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Madly reading through the last weeks of summer

14 Aug

I’ve had this pile of books sitting around. Maybe I have more than one pile.

Here are two truths about my book piles:

  1. They are not stagnant. Books come and books go.
  2. They are shrinking.

I’ve been blitzing through my piles, trying to get as many books read before I have to go back to school.

While at ALA, I got arcs of two graphic novels, aimed at two different demographics, but both are the first in a series.

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The Sand Warrior is geared to a middle school audience and my arc will end up in my classroom library,

Publisher’s Summary: The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves—and more to their worlds—than meets the eye. . . .

• The clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, Oona Lee is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine.

• A boy from the poorest slums, An Tzu has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations.

• Star athlete Jax Amboy is beloved by an entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends?

When these three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest, it will take not one, not two, but 5 WORLDS to contain all the magic and adventure!

 

As with most of his books, Scott Westerfeld’s The Spill Zone is geared to an older audience. There is some language and activity in the book that will keep me from putting it in my 6th grade classroom library, but I can imagine teens connecting with the main characters.

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Publisher’s Summary: Three years ago an event destroyed the small city of Poughkeepsie, forever changing reality within its borders. Uncanny manifestations and lethal dangers now await anyone who enters the Spill Zone.

The Spill claimed Addison’s parents and scarred her little sister, Lexa, who hasn’t spoken since. Addison provides for her sister by photographing the Zone’s twisted attractions on illicit midnight rides. Art collectors pay top dollar for these bizarre images, but getting close enough for the perfect shot can mean death—or worse.

When an eccentric collector makes a million-dollar offer, Addison breaks her own hard-learned rules of survival and ventures farther than she has ever dared. Within the Spill Zone, Hell awaits—and it seems to be calling Addison’s name.

A Journey Through Hobohemia

4 Aug

One of my favorite French poems is “Ma Bohème” by Arthur Rimbaud. I had to do a presentation on it in a university french poetry class and it has always stayed close to my heart. As you can probably tell from the title, this poem is a fantasy of bohemian life, and very much romanticizes the freedom of roaming with no cares in the world.

Ceceil Castellucci’s middle grade graphic novel, Soupy Leaves Home,  tells the story of a young girl who flees her home during the Great Depression and becomes a hobo and learns about the freedom and burdens of her “bohème”.

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Publisher’s Summary: Set in 1932, this is the story of two misfits with no place to call home, who build a relationship during a train hopping journey from the cold heartbreak of their eastern homes toward the sunny promise of California.

Pearl “Soupy” Plankette ran away from her abusive father, but has nowhere to go until she stumbles upon a disguise that gives her the key to a new identity. Reborn as a boy named Soupy, she hitches her star to Remy “Ramshackle” Smith, a hobo who takes her under his wing. Ramshackle’s kindness and protection go a long way to help Soupy heal from her difficult past. But Ramshackle has his own demons to wrestle with, and he’ll need Soupy just as much as she needs him.

In case you;d like to read “Ma Bohème”, you can click here for the original French, and/or the English translation.

Per ardua ad astra

24 Jul

Once a week, Mr. Glaesner, my high school Latin teacher, taught us Latin mottos and phrases. I have forgotten much, but these have stuck.  One such expression is per ardua ad astra…through hardship to the stars. It would be a great motto for the CatStronauts,  the heroes of a graphic novel series by Drew Brockington.

We met the heroes in April, with the release of CatStronauts: Mission Moon.

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Publisher’s Summary: 

CatStronauts, you are needed!

When the world is thrust into darkness due to a global energy shortage, the Worlds Best Scientist comes up with a bold plan to set up a solar power plant on the moon. But someone has to go up there to set it up, and that adventure falls to the CatStronauts, the best space cats on the planet! Meet the fearless commander Major Meowser, brave-but-hungry pilot Waffles, genius technician and inventor Blanket, and quick thinking science officer Pom Pom on their most important mission yet!
In this graphic novel, debut author and illustrator Drew Brockington breathes life into a world populated entirely by cats, brimming with jokes, charm, science, and enough big boxes and tuna sandwiches for everyone!

 

Volume 2, CatStronauts: Race to Mars came out at the same time.

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Publisher’s Summary: 

Fresh off of their heroic mission to save the world, the CatStronauts–Major Meowser, Pom Pom, Blanket and Waffles–are taking a well deserved victory lap. Parades and fancy awards dinners are the new norm!
But around the world, other cat space programs are watching–in particular the CosmoCats, the first cats to go to space! With national pride and scientific research on the line, the world’s space programs rush to be the first cats to Mars, and the CatStronauts are starting months behind! Can they catch up and prove their first mission was no fluke?
In this graphic novel, debut author/illustrator Drew Brockington takes the CatStronauts further than they’ve every gone, adding in mounds of jokes, charm, science, and enough yarn and scratching posts for everyone!

 

 

October will see the release of the third book, CatStronauts: Space Station Situation.

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Publisher’s Summary: 

When chief science officer Pom Pom rejoins the CatStronauts on the International Space Station, she has to get to work right away–the Hubba Bubba Telescope isn’t working, and CATSUP is losing funding by the day!
But as the CatStronauts and Mission Control race to find answers, the unthinkable happens and pilot Waffles is forced to orbit the Earth in nothing but his space suit. Even though he’s no scaredy cat, Waffles has a hard time staying out in space. When disaster on a global scale rears its head, will a fractured CatStronauts team be enough to save the day?
In this full color graphic novel, debut author/illustrator Drew Brockington takes the CatStronauts to the brink, adding in mounds of jokes, charm, asteroid showers, and enough tuna for everyone!
If you have young readers who love to laugh, they might enjoy spending some time with the CatStronauts.

