Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February, 2012
Genre/Format: Contemporary Historical Fiction/Novel
Goodreads Summary: Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
What I Think: So beautifully written. One of those books that you want to tell everyone to read because it is so literary and lyrical. While reading, I felt I had to keep stopping to take notes because I had so much I wanted to share with you all; Aristotle & Dante reminded me of John Green in that way. His characters are so intelligent, the voice so pure and mesmerizing, and the story so enthralling- all aspects of a literary young adult novel. I am not surprised at all of the awards that Aristotle & Dante took home from the ALA Awards as it deserved each and every one of them (Stonewall Book Award, Printz Honor, Pura Belpre Author Award). I know this seems mighty gushy, but I just really fell in love with this novel.
There was so many passages throughout that could be used for exemplar pieces of writing (specifically while reading I picked up on the literary devices, characterization, and voice) and can be used to practice reading strategies. The only thing I worry about is the teen appeal for this novel. I could see students thinking it was pretty slow because it is more character-driven than plot-driven. It is about Aristotle & Dante growing up and finding themselves (once again, reminds me a bit of a John Green Novel). Though I can see students who give it a chance being as touched by the book as I am.
Read Together: Grades 9 and up
Read Alone: Grades 9 and up
Read With: Personal Effects by EM Kokie, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Shine by Lauren Myracle
Snatch of Text: "The war changed him.I was born when he came home.
Sometimes I think my father has all these scars. On his heart. In his head. All over. It's not such an easy thing to be a son of a man who's been to war. when I was eight, I overheard my mother talking to my Aunt Ophelia on the phone. "I don't think that the war will ever be over for him." Later I asked my Aunt Ophelia if that was true. "Yes," she said, "it's true"
"But why won't the war leave my dad alone?"
"Because your father has a conscience," she said.
"What happened to him in the war?"
"No one knows"
"Why won't he tell?"
"Because he can't."" (p. 14)
"I felt alone, but not in a bad way. I really liked being alone. Maybe I liked it too much. Maybe my father was like that too.
I thought of Dante and wondered about him.
And it seemed to me that Dante's face was a map of the world. A world without darkness.
wow, a world without darkness. How beautiful was that?" (p. 56)
Mentor Text for: Characterization, Voice, Descriptive (p. 19 et al.), Compare/Contrast (p. 20), Dialogue, Figurative Language (Metaphor- p. 261 et al.), Vocabulary, Literary Writing
Writing Prompts: Aristotle & Dante love to make up stories about the people on the bus (see p. 21); go and sit outside where you can people watch and spontaneously write short stories about a handful of them.
Topics Covered: Poetry (Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams), Philosophers, Literature (Heart of Darkness, Grapes of Wrath, Sun Also Rises, War & Peace), Art History (Mexican Art, Edward Hopper), Comics (p. 19), Identity of 2nd Generation American Immigrants, Light Pollution, Mental Health, Teaching (pgs. 67, 165), Anger, Counseling, PTSD, Survivor's Guilt, Sexual Identity, Puberty, Family Secrets, Hate Crimes, Loyalty, Love (p. 247 et al.), Vietnam, Spontaneous Creative Writing (p. 21 et al.), Guilt/Shame, Family
I *heart* It: