Rummanah Aasi
  I'm probably in the minority of people who have never read Go Ask Alice before until now. The book has been extremely popular and not to mention controversial since it's original copyright of 1971. After 39 years, Go Ask Alice is still current with its theme of drug abuse.

Description: An unnamed 15 years old teen chronicles her descent into drugs after struggling to find acceptance amongst her peers and her overachieving parents.

Why it was banned/challenged: Go Ask Alice has a long track record of being banned and challenged throughout its 39 years of being in print. In 2008 the novel was challenged as a reading assignment at Hanahan Middle School in Berkeley County, South Carolina because of blatant, explicit language using street terms for sex, talk of worms eating body parts, and blasphemy. Source: ALA

Review: Go Ask Alice is a harrowing account of one teen's desperate attempt to find acceptance by doing anything possible. The unnamed narrator finds comfort in recording her struggles in a diary. She feels left out in her over achieving but distant family, she is ignored by the boy who she has a crush on, she has insecurities about her appearance, and is the new/weird girl at her new school. What starts off as a spiked drink at a party quickly turns into a crush and burn drug addiction and eventually time spent at a psychiatric center.
  I can't help but think that Go Ask Alice is anything but a cautionary tale of drugs. It is written during the 1970s where teens were highly experimenting with both drugs and sex. The diary entries are a cry of help and you can feel the teen's confusion leap off the page. Interestingly enough it is no way near graphic or horrific of other YA books that I have read about that deal with characters' drug abuse. I clearly remember being taken aback when I read The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carrol and the passages where the horrible withdrawals are described.
  Although the book is marketed as a "true story", it turns out that the book is not based on any teen's story but rather a culmination of various teens' case studies conducted by Beatrice Sparks. Sparks is credited in most places as the editor of Go Ask Alice. The true author of the book has never been clearly identified. Reading the book as an adult, I can easily pinpoint the inconsistencies in the narrative and voice. There are many vocabulary words and phrases such as "Dear Diary" that a 15 year old would never use. Nor would the teen remember her drug trip so vividly after being passed out for hours. Despite the inconsistencies in the writing, I can see why teens are drawn to Go Ask Alice: because it happens in real life. It does not hide or sugar coat life's problems but shows the gritty details. With drugs and sex still being a predominant factors in teen's lives, I can understand why schools would want to use this book for discussion.  

Rating: 3.5 stars

Curriculum Connection: Health

Words of Caution: Since this is a book about drug abuse, there are numerous drug references throughout the book. There are also allusions to sex, however, there is no graphic detail except the narrator telling the reader she has slept with someone. There is also some strong language and street slang in the book. I would recommend this book to mature 8th graders and up.

If you like this book try: Crank by Ellen Hopkins, Smack by Melvin Burgess, or The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carrol
Rummanah Aasi
  I was in fourth grade when my older brother suggested that I read Elizabeth George Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I clearly remember looking at the title and cover, briefly skimming the excerpt of the book, and then said, "No thanks". Looking back, I realized that I would probably not appreciate the book as I do now.

Description: In 1687 Kit Tyler moves from her luxurious place in Barbados after her grandfather dies to live with her aunt's Puritan household. Feeling out of place, she befriends an old woman who is called a witch by the community and suddenly finds herself standing trial for witchcraft.

Why it was banned/challenged: In 2003, The Witch of Blackbird Pond was challenged at a middle school in Cromwell, Connecticut on concern that it promotes witchcraft and violence. Source: Marshall University Library

Review: My fourth grade self would not have liked The Witch of Blackbird Pond. The pace of the book moves pretty slowly with a little bit of action towards the end of the book. The characters were not instantly likeable either. Pace and the likability of the characters were two important things that I looked for in a book as both a reluctant and avid reader. If I'm not interested, my attention goes elsewhere and I simply don't care what happens.
  The Witch of Blackbird Pond takes time to open up to the reader. At first I had to adjust the historical context of not only what was happening in 1687 America/New World, but also the mannerisms and speech of the characters. I liked Kit's impulsiveness and her refusal to conform her society's thoughts and ways. She was an independent mind and free spirit. It's no wonder why she would connect the outcast Hannah, who is thought to be a witch and practice witchcraft.
 Although there are rumors of witchcraft amongst the community members in the book, there is no element of fantasy in the entire book. Contrary to the challenger's fears, the book's central theme is to avoid jumping to conclusions, not being prejudice towards others who don't share the beliefs as yours, and to be frightened of the mob mentality that many had during that certain period in American history.  

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. I think this title would be appropriate for Grades 6 and up.

If you like this book try: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Rummanah Aasi
 One of the main highlights of my summer of 2009 was meeting Judy Blume in person at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago. I grew up reading Judy Blume and enjoyed her books as well as her frankness in discussing amongst many other things the confusion of puberty. Out of her popular books, I have not read the 'scandalous' Forever until now. It was book that my friends at school giggled about and one that I pretty much knew the story before reading it. Forever was written in 1975 and has been listed in the has been listed in the Top 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2000-2007. I chose to read Forever not because of its notoriety, but rather to see how this one book has paved the way for YA realistic fiction as we know it today.

Description: Katherine and Michael are your average teens. They meet at a party and sparks fly. They become close and then become inseparable. They both feel like they should take their relationship to the next level. When they think that their love will last forever, they are faced a summer apart where things slowly change? Will Katherine and Michael's relationship survive the obstacles facing their relationship? Will Katherine and Michael stay together forever?

Why the book was banned/challenged: In 2005, Forever was challenged at Fayetteville, Ark. Middle and young adult section by a parent claiming its “deplorable” content was unfit for young minds. The book was retained. Source: ALA

Review: Forever is an okay book but I wouldn't consider it Judy Blume's finest. There is hardly any character development outside of Katherine and Michael's relationship and the secondary characters are pretty much one dimensional. The dialogue is terse. Where Forever does excel, however, is being frank about sex. While it does have some graphic scenes (nothing more than your general rated R movie), the book is not a manual for sex. The book is actually a message to teens about the complexity involving sex. In lack of better words, it's a point of no return. You have to be mentally, emotionally, and physically be ready for the consequences that are associated with performing the deed.
   Blume does a great job in allowing Katherine to stand up for herself and vocalize when she is not ready. She is also smart enough to know how to take care of her body by going to medical facilties for birth control. As for Michael, I have no idea what Katherine saw in him. He has zero personality and is very forgettable.
  While Forever deals with a touchy subject, I highly doubt teens would want to go have sex because they read this book. I think that's not giving teen readers enough credit. Tweens and teens, girls especially, are bombarded with mixed messages of sex by the media. Not to mention the myths they hear from friends about pregnancy and STDs. I think teens reading Forever will appreciate writing a story where teens are responsible and can have a healthy physical relationship where no one dies, which is exactly what Blume intended.  

