Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Sunday Salon - 2012 Wrap Up

keepcalmIt's been an unusually "challenging" year for me both professionally and personally. I tell you, this is the first year I’ve actually FELT like I was getting old! No worries, though, I will overcome! In the meantime, here are some wonderful things I enjoyed this past year and some activities I look forward to in 2013!

Summer Throwdown
league of librarians t smallJoining forces with Sherry (@LibraryFanatic), Jillian (@heisereads), and Bryan (@brianwyzlic) to put on a month-long reading challenge between Teachers and School Librarians was phenomenal! We had over 150 participants who read almost 3,000 books! We had our own hashtags AND our very own T-Shirts! And don't forget the blog buttons! Oh, and it was super fantastic when the League of Librarians won that first round!

Batty About Books

whatcamefromThis was another big reading highlight for me! Maria (@mselke01) and I would choose a science fiction or fantasy book to read and discuss almost monthly. We did most of our discussion through Google docs then posted them on our blogs. We each had a different part of the story since my posts consisted of my thoughts and her reactions while hers were the opposite. The fun grew out of just responding to each book in whatever way the book moved us.  We'll be guest posting over at the Nerdy Book Club blog to talk more about this! I'm hoping we can continue reading together in 2013!

Reading Challenges

nerdprintzWeirdly, the only challenge I completely failed at was my own #NerdPrintz one! I look forward to picking up the mantle again this year! Realistically, due to committees and other club reading I've already committed to, I'll have to spread this out. But, look forward to some write-ups of at least 1/3 of the titles.

Blog Redesign
I'm still getting used to it but Lori at Imagination Design re-did the blog. It's a total departure from designs I've had in the past. It's even a departure from what I originally thought I wanted! Lori stuck it out with me as I fumbled through the process and always responded quickly, despite the looming holidays! I've got a few new features I had her create buttons for and can't wait to share them!

PS: If you previously branded yourself - don't forget to update your favicon, gravatar and profile pics.

I look forward to lots of exciting reads and reading activities next year! I’ll be assisting with a Battle of the Book team, overseeing our 3rd Annual One Book, One School read complete with AUTHOR VISIT, and possibly creating my very own multi-school Mock Newbery book club!!! So, just keep calm, things will work out!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Top Nonfiction Picture Books 2012
I'm so excited to be on the 2014 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Awards committee. This committee started in 2009 with the first books awarded in 2010.  For the 2014 Award we are reading books published for young adults from November 1, 2012 to December 31, 2013.  I can't actually tell you anything about any of those books right now but I can tell you about these two super fantastic books!

Top Nonfiction Picture Book reads of 2012
from Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2012. 148p. $17.99. 9780547443157.) I actually listened to this one so I should also give credit to Meredith Mitchell, the narrator. What I loved about this book was the way Montgomery interspersed facts about autism with Grandin's story. Learning about how her dad wanted her sent away and then listening to some behavorial issues some autistic children may exhibit sort of put a face to the information and made it real. I especially loved Temple Grandin's tips to autistic children.

from Macmillan

Bomb: The Race to Build-- and Steal -- The World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Book Press, 2012. 272p. $19.99. 9781596434875.) Wow! This has to be the best nonfiction I've read in a long time.  I could not stop reading! Sheinkin's account of how scientists around the world worked to build the first atomic bomb, based on a theoretical  by  test on uranium reactions by Otto Hahn. This story is intense and filled with accounts of physicists and spies trying to help their country or, in some cases, another country, win World War II. Simply amazing.  There's a teacher's guide and a clip of Sheinkin reading from the book on the publisher's website.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Family Pictures 2012

It's been a long time since The Amazing Dancer and I took any sort of family photos. Sure, each year after her dance recital her dad, my ex, takes a few pictures of us together to add to his annual calendar Christmas gift. And I appreciate it!! But, this year, they were out taking thier family pics (he's remarried and they have 2  beautiful young girls) and Dancer texted to see if I wanted to come take pics with her! Weird! That was my first thought, but she convinced me and I went out and the photographer snapped a few of us! So glad I went!

