Sunday, June 28, 2009

Challenges Update

The end of June is quickly approaching, so I thought the half-way point through the year is a good opportunity to step back and evaluate how I am doing with my book challenges that I have not completed yet. Only 22 books to go. Luckily, I already have copies of the majority. The YA books will be the easiest to read by far. I have read a lot of books by authors that would count toward the diversity challenge but only 1 that was actually on my list from the start. I guess it is good that I put them on my challenge list so that I will actually push myself to read them!

Class of 2k9
In my to read pile:
1. Also Known as Harper by Ann Haywood Leal
2. My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters by Sydney Salter
3. Breathing by Cheryl Renée Herbsman
4. Crash into Me by Albert Borris (pre-ordered)

Need to purchase:
5. Jane in Bloom by Deborah Lytton
6. Road to Tater Hill by Edith M. Hemingway

2009 Young Adult Book Challenge
In my to-read pile:
7. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
8. Amor and Summer Secrets by Diana Rodriguez Wallach
9. The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Need to purchase:
10. Geek High by Piper Banks
11. Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Diversity Rocks! Challenge
In my to-read pile:
12. The Gifted Gabaldón Sisters by Lorraine López
13. Gun Metal Black by Daniel Serrano
14. Tomorrow They Will Kiss by Eduardo Santiago
15. Rain of Gold by Victor Villasenor
16. Brownsville by Oscar Casares
17. The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea
18. One More Year by Sana Krasikov
19. Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani
20. Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama
21. South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami - Japanese writer

Need to purchase:
22. A Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird

Chicks Ahoy

I've had Chicks Ahoy by Lynda Sandoval on my to-read stack for quite a while. I am glad that I waited until summer time to read this fun vacation read. Camille and her best friend Jiggy were not sure what to think when they found out they had to choose between three locations with parental supervision for their summer break after their parents decided they could not stay home unsupervised the summer before their senior year of high school. They decided going on Camille's father's cruise ship as the best option. While they were skeptical at first, it was better than they ever could have imagined. Maybe a little too good. Jiggy, who had always been the good girl is starving for attention from her parents and decides to embrace her wild side. The summer ends up testing the girls' friendship.

While the book was mainly from Camille's perspective, there are glimpses from Jiggy through emails and blog posts. I enjoyed the different format. It is always fun to see how authors integrate new technology into their books.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wicked Lovely

I got Wicked Lovely because I wanted to start participating in the YA Book Club. For a long time I have thought about how much I would love to be in an official book club. I remembered my sisters mentioning their fun experiences with clubs, but by the time I would have thought to join I was moving on to another town, as they did shortly after. In the meantime I have been living vicariously through my students with their in-class book clubs.

While the front cover of the book was intriguing and I enjoyed the information about the author, I had lukewarm feelings about reading the book based on the information on the back. The only reason I chose it over other books in my to be read pile was because of the quick approaching discussion date. Boy, am I glad that I had the YA Book Club as motivation to read the book or else I would have missed out! Once again I was given a great example of how fantasy is a genre that I really enjoy once I give them a chance. By the time I read a couple of chapters, I am hooked.

As soon as I started reading the book it caught my interest. Today I had to pull myself away from the book to get ready for work, and I found my thoughts drifting to the book throughout the day. Tonight since it was a weekend, I was able to stay up until it was finished. I loved the author's style of shadowing different characters throughout the narration showing different pieces to the puzzle as Aislinn finds herself in the middle of a mystery.

She has always been aware of faeries growing up and has closely followed her Grams' rules to the t, but suddenly nothing is going the way it should causing Aislinn to rethink everything she has previously accepted. Aside from trying to deal with the faeries, she is also dealing with everyday teenage themes, such as a friendship that is leading to romance. There were plenty of twists and turns to maintain my interest. I also looked forward to seeing the epitaphs from various texts dating back to the late 1800s at the beginning of each chapter.

I look forward to reading the follow-up book Ink Exchange, where some of the Wicked Lovely minor characters take center stage. Also, I noticed on Amazon that the third book Fragile Eternity is also out. I don't want to include a spoiler, so I will just say that I just read the description, and I am dying to read it to see where Aisleen's life leads her. Like this book, the second two also have beautiful covers.

