Sunday, August 27, 2017

MMGM (8/28/2017): The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd

For MMGM, I am recommending The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd.




Here's the publisher's description:

Everyone in Emma's family is special. Her ancestors include Revolutionary War spies, brilliant scientists, and famous musicians — every single one of which learned of their extraordinary destiny through a dream. For Emma, her own dream can't come soon enough. Right before her mother died, Emma promised that she'd do whatever it took to fulfill her destiny, and she doesn't want to let her mother down. But when Emma's dream finally arrives, it points her toward an impossible task: finding a legendary treasure hidden in her town's cemetery. If Emma fails, she'll let down generations of extraordinary ancestors, including her own mother. But how can she find something that's been missing for centuries and might be protected by a mysterious singing ghost? With her signature blend of lyrical writing, quirky humor, and unforgettable characters, Natalie Lloyd's The Key to Extraordinary cements her status as one of the most original voices writing for children today.

I really enjoyed this book! One of the best parts about it are the characters. Emma is a fun, likable character, and almost all of the cast is kind and cares deeply about one another. In addition, The Key to Extraordinary features a very vivid setting (a small town called Blackbird Hollow). Featuring interesting flowers and rumors of ghosts, the town and all of the places in it make the book gripping and immersive. Finally, the plot of the book is fabulous. It never drags on or moves too quickly, and it feature many different events, some of which have to do with Emma, and some with others. There is a great balance of magic and realism, many interesting discoveries, and a delightful ending. The Key to Extraordinary is an amazing book that no one will want to put down!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

No posts this week!

Since I went back to school on Monday, I had very little time to read or think, so I will not post anything this week. I should be back to normal by the upcoming weekend (but no promises)! I hope everyone has a great week!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Poetry Sunday (8/13/2017): "I Will Sing You One-O" by Robert Frost

I've been reading a lot of Robert Frost poems lately, so, for today's Poetry Sunday post, I am recommending his poem, "I Will Sing You One-O." I hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

MMGM (8/14/2017): El Deafo by Cece Bell

For MMGM, I am recommending El Deafo by Cece Bell.




Here's the publisher's description:

Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful—and very awkward—hearing aid.
The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear—sometimes things she shouldn’t—but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.

Several years ago, I read El Deafo, a graphic novel and winner of a Newbery Honor, in one sitting. Years later, it had stuck with me, which is why I am recommending it today. I have so many positive things to say about it. Firstly, I love the story, which is based on the author's childhood as she navigated her life with little hearing and conspicuous hearing aids. The writing and illustrations combined paint a very vivid picture of both struggling in everyday life and of having trouble being accepted by others. Also, I love the art style of the book, which seems to depict the characters as rabbits (which one can tell by looking at the ironically large ears) and adds a touch of whimsy to the book. In fact, El Deafo is never overly sad, which makes it even more realistic, enjoyable, and powerful. Young children will enjoy the depictions of childhood and will understand the message, while older children and adults will appreciate the narration of the book, seeming to come straight from the author, and will still feel touched by the book's theme of accepting one's differences and making the best of them.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

MMGM (8/7/2017) Classic Critique: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

If you were reading this blog several months ago, you might remember that I did a post in a new style I called Classic Critique, where I list the pros and cons of a famous book. Today, I am critiquing To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (which I wholeheartedly recommend). First, however, I would like to tell you that today is the one-year anniversary of Completely Full Bookshelf! I first posted on this blog on August 7, 2016, when I recommended When You Reach Me. I would like to thank all of the authors of the books that I loved so much, and I would also like to thank all of my readers, old and new, for giving me a supportive audience to recommend books to. Now, to the review!




Pros:
  • The characters. One of the best parts of To Kill a Mockingbird is the characters. Scout is a great main character who learns as the story goes on and whose adult self looks back on her child self without either looking down on her or seeming like she hasn't changed at all. Scout's older brother, Jem, annoys Scout at times but is still a good person, and Scout's father, Atticus, is both very wise and is a unique parent. Readers will also like some of the townsfolk, such as Maudie Atkinson.
  • A plot that moves. Many classic books that I have read drag on without any thing happening. To Kill a Mockingbird is a welcome exception to that statement. No events are rushed, but none are focused on for longer than they need to be. Also, none of the plot events are boring or particularly depressing (some are sad, but they don't emphasize it).
  • The ending. The main plot point of To Kill a Mockingbird doesn't have the happiest ending. However, rather than ending with a clich├ęd message of hope (which would have been fine, but not great), one final event happens that shapes the entire end of the story and makes the reader forget all about the preceding hardships (at least in the moment).
  • The writing. To Kill a Mockingbird is simply a well-written book. No sentences are awkward, and the book has a great mix of beauty and humor. There are great metaphors (such as the one in the title) and great descriptions both of scenery and, often, of the behavior of society.
  • The messages about race and gender roles. To seal the deal, To Kill a Mockingbird has great messages as well. Some of these are about race (Atticus, a lawyer, is defending an African-American man in court, and the book discusses both how racism is wrong and how not as many people are racist as we think), and some of these are about gender roles (when Scout's aunt comes to live with her family, she is constantly appalled by Scout's behavior, which involves playing outside and wearing overalls instead of dresses). These messages add to an already great book to create one that is worthy of all of the praise it has gained over the years.

Cons:
  • Sometimes, even people Scout's own age seem wiser than her. I doubt that everyone will agree with my cons, but I'm still writing them down anyway. During the book, Scout is not nearly as wise as those older than her when it comes to racism. However, over the course of the book, Jem, who is just a few years older than Scout, and Scout and Jem's friend Dill, who is of a similar age, are both upset over racism, while Scout isn't, really. This casts a somewhat negative light over Scout, which is jarring.
  • One particular sexist moment. One other moment in To Kill a Mockingbird bothered me as well. At one point, Atticus is explaining to Scout that women aren't allowed to serve as jurors. However, rather than condemning this practice, he condoned it, with his reason being the usual "women are fragile" lie. In addition, he also jokes that, if women served as jurors, they would constantly be interrupting. Both of these got to me. Although everyone is flawed, I have always found prejudice to be worse than many other flaws, and, with Atticus being one of the few people who isn't racist throughout the course of the book, these comments were very strange and somewhat upsetting.

Verdict:
To Kill a Mockingbird isn't perfect, but no book is. It is still an incredible story that any reader will remember for the course of their life and come out of feeling changed for the better. Although some classics are only famous for being good in their time, To Kill a Mockingbird is still better than many books published today, and it probably will be forever.

Poetry Sunday (8/6/2017): "Good Hours" by Robert Frost

Since my blog is turning one year old tomorrow, I decided to be a more responsible blogger and resume my Poetry Sunday posts. Today, I am recommending "Good Hours" by Robert Frost. I hope you enjoy it!