Sunday, July 27, 2008

Stargirl & Love, Stargirl

I finally finished Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. It took me almost six months because I kept putting it down and picking other books up. For those of you that have read previous posts, you know that I set a goal to finish it before reading anything else. So I spent part of a beach day completing the book. By the way, I promise not to post anymore pictures of me reading at the beach. The picture posted here is at East Beach in Santa Barbara, CA. FYI, Santa Barbara is fantastic...great weather, great food, very clean, and more. I would give it a 5-star rating!

Back to the books. I am not going to review the two Spinelli books, but I'll make a few comments and rate them both.

I loved it. I loved the writing style, the message, the characters, the storyline, and the potential for for classroom discussion. I am a huge fan. One of my all-time favorite books


Love, Stargirl
I enjoyed this book, but I was not nearly as engaged in this sequel as I was the first book...maybe that is why it took me six months to complete it. I know that many of my students like this book just as much as Stargirl, but I just struggled with it a bit. Although I struggled, it was still creative. In the first book, the text is written from Leo's point of view (Leo is Stargirl's boyfriend). In Love, Stargirl, the book is one long letter written to Leo from Stargirl. I'll leave it at that so I don't spoil too much.


Happy Reading,
Dr. Quinn

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I just returned from Santa Barbara, CA, where my wife and I spent our 20th anniversary. While on the trip I read two books: Love, Stargirl and Rules. I was planning to do two posts this afternoon (Saturday), however, my body seems to still be on Pacific time so I thought I would go ahead and post Rules tonight or this morning or whatever you want to call it (1:30 AM). BTW, the time stamp seems to be off by three hours.

First off let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed Rules by Cynthia Lord. I loved the honesty of the protagonist, Catherine. Catherine is a twelve year old girl with an eight year old brother, David, who is autistic. Although she loves her brother he often embarrasses her by doing things such as: pulling down his pants, dropping toys in the fish tank, opening cupboard doors at other people’s homes, etc.

Each chapter is titled with some sort of rule. Usually these rules are meant for David, but they often mean just as much to Catherine as they do for David. Sometimes to smooth out awkward situations or just their way of showing their love for each other, Catherine and David will recite lines from Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad Together. These little snippets along with the ongoing list of rules that Catherine creates throughout the book are a favorite of mine.

Another storyline is the relationship that Catherine generates with a Jason, a boy in a wheelchair. Jason has difficulty communicating verbally so he uses a book full of words and words with pictures to communicate. As the story develops Catherine adds words for David’s communication book. Words such as: awesome!, whatever!, That stinks the big one!!!, and more.

Sorry if this review is a little random, just too much travel today.


Happy Reading, Dr. Quinn

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ratings, Readings, & Travels

After getting all excited about rating the books posted, I have mellowed a bit. Originally I had hoped to come up with a system that considered items such as level of engagement, level of recommendation and other areas; however, I think I simply want to use a one-to-five star rating system. As an educator I know the importance of descriptors, but right now my descriptors are kind of simplistic and probably even cheesy.

Loved it / Highly recommend
Liked it a lot / Strongly recommend
Enjoyed it / Recommend
Did not like it / Do not recommend
I can't believe I wasted my time / Stay away from this one

I will go back and add my personal rating to books from previous posts. Who knows if this system will stay or if I will change it in the future. Personally I wouldn't be surprised if I make some changes in the future.

I have already made some reading changes. I am embarrassed to say that I started Love Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli in January and then I put it down for no real reason. While picking up a pile of books near my bed, I saw Spinelli's novel. Now, I am the type of person that loves a sense of accomplishment and does not like to leave things hanging. With this in mind, I decided that I need to complete this book before going to something else. So Love Stargirl will be my next read, and I think a will write it up with Stargirl as well. From there I have a few options (actually I have about six books in the same pile as Love Stargirl that I would like to get too). Remember, I am a slow reader so I truly don't expect to get all of these completed before next semester starts.

