Thursday, May 31, 2007

Scholastic Candy Apple Books

Well, these will never will an award (always a plus in my book!), but are very promising. My daughter bought one with a gift card, and I must admit that my expectations for The Accidental Cheerleader by McCoy were not high. Aggressively pink, and only available in paperback, but very good.

Sophie and her friend do everything together, but when Sophie makes the cheerleading squad and Kylie only gets to be the mascot, can their friendship survive? I liked Sophie a lot-- she was very practical, but had concerns typical to 7th grade. How much should she change to fit in with the crowd? How should she dress? Is being a cheerleader about supporting the team or being popular? Easy to read but not dumbed down, this will fly off the shelves. The other titles I need to look more closely at are Dower's The Boy Next Door (ah, but can it be as good as the Betty Cavanna of the same title?), Sedita's Miss Popularity and Papademetriou's How to be a Girly Girl in Just Ten Days.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More Celia Rees

Read Sorceress and am looking forward now to Pirates. Both Witch Child and Sorceress are oddly popular with girls who don't normally like historical fiction.

This book continues the story of Mary, who left England after being pursued as a witch. Her problems continued in the new world. We pick up with her after she is forced to flee her settlement and meets up with a Native American man who saves her and with whom she eventually flees to Canada and has children.

Really enjoyed this. The only thing that was vaguely annoying was the pseudodocumentary style-- the story is told from the point of view of a girl who contacted the woman who researched the first novel. This was an unnecessary artifice, although part of the appeal to girls may be the flashbacks that this girl has-- visions of her ancestor. I just liked the historical story!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Generally sad books.

Doug Wilhelm's book Falling is more suitable to high school collections. More language and drug situations than I would want.

Maureen Johnson's The Keys to the Golden Firebird was much sadder than I thought it would be. After 13 Little Blue Envelopes and Devilish, it was a surprise. It read more like Sarah Dessen. The cover is so pretty, and the title so optimistic, that it was a bit of a shock. Mayzie's father dies, and her family slowly self-destructs. Mother becomes a nonentity, oldest sister turns to alchohol and unsuitable boyfriend, youngest sister is generally unhappy and withdrawn, and Mayzie herself has an unsatisfactory relationship with the boy next door. They all slog along the best they can, which isn't very well. Good book, but I wasn't expecting the sadness.

A little happier was Rallison's It's a Mall World After All. A little sad in a way, since the main character kept goofing up her relationship with the boy she liked. Actually, this reminded me a bit of the Anne Emery or Rosamund du Jardin books from the 1950's. Just fewer saddle shoes.

Child abuse

Again, this is something that 7th grade girls are particularly interested in, so I do indeed have a list of books. I will add to this Gretchen Olson's Call Me Hope. The title character is a victim of intense verbal abuse from her mother, but with the help of school and friends, manages to learn to stand up to her mother and gets help for her family. A bit didactic at times, this has a place in most collections, and is certainly more optimistic than many.

Here's the list of what I have in my library. When I first printed this list, every book on here got checked out. Titles in all capitals are accelerated reader titles.

Alphin, Marie. Counterfeit Son.
When serial killer Hank Miller is killed in a shoot-out with police, his abused son Cameron adopts the identity of one of his father's victims in order to find a better life.

Barr, Linda. I Won’t Let Them Hurt You.

After attempting to save his ex-babysitter from wife abuse, Cracker Jackson gains an adult insight into the sadness of failed heroics.

Coman, Carolyn. WHAT JAMIE SAW.
A 9 year old boy flees his home after his mother's boyfriend tries to throw his baby sister agtainst a wall and encounters manydifficulties

Fourteen-year-old Robin tries to patch up the broken home of a battered wife and in the process discovers how deeply she's been hurt by the divorce of her own parents.

Deans, Sis Boulos.Racing the Past.
After the death of his abusive father, eleven-year-old Ricky tries to help his younger brother deal with his residual fears and discovers that running helps him deal with his own anger and the taunts of a bullying classmate.

Draper, Sharon M. FORGED BY FIRE
Teenage Gerald, who has spent years protecting his fragile half-sister from their abusive father, faces the prospect of one final confrontation before the problem can be solved.

