Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Never Fall Down: A Novel - A Nerdy Book Club Guest Post

Never Fall Down: A Novel


 Never Fall Down: A Novel A novel by Patricia McCormick

 I picked up this book yesterday morning after reading about it in the NPR Book Review. I don’t normally read books like Never Fall Down, but when I picked it up and started reading, I was hooked. McCormick retells the story of a young boy forced into the Cambodian killing fields where he fights to survive for three years, eight months, and twenty days. Her story details experiences of Arn Chorn-Pond, making it one of the most unforgettable reads you’ll ever experience. Patricia McCormick has been the National Book Award Finalist, Gustav-Heinemann Peace Prize Winner 2009, ALA Best YA Book Winner 2007 and winner of countless other awards for her young adult books.

 Never Fall Down begins with Arn, a young Cambodian boy, who has lost his mother and father to dire circumstances. Arn’s father had a motorcycle accident and hit his head on the road, dying in the hospital and leaving behind a wife and six children. Arn’s mother is faced with the fact that she can’t keep the family opera business afloat, forcing her to leave to Phnom Penh. While she goes to Phnom Penh to make money to support Arn and his five siblings, they are sent to live with their aunt. Their aunt, a single woman with no children, faces financial hardship to raise her six nieces and nephews. While Arn is supposed to be studying with the village monks, he feels compelled to make money on his own by peddling and gambling to help the family out. Although his older sister frowns upon this, Arn continues to find means of attaining money and food. McCormick wrote Never Fall Down in first person strategically using broken English to details Arn’s story.

 The story moved quickly from Arn’s background to the day that he watched buses and garbage trucks roll into his village. The trucks were filled with soldiers that all looked the same: dark skin and a tough fa├žade. They were all dressed in black pajama outfits and black caps. The only color they possessed were the red and white scarfs tied around their heads. Arn noticed that the soldiers were young, teenagers not much older than him. They all had shoes made of car tires and brandished their guns as they sat on their vehicles. He noticed that they had many bullets strapped across their chests. The villagers came out of their huts, cheering for the soldiers, all holding something white like scarves and bed sheets. All Arn heard is that the war was over and that they should give the soldiers whatever they could. By nature, Arn was street smart. He was always watching everything going on and learned quickly that something was not right. The Khmer Rouge soldiers called for all government soldiers to come out into the middle of the village. Arn watched in awe, believing that they were all to greet the Prince. He silently followed them, only to get tired and stop to rest. He dreamt of bullets popping, but when he headed back to the village, seeing that there were no more government soldiers, he realized that the popping of rifles left all the soldiers dead. By the time Arn returned to his village, he encountered thousands and thousands of people walking with their belongings. Bullhorns informed him that everyone would be leaving home for three days. He later realized that three days was a hoax.

 From this point on, we walk side by side with Arn as he is led to Cambodian Killing fields and endures the split of his family. All women, men and children were separated. He would struggle for the next three years, wondering who survived and who didn’t. As the story is told, you feel Arn’s horror as he witnessed the atrocities of the war. It becomes evident that he did whatever it took to stay alive. Arn witnessed countless deaths of children, destined to starve as they ate rice soup day after day. All children were ordered to forget their families and give all their belongings away. The Khmer Rouge believed in no rich or poor, only equals that dressed the same and owned nothing. All those with any education were murdered, the rich were murdered, and the weak were murdered.

 Arn’s life is spared so many times by so many people. He learned to play an instrument and used his talent to gain some power. Many times he was given extra food for his music and other times he would steal while guards watched him. He became brazen knowing that the guards weren’t going to challenge him. The extra food he earned or stole enabled others to live because he would use the extra food to feed his comrades. Arn used his talent to his advantage and got many perks with it. He was constantly torn though, because his friends were working in the fields while he was allowed to be inside practicing his instrument. He didn’t escape the horror though. He soon learned that his music group was asked to play three times a day for a reason. The music was being used to drown out the coconut cracking sound. He learned that the coconut cracking sound was a hatchet striking the skull of a person. The atrocities that young Arn witnessed were almost more than I could bear. The Cambodian genocide in the 1970’s left over 1.7 million people dead. Men, women and children were overworked, starved and murdered. Arn witness cannibalism in many forms and a ruthlessness that left families destroyed. McCormick writes a moving account of Arn Chorn-Pond’s powerful story. This novel is haunting and inspiring from beginning to end.

 'Never Fall Down': Surviving The Killing Fields An Interview with Arn Chorn-Pond by NPR STAFF

 J. Ann Vega Library Coordinator, IDEA Public Schools Twitter @annvega

Friday, April 20, 2012

John Green is everything you think and MORE!

