Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's Monday: What Are You Reading - 9/30/12

Head over to Jen and Kellee's blog Teach Mentor Texts to find other great books to read!

In the Past
The last two weeks have seen my reading slow down due to work demands. But I did manage to finish 4 books!

I also re-read All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin but it's not showing up on my Goodreads!

In the Present

I'm re-reading Seraphina for Batty About Books with Maria's Melange. We've divided the books into thirds and will post each Saturday. If you missed it, Part 1 is here and here.

I've been reading Education Nation very slowly and for quite a while.

Because It's My Blood is the follow-up to All These Things I've Done.  I'll be giving away both copies when I finish.

In the Future
I'm going to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower
for Banned Books Week. I hope to finish and review it this week!

Sunday Salon Author Spotlight - Jordan Sonnenblick

Jordan Sonnenblick is former middle school teacher whose books go a long way towards bringing reluctant readers into the fold. Although Mr Sonnenblick also writes books for a younger crowd, our library features four of his young adult novels:

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie

Steven is torn between wanting to make eyes with a beautiful girl from school and wanting to keep his annoying younger brother, Jeffery, out of his hair whenever she comes over for tutoring. Steven's world is turned upside down when Jeffery, only five, is diagnosed with leukemia.

Notes from the Midnight Driver

Alex goes on a spree to get back at his parents. He ends up crashing the car and is sentenced to community service at the local senior citizen's home. He meets Solomon Lewis and both their lives change.

After Ever After

In this follow-up to Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie, Jeffery's cancer is in remission and he's made it to eighth grade.  He attends a regular school but gets extra help since he has trouble walking and sometimes thinking.  He's got friends, and like his older brother Steve, there's a girl whose attention he would love to have.

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip

This newest book by Sonnenblick combines sports and photography. Peter grandfather has taught him everything he needed to know about photography. Peter figures he can use this knowledge to his advantage and take the lower level photography class for an easy A. Unfortunately, he's bumped up to the advanced level class, fortunately there's also Angelika. Check out Sonnenblick talking about his new book below.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Batty About Books - Seraphina 1 by Rachel Hartman

Dragons that can take human form. But hide their emotions. How cool is that? Welcome to the first of three parts wherein
Batty About Books

takes on

by Rachel Hartman
Random House Books for Young Readers, 2012

Part 1 - pg 1- 153 (as always my thoughts in blue, Maria's are in purple)
This is my second reading of Seraphina and I must say it’s even better this time around.  In my first read, I devoured it in a day and half.  It’s wonderful to go back and savor Hartman’s sense of humor and way with words.  For most of the characters I thought her descriptions and word choice brought them to life so most of this focuses on some of the major characters introduced in these pages. Though, really, all I want to do is post quotes from the book!
Can I say that even though I am only a third done the book I’m already looking forward to a reread? That’s pretty powerful in a world where my to be read list is almost 300 books!
Kathy: Exactly! I have a lot of books to read but I couldn't resist visiting Hartman's world again.

Seraphina Dombegh
16 years old and yearning to be seen but forced to hide. “I barely noticed my loneliness anymore, it was my normal condition.” Despite all of that, her wit is sharp. “...not my most cogent explanation but I was unaccustomed to speaking with my face covered in blood.”
Yes! I love these quotes. I am so attached to Seraphina. I mentioned in my thoughts that she reminds me a bit of Spock from Star Trek. Except that Spock has chosen the Vulcan side of his heritage to hide within, and Seraphina has chosen her human side. More on Spock when I respond to your thoughts about Orma, though...

(Hartman’s description of dragons - who conceal their emotions and therefore don’t recognize the necessity for them in others - reminds of students on the autistic spectrum.)
“...he licked his lips as if gold was something he missed the taste of.” I love how Orma shows his love for Seraphina without showing his love for Serphina. Since he’s a dragon and that’s not permitted.  His memories of his sister and his family was stirring. “In the end...I don’t know what it was for.”
See, this is where I got a mixed Vulcan and Asperger’s vibe. Or maybe it is just Orma. He seems to have the feelings percolating under the surface (which makes me think more of Vulcans). You’re right about the majority of dragons not even seeming to know what emotions really are - and not being able to identify them in others. Yet I wonder if this is something they have cultivated over the years - their “ard” being the imposition of order on chaos... is there deeper chaos inside the saar than we have seen so far?

