Book Review: The Doorman’s Repose by Chris Raschka

Book Review: The Doorman’s Repose by Chris Raschka
4 Stars ****   (MG and YA)

It’s been ages since I’ve read a SATIRE and here is a new and modern example to serve as a model for students of writing. Not only is it entertaining, but the reader learns about the idiosyncracies of living in a doorman apartment building in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. What fun!

Satire:  the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

Anyone who knows anything about a doorman building knows the doorman knows EVERYTHING that goes on. Packages, deliveries, visitors, daily habits are all under the nose of this very special person who presides over his realm and stands guard over those who enter. Relatives and friends of the residents become acquaintances of the doorman and in turn, all become interconnected. According to Mr. Bunchley the doorman, ” a connection is made when at least one party would feel the lack of the other.”

The funny thing, of course, is the privileged, quirky lives of the residents. Unusual demands must be addressed without upsetting anyone. The book is divided into ten stories about the doorman, crazy? or maybe not? Fred who presides over the pigeons, the requisite opera singer who loses her voice at an inopportune time, the walled up music room, the cultured, educated mice who spread their time among the different apartments and who travel to the country during the summer, the revered Number 2 elevator named Otis, the temperamental boiler, hot water for baths and tea, and the doorman’s repose—a state of rest, sleep, or tranquility—which comes after all is said and done.

The book is written with a tongue-in-cheek. So serious about nothing really. So accepting of the craziness that abounds. So true in its portrayal of this segment of New York City life.

I recommend this book to serve as a model for satire. It’s appropriate for middle grade and young adult readers. Cute. Different. Unique.

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

 

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Book Review: The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

Book Review: The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore (MG) for reading level, (YA) for content 5 Stars *****

What a terrific book for sophisticated MG and YA readers! This book is totally modern with its Harlem slang, supportive lesbian mother, mostly absent caring father with a new girlfriend, an idolized older brother who was shot to death in a nightclub in the Bronx, gang bangers who terrorize the younger, unassociated kids, conflicted desire for a better life, friends who teeter on the edge between right and wrong, friendship with an autistic girl which started out as dislike, rivalry, then evolved into a healthy cooperation to achieve excellence and fame, and a helpful community center counselor. This book has it all.

Twelve -year-old Wallace (Lolly) Rachpaul, who  lives in Harlem in the upper east side of Manhattan, is obsessed with keeping his possessions from being “confiscated” by the thugs who frequent 125 St. Despondent over the death of his twenty-year-old brother, Jermaine, Lolly begins to give up on life and loses interest in his school work. His only interest is constructing buildings with his individual Lego kits. When Steve, a young man who serves as a positive role model for the neighborhood boys, gives Lolly a book for Christmas entitled A Pattern of Architecture, Lolly is inspired to innovate. He combines all the Lego pieces, integrating the blocks from all the kits, with his imagination on fire. His mom’s girlfriend brings bags full of Lego pieces from her job at a toy factory. Ali, the counselor at the community center, encourages Lolly to build with his Legos and gives him a private room to construct the imaginary alien world of Harmonee. From this activity, Lolly utilizes math and creative writing. The other kids become involved and Lolly’s mutually beneficial relationship with autistic Big Rose begins. Lolly and Big Rose find a common area in which to gain public recognition.

At the end, Lolly is able to come to terms with his brother’s death, his parents’ separate lives, his loyalty in friendships that don’t always run smoothly, and his desire to excel in life and avoid the trappings of the life around him. Lolly tells us how much he has changed from the beginning of the story, “Since then I had learned the most important thing: the decisions you make can become your life. Your choices are you.”

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Book Review: The Road to Ever After by Moira Young (MG)

Book Review: The Road to Ever After by Moira Young (MG) 2 Stars **

We meet thirteen-year-old Davy David, orphaned at birth, now living on his own in Brownvale in the graveyard where his mother, who died giving birth to him, is buried. Davy doesn’t know quite where, but he chooses a spot he likes, tends to a briar rose bush he plants in her memory, and considers this his home. Davy was in an orphanage that went out of business so to speak, and he was left at the age of nine to fend for himself, grateful for the sporadic odd job that enables him to buy food and for the negligible kindness of some local adults.

