Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflections on eReading, audio books and 'real' books

Over the last week and a bit I've had a chance to read on many different devices and I got thinking about the different ways I read and how reading has changed, but also stayed the same.
I picked up a Kindle this summer and I used it all summer for my adult reading. I love having the books right there when I want it. The books are often much cheaper (thanks in part to a high Canadian dollar)in electronic format and I also love not having books that I won't read again kicking around my house. There are enough books lying around to make my house seem homey anyway. I'm looking forward to not packing my bag full of books when I fly in March- and worrying that I don't have enough books with me. Having the ability to buy books where ever I am is a huge bonus. When I went to my mom's for Christmas I took several 'real' books with me. Since I buy all of my young adult books in paper to take to my classroom, I had to pack about 8 books. I finished them all one night and wasn't really in the mood to start an adult book that was sitting on my Kindle so I ordered the Lost Saint:A Dark Divine. I had read the first one in the fall and wanted to read the sequel. I didn't realize that I had read the first one on my Kindle. When I started the Lost Saint, I was a bit well...lost because I couldn't remember where the story left off. My first thought was to go to my blog and see what I wrote- and I was shocked that I hadn't written about it. Then I looked on my Kindle and there it was- I had purchased and read the first one electronically. The great thing was I went back and reread the last few chapters and got myself caught up with the story. I really liked that aspect.

There are however a few problems with reading on the Kindle. One you can't really share books on the Kindle (even though Amazon just announced you could do this- it is pretty lame if you ask me.) unless I give up my Kindle to a friend or student. That takes a bit of trust. The second problem is that I don't think I consider reading on my Kindle to be really reading. I don't know why- it is fast, it is a story and it is reading. I do a ton of reading online through twitter, blogs and facebook- but when I finish reading a ebook- I feel a lack of connection to the book. I've wondered before if it is because I can't see the cover and I'm not holding it in my hands. The thing is I really like reading on my Kindle- a lot! Maybe I just need to force myself to reflect (and blog!) a bit more after reading an electronic version.

We also downloaded a Percy Jackson book to listen to over our holiday travels. We were in the car driving a lot and so the boys (ages 9 and 11) decided we should listen to the next Percy Jackson- we are on book three having listened to book two this summer while driving. The boys really like it- they are content to sit without electronics and look out the window while listening. We were 10 minutes from finishing the book when we pulled into my mom's house on Christmas Day and the boys wanted to keep driving just to finish out the story. I really like that- my 11 year old is a real reader, but my 9 year old isn't- but he loves listening as well. The first thing they said to me as we were leaving yesterday is that we needed to get book four.
For me however, if I am driving it is great. I know the boys are happy and I am content to listen to the story- even if it is one I don't know. When I am the passenger though, I find it hard to follow. I tend to fall asleep in the car and I know I missed a bit of the story. Trying to go back and find your place on an audio book is a bit challenging. I enjoy the story while I am listening to it, but once it is finished, I don't really give it another thought. Yet the boys talk about it all the time. I wonder if it is because I like traditional reading and that is what I am use to- seeing the words and the cover and feeling the pages. Yet the boys are being exposed to all sorts of reading- ereading, audio books and paper books. I wonder what they think of this all.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

13 to Life by Shannon Delany


A while ago I read that one of the biggest trends in publishing for young adult readers is romance novels with a supernatural creature (think Twilight) In the last several months, I've read many books that fit this theme: Fallen, Crescendo, Hush, Hush ,and Shiver In continuing this thread- I read 13 to Life today (gotta love the holidays!)
After her mother's death a few months ago, Jessie's life has been very different. Her father and her younger sister have been trying to hold onto her mother's dream of having a successful horse farm. Things are difficult, but Jessie is managing to move on with her life.
When Pietr Rusakova moves into town, Jessie is assigned to show him around school. At first, she finds him frustrating and annoying, but she is slowly drawn into his mysterious ways. As they start spending more and more time together, the two of them find themselves attracted to each other. However, there is a problem of Pietr's family and Jessie's best friend Sarah who really likes him. Jessie trusts Pietr even when all signs are pushing her away, but that trust is pushed to the limit when Pietr reveals a secret that the rest of his family wants kept secret.

This book follows the same formula as many of the other romance novels. There is always an absent (or dead) parent, an attraction, a secret and many many complications. I liked the character of Jessie and also Pietr- both are individuals who are strong and real. I found there were a few unexplained issues in the story. The character of Sarah and the relationship to Jessie was explained, but not really developed. There was also a new love interest for Jessie's father that seemed odd and ended up unresolved as well. Of course in February the sequel comes out and will hopefully answer many of these questions.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Claim to Fame by Margaret Peterson Haddix


I am a HUGE Peterson Haddix fan- I love her Shadow Children series. I've written about her books here, here, and here

She is such a talented writer- she often creates a world that is similar to ours, but with a real twist to it. In Claim to Fame, the world is just like our current reality, but the main character Lindsay has a special talent. Lindsay has the ability to hear anything anyone ever says about her- around the world. Now for most people, this wouldn't be a really big thing- sure it wouldn't be easy hearing what people you know really think about you, but Lindsay is different. She was a child actress and the show she starred in plays in constant reruns. For Lindsay, while this means lots of money, it also means that each and every day she hears random thoughts from people watching the show. Everything from adults to children and what they really think.

The only safe place for Lindsay is inside her house. For some reason her house 'blocks' the thoughts and opinions and when inside, Lindsay has complete silence. While she isn't happy living only inside her house, she has made peace with her situation. All of this changes when one night she is 'kidnapped' by two boys trying to rescue her. What follows is Lindsay learning about herself, her talent, her home, her town and the people who live there.

I think kids who like Peterson Haddix will also like this one. I enjoyed it, although I did feel that her problem of always hearing peoples opinions of her went on a little long. I also felt that the end of the story wrapped up very quickly. Haddix seem to just want to tie up all the lose ends and wrap the story up. It will be interesting to see if there are any takers when I get back to school.

Trance by Linda Gerber


Ashlyn is a typical 17 year old. She is doing well in school and is a great runner on the school track team. Her and her sister are quite close. But there is one thing that makes Ashlyn different from everyone else- every once in a while she slips into a trance. While in these trances, Ashlyn sees terrible things that are about to happen to people she knows. The only clue she is left with at the end of the trance is a series of numbers written by her, but not in her handwriting. Her sister Kayla also experiences the same thing- and together they try to figure out what the message is trying to tell them.
When the story starts, Ashlyn is on her own because Kayla has disappeared. After the last trance the girls experienced an event that shook the whole family and Kayla wants to have nothing more to do with Ashlyn. While Ashlyn is dealing with her grief and her guilt, she is also trying to live. She is pulled through her life by her best friend Michelle and trying to hang onto a job. While working at her job, she meets Jake- a boy who it seems like she could trust, but trusting anyone is very difficult. Then her trances start coming quicker and quicker leaving Ashlyn more and more confused.
I’ve not read anything by Linda Gerber before- I like this book. The element of the trances and some trace of super natural power is quite interesting. Ashlyn is a very real character and I felt really sorry for her throughout the book. Watching her try to deal with her grief and her guilt was really interesting. I also really liked the other two characters that were important to Ashlyn- Jake and Gina. Both of them were very different people who offered Ashlyn a chance to learn what made her different.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher


Sapphique is the sequel to the New York Times bestseller (so read it first!) Incarceron
I admit that I am not much of a fantasy reader, but the basis of both of these books are pretty cool.

