Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of The Universe

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This book was published in Feb 2012, and it flew under my radar, but not the radar of the award committees. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe has won numerous awards, including the Lambda Literary Award and Stonewall Book Award for LGBT fiction, an Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award honor, Pura Belpré Narrative Medal for Latino fiction, and Michael L. Printz Award honor for Young Adult fiction. (information taken from wikipedia)

I cannot say this with any more sincerity, if you are struggling to discover who you are, you need to give this book a try.

Named after two great philosophers, Aristotle and Dante are two loners who, like their namesakes, find themselves thinking about pretty much anything and everything. What they aren’t so great at is talking. Aristotle, or Ari as he calls himself, has a gift of silence. A trait he learned from his father, a Vietnam veteran.  Ari has so many word inside of him, but no way to get them out.

During the summer between his sophomore and junior year of high school Ari meets Dante at the pool. Dante is nothing like Ari, he is caring, open, naturally friendly, and never shuts up. Dante isn’t afraid of all of the feelings he encounters. He isn’t even afraid of his parents, in fact he is crazy about his parents, and his biggest fear is having them be disappointed in him.

Ari and Dante become fast friends. they spend the summer swimming in the El Paso heat, and playing in the summer rain storms. Dante is always looking for ways to destroy his shoes, he hates shoes.

Over the course of two summers, we get the distinct opportunity to watch Ari learn to deal with his family issues, his brother is in prison and he doesn’t know why, and his heritage, Mexican-american. Dante isn’t sure he likes being Mexican, and he pushes back on the expectations of a Mexican son. His parents though, are not the stereotypical Mexican’s they aren’t farm workers or maids. Dante’s father is a professor is in fact a professor who gives him a love of poetry.

Dante then passes that love of poetry to Ari, and shows are that he has the heart of a poet, the heart of a writer.

Ari is a perpetually angry teen. He tells himself he likes to fight, and maybe he does. He is fiercely loyal to Dante, even when Dante tells him that he enjoys kissing boys, Ari does’t change his opinion of his best friend. His loyalty is so strong that he puts those fighting skills to use on behalf of his best friend.

This book is not a quick read, nor is it fast paced. What will get you through this novel is the amazing writing. Benjamin Alire Sáenz has more heart wrenching quotes in this novel than a normal YA novel.

I want to make posters of quotes from this book for the library. He truly portrays the voice of the Mexican-American teen. The struggles of growing up, and not knowing who you are or how to become who you will be. Those in between moments are so vital to Ari and Dante. The moments when you are not who you once were, but not yet who you are becoming. That is the sweet spot where this novel lives.

This book was recently acquired for the library, so any students reading this, please consider picking it up the next time you visit the library.

On a side note, this was one book that I started and finished this book in audio book format. Mainly because it was voiced by Lin Manuel Miranda. Who wouldn’t want the Broadway star reading them this touching story?

Which ever format you decide this book is definitely worth your time.

If you are still unsure if this is book is for you, click the excerpt link below and read a part of this book and see what you think for yourself!

Excerpt

If you are interested in an interview with the author, NPR has a really good one about discovering sexuality through YA lit. Check it out here.

Happy Reading,

Katie

 

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No New titles in the Library, so you should read this!

Since becoming a Teacher Librarian, I think my favorite part is giving book reviews. I didn’t realize that for years all of my reading was actually research for a future job I didn’t know I was going to get. I have always had a love for young adult fiction, and now I get to put that to good use everyday. Plus I think I am getting a reputation for giving good book recommendations, because I get kids standing in line to get help picking a good book! I call that a success.

Now, the biggest problem with this is that my library doesn’t get new books very often. So many books that are coming out that would be beneficial to my students, aren’t available to them on my shelves. Books like Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, or even Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz.

This predicament is making me think outside the box, and recommend books that I DO have. Don’t worry, we have the essentials, like John Green, and Harry Potter. But the books that are really going to make a difference are definitely on my wish list, because I want to add them to my shelves as soon as I can. (if anyone has any ideas on how I can do that, please share!)

What I want to do today, is start a review series on books that I actually have on my shelves, in hopes that some of my students may actually start reading this blog to help them choose a book.

I’m calling it No New Titles, so you should read this!

And I am going to start with one of the most popular books of my students right now, easily on the top ten most checked out. The book I want to review for this purpose is Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

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I wont be going too in depth about this one, because I really don’t want to give anything away, but I think a teaser review would be good for everyone to get interested in this book.

Hannah Baker kills herself. She is gone, but she left something behind. Well, 14 somethings, in a box. Hannah has left 14 tapes telling the story of her life, and she wants the 13 people who are the reason she decided to do what she did to know it. They all play their part, and we get to relive that story. Why did Hannah kill herself? Who is on the tapes? Who is going to get them next, and who got them first. What did these 13 people do or not do to take Hannah Baker for granted?

This book will change the way you see the world, your interactions with your peers, and how your actions or non actions can make a person feel. Bullies have more power than they realize. And Hannah is going to show them exactly what they have done.

You can check out the recordings of Hannah’s tapes here! (this is a huge spoiler, so click on it at your own risk)

If you want to search for this book in our library its under FIC Ash.

Check it out 😉

Happy Reading,

Katie

If you are feeling generous and wish to donate books to my school’s library please contact me. 🙂

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

How had I never heard of this book before? I feel like I must have been living under a rock or something. Or maybe the title/cover art wasn’t supremely appealing, and I judged it too harshly based on its cover. What a fool I was!