Prince Lucian - Captain Kiggs
(why do we call Royalty by their first names?)
The bastard prince - love that that’s his nomenclature.  He is dignified and bound by honor - “Let the one who seeks justice be just.” but seems to have a fun side too as she describes him going up the steps like a mountain sheep as well as when they debated what Seraphina should call him.  He seems young to be the captain of the guard. Did I miss where Hartman mentions how he got the job?  
I don’t remember seeing her describe how he got the job. I thought it was just because he was a bastard prince. It seems like that is the kind of job that “wrong side of the sheet” royalty tends to end up acquiring. I adore this character. The more Lucian appears the more I like him. I like how he recognizes the help Seraphina gave in convincing Glisselda to interact with the saar at the party. Bringing in some non-kid books, he reminds me a bit of Jon Snow from Game of Thrones (another bastard prince with a keen sense of honor).

“ if he were the Bishop of Gout Couch speaking ex cathedra.” He seems all mean but could he have a softer side? He’s been the comic relief for me, all blustery but loved.
Yes! I hope we get more of him as well. I like how he has shown that he has some tenderness for his proteges with the way he cuts Seraphina some slack when she is clearly exhausted and how he helped Lars find a way to build his instrument.

Princess Glisselda
“Can I attain that level of petty vindictiveness?” Hahaha! 15 years old. She’s funny but, like Seraphina, also smart. She spouts the words of Lady Corongi but I wonder how much she believes and how much she repeats to see what others will say?  “Evil always seeks to destroy the good that stands against it.” I can see her being interesting, if uncouth.  The way she talked about the saarantrai at the party. Also - saarantras - 1 and saarantrai - more than one = so cool!
I also like her character. She has that fear and loathing of the saarantrai - but it seems like she will be able to learn to move beyond it if she takes the first few steps. She seems to have a little sharp sense of humor as well. I find it amazing how Hartman has managed to round out even some of these more minor characters so well.

Amaline Ducanahan - Linn
“I believe this is called bravado and is not limited to lawyers, or even men, although that combination makes it almost unavoidable.” Could Seraphina have inherited her mother’s sense of humor? Though the dragons wouldn’t call it that. It is just an observation that Hartman delivers in just the right vein. She was close to Orma. Will be interesting to learn more about her through her memory pearls! Memory pearls - so cool!
The way Hartman handles the memories and music is something I found to be delightful. The pearls of memory followed by the “snowflakes” in her mental garden were amazing. Amaline - what little we have seen of her - gives me the same feeling Spock’s father does. He was a true Vulcan, but fell in love with with a human. Also, the story mentions that because the Saar have no souls their music can’t touch the heart, but Seraphina inherited her mother’s musical talent... I hope this continues to be developed.

Earl Josef Aspig (ass pig? love these names)
“...turned the full force of his handsomeness on me.” Oh, he’s full of himself and he has something against Lars? He freely admits to being on the hunt. Could he have been involved? Is he hiding something?
So very creepy... he’s definitely into something.

Queen Lavonda
As the co-author of the Treaty of Peace, I expected to see more of her. She seems formidable - dragging the saarantrai embassy to the party. But, that’s all we’ve seen.
Yes, but the focus of the tale is really on the younger generation. I hope that we’ll see some of her in the memories, or at least get an idea of why she was involved in the treaty.

Lady Corongi
“It astonishes me that a bungling monkey such as yourself is permitted to careen so freely up the corridors...Have you no keeper? Have you no leash?”  I don’t really have anything to say here, I just wanted to get that part in writing because it made me laugh!
Yes! What a perfect “British nanny” thing to say.

Counselor Dombegh
I love that he’s the Queen’s eminent advisor on the treaty. That he is so torn between his love for Seraphina and his love of propriety. In the prologue when he whispers to baby Seraphina “I have been unequal to this task...but I believe I can do better. We must find a way to be a family to each other.” I could clearly hear his love. Then later, when she’s older and she wants to “shame” him into letting her play music. “It broke with a sickening crack, like bone, or like my heart.” “Papa let the fractured instrument drop...and staggered back a step. He if the flute had been some piece of himself.
He seems to have dropped out of the narrative. I hope we get more of him as the story develops. His broken heart, his terror over being discovered, these are things I want to learn more about. I liked that he appeared in that memory flake Seraphina ate. That was a beautiful scene.

Sons of St. Ogdo
“Was it difficult to organize rioting? Did they have enough torches and black feathers?” Bwhahaha - I don’t know why this is so funny to me. But it is!
Yes! I loved that line as well.

Hartman has a way with words.  I love this book. It’s funny with a pinch of sadness. You feel for the characters and want to know more about them. Her description of the setting and the clothing sounds medieval. Just her whole take on dragons. Did I say I love this book? It was hard to stop reading.

