Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

It’s my birthday today. I’m not seventeen anymore.  The seventeen that Janis Ian sang about where one learns the truth.  But what she failed to mention is that you keep on learning truths after seventeen, and I want to keep on learning truths till the day I die.

Josephine Alibrandi is attending an upper-class Catholic high school on scholarship.  Strong, opinionated women surround her – the nuns at the school, her dramatic grandmother Katia, her single mother Christina, and her small group of friends.  Josephine is just as opinionated and strong-willed as those who surround her.

Josephine’s world is thrown into chaos when she meets her long-absent father, Michael Andretti.  She must decide whether to build a relationship with him.  Adding to her growing confusion with the opposite sex is her intelligent friend, John who is destined to become prime minister (at least according to his father) and passionate bad-boy Jacob Coote.

Josephine must decide who and what are important to her as she navigates learning more about her Italian family, ethnic discrimination, and growing up.

Review: Looking for Alibrandi is a rich, nuanced novel about what it means to grow up.  It deals with so many issues – family connections and secrets, cultural pressures, depression, relationships – but just as in Saving Francesca, this book feels like a “life” book.  It is as if you are getting an inside look into someone’s head and experiences.

That someone happens to be Josephine Alibrandi who has instantly become one of my favorite characters in Young Adult literature.   Josephine is extremely likable.  I loved the scene at the beginning where she was justifying reading a teen magazine in religion class to Sister.  She is fiery and opinionated.  She is not without faults, though.  Josie often times does not know when to keep her opinions to herself and her temper tends to get her into trouble.  Throughout the novel, though, Josephine shows a lot of growth and learns more about who she is.

The well-drawn relationships made this novel.  I loved the relationship between Josie and her parents.  She discovers that she and her father are not as different as she may have thought.  In fact, they are actually quite similar.  I loved the interactions between these two.  Josephine and her mother also had such a volatile but caring relationship that was realistically portrayed.

The secondary characters are dimensional and realistic – I loved Poison Ivy, John and Jacob.  I especially loved Jacob – who doesn’t love a bad boy with a heart.  Jacob and Josephine challenged each other and made each other a better person.  They also had amazing chemistry.

However, this novel is not at all a typical bad boy and good girl fall in love story.  It is SO much more than that.  It is about real people having real relationships – learning, loving, making mistakes and growing.  There was another added layer in learning about what it means to be an Italian-Australian and the pressures and assumptions that come along with that.

There is only one thing wrong with Melina Marchetta’s books – I am always sad when I am finished.  She creates stories that you want to stay in and characters that you don’t want to leave.  I highly recommend that you read the award-winning Looking for Alibrandi.

**As an added note, this book was made into a movie in Australia (the screenplay was also written by Marchetta)  I am going to track this down next!  I am pretty sure that it will be amazing.  Additionally, I read that this is the most stolen library book in Australia.  Crazy!

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Recommendation: 15 and older

Rating: 5/5

I will be hosting a Melina Marchetta book giveaway for my Canadian and United States readers.  This is a giveaway that you will want to enter – details coming on Saturday. :)

Posted in I Heart Melina Marchetta, Realistic Fiction, Tough Issues, Young Adult Fiction | 7 Comments

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

I can’t believe I said it out loud. The truth doesn’t set you free, you know. It makes you feel awkward and embarrassed and defenseless and red in the face and horrified and petrified and vulnerable. But free? I don’t feel free. I feel like shit.

16-year old Francesca is sent to St. Sebastian’s School by her caring but determined mother, Mia, who is convinced that the opportunity will open up new doors for Francesca.  It’s every girl’s dream to attend an all-boys school, right?  Not for Francesca, who has left the safety of her old friends and school behind.  Now the only people who she has to hang out with are the outcasts from her old school – an outspoken feminist named Tara, wild-child Siobhan and Justine, the accordion player.  On top of that, the boys in the school are crass and infuriating – especially the maddening Will Trombal.

Then, one day, Mia’s mother doesn’t get out of bed.  And she doesn’t the next day either.  Francesca’s wonderful, sparkling, out-spoken mother has acute depression, and Francesca is not sure how to help her.  In figuring out how to help her mother find her way back, Francesca must also figure out how to save herself and discover who she truly is.

Review: I first fell in love with Melina Marchetta’s writing after her absolutely brilliant, moving book Jellicoe Road.  Her characters were deep, nuanced and familiar.  The story and the dialogue rang true.  I eagerly sought out her prior novels and am so grateful that I did because they do not disappoint.

At its heart, Saving Francesca is a book about a girl trying to find out who she is and her place in the world, which I think is a theme that Marchetta explores in all of her novels.  From her writing, it is obvious that she was a high school teacher as she knows her characters innately and has a real feel for the high school voice.  I absolutely love the characters in all of Marchetta’s works.  They stick with you and you can’t stop thinking about them, wondering what they are up to, where the story goes next.  Francesca’s unlikely group of friends is a group that any high school girl (heck, 28 year old) would want.  They care about each other.  They are unique and fun and spunky.  They feel real.

I also love how realistically Marchetta portrays issues relating to young people – love, acceptance, self-discovery.  She also handles Mia’s depression in a very even-handed, realistic way.  The author writes about issues WITHOUT IT BEING AN ISSUE BOOK!  It’s just a life book – characters learning, growing, and developing.

Francesca’s relationship with Will was realistically portrayed as well.  I have read some reviews in which the reviewer didn’t like Will.  There are times that I didn’t like Will – however, I remember back to high school and I think that sometimes high school boys (at least the ones that I remember) can do jerky things.  I love a swept-away romance as much as the next person, but this relationship felt raw and true.

After attending many, many years of Catholic school (including 4-years at an all-girls high school), I can relate to Marchetta’s setting and loved the little “insider” jokes she threw in about using butcher block paper and the small group skits that the students had to do.  The students even attend a retreat in which they have to create a pyramid representing the Catholic church.  It was really hilarious.

Melina Marchetta is an author to be excited about.  I love her writing voice, her characters and the “realness” of her stories.  If you want a moving book that is sprinkled with humor, this is your book.  If you want a strong story about a girl trying to discover who she is and be her own person, this is your book.  I absolutely love anything Melina Marchetta writes and this book is no exception.  It is fantastic.

Genre: Realistic fiction

Age Recommendation: 14 and up

Rating: 5/5

Review coming upLooking for Alibrandi by (surprise, surprise) Melina Marchetta!!! AND… be on the look-out for a very special give-away featuring books by (you guessed it) Melina Marchetta!!! (whose name should always be followed by gratuitous exclamation points)

Posted in I Heart Melina Marchetta, Realistic Fiction, Tough Issues, Young Adult Fiction | 3 Comments

A Very Bookish Update!

Long time, no see!  November proved to be an insanely busy month for me with parent/teacher conferences, unit planning and report cards.  Sadly, the National Novel Writing Month and this blog had to be put aside.  However, I have some great posts and book reviews planned as I will always make time for reading. ;)

A few thoughts…

1.  Is Melina Marchetta the world’s best writer?  I think I could make a case for it.  I just finished Saving Francesca and it was A-MAZ-ING!  I can’t wait to write a review on it and I am eagerly anticipating the companion novel, The Piper’s Son, which will be published in America March 2011.

2.  There are so many great new releases out there!  I recently read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins and Matched by Ally Condie.  LOVED!

3.  Have you read Graceling by Kristin Cashore yet?  If you haven’t, run to the book store immediately and purchase it.  I never thought I would be a fan of fantasy novels but I am loving them more and more.  The world and characters that Cashore have created are unforgettable.  Fire, a companion novel to Graceling, is on my To Be Read list.

4.  Speaking of my To Be Read list…do you have any suggestions for me?  I still need to read The Scorch Trials and am really looking forward to Across the Universe.  Tell me some books that I absolutely must read.

5.  My husband got me a NOOK for my birthday!  I have always been somewhat of a book purist but I don’t know what I ever did without an e-reader.  Look for a full product review soon.  They are dangerous, though – you can download books instantly.  I must learn to restrain myself!

What’s new with you? I have missed all of you and can’t wait to catch up on your blogs!

Posted in I Heart Melina Marchetta, Realistic Fiction, Updates, Young Adult Fiction | 12 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – We’ll Always Have Summer

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event held by Breaking the Spine.  This event features books that we can’t wait to be released!

This week, I am waiting on…

We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han!

LOVE this!

It is no secret that I am one HUGE fan of Jenny Han’s Summer series that includes The Summer I Turned Pretty and It’s Not Summer Without You. I read these scrumptious books in two days flat.  The characters are absolutely engaging and draw you into their story.  The end of each novel really leaves you hanging and wanting more.  Darn you, Jenny Han, for being such an amazing writer!  And for forcing me to use capitals and exclamation points when speaking about you and your books!

Sadly, we will have to wait till May of 2011 to find out what happens to Belly, Jeremiah and Conrad in We’ll Always Have Summer. (I am so nervous about this title, by the way…)

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Posted in I Heart Jenny Han, Realistic Fiction, Waiting on Wednesday, Young Adult Fiction | 3 Comments

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

And Devon said, It’s not about the dog!  It’s about people!  You shouldn’t hurt innocent people Scout.  That’s what it means.

I guess the evil school shooters didn’t listen in English class because they did not Get the meaning of that book at all.

