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

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Batty About Books - Insignia by SJ Kincaid - Pt1

Welcome to the latest installment of 
Batty About Books! 

For the next 4 weeks 
we will tackle


by SJ Kincaid

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

Insignia is about World War III where the government hires teens to fight the wars for them. Using their minds... I’m also re-reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline at the same time and my mind is protesting! Throw in my recent re-read of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and my past read of Epic by Conor Kostick and my head is starting to explode. I can see elements of all three of these novels in Insignia.  The humor of Ready Player One, the simulations that are part of Ender’s Game, and the type of gaming from Epic. Now, I understand that there are only so many stories to be told and as we delve deeper into the story, I’ll be on the lookout to see how Kincaid handles the familiar elements.  Will this be a book to bring to book club because it brings something new to the gaming table? Or will it just be one to recommend if there's nothing better? We shall see.

NOTE: This week we are doing things a little bit differently. Instead of two separate discussions - we did one LONG one! We decided to divide the post into pieces for each blog. Most are Maria's initial thoughts with my responses and then her rebuttal/response, then me again if needed. At Maria's Melange you'll find her overall book opinion as well as her thoughts on how females are being handled in Insignia and how well the "science" is pulled into the science fiction.

Insignia by SJ Kincaid - Part 1 1-116p.

Big ideas
Being someone: Tom comments that he would “give anything to be important” (49). I can see this idea resonating with the target audience. I wonder how much more he’ll find he has to give to fit into this world - what’s the catch and when will we discover the crisis that I’m sure is coming?
Kathy: I think not just the target audience will identify here.  Though, playing devil’s advocate, will saying it so bluntly actually turn the target audience off? Point well made. I made the same point in my review of Supernaturalist - where one character kept saying things like “this is what leaders have to face.” I’m not sure why it bugged me in that book but seemed more natural in this one. I’ll have to ponder that more. Kathy: Maybe because the characters are older, and so far, it’s not being overused? There should be some things left to the reader to decide, especially in a YA book. I’ll have to see how Kincaid proceeds with this. We want authors to feel their readers have some intelligence.  I had a super-hard time with Virals and Seizure by Kathy Reichs. She seemed to want to dumb things down for her young adult readers. I haven’t read any of her work for adults, though, so maybe that’s just how she writes.  Have you read Virals?

Well, we know that something involving his father and Eliot Ramirez has to come up again. I feel like we’ve been fed the perfect setup between these two. Which is my major beef with the book so far. I feel like Tom did when he came to Pentagonal Squire, like I’m being manipulated. I’m being told too much information and not being left to figure anything out. Okay - I just had a “revelation” (maybe?) I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me before, duh me. Blackburn’s mental illness stems from having the processor. His paranoia was a major symptom, right? Maybe dad was more involved than we know? Though you’d think THAT would have come up when Tom was being recruited.... so maybe I’m wrong. Kathy: OOOHH!! I actually just said that out loud! That would be an AWESOME twist.  I like your thinking - maybe dad also has some of what Yuri has and he can only access so much info. Could be why he drinks and gambles...

Warfare - is it better to fight through proxies? No one gets hurt, right? I can feel the coming storm as the programming instructor runs them through the drills about defending their mental processors from hackers and viruses...
Kathy: Add that to Falmouth’s earlier discussion of the four reasons offshore war is better and we can smell the conflicts coming later. Also, the names of companies - Nobind and Stronghold - have to also come into play later. I smell author agenda. Which I don’t mind, as long as the story isn’t sacrificed for the message. Absolutely. This could be handled well or it could become one long soapbox. With the current political climate, I’m curious about the way the corporate entities are handled.