A few other things - Belondweg is their epic song? It sounds like blonde wig! I want to know more about the Quigtol and the Broadwick brothers and why there is so much hate there.  Here are some other random quotes that stuck with me:
“His breath was tavern-esque.” 78
“You must have lived an impossibly long time thinking you were alone in the world. Oh no, I’m sorry, that’s me.” 115 Miss Fusspot
“Heaven has fashioned a knife of irony to stab me with.” 124
“...the borderlands of madness used to have much sterner signage...”128
“The looming buildings squeezed the sky down to a rapidly darkening ribbon.” 148

Yes! Again, I don’t want to dive into spoilers.... but the characters in her mental garden are amazing. I’m enjoying the way the story is falling into place at this point in the book. I’m so glad we decided to read this book together! It is helping me savor it instead of gulping it down.

Head over to Maria's Melange to get her take on Seraphina. She further delves into the Star Trek connection as well as a way to use the book teach about slavery. Don't miss it!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Middle Grade Monday - Wonder by RJ Palacio

Palacio, RJ. Wonder. Knopf Books for Young Readers, Feb 2012. 320p. $15.99. 978-0375869020

Reviewed by: MGAnnie

August Pullman is a kid. A fifth grade kid. Except he has never gone to a normal school, and when he was a baby, doctors were afraid he wouldn’t live. August Pullman was born with a facial deformity.

I really liked Wonder because of the different parts, then chapters, and I liked all of the amazingly described emotions.

The book made me feel sad, and made me worry about people who are different and how people like August are treated. There were wonderfully happy parts too, when everyone got along. I absolutely loved this book.

I recommend Wonder to fifth grade kids up to adults. I give this book FIVE STARS.

From The Brain Lair - There is a wonderful CHOOSE KIND initiative that Ms. Palacio and her publishers have started.  There's a pledge and other resources to help schools implement the program. This book would be an AWESOME One Book, One School choice for an elementary school.

Book Trailer

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Batty About Books - What Came From the Stars 2 by Gary Schmidt

Welcome to Part 2 where 
Batty About Books discusses
by Gary Schmidt

Clarion Books, 2012

If you missed it, here's Part 1 and a summary:
We are introduced to Tommy Pepper and his family. Tommy is recovering from a tragic accident and just starting to feel like himself. His family is trying to stave off an easement against their property. And he's wondering how to hid the childish lunch box his Granny sent him for his 12 birthday. Just a typical kid. Until he finds the most awesome necklace. Or is that awful?

On to Part 2 with my remarks in blue and Maria's responses in purple. Head over to Maria's Melange for the rest of the story.
What Came From the Stars
Part 2 p143 - p287 (plus glossary)

The End
What? That epilogue should have been a prologue. It gave the background information I could have used to stave off confusion in the beginning! I still had a hard time with all the similar sounding names and the fact that some people were helping other people while some person found a group of people and used them to attack some other people. Or, at least I think that’s what happened
I commented on the epilogue as well! I didn’t like it much - but I completely see your point. I think having this information earlier in the story would have helped stave off a lot of the confusion. I’ll be honest, I was also a bit tired when I got to this section. I just couldn’t get into it. It seemed like a poor way to end the book.

Mr. PilgrimWay
I think I can picture this tall creepy guy with a great voice. The silver-tongued Mr. PilgrimWay (love that he’s sorta named for the condominium Cheryl Lynn Lumpkin’s mother wants to install instead of Tommy Pepper’s house) reminds me of King Leck.  Although his powers aren’t as strong, he can still make Alice Winslow not care that she was in the back of the classroom.
Agreed.  I thought he was delightfully creepy. I am terrible with names, but this one definitely stuck with me. Well chosen.

Officer Goodspeed just left Tommy at home alone. He was only 12. Goodspeed hadn’t met PilgrimWay yet, so, no excuses.
YES! I completely freaked at this point (but I guess not enough to take a note on it). Really? We’re going to leave a 12 year old home alone because he says, “I’ll be fine”? Nope.

The fight back home just seemed unimportant. I do wonder what sort of power Lord Mondus would have had if he’d had the Art of Valorim as he was already very powerful and evil. It would have been cool to get a little pic of that so that we would know what we were fighting for and how important it was.
Ooo... I like how you think. Clearly you need to write a book! Yes, even if it was shown as a daydream - or something. This would have been a great addition to the story.

