I'm just going to toss a few collages onto the blog, and then I'll describe some of my favorites...
Well, this collage had some real winners! I'm not sure I can pick just a few...
Crenshaw - You WANT this book by Katherine Applegate; trust me.
I loved learning more about comics with Understanding Comics and Adventures in Graphica.
Speaking of comics - Nimona (YA) and The Underground Abductor were amazing.
X: A Novel made me want to learn even more about Malcolm X.
ECHO was beautiful. I loved how we got multiple perspectives on World War 2 and how the stories wove together.
Calpurnia Tate was fabulous! I think I liked book 2 even more than the first one (and I did love the first!) (ARC from publisher)
The Martian will be out as a movie soon. While it was definitely heavy on the science, there was a ton of humor that kept the story fun. This is an adult novel, but kids who love science and scifi from upper middle school will enjoy it.
Ashfall was great! I know a lot of people kept telling me to read it, but I ended up picking it up for my son to read. I read the first one, but he blasted through the whole series in a week.
***** My favorite of this lot, though?? FALLOUT by Gwenda Bond. This book was awesome! (I plan to do a full review). It's a look at Lois Lane as a high school student. It's adventurous, up-to-date, and had plenty of little "winks and nods" for those who like Superman tales.... but no prior knowledge of his story is really needed. Best of all, in my mind, is the fact that it's a YA that I can definitely allow upper elementary to read. (No major violence and really only mild crushes on the romance front).
Another excellent set of books. I listened to Beautiful Creatures - well narrated.
I loved Secrets of Selkie Bay (only a little biased due to the name connection...). It had an ambiguous ending that definitely appealed to me. (ARC from publisher)
School for Sidekicks rocked. Lots of twists and turns. I definitely need to make a book display of books that have superhero tie ins! (ARC from publisher)
Life in Outer Space was not what I was expecting - I grabbed it due to the scifi connection in the title. Instead, it was an excellent realistic fiction novel about geeks.... not that I know any of those.
Cleopatra in Space is a fabulous MG graphic novel series. This one had quite a cliffhanger ending, and I can't wait for book 3. I had to wait to read this one until the summer, because it was NEVER on my shelf at school!
Still with me? I can't blame you if you bailed already (this is a lot of books!) I promise to update more regularly this school year.
In this batch, there's some serious variety:
Memoir/Nonfiction: Wishful Drinking had some interesting spots. Overall, I'm not a huge memoir fan - but I couldn't resist hearing about Carrie Fisher's life.
Beyond Magenta was eye opening. I've heard critique from the trans* community about some aspects of this book, but as someone with almost no current knowledge I learned a lot.
Courage Has No Color was an audiobook from YASync this summer, but I've had it on my shelf and radar for a while. It was excellent as well.
Picture Books: Red - FABULOUS way to introduce how painful labels can be (while many have said this fits with books like George and the transgender experience, it doesn't have to).
Interstellar Cinderella - If you know me, you know this hits all my buttons. This Cinderella is a mechanic and (spoiler alert) doesn't end up married to the prince. Bonus - the illustrations are AWESOME and the prince has dark skin.
How to Read a Story - This is adorable. I love the illustrations and how the story celebrates creative reading of books. I bought this over the summer and will be gifting it to some little ones in my life.
Let me know in the comments if you want my thoughts on any of the others from my collages... I think this post is already long enough! I'll be doing a Must Read in 2015 update soon as well :)
Visit our Facebook page, comment here, or tweet us (@thebrainlair or @mariaselke with #BattyAboutBooks and/or #Shadowshaper) to join in the discussion!
I love the fact that we chose a book that is being praised for how it represents elements of American life that are so different from my own life story. Since we often talk about the need for diverse books to provide us both windows and mirrors, I’m going to frame at least some of my thoughts around those two ideas.
** For those reading my blog who aren’t familiar with this framework** Many think of diversity in literature giving us a window into lives that are different from our own (helping build connections, empathy, and understanding) and mirrors into aspects of our own lives that help us see value in who we are.
