Archive for April, 2009

Reading Maps Archive

April 30, 2009

Please note that all reading maps are based on this article by Neal Wyatt in Library Journal (11/2006).  Which was expanded upon by Becky and a former student, Christi in this article for Novelist (7/2012).

 Reading map papers that accompany the map need to be at least 4 pages long.  All maps must include links to annotated read alikes.

Examples: Berwyn Public Library Reading Maps at the Browsers Corner (not necessarily to your specifications)

Joyce’s Reading Map (your specifications)

Becky’s Reading Map (your specifications)

Student Examples of Note:


The Five People You Meet in Heaven

April 15, 2009

The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Author: Albom, Mitch

Title: The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Genre: Inspirational fiction      

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages:  196 (hardcover edition)

Geographical Setting: United States; an amusement park town near “a great gray ocean”; The Philippines; heaven 

Time Period: early 21st century

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: The only time Eddie’s life makes headlines is when he dies on his 83rd birthday, attempting to rescue an 8-year-old girl from the crush of an amusement park ride at the seaside carnival where he works as a maintenance man. It is his death that opens this brief novel, which contains a series of life lessons that Eddie learns after reaching heaven. Eddie believes his life didn’t matter: he didn’t accomplish anything “big”; he spent most of his life maintaining the amusement rides at Ruby Pier after being wounded in the war; and he doesn’t think he belongs in heaven. But in heaven he meets five spirits—some of whose lives he barely intersected while alive–who help him understand that all lives have meaning as well as other truisms. Heaven, as one of the spirits tells him, is for “understanding your life on earth.” Like It’s a Wonderful Life, the protagonist comes to understand that his life has meaning and the interconnectedness of life—the way one life touches and changes another. A quick read that aims for the heart, this novel should appeal to those who like inspirational stories with life lessons.

Subject Headings: Accident victims; Afterlife; Amusement parks; Death; Fiction; Future life; Heaven; Inspirational fiction; Life lessons; Older men;

Appeal: accessible; consoling; direct; earnest; elegiac; emotional; heartwarming; hopeful; mystical; life-affirming; quasi-philosophical; sentimental; simple; spiritual; sympathetic; thought-provoking; timeless;

Relevant Fiction: Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol. (The meaning of life, life lessons, an older man’s life seen in retrospect, sentimental, lessons learned from spirits.) Sebold, Alice. The Lovely Bones. (Heaven, the afterlife, sympathetic protagonist, the interconnectedness of life, but more literary.)  Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist. (Truisms, fable-like, simple, direct, life lessons, spiritual messengers, inspirational.)

Relevant Nonfiction: Chopra, Deepak. Life After Death. (Death as part of journey,  the afterlife, comforting.) Pausch, Randy. The Last Lecture. (Inspirational, life lessons, how to live, life-affirming, elegiac.) Schwartz, Morrie. Morrie: In His Own Words. (The subject of Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie on death, the meaning of life, mortality. Inspirational, an older man’s life in retrospect, direct.)

Name: Laura

Prayers for Bobby: A Mother’s coming to terms with the suicide of her gay son.

April 15, 2009

Prayers for Bobby: A Mother's Coming to Terms with the Suicide of Her Gay Son

Author: Leroy Aarons
Title: Prayers for Bobby: A mother coming to terms with the suicide of her gay son.

Genre: Non-fiction
Publication Date: 1995
Number of pages: 264
Geographical Setting: Walnut Creek, California
Time period: 1970’s-1990’s

