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Resilient Nora

29 Nov

Sometimes it takes a while to get to know – and like – a character. I liked Nora right away. She is the eponymous protagonist of Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz.

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Publisher’s Summary: After a family tragedy results in the loss of both father and home, 12-year-old Nora lives with her mother in Manila’s North Cemetery, which is the largest shantytown of its kind in the Philippines today.

When her mother disappears mysteriously one day, Nora is left alone.

With help from her best friend Jojo and the support of his kindhearted grandmother, Nora embarks on a journey riddled with danger in order to find her mom. Along the way she also rediscovers the compassion of the human spirit, the resilience of her community, and everlasting hope in the most unexpected places.

This engaging novel will give readers a glimpse into what life is like for impoverished children and how resilient they are. Before reading the book, I hadn’t heard about the people who live in Manilla’s cemeteries. This book opened a whole new understanding of poverty I hadn’t had before. Even though the story has a happy ending, it is a realistic ending. I won’t spoil it and tell you exactly what happens. I will tell you that, at the end, Nora is happy and still living in the cemetery.

Another great book to give as a holiday gift for a young reader in your life.

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Beowulfish

25 Oct

Yesterday, I taught my students the word euthanasia. I’d given them a new list of Latin and Greek stems and eu – meaning good – was on the list.

The eponymous Boneless Mercies of April Genevieve Tucholke’s new books are tired of their lot in life – giving a good death to people. In this loose retelling of Beowulf,   we get to learn the story behind each of the Mercies as they make their way towards the monster.

The book had a bit of a slow start for me, but it picked up about halfway through. Although there is a lot of death, it isn’t gory – that would have been a dealbreaker for me. The actual Beowulf  homage only takes up the last eighth of the book. The setting of the story is Norse -ish. The people are called the Vorse. Grenfell is Logafell. You get the picture, but it gives Tucholke to alter the plot to suit the story she wants to tell.

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Publisher’s Summary: Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are the Boneless Mercies—girls hired to kill quickly, quietly, and mercifully. But Frey is weary of the death trade and, having been raised on the heroic sagas of her people, dreams of a bigger life.

When she hears of an unstoppable monster ravaging a nearby town, Frey decides this is the Mercies’ one chance out. The fame and fortune of bringing down such a beast would ensure a new future for all the Mercies. In fact, her actions may change the story arc of women everywhere.

Forget the traveling pants

3 Sep

Normally, I’m all anxious on Labor day because school starts the next day. But we already have a week under our belts and all is well. (Knock on wood!)

Since it is Labor day, let me tell you about two books I read ( in a series) about a teenage girl in an unusual job: gladiatrix.

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Forget the traveling pants, this is the sisterhood of the traveling weapons.  Set in the period when Julius Caesar has returned to Rome and  allowed to hold triumphal gladiatorial games. Cleopatra makes an appearance in both books. So does Vercingetorix. There is just enough detail in the fight scenes to make things vivid, bit not so much that I got bored or grossed out.

I hadn’t realized that there really had been female gladiators in Ancient Rome. The book alters history to make it seem like it was more prevalent than it was, but it is a work of fiction after all.

Publisher’s Summary for The Valiant

Princess. Captive. Gladiator. Always a Warrior. 

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king and the younger sister of the legendary fighter Sorcha. When Fallon was just a child, Sorcha was killed by the armies of Julius Caesar.

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is excited to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in her father’s war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar himself. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now, Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries, deadly fights in and out of the arena, and perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier and her sworn enemy.

 

Publisher’s Summary for The Defiant

I picked up a copy of The Valiant   at ALA, hoping it was a YA book with a positive female heroine I could put in my 6th grade classroom library. Although there is a hint of romance, I have no problem adding it to the classroom collection.

The third book in the series, The Triumphant, isn’t due out until February , so I will have to be patient. It is set at the time of Caesar’s assassination – and that bodes ill for Fallon and her friends.

Put me in coach

23 Aug

I spent a lot of time working on my classroom library yesterday and it is ready. I was thrilled to create new tubs in several categories that I felt were a little lacking. One of those categories was sports books. And I just read an amazing novel about baseball that would be the perfect addition to the tub: Out of Left Field  by Ellen Klages.

