Monday, August 26, 2013

Fall Releases to Watch For

I've been lucky to get an early read of some amazing books (PB, MG, & YA) in the last few months that are releasing this fall that I would recommend without a doubt. I'm sharing the list here in hope that they will be on your radar. Some of these are making my favorites-of-the-year list for sure. Happy reading!

Title: GHOST HAWK
Author: Susan Cooper
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Number of Pages: 336
Middle Grades
My Recommendation Post
From Newbery Medalist Susan Cooper, a story of adventure and friendship between a young Native American and a colonial New England settler.
     On the winter day Little Hawk is sent into the woods alone, he can take only a bow and arrows, his handcrafted tomahawk, and the amazing metal knife his father traded for with the new white settlers. If Little Hawk survives three moons by himself, he will be a man.
     John Wakely is only ten when his father dies, but he has already experienced the warmth and friendship of the nearby tribes. Yet his fellow colonists aren’t as accepting of the native people. When he is apprenticed to a barrel-maker, John sees how quickly the relationships between settlers and natives are deteriorating. His friendship with Little Hawk will put both boys in grave danger.
     The intertwining stories of Little Hawk and John Wakely are a fascinating tale of friendship and an eye-opening look at the history of our nation. Newbery Medalist Susan Cooper also includes a timeline and an author’s note that discusses the historical context of this important and moving novel.

Title: HELLO, MY NAME IS RUBY
Author: Philip C. Stead
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Number of Pages: 40
Picture Book
Join Ruby, a plucky little bird, as she ventures through life, making new friends, learning new skills and asking questions which may have some very surprising results.  Fearless Ruby's search for adventure, friendship and her place in the world comes to life through acclaimed author/illustrator Philip C. Stead's whimsical illustrations and succinct, charming text.

Title: THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Number of Pages: 432
Young Adult
Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.
     One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.
     The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black

Title: LIVING WITH JACKIE CHAN
Follow-up to JUMPING OFF SWINGS
Author: Jo Knowles
Publisher: Candlewick
Release Date: September 10, 2013
Number of Pages: 384
Young Adult
After fathering a baby, a teenager moves in with his karate-loving uncle and tries to come to terms with his guilt — and find a way to forgive.
     This isn’t how Josh expected to spend senior year. He thought he’d be hanging out with his best friends, Dave and Caleb, driving around, partying, just like always. But here he is, miles from home — new school, new life, living with his Jackie-Chan-obsessed uncle, Larry, and trying to forget. But Josh can’t forget. So many things bring back memories of last year and the night that changed everything. Every day the pain, the shame, and the just not knowing are never far from his thoughts. Why is he such a loser? How could he have done what he did? He finds some moments of peace when he practices karate with Stella, the girl upstairs and his one real friend. As they move together through the katas, Josh feels connected in a way he has never felt before. He wonders if they could be more than friends, but Stella’s jealous boyfriend will make sure that doesn’t happen. And maybe it doesn’t matter. If Stella knew the truth, would she still think he was a True Karate Man? Readers first met Josh in Jumping Off Swings which told the story of four high school students and how one pregnancy changed all of their lives. In this companion book, they follow Josh as he tries to come to terms with what happened, and find a way to forgive.

Title: THE CHAOS OF STARS
Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: September 10, 2013
Number of Pages: 288
Young Adult
Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up.
     Of course, as the human daughter of Egyptian gods, that pretty much comes with the territory. She’s also stuck with parents who barely notice her, and a house full of relatives who can’t be bothered to remember her name. After all, they are going to be around forever—and she’s a mere mortal.
     Isadora’s sick of living a life where she’s only worthy of a passing glance, and when she has the chance to move to San Diego with her brother, she jumps on it. But Isadora’s quickly finding that a “normal” life comes with plenty of its own epic complications—and that there’s no such thing as a clean break when it comes to family. Much as she wants to leave her past behind, she can’t shake the ominous dreams that foretell destruction for her entire family. When it turns out there may be truth in her nightmares, Isadora has to decide whether she can abandon her divine heritage after all.