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: Since the book is about sex, there are some explicit scenes. There is also some strong language in the book. I would not put this book in an elementary school. I would also be hesitant to put in a middle school, however, I think it is appropriate for high school.

If you like this book try: The Lighter Side of Life and Death by CK Kelly Martin, Doing It by Melvin Burgess
Rummanah Aasi
  While looking at the list of books that have either been banned or challenged and deciding which books to read to celebrate Banned Books 2010, I came to realize how many books that I've either read already or have on my bookshelves have been questioned by others. My first book for the Banned Books Reading Challenge is Ray Bradbury's classic Fahrenheit 451 which centers around the issue of censorship itself. Isn't it ironic that a book fighting against censorship gets banned itself? Unlike my younger brother, I didn't have to read Fahrenheit 451 for school but I'm glad that I read it now.

Description: In Bradbury's classic, the future America is very frightening. Firemen don't extinguish the fires, but start them in order to burn books. In the future happiness is the ultimate and highest goal. It is a place where  trivial information is good, and knowledge and ideas are bad.
   Guy Montag is a book-burning fireman who seemed to have a very happy life until he ran into a teenage girl named Clarisse who turned his world upside down by asking him a simple question: "Are you happy?" Quickly, Montag goes through a crisis of faith and questions his actions. Why are books being burned in the first place? And why are the citizens forbidden to read?

Why it was banned/challenged: In 2006, Fahrenheit 451 was challenged at Independent School District at Conroe, Texas because of the following: "discussion of being drunk, smoking cigarettes, violence, 'dirty talk', references to the Bible, and using God's name in vain". The novel went against the complainant's "religious beliefs". Source: ALA

Review: Fahrenheit 451 is a frightening book to read. I can't imagine a world where books don't exist and reading them is a crime. The novel not only demonstrates a society where the norm is accepted blindly, but also how censorship prevails by closing the minds of its citizens. In Montag's world, no one questions. No one is allowed to think because thinking leads to disputes and disputes lead to a world of chaos. And who needs a world of chaos?
   Although the novel was originally written in 1953, it is very creepy to see that our current world isn't all that different from the world that Bradbury created. With technology increasing and being omnipresent in our daily lives, we seemed to almost behave mechanically. Books are still being banned and challenged because they don't match our own personal views.
  Bradbury's writing is superb. His descriptive paragraphs are a pleasure to read. I could easily see the layers of Montag's confusion and frustration unfold right before my eyes. Besides censorship, there are a lot themes that could be discussed in the book such as: knowledge vs. ignorance, freedom of speech/expression. My minor complaint with the book is the notion of a mechanical dog is just plain silly.
   While there are certainly references to the Bible in the novel such as turning water into wine, these are used by Montag to refute the current status quo and to change himself from being a mindless robot to a person who upholds Christian values and who can think for himself. It's ironic that the challenger is twisting the passages out of context just like the antagonist Fire Captain Beatty has done throughout the novel. The novel is also rich with symbolism and metaphors. Overall, Fahrenheit 451 is a thought provoking classic that urges people to think critically. It's unfortunate that some are not willing to do so.

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies and English

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is mild language in the book. I'd recommend it to 8th graders and up.

If you like this book try: Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation by Ray Bradbury and Tim Hamilton
Rummanah Aasi
  Author and artist

Schools may lock up for the night, but class is in session for an entirely different set of students. In the Nightschool, vampires, werewolves, and weirns (a particular breed of witches) learn the fundamentals of everything from calculus to spell casting. Alex is a young weirn whose education has always been handled through homeschooling, but circumstances seem to be drawing her closer to the Nightschool. Will Alex manage to weather the dark forces gathering?

In the first volume, there are many characters and multiple story lines involving the Hunters, evil monsters called Rippers, and other students that are not will introduced. Before my questions could be answered after finishing a chapter, I had more as I finished the volume. It was as if only the author and artist along with the characters knew what was going on. Needless to say, the various plotlines lead to a jumbled, confusing narrative. I was so confused that I didn't know how to describe the story. Chmakova's artistic skill is displayed very well in her black-and-white illustrations of creepy locations like the darkened school, cemetery, and the appearences of rogue vampires called Rippers. I will try the second volume of this series to see if any of my problems are resolved.

Rummanah Aasi
  Ally Condie's Matched is one of the most anticipated book of the fall. Not only has the author reportedly gotten a seven figure deal to write this trilogy for Dutton, a subdivision of the Penguin Publishing Company, Disney has already bought the film rights to adapt the trilogy. And the kicker? Matched is not even out until November 30th! With this huge hype and lots of buzz surrounding the book, I had to get an ARC of Matched. Thankfully, the publishers from Dutton were so kind and sent me a copy to review. I had lots of expectations of Matched and I will say that this book met pretty much all of them.

Description: In the Society, Officials decide how you will live your life. Who you love. Where you work. When you die. All of the decisions are made because the Officials only know what is best for their citizens. Perfection only exists. Aberrations will not be tolerated.
   Cassia has always trusted the choices made by the Officials. Who would want to go against the perfect life? When she turns seventeen, she must go through the Matched ceremony, where the Officials arrange her marriage. When her best friend, Xander, appears to be her match, Cassia is relieved to already know her perfect mate...that's until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Someone she also knows: the mysterious and quiet Ky, who expertly blurs in the crowd.
Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she knows and a path no one else has ever dared to follow. Which will she choose?

