Saturday, March 31, 2012

In My Mailbox (67)

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

I did a vlog this week coming to you directly from my classroom. I actually filmed it Thursday morning when I wasn't quite awake yet so I apologize for the bad edit job. I had to curb my rambling.

All books mentioned are by Jennifer Holm:
Turtle in Paradise
Penny from Heaven
Babymouse: Queen of the World
Squish: Super Amoeba

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Very Nerdy Evening

I continue to marvel at the depths social media has improved and inspired my teaching life. Twitter has allowed me to learn from teachers, authors, and librarians all over the country and even the world. No longer is professional development limited to a conference here or a meeting there. It's happening every day, just a computer or smartphone away.

Wednesday evening was one of those moments that I realized social media has done more than just help me learn to be a better teacher. It's helping me to do things and meet people I'd never be able to do and meet otherwise. I had a nerdy good time at dinner in Ann Arbor with some Michigan members of the Nerdy Book Club (one drove in from Chicago) and... Jennifer Holm. Yes, the Jennifer Holm who won three Newbery honors and writes two of the coolest graphic novel series in the world: Babymouse and Squish.

She was giving a talk at the University of Michigan on Thursday and because Colby Sharp is probably the coolest teacher in the state of Michigan, he arranged for a small group of us to have dinner together at a restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor.

Not only is Jenni one of the nicest, sweetest authors you will ever meet, but being surrounded by teachers and librarians who are just as passionate as I am about what they do was such an empowering feeling. We laughed, talked shop, and of course, discussed books.

I think one of my favorite moments of the evening was when we were sitting around a table at a bar in downtown Ann Arbor, surrounded by students that attend a university known as the Harvard of the Midwest (depending on who you ask), and here we are, extolling the virtues of Babymouse. We're not talking about the current political climate of the Middle East or the brilliance of Tolstoy. Nope. We're talking about a tiny mouse with curly whiskers who wished they were straight. And you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way.

One of the most memorable moments from the evening was thanks to one Brian Wyzlic and the dedication he shows to his students by becoming Edgar Allan Poe... literally. He went so far as to come to dinner dressed as Poe... and he and Jenni admired each other's work:
Hey Edgar, don't look so morose all the time. It's impossible to be unhappy reading Babymouse.
Oh the things teachers will do for their students. 

Anyway, I want to thank Colby Sharp, Mr. Schu, Kristin Mcilhagga, Brian Wyzlic, Julie Rick, and of course Jenni Holm for making it such a memorable evening - even if it was a school night and I was a walking zombie all of Thursday. It was oh so worth it.
Jenni signs a very special picture for Mr. Poe... I mean Mr. Wyzlic
Priceless picture - signed by Jenni Holm and graced by Babymouse
We might all be Nerdy, but this is one cool group of book lovers.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games movie review

 Attention: This review contains major book spoilers. Read at your own peril if you haven't read the books yet.

I wasn't going to write about The Hunger Games movie. I didn't want to be just another person in the blogosphere to add my two cents to an otherwise oversaturated commentary.

But then I saw the movie. And I couldn't NOT comment.

I sat there in the theater for two and a half hours today completely spellbound, more than half of the time in tears or on the verge of tears. It was such an emotional experience to see the world that Suzanne Collins created come to life. Sometimes when we imagine a world in our heads from a book we read, it can still be a bit incomplete and hazy, so when books become movies we rely on the movies to try to fill in the blanks for us. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they don't.

I'd have to say The Hunger Games succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. One place where movie producers filled in the gaps for me was how they envisioned The Capitol. What a lavish and wickedly wacky world they imagined, and while completely different from what I pictured in my head, it somehow fit perfectly with the story.

