Eleven year old Wen has grown up in a Chinese orphanage. The aunties there care for the children but there is never enough of anything to go around–love, food, clothes. She and her best friend Shu Ling long to be adopted, and they promise each other that whoever is adopted first will find a family for the one left behind so that they can be together again.
One day Wen is chosen by an American family. Even though she has gotten what she has always dreamed of, Wen is shocked by how hard it is to adjust to America. She can barely speak English–not enough to make friends or even tell her new family what she is thinking. The sights and sounds and choices are overwhelming, and she feels guilty for leaving Shu Ling behind. More than anything else, she is afraid. What if she makes a mistake and her new family sends her back to the orphanage in China? What if loving her new little sister lessens her love for Shu Ling, who always looked out for her? What if she can’t find anyone to adopt Shu Ling?
I love the image of a red thread that weaves through Red Thread Sisters by Carol Antoinette Peacock from an old Chinese legend. The legend says that an invisible red thread connects those people who are destined to meet. The thread may stretch or tangle across time and space, but it will never break. Wen learns the strength of the thread that connects her with Shu Ling, but she also learns that she can connect with her new family and friends without giving up the old ones. The thread will still hold.
The topic of international adoption is close to me since I have family who have gone through the process with younger children. Peacock writes a heartwarming story that portrays both the joys and struggles that come with adopting older children, especially across cultures. I can’t imagine trying to start my life over with such a drastic change, but now I have a glimpse of what it might be like and am richer for it.
I suspect that Micheal Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans will be among the more popular of the Young Hoosier Books with my students this year. It has just enough science fiction to give it quite the cool factor. Who wouldn’t dream of being able to electrically shock the school bullies when they have you down? It’s not so far out that the science fiction will turn off readers who don’t think they like science fiction. Other than having cool powers, Michael Vey and his new friend cheerleader Taylor Ridley seem like perfectly normal high school kids. Even though Michael’s best friend Ostin Liss has no super powers, his brains help them out more than once on their mission to rescue Michael’s mom from kidnappers. Even the bullies come around to help fight the evil scientist.
Since my students are creating book trailers on Animoto this week, I decided to give it a try tonight. Here is my trailer for the book. Enjoy!
We kicked off a new year of Survivor Book Club on Thursday with four fantastic books. By the time we left, all of the library copies were checked out! Check out these trailers for the four books and see for yourself.
Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt combines bullying older brothers, Audobon’s bird pictures, violent family problems, and an eccentric actress into a year that will never be forgotten.
Legend by Marie Lu packs kick-butt action with evil government secrets to reveal a stunning and deadly secret.
Close to Famous by Joan Bauer is filled with hidden secrets, delicious cupcakes, new friends, and a menacing prison escape.
Titanic Sinks! by Barry Denenburg blends fact and fiction to bring you all the behind the scenes details of the magnificent ship and its tragedy. There is not a trailer for the book, so here is a computer simulation that explains how the ship sank.
I’ve read all four of these, and I’m not sure which one I like best. They are all good. Which one do you want to read? Can you stop with just one?
Even though Nate Brodie loves football (and like many of Lupica’s character, he is that one-in-a-million player who both loves and knows the game), Million Dollar Throw is different from Mike Lupica’s other books. Nate has won a once-in-lifetime opportunity to throw a football through a target during halftime of a Patriot’s game. If he makes it, he will win a million dollars. The pressure of making that throw is not all that weighs on Nate. His dad lost his job and now his parents are juggling three and four part time jobs to make ends meet. If something doesn’t change, they will lose their house. Even worse, his best friend Abby is losing her sight to a rare eye disease. Nate would give anything to help his friend see again well enough to paint her pictures.
The ever increasing real-world problems give this book a more somber mood than other Lupica books, but it also has many of the trademarks that my students enjoy from Lupica’s books. Obviously, Nate is the ultimate kid athlete. Abby is is best friend, who is both encouraging, pretty (with just a hint of a possible romantic interest) and witty. Abby definitely has the best lines. Nate faces obstacles both on and off the field, but he always gets up when he’s knocked down on his way to achieving greatness.
Fans of David Lubar’s Weenie series won’t be disappointed with this installment. Beware the Ninja Weenies is packed full of stories with bizarre twists, gross deaths, and just plain weird characters. I played around with iMovie to create this trailer. Believe it or not, all the images have a connection with one or more stories.
Half Brother is not the kind of book that Kenneth Oppel is best known for. (Even though many students have recommended the Silverwing series and This Dark Endeavor, I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet. I want to. It’s just that my TBR pile grows faster than I can keep up.) I loved Half Brother, a historical fiction novel set in 1974, years I actually lived through and vaguely remember. (How can that be?)
Ben Tomlin is an only child, but not for long. He is upset that his distant father is moving the family across Canada to pursue a cutting edge research experiment: Can chimpanzees learn language? At first, Ben is not too sure about Zan, an infant chimpanzee that is to be raised like a little brother. Before long, Ben does come to regard Zan as a brother, and he becomes Zan’s favorite. But as Zan grows bigger and stronger, the effort to raise him becomes increasingly difficult. Soon Ben is forced to make critical choices about Zan’s future and his family.
I am still thinking about the questions raised in this story. What does it mean to be human? What is language? What is the role of animals in research? How do families work together or fall apart? There are no simple answers given, but Ben grows as he searches for answers. Readers, too, will be left thinking long after the last page is turned.
This novel would pair nicely with other books that explore the relationship between humans and their closest genetic species on Earth. Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby explores the friendship between a hearing impaired girl and the signing chimp who lives with a new neighbor. Endangered by Eliot Schrefer is an exciting survival story set in war torn Congo where a girl risks all to save a bonobo from the surrounding violence.
For fans of football and underdogs, Mike Lupica has written a book for you. Underdogs continues the great tradition of the little guy–or team–overcoming all the odds. If you like stories from The Bad News Bears to Facing the Giants, you will enjoy this book.