Top Picture Books 2012

Even in the middle school we read picture books! Teachers like them for concise examples of concepts that they can read and use the same day. Students like them because it eases some of the stress of middle school like: the testing, the teasing, the trying to figure out what how you want to be known. I just like them!

Top Picture Book reads of 2012

from Abram's Books for Young Readers

Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show by Michael Buckley, ill by Dan Santat (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2012. 40p. $16.95. 9781419703799.)
From eating, to bathing, to sleeping, Buckley takes the ordinary day of a child and turns it into something special. And the illustrations by Santat are phenomonal and pull you even further into Kel's day!

from Random House

Boy + Bot by Amy Dyckman, ill by Dan Yaccarino (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012. 32p. $16.99. 9780375867569.)
Great interpretation of what it means to be friends and how friends take care of each other.  We may be different, but we all want someone to love us the best way they can!

from HarperCollinsChildrens

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, ill by Jon Klassen (Balzer and Bray, 2012. 40p. $16.99. 9780061953385)
My favorite thing about this book are the illustrations.  Klassen has illustrated many books including The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place (a great middle grade series full of mystery and humor), last year's I Want My Hat Back and this year's This is Not My Hat. His style is distinctive and full of character. 

from Random House

This Is Not My Hat written and ill by Jon Klassen (Candlewick Press, 2012. 40p. $15.99. 9780763655990)
Though the title sounds like a follow-up to I Want My Hat Back, it isn't. This humorous story takes place underwater as that cool looking guppy on the cover tries to hide so he can keep the hat he found.

Title links are to my Amazon Affiliate account to help support the blog. Publisher links are to the book page for more information on the book.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Batty About Books - Insignia by SJ Kincaid

Batty About Books reads

by SJ Kincaid

(Katherine Tegen Books, 2012. 464p. $17.99. 9780062092991)

We finished it! Maria and I just wrapped our final post on Insignia. While Maria (@mselke01) enjoyed the book. I thought it was just ok. We would love to hear what you thought, too! Over at Maria's Melange, checkout what she thought of the book as a whole. Here, Maria's thoughts are in purple, while mine are in blue!

In case you missed the previous discussions here are some links.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
And now, Part 4!
The Final Countdown
The Story
The government is recruiting teens to make into cyber soldiers. Great premise.  They are getting computers put into their heads and they can plug into the network through a wire into their brains.  We’ve got a classic hero’s tale going with Tom coming from a background he needs to overcome: No home, gambling/drunkard dad, mom’s gone.  He’s good at video games but not so hot at school. I can see students getting behind this story. They’ve read it before but not in terms of the future

  I like how you bring up the hero’s journey idea here. Often, in a first book, the main character still goes through the entire journey (like Book of Three or Wrinkle in Time). I think Insignia didn’t bring the journey to completion, though. That’s not completely uncommon, the Lord of the Rings series takes all 3 books to complete the journey as well.
The Main Man Tom’s no Harry Potter but he tries to stand up for himself and his friends by taking on the authority. He tries to resists the bad guy and his gifts come in handy in the end.  I think students will like the way he takes matters into his own hands while I didn’t like or dislike him. Tom is definitely not my favorite character in this book. I agree that he doesn’t have the resonance that Harry had. I really adored Harry - I empathized with him completely. I liked Tom, but it wasn’t quite the same.
The Friends Wyatt - super intelligent but socially awkward. She was my favorite character and I especially loved when she tried gloating.  She’s our Hermione and our Ron. I do wonder if she secretly has a crush on Tom, though. Wyatt is my absolute favorite - though I did start to get more interested in Medusa by the end. I like how you put it - she does encapsulate both of those character types. I have to agree, I do think she has a thing for Tom. I hope that doesn’t become a big “thing” and bring all the angst to the table.
Not something I want to see happen either! I like the way the relationship has built between Tom and Medusa and will be interested in seeing if they can overcome.
Vik - the spicy Indian. He’s loyal to Tom but he also loves the military and everything it stands for. Will he be able to keep the secret??? It will be interesting to see which side he falls on in Vortex. He’s Neville but funny. I liked how Vikram and Tom played out. I hadn’t thought about him as the potential leak. Curious. I do agree that he may be the weak link here. I’m not sure if it will be due to divided loyalties or just his lack of ability to keep a secret. If he ends up even ⅓ as awesome as Neville by the end it’ll be awesome.
Yuri - why was he here?

