Sunday, November 20, 2011

NCTE 2011

So many great sessions and so many new books to read. Our session this morning went well with about 50-55 people for an AM Sunday session. Not bad. I finally got to meet my Amelia Walden friend, Lois, which was exciting for me. We had an email friendship during the award year last year and it was nice to put a face with a name. I am now off in search of some food so I can get back for my yearly fix of Linda Rief.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Time is Flying....NCTE already?

Fall has truly gotten away from me. With a full time workload, soccer momming, and trying to grade five classes of papers as well as cook and keep a house straight, I'm just about losing my mind. Hence, the lack'a-posts! :) So, my resolution after NCTE is to try to get back to blogging semi-regularly.

I leave tomorrow for NCTE and our annual YA BOOK AWARDS talk will take place at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday. Here are the books I am booktalking, but there are MANY more between the three of us.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Time To Plant: Life Lessons in Work, Prayer, and Dirt

A TIME TO PLANT: LIFE LESSONS IN WORK, PRAYER AND DIRT by Kyle Kramer isn't a book I would normally pick up. However, when I was on a 5-day retreat over July 4th weekend, Kyle was one of the speakers. He was eloquent, intelligent and funny. He works at St. Meinrad Abbey in southern Indiana as a teacher, and he and his family run an organic farm about 15 miles away. A TIME TO PLANT is the story of how he acquired his land, learned how to farm, built his house and started his family. All of this is couched in the main principles and importance of Benedictine spirituality in his life and work. The Abbey is one of those incredibly peaceful places on earth where I could imagine staying for many fulfilling days and weeks on end. Kramer also has twins, as I do, but they didn't know until his wife was giving birth! When you read the circumstances under which they brought their twins home, you will cringe and then applaud when you realize how hard they both worked to get their house and farm in working order. This book was a slow and satisfying read. Not slow in a boring sense, but slow in the sense that you wanted to savor every word and give yourself the time to go back and re-read certain sentences because they are so chocked full of meaning and insight. This book was incredibly well-written as well. While I was at the Abbey, my friend and I took and 90 minute walk one evening and we were both anxious to see if we could find Kramer's land (not knowing it was 15 miles away) because the way he described his land as a real, living entity made us want to see it for ourselves. I guess you could call this an eco-tree-hugger book, but it made me smile and want to go and stick my hands in the dirt!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I can't believe I never read ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins. However, when the ARC of LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR (also by Perkins) arrived yesterday, I felt obliged to read the first one. Honestly, I HAVE had the first one on my to-read list for a while, but it continually got usurped by something more pressing.

Girls will LOVE this novel! Anna is an American girl from Georgia whose novelist father decides she would be better off at an American School in Paris, France for her senior year. She leaves behind a best friend and a "new-ish" love interest.

Within days, Anna meets Etienne St. Clair, a senior who is American but has a French father, and grew up in London (hence his British accent). Through a series of mishaps and bizarre circumstances, Anna makes her way through her senior year with plenty of surprises in store for the reader.

I engulfed this book in one night. Not really a boy read.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Future of Us

THE FUTURE OF US, by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, will be a sure hit with the kids this fall. Josh and Emma are high schoolers who used to be best friends, but have drifted apart in the past few years. The year is 1996 and everyone is getting the AOL cd-rom in the mail with a "free 100 hours" (remember those?). Josh brings Emma the cd he has so she can set up her new email and AOL account. However, the next time Emma logs on, she sees a "facebook" link under her "favorites" page. She clicks on it, but has no idea what it means. She sees status alerts written by her in the future. Unfortunately, Emma's life doesn't seem to be what she dreams it will be in the future. Josh gets called in since he must know something about what she downloaded from his own disk. Josh "finds" himself on Facebook and finds he is married to the current most popular girl in their high school. As the novel progresses, Josh and Emma find that whatever encounters they have at school that day change the future through Facebook. Josh, however, likes his sunny outlook in the years ahead. As the two try to negotiate a social networking site they know nothing about (and hasn't even been invented yet), they discover things about themselves and their own relationship to each other. The novel is told in alternating perspectives and overlaps just a bit in time so the reader can see how the two have different perceptions of what is going on with them. The magical realism really drives the plot and makes for a fantastic read. To start with the question- "what if..." in this case, really works for both of these well received authors.


