Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I still need to read the next two books, but I am dreading them much less.
Sheldon, Tall, Thin and Blonde 1993. One of this excellent authors first books, this story of a girl who is growing away from her best friend is not as fun as Sheldon's other books, but quite good. It's a theme that resonates with so many middle school girls, and it continues to circulate well.
Snyder. The Runaways. 1999. A rather odd story of three children in a small desert town in 1951 who decide to save up their money to buy bus tickets in order to run away. Dani is tired of her mother not working hard enough, Stormy's mother is abusive, and Pixie's parents are wealthy but work too hard and ignore her. Of course, it takes an entire summer of adventures before they manage to scrape up the money. A decent book, but nothing extraordinary. That said, my very worn paperback of The Velvet Room is one of my favorites. Learn more about this author at http://www.zksnyder.com/
Spinelli. Space Station Seventh Grade. 1982. This book made me ask myself the question "Which do I like better; the early years or the improved Newbery quality Spinelli?" Have to go with the early years, since Love, Stargirl and Eggsleft me cold. Space Station is not so much a novel as a collection of stories about various aspects of seventh grade. Some of them are romantic, some sports, so this is the next choice for one of my 8th grade boys who sheepishly asked for books with romance, but sports, too. Of note is the fact that a anatomically specific word was used several times, and there has been no outrage that I have heard. It is part of the semi-gross middle school humor prevalent in this title.
Have to use all of my resources, and there's no reason these books should not go out fairly well.
Must quote one part that spoke to me as a mother in the new millenium:
"Saturday night supper was a casual meal at the Ingrams'. It was the one time of the week when Mrs. Ingram waited until the last minute to start preparations. It was, she said, a form of self-indulgence, but after all the bustle of getting ready for Sunday-- baking bread, frosting a layer cake, washing and sorting the vegetables, cleaning and stuffing the chicken (they always had either chicken or roast beeg on Sunday)-- she guessed maybe her family could put up with a hit-or-miss meal.... Tonight they were having cheese omelet, Harvard beets, pickles, freshly baked bread and homemade strawberry jam. "
This was, of course, eaten in the dining room, by candlelight.
Ye gods. And Trish still wanted to fall in love with Dick? In my mind, she would have been burning some undergarments and planning to run off to college and major in astrophysics, but I guess we are still a good 10-15 years away from that.
This is why I love historical teen fiction!
Monday, December 17, 2007
I could go on for days about this topic, so it's nice to know that others have thought at length about it, too.
My "rule": Children should read what they like. Will admit to "forbidding" children from checking out both Vanity Fair and Last of the Mohicans; it's never the higher readers who come to the desk with them, it's always someone who doesn't like to read, and those are the two most unexciting books I've ever picked up. I do also censor my collection. I'm not for censoring-- I've helped kids find books at the public library, but I don't want to fight with parents when their children read problem novels for high school students.
That said, I think Alix Flinn's stuff is generally okay for 7th graders, and the occasional 6th.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Smith, Sherwood. Crown Duel(1997) , Court Duel(1998). These will appeal to fans of Tamora Pierce's Tortall books as well as Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Fairly high fantasy, although no maps, and standard adventure of young girl against the evil forces attacking her kingdom. In the first book, Meliara is captured and spends most of the time in rags and cold prisons eating wretched food, in the second, she goes to another court and deals with all of the subterfuge. After I glue the second book back together (I'm doing a lot of this lately), this will go out well, but I wasn't in the mood for it. All those made up names like Charic and Justav annoy.
Sleator, William. The Boxes. I've recommended this for years without reading it, based on students' comments. A rather odd mystery/sci fi/fantasy story about a girl who opens boxes her uncle tells her not to, and then creatures who can slow time emerge and cause trouble. The sequel is Marco's Millions, and I need to read that as well.
Slote, Alfred. Moving In. Probably my favorite of the pile, a gentle story about a boy who moves to a new community with his father and sister because his father has bought a business from the wife of a former friend. Robby would rather go back to his old town, and his sister is worried that the father will marry; complications ensue. This might be better for younger students, but it was Cleary-esque and I enjoyed it. Slote's sports titles circulate well, but my favorite is the futuristic My Robot Buddy, which was written in the 1970s and is funny because the main selling point of the robot is that the father can take it on business and use it as a phone.