Review: I really, really enjoyed this book! I started it late Tuesday night and by Wednesday I was already more than half way done with it. I will warn you that when you read this book, you will get sucked in! It is really hard to put this book down. I was completely captivated and couldn't turn the pages fast enough.
  To put it simply, Matched is a dystopian romance. I loved the world that Condie created. It seems very gentle in comparison to the brutal world of the Hunger Games series, but it like Collins' series I also found Cassia's world to be disturbing. All of the citizens are dictated in how to live their lives. Choice does not exist, mostly because people either seem to be satisfied on how things are or can't remember on how things use to be. Besides, why ruin something perfect?
  Although the book might be considered a 'light dystopian novel' that focuses on romance by many, I personally think this is what makes this book so powerful and thought provoking. The trope of a love triangle is essentially an allegory on how Cassia wants to live her life. If she chooses her best friend, Xander, she chooses the status quo, safety, and consistency. If she chooses Ky, she chooses the unknown and the possible struggles that coming along. I definitely thought of many books such as Huxley's Brave New World, Banchorz's Candor, while reading Matched which for me is a sign of a good book. I especially loved the incorporation of Dylan Thomas' poems into the story. I thought poems brought another complex layer into the storytelling.
  Like the world building, I also loved the main characters of Matched. The book is told from Cassia's perspective. She is a teen who is a bit disorientated after taking her rose-colored glasses and seeing her world for the first time. She struggles to follow her heart and logic. Her internal monologue are excellent and I found her explanations of what she does to be really interesting. I found myself asking the same questions that Cassia asks of herself.
  Xander seems to be your typical best friend. He is extremely loyal, smart, and yes, handsome. Readers are told repeatedly how he and Cassia know each other so well. I just wished this was shown more than told in the story, which is what I thought was only lacking in the story and hope this will be resolved in the second book.
  Ky is a fascinating character. I had a lot of fun learning about him and his past. I haven't made a definite decision in whether to like him more than Xander, but I have a feeling there is more to him than meets the eye.He intrigues me and captures my attention right away whenever he appears on the page.
 The passion and tension between Ky and Cassia reminded me of Bella and Edward mostly because the romance between Ky and Cassia is very chaste. Their physical contact is very limited in the book, yet you can feel the heat and tension jumping right out of the book. There are lots of twists and turns in their relationship and I can't wait to see what happens next. Now, I have to patiently wait until the second book to comes out, which is going to be really hard. *Sigh*

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: None. I would easily recommend this title to Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Candor by Pam Bachorz, Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, A Handmaiden's Tale by Margaret Atwood, Brave New World by Alex Huxley, The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson

Don't Forget...
Fight censorship and celebrate your freedom to read by entering my Speak Giveaway! Click HERE for details!
Rummanah Aasi
  Before I start my Banned Book Reading Challenge in a few days, I wanted to put up a couple of reviews. I just finished the first book Margaret Peterson's latest Missing series called Found. Found is also listed on the Rebecca Caudill book list this year for grades 4 through 8. Children looking for a quick and engaging read will love Found and the rest of the Missing series.

Description: A plane suddenly appears with 36 unattended babies. All are adopted and grow up in contemporary America. When Chip and Jonah, who are both adopted, receive mysterious letters, they search for clues about their origins. Together with Jonah's sister Katherine, they find ties to the FBI and unexplained characters that disappear right before their eyes. Could Chip and Jonah be one of those unattended babies on that airplane thirteen years ago? How do unexplained characters just disappear right before their eyes? What's going on? 

Review: I enjoyed Found. I found it be a very quick and fun read. In fact, I finished it in practically one sitting. I liked how the plot, though I felt it was pretty predictable, unfolded for the characters. Jonah, Chip, and Katherine are well liked protagonists and it is very easy to root for them. The author puts a positive spin on adoption and for once, there are no evil parents that are the villains. It is not until the climatic ending, that the story and mystery comes together. Found is definitely plot driven and in my opinion, didn't have much character development. Although the ending leaves the reader with more questions than answers and a big cliffhanger, I'm sure many will eagerly anticipate the next installment in the series. I would highly recommend this title for high elementary and middle schoolers who enjoy science fiction and mystery. I think this book would make a great book club discussion.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: None. I'd recommend this title for kids who love science fiction, mystery, or suspense. Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Sent by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2nd book in the Missing series) or Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

Fight censorship and celebrate your freedom to read by entering my Speak Giveaway! Click HERE for details!

Rummanah Aasi

  With the recent article calling for the book banning of Laurie Halse Anderson's phenomenal Speak and the disinvite of bestselling and critically acclaimed YA author Ellen Hopkins at a literary festival in Texas  last month, I wanted to do something to promote ALA's Freedom to read banned/challenged Week. Thanks to Steph Su at Step Su Reads and Donna at Bites, I will pausing my current reviews and will be taking part in a Banned Books Reading Challenge. I will be participating in the challenge on September 25 through October 2nd.
  The goal of this challenge and ALA's Banned Book Week is three folded: to bring attention to the books that have been challenged or banned, to support authors whose freedom has been scrutnized and read their books, and most importantly, increase the awareness of censorship. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I believe everyone has the freedom to decide what they should or should not read.
  I haven't yet decided which books to read for this week, but I will definitely pick 7 titles for each day and from each literary cannon: children's, YA, and adult. I will choose the titles from the following lists:

  • The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's (my alma mater!) Challenged Children's Book List. This list is divided up into age group, which is very helpful.
  • Hit List for Young Adults 2 by Teri Lesesne and Rosemary Chance. Written for librarians combating censorship but also provides a list of 20 titles of YA books that have been challenged/banned. 
  • The Illinois Library Association has a great bibliography every year noting the books challenged that year. This would be most help if you were looking for the most current challenged books.  
  • ALA's Yearly Challenged/Banned Books, which lists books challenged, restricted, removed, or banned in that year as reported in the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom.
Not only will I be doing a review of the book, I will also include information as to where and why the book was banned/challenged. Join me in the fight against censorship and celebrate the freedom to read.