 Hmm... I hadn’t considered that. I saw Yuri as a window into the paranoia of the leadership. He’s a little bit of a Chewbacca in the group. Supportive, strong, but not really critical to the plot? (As a side note, I do love Chewie). I think students will be able to relate to both Wyatt and Vik but not sure what they’ll think of Yuri. Will there be new plebes for him to befriend?

The Grownups Blackburn - one of the most disappointing turns in the book for me. His 180 hurt me the most. I could get behind Eliot’s change since he’s young - they may change on a dime - but a grownup who’s fought long and hard to overcome some problems and specifically came in to help students then turning on said students?  I guess I should have seen it coming when he first humiliated Tom. I can see students despising his character and being gleeful for his comeuppance.  No one likes a bully. Especially one who’s in power over you. This bothered me a lot as well. In section 3 I mentioned how much I liked Blackburn, and then he totally crashed and burned. I was able to accept it as part of the brain destruction that occurred with his neural implant, I guess. It made the danger of tampering with the human brain more real to me - as did what happened to his family. I still would have preferred to get this lesson a different way.
Ossare - Absent most of the book, she has a huge role in the end. Even if it’s only find someone else to help Tom. Would have liked to see more of her. And in a positive light. What will happen between her and Blackburn now? They are really on opposite sides of this thing and he crossed a line.  Her part is pretty throwaway so I’d be interested to hear if students talk about her when talking about the book. I wonder if she’s back in the story more because she’ll be a bigger part in the next one? I agree with you - either more of her or take her out completely.

Neil (Tom’s dad) - Another absent character that has a big role. Kincaid told us he’s not that bad of a guy. And his scene with Tom at the end supports that. Though he asked to see Tom NOT an avatar and then Tom told him he was an avatar. Weird. What will he do when he finds out what’s happening? Will he want the neuro processor out of Tom’s head? Will it be too late? We all want our parents to be proud of us so I think students will like him in the end. I definitely want to hear more about Neil. I think he’ll have a bigger role to play - but maybe that's just me reading into his behaviors and comparing him to Blackburn.
Overall I’ve been wondering why I couldn’t enjoy this book more. I think it’s because I’m a detailed reader.  I’ve noticed in our conversations you are a forest girl - you focus on the big picture, the how it all comes together, while I’m a trees girl - I look at each chapter, each character, each sequence as an individual thing. Then I break that down.  It’s a tough way to read but I also think it’s what makes me a good librarian.  I’m on the lookout for books for book clubs, for literature circles, for teaching, and for fun. And ALL those things run through my mind as I read any YA/MG book. After reading through all of what you wrote, this is where I started responding. I think you are absolutely right. I am definitely more of a global thinker - a big picture processor. It’s one reason I love my current job. I help students move toward more global themes or overarching connections in everything we do - and they get it. Yes, I also insist the back up those ideas with specifics,but I do tend toward getting the global insight first. When I read a book and think about using it for a class, I ask myself those kinds of questions. If the individual pieces are exceedingly lovely (Seraphina, I’m looking at you), I absolutely notice it. If they aren’t, I tend to gloss over that as I look for bigger meanings. If they are horrifically bad (Beyonders, anyone?), I do notice. Overall, though, I’m looking for the bigger picture. So awesome we get to do things that play to our strengths!
What bothered me most about this book was it seemed to support the very things it was against. I was also bothered by the way it seemed to use negative examples to support it’s points. Also, the characters would 180 without any hints of where those “changes” came from. Tom says “Nothing in their conversations...could’ve readied her for the truth about him...” He’s talking about his battle with Medusa and his last actions but I think this sums up my feelings about the book. I felt blindsided by too many things. And they left me with questions of how these things could come about - which I should have been able to see in the story - instead much of it was just told to me.   I can see, however, the story moving in the direction of working against the “appearances” focus. I also see Blackburn’s humiliations of the students in a new light. Taking the book as a whole (and assuming that some of those themes continue into Vortex), I think I’m more happy with how those themes played out. I agree, though, I’m more satisfied with character changes when I can see them coming. I didn’t feel the information was there for us to get an “aha” moment - more of a “what??” moment. I prefer to have some sense that I’m predicting things correct. Or at least that all the little pieces have fallen into place in a way that makes sense by the end.
Tom says “It wasn’t worth being somebody if it meant hollowing himself out...” He’s talking about losing his soul if had to act like Eliot - shaking hands and smiling at people he didn’t like. But, what he does to Medusa. Wasn’t that like losing his soul?   

