Last Five Posts

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Are You My Newbery 2011? - What the Students Think

The CardturnerI'm running my first student Mock Newbery club this year and I was privileged to assist Kris Springer with her student Mock Newbery club.

We both had students turn in their top three books in preparation for our final discussion and voting meetings.




Discovery Middle School Mock Newbery Club (in order of points):
  1. The Cardturner by Louis Sachar
  2. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
  3. Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
  4. Saving Sky by Diane Stanley
  5. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
  6. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
  7. Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins
  8. Keeper by Kathi Appelt
  9. Scumble by Ingrid Law
  10. Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord
  11. The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee Frazier
  12. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
  13. The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
  14. Countdown by Deborah Wiles
  15. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
St. Joseph Public Library Mock Newbery Club (in order of points):


1. The Cardturner by Louis Sachar
2. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
3. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
4. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
5. The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
6. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
7. Scumble by Ingrid Law
8. The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood
9. The Water Seeker by Kimberly Willis Holt
10. The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan
11. The Boneshaker by Kate Milford
12. Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen
13. Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman
14. The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee Frazier
15. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

I made a change in our school reading list that is reflected in our totals.  Did I unduly influence the students?  Something to think about! What can you guys infer from these final reading lists?

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Sunday Salon - Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Merry Christmas
And
Happy New Year!
I hope you enjoy this time with family and friends.  I’ll be back on the first with my top books of 2010 and the winner  of the $10 gift card!

See you in 2011!




Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Are You My Newbery? What I'm Thinking


This year I've been actively involved in two real life Mock Newbery Book Clubs.  I've followed and contributed to the Goodreads discussion and I'll be at the St. Joseph County Public Library's adult discussion on January 8th.  The award will be chosen on January 10, 2011 and I hope to be watching it with my book club at 10:45.

Last year, when I read When You Reach Me, I truly felt amazed and in awe of the book as a whole. It had "newbery" written all over it.  This year, there are so many good books out there, it's been harder to even choose my top 7, let alone "the" book.  So, I'm going to list all the books I've read so far, in the hopes that at least 7 will stand out for me.

In order read:
  1. 8th Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
  2. Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen
  3. Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner
  4. Mirror, Mirror by Marilyn Singer
  5. Meanwhile by Jason Shiga
  6. The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzales
  7. Sweet, Hereafter by Angela Johnson
  8. The Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter
  9. The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
  10. Cardturner by Louis Sachar
  11. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
  12. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
  13. Countdown by Deborah Wiles
  14. Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hahn
  15. Paper Daughter by Jeanette Ingold
  16. Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School by Andrew Clements
  17. The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood
  18. The Dreamer by Patricia Munoz Ryan
  19. Ubiquitous by Joyce Sidman
  20. Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry
  21. The Boneshaker by Kate Milford
  22. After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick
  23. The Adventures of Jack Lime by James Leck
  24. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
  25. Sit In by Andrea Davis Pinckney
  26. Tell Us We're Home by Marina Budhos
  27. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  28. Keeper by Kathi Appelt
  29. The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman
  30. The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter
  31. The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee Frazier
  32. The Water Seeker by Kimberly Willis Holt
  33. The Night Fairy by Laura Schlitz
  34. The Familiars by Epstein and Jacobson
  35. The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi
  36. Stuck on Earth by David Klass
  37. Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst
  38. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
  39. Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins
  40. Jake by Audrey Couloumbis
  41. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
  42. Griff Carver, Hallway Patrol by Jim Krieg
  43. Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
  44. Saving Sky by Diane Stanley
  45. The Called Themselves the KKK by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
  46. As Easy As Falling off The Face of the Earth by Lynn Rae Perkins
  47. The Danger Box by Blue Balliett (159p)
  48. Yummy by G. Neri
  49. Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers
  50. Finding Family by Tonya Bolden
  51. Bink and Gollie by DiCamillo and McGhee
  52. What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb
  53. Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
  54. Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord
  55. Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
  56. Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman
  57. A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
  58. Scumble by Ingrid Law
  59. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
  60. Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
  61. Moon Over Manifest by Claire Vanderpool
  62. Hero by Mike Lupica
  63. Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner
  64. Dark Emperor by Joyce Sidman
  65. Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  66. Best Friends Forever by Beverly Platt
  67. The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O'Connor
  68. The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton
I know the committee members read a ton more! I have some titles here at home I want to tackle before the January 6th.  My students are voting for their Top 3 right now too!

Ok, here's what I'm picking, as of December 22, 2010.  Note that I've only re-read Keeper, Cardturner, and Conspiracy so far.

In no particular order

  • Cardturner by Louis Sachar
  • Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter
  • Saving Sky by Diane Stanley
  • Keeper by Kathi Appelt
  • Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
  • Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
Phew, that was difficult and I'm still wavering! I will write up some reasons for each one and post those before my meeting.

Are there any books you think I really need to read?  What are your top picks?


Monday, December 20, 2010

Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner - Review and Contest

Sugar and Ice
Kate Messner
Walker/Bloomsbury
271 pgs.

"Curses! The evil supreme ruler of the sugarhouse calls."


Twelve year-old Claire Boucher (Boo-SHAY) loves skating. She's one of the junior coaches at The Northern Lights Skating Club and she always does numbers with her best friend, Natalie. Skating is fun and exciting. But can she take it to the next level? Andrei Groshev certainly thinks so. He offers Claire a full scholarship to train with the best at Lake Placid. This could lead to the Olympics. It will mean more time away from home and less time with her friends. It's an opportunity. One she shouldn't pass up. But what if this dream is not really hers?

