It’s BC Day, what are you reading?

 

Today is a holiday Monday in many parts of North America, here it is BC Day, a day to honour my province. I wish I felt free to travel and enjoy more of it this summer, but plans have been changing for most of us over the last five months.

We have had some super hot weather recently, and it has been almost too hot to enjoy the outdoors, for any length of time anyways, so enjoying some books and air conditioning has been the way to go.

Books I Enjoyed Over the Last Two Weeks

Dig

I really loved this YA novel, but to be honest I love all of the A.S. King books that I have read. This book wants to give you a jab in the face to wake you up and show you things about the world.

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears (Paola Santiago #1)

Paola Santiago is a science loving girl who lives near the Arizona desert with her Mom. She loves her Mom but not her Mom’s superstitious beliefs. The most common one is her Mom’s belief in La Llorona, the wailing woman who will pull kids into the Gila River. While Paola and her two best friends Emma and Dante are mostly rule followers, the banks of the Gila are the best place to stargaze with Emma’s telescope, so they meet there often. When Emma does not show up at their meeting time one night, Paola and Dante must investigate. They are pulled into a world that has too much in common with the stories of Paolo’s mother.

Dante and Paola have to work together and dig deeper to find Emma and save the day. This is complicated by systemic racism of local police, a lack of understanding of the world her mother explained to her, and the fact that they have a little bit of a crush on each other.

This story has action and humour. I enjoyed the way that Paola’s flaws and even her strengths can get in her way and how she has to learn and adapt to overcome these and other challenges. I have heard it said that visible minorities have to learn to live in multiple different worlds in order to thrive, and it seems the author knows this and is having her characters learn this, both in the sense of living as a POC and also in the fantasy book sense of adapting to monsters and magic. Thanks to NetGalley for the preview of this book which is out tomorrow.

Oculum

This is a really interesting middle grade dystopian novel. I don’t want to give to much away but Miranda1 and William1 have only known their life in Oculum, but William1 finds a door to the outside that they have been told does not really exist. He wants to learn more. The story flips between a few different perspectives as events past and present are unravelled. Unlike some MG/YA dystopia this is a pretty short book, seems to be a stand alone and is not particularly violent. A good choice for younger readers of this genre.

Don't Tell The Enemy

A exciting story of a family living in the Ukraine during WWII. Krystia and her family are relieved when the Soviets occupation of the Ukraine ends. They feel hopeful that things will improve, but soon she learns that the Germans that have moved into the area are Nazi’s and her country is being occupied again, by a force that is even worse. As bad as things are for her family, they are even worse for Krystia’s Jewish friends. The story is full of heartbreak and determination. Like Oculum, it is a short book that packs a big punch.

The Very Last Leaf

Lance Cottonwood was good at a lot of things and that made it more challenging for him when he wasn’t good at something. That scared him. In this story, Lance, a leaf, excels at many things, but does not want to fall when everyone else is doing it. He worries about it. Eventually, he learns that it is okay to fall, and with the help of his teacher, he is able to overcome the challenge and his fear.

There are some great illustrations, facts about leaves and their life cycle and in the endpapers a great fake report card that details Lance’s progress. This is a cute picture book that has just recently been released August 1. I appreciated reading an e-ARC on NetGalley.

The Theory of Hummingbirds

This is an own voices book about a girl with club foot. Author Michelle Kadarusman went through many procedures to correct one of her feet and used her experiences to help her create a character in Alba that has a lot that she is going through. She does not feel normal and really wants to. For her, the way that she can do that is to run in a cross country race. The good news for her is that her doctor is ready to take a cast off following her latest procedure and she may be able to walk an upcoming race. The bad news is that going through so many changes as an adolescent is really hard. Alba has trouble in her relationships with her family, friends and peers. Readers will enjoy Alba’s journey as she learns about herself, her friends and about relationships. This is a book that also packs a lot into a smaller package. You might wonder why I haven’t said anything about hummingbirds after reading the title, and you should know that the two main characters are very science oriented, love hummingbirds and there are a lot of facts in the book that they share.

