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Escaping reality

23 Jul

Summer is a time when I escape into the things I love.

Escaping isn’t only for the happy. It is also a refuge for those who don’t want to face difficulties, as john Boyne shows us in Noah Barleywater Runs Away.

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Goodreads Summary: In Noah Barleywater Runs Away, bestselling author John Boyne explores the world of childhood and the adventures that we can all have there. Noah is running away from his problems, or at least that’s what he thinks, the day he takes the untrodden path through the forest. When he comes across a very unusual toyshop and meets the even more unusual toymaker he’s not sure what to expect. But the toymaker has a story to tell, a story full of adventure, and wonder and broken promises. And Noah travels with him on a journey that will change his life for ever.

A thought-provoking fable for our modern world from the author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

This was John Boyne’s second novel. It followed his hugely successful The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Although a very different sort of book, more magical realism than fairy tale, it also carries a sadness. Noah’s mother is ill. The toymaker has regrets. But Noah’s story has a happier ending than The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. 

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.

 

The families we make

17 Jul

I’ve been thinking about starting  Mock Newbery Club at my school next year. Rather than being a year-long club, it would begin in October and the students in the club would initially read off a list I suggest, but they would be free to add titles too.

One of the titles that will appear on that list is Beyond the Bright Sea  by Lauren Wolk, who wrote last year’s Newbery Honor book,  Wolf Hollow

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Publisher’s Summary

Each new bit of information Crow learns about her origins only raises more questions. But Crow is determined as she peels away the layers of mystery to get to the heart of the matter: love makes a family.

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.

Title twins: Epic Fails and Brilliant Falls

19 Jun

Sometimes the title of one book makes me think of another.

I just checked out The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya. It reminded me of Kate Messner’s The  Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.

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Both are solid middle grade novels that tackle issues of family. Both have strong grandmother characters, of which I am a little jealous, never having really known mine well. Both would make excellent summer reads for kids if late elementary, early middle school age.

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Publisher’s Summary: Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL?

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Publisher’s Summary: Gianna Z has less than one week to collect, identify, and creatively display 25 leaves for her science project-or else she won’t be able to compete in the upcoming cross-country sectionals race. As the deadline for her leaf project draws near, life keeps getting in the way. Some things are within Gee’s control, like her own procrastination, but others aren’t, like Biana Rinaldi’s attempts at sabotage and Nonna’s declining health. If it weren’t for her best friend Zig, Gee wouldn’t have a chance at finishing. His knowledge of trees and leaves in their rural Vermont town comes in very handy- as does his loyalty to Gee. But when Nonna disappears one afternoon, things like leaves and cross-country meets suddenly seem less important.

The Top 10 Novels in my Library

16 Jun

The classroom library inventory is complete. Books are still missing, but they continue to trickle in. With no more checking out going on, I’ve taken some time to look over what was checked out. Graphic novels led the way, and my next post will be about the top 10 graphic novels. Today I will announce the top 10 novels in ascending order.

 

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#10 Nine, Ten by Nora Raleigh Baskin

 

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#9 Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart

 

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#8  Half Brother  by Kenneth Oppel

 

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#7  The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

 

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#6 Wonder by R. J. Palacio

 

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#5 Restart by Gordon Korman

 

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#4 I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

 

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#3 The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

 

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#2  Zero Tolerance by Claudia Mills

 

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#1 Cinder by Marissa Meyer

 

 

 

 

 

This week’s book talks 6/5-9

11 Jun

For a number of reasons, I have no 5 day weeks left, even though this week and next are 5 day weeks. Darn for me! It will be 4 books next week, and probably 3 the last week, The last day of school schedule is out and it will be a whirlwind.

Monday

This classic hasn’t been checked out all year, even though I know a number of students would love it. Best reason for a book talk!

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Publisher’s Summary: “I can’t speak for all dogs.
Not all dogs are alike.
And most certainly, not all dogs
have the same experiences. . . .”

