Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Scholastic Book Fair

Zipped my way through several titles in the book fair:
McCaughrean, Geraldine. Peter Pan in Scarlet. Quite good. A worthy sequel to the original-- stays true in tone and language, and is fun in its own right. A winner. I'm looking forward to her Odysseus, Theseus, etc.

Friend, Natasha. Lush. Loved Perfect, hated this one. Just didn't go anywhere. The girls love books about substance abuse, but somehow this one just didn't do it.

Levine, Gail Carson. Fairest. Again, loved Ella Enchanted, adored The Two Princesses of Bamarre. This story, however, started weakly and continued this way, AND had these odd, annoying, made up words and names that were like a phonograph record needle scratching across the record, and the book was not good enough to overcome even this slight flaw.

DuPrau's Car Trouble was great fun and exactly what I wanted for one of my students-- a "pink" fluffy book for boys. Why there isn't more humorous fiction for boys, I don't know.

Must have read other things, but I'm a little tired and don't remember!

Gary Paulsen

Okay, Hatchet was good. The rest of the Brian books I could handle. Mr. Tucket circulates frequently in my library. But The Island? The Monument? Dancing Carl? What in the world was he thinking? No one ever comes up and says to me "May I have a book about social outcasts in small towns who find others who are even more outcast than they are? If it included philosophical musing, all the better!" I may have to move on to another author for a while. I flinch now while just passing the Paulsen shelf.

I think that some of the other titles will be better. They can't be worse.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Assorted books

Not liking anything by Lauren Myracle. Must be the writing, because the books always sound intriguing. The latest, Rhymes with Witches uses the word that does FAR too much, and the first two pages are devoted to graphically described uncomfortable underwear. Combine that with e mails, name dropping, and general shallowness-- no. I like pink, but not this.

Stork's Behind the Eyes was okay, just not what I was looking for. Boy is sent to private school to escape gang violence. Might have bought it until the roomate revealed the stash of porn. Sigh.

Sloan's Tale of Two Summers also wasn't what I wanted-- I wanted a pink book for boys. Something light, fun, breezy, but masculine. Unfortunately, this wasn't it.

And another disappointment-- Vande Velde's The Book of Mordred. A hefty tome, it just couldn't keep my interest, and I'm afraid it would gather dust on the shelves.

The good news is that I did like the two Katharine Paterson books-- Of Nightingales that Weep and The Master Puppeteer. Great for the multicultural unit that is coming up.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Endymion Spring

A big fantasy book. Am actually running out of those for some of my really avid readers, so I was relieved to find out that, unlike the cursed Leven Thumps, it was very, very good. I enjoyed both the plots in the modern and historical world, thought the jumping off point for the fantasy was valid, and am looking forward to the next one. Because when you have a big, thick fantasy, there is ALWAYS a next book.

I liked this one much more than this sounds like! Had Johann Gutenberg as a character, and you have to love that.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Nancy Werlin

Read Rules of Survival last night, and was so impressed. I recently had to create a list of books that cover various aspects of domestic abuse, because so many students ask for them. This book was perfect. It discussed the abuse, although it wasn't anything graphically sexual or overly disturbing, and it covered how the abuse affected the boy. It showed caring adults who were eventually successful in getting the children help. I will order at least two copies.

This author's other books; Double Helix, Killer's Cousin, and Locked Inside are all very popular. For some reason, I didn't get a copy of Black Mirror, but I was so impressed by this latest effort that I am going to read it again.

As for Leven Thumps and whatever happened in Foo, I perservered until I got to the single most unflattering portrayal of a teacher I have ever read. It was too painful to continue.

Katharine Paterson's The Master Puppeteer is good, though, and some of my historical fiction buffs will enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Blake Nelson

Wanted to like Paranoid Park. Really, really did, because there are so few good skateboarding books out. I ignored the talk at the beginning about the main character's friend wanting to get laid, but when the main character and his girlfriend have a little fling, I thought "Was this gratuitous, or did it really advance the plot?" Came down on the side of gratuitous. More could have been said instead about the other trauma in the boy's life. An interesting moral tale, but ultimately, one that failed me. Sigh.

Looked on this author's web site blakenelsonbooks.com, and no longer feel too bad. I actually do feel somewhat bad when a book is good but I just can't bring myself to buy it. I no longer feel too bad. This is what Nelson says about another of his books, User, which would no doubt be popular with the students because of the title alone:
User
Another adult book. This is my sex and drugs book. Lots of sex. Lots of drugs. I wanted it that way. Not much plot. No sentimental scenes. Just these two hipster guys who are sort of idiots, getting wasted and trying to get some girl action. Lots of people like this one for it's porn value.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Stanley/VanDraanen

Diane Stanley's Bella at Midnight was an interesting medievalish romp, a little Cinderella-like, but just fun. I didn't even mind the chapters from alternating viewpoints,and that usually drives me batty. Fans of the Robin Mckinley and Donna Jo Napoli fairy tale retellings will like this one.