My Thoughts
Sugar on Ice is an absorbing, thought-provoking read.  You follow Claire as she starts training for a career in athletics and it makes you wonder about children you know.  In Sugar and Ice we see the children who make sports their choice, along with the juggling of homework, family and friends.  We also see the children who are forced into sports, (it's amazing what students will tell a librarian, it's like their version of a bartender or hairdresser!), we even see the children who do this because their parents did but they don't have the drive even though they have the talent.  It's not what they want.  This gives you an idea of the realism Kate Messner injects into Sugar and Ice.  You know she's researched and observed these children and that's what brings them to life in the book. You are immersed in the skating and in the running of  a syrup farm but you also get to know and understand the characters and their motives.  Messner also included some book and math nerds in the book, and not in a mean way! Yay!  Kids will be able to identify with the characters and will be engaged by this fast-moving plot.

"Destiny is no matter of chance, it's a matter of choice." This poster is on the office of the sports psychologist Coach Groshev sends Claire to see.  This is what Sugar and Ice represents.  It reminds me of The Alchemist, in which Coehlo tells us the universe wants our success, we just have to choose to follow the signs.  What do you think?

I would give this to my dancing and sporting girls along with On Pointe, Soccerland, and Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs.

More Sugar and Ice
Rasco From RIF (Reading is Fundamental) Messner on Student Athletes
Great Kid Books - Sugar and Ice
Kate's Blog - Sugar and Ice Blog Tour

Contest
Tasanee, a fellow skater, is an avid reader:

"I need the magic. I love the idea that you can be an ordinary kid and just suddenly, magically, turn into something else.  It makes me feel...Hopeful."


Can you use Tasanee's clues and name the books she reads throughout Sugar and Ice?

The person with the most right answers gets a $10 giftcard from a bookstore of their choice. Contest open to US only.


 Leave a comment after you complete the form.  

1."that popular vampire book" p. 30
2. "...reading a new book that looked a lot like the one she had at orientation...this is the last one in the series" p. 67
3. "...homicidal fairies" p. 113
4."...bloodthirsty pixies. She held up a book with barren trees, silhouetted against a girl's pale neck. She had glittery gold lips." p. 148
5. "...a girl who looked like she was sprouting wings. It was by the same author who wrote the homicidal fairies book." p. 186-187
6. "...a teenaged girl in an old-fashioned dress looking up at the sky....about a girl who makes her own homestead claim out west." p. 265-266

Bonus "a book with a girl spinning on the cover." p.186 (bonus - she doesn't read this one but will count for extra points)

No answers in the comment section please!  Judges decision is final.
Contest ends Sunday, December 26, 2010 at 11:59pm.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Keeper by Kathi Appelt - Review

Keeper
Kathi Appelt
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
399 pgs.

"Find the one who's been missing."
Keeper is having the second worse day of her life.  Signe is mad at her, Dogie is mad at her, and Mr. Beauchamp is mad at her.  But, it's not all her fault, mostly not anyway.  So, she does the only thing she can think of, take out Dogie's boat Scamper and find her mermaid mother.  Everyone knows mermaids are magic, so Meggie Marie would tell Keeper how to make things right again. 

My Thoughts
First, I didn't want to read this book because I couldn't figure out how a 10 year-old could still believe in mermaids.  It didn't make sense to this middle school librarian who sees jaded and disenchanted sixth graders on a daily basis.  But, I had an ARC and it was on our Mock Newbery list. So, I read it.

We start out in the boat with Keeper and as she remembers things, we get to go back and relive those memories with her.  Each time we go back, we get a little bit more of the present story and then we start going back even further.  It's like when a boat is sloshing around in the water with little moves forward and backward but always progressing.  We don't just learn about Keeper, though.  We find out how each of the inhabitants of The world unto itself came to live on Oyster Ridge Road.  In this way, the story becomes deeper. 

In order for Keeper to find her mother, she must give gifts to the sea and each time she does, I feel she grows up a little, in a sense, away from her need of her mother and closer to the reality of her life.

Appelt melds the story of Keeper, the merpeople, the beasts, Dogie, Signe, and Mr. Beauchamp into one epic story that doesn't seem forced or rushed.  Keeper actually meanders, like the boat.  And then we get to the end.  And it's surprising and frightening and enlightening. But, I can't tell you what happens you have to read it yourself.  Give this one to students who like Savvy, When You Reach Me, and Waiting for Normal.



Thursday, December 16, 2010

Keeper by Kathi Appelt - Guest Post


Keeper
Kathi Appelt
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
399 pgs.

I will be reviewing Keeper by Kathi Appelt December 17th her on The Brain Lair. Keeper is one of my top choices for our Mock Newbery.   Here Kathi gives us a little insight into Keeper's favorite items in the story.  If you haven't read the book, run right out and get a copy.  If you have the ARC, get the hardcover because the illustrations are fantastic!

A Magic Whistle and a Wooden Bowl

photo by Ken Appelt
For anyone who has ever worked in a theater, you know that one of the key jobs is “props.” It’s up to the Property Manager to make sure that all those items that the actors use in the play are in place. If one of the characters needs a scarf to toss over his shoulder or another character needs a dagger to plunge into her boyfriend’s chest, it’s critical that those things are on the stage when they’re needed.

I’ll never forget working on a play in which the main character needed a whistle. The whistle was supposed to be enchanted and whenever the character blew it, something magical would happen. A magic whistle. Someone on the props crew was supposed to check the pocket of the main character’s costume before the play began just to be sure that the whistle was in place.

Sure enough, whoever was in charge forgot. So when the poor actor got to the line about the magic whistle, only to discover that there was no whistle, he panicked. He rummaged through all of his pockets. Alas, the only item he could find was a small knife. Not exactly the same thing as a whistle. Ack!

