Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Class of 2k9 Challenge Invitation

A couple of days ago I wrote about how excited I am for the Class of 2k9 books to start being released. Because I was so pleased with the first few books from authors in the Class of 2k8, I challenged myself to read them all so that I don't miss out on great books. By previewing the Class of 2k9 page, I can already tell that I won't want to miss out on their books either.

I would like to invite others to join me in the challenge; although, I know that some people do not feel like they can commit to reading every single book. I loved how Ali created levels for her 2009 Diversity Rocks! Challenge and decided to do the same.

In the spirit of 2k9's menu theme, you could choose on of the following options:

1. Appetizer challenge - Challenge yourself to any four of the Class of 2k9 books.

2. Middle grade main course challenge - If you are more drawn to middle grade novels, then you could commit to all of the middle grade books.

2. Middle grade dessert challenge - Think you would enjoy reading the middle grade novels, but you can't commit to all of them? Commit to reading five of them.

3. Young adult main course challenge - Commit to reading all of the young adult novels.

4. Young adult dessert challenge - Commit to reading five of the young adult novels.

5. Full course challenge - Up for a full course meal? Commit to reading all of the 2k9 books.

The challenge will go until January 31, 2010.

Below are a list of the books categorized by middle grade and young adult and release date. I will be updating the list as I see more specific release dates and/or if there are any additions.

If you would like to join me on the challenge, sign up using Mr. Linky. Please put the specific link to where you blog about the challenge rather than just your blog address. If you would like to participate in the challenge but do not have a blog, just leave a comment saying that you would like to participate and you can leave comments here as you progress through the challenge.


*1/27 Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry

*2/3 The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
*2/24 Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams

*Jane in Bloom by Deborah Lytton

*Also Known as Harper by Ann Haywood Leal

*Secrets of the Cheese Syndicate by Donna St. Cyr
*Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French

*When the Whistle Blows by Fran Cannon Slayton

*Road to Tater Hill by Edith M. Hemingway

FALL 09:
*Haven by Beverly Patt


*3/17 Freaked by J.T. Dutton
*My Life in Pink&Green by Lisa Greenwald

*4/1 My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters by Sydney Salter
*4/16 Breathing by Cheryl Renée Herbsman
*Watersmeet by Ellen Jensen Abbott

*5/5 Shrinking Violet by Danielle Joseph
* Crash into Me by Albert Borris
*Initiation by Susan Fine

FALL 09:
*My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman
*Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick
*Give up the Ghost by Megan Crewe
*Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble

Monday, December 29, 2008

2009 Young Adult Book Challenge

Since I just decided to do the 2009 Diversity Rocks! Challenge it reminded me of another challenge I had been debating doing earlier that I heard about on Pop Culture Junkie's blog, the 2009 Young Adult Book Challenge hosted by J Kaye.

Here are the guidelines:
1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

2. Read 12 Young Adult novels. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

3. Challenge begins January thru December, 2009.

4. You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009.

I was going to just put a few books to start off my list, but as I looked at my Book Mooch wishlist, I realized that I had almost twelve so I decided to go ahead and do my whole list. For the few spots that weren't on my Book Mooch wish list I just looked on Amazon to see other suggested books.

My list of 12:

1.Chicks Ahoy by Lynda Sandoval
2.Teach Me by R.A. Nelson
3.New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
4.Geek High by Piper Banks
5.Haters by Alisa Valdez Rodriguez
6. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
7. Bloom by Elizabeth Scott
8. Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
9. Violet on the Runway by Melissa Walker
10. Amor and Summer Secrets by Diana Rodriguez Wallach
11. The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
12. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

2009 Diversity Rocks! Challenge

I just heard about the 2009 Diversity Rocks! Challenge on A Year of Reading's blog. As chance would have it another one of my favorite bloggers, Alea created the art for the challenge.

