Sunday, July 20, 2008

Chanda's Secrets by Allan Stratton

I was very moved by this novel and am not surprised that it was a Prinz honor award winner. I loved the character of Chanda, I thought she was smart and determined, I really came to care for and believe in her. I loved that she had the courage to face the situation and overcomes the secrecy and shame associated with the disease. I wanted to know more about her and what happens to her. I realized that there is a sequel to the novel titled Chanda's War, which picks up 6 months after her mother's death and centers around a civil war in their country and rebels invading their village. I am anxious to read it. I also liked the character of Esther! And was thrilled that Chanda was willing to stick by her friend. I also liked that she had the courage to be tested for AIDS.

I felt the description of the situation in modern-day Africa was extremely vivid and convincing. I don't know that students would realize right away that the setting of the story is contemporary...they might need some background information regarding this before reading the story. Is this an issue they deal with in Global II? Maybe Cathy P. could answer that? I thought the connection to the diamond minds might trigger something in the students...since they may have seen the movie Blood Diamonds. I think this is an excellent book for the Global II book list.

Again, I thought the author did an excellent job describing life in this African village- the horrific conditions the family lives in, and the poverty and the devastion of AIDS victims comes across very clearly. I felt this was the strongest part of the novel. I was surprised to learned, after I read the book, that the country depicted in the novel is fictional. I was disappointed, then thought that this was probably a tool the author used to make a point...that AIDS is a tremendous problem throughout all of Africa...that it is not limited to one country.

Overall I felt the book brings to light a topic that is definitely ignored in our society. I thought the ending was perhaps a bit too pat...her neighbors, especially Mrs. Tafa, all quickly coming out in the open in support seemed a bit unrealistic. But I'm a sucker for an ending like that so I liked it. I bit different than StarGirl! :-) Anxious to see what you all thought.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

I first read this book in 2000 when it first came out and loved it, I didn't analyse it or think too hard about it...I just liked it. I always had a place in my heart for Stargirl...the girl who dared to be different! (I think I was a bit jealous.) This year the companion novel- Love, Stargirl was published and my interest in this novel was renewed, which led me to think it might be a good book for our blog. I reread the book this week and all the memories I had when I first read it came flooding back. Yes, I still loved it! Some might think it is a bit schmaltzy and her naivete annoying, but I just want every high school student who thinks about being different, is different or is trying to excerpt their individuality, to read it.

Literally speaking I like the way Jerry Spinelli tells the story in a type of flash back. It was very powerful to read the epilogue and realize that Leo is now an adult and has been retelling the story from this point of view. This was very thought provoking. Overall,I was very disappointed in Leo! Somehow I was hopeful he would redeem himself, stand up for her, and get her back. I was so sad when he chose conformity and acceptance over Stargirl! I somehow wanted him to rise above that.

Sadly, also, is the realization that high school is a time when kids feel it is so important to "fit in" and not stand out or be different. I think by reading this book it would give students a venue to discuss the issue of individuality versus conformity. However, one reviewer I read commented that he felt the story would have more credibility if Stargirl was less naive or as he said, "But to make it real, Stargirl needed to have at least one foot on the ground." I don't know if I agree with this. (Was this spoken like a true male??? I don't know!) What comes across loud and clear, at least to me, is how hard it is to chose between individuality and being accepted by one's peers. Look at what Leo gives up!

I have to say I was a bit disappointed in the companion book- Love, Stargirl. I think I was hoping for more of a sequel. Sorry- for those of you looking for conclusions...Does Stargirl contact Leo? Does she go to a reunion? What does she do with her life? Sadly, this book doesn't wrap things up in a nice big bow-but it is worth the read.

I'm anxious to see what you all thought. Did the book stand the test of time? Is it a worthy read? Or am I just letting my insecure high school angst cloud my judgement?!