Sunday, February 18, 2018

Firebird

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Rating: 5 Stars

I must start out by saying that Misty Copeland is amazing. Watching her dance, to see her perform Firebird live, is one of the greatest things I have ever witnessed in my life time and I was so lucky to be able to experience that with my four and a half year old daughter, who also loves to spin and twirl and be a ballerina. This past week Misty and ABT, along with the St Louis Symphony, were at the University of Nebraska. On Tuesday Misty spoke at the EN Thompson Forum on World Issues, discussing her career and the lack of diversity within classical ballet. It was there that I picked up this copy of Firebird for my little ballerina and we have read it so many times since that night - and we have not even owned it for a whole week!

While Misty's own story is incredible - she did not start ballet until she was 13. She is the first African-American woman in history to become a principal dancer in the 75 year history with ABT. This is a HUGE accomplishment in an art form that is by and large very, very white. Even keeping in mind Copeland's own experiences, this book is for ALL who have a goal or a dream, regardless of race.

The story is of a young girl who is discouraged, unsure of herself but almost certain she can not follow in Copeland's footsteps. But Copeland herself tells snippets of her own journey in text that is both lyrical and meandering, leaping off the page. Yes, I went there. And she shows how, by working hard, the girl can become Firebird as well.

Besides the fact that Copeland is one of my favorite ballet dancers ever, I loved the fact that while the direct message in the book is geared toward those who love dance, the overall theme is the fact that no matter what your goal is, what your dream is, you will have to work hard and dedicate yourself to reaching whatever it is that you want. It is written in such a way that will appeal to younger and older readers alike. Though it is getting a bit easier to find diverse picture books than it was even ten or twenty years ago, this is a wonderful addition to that growing collection of books that tell stories from the perspective of someone who is not white. As a white teacher in a school predominantly attended by African-American children, you can see why this book is so important on so many levels. My students need to have hope, just like the girl in this book, just like all children do. This is a great start to showing them they can achieve great things if they are committed to it.

The only issue I really had with the book was the illustrations. It's not even that they were poorly done (and obviously they were not, seeing as how the book won the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustrator in 2015), but this medium is just not my favorite. It does give the illustrations a wonderful, textured look, but some were just too unbalanced for me. I don't think I would have minded so much had the body proportions not been so strange sometimes.

In the end, I can unequivocally recommend this book to a variety of people - parents of aspiring dancers, parents/teachers/librarians looking for books with African-American characters, and pretty much anyone who enjoys beautiful, brilliant, yet simple work. Very well-done.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Unmaking of the President 2016: How FBI Director James Comey Cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency

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I received this ARC free via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3 Stars

When I saw this pop up on NetGalley, my first thought was "Uuuggghhh, here we go." I have no interest in reading Clinton's memoir of it, but I wanted to see what exactly this book would entail and how it would conclusively prove its premise. Not that it really had to, because it is no secret that Comey's letter had a huge impact on the election. My biggest gripe is with the sub title because Comey is not the only reason Clinton lost. Yes, his timing was absolute garbage - both the timing of his initial letter stating there were more emails, and the follow-up, which went largely unnoticed due to said timing, stating there was nothing new.

Davis cites Clinton's decisive lead heading into the week of October 24th, then the release of Comey's letter to Congress four days later, as the absolute proof that it is Comey alone who cost Clinton the election. Let's just ignore the fact that the 2016 election saw two of the most unlikable candidates in history squaring off. (Don't worry, this will not turn into a diatribe about how Bernie would have defeated Trumplethinskin. I mean, of course he would have. But I digress.)

In the weeks leading up to the election, I avoided coverage as much as I could. I even went so far as to avoid NPR, because it was all so sickening that our democracy could have such a mockery made of it by allowing someone so clearly in love with spray tanning and so clearly unqualified to be president making it to the general election. I did know of Comey's letter and follow-up, the former of which I recalled thinking of at the time as huge help to Trumplethinskin's precarious position.

I found the portions of the text not directly related to Comey and his letters far more interesting. The discussion in general of this whole hullabaloo about private email servers was of interest, as was the sections that focused on the 25th amendment and impeachment.

