Monday, February 23, 2015

It's Monday February 23rd

Welcome to my little corner of book heaven. Here's what I read the last two weeks. Don't forget to visit the lovely hosts of this meme - Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. There are links to a LOT of posts there!

Graphic Novels:

Amazing illustrations and a fabulous story of a summer of changes and tiptoeing into adulthood. I can see why this one got a Caldecott Honor (keep in mind it is for middle school and up!)

Not my favorite of the gods, so not my favorite of this series. Still, it was an interesting way to showcase many parts of the Trojan War.

Picture Books

Some amazing entries in this one - and the illustrations are all great. I wish the writing had been more consistently amazing, though. Still worth buying, especially for the Marian Anderson poem.

I'm so glad someone mentioned this title a few weeks back. I'll be adding it to the stack of books I'm asking my 5th graders to blurb for our We Need Diverse Books campaign.

Middle Grade

A lovely story about a girl with dyslexia and a caring teacher who helps her discover her strengths. I loved the older brother and the real world problems her family faces while her father is deployed.

Super silly and fun. I can't wait to get this one to my students.

A fun start to a new historical fiction series! I love Ranger and his time traveling, rescue dog ways.

Young Adult

I wanted to love this science fiction tale of revolution and alien civilizations, but it ended up only being okay. Still, I've read both books in the series so far and I plan to read the rest. I just didn't connect with the characters as much as I'd hoped.

Pop Sugar - author with my initials.
If you haven't read this series yet, you want to start now! I adore all the characters and I love the storyline with the ley lines and hidden, sleeping kings. Having an ambitious and odd tale where I still completely love the characters and enjoy all of their interactions makes this series a "must always acquire quickly" one for me.

I wrote a quick post yesterday compiling some feminist literature suggestions from my twitter pals, if you are into that kind of thing..

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Feminist Lit Suggestions From My Twitter Pals

I decided to toss a quick question out there to my Nerdy Book Club and Feminist friends on Twitter. I wanted to make my "should have read in school" book for the Pop Sugar Challenge be something feminist... maybe something that I just can't believe I missed along the way.

Just in case you want to use some of these, I've also indicated other categories in which they could fit. 

Never fear - my amazingly literate colleagues on Twitter gave me so many from which to choose!

Lee Ann says this is a science fiction choice - that sounds right up my alley! 

** I can add this in and count it for the "title has a color" category!**  

** Second Sex was originally in French, so this one can also count in that category ** 

If you'd like some of MY feminist recommendations...

Post-apocalyptic and brings in traditional Greek drama.

The Suffrage movement and the start of unions with the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.

Nonfiction history of female heroes in pop culture.

Monday, February 9, 2015

It's Monday February 9th

Welcome to my little corner of book heaven. Here's what I read the last two weeks. Don't forget to visit the lovely hosts of this meme - Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. There are links to a LOT of posts there!

Picture Books

Jane Yolen - I am on a mailing list that Jane maintains. She puts out a poem every day and just asks that those who read take the time to read one of her books each month. Some months I forget, so this month I snagged three picture books from my library.

Lovely illustrations and very simple text.

Book love is evident throughout this one. Baby Bear insists that there are books over the entire day.

Odd and slightly creepy, but beautiful. Would be fun near Halloween!

Award - Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book
I'm adding this to use with my students this week as we discuss and write blurbs for books with diverse creators and characters.

Award - Schneider
I loved that this is a true story! I'm also using this one with my students this week.

Interesting - but there's something about the illustrations that didn't do it for me.

Young Adult

PopSugar - banned book.

Painful and beautiful. I'm so glad I made the time to put this one at the top of my list.

Comic - issue 4. This is a great series! I need to reread all of them in order. Creepy boarding school in Gotham - what's not to love?

PopSugar - author under 30 years old.
Audio book. I wasn't keen on the narrator, but the story of "EOs" (extra ordinary) people being created by near death experiences was chilling. What is the line between hero and villain?

Middle Grade

Comes out Feb 24th. What do you do when you find out the REAL reason your mother left is that your family is under a curse and you may be next? Lovely tale of family and forgiveness.

What can I say about this one? All caught up on Nerdbery again... and enjoyed every minute. I'm not a sports person, but I loved these characters and the novel in verse style packed a huge punch.

Monday, February 2, 2015

It's Monday February 2nd - What Are You Reading?

Welcome to my little corner of book heaven. Here's what I read the last two weeks. Don't forget to visit the lovely hosts of this meme - Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. There are links to a LOT of posts there!

Cybils Short List - I completed these titles in the past two weeks.