The mean-spirited parson is a hypocritical, secret drunk who cheats on his wife. The neighborhood boys bully poor Davy. A homeless, scruffy dog attaches himself to Davy. Davy does not attend school but is a frequent visitor to the public library where he educates himself, especially about angels found in classic books of art. Davy is also an exceptional artist who leaves etchings of angels in the dirt wherever he goes. Just as his “home” is destroyed by the nefarious parson, Davy meets wealthy Miss Elizabeth Flint, an about to turn eighty, witchy, crotchety old woman who drafts Davy into her service. She pays him for driving her to her ancestral home to attend to her important business—” a three-day passage of the soul to its final embarkation point to the great beyond.”   A friendship develops and Davy’s life is changed forever.

Does this remind you of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist?

While this is a somewhat charming book, I’m not sure how relatable this story is for today’s young reader. The book has a copyright date of 2016. It has an old-fashioned feel but the setting’s time and place are ambiguous. The reader must suspend belief to accept that thirteen year old Davy can suddenly drive cars, motorcycles, and trucks while being chased by their rightful owners and the police. Is this child actually living unattended on the streets and in a cemetery of this unholy town?  Where in the world is Brownvale, anyway? The book is meant to portray a spiritual journey—Davy helps Miss Flint’s spirit travel to its final resting place. After all, Miss Flint is already dead!  Yes, and they even hold a wake with Miss Flint’s restless soul, Davy, and George , the dog, in attendance. Let’s not forget that Miss Flint is now aging backwards and has the beauty and physical stamina that were hers when she was in her twenties. Admirable, of course, but the entire book lacks spirit and has so much thrown in, it’s a hodge-podge of many different books. Disjointed. Disconnected. Out of context. Everything comes out of left field.

By the way, I hate, hate, hate the ending. SPOILER ALERT! Guess who inherits all of Miss Flint’s wealth and property? BUT, Davy will still be alone in the world, although next door to kindly Mr. Blye, his sweet wife, his mother-in-law, and his friendly, loving four children. Is this supposed to be a satisfactory ending for an orphan, still only thirteen years of age, to have great neighbors? Is this supposed to fill the hole in Davy’s heart?

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Book Review: Hero by Jennifer Li Shotz

Book Review: Hero by Jennifer Li Shotz  (MG) 3 Stars ***

A charming story for dog lovers and kids. Hero, a highly skilled black Labrador , now retired police dog, lives with twelve-year-old Ben and his family in Gulfport, Mississippi. “Hero was more than just a regular police dog in the K-9 unit—he was also trained as a search-and-rescue dog. Hero and Ben’s dad had been partners on the Gulfport police force for eight years. In that time, Hero had busted a lot of criminals—and saved a lot of lives.” And to boot, Hero also saved Ben’s life! No exaggeration.

Hero and Ben are inseparable. One fateful day, they encounter an adorable, terrified puppy that shows signs of painful wounds indicative of being prey at the local, hard to locate dog fighting ring. Ben takes the puppy to the veterinarian for emergency treatment, names him Scout, and is given parental  permission for temporary foster care until they can find the true owner or another permanent home.

A suspicious looking man is often seen lurking around Ben’s house. Whenever Scout sees him, he trembles and whines. Hero stands between Mitch, Ben, and Scout a number of times letting Mitch know he’d better keep his distance. Ben later finds out this man, Mitch, runs the dog fighting ring. Suddenly, Hero and Scout are missing. Ben takes his best friend Noah on a dangerous quest to search for the beloved dogs. After bloody traumatic injuries, confrontations, and threats, Ben’s father shows up in the nick of time to save the day. This vicious, heartless ring is broken up and all participants are brought to justice.

Ben is an admirable character —responsible, hard working, caring, generous, and fair-minded. However, his independent spirit causes him to put himself, Hero, and Noah in a dangerous situation. The story is pleasant and changes to exciting near the end, but not anything we haven’t heard before. The reader must sometimes suspend belief. Interactions with the “bad guys” are unrealistic and might serve to set a bad example for young readers to think they can outwit adult criminal types. Overall, a pleasant dog story of friendship and integrity.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Kudos to B & N Stamford, CT For a Successful Book Signing Event

Kudos to Barnes & Noble Stamford, CT for a Successful Book Signing Event!