Title: THE REAL BOY
Author: Anne Ursu
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Number of Pages: 343
Middle Grades
From Anne Ursu, the author of one of the most widely acclaimed middle-grade novels in recent memory, comes a new fairy-tale adventure of magic and friendship. 
     On an island at the edge of an immense sea there is a city, a forest, and a boy. The city is called Asteri, a perfect city that was saved by the magic woven into its walls from a devastating plague that swept through the world over a hundred years before. The forest is called the Barrow, a vast wood of ancient trees that encircles the city and feeds the earth with magic. And the boy is called Oscar, a shop boy for the most powerful magician in the Barrow. Oscar spends his days in a small room in the dark cellar of his master's shop grinding herbs and dreaming of the wizards who once lived on the island generations ago. Oscar's world is small, but he likes it that way. The real world is vast, strange, and unpredictable. And Oscar does not quite fit in. 
     But it's been a long time since anyone who could call himself a wizard walked the world, and now that world is changing. Children in the city are falling ill and something sinister lurks in the forest. Oscar has been content to stay in his small room in the cellar, comforted in the knowledge that the magic that flows from the trees will keep his island safe. Now, even magic may not be enough to save it...

Title: WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE
Author: Trish Doller
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: September 25, 2013
Number of Pages: 352
Young Adult
Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She's never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love--even with someone who seems an improbable choice--is more than just a possibility.
     Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love, betrayal, and how not to lose your mind will resonate with readers who want their stories gritty and utterly true.

Title: BANG (Visions book 2)
Author: Lisa McMann
Publisher: SimonPulse
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Number of Pages: 256
Young Adult
Jules should be happy. She saved a lot of people’s lives and she’s finally with Sawyer, pretty much the guy of her dreams. But the nightmare’s not over, because she somehow managed to pass the psycho vision stuff to Sawyer. Excellent.
     Feeling responsible for what he’s going through and knowing that people’s lives are at stake, Jules is determined to help him figure it all out. But Sawyer’s vision is so awful he can barely describe it, much less make sense of it. All he can tell her is there’s a gun, and eleven ear-splitting shots. Bang.
     Jules and Sawyer have to work out the details fast, because the visions are getting worse and that means only one thing: time is running out. But every clue they see takes them down the wrong path. If they can’t prevent the vision from happening, lives will be lost. And they may be among the casualties…

Title: THE LIVING

Author: Matt de la Pena
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: November 12, 2013
Number of Pages: 336
Young Adult
Shy took the summer job to make some money. In a few months on a luxury cruise liner, he'll rake in the tips and be able to help his mom and sister out with the bills. And how bad can it be? Bikinis, free food, maybe even a girl or two—every cruise has different passengers, after all.
     But everything changes when the Big One hits. Shy's only weeks out at sea when an earthquake more massive than ever before recorded hits California, and his life is forever changed.
     The earthquake is only the first disaster. Suddenly it's a fight to survive for those left living.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

JUST LIKE FATE by Cat Patrick & Suzanne Young

Title: JUST LIKE FATE

Author: Cat Patrick & Suzanne Young
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Number of Pages: 304
Source of Book: eARC from publisher
Caroline is at a crossroads. Her grandmother is sick, maybe dying. Like the rest of her family, Caroline's been at Gram's bedside since her stroke. With the pressure building, all Caroline wants to do is escape--both her family and the reality of Gram's failing health. So when Caroline's best friend offers to take her to a party one fateful Friday night, she must choose: stay by Gram's side, or go to the party and live her life.

The consequence of this one decision will split Caroline's fate into two seperate paths--and she's about to live them both.

Friendships are tested and family drama hits an all-new high as Caroline attempts to rebuild old relationships, and even make a few new ones. If she stays, her longtime crush, Joel, might finally notice her, but if she goes, Chris, the charming college boy, might prove to be everything she's ever wanted.

