The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

I knew absolutely nothing about this book before reading it, but I’m so glad that I gave it a try.

In a word, this book is one of those books that is everything.

That all starts with the characters. The main character, Junior, is determined and trying to pave his own way to success in a world where everyone is trying to hold him back or thinks less of him. He didn’t let anything deter him even though he ends up having to go through some horrible things like bullying and the loss of his best friend. I sympathized with him every step of the way, and I related to his voice and his story.

Honestly, the highlight of this book is Junior. He makes the entire narrative, and his perceptions of occurrences and settings that people may think is everyday or ordinary are simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious. He restores your faith in humanity and takes it away several times throughout the novel.

This book is important. That’s all there is left to say.

The first time I approached this book in a school setting, my class was in middle school, which is why I’m posting this here instead of RealityLapse, but I probably wouldn’t recommend this one for most middle schoolers. High school might be more accurate, considering that this book touches upon a lot of sensitive subjects.

4.5 stars. A great book definitely worth a read.

pg count for the hardback: 230

Review: Does My Head Look Big In This by Randa Abdel-Fattah

does my head look big in this by randa abdel-fattah

When sixteen-year-old Amal decides to wear the hijab full-time, her entire world changes, all because of a piece of cloth…

Sixteen-year-old Amal makes the decision to start wearing the hijab full- time and everyone has a reaction. Her parents, her teachers, her friends, people on the street. But she stands by her decision to embrace her faith and all that it is, even if it does make her a little different from everyone else.

Can she handle the taunts of “towel head,” the prejudice of her classmates, and still attract the cutest boy in school? Brilliantly funny and poignant, Randa Abdel-Fattah’s debut novel will strike a chord in all teenage readers, no matter what their beliefs.

Description taken from Goodreads.


A few years back, when Frozen first came out, Fandoms and Feminism did a post on the possible LGBT themes within Frozen. In the end, Rosie concluded that it’s easy to say that Elsa could easily be a metaphor for being gay, “but ultimately, Elsa isn’t the queer icon that [the community] deserves.”

The reasons are different, but that claim remains the same. Amal might be a Muslim heroine who decides to wear a hijab and be proud of her religion, and that’s great, but she isn’t the Muslim heroine that the community needs or deserves. This book isn’t the book about this topic that the community deserves.

So, in essence, what I’m saying is that even though people laud this book for what it’s about, what really matters is how it was executed, and it was executed incorrectly.

Amal is a whiny, cliché, angst-filled brat who feels more like a 13 year old than a 16 year old. She’s petty and she has next to none of the deep, real conflict that comes with deciding to do something such as wearing a hijab to school. Her actions feel contrived and forced, like something on a movie versus how something actually is in real life. I disliked her voice and she felt incredibly fake.

For me, Amal ruined this story. Sure, this is an important topic, but I disagree that the ideas are all that matter. I would maybe end up recommending this simply because I don’t know of any other story on this topic, but I’m still waiting for the book with a Muslim heroine that people deserve. 2 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 360

Review: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

the one and only ivan by katherine applegate

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

Description taken from Goodreads.


There are some undeniably charming aspects about this book. I loved getting to know Ivan, and I came to care about the characters much more than I thought that I would. Ivan’s relationships with Ruby, Bob and Stella were beautiful. The themes in this story, and the ultimate lessons of it, are definitely award-worthy.

What I was ambivalent about was the narration. I understand why Applegate decided to tell this story the way she did, because later on in the book, the simplicity of the prose and the short sentences accentuated every aspect of this story: Ivan’s ways of expressing himself, his nature, the way he feels about things and the world around him. It was like poetry, but I know that when I was a kid, I never would’ve been interested in this kind of book. I loved stories like Ann M. Martin’s A DOG’S LIFE and Erin Hunter’s WARRIORS series, but I was never really one for poetry.

All in all, this will be a great read for adult lovers of middle-grade lit, but it’s not one that I would recommend to middle-grade kids. Good for historical fiction studies. 2.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 307

Bucket List Middle-Grade Books

There are lots of books published every single day that are amazing, but today I’m doing a throwback on the books I loved as a kid that I really wish kids would still read today (if they don’t). This list doesn’t include middle-grade or kid books that I’ve read recently, even though those can be awesome as well. For a list of books reviewed on TRT that I loved, I would recommend looking at the Books I Recommend page. Age range for this list varies from about 9 – 13.

  • When My Name was Keoko by Linda Sue Park. 11+.
  • Holes by Louis Sachar. 10+.
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. 10+.
  • The Hobbit (really anything by J.R.R. Tolkien). 10+.
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. 9+.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. 12+.
  • The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. 10+.
  • Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson. 10+
  • American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. 11+
  • From The Mixed Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler. 9+
  • The BFG by Roald Dahl. 9+
  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. 9+
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. 10+
  • The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo. 10+
  • The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. 11+
  • Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper. 9+
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. 11+
  • Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. 12+
  • The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan. 10+
  • Into the Wild by Erin Hunter. 10+
  • Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine. 12+
  • The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney. 10+
  • The False Prince by Jennifer A. Neilsen. 11+
  • Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi. 10+
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. 11+
  • The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. 10+
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. 11+
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. 10+
  • Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. 10+
  • The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket. 10+
  • Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen. 11+
  • Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. 9+
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. 9+
  • D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingri D’Aulaire and Edgar D’Aulaire. 10+
  • My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. 9+
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. 10+

Review: Revolution by Deborah Wiles

revolution by deborah wiles

*A 2014 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST*

It’s 1964, and Sunny’s town is being invaded. Or at least that’s what the adults of Greenwood, Mississippi, are saying. All Sunny knows is that people from up north are coming to help people register to vote. They’re calling it Freedom Summer.

Meanwhile, Sunny can’t help but feel like her house is being invaded, too. She has a new stepmother, a new brother, and a new sister crowding her life, giving her little room to breathe. And things get even trickier when Sunny and her brother are caught sneaking into the local swimming pool — where they bump into a mystery boy whose life is going to become tangled up in theirs.

As she did in her groundbreaking documentary novel COUNTDOWN, award-winning author Deborah Wiles uses stories and images to tell the riveting story of a certain time and place — and of kids who, in a world where everyone is choosing sides, must figure out how to stand up for themselves and fight for what’s right.

Description taken from Goodreads.


This is the type of book for which Tweens Read Too was created.

The thing about REVOLUTION, along with the first book in the SIXTIES trilogy is that it’s a great read. It’s an awesome way to learn about the era of the Sixties as well as what the everyday lives of the people were like. It’s literally full to bursting with information, and in every page it’s evident how much research is poured into these novels. I respect that, and I really learned a lot from reading these books.

However, I don’t think these are books that tweens will actually enjoy reading. At least, not the tween that I was and not the tweens (or even teens, really) that I know. This book is great to read for a research paper on that time period, maybe for a book report, but it’s very historical fiction. At times, REVOLUTION is overwhelming and I felt like there was too much to look at. I just wanted to read the book, but I couldn’t do that without looking at everything at once.

All in all, REVOLUTION is a good read that I would recommend for fans of historical fiction. It’s very well-written, but not the most entertaining for the average reader. Instead, if you’re looking at history in general, I would go for Ying Chang Compestine’s REVOLUTION IS NOT A DINNER PARTY about the Chinese Revolution, Lisa T. Bergren’s RIVER OF TIME series about ancient Italy, Jennifer Donnelly’s REVOLUTION about the French Revolution or Michelle Moran’s MADAME TUSSAUD novel also about the French Revolution. 3 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 538

Series: The Sixties Trilogy #2

Books With Kids: Books to Movies

There have been an influx of young-adult books that have been made into movies such as Divergent by Veronica Roth, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green and THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky. Recently, I was thinking about getting together a group of bloggers and having a segment feature on my YA blog, RealityLapse, about books to movies and having a movie watch-along and then a book read-along and having wrap up posts on our thoughts on all of them.

And then I got the idea about reading with my little cousin. She loves books (thankfully) and I was trying to think of something to do with her while all my excess time on break. Keeping her quiet and hearing her thoughts on stories (as well as introducing her to some of my favorites) seemed like a great idea.

Of course, reading all of these and watching all of these all at once would probably be a bad idea for the average people–no matter what ages or schedules, so this list is not composed with that in mind. It’s more of a go-as-you-can list, and of course there are plenty more books-to-movies than these. It’s a fun thing to do across genres and target demographics, and a great way to bond with kids.

