Monday, September 30, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 9-30-13

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

Holy cow! I can't believe tomorrow is already October! When did that happen?

Last week was Banned Books Week. Here is a post sharing some of my reflections.

 Last week I finished reading:

Crank by Ellen Hopkins 

...And I finished listening to:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman 

Some picture books I read and enjoyed:

Yeti, Turn Out the Light! by Greg Long
After a long hard day in the woods, Yeti is ready for bed. But sleep doesn't come easy for the Yeti when he starts seeing strange shadows in his bedroom. What could they possibly be? When I read books like this, that's when I wish I had a classroom to go to the next day and read it to my class. Kids will absolutely love this one.  

Rawr! by Todd H. Doodler
Rawr! is just how you say hello in dinosaur. :) 

Very Hairy Bear by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Matt Phelan
Beautiful, rhythmical writing paired with soft, gentle illustrations. 

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III 
A great mentor text to use when looking at intros. A book many kids and teens would read and want to learn more.  

I reviewed:

Living with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles
Line 135 by Germano Zullo, illustrated by Albertine

Currently (still) reading:

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya von Bremzen
I'm really enjoying this book, but for some reason I keep putting it off in favor of reading other, more exciting books.

Currently (still) listening:

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Living with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles

Living with Jackie Chan continues with Josh's story from Jumping off Swings. Jo Knowles said that the reason she wrote this sequel is because so many readers asked her what happened to Josh.

In Jumping off Swings, Josh abandons the girl he had his first sexual encounter with, and then a few months later discovers that he fathered a child with her. The emotional impact of his careless act, coupled with knowing he is now the father of a baby that has since been adopted to another family, sends him into a depression. As a result, Living with Jacking Chan provides the reader with a first-person view of Josh's senior year of high school when he decides he needs to get away from his life and move in with his dorky karate teacher, Jackie Chan movie-loving Uncle Larry.

As I was reading this book I couldn't help but marvel at the way in which Jo Knowles creates such heartfelt characters. Not only is Uncle Larry just overall one of the most stand-up characters ever created, but Knowles also manages to make our baby-mama-abandoning protagonist, Josh, a deeply empathetic character. Go figure.

And that's where Knowles's perspective is unique from a typical yet controversial "teen pregnancy novel." She chose to examine and dig deeper inside the perspective of the teen father.

Even though you can read Living with Jackie Chan without having read Jumping off Swings, I think it makes for a richer reading experience if you read JoS first. There were insights into characters I had from reading the first book that I wouldn't have known without having read them in order. But whatever you decide to do, whether it's to read LwJC first or second, it's worth your time if you're a fan of realistic fiction that tugs at your heartstrings and then tears at it a little.

Living with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles
Published: September 17, 2013
Publisher: Candlewick
Pages: 384
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Disclosure: ARC received at ALA

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Banned Books Week Reflections

Now that Banned Books Week is coming to a close, I wanted to talk about what an amazing week it has been.

First of all, I am so proud to have organized the first EVER #nctechat on Twitter to be for the start of Banned Books Week. Laurie Halse Anderson and Teri Lesesne were the hosts, but other illustrious authors made an appearance as well, such as Judy Blume, Stephen Chbosky, and Chris Barton to name a few. The chat was going to fast and furious that I didn't have time to read all the tweets. Thankfully the chat is archived on Storify so I was able to read through them at a more leisurely pace the next day. We were even trending #2 on Twitter for a while! How awesome is that?

Sherman Alexie Google Hangout
Sherman Alexie is such an amazing advocate for books and for getting books into kids' hands when people are trying to take them away. Alexie is so well-spoken and charming that it's hard to imagine anyone still wanting to ban his books after talking to him.

Ellen Hopkins at Literati
On Wednesday Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor hosted YA author Ellen Hopkins. I guiltily admitted to her when she signed my books that I only just started reading them this week, but I will certainly be making up for lost time. She writes about all the things that people ban books for: drugs, sex, violence, religion... You know, the usual. But her books are unique because they're written in verse and they don't pull any punches. They're raw and uncomfortable, mainly because they're real. And through that uncomfortable reality, teens can be saved from allowing their lives to go down the same path. Hopkins saves teen lives, yet there are people out there who think her books corrupt them.

