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. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

It's Monday January 12th

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

I listened to this one - and it's a gem! The narrator was wonderful, and the story was so imaginative. I'm glad I put this one on my list.

The Shadow Hero is also on my Must Read list - but it's a Cybils contender so I can't discuss it :)

Cybils Short List
I can't talk about what I think about these titles - but here are the ones I've read this week.

Picture Books:

So glad I made the time for this one. It's full of great information and beautiful illustrations!

A nice overview in simple, accessible language for younger students.

Currently Reading:

Audiobook - Better Nate than Ever (MustReadin2015)
eBook - Pride & Prejudice (I will finish it!)
young adult - Birthmarked

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Slice - One Little Word - Mindful

This is my third year of selecting a "one little word" to guide me. 

In 2013, my word was "Create". I felt it really did focus me, and help me consciously choose activities that gave me creative outlets.

In 2014, my word was "Savor". Looking back on last year, I DID have a lot to savor.

I had my last full year as a den leader for my younger son. He'll cross over into Boy Scouts in early March. While I'm looking forward to not having a den, I loved the time I spent with him. Even the camping - with the chilly mornings and lack of nearby potty facilities - was all worth it.
Playing with his niece

I had two lovely weeks visiting with my sister's family in her home in Ohio, and another two weeks with them here at Christmas. Sunny days reading by the pool. Watching my niece and nephew learn and grow. Smiling as my own sons spent time reliving their own "little kid" years by playing with them. Hitting the shops with my mom and sister....

I finally devoted a real, weekly, scheduled time to hanging out with my best friend Lise. We crafted for Halloween, chatted, and generally just enjoyed one another's company. (This didn't happen much in December - it's time to get that back on the books).

Even so, I felt like I spent the year rushing from place to place - never really stopping to appreciate all that I have. I didn't put that word - Savor - at the forefront to remind me each day to take a moment and really inhale the beauty of my life.

So this year I'm choosing "Mindful".
I'm using the "bullet journal" technique I've heard of from many of my PLN, and I'm going to write that word on the top of each day's entry. I may not purposefully reflect or write about it - but it will be in my thoughts each day.

I WILL be mindful of the joy in my life. I will be mindful of my health and well-being. I will not forget to enjoy each moment, while still striving to make myself a happier and healthier person.

What's your guiding principle this year?

Come join the writing community at Two Writing Teachers. Someone is there Slicing (writing personal memoirs and reflections) every Tuesday. Let's Write! 

Monday, January 5, 2015

It's Monday January 5th

Welcome to my little corner of book heaven. Here's what I've read recently (though it's been a month since my last update). 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

Too much pink & blue - but a good message about including boys and girls together in fun and games.

Very cute!

Lovely story about connecting to nature and family.

Gaiman - beautiful storytelling.

Interesting, but abrupt ending.

My baby niece picked this one out.

Sweet short tale about really seeing those around us.


Intriguing new series, though the beginning was quite puzzling. Young adult (but seems okay upper middle grade so far)

The Stolen Moon  - out January 27th 
The sequel to The Lost Planet!

I think book two is better than the first book (which doesn't happen very often). The story is exciting and quick paced.

Excellent science fiction 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.

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

Creepy and Alluring - Winterspell by Claire Legrand 

I mean really - just look at that cover! Legrand says she was heavily influenced by a dark version of the Nutcracker. I don't know that tale very well, but I was fascinated by this world. Definitely darker with enough romance/love story to make it appeal to slightly older audiences (upper middle school and up). She sent an epilogue to those on her mailing list, but it will also be available on her blog in mid January.

Check out my end of year and start of year posts....

Favorite Middle Grade Books

Favorite Picture Books

Favorite Graphic Novels

Favorite Reads NOT published in 2014

Favorite Young Adult Novels

Must Read 2014 Final Update

Must Read 2015 List

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Favorite Young Adult Novels of 2014

Just one more post on my favorites from last year - and then I promise I'll jump right into all of this year's reading.

Science Fiction / Urban Fantasy

The first two books in this series made it onto my "not published in 2014" list. I'm so thankful I got an ARC of this book, and that looking at that book got me moving on reading the series. I love the science fiction spin on the fairy tales and I LOVE the characters. I can't wait for Fairest and Winter to come out this year!

I just adore Lish McBride. I love her snarky dialogue and I love her characters.

Review and interview:

If you want a little taste of her writing style, check out this short story. It has the main characters from Firebug. It doesn't spoil anything from the book and it doesn't expect you to know the plot already....

Realistic Fiction:
Wow - who would've thought I would have more realistic than fantasy/scifi on my list this year?

I connected so strongly with Cath. I was never a fan fic writer, but the struggles she faces in her freshman year of college hooked me from the start.

We Were Liars

I can't even put details here. Just like many of my friends have said - don't read reviews, just read the book. 

I will say that I felt the writing was amazing. Lovely, intense, and the story unfolded beautifully. That's it- more and I'd damage your experience reading the book. 

What are you waiting for? Go be a Liar.

Summer of Letting Go

Beautiful and sad. A lovely look at family, loss, and friendship. I loved all the little details, and the glimpse at the idea of reincarnation. One of my fifth graders was so enamored with this book last spring that he insisted on emailing Gae. That's power.

Don't miss my other 2014 posts out so far!

Interested in my favorites I read in 2014 that were published in other years?
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