Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to showcase upcoming books that you can't wait to read.

My anxiously awaited title this week is:

Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel
Series: This Dark Endeavor Chronicles #2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Expected Publication: August 21, 2012
Pages: 310
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult

From Goodreads:
When does obsession become madness? Tragedy has forced sixteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein to swear off alchemy forever. He burns the Dark Library. He vows he will never dabble in the dark sciences again—just as he vows he will no longer covet Elizabeth, his brother’s betrothed.

If only these things were not so tempting.

When he and Elizabeth discover a portal into the spirit world, they cannot resist. Together with Victor’s twin, Konrad, and their friend Henry, the four venture into a place of infinite possibilities where power and passion reign. But as they search for the knowledge to raise the dead, they unknowingly unlock a darkness from which they may never return.

I recently read and reviewed the audiobook of This Dark Endeavor and fell head over heels for it. So much so that I felt compelled to request the ARC of Such Wicked Intent. I have no idea if Simon & Schuster will send me one, but given how rarely I actually request ARCs (like maybe I've requested 5 in the past two years) that should give you some idea of how much I want to read it.  Kenneth Oppel is one of those authors who just doesn't get as much praise for his talent as I think he deserves. Dude can totally write. He managed to take a stale tome (Frankenstein) that many high schoolers dread reading in their English lit classes and breathe new life into it by introducing us to Victor Frankenstein as a young man. I am actually curious to read the Mary Shelly classic now and I'd never felt any sort of compulsion to read it in the past.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Leap Into Books Giveaway Hop

This giveaway hop is hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Jinky is Reading.

For this hop one lucky winner will receive two books by Daisy Whitney:

A hardcover of The Mockingbirds and an ARC of The Rivals (click links for book descriptions).

To enter, please follow the Rafflecopter instructions.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I'd Give a Theme Song To

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today's topic is:
Top Ten Books I'd give a theme song to

Since I'm such a huge music snob, this is a topic that took me weeks to work on. Seriously, like a month. I went so far as to go through all the 2000 songs on my iTunes account to find just the right song for each book. Some were easy (like, #1 was a total no-brainer. I knew that was the theme song for that book ever since it came out) but others took me a while to figure out.

(All links to song lyrics do not contain pop-ups)

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Uprising by Muse
"They will not force us
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious"
Can you think of a song more suited to the battlecry of Mockingjay than this one? I didn't think so. In fact, if this song isn't on the movie soundtrack, I'm going to be VERY upset.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver
The Resistance by Muse
"Love is our resistance
They'll keep us apart 
But they won't stop breaking us down
Hold me
Our lips must always be sealed."

Honestly, Muse's entire Resistance album is a dystopian literature lover's dream!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Thank You for Loving Me by Jon Bon Jovi
"Thank you for loving me
For being my eyes
When I couldn't see
For parting my lips
When I couldn't breathe
Thank you for loving me"

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
Winter by Tori Amos
"I run off
Where the drifts get deeper
Sleeping beauty trips me with a frown
I hear a voice
Your must learn to stand up for yourself
Cause I can't always be around He says

When you gonna make up your mind
When you gonna love you as much as I do
When you gonna make up your mind
Cause things are gonna change so fast
All the white horses are still in bed
I tell you that I'll always want you near
You say that things change my dear"

Paper Towns by John Green
Creep by Radiohead
"But I'm a creep
I'm a weirdo
What the hell I'm doing here?
I don't belong here

She's running out again

She's running out
run, run run"

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Missing by Evanescence
"Please, please forgive me,
But I won't be home again.
Maybe someday you'll look up,
And, barely conscious, you'll say to no one:
Isn't something missing?

You won't cry for my absence, I know -
You forgot me long ago.
Am I that unimportant...?
Am I so insignificant...?
Isn't something missing?
Isn't someone missing me? "

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Everybody Hurts by REM
"When your day is long
And the night, the night is yours alone
When you're sure you've had enough
Of this life, well hang on

Don't let yourself go

'Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes"

Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer
Sing by My Chemical Romance
"Sing it out
Boy, you got to see what tomorrow brings
Sing it out
Girl, you’ve got to be what tomorrow needs
For every time that they want to count you out
Use your voice every single time you open up your mouth"

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
Turn to Stone by Ingrid Michaelson
"I know that I am nothing new
There's so much more than me and you
But brother, how we must atone
before we turn to stone"

Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Gravity by Sara Bareilles
"I live here on my knees
as I try to make you see
that you're everything I think I need here on the ground.
But you're neither friend nor foe
though I can't seem to let you go.
The one thing that I still know is that you're keeping me down
You're on to me, on to me, and all over...
Something always brings me back to you.
It never takes too long."
I'm going to be entirely honest. I haven't actually read Crank yet, but the theme of the novel makes me think very much of the performance by Kayla and Kupono about addiction on So You Think You Can Dance. I just watched it again, and am amazed that it still moved me to tears:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Wonder by RJ Palacio

Auggie Pullman knows he's different. He was born with a severe facial deformity and has spent his entire life dealing with people's reaction to his appearance. Due to the large number of surgeries and health issues he experienced as a young child, Auggie has always been homeschooled - until his parents decide that 5th grade would be the perfect year for him to go to a real school and interact with real kids.

And that is where the main conflict of this story begins. 

What is so extraordinary about Wonder is that there are many different points of view to explore and discuss. Auggie is never explicitly bullied at school, but he experiences a great deal of unkind treatment from classmates. But there are also the behaviors of his classmates and family members that kids can discuss and empathize with. This is a novel that shows kids there are no simple answers in life.

I'm sure this phrase has already become cliche even though the book has only been out for a couple weeks now but Wonder is a wonder of a book. It's something you read that will stay with you for a long time. Auggie is one of the most lovable, empathetic characters I've ever encountered in my reading life. There's a scene in the book where Auggie's father hugs him and tells him how much he loves his face, and that very scene made me long to do the same thing for him. I loved Auggie in that moment in the same way his parents did. 

If I had one criticism of the book it's that the ending was a little too perfect for real life, but at the same time, it was absolutely necessary for readers to feel satisfied that karma finally showed some kindness to Auggie. You can't leave readers feeling like the hand Auggie had been dealt was still rearing its ugly head.

If you're a middle grade teacher searching for your next great read-aloud, I can't recommend Wonder enough.

Check out an interview with the author on her website along with some cool annotations about content in the book.

Also, take a gander at the awesome book trailer

Wonder by RJ Palacio
Published: February 14, 2012
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 320
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Middle Grade
Disclosure: Review copy received through NetGalley

Saturday, February 25, 2012

In My Mailbox (63)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.

Christopher Paul Curtis is coming to my local indie book store on Tuesday, so I had to stop by and purchase a couple of his books:
Bud, Not Buddy and The Mighty Miss Malone
But seeing as how my class gave me a very generous Visa gift card for my Christmas gift this year, I decided to spend it by giving back (some of it) to them in the form of buying books for my classroom.  (Well, most of them are for my classroom).
Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan, illustrated by Maira Kalman (this one, I admit, is for me, but if I read it and find it accessible for kids, I might put it in my classroom library.)
The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Dreaanen
The Butterfly Clues by  Kate Ellison
Cold Cereal by Adam Rex (I heart Adam Rex. His books always make me laugh.)
Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill (Incidentally, I cannot look at this book without getting the Soundgarden song stuck in my head - it's stuck in my head right now.)
Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? and Teach Your Buffalo to Play Drums by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein (I bought these books for an upcoming baby shower where we were instructed to bring our favorite children's book.)

Used bookstore finds:
 Ivy & Bean by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Iggie's House, Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, and Blubber by Judy Blume
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where's My Prince? by Melissa Kantor

Netgalley Downloads:
Wonder by RJ Palacio
 We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March by Cynthia Levinson

From the library:
Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex
Tree Ring Circus by Adam Rex

Passing the Music Down by Sarah Sullivan, illustrated by Barry Root
The Library by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small

I Am the Dog, I Am the Cat by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barry Moser
I Will Surprise My Friend by Mo Willems

Friday, February 24, 2012

Inspired by other bloggers, I bring to you.... MacGyver Meals

Last weekend, Beth Fish Reads wrote about Desperation Cooking, which she referred to as

"when the thought of dirtying up the kitchen, chopping veggies, and waiting for flavors to develop in a simmering pot are just to too much to bear."

But this week, I'd like to talk about a different kind of Desperation Cooking, something I'd like to refer to as: MacGyver Meals.
Meaning, by the time you realize you have a virtually empty fridge and freezer, you must, in desperation, improvise and create something delicious to eat for dinner.

But what does MacGyver have to do with this? Well, if you remember anything about that old show from the 80s (besides Richard Dean Anderson's ability to make a mullet look good), it was that MacGyver could get himself (and whatever damsel in distress he was attempting to save that week) out of any predicament using some string, a box of toothpicks and some bubble gum.