Caitlin’s family and community has just been rocked by a terrible tragedy.  Three people – two students and a teacher- were gunned down in a school shooting at Virginia Dare Middle School.  One of the students was Caitlin’s brother Devon.  A situation that is sad and awful is made even more difficult for Caitlin.  She has Asperger’s syndrome which allows her to only see the world in very strict terms – in black and white.  Caitlin has trouble processing her own feelings, her feelings about others and does not know how to reach her father. One day, after hearing a newscast about the shooting, she discovers the word Closure, and determines that closure is exactly what she and her father need.  How will she and a grieving community find closure after something so horrible occurs?

Review: Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine is a beautiful, moving novel that not only gives voice to Caitlin, a young girl with Asperger’s syndrome, but gives a voice to communities affected by school violence.  The book is extremely moving and takes a look at all sides of  school violence but in a very subtle and realistic way.  We see all of the reactions of the people around her through Caitlin, who proves to be a very interesting filter.  Caitlin is working on becoming more empathetic and developing a sensitivity to others’ emotions.  Caitlin often cannot understand why the things that she says hurt the people around her – especially her father, who in his grief cannot help her the way Devon did.  I thought that Caitlin as the narrator was a bold move but it really worked and her voice and spirit were spot on.

I also loved how Caitlin’s art was utilized as a metaphor throughout the novel.  Caitlin was an extremely talented artist but would only draw in black and white.  As she grew and changed, developing empathy for others, so did her acceptance of using color in her art work.

The plot was really beautiful as well.  Devon had been a devoted Boy Scout and was actively working on earning his Eagle Scout when he was killed.  He and his father were building a chest.  Caitlin decides that for closure they need to finish the chest.  We also see how others in the community need healing as well and we see how that occurs, or doesn’t, through Caitlin’s eyes.

I have done a terrible job of describing how meaningful or wonderful this book is.  All I can tell you is to go read it.  Go read it and let the words convince you.  This is a lovely, poignant novel that I plan on sharing with my students.  I think a lot of important discussion can come from this novel about people’s differences, acceptance, understanding, and how our actions affect others.

Genre: Realistic fiction

Age Recommendation: 11 and up

Rating: 5/5

Posted in Middle Grade Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Tough Issues | 11 Comments

What’s New @ Literature for Lunch?

What a busy, crazy week!  A few updates for you….

I accidentally read four novels this week!  I recently reviewed the first one, Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper.  It was a moving read with a spunky, dimensional main character named Melody.  I think that this is definitely a front runner for the Newbery.

Jenny Han = Amazing

I also read The Summer I Turned Pretty and It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han.  That was a HUGE mistake!  I have become so invested in the lives of Conrad, Belly and Jeremiah that I simply cannot wait until NEXT MAY to find out what happens.  The end of It’s Not Summer Without You…I just died.  I must have read that page 9,000 times to see if I was missing something or I could read more meaning into it or if another page would magically appear. Write faster Jenny Han! Look for two mini-reviews of these books coming soon.  Here’s a hint: I loved them.

The book Mockingbird by Kathryn Erksine is going to knock your socks off (excuse the cliche).  This poignant, emotional novel about a girl searching for empathy was beautifully written and extremely meaningful.  Not only does it give a glimpse into what it is like to live with Asperger’s syndrome but also into grief and the anatomy of a healing town after something horrific occurs.  A layered, important read.  This could also be a serious contender for the Newbery.

Finally, I have bit the bullet and am going to participate in National Novel Writing Month.  An idea came to me today, and I need where it takes me.  I would love to know if you are participating so I can cheer you on!

Anticipated Before and After Pictures for National Novel Writing Month:

Me on November 1st

Me on November 30th

Finally, check out my brand new review and teacher feature pages.  I have done a lot more reviews than I had thought.  Have a great week and happy reading!

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Everybody uses words to express themselves.  Except me.  And I bet most people don’t realize the real power of words.  But I do.

Thoughts need words.  Words need a voice.

I love the smell of my mother’s hair after she washes  it.

I love the feel of the scratchy stubble on my father’s face before he shaves.  But I’ve never been able to tell them.

Fifth-grader Melody Brooks loves her little sister Penny, her dog Butterscotch and the sweet twang of country music.  She has a photographic memory and dreams of joining her grade school quiz team.  Until recently, no one knew any of this because Melody had been locked inside her head.  She was born with severe cerebral palsy limiting her movement and her verbal capabilities.  Written off by doctors and educators as “retarded” (a word Melody hates) and mentally incapable, the dedication of her 5th grade special education teacher, her aide Catherine, her loving parents and the uncompromising Mrs. V, allow Melody to unlock the voice inside her with the addition of a special Medi-Talker.  Not everyone is ready for Melody to have a voice, though – including members of the quiz team she wants to join.  However, with a spunk, spirit and courage all her own, Melody works to make her voice stand-out and be listened to and prove that she is a force to be reckoned with.

Review: Kids like Melody have a very special place in my heart.  Throughout my high school years, I volunteered with people who had profound mental and physical disabilities at a long-term care facility called The Saint Joseph Home in Cincinnati, Ohio.  We took the residents on outings to places like the zoo or a ball game, dressed them up in their Halloween costumes and had a parade, did art projects and just spent time together.  They were an amazing group of people, and I loved the time that I spent there with them.

Sharon Draper gives a voice to those who are voiceless, like those individuals at the Saint Joseph Home, in her extraordinary book, Out of My Mind.  I absolutely loved the main character, Melody, who has such a unique, beautiful and honest way of looking at the world.  She describes country music as “lemons – no sour but sugary sweet and tangy.  Lemon cake icing, cool, fresh lemonade.”  However, the words swirling around in her head have no voice, and I felt her extreme frustration when she was unable to communicate to her dad that she wanted a Big Mac and a shake or to tell her parents that she loved them.  Melody was also matter-of-fact.  She describes the difficulty she has eating and the messes she makes on her shirt and the jerking motions she makes when she gets excited or upset.  She knows when others are uncomfortable around her, and she hears them whisper about her in hushed tones.  As a protagonist, Melody weaves her way into your heart and doesn’t let go.  The first-person narration in this book works extremely well and lets the reader see out of Melody’s eyes.

Draper realistically portrays the family dynamics of taking care of someone who is severely handicapped.  The love that Melody’s parents have for her is extremely evident – from their insistence to the doctors that Melody is bright to singing and reading to Melody at night to advocating Melody’s need for a Medi-Talker.  However, Draper also shows the stress that Melody’s care plays into their marriage and relationship, especially when Melody’s new sister Penny is born.

Two characters that I loved in this book were Mrs. V, a family friend, and Catherine, Melody’s new college-age aide with a quirky fashion-sense.  They constantly advocated for Melody, pushed her, and were cheerleaders for her talents and abilities.  I can only hope that all children have a Mrs. V or Catherine in their lives.

The main conflict in the story revolves around Melody making the quiz bowl team and the reactions to her presence on the team by those around her. However, this conflict leads to Melody making an important realization:

Fifth grade is probably rocky for lots of kids.  Homework.  Never being quite sure if you’re cool enough.  Clothes. Parents. Wanting to play with toys and wanting to be grown up all at the same time.  Underarm odor.

I guess I have all that, plus about a million different layers of other stuff to deal with.  Making people understand what I want.  Worrying about what I look like.  Fitting in.  Will a boy ever like me?  Maybe I’m not so different from everyone else after all.

Out of My Mind is Melody’s story- a nuanced, poignant, honest story of a girl growing up and finding her voice – something all students can relate to.  This is an absolutely fantastic book that I plan on recommending to all students in my classroom.  It is an important book to share and treasure and discuss.  I really hope that the Newbery buzz is true because this book truly deserves the highest honor in children’s literature.

Genre: Realistic fiction

Age Recommendation: 9 and up

Rating: 5/5

Posted in Middle Grade Fiction, Realistic Fiction | 5 Comments

The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade

Dying should have been the worst moment of my life.  I mean, hello, getting run over by a school bus full of band geeks while wearing the regulation gym uniform of red polyester short shorts and a practically see-through white T-shirt?  It doesn’t get more tragic than that. Or, so I thought.

Alona Dare is your quintessential popular girl – beautiful, catty, center of attention with a hot boyfriend.  But now, due to an unfortunate run-in with a school bus, she is dead…though certainly not gone.  She is a ghost and needs to figure out how to leave Earth to go to the “bright light.”  Enter Will Killian, the goth kid who can actually see, hear and touch ghosts.  Alona needs Will to help her navigate the ghost world.  Will needs Alona, too.  On top of the normal problems that hearing and seeing the dead might bring, a frightening ghost named Gus has been trying to destroy Will.  Will Alona and Will be able to get past their differences and help each other before it is too late?

Review: If you are looking for a fun, light read from a new voice in paranormal fiction, look no further…The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade is the book for you!  There are a lot of things that I loved about this novel:

  1. Two words:  Alona Dare. What a sassy, enjoyable character!  The language that she uses throughout the novel really define her character and give her dimension.  For example, when she is about to be hit she says, “God, buses are so ugly when you see them that up close.”  Kade crafts Alona to have a distinctive voice – she can be self-centered, insensitive and honest-to-a-fault but she still is extremely likable.  Alona grows a lot during the story as well, but not an unbelievable amount.
  2. The relationship between Alona and Will. There was so much tension and banter between the two protagonists.  I loved it!  I was really rooting for them to get together and realize their feelings for each other, even though it would be a little bit creepy.  You could tell that they really cared for each other, and I love how the relationship progressed.
  3. The tone of the book. While there was danger and romance and a paranormal element, the tone of the book was light and fun.  This book is like a glass of ice-cold lemonade on a sweltering hot day.  It was refreshing and just what I needed after reading a string of more serious novels.
  4. There is going to be a sequel! To be honest, I was kind of sad when this book ended.  I wanted more Will and Alona – more banter, more romantic tension, more ghostly encounters!  The characters are that likable.  Never fear, though, friends.  There is going to be a sequel called The Queen of the Dead coming out on June 7, 2011.  Yay!

