Tuesday, July 19, 2011

One Crazy Summer

Williams-Garcia, R. (2010). One Crazy Summer. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

LS5360: Coretta Scott King.  This one was new to me and I borrowed it from a friend with younger kids. Good, insightful, historically referenced book with GREAT characters.

Exposition: Set in Brooklyn, in the summer of 1968, the bulk of the story takes place in Oakland, CA and is told by main character, Delphine, with the story centering on Delphine and her sisters’ (Violetta and Fern) trip to visit their mother.

Conflict: The girls arrive in California and their mother, Cecile, wants nothing to do with them.

Rising Action:  The girls are left to fend for themselves and also  sent to Black Panther camp, where they learn a great deal about the Black Panther movement.

Climax: The girls’ mother is arrested and the girls really have to fend for themselves until some neighbors help out.

Falling Action: The girls end-up going to a Black Panther rally and reciting their mom’s poetry, and Cecile praises them for a job well done.

Resolution:  The one thing that the girls have wanted – affection from their mother – is given as they board the plane to go home, and they realize she’s not a bad person.

Literary Elements:   Characterization is strong (the three girls are each unique and rich), and the style in which it is written and woven into actual historical events is powerful.

The Wednesday Wars

Schmidt, G.D. (2007). The Wednesday wars. New York: Scholastic, Inc.

LS5360: ALA Notable. I am getting good at picking out great books from my kids’ shelves. LOVED it – though I wondered whether my son did since he had put it in the donation box.  He loved it, too, but didn’t want THAT copy because the cover and pages are warped.  Go figure how that happened. I bought it for him new.

Exposition:  The story opens on the first day of seventh grade, at Camillo Junior High, Long Island, New York, 1967 with narration by the main character, Holling Hoodhood who is already lamenting the fact that his new teacher, Mrs. Baker (the other main character), hates him.

Conflict: On Wednesdays, the Catholic kids go to Catechism class, and the Jewish kids go to Hebrew school, and Holling is Presbyterian and the only one left at school with Mrs. Baker, who Holling believes hates him.

Rising Action:  Initially, Mrs. Baker tries to keep Holling occupied by doing various chores, but eventually she begins assigning him Shakespeare - whose plot elements often parallel the storyline in Wednesday Wars – and which surprisingly opens new doors for Holling (including acting in a play, avoiding getting beat-up, and getting a girlfriend).

Climax:  Mrs. Baker and Holling go on an architectural tour of the city, which awakens Holling to think about what’s inside places, not outside, and he realizes the emptiness of the house without his sister there. 

Falling Action:  Holling gets money to his sister so she can return home as school winds to a close.

Resolution: Mrs. Baker’s husband is found and Holling and his classmates go to the airport to greet him. 

Literary Elements:  Figurative language – (for example, this extended metaphor: “We were her garden, and she was starting to see the bulbs and seeds that she had planted last fall coming up.  She raked away our dead leaves, spaded new soil around us, and watered and fertilized. And we grew fast and green, let me tell you” (7.8)”) and repetition of words (for example: “So dumb.” Starting in chapter 5 and continuing throughout the remainder of the book) contribute to the enjoyment of the book. But the most obvious and consistently used element is allusion, especially the references to Shakespeare, throughout story.


Paulsen, G. (1987). Hatchet. New York: Scholastic, Inc. 

LS5360: Newbery.  Another book borrowed from my daughter’s library.  

Exposition:  The story opens in New York and the narrator (third person omniscient) introduces us to main character Brian, who plans to visit his dad for summer vacation in Canada.  

  Thirteen-year-old Brian must put aside the pain of his parents’ divorce and learn to survive the Canadian woods when his plane crashes.

Rising Action:  Brian learns survival tactics within the woods and when a tornado occurs and raises the tail of the plane up to where it’s reachable.

Climax:  Brian finds a way into the tail of the plane and salvages the  “treasures” he believes he will need to continue his life in the woods of Canada.

Falling Action:  Brian unknowingly turns on the emergency transmitter and is rescued.

Resolution:  Brian returns home, and through the Epilogue, the reader finds out about Brian’s life back in the real world and how he puts the secret about his mom to rest. 

Literary Qualities:  Foreshadowing (pilot teaching Brian how to control the plane) and irony (gift of the hatchet to Brian) are used regularly throughout the story.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Rowling, J.K. (2005). Harry Potter and the half-blood prince. New York: Scholastic, Inc.

LS5360: Challenged, Best Seller, Notable. Only two copies of this one in the house, and I was happy to have an excuse to finally read another HP book, though I am still a bit behind.  The books, as is almost always the case, are so much better than the movies - though I will admit I love the movies, too.

Exposition:  The story begins in the wizarding world of present day in England – told through third person point of view - with a bit of a catch-up from the last book, where it seems Lord Voldemort is gaining strength;  the main characters of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, and Albus Dumbledore are reintroduced.

Conflict: With Voldemort’s steadily increasing power, Harry and Dumbledore must find and destroy the Horcruxes belonging to Voldemort, in order to make Voldemort mortal again.

Rising Action:  A Hogwart’s student, Katie Bell, is cursed and Ron is poisoned, but both incidents were intended to affect others; Harry is sure that Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape are involved.

Climax: Dumbledore is murdered.

Falling Action:  The loss of Dumbledore leaves the future of Hogwarts uncertain; Harry discovers the true identity of the Half-Blood Prince.

Resolution:  Dumbledore’s Army of those faithful to Hogwart’s and fighting evil re-group and the strength of their bond, their love, and their commitment is emphasized as Harry says he will find the Horcruxes and not return to Hogwarts, and the stage is set for the next book.

Literary Elements:  Symbolism is heavily used in The Half-Blood Prince (Merope’s locket, for example, symbolizes Voldemort’s only remaining connection to his mother), as is foreshadowing (for example, Harry’s paralysis both in the train car and as Dumbledore is killed).


Sachar, L. (1998). Holes. New York: Dell Yearling.

LS5360: Newbery, ALA Notable.  This was another book of which we had multiple copies in the house as it was very popular with the kids, despite it being forced reading from their teachers.  I really enjoyed this story and how neatly it all tied-up.

I also enjoy writing brief explanations of the elements of the plot, so that’s my new groove.

Exposition:  Told by a narrator through third person limited point of view, it’s current times in New York, when readers are introduced to main character Stanley Yelnats, a friendless, often teased, middle school boy – who has bad luck and oh, a family curse.

Conflict:  With the help of his bad luck, Stanley is wrongfully convicted of a crime and sent to a juvenile correctional facility in Texas.

Rising Action:  Stanley digs holes (and finds out the real purpose behind it), makes deals, builds relationships with other boys, and escapes camp to rescue a boy, Zero, who ran away; both boys nearly die.

Climax:  Stanley’s rescue of Zero breaks the family curse and he and Zero find the treasure – just as the Warden discovers him and Zero.

Falling Action:  Stanley is saved by his attorney and the Texas Attorney General, who arrive on the scene just as the Warden is about to take the treasure and then makes a claim that the boys were trying to steal her suitcase.

Resolution:  The suitcase has Stanley’s name on it, as it belonged to his great-grandfather, his namesake, so he keeps it and the riches inside, is released from the correctional facility, and the facility is shut down.

Literary Elements: Symbolism is predominant (for example, onions are symbolic of positive things like Sam’s livelihood, curing Zero’s food poisoning, protecting Stanley and Zero from the lizards) and irony plays an important role in all the coincidences with people and places interacting.