Summary: Brooklyn never seems to make the right choices. She fell in an abandoned mine shaft when she was two and it has been down hill since then. Now that she is 15, nothing has changed and the book starts with her arrest for arson, trespassing and underage drinking after throwing a party at a model home and ultimately burning it down. She has to figure out how to make better decisions! Or why not let others make decisions for her?! Brilliant! So, Brooklyn starts a blog where her users can vote on her next decision. Through her followers' decisions, Brooklyn learns more about herself than she bargained for.
What I Think: First, I have to say that I love the concept of this book! Although Brooklyn and her problems are very similar to other protagonists you may find in YA books, Jessica Brody throws in a nice twist with the addition of the blog. It gives the novel the uniqueness that makes it stand alone. I also love Brooklyn's narration and had more than a couple laugh out loud moments.
I loved the boys in the novel (yes, there is a romantic story line), but I will say that it bothered me that it was the nerdy, smart debate boy vs. the sexy, bad boy smoker. I felt that they were both a bit stereotypey at times; however, I will say that Brody made sure that they were both loveable characters so that the choice was even harder. The "bad boy" was overall a nice kid (although I hate that bad boy always has to smoke) and the "nerd" was more than what he seemed to be.
The message that this novel sends is very obvious, but it is done through an enthralling story so it never seems naggy or preachy. I think it is a message that many teens need to hear. Most teens make decisions like Brooklyn does and watching her go through them might help them reflect on their own choices in life. Actually, thinking back to when I was a teenager, this whole idea of having others make teenagers' decisions is pretty brilliant :)
Finally, I will say that there was a suprisingly touching moment in this book that had me crying and I found that it was the major turning point in Brooklyn's life. I liked that something that didn't seem too important to Brooklyn ended up being the thing that ultimately affected her the most.
I loved that this book could make me laugh and cry. It was truly well done.
Snatch of text: My parents have been telling me for years that I make "bad decisions." But I never believed them. Because, you know, they're parents. And since when are parents ever right about anything?... So it isn't until now, at this very second- with sirens blaring, the crowd of people gathering to try to steal a gossip-worthy peek, and the overall chaos of a bod idea turned very bad- that I start to think my parents might just be onto something. Because when you're being handcuffed and lowered into a backseat of a squad car, you kind of have to start reconsidering that way you live your life. (p. 4-5)
The police station smells like burnt toast. As if someone popped a piece of sourdough in the toaster oven and forgot about it. Or maybe the flecks of smoky odor are just lingering in my nostrils from the fire. Rebellious stowaways clinging to the inside of my respiratory system like an annoying guest who refuses to leave long after the party is over. (p. 6)...more
This book was a roller coaster of a ride for me. I had trouble at the beginning getting into the grove of the book, but then about 50 pages in I was sThis book was a roller coaster of a ride for me. I had trouble at the beginning getting into the grove of the book, but then about 50 pages in I was stuck; however, the ending came out of nowhere for me. I am not going to talk about the ending at all because it is something that each person needs to experience on their own. (view spoiler)[But I felt that everything could have ended before the tragedy and it still would have been a good book. Why did that need to happen? Nothing came from it afterwards. Was it just to make me cry? If so, it worked. But if not, why else? (hide spoiler)]
I had trouble at the beginning and I think it stems to one thing- I don't like country music and I struggle with the whole cowboy/western culture. I lived in Austin, but it is not the same as the Texas that Paradise takes place in. Once I got into the book, I truly enjoyed the cast of characters that Alexander has created in this book. Each character is unique and believable. Paisley is a headstrong, kick ass female protagonist and Paradise is one sexy beast. I also loved that all of the minor characters were really well developed. One subtle thing that Jill Alexander did that I adored was she had Cal, a quiet guitar player who didn't really show his personality through the story, shine in lyrics that were in between random chapters. Through his lyrics you really got to see who he was.
Another thing I thought was done really well was all of the musical elements of the novel. There were times when it was described so well that I could hear the music. It was mesmerizing. ...more
Summary: Jamie Edwards has a dream. She wants to be the Pumpkin Princess. She has been gearing up for it for YEARS. She works diligently at her father's pumpkin patch and everyone in Average, IL knows her. She is a shoo in. And on top of it all, Danny, her totally dreamy crush, is really paying attention to her.
But then Milan, Jamie's semi-famous cousin from L.A., comes to visit for the pumpkin season and really throws a wrench in her plans. Milan is everything you'd think about a Hollywood starlet- plastic, loud, judgmental, and beautiful. And she is winning everyone over. Jamie's parents are loving Milan even though she is doing hardly anything at the patch. Danny seems to always have an eye on her. And to top it all off- Milan is going to run for Pumpkin Princess as well! And no one sees how horrible Milan is being except Jamie.
What I Think: I love those books where you pick it up, read for two hours and finish a complete book because you cannot put it down. Just your Average Princess was one of those books for me. It was so much fun! From the very beginning you like Jamie and are rooting for her and dislike Milan and want to know why. You have to keep reading to find out the answers of the probing questions: 1) Why Milan was being so rude?! 2) Will Jamie win Danny? 3) Who will win the Pumpkin Princess? And Kristina Springer was brilliant in how she developed her plot because she scaffolded her reveal of each of these questions throughout the last third of the book. I also think she played on our nation's fascination and distaste of Hollywood starlets by making Milan fit the stereotypical profile. It made the emotions more instantaneous, because who wouldn't root for a hard working all American girl vs. a Hollywood starlet?
Although I zoomed through this book, I was disappointed in some of the minor characters and their development. I would have loved to have the book be 50 pages longer so that Jamie's friendships and crush could have been built up more. I also was slightly unhappy with the ending, but I am not going to discuss it because of spoilers.
