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Archive for the ‘Magical Realism’ Category

Stargirl

Stargirl
By Jerry Spinelli
ISBN: 97803758233x
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Date of Publication: 2000

Reader’s Annotation:
Leo Borlock’s world is turned upside down when he meets the new girl at school.

Plot Summary:
Leo Borlock is an average high school student at an average high school in Arizona. On an ordinary day an extraordinary girl makes her first appearance and instantly captures Leo’s heart. Her name is Stargirl. A former homeschool student, Stargirl decided to enter public school to find out about the high school experience.  She believes in living life to the fullest and looks for any opportunity to find joy in her surroundings.

At first, the school rejoices in her individuality, finding her to be a piece of fresh air. But as the school year progresses, opinions begin to change and soon the school begins to attack Stargirl for being different. Leo finds himself caught in a struggle between his love of Stargirl and the pressures of high school society. Leo finds he must choose between what is considered “normal” and what it means to follow your heart.

Critical Evaluation:
High School can be a horrific place to experiment with individuality. In the beginning you might be judged as the freak and ignored by the majority of the student body. You might be looked upon as a novelty, something to be stared at in amusement before everyone else goes about their day.

Stargirl believes in being herself. She doesn’t know anything different than that concept. When Leo tries to ignore the majority’s negative opinion about Stargirl, he finds he doesn’t like the isolation as much as he thought he did. The need for acceptance is a powerful trait for anyone at any time in their life. While we want to see Stargirl become the jewel of the school, we understand Leo’s dilemma. He wants to bask in Stargirl’s individuality, but the opinions of others stifles his feelings and in the end allows the relationship to whither and fade out of existence.

Any reader who struggles with the concept of individuality or identity will feel empathy over Stargirl’s journey. The same readers will understand Leo’s struggle with group think and high school popularity issues.

Information about the Author:
From Jerry Spinelli’s Webpage, a graduate of Gettysburg College, began his writing career early during his high school years. His first book, Space Station Seventh Grade, was written in between his work as a men’s wear editor.

Spinelli has drawn inspiration from his own childhood and by watching his six children grow up. He is the author of 30 books as well as the grandfather of 21 grandchildren.

Genre:
Realistic Fiction, Romance

Curriculum Ties:
Non-confromity

Booktalking Ideas:
What’s your idea of being normal?
What does it mean to be friends with someone outside of the “norm”?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews gives a suggested age range of 11-14.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
While Jerry Spinelli is known for books catered to a young age, Stargirl is perfect for young adults due to it’s honest discussion of conformity and group think mentality.

Reference:
Kirkus Reviews. (2000). Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/jerry-spinelli/stargirl/

Spinelli, J. (n.d.). About. Retrieved from http://www.jerryspinelli.com/newbery_008.htm

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Everybody Sees the Ants

Everybody Sees the Ants
By A.S. King
ISBN: 9780316129282
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Date of Publication: 2011

Reader’s Annotation:

After a bully threatens Lucky Linderman, his mother takes him to Arizona, where he begins to learn what it means to stand up for one’s self.

Plot Summary:
Lucky Linderman is considered a “problem” teen with “social problems”. This assessment stems more from an assignment for his social studies class. Lucky was to create a survey and asses the results in a research paper. The question he presented was what landed him in trouble:

“If you were going to commit suicide, what method would you choose?”

Naturally the school’s administration is up in arms. Lucky vows to never smile again.

Six months pass and Lucky does his best to avoid trouble. This changes dramatically when he helps a young girl find her missing bikini top at the bottom of the pool. Lucky was the only one willing to help the girl as the bully in Lucky’s life refused to help and threatened anyone who did. Now Nader McMillian has Lucky in his sights and won’t be satisfied until Lucky suffers. Unsatisfied with her husband’s response to the situation, Lucky’s mother decides to take him to Arizona to visit her brother and his family.

During his time in Arizona, Lucky begins to find strength and confidence, pushing out of the comfort zone he had struggled to maintain. His uncle teaches him about body building and he meets an eccentric girl who is a hair model. While Lucky begins to understand how to stand up for himself, he continues to have dreams where he talks to his grandfather, a Vietnam POW that was missing in action. As the dream conversations continue, Lucky begins to understand the different meanings of strength and that life has a way of healing old wounds, depute age or time.

Critical Evaluation:
Using magical realism and fantasy as a means of exploring Lucky’s reactions and emotions, A.S. King provides readers with a stirring tale of a broken family struggling to heal itself. The pacing of the story was at first confusing as King moves from flashback to dream sequence to reality quite quickly. The rhythm is found soon enough and the reader adapts swiftly enough.

