I loved this book and was quite surprised that yes, I do think it deserved the Newbery! I loved it so much that I wrote up several lesson ideas for teI loved this book and was quite surprised that yes, I do think it deserved the Newbery! I loved it so much that I wrote up several lesson ideas for teachers and librarians. Check it out and please feel free to use and share!...more
I read Twenty-One Elephants years ago and have used it in library lessons with 3rd-8th graders. I recently wrote up some of my lesson ideas for EnglisI read Twenty-One Elephants years ago and have used it in library lessons with 3rd-8th graders. I recently wrote up some of my lesson ideas for English, library, STEAM, art, and economics classes in a post on my library blog. Check it out and please feel free to use and share!...more
I read Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing years ago and have used it in library lessons with 3rd-8th graders. I recently wrote up some of my lessI read Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing years ago and have used it in library lessons with 3rd-8th graders. I recently wrote up some of my lesson ideas for English, library, STEAM, art, and economics classes in a post on my library blog. Check it out and please feel free to use and share!...more
This is a beautiful book about Danish resistance to Nazi "relocation" of Jews in 1943. It is excellent to use with older students to introduce The HolThis is a beautiful book about Danish resistance to Nazi "relocation" of Jews in 1943. It is excellent to use with older students to introduce The Holocaust.
I wrote up several lesson ideas for using this book with older students (MS, HS) on my blog at Mrs. ReaderPants. Please feel free to use them and share! They are great for English, library lessons, world history, and art classes....more
A unique concept, but I just did not get it. Character motivation is completely confusing. Why would Jack, the boyfriend and best friend of more thanA unique concept, but I just did not get it. Character motivation is completely confusing. Why would Jack, the boyfriend and best friend of more than a decade, suddenly do an about-face and date some other girl? Why were all the other kids in school bullying Gregg over the breakup? And it seemed like Gregg's pain and healing was just completely skipped over when she discussed the other kids' getting their justice through her mother's legal connections. And The Code? What are they, mafia?
This was just too weird for me. I've read a few other early reviews, and a couple of people really praise the art of it. I'm glad someone got it, but I sure didn't....more
REVIEW: Once again, I have been foiled by my own high expectations. I only read about half of this book, and I honest More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: Once again, I have been foiled by my own high expectations. I only read about half of this book, and I honestly struggled to get that far.
The characters are stiff, and I didn't feel any emotional connection at all. I appreciate that Laia is frightened and makes mistakes. She's trained as an herbalist, not as a fighter. She witnessed her grandparents' murder. It makes sense that she would be terrified. But that's about all I know about her--she's terrified. Elias isn't much better. He seems ready enough to believe the Augurs' vision of his future as something unavoidable. Why live at all, if the horrible future is the same no matter what you do?
I didn't understand the world, either. Where is this place? When? Is it past? Future? Another planet? Why would the academy train so many soldiers? Who is their enemy, if not just each other? Why is the Commandant so evil? She's just a caricature of evilness for the sake of evilness. What made her that way? How did she ever end up with a child? What is the purpose of the Augurs? Maybe these questions were answered later in the story, the part I didn't get to.
It's incredibly violent, and the constant threat of rape is an enormous part of the story. There is some reference or attempt at rape in virtually every chapter. In this story, it seems only pretty girls get raped. Not at all true in reality; rape is about power and control, not who is prettiest. I would think if being ugly were all it took to avoid getting raped--a seemingly inevitable occurrence for the Empire's pretty girls--female slaves would maim themselves early on to avoid that fate.
Why does The Rebellion think Laia will survive The Commandant's evil? She's not special. She's not trained. She's nobody. The Commandant's slaves do not usually survive more than a couple of weeks; why should Laia be any different? And why is Keenan "shocked" by Laia's bruises and cuts when he sees her in the marketplace? What did he expect to happen to her? Why can Cook and Kitchen Girl tell that Laia is with the Rebellion, but the Commandant (who seems to know everything) doesn't have a clue? Is she pretending not to know? And if so, why would she do that?