I can't wait to participate in the discussion on this Tuesday, June 30th at 8:00 p.m. eastern time. It's not too late for you to join. Enjoy your weekend by grabbing a copy of the book, and then sign up to join the chat.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Plan B

When I heard about Plan B on Eat Sleep Dance Read I could not wait to read it. I have enjoyed the MTV books that I have read so far, and was excited to see another one. This weekend when I went shopping with my family and realized I would be waiting in the car with the girls for a bit, I quickly ran into Borders to get something to read. It was hard to rush through the YA selection where I could have browsed for hours, but when my eyes swept across O'Connell's books I knew I could not resist. It was just a matter of chosing which one since I had added her other books to my wish list when I heard about them earlier this spring. I chose Plan B over O'Connell's other books because it was fresh in my mind.

I was especially drawn into the premise of having a girl who always loves to plan finding out that instead of coasting through her senior year and heading off to college with every event falling neatly into place, she would have the craziest year yet when she finds out she has a famous half brother. Rather than being thrilled, Vanessa is annoyed with the situation.

I could relate to Vanessa and always wanting to plan away. It was interesting to see how her celebrity brother would complicate her life and how their relationship evolved throughout the book. It was a fun summer read that I did not want to put down once I picked it up.


Tornado by Betsy Byars is a very short chapter book that is ideal for readers who are just starting to transition from picture books to chapter books. This is another book that I read aloud with one of my classes for summer school. It went along with their Inside unit, and they were typically finishing up earlier than the other two groups in the same level. I decided to read the quick chapter book aloud. It is such a quick read that we had finished it within the first two weeks even though we only read about 5-10 minutes each day and missed some days all together. The group of 5th graders laughed at the stories that Pete tells in order to distract a family as they are hiding out in their cellar to escape a tornado. It is apparent that the boys have heard the stories before, but they beg Pete to tell them again, taking their minds off the storm outside and wondering if their dad who was in the field when the storm struck reached safety.

Any Small Goodness

For summer school I just finished reading aloud Any Small Goodness: A Novel of the Barrio by Tony Johnston with my sixth graders. It went along with the unit they are studying in the summer school curriculum that I am teaching, Inside. The novel consists of snapshots of Arturo's life growing up in a barrio in California that is not as safe as his hometown in Mexico, yet still provides opportunities for his family. Through his memories we see the lessons Arturo learns along the way and the people who impact him to make good decisions. The end has a twist that was fun to work out just what was going on. It was fun helping my students visualize different scenes. The novel is quick with a lot to ponder.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bull Rider

I had been waiting a while to read Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams. I excitedly received it in the mail earlier this spring but then made the "mistake" of introducing the book to to my students. I thought I was pretty slick sneaking it back to my desk after showing it to them along with some other new additions to the classroom library, getting ready to read it over the weekend and put it on the shelf afterward. However, my students said, "Where did that Bull Rider book go?" How can any teacher passionate about literacy turn down students with a sparked interest for a book? I resigned to the realization that the book would be hard to get my hands on before summer break.

Once I got started with the book it was hard to put it down, especially the farther I got into the book. I loved seeing Cam's world as a skateboarder who realized that he just may have the family passion for bull riding after all, only to have his mom forbid him from doing it. However, he sees his bull riding as one of the best remedies for his brother who returned home from Iraq with severe injuries.

The book was superb on many levels. I grew up in a town that touts hosting an annual rodeo that is the oldest show in the northwest. Watching the rodeo each year was always a major event to look forward to, and bull riding was by far the highlight of the event - the energy, the announcing, the thrill... Suzanne Morgan Williams brought the spirit of bull riding alive well. Another aspect was the family dealing with his brother's injuries.

