Real Friends By Shannon Hale [Book Review]

Real Friends by Shannon Hale

Title: Real Friends
Author: Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham (illustrator)
Published: 
May 2017 by First Second
Genre: Graphic novel, memoir, middle grade
How I got the book: I bought it

Summary:

When best friends are not forever . . . 

Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little. But one day, Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of a circle of friends called The Group. Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen’s #1, and some girls would do anything to stay on top . . . even if it means bullying others.

Now every day is like a roller coaster for Shannon. Will she and Adrienne stay friends? Can she stand up for herself? And is she in The Group—or out?

Newbery Honor author Shannon Hale and New York Timesbestselling illustrator LeUyen Pham join forces in this graphic memoir about how hard it is to find your real friends—and why it’s worth the journey.

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

I have seen this book floating around the book blogs of the WordPress world. I love a good graphic novel so when I found it at the bookstore, I decided to pick it up.

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This is a fictionalized memoir based on the author’s childhood. A lot of it is true, but she fictionalized some things to make the story flow better. We follow Shannon as a young girl and watch her grow up as she tries to hold onto friendships and figure out who she is.

Her best friend is Adrienne, but then they meet a group of girls who follow Jen around. And they’re not nice all the time. Shannon doesn’t know whether they like her or not, but she still hangs out with them because she doesn’t have anyone else.

This is a good story all middle schoolers should read. It teaches an important lesson about being nice to others and also that it’s okay to not have a large group of friends. It’s okay to not be “popular.”

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All the characters were portrayed well. I could relate with Shannon so much. She was being bullied, she didn’t have a lot of friends, and she developed anxiety along the way.

Adrienne was a good character as well. She was nice to Shannon but was also friends with Jen. When Jen was mean, Adrienne didn’t do anything because she didn’t want Jen to be mean to her in return. It was a vicious cycle. The other members of “The Group” were pretty much the same way.

It was typical behavior of middle-schoolers. But Shannon managed to push through.

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The writing was well done, using a good amount of narrative and dialogue. The art style was great too. It really made the story, especially when Shannon was using her imagination.

It was a quick read being a graphic novel, but it was enjoyable (and relatable) enough that I was able to read it in one sitting.

rp-overall

This is a great story with an important lesson on bullying and just being true to who you are. Everyone should read this, no matter what age.

Real Friends by Shannon Hale gets…
5-Star Rating | Book Review 5 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“All a person needs is one good friend.” -Shannon Hale, Real Friends

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Short Story Sunday 179: The Writing Portfolio

It was the second day of school for my cousins. One was in her sophomore year of high school and the other had just begun eighth grade. Neither were happy to be going back to school, but when they came home on that first day, they were all smiles. I think they were glad to be back into some sort of routine and it was nice to see all their friends again.

So on that second day, it occured me that we were indeed back into the swing of things. And when I say that, I mean homework.

The three of us were the only ones home and we sat in the living room talking. I asked how their days went. The older of the two said her day was fine, the younger described every minute of her day without missing one detail.

Then I asked about their homework. Being in upper middle school and high school, I assumed they had homework. Even if it was the second day of school.

They both nodded, the older explaining she had no idea what she had to do.

I took out her planner and read out loud what she wrote.

“English,” I said, “bring in writing portfolio.”

“Yeah, what’s that?” she asked.

I blinked at her. How did she not know what a writing portfolio was? Still, I explained it to her that it was like having samples of your writing. It was a folder of her previous work, I assumed essays she had written from her English class last year.

“I don’t have that.” she shrugged.

I didn’t know whether to agree or not. I was sure she had copies saved on the computer, but her teacher didn’t really expect the kids to keep an actual hard copy portfolio from the previous year?

“Well, what did your teacher say?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know…?”

“She might have explained it, but I don’t remember… Or maybe I wasn’t paying attention.”

This didn’t surprise me. I sighed and said, “Well, I guess you can just ask your teacher tomorrow.”

“But it was due today.”

I stared at her. I glanced at my other cousin, who sat in the armchair beside me. She was smirking, clearly enjoying that her sister was going to get a bad grade on the second day of school.

“Wait, it was due today, but you didn’t think to worry about this last night?” I asked.