Young Adult:

I LOVED this book! I need to read the rest of the series, although I am sad that my favorite character is gone.

Zombies and journalism... oh, yeah.

PopSugar - over 500 pages

Intriguing look at Levana's early life and what made her the woman she is today. Short, but will make the wait for Winter easier.
PopSugar - 2015 release

We need a LOT more historical fiction set around the Suffrage movement. This was a great one.
PopSugar - Cover Love

Intriguing premise for science fiction - we have aliens we are desperately hoping will make an alliance with us, so we set up an "exchange" program.
I liked the romance aspect at first, and then it got to be too much for me.
PopSugar - set in the future

So VERY strange, but I adored it. I wish I had it in paper instead of an ebook, because I kept wanting to flip back to previous sections to trace the names through time.
PopSugar - one word title

Middle Grade:
A girl travels into the world where authors create their stories... to save her famous writer mom. I really loved this one (and it's in my trio of reviews linked below)
PopSugar - new to me author

For the PopSugar "book written by a woman" - instead I am going for at least 50% by women. At the moment I have 6 by men, 10 by women, and 1 that is a man/woman partnership (a GN)

Comic Books:
This is a trade (includes 4 comics). Believe it or not, I wasn't super excited by this one. The narration style didn't do it for me. I did like the final comic more than the others, as it tied the story together well.

AWESOME! I will be reading this series and the Leia series that begins in March.

Recent Reviews: I recommend a trio of amazing new middle grade novels!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Middle Grade Bonanza! Trio of Fabulous New Titles

Here are three books you absolutely want to put into your middle grade library this year! 

The Stolen Moon 

(Chase Garrety #2)

Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication: January 27th 2015 by Feiwel & Friends
ISBN 1250038804 (ISBN13: 9781250038807)

Goodreads Blurb:
This is what the boy is told:
- His younger sister has an otherworldly (and sometimes annoying) ability.
- The starship he now lives on has been infiltrated.
- His friend Parker is working on the network hack of a lifetime.

This is what Chase and Parker fear:
- They won't be able to save the world in time.

My Thoughts:
Stolen Moon is an excellent science fiction novel for middle grade readers who like action packed adventure. We have a little more action for the girl characters in this one... but I'd still like to see that increase in book three. Students who enjoy space science fiction will definitely find a new and beloved home in this world.

I interviewed Rachel Searles when book one came out, and gave my thoughts on that book ...

Science Concepts:
Genetics and special powers
Space Travel
Conditions for life on other planets

All the Answers

Hardcover, 256 pages
Expected publication: January 27th 2015 
by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
ISBN 1619633744 (ISBN13: 9781619633742)
Goodreads Blurb:
What if your pencil had all the answers? Would you ace every test? Would you know what your teachers were thinking? When Ava Anderson finds a scratched up pencil she doodles like she would with any other pencil. But when she writes a question in the margin of her math quiz, she hears a clear answer in a voice no one else seems to hear.

With the help of her friend Sophie, Ava figures out that the pencil will answer factual questions only – those with definite right or wrong answers – but won’t predict the future. Ava and Sophie discover all kinds of uses for the pencil, and Ava's confidence grows with each answer. But it's getting shorter with every sharpening, and when the pencil reveals a scary truth about Ava's family, she realizes that sometimes the bravest people are the ones who live without all the answers...

My Thoughts:
I know quite a few students who live with Ava's level of anxiety every day. For gifted kids, heightened sensitivity and an understanding of the problems in the world around them make this a fairly common trait. This character, and her voice, rang clear and true in my head. Shall I confess to being one of those highly anxious kids myself? I was absolutely Ava. 

I loved how Ava has a more outgoing, risk-taking friend. I love how her family is still there for her, and supports her. I love how Ava learns how to use her pencil, and makes her decisions about WHEN to use it. Kids will identify with her "don't ask if you can Google it" rule! 

My own acrophobia twinged me multiple times while Ava was on her adventure course, which added to the excitement. Kids will love vicariously experiencing her courage as she faces her fears. 

Classroom Uses:
"Ethics" - 
When I try to get into a discussion about good and bad choices with my students, I really want them to dive into more of a debate about ethics. They tend to stay more on a surface level. This tale gives numerous opportunities to discuss choosing in the grey areas. 

Conquering fear -
Another common concern among my students is teaching them how to take reasonable risks. Perfectionism and anxiety lead so many of them to be highly risk-avoidant. Watching Ava learn how to step outside her comfort zone will be a great example, and could spark excellent discussions.