There were two stories in Incarceron - Finn who is trapped in a horrible prison and Claudia the daughter of the Warden is trapped in her own prison in the 'free' world. At the end of Incarceron, Finn and Claudia's two worlds meet and that is where the story of Sapphique takes up.

Claudia believes that Finn is the prince who is destined to become the king and her husband. Finn however isn't so sure. He has no memories of his life before Incarceron and he is filled with guilt over the two friends he left behind when he came out of the prison. Claudia and Finn must deal with the politics and games that take place at court where they are desperately trying to prove that Finn is the prince. Meanwhile, in Incarceron, Keiro and Attia are trying to reach the outside world. Keiro is filled with anger at Finn for leaving him behind and Attia is trying to believe that Finn hasn't left them to suffer.

With both books, Fisher has a very well developed story. It is obvious from the quotes that begin each chapter that there is a back story that was very well thought out even though we only catch glimpses of this story. I found all of the clues these quotes offered to be a bit frustrating- I want to know the whole story and see it develop from start to finish. Fisher leaves the reader at the end of many chapters wondering what will happen to the main characters and I think that is what keeps kids reading these books.
While these books aren't my favourite- I found them hard to get through- I am glad to have read them and have them to offer to my real fantasy buffs in my classroom.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hunger Games Fans

Hey you Hunger Games Fans- have you seen this blog?

You can follow all the news on the making of the Hunger Games movie- kind of cool!

Not Suitable for Family Viewing by Vicki Grant


This is another Red Maple selection for 2011. Not Suitable for Family Viewing is not a typical book that makes the list. Vicki Grant is a new author for me- and I really like her stuff. She reminds me a lot of Sarah Dessen- the characters are real girls who have real problems.

In this story, Robin is a 17 year old daughter of a very famous talk show host (think Oprah). Robin has been raised by her nanny/housekeeper and has a very distant relationship with her mother. When Robin finds a class ring and a couple of photographs that seem to indicate that her mother is not who she thinks she embarks on an adventure to discover the mystery behind her mother's past. What follows is Robin learning about herself in a small town in Nova Scotia. Robin meets some unusual characters who take her in and slowly they spin the story of what growing up in small town Nova Scotia was like.

I think lots of girls will like this book- there is romance and adventure. Robin seems have this perfect life that most girls would dream of- lots of money and a famous mother, yet she isn't happy. In her search for happiness she learns some important lessons. Anyone who likes Sarah Dessen books will love this book too!

Here's Vicki Grant's website: http://vickigrant.com/

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ghost Ride by Marina Cohen


I stopped by the school library last night on my way out the door and grabbed a few of the new Red Maple books (http://www.accessola.com/forest2011/redmaple/index1.html) and this morning I picked up Ghost Ride. It was a quick, spooky, exciting read. The main character is a typical teenage boy- surly, wanting independence and fighting his parents at every step.

When Sam's parents decide to leave Toronto and return to Sleepy Hollow where his dad grew up. Sam is less than pleased. He reacts in ways that most teens would when leaving behind everything familiar. Sam is leaving behind his best friend and he is worried that he won't fit in or find any friends. When Sam starts his first day of high school, he meets two boys who seem very cool- Cody and Javon. These boys are thrill seekers, they are constantly looking for the next dangerous stunt to post on their blog. Sam is immediately drawn to these boys, even though his instincts tell him they are trouble.

Cody and Javon invite Sam to their next prank and Sam believes this is his way into the cool crowd. As Sam defies his parents, he is left alone when the stunt goes very wrong. Sam's father starts acting very strange and Sam starts believing some of the ghost stories he hears around town. Sam is left alone to deal with his guilt and his fear.

I think this book will appeal to a lot of kids- the creepy factor is quite high- with lots of connections to the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman. Sam is a very believable character, although I found myself a bit frustrated with how overly protective his parents were. Cody and Javon are two boys that I hope I never meet, teach or have my own two boys bring home!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fallen by Lauren Kate


In continuing my theme of romance novels...I read Fallen this weekend. Fallen is much like Twilight, The Dark Divine and Hush, Hush. The main character is female and she falls in love with a dangerous boy who at first doesn't seem to like her.

In Fallen, the main character is Luce- a young girl who is haunted by these shadows that seem to follow her where ever she goes. The last time she was with a boy she really liked, the shadows came and then Luce blacked out. The result of this was that she ended up in reform school for other students with baggage.

At Swords and Cross boarding school, Luce finds herself attracted to two boys- Daniel and Cam. Daniel is mysterious and dangerous. He doesn't seem to want anything to do with her. Cam is sweet and attentive and wants nothing more than to spend time with her. He is able to take her away from Swords and Cross and make her forget the shadows. Yet, as so often is the case, it is really Daniel that she wants.

Luce starts to believe that she knew Daniel before they met at school-he denies it of course, but Luce keeps having dreams and memories that seem so real. The shadows keep creeping closer, although Luce realizes that she does have some control over them.

I liked reading this book. Luce and Daniel were very believable and Cam also played a great role. I'm looking forward to reading the next book- Torment on my kindle tonight.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bar Code Rebellion by Suzanne Weyn


Last year, I read The Bar Code Tattoo after one of my students gave it to me. http://whatchareading-kerry.blogspot.com/2009/12/bar-code-tattoo-by-suzanne-weyn.html
In the first book, Kayla decides to not get the bar code tattooed onto her arm. Making this decision means that her life is much more difficult as she needs to live on the outskirts of society.

In this sequel, Kayla's story continues. She and her friends must find a way to not only survive without money, or the right to health care- but to avoid the government that wants to force them to get the tattoo. As Kayla and her friends in the resistance work to destroy the government, Kayla learns about her past and the reason why the government wants her so badly.

It has been almost a year since I read The Bar Code Tattoo, but I quickly remembered the story and was caught up in Kayla's life once more. I liked the first book better because the whole concept of a tattoo that could store all of your information on it seems like it could really happen. This book takes it to the next level- with the resistance and learning how evil the government and people in power are. In the sequel, Suzanne Weyn also brings back many characters from the first one, but I found that a little forced- some of the characters didn't really seem to have any purpose in coming back. This book had many exciting parts and characters that were interesting. There is a bit in here for everyone, technology, romance, adventure and friendship.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick


I don't normally have much time to read during the week, but I gave up TV on Monday night and read a ton to start and finish this book.

If you haven't read Hush, Hush you may want to stop reading here. Crescendo is the sequel to Hush, Hush and Nora, Patch and Vee are back. It has been two months since Patch and Nora have been an item and things are going well. However, Patch seems to be spending a lot of time with Marcie, whose main goal in life is to make Nora's life miserable. When Nora confronts Patch, he cannot explain his reasons. There is a lot that Nora has to put up with since Patch is a fallen angle turned guardian- but this seems too much. Nora tries to cut Patch out of her life, but it is very difficult since she is so drawn to him.

