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Disappointed

23 Apr

With Jerry Spinelli’s name on the cover, I knew I would read The Warden’s Daughter. 

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Publisher’s Summary: Cammie O’Reilly lives at the Hancock County Prison–not as a prisoner, she’s the warden’s daughter. She spends the mornings hanging out with shoplifters and reformed arsonists in the women’s excercise yard, which gives Cammie a certain cache with her school friends.

But even though Cammie’s free to leave the prison, she’s still stuck. And sad, and really mad. Her mother died saving her from harm when she was just a baby. You wouldn’t think you could miss something you never had, but on the eve of her thirteenth birthday, the thing Cammie most wants is a mom. A prison might not be the best place to search for a mother, but Cammie is determined and she’s willing to work with what she’s got.

It took me a while to get into the story. Cammie is a hard character to like, but I was willing to give her a chance. She grew on me bit I never really got to the point that I loved this book. Part of it was Cammie, part of it was that I wasn’t willing to suspend my disbelief and accept that Cammie would have free run of the prison. I did that just fine with All Rise For The Honorable Perry T. Cook but found it hard to do so here. Maybe it was pacing. The Warden’s Daughter felt a bit draggy.

Jerry Spinelli books usually delight me, but this one just left me disappointed.Lots of other people liked this more than I did and the book has received several starred reviews. Give it a try, and see what you think.

This week’s booktalks 4/10-14

14 Apr

MONDAY

I picked up an ARC of Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan at the ALA Midwinter. I was thrilled to finally share it with my class.

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Publisher’s Summary:  A Pakistani-American Muslim girl struggles to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture while simultaneously blending in at school after tragedy strikes her community in this sweet and moving middle grade novel from the award-winning author of It’s Ramadan, Curious George and Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.

Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.

TUESDAY

Night Witches by Kathryn Lasky is a nice bit of historical fiction with a strong female lead.

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Publisher’s Summary:16-year-old Valya knows what it feels like to fly.

She’s a pilot who’s always felt more at home soaring through the sky than down on earth. But since the Germans surrounded Stalingrad, Valya’s been forced to stay on the ground and watch her city crumble.

When her mother is killed during the siege, Valya is left with one burning desire: to join up with her older sister, a member of the famous and feared Night Witches-a regiment of young female pilots. Using all her wits, Valya manages to get past the German blockade and find the Night Witches’ hidden base … and that’s when the real danger starts. The pilots have been assigned a critical mission, one with the· power to inflict serious damage on the Nazis. Valya will give anything to fight for her country, but when the person she loves most goes missing, she must make a choice between duty and the deepest desires of her heart.

With her signature blend of lyrical writing and heart-racing action, historical fiction master Kathryn Lasky sheds light on the war’s unsung heroes – daredevil girls who took to the skies to take on the Nazis … and won.

WEDNESDAY

My students were excited to know that they could read Jason Reynolds’ Miles Morales before it gets published in August.

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Publisher’s Summary: Miles Morales is just your average teenager. Dinner every Sunday with his parents, chilling out playing old-school video games with his best friend, Ganke, crushing on brainy, beautiful poet Alicia. He’s even got a scholarship spot at the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy. Oh yeah, and he’s Spider Man.

THURSDAY

I have a few readers who LOVE funny books, so, even though I don;t, I keep an eye out for laugh aloud books they might enjoy. I had a lot of kids laughing out  loud when I read a bit from  Pottymouth and Stoopid by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein.

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Publisher’s Summary: David and his best friend Michael were tagged with awful nicknames way back in preschool when everyone did silly things. Fast-forward to seventh grade: “Pottymouth” and “Stoopid” are still stuck with the names–and everyone in school, including the teachers and their principal, believe the labels are true.

So how do they go about changing everyone’s minds? By turning their misery into megastardom on TV, of course! And this important story delivers more than just laughs–it shows that the worst bullying doesn’t have to be physical…and that things will get better.

FINALLY, FRIDAY

It has felt like a really long week. Fortunately, I’ve been reading the book I shared today:  The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue. It made me laugh and think deeply about what it means to be a family.

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Publisher’s Summary:Meet the Lotterys: a unique and diverse family featuring four parents, seven kids and five pets – all living happily together in their big old house, Camelottery. Nine-year-old Sumac is the organizer of the family and is looking forward to a long summer of fun.