Though there are two distinct ways for her fate to unfold, there is only one happy ending...
First Thought: Really liked reading this story with the parallel story lines based on one pivotal choice the character made. Seeing the different ways it turned out and the similarities in the end based on what was fated to happen was intriguing.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I will read any book by Cat Patrick (my Author Spotlight feature on her) and this one has the bonus of Suzanne Young also. I'm a fan for sure! I appreciate when a YA romance has a truly nice guy in it, and this one does in Chris (and Caroline's brother Teddy, too). This is a story of fate, destiny, choices, and paths in life that makes the reader think about all of those things in her own life. It has a sweet romance (appropriate for upper middle school). It's an accessible text, but the alternating chapters between each choice will require some focus in the beginning to track what's going on and which storyline is which. One scene could be questionable, but I absolutely appreciate the realistic emotional repercussions of that choice. I do wish some of the physical considerations had been mentioned though. No graphic details - it's a fade away to black scene. Of course, depending on your reading of the book, it may not have actually even happened. Overall, JUST LIKE FATE is a great contemp romance with added depth to it with family issues and friendships and relationship choices and dealing with grief.

Final Thought: Although part of me wishes there was a more concrete answer in the end, I kind of like the ability to decide for myself which version of events actually happened. But the reality is that no matter which one actually occurred, there are key similar things that happen in both choices, and that's really what it's all about. And those are the elements I'm happiest about for Caroline and her family. Fate, destiny, choices, paths in life, and how we can learn from the mistakes we make and grow from them and appreciate what we do have all play a strong role. Easier road or rougher road is relative when looking at all of the things that tie in together.

A good read alike for fans of Kasie West's PIVOT POINT.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Giveaway: EXILE - KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES 2

I'm a huge Shannon Messenger fan...I love her books! Have you read any of them yet?

 

I loved, loved, loved Shannon Messenger's first middle grades book, KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES, (and for that matter, her first young adult book, LET THE SKY FALL), and since I ended up with a second copy of the ARC of book 2 in the KEEPER series, EXILE, I decided to host a giveaway to share the love of this fantasy series.
Good luck and happy reading! 
Title: EXILE (KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES #2)
Author: Shannon Messenger
Publisher: Aladdin (a Simon & Schuster imprint)
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Number of Pages: 576
Sophie Foster thought she was safe. Settled into her home at Havenfield, surrounded by friends, and using her unique telepathic abilities to train Silveny--the first female alicorn ever seen in the Lost Cities--her life finally seems to be coming together. 
      But Sophie's kidnappers are still out there. And when Sophie discovers new messages and clues from the mysterious Black Swan group, she’s forced to take a terrifying risk—one that puts everyone in incredible danger. 
      As long buried secrets rise to the surface, it’s once again up to Sophie to uncover hidden memories—before someone close to her is lost forever. 
      In this second book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, Sophie must journey to the darkest corners of her luminous world in a sequel that will leave you breathless for more.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Summer Releases Not to be Missed

I've read some great books this summer, some old and some that don't come out until this fall...and I read some awesome books that were May, June, July releases that I absolutely recommend you don't miss, so I figured I'd share them all in one post to make it easy for you to find and add to your TBR stacks if you didn't get to them this summer. Happy reading!

Title: THE 5th WAVE

Author: Rick Yancey
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Number of Pages: 457
My detailed thoughts/recommendation

     The Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.
     After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.
     Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Title: WHEN YOU WERE HERE

Author: Daisy Whitney
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Number of Pages: 264
My detailed thoughts/recommendation
     Filled with humor, raw emotion, a strong voice, and a brilliant dog named Sandy Koufax, When You Were Here explores the two most powerful forces known to man-death and love. Daisy Whitney brings her characters to life with a deft touch and resonating authenticity. 
     Danny's mother lost her five-year battle with cancer three weeks before his graduation-the one day that she was hanging on to see.
     Now Danny is left alone, with only his memories, his dog, and his heart-breaking ex-girlfriend for company. He doesn't know how to figure out what to do with her estate, what to say for his Valedictorian speech, let alone how to live or be happy anymore.
     When he gets a letter from his mom's property manager in Tokyo, where she had been going for treatment, it shows a side of his mother he never knew. So, with no other sense of direction, Danny travels to Tokyo to connect with his mother's memory and make sense of her final months, which seemed filled with more joy than Danny ever knew. There, among the cherry blossoms, temples, and crowds, and with the help of an almost-but-definitely-not Harajuku girl, he begins to see how it may not have been ancient magic or mystical treatment that kept his mother going. Perhaps, the secret of how to live lies in how she died.

