Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Girl Online Book Review:
Dive Into Diversity
By: Sydney S
Have you ever read a book and felt that you couldn't relate to the characters at all? I think we all have, but it becomes a problem when this happens book after book. Not everyone has the perfect life as many books portray, which is why it's important that everyone should be able to find a character they can relate to. If you need help finding a book like this, try Girl Online by Zoe Sugg, or Zoella as she is known on YouTube.
Penny, the main character in Girl Online is far from your stereotypical teenage girl and I think that is part of her charm. Aside from her chronic clumsiness and awkwardness which I have all too much experience with myself, the main issue that sets Penny apart is that she suffers from extreme anxiety and panic attacks. Even simple tasks like riding through a crowded part of town are a struggle for her and through this novel my eyes were really opened to how hard it can be to cope with anxiety. Penny is fighting the anxious part of herself the whole book and even by the end she doesn't get rid of her panic attacks, she just learns to control them better. Since I have never read a book with a character who dealt with this issue before it is likely that many others haven't either. If I was a teen who had anxiety I'm sure I would feel alone just as Penny does in the book and just as many other teens (and even some adults) assuredly do in real life, and that is why diverse books are so important. So that no one has to feel alone.
Aside from the diversity of this realistic fiction novel, it has an amazing storyline. The book is set in modern day Brighton as well as New York, and when Sugg sets the scene you feel like you are there as well. Under the username Girl Online, Penny is an internet famous teenager who blogs anonymously about everything that happens to her in her day-to-day life. The only person who knows about her blog is her best friend Elliot who, coincidentally, is a diverse character himself. When Elliot came out as being gay, his dad flat out refused to believe him. Everytime Elliot tried to talk to his dad he waved it off as a phase and refused to accept his son's sexuality saying Elliot can "grow out of being gay."
Anyway, through her blog, Elliot, and her love for photography Penny somehow finds a way to make it through the bullies and anxiety that seem to pester her wherever she goes and still enjoy life. That is, until something big happens that changes everything. This event will forever change the way Penny deals with the problems in her life and even leads to a fairytale-esque love story…
I highly recommend Girl Online to anyone who wants to read it. I love the theme of the book as it really inspires me to face my fears. Aside from the theme the book also has an amazing tone. It is funny, conversational, and relatable; yet still deals with serious issues. Zoe Sugg went through panic attacks herself, is constantly on the internet because of her YouTube career, and has a brother a lot like Penny’s brother in the book so you can see that many of the issues Penny has and encounters stemmed from Zoe’s personal life. Thus, if you like contemporary books with a twist of humor and real-life in them, this is the one for you.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Corienne's Diversity Picks!

Need help selecting a diverse read? Check out Corienne's top picks!

Our class has just been challenged to take part in Dive Into Diversity. The objective is to read at least one diverse book a month, or per marking period. For people who are having trouble choosing their first reads for the challenge, here are some of my personal favorites:
Undoubtedly, one of my favorite series overall, the Darkest Minds series is very diverse. Two of (my personal favorite) main characters are from a different race. Chubs is a humble, yet sassy African- American teenager, and Suzume is a Asian child, who I believe fantasizes that she is a Disney Princess in her free time. The color of their skin though is not as racially apparent as the color of their uniforms. All children and teens are categorized by a color according to the “ability” they possess. The color is spray-painted across their uniform and remains with the individual. Although readers may not notice it, the characters are pretty racist as they sometimes judge others (as well as themselves) based on their "ability" color. I think what makes the series so distinct, is how skin color racism disappears and is instead replaced with the racism according to "ability" colors. When they see the East River though, there is no segregation between colors and they all work and contribute to the camp together. It is quite different, especially to the main characters who are used to being judged by their color and knos their character.
I recommend reading this book because it is such a fast-paced, action-packed novel that not only deals with segregation, but also trusting and believing in yourself. The main character Ruby is one of the dangerous ones, an Orange. Throughout the book she has to almost “seal off her past” but also try to control her abilities and stop them from controlling how she ultimately lives her life. With Chub's sassy attitude, Suzume’s care, Ruby’s heroism and Liam’s adorable southern accent, it’s surely one of the best books I have ever read. Pick it up and you won’t regret it. After all, “The darkest minds hide behind the most unlikely faces."

