Like Vanessa Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way. Like Vanessa by Tami Charles is an AMAZING book for young adult readers.

Book Description from Amazon: In this semi-autobiographical debut novel set in 1983, Vanessa Martin’s real-life reality of living with family in public housing in Newark, New Jersey is a far cry from the glamorous Miss America stage. She struggles with a mother she barely remembers, a grandfather dealing with addiction and her own battle with self-confidence. But when a new teacher at school coordinates a beauty pageant and convinces Vanessa to enter, Vanessa’s view of her own world begins to change. Vanessa discovers that her own self-worth is more than the scores of her talent performance and her interview answers, and that she doesn’t need a crown to be comfortable in her own skin and see her own true beauty.

Personal Thoughts: I am beyond excited to share this new book with you today! As an avid reader and well read educator I love getting my hands on young adult books, and this one is AMAZING!!! If I’m being totally honest, I spent an entire Monday night reading this novel from cover to cover because I was so emotionally invested in Vanessa’s journey. It has been a long time since I’ve stayed up half the night reading, and it was a fantastic decision.

The plot in Like Vanessa had two pieces that made it memorable. One piece is it’s a little predictable. About halfway through I got a feeling where Vanessa’s mom was, but the back story was one I did not expect. From an English teacher’s perspective, Charles did a beautiful job leaving some great foreshadowing breadcrumbs about Vanessa’s childhood. Some of them are a little more obvious than others, but in a positive way because it requires readers to think while reading.

The second piece is how the plot includes realistic situations. I’m a Jersey girl, born and raised, so I’m familiar with Newark, the setting of the story. Along with capturing the realities of living in an urban area, Charles hit on so many different experiences that young girls face. Peer pressure, puberty, family problems, friendship struggles, etc., can all be seen through Vanessa’s eyes.

I honestly fell in love with three characters while reading, Mrs. Walton, TJ and Vanessa.

As a teacher, I truly loved how Mrs. Walton, Vanessa’s music teacher, helped shape Vanessa into such a beautiful young woman. I make it my goal to reach one student every year, and to see the relationship between the two blossom reminded me that teaching is more than following a lesson plan. My heart melted when Mrs. Walton took Vanessa shopping because students don’t always realize that teachers are people too.

TJ is by far one of the strongest characters I have encountered in years. His love of fashion and creating works of art give him the strength to follow his dreams, regardless of his sexuality. Without giving too much away, I got choked up at a very scary part and started shaking. I had to put the book down so I could take a deep breath and continue reading.

Vanessa Martin is one of the most beautiful characters I’ve had the privilege to get to know. Nessy has a fabulous personality that shines through the pages of this novel. She is relatable to all girls, regardless of race or class. Her physical and emotional transformation is inspiring and motivating. She reminded me a little of Esperanza from House on Mango Street with her innocence and dreams, and like Esperanza she pushed through her environmental situations to take control of her life. At the end of the novel I wanted to climb inside the pages and give her a hug.

Personally, I recommend this book for grades eight and up because of mature content (references to drugs, alcohol and sex). Like Vanessa by Tami Charles is the best new young adult books that I’ve read since I found City of Bones. I encourage everyone to read this heartwarming story.

For more information on this fabulous novel please check out the following sites:

Tami Charles:  https://tamiwrites.com

Publisher’s Website:  https://www.charlesbridge.com/

Rice & Rocks Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way. Rice & Books by Sandra L. Richards and illustrated by Megan Kayleigh Sullivan is a phenomenal book about culture and tradition.

Giovanni is a little boy who has friends coming over for dinner. His grandmother is making rice and rocks (rice and beans) and he is afraid his friends won’t like the traditional Jamaican dish. He goes on a magical ride with his parrot, Jasper, his Auntie and her dogs, and discovers how the same dish is a tradition in multiple parts of the world. The illustrations are creative with realistic facial expressions. The attention to detail and the colors are breathtaking and help the text come alive. Rice & Rocks

As a reading teacher I have discovered the lack of diverse texts in classrooms. I have worked with students from all different cultures and it’s important to have books that reflect the background of every classroom. Rice & Rocks is a book that should be in elementary classrooms and libraries because it addresses important themes that impact all children.