In my case, these were but a few of the minimal items I had laying around in my kitchen:

Gruyere cheese
frozen pie crust

Hmmmmm.... how could I possibly save dinner with those few items.

I KNOW! Quiche!

Let me just explain to you, quiche is not on my normal repertoire of items I make on a regular basis.  But desperate times called for desperate measures, and with a little bit of ingenuity, I managed to create dish that was not only tasty, but fancy too: French Onion Quiche. Out of my desperation and my MacGyver skills in the kitchen, I managed to save the day and whip up a meal that satisfied both me and The Husband.
put the cheese and caramelized onions in the pre-made crust
pour milk and egg mixture into crust
Bake for 20-25 minutes at 375. ENJOY!
Don't ask me for measurements for this recipe because I totally made it up on the spot. But that was the fun of it. So next time you're running low on staples in the kitchen, rather than calling for take-out, just ask yourself: WWMD, What Would MacGyver Do?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Book Trailer: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

I don't often post book trailers on my blog. It has to really catch my attention for me to post it. But when I came across the trailer for The One and Only Ivan, I was spellbound. I've actually already read and reviewed Ivan, but this book trailer is so full of emotion that I couldn't resist. The only thing I don't like about this trailer is that it only portrays the sadness of the story. While sadness is a prevalent emotion in the book, there is also humor and joy. So don't be afraid of reading this book if you think it will be a complete bummer of a novel. It makes you feel many more things than just sadness. I'm staking my claim for this one to be one some award lists next year.

Check out my review of The One and Only Ivan

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Violins of Autumn by Amy McAuley

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to showcase upcoming books that you can't wait to read.

My anxiously awaited title this week is:

Violins of Autumn by Amy Mcauley
Expected Publication: June 19, 2012
Publisher: Walker Children's
Pages: 336
Genre: Historical Fiction
Audience: Young Adult

From Goodreads:
Go behind enemy lines during World War II in this tale of romance and espionage...

Betty, an American teenager living in Britain, is determined to contribute to the cause when the Germans begin bombing London in World War II. Instead of collecting scrap metal or running air raid drills like most girls her age, Betty lies about her age and trains to become a spy and member of the Special Operations Executive. Now known by her secret agent persona, Adele Blanchard, she soon finds herself parachuting over German-occupied France in the dark of night to join the secret Resistance movement.

Adele's missions in Paris and throughout the French countryside delivering top-secret messages, lead to several close calls with the Gestapo, but it's when she crosses paths with a young American pilot that Adele fully realizes the brutality of this war and the seriousness of her circumstances. Plus her changing feelings for this pilot are as uncertain as their future. Can Adele elude the Gestapo long enough to enjoy the future they are trying to protect?

A young adult spy novel that takes place during WWII? YES PLEASE!!!! Strangely enough, I don't read a lot of spy novels but I LOVE spy movies and TV shows like The Bourne Trilogy (yes, I know they were books first) and Covert Affairs (and even Pan Am to some extent).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I'd Save from My Burning House

 Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today's topic is:
Top ten books I'd save from my burning house.

Now books to me can be replaced. The ones I would save from my house if it were burning down would be the ones that I got signed by the author.

Therefore, all of my selections this week are signed books:

1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Signed copy, first edition. Need I say more?

2. Paper Towns by John Green
After TFIOS, Paper Towns is my favorite John Green novel. And unlike TFIOS, Paper Towns is actually signed TO ME. Every so often, I pull the book at my shelf just to look at John Green's writing of my name. Is that weird?

 3. Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher
Whale Talk is by far my favorite Chris Crutcher book. It is so emotionally wrenching but an important book to read. I met Chris at NCTE back in November and was able to tell him how much the book meant to me.

 4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
I remember going to the event  for this book back in October and being completely enraptured by Laini's presentation. She wasn't showy and didn't make a big spectacle. Instead, she was quietly dignified. In fact, for someone who has bright pink hair, I was amazed at how quiet and almost introverted she is.

5. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Despite having a ridiculously long signing line at NCTE, Laurie Halse Anderson made time to talk to every person and listen to their story, and even pose for pictures if they wanted.
 6. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Same as above.

 7. Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel
Kenneth Oppel doesn't get as much publicity and recognition as I think he should. Maybe he does in Canada, where he's from, but here in the US, dude needs to be given way more props. He is such an amazing author and I was grateful to have met him at NCTE for him to sign all of my favorite books. Half Brother is my all-time favorite Kenneth Oppel book that I would want to save.

