Sunday, April 28, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? April 29, 2013

Welcome to my (mostly) bi-weekly posting of what I read! Check out the lovely ladies at Teach Mentor Texts for more books to add to your TBR pile!

In the Past

House of Stories by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini - had high hopes for this one but they were sorely dashed. fantasy, middle grades, pirates, savages, witches. (Edelweiss Selection)

Colossus Rises, The (Seven Wonders, 1) by Peter Lerangis - Batty About Books selection. Read our thoughts Cover, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. fantasy, science fiction, middle grades, superpowers, ancient beasts.

Who Could That Be At This Hour? (All The Wrong Questions, 1) by Lemony Snicket - realistic, mystery, middle grades, punny.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - not pictured but I re-read this one on audio. Even better on audio. My favorite Young Adult book so far this year.

In the Present

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin - reading with daughter who is reading for school.

Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall - Andre Norton Nominee, YHBA, Batty About Books for May.

Pathways to the Common Core by Lucy Calkins and others - we are still reading this.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys - Goodreads Mock Printz group selection.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi - YHBA

In the Future

Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood by Abby McDonald - Netgalley
Kit's Wilderness by David Almond - Nerdprintz!

It's Screen Free Week
 April 29, 2013 - May 5, 2013 
and I'm hoping to get lots of reading and cleaning done.  
I'll be back on Monday, May 6, 2013 for sure!

Batty About Books - The Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis Pt 3

We are here with our final discussion of 
The Colossus Rises (Seven Wonders, 1)
by Peter Lerangis 

It’s Done - pgs. 238 - 348
I’ve read this section three times and still don’t have much to say. For as little as I felt connected to the characters, there were some choice that were so out of character as to not make much sense to me. I also felt like Lerangis is trying to switch our hero focus from Jack to Marco, which I’ll explain below.

Previously in The Colossus Rises
The Cover - Maria and I discussed the cover and the blurb by Rick Riordan.  We linked to a prequel and the trailer. 

Part 1 - We meet Jack and the other G7W candidates. Learn what G7W means and why Professor Bhegad has kidnapped The Select.

Part 2 - Jack and crew face some challenges while trying to solve a riddle. I compare Jack’s journey to the Hero’s Journey and we find him in the middle of Transformation.

Now - Part 3
As always, Maria's thoughts are in purple and mine are in blue.  Don't forget to head over to Maria's Melange to hear what she has to say about this part and how she plans to use it with her students.

Hero’s Journey - Transformation continues
We are still in the midst of the transformation since we still have not found what we are ultimately looking for, the Loculi.  I wonder how many books Lerangis will stretch this part over or will we see some sort of JK Rowling move and the hero’s will return in between each quest? I assumed it would be 7 books - one for each Loculi. Though not much was revealed about the Loculus and Bhegad didn’t even get to see it!

I experienced a lot of confusion in the beginning of part 3 and Lerangis had to keep explaining things to me because I just didn’t get the connections at first.  Now the book title and the series title makes sense, though I wish more time was spent on the Colossus itself.  Does this mean the cover depicts The Colossus since the griffin was red? Yes! That is disappointing. The Colossus felt like such a small part of the story, but it was the title. Maybe that is part of my lingering discontent as well.

Hero Switching - My Disbelief
I was convinced that Jack was the hero until we reached Greece. Now I think it’s Marco, which I think might be a setup for the next book. Maybe the hero is each person and they each get to go through the transformation phase before we get a return in book 7? Hmm... that could make sense. Though I would have preferred that book 1 rounded out each character more so that I cared about them, and THEN devoted a book to each of them. Yes! Hopefully Lerangis will see our notes and make some changes, though book 2 releases in October so he’ll need to wait for book 3.  I want some character development!

They retrieve one Loculus but then Marco decides to refuse the call to return and instead he goes on what is called Magic Flight where he decides to keep the gift for himself. This is where Lerangis totally loses me. Just looking back over this section I see several instances where Marco puts others ahead of himself:
p. 252 - he jumps in front of the griffin
p. 258 - he hits the griffin with rocks and taunts him
p. 294 - tries to stop Monks from shooting griffin so they can still find Cass
p. 300 - another griffin attack
p. 324 - throws rock at griffin (he loves throwing rocks!)