My goal today will be to get these into the hands of students. Utilizing all the resources, that's what it's about!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Not always, but I had a pile of very thick books to slog through. Some of the volumes in this pile had been sitting there for a month, which is never a good sign. If I don't want to pick a book up, what are the chances that a student will. So, while these may be perfectly good books for other people at other times, I can't see them going out at my library:
Sandell. Song of the Sparrows. Arthurian legend in verse. 'Nuf said.
Moriarty. The Spell Book of Listen Taylor. Confusing start, tiny print, just couldn't find a foothold.
McKinley. Dragonhaven. Big disappointment, as I adore McKinley. This, however, was in a voice that I disliked, and was confusing, two things I never have seen in this author's work.I liked the premise, and would buy it for my hard core dragon fans if I had the funds, but sadly must pass.
Bladacci. The Camel Club. A parent recommended this adult espionage title for students, but it meandered a bit. I recommended a parent by this in paperback for a Christmas present, so I will check to see how the student liked it, but I couldn't get into it.
Singer. The Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth. 1983. Ah, back when all the funny books emulated Paula Danziger in their long titles and New York setting. Concerning students in a Shakespeare production, this has been gathering dust for a number of years, and I can't see anyone being happy when I pressed it upon them. On to a better home.
That all said, Michael Chabon's Summerland (2002) went out for its one circulation a year yesterday, bringing the cost of this item down to $5.00 per circulation. Why I read books before I buy them.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
These are fast-paced, futuristic books, at least after Corgan breaks out of his literal "box" in the first book. They circulate well.
I'm frustrated, though. The library copy of The Virtual War is falling apart in a rather spectacular fashion, and is out of print. The second book is also out of print. I had the same problem with Voigt's Bad Girls-- when the new one came out last year, I bought several used copies as back up, because they are constantly being lost, rendering the rest of the series rather useless.
We'll see how the glue goes before I recommend this too heartily.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Somehow, though, this worked. The kid has a reason to be obnoxious to his father, and really, the things he does are mild and rather funny (spends a lot of time eating junk food because father is health nut). I liked Alastair, but I also liked the father and step mother. This will appeal to boys because of the obnoxiousness, but appealed to me because it was a bildungsroman (haven't used that in a while) and I think it's good to see characters grow as people. This is not a goofy book for elementary students, but written with a more mature humor that will appeal to 8th grade boys. THAT'S what we need more of. A few questionable but delicately handled situations, but no language issues. Will definitely buy.
Monday, December 10, 2007
I am the mother of three identified A&T students. I was a bright student myself. So I have trouble taking the advice of this book. I fall into the category of bad librarians doing a disservice for these students: "Some say "It doesn't matter what they read, as long as they're reading." But if we apply this attitude to children who have the potential to become serious readers acquainted with books of substance and literary value, then we do our children a disservice."
Huh. Considering how utterly boring many of the books mentioned in this tome are, I would argue that guiding their reading in this way would do them a disservice. Also, this volume is very light on newer books. Really, there have been other books written since Harriet the Spy.
The reason I react so viscerally to this issue is that I was given the luxury of choosing my own reading material, and it was all over the map. Yes, I read Caddie Woodlawn and The Phantom Tollbooth. But I also read Beanie Malone and a lot of dreadful schlock. Halstead is very big on reading as a way to cope with life. If that is the case, gifted readers SHOULD be reading what their peers are reading, especially the dreadful schlock. It gives them something to connect with.
My 8th grade daughter, who read every Animorph book she could find, is now on an Alcott binge. My 6th grader is reading The Lost Years of Merlin. My 4th grade reluctant reader finished Things Not Seen, and is complaining her way through some nonfiction because she is "supposed" to read it. They will all survive.
Friday, December 07, 2007
I did appreciate the comment on page 79-- "We all have some of the saveage in us. Happily not too many of us are capable of wanton brutality. Most of us, in fact, keep out brute instincts under control and do our best to steer clear of violence. But we can't help but be fascinated by it. For example: we call outselves peace lovers but make shrines of our battlefields."
This helps in understanding middle school boys' fascination with war. I like being able to give them eyewitness accounts.Maybe it helps them understand who they are or want to be. Since these were written a while ago, they are generally acceptable for middle school students and are not filled with profanity.
