Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Jane Yolen's The Wild Hunt (1995), however, will probably go. It's been checked out three times and is indicative of the sort of book the previous librarian loved-- anything fantasy, even when it is odd/too young. I read some of the very short chapters to my own children and got wrinkled noses. Admittedly, I skimmed this, but found nothing in it to recommend it.
Looks very interesting, but is blocked here at school under "social networking". I wanted to see the "can't-miss reads for boys"!
Found this web site, that James Patterson has, called Read Kiddo Read. Looks very interesting, but is blocked here at school under "social networking". I wanted to see the "can't-miss reads for boys"!
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Melissa Kantor had her publicist send me the very first ARC's I ever got, so she has a special place in my heart. If you are near NYC, or are a young lady who writes, take a look at this invitation:
Attention all tween girls in the NYC area! The Amanda Project is the first series that invites tween girls to become a part of the mystery and contribute their own stories and ideas! Come celebrate the publication of the first in the 8-book series - Invisible I - and launch of The Amanda Project!Hear author Melissa Kantor read from the book and talk about writing collaborative fiction.AND, in the spirit of Amanda, we're also taking submissions from tween girls who aspire to be writers! Have your daughter send her latest piece of fiction (up to 500 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll pick a select group of writers to read at the event!For more information:www.theamandaproject.com/tappresents-10-11http://email@example.com/the-amanda-project
9-30-09: Please note the change in e mail address for submissions.
Katrina lives with her grandmother in a small town. They run a struggling Norwegian coffee house, and things are not easy. When Katrina leaves coffee and food for a homeless man who is sleeping in their alley, he turns out to be an angel who is bound to reward her kindness. At first, Katrina just thinks he is crazy and tries to tell him her desire (which he must grant) is for fortune, or fame. These wishes are granted in an off kilter way, so Malcom continues to hang around. Throw in a rival coffee shop with a perky nemesis, a silent but steadfast family friend with a secret, and a love interest in her best friend Vincent, and this wonderfully written tale becomes something I could not put down. I'll have to take another look at Selfors' Saving Juliet, which I dismissed because of the plethora of time-travel-back-to-Shakespeare's-England books in my library. If the writing is this good, I'll have to get it. My 10th grader snatched this one away from me even though she should be doing Spanish homework.
Trying to pitch nonfiction this week, and Dani Sneed's Ferris Wheel, from Enslow Publishing, is a nice quick read. George Ferris joins the Philo T. Farnsworth Hall of Hard Knocks-- things never went well for him despite his successful invention. This was very short-- almost like an article, but students will appreciate the pictures. There is a title about Farnsworth in this series, as well as Theodore Maiman, who invented the laser, and Vivien Thomas, who was a heart surgery pioneer.
Michel Ostow's Popular Vote was a light romp about a girl who decides to run for student body president against her former boyfriend when a historic field near their school is threatened by a corporation who wants to build a gas station there. The complications? The corporation is funding her father's mayorial bid, and blogging about them doesn't make anyone happy. Nice lesson about blogging, interesting story line, and fun characters, but there was something a little irritating about Erin's alternating brand-dropping/Clique like devotion to fashion and her environmental stance. Spoiler Alert: That she was happy in the end that the gas station was still being built but a 300 square foot park was left didn't ring true to me. Still, the book-a-day girls are enjoying it.
A much anticipated arrival was the Cirque du Freak 1 and 2 manga. Number 3 comes out very soon. I like the novels, and buy manga when I hope to introduce (mainly) boys who will read only comics to a book. This was fine, done by Takahiro Arai for the Japanese audience, and I liked especially how some of the words in the background were kept in transliterated Japanese and then translated. Still, any time I read a manga, I invariably think "Oh, Cirque du Freak, as performed by the cast of Speed Racer." Am I the only one who thinks this? Am I wrong?
Monday, September 28, 2009
Andrew Clements' Extra Credit also tries to shed life on the ways of others, this time on a brother and sister who live in the mountains of Afghanistan. Because Abby doesn't care much about doing her school work, she is in danger of being held back, unless she completes an extra credit project-- having a pen pal in Afghanistan. Her letter comes to the attention of a village school, and the elders decide that while Sadeed is the best student, it would not be appropriate for him to write to a girl, so he is instructed to oversee the letters his younger sister, Amira, writes. While I liked this, and generally like Clements, this seemed forced. Abby's academic struggles seemed unrealistically portrayed, and the friendship between Abby and Sadeed a bit odd, since they haven't shared that much information about each other. Still, fans of Clements will demand this, and it's not a bad book. I just wish some things had been handled differently.