Within the past three weeks I have been to a remote island in Canada (to work...not for pleasure), Seaside, FL (one of my favorite vacation places), and in a few days I leave for Santa Barbara, CA (20 year anniversary trip). Now many people might consider these great opportunities to read, but I like to mix reading with other ways to spend my time. For example, while on the beach, one day I read Twisted, by Anderson. The next two days on the beach, I listened to the radio and talked with family. Of course the plane ride to California would be conducive to some quality reading, but I'll probably opt for the in-flight movie even if I have already seen it. Sometimes my ADD keeps me from relaxing and focusing on a book. Sorry if that disappoints you, but that's just the way I roll.

Happy Reading,
Dr. Quinn

Monday, July 14, 2008

Redwall: The Graphic Novel

Over the past six months I have gained interest in graphic novels. My library has grown from zero to approximately 20 graphic novels, and some day I hope to review or share several of my favorite graphic novels on this blog site.

The latest addition to my collection is Brian Jacques Redwall: The Graphic Novel, illustrated by Bret Blevins. I was very excited to pick up this book for several reasons: 1) I loved the original text (although I haven't visited it for years), 2) I was eager to see Blevins' interpretation of the story as well as his character illustrations, 3) I like graphic novels for elementary students, & 4) it is another graphic novel for my collection.

After reading this graphic novel I felt happily satisfied. Originally, I hoped for colorful illustrations, but I quickly became a fan of the black and white style. I loved the illustrations of Cluny and his army, and I liked how the layout was similar to the Japanese Manga style (maybe that is why it is in b/w). Overall I though this was a good interpretation of Jacques original tale. Of course certain text and details are going to be left out, but I still thought that Blevins' interpretation was smooth. Therefore, I once again enjoyed the story of Redwall.


Happy Reading,
Dr. Quinn

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Rating System

After finishing Story of a Girl, I was thinking about various ways to share my personal ratings of the various books that I share. I am sure that the few of you that actually read this post notice how it has changed already. Earlier this week I wrote that I would not give summaries for each book; however, I feel that many will want a quick summary or some type of evaluation to help them decide if they want to read/explore books from this site. So I am in the initial stage of brainstorming a simple but flexible rating system (all based on my opinion) for the various genre of books that I share. Right now I am not sure but I know there will be be several categories (e.g., to recommend or not, engagement, & creativity). I hope to get this figured out before my next post. If any of you have any suggestions, feel free to share them in the comment section.

Currently I have my students rate books: excellent, above average, average, or poor. To be consistent with them, I will probably do something similar, but with a little more to it. Don't be surprised if I change this system as I continue to post.

Happy Reading,
Dr. Quinn

Story of a Girl

Today’s read was Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr. My first comment is…perfect title. After discussing this book with my wife we agreed that this book was plain and simply a story of a sixteen year old girl.

The YA novel takes place on the coast of northern California, Zarr immediately starts the book with a flashback as the protagonist, Deanna, has an unwanted encounter with her “boyfriend” and her father. Then the novel moves to the present. From this point on Deanna tells us what is happening in her life: how she handles her dysfunctional family; how she discovers true friends; and how she deals with her past and the way it impacts her present. Like Twisted (yesterday's post), the protagonist has a difficult relationship with his/her father.

I enjoyed the book because it was not too deep. There was no hidden agenda. Zarr did a good job of sharing Deanna’s life with the readers. I really liked the ending or lack of ending. Deanna’s life goes on so Zarr simply ties up some loose ends, but was creative enough to let the reader think about Deanna’s future.


Happy Reading,
Dr. Quinn

Friday, July 4, 2008


One of the few YA books on my summer reading list with a male protagonist is Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson. Like many of her books this is a quick read and a good one. I feel that many YA readers will be able to connect with the protagonist, Tyler, in some way. He comes from a dysfunctional family…the father is self-centered, the mother somewhat lacks a backbone, and together they argue all the time. Sadly many YA readers probably live too close to this.

I enjoyed how Tyler developed throughout the book. Learning how to handle his new physique, his new female interest, his new and old trials and tribulations Tyler rides an emotional roller coaster. Support from his sister, his best friend, and his own maturity all help him get through his twisted life.

I was surprised how Anderson ended the book…it worked, but I was surprised.


Happy Reading,
Dr. Quinn