drift apart and Astrid lies to her mother about going to roller derby camp alone. Astrid struggles at roller derby, something she had not expected. At first she’s pretty miserable, but she soon makes friends with Zoey and things start to get a little better. She struggles with missing and being angry with Nicole, lying to her mother, and getting better at roller derby so that she can be a jammer in their big game. The story ends with Astrid realizing the importance of being a good friend and that growing apart from old friends may be sad, but it doesn’t have to be the end of a friendship.

I found Astrid’s friendship struggles and relationship with her mother to be so relatable. All of Victoria Jamieson’s characters felt incredibly real, which I think readers will appreciate because they will be able to identify. The story itself is filled with real life, Astrid isn’t magically amazing at something she’s never tried, the ups and downs of friendships as a preteen, and even the interactions with bullies. I found Astrid to be a pretty selfish character, which is pretty true for most 12-year-olds, but she was able to grow and realize that sometimes there are more important things than our own wants. I also loved that there was so much female empowerment in this book, not everyone was perfect or cookie cutter, which again gave a more realistic view of the world.

Book Discussion Reflection: Many of us in our group enjoyed Roller Girl and found that it had so many empowering messages. First there was the message that no one has to be completely one thing, many of the characters were both fierce and vulnerable many times throughout the novel. We also discussed the representations of different bodies and forms of beauty, a message that almost every preteen needs to hear constantly. There was the message that girls do not have to stick to gender norms, such as being a ballet dancer. Finally the message that you should be true to yourself and be strong and brave about your decisions. Towards the end of our discussion about the two books Roller Girl and Ghosts we talked about the role of graphic novels in school curriculums. Some of my classmates brought up the excellent point that through graphic novels students are flexing a number of different literacy muscles, which is always a great thing.


Poetry/Books in Verse

Heppermann, C. (2014). Poisoned apples: Poems for you, my pretty. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books.

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann is a book of poetry that takes plots and characters from fairy tales and gives them a modern twist. The poems can be read individually or as a group and can be serious, funny, or dark but I found them all compelling. There is a definite feminist edge to the collection as a whole, Heppermann approaches topics and issues that many women face starting in puberty and continuing into adulthood. Throughout the collection are photographs by various artists that coincide with surrounding poetry.

Truthfully, I am not a fan of poetry. All throughout my educational experience I have loathed the time spent covering poetry. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that was because I usually take things at face value and poetry is all about looking beneath what was actually written. But I really enjoyed this collection of poems. I liked that there was connections to fairy tales and mythology. I especially like the feminist element, something that I find a lot of YA literature is lacking and girls of that age vastly need. Some of my favorite poems were “A Brief History of Feminism” a play of ‘Simon Says’, “Retelling” which flips Rumpelstiltskin on its head, and “Boy Toy Villanelle” which discusses the unfairness of GI Joe vs Spiderman vs a girls doll.

Herrera, J. F. (2005). Cinnamon girl: Letters found inside a cereal box. New York: Joanna Cotler Books.

Cinnamon Girl: Letters Found Inside a Cereal Box by Juan Felipe Herrera is a poetic novel that switches between diary entries written by the 13-year-old Yolanda Mondragon and letters from her Uncle DJ. It is set in New York City after the events on September 11, 2001. Yolanda’s diary entries take place after the towers fell, her uncle was delivering flowers nearby when the towers fell and is now in a coma, the letters he wrote her were from several months before when she lived in Iowa. Yolanda struggles with the reality of her uncle’s situation. She decides to collect the dust from the towers, calling them “the voices” in the hopes that this will save her uncle. She seems to enter a depressive state and turns to drugs, alcohol, and unhealthy relationships. While she is still collecting “the voices” she is avoiding her family and visiting her uncle in the hospital. It ends with Yolanda reuniting with her family and appears to see the light and begins making a recovery.

The novel is entrenched in the Puerto Rican culture and makes use of their language and idioms, there is a glossary at the end of the novel which is extremely helpful to understand specific meanings along the way. I was around the same age as Yolanda when the events on 9/11/01 happened and I can remember being confused and overwhelmed, so I can’t even imagine how I would have felt if I had a family member who suffered during these attacks. I really wanted to like this novel, but I really struggled with it, I’ve never been a big fan of poetry and the verse writing was difficult to understand at times. It felt disjointed at times and would jump back and forth between present and the letters between her uncle and herself, some of which I could not understand why they were included.