  Why not start your reading challenge by entering my International SPEAK Giveaway? Just click HERE to enter! No following necessary. Winners will be picked randomly. Giveaway open until October 2nd.
Rummanah Aasi
  I have always been apalled and outraged when I come across a book ban or challenge. I firmly believe each individual has a right to decide whether or not he/she wants to read a book. What I strongly oppose to is restricting others to express their same freedom to read. While others had a great Sunday relaxing and hanging out with friends and family, I was stewing and speechless after I read an incredibly stupid (that's putting it mildly) article about how books such Laurie Halse Anderson's Printz honored book Speak are deemed as 'soft porn'.
  Excuse me?! Speak is no where near soft porn. It is about a girl named Miranda, who is ostracized, and lost her ability to speak after a high school party. Speak is Miranda's journey to gain back her courage to fight against the injustice that was done to her. How is this anywhere near soft porn? Apparently, the writer of the article hasn't bothered to read the books he questions.
  I read Speak during my first year of library school. It opened up my eyes and made me cry. I cried not because I have experienced anything close to what Miranda has (thank God), but because I found a girl who was so lost and alone in her own problems that she was virtually silent. A girl who had no one to turn to and faced her own demons day after day until someone noticed and cared. A girl who developed strength, courage, and finally a voice to speak up. A girl who could be my mom or sister or friend.
  I know friends who have been sexually abused and had similar family issues like Miranda. In fact, my very good friend Angela is on a personal crusade to educate teens about abusive relationships. She is speaking to them from her own personal experience through lectures and blogging about it. I also know teens who have gone through similar experiences and feel that there is no one out there who cares for them. I also know teens who, thanks to books like Speak, can find help and have talked to adults about their problems. I have read the numerous teen responses on Laurie Halse Anderson's website that brought tears to my eyes and confirmed that Speak is a book that is meant to be read and discussed not taken out of a school curriculum. If you don't want your child to read it, fine, but let others decide for themselves.
 I can't tell you how many times I've recommended this book to adults and teens. Just this weekend alone I attended a public library book sale, I grabbed every copy that I could find of Speak. Not to buy, because I had my own copy of the book, but to tell teens and parents to buy it. I told them that if they buy one book in this book sale, let it be Speak because not only it is phenomenally written, it has a powerful message: Stand up and speak for yourself because no one else will. And do you know what? 9 out of 10 people did buy Speak. How about that Mr. Scroggins?!
  Because I feel so strongly about the power of Speak, I will be giving away 4 copies of the book internationally.  There is no need to follow my blog. Just leave me a comment with your email address at the end of this blog post. The giveaway will end on October 2nd.
 Thanks for letting me getting this off my chest. If you're wondering what the other books that were questioned, they are: the classic Vonnegut title Slaughter House Five (which tells about the World War II bombing of Dresden) and Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer (which centers around a girl who is mourning the death of her good friend). Let's face the reality, teens can be sexually active or even thinking about sex. Why not educate them about it in any form instead of not talking about it?   
Rummanah Aasi
  Today I have the pleasure in bringing you an author interview with Lisa Schroeder. Lisa Schroeder is a native Oregonian. She is the author of three verse novels for young adults published by Simon Pulse - I Heart You, You Haunt Me, an ALA 2009 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Far From You, a Texas TAYSHAS selection, and Chasing Brooklyn. She is also the author of It's Raining Cupcakes, a middle-grade novel published by Aladdin. When she is not writing, Lisa spends her time sharing all the wonderful things Oregon has to offer with her husband and two sons. Please help me welcome Lisa to my blog.

Rummanah: Lisa, welcome and thank you for stopping by. Can you describe your latest children book called It’s Raining Cupcakes for us?

Lisa: It’s Raining Cupcakes is about a 12-year old girl, Isabel, who dreams of traveling the world and getting out of her small Oregon town. But instead of traveling, like she dreams of, she’s stuck helping her mother get a cupcake shop off the ground.

Rummanah: The book sounds great! You’ve written books for young adults and children, which audience is it harder to write for?

Lisa: I love writing for both, and don’t know that one is harder or easier than the other. I often feel like I still have the heart of a 16-year-old, and love how the teen years are filled with all sorts of firsts, some good and some not-so-good. My strongest reading memories are from the middle school years, and I still love reading middle-grade novels. It’s what I started out writing when I went from picture books to novels and I’m so happy I finally get to be have books on the shelves for 8-12 year olds.

Rummanah: So far all of your young adult books are in the format of ‘novel in verse’. Some of us haven’t heard of that term before. Can you define that writing style for us?

Lisa: A verse novel is a novel that isn’t written in traditional chapters, but instead, is written in a sparse, poetic way. Sometimes people worry that it’s going to be like reading a book of poetry, and it’s really not like that at all. A novel in verse still has to have a good story, with characters you care about, a plot that keeps you turning the pages, etc. The verse is just a way to tell the story, and authors use it for different reasons. For me, it’s about the atmosphere the verse creates. And until you read one of my books, it’s probably not going to make sense to you. I also like verse because it helps me really get at the emotional core of the story. It sort of strips away everything else and shows you the heart of the characters, I think.

Rummanah: Do you prefer writing in prose or novel in verse? Is your writing the process the same for each genre?

Lisa: I don’t have a preference. Some stories are going to work in verse, and a lot of stories won’t. So it takes just the write kind of idea to make me want to go – oooh, I’ll write that in verse. Verse suits me because I’m not an author who is good with long passages of beautiful prose. But the great thing about writing in prose is you can let your characters talk and talk and talk, and that’s something I can’t really do in a verse novel, because realistic dialogue isn’t going to be very poetic.
   My writing process is pretty much the same for either kind of book – have a general idea of where I’m going, and sit down and just see where the characters take me.

Rummanah: Where do you find inspiration to write your stories?

Lisa: I have an idea journal where I’ll write down words I like, good titles that pop into my head, random ideas, what-if questions, etc. For me, coming up with a story idea doesn’t just magically happen. At least most of the time, it doesn’t. I have to really work at brainstorming ideas, characters, situations, etc. and see what grabs my gut and makes me say – Yes, that’s it! 

Rummanah: Readers usually see all the glorious things about being a writer, but rarely get to see the behind the story. What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

Lisa: The hardest part for me is dealing with my insecurities and wishing I could be more talented. It’s not good to compare yourself to other people, but in this job, it’s hard not to. You see books getting big advances, getting great reviews, getting lots of press – whatever, and there is a part of you that goes, why not me?
   I know I’m fortunate to be published and have books on the shelves. I’m so thankful for that. Extremely thankful. And I try to remind myself how far I’ve come and that with each book, there is a chance for great things. I just have to keep writing, as that’s the only thing really in my control. 

Rummanah: You’re a true Oregonian. I’ve always wanted to go and visit Oregon. What’s your favorite thing about living there? Any places I must visit if I go there?