8. Feed by M.T. Anderson
Again, meeting M.T. at NCTE was such a thrilling experience. He was so gracious and spent a few minutes chatting with me since he didn't have a line. (There's something wrong with the world if M.T. Anderson doesn't have a line!)

9. As You Wish by Jackson Pearce
I feel like a broken record, but meeting Jackson at NCTE was awesome. I walked over to the Anderson's booth and Laurie Halse Anderson had this huge line, but Jackson was sitting all by herself signing books (again, there's no justice in the world if Jackson Pearce has no line!) so I walked up to her and said, "Do you seriously not have a line? Well, then, could you sign this book for me?" She was very excited that I actually owned her first book. And then she was nice enough to take a picture with me.

10. The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller
Not only did Donalyn sign my copy of her book (yes, at NCTE) but this book is my classroom Bible. And it is covered in highlights and post-it flags. The idea of losing all those notes and highlights terrifies me. Then again, having to re-read this book in its entirety would not be a tragedy as it is THE most inspiring teaching book I've ever read.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Lola Nolan is eccentric to say the least. Rather than dressing in the hippest fashions, she chooses instead to live her life in costume and the more outrageous the better. To an outside observer, one might initially assume this is her form of rebellion, but in actuality, she gets along quite well with her parents and is a hard-working student. On the surface, her life looks content and peaceful, but that contentment is soon encroached upon when the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, move back into the neighborhood, causing her to relive some painful memories from the past.

Now that Cricket, the boy she once loved, is back, Lola must face some nagging and unsettling feelings, and question the status of her relationship with her current boyfriend, Max.

Along with her boy troubles, Lola also must explore some messy family dynamics when the birth mother who abandoned her when she was a baby continues to wreak havoc on their lives.

Lola and the Boy Next Door also boasts an added bonus of some very familiar secondary characters: Anna and St. Clair from Perkins' first novel Anna and the French Kiss. Because they are minor characters, it is not necessary to have read Anna prior to reading Lola.

My advice, however, would be to read Anna and the French Kiss first because I don't think that Lola and the Boy Next Door even remotely holds a candle to the brilliance of Anna. (Though, in perusing my Goodreads friends list, I appear to be the only one who feels this way.) In fact, if I had read Lola first, I'm not entirely sure I'd want to read another Stephanie Perkins novel. It pains me to say that because I LOVE Stephanie So. Much. She is the first author I ever followed before her novel came out and it was so exciting to see her go from soon-to-be author to real-life, published author. But here's the thing: Anna was a book we all knew (in the book blogosphere anyway) took many years for Perkins to write. And it felt that way. As I read, I could feel her heart and soul poured out onto the pages of that book. The characters, conflicts, and descriptions felt original and authentic.

But Lola? Lola felt rushed and hurried. Like it was a novel written on a deadline.

For example: at the beginning of the novel, I really liked Max. I thought he was going to be a character that I would root for and make it hard for me to decide whether I wanted Lola to be with Max or Cricket. He seemed really sweet and I thought for sure when Perkins gave him a line like, "No. You're delightfully screwy, and I wouldn't have you any other way," in response to Lola's question, "You don't think I'm perfect?" that he was going to be a good guy.

But he suddenly went from good guy to complete tool in a matter of a few pages. He went from being someone I thought would be a complex, three-dimensional character whom I would root for, to being a one-dimensional character created for the sole purpose of despising.

Another thing that left me scratching my head was Lola's choice to dress in costume. When the reader first finds out that Lola's birth mother is the sister of one of her adoptive fathers, it seems as though Lola has chosen this form of expression as a way to get her mother to love her: e.g. "If I'm not enough for you, maybe if I become someone else you will love me." But by the end of the novel, the reader is given mixed messages about this idea. It is suggested very heavily at the beginning of the novel that her choice to dress in costume is a way to mask her feelings of inadequacy, but by the end, that idea is not so much disregarded as not explored as much as I was hoping.

Something I will compliment Perkins on is that she is one of the few novelists who writes about figure skating like she actually knows the sport, using the correct vernacular and knowing all of the names and times of year for certain competitions. As someone who has followed figure skating closely for many years, I can't tell you how many authors cop out and say something like "triple jump" instead of giving the correct name of the jump the skater is performing (e.g. lutz, loop, axel, salchow, toe-loop, flip). Perkins, however, used very specific skating terminology which tells me she's either a fangirl like me or she did her research.