Fight 2!
Loved how James, Patrick, and Alice came to help Tommy fight. I do wish there would have been some cool sort of twist where Tommy was actually Ealgar or some such. The part where Schmidt started calling him Tommim and Mr. PilgrimWay switched to being Ouslim the Liar was just confusing and under-done.  I think if he had also mixed the text or added more of the other language or, something to signify or moved to having the rest of the book that way...but, for me, the way it was done didn’t work.
Okay, I see that. I enjoyed the blending of the language, but I agree that the name switching got confusing. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not good at remembering names (I either have to take good notes, look it back up, or just call characters “the dad”.) Maybe that’s why that part didn’t bother me as much, because I’m already bad at that? *chuckles* I appreciated the experiment in the style, but I agree that it could have been done in a less confusing manner.

Wrapped up
It was all too easy in the end. And a little draggy. I did love the O’Mondim but really. What Came From the Stars seemed to run out of steam about 3/4 of the way through. It just lost the magic for me as if I’d given up the Art of Valorim and forgotten the language and what I’d been so excited about. I still LOVED Tommy, Patty, Alice and all the rest but I found myself not caring about the other world.
I see what you mean. I never really felt invested in the world of the Valorim. I skimmed those sections, enjoying the language but eager to dive back into Tommy’s world. So since Tommy’s world was what hooked me, that kept me going. I adored how the idea of the O’Mondim was resolved. Tommy giving him back his personhood.... that did resonate with me.

The Glossary
Yeah. I liked it. But it was too little too late. I chuckled a bit. And I understood why it wasn’t in the beginning. But, too late. I was already gone.
Hmmm... I read the glossary just before finishing the first half of the book. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much? I’d read enough of the story to find it humorous, but not so much that I was just annoyed from the confusing terms.

I read a lot of books. A LOT. Always reading. I’m hard on books. I need to be hooked from beginning to end. I can get by a little bit of dragging in the middle. Or a little confusion in the beginning. Or a quick, easy wrap-up. Or even an ending that belongs in the beginning. But when you put them all together? ARGH! And yet, and yet. I still enjoyed the book. I would read it again. I will recommend it to students. It has something. It’s somewhere between early MG and early YA that seems to be missing at this level. It’s needed. And maybe, I just read too many books.
This is the kind of book that my students need. It’s challenging. It will be a stretch for my strong fourth grade readers. Yet there isn’t any violence or sex. I give a LOT of slack to books that give me that. I also enjoyed some of the risks Schmidt took in his storytelling, even if I didn’t find them all to be as effective as they could have been.

Readers: I hope you go out and get this book and read it. It's well worth your time. I would love to know your thoughts on it.

Up Next:
Batty About Books will be tackling Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. Check out these trailers:

Rachel Hartman reading from Serphina

Quick Look

This book has received 6 starred reviews so far - right up there with The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

Will it live up to it's hype? 
Can you go wrong with dragons who can take human form?  

Join us over the next three weeks and let's find out together!

In the meantime, don't forget to check out Maria's Melange for her side of What Came From The Stars by Gary Schmidt!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Batty About Books - What Came From The Stars by Gary Schmidt

Maria and I are back and we are
Batty About
by Gary Schmidt

Clarion Books, 2012

Kathy: As soon as I heard about this book, I wanted to read it! Schmidt’s Okay for Now was one of one my favorite books last year.  The students voted it as an honor book for our Mock Newbery, it was fiercely debated on The Heavy Medal blog and was also THE winner of SLJ’s Battle of the Kid’s Books!  Expectations are HIGH!

Part 1 -
pgs 1 - 142 (My comments are in BLUE and Maria's responses are in PURPLE)

Kathy: The Valorim, O’Mondim, and the Ethelim - Schmidt jumps right into the fantasy world. And with a battle no less. Some of the words were a little confusing but the plot itself was easy to follow. Loved the last stand and how the ART was preserved because it meant life itself.
Yes! I mention this focus on the Art as well. I love this. The beauty we create is a huge piece of what makes humanity, and I love that it is vital to the honorable Valorim as well.

Kathy: The Peppers (only 3 instead of 5) - Tommy Peppers (I love how we mostly say his full name) what a character. Schmidt’s description were such that I could picture not only Tommy, but his buddies too. I like Tommy’s sense of humor and his compassion. He seems to know what’s really happening in the world, but not let it hold him back too much.
I love his relationship with his sister. I love how he creates the Art and doesn’t really seem surprised by it. I agree that the descriptive language in this book is amazing. Tommy seems like a real kid, even with the crazy chain.

Though the threat of being ousted from their house by Mrs. Lumpkin (ha!) hangs over the Peppers, they get up to greet the dawn with cocoa and tea and love. What a great ritual.
This is one of the ways that the family reminds me of the Murrys. Don’t you think?

