Friday, January 27, 2012

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury AND The Librarian of Basra, Jeanette Winter

Last night, I had class at USC and I had to tutor a 3rd grade girl in reading. At the end of our tutoring session in her school's media center, I always let her pick out a picture book that she wants me to read to her. 

Her choice yesterday was The Librarian of Basra, by Jeanette Winter. I had never read this book before, and I really enjoyed it. The story is about a librarian in Basra (a city in Iraq). As war comes close to her town, her library faces closure and the books face a fate of destruction. So, she takes books, night-by-night, to her home to protect them. 

This reminds me of Fahrenheit 451, which I am reading with my 7th graders right now. Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel in which technology has taken over and the government no longer allows people to read. Some people have hidden books in their homes (including the main character, Montag), and they get sniffed out by the "Mechanical Hound" (like a modern day firehouse dog) and burned by the fire department. 

I can't imagine living in a society where books were threatened, like in The Librarian of Basra and Fahrenheit 451. I'd like to imagine that if I did live in a world like that, though, I would be one of the courageous ones who would risk my life and safety to save books. Would you? 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

JBA Post #1: Ninth Ward, Jewell Parker Rhodes

I was really excited when I found this book. I knew from the title and the cover art that it was going to be about Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. This is a topic that always fascinates me, because I lived outside of New Orleans when Katrina hit. I've read lots of books - both fiction and non-fiction - about the storm, but I'd never read a YA novel about it before.

The novel is about a girl, Lanesha, who lives with her pseudo-grandmother, Mama YaYa. They live in the ninth ward of New Orleans, which is a historically poverty-stricken area of the city. They experience Hurricane Katrina from their home in the ninth ward.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed in the novel. After living in New Orleans, I learned a lot about the way things are there, and was captured by its charm and flair. However, the novel did not do these things justice. It rushed through things and didn't provide enough detail to make a real New Orleans novel. Also, Mama YaYa is set up as such a uniquely New Orleanian character - she believes in ghosts, she practices voodoo, etc. - but I don't think the author developed her fully enough. I kept wanting more.  Also, I felt like there were quite a few inconsistencies in the novel. The cover says that Lanesha is from a "tight-knit ninth ward neighborhood", but then the author goes on to describe her and her grandmother as almost friendless; outcasts in the neighborhood.

The novel wasn't all bad...I found a quote that I really liked. It says, "What is it that  makes laughter feel so good? I think I must remember this moment. When I am in trouble again, when life surprises me, I should laugh." Overall, though, I had really high hopes for this novel, but it just did not meet my expectations. Maybe it's because I already know too much about New Orleans and Katrina? It might appeal more to someone who's just learning about the area.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Jay Asher's Blog

How cool! Jay Asher (author of The Future of Us and Thirteen Reasons Why) uses the same blogging site as us.

Here's the link to his blog:

I think his blog's really cool because on the left side, he displays images on his book covers as they're printed in other countries. I love looking at cover art. Also, in a post from the beginning of December, he shows covers that he designed himself for his book. How exciting would it be to write your own book AND design its cover?

The Future of Us, by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

Well, I'd hoped to read more over Christmas break but I was only able to finish one book. It was an awesome one, though! I read The Future of Us, by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. I picked it up because I'd read (and LOVED) another book by Jay Asher before (Thirteen Reasons Why) and because the premise sounded really interesting.

The novel is about two teenagers in the late 1990s, Josh and Emma. They get an America OnLine CD-ROM in the mail - I know, before your time - and are shocked when they open it up. They're expecting just a classic internet homepage, but instead, Facebook appears! Facebook hasn't even been invented yet. At first Josh and Emma think it's just a prank that someone from school is playing on them. But, as their status updates and posts change daily, they realize that no way can this be a prank. They are looking into the future.

At first, they think Facebook is really strange. They can't fathom why people would post intimate details about their lives for the world to see. But, before long, Josh and Emma (well, mostly Emma) become absolutely obsessed with their futures, logging on a few times a day to see what's changed in their future, adult lives. They become so obsessed that they sort of seem to forget about their lives in the present.

That part made me think a middle school, I was always thinking about what I would do in high school. In high school, I was always looking forward to the future, to college, and to new freedom. In college, I was thinking about future jobs, marriage, etc. We never truly live in the present, and The Future of Us is a great reminder about how important it is to do so.