100 Chapter Books Project: Flipped

Flipped_by_Wendelin_Van_Draanen

I seem to have hit a rough patch in my Top 100 Chapter Books project. This latest read, Flipped (2001) by Wendelin Van Draanen was at #92 on the list so it wasn’t incredibly popular but there were some people who listed it as a favorite. I truly have to wonder why.

What it’s about: The chapters alternate between the viewpoints of Bryce Loski and Julianne Baker from the age of 7 until 8th grade.

Age level: Grades 6-8

Best part: A set of truly loving parents.

Worst part: Calling a mentally-challenged adult “retarded” and “retard” many, many times and then giving him a non-descript mishmash of personality/emotional traits that come from many different conditions. A few moments of thoughtfulness and research would have improved this greatly.

Verdict: Borrow

I finished this book feeling quite underwhelmed. There were things that seemed like they belonged more in a YA novel than a chapter book (like Bryce’s dad accusing two teens of being drug dealers). There was also the strangeness of a book that focuses on what is eventually a potential romantic relationship between pre-teens. Multiple times the parents of these kids see a glimmer of attraction between them and give a knowing look or try to kindle the relationship and it’s frankly creepy, especially when it happens on the day they meet when the kids are only seven years old. Even Bryce’s grandpa implies that Bryce should appreciate Juli’s uniqueness and look at her differently, in the way grandpa did with grandma when he fell in love with her. This is when the kids are in SIXTH GRADE. The dialogue is also poorly written in places, using words and phrases that kids just wouldn’t use. It makes the story awkward, again like an adult speaking for children.

I did like seeing the events from two different points of view and I think the message that you shouldn’t judge someone else’s life without knowing their full story is always an important one for kids. Still, I’m sure there are better stories out there that touch on some of the same issues.

Thank goodness for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’m so relieved to be reading it next!

*****
Schedule – February through May
February 28 – #61 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (1964)
March 15 – #40 Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (1990)
March 31 – #24 Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary (1968)
April 15 – #69 The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (2006)
April 30 – Spring Break
May 15 – #45 Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (1960)

100 Chapter Books Project: The Great Gilly Hopkins

GreatGilly1

I’m having a lot of trouble deciding what to say about my latest Top 100 Chapter Books list read, The Great Gilly Hopkins (1978) by Katherine Paterson, because I have had so many thoughts about it since I finished listening to the story about a week ago. I went back to Betsy’s post about the book and it did help me understand a bit of where the story came from.

What it’s about: Gilly, real name Galadriel Hopkins, was abandoned by her mother to the foster system when she was a baby. She has been through a string of foster homes in her eleven years, all with faults, some worse than others. The latest one is with a widow named Trotter and a foster boy named William Ernest. With all of the emotional damage Gilly has collected over the years, will she be able to open her heart when she is finally placed with good people?

Age level: Grades 5-8

Best part: The change in Gilly’s views on African-Americans and Trotter and William Ernest through the book and the incorporation of a Wordsworth poem into the story.

Worst part: Gilly’s horrid words (and the author’s) about Trotter’s weight, her words about William Ernest (repeatedly calling him a retard), and her use of the “n” word (I assume it was originally written in the book — the audiobook just had a blank pause where it would have been and I would guess it has been taken out in later editions). Also, her stealing from a blind neighbor, her birth mother’s actions, and Trotter’s final words about happiness. Even at the end, I never really came to like Gilly either — which is a problem.

Verdict: Borrow/Skip

Okay. So, this is the fourth book that I’ve given a “skip” in the 70+ I’ve read. Two were by Judy Blume and were written in the early 1970s and two were by Katherine Paterson and were written in the late 70s. I’m conceding defeat as far as these authors go. I would have given this a full on skip if it wasn’t for the fact that it was so honest about what it must feel like to be a foster kid. And, in fact, the book was written after Paterson’s own experience as a foster parent and that authenticity comes through.

There is a movie version that is being released this month with Kathy Bates as Trotter. I’m not sure if it’s being done as a period piece because, honestly, you would have to take out much of Gilly’s racism because it is frankly unacceptable these days and her punishments for the things she does (like mocking her African-American teacher’s looks in a homemade greeting card) would be far more severe. Also, the fat-shaming of Trotter is annoying and unacceptable. Not only does Gilly think of her as a hippopotamus but one of the scenes is written around a flu-weakened Trotter falling on top of Gilly and squishing her. I would only hope that this would be taken out of the story as well because it’s awful. And her treatment of the gentle but slow William Ernest makes me want to vomit in anger. Also, the way she finally bonds with him is to teach him to fight. Blech. I just loathed so much of this story. It’s a product of a decade that wasn’t one of America’s finest.

My next post will be a couple of days early because of BBAW but luckily Flipped is a really short (and hopefully fun) book — although it’s a YA romance so I’m guessing that it probably doesn’t even belong on a middle grade chapter book list. Sigh. Okay, now I’m REALLY looking forward to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

*****
Schedule – February through April
February 13 – #92 Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen (2001)
February 28 – #61 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (1964)
March 15 – #40 Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (1990)
March 31 – #24 Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary (1968)
April 15 – #69 The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (2006)
April 30 – Spring Break

100 Chapter Books Project: Winnie the Pooh

winniethepooh

Though it is for a younger audience than almost all of the other books on the Top 100 Chapter Books list, Winnie the Pooh (1926) by A.A. Milne nevertheless has chapters and is a perennial favorite so here it is at number 26.

What it’s about: A silly old bear and his boy have adventures in the Hundred Acre Woods with their friends Piglet, Rabbit, Eeyore, Owl, Kanga, and Roo.

Age level: Grades 3+

Best part: The familiarity of these stories is lovely and makes me happy.

Worst part: The narrator sometimes interferes with the stories and takes a bit of the magic out of them.

Verdict: Buy

I felt like I had read this story a million times but, in fact, it turns out that I’ve mostly been watching the Disney versions of the Pooh tales. There are some parts that are better in one than the other and vice versa. I think kids will love the slightly happier Eeyore in the book but probably will like the sweeter Piglet of the shows. Also, the Disney dollars are going to keep this story alive for many more years to come.

I feel like I’m in the home stretch of this project now with just 28 books to go. I’ll finish up a year from April so, if you’re getting tired of seeing chapter book reviews, you just have to put up with them for 16 more months (::wink::)! I have quite a few books coming up that I’ve never read and probably never intended to read so if you have something nice to say about a book you see below, feel free to comment on it!

*****
Schedule – January through April
January 31 – #63 The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (1978)
February 15 – #92 Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen (2001)
February 28 – #61 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (1964)
March 15 – #40 Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (1990)
March 31 – #24 Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary (1968)
April 15 – #69 The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (2006)
April 30 – Spring Break