To see other titles, check out:
Thursday, December 06, 2007
I'll also be gluing Spider's Voice back together, and maybe one on the fans of medieval fiction will be interested in the story of a mute boy who is a servant to Abelard while he is carrying on with Eloise. Rich in details of living at the time, but light on action and adventure. I enjoyed it, but it's not for the casual reader.
Absolutely could not get into Marsden's Tomorrow When The War Began or Oppel's Airborn. Heard good things about them at a conference, but I've been halfway through both of them for weeks now and just can't finish. This is not a good sign, and since I just put in a purchase order for the balance of my yearly book budget, I don't feel as bad about not purchasing them.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Packed with the gadgets we have come to love and wonderfully descriptive and clever writing, this is a worthy addition to the Alex Rider series. Horowitz has clearly done his research to make this all seem real, and somehow makes it seem plausible as well. The only thing I missed in this was some emotion from Alex. He seemed a bit cardboard in this one. There was a lot going on, but he seemed distanced from it. I know that your average teen boy is not going to miss that, but I did. Alex did think about the lonliness that the life of a spy can cause, but I didn't have as good of a grasp of his character in this one, and hope to see more in the future!
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Gentle Annie by Mary France Shura should have been better, but my eyes kept sliding off the page until chapter 3. Based on the real experiences of a Civil War nurse, something about it didn't keep my attention. Maybe the author wasn't sure about the past that she was constructing for Annie, so that didn't ring true, and by then I was not interested. I do think it would be good for students who are interested in the Civil War, because it gives a lot of details about a side of the battles that is not ordinarily covered.
Some days, no books seem good. Did enjoy the Dorling Kindersley Barbie book, so that tells you where my mind was. (It was a nice historical perspective, and, of course, well-illustrated.
Friday, November 30, 2007
My very favorite book in middle school. Set in 1890's Canada, this tale of an orphan who gets herself into all sorts of scrapes because of her adventuresome spirit, this is not a book everyone likes. Still, girls who like historical fiction, girls who are quiet, introspective, smart and a little different from their peers, and girls who are fans of Alcott will be served well by this book. I have two students reading this now (I handed it to one after she enjoyed A Tree Grows in Brooklyn!) -- I do a little happy dance whenever anyone checks this book out.
More accessible to a larger audience, Julie Andrews Edwards' (yes, the actress) book Mandy is a book that is absolutely wonderful, but no one can explain why.
Mandy ( and there are better covers available) is an orphan in an English orphange, finds a cottage in the woods that she cares for, and eventually finds a family to love. I have a student who checks this book out twice a year just to reread it. I was given a copy of this in 1974 for Christmas!
When girls check out Maud Hart Lovelace's Heaven to Betsy, I tell them if it compels them to make fudge, they have to bring me some. Set in the 1890's in Minnesota, I loved the depiction of family and school life at the time. Different from today's life, and yet oddly similar, I read these in high school, mainly in the orchestra pit when I was in musicals, and often did have to make fudge, because Betsy does so often. There is a series of these, and even a Lovelace fan club. Originally published in the 1950s, these can be hard to find.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
One of my hobbies is writing authors thank you letters, and Mr. Rees very nicely replied to me recently with the exciting news that he is working on a sequel! My students want it right now! This is one book I have recommended to several of my adult friends, who have also enjoyed it.
Since I read Lightning Time this summer, it has been checked out frequently my my boys who can't get enough war fiction.
Warning: not a middle school book. Unclad frolicking on page 119.
This was a surprise from this author, who usually writes for a much younger audience. I liked the book, I liked Jane, and she ultimately makes the right decisions, but I still am not going to hand this book to any students.
Remember the rule, authors. Objectionable material within first ten pages, please!
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Denenberg: The Journal of Ben Uchinda
I loved all of the allusions to the Grimm tales, and thought it was because my own ill-considered half-written novel used those tales, but apparently my opinion was shared. This book is intriguing, but very confusing.
"Although the logic of the Wild doesn't bear close scrutiny, the concept behind the story is sufficiently clever that many readers will forgive its inconsistencies." (Booklist)
"The confusing premise is never adequately explained, but readers unconcerned with continuity will enjoy the ride. "(Horn Book)
John Smelcer's The Trap was a wilderness survival story that lacked action, which is what most students want from this sort of fiction.