Plot summary: This is a story that pulls at your inner beliefs and makes you think.  Beginning with the life of Bobby Griffith, the reader learns about a young creative and energetic boy that always stood out a little differently than the rest of his siblings.  The Griffiths, minus Bob Sr., were all very involved in the Christian faith.  Over time we learn from diary entries, that Bobby began as a teenager to realize his sexuality and at the same time struggle with his religious beliefs.  His family unfortunately added to the pressure on Bobby to change and to not be gay.  Realizing that he would never be able to change who he was, he internally struggled between his personal beliefs and the beliefs of his family, society, and the church.  Tragically Bobby Griffith found no answers or relief from his suffering and committed suicide at the young age of 20.  His death opened up a world of confusion and disbelief in his mother Mary.  The rest of the story is dedicated to the approach that Mary took to figuring out her feelings, her beliefs and dealing with her guilt.  It is a heart wrenching struggle from page 1, but it is a powerful story that will make the reader question beliefs, society, self awareness, and family dynamics.  This story is emotional, powerful, sad, and frustrating; At the same time it is hopeful for the future, forgiving of ignorance, and compassionate for others that struggle with self identity, homosexuality, guilt, and pride in oneself.  A moving and self-exploratory  read.

Subject headings: True Story, Gay, Homosexuality, Mother/Son relationships, Christianity, Gay Siblings/Relatives, PFLAG, Mary Griffith, Bobby Griffith,

Appeal:  emotional, moving, true, tragic, hopeful, intriguing, thoughtful, meaningful, heavy (emotionally), serious, details of: homosexuality, help for families of homosexuals, help for homosexuals, Christianity, family dynamics, gay lifestyles.

Similar works (fiction):

Scissors, paper, rock by Fenton Johnson:  A fiction story of a dying father and his gay son.  A look at the relationship dynamics between a father that disapproves of his son’s lifestyle and trying to reconcile before it is too late.

The big book of misunderstandings by Jim Gladstone:  a fictional coming of age story of a gay boy that learns of his homosexuality, contemplates suicide, and comes out to his parents.

Thinking Straight by Robin Reardon: a novel about a boy that comes out to his parents and is sent off to a camp that will put him on the right path and exorcise the “satanic influence.”  

Similar works (non-fiction):

Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America by Mel White: This is the story of a gay clergyman that struggles with his beliefs and coming to terms that he actually is a homosexual.  A deeper look at someone that needs to question their faith.

Straight parents, gay children: keeping families together by Robert Bernstein:  A story where families celebrate and publicly support their gay children.  Another story of success for families facing homosexuality.

Will’s choice: a suicidal teen, a desperate mother, and a chronicle of recovery by Gail Griffith: Not the same Griffith family, but a family that faces the same issues with a young son and his attempt at ending his live over his homosexuality.

Name: Emily


Chronicle of a Death Foretold

April 15, 2009

Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Author: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Title: Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Genre: Latin American/Colombian fiction, literary fiction
Publication Date: 1981, 1982 (translation)
Geographic Setting:Colombia
Time Period: Modern; Early 20th Century
Series: N/A
A man returns to the town that a brutal murder occurred 27 years earlier in order to get to the bottom of it. If everyone knew Angela Vicario’s twin brothers were going to murder Santiago Nasar for dishonoring her, why did no one stop it? The more the story unfolds, the less is understood and at the end not only are the two murderers put on trial, but also the entire society.
Subject HeadingsDeath–Fiction; Honor–Fiction; Murder–Fiction; Revenge–Fiction; Colombia–Fiction
Appeal Terms:first person narrative, honor, revenge, murder, depictions of Colombian life, male/female relations, family relations, culture clashes, marriage, Colombian society, violence, flashbacks, violence, justice
Red Flags: violence against women, graphic murder, blood and guts, strong language
Read Alikes:
A tale of the dispossessed by Laura Restrepo: (depictions of Colombian life, violence, male/female relations, Colombian society)
The Thief and the Dogs by Naguib Mahfouz: (violence, murder, justice, revenge)
Hamlet by William Shakespeare: (revenge, murder, family relations, justice)
Columbia by Sarah Woods: A Bradt travel guide about the people and culture of Colombia.
Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw by Mark Bowden: The rise and fall of real life Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar and how his network of terror kept the entire country hostage.
Unto the Daughters: The Legacy of an Honor Killing in a Sicilian-American Family by Karen Tintori: “But Josie had a sister that nobody spoke of. Her name was Frances, and at age sixteen, she fell in love with a young barber. Her father wanted her to marry an older don in the neighborhood mafia–a marriage that would give his sons a leg up in the mob. But Frances eloped with her barber. And when she returned a married woman, her father and brothers killed her for it. Her family then erased her from its collective memory. Even 80 years and two generations later, Frances and her death were not spoken of, her name was erased from the family genealogy, her pictures burned, and her memory suppressed.”
Name: Michelle B

