Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Must Read in 2015 Second Quarter Update


Time for my quarterly "Must Read in 2015" update!


I put 39 books on my list for this year.


Full List for the Year
First Quarter Update  (Read 12 of the 39)

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. 


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Dungeoneers - Happy Book Birthday!


It's a glorious day for a party!

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?


What kinds of games do you like?


I'm a bit of a board game aficionado. Our game closet has over a hundred games in it, but my personal favorites are Settlers of Catan, Carcasonne, and Dominion. I try to avoid games that rely too heavily on luck--I'm lucky enough to be able to do what I do for a living. I don't play many video games, though I do like to let my son cream me at Mario Kart from time to time. Stupid red turtle shells.


Thanks again for the fun answers, and best of luck as this latest title hits the shelves!

Author Info 
John David Anderson is the author of Sidekicked and Minion. A dedicated root beer connoisseur in his spare time, he lives with his wife, two kids, and perpetually whiny cat in Indianapolis. You can visit him online at www.johndavidanderson.org.

Links for John David Anderson: 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/anderson_author
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JohnDavidAndersonAuthor?ref=hl
Links for Walden Pond Press:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WaldenPondPress
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WaldenPondPress
Website/Blog: http://www.walden.com/books/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/waldenpondpress/

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Vanishing Island Blog Tour - Join the Adventure!



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.



Author Info 
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.

Links for Barry Wolverton: 

Links for Walden Pond Press:




Blog Tour Schedule: 
6/15/2015 Blue Stocking Thinking                  bluestockingthinking.blogspot.com
6/16/2015 The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia    hauntedorchid.blogspot.com
6/17/2015 Small Review                               smallreview.blogspot.com                 
6/18/2015 Maria's Melange                         www.mariaselke.com/
6/19/2015 Unleashing Readers                    unleashingreaders.com 
6/19/2015 The Hiding Spot                             ​thehidingspot.blogspot.com 
6/22/2015 This Kid Reviews Books              thiskidreviewsbooks.com 
6/23/2015 Mundie Kids                                http://mundiekids.blogspot.com/
6/24/2015 Paige in Training                        https://pageintraining.wordpress.com 
6/25/2015 Novel Novice                              novelnovice.com


** disclaimer ** I received a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest thoughts.

Monday, June 15, 2015

It's Monday June 15





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) 

 


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Dungeoneers by John David Anderson - Tour and giveaway!




Welcome to the blog tour for John David Anderson's newest novel.... The Dungeoneers! I'm thrilled to share this title with the world; and I love the piece he wrote for my blog on "The Rogue Essentials" 

(Don't forget to get all the way to the end of the post and leave a comment for your chance to win a copy of the book. I'll choose one commenter at random on June 14th at the end of the blog tour.) 


I make no secret of my love for all things geeky. Fantasy, science fiction, superheroes.... you name it, and I am there. Anderson had the scifi supheroes covered in his last two books (Sidekicked and Minion - which I also loved). 

For this one, he tackles dungeon crawlers. I can't wait to share this title with my students. There's a character in it for everyone. Rogues and wizards. Warriors and druids. What class would you pick? 



Dungeoneers summary  (Publishing June 23, 2015):
The Dungeoneers is an action-packed, funny, and heartbreaking middle grade fantasy-adventure from the author of the acclaimed Sidekicked and Minion, John David Anderson.

The world is not a fair place, and Colm Candorly knows it. While his parents and eight sisters seem content living on a lowly cobbler's earnings, Colm can't help but feel that everyone has the right to a more comfortable life. It's just a question of how far you're willing to go to get it.

In an effort to help make ends meet, Colm uses his natural gift for pickpocketing to pilfer a pile of gold from the richer residents of town, but his actions place him at the mercy of a mysterious man named Finn Argos, a gilded-toothed, smooth-tongued rogue who gives Colm a choice: he can be punished for his thievery, or he can become a member of Thwodin's Legions, a guild of dungeoneers who take what they want and live as they will. Colm soon finds himself part of a family of warriors, mages, and hunters, learning to work together in a quest to survive and, perhaps, to find a bit of treasure along the way.


Now - let's get started. Do you dream of being a rogue? John David Anderson shares some essential information ....