Overall Impressions
I’m having a hard time enjoying this book right now. I think it’s a due to reading Ready Player One right now. There are so many similarities, I’m finding myself disappointed in Insignia. I hope that as I read on, I can put those thoughts aside and just enjoy this book. Hmm.  I wonder if that is why I’m able to enjoy this one so much? I have Ready Player One on my list, but haven’t gotten to it yet. I’d love to hear what Brian has to say about the book (I tweeted him because I thought he’d enjoy it, and he confirmed that he loves it!) Kathy: His review is one of the reasons I wanted to read it. I would have happily skipped it since I’d read my share of game-based stories to last me a while! Also, I loved Ready Player One and am reading it again for the Level Up Book Club game.  Matthew is following the type of challenges Wade faced in that book, even if his are different. I’m still loving it and could easily devour it!

On Maria's blog we also discuss MG vs YA science fiction and how note taking changes with the books you read. One thing I point out is a blog post on SLJ's Heavy Medal that discusses emotional vs. Intelligence type reads. It will be well worth your time to read that after you finish at Maria's Melange! Knowing what type of books you prefer can help you put aside your biases, or at least recognize them!

Come back next week as we dive deeper into Insignia by SJ Kincaid.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Thunderous Whisper by Christina Diaz Gonzalez - Review and Blog Tour

Gonzalez, Christina Diaz. A Thunderous Whisper. Knopf/Random House Children's Books, 2012. 304p.  $16.99. 978-0-375-86929-7.

Historical Fiction - World War II -
  Guernica, Spain ("The Bombing of Guernica, 1937," EyeWitness to History, (2005))

My Thoughts
"Life isn't always fair." "But it's what you do about the unfairness that counts."

I hope that in the face of adversity, I would stand up and risk danger. But, despite the FEAR NOT ring I wear, I don't know if I have it in me.  Unlike Anetxu and Mathias.

Anetxu has a tough life. Her older brother died from polio and her elderly father is away fighting in the Spanish Civil War.  Her and her mother are trying to survive by selling sardines to the poor.  Consequently, she becomes known as Sardine Girl, that is, when people notice her.  Sardine Girl has no friends. She also spends a lot of time helping her mother, who is not the most affectionate person.

"Best that you realize early on that people always leave...Can't get too attached or else you won't survive."

Anetxu spends her days barely living just going to school and then helping her mother make sardine sales until she meets Mathias. They don't hit it off right away but gradually, as Anextu grows up, they become best friends. The give and take in their conversations is fun and gives Ani, Mathias' nickname for Anextu, something to look forward to. He even helps her stand up to a bully. As they become closer, Mathias gets Ani to help him support his father, the spy.

Gonzalez does a great job of describing her setting. Guernica comes to life, especially the area around Ani's favorite tree, the schoolyard, and the beautiful old theater. Ani's character is also carefully written.  She slowly comes out of her shell as she learns about herself. She is not suddenly brave and different but events reveal her inner self and we are taken along with her. Mathias, on the other hand, is more of a sketch of a boy with everything spelled out. We know who he is and what to expect from him, no surprises. This doesn't lessen our immersion into A Thunderous Whisper. The focus on the bombing of Guernica, what leads up to it and the aftermath, keeps us reading. A Thunderous Whisper adds a missing element to a study of World War II and would be a welcome addition to literature circle discussion. I give it 4 copies.

A WWII Study
A few books that I've read that cover a similar time period and would fit a study.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Tropical Secrets by Margarita Engle
Born to Fly by Michael Ferrari

About the Author
Christina Diaz Gonzalez is the author of the award-winning and best-selling children’s novel, THE RED UMBRELLA. Ms. Gonzalez’s debut novel (the story of a 14 year old Cuban girl who is sent to the U.S. in 1961 as part of Operation Pedro Pan) showcases the generosity of the American spirit and highlights the pain of losing one’s homeland. Reviewers from publications such as The Washington Post, Publisher’s Weekly and School Library Journal have praised the book as being exceptional, compelling and inspirational.

The Brain Lair reviews The Red Umbrella.