Now, I do not see Just your Average Princess being used in a classroom, but I can see the book being loved by many a teenage girl who will be sitting in their room eating the book up. ...more
Summary: Jonathan (Jono) and Julie's mother might as well be nonexistent. She sleeps through the day, goes out to drink at night and then comes home to pass out. Jono is in charge of Julie since he is 8 years her senior. It isn't too bad, except when their mom forgets to get their government check for food or if she spends it all on booze. But then their mother goes one step too far- she hits Julie. Jono cannot take the thought of being separated from Julie because of their mother, so the two of them run away to make it together.
What I Think: This is one of those books that when you are done you have to go just sit somewhere and breath. It is too real. By the end you are so attached to the characters that leaving them feels like part of you is being put away with the book. It is so emotionally draining. It is a story of finding hope when there is none. When all choices are poor choices, but you still have to make one.
Siobhan Parkinson is the Children's Literature Laureate of Ireland and she has received this honor for a reason- the writing of this book is phenomenal. The authenticity of her voice resonates throughout the book. Jono is sarcastic, funny, dramatic... real.
I think that this book has just enough drama and realism in it to hook a reader. Often I find that some really well written books just do not have the kid appeal that you'd hope. This book is different because most students can connect with (or find interesting/horrifying) what is going on with Jono and Julie. However, I could foresee a problem with some of the Irish slang in the book. Although the book is universal, Jono is Irish and as any 16 year old boy would, he uses slang just not American slang. I could see how a struggling reader would find this a difficulty. ...more
Summary: Quebrado finds himself a slave on a pirate ship after being traded around since his mother died and his father ran away. He doesn't even remember his own name, has just come to answer to el quebrado- half islander, half outsider- since his mother was from Cuba while his father was a sailor. He currently works for Bernardino de Talavera, the first pirate of the Caribbean Sea, who has recently captured Alonso de Ojeda, a brutal conquistador. However, Quebrado finally has his first chance of luck- Talavera's ship crashes in the middle of a hurricane and he is able to escape onto an island where he finds his first home in recent memory.
What I Think: If you follow my reviews you probably know that I am sucker for historical fiction and novels in verse, so I am a sucker for this book. Both aspects of the novel were well done- the poetry was beautiful and the historical element was interesting. I love walking away from a novel with more knowledge than when I started and it is even better when I learn about something I never knew about (like pirates of the Caribbean in 1500s). After finishing I went straight to wikipedia to learn more and have put a book listed in the references on hold at my library. I love how historical fiction makes me fascinated about a subject like no history class has ever been able to.
I also enjoyed how it was told from different points of view. It allowed you to get insight into the situation from different points of view. I will say, though, that I walked away wanting more. I wanted more conflict, more resolution, more action... just more. From the cover, I am assuming there will be more books, so maybe they'll contain the more I wanted. ...more
I really felt the voice of this novel was quite humorous and even though he was quite snarky, I connected with him from the very first page. The Goodreads summary compares the novel to Wes Anderson's novels and The Catcher in the Rye and I can see how the voice could make it so the book could be compared to both. But just as Holden Caufield and Wes Anderson's protagonists are funny, angry, and sarcastic, James in 12 Things is as well. At first you don't see why James feels the way he does, but as you learn more about his life, the reasons for why James's anger are revealed.
James "Hercules" Martino has lost his father who was a Dr. Phil type of TV personality who everyone loved, but they didn't know the man that James had to grow up with. After James calls his father an ass at his funeral, his mother sends him to stay with his uncle who gives him 12 labors to complete during the 2 weeks that he is staying with him and through these labors, James will hopefully find some light in his life. ...more
Jack Pool loves Emaline. He knows that because of their faith, he is Jewish, she is Christian, that it will never happen, but he truly loves her. If hJack Pool loves Emaline. He knows that because of their faith, he is Jewish, she is Christian, that it will never happen, but he truly loves her. If he isn't thinking about Emaline, he is thinking about his cello audition in 4 days for a music school in Syracuse- he'd be able to escape his town without even an orchestra or band. Music is his key to escaping and becoming something. Then on his 16th birthday, he walks home Daisy, Emaline's 4 year old sister and goes to work. Daisy disappears later in the day and the true colors of his neighbors shows even more why Jack needs to get away. Because of his faith and the belief that for certain holidays Jews murder human children to sacrifice, Jack is suddenly a murder suspect.
Whenever you hear about prejudices against the Jewish faith and people who practice the faith, you automatically think of things that happened in other countries such as the Holocaust or unrest in Israel, not here in America; however, the prejudice was (is) alive and well here as well. The Blood Lie is a story that shows the reality of what it was like to be Jewish during the 1920s.
What surprised me even more was in the Author's Notes, Vernick mentions that this horrible stereotype of human sacrifice still exists today. I am always shocked (maybe naively) when I learn about the horrible racism that exists in our present time of diversity. ...more
Summary: Lupita's family came to Texas to follow the American dream when she was a child. Her father is always working and her mother's only job is toSummary: Lupita's family came to Texas to follow the American dream when she was a child. Her father is always working and her mother's only job is to be a mother. Lupita had a life that she adored- She is the oldest of 8 siblings and has always had a set role in her family: a mini-mom helping her mother raise her siblings. She couldn't ask for anything else. But then Lupita notices her mother acting depressed and crying by the mesquite tree in the rose garden. Then Lupita eavesdrops and learns that her mother has cancer. Now, everything that was predictable and normal about her life are no longer her focus. Will her life ever return to normal again?