But let's go back to the beginning with The Reaping. Before Effie Trinket announces the names of the Tributes, she queues up a film that President Snow narrates to explain the purpose of the Hunger Games. It immediately puts you in mind of one of those old Soviet propaganda films - displaying bronzed, muscled tributes, willing to risk life and limb for "the greater good." But here is where the visual of the movie over the book was beneficial. The contrast between the proud, regal tributes in the propaganda film and the stunned, frightened citizens of District 12 was jarring, made even more symbolic by the striking camera angles that bounce back and forth between propaganda and reality.

Then there's the emotion of the results of The Reaping. Katniss most definitely steals the show with her dramatic response to Prim being selected as Tribute - we all saw that in the trailer. But what we didn't see was Peeta's reaction to his selection as tribute and while definitely not as dramatic, it is equally as emotional.

Since we're talking about emotion, let's discuss the actors. While I was quite dubious about almost every casting choice, now that I have seen the movie in its entirety, I can't imagine anyone else playing those roles. I'm still a little iffy about Peeta, but I think he nailed the likability factor. There was no swooning for me over Peeta in this movie. I've always been a Gale fan from the beginning and the movie just reinforced that position. Just as in the book, I never bought into the romance between Peeta and Katniss. It always felt like it was just a ruse to her in order to survive.

Which leads me to Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. She nailed the calculating and emotionless when she needed to and the moving and dramatic at other times. I'd have to say that Rue's death is even more devastating in the movie than the book for the simple fact that Lawrence's reaction to it is so powerful and convincing.

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch I thought was a great choice. The character seemed to be much more with it in the movie vs. the book and was definitely less of a drunkard on screen, but Harrelson still manages to make the role work for the movie and given more time, would have explored his major vice a bit more, but with time constraints, I'm sure that was something they had to sacrifice.

One of my favorite casting choices was Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. OK, can I just say that I can't believe that man is almost forty-eight years old? He doesn't look a day over thirty-five. Cinna's integrity and gentle-nature was definitely given its proper due in Kravitz's portrayal. He along with Gale were two characters I wanted to see more of in the film.

And Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket? Delightfully uncomfortable and wickedly hideous - and I mean that in the best possible way. Maybe I just don't remember well enough from the book but Effie in the movie seemed much more like a pawn of the Capitol than she did in the book. Perhaps I'm just misremembering though. Where Cinna definitely had a "stick it to the man" kind of vibe, Effie felt more like she thought the whole thing was just a big pageant instead of a fight to the death.

As Kimberly over at Stacked mentioned, one thing they added to the film that I really enjoyed was seeing the "behind the scenes" work of the gamemakers and the calculating orchestration of the games by Seneca and President Snow. Because Katniss narrates the entire book, we don't get to see what's happening from the perspective of other characters so that was a different experience from the book and one that I think enhanced the story.

The last piece of the movie that I wanted to comment on was a discussion a few of us were having on Twitter about the handheld camera work. Lenore Applehans mentioned that the frequency of shaky camera work left her with a headache and feeling nauseous. As someone who experienced this very thing a few years ago when my husband and I saw The Bourne Ultimatum in theaters, I worried that I would come out of the movie feeling the same way, or worse, having to leave in the middle. Thankfully, this did not affect me in the slightest, and in a way I was grateful for the shaky camera work as it made the violence much less gory.

Overall, I'd have to say this is one of the most amazing book to film adaptations I've ever seen. And since Suzanne Collins's name appeared quite a few times in the credits, I'm going to be so bold to say that including the author in making a book come to life on screen almost always is a wise decision.

Despite the fact that I didn't love the other two books in the series as much as I loved the first one, the creation of this blockbuster phenomenon has made me buy into the whole experience and made me even more emotionally invested than I was when I read the books. And listening to all the sniffling, snorting adults, teens, and tweens sitting in the theater today, I could tell they all felt the same way too. The way that they ended the first movie was a perfect set up for the second one and made me ever more anxious for next year.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Giveaway: WHAT TEACHERS MAKE by Taylor Mali

I don't often request books for review, but when I found out that Taylor Mali had a book coming out based on his famous poem, I was dying to read it. Not only did Putnam send me a review copy, but they are also amazingly generous in offering 3 copies of this inspiring book to my readers. Check out my review here.