Other Read Now Sleep Later Book Tour Dates
Wednesday, October 24 - Read Now Sleep Later (Podcast Interview and Giveaway)
Friday, October 26 - Cindy L. Rodriguez (Review and Interview)
Monday, October 29 - There's a Book (Review)
November - HeiseReads (Review and Interview)
Friday, November 2 - Princess Bookie (Review and Giveaway)
Friday, November 9 - (Q&A, Review, and Giveaway)
Friday, November 16 - Steph Su Reads (Giveaway and Interview)

Thank you to Christina Diaz Gonzalez and Knopf Books for Young Readers for this ARC.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Middle Grade Monday–Unseen Guests by Mary Rose Wood

unseenguests Wood, Maryrose. Unseen Guests (Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, 3). Balzer + Bray, 2012. 352p. $15.99. 978-0061791185.


I enjoyed Maryrose Wood’s “The Mysterious Howling” and “The Hidden Gallery” and because of the ending of this one, I believe that there will be more. I wouldn’t understand this book as much as possible, if I hadn’t read the first two. I give this book five stars because of the mysteries explored and the odd yet loving characters that I feel like I know.
Maryrose Wood is an amazing author. I recommend this series to anyone who is ready for books filled with excitement, fright for characters, love, and journey as the children raised by wolves have yet another adventure!

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

It's Monday - What Are You Reading 10/15/12

Join Teach.Mentor.Texts and other Kidlit bloggers in our celebration of reading!

In the Past

Finished 8 books - those shown plus Seraphina by Rachel Hartman for the second time.  I managed to fit in a graphic novel and a picture book! Yeah

In the Present
I'm in the middle of 5 books right now. Still working on Education Nation. I added Operation Trinity by Clifford Riley which is an audiobook and Hana by Lauren Oliver which is an ebook short.

In the Future
I'm on the Thunderous Whisper Blog Tour! I will host on October 22. I also want to read The Diviners as my yearly "scary" book and Crow for Mock Newbery.

Next Batty About Books

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Batty About Books - Seraphina 2 by Rachel Hartman

Batty About Books
continue to work our way through 
by Rachel Hartman 

This weeks sees us covering the middle third of the book and, like a trilogy, it’s more about building than moving the story. Though, don’t get me wrong, the story does move. We learn more about the Goredd world and get to meet the Ardmagar - the co-founder of the Dragon-Human peace treaty.

Check out Part 1 where I discuss the characters. As always, my thoughts are in blue and Maria's are in purple!

Part 2 - The Quotable Section
“Everyone gawps at you for something you can’t help and did nothing to deserve. Your very presence makes other people feel awkward. You stand out when, in fact, you’d rather not.” (174)
So many students can understand this statement. Sometime based on skin-tone, sometimes on being smart, etc. It would be an interesting statement to post for students to comment. This is one of the quotes I marked in my text too! I can absolutely see using this as the basis for discussion and commentary. I think so many students would find this a connection with the characters. Maybe if they could see that so many OTHERS felt this way, it would open many doors to understanding one another.

“Music is only work if someone else makes you do it.” (181) What a text-to-self connection! I feel this way about reading sometimes. As a person whose job it is to read and find materials for teacher and/or student use, there are times I just don’t want to do it. At least not for that. But, it’s very hard to turn that critical eye off too! This is true of so many things! I like to write when it’s my choice, but when I “have to” I often resent it. I have a feeling it’s true of many kids experiences with sports as well. Too often adults push kids. It’s a fine line between helping them reach their personal best and pushing... I can also see this with books being assigned in school. It could be a book they want to read, but if it's assigned, for some reason it takes the pleasure away.

Quighole “the treaty’s mad dream come to life”. (191) I love how many people hate and despise the quigs but they’re the ones who created a place that humans and dragons can come together and neither feel ostracized nor threatened by the other. This is the kind of place I strive to create in the library. What a great image! I thought of Mos Eisley when I read this part. Yes, it’s a wretched hive, but it is also a place for people with diverse backgrounds to meet one another on equal ground.

“Dragons are slow to change. We each want to fly in our own direction.” (199) How like humans. We resist the different, even if we see the good it can do. I wonder why that is? Do we feel threatened because it wasn’t our idea? As if some part of us is being rejected? Again, I feel a longing to have these kinds of discussions with a book group. Perhaps that is part of why I feel eager to share this story with my oldest group. Maybe I can hijack a middle school classroom? I think part of the answer lies in western culture - and our idealization of individuality. I wonder if this would ring as true in a less western based world.