An enjoyable read with memorable characters.  If you are looking for something a little bit different in the paranormal category, try The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade.  You won’t be disappointed.

Genre: Paranormal romance

Age Recommendation: 13 and up

Rating: 3.9 / 5

Posted in Science Fiction, Young Adult Fiction | 4 Comments

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Thank you to everyone who entered my I LOVE JANE! Giveaway.  I loved reading all of your choices for your favorite literary couple.  The couples ranged from Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice to Gemma Doyle and Kartik from A Great and Terrible Beauty to Mary Anne and Logan in the Babysitters Club Series.  Who is my favorite literary duo?

Frog and Toad!

Yes, I know that they are not a couple per se, but I think that they have a beautiful friendship, and I loved reading about their adventures as a child.  In the romantic relationship category, I would choose Taylor Markham and Jonah Griggs from Melina Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road.

On to the winner…I used a random generator to pick a number, and the number that came up was 4!  That means that the 4th commenter, Jenny @ Supernatural Snark, is the lucky winner of a copy of Jane by April Lindner and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  Congratulations, Jenny!

In Jenny’s comment, she wrote:

I read Jane Eyre forever ago, so I’m excited to read this new interpretation! Hm, my favorite literary couple? I would love to pick a couple classically tragic and epic and all that, but that’s not really me, so I will have to go with Chess and Terrible from Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts series, or Rose and Dimitri from Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series, or Barrons and Mac from Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series (though they’re not technically a couple…yet. I’m holding out hope for Shadowfever when it comes out in January). Phew. That was too many, but I can’t pick just one.

Thanks again to everyone who entered!  Be on the lookout for my end-of-October Halloween giveaway in which I will be giving away two Mary Downing Hahn books and a copy of The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade.

Coming up this weekend, I will have a review of The Ghost and the Goth and a new teacher feature post.  Have a great Friday!

Posted in Giveaway | 1 Comment

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event held by Jill @ Breaking the Spine.  Bloggers get to share what books they are anticipating!

I know that this book has been talked about a lot but I can’t wait for…

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads …

Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she’s less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris — until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all . . . including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? Stephanie Perkins keeps the romantic tension crackling and the attraction high in a debut guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt.

I love that this book is set in a boarding school in Paris!  I am really anticipating reading about Anna’s adventures.  This book is set to be released on December 2, 2010.  I know that I will be counting down the days.  What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

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Ten Best Reads of 2010 cont.

I hope that everyone had a safe and happy New Year’s Eve and will have an even better 2011.  Yesterday, I shared with you the first five of My Ten Best Reads of 2010, including my all-time 2010 favorite, North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley. The Top-10 list was incredibly hard to make as I read so many wonderful Young Adult and Middle Grade Books this past year.  What a great year for reading :)

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I remember the first time I was thrust into the violent, desolate world of Panem in The Hunger Games.  After reading the first few chapters, I was drawn into the story of Katniss, a brave girl who ultimately became the face of a revolution but at heart just wanted to protect her family and their happiness.  The story of Katniss is all at once beautiful, terrifying and life-affirming.  While Mockingjay was not my favorite of the books(a spot reserved for Catching Fire), I thought that it was a fitting, though sad, conclusion to this finely crafted trilogy.  This trilogy will sock you in the gut but you find yourself asking for more.  A powerful and important read about love, loss and war.

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Melina Marchetta is a true master of the young adult genre.  Even more so, she is a true master of conveying the human experience and emotion – her writing is spot on.  Realistic, emotional, smart, deep.  Saving Francesca is a beautiful novel that examines what it means to grow up and to grow into who you are meant to become.  Francesca and Will are one of my very favorite relationships, and the characters Marchetta crafts stay with you long after you have closed the book.  I can’t wait to revisit these characters when The Piper’s Son is released in America in March.  I can only hope that more American readers will discover the magic of Melina Marchetta’s novels.

Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian

Girl power?  Well, Natalie Sterling’s got it – president of student council, driven, motivated – nothing is going to stand in her way, especially boys.  Girl power?  Spencer’s got it but definitely in a different way than Natalie.  Spencer is used to using her body and attraction to get what she wants.  This novel explores feminism, the expectations of young women and the roles that they are supposed to play.  The characters are wonderfully flawed, and the novel doesn’t leave us with any easy answers.  However, it does leave the reader with the sense that women need to stop judging themselves, and others, so harshly and that we must fight against the titles and roles that others put upon us and just be ourselves.

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

Well, surprise, surprise!  Another Melina Marchetta book on my list.  What a shocker…

The exploration of different types of relationships, what it means to be an immigrant, the character growth.  There is nothing about this novel that I don’t love.  And Jacob Coote.  Just read this book and try not to have him steal your heart.  I hope that all of you will read this book, and it will make your favorite reads list for 2011. ;)

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Out of My Mind is the only MG selection on my Top 10 list for this year but it is well-deserving.  The spirit and spunk of our protagonist, Melody, is reason enough for this book to get a place on the list.  However, if you need more reasons to read this book, look no further than the masterful writing, the realism, the richly-defined characters and the message of hope and acceptance.  All of my students that have read this poignant novel loved it as well.

I would love to know your favorite book from 2010!  Tomorrow, look for a recap of my Christmas break reading (I think I am at 8 books) and the winner of four fantastic Melina Marchetta novels.

PS .  Can I just say that I am now obsessed with Simone Elkeles’ novels?  Anyone with me?

Posted in I Heart Melina Marchetta, Middle Grade Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Romance, Writing, Young Adult Fiction | 2 Comments

Ten Best Reads of 2010…Looking Back

Put on your New Year's Best

Another year has come and gone.  Seemingly, 2010 has flown past – a great year full of even better reads.  The fabulous Adele over at Persnickety Snark created a challenge to reflect back on the year in terms of blogging and books.  Sadly, I am a bit late to the party.  (Note to self:  Make planning ahead a resolution!)  However, I definitely wanted to participate in the final post:  The Ten Best Reads of 2010.

In 2010, I felt that my love of reading was revitalized – I was reading as much as I did in grade school, and it was wonderful.  It felt like I had reclaimed part of who I was.  2010 was filled with so many wonderful books and authors that to narrow it down is going to be difficult.  However, without further ado…. the first five of My Ten Best Reads of 2010!

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

This beautifully written novel was my absolute favorite read of 2010.  The examination of what it means to be truly beautiful along with the authentic characters and extended metaphors made this novel stand out in a field of outstanding books.  Justina Chen Headley’s writing transports you into the the characters hearts and minds and takes you on an unforgettable journey – to China and to the realization of what true beauty really is.

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Sometimes you just want a fun, escapist read.  Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles was just that book for me.  I will be posting my full review in January, but I really loved this book.  This book doesn’t try to pretend to be anything it is not.  Gang-member Alex and rich-girl Brittany are two teenagers from opposite worlds who just don’t understand each other.  However, when they get paired up as chemistry partners, they find that they have more in common with each other than they originally thought – including some romantic chemistry.  Is this book a little bit improbable?  Sure.  Is the epilogue a little bit cheesy?  Yes.  But that’s why I loved this book.  You know you are supposed to eat fruits and vegetables but sometimes all you want is a huge bag of Doritos.  Perfect Chemistry is reading junk food of the most delicious kind.

Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

I didn’t get a chance to review this book but it was still one of my favorite reads of 2010.  It is another book about that features a star-crossed romance but when you throw Edgar Allen Poe, a creepy super-natural element and cheerleading into the mix, you have yourself one fast-paced, engaging book.  I loved the relationship between Isobel and Varen as it developed slowly and realistically.  Trust had to be built between them especially with such a dark reality looming around them at all times.  I am eagerly awaiting the sequel to this book which is scheduled for release in spring of 2012.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Sadly, I did not write a review on Graceling either but I felt that my words could not adequately relate the awesomeness that is this book.  I have never been a huge fantasy fan (especially high fantasy).  In fact, I would call it my least favorite genre.  HOWEVER, Kristin Cashore made a believer out of me with this novel.  The sense of place she created with vivid detail (and she included a map! I love maps!), the independent, strong-minded characters, the epic romance, and the evil, sickening villain made this book a memorable, stand-out.

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Suspenseful.  Gripping.  Creepy.  Romantic.

All of these adjectives aptly describe one of my new favorite paranormal mysteries The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting.  I have never read a book faster than I did this one.  I could almost hear the creepy music surround me as Violet hunted the killer and Derting’s incredible detail allows for you to experience the intensity of the story.  The relationship between Violet and her best friend, Jay, captivated me as well.  It is no coincidence that this is one of the most talked about books of 2010.  It was intensely amazing.

Come back tomorrow as I finish counting down my Top Ten Reads of 2010.  I wanted to note that not all of these books have a 2010 publishing date; rather, they simply books that I read in 2010 and are in no particular order.  I would love to know your ultimate favorite book that you read this year!

Finally, today is the LAST day to enter my Melina Marchetta book giveaway.  I hope that all of you have a fun and safe New Year’s eve.  I look forward to sharing more reading and book discussions in 2011.  :)

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The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

And then there was another sound.  Something she couldn’t quite identify.  Yet.