What I think: This book is a beautiful book in verse that not only has a touching narrative, but has exquisite verse. The narrative deals with a topic that many readers will have some sort of connection with, cancer, as well has coming of age in a household where the disease has struck. But what makes this book different than other stories about the effects of cancer is that it also tells the story of growing up as a Mexican-American here in America.
Snatch of Text: These are just three of almost a hundred amazing snatches of text that would be great mentor texts for different poetic elements.
"and the moon in this place is wearing a pale, thin dress as it seems to jump from behind one cloud to another, hiding its exquisite face from us." (p. 144)
"For my sisters, senorita means having someone to worship: it is the wonder of seeing their oldest sister looking like Cinderella on her way to the ball." (p. 76)
"The other girls follow them, a convoy of high-heeled hyenas in mass migration." (p. 81)
Originally read: October 10, 2011 Reread: July 13, 2012
In Trouble explores the options that a young lady had in the 1950s when it came to being "in trouble." Today our options include abortion, adoption anIn Trouble explores the options that a young lady had in the 1950s when it came to being "in trouble." Today our options include abortion, adoption and keeping the baby, but in the 1950s abortion was illegal, keeping the baby was a stigma, so adoption was the option most accepted; however, this was not always the best option for everyone. In the book, Jaime's best friend Elaine figures out that she is pregnant and Jaime tries to help Elaine with her situation thus showing the reader the different options.
In Trouble also gives us a clear look of how the 1950s were by having Jaime's father be a political criminal being charged with communism. He has just been released from prison and throughout the book you learn more and more about his "crime" and punishment.
In Trouble was overall a good book. It grabbed me from the beginning and kept me reading; however, I felt that maybe the book was trying to do too much at one time. For example, randomly the narrative would switch to a script to show that Jaime was viewing her life as a movie. I found myself being distracted by these and would have rather the narrative stay as prose. It also seemed to have so many topics throughout- abortion, adoption, communism, movies, rape, journalism, love... Too much to focus on (though all done realistically and interestingly). ...more
Summary: Kate, Michael and Emma have been alone for 10 years. Kate's last memory of her mother is as the 3 of them were being taken away; her mother told her to take care of her siblings and that has been the center of Kate's existence since then. And she has done the best she could as the three of them have been shuffled from orphanage to orphanage never really finding home and always wondering why their parents abandoned them. But their newest orphanage is different- there are no other kids, it is run by a mysterious man named Dr. Pym, odd things are happening and it's in a town that seems more dead than alive. And the odd becomes odder when they discover a book, place a picture in it, and travel back 15 years in the past to a time where conflict is at the center of the town.
What I Thought: First, I am biased because I listened to the audio book and I love Jim Dale. Anything Jim Dale reads automatically is good. As a friend of mine said on Twitter, I could listen to him read the phone booth. So, back to the book... this book is EPIC! I can't think of much to compare it to, but the adventure is at the same level as Harry Potter, Lightning Thief, Peter & The Starcatchers, Kingdom Keepers, etc. Although a similar adventure-type book, it is a very much unique and stand alone novel.
The character building and development in this novel was phenomenal. I really enjoyed the three siblings, they were all very unique, but complete and likable as well. Kate is the responsible one who follows the rules, tries to keep the peace and overall does what she promised her mother. Michael is the scholar and dreamer. He loves dwarves and constantly is writing in his journal. Emma is our rebel, always picking fights and saying exactly what is on her mind. There were also some supporting characters who really made the book come alive such as Gabriel, a man from a nearby village who Emma befriends, and Robbie the dwarf king, who Michael is in awe of. The only character I never felt connected to was the villain, so that may not be a bad thing.
The plot development was also pretty flawless and in a book that has time travel, magic, changing pasts and three protagonists, it would have been very easy to become lost, but John Stephens mapped out his plot perfectly and it all comes together (including the end which was just enough conclusion to have closure, but just enough cliff hanger that you must read the sequel).
Another plus of this series, is that I believe that it will be loved as a middle grade and a young adult novel. It could easily be classified as both because it is just a pure fantasy adventure that will grip any reader.
Snatch of Text: "The tall man had moved into the glow of a streetlamp and was clearly visible for the first time. To a casual passerby, his appearance would not have inspired much confidence. His overcoat was patched in spots and frayed at the cuffs, he wore an old tweed suit that was missing a button, his white shirt was stained with ink and tobacco, and his tie - this was perhaps the strangest of all - was knotted not once but twice, as if he'd forgotten whether he's tied it and, rather than glancing down to check, had simply tied it again for good measure. His white hair poked out from beneath his hat, and his eyebrows rose from his forehead like great snowy horns, curling over a pair of bent and patched tortoiseshell glasses. All in all, he looked like someone who had gotten dressed int he midst of a whirlwind and, thinking he still looked too presentable, had thrown himself down a flight of stairs." (p. 3-4)...more
I am not the demographic for this book, so I tried to rate it based on how middle school boys would like it.
Summary: The second volume of Jon Scieszka's Guys Read short story collections are filled with all types of mysteries and thrillers- from ghosts to monsters to life and death situations to bad guys to a train accident to other exciting stories. What Kellee Thinks: This short story collection was touch and go for me, but we have to remember that I am not the demographic for this short story collection. I think that all of my boys (and some of my girls) would truly love this collection. When I gave my reading interest survey at the beginning of this year, so many of my students wanted scary books or ghost stories- this collection is right up their alley.
My favorite story in the bunch was Walter Dean Myers's story "Pirate" which is a thriller in a different sense than the other books in the collection. Myers's story is about Somalian pirates and is a true life and death situation that kept me on the edge of my seat. It is was also so beautifully written; most of my snatches that I marked in my Kindle were from this story.