Flinn, Alex.Nothing to Lose.
A year after running away with a traveling carnival to escape his unbearable home life, sixteen-year-old Michael returns to Miami, Florida, to find that his mother is going on trial for the murder of his abusive stepfather.

Griffin, Peni R. Vikki Vanishes.
Her habit of lying to her mother and older sister Vikki makes it hard for Nikki to convince people that Vikki's recently returned father is responsible for her disappearance.

Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Don’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey.

Hahn, Mary Downing.DAPHNE'S BOOK.
Jessica and artist Daphne collaborate on a picture book for a seventh-grade English class contest, Jessica becomes aware of conditions in Daphne's home life that seem to threaten her health and safety.

Harmon, Michael B. Skate.

A girl watches a toddler being abused both physically and verbally. When his mother follows through on a threat to abandon him, she takes him home.

Henry, April.Shock Point.
Fifteen-year-old Cassie Streng is determined to expose her stepfather after learning that he is giving a dangerous experimental drug to his teenaged psychiatric patients, but he sends her to a boot camp for troubled teens in Mexico in order to keep her quiet.

Hoban, Julia. Acting Normal.
Having had a nervous breakdown brought on by repressed memories unearthed in her acting class, 18-year-old Stephanie tries to recover and resume a normal life.

Klass, David.You Don’t Know Me.
John creates alternative realities in his mind as he tries to deal with his mother's abusive boyfriend, his crush on a beautiful, but shallow classmate and other problems at school.

When he is wrongly accused of injuring his baby sister, Branwell loses his power of speech and only his friend can help him.

Mazer, Norma Fox.OUT OF CONTROL.
After joining his two best friends in a spontaneous attack on a girl at their school, sixteen-year-old Rollo finds that his life is changed forever.

McAllister, Margaret. Hold my hand and run .
Abused and beaten by their villainous aunt, Kazy and her sister run away. Their father has been too distracted by to notice how his sister mistreats his daughters.

Miklowitz, Gloria. Past Forgiving
Fifteen-year-old Alexandra finds that her boyfriend Cliff demands all her time, isolates her by his jealousy, and finally becomes physically abusive.

Miklowitz, Gloria. Secrets Not Meant to be Kept.
Her three-year-old sister's changing behavior unleashes many long-surpressed disturbing memories from Adrienne's own days at a highly respected local preschool.

Roberts, Willo Davis.DON'T HURT LAURIE!
Laurie is physically abused by her mother. Can she escape? Will anyone believe her story?

Rottman, S.L. HERO.
After years of abuse from his mother and neglect from his father, a is headed for trouble when he is sent to a community service farm.

Shaw, Susan.Boy from the Basement. (Also, Blackeyed Susie)
Charlie, who has been confined to his basement by his abusive, psychotic father, is accidentally locked out after sneaking outside one night, and ends up in the hospital where he gets the attention he needs and a new start in life.

Smith, Marya. Winter-broken.
Abused by an alcoholic father, twelve-year-old, withdrawn and timid, Dawn finds friendship and love in a sympathetic farmer and his beautiful horse Wildfire.

Vries, Anke de . Bruises.
While living in Holland, Michael meets Judith, who is frightened, bullied and beaten by her mother and blames herself for the abuse she is enduring.

Werlin, Nancy. Rules of Survival.

A 12 year old girl & her younger sister must fend for themselves when their abusive mother storms out of the house with a suitcase and doesn't come back.

Woolverton, Linda
Running before the wind—A girl finds running to be her only outlet for her feelings of love & hate for her abusive father, particularly after his sudden death.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Massive by Julia Bell

Had to interlibrary loan this from Walsh College or somewhere like that, but it was worth the wait. The story of a 14 year old girl whose mother is anorexic and dysfunctional, this book takes us very effectively to London and Manchester. Having been to the Elephant and Castle in London, the description of the shopping center where the girl's aunt works was so accurate that I felt I was back there.

The emphasis on food, or the lack of food, was painfully depicted. Eventually, to deal with her own life, (mother moves her away from friends and stepfather, is never home, introduces her to her birth father who is less than wholesome and grandmother who has a dysfunctional relationship with food as well-- she eats too mcuh) the girl starts to throw up everything she eats. While the ending was unresolved (except for some symbolic torturing of Barbie dolls), there is the feeling that the girl will get better. There are doubts about her mother.

