I know I have a lot to apologize for neglecting to post anything or even just a tiny squeak so you guys would know I’m still alive. I’m really really very sorry but masters class killed me or something close to that. I’m still trying to let my fingers and wrist heal after a grueling finals exam last Saturday. Hehe
Anyway, I would like to make my comeback post with a zing (and make it up to you, dear readers, in the process) that’s why I want to share the double book review I did for one of my classes. I hope my professor enjoyed it as much as you guys would.
My love affair with books started strangely. One fateful day many years ago, my neighbor showed me a workbook for basic learning for K-1 kids that her father bought for her. I could clearly remember that day – the sun was shining bright that late afternoon and for this little girl, nothing else existed but that book and me. When I touched its yellow cover and run my fingers through its thin spine, I was never the same. I was consumed by an inexplicable desire to have that book like my life depended on it. So much so that for the next few years, my only vice was to read whatever fiction books I could find. (I’ve never been that attracted to the non-fiction aisle of any library that’s why I seldom read books from that section unless they are required in school although a fellow bibliophile friend told me that I should expand my reading preferences as much as I can.)
I got initiated into the Sweet Valley (Francine Pascal) fever like any “middle schooler” back in fifth grade in the public school (nope we don’t have middle school in Talisay Central School but that was how powerful books were and still are for me that sometimes, my thoughts and actions are influenced accordingly). Then that addiction progressed from mysteries/whodunits featuring the teenage amateur girl sleuth Nancy Drew (Carolyn Keene), the brother tandem of teen detectives Hardy Boys (Frank Dixon) or the brilliantly maverick lawyer Perry Mason (Erle Stanley Gardner), to comics and graphic novels, and to books for children and young adults which a friend and fellow blogger introduced me to.
For the uninitiated adult reader, it’s easy to dismiss books for the young adult (YA) and children as “childish” or “a waste of time” for these people do not know a great secret. YA and children’s books are the most deceptive – deceptive in the sense that beneath the veneer of a “simple story outline” lies a more powerful message not easily grasped unless you really spend time dissecting the parts while at the same time not losing perspective about a book’s totality. And with the following two children’s novels I will focus my book review on.
AUTHOR: Edward Bloor © 1997
PUBLISHER: Scholastic, Inc. (Printed in the USA)
ALA Top Ten Books for Young Adults
Horn Book Fanfare Book
An American Bookseller Pick of the List
NYPL “One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing”
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Blue Ribbon Book
MY COPY: An Apple Signature Edition paperback bought at Php 55.00 from Booksale at Robinsons Mall
The story revolves around Paul Fisher, a boy diagnosed with a visual impairment and a much bigger handicap – having a brother like Erik. At a glance, having a high school football star in the family is not a tragedy worth Shakespeare’s pen but if that athlete is anything akin to Erik, then that spells trouble for you.
Paul was starting seventh grade when his family moved from Houston to Tangerine County, in Florida – the former Tangerine Capital of the World. However, what greeted Paul on that first day were not the groves and groves of citrus fruits but housing developments located on what used to be tangerine farms. And in the next few months, Paul was going to confront issues that he hasn’t had before making him acknowledge his own strengths and weaknesses and find a stronger and much better Paul when the book ended on page 294.
In Edward Bloor’s first novel-writing attempt, we not only see a story unfolding but an orchestration in the hands of a master. The different themes running are evidence to that – man vs. nature (lightning strikes always at the same time everyday, muck fires, sinkholes), sibling rivalry (which resulted to Paul’s visual impairment), devotion to sports (Erik to football; Paul to soccer), friendship, discrimination, justice and retribution, race and culture, honesty and integrity, and courage. Despite being told in journal style in Paul’s viewpoint, the book has tackled the various subplots with ease. The author also introduced foreshadowing in some scenes so readers could predict the outcomes long before the characters themselves could realize what actually happened.
Paul was a good character. He was clever, astute and mature for his age. His keen sense of observation is an admirable trait in a protagonist. Although there are countless times when I got irked every time Paul would let Erik walk all over him. It made me want to go straight into the book and punch him for being such a pushover. But I really enjoyed Paul’s character development; he progressed from being a doormat to someone who finally realized his worth in his own eyes (no pun intended).