Squirrel is not like most dogs. Born a stray, she must make her own way in the world, facing busy highways, changing seasons, and humans both gentle and brutal. Her life story, in her own words, is marked by loss, but also by an inspiring instinct to survive. And when it seems she will roam the woods and country roads alone forever, Squirrel makes two friends who, in very different ways, define her fate.
At once heartrending and hopeful, Ann Martin’s exquisite story of a dog’s life is told with her trademark grace and insight.

Tuesday

I got a round of applause from Core 1 for my Scottish brogue inflected read aloud from Diary of a Mad Brownie by Bruce Coville.

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Publisher’s Summary: In the first hilarious Enchanted Files, Angus is a brownie. No, not the kind you eat! He’s a tiny magical creature that loves to do chores. Angus has just “inherited” a new human girl, Alex. To say that Alex is messy would be an understatement. She’s a total hurricane-like disaster—and she likes it that way, thank you very much! Living with each other isn’t easy but Angus and Alex soon learn there is a curse that binds them. What’s worse, it threatens Alex’s family! Working together, Angus and Alex will set out to break the curse . . . without killing each other first . . . hopefully.

 

 

Wednesday

Driving home from work on Tuesday, I heard an interview with Alex Honnold, who was talking about his solo rope-free ascent of El Capitan. I told the kids about this event as I began talking about Peak by Roland Smith.

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Goodreads Summary: After fourteen-year-old Peak Marcello is arrested for scaling a New York City skyscraper, he’s left with two choices: wither away in Juvenile Detention or go live with his long-lost father, who runs a climbing company in Thailand. But Peak quickly learns that his father’s renewed interest in him has strings attached. Big strings. As owner of Peak Expeditions, he wants his son to be the youngest person to reach the Everest summit–and his motives are selfish at best. Even so, for a climbing addict like Peak, tackling Everest is the challenge of a lifetime. But it’s also one that could cost him his life.

Roland Smith has created an action-packed adventure about friendship, sacrifice, family, and the drive to take on Everest, despite the incredible risk. The story of Peak’s dangerous ascent—told in his own words—is suspenseful, immediate, and impossible to put down.

 

Friday

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1st, so it seemed appropriate to read about the consequences of an earthquake. When I talked about this book, one of my students shared her cousin’s experience in Hurricane Katrina.

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From the Authors website: Thirteen year-old Cort Delacroix lives on a houseboat at the edge of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta in lower Alabama. His father, Tom, is a renowned river guide and local expert on hunting and swamp lore. He’s been teaching Cort everything he knows since the boy was a child.

Cort used to have a hard time imagining a future more ideal than being a river guide, but since his mother walked out on them he’s having second thoughts. His father isn’t his normal attentive, good-natured self.  Tom’s constantly preoccupied with trying to get his wife to come home, while Cort knows she never will. Now lonely and frustrated, Cort see’s just how empty the swamp is without his father around. He wonders if it’s all worth missing out on the life of a normal teenager.

All of Cort’s fears are realized when Tom abandons him in the midst of a category three hurricane. For the first time in his life he is truly alone against the swamp. A series of catastrophic events soon lead to Cort and two young girls stranded in miles of storm-thrashed wetlands. After struggling to high ground on an ancient Indian mound, they cling for their lives in a tree. The hurricane rages as a crazed wild hog stalks them from below and they stave off snakes and numerous other swamp creatures climbing to safety. Throughout this nightmarish ordeal they form an unlikely bond with a black bear hugging the tree next to them. But in the end it’s every animal for itself. And they’ll all do whatever it takes to survive.

It’s up to Cort to use everything he’s ever learned to keep himself and the two girls alive. And they may just have to rely on a bear to help save them.

Bottle Creek is the story of a young boy who must come from beneath his father’s shadow and take charge of his life if he is to survive a horrifying battle against nature. And even, perhaps, in order to become a man.

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