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It’s as easy as Pi

8 Oct

I am always hypercritical of books set in school. My biggest pet peeve is referring to a Principal as Principal So-and-so. No one does that in real life. Authors take note: you always call the principal Mr/Mrs./Ms. So-and-so.

I also critique what teachers do in class and think,  A real teacher would never do that.  I often have to suspend my disbelief for the sake of the story.

There is only really one small moment  where I had to suspend my disbelief in The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, and it was a small moment with an English teacher. It doesn’t take away from all the good things about the book, which does a great job telling the story of a Math genius in middle school.

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Publisher’s Summary: Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn’t remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she’s technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test–middle school!

Lucy’s grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that’s not a math textbook!). Lucy’s not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy’s life has already been solved. Unless there’s been a miscalculation?

A celebration of friendship, Stacy McAnulty’s smart and thoughtful middle-grade debut reminds us all to get out of our comfort zones and embrace what makes us different.

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Life on the move

24 Sep

 

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Kids shouldn’t have to wish for a toilet, but Felix does. That’s because he and his mom are living in their Westfalia van. They’d had a house, but  due to a series of unfortunate events, they became homeless.

Nielsen does a great job illustrating what it is like to be homeless – how to tay clean, eat, cover-up that you aren’t – in a way that let’s the reader understand how exhausting it can be. I loved Felix’s voice. He felt like an authentic 7th grader and I pictured him in the halls of my middle school, trying to keep everything together. When you pick up the book, keep an eye on Mr. & Mrs. Ahmadi. They are the real heroes of this story.

 

 

A big boy with a big heart

6 Sep

I’m not saying my school is perfect, but we don’t seem to have the quintessential bullying problem you often read about in books about middle school. We do have a lot of kids who look older or younger than they are and get treated in ways that aren’t appropriate to their age.

That is the problem Marcus Vega faces in Pablo Cartaya’s Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish.  Marcus is big for his age and people expect him to be a bully. But he is a kid with a big heart and finds a way to use this expectation to his advantage: he charges kids to protect them from the real bully. It works well, until it doesn’t.

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Brotherhood, friendship, and family

2 Jul

This week I read two books about young men navigating the difficult path of being young and black in America. They were both hard reads because of the subject matter, not the writing, and I wisely chose to read something a little lighter between these two books, which will inevitably be compared to last year’s very popular book, The Hate You Give.

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Pubisher’s Summary: When Marvin Johnson’s twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.
The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it’s up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.

 

 

What a week! Booktalks 2/19-23

23 Feb

Today is the only “normal” day this week.

No school Monday because of Washington’s birthday (aka President’s Day)

Tuesday, we arrived at school at our normal time but dismissed at noon. No book talk.

Wednesday was a snow day.

Thursday we had a 2-hour delay. The roads were clear, once I got off my street AND, I had time for a book talk. I shared Like Water on Stone a novel in verse by Dana Walrath.

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Publisher’s Summary:  It is 1914, and the Ottoman Empire is crumbling into violence.

Beyond Anatolia, in the Armenian Highlands, Shahen Donabedian dreams of going to New York. Sosi, his twin sister, never wants to leave her home, especially now that she is in love. At first, only Papa, who counts Turks and Kurds among his closest friends, stands in Shahen’s way. But when the Ottoman pashas set in motion their plans to eliminate all Armenians, neither twin has a choice.
After a horrifying attack leaves them orphaned, they flee into the mountains, carrying their little sister, Mariam. But the children are not alone. An eagle watches over them as they run at night and hide each day, making their way across mountain ridges and rivers red with blood.

Today, Friday,  I will book talk a new book to my classroom library, One Amazing Elephant by Linda Oatman High.

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Publisher’s Summary:  A poignant middle grade animal story from talented author Linda Oatman High that will appeal to fans of Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. In this heartwarming novel, a girl and an elephant face the same devastating loss—and slowly realize that they share the same powerful love.

Twelve-year-old Lily Pruitt loves her grandparents, but she doesn’t love the circus—and the circus is their life. She’s perfectly happy to stay with her father, away from her neglectful mother and her grandfather’s beloved elephant, Queenie Grace.

Then Grandpa Bill dies, and both Lily and Queenie Grace are devastated. When Lily travels to Florida for the funeral, she keeps her distance from the elephant. But the two are mourning the same man—and form a bond born of loss. And when Queenie Grace faces danger, Lily must come up with a plan to help save her friend.

 

 

Family drama

22 Feb

In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy posits that “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Much literary fiction is built around this principle.

In Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga, our protagonist, Taliah’s problem – the sudden appearance of the father she has never – isn’t unique to literature, but her curcumstances are certainly unique.

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Summary from the author’s website:Taliah Sahar Abdallat lives and breathes music. Songs have always helped Tal ease the pain of never having known her father. Her mother, born in Jordan and very secretive about her past, won’t say a word about who her dad really was. But when Tal finds a shoebox full of old letters from Julian Oliver – yes, the indie rock star Julian Oliver – she begins to piece the story together.

She writes to Julian, but after three years of radio silence, she’s given up hope. Then one day, completely out of the blue, Julian shows up at her doorstep, and Tal doesn’t know whether to be furious or to throw herself into his arms. Before she can decide, he asks her to go on a trip with him, to meet her long-estranged family, and to say goodbye to his father, her grandfather, who is dying.

Getting to know your father after sixteen years of estrangement doesn’t happen in one car ride. But as Tal spends more time with Julian and his family, she begins to untangle her parents’ secret past, and discovers a part of herself she never recognized before.

Songs have always helped Tal ease the pain of never having known her father. Her mother, born in Jordan and very secretive about her past, won’t say a word about who her dad really was. But when Tal finds a shoebox full of old letters from Julian Oliver – yes, the indie rock star Julian Oliver – she begins to piece the story together.

She writes to Julian, but after three years of radio silence, she’s given up hope. Then one day, completely out of the blue, Julian shows up at her doorstep, and Tal doesn’t know whether to be furious or to throw herself into his arms. Before she can decide, he asks her to go on a trip with him, to meet her long-estranged family, and to say goodbye to his father, her grandfather, who is dying.

Getting to know your father after sixteen years of estrangement doesn’t happen in one car ride. But as Tal spends more time with Julian and his family, she begins to untangle her parents’ secret past, and discovers a part of herself she never recognized before.

Taliah is an introvert and the book reflects her quiet exterior life, chock full of a rich interior life. Her awkardness around her new family is understandable. There is a small romance with a neighbor that I think wasn’t necessary, but it doesn’t take away from the essential story. This was a pretty good read – not an over the top book, just a really good read on a snowy day.

 

Morris finalist #3

8 Jan

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This weekend, I read my third Morris Award nominee – Dear Martin by Nic Stone. I can see why it was nominated and it pairs nicely with The Hate You Give, giving a different perspective on the same subject. Interestingly, both books, the main characters go to a predominantly white private school and have significant others of another race.

I felt that it took me a while to get into Dear Martin,  and it was a bit didactic in places, but, by the middle of the book, I was hooked.

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Publisher’s Summary: Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

 

 

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