Title: THE TESTING

Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Number of Pages: 336
My detailed thoughts/recommendation
     Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same? 
     The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career. 
     Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies--trust no one. 
     But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

Title: THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US

Author: Kasie West
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: July 2, 2013
Number of Pages: 320
My detailed thoughts/recommendation
     Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.
     So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she's beginning to enjoy his company.
     She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Picture Book 10 for 10

It's the 4th Annual Picture Book 10 for 10, hosted by Cathy Mere & Mandy Roebek, and I'm so glad Cathy invited me to participate because I've been making it a priority to focus on reading picture books this summer, and am excited to share some that I love the most.
This was really hard to narrow down to a top 10 (as it always seems to be for me with books of any kind) and these are in no particular order. Some are old favorites I've used with students, and some are new favorites I'm looking forward to sharing with my students this year, and all make me smile and touch on themes I want my middle schoolers to think about and discuss.
ONE by Kathryn Otoshi

THE DOT & ISH by Peter H. Reynolds 




CREEPY CARROTS by Aaron Reynolds

PRUDENCE WANTS A PET by Cathleen Daly

ART & MAX by David Wiesner

THE STORY OF FISH & SNAIL by Deborah Freedman

WE ARE IN A BOOK by Mo Willems

+ 1 Non-Fiction Extra (Yes, I cheated a bit, but hey, it's my blog and my list, & this is a beautiful book that I discovered this summer that I hope others discover, too.)




Friday, August 9, 2013

Author Spotlight on...Cat Patrick

This is the first post in a new feature I'm calling "Author Spotlight on..." Many times I find favorite authors who have written multiple books I love and recommend all the time, and I want to feature those authors with all of their titles so you know about them and what books to look for, especially if it's an author you might not be familiar with. Rather than focusing on just one book, this will focus on the author's body of work.
CAT PATRICK
one of my favorite contemporary writers with a sci-fi twist

What do I love about Cat?
-She writes standalones.
-She writes books that read as contemporary realistic fiction, but have a sci-fi twist.
-She writes smart books.
-She writes the most genuinely nice guys in YA.
-She has the best first date scenes.
-She writes books that I don't want to stop reading.
Cat on Facebook

I asked Cat the same question I'll ask each Spotlight author:
What do you hope readers take away from your books?
The desire to eat sweet potato French fries. 

Okay, maybe not literally, but symbolically at least. I’ve eaten my weight in sweet potato fries recently—most notably during amazing writing weekends with a dear author friend. That in mind, here’s what sweet potato fries mean to me: 

Inspiration. I want people to set down my books and think, “If she can do it, so can I.” (And that doesn’t have to be about writing: The “can do” can be about anything from playing the tuba to learning to juggle.

Adventurousness. I try to make my main characters a little bit adventurous, in a positive way that I hope is catching. Why have regular fries when you can eat the sweet potato kind? 

Kindness. It’s easy to be hard on the person in the mirror: To blame him or her for not acting or looking a certain way—or for something as simple as eating too much fried deliciousness. I hope that my books leave people with an inclination to be kind, not only to others, but to themselves, too.

I absolutely recommend that you get your hands on Cat Patrick's books if you haven't yet.
I'd love to hear what you think! 
FORGOTTEN (her debut novel)
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages: 304
Each night at precisely 4:33 am, while sixteen-year-old London Lane is asleep, her memory of that day is erased. In the morning, all she can "remember" are events from her future. London is used to relying on reminder notes and a trusted friend to get through the day, but things get complicated when a new boy at school enters the picture. Luke Henry is not someone you'd easily forget, yet try as she might, London can't find him in her memories of things to come.