Yes! I mentioned this in my section as well. I just ached when he did that. Though I do think the resolution at the ending with her brought me some relief.

Something Else Vortex -  is the title of two books coming out 2013 and they are both sequels to books I didn’t love but I might read the sequel. Weird they are also both blue. Though Kincaid’s cover is better. What is the other one? I like the Kincaid cover a lot. I wonder what the new symbol is. The other book is the sequel to Tempest by Julie Cross.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

THIRSTday - Starters by Lissa Price

Today is THIRSTday: a beverage and a book.

Starters by Lissa Price and Kuerig's Tully's French Roast. Reviewing for 8th Grade book club meeting today.

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's Monday What are You Reading 11/26/12

Check out Teach.Mentor.Texts to see what other teachers and librarians have read these past weeks.

In the Past
It's been a MONTH since my last IMWAYR and I've only read 8 books.  Besides working on a couple of presentations, I've just not been interested in reading. I was able to pick up some recommendations from twitter (thanks @KRWLucy and @KelleeMoye) and hope those will provide my jumpstart. I'm not worried, though. It happens every few months then I'm right back in it!

I finished reading Insignia by SJ Kincaid with Maria for our November Batty About Books.  Check out Parts 1, 2, and 3.  We'll have our final post on Saturday.

I truly enjoyed Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show by Michael Buckley with illustrations by the great Dan Santat.  You need to check that one out!

I made a small dent in my Mock Printz reads by finishing The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater.  We are discussing it this month on Goodreads.

Overall - 2 adult books, 1 picture book, 1 middle grade, and 4 YA novels.

In the Present
I'm reading a book written by a friend and I'm loving it! I hope she pursues getting it published! Great YA contemporary romance in the style of Sarah Dessen.

I'm thisclose to being done with the audio of Temple Grandin by Sy Montgomery and I can't wait to recommend this one to any staff working with autistic students. Combining facts about autism and farming with Temple's life offers a way to personalize autism as well as learn how to work with students you come in contact with.

In the Future
I have some nonfiction reading I want to do: Bomb by Sheinkin, Moonbird by Hoose, Invincible Microbe by Murphy and I have some Mock Newbery and Mock Printz reads I need to finish.  I especially look forward to reading those suggestions from @KelleeMoye - Drama by Telgemeier, Capture the Flag by Messner, Year of the Beasts by Castellucci and Bitterblue by Cashore - all book s just laying around waiting for me to pick them up!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Batty About Books - Insignia by SJ Kincaid - Pt3

Batty About Books
Insignia by SJ Kincaid

After a short break Maria and I are back tackling Insignia by SJ Kincaid.  Maria's responses are in purple and she has a different take on this part over at Maria's Melange!

We’ve covered 1/2 the book so far.  Check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you want to catch up.  

Maria and I wanted to start talking about book covers. As we are all so visual, it pays for a company to make a book eye-catching but you also want the cover to speak to what’s inside the book.  So, we’ll be adding a segment where we talk about the cover before and after we read!

