Thursday, September 6, 2012

Back to School

Back to school....back to school.  Sometimes I get that tune from Billy Madison in my head and I can't get it out.  Too funny.

Today, my kids wrote 6 word reading memoirs and I just had to share.  They are awesome and show that reading is still alive in middle school!  Yah!  I can't wait to book talk some good books tomorrow and get some of these tomes off the shelf and into the hands of kiddos!

A good read always helps you.

I love reading past my bedtime.

Middle School.  Not enough reading time.

Pleasure reading seems like forever ago

Reading always helps me relax everyday.

Good books do not like me.

Reading and me don’t get along

Don’t like textbooks.  Boring and big. 

Reading is life.  Get With It.

Reading all the time.  Not stopping

Haven’t found a really good book.

Reading is like being an adventurer.

Reading is an escape of stress.
Books are better the second time.

Imagine myself inside of a book.

I could read all summer long

I flip for a good book.

Opened  a book.  Fell in love.

I always read a good book.

Takes me to a different world.

Reading a book.  Leave me alone.

Not my favorite, but it’s okay.

Read.  You’ll never be bored again. 

I love reading all the time.

Reading since young.  Still loving it.

Love to read.  Book by book.

Reading is like being an adventurer.

I'd love to hear if you do this in your classroom or not.  The activity is taken from I Can't Keep My Own Secrets.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I am truly loving the audiobooks that Penguin is so graciously sending me for review.  And, I am a huge Theodore Boone fan.  Plus, there seems to be a cavernous hole in YA where mystery stories are concerned.  Not sure why- or, am I missing something?  This time*, Theo is under suspicion and about to be arrested for a theft that occurred at a local electronics store.  Thus, the young Boone is found in a new place in his life, trying to defend himself.  As usual, his "de-barred" uncle comes to the rescue to help Theo find a way out of his mess.  The beauty of this audio is Richard Thomas' narration.  I dare you to listen and not want to shout, "Good Night, John Boy!"  The pacing and voices Thomas adds to the narrative are soothing to the ears and portray the characters' personalities through voice quite well.  I have listened to the last two Theo Boone novels and have been thoroughly satisfied.

*For those unfamiliar with this series, Theodore Boone is the son of Marcella and Woods Boone, who are both lawyers.  Each novel provides another mystery to be solved, but they are all very close to the main character (i.e.  he doesn't find mysterious dead people, etc).

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Holy Moly- No Wonder It Won Two Top Awards! Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Despite the fact that the picture of the author looks like he could have been my student a few years ago...this was an incredible read. I need to go back and reread it immediately. I knew it would be all over our Book Awards talk next year, so I had to read the novel that won BOTH the Printz and the Morris Award this year.

The layers, oh the layers! I love layers in a novel. First, we have the religious aspect, which I found fascinating. The Gabriels and the Lazaruses (Lazari???:), and the Book of Enoch- which I'd never even heard of before? Not to sound like a religious scholar, but I guess I'm not up on my Gnostic Gospels and other sundry books left out of the Christian bible. I loved the threads of redemption, resurrection (of things and people) and obsession where Cabot and Benton were concerned.

I'm having difficulty doing this in a linear fashion because I want to talk about the layers. The other layer I loved was all of the different forms of love in the novel: friendship love, family love, brotherly love, romantic love and neighborly love. The ties between Cullen, Gabriel and Lucas really tugged at my heartstrings, hoping beyond hope that Gabriel would be found/rescued before the end of the novel.

Additionally, the whole idea of "things coming back" both physically and spiritually really hit home with me. So many of the characters tried so desperately to get out of Lily, Arkansas, only to be brought back by a variety of circumstances, like an endless boomerang being flung from the town's limits. But, I guess I am still wondering at the end if Gabriel really made it back or it was part of Cullen's 3rd person narration at work in his own mind. The book's website made me think it was a real return, but that kind of spoils the discussion I would want to have with students. There is evidence for both sides.

So much more here, but I will keep it at that. This will fly off of the shelves. Can't wait to book talk it on Monday.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

I am certain I can't tell you why it took me so long to get this done. Aside from the daily busyness of life, I think I just wanted to savor this book. And, the reading of it did just that. Like a long and meandering river, Bitterblue took me on a winding journey that wasn't full of swashbuckling action and wars, but rather a slow and deliberate look at a young queen trying to make sense of her past and, thus, her present.

This novel is actually referred to as the sequel to Graceling and Fire as the companion novel. It starts six years after Graceling ends, when Bitterblue (Leck and Ashen's daughter, who Katsa rescued in the first novel) is now 18 and ruling the kingdom of Monsea. She is still surrounded by advisors who "tended" to Leck and is trying to make sense of why her kingdom is so illiterate. Her innocent attempt at an answer leads her into an entire novel's worth of intrigue, culminating in a wonderful climax of trust and betrayal.

