Smackdown Books 2018

Wolf Hollow
Salt to the Sea
The Serpent King
Optimists Die First
The Hate U Give
Orphan Island
Dan vs. Nature
The Female of the Species
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere
Paper Girls, Vol. 1
The Passion of Dolssa
The Distance Between Us
When We Collided
Louis parmi les spectres
Girl in the Blue Coat
Defy the Stars

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bamboo People vs April, May and June

Bamboo People vs The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June

I am quite thrilled to say that, even as early as round two, I enjoyed both books. They’re quite different, so the comparisons are a bit of apples and oranges, but here goes:
Bamboo People is a story of boys in Burma, told from the perspectives of two young men on opposing sides of conflict. The first half of the story is told by Chiko, a book-smart fifteen-year-old who gets kidnapped and trained to be a child soldier for the Burmese army. The second half of the story is told by Tu Reh, a young Karenni refugee wanting to join the resistance. The two boys meet in the jungle. The story explores the nature of violence, prejudice and growing up. I enjoyed the voices of these two characters telling their stories, but my favourite character was a street boy named Tai who really teaches Chiko about friendship and the need to look past stereotypes.

As I was reading the book I was thinking of many students to whom I would recommend it. My students in grade nine who read A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier would go for this. I am considering reading portions to my grade eights during our examination of modern day conflict in our Peace unit. I will also include it in my book talks during my grade nine Justice unit. There are some supporting texts and videos about child soldiers in Burma on the book’s website, that are worth taking a look at, as well. Students are always engaged when looking at social justice issues and they can be quite empathetic to issues involving child soldiers. In my previous discussions with them, I had focused on places like Sierra Leone. Forgive my ignorance, but it wasn’t until reading this book that I realized that Burma has the highest number of child soldiers in the world, according to Human Rights Watch. It’s always good when you learn something new while you’re connecting to characters in a book! This seems like another vehicle to inspire students to become involved as global citizens.

My second book was The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June, which I enjoyed in a totally different way. This is an “escape” book for me. I think a lot of my junior high girls would enjoy it and perhaps relate to some of the characters’ observations about life as a teenager. April, May and June are three sisters whose parents are in the middle of a divorce. In addition, they have been uprooted and moved, so they are figuring things out in their new school. Amidst this turmoil, they rediscover their special powers: April can see the future, May can disappear, and June can read minds. While they struggle with their new abilities and how to use them ethically, April has a vision that seems to indicate an upcoming tragedy. The girls have to figure out if they can somehow save the day! Each chapter is told by a different sister, rotating perspective among the three of them. The plot is pretty engaging but I was sometimes mildly annoyed at the teenage girl banter (which, I guess, just makes it realistic). I skimmed some bits of conversation. But, overall, I think many girls would enjoy the sisters’ relationships and the plot. I will recommend it to several girls looking for something to read.

So, because of its broader audience appeal and bigger world view, I choose Bamboo People to move on to the next round.
Looking forward to reading something else one of you picked! Good reads so far.

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