A few bad words, but not until page 72, and used with discretion. This is such a good portrayal of problems with dieting that it is worth it. Only downside-- available only in Simon Pulse paperback.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Here there are dragons

Ann Downer's The Dragon of Never-Was (Sequel to Hatching Magic) was quite fun. It continues the tale of Theodosia Oglethorpe (say it a couple of times-- great name!) and budding and somewhat unwilling wizard who goes to Scotland to help her professor father investigate a dragon's scale. Adventures abound, and the depiction of the Scottish countryside is pleasant without throwing in tons of dialect. Things move quickly and make sense if you pay attention.

The thing that I liked about this that was missing in The Dragon's Eye was the freshness. There were some very clever moments, but they weren't overplayed, such as this one (p.217): "With the sound of the dragon's sneeze came a smell of burnt sugar, and Merlin set down his crossword to go see what had happened."

He found the dragon in the kitchen, standing over the upturned sugar bowl, wearing a sticky mask and a hood of hardening caramel.

"So that's what happens when you sneeze on the sugar bowl," Merlin said, laughing. "Dragon brulee."

This is a good time to list a lot of dragon books. More are coming out all the time. Thought I had more.

Bradshaw, Gillian. The Dragon and the Thief
Coville, Bruce. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher; The Dragonslayers
Cowell, Cressida. How to Train Your Dragon (series)
McCaffrey, Anne. Just about anything!
Paolini, Christopher. Eragon and Eldest
Wrede, Patricia. Dealing with Dragons
Yep,Laurence. Dragon of the Lost Sea
Yolen, Jane. Dragon's Blood (series)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Girl of the Moment

Lizbeth Zindel's book has a fabulous cover, reminiscent of those folders we could buy in middle school that one was supposed to color in with markers. And the premise is great-- girl interns for summer with famous starlet. Similar to Calonita's Secrets of my Hollywood Life or Douglas' Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet.

I was a little disappointed, though. I didn't like the main character. I didn't like most of the characters, except maybe the dog. This is the sort of thing that kills a book for me. (It's why I didn't like Artemis Fowl.) There wasn't anything wrong with the book, but it just wasn't as good as I had hoped. Still, it is a first effort, and I will hope for better things to come!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Imitate the Tiger

Cheripko's book about a football player with alchohol abuse issues was better than I had hoped, since I bought it in a panic to fill a need for football books without reading it. Moves quickly, has some good lessons, but has enough action and mayhem to appeal to students. Plus enough football. I now have a paper back copy as well.

Will Shakespeare

Enjoyed Carolyn Meyer's Loving Will Shakespeare. A lot of good details about life during those times, and just a generally interesting love story. This author has a very popular series of books on princesses of the past as well.

Still haven't read Rosemary Sisson's Will in Love all the way through. Same topic, different style, and a few years worth of dust. Maybe now that I have some background, it will be interesting.
5/29-- Not liking that in Sisson's book, they are desperately in love and situations work against them. I thought that the Meyer book was a good guess at how a girl seven years older ended up marrying Shakespeare. It follows her failed relationships, including one with a man who dies. They liked each other well enough, but in the end, he went to London to pursue fame and fortune and left her at home. It worked for me, whereas Sisson's has too much of that Star Crossed Lover aspect. Middle school girls, however, love that, so I think I will keep it around for those who really like Shakespeare.

Also about Shakespeare and/or his times: Blackwood's The Shakespeare Stealer series, Cheaney's The True Prince, Cooper's King of the Shadows. Thought I had more, for some reason!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Dugald Steer's The Dragon's Eye

This title was a perfectly fine read. It is number one in a series that I'm sure will be extensive. Reading it with Dragonology and The Dragonology Handbook would have probably been helpful.

Two children get sent to visit Dr. Drake, dragonologist, because their parents can't make it back from India, 1880ish. They learn about dragons, help solve a mystery, and fight villians. Fairly standard stuff for fantasies. My son declined reading it for reasons unknown.