As always, Cashore creates a beautifully drawn, strong female character who learns about herself and the cruel hard truth of the world around her. The change, however, in Bitterblue as compared to Katsa is almost incomparable, for Bitterblue starts with much more innocence than Katsa ever did. Therefore, with each discovery of truth about her evil father and her kingdom, Bitterblue transforms even more into the gracious and powerful queen we know she can become. Without spoiling anything, the way Cashore has woven the characters from her past novels into this one is uplifting beyond belief.

And, now, I will throw this ARC to the wolves. That soon as students saw me reading this ARC, they started their own instantaneous list of who would receive it next based on how much they loved Graceling. I shall "grace" my shelves with many copies of this hardcover. No pun intended.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Drummer Girl by Karen Bass

Sid (short for Sidney) just wants to be a drummer. And, from what everyone says, she's pretty good. When she finally lands a try out with the cool "jock" band at school, The Fourth Down, she knows she's done much better than her competition and class jerk, Wesley. However, the band can't really handle a "female drummer" with a tomboy look, so Sid asks her cousin, Heather, to remake her into a more girly girl. Unfortunately, this brings up another entire crop of issues. Apparently, now she is too attractive and becomes fodder for rumors and sexual advances.

Sid learns who she really is throughout this novel and I am very proud of who she becomes by the end. But, this is about so much more than just a girl making herself over. It's about self acceptance, questioning sexuality and preferences, knowing who to trust,abandonment and turning a single father into less of a workaholic and more of a dad. From the first page readers will root for Sid, but question many of her choices later. She has a short temper and has been raised mostly by men (her older brother and dad), so she can hold her own against the boys. Sid will hang out in your head long after the last page.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fishtailing by Wendy Phillips

This is the second time I've read this novel and I love it more with each read. Told in verse, Phillips gives us four students', a teacher and a counselor's perspective of what is going on in their lives. Kyle, Miguel, Tricia and Natalie are all students of Mrs. Farr. The students pair up and begin "dating" while Natalie, a new and "hardened" student, turns Tricia (a sweet girl) over to the "dark" side. As Tricia creates her new image, Natalie encourages her to do things Tricia doesn't always feel comfortable with. The novel reaches a climax with a life changing for all four of the students.

If you imagine a fishtail braid, then you can see how the novel got its title. After dividing the hair into two pieces, one small piece from each side gets moved to the other side until all of the hair is beautifully intertwined. The lives of Kyle, Miguel, Tricia and Natalie do just that. Mrs. Farr, the teacher, and the counselor are the bookends to these students. I wanted to wring the neck of Mrs. Farr for her distant and seemingly aloof attitude about what was going on with her students. She didn't talk to them about their real lives and it was a constant irritation as I read. But, not a bad one. She was a hard edge in this gritty and incredibly realistic plot.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


This came in the mail yesterday! I have been waiting for this for sooo long and am only saddened that I didn't get it earlier during break. But,....that's OK! I am already engrossed in the pages. A HUGE THANK YOU to the folks at Penguin for sending me a triple boxed set! Graceling, Fire and the Bitterblue ARC! Look for the novel in stores in May, and look for my review VERY SOON!

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

It seems to be a bit late for the review, but I LOVED this book! It kept me entranced the entire train ride back from NCTE in Chicago and I finished the last page as the train pulled into the A2 station.

For those who love classics, this book will not disappoint. Young Victor Frankenstein and his twin brother, Konrad, are playing around in their mansion's library with their cousin, Elizabeth, when they stumble upon a secret passageway. Further investigation leads them to a secret library and workshop where they later learn their ancestors used to illegally practice alchemy. The elder Mr. Frankenstein warns against their ever returning to the "dungeon". However, Konrad becomes ill and Victor is desperate to do anything to save him. As Konrad languishes in his bed day after day, Victor and Elizabeth struggle to seek out help from an invalid alchemist in their town in Switzerland. A search, alchemy and romance ensues as the two try to find the three ingredients needed for Konrad's life saving "elixir of life."
This novel is a true gothic read for young adults, something we don't come across very often. As a lover of historical fiction and classic fiction, I loved this book and am so very glad there will be more. I am anxious to see young Victor turn into the scientist of Mary Shelley's. The characters are wonderfully round and there is a plot twist at the end that made me gasp out loud on the train. Get a copy of this and share it with your students! Mine are fighting over it.

By the way, if you have been struggling over how to pronounce this author's last name (like I have for many years- pronunciation is very important to me), the correct way Mr. Oppel says it is: "Opal" Straight from the horse's mouth, ladies and gentleman.