In the end though, there is nothing really new to add to the discussion from this book. It's not a boring book, and I did appreciate the details, especially in regards to protocol, since it is at least clear that Comey did not follow it at all. But these are also things I likely would have already known had I paid closer attention to the news in that final week and a half.

Trumplethinskin's election was a truly awful thing for our country and I wish it was not our reality. But books like these in the end do a kind of disservice to their cause. Looking back at the election does us very little good at this point, especially one year in. Instead we have to focus on the midterm elections coming up in the fall and flipping as many seats as possible blue. I am cautiously optimistic about the wins in special elections in the last few months and we have to keep working to ensure more seats go the same way.

Stacking the Shelves 7



Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature co-hosted by Tynga's Reviews and Reading Reality. It is a chance to showcase all the goodies you've collected in the last week, whether they're bought on-line or in-store, an ARC or a final copy, borrowed from a friend or the library, physical or digital, you get the idea. If nothing else, this weekly treat shows how much of an addiction I really have when it comes to acquiring my precious books.

Amazon
I got a gift card for Amazon for Valentine's Day from my momma, so naturally that meant a book-buying spree that surpassed the gift card amount because, duh.

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MISTY COPELAND!
I was privileged enough this week to attend the EN Thompson Forum on World Issues, where Misty Copeland, a principal dancer for ABT (and the first African-American woman to be promoted to that position), spoke on a variety of topics, the main focus being lack of diversity in classical ballet. All of her books were also for sale. I had already read her biography, Life in Motion, but I purchased the young readers edition for my daughter, as well as Firebird. I bought Ballerina Body for myself. And, not to brag or anything, but kind of definitely to brag: last night my daughter and I attended a performance of Firebird, with Copeland dancing the lead. It was one of the greatest nights of my life, a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Misty is magnificent.

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What did you find this week?? Leave a comment and a link to your new treasures as well!

Happy Reading,
Sarah

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Day Sonny Died

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I received a copy of this book from M. Simone Boyd, without expectation of a review of any kind. All thoughts are my own.

Rating: 5 Stars

Whew. Be patient with me, this is a tough one. For many reasons.

I came across this book because of Remembrancy, a blog I became familiar with due to our participation in First Line Friday hosted by Hoarding Books. The book summary really resonated with me because of my job, and due to my interest I was offered a copy by the author, M. Simone Boyd (who actually co-authored the book with her father). For those who do not know, I am a Special Education teacher at a Title 1 school in a fairly tough part of the city. Specifically, I teach in a behavior classroom, so all of my students are diagnosed with emotional disturbances/ADHD/ODD/SLD, and a whole slew of other acronyms that you don't really need to know in order to understand that my job is hard. And I mean, HARD. Every day I am asked to perform miracles and a lot of times I fail. I love my job and I love my students, many of whom could relate to Sonny, and who some I fear will BECOME him. I have to look into the eyes of these babies (who are not really babies, they are third, fourth, and fifth graders) and prepare them for a world that will not always understand them or be kind to them, or give them chance after chance after chance. I have to make them understand why we have to get the anger under control, why we have to learn to count to 10, to walk away, to breathe deep, to not argue in the 'wrong way' even when something is unfair and their anger is justified. On top of that, I also have to teach all my students reading, math, writing, social studies and science. They run the spectrum of reading levels, from Kindergarten to 5th grade, despite them all physically being 3rd/4th/5th graders. I have students who have never left the state, or even the city, students with no life experience except what it is like to take a food bag home on the weekends just to have enough to eat until Monday, or to sleep on the floor after the windows getting shot out one night. Not every student I teach survives in a world that bleak, but even the fact that one or two do should be cause for concern. One little heart hardening over situations like this should make people angry, make them stand up and say enough is enough, we are destroying our future.

Okay, so I think we can agree that this book definitely struck a nerve, right? Right.