I just cannot get behind the Marco change in the end. I cannot. Okay, I agree with you - if this is really what has happened. I may be missing something, but I don’t think that we know for sure why Marco took off with the orb. I think it’s equally likely that, since Marco sees himself as “immortal” now, he took off with it to do something he thought was too dangerous to risk his friends.
Or he could have been kidnapped. I hope it’s something along those lines and this is just a red herring.  Ok, I’m starting to feel better.

Last week, I thought I would give the book 3 stars but I’m leaning towards 2.5 now. There were too many instances where, even though things were described in detail, I could not picture them and would have loved sketches. Does the Loculus change sizes? They were all able to put their arms around it to fly but then Jack had it under his arm when he decided to give it to Marco for safekeeping.  Also, how did all three hold on to it? Especially when Marco was holding Cass. Why did Jack decide to give the Loculus to Marco at the hotel when he wouldn’t give it to him when he was facing down the griffin? How does a 13-year-old child rent a hotel room? Why hadn’t the professor known about Marco? Wasn’t he tracking them? I am left with many, many, questions but I’m not sure I will pick up book 2, Lost in Babylon, when it releases in October. At this point, I would not.

I’m playing a “wait and see” to hear what my students think about it. I have a feeling a few of them will read it - as long as the first student talks it up. If they love it, I would get others for my classroom. I’m pretty sure I won’t invest the time myself unless they insist that I should.
Alas, there are many, many, books in the school library that don’t reflect my tastes.  Which is a good thing, since it’s not my library. I’ve already ordered an additonal copy of this one because I think the students will enjoy it.  I will display it with Heroes of Olympus and the Pittacus Lore series for three different levels of reading.

Can't wait to see what other's think of this new entry into the Middle Grades SciFi/Fan family. Join us next week when we kick off our discussion of

Summer of the Mariposas 
by Guadalupe Garcia McCall.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Batty About Books - The Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis Part 2

We are back with more on 
The Colossus Rises 
by Peter Lerangis  

Check out our other posts

As is the custom, Maria's thoughts are in purple and mine are in blue! Head over to Maria's Melange for her side of the story! We were really gelling today and even had time to google chat! So fun!

Part 2 pg. 123-237
I went into this section full of hope, especially the hope to get to know the characters better and form a connection with them. Though, I don’t think a connection is necessary to enjoy a book, I do think it helps, especially with fantasy novels.  Many times the situations or elements are so foreign, the only way into the story is through the characters. So funny! I’m such a habitual fantasy and science fiction reader that I find I have trouble getting into realistic fiction sometimes, because it seems boring (I’m having trouble with my current Newbery read for this exact reason.) That’s so weird! I love realistic fiction! Especially romance!! Science Fiction/Fantasy used to be my book gap!! Where I taught elementary, teachers mostly use realistic fiction.  Probably why boys have such a hard time....  I agree. I know my students are always pleasantly surprised by the number of fantasy and science fiction books I include. I absolutely do historical fiction (that is my second favorite) and some realistic fiction... but when I pick a book for my own enjoyment it is almost always scifi or fantasy. I do not like historical fiction! It feel as if so many of the Newbery type books are historical fiction! I actually gravitate towards romance with a little fantasy thrown in! When I need a break, those are my books of choice!

In addition to my hope for a connection, I was curious to see how closely, if at, Lerangis was following the hero’s journey. I’ve recently started doing some reading on the journey and was eager to apply my learnings.  

