Tuesday, November 24, 2009

ARCs I Can't Wait to Read!

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green

Before You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Ann Peters

I will post my NCTE book talks in their abbreviated form sometime over the weekend.


ALAN is always a fantastic conference, but I think I came away with even more books this year! I just finished Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott, which I can't believe I never read. What a haunting novel!

"Alice" aka Kyla is abducted at 10 years old from a zoo field trip by Ray. He has kept her at his apartment and "loves" her like a "daughter" for five years and Alice's disappearance is never solved. Kyla is also replacing the "last Alice" who Ray killed when she got to old for his liking. Now, Ray is on the lookout to replace "Alice" with a new younger version. This novel left a horrid feeling in the pit of my stomach, probably because I have an almost 10 year-old daughter. The writing is passionate and real with a speed to the prose at the end that is reminiscent of LH Anderson's Wintergirls. A departure from her romantic realism, Elizabeth Scott has done a phenomenal job of creating these characters and lingering setting. Ray is one of those horrific characters who will make all mothers of young girls lock their doors tightly!
I am now settled in NYC for the long weekend after finishing ALAN today and I have a load of novels to keep me busy on the long drive home Sunday. Happy 94th Birthday, Grandma!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

NCTE-Day #3

Today was a great curriculum day as I started out at a session with my own wonderful NCTE Buddy-Roommate, Dr. Jennifer Buehler. She'd die if she knew I wrote her name like that. The most humblest of fantastically smart people I know! The presentation on Cultural Relevant Pedagogy was just what our district needed to hear and we were represented by all 4 people from our district who were here in Philly for the conference! The discussion ended with wonderful conversation which didn't cease until after lunch when we parted to see Katie Ray Wood. I am still longing for a Philly Cheese Steak! However, I did have the best pastrami reuben I've ever had at Herschel's deli over at the Reading Street Market. Then, I have to admit, I took a nap. The ALAN cocktail party started at 5:30 and I met Maggie Stiefvater (of Shiver fame) and she told me there is another book called Linger!

These authors are so fun and bubbly that I have lost my "awe" of most of them. They're just regular people-but huge celebs to geeky English teachers like we are! Also met: Sharon Flake, Francisco Stork, Lauren Myracle, Maureen Johnson and I was looking all over for Elizabeth Scott but couldn't find her! Maybe tomorrow.

S. and I ate at a wonderful and recommended Vietnamese restaurant and then I felt so full I worked out for almost an hour. Tomorrow starts ALAN and I can't wait to see which books are in my box!

NCTE Day 2- At Night

Last night was a dream for me. I was invited to dinner by the wonderful people at Penguin who provide me with wonderful books to blog. A huge thank you to Scottie Bowditch, Kim Lauber, Rachel Moore,and Emily Heddleson for providing me with the tools to do what I am doing. I sat at a table with author Rosalind Wiseman of Queen Bees and Wannabees fame. She told me there is a new version out that has a whole section on cyber issues and queen bees. I am reading it over break! Great food and wine left me weary but oh so content.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day #2- NCTE

What a whirlwind today. Woke up late and was late for hearing Laurie Halse Anderson. I tried to get in later, but there was a crowd out the door. I will hear her during ALAN as well. So, I went to listen to Penny Kittle who was absolutely inspiring in showing the audience the persuasive videos her students had done. I can't wait to try them with kids at home. Next came The Sisters with their explanation of their CAFE system of literacy. Very overwhelming for me but they were immensely entertaining. Jeff Kinney kept me in stitches explaining how he came to write the Wimpy Kid series. Next I went to help the awesome Jeff Kass during his "Wrestle The Great Fear" performance where I did a very mediocre job of being a "techie".

Kelly Gallagher, who apparently everyone wanted to see, was wedged into a room three sizes too small for the number of people who wanted to see him. Thus, I went to Middle Mosaic for the full time where I met Michael Scott, Becca Fitzpatrick and Daniel Kirk (Yeah! Library Mouse!). For the second time in my life I also got to see and hear Nancie Atwell in person which is always a treat. She is a gracious and poised force to be reckoned with if you are an NYT writer trying to berate choice in Reading Workshop. Thank goodness we have voices like Nancie Atwell to speak for those of us who know Reading Workshop and choice are the way to teach.