Informational

Kuklin, S. (2014). Beyond magenta: Transgender teens speak out. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

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Goodreads

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin is an informative text that tells the stories and experiences of six different teens in the transgender community. It depicts each teen’s journey through self discovery; the anguish, tears, fears, and look toward the future. There is Jessy who overcomes cultural stigma to become a son any parent would be proud. Christina, who initially struggled with her mother to become the person that she knew she was meant to be, and it ultimately brought them closer. Mariah, who had a harsh upbringing that made her age before her time and is still at the beginning of her journey. Cameron, who is constantly questioning gender rules and redefining sexuality. Nat, who was misunderstood by family, friends, and professionals for so long and took it upon theirself to work towards their happiness. Finally Luke, who was able to use theater as a means of introducing others to transgender.

The teens in these stories have amazing and eye opening lives. I can not imagine how distressing and difficult it must be to go through any part of life not feeling connected to who you are on the inside to who you are on the outside. This series of stories present how diverse the transgender community can be and most importantly the different between gender and sexuality. Society seems to be more aware of the differences in sexuality, but many people still continue to confuse gender and sexuality. I believe that this novel is skillful portrayal of some of these differences and would be an enlightening read for both teens and adults.

Van Wagenen, M. (2015). Popular: A memoir: How a geek in pearls discovered the secret to confidence. New York: Speak.

This memoir was written by Maya Van Wagenen when she was 15 and tells of her experience in eighth grade when she decided to spend the year following the popularity advice from a book written in the 1950s by Betty Cornwell, a former teen model. From the beginning Maya decided she would journal about this experiment, the catch was that except for her family, no one would know what she was doing. At the beginning of eighth grade Maya considers herself to be on the bottom of her school’s social ladder, above teachers and substitutes, but below all other possible cliques and groups in school. Each month of the school year she focused on one topic from Betty Cornwell’s guide. The topics she covered were figure, hair, posture, skin and makeup, clothing, grooming, money, attitude and personality, and hostessing. Throughout her experiment Maya found things that she would continue (posture, makeup, grooming, and attitude) and some things she would leave to Betty and the 1950s (mainly girdles). While struggling to keep her experiment a secret Maya was able to become more confident in herself and learn that everyone struggles with the idea of popularity, even those that others consider to be ‘popular’.

This was another book that I had heard about since it came out and I just never gave it a chance. I am now able to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it and am amazing at Maya’s confidence and drive. In eighth grade I was definitely not brave enough to do even a quarter of what she did, especially while not telling anyone else what she was doing. I loved Maya’s voice and humor throughout the book. I found some of her struggles to relatable even to someone in her twenties. Maya’s family are also central characters in the story and it was great to see how accepting and encouraging they were throughout her whole process. Ultimately, I loved the message of the story. Throughout the year Maya did do some things that altered her appearance, definitely not drastically, but each alteration had a point to helping her become more confident in herself rather than making others “like” her more. But it wasn’t until Maya changed how she interacted with others, mainly making an effort to put herself out there and actually talk with other schoolmates, that she was able to grow her social group and ultimately self-assured with herself.

Selzer, A. (2009). The smart aleck’s guide to American history. New York: Delacorte Press.

 The Smart Aleck’s Guide to American History by Adam Selzer is unlike any history book I’ve ever read. It begins with the American settlers and goes on to the 2008 presidential election. Readers are encouraged to learn more about history so that they can be a ‘smart aleck’ and call their teachers out when they may be wrong. While some may consider this a parody, the historical information is factual and gives a humorous spin to many things from our country’s history. Each chapter covers a different topic, some examples include “A Nation Declines to Bathe”, “The Civil War: America’s Changing Body”, and “1947-89: The ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ Era”. At the end of each chapter there are mock quiz and essay questions and additional funny pieces of information.

As someone who would describe my sense of humor as completely sarcastic, I found this history book to be amazing and wish there had been something like it when I was a teenager. The Smart Aleck’s staff work hard to make their books as humorous/sarcastic/factual as possible and it is something that should be appreciated. One of my favorite parts of this book  was the use of footnotes, at times those were what got my biggest laughs. Anyone who was a fan of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show would definitely get a kick out of this book. Even with all of it’s humor I would still place this book in a text book category each chapter can be read individually and readers can jump around or skip chapters as they move along. I think it also extremely important that readers do not dismiss this book as being an interesting source of historical information just because it can also be seen as a piece of comedic work.