Loved Elizabeth Levy's Tackling Dad, about a girl who really wants to play football but whose football playing dad doesn't want her to. The problem-- I have three or four books about football playing girls and one football playing girl every five years. Can't get others to read them. Levy did a great job with this one-- love the picture of her in the pads!
Laura Resau's What the Moon Saw was an interesting account of a girl's visit with her grandparents in a very remote area of Mexico, but also had a lot of magic and fantasy elements that were sort of odd. Intriguing, but again, can't think of readers.
Kirkpatrick Hill's Do Not Pass Go, about a boy whose father is incarcerated on a minor drug charge, was also well done, and I am thinking about buying this after hearing a student talking about a relative who was in jail. I'm still not sure.
Francine Prose's Bullyville sounded great in the reviews but started off annoyingly (all of the slang names for the places) and never reeled me in. I had to get it through interlibrary loan, so it must not have intrigued others, either.
Not buying books is hard. So is weeding books that haven't circulated well. Sigh.
Sarah loaned me Rachel Hawthorne's Caribbean Cruising, an Avon paperback which I enjoyed very much but won't buy for the library. A fluffy beach read about a girl who has graduated from high school on a cruise as part of her mother's honeymoon, it is about her "to-do list" for the cruise. The major thing was rather inappropriate, ala Meg Cabot in Ready or Not.
Elizabeth loaned me a V.C. Andrews' book-- Butterfly, the first in the Orphans series. Having been a big fan of the Flowers in the Attic series in high school (embarassing fact-- owned the whole series in paperback and could not begin to tell you why.), I was intrigued when she had a V.C. Andrews for YA book. Huh, I thought. Since FItA was not the most appropriate book for, well, anyone, I was compelled to pick it up. Butterfly is the somwhat improbable tale of an orphan girl adopted by a paralyzed ballerina and forced to dance. The abuse and unhappiness of earlier works is in evidence here-- they never end happily.
So why do I want to borrow the next one in the series? These would appeal very much to girls in that developmental stage where they love to read about people whose lives are worse than their own.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Fairly standard plot, but it is the type of story that children crave. Given the number of political/spy thrillers for adults, this should not be a surprise. Apparently this Higgins is "one of the world's most popular authors". I've never heard of him, although Justin Richards is the author of the wonderful The Death Collector. (And the new The Chaos Code, which sounds great.)
This is well-crafted and highly readable, and the children will adore it. Add it to the growing list of spy novels starting with Alex Rider; Jimmy Coates, Traitor and Payback, and the Robert Muchamore. Buy two and be glad for the inevitable sequel!
Written using notes that the author kept in 1945, this is raw, immediate, and gives the authentic detail of a real WWII experience that my boys crave. The language is not elegant ("Gee, I was hungry.), but I was riveted by the fact that this was a real story, one that was no doubt repeated time and again. Sterling Point Books, the publisher, has several other volumes of memoirs out that I am looking quite seriously into buying. This will NEVER be on the shelf. Buy two.
On page 8 there is a wonderful quote: "Someone once said "Young men enlist in the service during war time primarily for adventure." I will try to remember that this is why they like to read books about war as well.
Monday, November 19, 2007
The two books I did pick up both happened to be in verse. Such a hard sell, both to me and to students. The first was Trash, by Sharon Darrow. This was the description from Follett: "Graffiti artists Sissy Lexie and younger brother Boy try to maintain a sense of family while living in a series of foster homes and staying with their older sister, until a tragic accident forces Sissy to make decisions about her future."
The poetry was very free verse, and I had a hard time getting that. Students who like to read books about problems such as these are frequently struggling readers, and the use of imagery and poetic language makes this hard to read.
The other was Norma Fox Mazer's What I Believe. This incorporates the problems that her work normally does (father loses job and family must relocate), but is done is a very experimental style. Very good try on lots of poetic forms. Poetically, this is good, but it makes the story hard to read. I think this is the only book by this author that I will be lacking on the shelves.
For aspiring writers thinking about writing a book in verse: please don't. Just don't. I know that college professors of children's literature think they are great, but run the text by an actual young adult first. Please.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
This stars out with an arduous trek through the snow from Detroit to his parents' home, and keeps going with strategies, adventure, and battles. While it supported the Native Americans cause, neither the British were portrayed as evil, just with their own agendas. Billy learns a lot about the different tribes, and I think my student will really enjoy this.
