100 Chapter Books Project: Wonder

wonder

 

The most current book on the Top 100 Chapter Books list is R.J. Palacio’s Wonder from 2012. It’s only at number 65 but I anticipate that, if this poll is ever done again, it will work its way up over the years. It’s a refreshingly honest story about growing up.

What it’s about: August Pullman was born with massive craniofacial deformities. After many surgeries and years of homeschooling, his parents have decided that, for fifth grade, it’s time that he attend school. The book follows Auggie, his older sister Via, and their friends through this first year that he spends at Beecher Prep.

Age level: Grades 4+

Best part: I loved the multiple viewpoints. Though Auggie has the most obvious trial to deal with, he’s not the only one who doesn’t have an easy way through things. We see many realistic teenage trials like loss of friends, parental divorce, poverty, and academics.

Worst part: The tears that this book caused me. You really couldn’t read this one in public because it will make you cry like half a dozen times!

Verdict: Buy

There are a few parts of this book that will probably feel dated later because Palacio uses pop culture references quite a bit. Still, the overall messages of the book are so important and universal that this story will have staying power regardless. Kids and adults both love this book too which means it will always be in libraries. We don’t have a copy in our home library yet but we will soon.

The next book up is Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson, which probably means it will not be merely tear-inducing, rather it will be heart-wrenching-sob-inducing. I’m looking forward to it being a strong story.

*****
Schedule – August through October
August 15 – #43 Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson (1980)
August 31 – #77 My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (1959)
September 15 – #46 The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi (1990)
September 30 – #55 All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor (1951)
October 15 – #23 Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (1989)
October 31 – # The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (1958)

100 Chapter Books Project: The Giver

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I have to admit that I didn’t have plans to ever read Lois Lowry’s The Giver (1993). Even its place near the top of the Top 100 Chapter Books list (fourth!) didn’t give me any confidence that it would be a book I would enjoy. I’m not a fan of dystopias, especially those where the protagonists are children. I also am not a fan of this cover. (This could be why I ended up choosing to get the audiobook version.) However, the fact that I spent the last week making excuses to find time to listen (I did extra weeding in the yard!) will clue you in to how my feelings about this book have changed.

What it’s about: Jonas lives in a highly controlled community where families are assigned (two parents, two children — one boy, one girl), life is about rules, and free will is unknown. Jonas is turning twelve and is about to be assigned his adult job based on his personality and skills. To everyone’s surprise, rather than a standard job, he is told he will be the new Receiver. To have this job means to be set apart from everyone else, doing a job that not many understand, a job that will change his view of the entire community and its way of life.

Age level: Grades 6-8

Best part: The community seems rigid and boring at the start but the true horror of it is only slowly revealed, leaving the reader to find everything out at the same time as Jonas. It’s a very effective way of telling this story.

Worst part: The vague ending. I’m not the only one to think this either. Apparently, readers bugged Lowry for years, asking what really happened at the end. It prompted her to write three other books set in the world of The Giver, though apparently the fate of Jonas is revealed with just a brief mention.

Verdict: Buy (Borrow)

I decided to give this a weird verdict because I wanted it to count among the best books I’ve read during this project but I’m not sure that it would be one to have on a home bookshelf. I can’t imagine ever wanting to reread it. But I think it should be in every library and on lots of reading lists. It’s a thought-provoking, life-changing story.

Have you read The Giver?

The next book I’m reading is The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright. This is the second book on the list about The Melendy family (the first was The Saturdays which I liked but didn’t love). I have a feeling I’ll feel the same about this one.

*****
Schedule – June through August
 
June 15 – #80 The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright (1942)
June 30 – #70 Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (1994)
July 15 – #7 From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (1967)
July 31 – #65 Wonder by R.J. Palacio (2012)
August 15 – #43 Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson (1980)
August 31 – #77 My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (1959)

100 Chapter Books Project: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

lwworiginal

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) by C.S. Lewis is number five on the Top 100 Chapter Books list.

What it’s about: Simply, four siblings–Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy–find a fantasy land through the back panel of a wardrobe.

Age level: Grades 4-6

Best part: The wardrobe, of course. Why else would parents build secret playrooms, accessible only through a large cabinet?

Worst part: Sexism and violence. Here’s one example — To Susan and Lucy, spoken by Father Christmas:

“You must use the bow only in great need,” he said, “for I do not mean you to fight in the battle.” …

“And the dagger is to defend yourself at great need. For you also are not to be in the battle.”

“Why, sir?” said Lucy. “I think–I don’t know–but I think I could be brave enough.”

“That is not the point,” he said. “But battles are ugly when women fight.”

I have to admit that this time through I really noticed the sexism and the promotion of children committing violence. The fact that Aslan makes Peter prove himself by killing and then berates him for being emotional afterward instead of cool and detached and immediately wiping his sword like a trained killer made me feel sick.

Verdict: Borrow

I also found myself getting annoyed at Lewis’ patronizing tone. His writing is simple and cold and, frankly, unfriendly. It seemed like I was having a story told at me instead of to me. I think this was highlighted even more because I had to read this right in the middle of my Diana Wynne Jones month. (Unrelated tidbit: She went to Oxford and had Lewis as one of her lecturers.) Her writing is so magical and full and alive while his felt stale and sparse. I’m actually quite disappointed with this reread. Have you reread any of the Narnia books as an adult? Do some work better than others?

I’ll admit that I’ve already listened to my next book, Each Little Bird That Sings, and it was wonderful. So, if you have time, grab a copy and join me next month for the discussion. You won’t regret it. It’s a story like no other!

*****
Schedule – April through June
April 15 – #71 Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles (2005)
April 30 – Spring Break
May 15 – #31 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)
May 31 – #4 The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)
June 15 – #80 The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright (1942)
June 30 – #70 Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (1994)