“Well,” she continued, “my teacher must have said something about it yesterday and I just wasn’t paying attention. I only know about it now because kids were handing in thick folders with papers inside to her today.”

I sighed. “Okay then you’re just going to have to reprint everything you wrote last year and put it all together.”

“I don’t have that.”

“You have your laptop.”

“But I didn’t save anything.”

I cringed at this. How do you not save your homework? How can you write pages upon pages of essays and not bother to save any of it or at least print out an extra copy?

“I mean, the more stuff I save onto the computer the slower the computer will be.” she explained with a smile. A proud smile as though she had thought outside the box and solved the “slow computer” problem. The answer has clearly been right in front of us the whole time… So, stop saving your work onto the computer, everyone!

I had no idea what to say to her.

“Then go to your English teacher from last year and ask him if he has any copies.” I said. I knew that was a long shot, but it was the only thing I could think of to say.

“He already gave it to me.” she replied.

“Then what are we even talking about here…?”

“I think that’s how the other kids had their folders. Our teachers last year gave them to us at the end of the year.”

“Then where’s yours?”

“I asked Daddy to make a fire at the beginning of the summer and I burned all my schoolwork.”

At this, my other cousin burst out laughing. I was completely dumbfounded.

Thankfully, my mom walked through the front door. I stood up and said, “Tag. You’re it.”

I hope you enjoyed the story! Let me know what you think in the comments below and we’ll chat!

El Deafo by Cece Bell

El Deafo by Cece Bell | Graphic Novel | Book Review

Title: El Deafo
Author: Cece Bell
Published: 
September 2014 by Harry N. Abrams
Genre: Graphic Novel Memoir
How I got the book: I borrowed it from my cousin

Summary:

Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece’s class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends.

Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school–in the hallway…in the teacher’s lounge…in the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it’s just another way of feeling different… and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend?

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

I’ve discovered graphic novels again so when my cousin mentioned she had to read this for summer reading, I asked to borrow it.

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The book begins with our protagonist, a bunny, Cece, at four-years-old. She becomes ill and as a result, she loses her hearing.

We follow her all the way through fifth grade as she switches hearing aids, trying to come to terms with them, attempting to read lips, learn sign language, and overall, making friends.

This is a memoir based on the author coming to terms with her loss of hearing. It’s a touching story.

rp-characters

Cece, the protagonist, is a wonderful character to follow. She’s sweet, but self-conscious about her hearing aids and feels awkward that she has to give her teacher a microphone in front of the whole class. She doesn’t view her being deaf as something unique or special, she doesn’t know why it happened to her, even though she tries to embrace it by calling it her “superpower.”

She’s focused on trying to make friends who accept her for who she is and she has a tough time with that, especially because she’s still trying to accept herself.

Cece’s various friends were well rounded and certainly different from each other. They all seemed to accept her loss of hearing, but they showed it in different ways. One friend was pushy and bossy while another spoke loudly and slowly all the time.

Her parents and siblings were wonderful as well. Her mother tried her best to understand, but she was very supportive and did everything for her daughter she possibly could.

rp-writing-style

It’s a graphic novel, so of course, the pictures made the story. All the characters were bunnies and Cece was the narrator. There was a good share of dialogue, but there was a lot of Cece narrating as well as dream sequences of her using her hearing aids as a superpower.

It’s a really cool way to portray the story as a young child sees it and goes through it.

rp-overall

I enjoyed this story a lot. It’s not often you get a protagonist who’s deaf. It was interesting and fun and cute as well. This story is about making friends and accepting who you are. I would recommend this to anyone and read more of Cece Bell’s books.

El Deafo by Cece Bell gets…
5-Star Rating | Book Review 5 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“And being different? That turned out to be the best part of all. I found that with a little creativity, and a lot of dedication, any difference can be turned into something amazing. Our differences are our superpowers.” –Cece Bell, El Deafo

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Short Story Sunday 162: We’re Getting A Kitty [Dear Diary]

Short Story Sunday: "We're Getting a Kitty" [Dear Diary story] | Flash Non-Fiction

            Hunter was our ragdoll cat who chose us when a house on the other side of my neighborhood released all their cats to the wild after getting a puppy. I was 12-years-old at the time, my aunt had just unexpectedly passed away two days after my birthday, and two weeks after that we ended up putting our dog, a 13-years-old English Springer Spaniel, to sleep.