She was familiar enough with the meaning of this new, and misplaced, noise.  Or at least with what it signified.  She had been hearing sounds, or seeing colors, or smelling smells like these for years.  For as long as she could remember.

Echoes, she called them.

Violet Ambrose has a special talent – a morbid, supernatural special talent.  Violet can sense the dead through echoes, sensory images that the dead leave behind.  She can also sense their killers as the dead imprint them with the same echo.  It is up to her to help the dead rest in peace.  At first, this manifests itself in Violet burying the small animals that her cat has killed.  However, when a serial killer begins to strike her town, Violet knows that the stakes have been raised, and she needs to do whatever she can to stop a madman.

On top of everything, there is her best friend Jay Heaton.  At least, he was her best friend. Suddenly, Violet finds herself having feelings towards Jay that definitely venture out of best friend territory.  She only hopes that Jay feels the same way.  Will Violet be able to come to terms with her special ability and her new feelings for her best friend?  Will she be able to find the killer terrorizing her town before he finds her?

Review: Do you want to go on a roller coaster ride of awesome?  If so, you need to pick up The Body Finder by Kimbery Derting as soon as humanly possible.  This is a book that you are not going to be able to put down after you start reading it – you will be reading it at 1:00 in the morning with your book light, totally creeped out, flying through this book at a break-neck pace.  Not that I would know this from personal experience or anything…

Joan Lowery Nixon – Who would think that this sweet looking lady could write such creeptastic, scary books!

I first heard about this book from Becky at Stories and Sweeties.  I have found that Becky and I often like similar books, and I really trust her reviews.  And what do you know?  She was 100 percent right about this amazing read.  When I was younger I loved reading books by Joan Lowery Nixon.  You might remember titles like The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore and A Deadly Game of Magic.  I read every single one of these suspenseful, scary books.  I loved the feeling I got from these reads- being on the edge of my seat, having to read with the light on, frantically wanting to know what happens to the main character.  Well, I got the same amazing feeling from The Body Finder.

Let me tell you – Kimberly Derting is an author to watch! She is such a master of suspense.  I loved the juxtaposition of the chapters featuring Violet and her best friend Jay with the chapters featuring the thoughts of the serial killer.  The thoughts of the serial killer only heightened the intensity of the read and the urgency that I felt for Violet to figure out the mystery.  For those last few chapters, I am not sure I have ever read anything faster in my life.

Kimberly Derting – An Author to Watch

Not only does Derting know how to write suspense but seems to be a seasoned pro in the romance department as well.  I know that the “I am secretly in love with my best friend” story has been played out again and again.  However, Derting finds a way to make it seem fresh, fun and new.  (well as fun as you can get when a killer is terrorizing your town)  I loved the growing relationship between Violet and Jay.  In fact, I adored the characters of Violet and Jay separately which made it even more satisfying when they were together.  I felt that, in a sense, Violet was almost a modern-day Nancy Drew with the power to feel the dead.  She was headstrong, fiery, caring and a little bit goofy.  She was unrelenting in her quest to find the killer – even at her own peril.  Jay was a perfect compliment to her; he was sensible, smart, handsome and just a little bit protective. ;)

The paranormal aspect was so well-crafted and unique.  Violet could see or feel auras of the dead.  Essentially, if someone died in a unnatural manner, she could sense where the dead lie and sense who was responsible if she was close enough to the person or creature.  Derting use such excellent description in her writing that it was almost as if you could sense the auras with Violet – the oily sheen, the peeling bells or the taste of decaying dandelions.

Overall, I thought that this book was one amazing thrill ride. I am eagerly awaiting reading more about Violet and Jay in Derting’s next book, Desires of the Dead, which will be released on February 15, 2011.

Genre: Paranormal fiction

Age Recommendation: 14 and up

Rating: 4.25/5

Posted in Author to Watch, I love Jay and Violet, Mystery, Suspense, Young Adult Fiction | 10 Comments

Updates at Literature for Lunch

Why Santa…you are so handsome!

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas and holiday.  Ours included dressing up our English bulldog, Oliver, as Santa Claus.  As you can tell, he TOTALLY loves it.  Well, even if he didn’t, he got lots of fun toys and treats under the tree!  I was super excited to get several book gift cards to add to my book collection – so far I have bought The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker, The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting and Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles.

I also gave several books as presents this year:  Little Bee by Chris Cleave, Nevermore by Kelly Creagh and North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley.  I would love to know what books you gave and received this holiday season!

Me and Lauren

In some blogging news, Literature for Lunch is getting a new contributor! ::APPLAUSE::  My sister, Lauren, who is an avid, adventurous reader (there is really nothing that she won’t read) is coming on board to do an occasional review.  She will be debuting a new feature here called Reading Revisited in which we take another look at some of our favorite childhood/young adult reads.  Word on the street is that her first review will be on Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume or The Ear, The Eye and The Arm by Nancy Farmer.  In addition to being an avid reader, Lauren enjoys running like a crazy person, shows on BBC On-Demand, and the outdoors.  Welcome to Literature for Lunch, Lauren!

Finally, we are entering the final days of the Melina Marchetta giveaway for our Canadian and American readers.  Click here to enter and good luck!

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Megan Meade’s Guide to the McGowan Boys by Kate Brian

Megan Meade’s Guide to the McGowan Boys by Kate Brian

Megan Meade has a dilemma.  Her parents are moving to South Korea with the military, and she wants to stay in America to finish her last two years of high school.  What is a girl to do?  Move in with the McGowan family and their seven boys!  Soon Megan finds that living with seven boys is not all that it is cracked up to be…will she be able to survive?

Review: Often times, on my Nook, I will scroll through book covers and titles to see which ones catch my eye as potential reads.  Then, I read the publisher reviews and take a look at the number of stars fellow readers have given the books.  This book received 5 stars from a large number of people on Barnes and Noble and I thought the premise was promising, so I decided to give it a try.  To be blunt, I am not sure I see how this book has received so many five star ratings.  But I digress, let me start at the beginning….

I always like to say something positive about a book I have read.  For this book, I thought that the cover was cute, the title was clever (it alludes to the rules she comes up with for living with boys) and the premise showed a lot of promise.  Megan Meade’s parents are in the military and are about to be sent to South Korea.  Megan is tired of moving and is definitely NOT going to South Korea for her junior year in high school.  Instead, she moves in with the McGowans and their large brood of boys.  As she experiences living with the McGowans, she e-mails her friend back home and comes up with “rules” for living with all of the boys.  I thought, “Ooh, this could be fun!  Hi-jinks!  Romance!  Our main character finding out who she is!”  Sadly, this book did not live up to my expectations.

One of the main issues that I could not really get past is with the character development, in that the characters were not developed.  Honestly, they were stock, cookie-cutter characters – the attractive jock who dates the hot, mean girl, the bad boy motorcycle rider, the feeling artist, the brother with Asperger’s who needed “saving”, the girl who had so many boys she didn’t know what to do, etc.  I just could not get invested in any of these characters because there was nothing to hold on to, nothing to cheer for, nothing to care about.  I found the majority of them unlikable, and it was difficult to keep the brothers straight at the beginning.  Additionally, I was really offended (and perhaps unnecessarily, I am not sure) by Megan’s treatment of the brother with Asperger’s.  It made it seem like all she had to do was read a few articles on the internet about it and then suddenly she was able to make breakthrough connections with him that no one else could.  This part really felt forced, which brings me to the writing.

I have never written a book and cannot imagine how difficult it is to develop an idea, story arc, setting, etc. and have it be cohesive and work together well.  Therefore, I salute all book writers.  However, in my opinion, this book would have benefited from some further revision before being published.  The dialogue seemed unnatural and the writing was pedestrian.  The plot seemed like it came right from one of those after-school specials in which Johnny learns a special lesson or something like that – in a word, predictable. The characters, as mentioned previously, lacked any sort of depth or nuance.

There was no real tension in the story, and from the start, you can guess the brother that Megan is going to end up with.  However, she ends up with him after some silly, contrived ending in which she was going to fly to South Korea but the brothers tell her to come back.  So she leaves the airport and goes back with the McGowan family to live happily ever after.  To be honest, at that point I was hoping her parents had travel insurance because that was just ludicrous to me.

So, overall, this book just really did not live up to my expectations, and to say it was disappointing would be putting it mildly.  From looking on Amazon, Good Reads and Barnes and Noble, there are lots of people who DID like this book so feel free to check those places out for an alternate perspective. I would give another one of Kate Brian’s books a try because it is possible that this book just didn’t resonate with me.

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Recommendation: 14 and up

Rating: 1.75/5

**Last few days to enter my Melina Marchetta giveaway!**

Posted in Realistic Fiction, Young Adult Fiction | Comments Off

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

There must be a few times in life when you stand at a precipice of a decision.  When you know there will forever be a Before and an After. Mom’s life was twice marked:  Before Dad, After Dad.  Before her sister’s death and After.  I knew there would be no turning back if I designated this moment as my own Prime Meridian from which everything else would be measured.

What is the definition of true beauty?  Without knowing it, Terra Cooper is on a search to find out the answer to this very question.  Terra has long been thought of as beautiful – except for the prominent port-wine stain that covers part of her face.  Long defined by this birthmark and belittled by her cartographer father, Terra and her mother’s world is thrown into a different direction when they meet Jacob, an adopted Asian teen who had a cleft palate as a child, and his mother.  Soon Terra and her mother find themselves on a trip to China and a journey to map out and reclaim their lives.