Sorry to damn with faint praise, but this book reads like it was written by a committee. Or Candlewick gave an outline of the entire series to an author and told him to write. It ties into the other books very heavily. I'm curious to see if there is a Pirateology or Egytology series.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Not bad but not buying

Silberberg. Pond Scum. Talking insects and unpleasant characters. Pulling wings off flies. That said, my son enjoyed it.

O'Dell. Agnes, Parker, Girl in Progress. Too young.

Budhos. Ask Me No Questions. Intriguing, but can't think of anyone who would read it.

Rinaldi. An Unlikely Friendship. Need more fabulous Civil War books; this was serviceable.

Shusterman. The Schwa was Here. Second try. Just didn't grab me.

Will buy Avi's A Book Without Words. Good cover, nice length for a fantasy, and it's hard to go wrong reanimating the dead.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Three really good books.

Had to Interlibrary Loan Janet Tasjian's Fault Lines, but I think the public library should buy a copy. The main character is a budding stand up comedian, which is fun, but she is also sinking deeper into a relationship with a boy who is abusive. His perspective is also shown, which is interesting. This author also has the wonderful The Gospel According to Larry and Multiple Choice. All good to have.

Liking Alice Mead. She's done good war novels (Adem's War, Dusk to Dawn), and Soldier Mom is an interesting account of how one girl's mother deployment to Desert Storm affects her life. Some whining involved, but that is certainly realistic.

Best book of the whole weekend was Ben Mikaelsen's Sparrow Hawk Red (1993). While this stretches the boundaries of credulity, what 13 year old isn't going to like the fact that the boy runs away to Mexico to steal a plane from international drug dealers and fly it home? Well researched, with lots of good details about what life is like for street children, plus lots of adventure. This author's Touching Spirit Bear is also very good.

Could not get into

Peter Moore's Blind Sighted was good, but more for a high school sensibility. Not language or anything, just more mature concerns.

Sara Ryan's The Rules for Hearts was the same, but with saltier language.

Robert Newton's Runner was one of those indefinably odd historical novels-- 1919 Australia. I think children would get this confused with Carl Deuker's Runner (which is an awesome book) and would be disappointed.

Considering that my list for purchasing books for next year uses about 90% of my budget, I need to find more books this summer that I don't like than that I do!

More racial identity

Patricia McKissack's A Friendship for Today was exactly what I was looking for! This semi-autobiographical novel not only covers a young girl's experience with being one of the few blacks in a school that was being integrated, but also discusses her best friend's struggle with polio and her parents' divorce. Some of the characters are really nasty, but some are good-- it was a well-balanced novel. A good addition.

Nikki Grime's The Road to Paris was also good; contemporary, about a biracial girl in foster care. For an essentially philosophical novel (one's place in the world), it read quickly. We rae seeing more and more students in foster care, and this would be a good book to help explain it to our students who have no idea what that would be like.

Brenda Woods' The Red Rose Box was another historical novel, set in 1953, and gave an interesting description of the differences in the ways of life for blacks in the south and in the north during that time. What I liked most was that it was such a nice novel about a young girl growing up. A lot of good details about life in general during this time period.

Not quite as sure about Sheila Moses' The Legend of Buddy Bush. Mainly about a black girl's uncle who is accused of accosting a white girl, there is too much other stuff going on, and not enough about the uncle. Just somehow didn't strike the right note, but wasn't altogether bad. Will keep it under consideration.

Walter Dean Myer's Harlem Summer would probably make a good accompaniment to Curtis' Bud not Buddy and Levine's Dave at Night. I wasn't quite getting it (the appearacne of Fats Waller and Dutch Schulz somehow threw me) but I think the boys will like it. Students will read just about anything that Myers writes.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Racial Identity

Picked up Beverly Daniel Tatum's "Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?" because I had seen a student carrying it around. What I took away from it, in one sentence, was that middle school students are trying to figure out who they are, and for black students, it often means hanging around with other black students because their white friends don't understand the challenges that come with race.

I've been trying to find books with black characters (and Tatum does use the term black), but it's hard. So many of the books are about inner city children struggling with gangs and drugs, and certainly a lot of my students like to read that sort of thing. Still, if children want to read books about children like themselves, where are the books about suburban black children wanting to find their identity?