What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World by Taylor Mali
Publication Date: March 29, 2012
Publisher: Putnam
Pages: 197
Format: Hardcover
Copies Available: 3
Genre: Nonfiction
Audience: Adults

From Goodreads:
Former middle-school teacher and teachers' advocate Taylor Mali struck a chord with his passionate response to a man at a dinner party who asked him what kind of salary teachers make-a poetic rant that has been seen and forwarded millions of times on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.Based on the poem that inspired a movement, What Teachers Make is Mali's sharp, funny, reflective, critical call to arms about the joys of teaching and why teachers are so vital to America today. It's a book that will be treasured and shared by every teacher in America-and everyone who's ever loved or learned from one.

To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget:

What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World by Taylor Mali

On New Year's Eve of 1997 Taylor Mali attended a dinner party where one of the guests, a young, arrogant lawyer, made it clear his opinion about the teaching profession: one must be of impaired intelligence to choose a career that paid so little money and earned such little respect.

While Mali could not find the proper words to put the man in his place on that particular night, his anger at that encounter resulted in one of the most famous diatribes to ever come out of the teaching profession.

Today, Mali writes this memoir and series of essays as not only a tribute to the teaching profession, but also as a way to explain everything that inspired him to write that poem. The encounter with the lawyer was the impetus for writing the poem, but he also goes on to explain all of the other stanzas that he wrote as a result of the lawyer that fueled his ire.

But Mali wants to do more than just explain his motivations for writing a poem in this book. He wrote it as a tribute to teachers. In a society that has pegged us as greedy and lazy, Mali asks that we take a step back and look at what teachers sacrifice for the sake of their students. He logically and thoughtfully reminds us of the very things that teachers have been saying for years: in a country of extreme greed and brazen excess, the people who give of themselves the most are the ones who are being attacked. How is that justice?

The purpose of this book, as Mali states in the introduction is, "Someone needs to remind teachers that they are dearly loved. I'm that guy."

This book, however, isn't just a stating of the obvious injustices of how teachers are treated today, but it's also a celebration of small victories and the little moments in our classrooms that so often make us laugh or cry. Mali taught in classrooms for nine years and then left to pursue a career as a full-time poet (who does that in this day and age?) and advocate for the teaching profession. But from reading this book, you quickly realize that the classroom lost a wonderful teacher. Not only is his wisdom easily apparent, but you quickly begin to wish your own children could have him as their teacher.

This book is the perfect gift for any teacher, but as it is preaching to the choir, a better choice would be for a person in need of some enlightenment about how hard teachers work (for so little money).

What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World by Taylor Mali
Publication Date: March 29, 2012
Publisher: Putnam
Pages: 197
Genre: Nonfiction
Audience: Adults
Disclosure: Book received for review from publisher

Monday, March 19, 2012

Baby Lit series by Jennifer Adams, illustrated by Alison Oliver

Even though I love using picture books in my classroom, board books are generally not on my radar since they're usually too simplistic for my middle schoolers. But I was recently asked if I'd be interested in reviewing the newest titles in the Baby Lit® series and the idea behind these books intrigued me: take some of the well-known elements and symbols from some of the most beloved classic literature and turn them into board books for babies. As someone who struggled through classics in high school and college, I was curious at how these stories would translate to board books, but somehow they manage to not only work, they're also downright adorable!

The first two books in the series (Romeo & Juliet and Pride & Prejudice) along with one of the newest titles, Jane Eyre, are counting primers. But the other newest title that just came out this month, Alice in Wonderland, is a colors primer and is by far my favorite of the two I received for review (the other one I received was Jane Eyre). Each page in this colors primer is an element that was important to the story: white rabbit, blue caterpillar, red hearts, green frog, etc. so as a child gets older, you can start introducing him or her to the actual story of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and remind them of the board book they read when they were younger.