“Love is not a disease.” (202) Text-to-text connection - This whole memory reminds me so much of the book Delirium by Lauren Oliver. The idea that we can cut out that part of ourselves, that it’s what makes us “weak”, that, without it, we are stronger. Fascinating. This reminds me of the quote from Linn’s memory about how she dreads “they will cut the unquantifiable right out of me”. (201) What a great way to discuss the differences between logic and emotion - and the value of each in human experience. As another text-to-text connection - this reminds me of how Meg in Wrinkle in Time learns that it is her perceived “weaknesses” that are her own hidden strengths.

“One cannot fly in two directions at once...” (202) “I could not live, hating myself this hard.’ (277) Is this foreshadowing? Which do you think she will choose? She loves Kiggs. She loves Orma. I almost hate to make a prediction here. I love Glisselda, so it’s hard to hope that she’ll end up with Kiggs. Yet a first love is often the love we need to help us grow into maturity - but not the love we need IN our maturity. Does that make sense? Perhaps her love for Kiggs is an impetus for her growth, but doesn’t need to be “the one”. Ah, but she has had so little love in her life, I wish for someone of her own. It would be impossible to live in the castle though. It would always be between them. Maybe Lars?

“I could not hoard these words” (298) Sometimes, after I finish an incredible book, I don’t want to write or talk about it. I’m afraid that others won’t see it’s brilliance. But, like Seraphina above, I also want to tell everyone. It almost seems as if it’s not real unless I share it and others read it. I know that’s not what Hartman is saying, but it’s what came to mind.

The ending of Part 2 was very adventurous and emotional. Towards the end, Hartman revealed so much about Seraphina and her past that it was hard to stop at that point. I don’t want to give anything away but that meeting with the Ardmagar did not end well! Oh, I forgot to talk about Seraphina in the outhouse - the physical pain vs mental anguish reminded me of the book Cut and how some students choose to inflict pain on themselves in order not to feel unneeded or unwanted. See - this scene is one that gave me pause about putting it on my shelf. So far, I think the romance is innocent enough that it doesn’t bother me (and my students have already started to read some book that have this level of romance), but that scene definitely was disturbing.

I look forward to getting to the last part and seeing how Hartman pulls it all together. What is she saying about us humans? What will we take from Seraphina?

Join us next week as we wrap up our discussion of Seraphina. Head over to Maria's Melange to get the other side of the story!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

From American Library Association 
I read this in support of Banned Books Week and, a long time ago, I'd bought it as off Amazon's Essential Teen Reads, because I like reading books on lists.  Also, they just made it into a movie with Emma Watson (Harry Potter) and Logan Lerman (Hoot, The Lightning Thief). And it's short.

It's about this kid, Charlie, who's entering his freshman year of high school and he has no friends. He's writing a letter to someone that he doesn't know personally but feels he can trust. And he's just letting us know what's going on. And you can tell there's something different about Charlie, you just don't know what. He seems to either get very emotional easily or he doesn't understand the emotional nuances of others around him.

And, you're thinking, "KB, but what did you think of the book?" Honestly, I don't know. All the while I was reading it, I kept trying to figure out how they would make this into a movie that kids could see. It's so emotionally honest and open. You feel punched in the face and sometimes you don't know what to think about what's happening. And maybe that's what Chbosky wanted. For you to feel what Charlie is going through. Losing a friend. Being alone. Not knowing how to "participate". Trying to be a friend.

I just finished the book, and the ending was a doozy. But Charlie says that's not why he is the way he is. That sometimes we just are. He tells a great story about two brothers who make opposite choices based on the same influence. I loved the dad and the mom in the book. They were a part of the story and they supported their kids.

Have you read this? What did you think?

Here's Stephen Chbosky participating in a Banned Books Virtual Read Out

And here's a Timeline Celebrating 30 years of FREADom


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