The Rogue’s Essentials

So you’ve decided to become a rogue. We should probably say something to the effect of “nice knowing you” or “your funeral,” but in the interest of at least appearing cheery and optimistic, we’ve decided to try and prepare you for this occasionally lucrative but always life-threatening endeavor. 

With that in mind, we’ve listed here the five things you absolutely must have if you plan to start a career as a lock-picking, pick-pocketing, coin-pilfering, shadow-skulking, dungeon diver.

1. Lock picks

A set of lock picks is to a rogue what a horn is to a unicorn or the smell of rotten eggs is to a severe bout of flatulence. It defines him. It is essential to his very existence. And it usually fits nicely in a handbag or wide cloak pocket. Introductory lock pick sets come with a dozen standard picks and tension tools designed to jiggle your way into most common tumbler locks, but the seasoned professional will want a wider array of tools. We recommend Pilfer and Son’s Spelunker Professional’s Package, which also includes three extractors, one declutcher, an acid injector, a pair of titanium bolt cutters, tweezers, and a reusable toothpick. It also comes in an attractive, basilisk-skin case (available in sickly-poison green or crusty-dead-thing brown). Conversely, we’ve found that a hairpin can do wonders in a pinch.

2. Cloak

While a shirt of chainmail or a nice pair of grieves makes a practical addition to the rogue’s ensemble, a multi-pocketed cloak is an absolute must. The goal of any rogue is to leave a dungeon carrying more than he came in with, and that requires substantial on-the-body storage. Assassin brand’s Dagger line of cloaks provides comfort and stylishness in a multi-pocketed, secret-compartment design and comes with holsters for your throwing knives to boot. For those looking to fit in with the upper echelon of rogues, South Façade cloaks have become quite popular, though it’s hard to justify the vast difference in price. Basically you are paying for the label. 

3. A sharp thing

Again, opinions vary greatly on how a rogue should defend him or herself. Some advocate an almost exclusive use of poison. Others claim that the best offense is having someone or something bigger and stronger standing in between you and whomever you’ve offended (walls are best, followed by barbarians). Most rogues, however, will carry at least one item sharp enough to cut a wedge of cheese. 

Be it scimitar or sabre, dagger or falchion, butter knife or nail file—so long as it is pointy it will serve its purpose, which is primarily to distract the enemy long enough to find an escape route. The good news is that swords and daggers are easy to come by in the life of a dungeoneer—simply take one off of the dead body you just stepped over on your way down.

4. Reading material

Rogues continually dispute the relative merits of the many guides that claim to catalog their craft. Certainly The Rogue’s Encyclopedia by Darrius Snowthorn is the most exhaustive of the bunch, encompassing three illustrated volumes. But the more frugal minded treasure-snatcher will do just as well with Frodor’s Guide to General Skullduggery at nearly a third of the price. If you wish to avoid dungeons all together and simply take the assassin’s route to riches, Backstabbing for Dummies will tell you all you need to know (diagrams included).

5. Magic Dan’s Anti-magic Paste

Assuming you are venturing alone or that you are venturing with a mage who has been recently decapitated by one of those swinging-scythe traps (which you probably should have disarmed—just saying) and is therefore incapable of casting counter magic (not having a head severely dampens your magical proclivities), you will want to have a jar of Magic Dan’s on hand. Capable of eating away at enchantments on a variety of inanimate objects, the slightly minty, not altogether unpleasant-tasting concoction will prove especially handy when disenchanting those pesky magically-enhanced locks that would otherwise turn you to stone or make your eyeballs implode. After all, For magic locks, don’t trust any man, for locks, use Magic Dan.

And that should do it—or at least it’s enough to get you started. Of course there’s no substitute for having a good mentor to show you the ropes (and keep you from swinging from one). Finally, if you are still on the fence about whether a career in dungeoneering is right for you, you should consider reading 

Colm Candorly’s account of his early adventures in the business as catalogued by the bard, J.D. Anderson, available from fine bibliothecas kingdom-wide.







Author Info 
John David Anderson is the author of Sidekicked and Minion. A dedicated root beer connoisseur in his spare time, he lives with his wife, two kids, and perpetually whiny cat in Indianapolis. You can visit him online at www.johndavidanderson.org.