EDUCATORS DISCOUNTS APPLY

Please join me

                                     Today Is the Last Day

Sunday, August 19, 2018
12:00pm-6:00pm

Stamford Town Center  
100 Greyrock Place
Stamford, CT
203-323-1248

 My Book Titles
The Science Project
The Ocean’s Way
Who Do Voodoo?
The Ocean’s Way Poetry Companion
Sojourn Into The Night—A Memoir of the Peruvian Rainforest

Please visit my website elainedonadio.com for study guides aligned with state standards for science, social studies, and literacy.

All rights reserved August, 2018.

Please Join Me! East Hampton Library Children’s Fair, Long Island, NY

Book Signings & More 

Sunday, August 12  1:00-5:30pm

East Hampton Library Children’s Fair

Free Admission

Carnival Rides, Games, Book Signings, Raffles, Crafts, Treats

555 Field, 555 Montauk Hwy., Amagansett, NY

easthamptonlibrary.org or 631-324-0222

Many Authors Including Me, Elaine Donadio!

It’s A Happening Place

Guess Who’s Doing a Book Signing at Barnes& Noble, Stamford , CT Aug. 18-19?

Guess Who’s Doing a Book Signing at Barnes & Noble Stamford, CT?

EDUCATORS DISCOUNTS APPLY

Please join me.

                                     Saturday, August 18, 2018 
                                           12:00pm-6:00pm

Sunday, August 19, 2018
12:00pm-6:00pm

Stamford Town Center  
100 Greyrock Place
Stamford, CT
203-323-1248

 My Book Titles
The Science Project
The Ocean’s Way
Who Do Voodoo?
The Ocean’s Way Poetry Companion
Sojourn Into The Night—A Memoir of the Peruvian Rainforest

Please visit my website elainedonadio.com for study guides aligned with state standards for science, social studies, and literacy.

All rights reserved March, 2018.

Please Join Me! E. Hampton Library Children’s Fair, Long Island, NY

Book Signings & More 

Sunday, August 12  1:00-5:30pm

East Hampton Library Children’s Fair

Free Admission

Carnival Rides, Games, Book Signings, Raffles, Crafts, Treats

555 Field, 555 Montauk Hwy., Amagansett, NY

easthamptonlibrary.org or 631-324-0222

Many Authors Including Me, Elaine Donadio!

It’s A Happening Place

MG Book Review: Abby Spencer Goes To Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj

MG Book Review: Abby Spencer Goes To Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj —3 Stars  ***

Here’s the thing: I hate not to love a book that represents diversity, a fatherless child-parent reunion, cultural enlightenment, and a happy ending. But, here I am. So, the book is good—light, optimistic, fun, upbeat, zany, fairy-tale like in its tone and events. It tells the story about Indian- American, thirteen year old Abby Spencer, living in Houston, Texas who travels to Mumbai, India to meet her father for the first time.

Kids, especially girls, will probably love the book with its very cool, trendy main character on an adventure of a lifetime. For me, a reading professional, I saw many shortcomings: unrealistically simple dialogue; shallow characterizations; absence of emotional depth; lack of story development and transitions; awkward writing; an unsatisfying ending.

While the title is very catchy, it is not representative of the heart of the story as stated by Abby in Chapter 1, “I hurriedly scribble, The one thing I want most in my life is excitement. Liar! My inner voice bursts like an annoying pop-up on a computer screen and surprises me. The thing you want most is to meet your father! the inner voice accuses.” Abby’s mother and father met in college, and her father returns to India after graduation, never knowing that Abby’s mother was pregnant with his child. The author tells us what Abby wants, but then downplays its emotional impact.

Abby is eating frozen yogurt with friends when she adds coconut flakes for the first time causing a severe allergic reaction, requiring an emergency trip to the hospital. When the doctor asks if Abby’s father has the same allergy, Abby is motivated to Google her father. One thing leads to another( as Google searches often do) and Abby discovers her father is actually the most famous male sex symbol screen actor in India.

Abby’s mom calls the telephone number listed for his production company, and the rest is history, as they say. Abby is invited for a visit to Mumbai since she has one week off from school for Thanksgiving holiday. The meeting is initially awkward. Quickly, the glamour of Bollywood and its trappings, the attentions of a handsome boy who coincidentally is visiting Mumbai from Texas, the constant hounding of the paparazzi, the visits to the movie set, the loving attention of a newly found grandmother, all add up to a wonderful adventure. But, where are the deep emotions, feelings, thoughts, conflicts? Abby’s dream has come true, but according to Abby, it’s her father she really wants, not the excitement. So, why does the author diverge from the main character’s realization of her goal in life?