So much was lost: the sound of the whistle, the intention of the story, and the magic. There’s a huge difference between a magical whistle and a magical pocket knife. In addition, the actor lost confidence in the crew, and for the run of the play, each time he got to that spot in his lines, his anxiety level rose.

When I’m working on a story, I give a lot of thought to the props that my characters are going to be dealing with. Like the whistle, objects in fiction become a tiny bit magical. We call them “endowed objects,” because we endow them with special properties, special memories, special significance.

In Keeper, I wanted to avoid the whistle/pocket knife mix-up, and make sure that the objects she kept in her pocket were in tune with the story. But where to start?

Because I have always been interested in mermaids and their cousins, I wanted to include as many of them in the book as I could. In early drafts, I actually had different mer people appear throughout the story. However, they never really seemed to fit with the story. They seemed gratuitous. For example, where would an Irish selkie come into the picture? Or what about a Japanese ningyo? Was there a scene that I could include using the German meerfrau, a fresh-water mermaid, in the salty Gulf of Mexico? What would their purpose be? They would just be making cameos really, to show that I knew my merpeople. They were sort of my own author’s way of saying, “Hey, I know the folklore of merpeople.” Oh, brother.

Illustration © 2010 by August Hall from Keeper by Kathi Appelt. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
The answer came in the notion of a gift: the merlings.

Gifts always have significance. Since Mr. Beauchamp loved Keeper, it made sense that he might give her these small figurines of the various merfolk. And it also made sense that Keeper would love them. In that way, I was able to give Keeper her very own special props, props that represented affection, artistry, and that also offered an added layer of folklore to the story, without bringing in a dozen new characters who really had nothing to add to the plot.

Another endowed object in the story is Signe’s large wooden bowl. Why a bowl you might ask? Well, when I was tiny, my grandmother had just such a bowl. She used to set it on the kitchen floor and let me sit in it. Then she would spin me around and around. There was nothing particularly special about that bowl, only that it was large and that it belonged to my grandmother. Likewise, Signe’s bowl came from her mother and it held the same kind of significance for her that mine did for me. I tapped into my own personal props in order to give one to my character. When Signe’s bowl breaks, it’s heart-breaking. The break works in two ways, both physical and metaphorical.

A writer needs props. A character needs them too. Take a look in your own prop-shop. Make sure that it’s the right choice, then put it in your character’s pocket. That way the magic will be there when it’s needed.

Kathi also shared with us what she's reading: 
A chapter book for all ages:

Bink and Gollie, by Alison McGhee and Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Tony Fucile – Two best friends figure out how to work things out despite their differences . . . and similarities. Just wonderful!

A couple of middle grade books that just make me happy:

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger – The whole notion of a fictional character made from Origami just brings a smile to my face—this is an endowed object of the highest order.

Wiff and Dirty George, by Stephen Swinburne – The entire fate of England rests in the hands of two unlikely heroes, complete with a three-foot long Madagascan worm. This book exemplifies the word “rollicking.”

In the YA department, I recently read:

Alien Invasion & Other Inconveniences, by Brian Yansky – Who knew that a book that starts with a complete siege of the Earth by aliens would have so much heart? I loved this story.

Extraordinary, by Nancy Werlin – Poignant, intense, lovely. All about what it means to be extraordinary . . . or simply brave. Werlin’s beautiful prose, matched with a wringer of a tale, gives us a story to savor. Extraordinary.

And yes, I even read books for grown-ups:

Tinkers, by Paul Harding – Told in alternating voices between a son and father, this is a heartbreaking look at the ways our choices impact everything, including the people we love the most. It’s like reading a long narrative poem. Just beautiful.

The Stolen Child, by Keith Donohue – Also told in two voices, this is a changeling story. One narrator is the changeling, the other voice is the child who was switched. It’s provocative and wonderful. I loved it.

I also want to give a shout-out to a wonderful new picture book:

Holler Loudly, by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Barry Gott – An original tall tale about a boy who was born to be loud, and for a good reason.

On my “to read” stack:

Rex Zero, the Great Pretender, by Tim Wynne-Jones and I Will Save You, by Matt de la Peña. Two of my favorite authors!



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Joey Fly, Private Eye 2 by Aaron Reynolds - Review and Blog Tour

Joey Fly, Private Eye: Big Hairy Drama
Aaron Reynolds and Neil Numberman
Henry Holt
128 pgs.

They're baaackk! Joey Fly and his brilliant, NOT, assistant Sammy Stingtail that is!  This time Joey is looking for a Painted Lady, no not the butterfly, well, yes, yes it is the butterfly.  The actress, Greta Divawing, is missing.  Greta is not just any actress though, her skills are so legendary she's known as The Painted Lady and Harry Spyderson has hired the boys to track her down.  Joey is on the case and eager to use his extensive knowledge of the thee-Ah-ter, after all he was in his "grade school production of A Lice in Wonderland!"

Format
Neil Numberman has continued his use of monochromatic scenes to keep that old-timey feel.  Well, there is that one scene where Numberman subtly includes the full-color cover of  Joey Fly, Private Eye: Creepy, Crawly Crime.  (Much the same way I just included a link to my review of Joey Fly!)

My Thoughts
The mystery is a little more involved in this second volume of Joey Fly.  We learn about theater life as well as about the lives of some of the bugs that are included in Big Hairy Drama.  The jokes come quickly and continuously but are like add-ons to the story so it can be read on different levels.  I like that there isn't any violence so I can give to 6th graders but there's a little romance so I can also give this to 8th graders.  We could actually add this one to the 7th grade mystery unit.  Give this one out with Joey Fly: Creepy, Crawly Crime, Don't Feed the Bully, and Jack Lime.