I’ve listed some great ones below. Some are younger than middle-grade reading and some are older. Like with Jeff Kinney’s books, some parents might not love the humor in those stories, so please exercise discretion when picking from this list (or others). Other than that, happy reading!

  • Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
  • Eragon by Christopher Paolini
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  • The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  • The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan: What’s With This Hype?

In the tradition of Out of My MindWonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

Description taken from Goodreads.

I’m sorry, but I don’t understand the appeal to this book. It’s always hard when you’re the black sheep review out of all the rave ones. I felt like this book was much longer than it needed to be and it was extremely quirky. I read it because of the hype around it, but this was one of those books where I just can’t understand where all this is coming from. Willow was cute at first, but then she became annoying and I started to lose focus on her voice as a character and just tried to get a grip on the story as a whole.

One thing about this story… It is nothing like MOCKINGBIRD, WONDER or OUT OF MY MIND. OUT OF MY MIND is one of my five star books, and the way it got there was mostly because of the character of Melody herself. You could feel her every emotion and thought like it was your own, and I wanted so badly to know her in real life. As for MOCKINGBIRD and WONDER, I never really loved them the way that everyone else did–but I could see the appeal behind them. Some parts to MOCKINGBIRD were genius. Kathryn Erskine completely captured the moment, making you feel like you were right there, watching Caitlin and her struggles. Her definitions and the way she wrote the story was unlike anything I’d ever read before at the time. WONDER was a new perspective on things for me. I saw August and I began to appreciate his story for the people Auggie is, if that makes sense, and just like after OOMM, I saw things in a different way.

But COUNTING BY 7s never gave me that feeling, any of those feelings. I hardly felt like I knew Willow at all. I understood what she was going through and at times, I appreciated her voice, but I felt like I was watching from the outside. This story just wasn’t for me. If you read this book and enjoyed it, even if you didn’t, then you should try at least one of those three books. 2 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 384

Until Tuesday and From Baghdad, With Love: Books For Dog Lovers

I don’t often read nonfiction.

Sometimes I do, when the topic intrigues me or the title is interesting.

But most of the time, when I read nonfiction, it’s because it’s about a dog.

I’ve read my fair share of fiction animal stories–a good amount of them about dogs. They’re some of my favorite animals, and the one animal story that I rated five stars was Garth Stein’s THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN, which is about a dog.

Very recently, I finished reading these two dog books:

until tuesday from baghdad, with love

 

And I was impressed.

I think I liked UNTIL TUESDAY better, but they were both great, heartwarming, informative reads. These books are about hope, encouragement and suffering. These books are written with brutal honesty, UNTIL TUESDAY especially. I laughed and smiled as I read these books and I highly encourage them for dog lovers.

Both great books.

Until Tuesday

“We aren’t just service dog and master; Tuesday and I are also best friends. Kindred souls. Brothers. Whatever you want to call it. We weren’t made for each other, but we turned out to be exactly what the other needed.”

A highly decorated captain in the U.S. Army, Luis Montalván never backed down from a challenge during his two tours of duty in Iraq. After returning home from combat, however, the pressures of his physical wounds, traumatic brain injury, and crippling post-traumatic stress disorder began to take their toll. Haunted by the war and in constant physical pain, he soon found himself unable to climb a simple flight of stairs or face a bus ride to the VA hospital. He drank; he argued; ultimately, he cut himself off from those he loved. Alienated and alone, unable to sleep or bend over without pain, he began to wonder if he would ever recover.

Then Luis met Tuesday, a beautiful and sensitive golden retriever trained to assist the disabled. Tuesday had lived amongst prisoners and at a home for troubled boys, blessing many lives; he could turn on lights, open doors, and sense the onset of anxiety and flashbacks. But because of a unique training situation and sensitive nature, he found it difficult to trust in or connect with a human being—until Luis.

Until Tuesday is the story of how two wounded warriors, who had given so much and suffered the consequences, found salvation in each other. It is a story about war and peace, injury and recovery, psychological wounds and spiritual restoration. But more than that, it is a story about the love between a man and dog, and how together they healed each other’s souls.