Diversity

Tregay, S. (2014). Fan art. New York, NY: Katherine Tegen Books.

 Fan Art by Sarah Tregay is a novel about Jaime Peterson towards the end of his senior year of high school. Everything is going okay for Jaime until he realizes that he is falling for his best friend Mason. Now see, Jaime is gay, he’s out with his family, but that is about it. He is a little anxious about coming out in school because he is nervous about how people will respond, but he is mostly afraid of how Mason (best friend he has a crush on) will react. Jaime doesn’t want to ruin their friendship, but he is not really sure how he will keep it a secret when it is all he can think about. While all of this is going on Jaime struggles with the fact that fellow classmates on his school newspaper do not want to publish a comic with a gay love story because they are afraid the school will pull their funding for the next year. With some bumps along the way, Jaime discovers that being honest with yourself and others can lead to a happier life.

I thought this book had a cute, if angsty premise; main character falls in love with best friend but does not think the feelings will be reciprocated so they will just suffer until they suddenly find out that their best friend feels the same way. I really wanted to like it because their was a new twist on the premise, the two best friends are both guys. But I found the main character to be a little one dimensional who portrayed many of the other characters stereotypically. One of my biggest issues was the idea that all of the artsy girls he knew ‘loved gay guys’, so much so that they drew fan art about Jaime and Mason. I was just disappointed in the simplistic view and characterization given to any of the characters, Jaime included. One of my favorite parts of the story is that Jaime’s parents are very supportive, in fact his stepfather throws him a coming out celebration.

Prince, L. (2014). Tomboy. San Francisco, CA: Zest Books.

Tomboy by Liz Prince is an autobiographical graphic novel, it tells Liz’s story from ages four through her teenage years. Liz write about growing up not conforming to gender norms, she personally never identified with anything that could be considered “girly”. Even as a young child she knew she did not want to wear dresses and thankfully her parents allowed her to be herself and wear what she felt comfortable in. While growing up Liz struggled with various forms of bullying because of her refusal to comply with gender norms. She would shop in the boys department and loved comics, something that was definitely not seen as “girly”. She made friends, but was always confused and felt left behind when those friends began making transitions from “tomboy” to “girly girl”. Others either though she was a boy or a lesbian and would call her horrible names. One thing Liz knew for sure was that she was not attracted to women, but she did question her gender. It wasn’t until she was in her late teens that she began to realize she didn’t hate girls, but instead hated the expectations put on girls by society. Liz eventually makes a strong group of friends and finds herself a community she for once feels comfortable in, allowing her to express her individualism and confidence in herself.

This was definitely one of the more mature books I have read this semester and since it was my last read I was a little jarred at first by the language and content, but the realness made me love it even more. I remember being the same age and being just as crass and ‘rage against the machine’ angry. Liz Prince was able to take her life story, which had some definite struggles and conflicts, and interject humor and honesty throughout to make it an amazing piece of literature. The book made me think so much about my own biases and beliefs. I had always considered myself a tomboy growing up, but seeing things from Liz’s point of view and experiences I feel slightly embarrassed for appropriating the word. She makes so many great points about gender norms and conformity, something that our society still struggles with. But most importantly, she makes the case that growing up is hard. Kids deal with so much growing up and while that might make them a little angsty I think we have to remember that we have all been there and can relate.


Challenged/Banned

Alexie, S. (2007).  The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. New York, NY: Little Brown.

In this book we are introduced to Arnold “Junior” Spirit, a fourteen-year old boy who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation with his family who like most on the reservation, is poor. We immediately find out that Junior is different, he was born with hydrocephalus (meaning water on the brain, causing other medical problems; he has a lisp, big glasses, and considers himself to be awkward. Junior is bullied by his peers and adults and really only has his family and his best friend Rowdy to turn to. Unlike his peers on the reservation, Junior likes school, but he soon becomes frustrated with the lack of resources his school receives and he lashes out. He decides that he needs to make a change and wants to go to Reardan, a school in a wealthier district that is 20 miles away. While at Reardan Junior feels like an outsider both at his new school and at home on the reservation where everyone, including Rowdy, think he is a traitor. After some time Junior slowly becomes comfortable at Reardan; he gains a spot on the basketball team, makes friends, and begins to share some of his life and struggles with others. While trying to find his way at school, Junior suffers from a number of losses, his grandmother, father’s best friend, and sister all pass away. But during these times Junior is able to turn to others from home and Reardan for support.