Like Hush, Hush- there is a lot of tension between Patch and Nora- which is a big draw. There are places in the story that I found a bit over the top and unrealistic, however, the relationship between Patch and Nora kept me interested in seeing where it was all heading. The ending, like all the Twilight books has Nora in a situation where her life is at risk- which made it very compelling to read. I find all of the discussion about Nephilim, Black Hand and the different bloodlines to be quite confusing. However, I just skip over that part and try to figure out who the good guys are and who the bad guys are- it doesn't really matter to me why they are good and bad- I'm just along for the ride!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick


One of my students (thank Natalie!) suggested I try this book after she read it. I have seen it several times, but have always blown by it because it seemed like a Twilight knockoff. I'm really glad Natalie suggested I read it-I now have to wait until tomorrow to get to the book store to get the sequel.

Hush, Hush is a romance novel- there is no doubt about it. However, it doesn't seem like that at first. When Nora first meets Patch, she finds him annoying, frustrating and aloof. He seems to like tormenting her. However, Nora is drawn to him- against her better judgement.

When strange things start happening around her and to her, Nora begins to fear for her life. She keeps meeting new people who are not what they seem and appear to have hidden agendas and many many secrets. Patch is no different. He tells half truths and does nothing to instill any confidence. Yet Nora is convinced he is safe.

There is a lot of tension in this story between Patch and Nora, and yet it is pretty innocent as well. I can totally see why girls would love this one. While Patch certainly isn't Edward, he has that bad boy appeal that many girls find hard to resist.

Virals by Kathy Reichs


Some of my favourite adult books to read are by Kathy Reichs. She writes about forensic anthropology and the TV show Bones is based on her main character. I was very excited when I heard she was now going to be writing for Young Adults.

Virals is the story of a group of kids who live on the secluded island in South Carolina. The main character is Tory Brennan (niece to Temperance Brennan from the TV show) and she likes adventure and is very passionate about science and animals. When she moves to Morris Island, she meets up with other kids her age who are also passionate about the same things. One of the things the kids like to do is to explore a nearby island called Loggerhead Island- where all of their parents are involved in scientific research. But the research going on there is rather dangerous. When Tory and her friends rescue a pup from animal testing, they are exposed to a dangerous virus. A virus that changes their DNA and leads to some very interesting mutations. Tory and her friends must deal with their new talents and try to solve a mystery as well.

Readers who like the Maximum Ride series will like this one as well.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth


Set in Indian, Boys Without Names tells the tragic story of eleven year old Gopal and his family. The story deals with a family who are fighting to survive when their livelihood is taken away from them as a result of weather and a series of bad debts. When they flee their village in the middle of the night, they head for Mumbai hoping for a better life.
Along the way, they are faced with unknown places and strangers, but they know that in Mumbai, there is family waiting for them.
Gopal wants nothing more than to stay in his village, and yet he is intrigued by what he might find in Mumbai. He is the one who is able to read street signs and deal with merchants on their travels. He is also the one who is asked to amuse his twin brother and sister along the way.
Once in Mumbai, Gopal wants to earn money for his family. He wants to go to school, but knows that can't happen for a few months. When he is offered the chance of a job, he jumps on it, but soon makes the biggest mistake of his life. He wakes to find himself a captive of a man who forces children to work for no wages, little food and no warmth or compassion.
What follows is the story of how one boy learns the sad truth of child labour.

This book was incredibly moving. To read of Gopal's life in rural India and how his family is forced to make the painful decision to leave. Then, his life in captivity seems very real and honest. Throughout this story, Gopal tells traditional stories to his younger brother and sister and to the children he is kept captive with. The tradition of telling stories is very important to Gopal and he is able to take a lot of strength from the stories. Gopal as a character is likable and believable, his strength and resilience is very motivating.
I think this is an important book for children to read. There are so many issues that kids aren't aware of and it is great to have a story that could open up their eyes to things that are happening around the world.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Witch and Wizard by James Patterson


Witch and Wizard is another 'alternative reality' story, although at first, the setting seems quite realistic.
Wisty is a 15 year old girl who is a smart, funny and sarcastic. She loves her family, but at the same time wants to prove she is grown up. Her older brother Whit is a popular football player who had the perfect girlfriend- until she disappeared a few months ago.
Then in the middle of the night, government police break into their house terrorizing the children and separating Whit and Wisty from their parents. They don't really understand what is happening. Whit and Wisty are thrown into an old hospital that has been converted to a jail and accused of being witches. The government has started cracking down on people who are different or have special talents. Now Whit and Wisty have no idea that they were witches. Wisty realized that she could make strange things happen, but has no idea how to control it and slowly Whit is beginning to learn what he can do as well. As the two slowly figure out what they can do, they grow closer together and start fighting back.
The two siblings must figure out a way to get out of jail, rescue their parents and escape from the government.
Here is the Patterson website for more information: http://www.jamespatterson.com/books_witchAndWizard.php

Sunday, October 24, 2010

No Safe Place by Deborah Ellis


Deborah Ellis is one of my favourite authors to introduce to students. So many kids have no idea what happens around the world to children their own age. Ellis is constantly reminding us that the world is not always a safe place for kids. She deals with issues that are hard to understand and hard to believe are happening.

In No Safe Place, Ellis deals with the issues of migrant workers. In this story, she introduces the reader to three illegal teenaged migrant workers who are trying to cross the English Channel into England. Each child has their own story to tell, but they are very wary of saying too much. Slowly, as the three children- Abdul, Rosalia and Cheslav learn to work together and trust each other they also start sharing their stories. Abdul is from Iraq and his story is one of war and terror. Rosalia is a gypsy who was sold by her uncle to a man who promised a better life for her. Cheslav is a Russian boy who leaves the army for his own reasons. All three of the children find themselves very close to their dreams of living in England. Yet they must figure out a way to work together and trust each other in order to survive.

In order to understand and grasp what is happening in this story, young adults will need to be able to talk about the events and issues that are raised throughout the whole story.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Willow by Julia Hoban


I first heard about Willow from this website http://www.pointofviewbooks.com/ after I read If I Stay I love these books. They are so well written, the characters are so real and deal with issues that touch kids today.

Willow is a seventeen year old who is trying to cope with the death of her parents- a death she feels she caused. Willow is now living with her brother and his wife and baby, but things with them are difficult too. She has been taken away from everything she knows- her school, her family, her friends. The only way Willow has to deal with her pain is to cut herself with razors. This is the only thing that makes her feel better.
Then, Willow meets Guy, a boy who cares enough to learn about Willow and who really wants to make things better for her. But, Guy cannot understand why Willow feels the need to cut herself and he finds it very challenging to deal with all of her emotional needs.

This story tells the journey of Willow and her healing to not forget the past, but to be able to live with the past. Willow's voice was so strong and compelling. The author Julia Hoban seems to really understand why some people feel the need to hurt themselves. The other characters around Willow are also very true and believable.

This would be a great book to pair with Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Although there was one scene that has some sexual references, I think it is a book appropriate for grade 7 and up.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Candor by Pam Bachorz


This week, one of my students from last year came to me with a book that he thought I would love. I personally just love it when students come back to recommend books! Danny was right, I liked this book. It is a quick read, but there is lots going on and it would make an interesting read aloud.