Dreams From My Father

April 15, 2009

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

Author: Obama, Barack

Title: Dreams From My Father

Genre: Non-fiction, African American, Bestseller

Publication Date: 1995, 2004

Number of Pages: 480

Geographical Setting: Hawaii, Chicago, Kenya

Plot Summary: Long before he became the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama wrote the extremely compelling story of his life. After his election as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, he was offered a book contract, which resulted in poignant and honest book about his life. Obama discusses his very unusual and interesting upbringing as the son an African father and a white mother. He traces his childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia to his life as a community organizer in Chicago and his trip to Kenya to learn more about the father he never knew as well as to meet the family he had never known. Throughout this book Obama struggles with his identity and attempts to reconcile his feelings about his father as well as his race. An extremely authentic and resonate story, Dreams From My Father gives insight into the man behind the politician.

Subject Headings: African Americans, interracial persons, racism, race relations, autobiography

Appeal: honest, earnest, deliberate, detailed, engaging, detailed descriptions of Chicago, detailed descriptions of Hawaii, detailed descriptions of Africa, thought-provoking, accurate, contemporary, political, urban, contemplative, reflective, optimistic, unpretentious, smart

Similar Non-Fiction Authors & Works:

Motiba’s Tattoos: a granddaughter’s journey into her Indian family’s past by Mira Kamdar (One woman’s attempt to understand the Indian diaspora through her own family’s history. Poignant, detailed, engaging)

Another Way Home by Ronne Hartfield (Story of growing up as part of a multiracial family in Chicago. Engaging, race relations, detailed descriptions of Chicago.)

The Golden Road: Notes on my gentrification by Caille Millner (A coming of age memoir dealing with the author’s identity and struggle to fit in. Engaging, reflective.)

Faith of My Fathers by John McCain (As Obama’s opponent in the 2008 Presidential election, it is interesting to discover that he had similar issues with his father and family. Honest, detailed, political.)

Relevant Fiction Authors & Works:

House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (Coming of age story in Chicago. Takes place a few years prior to Obama’s arrival in Chicago)

Across a Hundred Mountains by Reyna Grande (A woman leaves her home to search for her father.)

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (A story of the immigrant experience, tracing one family’s life from India to Massachusetts.)

Name: Sarah

The Man Who Was Thursday

April 15, 2009

Title: The Man Who Was Thursday

Author: Chesterton, G. K.

Publication Date: 1908

Number of Pages: 224

Genre: Inspirational; Literary Fiction

Geographical Setting: London

Time Period: turn-of-the-century (c.1895-1905)

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Gabriel Syme is recruited by Scotland Yard to join their new undercover task force whose project is to infiltrate, apprehend, and bring to justice the subversive political sects that threaten the stability of the civilized world. One day, he becomes acquainted with anarchist braggart, Lucian Gregory who brings him to a meeting of the worldwide Central Council of Anarchists to prove that he is a serious in his political views. After attending the meeting and cozying up to the attendees as they discuss dynamiting landmark buildings and assassinating heads of state, Syme leaves the meeting as the sect’s newest and seventh member. And as the other six are known to each other only as a particular day of the week, Syme is dubbed “Thursday,” as he is the previous, deceased Thursday’s replacement. Upon investigating, Syme/Thursday shockingly discovers that five of the other members of the Council of Days are also members of the undercover task force and are on the same mission. Together, they realize that the true target of their mission is the man known as Sunday (the head of the council), who might have ultimately been responsible for bringing them all together in the first place. After a frantic, fantasy-like cross-country chase involving cars, bicycles, and hot air balloons, the Scotland Yard investigators finally track Sunday to a mysterious residence where he reveals his true identity as a concept he refers to as “The Peace of God,” incarnate.