Hero’s Journey - The Separation
In part 1, I felt Lerangis had Jack in the beginning of the journey - the separation.  We need Jack to be separated from his family so that he can start growing up and coming into his own. He is taken to the Karai Institute where he is on the threshold of his journey.  He initially resists this “call to adventure” by trying to runaway and has to be saved. He meets his “helpers” - Cass, Marco, and Aly, and his “mentor” - Professor Bhegad. He learns about the journey he’s supposed to take and the challenges he may face.  He also acquires new knowledge - the information about GW7 and his possible connection to Atlantis. I love how you analyzed this! I’ve often had students do a hero’s journey story with me (usually Book of Three for 4th grade) and then choose another book to analyze on their own. I’m happy to add another possible read to the list. I would like to know more about how you teach this. I’m contemplating some sort of book club for fall with this focus.  You are in luck! I wrote a guest post about this for School Library Journal’s Connect the Pop blog. I also often tie into biography after finishing up the Hero’s Journey and ask students to choose an historical figure and see which of the journey steps that person also completed.  AWESOME!! I love the idea of tying in a real person!!! What a great way to use biographies!! Will tie in with some of our Common Core areas! I’m all about connections. I think it’s the way my brain works. 

Hero’s Journey - The Transformation
This second part sees Jack immersed in stage 2 of the journey!  At the end of part 1, he passes out after being in the Wender Hall.  At the beginning of part 2, he’s had his first treatment and when he wakes up, we see he’s designed an entirely new system for getting dressed! Jack also solves the clue on the rock! And we are on our journey

The Mountain
Jack and crew set off to find the next set of clues after solving the riddle of the rock. They are heading up Onyx Mountain. Torquin is leading him but they soon decide to ditch him.  Marco teaches them to do a vertical climb up the mountain including belaying.  Really? They MUSt be gifted to learn it that quickly! They get to the top and bad stuff starts to happen and only three people leave the mountain! This was one of the elements that pulled me out of the story. I can easily see Marco doing it like this, but having the others jump in so quickly didn’t feel right. AGREED! Especially with Cass’ noted fear of heights!

The Cave and The Water
The three convince Bhegad to put together a search team to go back and find their lost teammate.  Here is also where I started to make a little more of a connection with the characters, especially Cass! When they get separated in the cave, we learn about his past and I was able to put together a little bit more about him.  We also see Jack’s leadership qualities start to emerge.  After the fire, he has to take charge even though he’s tired, hurt, and hungry.  

The Cave and the water are classic hero’s journey symbols representing rebirth and transformation. We get both in this part including the scene where everybody gets better! Even one that shouldn’t!! I could see both Cass and Jack following the pattern and can’t wait for part 3, which should be The Return. Seeing the story in this light is making it much more appealing to me. Then you add in that broken sword, which is another classic hero’s journey symbol set. The water helps take over the “female aspect of deity” in the story, too. OOHHH, didn’t know that about the sword or the water-deity connection!

This section read quickly for me but I didn’t find myself taking any notes because nothing stood out as I was reading.  But, three days later, I find I could remember a big chunk of this section and more stood out then I thought.  My comparisons with the hero’s journey and Jack’s journey are completely from memory and I’ve read other things since then!! As I mentioned, I made a connection with Cass and a little bit with Jack. I’m hoping that more connections are in my future.  I’m still not in love with this book though. I can actually see myself booktalking it more to new 6th graders who may not enjoy reading rather than older, more experienced fantasy readers. Exactly. I can’t see this appealing to the older crew. I envision this being a hook for my younger readers (like my 3rd and 4th graders) to get them into this kind of story structure.

Tune in next week for the final section of Colussus Rises!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

42: The True Story of An American Legend

Today I went to preview the new Jackie Robinson movie because we want to take our 7th graders to see it. They study the 1940s under the theme of change. They discuss the Negro Baseball Leagues and they raise money for The Negro Baseball League Tomb Marker Project.  So when we saw the trailer for the movie, we knew we wanted them to see it. We also knew time was going to be against us and this movie is rated PG-13.

I was the only person able to go see the movie, so I took my notebook and headed out.

Wow. Yes, I knew the story of Jackie Robinson and yes, I knew they would make it sentimental - it's an inspirational movie. But, I never expected to come out changed.