I wasn’t attracted to this cover.  The red background with the white lettering, while shouting science fiction, did not pull me in.  I would not have given it a second glance without a twitter buddy’s recommendation.  Once I picked it up and read the back, I wanted to read it.  Word War III? Secret weapons? A blurb by Veronica Roth of Divergent fame??? Closer look needed!  That’s when I noticed the computer chip-like background and the 1s and 0s (which Tom mentions whenever he’s trying to tap directly into a computer location). The cover reminds me of The Matrix but red instead of green. Yes! That’s exactly it. Definitely Matrixy.

On to Part 3 - pg. 223-332
This week we see Tom going through some changes.  We are also introduced to a magic word - and we still don’t know what it means! There’s also some primping, some exercising, and a whole lot of sewage!

First off let me say that my feelings for this book have not improved. It’s just not my cup of tea.  I’ve tried to put my feelings aside and just read the book, but then the writing style gets in the way. It’s uneven.  So, I ask that you read my part with a grain of salt keeping in mind that this is not my book.   I will be quick and try to keep this spoiler free. What’s really funny is that I often get nervous when I like a book and someone else doesn’t. So I have had to try to focus on whether I was enjoying this book or if I was trying to spot the things that are making you not like it. As I generally take on the “mediator” role in any group or conversation, I have to watch that tendency here.

Another interesting thing is that you raved about Ready Player One. I’m listening to it now, and enjoying it, but I don’t think it is one I would rave about. The “info dumping” has gotten a bit old. 

I wonder if NOT having read Ready Player One first would have changed things for me? Though my beef isn't with the story - which I like - it's the execution.
The Good
Tom gets to fight with Medusa. I like that they are becoming friends even though they haven’t met yet. It’s refreshing to read about a building relationship instead of an insta-romance. I agree. I’m finding their relationship very entertaining also. I like that she is happy to keep beating him.

The Bad
I was let down with the ending of the virus battle. I wanted more man!

They cut the old neuroprocessors out of the adults that went crazy and re-used them??? SCARY! I expect to hear more about that! Also, the student’s memories are stored on the processors? (232) So if Beamer’s get removed, will he only remember his life before or after the Spire? This whole idea is crazy scary, but seems so plausible. Can’t you just picture some government doing this?


Tom threw out the word ROANOKE and heck breaks loose! What does it mean? Will we find out in this book? I was so fascinated by this! I have to admit, I’ve read a bit more now and they do talk about it... I’ll be curious to hear what you think when you get to that.

Dalton says - “once the lot of you are public...” What are his and Vengerov’s plans???? Is Dominion planning domination?

The Ugly
First, Why did Tom get in the car without using netsend to let Vic know what was going on? His earlier feelings about Dalton should have prevented this from happening.  Also, he was gone a long time and no one knew? If Dalton used Tom’s GPS to track him, wouldn’t his friends use it to look for him too? (247) Yes, I was surprised that he didn’t say anything to Vikram - but he was so intent on finding a way to keep this life that I can believe he would get into the car for the chance to get sponsored.

Second, no one at the Spire suspected or noticed anything? One whole month went by! I agree on this one, although I think it may be because we were getting Tom’s perspective. I bet his friends did suspect things were weird. There is some evidence that they were getting annoyed and suspicious (though I don’t think I marked any specific passages so I can’t find direct quotes). Wyatt, for one, seems to feel there is something wrong with him.

Lastly, I get the impression the author doesn’t like any of the characters. Teenaged boys? They are immature and easily provoked by saying they can’t do something. Teachers? Evil and will use their position for their own amusement including “getting back at” students with assignments. Adults? Evil or blind. They are just promoting their own interests. No real feelings for anyone else. Also, the ones in charge don’t notice anything. Teenaged girls? If they are smart, they are mannish and uncouth.  If they are pretty (and they can’t be both) they will use their looks to forward their agenda or they are shallow like the ones we see in the mall (294). I honestly did hope we would get more with Heather so that she would have a chance to redeem herself. I’m fascinated by Blackburn - but I’m not actually “liking” him as I move into section 4. I bet you’ll really hate him now!

Overall for Part 3
It just felt implausible. I’m heading into Part 4 still holding out hope for redemption. I commented on a few things I felt were unlikely, but it sounds like I’m a lot happier with this book than you are. Hopefully our next book will be more up your alley!