Lisa: I love the summers here. They are gorgeous. We have the beach an hour away and the mountains an hour away, so it’s easy to find fun things to do. We’ll maybe have one week where it gets really hot, but the rest of the time, it’s warm and sunny and not a lot of humidity and it’s just wonderful.
   It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I have to say, in June, we get Hood strawberries here, and I wait all year long for the 3-4 weeks of those sweet, delicious berries.

Rummanah: I’m always looking for the next great read, what is your favorite book that you’ve read this year?

Lisa: I think I’d have to say Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick. It’s a book that made me laugh and made me cry and I can’t stop telling people about it! 

Rummanah: Oh, I have that on my to be read list! Looking forward to reading it. What are you working on now? Can you tell us something about it and when we can expect it to come out?

Lisa: I just sold a second “Cupcake” book, although it won’t really be another cupcake book, because it’s more of a companion book, told from Sophie’s point of view (Sophie is Isabel’s best friend from the first book). I’m excited to do another book in the town of Willow, and of course there will be some cupcakes in it, as well as jam tarts and brownies and other yummy things. I don’t have a title yet, but hopefully soon. I’m supposed to get my editorial letter for that book any day, so then I’ll be busy revising for a month or so. I just finished revisions on my next YA novel, due to come out in June, 2011, and it’s another verse novel called The Day Before.  

Rummanah: Looking forward to both books. Thank you so much for stopping by, Lisa!

Lisa: Thanks for having me!!

To learn more about Lisa and her books, visit her website and read her blog.
Rummanah Aasi
  I don't have a great track record in liking short stories. It takes a while for me to care about the characters and by the time I do care about them, the story is already over. At the end, I can't help but say, "That's it?" So when I learned that the last volumes of the Emma manga series are short stories, I was kinda skeptical in how I would like them. Would I feel the same as prose short stories? After finishing the Emma Vol 8, I didn't feel the same way because I knew these characters ahead of time.

Description: Emma Vol 8 does not continue Emma and William's story, which was finished in Volume 7 of the series. Volume 8 focuses on three short stories that revolve around the secondary characters from Emma's world such as Ms. Stowner (Emma's mentor and first boss), Eleanor (a noble woman whose past is connected to William), and Tasha (Emma's roommate and fellow maid in the Meredith household).

Review: While this volume isn't part of the Emma's storyline, it is a self contained volume of short stories focusing on secondary yet well developed recurring characters that will be familiar to readers of the manga series. I think you could read this volume on its own with reading it's previous volumes and still enjoy it, however, I don't think you might get the full impact of the stories.
   I enjoyed all of the short stories, particularly the short story entitled "The Times". One of my few criticisms of the Emma series is that the author doesn't spend much time discussing the common or less wealthy class of the Victorian England. This flaw is made up in this short story. The issues of poverty and the every day lives of all levels of London's society is shown in great detail with a simple story. As always the illustrations are fantastic and the stories are easy to follow and read. If you liked the Emma series, then I would recommend reading this volume. It's a quick and an enjoyable read.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some mild language in this volume.

If you like this book try: Emma Volume 9 by Karou Mori
Rummanah Aasi
I'm trying to catch up on some of my reading. In the meantime, enjoy a guest review by my good friend Jules. Take it away, Jules!

I recommended Scrambled Eggs at Midnight by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler for anyone who enjoyed Polly Schulman’s Enthusiasm. I felt obligated at that point to do a review of it.

Description: (From the jacket flap) Calliope, “Cal” to her friends, wants nothing more than to stay put, to stop traveling cross-country with her mother, sleeping in a tent, abandoning all belongings whenever they pull up stakes. Eliot misses the happy times he left behind when his father decided to make a business out of spreading the gospel. When Cal and Eliot meet by chance in the mountains of North Carolina, they feel an immediate connection. Against the quirky backdrops of a Christian fat camp and a Renaissance Faire, Cal struggles with her mother’s waning interest in parenting, while Eliot wrestles with his father’s misplaced faith.

Review: I entirely enjoyed Scrambled Eggs at Midnight. This YA novel starts out with a grumpy, fifteen year old girl and my first reaction was, “Oh how cliché.” She proves her case, however; she has good cause to be grumpy. Still, I was weary of where the story was going to go from there. I was smiling by the middle of the second chapter, completely sucked in by Eliot's charm. Beginning with Calliope, each chapter alternates between Calliope and Eliot's perspectives to pull us along the course of the summer they met and fell in love. The plot is simple, but its simplicity lets the writing shine. There is color, texture, aromas and physical sensations. These two teens live entirely too much inside their own heads, and they know it, but their thoughts make them very relatable. How can you not love a girl who describes the silences that arise between people with colors or a boy who is exceptionally observant? Add to that a usable recipe for barbecue sauce, cherry chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, interesting factoids, a list of odd landmarks across the United States (I have personally been to three locations on the list,) and the Ten Commandments of Weight-loss??

   The dialog is witty and clever on par with Gilmore Girls. The larger theme is of learning to ask for what you need and getting needs met. I can entirely recommend this as a great by-the-pool summer read. My single criticism is that it was over too quickly.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is none really. A pretty clean romance story. Recommended for Grades 6 and up.

If you liked this book, try:  Dream Factory by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler
Rummanah Aasi
Free-lance author, Scott Nicholson contacted me and asked if I would review some of his books on my blog. I told him that I would love to spread the word about his books. I'm just sorry that it me long to do so! Scott's novels have been #1 on the Amazon Kindle list for ghost and horror stories. The first of many books by Scott that I'll be reviewing is called Speed Dating with the Dead.

Description (from Scott's website): When Wayne "Digger" Wilson hosts a paranormal conference at the haunted White Horse Inn, he has motives beyond searching for the inn's legendary ghosts. Years ago, he made a honeymoon promise to his wife Beth that if one of them died, the survivor would return to the White Horse to summon the other's lost spirit. Now she's dead and Digger's back, with the daughter they conceived during that fateful honeymoon sixteen years before. And the ghost hunters are stirring up ancient evils that were better left in peace, because the inn's basement is home to a circle of demons that have been waiting for Wayne to return.
   They want his teenage daughter Kendra, and they'll play whatever tricks they need in order to satisfy their dark desires. And at the White Horse Inn, not even angels can be trusted . . .