Just yesterday I had been debating whether or not I liked doing challenges because sometimes I really want to read a certain book but then I hold off on it in order to read a challenge book. Right now is a good example, since the New Classics Challenge is drawing to a close my remaining three books will be the priority for now. It occasionally feels like the dreaded summer reading list. At the same time, I am finally going to read The Kite Runner that my mom and sister have constantly raved about. My sister even bought it for my niece for Christmas and said it was her favorite books.

Thus, I decided that challenges are good for me. They push me to read books that I have heard great things about that I have wanted to read for a long time that I might not necessarily put at the top of my to be read stack if it weren't for a challenge.

I am excited about the 2009 Diversity Rocks! Challenge because I love reading about different cultures. I know not every diverse author writes about culture, but usually if the characters are from their same cultural background then certain aspects, however subtle, come out. It is always fun to make a connection of how two seemingly different cultures are like one another. For example, when I first met my husband we were living in a small community where there were not many Mexicans for most of the year. He knew most of the Mexicans who were in town, but during the summer there was more migrant seasonal work so there would be some more unfamiliar faces. When we would go to places such as stores my husband would say "Mexicano a la vista" (Mexican in sight) when he would spot someone. I always thought it was kind of funny. I was surprised to see that Dimple's dad in Born Confused did something very similar when he saw Indians, and Dimple had a similar reaction to it as I did.

One of the great things about this challenge is that it has a lot of flexibility, so I have decided to do a working list rather than to set a list now. However, these are the guidelines I set for myself based on the suggestions for the challenge. I want to commit to at least 12 books for 2009. That should be very feasible. I already have a lot of books by Hispanic authors that I can't wait to read that I won from My World-Mi Mundo's blog. In order to make sure that I branch out from Hispanic authors, I am going to say that at least six of the books have to be from other cultures. Overall I want to cover five cultural groups.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The New Classics Challenge is Drawing to a Close

The count is on for the deadline of the New Classics Challenge. I have until January 31st to read: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, Eva Luna by Isabel Allende, and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I am going to read them in that order without reading other books until I finish up. Of course nothing happens if I don't finish the challenge other than not liking to start something and then not finish it.

The Smart One and the Pretty One

After reading Crepúsculo in Spanish I needed a light English read. I heard about The Smart One and the Pretty One on Pop Culture Junkie's blog and I was lucky enough to get a copy off Book Mooch as soon as I read her review. I knew it would be the perfect fun, quick read.

This book is about two seemingly very different sisters. Ava is a successful lawyer who makes intelligent financial decisions and is very sensible. Lauren is returning from New York to live with her parents after overspending resulting in her New York life falling apart. Ava, trying to help her sister, decides to create a contract for Lauren to sign vowing to not buy anything unnecessary for 6 months and to cut up all of her credit cards. Resenting the contract, which made her feel like a baby, Lauren decided to seek revenge by looking up a childhood friend, Russell, after she found a contract that their parents had signed saying Ava and Russell would marry when they were older.

Throughout the book both sisters have romance and struggle with their own inner challenges, Lauren with controlling her spending and Ava with resisting changing her physical appearance to please a man. They have the mutual challenge of keeping their noses out of each others' business; although, sometimes they do know what is best for each other.

Like Alea's review I could also relate closely to Ava's character. Two of my sisters constantly make jokes about the time I spend on getting ready (or lack thereof). Here is even public proof if you look at Sally HP's comment here. While they don't make fun of my clothes as much, except certain articles, I definatly have never gone into debt because I could not control my clothing spending, which is more than I can say for my sisters. Of course we have also mocked each other about our own choices in life as these two did. Because my relationship with my sisters so closely paralleled the themes in the book, I enjoyed it even more.

I am excited to eventually read more of LeZebnik's books!

Class of 2k9...can't hardly wait!

This summer I felt lucky to find out about the Class of 2k8. The books that I have read so far have all been excellent and it is so much fun to have the companion site to see author's comments. As 2009 is right around the corner I did a web search to see if the Class of 2k9 page is up and running. I'm overjoyed that it is all set, and I am eager to go exploring on it and to keep a close watch on it this year. I just may have to challenge myself to read all of their books as they are released as well while I am also catching up on my delayed start to finding out about Class of 2k8 this year.