Monday, November 19, 2012


1 Book 1 School Battle of the Book
I know, I know. The blog has been strangely quiet! I did my FIRST presentation (outside of my school) on One Book, One School at the Indiana Library Federation Annual Conference! So glad it's over.  That took some time as I do not like speaking in front of people! But, we had a great turnout and things went well! Special shout out to @libraryfanatic and @gopherlibrarian.  I enjoyed hanging out with them again!

I'm getting a blog makeover soon and have been thinking about what I want to do with the blog.  What types of information would be useful to people as they look for books to read.  There are MANY bloggers out there and quite a few are teacher-librarians.  So what can I add that isn't already being said somewhere?

Book News
National Book Awards - Goblin Secrets by William Alexander won the Young People's Literature Division
I haven't read ANY of these yet but I'm happy to note that I have almost all of them here to read soon.

Goodreads Mock Printz - Reading Ask The Passengers by AS King and The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

I'm happy to note that I finished The Raven Boys and will get to ATP before the end of the month.  I'm wondering if this group has reached the end of it's time since SLJ came out with Someday My Printz Will Come and it offers a more detailed forum for discussion?

Oh, and it was The Amazing Dancer's 17th Birthday this week!!! She's growing right up!

So, I've just been laying low but I will be back soon. In the meantime, tell me what you are looking for in a book/library related blog! 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Recipe for Trouble by Sheryl and Carrie Berk - Review and Giveaway

Berk, Sheryl and Carrie. Recipe for Trouble (Cupcake Club, 2). Sourcebooks, 2012. 192p. $6.99. 978-1402264528.


Summary (provided by publisher)

The Peace, Love, and Cupcake Girls are ready for a new school year, but are they ready for the, well, drama? When Lexi lands the role of Juliet in the upcoming performance of Romeo and Juliet, she couldn’t be more excited, but when she finds out the leading man opposite her is her secret crush, Jeremy, the PLC gang sets its sights on match-making.

Things go quickly awry, though, when Jeremy throws away the “Bake Me I’m Yours” cupcake Lexi anonymously gives him. That’s not all! It seems that Jeremy has a few odd habits. For one, it turns out he doesn't eat any desert during lunch period. Then they notice that he keeps a stash of nuts with him at all times. Not to mention his over-frequent visits to the nurse’s office. What could be up with Jeremy?

What MGAnnie Thought

I read Recipe for Trouble, The Cupcake Club by mom and daughter authors, Sheryl and Carrie Berk. I loved it! It was about a girl named Lexi who really likes a boy. She also is busy and stressed with her cupcake club and her school play. She plays Juliet, and her crush is Romeo in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Could there be any more drama for a 5th grader? As a 5th grader myself, it was a fun read, and I would suggest it to 4th-6th graders. I loved how there were many references to Shakespeare and drama. I can't wait to try some of the recipes with my mom! I am looking forward to reading more books in this series, Winner Bakes All sounds fun! In all, this book was baked to perfection!

About the Authors
Sheryl is the founding editor in chief of Life & Style Weekly as well as a contributor to InStyle, Martha Stewart, and other publications.  Her daughter, Carrie, cooked up the idea for THE CUPCAKE CLUB series in second grade. Carrie maintains her own cupcake blog, featuring reviews, photos and recipes of her culinary adventures, called Carrie’s Cupcake Critiques (

follow Carrie!

TWITTER! @CBCupcakeCritic 

You can read Recipe for Trouble for yourself! Just fill out the form below! One Entry per person. US ONLY. from November 5 - November 9, 2012 11:59pm

Names and Addresses will be removed at contest end. book will be sent direct from publishers.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Batty About Books - Insignia by SJ Kincaid - Pt2

Here we are for Part 2!
Batty About Books
by SJ Kincaid

(Katherine Tegen Books, 2012. 464p. $17.99. 9780062092991)

We're halfway through Insignia with more questions and some answers.  Maria, whose thoughts are in purple, talks more about the science connections, gender roles, and historical aspects over on Maria's Melange.  We also ponder what the author's role is in portraying parts of the teen life. 

