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Along the Silk Road

3 Jun

As an end of the year project, our 6th graders always write China folk tales. They need to incorporate some of details we learned in class about Ancient China and create a pop-up book. It is a fun project and many os their stories are set along the Silk Road, which is the last topic we cover in class.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to discover a YA fantasy novel, set along the Silk Road. I read it this weekend, just to be sure it was worth putting in my library. There is a smidge of romance and one kiss, but otherwise it is very chaste.

The Candle and the Flame, by Nafiza Azad, beautifully illustrates the cultural diffusion we talked about in class as people (and creatures) from many different places converge along the Silk Road.

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Publisher’s Summary:
Fatima lives in the city of Noor, a thriving stop along the Silk Road. There the music of myriad languages fills the air, and people of all faiths weave their lives together. However, the city bears scars of its recent past, when the chaotic tribe of Shayateen djinn slaughtered its entire population — except for Fatima and two other humans. Now ruled by a new maharajah, Noor is protected from the Shayateen by the Ifrit, djinn of order and reason, and by their commander, Zulfikar. But when one of the most potent of the Ifrit dies, Fatima is changed in ways she cannot fathom, ways that scare even those who love her. Oud in hand, Fatima is drawn into the intrigues of the maharajah and his sister, the affairs of Zulfikar and the djinn, and the dangers of a magical battlefield.

Nafiza Azad weaves an immersive tale of magic and the importance of names; fiercely independent women; and, perhaps most importantly, the work for harmony within a city of a thousand cultures and cadences.

Move over Buck Rogers, there’s a new girl in town

30 May

In case the title baffled you, Buck Rogers is a fictional character who first appeared in 1928. He lived in the the 20th century, but in most iterations of his story, he has an accident and is “preserved”, reviving in the 25th century. He began as a novella, then became a series of comic strips, movies serials, and radio & TV shows. He is early 20th century sci-fi, all ray guns and disintegrator beams.

But this is the 21st century and we need new heroes, weapons, and saviors of the galaxy. By Galaxy, I mean the Milky Way and by heroes, I mean Aurora, the eponymous hero of Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman.

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From the Author’s website: The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch . . .

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem–that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

NOBODY PANIC.

I listened to the audiobook and was enthralled from the beginning. As a fan of various sci-fi television series, most notably Star Trek, I recognized homage to some characters. Kaufman has created a new landscape and the characters feel fresh. The story is narrated by the six members of the squad and Aurora, each of home is voiced by a different narrator. This adds to the audiobook experience because it helps keep characters straight and you develop a different relationship with each in a different way that you might if you were reading the book. The book is set in space, but it is really all about the relationships – and the need to save the galaxy.

Even if sci-fi isn’t your thing, I encourage you to give Aurora Rising  a try.

This week’s book talks 4/2-6

6 Apr

Back to book talks with a full five-day week. Here are the five books I recommended to my students.

MONDAY

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Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire  by John August
TUESDAY

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The Journey of Little Charlie  by Christopher Paul Curtis

WEDNESDAY

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Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

THURSDAY

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Ice Wolves  by Amie Kaufman

 

FRIDAY

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How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana

Armchair travelling

26 Nov

One of the upsides of a five-day weekend is the opportunity to dive deeply into a good book and this very long weekend I took an armchair journey to Oxford.

Not the Oxford of the BBC’s Inspector Morse,  but Lyra’s Oxford, the once created by Philip Pullman. Did you know he has a new series, set in the Oxford before the His Dark Materials series. I went on my journey with an infant Lyra and learned something of her backstory in La Belle Sauvage the first book in his new series, The Book of Dust.

Here is the US cover

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And here is the UK cover.

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Publisher’s Summary: Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy….

Malcolm’s parents run an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his daemon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue.

He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust—and the spy it was intended for finds him.

When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, he sees suspicious characters everywhere: the explorer Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a gyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a daemon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl—just a baby—named Lyra.

Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm.

I loved Malcolm and wished he was a student in my class. I was drawn into the story immediately and I am now thinking, while I wait for the next book, I might reread the His Dark Materials series.

 

An unlimited tale

20 Nov

I wanted to read Jane, Unlimited before I knew there was a basset hound in it.

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When I realized the basset hound was a very important character, I was ecstatic. I looked at Lucy, and wondered.

Let me also say that this one works way better in print than audio. There are a lot of details at the beginning that become important. If, like me, you sometimes listen to audiobooks while doing other things, you might miss something important. The audiobook is excellent, I am simply saying that you need to pay attention if you listen.

Publisher’s Summary: An instant New York Times bestseller—from the award-winning author of the Graceling Realm series—a kaleidoscopic novel about grief, adventure, storytelling, and finding yourself in a world of seemingly infinite choices.

Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family’s island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.” With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn’t know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.

 

A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt

29 Oct

Yesterday afternoon, the lobby of the Newmark Theater was buzzing with treasure hunters. Scurvy Sam’s 4-Story Treasure Hunt was the pre-show activity for the Oregon Children’s Theatre‘s production of

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I went because one of my students plays Tall Boy in the production, which is excellent.

I’d read the book years ago to second graders and wondered exactly how they would pull off the multiple scene locations. Brilliantly, as it turns out. The set design was simple and versatile as the ship unfolded and got turned into a variety of locales where Judy and Stink were looking for clues.

The play ran an hour which was perfect. I loved seeing my student on stage, but the entire cast was great. All the kids were extremely talented and Scurvy Sam kept the adults laughing.

 

The little boy siting next two me was almost as much fun as the play itself. He really got into it, laughing and squealing at all the right parts.

If you have a young person, I highly recommend taking them to see this production. Heck, subscribe to the whole season. If this production is any indication, they will all be excellent.

This week’s book talks 10/23-10/25

25 Oct

It is parent teacher conference time. Only three days of school means only three booktalks. They all cam from the “Mystery and Adventure” section of my classroom library.

Monday…..I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest.

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Tuesday… Mission Mumbai by Mahtab Narsimhan

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Wednesday…Raising Rufus  by David Fulk

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