I grew up in an overwhelmingly white suburb just a short drive outside of Philadelphia. I attended a religious private school that was also mostly white and entirely Protestant. If you look at those two elements, there is much in Shadowshaper so far that is one huge window for me.
I grew up “in the projects” in the predominantly black south side of Chicago. I went to a public school that has since been taken over by the government. The housing project, run by the Chicago Housing Authority, does not exist anymore. In this way, Shadowshaper is a window for me too. The ease that Sierra walks alone around her area, did not exist.
** City life. I never had to worry about my family being in trouble with the cops. I never had to stress about safety. I do love how none of these things are made into a big “deal” in the story so far - they just are part of her understood environment.
Yeah, I do have brothers who were in and out of jail. Safety was job 1. You never went anywhere alone. You didn’t stay out late - unless you were prepared. I would have loved to go to a teen club. We really didn’t have places to go that may have kept some people out of trouble.
** Extended family living in close proximity - I love seeing how Sierra and her family get along. Having her godfather and aunt and family friends be so close is refreshing, too.
** Cultural heritage. Again - watching Sierra in her home and family group just feels natural. I feel like it’s MY job to figure out anything I don’t know. Did I have to look up a few words (like guayabera)? Yep. That is my job as the reader, though, not the author’s (or narrator’s) job to assume that my reality is “normal”. Believe me; I’m still in the early stages of learning this! Check out this video from the author on “Why we don’t italicize Spanish”
I loved seeing the words in Spanish. Used my Google Translator app many times. I liked that I could hold it over the words and get an idea of what was being said. I’m so happy that he kept it that way because I’m sure that is more natural. This is a real window. Love it!
** Discomfort with her appearance. Below I talk about how I DO identify with some of her appearance concerns (since I know almost all teen girls go through this stage), but some of her discomfort gave me a quick glimpse into a life that is nothing like my own. Sierra reminisces about chatting with a boy online and describing herself as “the color of coffee with not enough milk”. She stops and can’t even believe she said that about herself…. “not enough”.
I’ve been working to educate myself and LISTEN to people as they tell me what things bother them …. to listen to what they see as microaggressions… and to remember that we are all a product of our racist and sexist cultures. I catch myself making sexist remarks, even though I consider myself a feminist. This little section of her life stood out to me a glimpse into how we absorb the toxic attitudes of our world and reminds me that we all have to stay vigilant.
This would be a mirror for me. Even now, I lament about my hair, sometimes wishing it was straighter. Or that I could invest in one foundation instead of always mixing and having to find places that sell more than one darker shade.. Back when I wore pantyhose it always irked me that nude meant off-pink while coffee was meant for my bare skin. Even now, we have to go to a different part of town to get some hair products. I order most of them. Target has gained fame because it has one narrow section, about 2 ft wide and 4 ft tall, with “ethnic hair” products.
In spite of being in an environment is drastically different from my childhood home (her city) and in a cultural milieu quite different from my own (Latina), and her incredible artistic talent (I can’t even draw a stick figure); Sierra feels so familiar to me.
She’s fighting to feel comfortable in her own skin. She’s struggling with the balance between dressing to look nice for others and finding her own style. She’s listening to the advice of others (letting her friend braid her hair for her date) but she’s also really longing to just love herself the way she is.
She’s not boy crazy. Sierra wants to be her own person, and she’s not sure that any of the guys she knows really fit into that equation. I love and identify with her attitude from my own teen years.
I know so many teens will be able to see themselves here! I hope this book finds many readers!
Not quite sold on….
The importance of the magic. I think the concept of shadowshaping is very intriguing and quite unlike anything I’ve read before. Since I have read a decent amount of books that include some (or a lot) of magic, I do appreciate unusual takes on magic systems. What I’m not really getting yet is why this particular magic is so vital to Sierra’s world. I’m hoping that the second half of the book helps me understand why this is so important.
These are a few of my favorite things…
The domino players.
This group of men makes me laugh, too. I love that they respect Sierra’s art and want to make her murals a part of their landscape. I love how they taunt and jab at each other.
