Module 5: Gossamer

GossamerLowry, L. (2006). Gossamer. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. 

Summary: Where do dreams come from? At night, the imagined emerge from the heap, carefully deciding which of your personal belongings to touch in order to gather memories. After collecting these fragments, they then bestow them upon you as you sleep.

Where do nightmares come from? The sinisteed scorch through your walls when you are weak and vulnerable and inflict your fears and awful memories upon you as you sleep.

In Gossamer, Fastidious is tasked with training Littlest One in the art of collecting fragments and bestowing. However, Littlest One is quite curious and a too irritating for Fastidious. After speaking with Most Ancient, Thin Elderly agrees to switch places with Fastidious.

Thin Elderly has more patience with Littlest One and can see he potential. He recognizes her skills and value, such as her gossamer touch and inquisitive mind. When John, a fragile, abused boy is placed in the home they are working to deliver dreams, Thin Elderly and Littlest One much protect him from the sinisteed and ultimately the Horde.

Littlest One proves her ability by being brave, strong, and resourceful while Thin Elderly’s patience and unwavering faith in her helps her to succeed in saving John.

Impressions: Gossamer was such a beautiful book. I just do not know how else to describe it! Lowry is incredibly creative! When I figured out that the imagined were collecting fragmements from objects to create dreams, I was filled with excitement – how original and stunning!

My son is only 2 1/2 but I read bits and pieces of this to him before bed and even he laid there, engaged. The way Lowry writes is incredibly captivating and is better read aloud than to oneself. If it can capture the attention of a toddler, imagine what it can do to a class of elementary students or middle schoolers; you don’t need pictures, at all.

Review: With this slender novel, two-time Newbery Award Medal winner Lois Lowry answers the age-old question: Where do dreams come from? Littlest One is training as a dreamgiver. With a touch as light as gossamer, she takes seriously her job of gathering memories from people’s possessions and returning the pleasant memories as dreams. When she and Thin Elderly, her mentor, get a new assignment, they realize that their new job will be difficult. The woman is old and John is a troubled boy with an abusive father. He has recently been placed in foster care with the old woman. But nightmares visit the boy each night and threaten to undo the good work that Littlest One and Thin Elderly do to bring happiness to their charges. Lowry skillfully crafts three stories into a successful whole in this enchanting novella. With her own gossamer touch Lowry’s prose resonates with lyricism and sensitivity. To fully appreciate the prose, teachers and librarians should read this aloud. Strong characterizations and multiple themes (love, trust, work ethic, abuse, growth, and coming of age) lend it to engaging class discussions.”

Litherland, T.N. (20016, November 1). [Review of the book Gossamer, by Lowry, L.]. Library Media Connect, 25(3), p. 75.

Library Uses: As previously mentioned in my impressions and review, Gossamer is an excellent read-aloud. It would be a wonderful book to read to classes over the course of a couple library visits, as it is not very long. It would also work great as a book talk.

Module 4: Wonder

wonder-book-cover Palacio, R.J. (2012). Wonder. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

Summary: August, or Auggie, was born with a rare disorder that causes him to look different and as a result, he has been homeschooled since kindergarten. Now that he is entering middle school, it has been decided that he should attend a real school. While at school, Auggie has to deal with not only the prejudices children have because of his disorder but also the issues that come with growing up and being in middle school.

Via, Auggie’s older sister, is now in high school and has decided she wants to go by Olivia. She wants a new identity, one where people don’t know here as Via, the girl with the deformed brother. She has lost her best friends with high school, has become part of school theater, has a new boyfriend, and is suddenly fighting with her mother. Why can’t anyone realize that Olivia exists, too?

And then there are the various people in Auggie and Olivia’s lives. Auggie becomes acquainted with Jack Will and Summer, his two best frends and Julian, his enemy. Olivia says goodbye to Miranda, her friend since elementary school and hello to Justin, her musician boyfriend. Bringing the story together are Auggie’s and Olivia’s parents.

Impressions: When I worked at San Antonio Public Library, older tweens and younger teens were asking for this book left and right and after reading it I can see why it is so popular. What I liked most about the book was not that you learn about acceptance of people who are different than you, sure that is the major theme of the book, but that Palacio incorporated the chapters offering the perspectives of the other characters. Too often in books, and in life, we get one side of the story. As I read Auggie’s story and I got to the Bleeding Scream part, I was angry at Jack Will. But when I read his chapter, I realized that he was in middle school and felt peer pressured and ultimately said something stupid, not thinking of the consequences. We have all been there.

Review: “After being home-schooled for years, Auggie Pullman is about to start fifth grade, but he’s worried: How will he fit into middle school life when he looks so different from everyone else?

Auggie has had 27 surgeries to correct facial anomalies he was born with, but he still has a face that has earned him such cruel nicknames as Freak, Freddy Krueger, Gross-out and Lizard face. Though “his features look like they’ve been melted, like the drippings on a candle” and he’s used to people averting their eyes when they see him, he’s an engaging boy who feels pretty ordinary inside. He’s smart, funny, kind and brave, but his father says that having Auggie attend Beecher Prep would be like sending “a lamb to the slaughter.” Palacio divides the novel into eight parts, interspersing Auggie’s first-person narrative with the voices of family members and classmates, wisely expanding the story beyond Auggie’s viewpoint and demonstrating that Auggie’s arrival at school doesn’t test only him, it affects everyone in the community. Auggie may be finding his place in the world, but that world must find a way to make room for him, too.