The movie only covers 2 years in Robinson's life and touches on both his and Branch Rickey's struggles during that time. The movie has some curse words and some racial and ethnic slurs, as to be expected from the time period, and they don't over do it. It's enough where you get the idea and still feel a little uncomfortable, hopefully.  But, there is one scene when Jackie Robinson is up to bat against the Philadelphia Giants and their manager, Ben Chapman, is slinging the N-word and other derogatory terms. It's a turning point for the movie and it's only the tip of the iceberg of what Robinson actually went through.  In the movie, Robinson grabs a bat and then walks off the field after getting out on a popfly for the second time.  He is nearly broken.

I was broken. I thought about all the people who came before me. And I've seen many  movies and read many books on topics like these. Maybe I was just in the right frame of mind. I don't know. But, could I have stood up like Robinson? I'm glad that people like him paved the way for me to do a job I love. I'm thankful. People say, but look how far we've come - we have a black president. Having to point that out shows how far we still need to go. I hope I'm "built to last" and can step up when my turn comes.

Monday, April 15, 2013

It's Monday - What Are You Reading? 4/15/13

Welcome to my (mostly) bi-weekly posting of what I read! Check out the lovely ladies at Teach Mentor Texts for more books to add to your TBR pile!

In the Past

Lots of committee reads, something for Batty About Books, a couple of Mock Newbery possibles and some fun reads. Srping Break helped a lot!

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett - realistic, mystery, middle grades, homelessness

Perfect Scoundrels (Heist Society, 3) by Ally Carter - I love this series. realistic, mystery, young adult, criminal empires

Hades: Lord of the Dead (Olympians, 4) by George O'Connor - graphic novel, greek mythology, young adult

Encyclopedia of Me by Karen Rivers - realistic, middle grades, first love, friendship, autism

Emancipation Proclamation by Tonya Bolden - narrative nonfiction, middle grades, slavery

The Select (Seven Wonders, prequel) by Peter Lerangis - Batty About Books

The Girl From Felony Bay by JE Thompson - realistic, mystery, middle grades, strong female characters, lawyers, heir's property

Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School, 1) by Gail Carriger - science fiction, mystery, young adult, steampunk, spy school

Yaqui Delgado Wants To Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina - realistic, young adult, bullying with insights into victim's mental state

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake - historical, mystery, middle grades, strong female character

After Eli by Rebecca Ruff -  realistic, upper middle grades, coping with death in the family

In the Present
Colossus Rises (Seven Wonders, 1) by Peter Lerangis.  Batty About Books selection.  Check out our discussion on the cover here and part 1 here.  We will cover part 2, Saturday, April 20th.

Pathways to the Common Core by Lucy Calkins and others - reading for work.

Flying the Dragon by Natalie Lorenzi - YHBA

Girl With the Iron Touch (Steampunk Chronicles, 3) by Kady Cross - my fun read for the week.

In the Future
I've gotten some suggestions, including The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson which just won the Pulizter Prize for Fiction, and I'm going to try and work those in over the next weeks.  If you have a suggested read, enter it here.

There's a #NerdPrintz title in my future.

I'm going to tackle some of the 2013 Andre Norton Awards for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy nominees.  I'm thinking one per month starting in May.

Goodreads Mock Printz - April Reads
I read and loved Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell back in January and I'm re-reading it on audiobook for Mock Printz.  I just picked up Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys and will get to that before month's end!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Batty About Books - Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis Pt 1

Batty About
Colossus Rises (Seven Wonders, 1) 
by Peter Lerangis

Last week we talked about the cover to this new series. It reminded me a lot of The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. Riordan also blurbed this book so I went in expecting it to be similar to the Percy Jackson series.

In part 1 we talk about the first 15 chapters, up to page 121.  

Don't forget to stop by Maria's Melange. We have some of the same thoughts but as always, we come at the book from different places!

The Opening
“On the morning I was scheduled to die, a large barefoot man with a bushy red beard waddled past my house.” I loved this introduction to Jack and his life. We learned about his possible strengths and the fact that he was frequently left alone with sitters. He’s creative, not just waiting for an alarm but making his own. He’s compassionate, helping a small kid get away from a bully. I loved the beginning, too. I like Jack, and I’m curious to see how he fits in with the crew.