GLIMPSE by Carol Lynch Williams was a fast and astounding read. Told in verse, this is the story of two sisters and their mother, all of whom are dealing with the death of their father. Mom decides to take the very low road and become a prostitute; Hope, the narrator, is trying to find herself as well as friends and adults she can trust; and Lizzie, Hope's one-year-older sister, tries to commit suicide and is hospitalized in the psych ward at the local hospital. The poetry is sparse and stunning, a great accompaniment to the suspenseful plot and slow realization on the part of the reader and the narrator as to what is actually wrong with Lizzie. Hope cannot understand why her sister would attempt to kill herself and she is on a quest to figure it out. What she discovers will alter her life forever, as well as question the adults who surround her.

More soon...I just received a box of picture books and non-fiction from Chronicle Books. Thanks!

More Summer Titles

Still trying to catch up with blogging after the summer of being "Mom Taxi".
WHERE SHE WENT is the follow up novel to my favorite of last year, IF I STAY by Gayle Forman. This one also doesn't disappoint. While the plot isn't nearly as riveting as the first novel, this one unravels all of the questions one has about the three years that has passed since the end of IF I STAY. Mia is now a concert cellist after attending Julliard and Adam's band has struck it Rock Star Famous. As the two meet and tease out the intricacies of why they are no longer together, the reader remembers what an amazing chemistry they had between them. Forman, again, writes her own "rock star" novel.

Monday, July 25, 2011


I guess I am WONDERSTRUCK when I start to think about how fast the summer is going. I am busy, busy, busy this year with being a taxi! My kids are now at the age when they have more activities to "get to" than I have hours in the day. However, since the Walden Award has ended- WINNER: THE LAST SUMMER OF THE DEATH WARRIOR BY FRANCISCO STORK

This is a beautifully written narrative of a young man trying to negotiate his sister's death as well as his friendship with a boy struggling with cancer and treatments. It is a poignant look at how a young man grows up and incorporates his learning about life, death, right and wrong. Stork's gorgeous prose brings the readers directly into the plot, living the events with the characters.

I just finished WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick which is due out in Nov. 2011. This giant book is, as HUGO CABRET, a combination of graphic novel and narrative. However,in this particular book, the story of Ben is told in prose and the story of Rose is told completely in graphic form. Rose's story begins much earlier than Ben's although his story comes first. They are each on a quest and their stories intertwine in a beautiful way. I don't want to give away anymore for fear I will ruin it. This is definitely not to be missed. Also teaches time sequence, flashback and irony.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

I'm Back!

Whew. It's been almost a year. A crazy and hectic, overscheduled school year. I am coming up for air in a few weeks. As ironic as it sounds, I haven't posted in so long because I've been a member of the Amelia Walden Book Award Committee. Because the reading load was so intense (and because I had a horrid year in my school, among other issues), I haven't had time to post. But, I promise that this summer I will definitely be posting and blogging about what I read, cook and do.

My favorite at this time is The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. With her very first novel, the double MFA graduate has astounded. Lennie (John Lennon) is floating in grief over her teenage sister, Bailey's, death. Because her mother left when she was a toddler, Lennie and her sister, Bailey, lives with their eccentric artist grandmother and their giant, pot-smoking uncle, Big. Lennie is consumed by her sister's death and writes poetry to try to deal with her grief. Toby, Bailey's boyfriend, and we find out- fiance, latches on to Lennie to deal with his grief. Meanwhile, Lennie is beginning a relationship with newcomer to town, Joe Fontaine. Oddly enough, Lennie has found a sexual awakening at her sister's funeral, of all places, where her teenage body is buzzing with attraction for all things teenage and male. Lennie must now come to grips with her intense grief, the grief of her family members and her friendships and relationships with others.

Teens will find this incredibly and beautifully written novel completely consuming. Lennie is a beautiful character and the supporting characters are ones readers can truly know and cheer for. The poetry- OH! the poetry- is gorgeous. My guess is that Nelson's two MFAs are in creative writing and poetry. Lennie writes this beautiful poetry as an outlet for her grief and then leaves it all over town: under rocks, in trees, on to go cups rolling around town. As the end of the novel winds down, readers will be extremely satisfied. This is a book teens will read again and again.