cancer (3)

Book Review: Hope is Our Only Wing

Hope Is Our Only Wing
by Rutendo Tavengerwei
Pub Date: 10 Sep 2019
read courtesy of

Note: Let your readers know that there is a glossary at the back of the book. Because I read this as a digital galley, I didn't find the glossary until after I finished reading, and it would have been helpful to have been aware of it earlier.

I agree with prior reviews that this is a middle school book, but I also think that it's not as easy a read as others have noted. While the vocabulary is not too difficult (besides the references to African terms, for which there is a glossary), the concepts of politics and disease and cultural references might pose a challenge for some students. We're lucky, however, in this time of the Internet, that we have the ability to easily quench our curiosities. For example, as a result of a reference to "Oliver Mtukudzi's timeless voice," I was able to find out that he died recently, January 2019, and hear an example of his sound on YouTube ( And though I could figure out what ZESA was from context, I could also look up that it's the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority.

As an educator, I was drawn to the words of wisdom one character's grandfather imparted, one "could quit if it was the instrument that was making him miserable. But if it was the learning he was trying to avoid, he would have to toughen up."

In spite of the unfamiliarity with the setting, readers will be drawn in by the developing friendship between the two main characters. As readers we're given room to experience the interplay of actions and feelings the two girls experience rather than being explicitly spoon fed what to think and feel. I liked that about Tavengerwei's style. I think sophisticated middle school readers will like this story.

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rebecca Skloot has done a superb job of crafting a nonfiction book that reads like a fiction book! The story of Henrietta Lacks, her life, her cells, and her children are painstakingly researched by Rebecca over many years and what she uncovers is the "immortal life" of her cells and how the doctors from Hopkins took them, used them without anyone's permission, and continue to use them today. Even as Henrietta's family is poor, uneducated, and can't even afford health care, insurance and an education; still Henrietta's cells have helped find many cures in the world of medicine. Henrietta's children, especially her daughter, Deborah was one when her mother died an excruciatingly painful cervical cancer death. No one knew she was sick in her family, and as she continued to go to Hopkins for treatment, she also took care of her family. It was not until she went in for radiation, that she even told her sisters she was sick. After her death, her surviving children would suffer abuse at the hands of relatives, deprived of their loving mother. I read this to see if it would be a good title for faculty book club and I highly recommend it!!! But with the common core standards, I think students would benefit from reading this nonfiction title because it has so many points for students to discuss and learn about such as medicine, cancer, race relations, family dynamics and religious faith.

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The Fault in our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a funny, tender, yet somber story of two teens meeting at a cancer support group and Augustus Waters falling for Hazel. Augustus is a good looking, very friendly guy who has lost below his knee to cancer. He wears a Prosthetic leg and when he meets Hazel he falls hard for her. But Hazel is a tough cookie and she doesn't fall for Augustus but slowly begins to respond to his constant optimism. Hazel has a very supportive mother and father as does Augustus, but his family is even larger. I just loved the way John Green described these characters; their worlds which includes their homes, especially their bedrooms and then the dreaded hospital. Green uses sarcasm, laughter and empathy in describing how cancer has totally defined their lives; but through their meeting, their relationship, their support group, friends and family, Green brings together friendship, romance and sorrow in a MUST READ for young adults and also adults.

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