Bull Rider was a magical book with a fun twist right at the end, and I look forward to it continuing to be an important book in our classroom library. I am glad that I had a chance to read it because now I can suggest it to more students.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sloppy Firsts

As described on the preview for the second book in the series, "Everyone's favorite angst-ridden, hyper-observant teenager, Jessica Darling" caught my attention. I had heard of Sloppy Firsts and all the of the Jessica Darling books talked up by on one of the blogs that I follow regularly. I was thrilled when my sister happened to stumble across the book and then passed it on to me.

The book had me rolling with laughter, and I could connect to many of the pop culture mentions since it was published in 2001, not long after my high school years. Jessica has a witty personality that reminds me of the reflections of Georgia in Rennison's popular series. Then of course there is the romantic tension building throughout the entire book.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of the books. Unfortunately, I don't have the same luck as my sister and they are not available through my local library. It looks like I may be able to get them via interlibrary loan, but some appear to be from high school libraries that are winding down for the summer. I can hardly wait to see what happens in the next chapters of Jessica's life.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Out about Reading YA

Summer over at The Three R's of Summer recently posted asking whether or not adults are "out" about reading YA books. It made me realize that originally I started reading YA and always talked about it with the preface that I was reading for potential inclusion or to get to know and better recommend books to students in my classroom. However, since I started blogging there are a lot of YA books that are still too mature for my middle school students, and I buy them knowing they probably will be just because they look so good. Her post made me realize that I am no longer just a teacher reading for books for my students but am also an adult who loves YA. Lately, I even pick the YA book on my to-be read list over their adult counterparts.

Adults reading YA does not seem to be that uncommon. Recently my sister posted about how she is getting hooked, and there are many adults with YA related blogs, such as Jen Robinson's Book Page and The Story Siren (and of course Summer's).

I do not feel like I ever did an official announcement about being a YA reader, other than this blog and that my family members and students frequently see me reading YA. Either way, I am proud to say that I love YA and I would gladly announce to my peers that I frequently read it and support the merits of YA.

Ottoline Goes to School

Ottoline Goes to School by Chris Riddell has a mixture of text and pictures - not quite a graphic novel, but with a lot more pictures than a traditional chapter book. At first glance it reminded me a bit of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, yet it is hard to compare anything to the sophistication and brilliance of Hugo Cabret. Nonetheless, Ottoline Goes to School does have the pull for reluctant readers of reading a chapter book quickly because of the picture-text blend.

The book tells takes the reader into Ottoline's bizarre world, sharing the story of how Ottoline (previously in Riddell's Ottoline and the Yellow Cat) and her best friend Mr. Munroe befriend Cecily and end up taking her up on her invitation to go to The Alice B. Smith School for The Differently Gifted. Ottoline uses her intelligence and ends up unexpectedly discovering her different gift.

The page numbers are on the sides with different graphics for each chapter. Readers will have fun not only reading the words, but also studying the pictures for all the subtle details.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Class of 2k8 Challenge Wrap-Up

I officially wrapped up my Class of 2k8 Challenge tonight. I really enjoyed all of the books from such a dynamic group of authors. I am excited that many of the authors already have more books out or in the works. I have come to trust the quality of these classes, and I plan on always watching for them in the future.

While I ended up scaling down my challenge from reading every, single book, I will still read more from the class in the future.

Some books I already have in my to-read stack close to the top, such as Read My Lips.

There are others that I can't even remember what they are supposed to be about but am drawn to the covers, such as The Opposite of Invisible.

Then there are those that I have heard mentioned quite a bit everywhere from blogs to professional development books, including The Golly-Whopper Games, that I can't wait to get my hands on.

Braless in Wonderland

When I first started Braless in Wonderland, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical that it would be too much like Walker's Violet on the Runway. I thoroughly enjoyed Violet on the Runway, but I did not want to read a repeat. However, as I got more into the book I realized how they are each their own unique books that would be good to pair together to compare and contrast themes.

First, I love, love, love the cover of the book. It is so fun. I also liked the format of the novel, as Allee starts out at the end letting us know that she got into modeling, but that it was not a stereotypical experience. There is also a reference to an important decision that not everyone will be happy about. After dangling that concept, it switches back to the beginning of the story.

