Category Archives: Reluctant Readers

Wonder – A Review

Wonder by RJ Palacio

11387515

Let me begin with a warning – this is going to be a rather long post (by my standards).The book more than deserves it. This one came highly recommended. It has won several awards too and I’d planned to read it with the kids. One chapter down the line I decided I couldn’t possibly read just a few pages a day and ended up finishing it on my own.

Meanwhile, our nightly read aloud sessions continued and we managed to complete it only recently.

Here’s the story

Wonder tells the tale of a ten-year-old boy August Pullman (Auggie) born with extreme facial abnormalities. He has been homeschooled till grade four due to the various surgeries that he has to go through. In grade five his parents decide to send him to a private school, Beecher Prep. Auggie considers himself a normal kid but his physical appearance sets him apart. He desperately wants to blend in but that cannot happen. He knows, dreads and hates the constant stares, the looks of revulsion, or worse, those of pity.

The book talks about his experiences in the school, his attempts to fit in and find friendship.

Now for the review

Wonder is not only a fantastic story, it is told ever so beautifully as well. The story unravels through multiple point of views. This makes it very interesting because it shows us glimpses of Auggie through the eyes of various characters and how they learn to love and accept him over time. The book is broken up into short two-three page chapters which makes it perfect if you’re taking turns reading it with your tween. Almost every bit of it is a veritable quotable quote, full of simple wisdom.

Auggie’s character is wonderfully etched – smart, funny, sweet and kind. He is well aware of the way he looks and even finds it in his heart to joke about it, to the unexpected delight of his new friends. In the end what stands out is his courage and kindness.  Palacio’s ten-year-old voice is very believable.

The supporting characters are delightful too. Each of them – Auggie’s sister Via, their parents, Via’s friend Miranda, her boyfriend, Justin  – all of them have a back-story which makes them real and relatable. That is perhaps why the book has spawned a number of ‘Companion Novels’ and turned almost into a series. (Auggie and Me, Pluto, Shingaling, 365 Days of Wonder)
Via was my absolute favourite. I would love to read a spin-off from her perspective. What would it be like to live with a brother who takes up almost all of your parents’ time,  energy and attention? – that would be interesting.
I loved the parents too. They taught me some valuable lessons through the book.

I wondered whether I (and the kids) would relate to an American school setting. Interestingly we weren’t distracted by it at all. Not for one moment did our focus shift from the core idea of the book – the challenges of a ten-year old kid, which are quite the same the world over. The children identified with Auggie, with his struggle to fit in, with the peer pressure, how cliques are formed to include some and exclude the others. Palacio got the middle-school friendship dynamic bang on. She talks about how cruel the kids can be and how very kind as well.

I was apprehensive that it would turn out to be a sad heavy read given the subject but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Of course it has those heart-breaking moments when you wish you could reach out and hug Auggie and Via and their parents, and to tell them that all would be well. But then there are also happy, fun moments when your heart swells and you cannot but smile. That’s the magic of Wonder – it makes you cry and laugh by turns. And in the end leaves you with a full heart, raising a cheer to Auggie and his warm circle of family and friends.

The Julian Chapter: The edition I read came with an additional Julian’s Chapter – the story told from the point of view of the lead antagonist. I do believe, strongly that children aren’t born cruel or mean and that their parents often are part of the reason they become that way. Yet to me that chapter seemed like Palacio was making excuses for Julian’s behaviour – his bullying and his meanness – in a forced attempt to justify him. I have to admit though that it worked for the kids. It helped them see where his bad-behaviour came from. And in the end it served to make them less judgemental even about the not-so-nice kids, so I cannot really complain.

Another flip side – if I have to find one – is that the book might seem simplistic, the characters too good, too sensible. But sometimes you need to read a feel-good book simply because it leaves you with a happy feeling. Even more importantly, you need to get your tween to read this one.

Last thought: Put aside all cynicism and pick up this ever so fabulous read.

Go Read a Book

Read a book

As I pack a gift for your friend’s birthday I hear you groan, “A book, again?” I hear it, though you think you’re being discreet, trying to spare my feelings. And yes, it’s going to be a book every time.

When you come to me and say. ‘I’m bored,’ I know you have your eye on the iPad. But all I say is, ‘Go read a book’.

