Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Thing About Jellyfish

Sara's Review:

Grief is very personal. We lost a very dear family member a few weeks ago, and I noticed a very different response among my own children. My 9 year old was very demonstrative, crying often. I found her crying a few days after the funeral, asked her what was wrong, and was slightly surprised to find her still crying so much. My 13 year old was much more private, and only shed a few tears in public, yet I know her love for our lost loved one was just as great as my younger daughter's.

In A Thing About Jellyfish, grief takes over Suzy's life. After her former best friend dies, she completely shuts down, refusing to talk to anyone, even her family. She becomes obsessed with jellyfish, searching for a reason beyond drowning as the cause of Franny's death. In a series of flashbacks, we learn that Suzy and Franny were not on good terms, and this makes Franny's death even more traumatic for Suzy. Suzy and Franny were best friends all through elementary school. However, when they get to middle school, things change. Franny becomes friends with new girls, and Suzy does not fit in. Then things get really, really ugly. In the present, Suzy has to give an oral presentation, although she isn't talking. Her grief is so deep that she makes a really risky decision.

I felt a lot of empathy for Suzy because I had a dreadful middle school experience. In 6th grade, I had two close girlfriends, but we were constantly fighting. I ended the year not being friends with either of the girls, and deciding I wasn't meant to have friends. Then in 8th grade, I was bullied for months until I stood up for myself and fought back, landing in ISS (in school suspension) for my efforts. Although I'm a natural extrovert, middle school traumatized me so much that in many ways, I remained an introvert for the rest of my public school education, often hiding in books. I really worry about the same thing happening to my girls. Fortunately, my oldest child has had no problems in middle school. My second child is a social butterfly who makes friends easily. Sadly, if anyone is going to have problems, I am afraid it will be my youngest daughter. I hope to be wrong. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Amy's Review:

I think that The Thing About Jellyfish is one of my favorite books of 2015. Benjamin uses this story to discuss issues that I believe that all readers can relate to. Suzy is clearly an awkward character who does not have many friends. I think that we have all felt awkward at some point in our lives. For me that awkwardness occurred in elementary school. I was a tomboy so, I was too boyish to play with the girls and too girlish to play with the boys. I only had one friend and if they missed school I had no one to play with. Benjamin also discusses changing relationships in this book. 

I think we have all experienced a time where we lost of friend due to a change in their behavior. One day you are besties and then the next your not.  This happens to Suzy in 
the story and it also happened to me. I had a best friend all the way through middle school but when we got to high school things changed. She was completely different. I, like Suzy, tried to fit in with her new group of friends for a little while but I just did not fit in. We eventually stopped being friends and only waved at each other in passing.

Benjamin also discusses grief in this book. I agree with Sara that everyone grieves differently. Suzy uses her grief to withdrawn from the world. Then her grief seems to turn into a determination to learn as much as she can about Jellyfish. The parts about the jellyfish and the jellyfish experts were my favorite parts of the book. I felt like I was reading nonfiction inside a fictional story. I appreciate the fact that Benjamin used information about real jellyfish experts in her book. Overall, this is an excellent book and one you should take the time to read. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

House Arrest by K.A. Holt

House Arrest

Amy's Review of House Arrest By K. A. Holt 

Have you ever seen a troubled teen and wondered "What is that kid's problem?" K. A. Holt takes you into the world of the troubled teen in House Arrest. At the beginning of the book the reader is introduced to Timmy's journal. While reading the journal you discover that Timmy is on house arrest and has to use the journal to reflect on his behavior. At the beginning of the book, I did not like Timmy. I viewed this character as a troubled teen who deserved everything he got. As I got further into the story my views changed as I realized Timmy was struggling. Timmy as a character not only deals with everyday life as a teen but also  issues of abandonment, life threatening illness, and poverty. Timmy transforms from a teen who doesn't really care to a person with a passion to help others.  As a school librarian who works in a high poverty district this book encouraged me to reflect on my practice as a teacher. Timmy's story made me wonder about the struggles that my students face at home everyday and how I can help them more. Overall, I really enjoyed House Arrest and the format of the story made for easy reading. I was slightly disappointed by the ending because I felt like there could be more to the story. I hope this means that K.A. Holt will be writing a sequel to House Arrest. I recommend this book to anyone who has encountered an annoying teen or works with kids. I also recommend this book to students who are struggling with any of the issues covered in the book. I give House Arrest 5 out of 5 stars.  

Sara's Review

Like Amy, this book made me reflect on how my students' home lives may impact their education and how we may never know what they are dealing with, even if they appear to be from a two-parent, middle-class home. It is really important to show empathy and compassion, even when a child is being disruptive and difficult. I felt that compassion for Timmy from the start of the book; I understood his anger and his motivation for stealing, even though he made a bad choice. It isn't like he went out an bought himself the latest, greatest video game system with a stolen credit card. I was also frustrated with the ending, and hope it means there will be a sequel, but it could also mean that sometimes, we make decisions and we have to suffer the consequences of those decisions, regardless of how pure our intentions are. While reading this, I discovered just how much I love the format of verse novels. If you do too, I also recommend these 2015 novels:

Red ButterflyListen, Slowly

I've reserved K.A. Holt's 2014 verse novel, Rhyme Schemer from my public library and can't wait to read it. I give House Arrest 5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Who are the #twonerdysisters?

The Two Nerdy Sisters are actual sisters...and sisters-in-law because our husbands are brothers. One of us has been a nerd since birth and the other grew into nerdiness later in life. We are both elementary school librarians and the purpose of this blog is to share book reviews from current children's literature for all ages - preschool to teenagers. We have both written blog entries for Nerdy Book Club and attended Nerd Camp MI.

Amy Ralph is a School Media Coordinator in North Carolina. She has dedicated her life to educating children. Amy lives in Kernersville, NC with her husband, Oren and her dog, Jules. She blogs about educational issues and books at She also enjoys networking with other educators on Twitter. Her Twitter handle is @lehmanac if you would like to contact her.

Sara Ralph has been a school librarian in Asheboro, NC for thirteen years. She lives with her husband, her three nerdy daughters, her mother and stepfather and her dog, Goldie. She blogs with School Librarian, Benji Martin, at Newbery Pie and her personal blog, So Many Books, So Little Time. You can find her on Twitter @sralph31.

Reading List:

House ArrestThe Lost Track of TimeNone of the Above