Fun Stuff
Bug Caricature - You could  
win a signed bug-caricature of yourself!  
Just be the 10th commenter on this post!

Cut-Out Masks - download and print out your own mask of Harry Spyderson, Joey Fly, and Sammy Stingtail!

Find out more about Aaron Reynolds at his website. 

YouTube trailer for Creepy Crawly Crime

Blog Tour
Monday, Dec 6 - Book Nut
Tuesday, Dec 7 - Thing 1 & Thing 2
Friday, Dec 10 - The Kats Whiskers
Sunday, Dec 12 - Kidsmomo
Tuesday, Dec 14 - Kids Book Buzz
Thursday, Dec 16 - Elana Johnson's Blog



Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Alchemist (Graphic Novel) by Paul Coelho - Review and Blog Tour

The Alchemist
Paul Coelho
Harper One
unpaged

Santiago is a shepherd who has traveled the world and is ready to settle down. He falls asleep one night and is treated to a dream he had once before. In the dream, he is told he can find his treasure if he goes to a certain place. The dream is interrupted before he gets enough information. He decides to go to that place. He meets a king who helps him understand that his quest was given to him by God and that the universe wants to help him acheive his dreams. This help can take the form of good things or bad and Santiago has to learn to read the omens and must never give up.

My Thoughts
I own this novel in chapter book format so it was neat to get it in graphic novel format. For the most part, the pictures and words combine to portray the essence of Coelho's story. I think having it as a graphic novel will lead more people to pick up the book and may even encourage them to read the original version.



I had one moment of confusion when Santiago first gets to Africa, it was hard to tell him apart from the character he met in the bar. I finally figured out their hats were different.   The cover illustration combines the original color of the novel with the figure of the graphic novel.  Really cool! All in all, a great book.  Sampere and Ruiz do a great job of getting across the message.  I recommend this one to high school students and above.

About the Author
The Brazilian author Paulo Coelho was born in 1947 in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Before dedicating his life completely to literature, he worked as theater director, actor, lyricist, and journalist.

His fascination with the spiritual quest dates back to his hippie days, when he travelled the world learning about secret societies, oriental religions, etc. In 1982, Coelho published his first book, Hell Archives, which failed to make any kind of impact. In 1986, Paulo Coelho did the pilgrimage to Saint James of Compostella, an experience later to be documented in his book The Pilgrimage. In the following year, Coelho published The Alchemist.

Find out more about The Alchemist: A Graphic Novel and Paul Coelho HERE.

Connect with Paulo Coelho:
TLC Book Tours
Monday, November 29th: One Book Shy
Thursday, December 2nd: The Zen Leaf
Monday, December 6th: There’s a Book
Friday, December 10th: Colloquium
Tuesday, December 14th: Wise Owl Book Review
Tuesday, December 14th: Sophisticated Dorkiness
Wednesday, December 15th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Thursday, December 16th: In the Next Room
Monday, December 20th: Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity
Wednesday, December 22nd: nomadreader
Thursday, December 23rd: she reads and reads




Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Harper One for the opportunity to review this hardcover.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb - Review and Blog Tour

Wishin' and Hopin'
Wally Lamb
Harper Perennial
268 pgs.

Felix Funicello is in the 5th grade at a Catholic elementary school. He's the youngest of three children, the only boy, and he's related, distantly but proudly, to Annette Funicello. Felix's family runs the lunch counter in the bus station and it's one of the places he learns about life, people, and how you get to make those people.

The other place is Aloysius Gonzaga Parochical school.  Felix has a small hand in the sudden nervous breakdown of one Sister Dymphna which leads to the introduction of Madame Frechette.  Madame is one of two lay teachers at Aloysius.  Madame is from Quebec and she decides to teach the students French in place of religion.  Felix also finds a new friend Zhenya, who becomes the geuhlfriend of Lonny, a student who's been held back at least twice!

We follow Felix, Lonny, Zhenya and Madame Frechette through the first semester of fifth grade.  Learning about rules on the playground, saying confession, and the one and only black saint.

"Wait, till the NAACP hears about this!"  That, and variations thereof, was one of my favorite lines in the book.  It was often said by Marion Pemberton, male, and the only black student at St. Aloysius.

My Thoughts
Even though I wasn't yet born in 1964, I grew up during similar times.  I enjoyed my look through the window of the local catholic school.  Lamb used a sort of stream-of-consciousness writing that made it seem like you were reading Felix's diary.  Especially since we got such an in-depth look at his growing awareness of the birds and the bees.  The repetitiveness of the sex talk was a little off-putting but it might just be a boy thing.  Felix wasn't so much exploring as trying to understand what all the older people were going on about.  His dad never gave him any clear answers so he only had Lonny and Chino, and sometimes Zhenya to get his often misguided information.  Wishin' and Hopin' was long on amusement though.  I recommend it for a lighthearted look at the past.  I would definitely look for more of Mr. Lamb's work!

About the Author
Wally Lamb’s first two novels, She’s Come Undone (Simon & Schuster/Pocket, 1992) and I Know This Much Is True (HarperCollins/ReganBooks, 1998), were # 1 New York Times bestsellers, New York Times Notable Books of the Year, and featured titles of Oprah’s Book Club.

Wally Lamb is a Connecticut native who holds Bachelors and Masters Degrees in teaching from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College. Lamb was in the ninth year of his twenty-five-year career as a high school English teacher at his alma mater, the Norwich Free Academy, when he began to write fiction in 1981. He has also taught writing at the University of Connecticut, where he directed the English Department’s creative writing program.

