Jenny's Library

Reading Round-up 2013: week 20 – Everything Else

Posted on: November 12, 2013

cover image for Sticks and StonesSticks and Stones by Emily Bazelon

Normally “fair and balanced” is code for believing in false equivalency – and is the opposite approach from what one might want in a factual book about bullying.  But Bazelon has clearly done her homework here, and her purpose in showing both sides of the bullying story is to reflect statistical reality (bullies are as unique as any group of individuals), point out that children’s actions are often being used to excuse misguided adult priorities (bullying is sometimes a contributing factor in many suicides, but untreated mental illness is a bigger contributor to the same suicides), and to explore what kinds of remedies are actually most effective (zero tolerance policies tend to make it harder to help kids).

There are a few times when her language veers a bit too closely to the often victim blaming advice traditionally given to kids being bullied, but on the whole it’s a very humanizing and illuminating investigation.  The chapters on social media and effective anti-bullying programs are especially fascinating.  Most importantly, the emphasis throughout on the importance of considering entire communities (not just the most obvious problem children) and the whole child (not just their interaction with peers)  is an excellent example of what “fair and balanced” journalism should mean.  Highly recommended for everyone, especially anyone who is at all responsible for the care of children and teens.

cover image for Let's Go For a DriveLet’s Go for a Drive by Mo Willems

Piggie and Gerald are going to go for a drive.  Gerald has the plan, and Piggie has everything else they could possibly need – except for one, small, thing…

Have I mentioned lately how much I love this series?  They’re clever and funny, of course – this book in particular – but I also absolutely adore how Willems uses repetition to help new readers gain confidence with unfamiliar words and font and character’s body language to help children become more expressive readers.

cover image for Fat AngieFat Angie by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo

Fat Angie, according to her mother, needs to lose 29 pounds. At least.  Fat Angie’s therapist says that she needs to stop projecting her feelings of animosity onto others.  Her classmates think she should have followed through on killing herself.  As for Fat Angie herself, she just wants her sister to make it home from the war alive.  But maybe what Fat Angie really needs is someone who looks at her and sees someone witty and clever and beautiful.

For a good portion of this book I wasn’t sure what to make of it, especially as the third person narrative makes it unclear if Fat Angie is being referred to as such because of her own thoughts or because the author is presenting Angie only as other people see her.  What makes it work in the end, and part of what makes the book so good, is that how Angie thinks of herself and how other people see her is often the same thing.  That’s how lost and detached Angie is from her own life, and it’s also a measure of how much she has internalized the hatred directed at her.  That she can still function and move forward in the midst of all this is a testament to her strength.

cover image for Nothing Can Possibly Go WrongNothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks

Charlie’s ex-girlfriend has convinced their school to buy new cheerleader uniforms – with the money that was supposed to go to the science team. Nate has a plan though.  All they have to do is win the 6th annual Robot Rumble and collect their prize money.  But first, they have to build a battle bot that will crush the competition. And convince their parents to let them spend Thanksgiving weekend at the Robot Rumble in Atlanta instead of eating dinner with their families. Nothing could possibly go wrong…right?

I love love love this book. It’s hilarious. It’s about nerds. And evil cheerleaders – that turn out to be not so evil. And friends. And family.  And teamwork.

Also, ROBOTS. Robots THAT FIGHT OTHER ROBOTS.

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