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Pay Attention, Readers!

22 Apr

Some books are just fun to read aloud. There is a clear definition of tone when certain characters talk. There might be humor, or sarcasm. There is a theme or series of events that capture the interest of the audience.

Read aloud is one of my favorite parts of my day. I often joke that teaching is performance art, but reading out loud truly is. You will know this if you have ever listened to a poorly read audiobook.

Last week, I started reading aloud Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt and the kids and I are hooked.

The main character, Carter Jones, talks in long run-on sentences and I think the kids like seeing how long I can go without taking a breath. The Butler speaks in very proper English. I wish my English accent were better, but I get the point across. And even though everyone in the book is very white, my majority minority class is hooked because of the witty battle of wills between Carter and The Butler, but also because of the way cricket is woven throughout. Cricket in the sense of the precursor to baseball. I have kids who actually know about cricket. This might be the book I use as the first read aloud of next year.

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Publisher’s Summary: Carter Jones is astonished early one morning when he finds a real English butler, bowler hat and all, on the doorstep—one who stays to help the Jones family, which is a little bit broken.

In addition to figuring out middle school, Carter has to adjust to the unwelcome presence of this new know-it-all adult in his life and navigate the butler’s notions of decorum. And ultimately, when his burden of grief and anger from the past can no longer be ignored, Carter learns that a burden becomes lighter when it is shared.

This week’s book talks 4/15-19

19 Apr

What a crazy week!

The lodge at the camp where we are supposed to attend Outdoor School next week burned down and I, along with my students and their families, have been stressed about what will happen. We are suppose to leave Tuesday, and we are still in limbo, wondering what will happen.

To relieve tension, I shared some new books. New books always make me feel better.

Monday

The Size of the Truth by Andrew Smith

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Tuesday

Pay Attention, carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt

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Wednesday

Disaster Strikes! by Jeffrey Kluger

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Thursday

Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles by Thomas Lennon

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Friday

The Girls of Firefly Cabin by Cynthia Ellingsen

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Welcome to Middle School, Andrew Smith

18 Apr

A few years ago, an Andrew Smith novel,  Stick, stirred up some news when it was banned in our district. Teachers, parents, students stood up and spoke up because, although the panel had decided to keep it, an assistant superintendent overruled the panel’s decision. The book got to stay. The assistant superintendent left shortly afterwards, following another controversy.

I have long loved Andrew Smith’s books, especially Winger and Stand-Off. In fact, I think Winger  might have been my first Andrew Smith book. Needless to say, I was delighted to discover that he was writing a book for middle schoolers, and I awaited it patiently. I picked up an ARC at ALA in January and I finally read it. It might be my next read aloud with my classes.

It is called The Size of the Truth and it tells the story of Sam Abernathy, a character from Stand-Off. You don’t need to have read Winger and Stand-Off  to read The Size of the Truth – in fact, you shouldn’t. They are written for Young adult audiences. I don’t have them in my classroom library, but I hope my kids read them someday, when they are in high school.   But The Size of the Truth  contains all the humor, quirks and honesty of Winger and Stand-Off,  and takes hold of your heart in the same way.

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Publisher’s Summary: When he was four years old, Sam Abernathy was trapped at the bottom of a well for three days, where he was teased by a smart-aleck armadillo named Bartleby. Since then, his parents plan every move he makes.

But Sam doesn’t like their plans. He doesn’t want to go to MIT. And he doesn’t want to skip two grades, being stuck in the eighth grade as an eleven-year-old with James Jenkins, the boy he’s sure pushed him into the well in the first place. He wants to be a chef. And he’s going to start by entering the first annual Blue Creek Days Colonel Jenkins Macaroni and Cheese Cook-Off.

That is, if he can survive eighth grade, and figure out the size of the truth that has slipped Sam’s memory for seven years.

This week’s book talks 4/8-12

12 Apr

Monday

Be Prepared  by Vera Brosgol

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Tuesday

Wire and Nerves by Marissa Meyer

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Thursday

Legend: The Graphic Novel by Marie Lu

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Friday

Birdie  by Eileen Spinelli

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Bunnies, hearts and grief

8 Apr

As a middle school teacher, I sometimes forget how young my students are. I spend so much time with them everyday, that their age falls away, until they say or do something that makes me say, “Oh yeah, they’re twelve.”. Those middle years, with one foot in the teen world and on foot in the world of young children – can be hard to capture. Kevin Henkes does a wonderful job in Sweeping Up the Heart.

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Publisher’s Summary: Amelia Albright dreams about going to Florida for spring break like everyone else in her class, but her father—a cranky and stubborn English professor—has decided Florida is too much adventure.

Now Amelia is stuck at home with him and her babysitter, the beloved Mrs. O’Brien. The week ahead promises to be boring, until Amelia meets Casey at her neighborhood art studio. Amelia has never been friends with a boy before, and the experience is both fraught and thrilling. When Casey claims to see the spirit of Amelia’s mother (who died ten years before), the pair embarks on an altogether different journey in their attempt to find her.

Using crisp, lyrical, literary writing and moments of humor and truth, award-winning author Kevin Henkes deftly captures how it feels to be almost thirteen.

This is a slow quiet book, named for an Emily Dickinson poem, and a little melancholy in places. It tackles complex themes with beautifully simple language that will touch your heart.

