Auggie & Me - Book

A year ago, we selected Wonder by R. J. Palacio as our tweens-teens’ book for October, in support of National Bullying Prevention Month. This year, we’ve decided to continue in our efforts to show support and spread awareness through books. We’ve chosen Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories by the same author, as our October book club selection.

While Wonder focuses primarily on Auggie, Auggie & Me focuses more on Julian, Christopher, and Charlotte. It contains three short stories (one for each character) that offer greater insights into their thoughts and actions and gives us a better understanding of their interactions with and reactions toward Auggie. It is a great read with a great anti-bullying message. Although this book is not a sequel to Wonder, it does give us a better understanding of each character’s life and behavior. Having said that, we recommend that you read Wonder first, if you haven’t already done so.

As always, we love hearing your thoughts on books. You may leave a comment or two about this book or other books you are reading. Happy Fall! Happy Reading!

Book Overview: These stories are an extra peek at Auggie before he started at Beecher Prep and during his first year there. Readers get to see him through the eyes of Julian, the bully; Christopher, Auggie’s oldest friend; and Charlotte, Auggie’s new friend at school. Together, these three stories are a treasure for readers who don’t want to leave Auggie behind when they finish Wonder.

By Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

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Book Kids – Book of the Month – September

The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch - Book

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. ” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture.

Have you ever picked up a book to read and thought you had some idea of how the story was going to end, only to find out you were nowhere close? The first time I picked up The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, I was absolutely certain that this would be a book about death and dying. I prepared myself for a very somber read (having followed Pausch’s story through the media).  I couldn’t have been more incorrect. After reading it, I found the book to be more about life and living. I came out with a deeper sense of appreciation for life and an increased motivation to live it to its fullest.

Pausch is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and is given only a few months to live. All the while, he has been asked to give a lecture to a group of college students. Although he is uncertain whether his health or life would hold up long enough to allow him to give this lecture, he is determined to give it anyway (with the blessing of his wife). The bulk of the book then focuses on the preparation for what would be his last lecture, particularly its content. He names the lecture “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” in which he focuses primarily on all of his childhood dreams he has accomplished.

According to Pausch, accomplishing these childhood dreams means that he has his lived his life to its fullest potential, no matter how long or short of a lifespan he has been allotted. The more he lets the readers in on these accomplishments, the more we begin to understand that although “we cannot change the cards we are dealt,” we can change “how we play the hand.” This brings me to one of my favorite quotes, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.” ―Hilary Cooper.  Even if this is the only message one takes away from this book, it is well worth the read.

Our Teens Weigh In:  

This book was recommended as a school required reading, however, this is a book that I could easily choose as a recreational read. The Last Lecture is an inspirational and heartwarming book about Randy Pausch’s opinions and advice on what life is really about and what is most important. Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was told by doctors he had a few months left of good health. He was then asked to give a lecture. He didn’t want it be like a “last will and testament.” That sounded so final, deathly, the end. He wanted it to be more about life. His main concern was to leave this lecture as a legacy for his young kids to always remember him. His lecture, however, has gone on to impact more than just his kids. It has gone on to influence millions of youth and adults around the world.

His lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” contains a mix of humor, inspiration, and emotion explaining how to go about accomplishing one’s goals. It also offers great insights and wisdom on appreciating life, not taking anything for granted, and making much out of little. Unfortunately Pausch lost his battle with pancreatic cancer but not before inspiring a bunch of people of all ages. The Last Lecture is one of the most inspiring books I have ever read. I recommend it to children and adults. ―Gabe, 14.

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. ” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture. This is one of my favorite quotes in the book because it reminds us that brick walls are only temporary roadblocks that can be overcome, depending on how much we truly want something. It helps us to understand the reasons for obstacles and how to overcome them. The book is full of inspirational quotes and life lessons. It is packed with wisdom beyond anything I have ever read. It reminds us to appreciate life even in the midst of death;  to encourage oneself and others even in the midst of discouragements; to love even in the midst of unloving circumstances; to pick out the positives even in the midst of the negatives; and to remain grateful even in the midst of adversities. All in all, the book inspires us to continue to push forward even when life tries to pull us backward.  A must-read! ―Gabby, 15

Readers, weigh in!