Van Dranaan's Runaway was bleak and depressing, but the girls who are interested in books about child abuse will find it of note. Paints an unappetizing picture of life on the streets, but not necessarily an urban one; she ends up on a beach. Will add both of these to the collection.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Some good, some bad.

Natasha Friend's Perfect was a well-balanced and accessible story about a girl seeking treatment for bulimia. Nothing fabulous, but very useful. It will check out a lot. Nothing objectionable.

Cathy Cassidy's Indigo Blue reminded me a little of Wilson's The Illustrated Mum-- two your sisters dealing with a dysfunctional mother who has been abused. Again, a topic the girls like to read, and one that is hard to find without inappropriate language or situations.

Pamela Lowell's Returnable Girl was okay, but didn't engage me as much as I thought. A girl finally finds a suitable foster home and works to undermine her own chances of success. Think I'll pass.

Edward Bloor's London Calling sounded promising, but failed to engage me. Traveling through time back to London during WWII sounds intriguing, but it takes too long to get into the story, and a lot of students have no patience with that.

Absolutely horrible was Lois Lowry's Gossamer. Annoying from page one, I didn't care what the creatures were or what they were doing. The language was stilted and odd, and I can see fans of Number the Stars or The Giver bringing this back the same day they checked it out and saying "Huh?" Not a hit from this generally good author.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Shelf Life

Robert Corbet's Shelf Life, which a student had seen someone reading, was a disappointment. An Australian writer, I thought it might be a good addition to our British collection, but it was unfocused. THere was also some material for older readers, and it wasn't good enough to justify.

Disappointed in Plum-Ucci's What Happened To Lani Garver. I really liked her The Body of Christopher Creed, but this one had too much discussion of homosexuality, and that's just a topic I avoid in the middle school.

See? I am still reading. In the middle of Vande Velde's Book of Mordred, which is turning out to be quite good. I have some readers this year who are hard to keep in books, and they are only 6th graders. I haven't purchased much fantasy lately, but I may have to.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Book Three--Dhami and Dent

Read two interesting British series-- Dhami's Bindi Babes, Bollywood Babes, and finally Bhangra Babes, and Grace Dent's LBD series, which ends in Friends Forever. The first is not only an intirguing look at Indian families in Britain, but covers a lot of school and sibling issues as well. LBD is a bit lighter, with the girls in the last installment taking jobs at a beach resort. I liked both of these very much. They are popular with the girls who like "pink" books, and I am grateful that they are available in the US.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fun with food/Carolyn Wyman

Not exactly YA stuff, although I do have a copy of both Wyman's Jell-o: A Biography and Spam: A Biography, both of which circulate rather well when the 8th graders do nonfiction projects. Last night I read Better that Homemade: Amazing Foods that Changed the Way We Eat. Fun, fun stuff, and actually really good for middle school students to read. Covers manufactured food from tv dinners to marshmallow fluff and everything in between. Clever and witty as well as informative, the only down side is the silly soft cover, even though the price is $15.00. I suppose it could be sent to the bindery. May yet get it for my school.

There are a couple of Taschen books on advertising in the different decades that I saw (okay, bought) at Barnes and Nobles. I love this sort of book, and my daughter has started picking them up, too. Cultural history, right?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Katherine Paterson/Tamora Pierce

I've been working my way through the authors starting with "P", having finished the Mary Pope Osborne Magic Tree House books.

Bridge to Terabithia never did much for me, but there are children who want sad books, and it doesn't get much sadder than this. Jacob I have Loved was hard to get into, and one of those books that no one will ask for. I liked it, but think that few students will really be into it. It's historical, but it's not. Hmmm. I'm liking The Master Puppeteer, though.

Finishing up the Alana series by Tamora Pierce-- good stuff. The copies that I have are falling to pieces. Love the strong female character struggling with her power and her femininity. Really need to work my way through the other series, too.

Also read Grace Dent's LBD: Friends Forever. What a fun guilty pleasure!

Friday, October 06, 2006

I'm back again

Really, I've been reading; just not getting near the computer. Just need to get back in the habit.

Big thumbs up to Delany's Curse of the Witch and Curse of the Bane. Not only great stories on dark topics, intriguing and new, but great cover and hefty bulk to satisfy the fantasy fans who have "read everything".

Partial thumbs up to Eleanor Updale's Montmorency series. Loved the first one (Liar, Gentleman, Thief), but am not going to buy the second or third. A student confirmed this opinion, and I'm sticking with it.

In the middle of Terence Blacker's Parent Swap and liking it a lot.

More later, hopefully!
 
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