Philana MarieBoles' Little Divas was especially good, because it had characters that were black, but the whole book was not about that fact. I guess what I want is a black Henry Huggins.

Janet McDonald's Brother Hood was good because it addressed the dicotomy of a boy who is from the inner city but who goes to a private school. He has two personas, and struggles with when to be which person. I am going to have to read McDonald's works again-- Tatum's book brought up the thought-- do I just not like these books because I am not familiar with the black characters? Are these books my students need to help them decide who they are and where they fit in the world?

Walter Dean Myers' Handbook for Boys: A Novel also addresses the issue of making choices. It is unabashedly preachy. Two inner city boys who made some bad choices get sentenced to community service in a barber shop where the elderly men mentor them and getting a good education and making good choices. If I can get children to read this all the way through, they might take something from it.

I'm also going to reread Christopher Paul Curtis' Bucking the Sarge. I thought the grandmother was described in very negative, stereotypical ways, but the boy in it was trying to distance himself from her, so it was about establishing identity.

What I am really looking for, though, is books with black characters just living their lives. Maybe this is what students need. Clearly, if students are trying to establish their identity, books would help. But, like Tatum pointed out, it's hard to start conversations about race.

Also read Hughes' Lemonade Mouth, which looks really fun but didn't pull me in. Oddly wordy, and nothing happened. The back cover describes Hughes' other book, I am the Wallpaper, as quirky. Seeking a second opinion, I gave it to my son (who loves comedic realistic fiction), and he couldn't get into it either.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Teflon Effect

Sometimes, I read a book, and my eyes start at the top of the page and then are suddenly on the bottom, having stuck to none of the words. The worst culprit of this was Terry Brooks Shanara series. Too high a fantasy for me. I won't claim I read them all, but I did turn every page.

This often happens to students, too, and when it does, you can imagine what it does to their comprehension. There needs to be some action on the page, something that captures their attention. This is why navel-gazing quirky dysfunctional award winners are not sought out by my students.

That said, I think that Jerry Spinelli's latest effort, Eggs, will win many awards because it is a finely crafted, introspective tale about a boy who is being raised by his grandmother because his mother has died, and a girl named Primrose who lives with her pychic consultant mother. And they... and that's where I lost interest. I did like the cover a lot, but the students I waved it at during the day were not intrigued. They thought it was going to be nonfiction. About eggs. Not a selling point.

I've been reading a fair amount of Ann Rinaldi lately, and really liking it, which is why I was so surprised to be disappointed by Come Juneteenth.There is a warning box on the back cover that states "WARNING: This is a historical novel. Read at your own risk. The writer feels it necessary to alert you to the fact that you might enjoy it." This is akin to the eye doctor telling my child that she was AFRAID my daughter would need glasses. No. You GET to wear glasses, and there is nothing wrong with historical novels. You get to find out that people are people no matter when they live, and you get to learn cool stuff about history. The biggest problem with this book was that I couldn't connect to the characters, which made me feel bad when I read the notes at the end where Ms. Rinaldi said that she liked these characters best of the one's about which she has written. Perhaps that was the problem. They were too real to her and therefore hard to capture on the page.

Summer Reading, Part One (For Parents)

I hope to get lists posted soon of particularly good books, but here is my first round of hints about how to keep students reading over the summer:

1. Make sure they have their own library card. This is good for school projects, too.

2. Take them to the library!

3. Have them talk to librarians about recommendations.

4. Read yourself. Consider reading aloud your favorite middle school title.

Woman's Day and Scholastic put out a nice article on summer reading that includes the following information:

1. Most children start losing interest in reading at age 8.
2. The number one reason children don't read more is that they can't find books they want to read, and need help finding things.
3. Children read more when it isn't stressful. Praise them. Make it fun. My daughter spent the summer after second grade reading nothing but I Can Read and Captain Underpants books, but she would read them ten at a time, and raised her reading level about three grades. Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT make your child read War and Peace because it is "at his grade level".

4. Children should read about four books over three months to maintain their abilities. This seems like a very small number to me.