Other titles that we've located this year that have been fairly successful were:
Carbone's Blood on the River
Cooney's The Ransom of Mercy Carter
Edmond's In The Hands of the Senecas
Keene's I Am Regina
McGraw's Moccasin Trail
O'Dell's Streams to the River, Rivers to the Sea
Pearsall's Crooked River
Richter's Light in the Forest
Speare's Sign of the Beaver
Combine this with two biographies, and that is a lot of reading! I am so proud of this student, who signed up for a public library card and has even gotten "in trouble" for reading during class. "The right book for the right child at the right time" is certainly working out in this case!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Which they do. There is a lot of Celtic lore and whatnot dealing with how they get their powers and what evil is encroaching, but what I really liked about this book was the snappy, laugh out loud dialog. "I'm on the cheerleading squad. I know what REAL evil looks like." I'd quote more, but my daughter ran off with the book.
A fabulous choice for either girls who liked Twilight or who have to read fantasy against their will. Both will find this fun. The only down side is that it is available only in paperback or the dreaded Gibraltar Bound, a library binding that in reality falls apart the first time a student looks at it. Sigh.
If this isn't a glowing review, it's because I read it on the heels of James St. James' Freak Show, about one gay/transgendered boy who moves to Florida and attends a very conservative, preppy school. This is not a middle school book. Much, much language. I'm not even sure it's a high school book. It's meant to be funny, but touch the deeper issues of "Everyone is a freak in some way so we should be understanding of everyone."
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
One morning, Bobby wakes up and can't see himself. He's not blind-- he's invisible. His parents don't seem to care, and when they are involved in a car accident and hospitalized, Bobby must get along on his own. He meets Alicia at the library, and she befriends him because she can't see anything at all and can't tell at first that he's invisible. I thought it would be horrible.
The only problem with this book is that it is one that sort of defies a convincing description. I really enjoyed it-- the details are spot on, the explanations don't stretch credulity too far, and the reaction of the parents is one with which many students will identify-- no, no, I'm sure it's a big problem for you, but really, it's best if we keep it a secret. We're working on it. These things just take time. Verging on the hilarious when it's something as serious as invisibility, but parents do that all the time with things that are important to children but seemingly inconsequential to the parents.
Bobby is 15, which makes it more believable that he's wandering about Boston by himself, but nothing in this book is inappropriate for younger students who are fans of Clements' other works. I put it on the table for my 4th grade reluctant reader, and it was gone this morning. It will appeal most to middle school students who are starting to find their parents annoying!
Also read Cecil Castelucci's The Plain Janes. If you desperately need graphic novels in your collection, this one has nothing objectionable, but I don't know that the plot really has anything to recommend it. Girl, traumatized by bombing in big city, moves to small town and wants to join a group of unpopular students even though the popular students court her. She then embarks on a plan to install art all over town. I'm trying to think who would ask for it. It might be more successful in high school, with students who are serious about art.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Finally got ahold of J.D. Guilford's The Edification of Sonya Crane, about a white girl who goes to a predominately black school and passes as biracial in order to fit in. There were some other themes that made it inappropriate for middle school-- mother is addicted to drugs and there are some scenes with her supplier that really curled my hair. Too much sex. Also a lot of gratuitous language. Sigh.
Urban's A Crooked Kind of Perfect was an interesting read, but too young for my library. Girl with agoraphobic dad and high powered mom takes up the organ and works toward competing. A nice book, fun to read, but just not what I need.
Am liking Clement's Things Not Seen more than I thought I would.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Since I read anyway, I love to find challenges like the one at:
This blog has a lot of parenting issues and is slanted toward Christian mothers, but had some good reviews. I've been trying to keep up with blogs, and it is difficult to find ones that are only dedicated to middle school books.
Still, a challenge is a challenge! I'm up for it!
(I, too, looked at The First Part Last, and seem to recall it had some gratuitous language. I prefer Hanging on to Max or even No More Saturday Nights.)
