Friday, November 27, 2015

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Book cover Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Over Thanksgiving break, Mrs. Edwards got busy reading this graphic novel and forgot all about feeding me one day.  It must’ve been a really good book indeed.  She mentioned that she has never read a graphic novel prior to this, and she very thoroughly enjoyed it.  I checked it out and was pleasantly surprised by the ease and creativity with this novel.  I enjoyed the illustrations as they seemed to tell the story even without some of the text.  I wish I could draw like that, but alas I have found that ‘water-based’ paint means something different…

In Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, the story is similar to the Princess Bride and Tim Burton’s Big Fish.  The story begins with a grandfather regaling his grandson Jacob with tales from his own childhood.  Similar to those stories in Big Fish the stories are of fantastical things and people with extraordinary abilities.  Jacob assumes that his grandfather is exaggerating everything for entertainment purposes.  As he gets older, however, Jacob questions the validity of the stories, so his grandfather stops talking about it.  But, when Jacob is 15, his world is turned upside down when his grandfather is murdered by a ‘monster.’

Jacob thought he saw the ‘monster’ the night his grandfather died, but his description was so ridiculous that he was sent to see a psychiatrist.  It was during his psychiatric sessions that began finding clues to mysterious things his grandfather had told him, and was encouraged by his psychiatrist to seek answers at the island his grandfather stayed for so many years.  It is here that Jacob discovers much more than he was ever prepared for.  

This is an outstanding book for classes when discussing exaggeration.  The artistic renditions add so much depth to the storyline, that I could see a great collaboration happening between English and art teachers to create a book or story for classes.

Works Cited

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” (2011). JPEG file.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Director’s Cut. (2011, June 7). Retrieved from <>.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Day They Came to Arrest the Book by Nat Hentoff

the day they.jpg

A typical middle or high school book to read is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but when the history teacher at George Mason High School assigns the book to her class, the unexpected happens.  In this realistic fiction story, a high school and community experience the rift caused when several students become very vocal about the topics presented in the book.  The students then turn to their parents with complaints of the book being racist, sexist, and immoral.  Once the parents confront the principal, who is notorious for censoring books, he goes straight to the library and demands the offensive text be removed.  The community and the school quickly become divided on whether or not the book should be banned listing a cacophony of reasons.

Barney Roth, a reporter for the school paper, intends to expose the story for what it is and force people to consider the 1st Amendment and people’s viewpoint of what is or isn’t offensive.  The school librarian intends to stand up for the rights of the students because she feels they should have the freedom to read what they want.  In this thought-provoking story, we must always keep at the forefront the freedoms of our readers.  

I find it interesting that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is still being banned and challenged in America.  When the book first came out, it was banned because it showcased the friendship between a white boy and escaped slave.  Now, it is banned largely due to the derogatory language, poor grammar (spoken by Huck and Jim), and overall coarseness.  Many of the supporters of the novel view it as a masterful work that promotes free-thinking.

Work Cited

Lauren and Marcy the day they came to arrest the book. (2011, Sep 14). Retrieved from <>.

Perles, Karen. (2015). Should Huckleberry Finn be banned? bright hub education. Retrieved from <>.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling

Some days I wonder what it would be like to fly or walk then I think, “If only I knew someone with some magical abilities who could make it happen for me…”  Mrs. Edwards has mentioned that she knows some really good wizard books and the spells could work, except I’m a fish and don’t have a wand (or any way to hold it).  Apparently, these books are pretty controversial, and even banned or censored in some libraries.  After doing a little research, I learned that some parents believe the books allegedly promote witchcraft and the occult, as well as having a propensity for violence and promoting poor family values.  I just thought they were fictional books about a boy who discovers he’s a wizard.

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling is number 7 on the ALA’s list of the “100 most frequently challenged books of 1990-2000” and number 1 from 2000-2009.  The large dilemma with these books is a great many people felt that they were/are propagating witchcraft and Satanism.  But when readers get into these stories they quickly realize that, aside from the characters being witches and wizards, the characters face many of the same emotional and interpersonal conflicts as any teen may face.

Harry Potter is a turning-eleven-year-old boy who lives, literally, under the stairs in a coat closet at his aunt and uncle’s house.  His parents suffered a horrible death when he was just a baby, and he was mysteriously thrust with the only living relatives he had, the Dursleys.  His aunt, uncle, and cousin, who were the only family he had ever known, treated him like a nuisance, and were completely despicable to him.  On the days preceding his eleventh birthday, strange and inexplicable things start happening to and around him.  Letters begin arriving addressed to him, and his uncle becomes unusually cruel about it.  From here, Harry is thrust into the world of magic and Hogwarts, the School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Aside from the people who stick to their firm belief that this is a negative book for kids, it is actually a very powerful read for so many.  It has carries the themes of bullying, orphans, being an outsider, coming of age, and friendship.  There are so many areas where we can have teachable moments and ‘what-if’ situations.  This is a fantastic series for kids of any age!

Works Cited

Harry Potter and the sorcerer’s stone. JPEG file.

Harry Potter and the sorcerer’s stone book trailer. (2012, Nov 1). Retrieved from <>.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton


Fun Betta Fact of the Day:  We, as a species, are pretty territorial.  We like our space, don’t play well with other males, but are generally pretty cool with the ladies (although, will cannibalize our eggs if possible).  I found it interesting that Mrs. Edwards read this ‘classic’ book all about territorial groups of kids growing up in the 60’s.  The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is about some kid named Ponyboy, which I thought would sound much tougher if it was something like Sharkboy… but that’s a different movie.  She seems to think I can learn something about the value of life and how not to fight or something… I’m just a little fish swimming in a bowl, so I don’t really understand all that.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was written in 1967 about very poignant issues that still plague our society.  Some may feel a disconnect at first as we learn about the protagonist, a 14 year old teen named Ponyboy, and his gang of Greasers, but Ponyboy and his friends are, in so many ways, just like the teens of today: struggling with being poor, having broken families or no adult in their lives, trying to take care of themselves the best way they can.  The Greasers (so called because of the amount of hair grease) are from the poor side of town.  Most of them come from broken or dysfunctional homes with little or no parental guidance, but they are loyal to each other and their territory.  The Socs (Socials) are from the wealthy part of town.  They are viewed as ‘privileged,’ drive hot cars, and act like they are entitled to do whatever they want including frequent bullying of the Greasers.

There is a constant battle between Greasers and Socs about who is allowed in certain areas of town or stores, as well as the constant harassment of one another’s gangs.  One day at a drive-in movie, Ponyboy, Johnny, and Dallas meet some Soc girls and end up walking them home.  Ponyboy shares the story of Johnny’s incident with some Socs with one of the girls named Cherry.  Later that night after Ponyboy has a fight with his older brother, he and Johnny find themselves in a violent and fatal fight with some Socs which puts the boys on the run.  During their hide-out, Ponyboy and Johnny become heroes helping a group of kids out of a burning church, but not without being seriously hurt themselves.  What will happen to Ponyboy and Johnny?

The Outsiders is an outstanding book with very powerful themes that so many students can benefit from reading.  I could easily see this book being used in conjunction with a tolerance or anti-bullying unit or with an At-Risk group of students.  Because of the connection with broken or dysfunctional homes, many of our students will be able to identify with the emotional pain the characters feel.  I can also connect the gang aspect with many of the gang and territorial issues we have in our county as well to draw students into the discussion of why and how lives matter.  

The Outsiders. (n.d.). JPEG file.

The Outsiders. (2015, Nov.6). Retrieved from <>.