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 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
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:

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:

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Point of View Books

After finishing If I Stay this morning, I checked out this site:

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.