Wishin and Hopin Time Machine - provided by Mr. Lamb


Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Harper Perennial for the opportunity to review this paperback.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Sunday Salon - Monthly Updates - November 2010

Busy month!  Didn't get a lot of reading done.  But that's ok, since I got caught up on some other stuff. 

November Reads
Tween/Middle Grades (7)
Heart of a Samurai by Preus
Saving Sky by Stanley
The Hole in the Wall by Fraustino
Finding Family by Bolden
Bink and Gollie By DiCamillo and McGhee
What Happened on Fox street by Springstubb
Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Messner

Young Adult (7)
They Called Themselves the KKK by Bartoletti
Lockdown by Myers
Heist Society by Carter
As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth by Perkins
Yummy by Neri
Revolution by Donnelly
Dirt Road home by Key

Other (2)
Of Bees and Mist by Setiawan
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Bender

Total Read in November: 16
Best Book Read in November:  Heist Society by Ally Carter

Best book was a tough call since I'm reading lots of books that have had starred reviews and/or appeared on a "Best of 2010" list this month.  But, I've been hawking this ever since my intern forced me to read it.  It makes you want to know more about another aspect of the Holocaust, even though that probably was not the intention. 

Upcoming Reads
Blog Tours
Wishing and Hoping by Lamb
Keeper by Appelt
Joey Fly 2 by Reynolds
Sugar and Ice by Messner
The Alchemist - Graphic Novel by Coehlo
Mock Newbery/ Mock Printz Clubs
Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Cushman
A Million Shades of Gray by Kadohata
Scumble by Law
War to End All Wars by Freedman
Finally by Mass
Turtle in Paradise by Holm
Matched by Condie
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by King
Fat Vampire by Adam Rex

Holiday #Bookaday Reading
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Smith (must finish!)
The Pathfinder by Card
Foundling by Cornish
Hero by Lupica
Batboy by Lupica
Maze Runner by Dashner (reread)
The Things a Brother Knows by Reinhardt
Wildfire Run by Garretson
Sons of Liberty by Lagos
The Mockingbirds by Whitney
The Ugly Truth by Kinney
 Where Men Win Glory by Krakauer
The Blind Side by  Lewis
Knights of the Hill Country by Tharp
Payback by Carl Deuker

  Holiday Bookaday is much like summer Bookaday. You read a book each day you are not at work during the winter holidays and you tweet about it using hashtag bookaday. My break starts on December 18 and ends January 2 which gives me 16 days.  This list represents my plans, but you know how that goes!

Do you have any holiday reading plans?

Friday, December 3, 2010

November 2010 Top Ten - School Library

These were the Top Ten books checked out of our school library for November.

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
The Alchemyst by Michael Scott
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
The Kings of Clonmel by John Flanagan
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter
Heist Society by Ally Carter

Interesting that these are all series books.  New to the list: The Lost Hero, The Alchemyst, The Kings of Clonmel , Only the Good Spy Young and Heist Society.  

      The Walk by Shaun Alexander - FIRST Wild Card Blog Tour

      It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

      You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


      Today's Wild Card author is:


      and the book:

      WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)
      ***Special thanks to Cindy Brovsky, Marketing and Publicity Coordinator, Doubleday Religion / Waterbrook Multnomah, Divisions of Random House, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***

      ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


      Shaun Alexander was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks after a standout football career at the University of Alabama. A three-time Pro Bowl selection, in 2005 he set an NFL record by scoring twenty-eight touchdowns. In the same season, he set a team record by gaining 1,880 rushing yards and leading his team to the Super Bowl. Today, Shaun travels the country speaking to business and military audiences, at sports camps, and at churches and Christian conferences—appearing in front of thousands of people. He is a gifted communicator and Bible teacher who points listeners toward exceptional achievement by aligning their lives with God’s perfect will.




      Product Details:

      List Price: $17.99
      Hardcover: 240 pages
      Publisher: WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)
      Language: English
      ISBN-10: 0307459519
      ISBN-13: 978-0307459510

      AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


      All through history, people have asked,

      “Is there anything not possible?”

      —SHAUN ALEXANDER

      Sweat drips from my nose as I lean over, hands on my knees, and gasp for breath. I look across the huddle at the left tackle. He’s a high school all-state pick; he’s a college all-American; he’s an all-pro offensive lineman in the National Football League (NFL). Our eyes meet, and I grin at him. He nods back as if to say, “Follow me.”

      To my right is the fullback. Blood trickles down his forearm, and mud covers his jersey, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He’s my running mate and my protector. He leads the way, opening holes in the line and throwing his body against linebackers, safeties, and defensive ends who try to stop me. He catches my eye and winks as if to say, “Let’s do it.”

      Moments later the quarterback leans into the huddle. “All right. We need two yards for a first down. Green, power right, check, shift right, F left, ninety-seven OT on two.” This is a play where I follow the fullback to the right through a hole between the right guard and the right tackle.

      As we break the huddle, I see the crowd stand to its feet. At the far end of the field, the American flag flaps in the breeze. The crowd is cheering, watching, hoping. Seven yards behind the line of scrimmage, knees bent, cleats digging into the turf, I ease into position.

      And then everything slows down—the American flag on its pole, the crowd, the players on the field. As if in slow motion, linemen settle into their stance, planting their hands in the grass. Tension fills the air. Something big is about to happen. The quarterback barks the signals, firm and decisive. “Set. Hut!”

