Levi's Review of My Side of The Mountain

My Side of The Mountain

Reviewed by Levi Stewart, Author Jean Craighead George

My Side of The Mountain is a book about a boy named Sam Gribley who runs away from his city life to make a home in the wild. He builds a home in a tree and learns to find food, and even tames a falcon. There's more to the story, but I won't spoil it for you. I really like this story. I have always dreamed of doing the things Sam does, but I would never be able to leave the comforts of my home permanently. My Side of The Mountain is a great book that you can read over and over again (I know I have!).

The book is about 175 pages long, but has pretty small text. I would recommend  it for everyone, but especially ages 9-12. It will take some knowledge to understand what it's talking about, and there are some diagrams in cursive, but it's not difficult to grasp the general concept. I first read it when I was about 8, and have read it lots of times since. I just read it this summer. Overall, I really love this book. 10/10. I would love to read more books like this!

Jubilee's Review of Secret Coders

Secret Coders series

 Reviewed by Jubilee Stewart, Authors Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes

The series Secret Coders is an awesome story about three main characters, Hopper, Eni, and Josh. When Hopper moves to Stately Academy, she notices things. Why are there so many nines around the school? What's hiding in the janitor's padlocked shed? What's up with the birds? As she struggles to figure out these mysteries, Hopper learns to code, and we learn along, too. Repeats, parameters, Ifelse (If-fell-see) statements, and much more. Hopper, Eni, and Josh's struggle creates a beautiful story of friendship, courage, and laughter. As you get to know them, you'll agree; they make great secret coders.

The series is made up of 6 graphic novels which each have about 100 pages. I would recommend these books for ages 7/8-11. Though the books are small, it takes a bit of knowledge to understand the code. There are small puzzles throughout the book in the form of solving code. I thought that they were fun. Five out of five stars. If these authors ever paired up again, I would definitely be in line for their book! 


Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation): An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive

Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation): An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive
by Laura Hillenbrand

One of the reading goals I've made this year is to read the books that my son is reading in his high school English class. So, that's what gave me the guts to finally pick up Unbroken

Unbroken is a biography of Louis Zamperini who as a kid was a trouble maker, as a young adult was an Olympic runner and who then enlisted and fought in World War II where he was lost at sea and became a prisoner of war. His life is truly amazing and inspiring to read about, and it's no wonder this book was chosen for the Honors English unit on survival. He survived not only these things, but post-war difficulties as well. 

The original edition of the book is subtitled "A story of survival, resilience, and redemption." An apt description! 

I first heard about Unbroken when my book club read it ten or eleven years ago. For one reason or another I couldn't read the book at the time, but I attended the discussion. It sounded like an amazing story, but maybe a bit too graphic or disturbing for me -- some of my book club friends had said it was very detailed about the violence that Zamperini experienced as a prisoner of war, and shared some of the truly disturbing cruelty he faced, so I was hesitant to read the book, despite their reassurances that it was worth it.

I was glad to see that the class was reading the young adult adaptation of the book. I looked up what the differences were between the original edition and the young adult edition, and the version I read was shorter, had fewer detailed descriptions of violence and fewer details about Zamperini's alcoholism after the war. Perfect for me. 

I had just read Life of Pi, so reading the story of Louis Zamperini being lost at sea was particularly heartwrenching and fascinating. How I wished that he had known sharks are edible! My heart is still a little bit crushed over that detail of his ordeal. After reading Unbroken, I read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and saw some striking parallels, but that's a post for another day.

I'm happy to recommend this book for teens and adults. It has just about everything you could want from a biography. It has moments of daring, moments of heartbreak, tender moments, funny moments and miracles. It is beautifully written and meticulously researched, never drags along when giving context but somehow perfectly tells the story in a way that incorporates all the surrounding details you need to know. I'd like to own a copy of myself. I've lost track of how many small moments from the book I have told to friends and family members. It has been a little while since I finished it, and it continues to be on my mind. 

Just yesterday I read the famous poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley and thought, "That's Louis Zamperini." A friend mentioned that her son is doing some troublemaking, and I thought, "There's hope. Just think of Louis Zamperini." It really is an inspiring book, and worth the read.

Life of Pi

Such a famous book! I have been meaning to read this one for a long time. Ashlee chose it for our book club book this month, so I finally read it.

A far cry from Pi's circumstances!

Life of Pi is a book about a young man named Piscine, who goes by Pi. His father is a zookeeper, and when the family decides to move from India to Canada, they emigrate on the cargo ship that is bringing some of their animals to zoos in the U.S. and Canada. Disaster strikes and (as shown on the cover of most editions of the book) that's how Pi ends up stranded in a lifeboat with a tiger. But as the title suggests, there is more to the story than just Pi's time on the lifeboat. It's really the story of his life.

I really enjoyed reading this book. The writing was very well done -- I was surprised, disgusted, moved and provoked to deep thoughts. Knowing that I was going to get to discuss the book with friends was icing on the cake. 

Our discussion was rich - there is plenty of meat in this book (pun intended!) for talking about the human experience and I can see why its considered a classic. Ashlee, who chose the book, has read it many times over and always finds something new in it, which I can relate to! I've only read it once, but already in our discussion I was finding new things to think about and angles I hadn't considered. 

The book was also made into a movie in 2012. I hear they did a really great job, but that of course the book is better. So, I might watch it now that I've read the book. 

In some ways this book reminded me of The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho, and the Odyssey. All three  stories have direct applications of the hero's journey specifically to life's journey in general.  

Levi (who is in 7th grade) said he was interested in reading it, and I wouldn't have any problem with that. I don't think it would appeal to readers much younger than 7th grade, but I could be wrong. The book has a high vocabulary and plenty of survival violence and peril. The story incorporated more religion than I was expecting, no swearing or sexual content, except to talk briefly about animal's needs to reproduce. It's definitely the sort of thing I could see English teachers enjoying teaching and book clubs enjoying discussing! We had a good time -- and Ashlee brought bananas and coconut cream pie. 

Ride On by Faith Erin Hicks

Ride On by Faith Erin Hicks

Horse riding lesson

I really enjoyed this graphic novel! I picked it up from the library because it's by Faith Erin Hicks and I have liked her books in the past (One Year at Ellsmere, and Friends with Boys especially!) There was a great ensemble cast to this book. Although the front cover has just one of the main characters on it, (kind of two, if you count the horse, I suppose!) there are a bunch of awesome characters in this book. 

I was never super into horse books (it was all about the Babysitters Club, for me!) but that didn't stand in the way of my enjoyment of this book. My dad loves horses and our family owned a few now and then (see the picture above). Even though I didn't ever consider myself a horse girl, many sweet moments, some silliness, and some real conflicts made the book compelling. It's realistic fiction.

Norrie is always stirring up drama.

Sam's brothers tease him like crazy.

What happened with Victoria to make her change stables?

I loved all the positive sibling relationships in this book. Victoria's sweet older sister, Norrie's sweet older brother, even Sam's brother's eventually have some sweet moments.  I loved that Victoria's mom was an accountant, haha! Yeah, accountants know better than to buy horses.

Ride On is set in middle school, and as far as romance goes, there is just the barest hint of a crush. It's a super sweet book. Some themes of Ride On are friendship, growing apart or growing closer, what it means to you to be around a good friend, working hard, competing. I loved it, and my kids did, too. 

Ride On on Amazon

Have you read it? What did you think?

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