Review: I first heard of Justina Chen Headley during a Blog Hop in which a blogger recommended her as an author she wished more people knew about.  I was intrigued and decided to purchase a book of hers called North of Beautiful.  I was blown away and now am firmly on the Justina Chen Headley train.  North of Beautiful was one of the most beautiful, well-crafted, meaningful books I have ever read.  In fact, it has even earned a spot in my Top 10 List of all-time favorite books which I will be updating soon.

There are so many things that I love about this book – the first being the absolutely wonderful writing.  Headley has a real knack for being able to put feelings and truth into her writing – her writing is so authentically real, and the dialogue is perfectly crafted.

The characters of Terra and Jacob, as well as the secondary characters, are so dimensional and well-rounded.  Each has an amazing amount of depth – from Terra’s artwork, obsession with working out, relationship with her best friend and her mother, and her need to get away to Jacob’s love of geocaching, his search for his roots in Asia and his ability to make others see themselves differently.  Even Terra’s father, who is emotionally abusive, has many layers and is never reduced to a stereotype.

The trip to China that Terra, Jacob and their mothers take was so fun to read about – the sights, smells, experiences, food, and people were described in such detail that you feel you are right there with them.  You can tell that Headley has first-hand knowledge of China and brings that to the story.  I love when authors use travel to allow characters to learn something new about themselves as they experience a new place or culture.

The metaphors of maps and map-making were skillfully woven throughout the story elevating this novel to an even higher level of excellence.  It it is a novel that will truly get you thinking about what true beauty is and how you can find it in yourself.  I would recommend this novel to anyone but especially to those who love the beautiful realism found in Melina Marchetta and Jennifer Donnelly’s stories.  If I was a high school teacher, I would definitely want to have all of my students read and experience this novel.

A unique, brilliant story, North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley gets my highest recommendation.  I absolutely adore this book and its amazing message.

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Recommendation: 14 and up

Rating: 5/5  (will be a new addition to my Top 10 Favorites list)

**Only a few more days to enter my Melina Marchetta giveaway!**

Posted in Realistic Fiction, Tough Issues, Young Adult Fiction | 2 Comments

Teacher Feature: Novel Scavenger Hunt

Gail Godwin said, “Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths pure theatre.” I would have to say that to some extent, I agree with this quote.  It is so important to portray concepts, ideas, and books to students with a high level of enthusiasm, engagement and drama so that the students “buy-in” to what they are learning.  One way that I have built excitement for a class novel study is by using a scavenger hunt to help introduce the book selection.  A book scavenger hunt is easy to create!  Recently, my students read Holes by Louis Sachar as a class novel.  Here is what I did to create a scavenger hunt for this book:

1.  Identify and jot down symbols, characters, and settings from the book. For Holes, I jotted down sand/desert, holes, shoes, camp, X-Ray/Zero/Armpit, palindromes, Clyde Livingston and onions.  This list will help you create your clues.

2.  Choose areas around your school where students will be able to go find the clues. For my scavenger hunt, students went to the cafeteria, library, gym, office and outside of my classroom.

3.  Write your clues. Your clues should combine a “piece” of the book and where the student should travel next.  For example, I set a big bin of shoes outside the gymnasium.  Inside one of the shoes was a little baggie filled with Clyde Livingston “autographs” that the students could take and the next clue.  Here is the clue that they received at that station:

Inside this basket here

You will find a lot of shoes

Find the one used for sports

And you just might find some clues!

From here go to the place

Where novels and magazines take up space.

Outside the room lies a big book

Open it up and take a look.

4.  Prepare a physical symbol that students can take from each station to help them guess what book they will be reading. For our Holes study, students took a small scoop of sand, paper cut-outs of onions, x-rays, and zig zags, Clyde Livingston’s autograph and the definition of palindrome.  Each student had a zip-lock bag that he or she could put the physical symbols in.  This bag later was used to store each child’s novel study materials (book, response journal, etc.)  and students glued many of their clues into their response journals as they later recognized their role in the book.

Students can be book detectives!

5.  Find a space for students to spread out their clues and guess the title of the book. I had my students write their guesses on a note card along with their reasoning.  I had some really crazy and hilarious answers like “Race Car Driver Clyde Livingston’s Broken Arm.”

6.  Plan the big reveal. I have done this in a couple of different ways.  I have created a bulletin board with the book cover and the blown-up items from the book and covered it with a sheet.  Once all students have returned and ventured their guesses, I reveal the bulletin board.  This year, the literacy teacher and I buried small versions of the Holes cover in sand and had the students dig for the answer.

And there you go!  It is so easy to create a novel scavenger hunt, and your students will love being book detectives.

Helpful Hints: I would stick to about 5 or 6 clues for the hunt and split students into teams of four or five.  I worked with our literacy teacher on this activity.  It was nice to be able to have two people out in the building helping to monitor the students, answer questions, take pictures, etc. so I would suggest enlisting a helpful volunteer. :)

If you have any questions about the novel scavenger hunt or would like a copy of the one I created for Louis Sachar’s novel Holes, let me know!  My students loved this activity (in fact, they asked if we could do this for every novel we read), and I know that your middle school students will enjoy it, too!

Posted in Realistic Fiction, Teaching Ideas, Writing | 3 Comments

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

“Tomorrow will be better.”
“But what if it’s not?” I asked.
“Then you say it again tomorrow. Because it might be. You never know, right? At some point, tomorrow will be better.”

Amy Curry doesn’t recognize herself anymore.  After the tragic death of her father, Amy and her family are lost and disconnected from each other – her mother decides that they need to sell their house in California and move to Connecticut, her brother goes to rehab and Amy’s lost her direction and sense of self.  After finishing out the school year, Amy is going to take the family car and join her mother in Connecticut.  However, after the accident Amy doesn’t drive.  Enter her old neighbor Roger who is home from college and going to spend the summer with his dad in Pennsylvania.  Amy’s mom comes up with the perfect solution:  Amy and Roger can drive cross-country using the carefully crafted itinerary she has designed.  But sometimes plans are made to be broken and as the title states, Amy and Roger go on one epic detour across America because it’s the journey and not the destination that’s important.

Told through a traditional narrative style sprinkled with scrap-book like items and playlists, Amy and Roger’s Epic Journey show us that the best discoveries are the ones we make when we aren’t looking for them.

Review:  In looking back at my most recent book reviews, I become a little worried.  I worry that people will think that I am too complimentary – that they will ask themselves, “Does she only give positive reviews to books? She LOVES everything.” But I looked back at those novels and my opinions stand – I have been reading some really stellar books and am not going to worry that people think I am too positive. 

Amy and Roger’s Epic Journey falls squarely into my stellar books category.  Well-developed, nuanced characters are so important to me as a reader.  Matson excels in this area – Amy has so many different layers that peel back as the novel progresses.  You are right with her in her intense grief and guilt over her father’s death.  She has the most wonderful voice – wry and caring.  The way that she kept comparing herself to Amy!, the girl who she imagined her stripped down room represented, was hilarious and in comparing the two, I was able to get a better idea of who Amy really was.  And Roger- I just loved him and his nickname, Magellan.  The secondary characters like Bronwyn and Lucien are also dimensional – more so then I have seen in a lot of other novels.  The fact that I remember their names says a lot about their impact on me (I have a terrible time remembering character names-even as I am reading. Weird, I know)  Matson really has her finger on the pulse of what teens are like today, what makes them tick and their voices.

I read this book on my Nook so I am not sure I got to experience the full effect of the little notes, postcards, receipts, pictures and music play lists sprinkled throughout the book.  However, I thought they were a wonderful addition to help further develop this story.  It almost made it seem like a travelogue and really gave me the itch to go on a road trip this summer. Sidebar –  I LOVE road trips.  In college, my roommates and I drove down to the land of fun and sun, Daytona, Florida, for our university’s sponsored trip.  Florida was great but it was the stops we made along the way (world’s largest alligator, Fountain of Youth) that really made the trip.  – End Sidebar

I also appreciated the theme of this novel which was subtly woven throughout.  Each of us have a journey to take – there might be roadblocks or obstacles that we need to overcome, but life is about taking one step at a time and enjoying the experience.

This novel is a treat.  I strongly encourage you to join Amy and Roger on the road trip of a lifetime and read Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson!  This was Matson’s debut novel, and in my opinion, she is an author to watch.

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Recommendation:  15 and older

Rating:  4.75 / 5

Remember to enter my Melina Marchetta giveaway! :)

Posted in Realistic Fiction, Young Adult Fiction | 12 Comments

Melina Marchetta Giveaway

I am sure that it comes as no surprise to any regular reader of this blog that I have a special place in my heart for Australian authors – especially author Melina Marchetta.  Her books have a beautiful realness to them, and the characters are unforgettable.  I recommend her books to everyone (whether they have asked for a recommendation or not ;) ).

I would like to share some of my love for Melina’s books with you!  I am giving away FOUR of her novels to one lucky follower who lives in the United States or Canada.

I am so excited to share these books with you!  You will win Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, Jellicoe Road (one of my top 10 favorites of all time) and her foray into fantasy, Finnikin of the Rock.

Please fill out the form below to enter.  The contest will run December 11th through December 31st.  I can’t think of a better way to start 2012 than by reading these phenomenal novels!