Review: While reading Speed Dating with the Dead, I couldn't help but remember bits of the TV show Ghost hunters, and the books, The Haunting of House Hill by Shirley, and The Shining by Stephen King. The book combines the elements of paranormal, thriller, mystery, and horror quite nicely. I particularly liked the relationship between Digger and his daughter, Kendra. I wished their relationship was flushed out a bit more.
  When I first started the book, I was a bit confused with the introduction of numerous characters. I found it hard to remember who was who and how they connected to Digger and Kendra. Once I settled that confusion and waited until the havoc to begin, Speed Dating with the Dead was a smooth reading experience. Though I, personally, prefer psychological horror (i.e. Edgar Allen Poe) instead of gore, I didn't find the book scary; however, there were still quite a few creepy passages. If you enjoy being scared, give Speed Dating with the Dead a try.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language and violence/gore in the book. There also some sex scenes that are quite graphic. I would recommend this book for adults only.

If you like this book try: The Creative Spirit by Scott Nicholson

Rummanah Aasi
  It's been a while since I last posted book and movie news! And boy, do I have lot of things to report!

Sequels, which I can't wait to read!

  • Neal Shusterman is working on a sequel to his phenomenal book called Unwind. The sequel will be called Unwholly and it is slated to be released in 2012.
  • Gayle Forman is working on the sequel to her fabulous book, If I Stay, called Where She Went. It is expected to come out in April 4, 2011. According to, the movie If I Stay is in works. Currently, Catherine Hardwicke is attached to direct the movie while Shauna Cross is adapting the novel. According to Entertainment Weekley, the movie is to start filming next year. No cast has been decided. 
  • Melissa Marr's best selling Wicked Lovely series books will come to an end. The last book will be Darkest Mercy and it will be out on Feb. 2011. You can see the cover and read the snippet on the Harper Collins website. I just read on PR Newswire that the Wicked Lovely series was picked up by Universal Pictures. Apparently, Vince Vaugn's production company, Wild West Picture Show Productions, will produce the movie and Caroline Thompson (Edward Scissorhands) will write the screenplay according to
New exciting series and or stand alone books, which I can't wait to read!

  • Melissa Marr will be working on a new YA trilogy. The new series revolves around a girl assassin, a demon with a soul, and a world where myth and science meet. Look for the first book to be released in 2013!
  • Lisa McMann is working hard on another creepy parannormal with a love story stand alone book called Cryer's Cross, coming Feb 8, 2011! 
  • We can expect a new book by Sarah Dessen, the queen of YA romance, later this year. The book is called What Happened to Goodbye
  • Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympian series will be adapted into graphic novels! Coming soon on Oct 12, 2010!
On to Movie news....

  • According to Collider, Gary Ross (Seabiscut), Sam Mendes (Away We Go), and David Slade (Eclipse) are the front running contenders to direct Suzanne Collins blockbuster Hunger Games movie. I, personally, would want Mendes to direct. Let's keep our fingers cross that this groundbreaking YA book isn't slaughtered at the box office. 
  • Lois Lowry's classic novel, The Giver, will be made into a movie. According to the Internet Movie Database, no director, writer or cast has been named.The movie is under development.
    • Kazuo Ishiguro bestseller, Never Let Me Go, is being made into a movie starring Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan. 

    Maybe this will help me understand the book and pick it up again. I gave up reading it after pg. 50.

    • Freakonomics will be turned into a documentary movie. Another book that didn't really interest me. Check out the trailer:

    • Ned Vizzini's YA book, It's Kind of a Funny Story will be releasing in a few weeks:

    • Last but not least, Jonathan Swift's classic satire, Gulliver's Travels, will be updated by Jack Black and crew:

    Cool, huh? So, which one will you see?
    Rummanah Aasi
      I don't really read the newspaper. I'm strictly an 'Arts and Entertainment' section kinda gal. I usually skim the headlines on the front page, but most of the time I don't bother. Why? Because it's the same depressing news: people are dying from gang violence, poverty and war around the world. It's not that I don't care about what's going on, I do, but it's the fact that there's really nothing I can immediately do in order to make it better. I currently found a small way to make things better by volunteering. It's through volunteering that I see my immediate impact and know that I am making a difference. It's also through volunteering that I see the glimmer of hope and goodness that is in all of us. One book that I thought did a good job that portray hope in midst of the horrific and tragic events of the Indonesian tsunami disaster is Heidi Kling's debut novel Sea.

    Description: Despite recurring nightmares about her mother's death and her own fear of flying,  Sienna reluctantly accepts her father's birthday gift to fly to Indonesia with his team of disaster relief workers to help victims of a recent tsunami. She never thought the people she met on the trip and her experiences to affect her life so much. 

    Review: I really enjoyed this book. At first I was hesitate to see how the whole altruism/volunteering aspect of the novel works in the book. I was afraid of the 1st world country helping the 'backward 3rd world country', which thankfully does not happen at all. Ms. Kling does a great job in both introducing the Indonesian culture and language to the reader. I learned a great deal about the Indonesian culture that I didn't know before. The introduction is done without being condescending.
      While the book not only talks about the disaster and the help relief of the tsunami, it is also a bittersweet, clean romance. While spending two weeks in an Indonesian refugee camp, Sienna meets the gorgeous, brooding, and enigmatic Deni. They both share an instant connection due to their own personal tragedies. The romance doesn't weigh down the book nor is it sappy, but rather it helps Sienna come to terms with her own struggles. Sienna's personal journey through loss, newfound courage, eventual acceptance of the changes in her life, and love sound true in this satisfying debut novel. I look forward to reading other books from Ms. Kling. 

    Rating: 4 stars

    Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images of wreckage that the tsunami caused. Nothing graphic. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

    If you like this book try: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
    Rummanah Aasi
      Most of the books or graphic novels that are about faeries usually tend to stick to two reoccurring plot lines: a human discovers that he/she has some connection to the Faerie world and/or the rulers of the Faerie world find some way to come into the mortal world and cause chaos in the hopes of ruling it. I've read a graphic novel about faeries that avoids these two 'been there, done that' plot lines by weaving faerie folklore with a different type of faerie that is searching for freedom, identity, and diversity. The graphic novel is called Vogelein: Clockwork Faerie by Jane Irwin.

    Description: Vogelein is not your typical faerie. She is a tiny clockwork faerie that was created by a watchmaker in Germany. When Jakob, her current Guardian of fifty years dies, she is on a desperate quest to find a new Guardian that she can trust. Vogelein must be wound ever so many hours, if she does not, she slowly dies and loses her memories. With only five hours before she winds down forever, will Vogelein find her new Guardian?

    Review: Reading Vogelein was a brand new entry of world that I've visited many times before. Vogelein is a created invention, a symbol of what her creator lost when his wife died. Though she is immortal, she needs to be wind up every 36 hours otherwise her body and mind slowly deteriorate. After her Guardian dies, she must find someone new to take care of her. During her journey, she meets a sheltered college student, a wise street cleaner, and a bitter fairy named Midhir, who seeks to destroy mankind and has been transformed by the industrial world of Man. It is through these relationships and her prized memories, Vogelein discovers her own humanity in a today's world where we tend to ignore the plausibility of magic.The black and white illustrations are excellent and eye-catching. The pacing and narrative are both great. This is a perfect choice for middle readers who would like to read about faeries without worrying about reading anything too dark or scary for them to handle.

    Rating: 4 stars

    Words of Caution: There is mild language in the book. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

    If you like this book try: Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
    Rummanah Aasi
      Tony DiTerlizzi is probably most known for his contributions to the popular and best selling Spiderwick Chronicles series for children. He brings the same amount of whimsical and energetic feeling to one of his stand alone titles called Kenny and the Dragon. The book not only celebrates friendship but also the love of the reading.

    Description: Kenny Rabbit befriends a dragon named Grahame. Grahame is very different from the dragons that Kenny has read in his beloved books. When the people of Roundbrook village find out that there is a dragon living in their community, they call for an immediate extermination. Will Kenny lose his new best friend?

    Review: I really enjoyed Kenny and the Dragon. I loved Kenny, who is both bookish and adorable. I also loved learning about the misunderstood, intelligent, and very funny Grahame. Young readers will easily be able to follow the straightforward story. They would also enjoy the themes of diversity, debunking stereotypes, and the joys of reading. Adults will enjoy the literary allusions and innuendos in the story. The illustrations are great and add another layer to the story.  I haven't read the original classic story by Kenneth Grahame, but you don't really need to read it before reading this book. Overall, a great story for all ages. Recommended for Grades 3 to 6. 

    Rating: 4.5 stars

    Words of Caution: None.

    If you like this book try: The original story called The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame or The BFG by Roald Dahl
    Rummanah Aasi
      I became a fan of the Bronte sisters when I was in high school. One of my older sisters' favorite book is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. She kept gushing about this book and told me that I had to read it. I was a freshman in high school at the time. I enjoyed it, but didn't love it like her. When I was a sophomore, I first read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and was blown away. Even though I had to use a dictionary and learned new vocab words while reading the book, I could not put it down. Slowly, Wuthering Heights became my favorite book and I try to read it annually. Now whenever my sister and I discuss books, we keep turning to our endless debate: Which book is better? She leaned towards plain Jane and the aloof Mr. Rochester. While I liked the moody, dark moors, and the misunderstood Heathcliff. Interestingly enough, I don't think either or us read anything by Anne Bronte. I don't think our neglect was intentional. Perhaps we already chose a favorite and stuck to it?
     While reading the Chicago Tribune Book Section by Julia Keller, I came across a title that she recommended to Bronte fans called Charlotte and Emily: A Novel of the Brontes by Jude Morgan. The novel was to depict the Brontes' life stories. I had previous read a similar book by Morgan who wrote Passions, which tells the tales of the famous Romantics (Byron, Shelly, and Keats) and the women in their lives. I loved Passions and therefore had high expectations for Charlotte and Emily, which were well met.

    Description: A fictionalized biographical account of the lives of the Bronte family. From the death of the mother Mia to the death of Charlotte Bronte, who died at the age of 38 and outlived all of her siblings. 

    Review: The title of the book is misleading. The novel doesn't focus on the two leading sisters, Charlotte and Emily, but rather the entire family. Branwell, their egocentric brother whom their father, the Rev. Patrick Bronte, doted upon is a complex character. At times I couldn't help but like his charm, but my opinions of him definitely changed by the end. There is also a keen observation of the talented youngest sibling, Anne, who can't help but be in the shadow of her elder sisters. The two eldest sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, both of whom died after falling ill at a nightmarish girl's school, are also included in the tale.
       Charlotte's personality of constantly seeking approval and love is shown quite nicely. Branwell's hubris can be a bit much, but I could see glimpses of the male characters in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in him. I wonder if he inspired his sisters while they were writing. Emily was a fascinating character. She doesn't speak much, but when she does it usually profound. I also really liked strong, but silent Anne. Now I have a desire to read her books too.
      I wasn't aware that there were two older Bronte sisters before Charlotte, so that was a treat to learn about them too. Despite relentless struggles and early deaths, the Bronte sisters are rightfully memorable and celebrated.
    Morgan stays pretty close to the real biographical facts of the Bronte family. She deftly shows the struggles of each individual as well as the evolution of great, female writers. Her writing is excellent. The language is extremely descriptive and detailed. When reading the novel, I could totally picture myself at Halworth and observe what is going on, but also know what the characters are feeling.
      So, why the 4.5 stars instead of 5? Well, I thought the pacing was a bit off. The story lagged in the beginning, but quickly picked up in the middle, and I felt the ending was a bit rushed. Overall, a great book that I think all Bronte fans should read.

    Rating: 4.5 stars

    Words of Caution: There is some strong language in the book. There is also alcohol and drug use too.

    If you like this book try: Passions by Jude Morgan or Romancing Miss Bronte by Juliet Gael
    Rummanah Aasi
     Have you ever read a manga before? Do you know what manga is? Manga is the Japanese word for whimsical or humorous comics. Outside of Japan, the term is usually interpreted as comics or graphic novels that were originally published in Japan. It is either read in serialized form in monthly magazines or in volumes. Like many other books and graphic novels, manga comes in a variety of genres and merge illustrations with text. The illustrations are mostly black and white, although there are very few in color. Manga is read differently than your usual graphic novel. For one thing, it is read right to left, which means you start at the back of the book.
      I started reading manga in 2008. My first manga series was the phenomenal, psychological thriller Death Note series by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. I enjoyed the experience so much that I started searching for other series to read. I asked friends who were more knowledgeable about this genre for their recommendations and the ALA's list of great graphic novels for teens. I came across a series and description that caught my eye. The series is called Emma and it is written and illustrated by Karou Mori. I started this series in 2009 and hoped it finish it this year since the series has been completed. I recently finished the 7th volume of Emma, which wraps up the series quite nicely.