When London starts experiencing disturbing flashbacks, or flash-forwards, as the case may be, she realizes it's time to learn about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future.

Release Date: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages: 352
It started with a bus crash.
 

Daisy Appleby was a little girl when it happened, and she barely remembers the accident or being brought back to life. At that moment, though, she became one of the first subjects in a covert government program that tests a drug called Revive.
 

Now fifteen, Daisy has died and been Revived five times. Each death means a new name, a new city, a new identity. The only constant in Daisy's life is constant change.
 

Then Daisy meets Matt and Audrey McKean, charismatic siblings who quickly become her first real friends. But if she's ever to have a normal life, Daisy must escape from an experiment that's much larger--and more sinister--than she ever imagined.
 

From its striking first chapter to its emotionally charged ending, Cat Patrick's Revived is a riveting story about what happens when life and death collide.

Release Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages: 304
A riveting new story from Cat Patrick, author of Forgotten and Revived.

17-year-olds Lizzie, Ella, and Betsey Best grew up as identical triplets... until they discovered a shocking family secret. They're actually closer than sisters, they're clones. Hiding from a government agency that would expose them, the Best family appears to consist of a single mother with one daughter named Elizabeth. Lizzie, Ella, and Betsey take turns going to school, attending social engagements, and a group mindset has always been a de facto part of life...

Then Lizzie meets Sean Kelly, a guy who seems to see into her very soul. As their relationship develops, Lizzie realizes that she's not a carbon copy of her sisters; she's an individual with unique dreams and desires, and digging deeper into her background, Lizzie begins to dismantle the delicate balance of an unusual family that only science could have created.

JUST LIKE FATE (co-written with Suzanne Young)
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Number of Pages: 304
Caroline is at a crossroads. Her grandmother is sick, maybe dying. Like the rest of her family, Caroline's been at Gram's bedside since her stroke. With the pressure building, all Caroline wants to do is escape--both her family and the reality of Gram's failing health. So when Caroline's best friend offers to take her to a party one fateful Friday night, she must choose: stay by Gram's side, or go to the party and live her life.

The consequence of this one decision will split Caroline's fate into two separate paths--and she's about to live them both.

Friendships are tested and family drama hits an all-new high as Caroline attempts to rebuild old relationships, and even make a few new ones. If she stays, her longtime crush, Joel, might finally notice her, but if she goes, Chris, the charming college boy, might prove to be everything she's ever wanted.

Though there are two distinct ways for her fate to unfold, there is only one happy ending...

For more fabulous authors, check out Sarah's Author Love feature at her blog, YA Love.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

THE 5th WAVE by Rick Yancey

Title: THE 5th WAVE
Author: Rick Yancey
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (a Penguin imprint)
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Number of Pages: 457
Source of Book: ARC from a friend
Book Website: http://the5thwaveiscoming.com/
The Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

First Thought: It was as good as everyone told me it would be.  

I was nervous to start this book because so many people had told me how good it was, and I didn't want to be disappointed if it didn't live up to my expectations...but I had no reason to worry. I loved THE 5th WAVE. Rick Yancey has written an entirely engrossing novel that explores the notion of what one will do, believe, and question in order to survive in a brutal world that has completely changed everything that has ever been known. There have been four waves of aliens "attacking" the citizens of this world, and the remaining survivors are waiting for the fifth, without knowing what it could possibly entail. One of the things I liked most about this story was the way in which the multiple perspectives were woven together to create a fuller understanding of what different character's experiences are in these circumstances, and gives the reader an outsiders overview of what is going on in the different areas some characters may not know about. Yes, there are some gruesome parts, but when fighting for survival, sometimes one has to continue to exist. Yancey's writing was descriptive and I was wrapped up in the story the entire time I was reading; I couldn't stop turning pages so I could find out what would happen to these characters next. I spent time in a believeable world based on unbelieveable situations, in circumstances I can't imagine having to deal with, and I loved every page of it.