At the beginning, it is made very clear, that the book is set during Spring Break in 1999. I was expecting that to have some significance beyond worries of the Millennium Bug, but it didn’t. I suspect the year only served to orient readers to a world without cell phones. There are points where Amelia feels younger than twelve, but then I think about my students. They are an inconsistent lot. I think fourth or fifth grade readers are probably the target audience, as young people generally like to read about characters who are a bit older.  Overall, a lovely book that addresses issues around grief, change, and communication.

Happy Birthday, Jane Yolen!

11 Feb

Today is Jane Yolen’s 80th birthday.

Wikipedia tells me that she is “the author or editor of more than 365 books, of which the best known is The Devil’s Arithmetic“. Since I can’t talk about all of them, let me tell you about a series I don’t think ever got the attention it deserved.

Co-written with Robert J. Harris, The Stuart Quartet  is a four-book historical fiction series set in Scotland. Each book stands alone, and can be read out of order, but together they give readers a glimpse into Scottish history.

The first book, Queen’s Own Fool,  tells the story of Mary Queen of Scots.

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Publisher’s Summary: Once she was a traveling player . . . Now called La Jardinière, a resourceful and clever jester to the queen’s court, Nicola was a most unlikely person to end up “fool” and friend to Mary, Queen of Scots. But Nicola isn’t an ordinary comedian tumbling and clowning before the court; her quick wit and sharp tongue are rare amongst the fawning nobles. As fate takes Mary from France to Scotland, and into confrontations with rebellious lords and devious advisors, Nicola remains deep in the queen’s inner circle. But when the Scots start to turn on Queen Mary, Nicola struggles to find something—anything—that she, just a fool, can do to save her friend. Once she was a traveling player . . . Now called La Jardinière, a resourceful and clever jester to the queen’s court, Nicola was a most unlikely person to end up “fool” and friend to Mary, Queen of Scots. But Nicola isn’t an ordinary comedian tumbling and clowning before the court; her quick wit and sharp tongue are rare amongst the fawning nobles. As fate takes Mary from France to Scotland, and into confrontations with rebellious lords and devious advisors, Nicola remains deep in the queen’s inner circle. But when the Scots start to turn on Queen Mary, Nicola struggles to find something—anything—that she, just a fool, can do to save her friend.

The second, Girl in a Cage,  goes further back in Scottish history to tell the tale of Robert the Bruce.

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Publisher’s Summary: When her father, Robert the Bruce, becomes King of Scotland, Marjorie Bruce becomes a princess. But Edward Longshanks, the ruthless King of England, has set his sights on Robert and his family. Marjorie is captured and imprisoned in a wooden cage in the center of a town square, exposed to wind, rain, the taunts of the townspeople, and the scorn of Longshanks himself. Marjorie knows that despite her suffering and pain, she is the daughter of noble Robert the Bruce&150and she will make her father, and her country, proud. For a true princess is a princess, whether in a castle or in a cage.

 

The third book, Prince Across the Water, tells Bonnie Prince Charlie’s story.

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Fantastic Fiction Summary: When Scotland calls on all its able-bodied clans to join Prince Charlie in the march against England’s tyranny, young Duncan McDonald is as ready as anyone to fight. He’s grown up on Granda’s stories of glory in battle, and his heart is stirred by what he knows of the young prince. But when he and his cousin Ewan run away to join the great battle at Culloden, they find themselves caught in a nightmare: not the glorious field of heroes they expected. As much as he loves his country and his prince, Duncan has to ask himself: Can anything good really come of Culloden?

 

 

The final book, The Rogues, is a story of the Highland Clearances.

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Goodreads Summary: When everyone in his Scottish village is violently evicted from their land by the laird, Roddy Macallan knows he must find a way to fight back. As his family escapes, making their way through the Scottish Highlands bound for Glasgow, Roddy sneaks home in search of a treasure his mother once told him was hidden there. But the search becomes more than that when Roddy teams up with a Robin Hood-like rogue who roams the Highlands just ahead of the unscrupulous laird.

#alamw19- Day 3 – Food!

28 Jan

Sunday was an eat-a-thon.

My day started at 8 with a breakfast with Kokila Books, a new Penguin imprint.

download.jpgVice President and Publisher,Namrata Tripathi, told the story of the imprint and introduced us to some of the first books they will publish, one of which is by Celia C. Pérez. You might know her as the author of The First Rule of Punk. She introduced us to her upcoming book Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers.

 

 

Next came a brunch with Scholastic, where they introduced us to three upcoming picture books.

As soon as the Scholastic event ended I was off to my first lunch with Abrams where they previewed the books coming in the spring. These ranged from a  new picture book by Peter H. Reynolds to Cat Winter’s newest  YA novel.

I dashed uphill to another lunch with Boyd’s Mill. I arrived late, but I got to chat with the publishers who gave me an ARC  of Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes.

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After all that eating and running around, I needed to refresh myself took a little break back in the hotel.

My final event of the evening was a celebration with Kwame Alexander and these Versify authors.

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I made an early night of it, packing my bag and getting to bed at a decent hour. The Youth Media Awards begin at 8 am PST and I will be taking the train back to Portland later in the afternoon, After the Norris Nonfiction Celebration.  Don’t forget, you can live stream the Youth Media Awards.

 

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