The Characters
Unfortunately, so far Colossus Rises seems to be filled with stock characters; Cass - the nerd, Marco - the jock, Jack - the unknown quantity who doesn’t believe in himself, Professor Bhegad - loony older character and Torquin - the big, crazy misguided bad guy, Dad - self-absorbed parent who focuses on the wrong thing. Then we have Aly - female hacker, crazy hair, and likes old movies. She has a great part and I hope Lerangis continues to develop her.   The girl hacker may be a “stock character”, but it is one I like. I just hope she gets developed enough to give her a unique voice even as a common modern type. I had flashes of Hagrid when Torquin showed up. Yes, Hagrid is never a bad guy... but they still gave me similar vibes.

I know this is the first book in a series and this is just the setup, but sometimes I felt bogged down in details that were meant to portray imagery. The words didn’t help me picture things though so throughout the book, I felt distant, separated from the characters and I really didn’t care much about them. Short sentences were used often, which usually signify movement,action but just made the story feel choppy to me.  I’m hoping I get used to it and things change going into this next part. I also felt the language was uneven. Professor Bhegad was Yale and Harvard educated yet sometimes I felt he was from another time period. Maybe that was supposed to give a sense of his age?  Marco’s attempt to be cool felt forced - but maybe because the kids were faking? There were also many instances were believability was sorely stretched, beginning with the seeing the hair on the back of his head.
I noticed a lot of these things, too! I assumed that Bhegad and Torquin have something hidden in their history that accounted for their strangeness and speech patterns. Marco’s slang also felt odd - I kept looking back to see if there was some reason he was acting that way. I couldn’t find any good reason. I noticed the chapter lengths, not the sentence lengths. It occurred to me to notice that they were short - but at least longer than Patterson’s (One of the reasons I didn’t like Daniel X and Witch & Wizard was the extremely short chapters that made it feel choppy).

Fun Stuff To Do with Students
There were a few times that student activities popped into my head - the books and movies mentioned would make good spinoffs. Have them watch read and determine if these titles were essential to the story or if Lerangis could have used other books/movies with similar results.  I could have them try to draw the creatures or recreate a map of some place. Find some palindromes like poop, since Cass enjoyed them. Maybe learn more about Greek symbology. And, of course, research the lost City of Atlantis. I thought of a lot of tie-ins as I read, too. Especially things like creating and solving codes. I noticed the references to Hatchet and My Side of the Mountain.

If rating the book today, it would get a 3 out of 5. It’s OK. There’s enough funny bits and things I want to know to keep me going but it’s also easy to set aside. I’m also reading a bit from this old guide about teaching the Hero’s Journey and I notice that Jack is right at the beginning where there’s Separation.  I’m hoping to finish by the time we finish so I can trace Jack’s journey so that will get me going. I love using the Hero’s Journey with my fourth and fifth graders. There are great resources that simplify it slightly for the younger set. I’d lean toward a 4 at the moment, myself. But I can easily see it going either way. I do think that the start of this book will hook my students - who are all Potter and Percy fans.

We'll pick up with the chapters 16 - 32 next week! If you've read or are reading this one, let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Just handed the book Pathways to the Common Core by Lucy Calkins,et al. We are doing a book study at school, starting with the ELA teachers. I get to sit in and offer resource ideas and my own two cents, which I'm thankful that many still value. This means some other things will pause while I make sure I have a handle on things.

Here's a Pathways Intro video
I'll see you Saturday when Batty About Books talks about the first 15 chapters of Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis. If you have time, grab the book and join us.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spine Poetry - Sunday Salon

I've been MIA these past days because I go back to school tomorrow and figured I should get out and do some stuff.  Here are three stacks from around the house:

The Encyclopedia of Me
(&) You
Shattered Souls
Under the Mesquite
Outcasts United

Everything is Fine
And Then Everything Unraveled
One + One = Blue

All These Things I've Done
In Darkness

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Batty About Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis - Cover Art

Welcome to the latest edition of Batty About Books! The next four weeks will see Maria and I tackle
Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis.