Kathy: The Imagery - the landscape is vividly portrayed, at least in Plymouth. Schmidt’s descriptions of Tommy’s drawings - “he drew in the sound of the stones being pulled back and forth and the tolling of the buoys.” makes me imagine being there. I loved how he described the road to the Pepper’s lonely, dilapidated house - “...the road sort of coughed, stuttered, and then died into a gravel the house that had once been white, but the paint had blown away long ago.
Yes! I kept going back and rereading the description. Honestly, I usually skim description (is that a terrible confession?). I loved the descriptions of the Pepper’s house. I can picture it, with the windows that look out over the sea..

I had a harder time pulling myself into Ethelim. I loved the rhythm and the speech patterns of the inhabitants, but I don’t know what it *looks* like. I think I struggled with the language, trying to make it fit into patterns of English that I’m familiar with, and it held me back from full immersion. I wished the glossary was in the front, I think that makes it easier to access, though students of fantasy will probably just as soon look in the back. They are not lazy like me! :)
Ummm.... yeah... I’m an idiot. I’m going to go with the fact that I used the dust jacket to mark the halfway point as my excuse for not going to the glossary earlier. (I mention my problem with the language too). I agree, it took me almost to the halfway point before I really felt comfortable in this world. I thought the “high fantasy” writing style fit this world well, but I think maybe he tossed in TOO many new words all at once. The same words appear in Tommy’s section, but aren’t as jarring. They flow better, probably because the density of the new words isn’t as high in Tommy’s section.

Kathy: The Story - first, it reminds me of Dragon Castle. Not sure why. Maybe the tone of the piece? Second, I liked the alternating real time voices.  It wasn’t like somehting happened a long time ago and the necklace brought it’s effects to Earth, instead we are seeing two sides of the coin, each chapter flipping us to the other side. Somehow it’s making the story seem more realistic than fantastical. The idea of the necklace embodying the ART of the Valorim, and affecting Tommy Peppers, reminds me of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when they wore the horcrux. Only, this time it’s for good.  How it makes Tommy long for things he never really had but also brings him closer to his mother? Genius.
I love how the language of the Valorim slips into Tommy’s speech. I also like how both viewpoints are current, it’s not a peek into the past. I have a hard time classifying this one. The other world being another planet makes it seem a little bit science fiction (and that’s what Amazon has it classified as), but I think it’s more fantasy with the chain being a magical relic.

So far - What Came From the Stars has great potential.  I want Schmidt to continue fleshing out the characters, especially dad and Mrs. Lumpkin. I want to know if she and Cheryl Lynn Lumpkin back off or continue being bullies. Is there a Mr. Lumpkin? Will dad continue painting?
I didn’t even mention the other characters. I really want more of them as well. Mrs. Lumpkin is almost farcical, but I like the humor that her character brings into the story (even though she’s clearly causing problems). One of my favorite parts is on page 117 where there isn’t dialogue written out, but you can figure out what Tommy’s father is saying, sort of...
“Mrs. Lumpkin said that her only purpose had been to come - in good faith - to lend a helping hand.
Mrs. Lumpkin said that no one had ever used such words in her presence before...”

That section could have been overdone, but it was so well written and funny.

Head on over to Maria's Melange to read her comments on What Came From The Stars! 
See you next Saturday with the last half of the book!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Enclave by Ann Aguirre - Student Made Trailer

My Batty About Books partner, Maria, is hosting Ann Aguirre over at Maria's Melange!  
She's also giving away a copy of both Enclave and Outpost, the second book in the series!!

Check out Maria's blog for reviews of Enclave and Outpost! Maria has included the official trailer for both books in her reviews.

This past school year, my 8th grade book club and some students in my 8th grade video class both read Enclave.  The video students then created a trailer.  

WDMS Student Trailer

Don't forget to head over to Maria's Melange to enter the 2-book giveaway!

PS: If you want to see a few more videos the class made, check out our Schooltube page!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Speechless by Hannah Harrington - Trailer

Hannah Harrington
Harlequin Teen

This week I'll be featuring the new book by Hannah Harrington, Speechless.  Stay tuned for information on The Love is Louder campaign and a giveaway! In the meantime, check out this amazing trailer:

Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can’t keep a secret. Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast – and nearly got someone killed. Chelsea has taken a vow of silence – to learn to keep her mouth shut and to stop hurting anyone else.

Stop by Thursday, September 6, to learn more about the Love is Louder and Speechless campaign.


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