For pure fun, Cabot's Being Nikki (sequel to Airhead) can't be beat. Emerson, whose brain has been transplanted into the body of supermodel Nikki, is still struggling with reconciling the two sides of her new being. She's doing modeling assignments and partying with celebrities, but also trying to keep up in school and keeping in contact with her real family. When Nikki's brother shows up, upset that their mother is missing, Em/Nikki gets drawn into the evil doings of the Stark corporation, along with Christopher, her best friend as Em. There are a lot of plot twists that I didn't see coming, and there is sure to be another book to follow this one.
Brandon Mull's penultimate Fablehaven book, The Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary, is full of incredible magical detail that fantasy aficionados will find enthralling. While I enjoyed the book, I'm not good on details, so I had trouble remembering some of them. The book starts with Kendra being kidnapped, and a stingbulb impersonating her. Seth, reeling from her "death" finds that he is a shadow master and can talk to magical creatures from the dark side. The two set off separately to get an artifact from the dragon sanctuary, a trip which, understandably, is fraught with danger. There are many characters from previous books who help them, and some which turn out to be evil. Lots of running around fighting, magical objects (I loved the back pack that Kendra could climb into and be carried around), and saving the world against evil. The children will be much more able to remember all the wonderful details.
Lost, by Jacqueline Davies, is yet another book about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (Auch's Ashes of Roses and Haddix's Uprising being the most recent), but I found it hard to put down. Harriet Abbot is clearly not the usual sort of girl who works in a sweat shop, and Essie is drawn to her cultured ways as well as her helplessness. Essie is also trying to come to terms with the death of the younger sister for whom she has cared. Throw in a mystery about a missing heiress, and this makes for a compelling read. I did wonder, however, how many wealthy women really did care about the workers or tried to get jobs in the sweat shops to try to help and/or reveal working conditions-- this seems to be something that recent writers like to do. I also wondered about a young law student living in an immigrant neighborhood, and about Essie reading works of social philosophy. Still, a good book to have on hand for fans of historical fiction.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
My 10th grade daughter picked up Ned Vizzini's Be More Chill and said that she thought it was very clever, but what was up with the language? She enjoyed the story, but was honestly appalled that everything was curse words. Was the author trying to appeal to nonreaders without extensive vocabularies? My daughter is an avid reader, and not above using the words herself (which doesn't go over well with me!), but did not want to read them. Perhaps YA authors should note this. Interestingly, Mr. Vizzini's web site is blocked at our school.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
And vote for him. Jeff McMillan. They call him Coach Mac, which would be cool in a book, wouldn't it?
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Joanne Dahme's The Plague left me wondering about the historical accuracy of the characters-- it involves Joan, the daughter of King Edward the Third, and a commoner, Nell, who is under the care of the royal household because of her resemblance to the princess. When Joan dies of the plague, her brother, the Black Prince, tries to pass Nell off as the princess so a royal marriage can still be carried out. Nell and her younger brother have a lot of adventures eluding the prince. Plague books are very popular, and this one was engaging even if it was more fiction than fact. Notes at the end would have helped.
The sixth (and penultimate? Seven books would make sense, and one comes out in June 2010, at least in the UK) book in the Last Apprentice series was every bit as fabulous as the previous ones, especially since Tom, the Spook, Alice and a whole contingent of Pendle witches travel to Meteora in Greece to help Tom's mother defeat the Ordeen. The Spook is leery of siding with evil, but recognizes that it must be done. He is right to be concerned-- Tom uses a dark wish given to him by Grimalkin to save Alice from being taken by a lamia, and makes a very big sacrifice at the end, which makes him reliant on even more of Alice's black magic. My son is currently reading the third one of these and is every bit as enthralled as I am. Alice's struggles to stay on the side of the light are fascinating, and Tom's struggles against the Fiend are also multifaceted. If you don't have this series, buy it immediately.
Friday, September 18, 2009
I like Emma a lot, and the book was breezy rather than overwrought. It is irreverant, so anyone who believes that questioning one's faith is not a good thing should avoid it. The ending is realistic, with many questions and problems still unresolved.