And Helene. For such a tough girl, she sure needs a lot of rescuing. She nearly dies in the first Trial, carried to safety by a much-distraught Elias. Why would they choose her for the Trials anyway? Girls can't be the Emperor. The Trials are happening because the current Emperor did not have any male heirs.
Insta-love. Ugh. Just make it stop.
I realize that many people have really loved this book, and I don't want to take anything away from that. But for me, I didn't connect with the characters, the world, or the extreme violence.
THEMES: good versus evil, power/corruption, slavery
THE BOTTOM LINE: Many love this book, but it wasn't for me.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have it in print and on OverDrive.
I did not finish this one, so I'm not going to rate it.
Language: mild; nothing that I remember
Sexuality: mild; up to p. 200 or so, there wasn't even any kissing
Violence: extreme; rape, torture, maiming, and murder are HUGE parts of the plot
WHAT I LIKED: The characters. They were all incredibly complex, particularly Ra More reviews and ideas for librarians and teachers at Mrs. ReaderPants.
WHAT I LIKED: The characters. They were all incredibly complex, particularly Radu and Lada. I loved both and a few times, hated them as well. From childhood, Lada is tough and clever, but she's also mean and spiteful. She reminded me a bit of Elphaba in Wicked in that she is incredibly complex and nothing like the women of her time. Radu is sweet and pensive, whiny and weak as a child, but strong and intentional as he grows older. Supporting characters--Mehmed, Vlad Dracul, Lada's mother, Bogdan, Nicholae, Kumal, and Huma--are also multi-layered with interesting histories of their own.
Most readers will already know what Vlad Dracul was most famous for, and that history will help pull in readers. I will warn readers not to look up too much about the history while you are reading. While this is an alternative history, many of the events and people were real. I looked up some of the characters early in my reading, and I ended up sorry I did that. It gave away too much and took away the element of surprise for me.
The multiple roles of women. I wrote a paper in college about the role of women in Stoker's Dracula, and I could write a similar paper about And I Darken. Each female character represents a type of woman at that time in history: concubine, wife, mother, servant, nurse. Of course, Lada fits none of these roles and challenges all of them. Finding herself in one of these roles is Lada's biggest fear.
It will be easy to booktalk with students. Vlad Dracul's story is so sensational, and most of my students have at least heard of Vlad. Vlad Dracul alone will pique their interest.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: It's overlong. At nearly 500 pages, it took me about two weeks to finish. It is a bit monotonous in parts, so I wasn't always clamoring to read. I read two other books "in between" chapters from And I Darken.
I hope to see more of the Lada front cover and less of the purple flower. The purple flower is too girly for Lada. And the title doesn't really add anything, either. Lada was a dark character, practically from birth. The last line maybe hints to a deeper darkness to come (will there be a sequel?), but Lada was never a "light" character.
Again, I am really sad that I looked up the history while reading the book. Trust me, if you read it, resist any temptation to look up any history surrounding this story. Resist hard!
THEMES: siblings, slavery, power and limitations of women, war, loyalty
THE BOTTOM LINE: Incredible writing and a powerful story. Easily among 2016's best.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: It comes out June 28, which means I'll be in the USA just after it releases. Yay! That means I can buy it for the library when I come home to visit this summer!
Appeal to teens: 4/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 3/5
Sexuality: medium--concubines, attempted rape, childbirth, kissing (M/M and M/F)--it sounds like more than it is
Violence: very high--murder, blood, impaling, war, fighting
Drugs/Alcohol: none--a few references to testing food for poison
REVIEW: Like many librarians, I am always on the hunt for good graphic novels that my st Hundreds more YA/MG reviews like this one at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: Like many librarians, I am always on the hunt for good graphic novels that my students will love. The graphic novel genre has grown considerably in my time as a librarian, and while I do still sometimes see a stigma on graphic novels as "not real reading," it is much less pronounced than it was several years ago.
In my years in the library, I have seen how graphic novels can turn non-readers into voracious readers practically overnight. My own 11-year old son will tell me that he "doesn't like to read," but he will suck down Pokemon and Big Nate and Diary of a Wimpy Kid like it's nobody's business. He's just started the Amulet series (Kibuishi) this week, and has already asked me about Book #7, which we just got in my library. So much for "I don't like to read."