Part 2 - pg 117 - 223

I wasn't enthralled with Part 1 of Insignia by SJ Kincaid because I thought the author focused too much on looks and humiliation.  I liked the idea of war being fought by human-controlled machines though, so looked forward to Part 2. I’m actually a little bit MORE disappointed! I know we are only 1/2 way through but I’m having a hard time seeing how this book will redeem itself. I don’t want to have big personality and idea changes - they need to be gradual for me believe in them.  But, enough about that, let’s get to my objections.
Maria: I was hoping we would have gotten more into the action in this chunk of the book. I wonder if I’d feel differently about the pacing if I had just kept reading... guess I’ll find out soon!

I feel as if I keep reading the same things over and over and over.  I understand Kincaid doesn't want us to forget important stuff but this is a little bit of overkill for me.  We read repeatedly that they are owned by the military.  We’d heard it from Neil and the social worker in part one and now we have Beamer mentioning it as well as Tom thinking it.  The Achilles - Medusa connection was mentioned 4 times in 60 pages (p. 125, 159, 184, 187) as well as the mentions during battle. And how many times will I hear about the food and water patents? I don’t feel as if I need to remember or pay attention because the author will just tell me again.
Maria: Yes, I felt like this second chunk gave us a lot of repetitions. I also commented on some of the “info dump” aspects of the tactics class. Again, I wonder if it would have bothered me if I’d just been reading right through instead of stopping to take notes?

The focus on looks troubles me. Heather using her looks to get what she wants. The continued discussion on Wyatt. Wyatt’s role in the King Arthur sim. Wyatt’s parent’s reactions. Tom’s memory of his mom. “She couldn't believe such an ugly creature came from her.” (170) Tom’s reaction to being told they were turning off the growth hormone.
Maria: This is one of those instances where I wish I had a teen perspective. I know the appearance thing bugged me a lot, too, but I also remember (vaguely) feeling this way as a teen. So at what point does a book need to veer from actual teen experience? We want kids to see themselves in the characters, but we also want them to learn better ways to feel and experience life. I don’t know where the balancing point is, and I’d be interested in exploring this idea more. Meg (in Wrinkle in Time) spent an awful lot of time bemoaning her hideous appearance. Is that the same? I was more disturbed by Tom groping himself in his Guinevere form. I asked myself, “is that would a teen boy would do?” Then I realized I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to know the answer to that question! Hahahah! Good points. Where is the balancing point? How much becomes harmful? Must it always be helpful? Why was it ok in Wrinkle in Time?

This was huge for me. I was already disturbed by Kincaid using Blackburn’s character to humiliate Tom for laughs but I was completely appalled in this part.  First, the description of Nigel’s facial tic (which could also go under looks), then Dalton’s reference to him (174), then the virus that was named after him and used to embarrass him and make everyone else laugh (213).  
Maria: Yes, I wasn’t pleased by that at all. I kept waiting for someone to stick up for him! Again, I wonder at what point we stop reflecting actual teen behavior (which, sadly, I think this is) and start showing alternate positive choices. Is an author responsible for reflecting reality or altering it? I wanted there to be negative consequences for this behavior, at the very least.

Then, the whole Beamer incident where we learn that needing help from the social worker is a cause of shame. (154, 213) And I won’t even mention Blackburn saying use your dislike of each other to create viruses. (199)
Maria: Yes! We cheer for girls when they get active roles, but we also need to see boys being allowed to express vulnerability without shaming.

Eliot’s complete change of heart! Based on what we have been told (repeatedly) about his character, I didn’t believe his actions in the Troy scene.
Maria: I agree. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop - for Elliot to reveal what he hoped to get out of allowing Tom to take on that battle. When it didn’t happen, it felt like Elliot wasn’t being portrayed consistently.

Self worth: normal = nothing = worthless (213) WHAT????