I also truly enjoyed "Ghost Vision Goggles", "Nate Macavoy, Monster Hunter", and "Thad, the Ghost, and Me". The three of them are all such fun stories filled with mystery. "Nate Macavoy" even finishes with a cliffhanger and now I want another!! Matt De La Pena's story "Believing in Brooklyn" is a touching story as well as a mystery. I felt that Anthony Horowitz's short story "The Double Eagle has Landed" is a great introduction to the Diamond Brothers and it was the first Diamond Brothers story I've ever read and now really want to read some of the novels. I'll also now be able to book talk the series and I think many students would love the mystery and humor aspects of these stories. ...more
Summary: In this dual story told in words and pictures, Brian Selznick tells the story of two deaf children. One in 1927, Rose is trapped in her home and just wants to be free. One in 1977, Ben has just lost his mother and has recently become deaf from a lightning strike. Both looking for a parent, acceptance and a true home. Wonderstruck follows the two characters who live 50 years apart, but have both lost a mother- one is dead, one is not but still gone. Both of the characters want more than anything to find somewhere where they belong. So, both run away to New York City to try to find what they are looking for.
What I Think: Anyone who has read Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick knows how beautiful his work (both his words and art) is and Wonderstruck continues the tradition he set with his first novel. It always amazes me how Brian Selznick can tell a story completely through pictures, but yet the message is as deep and clear as the story he tells with words. Just like Hugo Cabret, Wonderstruck has a very good chance at winning the Caldecott because of its beauty. Once again, I wish that Selznick's book fit the Newbery criteria, because it is good enough for that award as well.
Lastly, three things- 1) I didn't think Brian Selznick could compete with Hugo Cabret, but Wonderstruck does and it may even be better! 2) Dedicated to Maruice Sendack and feels as magical as one of his books. 3) As you read look for allusions to Konigsburg's Basil E. Frankweiler that Selznick mentions in his author notes. I am definitely going to reread both books and look for them!
Snatch of Text: "But let us pause here and ask ourselves, What exactly is a museum? Is it a collection of acorns and leaves on a back porch, or is it a giant building costing tens of thousands of dollars,, build to house the rarest and finest things on Earth?
'It's both!" Ben heard himself say out loud.
Of course the answer is both. A museum is a collection of objects, all carefully displayed to tell some kind of magnificent story." (p. 97)
"The street was a riot of cars and flashing signs and people. Buildings climbed toward the sky on either side of the street the way the trees back home surrounded Ben's house. Dirty cars and yellow taxis paraded by. Smells he couldn't place bombarded him... Everyone everywhere seemed to be a different color, as if the cover of his social studies textbook had come to life around him." (p. 264)...more
This graphic novel had pretty basic retellings of fairy tales with extraordinary artwork illustrating them. Each retelling was told by a different autThis graphic novel had pretty basic retellings of fairy tales with extraordinary artwork illustrating them. Each retelling was told by a different author and illustrated by a different artist.
The retellings were just that- retellings with no flair or adaptation from the original fairy tales (except Princess & the Pea which added humor in the illustrations and dialogue). Although some may come into this book wanting more than what they find, it was nice to go back to the originals and basics.
Although each story had a different artist, the style was perfect for each tale. For Rapunzel: the artwork was sinister and sketchy, Thumbelina: more colorful, friendly, Snow White: Realistic, dark and more like a comic strip, Beauty and the Beast: Cartoony, blocky, Princess & the Pea: Almost anime, looks the most like a picture book.
And the best parts about the book (from a teachers point of view any ways) were 1) Each story started out with a cast of characters. 2) After each fairy tale there was a history page where it discussed the history of the fairy tale or author. The blurbs held some interesting pieces of information....more
Summary: Max calls himself Max the Wolf because he is the leader of his Wolf Patrol of Boy Scouts. He's never been lost. There's not a mystery he can't solve. However, Max is stumped about his current situation. He woke up in the middle of a forest with no memory of how he got there. On top of that, he has met two interesting characters: Branderbock the Badger, McTavish the Cat, and Walden the Bear. Both on a normal basis would be not too odd, but his new companions can talk. Something that is quite unlikely in the world where Max is from. So, Max finds himself in a new adventure trying to find out where he is, why he's there and how he can get home. Sounds easy enough, but throw in troop blue sword wielding hunters who want to kill them and things get a little dicey.
What I Think: Bill Willingham has some of the most magical ideas and stories that I have ever read. I've had the honor to read his Fables graphic novels, Peter and Max the companion novel to his graphic novels and now finally his middle grade novel. I find all of them as magical as the last. In Down the Mysterly River Bill Willingham has made a world that is unlike any others I have read. Now, I can't tell you what the world is because that is not revealed until the end of the book, but I will tell you that I thought it was brilliant!
Another great aspect of Willingham's work is the humor he throws in. Some of the dialogue between the 4 main characters in this book were hilarious: '"I don't need a strange bear telling me what to do," McTavish said. "These two already think they know everything I should do, and everything I shouldn't do, and that's already too many folks with too many unwelcome nopinions." "Nopinions?" Walden said. "McTavish is proud of his elocution," Banderbrock said, with a wry smile. "What's that supposed to mean?" McTavish said.' The back and forth between the strong characters made for some pretty great conversations.
And speaking of his characters, they are so well developed and you cannot help but fall in love with all of them (even McTavish the mean, disgruntle, ugly cat). They all have such strong personalities and are truly the heart of the story.