When I start a book club I know you come for your friends (and for the cupcakes!) but I go ahead anyway. I invite your friends, I get the cup cakes and I pick out stories – of thrill and adventure, of children like you. And as we craft and play and eat and talk I quietly squeeze in Gaiman and Rowling.

I do it because I once made a promise.

Years ago, when I was a child like you, I had a somewhat drab existence. Until one day I fell in love – deeply irrevocably. This love of mine swept away the dreariness. It opened up a canvas wide and colourful and so very cheerful. It made me new friends – toys that could talk and little pixies, a Polish boy and a German girl, a mighty magician and a young ballerina – I shared their stories – their joys, their sorrows.

I had fallen in love with the written word.

Then one day, wonder of wonders, I found I could create a world of my own, my own colours and my own friends. And that filled me with such great joy. I was a creator, a little like God!

I had learnt to make up my own stories.

That is when I made that promise: that I’d never stop trying to share my love, that I’d help it touch each life it could, I’d help it help each one get wings and I’d help it make many little gods.

That’s a promise I’ll always keep and so I’ll try to get you to read.

I’ll push and I’ll wheedle, I’ll tempt and I’ll tease. And it’s not going to stop till you open a book, till you begin to read.

It’s the  very last day of the # BarAThon Challenge from 1st to 7th August 2016.
The prompt for today is ‘Promise’.
I am with Team #CrimsonRush

BAR-A-THON

 

 

The teacher

slice of life fiction

The Teacher

Sangita’s eyes drooped. Who ever said sleep deserts the old, she thought to herself, as she struggled to keep her eyes open. There was a time she could stay awake well past midnight, waiting for her husband to get home from his shift at the steel foundry. But now, come 10 o clock and she was asleep already.

Nani ma you need to pay ATTENTION!” Pia’s plaintive cry snapped her eyes open. This little granddaughter of hers – what a delight she was and how determined, just like her mom… and like me too. She smiled to herself. Oh the wars she had fought with Pia’s mom! There was the great tattoo fight and the late night curfew battles…..

Nani ma you are dreaming again.” Ah Pia..

“Come on. Hold the pencil like this and copy that first letter once more. Remember I told you it stands for the sss sound in your name? And that dot on top – that’s for the nnn.”

“Just three letters Nani ma and then you can sign your name,” enthused Pia, “Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Then you can learn to read. You can read up new stories to tell me.”

Sangita looked indulgently at the eager face staring up at her. She adjusted her glasses. She had been trying but those squiggly letters refused to make sense.
“I am too old for this, darling,’ she said with a sigh.
“But you say one is never too old to learn new things. You don’t know what you’re missing. Come on, take the pencil and try again, please,” begged her granddaughter.

She couldn’t say no to the fervent entreaty in the those honey brown eyes. Struggling to put herself in Pia’s tiny shoes, to feel at least some of her enthusiasm, Sangita wrapped her bent old fingers awkwardly around the pencil and began to write.

It’s Day 5 of the #BarAThon Challenge from 1st to 7th August 2016.
The prompt for today is ‘Tiny Shoes’.

I am with Team #CrimsonRush

BAR-A-THON

Ticket to the land of dreams

reading

I was brought up in a city where Hindustani was spoken with pride and finesse. I also had two  very dear grand moms, with whom I spend a lot of my time, and they spoke the sweetest Awadhi. My grandfather read and wrote fluent Urdu, since that was the official language of communication back then, and my mom had a doctorate in Sanskrit.

The Queen’s English was definitely not top of the pile for me.

However my forward-thinking parents eager to give me a good start, put me in the best Convent School of the city that came with imported nuns :-). The school was situated almost on the outskirts of the city and my mom tells me she had to brave many a snide comment from busybodies. (Sending the kids away to study in the jungle!! And such small babies at that!). She listened to no one. A scholar herself, studying was/is her passion.

Amidst running a house and the scores of demands of a joint family she made time to listen and practice the language with me. However I remained far from perfect. By the time I turned 6 or 7 my problems must have been apparent.

Nobody knows that I .. was so bad at English my parents were summoned to school. I remember clearly that feeling of absolute dread while I waited with my father in the school parlour. As it turned out my teacher had a treat in store for me – I was told to read. Not school books but storybooks! Delight of delights!!

In a family where academics were highly valued, leisure reading was looked down upon as a waste of time. And there my teacher had prescribed just that for me.