**Fine print:  You must be 13 years or older and the winner will be chosen by a random number generator.  You must be a resident of the United States or Canada for this particular giveaway. A special thanks also goes out to Parajunkee Designs who created an awesome tutorial for Google Docs (which sadly didn’t address what to do when my form kept showing up in Italian ;) ) and the fabulous Liz @ Midnight Bloom Reads who shared the link!

Posted in Uncategorized | 18 Comments

Blog Hop

Book Blogger Hop

It’s that time again!  Time for the weekly book party hosted by Crazy for Books.  The blog hop gives book bloggers a chance to share their love of books with others, find new reads and connect with new people!  Thanks again to Jennifer @ Crazy-for-Books for hosting this great event.

Each week Jennifer posts a question for the Hop.  This week’s question is: What is the thing you like most about reading book blogs?  Is it the reviews, author guest posts, articles, giveaways, or something else entirely?

There is a lot that I love about reading book blogs!  I absolutely love all of the people I have “met” through book blogging.  I love the connections and the camaraderie that I have with these people about books.  Who else can you squeal with about Jenny Han’s books or lament an entire year’s wait for a much anticipated sequel?  I also love the reviews.  I have learned about so many great books (new and old) from fellow bloggers.  I always sit at the computer with a piece of paper or my Nook so that I can jot down books that I want to read.  I have about 20 now.  Oops!  I hope that I have been able to introduce people to books that I am passionate about.  The discussion that comes from these books is great as well.  It is like having an on-line book club.  :)

Thanks to everyone for stopping by.  Be sure to come back on Saturday for my Melina Marchetta giveaway.  Also, check out Christina’s Blogoversary Giveaway Extravaganza (she is hosting four giveaways!) at her fantastic blog Confessions of a Book Addict.  She has excellent taste in books, is a fellow teacher, and her reviews are extremely well-written and thought out.  :)

Posted in Book Blogger Hop | 13 Comments

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The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hahn

The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hahn

Uncle said the dead did not return.  He was wrong.

Twelve-year old orphan, Florence Crutchfield, is plucked from her home at Miss Medleycoate’s School for Girls and sent to live with her father’s long-lost uncle at Crutchfield Hall.  Florence is certain that she will be happier with her uncle, his sister and his great-nephew, James, but soon learns that she was wrong.  Though she feels kindness from her uncle, Florence’s great-aunt, Eugenie, despises her.  Eugenie is still in mourning for James’ “perfect” sister Sophia, who almost died a year before and takes her anger out on Florence.  Florence is also not permitted to see James, who is too sickly for visitors.

It soon becomes apparent that there is another resident of Crutchfield Hall…the ghost of Sophia.  Sophia begins making Florence do her bidding and seems to exact an odd control over her.  It is Sophia’s ultimate goal to recreate the scene of her death and have someone else perish in her place.  She believes that this act will allow her to take her rightful place among the living.

Review: I absolutely think that Mary Downing Hahn is one of the best authors out there for students in the middle grades; her stories are fast-paced and spooky with well-developed characters.  I have given her books to many a reluctant book-hopper with great success.  These books spread like wildfire through my classroom, and I can never keep them on the shelves.

The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall does not disappoint!  While it is a bit different than her other ghost stories (typically set in more modern times), the elements that draw kids in are all there.  I loved her description of the ghost of Sophia.  Sophia had once been a very beautiful, but rotten, child.  When she appears to Florence, she is still cruel and controlling but her beauty has faded.  Hahn writes, “She wore a stained white silk dress, and her dainty slippers were muddy.  What was left of her dark hair was dull and sparse.  Her face was narrow and pale, her skin stretched tightly over her skull.  Dark shadows ringed her eyes.  Her teeth were brown.  She smelled of earth and mold.”  Just enough eww factor for middle grade readers!

The story picks up momentum quickly as Florence questions others about Sophia and if the presence of her ghost was possible.  Kindly house servants support Florence as she works to protect James from Sophia’s wrath.  The final climax, a show down between James, Florence and Sophia, is taut with tension and excitement.  Both the characters of James and Florence show courage and a level of independence not seen typically from children in this period of history.

In the novel, Florence is an avid reader, which I love!  However, middle grade readers may not be familiar with the Bronte sisters, Thackeray’s Vanity Fair or Edgar Allen Poe.  If I were to give this book to a student, I would be sure to provide some brief background information about the time period and the authors/books mentioned in the novel.  Additionally, this is not the first Mary Downing Hahn book I would give a student, unless he or she specifically asked for historical fiction. The dialect of the servants, more formal style of language or the time period might turn off some younger readers.  I would recommend Wait Till Helen Comes or Deep, Dark and Dangerous first to whet the student’s appetite for the wonderfulness that is Mary Downing Hahn and then follow those up with her other novels, including this one.

I continue to be a huge Mary Downing Hahn supporter and loved this most recent book, The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall.

Genre: Historical Fiction/Science Fiction (paranormal)

Age Recommendation: 8-12

Remember… You have till midnight on Sunday (eastern time) to enter my September giveaway for copies of The Sky is Everywhere and Raised by Wolves.  As this is a newer blog, you have a pretty good chance of winning.  ;)

About Jen

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. I have always viewed words as having a magical quality-able to transport, illuminate and inspire. I was able to parlay this love of reading into a career as a language arts teacher and am able to encourage students every day to find books that “speak” to them. I decided to blog about the books I read because books are meant to be shared and discussed. 🙂

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4 Responses to The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hahn

  1. I’ve stopped by your blog via the Hop.

    I’m a new follower!

    I hope you will stop by my blog when you can:
    http://www.readerbuzz.blogspot.com

  2. Jen says:

    Thanks for stopping by :) I will be sure to check out your blog.

  3. Pingback: Book Party Time! |

  4. good points and the details are more precise than elsewhere, thanks.

    – Thomas

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Giveaway!

Giveaway!

I am so excited to be doing my first giveaway!  I recently reviewed The Sky is Everywhere and Raised by Wolves, and I would love to pass them on to share the reading love.  Both are well-cared for, hard-cover copies and have only been read once (by me!)

All you need to do to enter this giveaway is to comment on this post.  Be sure that you include some way for me to contact you so that I can get your mailing information if you are the lucky winner.  The winner will receive both novels.   The giveaway will run till Sunday at midnight; on Monday, I will randomly pick a winner!

Good luck and happy reading!

About Jen

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. I have always viewed words as having a magical quality-able to transport, illuminate and inspire. I was able to parlay this love of reading into a career as a language arts teacher and am able to encourage students every day to find books that “speak” to them. I decided to blog about the books I read because books are meant to be shared and discussed. 🙂

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6 Responses to Giveaway!

  1. Becky says:

    These are both titles that I’ve been wanting to read! Thanks for offering this contest!

    email: storiesandsweetiesblog@gmail.com

    ~Becky

  2. Chrystal says:

    Great contest. I keep seeing these books around and they both look like great reads.

    chrystalDOTmclean@yahooDOTca

  3. Pris says:

    What a cool giveaway! Looking forward to reading these!! Thanks!
    Pris
    pbenterud@gmail.com

  4. Thanks for the fantastic girveaway! I’m a new follower! They both look like beautful books that I would love read! Again thank you!

    callmeghostgirl@yahoo.com.au

  5. Kate C says:

    I would love to win! My new bookcase needs to be filled.=]

  6. Oh, gosh, I’ve wanted to read these novels since they came out! Especially The Sky is Everywhere! I can’t seem to find it in the library whenever I go. :(

    Thank you for hosting this (awesome) giveaway, and for the opportunity to win! :)

    Kristina

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The Liar Society Blog Tour

The Liar Society Blog Tour

I am so happy to be able to host Ohio authors Lisa and Laura Roecker on the blog today!  They are the authors of a super fun mystery called The Liar Society which takes place in a fictional prep school called Pemberly Brown. 

I loved the spunk of the main character, Kate Lowry, who is totally the Nancy Drew for today’s generation.  Here is a teaser from the publisher:

Since when do the dead send emails?

Kate Lowry’s best friend Grace died a year ago. So when she gets an email from her, Kate’s more than a little confused.

To: KateLowry@pemberlybrown.edu

From: GraceLee@pemberlybrown.edu

Subject: (no subject)
Kate,
I’m here… sort of.
Find Cameron. He knows.
I shouldn’t be writing.
Don’t tell. They’ll hurt you.

Now Kate has no choice but to prove once and for all that Grace’s death was more than just a tragic accident. She teams up with a couple of knights-in-(not-so)-shining armor-the dangerously hot bad boy, Liam, and her lovestruck neighbor, Seth. But at their elite private school, there are secrets so big people will do anything to protect them-even if it means getting rid of anyone trying to solve a murder…

Lisa and Laura are stopping by the blog today to answer some questions!  I hope you enjoy their answers as much as I did.  :)

Thanks for putting up with us, everyone! If you want to enter The Liar Society Blog Tour of Awesome contest, and really, who wouldn’t want to enter!?! There’s a $100 Amazon gift card up for grabs! Just click here and enter the super secret password, SOCIETY, for an entry. Remember you can enter one time for each stop on our blog tour, so be sure to click here and see where else we’re visiting this month to maximize your chances of winning.