From Baghdad, With Love

Snuffle. Clickclickclick. Snuffleclick.
An insurgent strapping a bomb to his chest ? 
They should have prepped the room first with a grenade – tossed it in and just let it do all the dirty work. Instead, for reasons still obscured by war and fear and things just destined to be, they backed up to the walls on either side of the doorway and positioned their weapons to fire.
They thrust the guns around the corner, squared off, and zeroed in on the clicks as their target rushed to the other side of the room.
The puppy turned at the sound of their voices and stated at them.
He cocked his head trying to interpret their intent rather than their words.
“You gotta be kidding.”
Then he yipped, wagged his tail, and clicked his toenails on the floor as he pranced up and down in place, happy it seemed someone had found him at last.

For more great dog books, click here!

pg count for UNTIL TUESDAY: h, 252

pg count for FROM BAGHDAD, WITH LOVE: h, 196

Darkwing by Kenneth Oppel: How I Grew to Love a Book About Bats

As the sun sets on the time of the dinosaurs, a new world is left in its wake. . . .

Dusk

He alone can fly and see in the dark, in a colony where being different means being shunned—or worse. As the leader’s son, he is protected, but does his future lie among his kin?

Carnassial

He has the true instincts of a predator, and he is determined that his kind will not only survive but will dominate the world of beasts.

I love the SILVERWING series. I mean, I know right? Bats. Who would’ve thought…

But that’s not the point.

Maybe you have noticed or maybe you haven’t, but I make it a point to not review a certain book in a series unless you’ve got something where every book in the series is a different story altogether. I usually only do the first books, guys. And if I do want to review a series, I review the whole series in one post. The only usual reason why I would review a certain book in the series (i.e. #2, #3, #4, #5, etc.) is either because a) someone wanted me to or b) because that book was my favorite book in the series.

This time, it’s b.

That’s right. The fourth and final book in the series is my favorite. I loved Carnassial (awesome name, bro) and Dusk. Carnassial is kind of a mouthful, so I’ll just call him….. Nass. Yeah. I like the sound of that. Nass… Okay, getting back on subject.

One of the things I love to see and do in books is take a character, especially the main character, and put their polar opposite right in front of their face, where they can’t avoid them. Nass is not exactly the opposite of Dusk, per say. More like a rival. A bully, even. Someone who thinks their kind is superior. Not a totally original concept, but not overly used.

It was great to see the relationships and conflicts between Nass and Dusk. I thought they were both really well-written characters and I was impressed with how they grew and changed throughout the story. When I first cracked open this book, I didn’t think I would like Nass and Dusk nearly as much as Shade, but that was not the case here. I might even like Nass and Dusk more…

Moving on, the plot. Kenneth Oppel has yet to show me a book with a dull, boring plot.

And writing? I love Kenneth Oppel’s writing voice and the way he wrote this story especially.

Here and there, this book has flaws all it’s own, but I would encourage all animal lovers to try the series. 4 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 432

Series: Silverwing

The Invention of Huge Cabret by Brian Selznick

With 284 pictures between the book’s 533 pages, the book depends equally on its pictures as it does on the actual words. Selznick himself has described the book as “not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things.” The Caldecott Medal is for picture books, in 2008 this was first novel to receive.

The primary inspiration is the true story of turn-of-the-century French pioneer filmmaker Georges Méliès, his surviving films, and his collection of mechanical, wind-up figures called automata. Selznick decided to add automata to the storyline after reading Edison’s Eve by Gaby Wood, which tells the story of Edison’s attempt to create a talking wind-up doll.

Méliès actually had a set of automata, which were either sold or lost. At the end of his life Méliès was broke, even as his films were screening widely in the United States. He did work in a toy booth in a Paris railway station, hence the setting. Selznick drew Méliès’s real door in the book.

I thought this book was awesome. If you’ve got time to burn, or are just bored, this is an awesome book to read. At first, I thought this would be one of those kid’s books where the rating only reflect the art and not the story. I mean–those are great, but I wanted to read something for the story and not the art. But the way that Brian Selznick wrote this story, I got to enjoy both.

I thought that the ideas and the work behind this story were fantastic, and the way that children’s authors and movie producers are beginning to make stories without words is incredible. I was really impressed with Brian Selznick’s drawing style as well as his work that went into crafting that story using two different worlds.

The only problem I had was with the ending. It was a little…anticlimatic, I guess? It just felt like the majority of what was going on happened right in the middle-endingish part of the story. That was fine though. The ending was good, not quite satisfactory, but kind of just gently letting you off happily.

The movie was okay. It was really cool to see the book come to life like that, and I thought that the movie didn’t represent the book too badly.

pg count for the hardback: 625