Colossus is book 1 in the new Seven Wonders series.  Jack and several other characters have special gifts that will kill them unless they find the seven Loculi, each hidden in a one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Check out the terrific website -->Seven Wonders site.

Today we will touch on cover art! As usual,
my thoughts are blue while Maria's are purple.  At the end of the post, check out the links to Maria's initial reactions on her blog, Maria's Melange, as well as a trailer and a prequel!

We start out with a blurb by Rick Riordan. I don’t normally read blurbs but this caught my attention since I love the Percy Jackson series. Next we have the series title  - Seven Wonders.  Love the layout and circle around the V.  Don’t really like when the series title is bigger than the title of the book though.  I noticed the blurb right away, too - as I’m sure they were hoping. I loved the layout of the type and the gold. I don’t mind the series name being huge, since my students tend to know a series BY the series name anyway.

I like the boy with his back to us because then I can imagine him anyway I want. He’s holding some sort of orb and I wonder if that is making the monster’s eyes gold or are they already gold? The back has a cool symbol like an upside down A with a roman numeral 1 in the center of a sunburst inside it.  At least that is what my mind sees. The endpapers have a nice map. I commented on the endpapers, too. I adore maps, and the green for them is a nice change from the usual sepia tones. I hadn’t even thought about whether the orb is affecting the monster’s eyes... cool! The symbol on the back reminds me of freemason symbolism.

The colors - green and gold with a hint of red. The spine is mostly white with gold writing. Definitely stands out in the blues and other dark spines in my science fiction section. I wish the typing was green! That would be so cool.

Overall, I like the cover. It looks very middle grade science fiction-like.  I was attracted mostly to the author, since I liked his books in both the 39 Clues series.

Book Trailer

Waiting for the book from the library? Check out the prequel in the meantime. You can get it on almost any e-device or read it right from the Seven Wonders website!
The Select (Colussus Rises, prequel) by Peter Lerangis

Don't forget to check out Maria's Melange - Batty About Books Returns, she mentions how her son DEVOURED the book and asked for more!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Spine Poetry - Vacation

Poetry Month
Day 2 - Where are you willing to go to get some relaxation?

Jump into the Sky
Summer on the Moon
(a lot of) Miles to Go for Freedom

Monday, April 1, 2013

Spine Poetry - Who Are You?

April is National Poetry Month! I will attempt to post a spine poem a day consisting of books I have laying around the house!

A Girl Named Disaster
The Last Invisible Boy
(a) Liar & (a) Spy

It's Monday - What Are You Reading? April 1, 2013

Inspired by the wonderful ladies over at Teach Mentor Texts who get together each week to share the books they've found.  Check them out for your next book suggestion!

In the Past
I finished 6 books these past two weeks!

Let the Sky Fall (Let the Sky Fall, 1) by Shannon Messenger - fantasy, young adult, windwalkers

Breaking Night by Liz Murray - recommendation from friend (unboring list), memoir, adult, homelessness, Harvard

The Peculiar (The Peculiar, 1)  by Stefan Bachmann - fantasy, middle grades, fairies

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, 2) by Marissa Meyer - science fiction, young adult, cyborgs, were-people

Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassins, 2) by Robin LaFevers - historical fantasy, young adult, nun assassins

The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long - graphic novel, narrative nonfiction, young adult, civil rights

In the Present
I've been working on one of these for awhile. I need to wrap it up.
After Eli by Rebecca Rupp - recommendation
Titanic by Deborah Hopkinson - recommendation

In the Future
As part of my Un-Boring List I'm trying to read more recommendations. I shy away from recommendations because there is ALWAYS something on my TBR list! But, in an effort to expand my horizons, I'm going to read what you say! I don't know how often - once a month? twice a month? I will share the list on the Book Stuff page with links to reviews!


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