Lastly, I want to recommend this book even more because of the themes that thread their way throughout the novel. Friendship and goodness are central to the book. Max is always doing what is right for them, not always what is easy. While reading, it makes you feel like no truer friendship had ever existed than the one between Max, Walden, McTavish and Banderbrock. ...more
I was enchanted with this book from the opening pages when the descriptive language grabbed me! I could close my eyes and picture exactly what Anne Ursu was describing. Ursu also alludes to so many great novels and fairy tales throughout Breadcrumbs such as When you Reach Me, A Wrinkle in Time, Harry Potter, and The Little Match Girl on top of the main inpsiration for the story: The Snow Queen. Though I am not familiar with The Snow Queen either, it was easy to fall into Ursu's magical world.
On top of the language of the book, the protagonist is such an exceptional young girl. Hazel is someone that I wish I was friends with! She has the best imagination, but this also separates her from what is expected in "the real world" which is why she always navigates back to Jack- the one person who seems to get her. So, when Jack stops talking to her, you see Hazel having to mold herself to fit into a niche where she is not tormented- this devastated me! However, when she learns that Jack needed to be rescued, Hazel returns to her old self and knows that she must be the princess to save the knight (pretty empowering for a 5th grader!). ...more
*Summary: Gwyneth's cousin Charlotte has a special gene that means that between the ages of 16 and 17 she'll begin traveling through time. Gwyneth is waiting along with everyone in her family for Charlotte to finally travel through time. But while everyone is focusing on Charlotte and all of her symptoms, Gwen has started having the same symptoms and one day on the way to the store, disappears completely and ends up in the past. This is a totally unexpected turn and truly puts a wrench in everyone's plans. So now Gwen needs to be let in on all of the secrets and some people are not okay with her new involvement with the family secrets. This puts Gwen right in the middle of an adventure that she had not bargained for.
What I think: I was skeptical when I started this book and the prologue actually confused me; however, Gwen and her friend (sidekick) Lesley won me over. They are such a fun duo! Gwen is so snarky and Lesley is the logical one. Gwen is Holmes and Lesley is her Watson. I love that unlike other female protagonists, Gwen and Lesley are strong, funny, stand alone characters who are smart and not push overs. And of course there is a very good looking, charming gentleman character who maybe a bit narcissistic, but wins you over! All of the characters in this novel were well done. They were all well rounded and have full personalities. Even the minor characters stood on their own.
Gier has also given us a very complicated story line that is revealed slowly enough that the reader is not lost but also at a quick enough pace as to hold the reader's attention. And the story that unfolds is so much fun and filled with intriguing twists and turns. Just beware: This book is obviously the exposition to a much bigger story and you will definitely be left hanging when you finish. ...more
This book poses many ethical questions since our main characters are in a life or death situation: What is family? What would you do to survive? If a loved one was suffering and asked you to kill them, would you? Is there such a thing as fate? When can you let go of loved ones who have passed?
The first chapter of Ashes pulls you in right away. Alex is a mystery- you know she has a deadly brain tumor and her parents are dead, but there are so many questions. At the beginning, it is her mystery that keeps you reading, but within the first 30 pages, the story expands to so much more. Suddenly, an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) wipes out almost everything including most living things and electronics. Alex, who was camping in the woods contemplating life vs. death, falls into the middle of a cataclysmic event. Alex, along with Ellie, an 8 year old who lost her grandfather, and Tom, a young army veteran, decide to make their way to the ranger station to find help. They must survive in the woods of Michigan while not only scavenging for food, avoiding hungry wild life that survived the EMP, but also eluding cannibalistic zombies (the changed) that were somehow transformed by the EMP. The make shift family promises to protect each other and this begins a survival story straight from a horror movie. And a horror movie is just what you will feel like you are in while reading Alex’s story. Every time something happens, you just wonder how much more she can take and what else can happen to her.
One thing that makes this book stand out from others is that Isla Bick’s descriptions of some very simple things like pain and smells are so dead on that you can feel or smell what she is talking about. When the EMP first hits, Alex describes the pain and other side effects of the EMP so well, that the reader would have no problem understanding what Alex was going through. Then, after surviving “The Zap”, Alex regains her sense of smell that she lost because of the tumor, so Ms. Bick must describe the new scents that Alex smells and she is so precise in the descriptions comparing the smells to things like wet pennies and curdled milk. The precision doesn’t stop there, though. It is obvious that Ms. Bick has done her research when it comes to EMPs and other nuclear information. The physics within the book is not only detailed and specific, but understandable. It makes the possibility of the type of destruction that happens in Ashes seem reasonable which is a terrifying prospect.
Not all of my questions were answered in this book, though, but based on the cliffhanger there will definitely be a sequel which will hopefully tell us more about the EMP, the changed, and what will happen to Alex next....more
Jane Yolen weaves a beautiful retelling of the hero's journey where the hero is a liar and his mentor is *gasp* a girl. Yolen's story is accompanied bJane Yolen weaves a beautiful retelling of the hero's journey where the hero is a liar and his mentor is *gasp* a girl. Yolen's story is accompanied by amazing artwork that at times is so delicate that it resembles traditional Japanese painting.
There a couple things that I specifically liked about this graphic novel- 1st, I loved the personification that Yolen used to describe the dragon and its surroundings at the beginning of the book: "dragons slept by the ocean's edge, in the green shade of trees that wept their leaves into the water." Phenomenal writing. 2nd, although the 3 sisters were kind of stereotypical for fairy tales (Rosemary: plain and a hard worker, Sage: one beautiful and air headed, Tansy: one hard headed and unique), Sage was entertaining throughout the story. Loved the comic relief. Other puns and humor were thrown in throughout as well such as the name of the town is Meddlesome because everyone quarrels and Yolen would put thought bubbles of what characters were thinking that were hilarious.