But when their grumpy and intolerant grandad comes to stay, everything is turned upside down. How will Sumac and her family manage with another person to add to their hectic lives?

The Lotterys Plus One, internationally bestselling author Emma Donoghue’s first novel for children, features black-and-white illustrations throughout, and is funny, charming and full of heart.

This one felt a little young for some of my students but I liked it a lot, so added it to my classroom library.

The hottest book in my classroom library

13 Apr

A few weeks ago, after I’d finished reading it, I booktalked Fonda Lee’s Exo  and added it to my classroom library.

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It hasn’t been back on the shelf since. Kids are passing it, hand to hand and urging the person reading it to read faster.

Author Summary: It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose alien rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience, determined to end alien control.

When Sapience realizes whose son Donovan is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip . But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son.  Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another galactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one . . .

I don’t read every book before I add it to my library. I do like to read books that lean more YA than middle grade, though. Sixth grade advanced readers are funny creatures. They have the cognitive abilities to tackle complex text, but lack the life experience to understand mature content. Exo is the perfect sort of book for my students: action-packed sci-fi to challenge their reading and an age-appropriate moral dilemma.

If you like science fiction, or know someone who does, pick up a copy of Exo.

This Week’s Booktalks 4/3 – 4/7

7 Apr

I’ve been moving ARCs out of my work area and into my classroom library. The kids always like to know when new books are added so I book talked a bunch of them this week.

Monday:

I started the week with a book I read over Spring Break: Frogkisser  by Garth Nix.

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Goodreads Summary:Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own.

Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land—and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low.

Tuesday:

I liked the Sci-fi feel to the introduction to Revenge of the Star Survivors  by Michael Merschel and read the opening paragraphs to begin my booktalk.

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Publisher’s Summary:

Middle school meets the Dark Side in this painfully funny survival story of social misfit Clark Sherman.

When Clark crash-lands on the inhospitable planet of Festus Middle School, he soon learns the natives don’t take kindly to newcomers . . . particularly ones who practice Jedi mind tricks and follow nerdy TV shows like Star Survivors. As he faces a conspiring group of violent bullies, browbeaten teachers and a fiendish principal, Clark knows he’ll be lucky just to survive eighth grade.

Then, hope appears on the horizon: there is Les, the enigmatic boy who seems to disappear at will; Ricki, a fellow Star Survivors fan; and the independent-minded librarian, Ms. Beacon. When Clark and his newfound allies are imperiled, he gathers his courage and the consequences of his actions ripple through the galaxy in life-altering ways.

 

Wednesday:

Keeping the sci-fi /fantasy theme going by talking about Lemons  by Melissa Savage.

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Publisher’s Summary: What do you do when you lose everything that means anything?

Nine-year old Lemonade Liberty Witt doesn’t know the answer to that question, except what her mom taught her. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. But what if those lemons are so big that you forget how?

How do you make lemonade out of having to leave everything you know in San Francisco to move to the small town of Willow Creek, California and live with a grandfather you’ve never even met? In a town that smells like grass and mud and bugs. With tall pines instead of skyscrapers and dirt instead of sidewalks. Not to mention one woolly beast lurking in the woods.

That’s right, Bigfoot.

A ginormous wooden statue of the ugly thing stands right at the center of town like he’s someone real important, like the mayor or something. And the people here actually believe he’s real and hiding somewhere out in the pine filled forests.

How can anyone possibly be expected to make lemonade out those rotten lemons?

Everything is different and Lem just wants to go back home. And then she meets Tobin Sky, the CEO of Bigfoot Detectives, Inc. and sole investigator for the town. He invites her to be his Assistant for the summer and she reluctantly agrees. At least until she can figure out her escape plan.

Together, Lem and Tobin try to capture a shot of the elusive beast on film and end up finding more than they ever could have even imagined.

 

Thursday:

I departed from my plan because I was so excited after meeting Javaka Steptoe, I wanted to share his book and I talked to my classes, not so much about the book, but about Steptoe’s process.

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Friday:

The last book of the week is The Gauntlet  by Karuna Riazi.

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Publisher’s Summary: A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.

When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how.

Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, the Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?