As we see more and more of the shadowshaper magic, I’m enjoying the overall creepy level of the darker variety. Any power can be corrupted - and the combined shadows are so scary! “Another mouth appeared along the creature’s shoulder; this one blubbered and gnashed…” (page 103)
Oh yeah… this is probably my FAVORITE part of the style of this story so far. It can be really hard to capture the cadence of language. I’ve found myself stopping and re-reading a section aloud so I can really hear the characters. It doesn’t feel forced - it just feels like I can hear them.
I’m glad we chopped this book into just two parts. I’m ready to dive back in and find out what happens!
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 30th 2015 by Arthur A. Levine Books (first published January 1st 2015)
ISBN 0545591619 (ISBN13: 9780545591614)
(Join us on our blogs (Kathy is at The Brain Lair) , on Facebook, or Tweet/IG with #BattyAboutBooks and/or #Shadowshaper. We'll post brief thoughts and quotes from the text during the week.)
I'll admit, I had heard about this book before seeing the cover. There were rumbles about this being an intriguing storyline. When I saw the cover, though, I was hooked.
+ The first thing that strikes me is the strength in that face. So often I feel like a young woman on a cover (be it a book or magazine) is posing to capture the gaze of the person observing. This lady isn't looking at me. She's looking at something beyond me... something I can't see. That's fascinating, isn't it?
- ? Of course, I then have to mention the fact that the lighting appears to have washed out her skin tone. Is her skin truly this pale, or does the artistic nature of the cover strive to make her appear lighter than she is? That could be a strike against the cover, once I read on and find a description of her appearance.
+ The colors are striking! The rainbow swirls that surround and accent her face add to the mystery about this character. It fits so well with the tag line that starts with art.
+ The tagline itself pulls me. I love how the "Paint a mural" part feels like such an odd pairing with the second and third lines: "Start a battle. Change the world." The odd juxtaposition of art and war immediately pulls at my curiosity.
+ I love the skyline shown at the bottom. We get a sense of the setting as well as the main character through that little detail. I like that they chose to make the silhouettes of the buildings in brown instead of black. It makes it a little less obvious and keeps the focus on the young woman's face and pose instead.
- I don't think the spine would attract my attention enough to get me to pull it off a shelf. Here's hoping it gets stored face out in book stores and libraries!
+ The color swirls continue the artistic look of the front. I also love that the blurbs are placed on a purple background. I'm curious about the red details toward the bottom. Are they hands?
I know I am ready to dive into the book! We'd love to have you read along and chime in with your thoughts here, on our FB page, or even on Twitter/IG! (You can use #BattyAboutBooks and/or #Shadowshaper)
We will post our discussion on the first 140 pages (20 chapters) on Saturday, August 1st. We plan to finish the book the following week. It's relatively short, and we don't want to lose the flow, but you can read at your own pace.
We'll also post brief thoughts and/or quotes along the way. See you then!
This quarter went fairly well, though I slowed down more than a little due to my current obsession with amigurumi.
Some AMAZING books on this list, my friends.
Nonfiction - Adventures in Graphica was filled with fabulous information on teaching comprehension using graphic novels and comics.
Middle Grade - The Dungeoneers is amazing! Fun, fast paced, and adventurous.
Young Adult - Okay, so mostly I read YA for this challenge this past quarter. Glory O'Brien and Aristotle and Dante were the stand out titles. Afterworlds was a intriguing style - weaving the story of a person WRITING a novel in with the actual novel itself. The Body Electric was a fascinating science fiction tale.
Well, actually, it's a bit yucky and muggy at my house this morning. Still, that makes it the PERFECT day to celebrate a book birthday. Bookstores are generally air conditioned, you know?
John David Anderson is the kind of author I love, my students love, and my sons love.
He writes about superheroes - Sidekicked.
He writes about villains (or are they?) - Minion.
His latest outing will appeal to the dungeon crawlers among us. Are your students are interested in tabletop or video games where you can "pick a class"? Do you sometimes hear them chatting about "whacking" things or "picking locks"? Harness that energy and hand them this book.