Thursday, November 08, 2007
I don't have Donna Jo Napoli's Breath (I love this author, but there were a couple really questionable scenes), which deals with the same topic, but these would be good books to read together. I loved the twist on the Pied Piper tale that Skurzynski puts on this. The piper doesn't have any magic skills, just good marketing ones. He positions himself to rid the town of rats, which is done by giving them heavily salted pork, denying them all access to water, and then positioning the town's children at the docks with sticks to beat them to death. Gory, but realistic. Told from the point of view of a mistreated baker's assistant who becomes the unwilling accomplice of the piper, this was a dark but fascinating look at medieval life and a realistic explanation of a fable with which students need to be familiar.
Congratulation to this author, also, for keeping up a nice web site. I'm on to Virtual War and the National Parks Mysteries next!
Also read: Jacqueline Woodson's Feathers is not one I will buy. Too young, among other things.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Monday, November 05, 2007
Pamela F. Service's The Reluctant God alternates between the stories of Lorna, the daughter of an Egytologist, and Ameni, the son of a pharoah, who is chosen by the gods to preserve the tomb of his relatives. Through a quirk of time, the two meet up when Lorna uncovers the tomb, and when part of the artifacts Ameni is meant to guard are stolen, the two track them down and discover what is truly important to life. I liked this more than I thought I would, and students with an interest in ancient times and mysteries will like this as well, although it is a highly descriptive and philosophical work which will not appeal to those who want a quick read.
Service's Phantom Victory also deals with some issues of time-- years ago, the Victory hotel burned to the ground. Brian and Terri both had relatives connected with the hotel, and the two of them use a diary to uncover clues to a lost treasure that could help the hotel be rebuilt. This was a solid mystery that should be popular with my students now that I know that it is on the shelf! It is cursed, however, with bad '90's cover art.
Not as bad as Storm at the Edge of Time, however. (Also by Service.) Another time travel time, set in the Orkney Islands, it's a muddled tale that was hard to follow. Considering that it has only been checked out three times in 14 years, it may be a goner. My daughter wrinkled her nose when she saw it, and didn't unwrinkle it once she started reading.
Ian Serraillier's Escape from Warsaw is a Holocaust tale, and one that has lots of adventure in it. Three Polish children are separated from their parents, who have been taken in different directions by the Nazis. The father meets a young boy, and tells him to look for the children. He eventually meets up with them, and the four make the long and difficult journey to Switzerland. Again, this was hidden in the "S" section, but will now circulate well because it is quite good.
Doris Buchanan Smith's Karate Dancer must have something going for it, because one student checked it out about 9 different times over three years. Troy lives for karate and cartooning, even though his parents don't support his karate. He meets up with Liesl, a dancer, and has such a crush on her that he is willing to take up ballet in order to be with her. There are some bullies from another karate studio, a test for his black belt, and a rather odd scene where a ship hits a bridge in town and many people are killed. That was handled too quickly, and was just jarring. I liked this for Troy's emotions involving all that is going on around him, but there was enough action and description of the karate to interest students with experience in that area. On my pile to booktalk to SSR classes this week as well.
Gary D. Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars is another introspective tale of a boy growing up during the Vietnam Conflict. When half the class goes to Catechism class on Wednesday afternoons, and the other half goes to temple, Holling Hoodhood, the lone Presbyterian, is stuck with Mrs. Baker. He is sure that she hates him, and Wednesday afternoons are filled with classroom chores until she decides to read Shakespeare with him. Misbehaving students, escaped rats, problems relevant to the Vietnam era (a refugee student, wives of soldiers, a sister who wants to be a "flower child"), and a local Shakespeare production all provide fodder for life lessons as well as comic situations.
I liked this, but mainly because it predates my school experience by just ten years, and it is very nostalgic. Definitely a bildungsroman, with all those life lessons. The humor seems forced (we hear about the yellow tights for the Shakespeare production a lot), and I don't know how students will like this one. I am going to think about it before I buy it.
The guilty pleasure of the weekend was Katie Maxwell's Got Fangs. A weird but intriguing story of a girl working in a Goth Faire in Hungary with her mother, this would never be on the shelf because the girl's boyfriend is a vampire. And it's a mystery. Francesca's voice was fresh and amusing. I am looking into a bound version, since this is in paperback and the pages of the public library's version were already coming loose.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Thursday, November 01, 2007
The most interesting thing she said, however, was that nowhere in the parameters for determinging awards like the Newbery is it stated that a book must appeal to actual children to win an award. Considering that librarians and teachers use these awards to select books for students, this is somewhat of a problem.