Another reason I like the Alice in Wonderland board book the best is because the original book already appeals to children due to the fact that the protagonist is a young girl, so it's more of a natrual transition for kids to go from hearing their parents read them a board book, to having them read the original Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

I foresee these books being a great baby shower gift for the very erudite and literary parents-to-be. Get those kids started early!

BabyLit® series by Jennifer Adams, illustrated by Alison Oliver
Publisher: Gibbs Smith
Discolsure: Received for review from publisher
These books are also offered as apps on iTunes.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Getting our students to be "Readers in the Wild"

A week ago today I was sitting in the Devos Center Ballroom listening to Donalyn Miller's keynote address at the Michigan Reading Association conference. Her speech gave me lots to think about in regards to my attitude about why kids don't read anymore once they leave my class.

I mentioned in my Nerdy Book Club guest post that it broke my heart to discover that once kids leave my class, they don't read for pleasure anymore. This is very similar to the thoughts Donalyn shares in The Book Whisperer when she talks about students coming back to visit her once they've left her class and admit they don't read anymore.

In her keynote last weekend she talked about how her attitude about this observation has changed over the years. Rather than getting angry at other teachers not allowing kids to read for pleasure, which she has no control over, she eventually started to ask herself, "What conditions am I creating in my classroom that make students stop reading once they leave my class?"

So she asked us to ask ourselves "Am I creating independent or dependent readers?"

Meaning, once you take away all those conditions in the classroom that allow kids to explore their reading preferences, are they still going to be reliant on the teacher to motivate them to read?

So how do you bridge the gap between a school reader and a "reader in the wild"? These were some of the things she discussed in trying to help create independent readers rather than dependent readers:

  • During reading conferences and class discussions, talk to your students about WHERE they read, not just how much they read.  If you can talk to them about the habits of readers and allow them to see that you really DO have time to read for pleasure, then maybe they will start to develop some of those habits on their own.
  • Readers are always making plans. Lifelong readers are always thinking about their next book. We all know the students in our classes who don't like to read. We get nervous when we notice they're close to finishing a book because we know it will take them many days to find that next book. We should be discussing with our students in reading conferences about what they plan to read once they finish the current book they're reading.
  • Give kids time to discuss and recommend books to each other. As Donalyn said in her keynote, "If I'm the sole source of book recommendations for my kids all year, what happens in May?"

I was so inspired by Donalyn's words that I came back to school on Monday and hit the ground running. I immediately started conferring with kids and discussing with them about the very things Donalyn discussed in her keynote. I made a list for them of all the places I read:
  • As a passenger in the car (even short distances - I always carry a book with me!)
  • In bed before I go to sleep
  • In bed when I wake up (weekends only)
  • In the bathtub (I told them I recognize this is weird, but not that much different than men who treat the bathroom as their personal library! Plus, no one bothers me when I read in the tub!)
  • In waiting rooms
I also shared with them the places where/when I listen to audibooks:
  • In the car
  • Doing/putting away laundry
  • Cooking dinner
  • Getting ready for work in the morning
  • Walking to my class on campus

Then I showed them what I'm currently reading and did a quick book talk on both books (which I was happy to discover many were interested and intrigued by both books) and then I showed them the books I plan to read next. By modeling this process for them, I wanted to show them that as their teacher, I would never ask something of them that I myself wouldn't do.