I really loved this book and am mad at myself that it took me so long to actually read it. I found this story to be much more than a coming of age novel, it not only depicted the story of a boy growing into his own, but also gave such an interesting view of reservation life. The relationships between Junior and his family, while at times difficult (i.e. his father’s alcoholism), was a realistic portrayal of a struggling family. I found Junior’s illustrations throughout the book added so much more dimension to the story. Some of my favorite parts of the novel were his illustrations of others. It gave the reader a more in depth view of characters without taking away from the novel itself.

Book Discussion Reflection: The fact that everyone in our book group loved this book goes to show how great a story this is. I like how during a group discussion others point things out that you might have looked over. One thing that a classmate pointed out was the idea that with happiness is sadness and vice versa. This fits in so well with Junior and his experiences and we discussed that this is also something that many others, including teens, can relate to. During our discussion we talked about our opinions on why this book was banned and how we might go about having it on our own reading lists. While most of us agreed on the fact that 8th grade and older could handle this book, we weren’t really sure how to go about the idea of getting permission from parents to read it in school. Some of us felt that a permission slip might be necessary, while others thought a permission slip would encourage parents to protest reading it. One final point from the discussion was that about half of our group read the book in novel form, while the other half read it as an audiobook and even though these two forms are vastly different we were all able to enjoy the novel and really gained different experiences with it. Those of us who physically read the book were able to have a visual experience through the illustrations while those of us who listened to the book (read by Alexie himself) were able to have the auditory experience of Alexie’s accents and stresses of reading the novel. It made all of us want to experience the opposite version for ourselves.

Myracle, L. (2004). TTYL. New York, NY: Amulet Books.

TTYL by Lauren Myracle depicts the instant message conversations between three best friends as they go through 10th grade. It turns the narrative form on its head and tells the story through the girls’ interactions with one another online. The friends, Maddie, Zoe, and Angela talk each other through their crushes, problems in school, and ultimately issues with one another. In some ways this story has a typical premise, three friends struggling to maintain a friendship through the tumultuous time of high school. But it differs because instead of being told the story through a narrative, the reader is told the story by the girls themselves while they share with each other.

Reading this story reminded me so much of my own conversations with friends on instant messengers during my own high school years. It was definitely different to read, but once I got used to the flow of the story I was able to move through it quickly. I think that even though teens today do not really use instant messages as a platform to talk (wow time has changed in 10 years) they will still be able to relate because while they might not interact the same way the ‘dialogue’ and plot are still relevant. Until I was about a third of the way through the book I could not figure out what this book is on the challenged/banned book lists other than the harsh language at times. The idea of a possible relationship between a teacher and student, especially a student in the 10th grade, is a touchy topic. Honestly I was really surprised that the author had that plot line go on so long and so far into the story. I think this is another thing that had I read this as a teenager I would have maybe glossed over the seriousness of that plot line, but as an adult I still makes me feel grossed out and uncomfortable.


Game

Supercell. (2016). Clash royale (Version 1.6.0) [Mobile software game]. Retrieved from https://play.google.com/

Clash Royale is a new sister franchise to Clash of Clans, it was released in January 2016 and has since become hugely popular. It was at the top of the download chart “just 12 hours after the game went live … [and it] is already the No. 7 highest-grossing game on iPhone” (Grubb, 2016). The game is available for free through Apple’s App Store and through Google Play with in app purchase options, treasure chests, gems or gold, to be used throughout the game. I was able to play for free without making any additional purchases, but depending on each player’s own needs, purchases may need to be made.  Before entering playing you choose 8 cards to bring with you into battle, these units range from low level knights (common cards) to high level dragons (epic cards). Players battle against one another in an arena in a medieval fantasy setting, matches are very fast lasting from 2-4 minutes. The goal of the battle is to destroy your opponent’s three towers, the player who wins gets a treasure chest that may contain gold, gems, or unit cards for more battle options. As players move on through higher level arenas more advanced cards are unlocked.