I was looking around for clues to see what the decision could be. Once I realized that she was accepted to Yale but did not have the finances to go (that is until modeling opportunities opened up for her), I thought about how the decision was probably whether or not to go to Yale or to keep modeling. Yet, I always had the suspicion that it could be something completely unsuspected as well. Reed Fischer built up the suspense well and had me trying to predict right up to when she finally revealed the answer on the last page! It made for a fun read right up to the end.

The title was another aspect that had me wondering from the first time I saw it. Wonderland of course brings up thoughts of Alice in Wonderland, but I was not sure if that had anything to do with the book or not. The theme actually comes up in the book in many different ways - such as quotes dividing the sections of the books and Allee reading the book to her brother. I won't mention all the ways since that would give away too much.

This was another hit from Class of 2k8.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Shrinking Violet

From the first time I viewed Class of 2k9's site, Shrinking Violet's cover hooked me and made me want to read the book. In Danielle Joseph's debut to YA, she tells the story of Teresa Adams, a terribly shy teen who finally finds her voice through a unique opportunity to fulfill her dream of being a radio DJ (without revealing her true identity of course). However, her hard work to maintaining her secret life as Sweet T on the radio is jeopardized when a co-worker announces a contest resulting in going to the prom with her as a prize.

Growing up I was fairly quiet and shy. My mom used to say that I was quiet with a lot on my mind. When I first heard about the book I imagined Teresa to be similar to my younger self, but I was wrong. She is shy to the extreme, and it is hard for her to even say simple phrases at times. Yet, my mom's old comment about me fits her perfectly. Behind her shy exterior Tere has a lot on her mind, and she is hilarious. I was laughing all through the book at the thoughts that would pop into her mind.

Joseph left me wanting to read more, and I can't wait to see more books from her in the future.

Operation Redwood

Lovable characters and a fun plot quickly swept me up into the world of Operation Redwood. Julian is staying at his successful businessman uncle's house while his mother is in China for the opportunity of a lifetime. The living situation is less than ideal for Julian though, and one day he stumbles across an email from an angry girl stating that his uncle's firm will be cutting down redwoods for a profit. Julian and his best friend Danny begin an adventure to try to reverse his uncle's decision in order to save the redwoods. The boys connect with Robin, who lives by the land in question. Through their adventures the city boys learn about the magic of the trees.

Danny was the type of character that I can instantly see my students loving. His wit and humor reminded me of Manny from Heat that my students noted as a highlight of the book. The other characters complement each other making a dynamic team ready to stand up for what they think is right.

The book is in a creative format with a mixture of narrative and emails. The pages also have fun leaves at the bottom going along with the books' theme. Not only does the book tell a fun, entertaining plot, but it is also very educational bringing awareness to the redwoods. The author's note at the end gives further background information.

I am especially excited that my class will be connecting with S. Terrell French in the fall through Class of 2k9's authors to go program. We had hoped to do it this in the spring right after the release, but end of the year busyness was not going to make that easy. I bought 10 copies of the book and cannot wait for my students to read it in the fall and have the unique opportunity to interact with the author. Best of all, one of the boys in particular that I envision really getting into the book, is typically hard to match to books that he loves.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Online YA Book Club

Today I got my Amazon order with June (Wicked Lovely) and July (Wintergirls) book club selections for the online YA Book Club that I found out about on The Page Flipper's blog. Both have beautiful covers, and I can't wait to read them. I have loved every Halse Anderson book so far, so I am sure that Wintergirls will not disappoint me. If you want to find out more about Halse Anderson, there is a link on her blog to an article about her in June's School Library Journal (she is on the cover). This will be my first Marr book, and I am wondering if it is her first book. The author bio in the back had me cracking up, "Although I was voted 'most likely to end up in jail' in high school, I decided to get an MA and teach Lit and Gender Studies to college students across the country."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

New Moon Movie Trailer

I can't wait to see the New Moon movie when it comes out. I was excited to see the trailer out, even if it is a very quick clip. My students had been telling my how Taylor Lautner had to get a lot bigger to continue playing Jacob. They said he looked pretty different (much more muscular) and they were right.