Despite the fact that I didn't love this novel as much as I was hoping, I still have mad love for Stephanie Perkins and will continue to read all of the books she publishes. I'm just disappointed that while Anna and the French Kiss felt like a complex, layered novel that lacked the cliches and triteness of typical romance fare, Lola and the Boy Next Door had more fluff to it, presumably due to the fact that Perkins didn't have as much time to write this one as her first novel (though that is mere conjecture on my part). I don't like to be critical of one of my favorite author's works, but I also don't want to be one of those bloggers that only writes glowing reviews that feel forced and phony. To me, I'm more likely to pick up a book after reading a highly critical yet substantive review than a review full of excessive praise and empty adjectives.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Published: September 29, 2011
Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 338
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Young Adult

Monday, February 20, 2012

Guest Post: Derek the Ghost, author of Scary School

The Importance of Middle-Grade Fiction
Why Reading my Book Series Scary School is Guaranteed to Turn your Kid into a Well-adjusted, Ivy League-bound, World-beater Dynamo

By Derek the Ghost

            Let’s start off with this question. Why is reading important for children? Wait. I have better question. Why is absorbing a story in the form of text considered a superior means of story-absorption as opposed to pictures and sound through a television or movie screen?

            Back in the olden days before TV and movies, reading was the numero uno form of self-entertainment. However, like TV of today, using books to take in fictional stories was considered a highly frivolous activity. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only form of reading not considered frivolous was reading the bible.

            So why did the cultural paradigm shift? Television and movies became the dominant form of story dispersion, and suddenly books became the underdog. When books became the underdog, they went from frivolous to intellectually elitist practically overnight. You could argue the same thing happened with theater.

            So, are you actually smarter because you read, or is it just our culture’s perception of reading that merely makes you appear smarter?

            Here’s the answer. You’re actually smarter. 

            It goes without saying that reading requires a basic education. But more importantly, it requires that the brain function in a heightened state of stimulation called Alpha Mode. During Alpha Mode there’s an innumerable amount of split-second decisions taking place. The brain is constantly deciphering letters and interpreting their meaning while at the same time forming imagery to correlate with each phrase. It requires a lot of sub-conscious brain energy and millions of electrical reactions.

            Because reading requires so much brain energy, the brain becomes tired quickly and wants to switch to Beta Mode. Beta Mode is when you are spacing out, vegging out, or just hanging out. You are essentially on autopilot, just taking things in, but not actively participating. When you are driving a car, you are usually in Alpha Mode. But when you suddenly look up and realize you’ve driven ten miles past your freeway exit, that’s right… you switched over to Beta Mode, buster.

            The good news is that reading is like running. When you first start running you can only run a short distance before getting tired. Reading is the same way. The more you read, the more “brain exercise” you’re getting, and staying in Alpha Mode for longer stretches without getting tired becomes much easier. This effect bleeds over into all facets of life. You’ll be able to study longer and more effectively, retain more information, and work more thoroughly and patiently for extended hours. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did this better than anyone.

            Now let me ask you this: Why were kids who had never read anything longer than a 150-page Goosebumps book so eager to read a 750-page Harry Potter book? And why were they able to do it so effortlessly, when reading just one chapter of a schoolbook feels like a Herculean labor?

            Because they loved it. Reading Harry Potter was as enjoyable to most kids (if not more so) than playing video games or watching cartoons. The pleasure of reading those books caused kids’ brains to squirt dopamine into their system, making them feel euphoric and self-confident. There’s something books provide that all their other forms of entertainment cannot – a deep, almost familial bond with the characters. Only books can create that on such a profound level. Remember Kathy Bates in Misery? That’s the dark side of it, but I don’t think anyone went bat-#$#@ crazy when Friends was cancelled.

            The great thing about Harry Potter was the after-shock it created in the middle-grade and YA book market. Kids were addicted to the book. The pleasure they got from the suspense, humor, mystery, and triumph had shot buckets of dopamine into their systems and no other form of entertainment could match that natural high. So, the middle-grade and YA book market exploded with kids seeking their next fix. When the Harry Potter fans grew up, they were naturally attracted to edgier, more adult fare that reflected their changing selves, and the YA market skyrocketed, heralded by Twilight and now The Hunger Games.

            Which brings me to my book series, Scary School. With these books, I had only one goal. I was not trying to write to the best middle-grade series ever. I wasn’t trying to win any Newberry medals for literature.  All I wanted to do with the Scary School series was make kids laugh. That’s it.