Imagine a world where teens do as they are told, are always respectful and polite and think school is the most important thing in the world. Sounds like a strange place, but that is exactly what the Florida town of Candor is like. Candor is like a movie where only good things happen.

The teens of Candor happily go about their daily business of raising money, studying and having good clean fun thanks to the 'daily messages' they receive. Only one boy- Oscar knows what is happening. Only Oscar is able to fight against these messages that tell him to behave, study and be a good person. When Nia moves into town, Oscar suddenly realizes that he must help others escape from this mind control. But doing so means he risks everything that makes him unique and the cost of getting caught is very high.

This book would be an interest book for my class to read after we have finished our current read aloud After. There are a lot of similar themes in both of these stories.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Empty by Suzanne Weyn


I picked this little book up last week through the scholastics book order and it was probably the best purchase I have made in a while. Even though the book is only 182 pages long, it packs a big punch. Empty is a book I will be promoting as a read aloud to upper Junior/Intermediate teachers. For grade 7 teachers, this book ties in so nicely with science (Interactions in the Environment) and geography (Patterns in Physical Geography) units.

The book is set in the very near future in a town in the state of New York. Kids there range from the rich and privileged to average middle class to kids with families struggling to put food on the table. Empty follows a teenager from each of these situations.
In the future, fossil fuels have run out. The cost for filling up a car is out-of-reach for most, but there aren't any other options for transportation. The lack of fossil fuel doesn't just mean no gas it also means other products that use oil (which is a surprisingly large list) become hard to obtain and very expensive. As a result of the cost of gas, grocery stores are having a hard time stocking food, especially food that needs to be transported across the country.

The three main characters, Tom, Gwen and Niki are very real characters. They are typical teenagers, very focussed on themselves and how things affect them personally. Yet, they all deal with the lack of supplies and cost of living in very different ways and with very different attitudes.

There are some really great messages throughout this book. I want to read it aloud to my class so that I can discuss the topics, issues and ideas that are presented in the story. I think it will be a real eye opener for many kids, I know it has really made me think about how we are using the resources that we have.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner


If you haven't read The Maze Runner http://whatchareading-kerry.blogspot.com/2009/10/maze-runner-by-james-dashner.html
You might want to stop reading right here. This is the sequel,and I might give away something important here!

This second book of the Maze Runner series. At the end of the Maze Runner, Thomas and Teresa thought they had made it to safety and that everything was going to work out fine. Things quickly go wrong though in the safe house. In the Maze, there was always food provided and as long as you didn't go out into the Maze, you were relatively safe. Thomas and Teresa had no idea that living in the Maze would be easy compared to this next place.

Now, Thomas and his friends are placed in yet another location where they must adapt to the surroundings and try to reach a secret location where they are promised safety forever. Along the way they meet new 'friends', lose some old friends and are faced with a crossing over a stretch of land known as The Scorch- a barren, hot, dry area of land that people avoid at all costs.

I really liked this book. I was kept up reading late last night because I had to find out what was going to happen at the end. I actually liked the story line of this one better. I also liked how I understood the language that Thomas and his friends spoke. When I first started The Maze Runner, I was totally confused by the way the boys were talking. This one held my interest right to the end.

Here's a book trailer to catch your attention:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater


After doing a ton of reading last weekend, it has taken me almost a week to finish Linger. If you haven't read Shiver, there may be spoilers here, so you may not want to read on.

Linger is the sequel to Shiver that I read last weekend. In Linger, Sam and Grace are back. Sam is trying to figure out how to live now that he is going to be a human forever. He is really at odds with himself and the world around him. Sam is having a really hard time dealing with the loss of his wolf family. Living in the house he grew up in is very challenging for him because of all the memories. Then there is Cole, one of the new wolves that Beck changed to take over as the protector of the pack. Sam isn't sure what to make of Cole and doesn't trust him or even like him.

Things with Sam and Grace are stained as well because her parents are starting to question Sam's motives. Grace herself seems distant. It seems like Grace is keeping something from her friends, but also from herself.

When things come to a conclusion, the reader is left with more questions than answers. As often happens in trilogy books, the second book is the link between the first and third and isn't always as satisfying. I'm looking forward to the third book coming out next year.

Maggie Stiefvater's 'microsite' is here: http://www.maggiestiefvater.com/shiver/

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater


Shiver is one of those books that I have seen, but I have avoided. It struck me as a Twilight knockoff. And while there are many similarities between Twilight and Shiver, once I got into it, I couldn't stop reading it.

When Grace was 10 years old, she was taken from her backyard by a pack of wolves, and was saved from being mauled to death by one wolf, her wolf. This wolf, with its golden yellow eyes always seem to be following Grace. Each winter, this wolf would appear and Grace was never afraid in its presence.

Sam is a boy who has two different lives, one as a wolf in the colder months of the year, and the other as a human during the summer months. He knows his time is drawing near when he will no longer be human at all. Even though he knows this, he can't stay away from Grace.

Above all else, this novel is full of romance and love. I can see why girls love this book, Sam is seems so real and so perfect. The ideal boyfriend. As an adult, I can see the faults in believing that, but I have to admit, it is nice to get drawn into the world of first love again! I'm looking forward to reading Linger next.

I also have to say, I love all the fan created book trailers for books- I love seeing kids using new technology to share their love of reading. Here is just one of the videos I found on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25f8bZCG8nQ&feature=related

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Point of View Books

After finishing If I Stay this morning, I checked out this site: http://www.pointofviewbooks.com/

I love the idea of promoting books through book trailers and this website has it all- book trailers, author talks, discussion guides and best of all- lots of new books to check out!

For me, I need to read Grace and After for sure. I loved Speak and Wintergirls. Any books on there that you have read or want to read?

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie


I've heard lots about this book over the last year. It seems to be on all the 'must-read'lists, blogs and other book websites I follow. I finally picked it up this week through the Scholastics order, and I'm really glad I did.

Sherman Alexie writes from the perspective of Junior (otherwise known as Arnold Spirit) a native teenage boy living on the Spokane Indian reservation. Junior is witty, sharp and clever. His voice is so strong and I was really drawn to him and the situations he found himself in. The story starts as Junior makes a tough decision after his first year of high school to go to the all-white high school off the reservation. This decision means that on the reservation he is seen as a traitor by all (especially by his best friend) and at school he is a oddity and he needs to learn a whole new set of rules. Living a half life everywhere really makes it hard on Junior. He finds strength in meeting new people, but also with the support of his family.

Junior is a typical teenage boy- a bit obsessed with girls, gross humor and cartooning. The cartoons throughout the book add another level to the story as Junior is able to express his real thoughts and feelings through his drawings.

This book doesn't hold back on the reality of being a native American. Junior talks with candor about alcoholism, gambling, violence and poverty that people on the reservation face. However, through all of these faults, what is clear is how close the families are and how much love there is.

Once again, there are a few mature spots in the story, however, they are very realistic and I think boys especially will appreciate the honesty and humor in dealing with some embarrassing topics. I think this book should be read and discussed for sure. Many of the issues facing Native American's today may be unfamiliar to kids and there could be some very worthwhile discussions to be had. If I was to read this out loud to a class, I would feel the need to edit just a few sensitive parts in the story, but it certainly wouldn't take away from the theme of the book. It is certainly worth all the hype surrounding it. Older fans of Diary of a Wimpy kid will see many parallels in this book.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman


It has taken me a while to get out of the summer mode of reading lots of adult books, but now I am back into my favourite genre of Young Adult books. I read If I Stay when I woke up this morning. I will warn you, once you start this book, you can't put it down- and you will need Kleenex to get through it!