Thanks to all who commented yesterday. My existential crisis about collection development was abated by the end of the day when I had so many books returned that I had to go get another cart to put them on! Whatever I have in the collection, the students are certainly reading it!
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Depends on the reader.
My own collection (And really, isn't it? I pick out all the books and decide what stays and goes.) is varied but apparently skews young. Not that my students are reading nothing but Beverly Cleary (her books for younger readers don't circulate much), but I don't have many "young adult" and fewer "adult" titles (most are "classics" like Vanity Fair and Last of the Mohicans that I am slowly weeding). At high school curriculum night last night, another middle school librarian and parent mentioned that she thought high schoolers should read adult fiction, and middle school students young adult. I disagreed.
Is it because I had a child capable of reading Harry Potter at age 6, but didn't want him to miss Magic Treehouse and Morris the Moose? Is it because I wasn't allowed to check out adult books from the library until I was 17? Is it because "young adult" has become so edgy, i.e. filled with sex and profanity?
Perhaps what forms my opinion most is my feeling that we push children to read far above their interest levels. Certainly, if a 6th grader really wants to read The Hobbit, she should. But I weary of students who tell me that their reading level is "so high" and they only like to read "big books" and parents who want to "challenge their students". These students don't seem to be as excited about books as the students who read I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You or Stormbreaker.
Any opinions? I will spend the day doubting my methods and efficacy, which is a good big dose of humble.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
LaFevers' second Lothar's Blade book is a must if your library has a big Deltora Quest following. Kenric, having rescued his father from the evil clutches of Lord Mordig, must visit the Fey to try to figure out the secret that will save his world from encroaching evil. The Fey don't want him, his goblin buddy is annoying, and he doesn't yet know what he must do, but he gets to have a lot of adventure while figuring it all out. These are a little cheesy and derivative, but great fun, and a good introduction to fantasy for younger children or struggling middle school readers.
Monday, September 14, 2009
The fourth installment in The 39 Clues series is Beyond the Grave, by Jude Watson. This takes Amy and Dan to Egypt to follow the clues. They find a friend of their grandmother's, Hilary, and her Egyptologist grandon, who help the siblings by handing over some of the clues. The adventure and suspense are still there, and the addition of the experiences with their grandmother is quite nice. I know Jude Watson mainly for her Star Wars adaptations, but I thought that this installment was especially good.
The fifth is The Black Circle, by Patrick Carman. This time, the group is off to Russia. Dan gets to wield a gold charge card, drive a motorcycle, stay in the Grand Hotel, and replace a picture of his deceased mother and father. This series is quite cohesive, even though each book is by a different author, but there are suble differences in focus that are greatly amusing. I do appreciate how each book recaps the adventures a little, since I tend to forget just where we were. I have one reluctant reader who is just about done with Gordon Korman's Chasing the Falconers series, and this may be the next thing I try with him. Book number 6 (Jude Watson again, with In Too Deep) comes out in 49 days.
Patrick Jones' The Tear Collector is an example of an excellent book I probably won't buy, because it is more suitable for high school, not because of language or content, but more because of tone and complexity. Cassandra and her family get their energy from the tears of others, so they surround themselves with misery-- Cassandra constantly breaks up with boyfriends, volunteers at a cancer ward, and befriends a girl whose sister is dying. When the friend commits suicide and and Cassandra is interested in a boy with whom she doesn't want to break up, she starts to doubt her very existence. The cover blurb flings around the word "vampire", but this skips the horror and delves more into the psychological. Very good.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Defelice. Signal."After moving with his emotionally distant father to the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, twelve-year-old Owen faces a lonely summer until he meets an abused girl who may be a space alien. "
What I wanted: Either science fiction or child abuse. This wasn't quite one or the other. The shorter lenghth makes it better for elementary school. I love this author's Under the Same Sky.
Freymann-Weyr. After the Moment (Not pictured) "Seventeen-year-old Leigh changes high schools his senior year to help his stepsister and finds himself falling in love with her emotionally disturbed friend, even though he is still attached to a girl back home. "
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Really--wow! Clever, clever language, and just a great read. Darren Shan fans, fantasy fans, horror fans, mystery fans-- this is something for everyone. It seems as if there is room for a sequel, but the book if brought to a satisfactory conclusion if there is not. Have to get two copies.
