Book #29 of the year was Shooting Kabul, by N.H. Senzai. I was looking for a new readaloud to start the year with, and I did end up using this one. I like to begin eighth grade with something about culture clashes, and this was especially appropriate because of the anniversary this fall of September 11th, 2011. Fadi and his family live in Kabul, and at the beginning of the book they stage a daring escape, due to his mother's illness and his father's need to get away from the Taliban, who have asked him to work for them. Unfortunately Fadi's sister Mariam gets left behind. The rest of the book is about Fadi's attempts to rescue Mariam, while adjusting to a new life in San Francisco. Fadi is a photographer (hence the "Shooting" in the title, which I really didn't like - it seemed to me that the title was a poor attempt at a joke). I would like to read more by Senzai, although my students found this one slow in places.
Book #30 was Red Kayak, by Priscilla Cummings. This one was also a possible readaloud, and I'm still not sure if I will use it. It's the story of Brady, who gets involved in a crime in a way he didn't intend, and has to decide what to do about it. He also has to deal with the losses in his own life. I enjoyed the book and I think my students would, too.
Book #31 was Truth and Consequences, by Alison Lurie. I read Lurie's Foreign Affairs many years ago and remember it as clever and interesting on Anglo-American relationships. This one was clever and interesting too, though the characters' selfishness was a little wearing.
Book #32 was from my classroom library. Leo and the Lesser Lion, by Sandra Forrester, is set in the Great Depression and is the story of Bayliss, a 12-year-old who loses her beloved brother, Leo. She survived the accident that killed Leo, and she assumes that God has saved her for a purpose. Now to figure out what that might be. I liked this book a lot and found Bayliss an appealing character.
Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading, by Lizzie Skurnick, was book #33. This is a book of essays based on Skurnick's feature Fine Lines at Jezebel.com. (And yes, you should assume that stuff published on a website called Jezebel.com is rated PG13 and above.) I had read a lot of the books Skurnick talks about (and she also includes contributions from Meg Cabot, Cecily von Ziegesar, and other female writers), and I found her ruminations about them often hilarious and sometimes very touching. She includes a chapter on books she can't believe anybody let her read and I can't believe it either! (Although I am extremely embarrassed to admit that I had read one of the books she reviewed, when it was being surreptitiously passed around in my high school.) Skurnick is part fangirl and part literary critic and her writing, while peppered with four-letter words, is difficult to put down.
I found book #34, The Glorious Ones, by Francine Prose, to be a quick and slight read. It's about a commedia dell'arte troupe and the personalities in it, all of whom have secrets.
Book #35 was in a box of donated books. I have read a lot of the Alan Gregory mysteries by Stephen White, and when I looked at this one I thought I hadn't read it. I realized on the first or second page that I had, but I finished it anyway. Alan Gregory is a clinical psychologist and I always find these books fascinating, both for the psychology and for the character development. As usual with thrillers, I couldn't remember how this one turned out, so the suspense worked on me just as well as the first time. The book is called Private Practices.
A Theory of Relativity, by Jacquelyn Mitchard, was book #36. I thought I hadn't read the last book and actually had; this one I thought I had read but actually hadn't. It's the story of a baby whose parents are both killed in an accident and the custody battle that ensues. The twist, and the source of "relativity" in the title, is that the baby's mother was adopted and due to some loopholes in the state law, the maternal uncle and grandparents are not considered relatives. Mitchard is usually great with character development and this book was no exception.
This post is linked to the October 8th Saturday Review of Books.
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