Friday, February 12, 2016

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Review

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Book talk: "The problem with my life was that it was someone else's idea" Ari never asked to be born into a family where everyone is bursting with words left unsaid. His father never left Vietnam behind and his brother is in jail, meaning that all the family pressure is on him to be the good kid. He never asked to be saddled with a name like Aristotle. But his life finally starts to make sense when he meets a boy named Dante. Dante is unabashedly himself--emotional, vulnerable, intelligent, beautiful. Aristotle never felt like he fit in before but he feels a sense of belonging when he's with Dante. Their friendship blooms until Aristotle's own secrets threaten the only happiness he has ever known.

Rave: This book was written by a poet, and that is immediately obvious because the prose is just gorgeous. The plot is fairly quiet, mostly dealing with the inner life of the narrator as he comes to terms with his various emotions, but I read it in a greedy gulp anyway. Not only are Dante and Aristotle painted in heart-breaking detail but the other characters such as their parents are portrayed with complexity and in a way that actually renders them helpful and meaningful players in their children's lives. Highly recommended!

Every book its reader: I'd give this to teens 7th grade and up looking for an emotional novel or a moving romance.

Topics and Trends: LGBTQ, romance, characters of color, poetry,

Bonus Quotes:

"The problem with my life was that it was someone else's idea"

"Yeah, I had all kinds of tragic reasons for feeling sorry for myself. Being 15 didn't help. Sometimes I thought that being 15 was the worst tragedy of all"

"We sat, drinking our tea and watching the rain fall on his front porch. The sky was almost black and then it started hailing. It was so beautiful and scary, I wondered about the science of storms and how sometimes it seemed that a storm wanted to break the world and how the world refused to break."

“Words were different when they lived inside of you.”

“To be careful with people and with words was a rare and beautiful thing.”

“But love was always something heavy for me. Something I had to carry.”

“Summer was here again. Summer, summer, summer. I loved and hated summers. Summers had a logic all their own and they always brought something out in me. Summer was supposed to be about freedom and youth and no school and possibilities and adventure and exploration. Summer was a book of hope. That's why I loved and hated summers. Because they made me want to believe.”

Source: school library

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Imaginary Review

The Imaginary

Book talk: Rudger can be a bit shy but he's always willing to go on adventures with Amanda. Whether they're sailing the high seas on a pirate ship or exploring a jungle, Amanda knows Rudger will always be there by her side. That's why he's her best friend, even if he is imaginary. Rudger feels the same way about Amanda, but when a suspicious stranger comes knocking who can actually see him and Amanda ends up in the hospital, Rudger is left to face real danger on his own. He finds a haven for imaginary friends where he discovers that he's not the only one who has encountered this monster in a Hawaiian shirt, and he has all of them terrified. But Amanda is a special girl and Rudger will do anything to save her, even if the other imaginaries warn him that to do so is to face certain death.

Rave: This surreal horror story about a monster that eats imaginary friends is utterly bizarre and fantastic. The mythology Harrold develops around imaginary friends and how they work is wonderfully creative. I particularly like how they hang out at a library in-between gigs because they're hot spots for imagination. Of course I'm always partial to a nice talking cat sidekick as well. The imaginary friends are hilarious and touching and the monster is actually quite creepy. The illustrations just make it all the more wonderful with their fanciful details. The book is laced with humour and droll observations and the conclusion is surprisingly touching. A great book overall.

Every book its reader: It's hard to know who to recommend this to. The crowd looking for stories about imaginary friends and the ones looking for horror stories don't always intersect. But I think once kids started reading it they'd get into it. It would make a good read-aloud as well. I'd say fourth grade and up.

Topics and Trends: horror, imagination, monsters, friendship


You can find a reading guide at the publisher's website and more info at the author's website.

There's a great pair of book trailers showing a time-lapse of the author and illustrator at work.

Source: school library

The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold, illustrated by Emily Gravett: buy it or check it out today!