Anyway, Awkward. How cute is this book? It encompasses realistic worries for a middle school girl such as being the new kid, fitting in, finding your social group, making friends, guilt over wrongdoing, bullying, first crushes, increased homework and tests. Virtually every middle school girl can relate to something in this book.
I especially love the diversity of the characters. Peppi appears to be Hispanic. Jamie's mother is a wheelchair-bound artist. Minor student characters represent a wide variety of ethnic groups, including a Muslim girl wearing a headscarf. The science teacher (coolest science teacher ever) is an African-American woman. I loved her coffee mug of "Student Tears." The bumbling male art teacher is hilarious--even the students know he needs supervision when using the copy machine. And I loved the little guy who is obsessed with sunspots. He's weird, but he finds acceptance among his Art Club peers.
I love how Awkward celebrates intelligence, diverse interests, and school community. Peppi, Jamie, and their friends are all involved in school clubs and care about their grades. They want to belong and help their club succeed and give back to the school. While some kids may make fun of them for that, the smart kids have strength in their community. The mean kids may bother them, but they are able to get past it because they have passion for their interests and like-minded friends.
THEMES: friendship, being the new kid, making amends, being yourself, fitting in
THE BOTTOM LINE: We just got two copies of Awkward in our library this week, and we already have a hold list. This cute graphic novel is a must for any middle school library.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have two copies.
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Sexuality: very mild; first friendship-crush
Violence: mild; name-calling and a few mean kids
REVIEW: This book is based on a Norwegian fairy tale similar to "Beauty and the Beast" and to Hundreds more reviews like this one at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: This book is based on a Norwegian fairy tale similar to "Beauty and the Beast" and to a lesser extent, "Snow White and Rose Red."
I liked this book okay, but I'm not jumping out of my chair over it. The female protagonist is the youngest of 12 children. Because she was unfortunate enough to be born last and female, her mother never bothers to give her a name. I never understood why no one else in the family (particularly her father or oldest brother) ever gave her a name, especially since the nameless were at risk of kidnapping by trolls. Anyway, the family calls her the pika, or little girl, and her oldest brother calls her "lass." When she is about nine years old, the pika saves a white reindeer from hunters and is blessed with the ability to talk to animals. This serves her well until one night, an ice bear wants the pika to come live with him for a year and a day.
I thought the first half, where the pika's character and her family dynamics are being set-up, was much more interesting than the second half. This is a very large, very poor family, and the mother especially is someone readers will love to hate. She's not evil, but she is pretty horrible to the pika. The mystery surrounding the oldest brother Hans Peter was also interesting and well-written. I loved the winter wonderland setting throughout; George's descriptions of the winter landscape made me feel like I was right there.
While I enjoyed the first half, I lost interest in the second half, where the pika lives in the ice castle. There isn't much going on in the castle. The pika eats, talks with the bear, tries to read the troll carvings, asks too many questions. But from day to day, not much happens beyond the mystery of what's going on with the troll curse.
I also never felt connected to the bear and felt the romance lacked chemistry.
THEMES: belonging, loneliness, family, animal rights
THE BOTTOM LINE: It's okay. The first half is better than the second half.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have it. I booktalked it last week with a class, and one girl put it on-hold for when I finished.
Appeal to teens: 3/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 3/5
Sexuality: mild; mild fairy tale kissing; a strange man sleeps in the pika's bed each night, but they just sleep
Violence: mild; hunting animals, evil magic
REVIEW: I don't think I would have picked up Cherry Crush on my own, so I am very happy that one of my students recom More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: I don't think I would have picked up Cherry Crush on my own, so I am very happy that one of my students recommended it to me!
This book is so much deeper than it looks. I thought it would be a cute-but-predictable romance with some stepfamily drama, but there is far more going on than meets the eye. While there are romance and family issues, Cherry Crush deals with these and other themes in a realistic way. There are no easy answers, and the conflicts are multi-layered. Nothing is resolved overnight, and most of the conflicts presented will continue in subsequent books. In this way, it mirrors real-life problems that many preteen and teen readers will relate to.