The Last Lecture: Video

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

Book Club – Book of the Month – July

The Book Thief - Paperback

“She could smell the pages. She could almost taste the words as they stacked up around her.” — Markus Zusak, The Book Thief.

In case you’re still wondering, our tweens-teens’ book selection for July is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Here’s what one of our teens wrote about the book:

I love this book! It is about a girl named Liesel, who is sent to the home of her foster parents after her brother’s death. She is faced with all the Nazi’s horrors and struggles. During this time, her foster family, who is German, hides a Jewish man named Max in order to protect him from the danger of getting killed by the Nazi soldiers. Meanwhile, this action of hiding a Jewish person puts them at an even greater risk of getting killed themselves. This goes on for a while.

Over time, Liesel’s foster father, Hans Hubermann, begins secretly teaching her to read as books are being burned and destroyed by Nazi soldiers. Liesel then secretly shares all that she’s learning with Max, considering he’s unable to read. Liesel also begins stealing books from a library to get ideas and inspirations to create her own stories. As the war becomes more dangerous, Max decides to leave the family, as he feels that his staying would continue to keep them in great danger.

Only a few nights after Max leaves, Liesel’s city is bombed, leaving very few survivors. Liesel is the lone survivor in her family. Fast-forward to two years later Liesel and Max are reunited inside a shop owned by one of her friend’s father. They immediately greet each other with a hug, a somewhat happy ending following a series of tragic beginnings.

The book inspires me because it depicts the true value and meaning of friendship and kindness towards others. Leisel’s family is willing to risk their lives to protect Max (by keeping him in their home), and Max is willing to risk his life to protect theirs (by leaving their home). No one is thinking of the well-being of oneself but rather of the well-being of the other. I find that rather admirable and honorable.

Also, as Liesel is taught to read, she pays it forward by teaching Max to read. As a teen, I feel these are lessons that are much needed among teens today  — lessons of kindness, compassion, generosity, unselfishness, friendship, etc. I love the book and would highly recommend it to all tweens and teens.   —Gabe, 14 years old.

As always, we love to hear your thoughts on books. You may leave a comment or two on this book or other books you and your young readers are reading.

By Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

 

The New Big Book of U.S. Presidents

In honor of Presidents’ Day we are highlighting The New Big Book of U.S. Presidents by Marc Frey and Todd Davis for ages 8-12 years. This is the ONE children’s book of U.S. presidents my kids swear by. I bought this book the moment my elementary schooler insisted that he was going to be the “next” U.S. president. I knew he was too young to be the next president, but I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to feast on his new-found fascination. Let’s just say this book hasn’t been laid to rest since.  Furthermore, now that the other kids have followed suit, this has become one of the most frequently read books in our home. All our kids are intrigued by it. Here’s why:

1. The book offers fascinating facts. It is not just a “George Washington was the first U.S. president” kind of book. Kids need to know more than just that. It offers a lot more meat about each president’s personal and political life, going even further to include key historical events and achievements surrounding their presidencies, without being lengthy, redundant, or boring. 

2. The book is easy to read and comprehend. I love when a book explains its content to its kid readers so well to the point where adults have to do very little to no reiterating. Indeed, the book is jam-packed with lots of detailed facts and history, but don’t be overwhelmed; they are presented in the simplest, kid-friendly language that kids can easily grasp. Seriously.

3. The book includes a historical timeline. This timeline covers key historical topics that include arts, literature, politics, religion, science, education, etc., you name it. Again, don’t be overwhelmed. They are outlined in the simplest, chronological fashion that is a no brainer for your little reader to absorb.

4. The book has great illustrations. You can never go wrong with great illustrations, especially when your readers are primarily kids. These photos not only serve as a great supplement to the text, they add such incredible details to the point where without the text, they can almost easily stand alone. My kids particularly love associating each president’s name to his face. They also love in inclusion of old historical pictures of the events and persons highlighted in the text.

5. The book has a glossary of key terms. I particularly love a book that includes a glossary primarily because it helps kids review key terms mentioned in the book. It also serves as a summary of what is covered in the text. I see these as a great opportunity for a quick review or quiz to see how much information they actually retain from the reading.

Overall, this book is both educational and entertaining; there are both hilarious and serious aspects to it. This is a book the entire family will enjoy reading, while learning about presidential facts and figures. Let us know what you think. Until then, Happy Presidents’ Day! Happy Reading!   

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids