For our holiday dinner get-together at our last meeting we enjoyed delicious food and fun. We discussed our picture book first, Grand Canyon by Jason Chin. We all agreed that the illustrations in this book were stunning, and we also loved the amount of information it contained about the Grand Canyon. Many of us felt that the writing was quite dry and 'textbook-ish,' but we felt it could be a very useful book, both in classroom situations and for families planning to visit this noted American landmark. A couple of readers were a bit put off by the illustrations of the dad and his daughter on their trek through the canyon, as well as the many small illustrations of Grand Canyon plants and animals shown throughout in the margins of many pages. Others of us thought these were fine. We mostly liked how the design of the book showed a small 'hole' in the page on a particular illustration, and then after turning the page you could see how this fossil or other formation had happened from a historical point of view. We also liked all of the information presented in the 'back matter,' which made it obvious that the author/illustrator had done extensive research. So, though we weren't thrilled by the writing, we all agreed that this was a good, important book.
For our novel, The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, there was a definite divide between the 'romantics' and the 'nonromantics' among us. All of the 'romantics' loved it. A few readers spoke of sobbing, or at least tearing up at the end. We felt it was a plausible story, which dealt with the many issues of a Korean-American teenaged boy and a Jamaican immigrant girl falling in love -- all in one day -- after a chance meeting in New York City. We liked that it included their families, their cultures, the issue of immigration and possible deportation, and the idea that we never really know what 'the universe' has in store for us -- and how within just a single moment everything can change. Many of us liked how the story was told in different voices: the two protagonists, their relatives, other characters with whom they came in contact, and 'the universe.' A couple of readers just didn't like it at all, and in fact couldn't finish reading the book. They thought it seemed contrived, 'fairy tale-ish,' and just unreal. But those of us who loved it really loved it, even with the seeming 'fairy tale' ending. We thought it was an important story that needed to be told, and we loved the format in which it developed.