When Mia woke up and discovered it was a snow day, her family were thrilled with the thought of a day off, a break from routine and a little escape in the middle of winter. Mia was thrilled with the thought of spending the day with her parents and her 8 year old brother driving around visiting family and friends. But, on their way to their first stop, the unthinkable happens and suddenly the carefree day turns into a nightmare.

The book then flips between past and present as Mia hovers between life and death. She relives the good times in her past and her worries about the future as Mia tries to make the most serious decision anyone would ever have to make.

I found this story to be so moving. I was so caught up in Mia's world, her childhood was not perfect, but it was full of love, friends, family and energy. The way Forman portrays the relationship between Mia and her boyfriend was so real and touching that I found myself moved to tears in many places.

This book was a wonderful read, although there are some mature themes, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to any of my grade 7's.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Alexandria of Africa by Eric Walters


Alexandria is a 15 year old spoiled, rich girl. She lives in California and spends her time partying, hanging with her friends and shopping on Rodeo Drive. Even though she has tons of money, Alexandria shoplifts just for the thrill of it. When she is caught, Alexandria goes in front of an angry judge who decides to make an example of her. For her sentence, the judge sends her to Africa to build a school for some children there. Alexandria heads off to Africa complete with all of her accessories, make-up and expensive clothes. What she doesn't realize is how these three weeks will challenge her, scare her and change her life. While there, Alexandria meets and befriends some Maasai warriors who teach her about what is really important in life.
This is another great hit by Walters. This book is based on the work of Free The Children. http://freethechildren.com/ My only complaint is that I wish the main character had been set in Canada. Having a spoiled rich girl from California seems very stereotypical. There are kids here in Canada who are certainly just like Alexandria and who need to be faced with the reality of other cultures as well.

Beverly Hills Maasai by Eric Walters


This is the sequel to Alexandria of Africa and takes place 8 months after Alexandria had a life changing trip to Kenya.

Alexandria has now been home for 8 months, she is trying to find peace with how she should live her life after seeing how people live in Kenya. There are times when it is very difficult to take what is expected of her in California and compare it to life in Africa.

One day, she gets a strange phone call from her Kenyan friend Nebala who is in California with some other friends. Things have not gone very well in Kenya since Alexandria left, there has been no rain and people and cattle are starving. The only solution for the three Maasai warriors is to compete and win at the Beverly Hills marathon. This win will mean they can build a well in their village, which will save lives and improving living conditions.

Alexandria, her friend Olivia and her family face some challenges in not only getting the Maasai into the marathon, but also the adjustment they face living in such a different culture.

I liked this book as well as the first one. It is always interesting to see how characters change from earlier books. Watching Alexandria try to teach her African friends what life is like in California was funny, and yet Walters uses these moments to point out what is really important in life.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Total Tragedy of a Girl named Hamlet by Erin Dionne


I've had this book sitting on my shelf for a while. After having a class of mostly boys last year, I didn't read too many "girly" type books. This one definitely falls into that category.

Hamlet Kennedy is just starting grade 8- it is suppose to be her best year yet. She has a group of great friends- she isn't in the popular group- but that is OK with her. Hamlet just wants to blend in with the crowd. At home, her parents have an over-the-top passion with all things Shakespeare, and it is just too much for Hamlet. Then, there is her younger sister- Desdemona. Dezzie is gifted- at age 7 she is academically ready for college, but socially not quite. Hamlet feels that at home her parent's total focus is on Dezzie, but that is OK with her too. She becomes very good at hiding anything that would make her stand out.

The start of grade 8 brings whole new changes for Hamlet. Her sister is being enrolled in her grade and it will be Hamlet's job to escort her from class to class. When Dezzie becomes the math tutor for grade 8's- it becomes a bit too much for Hamlet to take. Then, the first day of school, her mother arrives at school in full on Shakespearian clothes. Everything about her demands attention, which is exactly what Hamlet is trying to avoid. With the start of the year like this, Hamlet worries that the rest of the year will only get worse. Add in a mysterious person leaving pigs in her locker, a rift between her and her best friend, the study of Shakespeare in both English and History, and two popular girls who have befriended Dezzie- Hamlet has a grade 8 year she will never forget.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I cringed along with Hamlet when her mother showed up at school- I can't imagine anything worse for kids in grade 8. The conflict Hamlet feels about her sister is very interesting too. While Hamlet wants to protect her sister, she also feels like she is losing herself and her own freedom. I think many girls would like and relate to this book. There is also lots to talk about throughout the story.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins


At long last, Mockingjay was released on Tuesday! For those of you who don't know this book, this is the third in the Hunger Games series. If you haven't read the first two- go out and get them right now (and stop reading here!)

Mockingjay takes up where Catching Fire left off. With Katniss being rescued from the Hunger Games and Peeta- the boy she was instructed to love left behind. Katniss isn't sure she loves Peeta, but she does care for him greatly and worries constantly about what is being done to him. Distict 12- Katniss' home has been destroyed by the Capitol and the surviving citizens were led by Gale- Katniss' childhood friend to District 13.

Inside District 13, Gale and Katniss reconnect and rediscover their friendship. With Peeta out of the picture, Gale is able to be there for Katniss to help her in the fight against the Capitol and President Snow. As the rebels fight against President Snow and the horrific army that has been created, Katniss finds herself once again draw into a situation where she has no choice but to be the pawn of the people in charge. Katniss struggles to give up her own fate into the hands of those in power. She has trouble believing or trusting anyone. But in order to take down those in power in the Capitol, she must trust herself.

This third book was just as good as the first two. The ending was satisfying and rewarding. I can't wait to see what Collins comes out with next!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher


Incarceron is the first novel I've read by Catherine Fisher. At first, Incarceron reminded me a lot of the book The Maze http://tinyurl.com/2eksezq where people are kept inside a different world. However, Incarceron has many more things happening.

Incarceron is a place that was created years ago for society to get rid of criminals. Incarceron is above all else a prison, but it is also a place where no guards are needed. There is a Warden whose job it is to manage Incarceron, but this Warden doesn't ever go into Incarceron.
There are really two stories taking place in this book. One is of some of the people inside Incarceron. Finn- who believes he is from the outside because he has memories of a different time and his 'family' that he has created. Very few people within Incarceron believe there is even an outside, Finn keeps his thoughts to himself because he knows they won't be well received.
The other story is of Claudia. She lives outside of Incarceron. Claudia is the daughter of the Warden and she has grown up believing that Incarceron is a perfect place. That is what all of society has been told, that the experiment of Incarceron was so successful and created such a beautiful society that nobody wants to leave it. Claudia is very curious about Incarceron, she doesn't trust anything her father says because she has been taught by her tutor Jared that life isn't what it seems.
As the stories of Claudia and Finn are told, their stories start to run together. They each have one main goal- to escape the world they know and live in.
While I found it hard to follow the story all the time, the strange names and different threads that were all being pulled together, I really liked the story and the characters. I look forward to the sequel coming out in December. Check out the website here: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780803733961,00.html

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Flush by Carl Hiaasen


I have to admit, I've never read a book by Hiaasen before. My kids love the movie Hoot, but we have never read the book. In trying to get my younger son to read, I picked up Hoot for him and Flush for me. I like the fact that Hiaasen writes with such passion about environmental issues and his characters are great too. His setting is always Florida and he is able to paint a great picture of the landscape and culture of the oceans and surrounding lakes in Florida.

