Thursday, March 26, 2009

Zombie Blondes- First student post!

I've been meaning to post a student review for a long time now but haven't had anyone offer it up. However, my 8th graders did science fiction book reviews for a final draft and I had to ask to print this one. I love the language this young woman uses and her voice comes through so well in this piece. So, without further ado, here is "Debbie" debuting in her first book review:

Zombie Blondes by Brian James

Zombies? Blondies? Do explain. Don't worry, that's just what I'm here to do. Hannah, who recently moved, is the daughter of an on-the-run-sheriff.
Hannah and her father were forced to run away from police who were angry at Hannah's father for snitching on some of their misdoings. She arrives at an eerie town that seems to have a tad bit too many houses up for sale. People all seem to be of the same pale, bloodless complexion. People disappear almost every couple days yet nobody seems to notice. Or is it that they don't care of that they already know?

Meanwhile, Hannah is repeatedly warned by her friend Lukas at school. He says the people of the town aren't normal, that they kill and transform them into one of their kind. Hannah is determined Lukas is merely trying to scare her off from trying to join the popular girls, a group of blondes with blue eyes snipped to perfection. Hannah chooses to join them: their clique as well as the cheerleading squad. Lord, does she know she's about to be skinned and have the living life drained out of the and bottled up to feed the cyborgs (blondies?).

Right at the precise moment Lukas decide to show up and save Hannah. They run and hide in a secure areas. to their dismay the blondies, as well as the rest of the cyborg town, decide to follow the head cheerleader Maggie like zombies and seek them out. Lukas ends up sacrificing himself to let Hannah get away. Dramatic, huh? I know, sort of like a deranged/vampiristic/robotic/love story.

The reason why Zombie Blondes falls under science fiction is because it's cyborg infused with a hint of a futuristic feeling. though the plot doesn't take place in the future, it's got a kick of cyberpunk and of course, robots.

I hereby present Zombie Blondes with a nearly full rating of 9/10. Why? The book is easy going and never fails to interest you. It's a page turner and a sleep loser. many books start losing flavor after the first hundred or so bites but this one was full of action and never once became dull. If you're around my age or a tad bit older, this book just may be for you, Gender-wise, I'd say its gender neutral. It's got the creepy, action packed scenarios for the fellas as well as a romantic side for the ladies. Age is nothing but a number. You could be quite young with a high level of understanding and tolerance for the creepy, graphic images the author tended to paint in the reader's mind. Or is it just me? It's kid friendly without being too babyish and romantic without being nasty. Balanced? Indeed. Lovable? As intended. Best of all, it's fresh out of the printers (well, 2008). Quick, go get a copy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What's New in English Teaching

I read about Donalyn Miller's book called The Book Whisperer and I can't wait to read it. Additionally, I read Kelly Gallagher's Readicide online, but some of the people in my department go cross-eyed reading on the computer. So, I can't wait for these to arrive so I can dive in.

I do want to make a public thank you to the people at Simon & Schuster, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux,Houghton Mifflin and Scholastic for their generosity in sending me ARCs to review. I have a pile higher than my bed and I should be very busy for the next several months!

Read Alouds for the New 9 Year-old

Okay, these don't seem like books that we'd read back to back but they both offered a lot of variety. Lots of people know that I'm a huge proponent of reading aloud to kids even as they get older. It offers a wonderful chance to discuss characters and plot as well as spend time together. Abby (daughter) is also learning fluency by hearing me read and following the book with me. If I'm tired, she definitely corrects me if I fumble a word!
Keeper of the Doves by Betsy Byars really appealed to both Abby and me because we love historical fiction. Amen (that's her name) is a fairly wealthy girl with four other sisters, all with names beginning with A. The only thing that perplexes Amie (her nickname) is Mr. Tominski, an old Polish man who once saved her father's life. Mr. Tom keeps doves and has taught them to perform amazing tricks, which Amie watches from the shadows of the woods. This is a fairly slow moving book but it was great to linger over its brief 140 pages. I kept waiting to see if the mother would die, because that is my experience with books like this--but I was pleasantly surprised that she didn't- she finally had the baby brother, but she lived! Amie does deal with some events that help her to grow up throughout.