About Jen

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. I have always viewed words as having a magical quality-able to transport, illuminate and inspire. I was able to parlay this love of reading into a career as a language arts teacher and am able to encourage students every day to find books that “speak” to them. I decided to blog about the books I read because books are meant to be shared and discussed. 🙂

This entry was posted in Author to Watch, Romance, Suspense, Young Adult Fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Liar Society Blog Tour

  1. This was great! Thanks so much for sharing this with us. I am excited to read this one!

  2. I can’t get the form to work for me….=^(

  3. Cindi says:

    I have been following this delightful blog tour all month!
    I can’t get your link to work for the “Society” Secret Word…
    Many thanks, Cindi

  4. Jen says:

    My apologies Raquel and Cindi – all links should work now!! :) Sorry for any trouble this has caused you!

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Some updates…

Some updates…

A Special Thank You

First, I want to thank Jenny @ Supernatural Snark for my wonderful blog header.  Not only is Jenny an excellent book reviewer but she is also a fantastic designer!  She actually designed my wedding invitations and last year’s Christmas cards!  Check out her blog.  She is hosting a giveaway today so you might even win something! :)

Classroom Library Tour

Next, I wanted to give you a glimpse into my classroom library.  I have been building this library for over six years–as a present for graduating college, my mom helped me start this library with a gift of books from the Scholastic Warehouse and I have continued adding to it ever since.  I believe that it is so important that children have access to a wide variety of quality literature at all times.  One student said today, “Mrs. M, I think you have every book in here!”  It was a bit of an exaggeration but I like to think that I have a great library for the kids.

Welcome to my classroom library!  The picture above is the reading corner.  The reading corner has a large body pillow from Target with a slip-cover for easy cleaning.  I also have several large frogs that I have collected over the years that the students love to lay on.   The reading corner is large enough for two students.  I would love to have a larger reading space but with 35 kids in my class, space is at a premium.  To the left of the space, you see a reading display where I put out my current favorites or “hot” 5th grade reads.  In the tubs, I have books arranged by genre for easy browsing.

I have 5 sets of book cases in my room that house my book collection.  (in addition to the built-ins)  I have had many different shelves over the years but I found that the ones that have lasted are the ones that my husband and I have built ourselves.  Inexpensive bookshelves from places like Target or Wal-Mart just don’t stand up to a group of children who love to read.  Each shelf costs about 35 dollars to make, and the shelves are very durable!

I wanted to include a close-up of the fifth shelf.  Each year, my school has a silent auction benefit to support the students and the church.  Every grade level makes something for the silent auction.  This past year, the students each wrote a quote about their favorite books, characters or authors.  Then, a parent volunteer decoupaged the quotes onto the shelf along with pages of an old book.  When the parent volunteer brought the shelf in, I fell in love!  It was so wonderful to read how books and reading had touched each student’s life.  After the auction was over, I was so shocked when the bookcase came back.  A generous parent had purchased the shelf and donated it to my classroom.

What I am Currently Reading

As I anxiously await The Scorch Trials by James Dashner, I am reading The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hahn (one of the best authors out there for middle grade readers) and The Danger Box by Blue Balliett.

In 5th grade, we just finished our first read-aloud, Frindle by Andrew Clements and are now enjoying Savvy by Ingrid Law.

Join me tomorrow as I participate in my first Blog Hop.  Also, I have a neat giveaway coming soon. Happy Reading!

About Jen

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. I have always viewed words as having a magical quality-able to transport, illuminate and inspire. I was able to parlay this love of reading into a career as a language arts teacher and am able to encourage students every day to find books that “speak” to them. I decided to blog about the books I read because books are meant to be shared and discussed. 🙂

This entry was posted in Teaching Ideas. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Some updates…

  1. Jenny says:

    Awww you’re welcome! I was glad to help:) I’m hearing great things about The Maze Runner and I know a lot of people anxiously awaiting The Scorch Trials so maybe I need to get reading those. Have fun hopping this weekend:)

  2. Heather says:

    Stopped by looking for the hop!

    Love these classroom pics!!!

    Check out my Hop here:
    Book Blogger Hop, Follow Friday and a Giveaway!

  3. Wow! You have a crazy awesome classroom library! Boy, do I wish I was your student! I would have killed to have a teacher encourage me to read so much that they’d stock a personal library for their classroom. And I have to admit, those frogs do look comfy. <3 I love the quote on your bookcase. I might have to steal it :O

    I'm anxiously awaiting The Scorch Trials, as well! I had only gotten to read The Maze Runner a few days ago, because it was constantly off the shelf in my library. But I gotta say, it was amazing! I caaaaan't wait for The Scorch Trials! I was so jealous when I missed out the arc giveaways from Random Buzzers. xD

    Happy reading! <3

  4. Pingback: What’s Hot in the Classroom? January Edition |

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Do You Want to Meet Lauren Oliver?

Do You Want to Meet Lauren Oliver?

It is no secret that I love Lauren Oliver’s writing.  Her first book, Before I Fall, was amazing.  I loved the concept of a teen girl looking back at her life and changing herself to become a better person.  The characterization and the plotting were so well done. Her newest book, Delirium, is an epic love story set amongst a time where love is forbidden and outlawed.  I received a copy from the publisher via Net Galley.  My review is forthcoming. :)

Needless to say, I was thrilled when I found that Lauren Oliver would be visiting the central Ohio independent bookstore, Cover to Cover.  This awesome children and teen’s bookstore (which receives a lot of my money!) is located in Clintonville.  I love their great selection and their attention to helping customers find the right book. (plus the 10 percent educator discount) :)   Lauren Oliver is visiting this bookstore on February 7th at 7 pm!  Yay!  Jenny of Supernatural Snark and I are planning on attending. 

Do you live in central Ohio (or want to make the drive?)  We would love to meet up with you and meet Lauren Oliver all together!  E-mail me or Jenny if you are interested in meeting up!  We hope to see you on February 7th and meet some fellow bloggers. (or fellow book lovers)

About Jen

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. I have always viewed words as having a magical quality-able to transport, illuminate and inspire. I was able to parlay this love of reading into a career as a language arts teacher and am able to encourage students every day to find books that “speak” to them. I decided to blog about the books I read because books are meant to be shared and discussed. 🙂

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5 Responses to Do You Want to Meet Lauren Oliver?

  1. That’s awesome! I am so jealous. Have fun and can’t wait to hear all about it!

  2. Julie says:

    I just finished Before I Fall (literally, like 5 minutes ago!!) and got on your site to check this post. I believe I first read about this book from your blog, checked it out at the library, and read it during yesterday’s and today’s snow (ICE!) days. I saw something about Lauren Oliver and vowed I would finish the book before reading the whole posting. How cool that she’ll be in Columbus this weekend. I wish I could go…

    Thanks for the recommendation. Next up to read: The Mockingbirds.

    :)
    Julie

    • Jen says:

      Yay! I am so glad that you enjoyed Before I Fall. I am going to reread it this summer. Definitely check out Delirium – such a wonderful love story and so exciting. I have not read The Mockingbirds yet so I would love to hear your opinion when you are done!

  3. Seeing as its past February 7, I’m assuming you went to Lauren Oliver’s event and had a great time!! I have both Before I Fall and Delirium but still haven’t read either yet… I will get to reading them soon I’m sure. (Or at least when I have more time…)

    I’ve also given you an award on my blog Jen! You can check it out here.

  4. Brittany says:

    I have given your blog an award! :) Check it out at: http://brittanysfantasy.blogspot.com/2011/02/blog-awards.html
    Thank You!

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My Dog is Famous!

My Dog is Famous!

Last summer, our English bulldog, Oliver, participated in a photo shoot for a new easy-reader called Rupert Likes to Play.  Essentially, the book is about a dog named Rupert who likes to play with different things like shoes, a rope and a red ring.  Most of all, though, he likes to play with his friend Oliver!

Oliver is featured in several of the photographs which is very exciting!  He is such a dog model.  ;)   Rupert is actually our friends Bill and Cate’s dog; the author is Cate’s mom!

I just thought that it would be fun to share this book on a snowy and cold Sunday.  If you are a parent or teacher of preschool/kindergarten students and want to order this book, check out the Hameray Publishing Group website.

About Jen

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. I have always viewed words as having a magical quality-able to transport, illuminate and inspire. I was able to parlay this love of reading into a career as a language arts teacher and am able to encourage students every day to find books that “speak” to them. I decided to blog about the books I read because books are meant to be shared and discussed. 🙂

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5 Responses to My Dog is Famous!

  1. Oh my gosh! SOOO cute! Your dog is adorable!

    • Jen says:

      I think he is pretty adorable too! The problem is that he knows he is handsome. Our vet says that he suffers from “Spoiled Dog Syndrome.” Ha.

      He was actually in my wedding – we had a tux custom-made for him on ETSY. We just love him so much. :)

  2. Jenny says:

    Ahhhhh look at your pup! He is famous, as he should be because he is just too cute! I would blow that up and frame it like a ridiculously proud puppy parent:)

  3. Ms. Yingling says:

    I’m trying to cut down on reading to my dog because it’s just sad, but I will have to read her this one if I can find it. Congratulations!

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Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event held by Breaking the Spine.  This event features books that we can’t wait to be released.

This week I am waiting on…

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard

From Goodreads: It’s hard finding beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming, but 14-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it’s not her mother’s pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild-girl Mandarin Ramey: 17, shameless and utterly carefree. Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin.

When they’re united for a project, they form an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town’s animal-head trophies, and searching for someplace magic. Grace plays along when Mandarin suggests they run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds plaguing their badlands town.

Because all too soon, Grace discovers Mandarin’s unique beauty hides a girl who’s troubled, broken, and even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep the magic, no friendship can withstand betrayal.

My thoughts:  A book about friendship and self-discovery?  Set in the badlands of Wyoming?  This book sounds pretty much perfect.  The cover is gorgeous as well – I love the simplicity of the pink and green type and the half face of the girl.  So intriguing.  Finally, if all of this was not enough to convince you…this book was blurbed by Melina Marchetta.  THE Melina Marchetta.  If it’s good enough for Melina, then it’s good enough for me.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

About Jen

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. I have always viewed words as having a magical quality-able to transport, illuminate and inspire. I was able to parlay this love of reading into a career as a language arts teacher and am able to encourage students every day to find books that “speak” to them. I decided to blog about the books I read because books are meant to be shared and discussed. 🙂

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6 Responses to Waiting on Wednesday

  1. Great pick! I’ve had my eye on this one too. I really like the cover as well.

  2. Sandy says:

    I do love the cover but I haven’t yet added this book to my TBR list because I don’t know if I’d like it. Its on my to-consider list though. I’ll wait for your review before I pick it up :) .
    I’d love it if you checked out my WoW pick :)

    -Sandy

  3. Jenny says:

    I’m actually really excited for this one as well even though I don’t read much contemporary YA, but this one sounds too good to pass up. And I love the colors and simplicity of the cover, it’s just so pretty:) Fantastic pic Jen!

  4. Becky says:

    This one sounds really good! I’d seen the cover around, but this is the first time I’ve read the synopsis…definitely adding it to my wishlist!

  5. hi Jen! thanks so much for featuring Like Mandarin! I love that you’re a Melina fan — she’s one of my all-time favorite authors :)

    • Jen says:

      Ahhhh! Aaahhhh! Kirsten Hubbard has commented on my blog! I am so thrilled. I am happy to feature Like Mandarin. It looks amazing and I am so excited to read it! :) Thanks for stopping by!

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What’s Hot in the Classroom? January Edition

What’s Hot in the Classroom? January Edition

As a fifth grade language arts teacher, I put a high priority on reading.  I want my students reading and talking about books all the time.  I do a couple of things to facilitate this:

  1. I keep an extensive, kid-friendly classroom library. Brightly colored book cases, a large collection of stuffed frogs, genre grouped book bins, an audio-listening station and over 1, 300 books make up this library.  I keep it current but also pay homage to time-tested classics.
  2. The students and I frequently book-talk books we are reading. It is one thing to show kids a fun book cover but it is another to give a short summary, tell them who would like it, read the first chapter aloud, etc.  These are the things that really hook readers.  My students have a great handle on how to book-talk.  Often times, I hear them book-talking at recess or during our weekly library time.  Some parents have even told me that their children book-talk with each other on Skype!
  3. I am a reading role-model to kids. You can talk the talk, but you have got to show your students that you walk the walk.  Often times I will use our silent-reading time to conference with kids about their reading but other times I will just read.  When the students see that I value and take time for reading, they will know that I truly mean what I say.  I am the life-long reader that I want them to be.

Each year, I am so happy with the students commitment to reading, love of literature and awesome book choices!  This group of kids is particularly adventurous in their choice of books; many of them are willing to read anything I throw at them!

As of early January, our 68 5th-graders have read over 950 books and over 32 million words.  Incredible.  With all that we do to help facilitate a love of literature, the students really are the book experts.  Therefore, I am unveiling a new monthly feature:  What’s Hot in the Classroom?  The books profiled below are books that are current hot reads with my students. A hot read is defined as one that I can barely keep on my shelf, has an extensive waiting list, a lot of children are reading it currently or the book is receiving a lot of “buzz” amongst my readers.

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

From the publisher: In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches.

Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.

Student WOW-factors: Main characters are Hansel and Gretel (who are familiar to many of the students).  The “squeam” factor (beheadings!  women who eat children!).  The narrator who speaks to the reader throughout the book.  Humor.

I read the first chapter to my students, and I had 16 kids on the waiting-list immediately.  Several more went out and purchased the book because they “couldn’t wait” for their turn on the list.  This book is a rollicking-fun read that really speaks to 5th graders!

Dark Water Rising by Marian Hale

From the PublisherI looked south toward the gulf, trying to keep an eye on the stalking sea. Wild waves rose up like a great hand and wrenched loose the Pagoda’s long staircase, sending planks tumbling through the air. With horror I watched the end of one twin building sway and dip into the surf.

I yelled at Josiah, but my words disappeared on the wind. I grabbed his arm, pointed, and we stood together, shoulder to shoulder, mouths gaping, watching the impossible.

Like a wounded Goliath, the great bathhouse shuddered, folded in on its long legs, and collapsed into the sea.

Galveston, Texas, may be the booming city of the twentieth century, but to Seth it is the end of a dream. He wants to be a carpenter like his father, but the family has moved so Seth can become a doctor.

Just as things begin to look up for Seth, a storm warning is raised one sweltering afternoon. A north wind always brings change, but no one could have imagined anything like this.

The acclaimed author of The Truth About Sparrows has crafted an unforgettable story set during the Galveston Storm of 1900.

Student WOW-factors:  Adventure and suspense.  Relate-able historical fiction.  Authentic, memorable characters.  Edge-of-your seat excitement.

Dark Life by Kat Falls

From the Publisher: Dive deep into the vivid underwater world of Dark Life!

The oceans rose, swallowing the lowlands. Earthquakes shattered the continents, toppling entire regions into the rising water. Now, humans live packed into stack cities. The only ones with any space of their own are those who live on the ocean floor: the Dark Life.

Ty has spent his whole life living deep undersea. When outlaws attack his homestead, he finds himself in a fight to save the only home he has ever known. Joined by Gemma, a girl from Topside, Ty ventures into the frontier’s rough underworld and discovers some dark secrets to Dark Life. Secrets that threaten to destroy everything.

Student WOW-factors: Kids are working to save the world.  Secrets.  Suspense and adventure.  An alternate world.  Dystopian literature (many of my students are HUGE fans of The Hunger Games trilogy).

Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix

From the Publisher: Jessie lives with her family in the frontier village of Clifton, Indiana, in 1840 — or so she believes. When diphtheria strikes the village and the children of Clifton start dying, Jessie’s mother reveals a shocking secret — it’s actually 1996, and they are living in a reconstructed village that serves as a tourist site. In the world outside, medicine exists that can cure the dread disease, and Jessie’s mother is sending her on a dangerous mission to bring back help.

But beyond the walls of Clifton, Jessie discovers a world even more alien and threatening than she could have imagined, and soon she finds her own life in jeopardy. Can she get help before the children of Clifton, and Jessie herself, run out of time?

Student WOW-factor: Margaret Peterson Haddix is visiting our school in March.  Adventure-filled.  Suspenseful.  Strong girl protagonist.  Interesting plot twist.

What books are currently hot in your classroom?  Any suggestions on books I should add?

About Jen

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. I have always viewed words as having a magical quality-able to transport, illuminate and inspire. I was able to parlay this love of reading into a career as a language arts teacher and am able to encourage students every day to find books that “speak” to them. I decided to blog about the books I read because books are meant to be shared and discussed. 🙂

This entry was posted in Middle Grade Fiction, Teaching Ideas. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to What’s Hot in the Classroom? January Edition

  1. All of these books look incredible and they would fit well in my classroom library as well….especially A Tale Dark and Grimm. Haddix is loved by my students as well. It’s very cool that she is coming to visit your school. I can’t wait to hear details. I loved the Found series! Also, I love your classroom library. It looks great!

    • Jen says:

      Yes! I absolutely think that all of these books will translate well into an 8th grade library.

      I really like Haddix’s Shadow Children series! We are excited about her visit as well. I saw her speak last year at the state Power of the Pen competition and was really impressed. She knows how to speak and relate to young people. :)

  2. Beverly says:

    Ok, I’m going to have to appropriate this for my school library blog. It makes my day when a student comes up to me outside the library and wants to talk books. I just recently bought for myself The Grimm Tales. I loved Running Out of Time.

    Beverly aka Booklady

    • Jen says:

      Thanks Beverly! I love when students talk to me about books as well. Building book excitement and talking about reading is one of my favorite parts of the job. I remember reading Running Out of Time when it first came out; I used to have the original hard cover but it disappeared somewhere along the way. :/ I am looking forward to see what you think of A Tale Dark and Grimm; my students think it is wonderful. Thanks again for stopping by. :)

  3. I’m sooooooo glad to find your blog! You cover books I love and want to see covered more :)

    • Jen says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by Jill! I am a huge fan of your blog and your book reviews! :) I will soon be writing reviews of some of the books that I mentioned today so be sure to stop back. :)

  4. Julie says:

    I really like your blog! It is great…On another note, I was always told that during silent reading time, all the time should be used for conferencing since it is great to model reading for kids, but it is extremely important to constantly be conferencing with students. What do you think about that? Keep reading and writing!

    • Jen says:

      Thanks for stopping by. I am glad you like the blog. I do think that conferencing with students is essential and do a lot of it! However, I also think that modeling a reader’s life is also essential. I try to find a balance. Typically, I would say I spend about 70 percent of the time with either formal or informal conferencing, helping match students up to appropriate books, etc. and about 30 percent modeling my own reading. Conferencing can be done outside of the silent reading time; I often find myself having informal conferences with kids in the halls, between classes, at lunch, etc. Utilizing those pockets of time is essential for me. Luckily, I work closely with our literacy teacher, and we share conferencing duties! Great question. I would be interested to hear your own opinion.

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