While the story does focus on the bullying aspect between Lucky and Nader, the larger story is how a family becomes broken before it’s even created. King shows readers that family dynamics are created through our experiences and upbringing. What affected a father in his youth, affects his son in the present. Families have generational patterns, for better or worse. It’s up to each member to recognize those patterns and evolve for emotional survival. King’s skill as a writer is highlighted here with this family dynamic. It’s hard to read at time because you want the characters to have larger reactions. Yet, you can’t help but want to read the book because it means the characters have stayed true to themselves.

The dynamics between Lucky and his young grandfather are heartbreaking in that you can’t help but wonder what it would have been like if Lucky had his grandfather when he was younger. Yet, Lucky does eventually realize that he wouldn’t have become the person he was now. The same could be said with the relationship between Lucky’s father, as the grandfather’s absence plays a large part on how Lucky’s father reacts or, in most cases, doesn’t react.

The book succeeds because of King’s writing talent and her imagination. Between Lucky’s conversations with imaginary ants or watching as a group of militant young high school girls perform The Vagina Monologues, Everybody Sees the Ants will provide readers with both humor and thought-provoking ideas.

Information about the Author:
From A.S. King’s Webpage, Amy Sarig King was born in Pennyslvania, where she currently lives with her husband and children. While she has always desired to be a writer, King has a degree in Photography from the Art Institute of Philadephia. King has written four books with a fifth to be published in the Fall of 2013. King is a public speaker for libraries and schools and has worked in writing workshops to assist other writers with their skills.

King’s Webpage provides resources for educators and teens in regards to her books.

A.S. King on Twitter

A.S. King on Facebook

Genre:
Realistic Fiction, Magical Realism, Mystery/Crime

Curriculum Ties:
Death and Dying, Family Relationships

Booktalking Ideas:
What types of conversations do we have when we are alone?
How important is communication? With friends? With family?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Kirkus Reviews recommends a reading age of 14-18.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential Issues would be bullying and violence.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
Having been impressed with A.S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz, I was excited to see she had written more titles. Everybody Sees the Ants was an engrossing read and timely as well. As the issue of bullying continues to gain recognition, I thought this would be a great book to recommend for those who have suffered bullying in the past.

Reference:
King, A.S. (n.d.). Author. as-king.com Retrieved from http://www.as-king.com/html/author.php

Kirkus Review. (2010). Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/as-king/please-ignore-vera-dietz/

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Weetzie Bat (Dangerous Angels)
By Francesca Lia Block
ISBN: 978-0-06-200740-7
Publisher: Harper Teen, an imprint of HarperCollins
Date of Publication: 1989

Reader’s Annotation:
Weetzie Bat juggles friendship and love in the enchanted city of Los Angeles.

Plot Summary:
Published in 1989, Francesca Lia Block’s tale of romance and friendship proves a mythical, whimsical tale set in the heart of Los Angeles. Weetzie Bat and her best friend Dirk must endure the challenges of love and friendship as they struggle to understand what it means to be an individual in a large and strange world.

Critical Evaluation:
Block’s work has known its share of controversy, primarily due to the wide range of topics presented in the less than 100 page story; sexual abuse, homosexuality, teen pregnancy, and substance abuse. Block presents Los Angeles as both a fantasy land in which dreams can come true and as a harsh reality in where pain is part of even the most happiest of existence. While the material might have a whimsy tone in terms of writing style, it’s because of said writing style that the story becomes endearing. Block’s story is meant to show how a family can be created and how a city can become a playground. Overall, despite the large issues presented, the story is a fairytale and is a fun fast read for anyone interested in magical realism.

Information about the Author:
From Francesca Lia Block’s Webpage, a lifelong resident of Los Angeles, Block is the author of over thirty books. Renouned for her realistic portayl of the city of Los Angeles, Block’s stories have been called mythical, with shades of magical realism scattered throughout her tales.

Francesca Lia Block on Twitter

A recent interview with Francesca Lia Block with the Los Angeles Review of Books

Genre:
Realistic Fiction, Magical Realism, Romance

Curriculum Ties:
Modern Mythology, City Histories

Booktalking Ideas:
Why does Weetzie and her friends feel that Los Angeles is a magical place?
What makes a book a fantasy or a realistic title?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Weetzie Bat was originally published for adult audiences. It has now found a home amongst young adult readers. A suggested age range for this book would be fifteen and up.

Challenging Issues:
Block’s Los Angeles fairytale has been challenged several times since it’s publication. Issues such as homosexuality, teen pregnancy, and substance abuse have been the more cited reasons for the challenges.

The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Why was this book chosen?
Weetzie Bat was another book that I was assigned to read for my Materials for Young Adults course through San Jose State University. The book was a short read (less than a 100 pages) but the material included in the book was very dense. The various issues the characters endure are relate-able to any age group.

weetzie

Reference:
Block, F.L. (n.d.). Bio. Retrieved from http://www.francescaliablock.com/bio

Kirkus Reviews. (1989). Weetzie Bat. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/francesca-lia-block/weetzie-bat/

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