There was also a large discussion of manga, which we were told we should have because children want them and will read them. I am not averse to manga but haven't found a lot that I found worthwhile.
Is there a happy medium between what children want (manga) and what the awards tell us to buy (Higher Power of Lucky, Criss Cross, neither of which should ever be handed to anyone, much less a reluctant reader)? How about something like Jordan Sonnenblick's Notes from the Midnight Driver? Covering serious issues and well-written but also (*GASP*) vastly appealing to students.
In answer to the comments from A.C.: There are not many manga at our school because they are expensive and don't wear well. There are a few, as well as some graphic history and biography books. Diary of a Wimpy Kid does have a lot of pictures, but a text story as well.
I haven't decided on a reader for it yet, because the first half of the book is a lyrical character study of a drifter who arrives at a farm in Wyoming in 1889. While the family is happy, trouble is brewing. The father hires Shane to help with the work, and ends up getting more help than he bargains from the enigmatic stranger whose every move whispers "danger".
Once we find out that the evil rancher Fletcher is trying to take over all the small farms in the area using Wild West tactics (Won't seel your land? Fine. We'll just shoot and kill you.), we see how useful Shane is. Told from the point of view of the young son, this is more a look into what it takes to "be a man" and stand up for what is right than it is a shoot-em-up western, although the action picks up halfway through the book and there are a lot of bar room brawls and gun battles.
I have to see the movie now, and someone must read this. It is a difficult book, though-- the father and Shane are both trying to do what is best for the family, even though it might be hard for them personally. I found Shane's sacrifice a touching change from the modern depiction of family interactions. As much a product of the 1950s as the 1890s, Shane's character is a vanished piece of Americana worth preserving.
Really shouldn't mention Pamela Service's Stinker from Space in the same breath as Shane. I didn't even realize I had this book, but it will now be newly popular. A very thin book, it has an Accelerated Reading level of 6.8, making it hugely appealing to many students like my son who just want to get their AR book out of the way so they can read whatever they like.
A space alien crashes to earth and sends his spirit to the only somewhat dexterous creature around-- a skunk. Karen is oddly drawn to the animal, feeds him cookies and takes him home. Of course, complications ensue, and Tsynq Yr must be returned to his home despite all the comic obstacles.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
It is blocked at my school as a "malicious site". No idea.
Also read Felix Salten's Bambi, from 1928. This is surprisingly readable, and it was interesting to find out about Faline's weak twin, Gobo, who spends a winter with humans and becomes desensitized to danger. That wasn't in the Disney version! The preface recommends this book for sportsmen, probably because there are a lot of bloody scenes in the book, complete with descriptions of how the animals feel about the devastation. This was a good book, but I am at a loss as to whom to recommend this. Not really animal lovers, since there is such devastation, but I'm not sure that the children who hunt want to read it, either. I'll leave this one as a serendipitous find.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Sam Savitt's Vicki and the Brown Mare, though published in 1976, was still pretty good. I loved the illustrations, which were done by the author. Vicki is trying to raise money by exercising neighbor's horses and breaking ones with bad habits. A lot of discussion about specific issues with horses, but a glossary is at the end. There are several other books in the series, but I unfortunately don't have them. I will keep this one for my students who love horses; they will enjoy it.
I was sad to see that Mr. Savitt passed away in 2000. More information about him can be found at:
Friday, October 26, 2007
Some historical settings, some mystery, some adventure... and vampires!
Published only in paperback by Scholastic, these books will not appeal to the students who love New Moon and Vampire Kisses. Instead, students who like survival fiction, or books with chases and fighting will find Ben, Jack and Emily's adventures to save the world from the evil that is the vampire Camazotz enthralling.
The cheese factor is pretty high, (I can't say "Camazotz" without giggling) and the writing a bit uneven (some slang and situations that don't ring true for the time period), but the plots are well delineated and the story easy to follow. I read a review that accused this of being too gory and dark for children, and I would disagree with that. R.L. Stine has much more gore, and that completely unaplogetic. Here, children are saving the world from evil. Gore will be involved. Also, students are not bothered by things that are dark. In fact, I think that middle school has a huge developmental stage where children crave dark things. Perhaps it makes their own trauma in middle school seem not so bad.
A fine read. Do need to read all three books to get the whole story, and in order.