The characters--particularly Cherry and her four unofficial stepsisters--are clearly drawn. Each has her own unique personality, and I am happy that each girl gets her own book in the series.
I liked the ending as well. Some conflicts are resolved or semi-resolved, but other situations are complicated and need more than one book to play out. This book felt like real life, and I look forward to seeing what happens to these girls as they grow older.
THEMES: divorce, blended families, growing up without a mother, absent parent, sisters, jealousy, a child's lack of control over parents' decisions, loneliness, telling lies, running a family business
THE BOTTOM LINE: There is more here than meets the eye. Cherry Crush is an engaging story that I recommend highly for any library serving teens and preteens.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We only have the first book, Cherry Crush. I just ordered the other five books in the series, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that they are not out-of-print already. I see that they are available as a paperback set on Amazon and on Kindle. For librarians, Follett does list them as of today, but they are UK dispatch. I know I can get these at my school here in China, but I'm not sure how this works for American and Australian school libraries.
Appeal to teens: 5/5--will mainly appeal to girls
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
This is another Roald Dahl bedtime read-aloud with my 9-year old son. I imagine we'll go through all the Dahl books eventually; they make fantastic reThis is another Roald Dahl bedtime read-aloud with my 9-year old son. I imagine we'll go through all the Dahl books eventually; they make fantastic read-alouds. My nature-loving son really loved how the ducks turned the tables on the hunters. He did not like the 16 duck graves at the end--he said putting flowers on the graves was a "nice gesture" but it "would not bring those ducks back." Well said, sweetie.
We also like all the little "Dahl" facts that were in the back of our book. There was a photo of Dahl's desk that included things that Dahl used while writing. The caption says his desk is still this way today in his writing hut. When we finished The BFG, the notes at the back of the book talked about Dahl's grave and how there are giant footprints leading up to it. My son has said several times that we need to go visit Dahl's writing hut, and if we ever go to England (possible since we live abroad), we are totally going to do that. ...more
Read this out loud with my 9-year old son. He loved it! The whizzpopper scene was so funny that we read it twice. With lots of silliness and made-up wRead this out loud with my 9-year old son. He loved it! The whizzpopper scene was so funny that we read it twice. With lots of silliness and made-up words, this is a perfect bedtime read-aloud for elementary students.
On a side-note, I found this weird, bumpy cucumber at a store here in China today, and it looks exactly like what a snozzcumber would look like. My son agreed....more
I didn't really buy the premise, but it was a fun read with a lot of action. I think teen readers will enjoy it. Full review to come closer to pub-datI didn't really buy the premise, but it was a fun read with a lot of action. I think teen readers will enjoy it. Full review to come closer to pub-date....more
REVIEW: If you like fairytales or Disney movies, you will love this book. It's cute and fun, and I have no doubt it w More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: If you like fairytales or Disney movies, you will love this book. It's cute and fun, and I have no doubt it will be a hit with my middle school girls. After booktalking it with a couple of sixth and seventh grade classes, I've already had requests for it even though we don't yet have it.
A Stolen Kiss has everything you would expect from a Disney princess adventure. There's romance, darkness, secrets, fantasy creatures, castles, evil, princesses, and lots of magic. It's not the greatest book of all time, but it is a cute distraction from the daily grind.
For parents looking for clean reads, this one fits the bill as long as you don't mind a few chaste kisses.
THE BOTTOM LINE:A Stolen Kiss is a fun adventure that feels like a fairytale.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. This is an easy-sell considering the popularity of our Retellings section.
Characters: 3/5--only one is really interesting
Engrossing: 4/5--read in 2 days.
Appeal to teens: 4/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5--I was never bored.
Sexuality: mild; some kissing
Violence: mild; fantasy violence, fighting with magic
This book was odd. It's well-written and interesting, but I never connected with Reshma. What a horrible, vindictive girl. I did finish it in one sittThis book was odd. It's well-written and interesting, but I never connected with Reshma. What a horrible, vindictive girl. I did finish it in one sitting though. Full review to come closer to pub date....more