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The Invention of Hugo Cabret

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Two stories woven into one - seamlessly! Hugo Cabret is an orphan living in a Parisian railroad terminal. After the death of his father, Hugo lived with his uncle, who made Hugo his apprentice, caring for the many clocks within the terminal. After his uncle disappears one night, Hugo secretly keeps the clocks in the terminal running. On his own, Hugo is desperate to remain as invisible as possible, fearful he might be caught by the security guard at the terminal. But, haunted by a memory of an automaton his father found in a museum attic, drives him to venture further from the unknown apartment within the terminal. After rescuing the remaining pieces of the automaton, Hugo is determined to complete the work of his father, believing there is a message from his father, to him. As Hugo leaves the apartment, a whirlwind series of events begin. These events ultimately connects the reader to the modern day invention, we call the cinema.
Milkweed

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An unnamed, orphan boy lives on the streets of Warsaw, Poland at the beginning of Nazi occupation. Eventually, he ends up becoming part of a "family" of orphaned boys and with a name, Misha. One day, while stealing food, Misha meets a young girl. This chance meeting opens the door to a friendship that becomes one of true family. In the face of the Holocaust, Misha fights for survival and works to help those around him survive the terrible times in which they live.
The Graduation of Jake Moon

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Jake Moon loves his grandfather Skelly, who has practically raised him since he was a baby. But when Skelly's diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Jake doesn't quite know how to respond. Barbara Parks moving story of a young boy, grappling with the tremendous sense of loss, brought on by this horrible illness, is touching. The reader watches Jake manuever through his awkward teenage years, being angry, confused and saddened by the sense of loss, which is so often the case with Alzheimer's disease.
The Glass Castle: A Memoir

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Jeanette Walls recalls her childhood in this biography. As a teacher, I appreciated Walls' recollections, as it helped me to understand some of the trauma and instability that many of my students face. While I am struggling to help them learn, many are attempting to just survive, while in a safe place for 7 hours. It is incredible that Walls and three of her siblings were able to survive their upbringing, or lack thereof, and to become functioning adults. The self-centeredness of both her parents made me nauseated as I read. Walls' father taking her out to a bar, and allowing a man to sexually assault his own child! Stealing money from his own children to drink himself silly, while they practically starved! These are just two of the many incidences in which I found myself clenching my teeth and praying the children would have survived. Throughout the book, I was sickened that Walls and her siblings were always on the verge of danger and/or death. This book enabled me to see that the human spirit is far more resilient than I give it credit.
Water for Elephants

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Running away and joining a travelling circus may have been a dream for many people, but when life's unpredictability engulfs Jacob Jankowski, that's exactly where he finds himself. After the untimely death of his parents and the inability to complete his veterinary education at Cornell, Jacob finds himself part of "Benzini Bros Most Spectacular Show On Earth". This circus outfit is its own society, complete with unspoken rules and punishments. Jacob navigates this new society with the help of an alcoholic crewman named Camel. Soon, Jacob's talents as a budding vet are revealed and he quickly climbs the employment ladder. Unfortunately, his boss is the unpredictable August who is married to Marlena - the woman with whom Jacob is destined to fall in love. The story was a good one and I enjoyed the narrative fluctuating between the present-day Jacob and his reminising about past events. Equally enjoyable was the historical context for this time period. Both the Depression and Prohibition had an impact on the lives of the characters and the circus which employed them. The novel clearly portrayed life in a traveling circus as a hard and unstable life, with uncertainty always looming on the horizon.
Wonder

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August is a Star Wars obsessed fifth grader who begins his first year at a new school. Like all new students, August has his share of challenges. Unlike other students, August bears a facial deformity which isolates him from most people. This has not stopped August from becoming a most lovable character, and we find that his love is infectious and generates true reflection on the parts of the characters in the story, as well as the reader.My fifth graders and I recently finished reading "Wonder", and they continue to speak of "Auggie" as though he were a student in our class. It has been a pivitol book in terms of the compassion it has generated, the text to text connections students make and has opened their eyes to the world around them. August/Auggie lives with each one of these students and I believe it is an important book for adults and children to own, and reread many times over.
Second Suns: Two Doctors and Their Amazing Quest to Restore Sight and Save Lives

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It has been often said that one person can make a difference. This is true in the lives of Doctor Sanduk Ruit and Dr. Geoff Tabin. Both these men have had the determination to enable thousands, if not millions of people around the world, to see again. With his cutting edge surgery techniques, Dr. Ruit, an opthomologist, has almost perfected cataract removal in people who have become blinded by them. Dr. Tabin, also an opthomologist, works with Dr. Ruit to train other doctors in these live-giving surgeries, as well as, aiding people in the recovery from preventable blindness. The book allows the reader to travel with both men, from their childhoods, to the present, learning what motivated them to become the people they are today. In a world of materialism and blind ambition, we see two men, drawn together by one vision, of helping others have a second chance at life. What a message of hope and encouragment!
Love You When...

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What a beautiful little book. The simplicity of the rocks is touching, because it reminds us that love is found everywhere. Also, the use of rocks to create a landscape/background/scene, was very creative and added to the organic, "earthy" nature of this text. Overall, the clear message of "love you when ...." is consoling, comforting and truly timeless. This is a lovely little book and truly a wonderful gift for all ages to share with those they love.
The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin - Excerpt

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A chance encounter in an airport, during a snowstorm forever changes the lives of Ben and Ashley, when their chartered plane crashes in the mountains of Utah. Ben, a doctor and a mountain climbing hobbyist, finds the skills associated with both, necessary to rely upon if both he and Ashley are to survive. Throughout the novel, the theme of unconditional love shines through. Ben, though missing his wife Rachel, finds himself attracted to the woman he's decided will survive to see her wedding day.Charles Martin has written a page-turner of a novel. It is touching and sensitive, as Ben reflects his life with Rachel, the love of his life. The characters are well-rounded and nicely developed. The ending is both unexpected and a bit sappy, but rewarding after such a harrowing journey of survival. I enjoyed the book and would read another by this author.
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