Subject Headings: Christian allegory; Religious fiction; Catholics – Fiction; Belief and doubt; Anarchists; Conspiracies; Secret societies; Honor; Honesty; London, England; Mystery stories; Fantasy fiction

Appeal: steady, unhurried, detailed, engaging, evocative, insightful, inspiring, intriguing, vivid, well-developed, well-drawn, character-centered, complex, inspirational, mystical, open-ended, thought-provoking, detailed setting, timeless, atmospheric, contemplative, dramatic, earnest, heartwarming, hopeful, philosophical, theological, psychological, thoughtful, fervent, natural, passionate, didactic.

Similar Authors and Works (Fiction): The Screwtape Letters—by C.S. Lewis, 1942 (engaging, insightful, inspirational, philosophical, theological, thoughtful, didactic); Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone—by J.K. Rowling, 1997(engaging, vivid, well-developed, insightful, vivid); The Fellowship of the Ring—by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1954 (engaging, insightful, inspirational, philosophical, theological, thoughtful, well-drawn characters, complex).

Similar Authors and Works (Nonfiction): Strong Winds Change Lives—by Collins, Eureka F., 2006 (Deals with the interrelationship between personal crises, suffering, and the feeling of being connected to something bigger; Inspirational; thoughtful, and melancholy but thoughtful); In the Spirit—by Taylor, Susan L, 1994 (examines faith; life as a journey; and the intellectual role of religious belief. Inspirational; thoughtful, and engaging); Save Me from Myself: How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs, and Lived to Tell My Story—by Welch, Brian, 2007 (Examines spirituality, suffering, and hope; engrossing; melancholy; inspirational)

Name: Patrick

The House on Mango Street

April 15, 2009

Author: Sandra Cisneros

Title: The House on Mango Street

Genre: Latino/a, Hispanic, Best Sellers, Short Stories

Publication Date: 1994 (original publication date 1984)

Number of Pages: 134

Geographical Setting: A poor Latino neighborhood in Chicago

Time Period: Contemporary / early 1980’s

Plot Summary: A Mexican-American girl recalls the year she moved to Mango Street. A poignant coming-of-age story, 12-year-old Esperanza struggles to find a place in her community and in the world. Through a series of short vignettes, she recounts stories about people in her community and her family. As Esperanza begins to dream of living a life different than the one possible on Mango Street and of escaping the poverty and limitations of Mango Street, will she be able learn to accept herself and her heritage?

Subject Headings: City Life; Identity; Home; Friendship; Family relationships; Growing up — Chicago; Mexican-American girls — Chicago; Mexican-Americans; Chicago, Illinois; Coming-of-age stories; Short stories; Bildungsromans.

Appeal: poetic, literary, coming-of-age, evocative, poignant, quick read, urban, first-person, hopeful, intimate, strong sense of place, impressionistic, powerful imagery, accessible, short and vivid tales, episodic, precise prose, unforgettable characters, details of a young Latina growing up in a rundown Chicago neighborhood, Hispanic identity and culture, image-rich language.

Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

The Air Down Here: True Tales from a South Bronx Boyhood by Gil C. Alicea, with Carmine DeSena (collection of reminiscences, teen viewpoint, urban Hispanic neighborhood, optimistic viewpoint, details of inner-city life).

Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul: Celebrating La Comunidad Latina compiled by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Susan C. Sánchez (inspirational stories, details of Latina culture, details of Latina identity, details of Latino family life and community).

City of Dreams by Wilfredo Cruz (details of Latino immigration to Chicago, details of Mexican-American culture and neighborhoods in Chicago).

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez (episodic, sisters move from Dominican Republic to New York City, challenges in adapting to American culture and reconciling cultures, family life, cultural expectations, adjustments to another culture).

How to Be a Chicana Role Model by Michele M. Serros (episodic, narrated by teen Chicana writer , cultural identity and expectations, female identity, finding one’s true identity, urban).