Despite the negative above - there were still some things I liked about this part!
The Duel: I LOVED this. I could totally picture them standing around sending codes with glee. The virus names were so funny.  
Maria: “Worst duel ever” (214) I completely cracked up when I read this. I loved how Wyatt is schooling them all. I’m cheering for Wyatt now - forget everyone else. I want a book about her. YES, she is my favorite and I hope to see her role get even bigger and better! Maybe she’ll feature in the sequels!

Obsidian and the role they will play in upcoming parts. The potential for “insider trading” is huge here. Also, this part somehow brings to mind the merger of Random House and Penguin as well as the one of  Disney and Lucasfilms. What does all this combining of resources do for the consumers?
Maria: Yes - this is another great link in to current topics. I bet we could teach all of current events, and many history lessons, by tying into science fiction texts.

The “lessons” about past reasons for war and how we ended up in World War III. Agreed - though I thought the scenes ended up too long. I started to get bored before the lesson was over.

I look forward to the next part to see how all of this plays out. Will I feel better next week? I can’t wait to find out.

Monday, October 29, 2012

It's Monday - What Are You Reading? 10/29/12

Stop by Teach.Mentor.Texts to find out what other kidlit bloggers are reading!

In the Past
Devoured the 4th, and unfortunately final, book in Cinda Chima's Seven Realms series. I hope Chima changes her mind because I'd love to see how Raisa's and Han's lives play out.

Re-read Just Listen by Sarah Dessen so that I could discuss it with the 8th grade book club.  Our next book is Starters.

Overall, read 4 novels, 1 picture book and finished 1 audiobook.

In The Present

I'm re-reading Ready Player One by Ernie Cline for the Level Up Book Club side quest.  Check out what Matthew Winner and Jennifer LaGarde are up to. It will change how you think about library work.

In the Future
Maria and I will tackle part 2 of Insignia by SJ Kincaid for Batty About Books.  If you missed Part 1, check it out here.  Not sure what I want to read these next two weeks.  I have some library books and ARCs I'd like to tackle.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Salon Author Spotlight - Gabrielle Zevin

Gabrielle Zevin writes for adults and young adults. Three of the four books we have in our school library feature a science fiction element.  The fourth book deals directly with identity through memory loss.

Elsewhere (Macmillan/Square Fish, 2006. 304p. )
The first book I read by Zevin. Liz dies and ends up in Elsewhere. In Elsewhere, you live your life backwards from the day you die until before you are born and then you are reincarnated. So cool. Imagine reliving parts of your life while keeping the experience and knowledge that you've gained. How to come to terms with your mental vs physical capabilities? What can you do differently?

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac (Macmillan/Square Fish, 2007. 288p)
If you can't remember who you are, can you become who you want to be? Naomi knocked her head and conveniently forgot all the bad things that were happening in her life. Unfortunately, she also didn't remember any of the good things. And who could she trust to tell her the truth?

All These Things I've Done - Birthright, 1 (Macmillan/Square Fish, 2011. 384p)
I just re-read this one.  It's the first in a trilogy and it's set in a future where chocolate and coffee are forbidden. The mafia families are big on making sure people have their chocolate and Anya, a child of a former mob boss, is trying desperately to sever her ties with the Balanchine Family.  Anya is orphaned with a younger sister and older brother to care for. She unwittingly becomes a pawn in a game between the Families and the wanna-be new District Attorney. Side note: These new covers suck. Anya does NOT have straight hair and us curly-haired girls are disappointed.  If they needed to put a face, they could have chosen one with cooler hair.

Because it is My Blood - Birthright, 2 (Macmillan/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. 350p)
I actually liked this one better than book 1! Lots more intrigue and backstabbing! I could also connect more with Anya and cared about her problems. She embraced her past and determines to make the future better. We learn more about how chocolate came to be banned and we see Anya grow into herself and become a strong female lead.  I was, however, disappointed in her best friend's choices! I look forward to finding out if Anya's plans for the family come to fruition. Side note: Both books have awesome chapter titles!

Find Gabrielle Zevin on Facebook | Twitter | Macmillan

Because It Is My Blood Trailer


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