This graphic novel is perfect for so many readers and will certainly find a home in many classrooms and probably curricula as well.
(There were a couple of things I didn't like- 1st, I hated that a character that I really liked had to die so close to the beginning to get the story going. It does fit into the hero/fairy tale story, but I really liked him. 2nd, I didn't like the dialogue font, but I think since it was an e-galley that could change before final printing.)...more
Told from 24 different perspectives in multiple genres such as verse, letters, undertaker's notes, telegrams, forms and booklets, this harrowing tale takes the reader through the journey that different people took on the Titanic. The points of view range from workers like lookouts and stokers, 3rd class passengers like an immigrant and refugee, 2nd class passengers like a tailor, 1st class passengers like a millionaire and socialite as well as the captain, ship builder, the business man, the ship rat and the iceberg. The story begins on April 1st, 1912 with preparing to sail and ends with the survivors aboard the Carpathia on April 18, 1912.
This novel obviously takes the reader through the complete tragedy of the RMS Titanic and the amount of research that Allan Wolf must of done makes this novel not only a wonderful piece of writing, but an essential part of Titanic-lore from now on. I specifically liked how after the story was completed, an afterword was added with Titanic information and a clarification of the fact vs. fiction within the novel specifically when it came to the characters. This novel will be used in classes learning about the Titanic for years to come because of the historical accuracy and the interesting and in-depth way the story is told. It is also a perfect addition to any English Language Arts classroom because it has perfect examples of different types of poetry (each character has their own style), using dialogue in poetry, historical fiction, figurative language and other literary devices and using multiple-genres. I feel that this book is a great way to teach these elements because the Titanic is such a well known topic which would lend well to students connecting with and understanding the text. This book truly makes history come alive.
This graphic novel surprised me. When I looked at the cover, I thought it was going to be about a girl in ancient time who fenced. Then I read the flaThis graphic novel surprised me. When I looked at the cover, I thought it was going to be about a girl in ancient time who fenced. Then I read the flap and learned it is about a normal high school girl who fences for a hobby- AWESOME! But then as you read more, you learn that everything is not what it seems. You have to put the mask ON in this book to see everything for what it really is. ...more
Wow. In the companion to Impulse, Ellen Hopkins shares with us what is going on back home while Connor is at Aspen Springs. Puts his life into more of a context then you got in Impulse. Terrifying. Yet another book that left me crying at the end.
Summary: It is so hard to be perfect. Cara's parents have expectations for her that no one can live up to, Kendra pushes her body to the limit to reach beauty, Sean will do anything to be the best athlete he can be, and Andre is hiding his true ambitions from everyone. All 4 teenagers just want to please those around them, but is it worth the risks and consequences? What I Think: Perfect runs parallel to Ellen Hopkins's Impulse. While Connor is at Aspen Springs, the psychiatric hospital, in Impulse, Perfect follows his sister and some of their friends back home. In Impulse sometimes I couldn't connect with Connor and the way he was feeling, but Perfect gives you the back story I wished for- and more! I now truly understand why Connor ended up where he did.
One of my favorite parts of the book was whenever the point of view changed, the new section began with a very lyrical poem vs. the narrative ones that drive the story. It set the emotional tone for the section and character. Also, they are truly beautifully written.
Because this book has multiple points of view, there are so many different issues that are dealt with: Abuse, Alcohol, Drugs, Ambition, Race, Eating Disorders, Depression, Sexual Orientation, Rape, Expectations, Stalking, Love, Abandonment, Steroids and more. Although you may not be able to connect with all of the trauma within Perfect, everyone can connect to something. It is also because of all of the trauma that Perfect truly draws out emotions and causes you to physically react. If you have read Impulse, it is a similar experience.
My last thought is that I am glad that I don't live in the neighborhood/school district that Ellen Hopkins built for this book. ...more
Once again Lonnie's thoughtful and sensitive voice resonates off of the pages of Peace, Locomotion just as they did off of Locomotion. While LocomotioOnce again Lonnie's thoughtful and sensitive voice resonates off of the pages of Peace, Locomotion just as they did off of Locomotion. While Locomotion was a book in verse, Peace, Locomotion is an epistolatory (written in letters) novel. All of the letters that Lonnie writes is to his sister Lili because they have been separated into different foster homes and Lonnie is to be the rememberer for the two of them. In these letters, he remembers and shares. While both Locomotion and Peace, Locomotion deal with Lonnie coming of age in a foster home dealing with the death of his parents and his sister being taken away, in Peace, Locomotion it is not the main focus- he has become comfortable with Miss Edna and sees his sister often. In Peace, Locomotion, I felt that it was more about Lonnie finding his place in the world now that he has figured out his place in his own little world.