OBOB 2018

27 Feb

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I am in the last week of 2017 OBOB Battles. By Friday, we will know who the Stoller champions are. The state wide committee recently annuce the “Almost Finished” list of next year’s books. The 6-8 and 9-12 lists have been finalized, the 3-5 have not. You can see all three lists HERE.

I  have some of these in my classroom library already and will start gleaning them so I can figure out which ones I need to order.  Here is the full 6-8 list

 

6-8 Division (Final)

imgres Fallout by Gwenda Bond

imgres-1 Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix

 imgres-2 Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

imgres-3 I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

imgres-4 Kalahari by Jessica Khoury

imgres-5 The Lightning Queen by Laura Resau

imgres-6 Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff

imgres-7 The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson

imgres-9 Popular: A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen (Paperback title: Popular: How a Geek in Pearls Discovered the Secret to Confidence Hardcover title: Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Ge

imgres-10 Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson

imgres-11 The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

imgres Schooled by Gordon Korman

imgres-1 The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall

imgres-2 The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

imgres-3 The Turn of the Tide by Rosanne Parry

imgres-4 The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Short

23 Feb

Print

Like Julia,  the main character of Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Short,  I was always in the front row for school pictures. Like her, I could use a step stool to reach the water glasses in the kitchen, but I generally use a ladle to extend my reach and pull one forward.

Also like Julia, I know how hard it is to lose a beloved dog. Her dog, Ramon, dies just before the book opens, but we learn about it in the first chapter.

Publisher’s Summary:In this heartwarming and funny middle-grade novel by the New York Times bestselling author of Counting by 7s, Julia grows into herself while playing a Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz
 
Julia is very short for her age, but by the end of the summer run of The Wizard of Oz, she’ll realize how big she is inside, where it counts. She hasn’t ever thought of herself as a performer, but when the wonderful director of Oz casts her as a Munchkin, she begins to see herself in a new way. As Julia becomes friendly with the poised and wise Olive—one of the adults with dwarfism who’ve joined the production’s motley crew of Munchkins—and with her deeply artistic neighbor, Mrs. Chang, Julia’s own sense of self as an artist grows. Soon, she doesn’t want to fade into the background—and it’s a good thing, because her director has more big plans for Julia!

Bubbling over with humor and tenderness, this is an irresistible story of self-discovery and of the role models who forever change us.

Julia is a quirky and lovable main character. Her observations about the world of the theatre  are insightful, funny, and sometimes she admits she has no idea what the adults are talking about. It is sort of how it is for kids. Shawn Barr (the director),  Olive (her munchkin companion), and Mrs. Chang ( her neighbor and costumer) all help Julia overcome the loss of Ramon and grow in character, if not in stature. A great book for middle grade readers.

 

AS goes MG

10 Feb

I have made no secret of the fact that I love A. S. King. I will read (and probably buy) anything she writes. Unfortunately, I cannot put her books in my 6th grade classroom library. Until now.

Yes, Amy Sarig King has written a novel for middle grade readers!!!!

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Like her books for older readers, there is a fantasy element. yes,let’s call it that. The eponymous Marvin Gardens is a plastic eating creature that resembles a cross between a dog and a pig…with amphibian-like skin.

I book talked it yesterday, reading aloud the part about Marvin’s first poop – sixth graders still love that sort of thing – and I had them hooked. I told them about Obe’s problems with his friends, with Marvin, and with his neighborhood; problems they can all relate to. I’m hoping this one won’t spend much time on my shelves.

Publisher’s Summary: Obe Devlin has problems. His family’s farmland has been taken over by developers. His best friend Tommy abandoned him for the development kids. And he keeps getting nosebleeds, because of that thing he doesn’t like to talk about. So Obe hangs out at the creek by his house, in the last wild patch left, picking up litter and looking for animal tracks.

One day, he sees a creature that looks kind of like a large dog, or maybe a small boar. And as he watches it, he realizes it eats plastic. Only plastic. Water bottles, shopping bags… No one has ever seen a creature like this before, because there’s never been a creature like this before. The animal — Marvin Gardens — soon becomes Obe’s best friend and biggest secret. But to keep him safe from the developers and Tommy and his friends, Obe must make a decision that might change everything.

In her most personal novel yet, Printz Honor Award winner Amy Sarig King tells the story of a friendship that could actually save the world.

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