I can't hardly wait to read their books after catching a glimpse of them on their our books tab that is nicely divided into middle grade and young adult categories.

The 2k9 site even has a news and contests tab on their site that although there is a link on the main page that says to click to find out about winning a pack of books before they are released, the actual page does not have any contests yet. I will have to check back often though as that would be so exciting. I always love getting books in advance.

The blog does not have a whole lot on it yet, but that was my favorite components of the 2k8 group, so I will be adding it on to my favorites list.

A fun piece that the site offers that I had not noticed on the 2k8 (although I typically only looked at their blog portion so they may have had it as well) is a tab for teachers. This tab provides lesson ideas for teachers to include their books into the curriculum. It was inspiring to see their comment that many of them are teachers themselves. Someday I would love to write a book that my students would enjoy so it is always encouraging to see that it is possible to be a teacher and author at the same time. My goal this summer is to try and dedicate some of my vacation to starting a draft of an idea that I have for a book.

Best of all, they have an Authors To Go program where many of the authors donate their time to interact with a school through various avenues. Teachers request an author match and then the author and teacher make a plan. I am definitly going to look more closely at the book tab so that I can email a list of authors that I would love to have interact with my 6th grade class via the Authors To Go program. They are also encouraging classes to hold book drives to share the love of reading!

Wow! It looks like a lot of book fun is awaiting me in 2009!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Crepusculo (Twilight)

This break I was determined to read The Tale of Desperueax and Crepusculo the Spanish version of Stephenie Meyer's popular book Twilight. This summer I read a lot about the Twilight saga on book blogs and as I have already mentioned on various posts that I also have a student this year who is the ultimate Twilight fan. When I left for the break there was a handful of other girls in my class who were reading the book, as well as a boy who had asked if he could borrow the Spanish version that I bought for my husband as a birthday present. I knew for sure that with so much buzz about the book in the classroom I just had to see why my students were so enthrawled.

I absolutely loved Crepusculo. Despite reading it in Spanish (my second language) I was able to blast through the around 500 page book in three days (including Christmas day when I was constantly torn between family time and just dying to read a little bit more). I frequently enjoy the books I read, and often I have fun reading middle grade/young adult books for reasons such as characters reminding me of my own students or knowing that I will be able to recommend the book to my students. However, this was a book that I read and thoroughly enjoyed from the adult perspective. Even if I was not a teacher wanting to read to be able to connect with my students I would not have been able to put the book down.

Because I had heard bits and pieces about the book before, I knew some of what was going to happen. Yet, I was surprised by the thriller aspect toward the end of the book as I had heard more about the romance side (that's what my student talks about the most at least--Edward--sigh). It was a great balance. My only regret is that I should have read the book sooner because now I am dying to see the movie but it has already come and gone from the local theater, so now I will have to wait until it comes out on video. I already added it to my Netflix queqe. For now the movie site is tiding me over with sneak peeks.

Right after concluding the book I went onto Amazon and bought all four English versions on the books in the series. Yes, I even bought Twilight because I think I will eventually reread it in English. If my student has read it over and over and still is not tired of it then I am sure that I will devour it again, especially to pick up on some details I may have missed because of reading it in my second language. I almost went out of control and ordered the remaining three Spanish editions, but then I decided I had better wait for my husband to read this one and make sure that he wants to read the rest in the saga. I told him that he has to read it by the time it is released on video so that we can enjoy the movie together.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Tale of Despereaux

I first heard about Kate DiCamillo's The Tale of Despereaux when I was student teaching four years ago. One of my 7th graders absolutely loved it. I can still remember the passion on her face as she talked about it. I bought it to include in my classroom library because of her rave reviews, and I have had it on my books to read for a long time. Since I decided to have it on my Book Awards Reading Challenge list, I knew that I would read it for sure by the end of the challenge. However, this Friday as I was reading my students' reading logs I saw the following comment about the book, "The book is cool because the mouse falls in love with a princess." I just had to read the book so that I could make a connection with that student once we get back from the break.