For the parents at my school, Book Fair will be May 31 and June 1. I'll be glad to recommend books that your children will like over the summer!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Greek and Roman Reading

While Druitt's Corydon series didn't quite do it for me (I wanted more Lightning Thief, which was unreasonable), I gave it to one of my students, and he said that while it was odd and different, he liked it. It will be one of those books that gets mixed reviews (Shusterman's Full Tilt is either loved or hated), but certainly has a place in the collection considering the 7th grade curriculum's emphasis on Ancient Greece and Rome. Will buy, and perhaps invest in the Accelerated Reader test to get a few more readers.

Here's a list of titles that are popular: (Updated 5/14/2008)

Banks, Lynn Read. Tiger, Tiger (2005)
Barrett, Tracy. On Etruscan Time (2005)
Denenberg, Barry. Atticus of Rome (2004)
Dillon, Ellis. The Shadow of Vesuvius (1977)
Lawrence, Caroline. Roman Mysteries Series *****
Ray, Mary. Ides of April (1974)
Rubalcaba, Jill. The Wadget Eye (200) *****
Scieszka, Jon. See you later, gladiator (2000)
Winterfeld, Henry. Detectives in Togas (1956)

Cooney, Caroline B. Goddess of Yesterday (2002) *****
Denenberg, Barry. Pandora of Athens
Fleischman, Paul. Dateline: Troy (1996)
Ford, Michael. The Fire of Ares (2008) series.
Galloway, Patricia. Aleta and the Queen
The Courtesan's Daughter
My Hero Hercules
Gates, Doris. A Fair Wind for Troy
Mightiest of Heroes, Hercules
Two Queens of Heaven (1976)
Geras, Adele. Troy. (also Ithaka, which was not as good)
Goode, Caroline. Cupidity (2008) (Modern, but with gods.)
Hennessey, Caroline. Pandora Gets Jealous (2008) series
Johnson, Dorothy. Farewell to Troy (1964)
Witch Princess
Kindl, Patrice. Lost in the Labyrinth (1992)
Marsh, Katherine. The Night Tourist (2008) Modern, but with mythology.
McClaren, Clemence. Aphrodite's Blessings (2002)
Behind the Walls of Troy
Waiting for Odysseus
McMullan, Kate. Have a Hot Time, Hades (SERIES)
Napoli, Donna Jo. Sirena (1998) *****
The Great God Pan (2003)
Osborne, Mary Pope. Retelling of Odysseus
Riordan, Rick. The Lightning Thief (2005)SERIES *****
Roberts, Katherine. I am the Great Horse (2006)
Spinner, Stephanie. Quiver
Yolen, Jane and Richard Harris. *****
Atalanta and the Arcadian Beast(2003)
Jason and the Gorgon's Blood
Hippolyta and the Curse of the Amazons
Odysseus and the Serpent Maze (2001)

There are certainly more, and as a former Latin teacher I am always on the lookout for additional titles.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Not so much.

Books that just did not meet the needs of my collection:
Wlater Mosley's 47. Too much fantasy to be considered historical, too much history for fantasy.

Christian Burch's The Manny Files. Good idea, too young for my students.

Tobias Druitt's Corydon and the Island of Monster and Corydon and the Fall of Atlantis. I may reconsider these, since they are heavily historical/mythological, but they didn't grab me. I will try the students who really like The Lightning Thief, and see what they say.

Also read a book about a tv addicted mother who was trying to raise a tv free child. Too much whining for me. It's not that hard to limit screen time. My own children watch very little, but then they read a lot.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Why Have the Books Stopped Circulating?

In my trek through the fiction, I came across Zoa Sherburne's Why Have the Birds Stopped Singing(1974). While it circulated frequently for ten years, it hasn't been off the shelf in 20. What happened? In this case, it might well be due to the fact that the dust jacket fell off and it is sitting in its unappealing yellow underwear. It's a decent enough tale of an epileptic girl who has seizure and goes back in time to live an ancestor's life. I may keep it because I have fond memories of the author's Girl in the Mirror, but at some point, if no one will check it out, it must go.