The Three Spartans

I thought I would celebrate the BC Day long weekend by reading some books by BC authors. This was the first one I picked. Art is a twelve year old from BC who vacations in Birch Bay, Washington (not currently allowed, thanks covid) and he really enjoys time with his best friend there, full-time resident Lea. They are bullied by a guy named Zeke who is pretty much nasty to everyone, but no one will stand up to him. Art and Lea create a plan to challenge him to a paintball battle using strategies they develop through their love of Greek mythology, online games and even role playing board games. The battle tests their friendship and their spirit. A good book about standing up for yourself.

Currently Reading

Love, IshThe Blackthorn Key (The Blackthorn Key, #1)

I am just starting a book by another BC author, Karen Rivers. I have read some of her YA and MG books before and I find her characters and plots to be creative and sometimes a little odd. I appreciate that, so I am looking forward to this book. It was recommended by a student who I introduced to an earlier book by Karen Rivers, The Girl in the Well is Me. My family is reading the first of Kevin Sands’ Blackthorn Adventures. I have read this whole series and love it. Historical fiction, with mystery and puzzles to solve, great friendships, humour and action. He is not from BC, but he has been to BC (to my school a few years ago).

On Deck Reads

IkengaAgency

I never really know for sure what I will read soon, but this section of my posts is my first attempt at planning. I have an ARC of Ikenga that I would like to read before it’s release, and Agency is the second in a far too true near future series by William Gibson. It would certainly be classified as an adult book, written by a resident of BC.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope to catch up with what the rest of the posters at Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts are reading. Thanks again to all that post, and especially to the hosts of our link-up.

It’s Monday, July 20, what are you reading?

This was a great week in many respects. We finished the week by getting lots done in our yard and garden, and even better, we opened the week visiting my parents. My family hasn’t travelled out of our small community since the pandemic started. We pretty much only had contact with others for shopping since my wife and I finished teaching at the end of June. We decided we would quarantine for 14 days and then visit our parents, first mine and later this month her parents. They don’t live too far away so we can easily make the journey in a morning without having to stop anywhere along the way.

All of this made for a bit of a light reading week, but seeing family for a few days was very important. Although, my reading plans did change I did really enjoy a few novels this week and thought I would share them with our wonderful reading community. Thanks to Kellee, Ricki, and Jen for continuing to host this link-up.

Books I Enjoyed This Week

The Riverman

My family and I finished this odd, and disturbing beginning of The Riverman Trilogy. This was a re-read for me. I really like this one, but it is an upper MG book. I usually find one student who will read this every couple of years, and those that like it, like it a lot. They usually harass their friends until they agree to read it, because it is story that needs to be discussed. It is kind of difficult to explain without spoilers but readers are often trying to figure out what is real and what is not. Characters are often quite mixed up as well. Anyways, this year, my daughter was the student that read it, and she could not wait to hoist it on to my younger daughter and my wife to see their reactions to some of the squeamish parts.

I haven’t said anything about the plot. Well, there is a girl, Fiona, who travels to a world called Aquavania (by touching a certain bit of water). She controls everything in the world through her imagination, and then she discovers other worlds connected to hers that are controlled by other kids. Then, she finds out that some of these other kids are going missing in both Aquavania and the Solid (real) World. And she feels it is at the hands of someone known as The Riverman. She enlists her neighbour Alistair to help and we become embroiled in confusion along with him. Is Fiona making this up? Is it a cry for help? Is it real? I had to read all three of these books to get as many answers as possible, but alas for my poor wife, who wanted to do the same, it was my youngest’s pick next and she went another way.

Slaves of Socorro (Brotherband Chronicles, #4)

My children sometimes cannot understand why I do not just read from the beginning of a series to the end as they often do. I tell the that I am trying to read widely so I can recommend a range of books to a range of readers. They kind of get it, but this summer they have a list of series they feel I should back to. We noticed I had stalled after reading book three in a number of different series, and we agreed that I should read book four in at least three of them. This is the second. The Brotherband Chronicles is actually a spin-off of John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice books (and there are 12 of those, and then some prequels, and books that take place years later). They are entertaining, full of good relationships and witty banter. They take place in an alternate world that medieval in nature. The Heron Brotherband (a crew of a wolfship) is a group of Skandians (think Vikings) who work together as a team. In this case, they are sent by their lord to police the coastline of neighbouring nations as part of a peace treaty between Skandia and its neighbours. The crew was known for being a group of outcasts in their youth, but the strength of this series is how they come together by using their strengths, and work together to accomplish their missions. I find many of my students to enjoy Flanagan’s earlier series, but only a few make it this far into his catalog.