I found Hunter in my yard a few weeks prior. Not bothering with the whole “stray animal caution” thing, I walked right up to him and pet him, picked him up, and played with him. He didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he seemed to love the attention.

We played together every day in my yard around the same time. He grew more comfortable with me and even came into the house a couple of times. I brought him in one night during a thunderstorm because I didn’t want him out there alone. He left the following morning, but we continued to feed him and he would visit us every day.

On the day we said goodbye to our dog, Casey, Hunter arrived and watched as my parents loaded Casey into the car. They pulled out of the driveway while my sisters and I, in tears, went back into the house. Hunter followed us inside and he never left after that.

We were all devastated as age and illness took over Hunter’s body and we had to put him down in November 2015.

I didn’t want to replace Hunter and I didn’t want to get another cat too soon after Hunter passed away. I also didn’t want to make Chip, our current little Chihuahua mix, jealous. Yet, I did miss having a cat around and wanted to get another one.

In August 2016, we finally adopted one from a shelter.

We were worried that Chip would be angry if we brought a cat home, but we hoped for the best. Hunter was living with us for a couple of years because Chip was brought to us at the tender age of three months old. Chip grew up with a cat as an older brother and learned a lot from him. Seriously, I sometimes think she’s a cat herself.

So yes, we were worried Chip would be jealous, angry, or even a little bit sad upon us bringing home a cat. Chip was always the baby of the family.

We wanted an older cat because they need love too, but also because we wanted one to be mostly house broken. Then again, we wanted a cat on the younger side because we didn’t want it to be territorial and believe it was in charge of Chip.

There weren’t too many cats at the shelter when we got there, but there was a ten-month-old gray tabby. He was curled up in a ball in the back corner of his cage. When we opened the door to let him sniff us and pet him, he completely snubbed us. He turned his back and laid back down as though he didn’t see us. It took some coaxing with toys, but he finally allowed us to pet him and even pick him up for a moment.

We ended up getting him. His name was Wayne, but we changed it to Chase. Of course, when I chose that name I didn’t think it would ring so true with his personality.

A few days before going to the shelter, we kept asking Chip, “Do you want a kitty? We’re getting a kitty! Kitty’s coming!”

We called Hunter “Kitty” a lot and Chip knew the word better than “come.” We thought that maybe if we gave her the idea that a new cat was coming into the family, she wouldn’t be so surprised when we brought the cat home.

We were shocked when we brought Chase home. He immediately put him into the bathroom so not to overwhelm him with the whole house and the dog right away. Chip could smell him and definitely knew there was a “kitty” around and she was extremely excited.

We were all relieved to see how excited Chip was that we had a cat. She kept trying to poke her head under the bathroom door and kept crying wanting to see him.

The workers at the shelter told us to introduce Chase and Chip slowly to each other. They suggested keeping Chip on her leash and being in a small room, such as the bathroom, to let them sniff each other and get to know one another.

Of course, we didn’t end up doing that.

We had enough confidence that Chip would be fine with the way she was reacting. Chase was shy (at first), but we kept him in the bathroom so he could get used to his surroundings and smells. We gave him Chip’s blanket and we gave Chip Chase’s blanket from the shelter so they could sniff each other before meeting.

After a little bit, we finally gave into Chip’s wishes and allowed her to see Chase for the first time.

My heart broke a little when Chip first saw Chase. She loved him, nothing bad happened, but she was definitely confused.

To us, there are many “kitties” in the world. There are many kinds of cats. Chip has only seen and known one cat in her entire life, Hunter. So every time we said “kitty,” who would she think of?

When we opened the bathroom door and let her in, Chip darted in excitedly. She stopped short and peered at Chase, who was sitting in the bathtub, with her ears flat and her head cocked to the side, one thing was clear.

She was obviously thinking, “You’re not Hunter!”

After nine months of not having Hunter around, and I have no idea if Chip had any idea of what happened to him. For all she knew, he was on vacation somewhere. When we told her we were getting a kitty, she must have assumed we were bringing Hunter home.

