Archive | January, 2015

Oh, the Audacity

19 Jan

I’ve spent a lot of time this long weekend doing book committee work. To give myself a break from the “must reads”, I picked up this novel in verse, Audacity by Melanie Crowder.


It is inspired the real life story of Clara Lemlich who worked to improve the working conditions  in the factories on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. I’ve written recently about my love for novels in verse and this one meets my expectations. This is not a happy story and the verse form helps lighten the darkness of the situation. Clara defies her family and society to do what she knows is right. Not a bad thing to read on MLK day, is it!

And the writing is beautiful. Crowder uses  beautiful imagery and percussive language to create an achingly beautiful novel.

Younger readers can learn about Clara Lemlich’s work in  Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel.


Thinking about union activities gets me thinking about Billy Bragg, my favorite leftist singer. Here are two of my BB faves.



18 Jan


I almost abandoned The Cat at the Wall by Deborah Ellis. I didn’t like the voice and it got off to a very slow start. In situations like this, I tend to peek ahead to see if it is worth continuing. I was curious about the teacher connection and wanted to know more, so I decided to persevere. In the end I was pleasantly surprised. There is a lot of depth in this slim novel about conflict, forgiveness, resolution and reconciliation. I am not certain the intended audience will get everything Ellis hopes they will, but some might.

Goodreads Summary: A cat sneaks into a small Palestinian house on the West Bank that has been commandeered by two Israeli soldiers. The house seems empty, until the cat realizes that a little boy is hiding beneath the floorboards. Should she help him? After all, she’s just a cat. Or is she? She was once a regular North American girl, but that was before she died and came back to life as a cat. When the little boy is discovered, the soldiers don’t know what to do with him. It is not long before his teacher and classmates come looking for him, and the house is suddenly surrounded by Palestinian villagers throwing rocks, and the sound of Israeli tanks approaching. As the soldiers begin to panic and disaster seems certain, the cat knows that it is up to her to diffuse the situation. But what can a cat do? What can any one creature do?

Memorable Camping Trips

16 Jan

I just finished reading The Bear by Claire Cameron.


Don’t be fooled by the cover, or the fact that the narrator is 5-year-old Anna. This is not a book for children.

Goodreads Summary: While camping with her family on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A rogue black bear, 300 pounds of fury, is attacking the family’s campsite, pouncing on her parents as prey.

At her dying mother’s faint urging, Anna manages to get her brother into the family’s canoe and paddle away. But when the canoe dumps the two children on the edge of the woods, and the sister and brother must battle hunger, the elements, and a dangerous wilderness, we see Anna’s heartbreaking love for her family–and her struggle to be brave when nothing in her world seems safe anymore.

I have been camping ion places like the setting of this story and my brother and twin sister have a scary canoe camping  story that involves a bear. My most memorable canoe camping trip took place on the May 24th weekend in 1990. My brother Brian and his family (wife & 4 kids) took my sister, her boyfriend (Tom, now her husband) and I to  Shark Lake in the Haliburton Highlands. We started out at Long Lake, near Apsley, Ontario and made three portages in to get to Shark Lake. It was a cold and rainy weekend. There were no bears but we did hear wolves. They were close and I remember my sister-in-law being frightened. We joked that because we were camped on an island, they couldn’t get us unless they were scuba wolves. I remember drinking lots of hot tea and trying to keep the fire going. Tom and Brian actually paddled to a cabin to see if it was open and contemplated breaking in. Hypothermia was a real concern. Here is a picture of me with my pyjamas over my clothes. It was so cold we wore all the layers we had. In spite of the terrible weather, I have very fond memories of this trip. This was the last canoe camping trip I was ever on. That summer I moved to Colombia, then to the US and I never moved back to Canada.


Summing up 2014 with ALA

15 Jan



Each year the American Library Association honors books, videos, and other outstanding materials for children and teens. Recognized worldwide for the high quality they represent, the ALA Youth Media Awards, including the prestigious Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and Coretta Scott King Book Awards, guide parents, educators, librarians, and others in selecting the best materials for youth. Selected by committees composed of librarians and other literature and media experts, the awards encourage original and creative work in the field of children’s and young adult literature and media.

The announcement of the 2015 Youth Media Awards will take place at 8:00 a.m. Central time on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, during the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibition in Chicago.

You can watch the LIVE WEBCAST like I will. It’s funny to think that I will be at next year’s presentation, having been a part of the decision-making process.

I’m still reading a few and will post my list of 2014 favorites soon.

Is this the real life?

14 Jan

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality.

Open your eyes,
Look up to the skies and see,
I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy,
Because I’m easy come, easy go,
Little high, little low,
Anyway the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me, to me.

I’ve had the opening lyrics to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody in my head since I serendipitously  found these two books almost side by side on the “”New books for teens” shelf at the library.

Unknown  Unknown-1

Crazy, no?

Both published in Fall 2014.

I am only going to talk about Cory Doctorow’s In Real Life  because Lawrence Tabak’s seems to be a debut novel published within the date ranges of the 2016 Morris award. And, I haven’t read Tabak’s novel yet.

I his In Real Life, Cory Doctorow teams up with graphic artist Jen Wang to create a graphic novel about girl gamers. Besides being a good story, there are lots here about economics and girl gamers. I am not a big graphic novel reader and I am not a gamer, but I found this graphic novel quite interesting and enjoyable.