A friend from college recommended this book to me on goodreads, and she had never done that for me yet, so I was intrigued about a novel that had her so excited she would HAVE to share it with me.

Also in Mr. Fikry’s favor was that it was available on kindle unlimited 😛

This book can only be explained as a book lovers dream. I wish I had counted how many different times the author name dropped or references a book or author, but it was like sharing a secret every time I caught a reference. It makes a person feel good when they can understand an inside joke or nuance mentioned by the author.

A.J. Fikry is a bookstore owner who lost his wife in a car accident 2 years ago, and ever since he has been slowly drinking himself into a stupor. He even has his retirement all planned out, he is going to take his rare copy of Edgar Allen Poe poems to auction, and live off the sale. Since it is worth about $400,000, it would be quite a comfortable life indeed. Too bad someone steals it.

The next thing he knows a baby is left in his bookstore, and her mother is found washed up on the shore day later. What is he going to do? Does this sweet little smarty pants girl go in to the system? Or does he take the opportunity presented to him, and keep her?

From that day on, his life is different. Slowly, he begins to live again. The small town of Alice rally’s around him, and even his business begins to become steady again.

There is a love interest, but to call this book merely a romance is putting too big of a label. This is the story of A.J.’s life, and what it took for him to learn to appreciate it again.

His daughter Maya grows up to be, in his words, the most fantastic nerd. She is raised in and among books. She wants to become a writer, and enters competitions starting early, and she loves to learn. When she doesn’t know what to do, or how to approach a situation, her Dad gives her book recommendation that may help her figure it all out. When she is stuck writing, he tells her that the best way to get unstuck is to read, learn, explore, but there is one thing that she never truly seems all that interested in learning about, and what she doesn’t want to know is anything about her mother. Why did her mother leave her in a bookstore? It doesn’t matter, and since she had been there, her life and A.J.’s have been better for it.

A novel like this has innumerable quotes that I loved, but here are just a few that really stuck with me.

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paragraph quote

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I greatly enjoyed reading about the world that A.J. Fikry lived in. I fell in love with his little family, and the townspeople that graced his store. His life was not one without great tragedy, but he also had great joy. After reading this book, I am grateful that his story was shared.

Hope some of you decide to pick this one up someday soon.

Happy Reading,

Katie

Book recommendations: A List

A few weeks back, my grandmother was in town, and she asked me for a list of the books and series I had read in the past couple of years. We used to be better about sharing books, but when she moved back to Missouri, we lost track and haven’t had the same kind of time to share and talk about books. It took some digging through my Kindle and sifting through my book shelves, but here is what I came up with. I know I have probably left out some good ones, but I will make a point to tell you about those when I come across them later. Promise. So for her benefit, and now yours I will give you the list of the books and series I would recommend from my reading list. (basically a quick guide through my kindle and book shelf)

  • The Selection Series
  • The paper Magician Series
  • Stray (to be series)
  • Red Queen (to be series)
  • Outlander Series
  • The Lunar Chronicles
  • The Crescent Chronicles
  • Beautiful Creatures Series
  • Uglies Series
  • Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flammel
  • Vampire Academy
  • The Diviners
  • The Maze Runner
  • The Eve Series
  • The Here and Now
  • Eleanor and Park
  • The Rosie Project w/sequel
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty
  • Paper Towns
  • Looking For Alaska
  • An Abundance of Katherines

If you have any questions about any of these please let me know! Or if you have any that I should add to my list I REALLY want to know. haha. Happy Reading, Katie

Sharing that perfect book.

Have you ever given a friend a book you had just finished? Something that kept you so enthralled you could have missed Godzilla walking down the street, so long as he didn’t interrupt you?

I recently read two books like this, but I haven’t shared the second, so I’m only going to going to talk about the first. Stray, by Elissa Sussman.

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My best friend and I have a long tradition of me reading a book, and immediately turning to her to see what her reaction will be as she reads it. When the last Harry Potter book came out, I did just that. After finishing my first read through, I literally would read over her shoulder to see what she was about to experience, and simply stare at her as she read the words that had ripped me apart just a few hours before. Nowadays I don’t get the same opportunities to watch her read the actual books I pass her way, you know adults and not being roommates and whatnot, but I still get the amazing reactions I love that always so perfectly mirror my own. There is nothing better than having someone share in your triumphs during an amazing novel, and a shoulder to cry on when a book metaphorically rips your heart out.

When I was given Stray, it was a gift from my master teacher. She knows the authors mother, and got me the sweetest signed copy. I had never heard of the book, but since it was a gift I made it a point to pick it up as soon as I  had a chance. That turned into me reading it that night, and every opportunity the following day. I knew this was a book I had to give to Margaret as soon as I saw her.

I was not disappointed, she loved this book, the first by a new author Elissa Sussman, just as much as I did. And in fact had to forced herself to put the book down so she could get some sleep. The snapchats that followed also proved to be worthwhile, and I wish I had saved them to add to this post 😜.

Stray, for those who haven’t heard of it, is a complete page turner. It makes you think about your own path, and how you choose to take it. It reminds you to not let people take things from you that aren’t freely given, and shows girls that strength can come from anywhere. It’s filled with magic, and adventure, and the most terrible bad guys. You’ll love it!

I am highly anticipating the second book (yes it’s a series, so be warned) and I hope you will take a moment to pick up your own copy!

Happy Reading,

Katie