Links for John David Anderson: 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/anderson_author
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JohnDavidAndersonAuthor?ref=hl
Links for Walden Pond Press:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WaldenPondPress
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WaldenPondPress
Website/Blog: http://www.walden.com/books/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/waldenpondpress/







Blog Tour Schedule: 
6/2/2015 Maria's Melange                                                                     
6/5/2015 Unleashing Readers                                                 
6/6/2015 The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia                
6/7/2015 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers          
6/8/2015 This Kid Reviews Books                                       
6/8/2015 Ms Yingling Reads                          ​           
6/9/2015 Read Now Sleep Later                     
6/10/2015 Charlotte's Library                                   
6/11/2015 Nerdy Book Club                              

6/12/2015 The Hiding Spot                                          



WIN A COPY OF THE BOOK! 
Leave a comment AND fill in the form below. 
-- must be at least 13 to enter
-- US and Canada residents only
-- book will be provided by the publisher. 
-- if you win, I will email you and get information to share with the publisher
-- email address collected will ONLY be used if you win, to get your information for the publisher. 

For commenting -- Let me know which piece of essential gear for rogues you think is most important, tell me which class of character YOU would want to be as a Dungeoneer, or share why you think kids will love this book. I'll choose one comment at random on June 14th. 


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Slice - Teaching is my Super Power

Untitled
Teaching is my superpower -
and it doesn't even require a cape!


Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day....


Some days I feel like our nation doesn't really appreciate us. There are news stories about our greed and lack of intelligence. There are comments on EVERY news article telling teachers to "suck it up" and "just be thankful" we have jobs. We are told to "quit and find another job if you don't like it"....



And yet.


It's the day to day smiles on the faces of my students.

It's the question, "Why weren't you here yesterday?" accompanied by the disappointed look in their eyes. They understand that I was at training - or was on a trip with my own child - but they missed me.


It's the happy greeting when I see current and former parents at the grocery store or when I drop my child off for special events.


It's the quick emails or unexpected blog posts from those former students. It's them asking if there's any chance I'd want to meet up at the library for a "reunion" just a year after they've left me.


It's the invitations to graduation for kids I taught seven years ago.


This past week, I went to the movies with my family to see the latest Avengers flick. As we settled into our seats, I noticed a parent I knew. Then I saw her two children (one current, one former student). Another current student filed into the row with them. I sent a quick wave toward one of them, but when she didn't see me I just settled back into my chair.

Just a few moments later, one of the three kids noticed me and let out a little shriek of delight. They all came over to say hello with big smiles on their faces. My former student came all the way over and gave me a big hug. They weren't surprised to see me at a superhero movie - they know I'm a total geek. They were just thrilled to have the chance to get a quick moment with me during their non-school lives.


Yes, there may be children (and adults) lined up for hours to get a photo with Robert Downey, Jr. or Chris Evans. Yes, there are stores filled with costumes and action figures of this superhero team.

Still, I'll take my little slice of superherodom in the smiling faces of my students who are thrilled to see me both inside and outside of my classroom.




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

Monday, May 4, 2015

It's Monday - May the Fourth Be With You - What are you reading?

Happy Star Wars Day!






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!













The Epic Yarn idea is a cute one. They are board books, and each one represents the entire movie with a series of 12 images and a single word per page. 

I'm feeling a little touchy about the representation of the ladies in my science fiction this week, so I thought that that particular aspect could have used some improvement. (More details later)

On the whole, though, the word choices and scene choices are fabulous.  


Darth Vader and Friends is another adorable offering from Jeffrey Brown. He wins extra bonus points with me for including Boushh. This is for kids (and adults, let's be honest) who already love Star Wars. The "in jokes" would go way over the heads of people brand new to the franchise.

Check out the Guardian site - the Epic Yarns has a photo series about how they were created.

http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/gallery/2015/may/04/star-wars-saga-epic-yarns-may-4th-be-with-you

and Jeffrey Brown shows how to draw Darth Vader...

http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/gallery/2015/may/04/how-to-draw-darth-vader-star-wars-day



This upper elementary/ lower YA novel comes out this week. It's already circulating in my room with 5th graders and the kids made their own wait list. My 13 year old son also LOVED it. 

Out in June - full review later. This is a fabulous NFPB

Another adorable outing with Carl! It comes out in August. 








 
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