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Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Small Great Things

In My Book Club Books on May 15, 2017 at 1:52 am

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by Jodi Picoult

Book Description (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

My Thoughts:

This is just one of those books I could not put down, and I can’t stop thinking about. In the course of a very engaging story told from the perspectives of three characters, the author raises major issues about racism, our justice system, and how we treat minorities. While it is a book of fiction, it is also a book that makes you think. The author’s note at the end was unlike any I have ever read before and gives me a whole new appreciation of Jodi Picoult.

Book Club Discussion:

We actually started our discussion by talking about the ending. The author is Jodi Picoult, after all, and she is known for her unexpected endings. We all agreed we liked the book for many reasons, but one member thought the ending came too fast, seemed rushed, and was just too tidy. At least one of us felt that it just wasn’t realistic to expect Turk to have changed so drastically in that short of a time. It also didn’t seem completely realistic  to us that things would have ended so well for Ruth. We all agreed with these observations, but most of us still liked the ending. We wanted things to end well for Ruth, and it gave us a sense of hope that someone like Turk could change so drastically, even if it wasn’t completely realistic.

All in all, the story made us think more deeply about racism and if we were totally sure we were not at all prejudiced. Like Kennedy, we believed that we fit into that category of people who don’t see color, but then we discussed this further. One member clarified her thoughts about this by saying that of course, we see color. How could you not? The thing is not to dwell on it, not to see it as what defines the person,  and not to use it as the basis of how we relate to him/her.

The book definitely made us think about and acknowledge our prejudices. One member shared her experience of having accrued a lot of information about a woman, and then being surprised to find out she was African-American, not white. It made her stop and thing about why she had formed that opinion, what prejudices she indeed had. She outlined her thought process on figuring it out, and went on to say that we all have prejudices and need to be more self-aware in order to monitor how we think and react.

We went on to discuss the parts of the story that really stuck with us. One member brought up how enlightening it was to find out how white supremacists think and the brainwashing involved to multiply their numbers.  One member cited the part of the story when Ruth had Kennedy go shopping with her and what an eye-opening experience it was for Kennedy. One member noted the court scenes as being truly memorable. Another found it interesting how Kennedy had her associate help with the background check of the prospective jurors and observe how each juror reacted to things said in the course of the selection process. Another member cited the scene that starts on page 407 where Ruth states her true, unrestrained feelings. That was so powerful.

All in all, we liked the book. It provided an engaging story and was seriously thought provoking. One member stated that it was the best book she has read that examines racism.  Because it is fictionalized and brought in characters who displayed many of the stereotypes of both whites and blacks, it helps you look at and be open and honest about your own prejudices. A special thank you to author for including a very detailed and heartfelt Author’s Note at the end of the book.

Discussion Resources:

Reading Group Guide

Booking Mama Discussion

Book Club Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 Stars

Book Club Menu

An Appetizer Collection of Small Great Things

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Cheeses, crackers, olives, truffle salted macron almonds, crudités

Kennedy’s Dinner for Ruth

Caesar Salad and Garlic Bread

Lasagne

Cold Zabaglione with Berries

Undefeated Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team

In Middle Grade Book Review, Non-Fiction Reads on January 29, 2017 at 11:03 pm

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by Steve Sheinkin

Non-Fiction/©2017/233 pages/Recommended for Middle School and Above

Publisher’s Comments (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Before these men became legends, they met in 1907 at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, where they forged one of the winningest teams in the history of America’s favorite sport. Called “the team that invented football,” Carlisle’s innovative squad challenged the greatest, most elite teams—Harvard, Yale, Army—audaciously vowing to take their place among the nation’s football powers.

This is an astonishing underdog sports story—and more. It’s an unflinching look at the U.S. government’s violent persecution of Native Americans and the school that was designed to erase Indian cultures. It’s the story of a group of young men who came together at that school, the overwhelming obstacles they faced both on and off the field, and their absolute refusal to accept defeat.

My Thoughts:

This is definitely a piece of history that needs to be told, and no one tells it better than Steve Sheinkin. His intended audience is middle school/high school, but it will appeal to adults as well. It is thoroughly researched and brilliantly written, and manages to focus on the inspiring story of Jim Thorpe and the obstacles he and the undefeated Indian football team faced, as well as the evolution of football in America. Equally important, he also included our country’s deplorable treatment of Native Americans. It is a quick read, but it packs a punch.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

 

Ghost (Track 1)

In YA Book Reviews on September 8, 2016 at 10:30 pm

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by Jason Reynolds

Realistic Fiction/©2016/180 pages/First in a series (Track)/Recommended for ages 10+

Publisher’s Info (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Ghost wants to be the fastest sprinter on his elite middle school track team, but his past is slowing him down in this first electrifying novel of a brand-new series from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award–winning author Jason Reynolds.

Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves.

Ghost has a crazy natural talent, but no formal training. If he can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons—it all starting with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—and running away from them—until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who blew his own shot at success by using drugs, and who is determined to keep other kids from blowing their shots at life.

My Thoughts:

What a great book! I loved everything about it – including the clever chapter titles (all of which start with “World Record for the…”). The writing is just amazing, the plot is thoughtful and engaging, and the characters are truly unique and so incredibly well developed that you feel you know them personally. Ghost (the main character) narrates the story in a way that will have you laughing and crying at frequent intervals throughout the book. That boy will work his way into your heart, and you will be rooting for him all the way. It is a quick, enjoyable read, and a great addition to the middle school library. Good to know that there are three more books in the series, each focusing on one of the other track team newbies.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars