The Book Reviews – Website

December 19, 2010

Marcelo in the Real World

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork: Book Cover

Marcelo in the Real World

 

Author: Francisco Stork

 

Page Length: 312  

 

Reading Level: 5.3

 

Genre: Realistic Fiction

 

Career Connection:  Lawyer, Teacher, Occupational Therapist, Ministry

PLOT SUMMARY:  It isn’t often that a father forces his son to give up a job he has secured on his own, to take one in his own office.  However, that is what happens to Marcelo Sandoval, the summer before his senior year in high school.  Marcelo had planned to take care of the ponies at Paterson, his special school’s therapeutic-riding stables.  Marcelo exhibits qualities of Asperger’s Syndrome and is more comfortable at Paterson than he is in the real world.

His dad, Arturo, is a prominent lawyer.  He has always felt that Marcelo could overcome any obstacles he has, and wants to prove it to Marcelo by having him work in the mail room at his law firm.  He also wants Marcelo to attend the local regular high school, Oak Ridge High, rather than Paterson in the fall. Marcelo agrees to work for his father, if at the end of the summer he can make the choice of the school he will attend in the fall. 

Marcelo finds that working with Jasmine in the mailroom is not as bad as he thought it would be.  Jasmine is patient with him and he becomes comfortable in the working routine they have.  It is when Wendell, one of the partner’s sons, also working at the firm, confronts Marcelo and makes inappropriate remarks about Jasmine that Marcelo becomes upset.  Marcelo does not know how to react to Wendell, his feelings towards Jasmine, or a picture he finds when he is doing some work for Wendell.  The information he gains about the picture will affect a high profile case and the future of the firm. 

Will Marcelo tell what he knows about “the real world” or stay hidden in his Asperger-like comfort zone of Paterson?

REVIEW:  The book is narrarated by Marcelo who frequently talks of himself in third person.  He relates some of his peculiarities (e.g., he has obsessions with God and religion, hears internal music (IM), and sleeps in a tree house). He shares the difficulty he faces as he must learn menial tasks of the mailroom and deal with office politics.  He retains his innocence while considering the possibility of love, ethical dilemmas and other conflicts. 

Teen boys and girls, as well as adults, would enjoy this book that deals with the conflicts exposed for not only a boy with Asperger’s, but professional and social issues they may encounter themselves in the “real world”.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Theme, Characters, Point of View, Conflict, Compare/Contrast, and Cause/Effect

TOUCHY AREAS: Occasional harsh profanity and sexual inferences

RELATED BOOKS: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, Rules, Anything But Typical

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Mozart and the Whale (2005), Adam (2009), Rain Man (1988)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.blogs.scholastic.com/kid…/scholastic-ala-2010-award-winners.html

www.kidshealth.org/parents/medical

www.aspeneducation.com/article-equine-aspergers-autism.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

Al Capone Does My Shirts

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko: Book Cover

Al Capone Does My Shirts

Author: Gennifer Choldenko

Page Length: 225

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Historical Fiction

Career Connections: Electrician, Prison Warden, Prison Guard     

PLOT SUMMARY: Moose is not happy about the move his family has made to Alcatraz, the island that holds many famous prisoner’s hostage. His dad took the job as an electrician and prison guard, in the hopes that they would be able to place Moose’s older sister, Natalie, in a special school in San Francisco. Natalie displays signs of Autism, but in 1935 (the setting of the story) the disease had not been diagnosed. Moose is in the 7th grade and loves baseball and a good game of catch.  However, there are no boys his age on the island.

Because Moose is required to stay with Natalie every afternoon after school, he loses the one friendship he established with his schoolmate, Scout, in San Francisco.  He and Natalie form friendships with the younger children on the island and the warden’s daughter, Piper. While trying to stay out of trouble with the warden and trying to find a way to rekindle Scout’s friendship, Moose relentlessly looks for a way to keep Natalie happy and to find a convict’s baseball for Scout.

Meanwhile, his mother earnestly tries every possible avenue to ensure Natalie’s acceptance into the private school while his dad works and tries to keep the dysfunctional household in peace.

REVIEW: This is an excellent story based on historical facts about life on the island of Alcatraz in the depression years of the 1930’s.  Although the characters are fictional, they are based on authentic lives on the island during the time Al Capone was serving his sentence for tax evasion.  

The characters of the story are well-developed and the portrayal of Natalie’s symptoms of Autism is authentic.  Al Capone’s character is minimal, however, mystical in capturing the interest of the reader.  An author’s note and discussion questions and activities are included in the back of the book.

I would recommend the book for any teen or adult to read.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None

AREAS OF TEACHING: Historical Context, Character, Setting

RELATED BOOKS: Al Capone Shines My Shoes, Mr. Capone, Capone: The Life and World of Al Capone, Children of Alcatraz: Growing up on the Rock

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.cuip.uchicago.edu/schools/gearup/chicago/archive/yal/units/al/school/al.html

www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/travel-brochures-highlighting

www.teachervision.fen.com/childrens-book/printable/64237.html

MUSIC CONNECTIONS: Escape from Alcatraz (1979), Al Capone (1959)

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

A Corner of the Universe

A Corner of the Universe by Ann Martin: Book Cover

A Corner of the Universe

Author: Ann M. Martin

Page Length: 189

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction

Career Connections: None         

PLOT SUMMARY: It is summertime in Millerton, and Hattie plans on spending it with her family and the adult residents of her parent’s boarding house.  She also has acquaintances she likes to visit throughout the town, but none of them are her age. The summer is fairly normal until Hattie meets her Uncle Adam who has returned to her wealthy grandparent’s house because the school he was attending closed.

Hattie had never heard of Adam, who is 21 years old.  She realizes that her mother and grandparents have not told her about him because he has mental challenges.  Adam quotes lines from “I Love Lucy” and sometimes has erratic behavior, but Hattie bonds with him and they spend many afternoons together.

When the carnival comes to town, Hattie meets Leila, daughter of the couple who own and operate the carnival.  Hattie’s grandmother will not allow Adam to go to the carnival, so Hattie encourages Adam to sneak out of his house one evening and meet her there.  Adam is intrigued with the Ferris Wheel but when he gets stuck at the top with Hattie and Leila, a disaster occurs. Hattie and Adam are both grounded and by the time Hattie is allowed to leave her house again, the carnival has left town.  As Hattie mourns the loss of her one friend in town, she observes that Adam is intrigued with Angel Valentine, a beautiful young woman who lives at the boarding house.

When Adam comes to visit Angel and finds her in bed with her boyfriend, another disaster occurs.  Hattie is required to grow up quickly and deal with some of life’s hardest lessons at a very early age.

REVIEW: The characters have vivid personalities and the small town setting of the 1960’s is authentically described.  The social practices of Hattie’s parents and grandparents, as well as, the townspeople are an accurate account of the times.

This would be an excellent book to read as a class novel for discussions about family, peer, and social relationships.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None

AREAS OF TEACHING: Character, Conclusion, Generalizations, and Predictions, Compare/Contrast, Conflict

RELATED BOOKS: Esperanza Rising, Becoming Naomi Leon, So B. It, The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night, Marcelo in the Real World, Here Today

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/collateral.jsp?id=1480_type=Book_typeId=2966

MUSIC CONNECTIONS: Rain Man (1988), Mozart and the Whale (2005), Snow Cake (2006), Autism the Musical (2008), and I am Sam (2001)

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

August 11, 2008

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night

Author: Mark Haddon      

Page Length: 226

Reading Level: 8

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Christopher John Frances Boone narrated the story.  As it begins, Christopher has just discovered Ms. Shear’s dog, Wellington, dead in her yard.  Christopher, then, introduces himself to the reader stating that he knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and also, every prime number up to 7057.

The reader will note that the chapters in the book are numbered by prime numbers because Christopher prefers prime numbers to ordinal numbers. Christopher continues the story as he explains the events of the rest of the night in which he was taken to jail on suspicion of killing the dog.  In addition, he writes about his thought processes, his visits with Siobhan, and his relationship with his father and the death of this mother.

Christopher cannot let the death of Wellington go unsolved.  He questions neighbors, Ms. Shears, and his father to see if they might be able to help solve the mystery, but no one has any answers.  When Christopher’s father reads his book and learns of his investigation, he becomes angry and starts shouting at Chris.  The next day Chris can’t find his book.  He looks for it everywhere and when he enters his dad’s room to search, he finds evidence that his dad has not been truthful with him about his mother’s death.

A new investigation begins . . . 

REVIEW:  After reading the first two chapters of the book, it is easy to detect that Christopher is not a normal 15-year-old boy.  He is extremely intelligent, but has very low social and communication skills.  He has a very typical personality of a person with Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of Autism).

I found this book not only entertaining and intriguing, but very informative of the characteristics of Asperger’s.  Because of the reading level, it may be too difficult for the typical student in a resource class, but for those who do have high reading levels, I think they would enjoy and relate to Christopher.  It is a great book for teacher’s to read.  It helps one understand the behaviors and thought processes of a child with this disease.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Character, Sequence of Events, Conflict, and Setting

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: Strong Language p. 81-81, 127, 160,184

RELATED BOOKS: One Child, Thinking in Pictures, Expanded Edition: My Life with Autism, A Spot of Bother

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=66-0099450259-1

www.randomhouse.com/vintage/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400032716

www.wikipedia.org/…/The_Curious_Incident_of_the_Dog_in_the_Night-time

www.readinggroupguides.com/guides3/curious_incident_dog1.asp

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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