    Description: Emma is a historical fiction romance manga. The story is set in 19th century Victorian England, where a maid named Emma falls in love with William, a member of the aristocracy. Due to society's social unwritten rules and William's family disapproval, Emma and William are forced to keep their love a secret. The couple goes through many trials in their relationships. William is threated by being disowned by his family, leaving him poor and without nobility. Whereas Emma's life is physically threatned. In volume 7, Emma and William's fate is to be decided. Will they finally have a happy ending?

    Review: I really enjoyed reading this series. The black and white illustrations are goregeous and the text is very easy to read and follow. Along with an interesting plot that has lots of twists and turns as well as a great cast of characters. Although the 7th volume of the series is quite melodramatic than the other volumes and contains many plotlines going all at once, I still found it enjoyable. The ending was a bit rushed, but a satisfying one. Even though Emma and William's story ends in the 7th volume, volumes 8 to 10 depict short stories on many of the secondary characters. I plan on reading those volumes. Give manga a shot and maybe start with Emma.

    Rating: 4 stars

    Words of Caution: There is some language in this volume. There is also a few pages of female, frontal nudity when some of the characters are taking a bath. Recommended to older teens and adults.

    If you like this book try: Shirley by Karou Mori
    Rummanah Aasi
      I hope everyone enjoyed their Labor Day weekend. I took a mini-vacation to the east coast and lost track of time. I didn't mean to fall off the radar with the blog. Please bear with me as I try to catch up on writing reviews. The first review is The Mailbox by Audrey Shafer.

    Description: 12 years old Gabe lives with his Uncle Vernon, a Vietnam war veteran and Gabe's sole guardian. On one unexpected afternoon, Gabe discovers his uncle dead. He keeps Uncle Vernon's death a secret and tries to manage on his own. Gabe receives help from a mysterious, unseen well-wisher who communicates by notes in Gabe's mailbox. How did Uncle Vernon die? Who is this mysterious well-wisher?

    Review: The Mailbox is an interesting book with an original premise and strong characters. While the book is mostly a character driven novel, it also does show how people are inter connected with one another. As Gabe mourns for his uncle and struggles to make his uncle proud, the readers get to know the strong and caring people surrounding him, and to see the enormous impact made by his uncle. Gabe learns to reach out to others for help as well as what it means to have a best friend. Horrifying glimpses of the Vietnam War and its aftermath are also discussed. My biggest problem with the book is that it moves very slowly. Although it less than 200 pages, it took me days to read it because I kept putting it down and getting bored with the story. The book finally picked up for me in the last 10 chapters when the mysterious well wisher's identity is finally revealed. Nevertheless, The Mailbox shows us how we impact each others lives even though it may not seem like it.

    Rating: 3.5 stars

    Words of Caution: There is mild language and some disturbing images in the book. Recommended to Grades 5 and up.

    If you like this book try: Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor
    Rummanah Aasi
      I'm really behind on my graphic novel pile. So if you see a slew of graphic novel reviews here, that means I'm doing a graphic novel read-athon. On top of my big to be read graphic novel pile is Breaking Up by Aimee Friedman. Just by looking at this title, I thought, "Here's another graphic novel about a girl sulking about breaking up with a guy." I was pleasantly surprised. Breaking Up is actually about the fickle friendships we make in high school.

    Description: Chloe Sacks is a self-described aspiring artist and tells the story of her tumultuous junior year at Georgia O'Keeffe School for the Arts in flashbacks.She has been best friends with the daring and gorgeous Mackensie since kindergarten. She also has a close friendship Isabel and Erika. Once thought of as inseparable, their friendship is challenged by sex, love, and popularity.

    Review: I liked Breaking Up mainly because I thought it was a well balanced book that discusses realistic issues and teenage sarcasm/angst. Though the four friends fit neatly into certain categories, teens will easily identify with them. The dialogue and narrative by Friedman is spot on and well paced. The illustrations by Norrie are fantastic. I love the panels where emotions such as butterflies in the stomach are portrayed in the comic. The panels were clean and easy to read, follow.

    Rating: 4 stars

    Words of Caution: There is some mild language. Sex is discussed amongst the characters. One of the main character has already lost her virginity and another not sure whether or not to have sex. The discussion is frank and relatively clean. I would recommend this comic for Grades 7 and up.

    If you like this book try: Good as Lily by
    Rummanah Aasi
      I never had a pet while growing up and I still don't have one.  I grew up in Chicago and the apartment building where I lived did not allow pets. Even when I moved to the suburbs, I didn't have any inkling to have a pet. It's not that I don't like animals, I do. In fact, I like playing around with my friend's pets and do understand the special connection pet owners have with their pets. Hachiko Waits by Leslea Newman is a sweet story that describes that special relationship between pets and their masters.

    Description: Hachi, an Akita pup, is the devoted, brave, and very smart dog that belongs to Professor Eizaburo Ueno. Hachi loves nothing more than accompanying his master to his morning train and then meeting him in the afternoon after the Professor returns from work. One day the Professor does not return yet the faithful Hachi awaits his master's return day after day, month after month, and year after year until he is not able. Hachiko Waits is based on a true story.

    Review: Hachiko Waits is a beautiful, bittersweet book that all animal lovers will love and enjoy. Hachi is the epitome of loyalty, bravery, hope, and intelligence. Without being instructed, he dutifully waits for his master regardless of how long it takes. Newman does a good job in not making the book overly sentimental or depressing. Although there is a sad ending, I felt that the book was overly inspiring and uplifting.
       The book takes place during the 1920s in Japan. Along with the story, there is a nice and simple introduction to the Japanese culture. The book is composed of ten short chapters and black and white illustrations that bring the story to life. A glossary of Japanese words as well as an author note about the real Hachi is included at the back of the book. A great choice for grades 3 to 5.

    Rating: 4 stars

    Words of Caution: None.

    If you like this book try: Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog by Pamela Turner or watch Hachi the movie
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