Kate Morgenroth, who wrote the fabulous Jude, replied to the circulation card with a lovely letter and a copy of Echo, her latest. Very kind of her, but while Echo was very riveting, I think the language makes it more appropriate for grades 9 and up. Of course, as a student reminded me yesterday, Jude has some bad language and that was what was part of what made it GOOD. Of course, I have to then look very disapproving-- It's the Blume Principle. I would never have wanted to read Forever unless it was forbidden!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sean Beaudoin, Going Nowhere Faster

For the sake of all my boys who love humorous books but are past the 6th grade, I am grateful to authors like Mr. Beaudoin, who are able to write funny books about older boys and yet not include foul language and undesirable adventures. Thank you!

Not only was the storyline funny (gifted boy decides to work at Happy Video and stay with quirky parents instead of going to college), the prose was well-crafted and I irritated my family my snorting through the first couple of chapters and having to quote them. I knew I had to buy the book after page 5, where Stan describes his life thus: "... so people thought I was destined to Become Something. What that something might be was more or less negotiable, as long as it involved a bow tie, some chalk, super-thick glasses, and lots of published articles in journals no one ever reads." No, Stan, no! Don't major in Classics! The job opportunities are better at Happy Video!

Even the quirky parents (run health food store, drive biofuel car) did not distract from the funny and hapless way Stan bumbles through his life. Definitely one to add to the collection, along with Adam Selzer's How to get suspended and influence people, Jordan Sonnenblick, Alex Bradley's 24 Girls in seven days, and just about anything Gordon Korman.

Mel Odom, The Rover--- WOW!

This author came to my attention when I was reading reviews on, and his views aligned quite well with mine. When I found out that he wrote, I e mailed and asked which of his works he would recommend for middle school students, and he kindly replied that The Rover would be appropriate AND had an Accelerated Reader test. (fun that he knew that!)

Middle grade fantasy fans are voracious and picky. It's hard to keep them in books. Adult fantasy is a tricky business. On Mr. Odom's recommendation, I bought this book without reading it, which is rare for me, and was pleased that this book was exactly what my students and I wanted. Hefty, the first of four books, high fantasy but not inaccessible, Tolkein-ish but much fresher than Eragon, humorous, well-paced (explanations of history are always followed by a rollicking adventure, and yes, it is necessary to use rollicking!), and gently philosophical. I read it, gave it to a student after testing who devoured 30 pages and waited during his lunch for me to process the book, and have four other students (and our secretary) waiting for him to finish.

Well-balanced. So hard in YA stuff, but there was just not a misstep in this book. (Well, okay-- one. The Price is Right by Bahbarker? Groan, but forgiven.) Halfling librarian with penchant for adventure stories (which hamper his success in the library) is shanghaied by pirates, sold into slavery and welcomed into a band of thieves. The basis of his success??-- his vast knowledge acquired by reading. "I'm a librarian," Wick declared proudly. "It's my job to know something about everything."

These are a must-have in a middle school collection. I can't wait to read the rest. In fact, I am going to need more than one copy of the first book.

1. The Rover (2001)2. The Destruction of the Books (2004)3. Lord of the Libraries (2005)
4. The Quest for the Trilogy (2007)

For other titles and bio, check out:

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Celia Rees, Witch Child

Don't know why it took me so long to read this title-- could be that it is rarely on the shelves. I also was not entirely sure what it was about-- was it historical, or a fantasy, or something in between? Like reading Tangerine while under the impression it was a fantasy, I don't like to be confused. So, this is in fact a historical novel, following a girl who is thrown out of her home in England because her grandmother is killed for witchcraft. She ends up in a Puritan contingent and travels to the new world, only to have her powers be called into question. There is a sequel that I will read this summer, because it's not on the shelf.

Must admit that I am quickly approaching Evil Librarian End of the Year Mode: I just want all my babies back home safe and sound so that I can glue them and send the to the rebindery if needed, and then put them all on the shelves and see what volumes of series I am missing, and what gaps I have in the collection. Communing with the books is important, really. I don't do it often, but in the summer I really like to come in and look at all of the books sitting snugly on the shelves. They work hard during the school year and deserve a little rest.

Also working on massive order for the fall. I'll have my reading list all ready.