Because of this modeling and discussion, conferences lasted much longer this week than they have in the past and I was happy to see that most students had at least two books to share with me that they plan to read next. My one concern was that most kids said the same places where they read: "In the car" "Before I go to bed" so I wonder if they REALLY read in those places or if they're just telling me what they think I want to hear. I'm hoping that by continuing this conversation throughout the rest of the school year and not ending it with this one conference session that I can reinforce those "reading in the wild" habits.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

In My Mailbox (66)

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

For review:
Little Miss Bronte: Jane Eyre: A Counting Primer by Jennifer Adams, illustrated by Alison Oliver
Little Master Carroll: Alice in Wonderland: A Colors Primer by Jennifer Adams, illustrated by Alison Oliver

Entwined by Heather Dixon

Used book store finds for my classroom library:

Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe
Savvy by Ingrid Law
The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch
The School Story by Andrew Clements
Dark Life by Kat Falls
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
Among the Brave and Among the Betrayed by Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Meanest Doll in the World by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brian Selznick

Once on This Island and Angel on the Square by Gloria Whelan
Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins
100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson
Dodger and Me by Jordan Sonnenblick
Among the Imposters by Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Haunting of Freddy by Dietlof Reiche
The Boy Who Saved Baseball by John H. Ritter
The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joesph Delaney
The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brian Selznick

From the library:
Chopsticks by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Scott Magoon
And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chopsticks by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Scott Magoon

Chopsticks are best friends. They've been that way forever. But one day one chopstick gets broken and must spend some time away from the other. While one chopstick explores new and different ways to be useful, the other chopstick must remain immobile while he's on the mend. Will Chopsticks continue to be friends after one has explored a new and different world, or will he leave his best friend behind?

In this adorable companion to the book Spoon, Amy Krouse Rosenthal's lovely story explores the dynamics of friendship and what happens when one friend goes away and the other must stay put. In addition, she also crafts her writing to allow teachers and students to discuss literary devices such as personification and play-on words.
I particularly love that the kitchen whisk was the one who "whisked away" chopstick to get him medical attention - or that "no one stirred, not even spoon" while they were waiting to see if chopstick would be OK. 

In addition to Rosenthal's clever writing, Scott Magoon's smile-inducing illustrations just might get you talking and making friends with your own kitchen utensils. I know I will never look at my kitchen whisk the same way again. Even though I've always been a fan of whisks, I have much greater respect for them now. :)

Don't think that because this is a picture book it is only for little kids. Because of Rosenthal's deft use of personification and puns, this would be a great book to read to older kids as well. I will definitely be reading it to my 6th graders in the near future.

Chopsticks by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Scott Magoon
Published: January 24, 2012
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 40
Genre: Picture Book
Audience: Primary/Middle Grade

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Until I Die by Amy Plum

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:

Until I Die by Amy Plum
Series: Revenants #2
Expected Publication: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 352
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal
Audience: Young Adult

From Goodreads:
Kate and Vincent have overcome the odds and at last they are together in Paris, the city of lights and love.

As their romance deepens there’s one question they can’t ignore: How are they supposed to be together if Vincent can’t resist sacrificing himself to save others? Although Vincent promises that he’ll do whatever it takes to lead a normal life with Kate, will that mean letting innocent people die? When a new and surprising enemy reveals itself, Kate realizes that even more may be at stake—and that Vincent’s immortality is in jeopardy. 

I listened to the audiobook of Die for Me and enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. As someone who is not a big lover of the paranormal genre, I think what made the first book so memorable for me was the setting. Writing a fantasy set in a real-life romantic setting really helps with the enjoyment of a book for me since I'm all about travel. Having the book take place in Paris really made that book come alive for me. Because of that, I am anxiously awaiting the second book.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Filling the Bucket

This past weekend I attended the Michigan Reading Association conference in Grand Rapids and it was such an invigorating experience. I attended the NCTE convention back in November which was my first time attending a national teaching conference and while MRA was much smaller in scale since it was on the state level, it was by no means less valuable. I was able to see and meet respected speakers and teachers in the field of literacy and English education like Jeff Anderson, Donalyn Miller, and Penny Kittle.

 Even if I had just gone to MRA to attend the sessions, it would have been a worthwhile experience. But one of my main reasons for wanting to go was due to my amazing Personal Learning Network (PLN) of educators, librarians, and readers on Twitter. Had it not been for the teachers on Twitter talking about going to MRA, it never would have entered my radar. So it was because of them that I asked my principal if I could attend, and even though she was gracious enough to send me to NCTE back in November, she agreed to let me go to MRA as well.