This book was a quick read, and I can see how it would be especially appealing to struggling readers or to ESL students who still are not at an advanced level of English because it is an accessible book. Visually it has plenty of white space in between lines of text and it also has periodic pictures to support what is happening in the story. The narrator often refers to the reader. As my student said, it also has the interesting story of a mouse falling in love with a princess. The narrator jumps around from different points of views to show us the insights of various characters so that the reader can understand multiple motivations.

Here are a couple of examples of lines that I liked that show the narrator's style of interacting with the reader:
"Despereaux marveled at his own bravery.
He admired his own defiance.
And then, reader, he fainted" (56).

"Reader if you don't mind, that is where we will leave our small mouse for now: in the dark of the dungeon, in the hand of an old jailer, telling a story to save himself" (81).

I am really glad that I read this book because I know that a lot of students would really enjoy it. Aside from the student who made the comment on the reading log one of his classmates is reading it as well. When we get back from break I can do a book talk on it, and the other two can join in with their comments. It will be a good opportunity to scaffold book talks.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Return to Sender

As soon as I heard that Julia Alvarez has a new book out for young readers I could not wait to get a copy of it. I was ecstatic when I found out that I was going to receive an ARC so that I would not have to wait for its January release date. I was especially excited because of Return to Sender's content. It is about two 6th graders who are very different but become best friends throughout the book. Tyler grew up on his family's farm in Vermont, but when his dad has an accident their farm is in jeopardy. Tyler can't imagine losing the farm and he gets so upset about the prospect that his family sends him away to visit an aunt for a while in the summer. When he returns home he is so relieved to hear that his family won't lose the farm after all, but he soon becomes confused when he realized that his family has hired undocumented Mexican workers to help since his dad's injury will not allow him to continue working. Mari is one of the worker's oldest daughter, and she is also entered the United States without inspection.

The book is told from alternating point of views, but unlike some books that choose this form of narration the style is a bit different. With one exception, all of Tyler's section is told through third person narration, while Mari's is told through letters - her passion. The letters are written to various people, such as her mom, her grandma, La Virgen de Guadalupe, and the president.

Both of the main characters have struggles throughout the book. While Tyler is coming to grips with his grandfather's death and his dad's accident, Mari is worried about her family's immigration status and her mother's disappearance. When her grandmother in Mexico was dying her mother returned, only to cross the border illegally once again without arriving back to her family. Mari is left with the hope that her mother is alive but in constant fear that her mom will not find them since they moved to a new state.

Because of the topic, I was hoping that this book would be appropriate to buy multiple copies for literature circles. There are many parts of the book that are excellent, that I would love to see what my students would think of the book. However, some of the content was a little bit questionable for the age group. Originally the book was going to be recommended for 8-12 year olds, but it is being switched to 10 and up. It does not surprise me, but I question whether even 10 is too young.

First, here is what I loved about the book:
*I enjoyed that the book showed immigration issues through the eyes of two kids the same age from completely different backgrounds and to see how Tyler struggled with the concept while getting to know Mari and her family more.
*I loved that the immigration pieces were realistic. While my heart was wishing that certain outcomes would happen, I knew that was my chica lit loving self and not reality pushing for those happily ever after scenes. Yet, when the book portrayed reality rather than the happy endings to different plot lines I was satisfied because I would have been annoyed if the book sugar coated realities that undocumented immigrants face.
*I also appreciated the accurate portrayals of Mexico and Mexican culture.
*The ending was very fulfilling. I was so close to crying on several pages, but my husband was in the room and always laughs at me for crying because of books or movies, so I held back the tears.
*Roger Charlebois makes an appearance. As is common in other Alvarez books some characters pop up that were previously in other books. Charlebois was in Cuando Tía Lola vino de (visita) a quedarse. Although I can't remember his first name, so I don't know if it is the same Charlebois or a relative. Either way the brief appearance would be fun for my students who would remember the name from when we read Tía Lola as a whole class.
*The book references many immigration events. Although it may be too recent to be considered historical fiction, in later years it is accurate portrayal of 2005-2006.

