Monday, January 04, 2010

Back to Work!

Thank goodness! Back to checking out books, talking about books, and getting more books from the public library!

Spent a lot of time over break reading books that didn't keep my attention. I'd read a few chapters, do a crossword puzzle, find any excuse to do anything but read. I was beginning to think it was me, until I picked up Allen Zadoff's Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have. Not the sort of book I would normally pick for myself, but I read it all in an hour because the writing was facile and engaging, and I wanted to see what happened next. Andrew is the second fattest boy in the high school, but joins the football team to impress a girl he has met. The football team isn't wild about this at first (Andrew had been assigned to "special" gym after a soccer fiasco), but soon warm to him. He finds out that his newest friend, O., likes the girl on whom he is crushing, has to deal with his distant father as well as the bullies at school, and (most significantly), does not loose weight. This is a good realistic fiction book for slightly older middle school students or those in high school. I hope that Mr. Zadoff continues to write for teens.

I really wanted to like The Penderwicks and the sequel, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street because they sounded like the sort of realistic fiction that I adored as a child (children spend summer running about big estate with minimal supervision), but these irritated me for picky and personal reasons. Birdsall says on the jacket flap of the first that when she was ten, she'd run out of books to read. Grrr. Was she that picky, or were her librarians that lax? The father quoted much too much Latin, and they even talk about Latin being offered to 7th graders! Not realistic. That's why I'm a librarian and not a Latin teacher. These books were really quite fine (the first won the National Book Award), but the saddest thing is that this is not the sort of thing my students ever request. Though tremendouly conflicted about these, I bought both (another Reading Warehouse bargain), and we will see how they go.

Jim Murphy's Truce is must-have nonfiction. Not only does it give a wrenching portrayal of the famous WWI Christmas truce between the German and British soldiers, it gives an easy to understand description of how the first world war started. Well-illustrated and quick to read, this will get some boys who are interested in WWII interested in this previous conflict.

I returned James Dashner's The Maze Runner and Westerfeld's Leviathan because they have been receiving so much praise and I know that other people are waiting to read them. I will think about these. I just couldn't get into them.

People who had good things to say about The Maze Runner:
The Book Smugglers
Emily's Reading Room
Life of a Story Engineer
YA Bliss

People who had good things to say about Leviathan:
Bart's Book Shelf
Boys Rule! Boys Read!
Gamila's Reviews
I Was A Teenage Book Geek

Books that also didn't work for me were Michelle Moran's Cleopatra's Daughter, which was interesting enough for me, but too long to hold most middle schoolers. David Almond's Raven Summer was just odd and too philosophical, and Susan Colebank's Cashing In was overwhelmingly depressing; maybe all of these would be better suited to high school.


wlomano said...

Your post about Truce made me look up Paul McCartney's "Pipes of Peace" video on YouTube
( because Young Son was looking over my shoulder and saw the cover image of Truce -- and recognized it (he's seen a picture book of the event). :-)

Thanks for the post. Will have to look into Truce at the library.

Els Kushner said...

I love the story of the Christmas Truce (first heard about it from John McCutcheon's song "Christmas in the Trenches") and am looking forward to reading _Truce_!

I liked The Penderwicks better than you, I think (though wasn't as bowled over as some)-- I put the Latin in 7th grade down to their being in Massachusetts, where I get the impression that classical education still to this day has a stronger influence on the school system than in other parts of the country. I also don't see a lot of kids grabbing this book off the shelf, though my kid loves listening to the audiobook of it over and over and over...

Chandra said...

I actually felt the same way about The Penderwicks! I was so looking forward to it and was let down! That author blurb also got under my skin! I'm so glad to hear that someone else noticed it! I found that a truly ridiculous thing for an author to say.

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