The Indian Creek Upper School Library Blog

Tag Archives: fiction

boxerssaints

If you don’t know anything about the Boxer Rebellion (or Boxer Uprising) in China from 1899 to 1901, this fantastical two-volume graphic novel is a fun and educational primer! Gene Luen Yang, who is currently serving a two-year stint as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, wrote this amazing duology about two young people living through the rapid globalization and Christianization of China at the beginning of the 20th century.

The first volume, Boxers, tells the story of Little Bao, a boy who loves traditional Chinese theater, his village, and his father. When the “foreign devils” – Christian missionaries – come to his village and smash a statue of the local god Tu Di Gong, Little Bao begins to understand that his way of life is under threat. He seeks out martial arts training from a mysterious man named Red Lantern, who inspires the men of the countryside to protect their Chinese traditions from the encroaching foreign devils. Later, Little Bao trains with Master Big Belly, who reveals the secret ritual that gives him the power to defeat his enemies. With this priceless knowledge, Little Bao takes over where Red Lantern left off, training the men of his village in martial arts and teaching them the ritual that turns them into powerful gods during a battle.

boxers

Little Bao and the young, poor men from the Chinese countryside form the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist, travelling from village to village, killing British soldiers, Christian missionaries, and the “secondary devils” – Chinese Christian converts who flee from the roving Society army. The weeks-long battle in Peking, the heart of the Chinese kingdom, end badly for the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist, and for Little Bao, who could never seem to reconcile his love for China with his understanding of justice and fairness.

In Saints, the second volume of this duology, Four-Girl is the much-abused and neglected daughter of a widow in the Chinese countryside who seeks out Christianity for some strange reasons. At first, she thinks that she is meant to be a devil, a malevolent presence in her little village. Through her relationship with the local acupuncturist, Dr. Won, she learns about Jesus Christ (and has a free supply of cookies to sate her hunger). Four-Girl drifts farther away from her family and closer to the Church, though she feels no real connection to Christianity. In the woods one night, Four-Girl meets a strange girl, clad in armor, who she later learns is the spirit of Joan of Arc. With the vision, Four-Girl begins her full conversion to the Christian faith, taking catechism classes and ultimately choosing a new name, a real name: Vibiana.

16894394

Vibiana is cast out by her traditional Chinese family and finds refuge in a walled village far from her home. The growing threat of the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist bring more Christians and missionaries to their little enclave, where Vibiana helps watch over the orphans. Restless, Vibiana seeks out the vision of Joan of Arc and decides to become a maiden warrior for God. When the Society overtakes the village, Vibiana stands steadfast in her faith, even as Bao raises his sword to strike her down.

Yang’s visual storytelling is out of this world; his use of crisp, clean lines and pops of bright color lead the eye from one action-packed frame to the next. This glimpse into the little-known Boxer Rebellion, from the points of view of both a Boxer and a Chinese-Christian convert, will make you want to learn more about this important event in Chinese history! Fans of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Hope Larson’s Mercury will love the story and artwork in this wonderful duology. Check these books out in the library today!


All_the_Light_We_Cannot_See_(Doerr_novel)

When Marie-Laure loses her eyesight at the tender age of six, she has to start life over again, but she has the help of her loving father to guide her through the twists and turns of the streets of Paris. Her father, a master of locks at the Museum of Natural History, builds a perfect miniature replica of their neighborhood, which she traces again and again with her fingers. Later, she uses her hands to read and reread her favorite books while her father works diligently on his locks in the museum, or on the model of the city in their apartment. Marie-Laure and her father live a quiet life, full of love and happiness, until the rumbling of war begins to build in the west.

Werner’s childhood is significantly less charmed than Marie-Laure’s. As an orphan growing up in the shadows of a dusty, dirty mining town in eastern Germany, Werner has only his little sister and an old, cobbled-together radio to distract him from the constant hunger that he faces each day. Werner’s curiosity and tenacity helps him become a sort of expert in radio technology, a trait that consequently puts him on the fast-track with the Hitler Youth. Before he can begin to understand the implications of his trajectory, Werner is marching, shooting, and designing intricate radio systems at a Nazi school for boys.

When the war intensifies, Marie-Laure and her father flee Paris for the relative safety of Saint-Malo, a seaside town in northeastern France. There, Marie-Laure and her father take shelter with their reclusive Uncle Etienne, in a house that hides a powerful radio and a priceless gem. Werner, meanwhile, is sent from the brutal Nazi school to a special assignment in the military, tracking down freedom-fighters who use radio signals to communicate. Werner’s assignment leads him to Saint-Malo, where his life intersects with Marie-Laure’s in the most unexpected way.