Finding Serendipity

Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: February 3rd 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (first published May 2013)
ISBN 162779154X (ISBN13: 9781627791540)

Goodreads Blurb:
When Tuesday McGillycuddy and her beloved dog, Baxterr, discover that Tuesday’s mother—the famous author Serendipity Smith—has gone missing, they set out on a magical adventure. In their quest to find Serendipity, they discover the mysterious and unpredictable place that stories come from. Here, Tuesday befriends the fearless Vivienne Small, learns to sail an enchanted boat, tangles with an evil pirate, and discovers the truth about her remarkable dog. Along the way, she learns what it means to be a writer and how difficult it can sometimes be to get all the way to The End.

My Thoughts:
Here's the book you want to get into the hands of your book lovers; your writers; your dreamers. Tuesday is a budding writer, and she dives into the world her mother created with gusto. I was just having a discussion a few days ago with my third grade reading group. Several of them wanted to share the details of the books THEY are writing, and I just can't wait to get this book into their hands!

I absolutely love the idea that writers end up in another world when they are creating. The Librarian in that world is a delight! The dining room in the library was so creative. I wish I had someone who laid out the foods I would need for just the right situation.

I also loved the fact that this middle grade heroine was able to find adventure and excitement without needing to be an orphan or have parents who treated her poorly. Tuesday's family is loving, warm, and supportive.

Possible Uses:
Fan Fiction:
     Since she is writing in her mother's world, you could introduce the idea of creating stories with the characters others have created. Maybe you can even get some more reluctant writers to dive into their favorite worlds?

Creative prompts:
     What would you put in a dish labeled "Confidence food" or "I'm about to get myself into trouble" or "Food for the road"? (Or let students choose other dishes from the book or make up their own food titles!)

     What would your "secret self" look like in this other world? Would you have wings? Special powers?

What amazing middle grade books have you discovered lately?

Monday, January 19, 2015

It's Monday January 19th

It's Monday!

Welcome to my little corner of book heaven. Here's what I read last week. Don't forget to visit the lovely hosts of this meme - Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. There are links to a LOT of posts there!

Must Read in 2015 titles:
(will be counting both in Pop Sugar challenge but debating the category still)

I listened to this one, and it was fabulous! I chuckled at many of the musical theater references. I cringed at the way Nate was treated by those around him.

My only concern with using this in elementary is the number of instances of gay bashing slang. Will it be too much for 4th? 5th? Is this a book I keep for my 5th graders? I have a few students I know will like this one (5th graders) and I'll seek their opinions.

LOVED IT! Jackaby has a real Sherlock vibe, and I loved the urban fantasy environment. I'll be reading the rest of this series as it comes out.


This week I read
Gaijin (historical fiction)
Dumbest Idea Ever (memoir)  - counting as "memoir" for Pop Sugar
Through the Woods (creepy short stories)

Old School Lit

A re-read of an older title. I was part of the "Tuck 40th" blog tour this week as well...

Counting for "read in a day" for Pop Sugar.

I DID IT! I made it through! Thanks to all my friends who suggested a watching of the miniseries to help me visualize the characters as I read.

Now I can take on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and not feel guilty that I missed reading the original version.

Oh... and did you know that even JANE AUSTEN gets mashed up with Star Wars? Oh yeah...

This title will count for "book written over 100 years ago" for Pop Sugar.

I met Caragh O'Brien while in Connecticut at Confratute this summer. She was a wonderful speaker, and I grabbed signed copies of her trilogy. I finally read the first book this week, and it was great!

Counting this in the "trilogy" category once I finish up the other two books.



Did you know she was under 30 when this came out? (Yep, that's a Pop Sugar category!)

Coming out soon! (Feb 3rd)

This middle grade novel is about a girl who ends up in the land where writers live out their stories. It has a bit of an Inkheart vibe, and I'm eating it up!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Celebrate Tuck Everlasting at 40

What if you could live forever? Would you even want to?

Those simple questions are at the very core of Tuck Everlasting, but they are also questions that have driven humans to explore, experiment, and create since our earliest records. We seek the fountain of youth. We create more effective medications to combat our illnesses. We write books and screenplays exploring the lives of those who can live beyond the span of a human lifetime.

Is it the fact that we know it will never be truly possible that leads us to create immortal characters who are filled with loneliness and regret?

Consequences of Eternal Life

The Highlander movie shows us the pain and suffering that comes when one partner is young and immortal, while the other cannot help but grow older. Bonus points for a cool Queen song to accompany a traumatic movie scene.

The Elves of Middle Earth grow bored and restless over their long lives. More of them than we could imagine give up their longevity to spend a single, mortal life with a beloved human.