To celebrate this book birthday, I bring you this cute little Q&A that Anderson did for my fifth grade son. Check out his official Blog Tour stop at the Melange as well, if you are interested in hearing what rogues need and getting a little glimpse at the plot of this adventurous tale..
What was your favorite memory from early childhood?
One thing I remember is my mother taking me to the Target or Kmart on pay day--twice a month--to pick out a Star Wars figure. I would dream about it the night before, imagining the rows upon rows of notoriously inflexible guys, some with lightsabers literally implanted in their arms. Of course we could only afford to get one, a decision I agonized over, holding several in hand, debating the pros and cons of a Greedo versus a Lando, Hoth Han or Bespin. Of course all the ones I didn't get that day were stashed elsewhere in the store, hidden behind bars of soap or packages of underwear so other kids couldn't buy them--hoping to return in two weeks to find my buried stash. It never worked. Turns out people buy underwear and soap too.
How do you get ideas for books?
Ideas for books are everywhere. My mother's a good place to start. She's wonderfully kooky. And books. And movies. And childhood memories. And mythology. And something random you see on the Internet. Ideas are not the problem. The problem is execution--taking an idea and crafting it into a story, discovering the characters, encountering the themes, and--on a good day--maybe even coming up with a plot.
So, really, do you like chocolate? What's your favorite kind of chocolate?
Love it, in fact. I used to be a salty guy--potato chips were the initial cause of my love handles. But in the past decade I have developed an unfortunate sweet tooth. And unfortunately, the more expensive the chocolate, usually the better (personal recommendation: Trader's Joe's Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Caramels). Thankfully a Dove or some Peanut M&Ms can cure a craving pretty fast too.
Who is your favorite superhero?
I like superheroes who are flawed--I find the closer they get to general human depravity, the easier it is for me to relate to them. For that reason, I like The Tick best. Nigh invulnerable, yes. Super strong. Infallible sense of right and wrong. But also goofy. And clumsy. And a little daft sometimes. Like me.
How do you plan out your stories? Do you know what's going to happen before you write?
Actually, no. I'm kind of an organic writer--plant the seed and watch it grow. Writing for me is an act of everyday discovery, solving the mystery. It wouldn't be satisfying for me otherwise. I want to be surprised by my own characters. I want to put the pieces of the puzzle together in the moment and then step back and see what the picture looks like at the end (and then go back and completely rearrange the puzzle anyway). Plus I'm way too lazy to plan anything out and outlines scare me. Roman numerals? Seriously?
Have you ever wanted to run away from it all? Do you long for more adventure in your life? Have you ever dreamed of hopping on board a ship that is seeking buried treasure? Well, maybe you've never wanted to eat hard tack or climb a mast in a storm.. but you can experience the thrill of life on the high seas by reading the first book in this new series!
I adored Neversink, which came out in 2012, so I knew I wanted in on this new series by Wolverton. It did NOT disappoint. Action! Adventure! Gross vomiting scenes.... Okay, so that part made me feel more than a bit nauseated, but kids are going to eat it up. Yuck, poor choice of phrase there, right? Classroom Ideas: --Be sure to have lots of books of old maps on hand, or maybe some paper for kids to make their own.
--Partner this with other titles
- The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi (most editions have great information on ship terminology in the back)
- The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove has tons of fantasy maps. (this title is slightly harder than Vanishing Island) - Tie into the gross factor with the "You Wouldn't Want to...." series.
Hang out with us and get a little insight into his inspiration for the Vanishing Island....
The Vanishing Island ... the summary
(Publishing September 1, 2015):
Does the Vanishing Island really exist? And if so, what treasure—or terrible secret—was hidden by its disappearance?
It’s 1599, the Age of Discovery in Europe. But for Bren Owen, growing up in the small town of Map on the coast of Britannia has meant anything but adventure. Enticed by the tales sailors have brought through Map’s port, and inspired by the arcane maps his father creates as a cartographer for the cruel and charismatic map mogul named Rand McNally, Bren is convinced that fame and fortune await him elsewhere. That is, until his repeated attempts to run away land him a punishment worse than death—cleaning up the town vomitorium.