This beautiful, haunting book is historical literature at its best. Doeer’s use of poetic language creates a lyrical and emotional experience that will make you pause, reread, and reflect. Doeer brings the reader’s senses to life, especially in Marie-Laure’s chapters, as we experience the world as she does, through touch, sound, taste, smell, and memory. At just over 500 pages, the length of the book might put you off, but don’t be afraid; this wonderful novel is worth the time. You’ll want to savor every chapter.

Fans of Geraldine Brooks’ The People of the Book and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go will enjoy this novel. I’ve also heard that the audiobook is fantastic!


Yay! After a long wait, we finally have a date and time for our All American Boys book club discussion with authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely! We’ll be discussing their fantastic book on March 28 at 10:45 a.m.

all-american-boys-9781481463331_lg

Our book club meeting was supposed to occur during an Advisory period, but the snow knocked us off-schedule. If you are participating in this book club discussion, please be sure to get permission from your third period teacher to attend AND be sure to catch up on the work that you missed!

 

We will be meeting the very first day back from Spring Break, so you’ll have plenty of time to read while we’re on break! Be sure to get your copy of All American Boys from your local public library, bookstore, or Amazon soon!

If you’d like to discuss this very important book with your peers, Mrs. Hanley, Ms. Gaffney, and the authors, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, please sign up in the library!


all-american-boys-9781481463331_lg

When Rashad walks into the corner store for a bag of chips, he doesn’t think that the consequences of this action will result in anything more than “chip-breath,” so he plans on buying a pack of gum, too. After all, he can’t have chip-breath when he dances with his crush at a party later that night. But Rashad doesn’t make it to the party. A suspicious store-owner, a klutzy lady, and a fist-happy cop land Rashad in the hospital with a broken nose, broken ribs, and internal bleeding.

Quinn, a white teen who goes to school and plays basketball with Rashad, witnesses his friend’s brother, police officer Paul Galuzzi, dragging Rashad out of the corner store and wailing on him, despite the fact that Rashad is already handcuffed. Unable to look away, yet unable to do anything to stop the violence, Quinn watches helplessly as Paul hits Rashad again and again.

Now, Rashad is in the hospital, wondering why he was never allowed to explain that he wasn’t trying to steal a bag of chips and trying to figure out how he’s going to move forward. Quinn is confused about where his allegiances lie, as Paul helped raise him and the Galuzzis are like family, but he’s sure that Rashad would never do anything to deserve a beat-down like the one Paul gave him. The basketball team is splitting along color lines as the students of color side with Rashad and the white students side with Paul – or decide not to take a stance at all. Their whole town is starting to take sides when a video of Rashad’s arrest ends up online and the hashtag #RashadIsAbsentToday goes viral.

At the center of it all, in alternating chapters, Rashad and Quinn struggle with the ultimate question: what now? How can these two teens, so alike and yet so different, come to terms with what happened? How can they possibly make a difference? Who is the “All-American Boy?” Who can you trust, if not the police? What does racism look like in America today? Are you guilty if you do nothing to help?

This book is perfect in every way. By telling the story from Rashad’s and Quinn’s points of view, it allows the reader to approach the problem of police brutality and racism from two sides: the victim and the bystander. When it comes down to it, don’t most of us fall into one of these two camps? This is a question that authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely raise with this novel: if you are not one of the oppressed, and you do nothing to help those who are oppressed, does that mean that you are on the side of the oppressor? While this book may be difficult for some people to read, it is well worth the sadness and pain in order to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This book is timely, well-written, and will surely ignite the necessary discussions that we must have in order to address the national epidemic of racial profiling and police brutality. I would highly suggest this book to anyone, especially those who are struggling to understand their place in the national conversation about police brutality.


CoverReveals_F15_Dumplin

Willowdean Dickson, or “Dumplin,” as her mom calls her, is a self-proclaimed fat-girl and Dolly Parton fan. She and her mother live in Texas, the land of beauty pageants and greasy fast-food places. Willowdean is much more into the fast-food scene, working at Harpy’s alongside brooding hottie Bo. Her mom, a former beauty queen, is all about the Miss Clover City beauty pageant, allowing it to take over their home and her life as it draws near.

Everything seems peachy for Willowdean until she and Bo begin a secret relationship. Suddenly, Will can’t stand the way her body looks and feels, and her trademark confidence takes a major nose-dive. In order to show herself and her mom that she’s just as worthy as the skinny-minnies  who enter the Miss Clover City pageant, Will signs up, and accidentally brings some new friends along with her. Willowdean doesn’t mean to start a revolution, but she sure has one on her hands when people find out that she is going to compete for the crown. Can she keep her cool and gain back her confidence?