      Suddenly there’s a loud pop as our linemen collide with players on the defensive line. Up and down the line of scrimmage, groaning and growling, players wrestle like gladiators. As the quarterback drops back, I step to the right. In the next instant I feel the ball slap against my stomach. I clutch it with both arms. My legs are moving, my mind racing. Read it. Read it. Hit the hole or cut back. “Cut!” I plant my foot and explode through the line.

      Ahead of me, the fullback crashes into a linebacker. The slot receiver sprints toward the safety. As they collide, the safety flips into the air.

      The crowd gasps.

      With the safety out of the way, I move to the left toward the sideline. From the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of the crowd on its feet. Fans are waving their arms and screaming, but all I hear is the whoow, whoow, whoow of my breath as I sprint down the field.

      By then the cornerback has taken an angle on me and is closing fast. He cuts into my lead with every step. I run harder and harder, calling on every ounce of strength in my body, past the forty-yard line, then the thirty, and the twenty. The cornerback is closing the gap as my foot crosses the ten-yard line. I can hear him behind me and just to the right. I can feel his eyes boring in on me and know that every muscle in his body is pushing to knock me down.

      At the five-yard line he dives, reaching with both hands to make the tackle. His arms brush my cleats. I stumble, put my hand on the ground, then stumble again. All the while I tell myself, Pick up your head. As I stagger to the right, I lift my chin. My feet come under me, and I sweep into the end zone for a touchdown. A sixty-yard run on third-and-two. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

      The roar of the crowd echoes in my helmet as I turn to celebrate with my teammates. Then up the field I see the trainer and members of my team running toward the thirty-yard line. A player is lying on the ground, writhing in pain. I jog up the field and join the players who are gathered around him. I can see that his leg is broken, twisted at a sickening angle.

      “Get the cart,” someone orders. Others sigh with resignation, knowing an injury like that could take a player out of the game for the remainder of the season, perhaps even for good. Then, without hesitation, some of us kneel beside our injured teammate.

      We lay our hands on his leg and begin to pray, invoking God’s healing presence and power. We agree together, just as Scripture says, “Lord, let Your will be done here on earth, as it is in heaven. There are no broken bones in heaven” (see Matthew 6:9–10). As we pray, the player’s shattered bone moves back into place, perfectly aligned and as strong as before. Our teammate looks up at us, his eyes wide with wonder.

      How would you express the feeling of having your broken leg repaired by God while you’re lying on a football field?

      By then the crowd is silent, many standing with their hands to their faces in a look of amazement. They start to murmur, and the look on their faces says they have never seen anything like this. Even those of us who prayed for our teammate to be healed watch in awe as he trots toward the sideline. I turn to the others, look at them, and point to—

      Just then my eyes popped open, and I stared at the ceiling. My heart was pounding. “It was just a dream,” I whispered. I glanced at the alarm clock and rubbed my eyes. “But couldn’t it really happen, just like that?”

      I have dreamed that dream many times, wearing the different uniforms of the teams I’ve been a part of in high school, college, and the NFL, and I have realized that I’m not really me in that dream. I represent a Christian who believes in God’s power and lives in such a way that God is free to work through his life. The dream illustrates what God can do through a life that is fully yielded and obedient to Him.

      Still, I ask myself, is it possible? Can God do today what He did long ago through men like Moses, Elijah, and the first-century apostles? Is it possible for us to experience His miraculous presence to the same extent they did? I think it is. Scripture certainly suggests that it’s possible. But how?



      LIVING YOUR DREAM

      Football has been more than a dream for me. I began playing as a young boy, back in Florence, Kentucky. With the help of coaches, my parents, and many others, I developed skills as a player and earned a football scholarship to the University of Alabama. There, I played for Coach Gene Stallings and Mike Dubose with the Crimson Tide. After college I was drafted in the first round (nineteenth overall) to play for the Seattle Seahawks.

      My sixth season with the Seahawks was my breakout year. I set a number of team and NFL records and was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. At the conclusion of that season, we won the National Football Conference championship and went to the Super Bowl. Although we lost to Pittsburgh, that season was one of my best ever.

      As I began my seventh season in 2006, I looked forward to building on what we’d accomplished the prior year. I trained hard and came to the season’s first game with great expectations. We opened that year against the Detroit Lions.

      Sometimes life-changing events come to you with a sign written in huge letters that spell out “Your Life Is About to Change.” Other times the moment slips by with little or no recognition. That game against Detroit was one of the latter. I didn’t realize its significance until months afterward.

      During that game a defensive lineman fell on my foot, pinning it in place between his body and the ground. He had shot through the line toward me, and as I cut left to escape his grasp, one of his teammates met me face to face. All three of us fell to the ground. This seemed like a normal play: you get the ball, you run, you get tackled. Pads crash, bodies hit the turf, the whistle blows, everybody gets up and tries it again. That’s football. That’s normal.

      But on this play my left foot got sandwiched between the ground and the lineman’s three-hundred-pound body. As I trotted back to the huddle, I could feel the pain.

      For a football player, physical pain is a way of life. Since I began playing organized football as a young boy, I have taken the field while nursing sprains, strains, and aches in almost every part of my body. That day against Detroit I didn’t think about the pain. But the pain in my foot never went away. I continued to play that day and carried the ball nineteen times for fifty-one yards. The pain was a distraction, and I failed to gain the yardage that I expected of myself, but I wasn’t too concerned.

      After the game team doctors told me I had a bone bruise. That’s a medically nonspecific term for “You got hit hard, and the pain goes to the bone.” I spent time with the trainer but continued to play. Two weeks later, in a game against the New York Giants, the bruise became a fracture, and I was out most of the season.