It is there that Bren meets a dying sailor, who gives him a strange gift that hides a hidden message. Cracking the code could lead Bren to a fabled lost treasure that could change his life forever, and that of his widowed father. But to get there he will have to tie his fate to a mysterious Dutch admiral obsessed with a Chinese legend about an island that long ago disappeared from any map.
Before long, Bren is in greater danger than he ever imagined, and will need the help of an unusual friend named Mouse to survive. Barry Wolverton’s thrilling adventure spans oceans and cultures, brings together the folklore of East and West, and proves that fortune is always a double-edged sword.
Vanishing Island...the inspiration
"The Master of Maps" - by Barry Wolverton
I remember being surprised the first time I learned that Rand McNally wasn’t a real person, and that the company synonymous with road atlases wasn’t descended from some ancient family of mapmakers. So I decided all of that should be true. No offense to William Rand, the American-born printer, and Andrew McNally, the Irish immigrant, who formed Rand, McNally & Co. in 1868 in Chicago.
In my alternate history, where Britannia in 1599 is an upstart kingdom in the shadow of the Netherlands and the Iberian Empire, Rand McNally is a media mogul in the first great Information Age. The printing press is relatively new in Europe, as is the ability to sail great distances and discover new worlds. Those with the most reliable maps of the most lucrative trade routes can make a fortune, and McNally has cornered the market.
I picture McNally as something of a cross between Al Swearengen of Deadwood and Rupert Murdoch, with some of the marketing shrewdness of Steve Jobs. Among his regular sources of revenue are so-called authentic treasure maps, backed by the legal authority of the queen, sort of like the way 19th-century American businessmen sold government-backed land claims to prospectors. All it took was one person finding one gold nugget to keep people buying claims. Meanwhile, the seller of claims was making money hand over fist off all the dreamers.
What’s all this got to do with Bren, the 12-year-old protagonist of The Vanishing Island? Well, McNally may be larger-than-life, arrogant, unscrupulous, and even cruel, but he does have an eye for talent. Bren’s father is one of his best draftsmen, and he’s seen enough of Bren to know that he, too, would be skilled at making the maps that make McNally wealthy. He also knows that Bren would rather explore the world than draw it, so when Bren blunders in his latest attempt to run away from Map, McNally seizes the opportunity. He uses his considerable influence to arrange a punishment almost worse than death, believing that after working in the Vomitorium, Bren will look more fondly on a career in mapmaking.
It just goes to show that even a ruthless media mogul can underestimate a headstrong 12-year-old.
SIMPLE ENTRY - win an ARC of this great new book! Fill in the google form below.
Barry Wolverton is the author of Neversink. He has more than fifteen years’ experience creating books, documentary television scripts, and website content for international networks and publishers, including National Geographic, Scholastic.com, the Library of Congress, and the Discovery Networks. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee. You can visit him online at www.barrywolverton.com.
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!
Just a few titles from the last *coughs* way too long since I posted. Here are some of my favorite reads!
Excellent "starter" science fiction for middle grades. I found the idea of Gabby sitting for alien children quite appealing, and the situations will make kids laugh! (I won a copy of this book in a contest)
Listened to this one, as it was a free YA Sync book. I read this in high school (and college). What a different experience as an adult! I still adore this book, but I kept feeling like reaching through and shaking the main character. "Oh, you poor immature child". I am pretty sure I didn't have this reaction when I read it as a teen.
Come back on the 18th for my stop on this blog tour! I really loved this action packed adventure (I received an ARC from the publisher)
I also participated in this blog tour. I love this author's sense of humor. I can't wait to get this book into kids' hands in the fall (it releases June 23rd - and I got an ARC from the publisher.
I brought this ARC into my classroom and I had a line form. The cover appeal is super strong, especially for gamers. Only 4 kids got through the book before the year was up, but they all gave it 4+ stars. It's marked as young adult, but I found it fine for my strong upper elementary (5th) students. (I also got this ARC from the publisher)