Final Thoughts: Unputdownable, suspenseful sci-fi that I would absolutely recommend. (How quickly can I get the next book?!)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Another #summerthrowdown Comes to an End

It's August (how did that happen?)! We've come to the end of another year of #summerthrowdown. Year 2 (in its new iteration) was a success in throwing down against our huge stacks of books to read! Need a reminder what that's all about? Here's the post that launched the reading of thousands of books.
Our theme:  
Together we are stronger...teachers and librarians united in reading 
and read we did. 
In 30 days, a total of 122 teachers & librarians read over 3000 books, surpassing our goal and exceeding last year's total by over 100 books! On their summer breaks. Just think of the number of awesome books that will be shared with students at the start of this next school year, by those who have read them. 

I know for myself sometimes I have good intentions, but it takes putting something in writing to help motivate me to make it happen, or setting an actual goal to achieve, or just having a community to talk to or remind me about it, or a way to hold myself accountable to make it a priority. That's what #summerthrowdown does for me, and did this year as I got stacks and stacks of picture books from the library. I hope it did the same for you! If you didn't join in this year, don't worry, I have a feeling we'll be revisiting the fun in 2014.

On behalf of Brian, Sherry, Kathy, and myself...the #summerthrowdown team...Thank you for joining us! See you next summer (and, of course, on twitter)!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

My First Day of School Read Alouds 2013

I want to make a big impact with the read alouds I choose for the first day of school. Yes, I read picture books to my 7th & 8th graders. I want a quick text that we can all share to start creating our classroom community in a positive way. I want my students to see the value and depth of picture books no matter how old they are. I want my students to know I will be reading aloud to them throughout the year (not only to model fluency, but because we are never to old to appreciate a read aloud). I want my students to continue to have fun experiences with reading and enjoy a book all together. I want the message I send on the very first day of school to be one of a love of reading and appreciation of literature in all of its forms. Picture books let me do everything I want to do on that first meeting with students.

This summer I made it a goal to read more widely in the picture book area. Previously, the book I shared with students on the first day of school was THE NAME JAR by Yangsook Choi. The power of that book for me was that I could share a personal story about the importance of names, that it is every child's right to be called by their name (in whatever variation that may be) and have it pronounced correctly as a part of their identity, it's written by an author who has personal stories about adapting to a new culture, it's a beautiful book and story, and it is a great segue into introductions and my making sure I have the correct name and pronunciation for each of my students. 
This year is the first time that I will have a group of students for the 2nd year in a row, so it was time to decide on new first day of school read alouds for my incoming 8th graders (who I taught last year as 7th graders - I will probably still use the same one I've used before for my incoming 7th graders because I like the message it sends about building our community from the start). The great thing is that I won't have to waste any time in getting to know you activities because we all know each other already, so we can jump right into the learning and reading. In thinking about all of the picture books I read aloud to this group last year (and there were many) and all of the new ones I've found this summer, and what I know about this class of students from last year and their group dynamics, I realized I wanted to tailor the theme of the books I chose to what I think they need and what I want to focus on from the start of their 8th grade experience. What I realized is that there were three picture books I read that all related to themes of friendship, supporting each other, and courage. Thus, my first day of school read alouds for my 8th graders this year. *I'm also very much looking forward to being able to rethink this every year for my incoming 8th graders based on what I know about that group and how I want to start our year.

This year I will start with:
THE STORY OF FISH & SNAIL by Deborah Freedman

BOY + BOT by Ame Dyckman

ART & MAX by David Wiesner

I especially love that when I tweeted this list out, Deborah and Ame expressed their excitement that I was reading aloud picture books to 8th graders...and even  more so this:
If you haven't read any of these, I highly recommend that you do. Happy reading!

What are you planning on reading to your students for the first day of school? How are you deciding?
 
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