Thursday, January 29, 2009

Snow Day Reading

Luckily, I was prepared! My favorite of the day was Christine Hurley Deriso's Talia Talk. It's not Newbery material (I was so pleased with the selection this year that I actually recommended some Newbery books to students throughout the day), but it was fun, well-written, and just A Nice Read. Talia's mother is on television and gives commentary on "everyday life"-- usually meaning Talia's life. Nothing is secret, so when Talia gets a chance to be a commentator on her school's video morning announcements, she's able to tell some of her mother's foibles. There are a lot of other things going on as well-- Talia's widowed mother starts dating, there are some friend issues that are so prevalent in middle school, and all of the issues were woven together in a realistic way that vey convincingly mirrored what goes on in middle school. Deriso has a real talent for that-- her Do-Over, while a fantasy, still is a good picture of how difficult middle school can be.

Of course, that's a walk in the park compared to the world in Susan Vaught's Exposed. Loved the tag line on the cover-- "Looking for love in all the wrong chat rooms". That's not what Chan does, though. She knows all the parental rules governing computer use. She goes to approved chat rooms, meets a boy whom she thinks is nice, and slowly and convincingly starts to ignore the rules-- with predictable but no less dire consequences. The way that she starts falling behind on homework, fighting with her friend, and generally being out of sorts is nicely portrayed. This is a title for older students; although there is nothing graphic, there is talk about the fact that Chan was in a relationship with a boy in her school, and she ended up with herpes, and the problems that she has with the boy online are certainly mature-- she posts video of herself without a shirt on in order to make money. Still, a good cautionary tale for students who think that they can handle everything that they do online. My question for the parents would be-- why did the girls have computers in their bedrooms? Made me feel better about our really slow dial up connection!

In honor of the Newbery, I read the 1965 winner, Maia Wojciechowski's Shadow of the Bull. There must have been a MUCH larger interest in bull fighting back then than there is now. It's a decent enough coming of age story. Manolo's father was a premier bullfighter who died when Manolo was very young. People in his village think that he can be as good a bull fighter as his father, and he is groomed to follow the same path, even though he doesn't want to hurt animals. This would be a hard sell-- bullfighting is very mean, and I can't think that students are that interested in it. Times change.

Read The Mystery at the Snowflake Inn, a Boxcar Children book, and was surprised to see that the activities were written by Nancy Krulik, who is now writing her own fun books for middle grade students. Also picked up Vivian Vande Velde's Ghost of a Hanged Man, which is a short if somewhat improbably story of a hanged murderer coming back and taking revenge on the people who convicted him. This will be good, though, for students who leave their Accelerated Reading go for too long-- it's 2 points long but on a 5.1 reading level.

While I liked Liz Kessler's Tail of Emily Windsnap, I wasn't as crazy about Philippa Fisher's Fairy Godmother. Another case of too many similar books. This was like the new Rallison one I didn't care for-- dysfunctional fairy godmother who is unhappy having to help a human. And I hate to negatively review Peter David two days in a row, especially since his books are interesting and well-writte, but they just aren't what my students are requesting. Tigerheart was an intriguing Peter Pan-type story, but both the lyrical, archaic quality of the prose and the direction of the narrative make this more of a tale for grownups who liked Peter Pan. Also, there have been other Pan reworkings lately-- from McCaughrean to Barry and Pearson.


  1. Anonymous6:09 PM EST

    yes, but the Barry/Pearson and McCaughrean books all have MANY mistakes from J.M. Barrie's original stories.

    Click my name to see the only one that's faithful and VERY different.

    Also, here's a MarketWatch article on it:


  2. I really want to read PHILIPPA FISHER. When I was younger I was a huge fan of Kessler's EMILY WINDSNAP series, so it looks super-cute. And too bad that MY FAIR GODMOTHER wasn't a hit, I'm really dying to read that one! (: I read TALIA TALK a while ago and wasn't that impressed.....but isn't the cover cool?