I Sailed with Magellan by Stuart Dybek (immigrant view point, dreams of a better life, coming of age, details of Chicago, poetic, realistic, interlocking stories).

Name: Amy

Shame on It All

April 15, 2009

Title: Shame on It All
Author: Zane
Publication date: 2001
Page count: 355
Genre: Urban fiction, African American
Geographical setting: Baltimore/Washington D.C. area
Series: n/a

Plot summary: This humorous, fast moving novel chronicles the lives of the three Whitfield sisters: Harmony, Lucky, and Bryce, who don’t always see eye to eye, but love each other just the same. Harmony and Bryce are highly successful career women, while Lucky is an ambitious medical school student. However, it’s not long before the sisters run into trouble. Harmony has just received news that will change her life forever;  a secret she’s deterimined to keep from her sisters and her longtime boyfriend, Zachary, whom she abruptly begins pushing out of her life. Bryce goes through a messy breakup herself, when she discovers her man has been cheating on her. Finally, while at school, Lucky meets the love of her life, Robbie. But a mistake from her not-too-distant past has the potential to put their relationship, and, in fact, her entire future in jeopardy. The sisters’ struggles to get back on track often result in hilarious and surprising twists, and their friends’ scrapes provide for some unforgettable subplots. In spite of their squabbles and outrageous predicaments, the deep friendships and unbreakable bonds amongst the sisters and their friends manage to grow even stronger.

Subject headings: African American women; African Americans; Sisters; Female friendship; Dating (social customs); Family
Appeal: steamy, erotic, unembellished, raw, multiple points of view, humorous, page turner, fast moving, strong secondary characters, romantic, contemporary, sexually explicit, graphic, gritty, racy, family-centered, drama, strong female characters

Similar works (fiction): Soul Mates Dissipate – Mary B. Morrison (relationships, steamy, plot twists, romance)
Ladies’ Night Out – Electa Rome Parks (erotic, female friendship, successful female characters)
Sister, Sister – Eric Jerome Dickey (multiple points of view, sisters, family, relationships)

Similar works (nonfiction): Sucka Free Love: How to Avoid Dating the Dumb, the Deceitful, the Dastardly, the Dysfunctional and the Deranged – Deborrah Cooper (dating, relationships, sex, African American viewpoint)
What Brothers Think, What Sistahs Know About Sex: The Real Deal on Passion, Loving, and Intimacy – Denene Millner and Nick Chiles (African American viewpoint, sex, relationships)
Having it All? Black Women and Success – Veronica Chambers (strong women, careers, community)

Name: Suzanne

Empress of the Splendid Season

April 14, 2009

Title: Empress of the Splendid Season

Author: Hijuelos, Oscar

Publication Date: 1999

Number of Pages: 342

Genre: Latino/a

Geographical Setting: Cuba; New York City

Time Period: 1940s-1980s

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Lydia España was the daughter of a mayor in a small town in Cuba who lived a life of privilege before Castro’s rise to power. Everything changes for the spoiled and pampered Lydia when she exiled from her homeland by her father for a sexual indiscretion that casts shame upon her family. Lydia immigrates to the United States and connects with other Cuban immigrants in New York’s Spanish Harlem. Lydia meets her husband Raul, a Cuban waiter, who nicknames her “Empress of the Splendid Season” because of her beauty and sophistication. In order to provide for her husband and their two children, Rico and Alicia, Lydia works as a cleaning woman for upper class New Yorkers much better off than herself. Lydia struggles to maintain her Cuban upbringing and recapture the life she was forced to abandon in Cuba, but is met with challenges, which make that dream nearly impossible. Through it all, Lydia never loses her dignity or her dream of a life as the “Empress of the Splendid Season.”