In Flush, Hiaasen deals with the issue of illegal dumping of raw sewage into the ocean and it certainly makes me wonder how often this happens. The book starts out with Noah visiting his father in jail. His dad is in jail for sinking a floating casino that was dumping the raw sewage. The man running the casino has friends in high places and Noah's dad is forced to realize that there is nothing he can do to clear his name, or stop the environmental damage that is being caused.

Noah and his sister soon decide that they can't stand to let that happen, they are compelled to clear their dad's name and stop the casino from ruining their swimming and fishing spots. Hiaasen writes some interesting characters into the story to help Noah and Abbey- not your typical characters for children's stories, but characters with flaws and faults. It is very interesting to read how they develop as well.

I was hoping this book would be a good read aloud to tie in with my first science unit on ecosystems, but I think it is a bit young for a read aloud. Having said that, I'm sure I will be happy to recommend this book to kids in my class this year.

Check out this fan created website: http://flushbook.weebly.com/

Kathy Reichs


Having spent a great deal of my summer watching 5 seasons of the TV show Bones- I'm pretty addicted to Kathy Reichs stuff right now. She has always been one of my favourite authors to read as an adult. I'm looking forward to her newest novel that comes out the same day as Mockingjay- I'm not sure what I'll read first. When I went to her website to check out her book- I discovered she has a new book coming out in November for young adults- you can check it out here: http://viralstheseries.com/

I'm putting it on order today! I really like when my favourite authors write for kids- it's a nice way to share authors I love with kids.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

By the Time You Read This I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters


I thought this book was going to be a little like 13 Reasons Why, (http://tinyurl.com/2c2qgxw) explaining what lead up to a suicide, but this book looks at suicide in a different way.
Daelyn is a very sad young women. She has been bullied her whole life and has decided that the only way out is suicide. When she finds a website aimed at helping people commit suicide, she learns how to do it right. But the website has a catch, you must wait 24 days. As Daelyn waits and plans for her final act, she spends time blogging on the website about her life and it is through these blog entries that we learn of the repeated bullying that she has endured. As we learn about her past, we also learn about what is happening now. Daelyn meets a boy, the first person who really treats her normally and seems to want a friendship and yet she is very hesitant to trust anyone. As her 24 days slip by, Daelyn must decide how it will all end for her.
When I started reading this book, I found it very depressing and hard to read, but as I continued, Daelyn's story became very compelling and I was drawn into her life, both past and present. I am hesitant to have it in my classroom though. Daelyn's story is important, but I would worry that a child might not have the proper perspective to understand the messages. I would strongly suggest that anyone giving this book to a child to read it first and discuss it along side of the reader.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sea by Heidi R. Kling


Sea is a beautiful story that deals with loss, love, sorrow and joy. It is set in Indonesia just after the Tsunami in 2004. Kling is able to paint a picture of life for the people who survived the Tsunami, and the people who came to help restore the land and the people.

Sienna is a 15 year old girl who has dealt with her own loss and sorrow when her mother's plane went missing three years ago. Everyone but her believes her mother is dead, and Sienna has stopped living her life in the past three years. Her dad tries to force her back to life, by inviting her to travel with his team of experts who are travelling to Indonesia to help children in an orphanage.

Once in Indonesia, Sienna quickly realizes that she isn't the only one who has suffered a loss. She meets children who have lost their whole family. Through the sharing of their experiences and helping others, Sienna is able to start the healing process. But, when she meets Deni, a handsome, mysterious orphan, she gets drawn into his life and his quest to find his family. The two take great risks to learn what happened to Deni's family and at the same time, Sienna learns a great deal about herself as well.

The romance aspect of this book would make it more appealing to girls I think. It would be a nice suggestion to read for those girls who are so crazy about Twilight- however, this book is much deeper than a romance novel.
You can check out Kling's website here: http://heidirkling.com/ - be sure to also look at the book trailer on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjmQEPsQzKw

Friday, August 6, 2010

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen


After a few false starts with some books for kids- two books that were highly recommended but I didn't like them- and one huge adult book- I sat down today and read Sarah Dessen's newest book Along for the Ride. I'm a huge Dessen fan. She writes so well for teen girls- her characters have so much depth to them, and the story is so engaging that you cannot put her books down.
In Along for the Ride, Auden has just finished high school and is heading off to college. Her whole school career has been focussed on studying and working hard. She hasn't had time for things like friends, dates and proms. Her parents are divorced and while she lives with her mom, it is expected that she fends for herself most of the time.
The summer before she heads off to college, Auden makes the unexpected decision to spend the summer with her father, his new wife and new baby sister. Auden figures she will just spend the summer studying and getting ready for the new school year. However, things don't turn out the way she plans. She quickly gets drawn into the lives of the other kids living in the small town. Auden learns about what she has been missing, but it is hard for her to change. Watching Auden struggle to become a more rounded person is a very interesting journey to say the least!

Check out her website here: http://www.sarahdessen.com/ and - you can download Chapter one of her book here:
http://www.sarahdessen.com/files/excerpts/along-for-the-ride.pdf

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers


After reading The Worst Thing She Ever Did in June, (http://tinyurl.com/29jr4jq) I had to order something else by Kuipers.
Life on the Refrigerator Door was Kuipers first novel and what a powerful novel it is. This story is told through a series of notes left on a refrigerator between a mother and her daughter. While it was a quick read, it is thoughtful and thought provoking. It's amazing how much you can learn about characters through a series of short notes about day-to-day life.
Claire, is 15 and is a typical teenage girl- stuck between that phase of still being a young girl and wanting to be a grown up. With her mother being away so often, there are times when Claire is frustrated, angry and amused by her mother. For her mother, she is struggling to be a single mom to Claire and to successfully manage the life of a busy doctor. When Claire and her mother are confronted with a crisis, they deal with it in very different ways, but what always comes through is their love for each other.
Reading this book reminds me of the different perspectives people have on events throughout their lives. It reminded me that my mother probably wasn't as crazy as I thought she was when I was a teenager, and scares me to think of my boys hitting their teens- hopefully they will be easier on me than I was on my mom!
This is a very quick read, but one really worth reading!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bullet Point by Peter Abrahams


This is the second book I've read by Abrahams. The first one was Reality Check (http://tinyurl.com/235bvuw) His writing is a bit older than I usually like for my grade 7's, but the story lines are always very exciting.
In Bullet Point, Wyatt is a 16 year old boy who lives for baseball season. School is really just an excuse to play baseball. But, when the economy forces the school to give up offering all after school sports- Wyatt doesn't know what he will do. Then he is offered a chance to go to another city and play baseball. This seems like a dream come true- especially after a nasty fight with his step-father Rusty.
As he is leaving town, his coach hands him a picture of his biological father, a man Wyatt has never really cared much about- although he knows he is in jail. When Wyatt ends up in Silver City, he meets a very beautiful, but mysterious girl named Greer. Through Greer, he comes to learn more about his father and as he gets to know and like the man, Wyatt is faced with a decision. Wyatt believes that his father is innocent of the crime he was sent to jail for and Wyatt will stop at nothing to free him.