Friendship

Kids of all ages always worry about what their friends will think about them. Giovanni demonstrates this by worrying if his friends won’t like his grandmother’s Jamaican dish because it is different. Children experience this every day and can connect to Giovanni on multiple levels.

Rice & Rocks last pageFamily Traditions and Culture

Every family has their own way of doing things. Whether it’s a special morning routine or having Sunday dinner to catch up. For many children the only family traditions they know are their own, so it’s important to expose kids to other ways whenever possible. Tradition often includes cultural foods and customs, especially if it is a celebration. Rice & Rocks does a beautiful job of introducing children to Jamaican, Puerto Rican, Japan, and southern American culture and cuisine.

I personally loved how Richards intertwined various traditions in an easy to understand manner that was fun and imaginative. By doing so, children learn about other parts of the world, languages, traditions, and food all in a beautiful picture book. The text is easy for young children to understand (Richards provides great explanations) and the illustrations also provide children with great visuals to help with comprehension. This book could be used for so many different concepts at home and at school.

Mad Libs in the Classroom and at Home

I recently teamed up with Brightly, an online resource from Penguin Random House, that helps anyone working with kids become lifelong readers. They have a fantastic FREE downloadable Mega Pack of Mad Libs for kids. I was beyond excited when presented with this opportunity because this is a fabulous resource for parents and teachers. This post is sponsored.

As a teacher and reading specialist, I have seen my fair share of student writing , including the good, the bad, and the ugly. Many of my weak writers struggled with foundational writing skills, including parts of speech and grammar.

I spent four years teaching sixth grade language arts and realized that this was a make it or break it year for foundational writing skills. The curriculum expectations of students requires them to include more in the content of their writing (textual evidence, clear arguments) because by this time students should have mastered parts of speech and sentence structure. However, many students need a little more time in developing these skills, so incorporating grammar activities is extremely important at the upper elementary and middle school levels. Mad Libs

Kids see grammar as boring, so it’s imperative that educators (and parents) make the practice of these elements engaging. The use of technology is one of the most popular ways to engage students. Brightly has done this with the FREE downloadable Mega Pack of Mad Libs for kids. Check out the options

Downloadable Mad Libs in the Classroom

There are various ways to use this fabulous resource in the classroom, and below are some of my favorite ideas.

  1. Center activity. Centers are one of my favorite instructional activities for students at any grade level. It not only promotes independence and personal practice time, but it also allows teachers to create activities that students will benefit from completing. The FREE downloadable Mega Pack of Mad Libs for Kids provides teachers with convenience. Any time teachers can avoid the copy machine is a blessing.
  2. Substitute plans. I think most teachers will agree that it’s harder to take a sick day sometimes because of the amount of work that goes into the sub plans. The FREE downloadable Mega Pack of Mad Libs for Kids takes care of this stress. Simply leave directions for your students on how to access the activities and you’re good to go!
  3. Additional practice. This is the time of year for fall parent-teacher conferences. There are always parents looking for ways to help their children build their skills at home. The FREE downloadable Mega Pack of Mad Libs for Kids is a great suggestion for parents because it’s easy to use, portable, and can be used for every age level.

Downloadable Mad Libs at Home

  1. Family activity. Life is hectic and crazy between soccer practice, violin lessons, and homework. It is important for families to come together during the week to reconnect and catch up. The FREE downloadable Mega Pack of Mad Libs for Kids provides families with fun-filled activities for the whole family that will be engaging, entertaining, and educational.
  2. On the go. In previous posts I’ve discussed the importance of reading while on the go, and the FREE downloadable Mega Pack of Mad Libs for Kids enables families to take writing activities with them wherever they go. While waiting for a doctor or driving in the car going, kids can have fun while learning.
  3. Extended school breaks. Many parents want their children to be constantly surrounded by academic activities all year round, even during school breaks and vacations. The FREE downloadable Mega Pack of Mad Libs for Kids supplies parents/guardians with an easy-to-use resource that is fun and exciting.

To learn more about Brightly their fabulous resources, go to http://www.readbrightly.com.