Some quotes: "Ms. Cooper told me the poem wasn't outside the window. I think Ms. Cooper is the one that's not a poet because poetry is everywhere." pg. 32
"There's all kind of mamas..." pg. 35
"'The way I see it,' he said. 'You pray for peace, all the rest of the stuff comes. If there was peace, nobody would be getting hurt or jacked up in a war, right?...Peace covers everything, Little Brother. Everything.'" pg. 40-41
"My mind's always going and going. Been like that since I was a little kid, but it wasn't going like teachers wanted it to be so they always tried to get me to do things different... When I was a kid and even when I was a teenager, I always thought it was me. But when I got older, I started realizing that I just got stuck with some lame teacher... and they made me thing I wasn't a good student, so I wasn't." pg 53-54
"It would be cool... to make some of those kids who think they're not smart suddenly see how smart they really are." pg. 54
Notes: *I think this is a book that all teachers should read, because it shows how a teacher can impact a child negatively and/or positively just by showing them confidence. *While an amazing book, I am not sure why it is on the SSYRA 2011-2012 list. I know it is listed as a companion to Locomotion, but it is more a sequel than a companion (as it obviously happens after) and it makes much more sense with the background of the first novel....more
Summary: Samuel is 13 and lives with his parents peacefully on the frontier in America. They live in a small settlement in a dirt floored cabin that backed up to the forest. Samuel loved the forest, he'd become the sole provider of food for the settlement and he enjoyed every minute he spent in the forest. They lived far from any town so that it took sometimes months before any news got to their ears, including the beginning of the war. It was not long after they'd heard about the war against the British that Samuel was out in the woods searching for deer that he noticed smoke coming from where his settlement was- way too much smoke. When he arrived he found destruction and death. All the cabins in his settlement were burnt down and bodies were everywhere; however, it seemed his parents were taken captive. It is now Samuel's only mission in life to track down and save his parents. On this adventure, he learns more about more about the horror of the war that America is now in.
What I Think: I love historical fiction! Well, good historical fiction and Woods Runner is good historical fiction. After first I was feeling so-so about the book, but then on page 20 the book becomes such a page turner. This book is only my 5 historical fiction book about the Revolutionary war, but it is the first that shows what happened from an American that live on the frontier. This book also showed me some of the side work the British army and its allies did. Being in war with someone and fighting them is one thing, but the British along with Iroquois Indians as well as the Hessians, the German fighters for Britain, were ruthless and often committed war crimes. This book is built to not only entertain you, but to teach you. Gary Paulsen puts snippets of historical information between chapters to help the reader understand more specifically what is going on in the book- I loved learning that little bit more!
Next to how much I loved the historical element of this novel, Gary Paulsen also crafts such an amazing survival adventure with a protagonist that anyone will root for....more
Stan is a genius. He can list all of Sylvester Stallone's movies in backwards alphabetical order, he can do any math problem in his head3.5 probably.
Stan is a genius. He can list all of Sylvester Stallone's movies in backwards alphabetical order, he can do any math problem in his head and he can tell you where any movie is in the video store he works in. Yes. He is a genius and he works at a video store. And Stan is more than aware that this makes him quite far from being cool. However, his dreams do not include college and brilliance which is what everyone else wants him to do; his dream includes screen writing.
Going Nowhere Faster was quite funny at times and Stan's rough draft screen plays throughout are hilarious. Stan narrates and I did have a hard time getting used to his voice and him in general; however, once I got into it, it no longer bothered me.
I received a signed copy of this book from Misty after winning a contest on her blog- THANKS MISTY!!...more
As we grow up, we have to learn to deal with disappointments (small and large) and this reality is one of the hardest things about growing up. In thisAs we grow up, we have to learn to deal with disappointments (small and large) and this reality is one of the hardest things about growing up. In this Kevin Henkes book, Alice is learning how to deal with these disappointments in a more grown up way- I mean, she is turning ten!
Every year for Alice's birthday, her parents take her to Florida to celebrate. Although Alice is an only child and has no extended family, she views the occupants at the cottages they stay at in Florida each year as her family. She is looking forward to everything being wonderful! Except this year, things aren't as perfect as Alice wants them to be. Throughout the book, you see Alice grow up emotionally trying to balance a child-like anger over disappointments and an adult-like sympathy for others.
Kevin Henkes has a remarkable ability to write like a child, but have poetic prose at the same time. I can picture Alice- a fun loving, spunky 10 year old who is creative and all around friendly. I know Alice is like this based on the voice that Kevin give her. Although filled with figurative language, it is used a way that a 10 year old, so Alice never lost her voice AND the descriptions are so perfect, you can picture yourself there with Alice. The similes throughout the book are such pieces of beauty: clouds like shredded rages; fire like a snarl of orange scarves caught in a frantic wind; toenails think and yellow like jingle shells.
This book would be a great summery read aloud for upper elementary school students and specifically those here in Florida, often visit a beach, or are studying a shell unit. ...more
In the world of paranormal romance, Spellbound is a book full of cliches, but fights them and actually stands alone pretty strongly. Overall, a fun romance with action, legends and great music references!
Cliche 1: Emma moves to NYC to live with her rich aunt after a life of loss with her family and has to start school at a posh private school. At the private school she meets: 1) Kristen- A blonde *itchy girl who hates her right away; 2) Anthony- An aggressive, *ss hole rich jock who harasses her; 3) Brendan- A hot, rich jock who she falls in love with at first site; 4) Cisco- A gay best friend; 5) Angelique- An outcast, scholarship kid who accepts Emma for who she is.
Overcoming cliche 1: Emma is quite snarky and keeps you on your toes while reading her narrative. The rest of the characters may fit into cliches, but they are struggling to crawl out of the box. Although the snobby girl and the a-hole boy fit their niche pretty exactly, the rest don't. Cisco is essential in making Emma feel comfortable at her new school (although naming a gay guy Francisco seemed a bit too predictable) and Angelique becomes quite important when the paranormal aspect of the story enters. I was sad that Cisco faded as Emma's relationship with Brendan came into focus. And Brendan....
Cliche 2: A girl falls in love with a bad boy (who is described surprisingly like Edward...) Brendan is a misunderstood bad guy and Emma is just the person to figure him out.
Overcoming cliche 2: Brendan is so cool! He is a gentleman (most of the time...), has great taste in music, is one of the smartest boys in the school and is just, so... hot! Usually when I read a paranormal romance (ala Twilight or Hush, Hush) the man is always so overbearing, aggressive, masculine and negative. Brendan, though mysterious and protective at times, is likable. A nice touch to actually have the protagonist fall for a likable guy.