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Although we know that Katy doesn’t win her battle to play ball – that would be a work of alternative history – you can’t help but admire her passion and dedication to baseball.    Just We can look to those who came before us to ignite our passion for justice just as Katy took inspiration from all the women she learns about who played ball before her.

Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages is advertised as the third book in the Gordon Family series. I had to look that up and remembered how much I had loved The Green Glass Sea and White Sands, Red Menace.  I might need to reread those. So many books, so little time!

Telling her story

20 Aug

I have book club tonight and I spent Sunday immersed in the motel world of Kelly Yang’s Front Desk.

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Since I was the one who recommended the book, I thought I should have it finished before we met.

Publisher’s Summary: Mia Tang has a lot of secrets.

Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.

Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they’ve been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed.

Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?

It will take all of Mia’s courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams?

I was worried that, having recommended a book I hadn’t read, it would be a dud. It was no such thing.

I recognized a lot of former students in Mia – children of immigrants whose lives are not easy. This book shows the power of words and the importance of telling your story. Sometimes we try to shelter children from hard truths, but many children face hard truths everyday, Yang drew on her own childhood experiences – some of which might shock readers –  to write this debut novel that gets to the heart of what it is like to be an immigrant to this country.

 

Meet my new friend, Crafty Cat

31 May

I am a hardcore monogamous crafter. I knit. It is my only craft.

My new friend, Crafty Cat, is multi-craftual.

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I first met her in The Amazing Crafty Cat.

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Publisher’s Summary:Sometimes school can be scary and even embarrassing, but not today. Today is Birdie’s birthday, and everything will be perfect! Birdie’s panda-riffic cupcakes are beautiful, and there’s one for everyone. She will be the star of the class. But then . . . disaster! A trip and fall on the way to school means no more cupcakes! Who can save the day? Who can make the class smile again? This is a job for Birdie’s alter ego . . . the Amazing Crafty Cat!

After a quick transformation, Birdie is ready. She’s not afraid of sticky paws or paper cuts. She’s not afraid of anything, even Anya, the class bully. It’s time to get crafting!

I got to know her a little better in Crafty Cat and the Crafty Camp Crisis.

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Publisher’s Summary: Second grade isn’t always a breeze for Birdie. There are just so many opportunities to embarrass herself! But Birdie’s got a secret weapon that nobody knows about—her alter-ego, Crafty Cat! Birdie can become Crafty Cat without anyone noticing, and she always manages to get herself out of a jam using her awesome crafting skills! When Birdie goes to a day-camp for crafting, she knows she’s going to have a great time and be the best in the group. But when things go wrong, can Crafty Cat help Birdie set them right?

And I learned a lot more about her (and friendship) in Crafty Cat and the Great Butterfly Battle.

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Publisher’s Summary: Everyone in Miss Domino’s class is excited about the school play and its lead role, the super-sparkly butterfly. Birdie knows she’d be perfect for the part—unfortunately, she’s not the only one who feels that way. Eight other classmates also want the starring role. And even worse, one of them is Anya! And doesn’t Anya always seem to get her way?

Who can save the day? Crafty Cat! As her alter-ego, Birdie can craft her way out of any disaster. With tape, tissue paper, and her can-do spirit, Birdie will find a way to shine on stage.

From Just Grace and Fashion Kitty author Charise Mericle Harper, the Crafty Cat series is a hilarious, charming, and sweet new graphic novel trilogy for elementary-age readers about a little girl who can craft her way out of any situation. Each volume includes fun and simple instructions for do-it-yourself crafting activities.

 

Proving yourself

14 May

Sometimes, I get exhausted reading serious realistic books. I love them, but the weight of the characters’ problems is sometimes too much for me  and I need something a little more action-packed.

This weekend, I picked up The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras and was carried back in time to 13th century Scotland. This excellent first middle grade novel moves at a fast pace as Drest, our heroine, seeks to rescue her family, held captive by a lord. Although she sets out by herself, she is not alone. She has the voices of her brothers in her head, giving her advice. She also has a wounded knight who she is taking back to the castle from which he came – and the one in which her father and brothers are being held captive. I was so caught up in the tale, I read it in one day. Talk about escapism!

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Publisher’s Summary: A Scottish medieval adventure about the youngest in a war-band who must free her family from a castle prison after knights attack her home–with all the excitement of Ranger’s Apprentice and perfect for fans of heroines like Alanna from The Song of the Lioness series.

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