A memorable story of kindness, courage and wonder.”

Kirkus Reviews. (2015, November 15). [Review of the book Wonder, by R.J. Palacio]. Kirkus Reviews, p. 73.


“Kids’ books about befriending somebody “different” could fill a library. But this debut novel rises to the top through its subtle shifting of focus to those who are “normal,” thereby throwing into doubt presumptions readers may have about any of the characters. Nominally, the story is about 10-year-old August, a homeschooled boy who is about to take the plunge into a private middle school. Even 27 operations later, Auggie’s face has what doctors call “anomolies”; Auggie himself calls it “my tiny, mushed-up face.” He is gentle and smart, but his mere physical presence sends the lives of a dozen people into a tailspin: his sister, his old friends, the new kids he meets, their parents, the school administrators—the list goes on and on. Palacio’s bold move is to leave Auggie’s first-person story to follow these increasingly tangential characters. This storytelling strategy is always fraught with peril because of how readers must refresh their interest level with each new section. However, much like Ilene Cooper’s similarly structured Angel in My Pocket (2011), Palacio’s novel feels not only effortless but downright graceful, and by the stand-up-and-cheer conclusion, readers will be doing just that, and feeling as if they are part of this troubled but ultimately warm-hearted community.”

Kraus, D. (2012, February 1). [Review of the book Wonder, by R.J. Palacio]. Booklist, 108(11), p. 77.

Library Uses: This is a great book to use during National Bullying Prevention Month (the STOMP Out Bullying campaign) which I see no reason libraries (or if someone was in a school library) can’t be apart of – as a community organization, we should play a role in ending bullying). Also, this is another great read for a book talk or tween book club. I can think of so many things to discuss, such as bullying, not jumping to conclusion, feelings about growing up, friendship, miscommunication.

Module 3: The Graveyard Book

51tAOAlaH7L._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_Gaiman, N. (2008). The Graveyard book. New York: HarperCollins Pub. 

Summary: Nobody Owens’ mother, father, and sister are brutally murdered when he is a toddler by a man named Jack. He narrowly escapes by carefully climbing out of his crib and wandering to the graveyard down the street while Jack continues his horrendous acts. At the graveyard he is adopted by a married ghost couple and raised by the rest of the ghosts in the graveyard, and with Silas, a dead but non-ghost inhabitant of the graveyard. As Nobody grows up, he learns the ways of the ghosts, including disappearing, dream walking, and haunting. The old saying “it takes a village” rings true with Nobody, as this village of graveyard citizens must work together to save Nobody from himself and from Jack, who continues his pursuit to kill Nobody.

Impressions: I have been avoiding Gaiman for years, as many of my friends are obsessed with his work and I did not want to jump on that bandwagon. However, one of my favorite adult genres is paranormal fiction so I decided to see how I would enjoy it in juvenile form. Additionally, I read that this book is very macabre and it is to my understanding that children’s lit has been heading in this direction. So I thought, “Let’s check this out.” First, I can understand why my friends read Gaiman. The writing sucks the reader in and though there are a few illustrations throughout, Gaiman’s writing is such that I was able paint a very vivid image of each chapter in my own head – this is what I enjoy in a book- if an author can transport me to that world, he/she is getting a thumbs up. Second, I enjoyed seeing the transition of Nobody through the years and his slow exit from the graveyard and entry into the world. Finally, I just need to finally learn to not knock something something until I have tried it – also, Newbery’s aren’t what they used to be!

Review: “Creepy, unsettling, and somewhat disturbing. That’s how Gaiman begins his multiple-award winning book, which draws the reader into the life and mystery of a young boy named Bod. We learn early in the book that as a toddler, Bod narrowly escaped a gruesome death by crawling down from his crib and out of the house just as the rest of his family was being slaughtered. He toddled his way down the street under the cover of darkness and straight into a graveyard, where he is immediately noticed by a few of the long-term spectral residents.

Mr. and Mrs. Owens, a childless couple who reside in the cemetery, are drawn to the toddler, and after two ghosts appeal to them to keep the boy safe, they take the boy into their care. Silas, a man who lives between the living and the dead, is appointed Bod’s guardian. His wise counsel and knowledge of the real and spiritual worlds helps a maturing Bod figure out who it is who wants him dead and why.

McKean’s wispy and somewhat ethereal illustrations in shades of gray and black are sprinkled throughout the book. The drawings and well constructed story will provoke the imagination and pique the reader’s curiosity about the mysterious alliances and connections within the story. Readers will never look at a graveyard in the same way after reading this cleverly crafted adventure. (MS)”

Anonymous. (2010, May). [Review of the book The Graveyard Book, by N. Gaiman]. Language Arts, 87(5), p. 403.

Library Uses: I can see myself using this book for a book talk or a tween book club.