Cliche 3: Their cursed to love each other and will eventually result in one of their dooms. (Seemed very Impossible by Werlin to me.)
Overcoming cliche 3: The build up to the curse, the curse reveal and the result of the curse are quite entertaining. I found parts of it predictable, but other parts came out of nowhere and shocked me. Quite fun!
Cliche 4: Girl cannot live without boy. They are sole mates.
Overcoming cliche 4: Well, this one is not really overcome. They are soul mates, but it is less of a needy situation than other romances I've read. Yes, Emma loves Brendan and fantasizes and daydreams about him, but Emma also has her own personality. She is strong and not afraid to stand up for herself. She is not always relying on Brendan (though he does seem to be there for her a lot).
So if you are looking for a fun read that may be just a bit different than the other paranormal romances you've read, you should pick this up. ...more
In the sequel to The First Escape, I felt that G.P. Taylor put together a wonderful story that was a mixture of a Hardy Boy-esque mystery and EleanorIn the sequel to The First Escape, I felt that G.P. Taylor put together a wonderful story that was a mixture of a Hardy Boy-esque mystery and Eleanor Updale's Montmorency adventures. Just like in the first book, the story starts with Erik and the twins at the orphanage; however, this book picks up pace much more quickly than the first one with the book starting with Erik noticing burglars in a secret passage. Thus starts another adventure and mystery with the Dopples & Ganger.
Once again the book is a mixture of comics, prose and illustrations. I noticed in this one how much the size and font of words shows the tone, even during the prose. I had the same problems with the comics as last time, but this time I noticed that the girls also look MUCH older in some of their close ups.
Favorite parts: An Icarus allusion & Erik's brain being illustrated as a library...more
Summary: Rebecca is 12 years old and has noticed the tension growing between her parents. But when her mom decides to suddenly move her and her brother Lew to Atlanta to stay with their Gran, Rebecca is shocked and devastated. He doesn't know what to do without her best friend and is lost without her dad. She may never be able to forgive her mother for this. Then, just as things seemed like they couldn't get any worse, Rebecca finds a magical bread box that delivers anything that she wishes for. It seems too good to be happening.
What Kellee Thinks: I am not a big fan of magical realism, so I was worried when I began this book; however, I am happy to say that Laurel Snyder did just the right balance so that the realism didn't seem fake and the magic didn't seem far fetched. This just shows me that if the magical realism is done well, I am a fan. I love how Laurel used the magic element in this book. It is such an original concept!
You can tell that Laurel Snyder put much of her heart into this book because emotions that grab at your heart flow throughout the entire novel. Rebecca is such a truthful representation of a middle school girl, specifically one who is going through a tough situation such as a parents separation and sudden move. ...more
The symbolism on the cover showing that the wedding ring equals being captured in a cage is so evident and beautiful once you read this book. BecauseThe symbolism on the cover showing that the wedding ring equals being captured in a cage is so evident and beautiful once you read this book. Because to Rhine, the forced marriage that she is now in is not loving and fulfilling, but a cage that has taken away her freedom. And in Rhine's world, only so much freedom exists since all females die at age 20 and all males die at 25. Rhine is 16 and doesn't want to spend the last 4 years of her life over 1000 miles away from home and her twin brother. But how can the bird escape its cage? ...more
In my review for Susan Beth Pfeffer's apocalyptic novel, I said, "This is the first book I've ever read that made me be scared for an apocalypse... his book terrified me; however, this made me not want to put the novel down." Ashfall does what Pfeffer's book did, but Ashfall also intrigued me in a different way because of my fascination with volcanoes- I was filled with a mix of terror and fascination all through the novel. Mike Mullin took a possible future disaster that in all speculations could happen and threw us as readers into the middle of it.
When you start the book, you know that a horrible event is going to happen. Alex, our narrator, tells us how different everything is now, but this slight preface cannot prepare you for all of the destruction, criminal activity, devastation and loss that happens throughout this novel.
Some favorite parts: *Loved that Alex described history books and si-fi books as past & future history. *The analogies throughout the novel to help readers understand what Alex is going through are superb. My favorite was describing explosions as Zeus machine-gunning thunder. *Liked that Mike never felt he needed to explain about the gay couple who lived across the street from Alex, it was just normal.
Now I just have to wait for the sequel :)
(view spoiler)[Questions I have (and Mike Mullin has been kind enough to answer my wonderings!): *Why did Joe wait so long to tell Darren and Alex that it was a volcanic eruption? Mike Mullin's answer: I saw Joe, Darren, and Alex as being shell-shocked and not really in much condition to talk about anything when the noise starts. And they have no idea how long it's going to go on, so Joe is waiting/thinking it's going to end. And they all prefer the relative safety of the tub. It's too loud to talk about it and be heard, of course. By the next morning it's obvious it isn't going to get better quickly, so they leave the shelter of the tub, find a candle and go to the trouble of writing out the information about the volcano. *Is that really how a FEMA camp is run? Or is that speculation about what would happen in this situation? It was at this point that I felt that the novel went from apocalyptic to dystopian. Mike Mullin's answer: FEMA camps are NOT run the way I depict in ASHFALL. That said, FEMA has never had to deal with a situation like this. 55,000 people responded to Katrina, which totally overwhelmed FEMA's organizational capacity. In the far worse disaster portrayed in ASHFALL, FEMA presses subcontractors with little disaster relief training or experience into place, and the priority becomes protecting unaffected states from the hordes of refugees fleeing the ash, rather than taking good care of those refugees. I think panic and a desire to protect one's own is a real possibility in a disaster like that.(hide spoiler)]...more