Tag Archives: Kwame Alexander

Going Solo

5 Nov

Most teens question their parents’ decisions and lifestyle. Blade Morrison, the protagonist of Solo  by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess has a very complicated relationship with his father, a famous musician, who has made many questionable life choices.


This rich novel in verse is full of the music that is so important in Blade’s life. Lyrics from Blade’s songs and  references to songs from Lenny Kravitz, Metallica, and others let reader’s understand what Blade is thinking and feeling, in the same way that teens find music and analyze lyrics that reflect their own state of mind.

Publisher’s Summary: From award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Kwame Alexander, with Mary Rand Hess, comes Solo, a YA novel written in poetic verse. Solo tells the story of seventeen-year-old Blade Morrison, whose life is bombarded with scathing tabloids and a father struggling with just about every addiction under the sun—including a desperate desire to make a comeback. Haunted by memories of his mother and his family’s ruin, Blade’s only hope is in the forbidden love of his girlfriend. But when he discovers a deeply protected family secret, Blade sets out on a journey across the globe that will change everything he thought to be true. With his signature intricacy, intimacy, and poetic style, Kwame Alexander explores what it means to finally come home.



This week’s booktalks 9/11-15

15 Sep


Monday, September 11

Nine, Ten by Nora Raleigh Baskin


Tuesday, September 12

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher


Wednesday, September 13

I meant to talk about Booked, but when I learned most kids hadn’t read Kwame Alexander’s Crossover, I booktalked both.


Thursday, September  14

Lucy and Andy Neanderthal by Jeffrey Brown


Friday, September 15

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle, provided a little humor for the end of the week.



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.



#10 Nine, Ten by Nora Raleigh Baskin



#9 Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart



#8  Half Brother  by Kenneth Oppel



#7  The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan



#6 Wonder by R. J. Palacio



#5 Restart by Gordon Korman



#4 I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest



#3 The Crossover by Kwame Alexander



#2  Zero Tolerance by Claudia Mills



#1 Cinder by Marissa Meyer






ALA Midwinter Day 2

22 Jan

I had an early start to my day, rising early for a 6:45 breakfast with National Geographic and Kwame Alexander to celebrate their forthcoming collaboration, Animal Ark.


The book is a collection of Joel Sartore’s photos and haiku by Kwame Alexander, Mary Rand Hess and Deanna Nikaido. With his passionate words, Kwame inspired us to do what we can to protect the earth.

In spite of the coffee, I was still tired. I felt incredibly jet lagged. And yet, I decided to venture into the exhibit hall. I love this part of a conference. I talked to book people and picked up more arcs than I’d planned, but got a few a I really wanted. I also sat in on a panel of authors who contributed to Flying Lessons, 


a middle grade anthology of short stories that was just published by  We Need Diverse Books, a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.

Lunch was a Simon & Schuster reception showcasing new books, and highlighting Amina’s Voice  by Hena Khan, who was the guest speaker.


Following that, I returned to the hotel, organized my books and headed off to the Post Office. Tomorrow is a very full day and I probably won’t have time to get ship the books I picked up today. I ran into some fellow Beaverton colleagues on my way out of the exhibits before returning to my hotel for a quiet evening in to rest up for tomorrow.

This week’s book talks

21 Oct

At the beginning of the year, I committed to giving my students a book talk every day. I had a good personal library. As part of a district-wide language arts initiative, we were given large classroom libraries this year as well as a way to catalogue and check the books out.Book talking has let me tell about many of the books in both libraries.

This week, I book talked:



A sinister problem has arisen in London: all nature of ghosts, haunts, spirits, and specters are appearing throughout the city, and they aren’t exactly friendly. Only young people have the psychic abilities required to see — and eradicate — these supernatural foes. Many different psychic detection agencies have cropped up to handle the dangerous work, and they are in fierce competition for business.

In The Screaming Staircase, the plucky and talented Lucy Carlyle teams up with Anthony Lockwood, the charismatic leader of Lockwood & Co., a small agency that runs independent of any adult supervision. After an assignment leads to both a grisly discovery and a disastrous end, Lucy, Anthony, and their sarcastic colleague George are forced to take part in the perilous investigation of Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England. Will Lockwood & Co. survive the hall’s legendary Screaming Staircase and Red Room to see another day?


Josh and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood. He’s got mad beats too, beats that tell his family’s story in verse. But both brothers must come to grips with growing up, on and off the court, as they realize breaking the rules can come at a terrible price, resulting in a game-changer for their entire family.


My sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece.

Well, some of her does.
A collarbone, two ribs, a bit of skull, and a little toe.