Goodreads Summary:Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It’s a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It’s a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends.

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer–a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person’s real livelihood is at stake.

Flu Season

13 Jan


My class has had great attendance all year. For the first few weeks of school, the secretary called to remind me to do attendance because no one was ever absent.

But, Winter Break is over and it is January. I haven’t had perfect attendance since Break ended. Last Friday, the principal came to our room to hand out  attendance certificates for the first trimester, and one of those receiving the award was out sick.

Yesterday, I sent a boy to the office. When he returned he said he wouldn’t be at school tomorrow. He had my permission to go to the bathroom whenever he needed, without asking. I disinfected his desk after school. Thank goodness for the disinfectant wipes we ask the kids to bring!

I am eating healthy food and taking all the precautions I can. I am one of those asthmatic people who is supposed to get a flu shot. I asked my doctor and she said she’s 50/50 on flu shots and I should do what I think is best.  About 20 years ago I got one and got sick shortly afterwards. The logical part of my brain tells me that was a coincidence. The rest of my brain says “No flu shot!”. It is going to take a bout of the flu without a shot to get me to start a new flu shot tradition.

Coming Home

12 Jan

A homecoming should be a wonderful celebration, but it isn’t when Margaret returns after 2 years away at a residential school.


Margaret was sent away from her Arctic home at age 8 to go to school  and was not allowed to speak her language, eat her food, or learn her people’s traditions. So, when she returns home in Not My Girl by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, she is unrecognizable, “not my girl”. As the story unfolds, slowly, Margaret relearns all she had lost during her two years away. She regains her family’s trust and finally feels that she has found her home again.

From the publisher: Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by evocative illustrations, “Not My Girl” makes the original, award-winning memoir, “A Stranger at Home,” accessible to younger children. It is also a sequel to the picture book “When I Was Eight.” A poignant story of a determined young girl’s struggle to belong, it will both move and inspire readers everywhere.

YALSA’s 2015 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge Check-In #5

11 Jan

This will be my last check-in on this thread. I have finished the Morris list and can’t comment on the nonfiction list because some of the titles are up for the CYBILS YA Nonfiction award.

It has been interesting reading the Morris list, knowing that I will be on the committee picking next year’s finalists!

So, with no further ado, here is the 2015 Morris list, in my order of preference:


A sentimental favorite going in, The Story of Owen: Dragonslayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnston never really left the top spot. I love the world Johnston created and the idea of a bard for a dragonslayer. The ending was unexpected.


Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero came close to taking Owen’s spot because her voice was so believable.


Unknown-3 Unknown-2

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton ties with Len Vlahos’ The Scar Boys. 


he Carnival at Bray  by Jessie Ann Foley was my least favorite of the five books mostly because of its slow build up to the last quarter of the book. That said, I highly recommend all these books of you are looking for a great YA novel.

Some graphic traffic

9 Jan

I finally feel as though I have my rhythm at school…just in time for the weekend. Here are a couple of fun graphic novels for the younger set that might be perfect for a wintery weekend.


Goodreads summary:After Bird and Squirrel crash land in the South Pole during a raging blizzard, a penguin named Sakari thinks Bird has come to rid her village of a hungry Killer Whale. But when Squirrel finds out that Bird will actually be fed to the Killer Whale as a sacrifice, they hatch a crazy plan to escape. With a good timing, a little luck, and help from Sakari, they just might make it out alive. Or they might end up as whale food!


Goodreads summary: When a young Cleopatra (yes, THAT Cleopatra) finds a mysterious tablet that zaps her to the far, REALLY far future, she learns of an ancient prophecy that says she is destined to save the galaxy from the tyrannical rule of the evil Xaius Octavian. She enrolls in Yasiro Academy, a high-tech school with classes like algebra, biology, and alien languages (which Cleo could do without), and combat training (which is more Cleo’s style). With help from her teacher Khensu, Cleo learns what it takes to be a great leader, while trying to figure out how she’s going to get her homework done, make friends, and avoid detention!


Goodreads summary: The Stratford Zoo looks like a normal zoo… until the gates shut at night. That’s when the animals come out of their cages to stage elaborate performances of Shakespeare’s greatest works. They might not be the most accomplished thespians, but they’ve got what counts: heart. Also fangs, feathers, scales, and tails, in The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth.


8 Jan

I’ve had a hard time getting back to work. I’m there, but my rhythm feels off. I have a really long list of  “Things I haven’ done yet that should have been done yesterday”. As soon as one comes off, another seems to get added. Sigh. I don’t remember feeling like this in previous Januaries. Apparently, this is the correct plural for January, I checked multiple sources. Being more organized isn’t part of my OLW, though I really need to shift my attitude and get things rolling smoothly.

Maybe I need to think more like Candice Phee, who tells her story in alphabetical order.


Goodreads Summary:Candice Phee isn’t a typical twelve-year-old girl. She has more than her fair share of quirks, but she also has the very best of intentions and an unwavering determination to make sure everyone around her is happy—which is no easy feat when dealing with a pet fish with an identity crisis, a friend who believes he came from another dimension, an age-old family feud, and a sick mom. But she is on a mission. Her methods might be unique, but Candice will do whatever it takes to restore order to her world and make sure everyone is absolutely, categorically happy again.

Like Candice, I feel like I need to restore order to my world, so I get my teaching flow back.


Randy Ribay

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