            With my background in comedy writing, I felt that I could maybe write the funniest (not the best) middle-grade book ever. Go big or go home, right? I wanted to have at least three laugh-out-loud moments on every page. Did I succeed? You’ll have to tell me, but the most often used words in the reviews of the book have been “hilarious” and “laugh-out-loud funny.” So far so good.

            What will happen when your kids read Scary School will be something very magical. It may very well be the first chapter book your kid reads as well as the first chapter of a life of profound and meaningful achievement. It may also be something a reluctant reader gives a shot because it actually looks fun with that zombie skateboarding kid on the cover. Maybe the only reason your kid gets it is because I’m signing copies at the local bookstore, so you think it would be neat for your kid to have a signed book. Let’s play out that scenario:            
            I sign the inside jacket of Scary School Book One and write him or her a special message with a funny drawing. Your kid is much more excited to receive it than you thought he/she would be.
            That night, you hear laughter from across the house late at night. Your kid is supposed to be asleep but is staying up in bed reading Scary School. You figure that’s okay, so you let him/her keep reading, and you keep hearing laughter until midnight. The laughter is forging an imprint on your kid’s brain that reading=fun.

            After finishing Scary School, you child will seek out more books to try and recreate that boisterous experience.

            In the process, the child will continuing growing up, always reading and seeking that next great story. While other kids are watching TV and living their lives in Beta Mode, your child’s brain will be in Alpha Mode 1,000% more often. The heightened brain stimulation for long hours will increase your child’s cognitive functioning far past his/her peers. Not only that, your child will be armed with amazing moral and practical lessons learned throughout the Scary School book series that helps him/her adjust to new situations, treat people with respect and kindness, and fuel him/her with a yearning to make the world a better place.

            This leads your child into doing community service, building the next great invention, and becoming class president.

            Harvard and Yale both offer your child full scholarships, but he/she chooses to cash in on his new invention money and attends Oxford because Scary School taught him/her the value of seeking adventure and meeting different kinds of people from all over the world.

            You don’t miss him/her as you otherwise might have because in the future there’s holographic communication where it seems like you’re actually sitting and talking in the same room together.

            After graduation, your child comes back home where he/she is probably a DA, a famous architect, a prodigious scientist, or CEO of that hot new startup. He/She comes over for dinner one night and puts a knapsack down on the sofa. It falls over, and amongst the futuristic gadgets, you notice an old, dusty copy of Scary School – that book your child read in one all-nighter back in middle school. That book purchased on a whim because the author happened to be signing at the store. You open it up, and read what is says where I signed the inside of the jacket:

Dear (your kid’s name), Have Fun at Scary School! – Derek the Ghost


For more info the Scary School series, fun and games, and even tour the school and meet the students and faculty, please visit  Scary School #2 – Monsters on the March will be released June 26, 2012 online and in bookstores everywhere.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Scary School by Derek the Ghost

School can be a scary place... but not nearly as frightening as Scary School, which boasts teachers like vampires, dragons, dinosaurs, and zombies.

Come on a journey with the Derek the Ghost and the new kid of Scary School, aptly named Charles Nukid, as he learns the ins and outs, and downright strange traditions of this terrifying institution of learning. As we travel through Scary School, we soon discover that everyone will be participating in the upcoming Ghoul Games where students are excited to learn they get to choose the activity they'd like to compete in. The excitement soon turns to terror, however, when they learn that this year, the rules have changed... slightly. Instead of winning medals, now the winners get to... eat the losers.

To say this book has boy appeal is an understatement. The silly, irreverent humor has definite allure to the "reluctant reader" set. Each chapter introduces us to a new and terrifying member of Scary School and shows us the clever use of play-on words, my favorite being the chefs WereWolfgang Puck and Mario Bat-Ali (for obvious reasons I think).

The introducing of new characters in each chapter makes it have a structure very similar to Sideways Stories from Wayside School so, in that regard, along with the style of humor, I think it is a good fit for boy readers ages 8-10. As a sixth grade teacher, this would be a good book for some of my kids at the beginning of the year, but as it always and inevitably happens, as we get closer to the end of the year, they are looking to read books with more mature plots and characters. Upon asking a sixth grade student what she thought of the book, she agreed that it had more appeal to boys between the ages of 8-10 (this assessment was without my prompting).

Scary School by Derek the Ghost
Published: June 1, 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 233
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Middle Grade
Disclosure: copy received for review from author