Monday, March 3, 2014

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

This is that book.  I want to keep turning the pages and learn more, but when I get to the end, I'm sorry I'm there.  I did not want to finish this book, it was THAT good.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe reminds me of a lot of books I've been reading lately.  The topic is completely different, but it is about relationships.  I felt close to the main character, Aristotle.  Sometimes you just feel so alone and really it takes just one friendship or the understanding of another human being to help. 

Aristotle is a boy who does not have lots of friends, as a matter of fact, he doesn't seem to have any friends.  He has some people who talk to him at school and it seems some girls have a crush on him, but that is really it.  He feels like an only child because his siblings are so much older than him and his older brother is in prison.  Aristotle does not know why his brother is in prison and this causes a lot of turmoil in him.  He also finds the conversations of other boys his age as ridiculous and cannot imagine having similar conversations. 
Author:  Benjamin Alire Saenz
Published: 2012

Aristotle's mom is a teacher and his dad is a mailman who had fought in Vietnam.  Dad does not speak at all about what happened in Vietnam, and keeps his struggles inside.  Aristotle learns this skill from his father.  His family does not talk about Bernardo, the brother, they do not talk about Vietnam, and Aristotle does not talk about the feelings he has about being different.

One summer, he goes to the pool and meets Dante.  Dante is always happy and has parents who are very affectionate and show their emotions.  Dante and Aristotle become close friends and their parents become friends too.  The friendship between the families is strengthened when Aristotle saves Dante's life. Aristotle though, struggles with the reasons why he saved Dante's life.  He does not want to be a hero and he tries to pull away from Dante.  Dante has admitted that he loves Aristotle, but Aristotle cannot accept this, he is worried that it is wrong or that his parents will be disappointed.

Aristotle's mom and dad finally explain to him that Bernardo is in jail because he killed someone with his fists.  When Bernardo was 15, he picked up a prostitute that happened to be a guy.  Bernardo was so angry, he killed the guy.  To protect Aristotle during the trial and to keep him from seeing his mother's breakdown, Aristotle had been sent to live with an aunt for several months.  Aristotle's family, his mom and dad, were the only ones in the family who approved of the aunt, Ophelia, because she had a female lover, Franny.  This is when Aristotle learns that his parents loved Ophelia and that her love of Franny did not matter to them because Ophelia was a good person.

A door is opened to Aristotle, he is able to speak to his parents.  They help him realize that yes, Dante loves him, but he loves Dante too.  I don't know how the story ends.  Do Aristotle and Dante stay together forever?  I don't know, but I do know that Aristotle and Dante are good characters who are happy with who they are and are lucky to have so much love from their families.

There is so much more to this book than the bit I've written here.  I definitely recommend this to anyone.   I think that children in late middle school and older would find this book to be very interesting and a great story.  This is an example of another book to teach empathy and acceptance of others regardless of differences.  I will reread this book this summer!

Check this book out from the library!
NPR Interview

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