Now for what was a bit objectionable for the age range:
*Luckily, Mari's mom does reunite with her family; however, the reason why she was not able to immediately rejoin her family after crossing into the United States was because the coyote that she was with got overpowered by a gang of other coyotes who took her mother hostage. Mari hears bits and pieces of what happened to her mother and other aspects are left for inferencing. We know from the mother's stories that her mother became the leader's servant and that he treated her violently. For example, he knocked out some of her teeth. From inference we can gather that she was living in very difficult circumstances and that he probably forced her to have sexual relations. Once the mom gets home she is very afraid all the time and cries a lot. I am pulled in different directions on whether or not my 6th graders' parents would want their kids to read this. On one hand, it is told through Mari's point of view, so it is showing a situation that someone there age is living and they may or may not pick up on certain parts of it. Yet, I think the book gave enough details of the mom's circumstances to where some parents may not appreciate me having it in the classroom library.
*There was also one other inappropriate comment from a lawyer in reference to an immigration official. While it was funny to me as an adult and I laughed out loud, I am not sure that parents of 10 year olds would necessarily agree. I can't put the exact quote yet since it is an ARC and I would need to wait and check it against the final print out.

As other Alvarez books it was beautifully written and I know that my students would enjoy it, but for now it is in the questionable pile where I would feel more comfortable setting it aside in my 8th grade stack of books.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Who's Your Daddy?

Whenever I want to really escape in a book and let all cares slip away, chica lit is the best escape. I first read Lynda Sandoval's short story "Diss-Connected" in Names I Call My Sister. I found out that she started writing chica lit style books for teens. I decided to buy Who's Your Daddy? about three small town best friends who have one thing in common - dads that scare away any boyfriend prospects. The girls are so desperate at the chance that they may miss out on having dates to the junior prom that they have a Dumb Supper on Homecoming night in order to find some direction in who they should set their site on as perfect boyfriend material.

Just as great adult chica lit, this book kept me hooked with the fun plot line and was frequently rolling with laughter at the teenage drama. Most of the book is told from Lila's perspective, while sporatic chapters or portions of chapters are told from Meryl and Caressa's point of view. I enjoyed that Lila was the most frequent narrator as she was the wittiest of the group. There were a couple of spots in the book where the lines were a bit redundant, but it was still a page-turner.

I bought it at the beginning of the year along with a plethora of other books for my classroom library; however, I held it back until I could view it and determine whether or not it is appropriate for 6th grade. This topic seems to come up a lot as I never can decide if I am just being too conservative. In this case I am going to hold it back until my school gets to the 8th grade phase.

Here is a sample excerpt of a part that had me rolling with the authenticity of teens (drama-filled ones at least) but that probably would not be well received as appropriate for my 6th graders at school, "I swear, if one more adult tells me these are the best years of my life, I'm going to shave my head and tattoo a four-letter word on the back of my bare skull, and--oh yes--it will start with an F" or that Lila tells her brother "Bite me, buttwipe." I know my students read books and watch movies that are far worse, but I always try to make sure that the books I make available to them are not questionable in those areas, especially with the culture of our school and a higher than average bar of what is appropriate. On the positive side, the book only has a couple innocent kisses, so there are not any issues as far as relationships go. That will make it easier to consider adding into the library for their 8th grade year. If I was a high school language arts teacher I would definately be recommending this to my students.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Laurie Halse Anderson's book Chains captivated me. I loved being consumed by Isabel's struggle for freedom while also catching a glimpse of what it must have been like in New York during the time of the Revolution.