One thing that is really excellent about this book is how honest Willowdean is about how she views her body. Most days, she is perfectly comfortable with being the “fat-girl” in the room. If you were to ask her about her bathing-suit body, she would say, “Do you have a body? Put a swimsuit on it.” (Love the original artwork by Simini Blocker!)

1f8daa788ca8b45d9c702779e2f3ee7d

However, Willowdean has just a complicated relationship with her body as she does with the mysterious Harpy’s hunk, Bo. When Will’s and Bo’s relationship gets more physical, Willowdean’s confidence starts to crack and crumble right before the reader’s eyes. The way Willowdean deals with her self-consciousness is so real and heart-breaking; she not only begins to doubt herself and her own worth, but she also sabotages her relationships with the people closest to her.

Luckily, this book has an imperfect happy ending, not because it could have been written better, but because people are imperfect, Willowdean is imperfect, and the book is a realistic portrayal of real life, which is imperfect, whether you’re fat or skinny or in between.

Fans of Julie Murphy’s debut novel, Side Effects May Vary, John Green’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park will love this new novel. Come down to the library to check it out today!


0763658596.01.LZZZZZZZ

It seems like Piddy Sanchez has unwillingly made an enemy of Yaqui Delgado, one of the toughest girls at Daniel Jones High, for reasons that Piddy still doesn’t understand. Did she accidentally look at Yaqui’s boyfriend? Does she really shake her hips too much when she walks? Piddy doesn’t really take Yaqui’s threat seriously at first – she’s too busy missing her best friend, trying to get good grades, and thinking about the father she’s never met. However, when Yaqui and her friends start messing with Piddy, staying out of their way becomes Piddy’s main goal in life. Her grades start to suffer, her relationship with her mom becomes more strained, and Piddy starts to become someone that she doesn’t recognize.

This book is wonderful, and difficult, and emotionally draining. Piddy’s life is not easy, even before Yaqui decides that Piddy is stuck up and needs a beat down. Her mother has high standards for Piddy, but is not at all forthcoming about Piddy’s father or much of her life. Piddy only has one good friend, who moves away to the suburbs, leaving Piddy to cope with starting a new school by herself. Piddy has a small support system, especially in her mother’s best friend, Lila. However, no one can protect Piddy from Yaqui Delgado and the fear that Piddy experiences when she becomes the prey of this powerful schoolyard bully. Why is this book difficult? One reason is because it’s so well written. Piddy’s fear seeps through the pages and into your head as you read. Meg Medina has created a fully-realized character in Piddy Sanchez, and the women who surround her, her mother and Lila, are surprisingly well-rounded as well. As Piddy faces many difficult and scary decisions about her life and her future, you will also share her pain, her confusion, and her hope for a better life.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone, anyone at all. Meg Medina has written a book that every teen should read, regardless of whether you’ve ever been a victim of bullying or harassment. This book is funny, touching, scary, and, most importantly, very realistic.


12700353

Greg Gaines just wants to get through high school without making any friends. For Greg, no friends = no enemies, so he stays under the radar, tries to be blandly nice to everyone without actually connecting with anyone, and spends his free time making films with this “co-worker” Earl. Greg kind of reminds me of Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson, minus the woodworking:

When Greg’s mother tells him that a girl from his school has been diagnosed with leukemia, Greg doesn’t really know how he’s supposed to feel. Bad? He feels sort of bad. He feels worse when his mom tells him that he should call Rachel and hang out with her. As Greg and Rachel become friends (or as close to friendship as Greg can manage), Rachel discovers more about Greg and Earl’s secret film-making careers and even manages to convince them to show some of their films to her.

When Rachel decides to quit treatment for her leukemia, Greg and Earl decide that the thing to do is to make a film for Rachel. After several false starts, they finally manage to create The Worst Film Ever Made, which creates a world of trouble for Greg and forces him to reconsider the way that he relates to the people around him, especially Earl and Rachel.

This is not your typical feel-good teen book. Greg says so several times in the novel, and it’s right there in the title: Rachel is dying. Despite the death and the painfully awkward social anxiety, this book is laugh-out-loud funny. Greg’s self-deprecating narration is hilarious and 100% honest. Earl’s straight-forward, tell-you-like-it-is manner is the perfect foil for Greg’s stand-offishness, and they make a great pair, even if Greg won’t admit it.

Although this book is about a girl with cancer, it is most definitely not a John Green tear-jerker; it’s full of profanity, lewd conversations and accidental marijuana ingestion. Greg doesn’t exactly become a better person by the end of the novel, and there isn’t a clear message other than “sometimes things suck and people die when you don’t want them to.” Still, if you’re looking for a book that will keep you laughing right up until the end with its irreverent humor, this is the book for you!