I couldn’t have been happier.

The first book I remember my father getting me, was one of Shakespear’s plays adapted as short stories. It was all plain pages and heavy text with perhaps a single black and white sketch for each story. And I loved it – As You like it, Twelfth Night, King Lear, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Merchant of Venice – I read them all and I still remember some of them only from that tiny book. And so holding onto the hand of the Bard I began my reading journey.

Perhaps it was that teacher’s concern and the fact that my parents valued and followed her advice that set me off on this delightful tryst with books.

For that I shall forever be grateful.

*******

Linking up to Blogadda’s  Write Over the Weekend (WOW)  prompt 
‘Nobody knows that I..’

wowbadge

Yertle the Turtle

Do you know Yertle the Turtle? That self-centred turtle who made his throne out of his fellowmen.. err fellow turtles?

Yertle_the_Turtle_and_Other_Stories_cover

If you don’t, well here’s his story:

Yertle was the king of turtles, king of all he could see. One day he decided that from his seat on a stone he couldn’t see too much hence his kingdom was too small. So he ordered nine turtles to stack up one on top of the other. He would sit on them and look further and so make his kingdom grow.

Of course he wouldn’t be satisfied with that and so more turtles were ordered to stack up to raise him higher and higher. Finally, the turtle right at the bottom of the pile , poor little Mac, complained of the load. But Yertle didn’t care. He saw the moon and ranted at it because it was higher then him. Then tired Mac gave one little burp and the turtles all come crashing down along with King Yertle.

The author

If you haven’t guessed already by the quirky name, that poem-story is done by the famous Theodor Geisel. What? Don’t know him? You may know him as Dr Seuss (who, for the record, wasn’t a doctor at all!).

Our man Yertle

So what do you think of Yertle the Turtle? A nasty piece of work, he was, wasn’t he? Seuss confessed he was a take on Hitler.

He didn’t care for anyone or anything save for expanding his kingdom. So drunk is he with his power, so focussed on what he wanted that he lost all rationality. he couldn’t even perceive a threat to his power.

And he was a fascist. He wouldn’t stand even a tiny bit of dissent, just like Hitler. Mac wasn’t even allowed a small tiny sigh. After all he was just a ‘part of his throne’. When he dares to complain here’s what he is told

“SILENCE!” the King of the Turtles barked back.
“I’m king, and you’re only a turtle named Mack.”

Yertle is absolutely full of himself. Sample this:

I’m Yertle the Turtle! Oh, marvelous me!
For I am the ruler of all that I see!”
And all through the morning, he sat up there high
Saying over and over, “A great king am I!”

You can listen to the full poem here .

************

Linking up to ABC Wednesday for the letter Y.

abc 17 (1)

 

Ms Daisy is Crazy (My Weird School series) – A review

Miss Daisy is Crazy
(My Weird School)
Dan Gutman

download (3)

A teacher who doesn’t know how to spell and read, or add and subtract. Weird, isn’t it? Well it should be, since this is the first book of the ‘My Weird School’ series by Dan Gutman.

Miss Daisy takes second grade by surprise when on the first day of school she confesses she doesn’t know how to read or spell. She furher confesses that she doesn’t know any math too. Teacher-student roles get reversed as the children begin to help Ms Daisy learn the basics. Meanwhile, AJ, a second grader who hates school, has a brilliant idea that of buying the school and converting it into a gaming arcade. The principal doesn’t quite agree but does strike a deal – ‘Read one million pages and you get to convert the school into a gaming zone for a day’. As an add-on he agrees to dress up as a gorilla that day!

The school goes into a frenzy of reading and AJ’s dream comes true. But what about Ms Daisy? Can she really not read or is she putting on a show? AJ never does get to know.

Meet the characters

Meet the characters!

My Weird School is a delightful series for reluctant readers. Written in first person by AJ, they offer a quick connect. Which child doesn’t hate school at some point? Or dream of converting it into a gaming arcade? No patronising or moralising here and the kids come away with a vocabulary that’s richer by a word or two. The book is best suited for children starting out on chapter books.

Note: You might also like to try other books in the series Ms Hannah is Bananas or Ms Lilly is Silly.

Note 2: This series is tried and tested successfully on two very reluctant readers.

Linking up with Mommynificent for the Booknificent Link-Up Party

Booknificent-Thursdays