What made this book nice for me was how Bloor handled Paul’s visual impairment. By a strange phenomenon (as explained in the last few pages), Paul’s peripheral vision went awry when he was around 5 years old. So in his first day at the new school, his mom had to fill out an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). The IEP was a necessary requirement for kids with special needs. As Principal Gates explained, “basically we identify Paul’s situation, set specific goals for him to achieve, and note any special needs he might have.” But Paul was “defiant” as any youngster so despite being labeled as “legally blind”, he joined the soccer team, contributed to them winning a championship, and won a lot of friends and blood brothers.
Had I read this book before I took up SPED, I wouldn’t have understood the role of IEP* in the book nor would I have rooted so much for Paul to be able to conquer his demons and fears. All in all, this book is a good material for children and adults as well.
Edward Bloor is an American author of young adult novels best known for Tangerine and London Calling. Mr. Bloor has taught middle school and high school in Florida, where he lives with his wife and children. He is currently at work on another novel for young readers. (From Wikipedia)
TITLE: Belle Prater’s Boy
AUTHOR: Ruth White © 1997
PUBLISHER: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers (Printed in
A Newbery Honor Book
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
An ALA Notable Book
A Boston Globe – Horn Book Honor Book
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
An IRA Teacher’s Choice
An NCSS/CBC Notable Children’s Trade Book in the field of Social Studies
Recipient of a Parenting Magazine Reading Magic Award
MY COPY: A Newbery Honor Book edition bought at Php 45.00 from Booksale at Emall
Short and sweet, this 196 – page book did what it set out to do – to tell the story of a boy who, through his wit, charm and innate goodness, captivated everyone in 1950’s Coal Station, Virginia and changed the life of his family. His being cross-eyed made everyone look at things with fresh eyes (again, no pun intended here).
Woodrow Prater came to live with his grandparents in Residence Street, “the brightest spot in all the county,” after his mom, Belle, mysteriously disappeared. There, he was introduced to the conveniences surrounding the life of Gypsy Arbutum Leemaster, Woodrow’s cousin, that he didn’t have back in the “shack” he used to live in with his parents. Much more than that, Woodrow learned that appearances are just like that – that rich people have their own problems, too, and that he with his disability is as qualified as the next guy to a life he so deserves.
Told in Gypsy’s voice, the story is a heartwarming mix of pre-teen angst, loss, friendship, secret sorrows, mystery, happiness, laughter, love and a celebration of life.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.
Jalal al-Din Rumi, thirteenth century
Ruth White is an American author. She won a Newbery Honor in 1997 for her book Belle Prater’s Boy. (From Wikipedia)
Why the two stories?
I wanted two contrasting story lines to illustrate how children with disabilities are cleverer and more creative than we give them credit for. Paul and Woodrow were able to rise above the stigma associated with their respective disabilities and prove to naysayers that there really is hope for one who believes in himself and acts on that belief.
Almost two decades after that fateful encounter, here I am still addicted to the wonderful adventures and one-of-a-kind experiences brought exclusively page-by-page by my wonderful book companions. Now, I support my addiction by either downloading books from the internet (Yes, gods of anti-piracy I hear you. Can I help it if I’m just talented in searching for free ebooks? Hehehe) or by stopping at my fave haunts – bargain bins at discount bookstores like Booksale branches in Cebu or in any other place I travel to. Our eventful Ilocandia adventure last year (see Naragsak a Kasangay) on my birthday yielded me 5 or 6 books from the National Bookstore in the historic city of Vigan, Ilocos Sur. But what makes me happier than reading is sharing my love for reading and influencing my friends to read. The latest reading fad we were into was the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. We were naturally disappointed with the movie, The Lightning Thief (adapted from the book of the same title), as it couldn’t hold a candle to the first book of the said series.
* IEP in Special Education means “a detailed description of the educational goals, assessment methods, behavioral management plan, and educational performance of a student requiring special education services“. (From Special Education Resources for General Educators (SERGE)