Abby returns to Houston with wonderful stories to tell her mom and grandparents. A few days later, guess who drops in for a surprise visit? Abby’s sex symbol dad drops in for three days to say hello before running off to film another movie. Abby is invited to return to Mumbai during summer vacation. Will he return?  Will the romance between Abby’s mother and father be rekindled? Who knows? The author does not address these questions and leaves everyone hanging. The only one who is not upset by the lack of clarity is zany, cool-girl Abby.

The author does include scenes of poverty and desperation that are so common in India. Hungry, dirty bare-foot children and dogs beg for food. Abby is touched by their plight. Her father’s employees bring food and money to them. Abby’s father vows to contribute major money to alleviate the suffering they witness.

The author misses an opportunity to really focus on the extremes of poverty with the starving masses and the wealth enjoyed by a few in India. It should not be a cursory observation. A first meeting between a child and her father deserves much more emotional depth than zany Abby is allowed. This book could have and should have been much more. It had the potential to become an important voice against poverty and for parental responsibilities. Instead, we have a star struck teenager. Maybe it’s me?

Lesson Ideas

  •  Investigate the factors that create the extreme poverty and disease in India. What steps, if any, can the Indian government take to alleviate the suffering of its people? Explain the caste system. What cultural factors might negatively influence government or humanitarian efforts to improve the plight of the Indian people?
  • Locate India on a map. Which countries surround it? What are its natural resources? Topography? Weather? Industries? Government? In what ways does India’s location  influence its destiny?
  • Design a T-shirt or poster to create awareness of the struggle to survive in India. 
  • Plan a group or class fund-raising event to raise money to help starving and diseased children and dogs in India. What steps can be taken on a global basis to help alleviate starvation and disease in India and other struggling countries? 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

 

Book Review: Refugee by Alan Gratz

Middle Grade Book Review: Refugee by Alan Gratz 5 Stars *****

Also relevant to Young Adult readers.

This book captured my heart from the beginning. We follow three children’s voyages, as they are represented from different countries and different times in history, from chaotic homeland to what they hope will be a better life. We journey with them as they and their families battle the elements, armed and hostile government representatives, hunger, thirst, terror, betrayal, and one disappointment after another. We meet Josef, a Jewish boy from 1939 Nazi Germany, who has just turned thirteen and is fleeing the terrors of Adolph Hitler’s regime; Isabel who flees starvation, fear,  and lack of liberties in Fidel Castro’s 1994 Cuba; and Mahmoud, a  boy fleeing devastation, starvation,  and violence from 2015 civil war torn Syria. Each story is poignant without being soppy. Each character actively participated in their journey to freedom, often demonstrating more courage than the adults around them. No pampered introverts here.

Not all the refugees who journeyed with the main characters made it to safety and freedom. Some lost family members or dear friends. Many countries along the way violently opposed letting the refugees enter their borders, even if they were attempting to pass through to another country that openly accepted these displaced persons from around the world. Prejudice, fear, lack of sympathy and understanding, armed guards at the borders, all presented barriers that could not always be circumnavigated.

In the end, one character who had been a refuge from 1939 Germany opened her heart and home to a 2015 refuge from Syria. She was the only one from her family who survived, and empathized with young Mahmoud, whose heart and spirit were broken and who longed to be reunited with his baby sister from whom he became separated.

These stories are from real life travails of one person or a combined story of several refugees. Maps are charted at the end of the book, showing the route traveled on a world map for each character coming from a different part of the world.

If the stories from this book touch your heart, please consider donating money to two organizations recommended by the author of this book: UNICEF (United Nations International Emergency Children’s Fund) and Save The Children. Both organizations spend 90% of their funds on services that directly help children. Learn more at www.unicefusa.org and www.savethechildren.org.

Lesson Ideas—

  • Study the locations, politics, and governments of all countries mentioned in the book. In what ways have they changed over time? What sanctions have the other countries imposed to try to influence specific countries to change policies and end violations of human rights?
  • Analyze the escape route each character took. Chart the distances traveled according to different modes of transportation. Estimate and calculate the amount of time for each segment of the journeys.
  • Pretend you lived in the same time and place as one of the characters who journeyed through your country. What might you have done to help? What resistance might you have faced?
  • Write a letter, poem, song, or play to tell one of the characters how you feel about this terrible time of their lives.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

 

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