Vampires haunt our storytelling, but their immortality comes at the price of their souls. Recent tales of blood-suckers may make them seem less evil, but they are still always lonely and searching for purpose and connections.

The Tuck family stumbled upon their gift, but the price is high. They can never settle down. They must constantly roam to avoid detection. They guard a secret they know humanity can not be trusted to use wisely.

My Conditions:

Even with those sobering examples, the idea of living forever - or at least for a very long time - is alluring. I'm at the age now where I have so many things I still want to do, see, and experience. I want to see my children as adults. I want to see what happens as we push farther into the cosmos. I want to hold onto my loved ones and never let them go. Yet I know I'm on the slippery slope downward. Downward to mortality.

If someone handed me a mug of the water of eternal life, would I drink? I think the lure of curiosity and love would tug on my quite strongly, as long as these conditions could be met:

     - Companionship. I wouldn't want to be one of an elite few. Yes, I know that death is part of the cycle of life. I know that if everyone lived forever there would be no room on the planet. Still, I would not want unending life if it meant I would be alone or stuck with just a handful of people who knew me. The Tucks have each other - but that's a pretty tiny group with which to spend eternity!

     - Health and Vitality. Does this go with living forever? It better, or I'm not signing up! Most tales of eternal life have you stop aging once you cross over. While being 42 is just fine for me now, I think I'd rather have the health and vitality I did in my mid thirties. Clear vision, a strong heart, and no aches and pains would be imperative. What good is it to live forever if you roll out of bed each morning with back aches and a cranky stomach?

     - Wealth. Hiding your eternal nature would be increasingly difficult in today's globally wired world. With finger printing and retinal scanning and.... whatever else we come up with in the next few years to check identities... it would take an awful lot of money to circumvent the system. I'd also need quite a little nest egg to do all the traveling that is on my bucket list. Pyramids of Egypt? Check. Walking the Great Wall? Check. Paying someone off so I can watch sunrise at the exact right time in the exact right spot at Stonehenge? Check!

Clearly, none of those things are really possible. So instead of that glass of bubbly water of life, I'd like:

1) Healthy longevity. Let's kick cancer to the curb. Let's find a way to help everyone live in health and comfort. Let my loved ones live long and healthy lives so we can enjoy one another for as long as possible.

2) Healthy economy. I'm planning for retirement, but that economy needs to stay at least stable so I can enjoy it.

3) Healthy mind. I want to be able to read and write and think until I take my last breath. That's reasonable, right?

What would you do? Would you choose to drink from the spring of eternal life?

Preorder your copy of the anniversary edition today!

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
40th Anniversary Edition
On sale January 20, 2015
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers
Ages 10 – 14
Grades 4 – 8
192 pages Hardcover:
978-0-374-30167-5 | Paperback: 978-1-250-05929-1

Press Release Info:
2015 marks the 40th anniversary of Natalie Babbitt’s celebrated, ground-breaking title Tuck Everlasting (Anniversary edition on sale January 20). In celebration of the anniversary, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group will publish a special anniversary edition featuring an introduction from Wicked author Gregory Maguire.

Natalie will be in conversation with Gregory Maguire at Symphony Space in New York City on Sunday, January 25 at 1:00 PM. Alexis Bledel, star of the 2002 movie adaptation, will read from the book.

Tuck Everlasting asks readers “What if you could live forever?” Doomed to, or blessed with, eternal life after drinking from a magic spring, the Tuck family wanders about trying to live as inconspicuously and comfortably as they can. When ten-year-old Winnie Foster stumbles on their secret, the Tucks take her home and explain why living forever at one age is less of a blessing than it might seem. Then complications arise when Winnie is followed by a stranger who wants to market the spring water for a fortune. 

Upon the book’s publication in 1975, Natalie was greeted with concern from parents and educators who were stunned to read a book about death written for children. She is an author who challenges her readers and thinks the best questions are the ones without answers.

This 40th anniversary will introduce a whole new generation to this timeless classic. The book has sold over 3.5 million copies in the US alone, and has never been out of print since publication.

NATALIE BABBITT is the award-winning author of Tuck Everlasting, The Eyes of the Amaryllis, Knee-Knock Rise, and many other brilliantly original books for young people. She began her career in 1966 as the illustrator of The Forty-Ninth Magician, a collaboration with her husband. When her husband became a college president and no longer had time to collaborate, Babbitt tried her hand at writing. Her first novel, The Search for Delicious, established her gift for writing magical tales with profound meaning. Knee-Knock Rise earned her a Newbery Honor, and in 2002, Tuck Everlasting was adapted into a major motion picture. Natalie Babbitt lives in Connecticut, and is a grandmother of three. 

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