      Doctors told me to stay off my foot, so I spent a lot of time reading. One of the books I read goes deep into the reality of spiritual warfare. While reading The Call by Rick Joyner, I realized that God works in an orderly fashion; He is a God of order. And as I listened to God, I saw that some things in my life were out of order.



      MEETING THE GOD OF ORDER

      I’ve been a Christian since I was ten years old. Loving Jesus has been the center of my life. As important as football has been, it has always been second to following the Lord and allowing Him to work His will through me. As I read Joyner’s book, God spoke to me about how He uses order to bring about His will.

      Through the remainder of the NFL season, I continued to do exercises to rehab my injured foot, preparing to return to the game. All the while God was speaking to me about the importance of His order. He doesn’t do things haphazardly. As the Scriptures tell us, God is not a God of confusion or disorder (see 1 Corinthians 14:33). And much more than simply an interesting idea, God’s order became something I felt compelled to apply to my life.

      With the Holy Spirit as my Guide, I allowed God to review my friends and relationships, and I started to put people—and especially business relationships—into their proper places. I stopped associating with some of the people I had considered friends and began associating with others I had been neglecting. I discontinued some of the business deals I’d been involved in. At the same time I began to pay closer attention to the things I said, particularly the half truths I would sometimes say in casual conversation or in encouraging others.

      I finished that NFL season well. My second game back I had a forty-carry, 200-yard game on Monday Night Football. The Seahawks won the division and were headed to the play-offs. We lost in the divisional playoff game against the Chicago Bears in overtime. I gained 120 yards combined and scored two touchdowns in our losing effort. After missing several games and coming back to finish the season, I was excited about the next year.

      The following year my foot was healed, and I looked forward to playing a full season. I performed well through training camp and the preseason games. Then, in the first game of the regular season, I bobbled a pass. As I dove to catch it, I fell on my arm and broke my left wrist. Team doctors put my wrist and hand in a cast, and I continued to play, but the cast did little to protect my broken wrist. The weight of it actually caused additional pain, and I struggled to get past that injury. Additional injuries nagged at me for the remainder of the season.

      For the fifth year in a row the Seahawks went to the play-offs. We won the division title for the fourth consecutive year. I was happy for the team, but personally I had a year that fell well short of what I expected. The bruises, strains, and broken bones were adding up, and I wondered if they were a signal. Was God using the pain in my body to prepare me mentally and emotionally for a shift to a new stage in my life?

      As the following spring approached, I sensed something was going on with the team. Changes were in the wind, but I didn’t know what the changes might bring. Then, as the time for spring conditioning camp approached, the Seahawks’ managers called me. “We’re making changes. We want to take a different direction. We’re releasing you from the team.” And just like that, I was out of the NFL.

      Aside from my desire to love and serve God, football had been the primary focus of my life. It was the means God had used to lift me from the small town of Florence, Kentucky, to a life that few athletes ever experience. But I never lost sight of the fact that God—and not the Seattle Seahawks or the University of Alabama or Boone County High School back home—was the One who was blessing me. God is the Source of all goodness and beauty, all truth and love, and it was His favor that took me to the places I’d gone, even to the discouraging day when the Seahawks let me go. I had things I still wanted to do as a football player, but I said, “God’s will be done,” and went home to find out what that would mean.



      A NEW WAY OF WALKING

      Over the next few months, I wrestled with a new direction for my career and my life. During that time God challenged me. “Meet Me at five in the morning. Let’s talk for an hour, every day.” That was a wonderful invitation. The Creator of the universe wanted to spend an hour with me every day. I was excited about it, but there was a problem. He wanted to meet me in the morning. At five o’clock.

      Reading the Bible has always been important to me. When I was younger, I read because that was what I was told to do. Later I realized Scripture was a powerful tool God could use in my life. Once I understood that, I began to read and study every day. I prayed every day, too, some days almost constantly, but I heard the voice of God speaking to me more when I read the Scriptures. So I was eager to meet with Him every day, even though I am not a morning person. “See Me at nine; see Me at ten”—that would be easy. But at five in the morning, I’m usually sound asleep. Yet this was God issuing an invitation, and I had to respond.

      The first ten days were tough. They were like two-a-days at training camp in July or August. I set the alarm, pushed myself out of bed when it rang, and found my way to a quiet spot in the house. Although I was excited about the new venture, it was rough.

      Days eleven through fifteen were better, but I still was grinding it out. And then, about day sixteen, things began to click. I found myself praying, “God, I want You to be in me and on me.” I didn’t know where that prayer came from; it just rose up within me. Later that week I found a verse in the gospel of John that said,



      And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. (14:16–17)



      Jesus was asking His Father to send us a Gift, and none of us could have imagined a bigger, more life-changing gift. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit, who will live “with you and will be in you.” I began to get excited, not just about the idea of the Holy Spirit living in me and on me, but by the fact that a prayer, consistent with what Jesus had already said, had come from deep within my spirit. The reference in the gospel of John, “with you and…in you,” isn’t an exact match to the words I had been praying, but it was very close. “With you and in you; in me and on me.” After I saw that verse, getting up early in the morning to spend time with God wasn’t such a chore.

      As God and I continued our morning visits, He began to break that concept down for me. “In you”—the knowing, inner sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit that says, “Go this way; say these words.” The Holy Spirit living inside us guides our life and affects what we do and say on the outside.

      “On you”—the miraculous, powerful presence of God made obvious and tangible to others through signs and wonders. As we follow Christ and learn to obey Him, God works in us and uses us in the lives of other people.