I never played Clash of Clans, honestly I usually avoid all types of mobile games other than Solitaire or 2048, but I knew we had to review a game so I figured I’d give Clash Royale a try because of the medieval aspect. When I began playing I was almost immediately hooked, the graphics are really great and add so much to the game. The fact that games are so short makes it really easy to have a handful of battles in a short amount of time. But it is easy to become bored if you’ve hit a lull and aren’t winning any battles so you aren’t getting any new treasure chests. You can interact with other players and also login through Facebook, allowing for players to connect with friends and family. One of my major complaints is that you have to have to be connected either through data or wifi to play because you are playing against other people. I wish there was a computer play option for those who are using their devices in airplane mode or without connection.

Reference:

Grubb, J. (2016, March 2). Supercell’s Clash Royale rushes to the top of the download charts in 12 hours. Venture Beat. Retrieved from http://venturebeat.com/2016/03/02/supercells-clash-royale-rushes-to-the-top-of-the-download-charts-in-12-hours/


Educational/Interactive Website

Khan Academy. (2016). Khan Academy Home. Retrieved from https://www.khanacademy.org/

Khan Academy is an amazing educational website for all ages. One of the best things about it is the fact that it is FREE and FUN. It’s a not-for-profit organization, it began with one man who was tutoring his cousin and “has grown into an 80-person organization… [with] developers, teachers, designers, strategists, scientists, and content specialists” (Khan Academy, 2016). The website has educational videos on a number of topics; math, science & engineering, computing, arts & humanities, economics & finance, and test prep for all the major high school to college tests. Viewers can watch the videos and interact with others through asking questions and answering others in a comment/question area.

I had heard of Khan Academy before during my time getting my teaching degree and had looked at it briefly, but did not spend that much time on it. I honestly regret that because it is such an amazing resource for students, parents, and teachers. I like that it relates Common Core Standards to each topic, which is great for teachers (Khan Academy, 2016). This site is great for students that might be struggling with certain topics, or for those looking to gain more information in topics covered. Not only does the website cover educational topics (math, science, arts & humanities, etc), but it also covers life resources such as finance topics. I was surprised to see videos on taxes and home buying. Honestly, there is probably a lot I could learn from watching these videos and I really wish this had been around when I was a teen!

Iridescent. (2015). Curiosity machine. Retrieved from https://www.curiositymachine.org/

Curiosity Machine is a website that encourages children and teens to be creative and me challenges that involve engineering, science, robotics, and more. Students pursue creations, either their own or through challenges, and mentors are available to give advice along the way. During the process students are encouraged to share their plans, building, testing, possible redesign, and reflections either through writing, video, or pictures. Each available challenge has video pointers to guide students and more information about the topic being covered. Parents and educators are also encouraged to join and gain resources. Educators can create groups to keep track of students process throughout their challenge.

I had never heard of Curiosity Machine before and I happened along it while browsing Common Sense Media. I think it’s great that it promotes not only STEM related creativity, but I love that it encourages students to try and that failure is ok because it means that you have attempted something and can always make edits. The mentor aspect is a great opportunity for students to learn from professionals in the field. Overall, it is a great way for students to experience learning through hands-on tactile activities. I also think that this website could be easily used in a library, especially with makerspaces, the librarian could create a group where students can all share how they are moving along. This site also gives users a chance to interact online in a positive way, gaining digital literacy.


App

Musical.ly. (2016). Musical.ly (Version 4.13.5)[Mobile application software]. Retrieved from https://play.google.com/

Musical.ly is termed as a “video social network app” (2016) that was created in 2014 and has become extremely popular with teenagers. It works similar to that of Instagram or Twitter, where you can follow and be followed by others. Users can take and upload up to 15 second videos. There are a few differences between Musical.ly and other social media apps. First its premise is creating your own music videos, it has a massive online library of both songs and skits from comedians, tv shows, and movies. Users are able to pick a song/skit and then record a video to it, or vice versa. Another difference is the ability to edit your videos in app, something that other social media sites require users to outsource and then upload a complete video.