Chip got over the initial shock and it took them a little while to get used to each other. Chase was extremely shy and is a bit of a scaredy-cat and Chip just doesn’t want him coming near her bones (which he enjoys playing with because I think he knows it bothers her).

We were very lucky to find a cat like Chase and we’re blessed to have a wonderful dog like Chip. They’re both brats, but I love them to death and I can’t wait to see what shenanigans they’ll get into together.

Words: 1,100

I hope you enjoyed this story! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Unpacked Sparkle by Patrick A. Roland

Unpacked Sparkle by Patrick A. Roland | Book Review

Title: Unpacked Sparkle
Author: Patrick A. Roland
Published: 
November 2016 by Az Publishing Services, LLC
Genre: Memoir
How I got the book: I received a free digital copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary:

Over a year ago, I left a Mariah Carey concert in Las Vegas after six songs. I had gone on the trip as a present to myself for turning forty. But I couldn’t enjoy it. I was high on multiple drugs, but mostly crystal meth, and extremely drunk. I had been this way the majority of the year and a half since my partner Pack had suddenly passed away.
I found him dead on the bathroom floor one January morning while I was getting ready for work. The police told me I had no rights in my own home and asked me to leave. This was before gay marriage became legal. Life as I knew it changed instantly.
His family pretended I didn’t exist. They mauled our home the day he died, leaving it a ravaged mess. I was kicked out of that home. I was also disinvited to his funeral. In eight days I lost everything that mattered. Not even the law protected me from this.
So I got high in an effort to shoulder the pain. It didn’t work. I carried the heavy weight of unresolved complicated grief and addiction on my back. It was like an elephant. A large, unwieldy elephant that wanted me to die.
No longer able to participate in anything that mattered and unwilling to bear this burden anymore, I went back to my hotel room on the twenty-sixth floor of a casino and looked out on the sparkly lights below. I wanted to be in the light. So I opened the window and decided to jump.
But God intervened. My mother had somehow found me. Help came and I surrendered to the powerlessness of my situation. I asked God to help me. I stayed and I fought and I learned how to love myself. I put on a pair of sparkly shoes I had bought for that barely attended concert and I walked in to the rooms of Crystal Meth Anonymous. I had bought the sparkly shoes hoping Mariah would see me in the audience. Though she didn’t get the chance, you did. You all embraced me and my sparkly shoes. They have become my calling card of experience, strength, and hope.

My Review:

rp-first-thoughts

I found this book to be interesting right away because I love a good memoir, especially uplifting stories about hope and how others overcome obstacles in their lives. After interviewing the author, I definitely wanted to read the book.

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This story is about the author going through recovery from the untimely death of his partner, his addiction to drugs and alcohol, as well as him being mentally ill with bipolar.

I feel as though there’s not much else I can really say about the story more than what the summary has already mentioned about it. It’s a sad story, but uplifting that conveys an important message that you should just read for yourself.

rp-characters

The main character is, of course, the author as he tries to regain control of his life after the death of his partner, Pack. Throughout the course of the story we not only learn a lot about the author, but we get tidbits about Pack as well, among his parents, Pack’s family, and various friends the author has met along the way.

I felt as though we learned just enough about everyone involved in the various situations. The characters were explained in a good way that we got a good sense of their personalities and how important they are to their roles in the author’s life.

rp-writing-style

I feel as though I know the author in real life. The voice was his own, as it should be, and I got the sense he was telling me his story over a cup of coffee in a cafe. It was personal and there weren’t any lulls in the story that jolted me out of it.

My only complaint was the timeline and the chapter headings/beginnings. The chapter titles were mostly song titles, which is cool since he loves music, but the timeline was jumbled. It would have made more sense to add the dates to the titles. Also because at the beginning to of most chapter, the author rehashed what had happened to Pack so it was just too repetitive.

rp-overall

I thought this was a good read. It was short around 200 pages, but the story got told and I didn’t feel as though anything was left out or that something was left untouched. It was an inspiring read and definitely something everyone should give a read.

Unpacked Sparkle by Patrick A. Roland gets…
5-Star Rating | Book Review5 out of 5 stars

Favorite Quote:

“I even forgave them, because continuing to hate them as they hate me gives them power.” –Patrick A. Roland, Unpacked Sparkle

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