The Last Lie

This is the second in the duology that started with The List by Irish author Patricia Forde. The books have alternate titles in Ireland (The Wordsmith and The Mother Tongue). In these books The Melting has caused most of the world to flood. After the waters recede a little society is slowly reborn in a world that is much more difficult to inhabit. In a land that becomes known as Ark, the leaders decide that humans messed things up really badly with climate change. The answer for them is to simplify life so those mistakes are not repeated. So, they restrict language, art, and culture and create a society where obeying a totalitarian government is key. Letta worked for a Wordsmith in the first book, the person who gives out the language that each person is allowed to learn, on cards. Now, she fights against the ruling group and wants people’s personal freedoms to return. Her companions tell her that the greatest mistake is to stop trying, and she feels that humans can be more careful with their words and actions to create a better life. The book’s expected release in North America is on August 1.

Currently Reading

My youngest picked The Blackthorn Key, which she knows that the rest of our family enjoyed a few years ago. I really enjoyed re-reading the first fifty or so pages this week. It is a story of an apothecary’s apprentice in the 1600s. Christopher gets embroiled in a murder mystery. Last week, I was sure I was going to start Dig after writing in this space, but I thought it would be a book I really want to delve deeply into and that is sometimes hard when travelling, so I left it for this week.

The Blackthorn Key (The Blackthorn Key, #1)Dig

On Deck Reading

Paola Santiago and the River of Tears

I have the this ARC from the Rick Riordan Presents imprint and it is a new author to me, so I am going to try it. I think it is based on a Mexican folktale. I am having a hard time sticking to plans lately, so that is probably enough for me. Thanks for checking out what I have been reading, I hope to see what others have been up to as well later in the week.

It’s Monday, July 13th, what have you been reading?

I missed posting last week so this is a quick recap of two weeks of reading, although there really wasn’t much to report on for the last week. A cool summer here in BC has meant that it doesn’t get so hot that I need to come in and read. I have been able to stay outdoors a little more and get work done in our yard/garden instead of coming in for reading breaks, certainly this is not my forte. However, I was able to read a few books this week so I thought I would add a quick post. Thanks to our hosts at unleashingreaders.com and teachmentortexts.com for continuing to provide a great space to see more books for our TBR lists. Personally, my picture book list is a little out of control.

Books I Enjoyed Recently

A Royal Guide to Monster SlayingThe Gryphon's Lair (A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying, #2)

I read both books in Kelley Armstrong’s MG duology. Rowan is supposed to become the ruler of her land, but her heart is not really in it. She would love to trade places with her twin brother, who is set to become the Royal Monster Hunter, due to the difference in their ages, she is two minutes older than brother Rhydd. Circumstances cause Rowan to go after a gryphon, the most dangerous of all monsters in this world and it tests her skills. In fact, Rowan’s focus is usually on understanding monsters and her scientific approach is one of the strengths of this little series. So is the action and the supporting cast of monsters that help Rowan, including a baby jackalope, a wolf-like creature that is sworn to protect her, but might not really like her. It’s an interesting world with complex personal and political relationships that could be explored in other books or spin offs.

The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co., #4)

I have a lot of series that I really enjoy but don’t make time to finish in my effort to try and read a little more widely. This summer, I have noticed that I am on book four in a number of series, so I thought that I would read at least three book fours this summer. This is the first of them. The Lockwood and Co. series is a fascinating MG ghost series in which a Victorianesque London is dealing with what is called The Problem. Something has caused ghosts and other supernatural spirits to become very prevalent each evening from about 6 pm to 6 am. It is found that children from about 7-13 years of age are best at dealing with these spirits, as them seem able to have special “talents” to perceive them and then deal with them before they can cause harm. Lockwood and Co. is one of the smaller “agencies” that help people survive this world. I find these books have a great combination of humour and thrills. I really should not wait so long for book five, the series finale, but book three was memorable enough that I was easily able to jump right back in.