      During the next few days alone with God, I came to a fresh realization that Jesus really lived and walked on earth. He actually died on the cross, rose again, and sent the Holy Spirit to us. In the process my prayer life took on new energy and importance. When I prayed, the same Spirit whom Jesus sent to His followers was in me and on me. To say I felt a tingling sensation all over sounds a little over the top, but that’s the best way I can describe how I felt. Every cell in my body seemed alive and awake, an experience I’d never had before. My spirit was quickened to the freshness of Scripture.

      That new sense of being alive in Christ wasn’t confined only to my prayer time early in the mornings. When I prayed for others in meetings or in private, I began to “know” things and “see” things about them. I would picture the person I was praying for, and I’d see some great things and sometimes awful things. At times I would see some very intimate things about the person, but always it would be an insight into what that person needed at the moment. God was giving me these insights, and I was compelled to act. One moment it would be a word or scripture that seemed appropriate and fitting. The next it would be something that had just happened to the person I was praying for, something I had no way of knowing about. And at times it would be something so obvious that it sounded trite. But regardless of how it sounded to me, I did my best to obey God and deliver His message to the person.

      At a meeting one night a woman asked me to pray for her. As I touched her hands, I knew in my heart I was supposed to tell her, “Jesus loves you.” That sounds like such a cliché, you could easily say, “Very profound, Shaun. The Holy Spirit had to tell you that? Everybody knows Jesus loves us.”

      Yet I knew in my heart the issue wasn’t about theology or slogans or how perceptive it made me appear. The issue was whether I would say those words at that moment to that woman. Would I obey the leading of the Holy Spirit—that still, small voice speaking to me inside—and trust that God knew what He was doing?

      It seemed a little awkward, but I smiled at her and said, “You know, I think I’m supposed to tell you, ‘Jesus loves you.’” As I said those words, tears came rolling down her cheeks, and she received a tremendous release of the Lord’s presence in her life. I don’t know anything else about her, and I said nothing else to her that night. But God knew exactly what she needed. For her, hearing those words opened a door inside that allowed God to minister to her. That’s the presence of the Holy Spirit in you and on you.

      Another time, my cousin Ben had some friends over. I told them about the prayer time I’d been having and about how real God’s presence was, not only during morning prayer time, but throughout the day. Later in the evening Ben and his friends and I gathered and began to pray. As we did that, I felt led to go around the group and pray for each person individually.

      The first one I prayed for was a guy named Cory. Then I moved to Ben. After him I came to a guy I had never met before that night. As I started to pray, I felt certain I should touch his eyes. When I touched him, I knew the Holy Spirit wanted me to tell him, “You will sleep again.”

      I knew nothing about him, and I had no idea what those words meant, but I said them just the same. I admit that was strange, but I went on praying for his life and future.

      When I finished praying for each person, I asked Cory to stand up. I laid my hand on the top of his head and prayed for God to touch him from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. Cory smiled and sat back down. We laughed a little about it, and then I asked Cory what he felt. He said, “Honestly, I didn’t know what I was supposed to feel. But when you touched my head and started praying for me, my feet felt like they were on fire.”

      Afterward, as everyone was leaving, the young man in his early twenties whom I’d never met before that night—the one I had told, “You will sleep again”—took me aside and said, “You were right-on with that prayer about sleep. I haven’t been able to sleep much in weeks.”



      THE SPIRIT IN YOU AND ON YOU

      When I was a young boy, I saw a movie called The Last Dragon. You probably can still find it in a rental store or on the discount shelf at a big box retailer. The star of the movie was Leroy Green, a man who never fully believed in himself as a kung fu master. But one day he had to defend the love of his life against a man named Sho’nuf. One of the catch lines from the movie is “Who’s the master?” As they fought, Sho’nuf kept asking Leroy, “Who’s the master?” With Leroy backed into a corner, Sho’nuf moved in to deliver the knockout punch. As he did, he asked again, “Who’s the master?” At that moment Leroy reached up and caught Sho’nuf’s fist. Holding it there a moment, he replied, “I am.” And with that a glow came over him. He began to kick and punch with more power. He won the fight and the love of the girl. He became the master that was always inside him. It took his being involved in that fight for him to find it.

      The Last Dragon is fiction, but there’s truth in its message. God offers each of us an anointing in Christ. That anointing is available to every Believer once we find out who we really are in Christ.

      My early morning prayer regimen continued for about sixty days. Each day I awakened at five and spent at least an hour with God. During that time the Holy Spirit brought to mind the ideas about God’s order that had occurred to me when I read The Call. I realized that my new experiences with the power and majesty of God’s presence in me and on me had to do with the order God follows when He works in our lives. I marveled at how God had begun a conversation with me two years earlier, then had come back to finish it as if the conversation had never been interrupted.

      I heard the Holy Spirit say, “This is what happens when you walk the Walk. Not perfection. I’m not looking for perfection. I’m looking for order.”

      In the following chapters we will explore that order—the order of life, the stages through which we grow on the way to spiritual maturity in Christ. God can and does use anyone for anything at any time. But in the broader sense of where He begins with us and where He is taking each of us, there is a divinely appointed order, and there is a progression to the way He works in our lives. God meets us when we are Unbelievers. He speaks to us and reveals Himself, and we become Believers. As we grow in Christ, we become Examples, and then Teachers. And in the lives of many of Christ’s followers, God calls them to do the work of Imparters. They do the miraculous work of Christ on earth, just as the first disciples did.

      The five stages and their sequence are important: Unbeliever, Believer, Example, Teacher, Imparter. Skip a stage in the maturity process, and error will creep in. Get ahead of God, and things will start to go wrong. But follow His order in your life, and you will see amazing things happen.



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