I had heard of Musical.ly about a year ago, but I was pretty confused by it (wow, my age is showing) and wasn’t that interested. But now with the popularity of Instagram and Snapchat, this app makes more sense to my aging brain and I was really entertained by majority of the videos I watched. At the moment, it primarily seems to be teenagers that are actually using the app. I think this great for the teen users because it’s something that us “older people” haven’t picked up on yet and ruined for them, which I’m sure they appreciate. It’s nice that it allows for both spectators and those that want to be creative and upload their own videos. I also appreciate that users can upload their own music, allowing for even more creative possibilities in the future.


Audio Book

Sheinkin, S. & Porter, R. (2015). Most dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the secret history of the Vietnam War [OverDrive MP3 Audiobook]. Available from http://ezone.oslri.net

Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin is an informational text read by Ray Porter in the audiobook form. It is written in narrative form and tells the story of Daniel Ellsberg and his struggle on deciding to release the Pentagon Papers. The reader is first introduced to Daniel Ellsberg through his idealism and want to serve his country in the military. He soon finds himself as a government analyst during the Vietnam War working under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. While in this position he is given access to a number of classified documents, which is where he discovers that the information being given to the American people is not what was actually happening in Vietnam. He struggles morally if this is truly being done to protect the country, or rather if it is just each president’s ego of not wanting to be “the first president to lose a war” (Sheinkin, 2015). In the end, Ellsberg decides that he can’t keep this information to himself. First he tries to go about exposing the information through politicians he encounters, but when that fails he knows he needs to find a way to do it himself. This begins the nerve racking process of secretly taking the documents, photocopying, and ultimately releasing portions of the information to different media outlets. The resulting chase to find him by the government and court trial was as equally compelling as the journey to that point.

When the Edward Snowden leak first happened many people mentioned Daniel Ellsberg and I honestly had no idea who that was. So when I heard that there was a book written about him and his role in the Pentagon Papers, I was interested in reading it. I also saw that the audiobook version was on a number of “best of” lists and I figured I should try it out that way. Typically, I am not a fan of audiobooks, I find that the story moves so much slower than it would if I was reading it and the voices the readers make can distract me. But I thoroughly enjoyed Ray Porter’s reading, he was able to turn the players into characters and I felt he did Steve Sheinkin’s work justice. In the beginning I did at first find it difficult to pay attention, I’m not sure if that was me just getting used to listening to an audiobook, or if the story itself had a slow start. But once I was a few chapters in I was hooked and found myself listening whenever I got a chance. One of my favorite things about this book was that it was not your typical informational text, instead it read like a political thriller. Honestly, the story of the Pentagon Papers seems like it was right out of a political thriller rather than something that happened in real life. I also enjoyed that this novel interwove the story of the Pentagon Papers and Daniel Ellsberg’s life. The reader is able to see Daniel Ellsberg as a person rather than either a traitor or a hero.


eBook

Lockhart, E. (2014). We were liars. New York: Delacorte Press. Available from http://ezone.oslri.net

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart tells the story of 17 year-old Cadence Sinclair as she recovers from an accident she remembers nothing of and tries to regain her memories. I would probably classify it as a coming of age thriller. Cadence, her two cousins, and family friend (Cadence calls the group “The Liars”) are all around the same age and spend every summer with their families on their grandfather’s private island. The plot jumps along from present to the past, all centering around what she refers to as “Summer Fifteen”, the summer she had her accident. She hasn’t been back to the island or heard from her cousins since. Her mother keeps telling her the same story of what happened, but Cadence doesn’t believe her and can’t understand why no one will tell her the truth. When her mother and grandfather finally allow her to go back to the island on Summer Seventeen, everything is different. The island and The Liars are all different, but still she can’t get anyone to tell her what happened during her accident and why things have changed. The story ends with A HUGE plot twist, one you’ll have to read to discover yourself.

I was looking forward to reading this novel because it had a lot of positive reviews. I definitely understand now why it has such a large following. I honestly kept guessing as to what was really going on with Cadence and her family, and I personally did not see that plot twist coming. But even though I found the mystery to be interesting I really wasn’t a fan of the characters or the writing style. I found Cadence to be a little whiney and I just could never identify with her. The writing was very choppy at times. There were a lot of sentence fragments and
suddenly
the sentences
will
break
off
like this.
Which I found very distracting and never knew how to approach reading them, should I pause at a break? Continue reading as one sentence? Are the ending words stressed? It was just a little too much for me, but I was still able to read on. So while it was distracting, it didn’t take away too much from the plot.

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