Friday, November 20, 2009

NCTE- Day #1

What a great opening day. We started out presenting in session A and we were pretty happy with it but know it could use some tweaks for next year. The books I book talked are listed above. We were so honored to be chaired by Teri Lesesne, who is my reading and teaching heroine. :)

After our session, I sat in on a great panel on censoryship with Lauren Myracle, Jay Asher and David Leivthan. I then scored an ARC for David Levithan and John Green's new book called Will Grayson, Will Grayson and I can't wait to read it! I also got to meet the famous Rachel Moore from Penguin, who has been sending me ARCs to review for the last year. Very appreciative!

I then went to see Alfred Tatum even though I have his new book but haven't had time to read it. How inspirational! I will use his premise to show my school that Read 180 and Culturally Relevant Pedagogy for struggling readers and writers are diametrically opposed.

I ended the day with attending a session on Photovoice done through Pioneer Middle School in Michigan (just a short hop from my district!). I can't wait to try to do this with my students this year in and around Ann Arbor.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Nation by Terry Pratchett: I know this will seem like blasphemy to some of you, but I’ve never before read a Terry Pratchett novel. However, I have to follow that up with “and…I enjoyed it incredibly”. This Printz finalist is a book about two young people crossing the threshold into adulthood, but it is so much more as well.
Mau lives on an island somewhere in the Pelagic Ocean and is off on “Boys’ Island” learning to become a man. As he is making his way back to his people, the Nation, and the feast that awaits him, a giant tidal wave wipes out his island, leaving him as the only survivor of his people.
Nearby on the same island, is the wreck of the Sweet Judy, a British ship carrying Ermintrude, who is the only survivor and a very proper British girl. Ermintrude quickly changes her name to Daphne and she and Mau learn to speak to each other in toddler-like sentences in each others’ language. Both Daphne and Mau are rebuilding the Nation that has been swept away. They need to find food and make the Island beer, a very important part of Mau’s Nation. More and more people join this island group and the next wave of refugees brings a woman, her starving baby and an old island priest named Ataba who deems Mau “soul-less”, thus he begins referring to him as “demon boy”. Mau begins to show his responsibility as an adult when he chases down a wild pig and milks her so the baby can have some nourishment.
The next group of visitors requires that Daphne “buck up” and delivery a baby- which is accompanied by a hilarious scene where the natives insist Daphne must sing the ancient song to bring new babies into the world. Since Daphne doesn’t know the song, she sings “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” over and over until the baby is born. Through pantomime, Daphne convinces the new parents that Twinkle probably isn’t going to be a good name for the baby, so they settle on “Guiding Star.” The rising action of the novel involves more Nation re-building with Mau and Daphne at the helm. Mau consistently insists he is not a true man and may even be a demon even though his actions and thoughts prove otherwise and the new island dwellers refer to him as The Chief. At one point, Mau and Daphne, who has now shed most of her proper British behavior, explore an ancestral cave and Daphne discovers that Mau’s ancestors were one of the first world explorers.
Ultimately, Raiders come to the island led by the evil first mate (Cox) of Daphne’s former ship. He challenges Mau to a duel of the Chiefs and the Nation is able to prove itself a working society once again. The end brings a wonderful and funny reconciliation and the realization that Daphne may indeed be closer to Royalty than she thinks.
It is the big questions in the novel that set it apart and make it award-worthy. Mau and Daphne are simultaneously discovering which places and people make them who they are as well as realizing what happens when those places and people are rearranged in one’s life. The wave that hits the island is metaphorical for any difficult time, so even though this novel takes place in a “parallel universe” as Pratchett describes in the back of the book, it is universal in its appeal to young adults. Likewise, the use of the word “Nation” can refer to any Nation building or peer-oriented scale. Pratchett also deftly handles some of life’s biggest philosophical ideas here including religious beliefs and facing our own personal demons. Dry humor abounds and there are laugh out-loud portions; I especially loved the confusion when Mau says he wants to learn Doctorin’ and the British Bishop thinks he means Doctrine. As I have found with my students, the cover of this novel can turn off some of them, so it is well worth anyone’s time to give it a good book talking.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Another Hiatus?

Yes, yes. I am still here for those who read this thingy. I have been mired in Read 180 (ugh) and the start/middle/end of the first quarter of the school year. Time is a precious commodity these days and I am saving every extra minute that I have for reading. However, I have not been BLOGGING those books- I promise (myself) that I will return to regular entries as soon as our NCTE presentation is over with! I do have my list ready to go so get ready for the barrage of entries during the conference in Philadelphia next week.