In contrast, we blew through the most recent 39 Clues book, The Sword Thief by Pete Langeris. While we have been following Dan and Amy religiously since their first foray into the world of clue hunting, this one was special because I lived in Japan for a year. I loved the Yakuza and their hold on Tokyo! And, it was good to see the side of Alistair Oh that I sort of hoped existed. We can't wait to travel to Egypt. And, secretly, I read somewhere that Judy Blundell is writing one of the episodes and I can't wait to read that one too. I was, however, surprised that this volume was so short. Compared to the others, this was about 100 pages shorter. Is that because Japan is such a small country? ha ha- Scholastic really has a winner series here, not just because kids are hooked into the online portion of the adventure, but also because the range of ages that are reading the series is huge!

Bettina Valentino

I just received Bettina Valentino and the Picasso Club from the lovely people at Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. If the wonderfully colorful cover doesn't drag kids into the book, I don't know what will. Bettina is my new favorite quirky character! She has very unusual parents as well. In Bettina's school, her new art teacher, Mr. Popart, is inspiring great art and teaching the 5th graders about amazing artists. Bettina and some friends start The Picasso Club and create more outrageous art outside of school as well. All is fine until the quintessential uptight classmate goes home and tells her parents that the art teacher showed them "dirty pictures" from an art book. The climax erupts with parent meetings and Mr. Popart's "discipline" from in the hoity toity private school. But, Bettina is one of the most charismatic, spunky characters I've seen in Tween fiction in a long time. I loved her artistic style and her parents' down to earth attitude. This is a great Tween book and I can't wait to pass it on to my daughter!


I am a huge David Klass fan and I read You Don't Know Me to my 8th graders every year. They laugh and cry and wait for me to cry on the last couple of pages (I tell them ahead of time that I do this). So, it's surprising that I've not picked up Firestorm until now. Rather, I ran into the audio book at the public library and remembered I hadn't read it yet! So, I've been riveted to my car CD player while I listen. This action-packed and seat-gripping novel was seemingly all over the place. Jack Danielson is a normal boy with a normal life until his parents tell him that they're not really his parents. Within hours, Jack finds out that he's been sent from the future to save the world's ecosystem-namely the oceans. With the help of a telepathic dog named Gisco and a beautiful, karate-chopping shape-changer named Echo, Jack learns to live with his new role as the "Beacon of Hope." My favorite character (besides Jack) was Dargon, with his evil ways, his long hair and bulging muscles. Plus, who wouldn't love a great villain with his own island? The pull of finding out what Firestorm actually was lent an additional draw for me. This is a great middle school book for boys since the action is non stop and incredibly engaging.

I instantly turned a 7th grade boy onto this book and he loves it! We kept comparing where we were until he got sick this weekend and fell behind.

Friday, March 13, 2009


I can't believe March is half over and I haven't been blogging! I hope everyone else has taken part in all of the awesome posts for Share A Story Shape A Future this week. There have been some amazing posts and I've apparently been too busy to respond. Sometimes, life just gets in the way--I have a son who prefers his "birthday suit" over clothes and a daughter who enjoys "throwing" her shoes at random teachers when she's angry. Hmm....slightly feisty. I have no idea where she gets it! :)

So, here's what I've been reading....

I finished Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies by Erin Dionne and loved it. Such a cute book about self image and learning to love yourself, something I think I had a very difficult time doing as a teenager. I loved the name of the contest Celeste's family enters her into- the Ms. Husky Peach contest. Her humiliation and the humor associated with the entire contest were uplifting. I ate this one during a sick day last week. No pun intended. Additionally, I love the fact that Dionne gave good advice about how to lose weight and then Celeste's friends gently encourage her to begin walking for exercise. A very realistic and uplifting book full of hope and discovery. This is a refreshing change after reading several anorexia/starving yourself books.

Other than that, I've been dabbling while battling a huge illness and I haven't completed much lately. Coming soon: Flygirl and The Indigo Notebook