Subject Headings: Cuban-American women – New York City; Cuban-Americans – New York City; Cuban-American domestic workers – New York City; Women immigrants – New York City; Cuban immigrants – New York City; New York City; Cuban-American fiction – 20th century

Appeal: leisurely paced, measured, unhurried, detailed, introspective, like life, realistic, vivid, well developed, well drawn, character centered, family centered, intergenerational, inspirational, vibrant, though-provoking, bittersweet, sensual, detailed setting, melodramatic, episodic, nostalgic, cinematic, candid, elegant, frank, polished, cinematic, thoughtful

Similar Authors and Works (Fiction): Dubus, Andre – House of Sand and Fog (immigrant experience, melodramatic, nostalgic, tragic, realistic, cinematic) Kim, Nancy – Chinhominey’s Secret (intergenerational, immigrant experience, complex relationships, insightful) Perez, Loida Martiza – Geographies of Home (intergenerational; immigrant experience, complex family relationships, haunting, inspirational, character-centered)

Similar Authors and Works (Nonfiction): Diaz, GuarioneThe Cuban American Experience: Issues, Perceptions, and Realities (comprehensive analysis of Cuban Americans in the United States) James, Ian Michael – Ninety Miles: Cuban Journeys in the Age of Castro (stories of three Cuban immigrants and their individual reasons for leaving Cuba for the United States) Carlson, Lori Marie and Hijuelos, Oscar (editors) Burnt Sugar (Caña Quemada) Contemporary Cuban Poetry in English and Spanish (collection of poems about love and longing for Cuba written by Cubans living in Cuba and abroad)

Name: Joanna

Bodega Dreams

April 14, 2009

Author: Quinonez, Ernesto

Title: Bodega Dreams

Genre: Urban literature

Publication Date: 2000

Number of Pages: 213

Geographical Setting: Spanish Harlem

Time setting: Present day

Plot Summary: Love, murder, idealisms and Latin American emotion all play a part in the day to day world of Spanish Harlem. Julio Mercado, better known by his street name, Chino, has lived in Spanish Harlem since he was a young boy and has always been there for his lifelong friend Sapo. While Sapo went to work as a collector/enforcer for the neighborhood crime boss, Willie Bodega, Chino went to college, married his very religious grammar school crush and now has a child on the way. Chino is summoned by Bodega, through Sapo, and is asked by Bodega for a favor. At first he doesn’t like Bodega and denies him, but his affinity grows for him when he realizes Bodega is using money from his criminal enterprise to help the residents of the neighborhood better their lives. Chino helps Bodega with a favor, but no-one, especially Chino and Bodega, realizes that they have been double crossed by someone who they both considered an ally, until it’s too late.

Subject Headings: Puerto Ricans; Latin Americans; Latin American–religion; Latin American–growing up; Latin American–neighborhoods; Crime; Friendships; Latin American—marriage; Young marriage—problems.

Appeal Terms: Measured pace,unhurried , lifelike characters, strong secondary characters, well drawn characters, dramatic characters, flashbacks, menacing atmosphere, optimistic atmosphere, conversational language, candid language, natural language, plot twists, strong language, details of Latin American life, details of Latin American street life, details of Latin American family life, urban, dialect language.

Red Flags: Drug use, offensive language, violence.

Fiction read-a-likes

Carlito’s Way by Edwin Torres. Urban, Details of Latin American street life, plot twists.

A Nation of Amor by Christopher Connell. Details of Latin American street life, menacing atmosphere, urban.

Affinity for Trouble- A Puerto Rican story by Hector Varlea. Lifelike Characters, details of Latin American family life, natural language.

Non-Fiction read-a-likes

Down These Mean Streets By Piri Thomas. This is the classic memoir about the author’s life growing up in Spanish Harlem and the problems he faced as a Puerto Rican. He also recounts how he turned his life around after he hit rock bottom, going to prison, after a life of crime and drugs.

Barrio Dreams by Arlene Davila. This book examines the feelings of Latin Americans who live in Spanish Harlem and the feelings towards progress, politics, development, schooling and family, as well as other social issues in this very tiny and compact part of a large city.

My Bloody Life: The Making of a Latin King by Reymundo Sanchez. Take a firsthand look inside the most fierce and largest Latin American gang, which started out a social movement to protect the interest of Latin Americans, but transformed into a criminal empire.