Book review by Raise Them Righteous guest blogger Eleanor Hamilton Warren. Eleanor is a 9 year-old reader living in Dallas, TX. This is her first book review for the blog.
Big Apple Diaries, by Alyssa Bermudez, is a gripping and interesting graphic memoir about a girl who is experiencing the normal troubles of middle school in Queens. It is set in the time period 2000-2002 and is based on Alyssa’s real diaries.
Alyssa loves to draw shoes, wear shoes, and buy shoes. She goes to a Catholic school in Queens and gets made fun of by the popular kids for her dorkiness, and for being only “half Puerto Rican.” She struggles to get good grades when her mind is on other things, and wants more freedom from her parents. She never gets to go to parties like the cool kids!
Her parents are divorced, so she has to move from Queens (where her mom lives), to Manhattan (where her dad lives) every weekend. Apart from all this stress, she has her good friends, Lucy and Carmen, to help her get through. At Christmas, Alyssa makes a new year’s resolution to keep up with her grades, and her parents promise to let her go out after school more. Alyssa feels like everything’s getting better, until the “incident” happens.
The incident refers to four coordinated terrorist attacks on the United States that occurred on September 11, 2001.
Alyssa is at school.
Her dad is in a meeting a few blocks away from the World Trade Center.
Her mom is in the second tower.
The graphic memoir focuses on Alyssa’s experience of the incident. A woman asks Alyssa’s teacher to come outside the class for a minute. The students can hear the teacher crying. The class walks down to the school’s church and waits, until they get told the horrible news. Alyssa is scared, and she knows that her city will never be the same.
This story is great and enjoyable, and I couldn’t put it down. I loved learning more about 9/11, and I finally knew what it was like to experience living in Queens when something as horrible as this was going on. But I don’t want teachers to get the impression that this would be a good book to read to your students, because it might be a bit scary for them to experience, especially if they’re young. I think this book is best for kids in sixth or seventh grade, because it mentions some mature things that might not be appropriate for younger kids, but advanced fourth and fifth graders could still read it.
And remember, like I said at first, this is a graphic memoir. It would be sort of hard to read a book to students when most of it is just pictures. Some people haven’t even tried graphic memoirs or novels, and I definitely recommend this for them because people might not think they’ll like those kinds of books, but I think they’re really great and people should give them a try. In conclusion, I think that Big Apple Diaries is a pretty amazing book and that if you see it in the library, check it out and read it (at least for just a little bit).
Categories: #MG #YA
Many thanks to Eleanor Warren for this review! I have been looking for just such a novel for a course in children’s literature that explores how writers deal with the “tough stuff” in life. Now I know of one that addresses 9/11. And the reviewer has convinced me that this is a book I should have my students read. Again, thank you!
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I hope this talented young reviewer will guest blog in the future!