Check out the body of Ellen Hopkins's work on Goodreads

Nerdy Book Club Banned Books Micro Reviews
 Earlier this week Nerdy Book Club called for readers to write micro reviews of their favorite banned books. I chose Amy Timberlake and Adam Rex's The Dirty Cowboy

And, as always, I like to post this video during Banned Books Week because it's John Green and I love John Green.

What were your favorite Banned Books Week moments?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Line 135 by Germano Zullo, illustrated by Albertine

A little girl gets on a train at her home in the city to travel to her grandmother's house in the country. During this journey, she ponders all of the things the adults in her life tell her are impossible, yet as she looks out the window of the train, she only sees what is possible. 

Despite questioning whether the adult themes of this book (travel, finding yourself in the world) and the philosophical nature of the text would work with reading to kids, I absolutely adored the story and illustrations of Line 135. At first our little protagonist looks out the window and sees normal "daily life" sorts of things, but as she begins dreaming and longing to see the world, suddenly what she sees out her window becomes much more fantastical.

Albertine's simple (yet complex) line illustrations with the train's pop of color on each page-spread are quite striking and lend themselves to several read-throughs to take in all of the detail. I'm not usually someone who likes to re-read books, but as soon as I finished the book the first time, I knew I'd have to read it again and again to really take in how the illustrations complement the story, which reads like a free verse poem. 

I'm going to guess this book probably isn't on anyone's Caldecott shortlist, but it's on mine. Heck, I don't even think Albertine lives in the U.S. (a requirement to be considered for a Caldecott) since there are some parts of the illustrations that are in French, but I just love the way the text and the illustrations complement each other and I love that despite the minimalist manner in which the drawings are rendered, they have such a complexity to them that several read-throughs are required to really take it all in.

Line 135 by Germano Zullo, illustrated by Albertine
Published: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Pages: 44
Genre: Picture Book
Audience: Children AND Adults
Disclosure: Library Copy

Monday, September 23, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 9-23-13

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

Happy Banned Books Week! That actually sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it? We're celebrating our fREADom to read, but we're celebrating it because there are people who try to take that fREADom away.

Last night I had the privilege of organizing and participating in the very first #nctechat to kick off Banned Books Week. Laurie Halse Anderson and Teri Lesesne were the guest hosts and Judy Blume and Stephen Chbosky even joined in on the discussion as well. At one point we were the #2 trending topic! If you missed it, or you just want to go over it again because the tweets were flying by too fast, the Storify archive is now up.

Also, don't forget to check out my current giveaway for Banned Books Week, a beautiful hardcover read-aloud edition of Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.

I had a great reading week last week. I finished reading:

Living with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles 
What I love about Jo Knowles's books is her ability to create characters the reader truly cares about. In the hands of a different author, our main character, Josh, would have been completely unlikable because of his previous actions in Jumping Off Swings, but she somehow manages to not only make him likable in Living with Jackie Chan the sequel to Jumping Off Swings, but also in the first book too. And Uncle Larry? What can I say about him? He is a complete dork. But that's OK. He's a totally lovable dork. In fact, I wish I had an Uncle Larry.

Picture books I particularly enjoyed last week:

Line 135 by Germano Zullo, illustrated by Albertine
I have so much to say about this book that I think I'm going to write a full review of it. I absolutely adored it. The illustrations and the story are so simple yet complex at the same time.

Rainstorm by Barbara Lehman
So much to discuss in this beautiful wordless picture book. There are lots of comparisons to draw upon between this book and Journey by Aaron Becker.

Fog Island by Tomi Ungerer 
Despite finding the ending rather strange/curious, I did enjoy the story and illustrations as a whole. I'm still scratching my head on the ending though. 

Last week I finished listening:

Sidekicked by John David Anderson
While not my type of book, I can really see that this is a fantastic book for kids who like fantasy action/adventure. I could see this becoming an animated movie.

Last week I reviewed: 

The Price of Freedom by Dennis and Judith Fradin, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

Currently (still) reading:

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya von Bremzen
Crank by Ellen Hopkins 

Currently listening:

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop

For my portion of this blog hop, I am giving away this special read-aloud edition of Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.

It is a beautiful hardcover and it is significantly larger than a regular novel-sized book. It's about the size of a picture book (but thicker)
With the paperback for comparison
According to ALA's website, the reasons this book is frequently banned are:
occult/Satanism, offensive language, violence

Terms and conditions:
Must be 13 or older to enter and have a U.S. mailing address
One winner will be selected
Use the Rafflecopter widget to enter