Review of One of Us Is Lying

In One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus, Bronwyn, Addy, Cooper, Nate, and Simon are assigned to detention under suspicious circumstances. When one of them is dead by the end of the detention period, the remaining four become suspects. All of them have motive. Did one of them commit the crime?  This is the question that is explored over the course of the novel.

Wow! I really enjoyed this novel this multi-perspective novel. This book has been described as The Breakfast Club, the John Hughes film from the 80s meets Pretty Little Liars, a popular book series by Sara Shephard. I see the parallels with The Breakfast Club, but I would argue that this book gives the reader way more than the Pretty Little Liars series. The novel is a suspenseful teen whodunit, but at the heart of the story are these five high school kids with issues that any kid can relate to. McManus develops each of these characters and their backstories so well, that reader is just as interested in the characters and the resolution of their personal struggles as the mystery of what happened in detention. McManus also tackles a variety of teen issues in a subtle yet affecting way. Bravo to her for her careful crafting of these stories!

As an adult reading a young adult suspense novel, I was totally engaged in the story and really loved the characters and the dimensions of each. There is also a strong cast of secondary characters, which I find is usually lacking in this genre.

One of Us Is Lying was the October pick for my work book club– a group of ladies, who happen to all be teachers, who range in age from late twenties to late fifties. Everyone really liked this book, and we are not an easy audience to please.  I found that the more I discussed the book with “book people,” the more I realized just how good this young adult mystery is. McManus does a masterful job developing the voice of each of the characters. So good! AND this is Karen McManus’s debut novel.

I don’t want to discuss too much of the plot, since this is a mystery and I would never want to spoil it. What I will say is that I think a broad range of readers will enjoy One of Us Is Lying. In the classroom, I would say this book is a must. It will appeal to both genders, as the protagonists are of both genders. In addition it is plot-driven (which is great for students and reluctant readers), but also has really well developed characters.

Bottom Line: This is a keeper! 5/5

A Review of El Deafo

I swear, I am not a graphic novel person, yet this is the second graphic novel I am reviewing in a week. I have a personal interest in Cece Bell’s autobiographical graphic novel. One of my favorite people in the whole world, Bekah, has a similar story–ill at at a young age which led to total hearing loss in both ears. A cochlear implant before starting school and similar struggles to Cece throughout the course of her life. It was extremely appealing to read a novel which chronicled a similar story to my Bekah.

Clearly this graphic novel is something special. It won the Newbery in 2015. The humor and rawness with which Cece Bell portrays her story is deeply affecting, but peppered with humor so that it is accessible to a wide audience. I adore the way she incorporates herself and her alter-ego, El Deafo, within the story to depict what is actually happening versus what she desires to happen.

This graphic novel is a straightforward account of Bell’s early years and how she transitions from a school for children with hearing loss, or students like her, to a mainstream school. It chronicles her struggles with friendships, academics, and coming of age being ‘different’ from other students.

I so appreciate Bell’s approach to these issues. I found myself laughing out loud in certain places. Because although I have never had hearing loss, I have been an awkward, unsure adolescent and Bell’s ability to capture this milestone will resonate with readers, hearing or non-hearing.

I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel from start to finish, and would recommend it to teachers, parents, and upper elementary/lower middle school kiddos.

Bottom Line: This book is must for young readers. I give El Deafo a solid 5/5.

Windmill fun for everyone, Post #1

My son is finishing his 2nd grade year, and it has been an amazing one for him. He has always loved science and been an inventor extraordinaire at home; however, this year his rock-star teacher has ignited a love of history in him. He has come home talking about Ancient China, Ancient Egypt, and more recently, Helen Keller. He is amazed by her story and cannot believe how much she accomplished (my word, not his. I am taking some liberties with paraphrasing.) in her life. He was particularly enthusiastic about an activity he did in class wherein he created a word in braille. This got me thinking about the summertime, when I have the great fortune to be home with the kids and activities we could do together. So, this activity is one that is not my idea, but one I became aware of when I taught eighth graders which I have adapted to meet the needs of my younger children.

Enter the remarkable story of William Kamkwamba, a then 14-year-old boy who was inspired to build a windmill in his Malawian village after seeing the devastation caused by excessive drought in his area.  I think my son will love this story. William reminds me of Helen Keller in the diversity he has overcome to be the success he is today.  So, the cool thing about this story is there are three different versions of this story to choose from based on the age level of the reader. There is the full version, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope, there is The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition, which is recommended for grades 4-7, and lastly, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Picture Book Edition for younger elementary students.

My plan for my kiddos this summer is to do an interactive activity with them centered around William. I think my son especially will love it, but I think as long as there is an art component my daughter will buy in.  I am on a quest to find enriching activities for them this summer that do not cost a fortune. I will leave you with this for now, but I will be back with a second post to let you know what I did and how I did it with some pictures to illustrate.

Disclaimer: This is not an original idea. I happened upon this story and ancillary materials during a teaching conference; however, the activity I did at the conference was not very exciting, so I am going to try something new.  More to come on this in the future!

An introduction

This has been a long time coming. I have been trying to figure out a way to find a way to combine my love of writing into a way to bring meaningful content to people who are looking for it.

So, I came up with meaningful madness. I will be chatting with you about a wide range of topics having to do with mommyhood (I just like that word so much better than motherhood at this point. Could be because my children are young and still call me ‘Mommy.’) So, food, fitness, kiddos, things for moms and kids to do together–all of that is on the table for this blog.

In the last year, I have been on a quest to understand how I can make my life more meaningful in the midst of the frantic pace of life, running from here to there to there to here, and never really having much time. I have also been on a quest to figure out how I can ensure that I am making the best and healthiest choices for my family (and for me) along the way. With this quest for health and wellness has come a huge change in my life. It has been so exciting, and I will share with you what I have learned along the way. I am so excited to be able to begin. So cheers to an incredible journey! XO