But back to my Twitter PLN. Normally when I attend conferences I live in this little bubble. I might talk to the person sitting next to me at a session, but no real connection is ever made and I never see them again. Because of Twitter, MRA was one of the most memorable conferences I've ever attended. I was able to meet and hang out with so many teachers I greatly admire and talk to on a daily basis through social media. This wasn't just an opportunity for professional development, but also for filling the bucket - surrounding myself with people who remind me that how I'm doing things in my classroom isn't so radical.

Saturday night the Michigan contingent of The Nerdy Book Club got together and stayed up way past our bed time. It was an evening of discussing books, classroom practices, and our passion for teaching. I'm normally someone who gets very cranky if I stay up too late and then has to get up early the next day, but I was so invigorated by our get together that I ended up waking up an hour before my alarm went off. I mean, how many times in your life do you get to say "I hung out with Donalyn Miller"? If you're not a teacher I realize her name might not mean much to you, but in the teaching world, she is a rock star of the teaching profession and I am so blessed to say I got to talk shop with her.

As someone who frequently gets discouraged at the state of the teaching profession in our country and how little we are respected as professionals, it's nice to go to conferences like MRA to help fill our empty buckets.  Not only did I come back from the conference with lots of great ideas for my classroom, but it's one of those experiences that helps remind me that there are people out there who have the same beliefs as me and that change for the better is possible.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

In My Mailbox (65)

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

 Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin
Trapped by Michael Northup

Wonder by RJ Palacio
I read this novel through NetGalley and had to buy it. This book must be my next read aloud to my students.

A student donated these titles to my classroom library:
The Death Cure by James Dashner
The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore

From the library:

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Picture books:
Saving the Baghdad Zoo by Kelly Milner Halls with Major William Sumner
Mr. Prickles: A Quill-Fated Love Story by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Scott Magoon

Maggie's Second Chance by Nancy Furstinger, illustrated by Joe Hyatt
I Must Have Bobo! by Eileen Rosenthal, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal

Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story by Thomas F. Yezerski
Energy Island: How One Community Harnessed the Wind and Changed Their World by Allan Drummond

Play, Mozart, Play! by Peter Sis
Vivaldi and the Invisible Orchestra by Stephen Costanza

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

When historian Diana Bishop unassumingly calls a bewitched manuscript from the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, she doesn't realize that the magic inside of her that she has considered unwelcome for so long is soon to cause problems for her and will open the floodgates to a world of magical creatures that she has tried to remain removed from her whole life.

Suddenly vampires, witches and daemons are swarming the Bodleian, all with the desire to get their hands on this powerful alchemical manuscript, for they feel it can unlock the secrets about their future and their past.

One such creature with an interest in the manuscript is Matthew Clairmont, a charming vampire who seduces Diana and becomes invested, not only in her research, but also in her personally. This quickly angers the supernatural world of creatures and Diana and Matthew must fight not only for the manuscript, but also for their love.

A Discovery of Witches was not a book I was expecting to like. I've never been a huge fan of the paranormal and this book is teeming with it. Despite the fact that the characters felt emotionally distant, I still really enjoyed spending time with them and found their plight fascinating. A good way to describe this book would be a much more grown up, erudite version of Twilight. So all the Twi-hards who are all grown up and need a new fix, Matthew Clairmont might be a good replacement for Edward Cullen. 

I definitely am looking forward to reading the second book in the series which comes out this summer.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls #1
Published: February 8, 2011
Publisher: Viking
Pages: 579
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Adults

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lunar Love Giveaway Hop

This  giveaway hop is hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and Bookworm Lisa

I am giving away a copy of:

Vampire's Kiss by Veronica Wolff
Series: The Watchers #2
Publish date: March 6, 2012
Publisher: New American Library
Pages: 292
Format: Paperback

From Goodreads: 

By her wits, blood, and sacrifice, so far Drew has survived the intensive training on the Isle of Night. As a second-year Acari, her ultimate goal is to become a Watcher, and now she has a shot at her first mission. Except nothing is as it seems. The vampire Alcántara is as sinister as he is sexy, Ronan is more distant than ever, and it turns out there are other vampires out there. Bad ones.