I went to every appearance John Green made at TLA2012. (Yes, I felt a bit like a stalker.....) When he spoke, he was witty and energetic, but mostly he was REAL. He doesn't seem to understand the following he has made with all of his novels, or at least he doesn't show it. The Quest High School Book Club has read Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, so I thought nothing about waiting in the LONG line to get their next read autographed by Mr. Green. I have been to many conferences with authors and you can tell a lot about them when they have signings or how they react when you ask for a picture. John Green treated every student, teacher, librarian and fan graciously. He made a point to make eye contact and ask how you were doing. He even signed diaries when young ladies in front of me asked him to. All in all, I think John Green is awesome, and well, his writing is pretty incredible too. He sent a video message to my students, he didn't seem to mind that I asked him to do so.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Through You by Jaime Lopez

I had the pleasure of meeting Jaime Perez at Region One last week. He is librarian and advocate of literacy for hispanic youth. This young author has written his first book, a historical retelling of his mother and father. He offered to come to one of my high school book clubs and do a book talk, then he said he would return to discuss the book with the students. I am so excited, I am sure my book club students will be just as thrilled. I just downloaded the ebook version of THROUGH YOU, I will keep you posted on the details!

Monday, April 16, 2012


WONDER, by RJ. Palacio, is one of my favorite books this year. Auggie Pullman is not your everyday boy. He was born with a deformed face and has endured surgery after surgery. Even with the 27 surgeries he has had, Auggie still looks very different than everyone else. Home schooled all his life, Auggie's parents think it time for him to go to school in the traditional sense. Auggie's story will make you laugh and make you cry. This book is unforgettable..... I give this book 5 stars!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising is a compelling story that delivers many messages. Esperanza's journey will move its readers.

Monday, February 20, 2012

I read Elizabeth Fama's, Doodle Time with John Green, on her blog. I couldn't help but laugh. She talks about John Greens promise to sign 150,000 copies of The Fault in Our Stars. She says,

"Now, say you allot 2 seconds for each signature, that means John devoted 83.3 hours to just moving the pen. At 5 hours a day (who could do it longer without going mad?), he worked 16 days on it. Factor in unpacking the boxes, keeping stacks straight, searching for pens ("Are there any markers that aren't dry in this house?"), re-packing, mailing, meals, sleep, showers, a toddler, and a dog who needs walking, and it's more likely his rash promise consumed a month of his life. If I had tried this, it would have taken a decade. It's no wonder each individual result is a little disappointing - I think this is right side up." Then she shows his autograph:

So what did she do? She had her kids play a doodle game with John Green's signature where they had to turn it into pictures. This is what she posted....

Sally, painter and scholar.

Eric, comic artist. (Hint: you have to imagine that this copy of TFiOS is 332/150,000.)

Gene, composer/musician, doodle champion.

Lydia, genius teen animator, killjoy.

I couldn't help but chuckle at Elizabeth Fama's blog post, because it was so funny. However, I was thrilled to have a signed copy of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and the students in my book club were thrilled also. 150,000 signed copies was quite a feat and I can't imagine how he got it accomplished. Anyway, I had a great time reading Ms. Fama's take on John Green's autograph quest!

Works Cited:

Fama, Elizabeth. "Doodle Time with John Green." Author Elizabeth Fama. Elizabeth Fama, 20 02 2012.
Web. 20 Feb. 2012. .

Friday, February 17, 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Ransom Riggs' unique book mixes antique photographs with a unique story. This is an unforgettable read. Watch the trailer below!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Fault In Our Stars

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

As I read on a friend's tweet today.... John Green, you can break my heart any day. This novel is wonderfully written, but just know, you will cry and you will laugh. John Green is by far one of the best Young Adult writers of our time. You will fall in love with Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace as they battle illness and find love along the way.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Crossed by Ally Condie

Crossed is a wonderful sequel to MATCHED. Cassia's determination to find Ky shows her strength and willingness to risk everything. The secret that Ky keeps about Xander adds drama to the story. I enjoyed this book and can't wait for the final installment by Ally Condie! Wish I didn't have to wait until November 2012....

Monday, January 9, 2012


Matched by Ally Condie

I really enjoyed this novel by Ally Condie. --Seira Wilson summarizes as, "For Cassia, nothing is left to chance--not what she will eat, the job she will have, or the man she will marry. In Matched, the Society Officials have determined optimal outcomes for all aspects of daily life, thereby removing the "burden" of choice. When Cassia's best friend is identified as her ideal marriage Match it confirms her belief that Society knows best, until she plugs in her Match microchip and a different boy’s face flashes on the screen. This improbable mistake sets Cassia on a dangerous path to the unthinkable--rebelling against the predetermined life Society has in store for her. As author Ally Condie’s unique dystopian Society takes chilling measures to maintain the status quo, Matched reminds readers that freedom of choice is precious, and not without sacrifice."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Infernal Devices - The Clockwork Prince

I just finished The Clock Work Angel. I AM LOVING CASSANDRA CLARE EVEN MORE NOW!

Winner of the 2011 Silver Inky Award!