The Course of True Friendship

21 Jul

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I was excited when my hold on Real Friends came in. I was ecstatic when I saw there was a character named Adrienne, then, disappointed to find out she was the antagonist. Sigh. But that is probably the worst thing I can say about Shannon Hale’s graphic novel, excellently illustrated by LeUyen Pham.

Publisher’s Summary: 

Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little. But one day, Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of a circle of friends called The Group. Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen’s #1, and some girls would do anything to stay on top . . . even if it means bullying others.

Now every day is like a roller coaster for Shannon. Will she and Adrienne stay friends? Can she stand up for herself? And is she in The Group—or out?

Drawing on events from her own youth, Hale tells a tale most kids can relate to. In her afterward, she admits that she is telling only her side of the story. She also tells readers to be patient if they haven’t found their “group” yet.

In addition to tackling friendship issues, Real Friends gives readers a glimpse into life in a Mormon family, something we don’t often see in kidlit.

This is a book that is getting some Newbery buzz, and I highly recommend it.

 

Exploring Ancient China

9 Jul

When I was at the Field Museum, almost two weeks ago, we were given the choice of special exhibits to see. As tempted as I was by the Tattoo exhibit, I chose the Hall of China exhibit because it is a unit I teach, but feel I don’t know as much as I should.

I recognize the features of Ancient China in Faith Erin Hicks’ The Stone Heart,  the second volume in her  Nameless City series.

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Publisher’s Summary:Kaidu and Rat have only just recovered from the assassination attempt on the General of All Blades when more chaos breaks loose in the Nameless City: deep conflicts within the Dao nation are making it impossible to find a political solution for the disputed territory of the City itself.

To complicate things further, Kaidu is fairly certain he’s stumbled on a formula for the lost weapon of the mysterious founders of the City. . . . But sharing it with the Dao military would be a complete betrayal of his friendship with Rat. Can Kai find the right solution before the Dao find themselves at war?

I have neither of these in my classroom library, but I think they are books I must add before September.

My Classroom Library’s Top 10 Graphic Novels

18 Jun

The highest checkout numbers in my classroom library went to graphic novels.  This is certainly due to their popularity. I think it might also be due to the fact that they can be read quickly. That said, I know students who would check one out and read it multiple times.

Here, in ascending order are the most popular graphic novels in my classroom library.

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#10 – El Deafo by Cece Bell

 

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#9 – Brain Camp  by Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan, and Faith Erin Hicks

 

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#8 – Human Body Theater by Maris Wicks

 

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#7 – This One Summer  by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

 

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#6 –  Boxers by Gene Luen Yang

 

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#5 –  Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

 

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#4 – Primates by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks

 

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#3- Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

 

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#2 – The Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmy Gownley

 

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#1 – Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week’s book talks 5/30-6/2

2 Jun

Woo hoo! We’ve made it to June.

For someone who is not officially counting down yet, I have checked off a number of items on my “last one of the year” list this week: SBAC testing, annual evaluation meeting, staff meeting….

But the book talk party keeps happening in my room. In spite of a short week and two days of SBAC testing, I managed to talk about 5 books.

Wednesday, I made up for lost time and talked about Maile Meloy’s Apothecary  series.

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The series opens in 1952 with our heroine, Janie moving to London because her parents are under investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee. There, she meets Benjamin, whose father appears to be an ordinary apothecary. In fact, he possesses a book, The Pharmacopeia,  that both sides of the Cold war would like to have. The final book is set in 1955, in the United States, where they continue to keep the world safe from nuclear disaster.

Thursday was the first normal day since SBAC testing began.

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Knowing kids might be as fatigued as I was, I book talked a classic, Cynthia Rylant’s Every Living Thing, a slim volume of short stories.

Publisher’s Summary: Here are twelve deeply moving short stories from the perceptive pen of Cynthia Rylant. Each captures the moment when someone’s life changes — when an animal causes a human being to see things in a different way, and, perhaps, changes his life.

 

 

 

 

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And that bring us to today’s book, Brave  by Svetlana Chmakova.

Her previous graphic novel, Awkward, is always checked out, rarely making it back onto my shelf.

Author’s Summary: On her first day at her new school, Penelope–Peppi–Torres reminds herself of these basics. But when she trips into a quiet boy in the hall, Jaime Thompson, she’s already broken the first rule, and the mean kids start calling her the “nerder girlfriend.” How does she handle this crisis? By shoving poor Jaime and running away!

Surrounding herself with new friends in the art club, Peppi still can’t help feeling ashamed about the way she treated Jaime. Things are already awkward enough between the two, but to make matters worse, he’s a member of her own club’s archrivals–the science club! And when the two clubs go to war, Peppi realizes that sometimes you have to break the rules to survive middle school!

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The kids will be thrilled to discover that Chamkova has a new graphic novel, Brave, also set in Berrybrook Middle School.

Author’s Summary: In his daydreams, Jensen is the biggest hero that ever was, saving the world and his friends on a daily basis. But his middle school reality is VERY different–math is hard, getting along with friends is hard…Even finding a partner for the class project is a huge problem when you always get picked last. And the pressure’s on even more once the school newspaper’s dynamic duo, Jenny and Akilah, draw Jensen into the whirlwind of school news, social-experiment projects, and behind-the-scenes club drama. Jensen has always played the middle school game one level at a time, but suddenly, someone’s cranked up the difficulty setting. Will those daring daydreams of his finally work in his favor, or will he have to find real solutions to his real-life problems?

We have only three weeks of school left and I keep encouraging my students (and myself) to finish strong.

 

 

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