Smackdown Books 2017

Arlene's smackdown17 book montage

The Memory of Things
Hour of the Bees
The Gospel Truth
Ultraman, Vol. 1
The Bunker Diary
Trouble Is a Friend of Mine
Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy
The Hired Girl
An Ember in the Ashes
The Porcupine of Truth
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
Goodbye Stranger
Beautiful Blue World
The Blackthorn Key
All American Boys

Friday, May 8, 2015


I vote for "Night Gardener".  Why?  Well...because my favorite didn't make it to the finals and this was the best of the lot.

Yes, "I'll Give You the Sun" was a great book.  It's a coming of age story, but the ending was too convenient for me.  After so much angst, betrayal, an attempted suicide and emotional abandonment..all of a sudden the three of them are The Musketeers?  Unbelievable...  If this were real life, which I had appreciated about the story up until the conclusion, there would be no sailing off into the sunset.

The Nazis Hunters was an interesting read; I already smacked about it in previous round, so I won't spend too much time here.  It's a historical drama, meant for history geeks.  The idea that so many people risked their lives to bring one man to justice amazes me.  The Holocaust seems foreign to our students, so I don't know if they could empathize with the Nazis Hunters as characters.  Students need a maturity to appreciate the place the Nazis Hunters were coming from when they pursued the Nazis to South America and beyond.  Without this maturity, I don't know if they could understand the impact of  pursuit of the Nazi cowards who escaped to South America.  But I think it is still an important read for students.  It is a new take on war history.  The unfortunate part is that it is strictly factual.  I know, I's historical, what can I expect?  Well...I expected to feel deeply toward the main players involved in the arrest of Eichmann.  Don't get me wrong, I cared for them, but not like the characters from "The Night Gardener".  If this were a contest of the best historical read...than Nazi Hunters is definitely a winner, even against "Bomb".  I liked Nazis Hunters better, but it does not compare to "Night Gardner" least for me.

I have had to review "Night Gardener" three times now, so I really don't have anything new to say.  At the end of the day, I'm picking a book that my students would pick up and read.  If I look at it from that perspective, everything from the book cover, to the word choice makes this book a winner.  It is both enticing and memorizing.  For a YA novel, this help my attention and made me want to know what was behind that door.  The Night Gardener, himself, was sinister, there was nothing good about him, nothing redeeming and I loved that.  Finally, a villain without a sob story.

I hope my pick makes it through, but I'm more excited to get my books; put them onto the shelves of my classroom library; and hear my students give their own reviews of the books we've smacked this year.

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