I really think this book will appeal to many boys, it is fast paced, has a sports interest and of course the beautiful, mysterious girl. There are a few scenes that are a bit more mature, but I will put it in my classroom and talk to students before they read it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow


I had no idea when I bought this book how interesting the author Cory Doctorow is. You have to check out these two sites: http://craphound.com/ (where you can download his books for free on just about any platform imaginable- if you happen to have an iTouch- it would be worth getting the Kindle app and downloading the books to read right on your touch!) and http://boingboing.net/ (which has to be the strangest blog I've ever read- but at the same time- I really like it!)

In Little Brother- Marcus is your typical 17 year old gamer. He knows how to make technology work for him and he uses it to his advantage to play different online games. But when terrorism strikes in San Francisco- he and his friends are swept up in a raid and accused of being terrorists. When Homeland security finally releases them, things have really changed for Marcus. Suddenly the freedom he is use to is gone. Now, Marcus realizes how much power Homeland security has and how they are using technology to track and monitor the kids. Marcus starts fighting back. He starts using his knowledge of technology to outsmart the government- but it is a very risky move.

I found this book slow in places- I was a bit frustrated with Marcus constantly explaining how the technology worked- and I didn't really understand it. I also had a hard time figuring out when this story took place. There were lots of times it felt like present day, but the technology was too advanced for that to be true. Having said all that, just when I was about to give up on the book, I pushed through and found myself really wrapped up in the story and Marcus' quest to gain back personal rights for all.
I think it would be interesting to have a discussion with some tech savvy kids about their thoughts on this. There are lots of interesting points for discussion.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Crossing by Andrew Xia Fukuda


Crossing is the first novel by Andrew Fukuda. It has the eerie feel of William Bell's book Stones- the whole story is a bit creepy and spooky.
Crossing tells the story of Xing Xu- a boy in high school who longs to fit in with his white classmates. Xing disappears into the hallways,classrooms and his small town- his teachers don't even know if he speaks English. The only friend Xing has is Naomi- another Chinese immigrant and the two have been friends for so long- they are all each other has.
When students from his high school go missing, things get very strange for everyone at Slackenkill High School. Rumors and gossip are on overdrive throughout the small community. For Xing- the disappearance of the boy who has the lead in the school musical also means big changes for him as well. Suddenly, he is in the role of the lead at in the school musical- he sings beautifully, but only for his music teacher.
As the book comes to a conclusion, Xing is faced with the harsh reality of who he is and who people believe he is.

I liked this book, but I think it will take a very mature reader to see it through. I'm wondering how it would be as a read aloud for my grade 7's. The spookiness factor alone might just do it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dark Life by Kat Falls


I read about this book a few weeks ago and quickly ordered it. I'm always looking for new alternative reality novels for my kids. It occurred to me while reading this how clever a writer has to be to write these types of novels. You can't just start writing a story- you have to write in such a way that makes the reader understand how the world is different from the world we currently know, without just coming right out and listing the differences. In Dark Life- Kat Falls does just that. She creates this unique world where some people live in the ocean, travel by unconventional methods and fight against the government. She does this in a way that makes the world she writes about come alive in your mind.

Dark Life is about a 16 year old boy named Ty who has lived in the water his whole life. He loves his life and can't wait to turn 19 so that he can own his own part of the ocean. Suddenly, Ty's life becomes more complicated- outlaws start attacking the settlement he lives in and the government is trying to change the rules. When Ty meets Gemma- a Topsider (someone who lives on land)the two of them go on quite an adventure under the water.

I love this glimpse into an alternative reality, I love how Falls paints these amazing pictures with her words of life under water and I liked the excitement of the story. The plot actually reminded me a lot of Kenneth Oppel's book Airborn (http://www.airborn.ca/). The relationship between the two main characters were pretty similar. I can't wait to share this book with kids in the fall- as a matter of fact- I know one student who I am going to send an email to right now suggesting this book as his summer read!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett


I just finished reading The Help- and while it is an adult book- it is very appropriate for young adults to read. I absolutely loved this book- it will be going into my box of Civil Rights books immediately.

Set in the 1960's in the deep south, during a time of segregation between blacks and whites. There were clear lines drawn between the two groups that was very hard to change- but very easy to identify. The Help is a book that looks at these lines and how the divide started changing during the Civil Rights movement.

The Help follows several characters, but it is told through three voices. Skeeter- a 23 year old girl who has just graduated from Ole Miss- a place where she was successful in gaining an education, but very unsuccessful in gaining a husband- the main purpose for young white girls to go to school. The other two voices are Aibileen and Missy- two black women who are maids for Skeeter's friends. While Aibileen and Missy are women of two different generations- their lives share many similarities. It is through the relationship they have with the families they work for that they share a common bond.

When Skeeter tries to find a place for herself- she starts a project that draws these three women together. It is a dangerous project that could put all of their lives at risk. This project helps each of these women deal with the separation between black and white and the attitude of many in the southern part of the United States during this time.

I would suggest parents or an adult read this book before giving it to a student or parent- but I for one will be sharing this book with my students in the fall!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Witching Hour by Elizabeth Laird


I've always liked Elizabeth Laird's books. I've read several by her that deal with children in difficult situations around the world. This is the first one I've read by her that deals with an historical time period.

The Witching Hour is set in Scotland in the late 1600's. During this time, there was a real fight between religions. In England, the fight between the Protestant and Catholic way to worship changed with each new King or Queen. This book deals with a young girl- Maggie who starts out accused of being a witch and is sentenced to hang. When she is forced to run for her life, she falls right into the fight between the Protestants and Catholics. I really liked how the book shows how scared people were of things they didn't understand. It was much easier for people to blame unfortunate events on a woman and accuse her of witchcraft than it was to understand that bad things happen sometimes.