Isabel's wit and inner strength was endearing, and I especially loved the decisions she made. In a literature circle/book club discussing her from a character education perspective would create a lively discussion. My high school class' motto was "Stand up for what is right, even if you are standing alone." Her actions in the book fit this perfectly.

I always enjoy historical fiction and then reading authors' comments about how they did their research and what was fact and what was fiction inspired by research and the authors' imagination. Chains has a lot of Q&A at the back of the book that addresses this well.

It probably won't come as much of a surprise, but I absolutely love the beautiful cover art as well. For a long time I did not realize how the birds were the British and American flags, and once I did I could not believe I had missed it before. It must have been that the image of Isabel was so riveting that my eyes never even wandered to the sides.

There is a flier at the end of the book announcing that there will be another book. I am so excited. The conclusion left an opening for a lot of possibilities for the next installment and I can't wait to continue along with Isabel on her quest to freedom, uniting her family, and making decisions for the benefit of those surrounding her.

Can't Hardly Wait

My students will be thrilled to see that the third Diary of a Wimpy Kid book will be coming out. Many of my students have been checking them out of the library and ordering them through Scholastic book clubs. They have also enjoyed the Do-It-Yourself Book.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Fifteen Minutes of Shame

I got Fifteen Minutes of Shame by Lisa Daily this summer because Mary Castillo mentioned on her blog that people who bought the book would receive an on-line swag bag including an excerpt from one of her upcoming books. That was enough motivation for me. It has been sitting in my to-be read stack ever since. This week I picked it up and it could not have been a more perfect time. I had missed really fun chick lit books, and this book and Sweet Life served that purpose perfectly and was a great evening escape to look forward to at such a busy time of year.

The set-up for the book is that Darby, a famous dating expert, gets publicly humiliated when she finds out that her husband has been having an affair and is breaking up with her on national television. While one incident had made her question her husband's fidelity prior, she was still blindsided when an interviewer broke the news to her that he assumed she already knew. Darby is in for a lot of twists and turns as she tries to get her life back on track, including romance (always a good chick lit must). The chapters had excerpts from Darby's dating advice books/trainings smoothly mixed into the narration at appropriate points of the book.

Daily is a real life dating expert so it was fun to think about her taking a component of her real life and inventing a story around it. I always wonder how much truth is mixed in with the fiction when authors have a clear real-life connection to their material.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Wednesday Tales: The Lightning Key

Through the Harper Collins First Look program I was able to receive an ARC copy of Jon Berkley's The Lightning Key, the third book in The Wednesday Tales group. I wanted to read the book because I saw really positive feedback on the first two books on Amazon. Once I got my hands on it I noticed that it has a lot to offer for my 6th graders, especially readers who love adventures and fantasy. If the readers are somewhat reluctant or at late intermediate+ English language acquisition levels, the format of the book will be great for them. Although it is a longer book with 399 pages, it has short chapters, a large font, and plenty of white space making it visually appealing.

Although the ARC does not include illustrations or front cover art, it mentioned that once the copies are ready for regular sale, they will have illustrations from Brandon Dorman. Based on the covers of the first two books (The Palace of Laughter and The Tiger's Egg) and the excerpt available on Amazon for the first book, it looks like the art will be one more plus in the area of attracting readers.

I started reading The Lightning Key without reading the other two first. As expected, it was a little bit confusing at first and I assumed it was because I had a gap in prior knowledge that I would have known had I already read the first two. I went to look at the other books again on Amazon and confirmed that the confusion was all a result of reading the book out of order, rather than any defect in the writing. The cover of the first book gave me an image of Little and Miles. The excerpt filled in some of the gaps of when Miles and Little first met, and the second cover showed the tiger.

Because of the fun plot, conversational narrative (with sporadic asides in the second person voice), and lovable characters, I will be adding the first two books in the series to my next Amazon classroom library order. I am sure they will be a hit with my students.