It is not a secret that Sonny, this character who seemed to me to be a mash-up composite of so many of my students from the last six years, will die in this book. You don't know when it will happen or how, but it is a forgone conclusion that at some point, it will happen. We get to see in snippets the lives of Sonny's parents before he is born and we get to see the tragedy play out when Sonny is three and his father is murdered in front of him. It is a hard thing to read, to know that slowly but surely everyone who cared about Sonny is taken away. It makes sense in such a heartbreaking way that Sonny too, will not escape this cycle and is doomed to fall victim to the same thing that happened to his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and on and on. Throughout the book I found myself wanting to reach through the pages, grab this kid by the shoulders and give him a good shake. I wanted him to escape and to have the life that deep down he knew he was missing out on. There is an especially poignant scene for me when Sonny comes across a photo of himself at his 3rd birthday, with his mom and his dad. It is not a terribly elaborate scene, but if you really connect with the story, it will really stand out to you. His life could have been so different had so many situations gone the other way, but there is also a point where Sonny also has to take responsibility for his choices himself as he gets older. Throughout his time on earth, he was given the opportunity to grab on to hope, but he never took it. He didn't take those chances given to him and in the end, and I mean The. End., he was shown the error of his ways. I don't want to say too much more about that because I don't want to give away anything that you need to discover for yourself in reading this book. While it is filled with tragedy and heartache, the ultimate message is one of hope. I know it does not make sense based on literally everything else I have just written about but you will see it when you read this one for yourself, and I hope that you do.

Despite having my own plate full with research, reading, writing, and raising a small human, I plowed through this book in just a couple of days. Something in the story called to me, this connection I made between the book and my kiddos, and I had to see it through, as soon as possible. The ultimate story here is of God's love for us and the options He presents to us so we can live out our purpose - which because of our free will, we can choose to accept or reject. Sonny used his free will to reject that love, though I don't actually think he fully understood what he was rejecting. On the other hand, he had so many opportunities, and he chose not to act.

In the end, I highly recommend this one. When and if you get the chance to read it, I would love to know your thoughts.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Stacking the Shelves 6



Stacking the Shelves is a weekly feature co-hosted by Tynga's Reviews and Reading Reality. It is a chance to showcase all the goodies you've collected in the last week, whether they're bought on-line or in-store, an ARC or a final copy, borrowed from a friend or the library, physical or digital, you get the idea. If nothing else, this weekly treat shows how much of an addiction I really have when it comes to acquiring my precious books.

NetGalley

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Edelweiss


In-Store:
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What goodies did you find this week? Let me know!

Happy Reading,
Sarah

Monday, February 5, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday!



Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday, now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's topic is all about books that have been on my TBR the longest. Yikes. It is almost too scary to think about some of the books languishing there.

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This beast has the honor of being the first book I added to Goodreads. It is the tome of all tomes, and will probably take me the rest of my life to read. I check it out from the library and read as much as I can in three weeks before returning it, because there is ALWAYS a hold on it. So basically, I have been reading this book for three years and am only on page 200.

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I don't know how my library system can have every Feinstein book except this one, but they do and that is sad.

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I may or may not ever get to this one. I don't even know if I am that interested anymore.

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I have enjoyed other books by this author and plan to read this as soon as I can find it.

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Still trying to find this one too. Plus, the author's name is Herwig, so that's pretty cool.

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I really have no excuse with this one because I am pretty sure I bought it at Half Price Books in the last couple months. Or maybe I looked at it, and then did not buy it. Both are legit possibilities.

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I actually checked this one out from the library in the last couple years but could not get into it. I feel like it had more to do with my own reading mood than the book, because the story of Jesse Owens is definitely NOT boring. Will try again soon.

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No excuse for this one either. Should have read it a long time ago.

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Pretty sure I bought this one in one of my spending sprees on Amberley's website in the last few months, but I can't actually remember because I bought SO MANY Elizabeth Norton books.

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I think I finally snagged this one from Half Price Books. Again, not totally sure, which is a good indicator I do in fact have an addiction, since I can not even remember all the books that I buy and cram onto my shelves.

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This one is on my shelf somewhere, I am almost certain. This seems to be a theme among the last few books. It is kind of sad that I can't remember what I only looked at, and what I actually bought.

Let me know if you've read any of these, and leave me a link to your books this week.

Happy Reading!
Sarah