Ancient, bloodthirsty, and powerful, these undead are really old school. They’ve captured one of the Watcher vamps and are torturing him for information. The only chance to save him is to infiltrate a major summit the baddies are holding on their own island. There will be mortals there, serving as butlers, maids, and various hired help. Drew had better brush up on her skills as a serving girl, because she’s about to go undercover…

But, when their vampire prisoner turns out to be a gorgeous bad boy, Drew’s first mission quickly turns into more than she bargained for.

To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter widget. You must be 13 or older to enter and have a U.S. mailing address. 

Happy World Read Aloud Day!

Today my 6th graders celebrated World Read Aloud Day with their 3rd grade buddies:

How did you celebrate World Read Aloud Day?

Waiting on Wednesday: See You At Harry's by Jo Knowles

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:

See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles
Expected Publication Date: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Candlewick
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Middle Grade/Young Adult

From Goodreads:
Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. Her dad is always busy planning how to increase traffic to the family business. Her Mom is constantly going off to meditate. Her sister Sarah, who's taking a "gap year" after high school, is too busy finding ways not to work; and her brother Holden is too focused on his new "friend" to pay attention to her. And then there's Charlie: three years old, a "surprise" baby, and the center of everyone's world.

If it wasn't for Ran, Fern's best and oldest friend, there would be nowhere to turn. Ran is always calm, always positive. His mantra "All will be well" is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe.

But when their lives are unexpectedly turned upside down, Fern feels more alone than ever, and responsible for the event that wrenches the family apart. All will not be well. Or at least, all will never be the same

Many of the teachers I admire and follow on Twitter who have had the privilege of reading this book already are all a-twitter about it. It's one of those books I probably would have passed by had it not been for the buzz surrounding it. It's one of those books you want to read for the sake of the reading community it garners. Just like The Fault in Our Stars, Wonder, and The One and Only Ivan, See You at Harry's is a book that is going to generate a lot of discussion with teachers and librarians once it comes out in May.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

Deza Malone is a spitfire. She may only be twelve-years-old but her intelligence and talent at all things academic has put her on the fast track for a bright future. But when the Great Depression comes raging through her hometown of Gary, Indiana and makes it impossible for her father to find work, the Malones must now face an uncertain, ill-fated future that once looked so bright and promising. 

Christopher Paul Curtis writes Deza with fierce spirit despite her dire circumstances. He does not sugar coat the plight of poverty the Malone family must endure and pulls no punches for his young audience. Yet despite the fact that our young heroine experiences dashed hopes and crushed dreams, you never once feel like she's down and out. Deza's fighting spirit is a testament to her family's motto: "We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful."

Bahni Turpin is the narrator of this audiobook and she once again has proved why she has surpassed Jim Dale as my favorite audiobook narrator. Her humorous, downright hysterical performance in The True Meaning of Smekday made me shove that book in the face of anyone willing to listen to an audiobook. Her performance in The Mighty Miss Malone is more subdued but no less brilliant. In fact, it is downright soulful. She does an amazing job maintaining the spirit of Deza and keeping the listener's hopes alive despite the grim realities of what is happening in the story.

Cover comments: At first I wasn't a fan of this cover, but he more I look at it, the more I see Deza's fighting spirit in this girl's expression. I believe she is Deza. That sassy, spirited look says so. 

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
Audiobook Narrator: Bahni Turpin
Published: January 10, 2012 
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books and Listening Library 
Pages: 224
Audiobook Length: 7 hours, 59 minutes
Genre: Historical Fiction
Audience: Middle Grade