Next on the list is this beautiful novel by Cammie McGovern. It deals with the main character, Amy who is a disabled teenager with Cerebral Palsy and Matthew who has a nasty case of OCD and suffers from anxiety. Both characters are almost shunned by other students due to their differences, but form an everlasting bond between one another. Although I read this book over the summer last year, I remember feeling particularly intrigued and connected to the poem "Lucky" since I share experiences with Amy as my little brother Christian has Down's Syndrome.
Lucky" by Amy Dorn, grade 11
When people first see me, they may not believe this, but most days I don’t feel particularly disabled. In ways that matter most, I believe that I am more blessed by good luck than I am saddled by misfortune. My eyes are good as are my ears. I’ve been raised by parents who love me as I am, which means that even though I can’t walk or talk well, I’m reasonably well adjusted.
I know that for a teenage girl in America, this is saying a lot. I don't want to be thinner than I am, or taller. I don't look at my body parts and wish they were bigger or smaller. In fact- and this will surprise most people- I don't wish I was fine. I don't pine for working legs or a cooperative tongue. It would be nice not to drool and warp the best pages of my favorite books, but I’m old enough to know, a little drool isn’t going to ruin anyones life. I don't know what it would feel like to to beautiful, but I can guess that it makes demands on your time. I watch pretty girls my age and I see how hard they work at it, I imagine it introduces fears I will never experience: What if I lose this? Why am I not happier when I have this?
Instead of beauty, I have a face no one envies, and a body no one would choose to live in. These two factors alone have freed up my days to pursue what other girls my age might also do if their strong legs weren’t carrying them to dances and parties and places that feed a lot of insecurities. Living in a body that limits my choices means I am not a victim of fashion or cultural pressures, because there is no place for me in the culture I see. In having fewer options, I am freer than any other teenager I know. I have more time, more choices, more ways I can be. I feel blessed and yes- I feel lucky” (McGovern 16).


You guessed it! Next pick is the exhilarating Vampire Academy series (and run-off Bloodlines series) by the wonderful Richelle Mead. Normally, I wouldn’t pick up a “vampire-y” kind of series, but it is absolutely more amazing than you could believe. Honestly, this series had to literally be ripped from my hands to get me to put it down. The three vampire groups are very diverse. The Moroi race makes up the upperclass almost caste-like system in the series. They have a royal family, as well as bodyguards to protect each and every Moroi. These bodyguards or Guardians are Dhampirs, and are raised being taught that they must protect the Moroi at all costs as their main, and about only goal and life. Finally, the Strigoi are the blood-thirsty evil do-ers that basically just kill things and turn more people (Moroi and Dhampirs) into Strigoi.

I would recommend reading this series as well as they are packed with plot-twists. The first book, Vampire Academy is very enjoyable and persuades readers to grab the sequel. The sequel, Frostbite has a total unexpected twist at the end that actually comes out of nowhere. Readers are pretty eager to get the next one, Shadow Kiss that literally kills you. Naturally at this point you are on your knees begging for the next book and thusly, you are addicted to the series (true story). Honestly, I give so much credit to Richelle Mead for every plot twist, I didn’t expect one of them. If that doesn’t give you an incentive to read this wonderful series, I don’t know what will.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Dive Into Diversity

A few months ago I heard about a campaign to promote diversity in books, We Need Diverse Books.  Author Ellen Oh, along with 21 other authors, created the campaign in order to address the lack of diversity in children and young adult literature.  We need to celebrate the fact that we don't all look and act the same.  It's so important for every one of us to be able to find characters in our stories who are just like us AND characters who challenge us to learn about others. It is AMAZING to read a great book, but it is EVEN MORE amazing when we find a great book that can teach us about another culture, lifestyle, race or religion! 

What is the Mission?

WNDB mission states, "We Need Diverse Books is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality. We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBT, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process."

What Do the Authors Say?

What is the Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge?

Bloggers Estelle at Rather Be Reading and Rebecca at Reading Wishes teamed up to create the challenge in support of diversity in literature.  The Dive Into Diversity Reading Challenge runs from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015.  We are signed up as "Mrs. Kelly's Class" at #15.  As we read diverse books, we will post reviews.  Let's see how many books our class can read and share to help spread awareness!

What Do YOU Need to Do??

  • Read AT LEAST one diverse book by January 29th.
  • Challenge yourself to try to read at least one diverse book per month OR per marking period.
  • Post a review on Goodreads, Amazon, or our classroom blog (extra points) as a guest blogger. (Be sure to address how reading the novel can contribute to understanding diversity)
  • Share your book AND review via Twitter or Instagram.  Include @MrsJennKelly22 #DiveDiversity #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Need Help Getting Started?

Check out my Diversity Shelf on Goodreads for our classroom titles or see Ms. Mckenzie in the library.


Keep watching for more titles to be added to our classroom library!