I also enjoyed Cara Haycak's Living on Impulse. Mia Morrow likes to shoplift for thrills, but when she gets caught and stuck with a $300 fine, she has to get a job to pay it off. Her ailing grandfather wants more for her than her own mother accomplished, but Mia doesn't think college is for her. This causes her friends to drop her, and she begins to rethink her goals. This is really more of a high school title, because the bad choices Mia makes involve drinking, clubbing, and some recreational drug use. I'll have to stick to Eyerly's Angel Baker, Thief for something about shoplifting.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
While I enjoyed Barbara Dana's A Voice of Her Own: Becoming Emily Dickinson, I don't think I will buy it for my library. It is beautifully done, and quite evocative of Dickinson's poetry, but to fully enjoy the book it was necessary to be well versed in Dickinson's work and have some knowledge of the time in which she lived and the circumstances of her life. Still, if you have a population of students who are very interested in this author, it would be a great book for them to have.
Michael Coleman's The Snog Log is one I am getting a second opinion on, since I have never been a teenaged boy. The story of a group of British school boys who set up a contest to see who can kiss the most girls, it definitely objectifies girls and focuses a lot of attention on portions of the anatomy. The main character, Robbie, does see the error of his ways, which redeems the book, but I'm just not sure. My son is reading it and will give me a report. This was billed as Louise Rennison for the male reader, and certainly the boys do look for books about romance. I'm just not sure this is the book.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Friday, September 04, 2009
What's next? Second graders can't all watch as Skylab goes up? It's the president. It's a message teachers and parents send to students every day.
My only complaint? It's a live web cast. How, exactly, does President Obama expect children in the classroom to see this? Thirty students all hovered around the one teacher computer in the room? Will our internet even be fast enough to stream it properly? We don't have the LCD projectors to serve the whole building, most of the SVID connections of the televisions don't work, and we can't fit all the students in the lab. And I teach at a fairly well-off school. There are some schools where showing this at all will not even be an option.
The method of delivery does show some lack of basic understanding of the resources of public schools.
Thursday, September 03, 2009
The cover on my copy is very dated, with an early Will Smith hairdo on the character of Denzel. Still, this is a good title for fans of the Bluford High series, and while it has an important message, does not become overly preachy.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Fantasy, however, is a different story. I have fewer fans, but the ones I have are extremely discerning. The customer base for titles over 200 pages is comprised of 8th graders, who want more mature characters. Students who need to read fantasy to fulfill requirements want fantasy that is very fast-paced. Not all fantasy books (or other books for that matter) that are published strike me as books that balance what my students seek. I can't buy everything. I need to choose.
Sam Llewellyn was kind enough to comment politely on my review of his book, Lyonesse: The Well Between the Worlds, that was not positive. The sequel to this book, Darksolstice, comes out in the spring of 2010. I will take a look at it, and depending on my library's needs at the time, may decide to purchase both books. I may not. Occasionally, I do wake up on the wrong side of the bed, but I try to couch my appraisals of books in terms of what my school needs and my personal preferences. (The Warriors series is hugely popular in my school, and I still find the books personally very, very painful to read.) Lyonesse certainly got very nice reviews from Booklist, Horn Book, Publisher's Weekly, and many other mainstream reviewers which librarians consult. Those certainly influence far more purchases than this small blog. I wish Mr. Llewellyn the best, and am trying to track down copies of his book, Little Darlings, that does look like something that my students would like.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Also picked up Wallace's Beauty(1988). In this, Luke's parents have split up and financial difficulties force him and his mother to move in with his grandfather on his farm. His plight is eased by a horse named Beauty, to whom he can talk about all of his difficulties. There are some problems-- his grandfather has a farm accident, and Beauty meets a sad end.
You would think that Carman's third Atherton book, The Dark Planet, would have hit the spot after reading these two, but I think I got it on a bad day. It has all of the adventure and excitement of the first two books. Edgar, in his traveling around the newly reconfigured planet of Atherton, finds a shuttle that takes him to the Dark Planet, where children are enslaved making food and sold to traders when they are 4200 days old, presumably for evil purposes. Edgar manages to rescue the children and put in place the mechanisms to save the Dark Planet. Students who like the first two will find this a worthy ending, but there were just some unanswered questions that took away from my enjoyment of this. One very nice touch, though-- the beginning of the book synopsizes the other two, and has a list of characters. This was very helpful in getting me back up to speed.