This book gives an interesting insight to a part of history that will be new to many young readers. I like the way Elizabeth Laird teaches history through real characters. Maggie is a very believable character and throughout the story you are drawn into the drama that surrounds her and her family. As an adult reader, I liked that about the book. I'm not sure that just any reader will pick this one up. You need to have a liking for historical novels to enjoy this one.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer by John Grisham


Grisham is a well-known adult author. He writes about mysteries in the legal world. Theodore Boone is his first try at writing for young adults. He sticks with what he knows, which is the law.
This book is interesting, it deals with a trial for murder that is taking place in a small town. Theodore Boone is an eighth grade boy with an obsession for the law. Both his parents are lawyers and for reasons that aren't well explained, Boone knows everyone in the legal system.
As a teacher, I try to teach my students that stories need to have a problem and a solution. The great authors make the problem something people care about, or might possibly face themselves. Grisham doesn't really do that in this book. The big problem is that Boone knows something that could change the outcome of this trial. Grisham doesn't really go into enough detail about why we should care. There isn't really anything scary or mysterious about the plot. The cover-and other adult Grisham books usually have a suspenseful middle action where the person with the truth is trying to win out over the bad guys. None of that happens in this book, although it could have easily taken place.
All in all, I’m not sure how this book will be received by kids. There is no doubt that Grisham knows a lot about the legal world- I’m just not convinced that kids will buy into it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Worst Thing She Ever Did by Alice Kuipers


Alice Kuipers is a new author for me. She is a Canadian author which surprised me because this book is not only set in England and has a real English feel to it. You can check out her website at alicekuipers.com
Sophie is a 17 year old girl who is trying to forget what happened last summer. Things are really hard for her at school because people- mostly strangers- keep asking her how she is doing. But her mom and her best friend don't really seem to know how to deal with her at all. Their silence really hurts Sophie- and yet when they do try to talk to her, she pushes them away. Sophie figures if she just tries to forget everything, it will all go away.
However, one thing that we learn through this book and Sophie's story is that you can't just ignore events or feelings. Sophie's story is told through a journal that was given to her by her therapist. She writes about her present life at school and home and also flashes back to the summer before. Slowly, we learn about what happened in her past that has left her such an emotional wreck.
As we learn about Sophie, we also learn about her friends and the struggles they have with life as well. There is lots in this book. It is an emotionally tough one to read, but has really left me thinking.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Special Edward by Eric Walters


Special Edward is an ORCA current book. That means it is high interest low vocabulary. I love these books. They are always so good, and when it is written by Eric Walters - even better.
In this book, Walters looks at kids in high school who are part of the special education stream.
The main character Edward is a smart, popular kid, who can't be bothered to work or try at school. When he realizes that when you are considered 'spec ed' you get extra time, scribing and all sorts of other 'bonuses' Edward decides this is what he needs. He starts the process to have himself identified. The thing is, he works harder at tricking the system than he does if he was just to do his school work. Edward learns a lot about himself as a person and as a learner by the end of this book.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sort of Forever by Sally Warner


It's taken me a while to write about this book. It was a pretty emotional read and when I was finished- I just couldn't write about it.
Sort of Forever is about two best friends. Cady and Nana have been best friends since they were babies. They live at each other's homes, share hobbies and school together. When Nana's cancer returns, it is clear to Cady that she has to be there to support her friend, she doesn't want to be anywhere else. Her family however worry about how Cady is dealing with all of the changes. Cady is also confused about how to go on and experience new things without Nana. As Nana changes as a result of her illness, Cady is unsure of their friendship. All of these changes take place during the summer before seventh grade when for everyone things start changing. Watching Cady and Nana stumble through keeping their friendship strong is emotional, funny and honest.
This book is a very simple read, but also very powerful!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer


I just picked this book up last night at Titles, and started it immediately. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner is a small part of the Twilight novels.
This story is told from the perspective of Bree Tanner-a character who is easily overlooked in the Eclipse Story, but once you get to know her, you will gain a whole new perspective to Eclipse.

Bree Tanner is a newborn vampire. She lives with a dangerous group of other newborns. The others she lives with are reckless, violent and hungry. They only seek human blood. Even though they have been warned to be careful, many of this group don't listen and only want to hunt humans.
Bree is different, she is more cautious than the rest. Bree looks to blend in with the group and above all not get noticed. When she becomes friends with Diego, the two of them start to share their thoughts and ideas and slowly piece together what the purpose of the group is. Bree and Diego now realize they must stick together in order to survive.
It's interesting to read about these newborn vampires who aren't trained by kind, patient Carlisle. It is also intriguing to learn about vampires outside of Bella's limited perspective. I found myself really liking and rooting for Bree, even when I knew how it was all going to end for her.
This is well worth the read- all Twilight fans will love this added bonus to the story. Check out the website too: http://www.breetanner.com/

Friday, June 11, 2010

Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth


Yet another book sitting on my shelf from who knows where! It is a pretty slim book, I usually like my books nice and big- but I liked this one too. On the outside it is pretty simple. Two best friends, a new girl comes to town and all of a sudden three is a crowd. However, there is lots of great stuff in between all of that.

Violet has lived her whole life in a part of Florida referred to as 'lightning alley'. Her best friend Lottie is just like her sister. They spend all of their time together, finish each other's sentences and just enjoy doing the same sort of things. When Melissa moves to town, things start to change. Melissa is from the big city and this is very appealing to Lottie, who longs for something different from her busy, crowded household. For Violet though, she hates change and wants things to stay the same. Violet instantly dislikes Melissa and resents every minute that Lottie is with her. Through lightning storm after lightning storm, Lottie and Violet need to learn how to expand a friendship to include someone new, but at the same time staying true to themselves.

I think this book would make a really nice literature circle. It is simple, but there is lots of great stuff to discuss and mull about. I think many girls will see themselves in Lottie, Violet and Melissa.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What I Call Life by Jill Wolfson


I'm not really sure where this book came from- I just found it sitting on my shelf of YA books, but I'm glad I found it. Similar to the story, Pictures of Hollis Woods, What I Call Life deals with girls in the foster care system.

Eleven year old Cal Lavender is taken away from her mother after an 'episode' at the local library. Cal has spent many years looking after her mother. She likes order, rules and routine. Cal puts on a very brave face to ensure that nobody knows that her life is in chaos. After the 'episode', Cal finds herself in a group home, where she doesn't make the rules and she is powerless to help her mother.
In the group home, Cal meets some very interesting girls. They are all there for a variety of reasons, but they all have one thing in common- they are looking for love and acceptance from those around them. The older women running the group home the "Knitting Lady' gives these girls what they need. She often tells wonderful stories to teach them life lessons.
As Cal listens to the stories and gets to know the other girls, she learns things about herself, her mother and the world around her. Watching Cal deal with the different situations and learning how it feels to be helpless in controlling your own life is painful at times, yet rewarding to watch at the same time.
I'm going to look for more books by Wolfson- she seems to write books about a childhood that not many children experience, but more people need to know about.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher


I have to start off by saying I LOVE Ralph Fletcher. I love his professional books, I love his picture books, I love his poetry books, and now I can add his novel Flying Solo to the list. The man is brilliant!

This is a pretty simple book- with a great concept. How many kids have ever imagined having a day where the teacher doesn't show up, and no supply teacher either. Fletcher describes a day such as this for one grade six class. The kids are left on their own to manage through the day.
The characters in this story are so real- I could easily see many of my students in these characters. I loved the story they told, the story of struggling to come together as a class to make it through one whole day without an adult telling them what to do. Throughout this day, we glimpse some very interesting characters. Rachel, a girl who stopped speaking six months earlier when a classmate passed away. Bastian, an 'army brat' who is celebrating his last day at this school and is gearing up to move away to Hawaii. Bastian is a tough kid who makes it through all of his moves by being the wise guy in class. Yet he is struggling with the fact that his puppy must be quarantined for a few months. Then there are the rest of the grade six students who range from typical girls who follow the rules, to boys who don't and those that fall somewhere in between.
I love how real this classroom was. I imagine Mr. Fabiano as the type of teacher who I would really like- reading and writing workshops are a given within his day. This is obvious when the students choose to write their thoughts, feelings and ideas as their 'free' day rolls by.
I only wish that my class would act like this if I was away for the day!