To ten-year-old Jamie, his family has fallen apart because of the loss of someone he barely remembers: his sister Rose, who died five years ago in a terrorist bombing. To his father, life is impossible to make sense of when he lives in a world that could so cruelly take away a ten-year-old girl. To Rose’s surviving fifteen year old twin, Jas, everyday she lives in Rose’s ever present shadow, forever feeling the loss like a limb, but unable to be seen for herself alone.

Told with warmth and humor, this powerful novel is a sophisticated take on one family’s struggle to make sense of the loss that’s torn them apart… and their discovery of what it means to stay together.


When 12-year-old Gratuity “Tip” Tucci is assigned to write five pages on the true meaning of Smekday for the National Time Capsule contest, she’s not sure where to begin. How about when her mom started telling everyone about the messages aliens were sending through a mole on the back of her neck? Maybe on Christmas Eve, when huge, bizarre spaceships descended on Earth and the Boov abducted her mother? Or when the Boov declared Earth a colony, renamed it Smekland (in honor of glorious Captain Smek), and forced all Americans to relocate to Florida via rocketpod?

In any case, Tip’s story is much, much bigger than the assignment. It involves her unlikely friendship with a renegade Boov mechanic named J.Lo.; a futile journey south to find Tip’s mother at the Happy Mouse Kingdom; a cross-country road trip in a hovercar; and an outrageous plan to save Earth from yet another alien invasion.


For thirteen years, Ben Tomlin was an only child. But all that changes when his mother brings home Zan — an eight-day-old chimpanzee.

Ben’s father, a renowned behavioral scientist, has uprooted the family to pursue his latest research project: a high-profile experiment to determine whether chimpanzees can acquire advanced language skills. Ben’s parents tell him to treat Zan like a little brother. Ben reluctantly agrees. At least now he’s not the only one his father’s going to scrutinize.

It isn’t long before Ben is Zan’s favorite, and Ben starts to see Zan as more than just an experiment. His father disagrees. To him, Zan is only a specimen, no more, no less. And this is going to have consequences. Soon Ben is forced to make a critical choice between what he is told to believe and what he knows to be true — between obeying his father or protecting his brother from an unimaginable fate.

Half Brother isn’t just a story about a boy and a chimp. It’s about the way families are made, the way humanity is judged, the way easy choices become hard ones, and how you can’t always do right by the people and animals you love. In the hands of master storyteller Kenneth Oppel, it’s a novel you won’t soon forget.



#alaac15 – Day 4 – quiet, but amazing

29 Jun

Yesterday started off with the YALSA Coffee Klatch with YA Authors. I met up with some Beaverton colleagues and we sat at table 10 of about 50. This was another speed dating event, with authors rotating about every 10 minutes. We only got about 10 authors, but WOW, we got some good ones:

Mariko & Jillian Tamaki of This One Summer

Andrew Smith who was promoting The Alex Crow

Leigh Bardugo talking about  Six of Crows

Marissa Meyer talking about Winter

When it was over, I dashed out to get to Andrew Smith’s book signing & got a copy of his sequel to Winger,  entitled  Stand-off. The I went to watch the parade. I didn’t stay for the whole thing because I was too short to see much and then the crowd was starting to get to me. I don’t really enjoy crowds.

The real highlight of the day were the speeches at the Newbery Caldecott banquet. TEARS!!!!

Dan Santat, who won the Caldecott for The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimagnary Friend.


That man moved the crowd with his soul-baring honesty. If you have a chance to read or listen to his speech, please do so. I am teary-eyed now. I bet you will see yourself in what he has to say.

He was followed by Kwame Alexander,who won the Newbery for The Crossover.


He essentially gave a spoken word performance that was breathtakingly beautiful.

Today will be mundane after all that. My first stop is the on site post office where I will ship books home. I hope the line isn’t too long.

2015 Hub Reading Challenge Check-In #6

22 Mar


This week, I finished two books for the HUB reading Challenge. Quite frankly, with report cards to finish, I am amazed that I read any!

First, I read, the graphic novel  This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki.


This was FANTASTIC! Here is the publisher’s summary:

Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It’s a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

This book felt so real. I could have been either of those girls, doing what they did, thinking like they thought. I think the Tamaki cousins really captured the essence of girls on the edge of adolescence.

Then, I read the book I’ve picked up & put down a lot this year.


The earlier picking up & putting down did not involve any reading of this book. It involved me, picking up the book and thinking “UGH, a basketball book.” And putting it down. So, I finally opened it and read it. So not what I was expecting. I will be honest, I skimmed some of the basketball parts, but the story of the family really got me. As a twin, I loved the twin angle and I think Alexander really gets the complicated relationship twins can have. It isn’t always Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap. Written in verse, the book moves quickly. At first, I had a little trouble distinguishing which of the two boys was talking, but eventually, I got it.

I highly recommend both of these books.

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