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)

I picked this book entirely based on several bloggers who post in this space on Monday. I believe it was Elisabeth, Cherie, Shaye and possible others who put me on to it. I do enjoy reading science fiction but haven’t been doing much of it in the last few years. My wife and I have been getting my 13 year old into our old Ray Bradbury and Philip K. Dick collections and this book belongs in that pile as well. A great short read with futurist ideas, a great lead character, and lots of humour. I bought the first book so I can get other readers in my family on to it, but placed ebooks of the next two on hold with my library system. I don’t even really like reading ebooks, but this series is worth it.

Super Detectives (Simon and Chester Book #1)

Super cute graphic novel featuring the characters from Atkinson’s picture book Sir Simon Super Scared. Buddies Chester and Simon decide the most exciting thing for them to do together is find a mystery to solve. Despite a difference of opinion on how to get the job done, the case gets solved. I have very young readers in the library grabbing graphic novels they really aren’t ready for but I see this as a very good option for readers wanting to move out of picture books but not being old enough for some of themes in many graphic novels. Thanks to NetGalley for the early copy to review, this book won’t be out until February.

Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer

I enjoyed this mystery and the coming together of kids who are different but can still be friends. I read a black and white copy but look forward to having a full colour version in my library soon. Shirley is thought by many to be a little odd and has a mother that wants to send her to dance camp even if she is not interested. Jamila has a mother who wants to send her to science camp for the summer but she just wants to play basketball. The two find a way to help each other out, get embroiled in solving a neighbourhood mystery and teach each other about friendship. This book is scheduled to come out tomorrow.

Dear Martin (Dear Martin, #1)

This book is has been out about three years ago now, and I took notice of it when it came out, but never bought a copy. I finally noticed that my library had it as an ebook and managed to read it this week. It’s everything that I thought it would be, a really interesting story that seems to be based on a few of the many (there are too many) of the stories that involve police brutality. Justyce seems to be on the fast track for success at his prep school in the Atlanta area, and has designs on making it to an Ivy league school when a string of events turn his life inside out. In just a few pages, Nic Stone is able to show how these events impact the lives of many and we gain some perspective on how racism impacts a range of different people. If you missed out on this one when it came out, you should probably seek it out next chance you get.

Don't Stand So Close to Me

Not sure I have ever read a book more current than this one. A very realistic portrayal of how a group of middle schoolers handled the anxiety and frustration of the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic from the early dismissal of school for Spring Break to the realization that the rest of the school year is lost.
Quinn (female) seems to be a typical (sub?) urban middle schooler. Like all kids she deals with the loss full access to her friends, although there is a boy named Isaac that lives next door that she sees daily and she sees her best friend at times as well. She also has to deal with the stress and boredom of Zoom (as a teacher a little part of me was mad that this teacher got all her kids to Zoom- I never did), her mother being really busy and stressed out, and worst of all her father, a doctor, working at the hospital. Like many first responders, he changes his living arrangements, works with some level of fear and works longer hours. Quinn’s best friend Reese has to deal with not seeing her grandmother, who is in a rest home, and Isaac’s Mom works in law enforcement and is almost never home. This was a good look at the stresses felt by children and adults during this time.
All of these issue are fresh for us now, as we are living them, or seeing them in the news reports daily. In several years, middle school aged readers will be able to read about this and see what older siblings and parents went through, they may have vague memories of their own. I think it will be a valuable read at that time. As for now, some may really enjoy relating to characters in a book in a way that they may not normally be able to. They may also find hope in the way that Quinn and her friends are able to contribute to making things better in their neighbourhood through an idea she has and how they salvage a year end event to bring closure to their school year and a joyful social occasion to their neighbourhood. This is something I wish my students were able to pull off, and if there able to see that coming together is better than the solitary apathy that many have endured during this time, that is a great thing to learn. I wish it was a little longer to see more of the things kids struggled with, although struggles are mentioned they pop up quickly and these kids are able to overcome them quickly. That is the trade off for such a readable, relatable story of this accessible length though. This book is out in September, but available now as an e-book.

Currently Reading

The Riverman

I am currently re-reading this. My oldest and I have read it, but my youngest and my wife have not. It is a bizzare mystery, a book in which you don’t really know if what your characters are experiencing something real or fantasy.

On Deck Reads

I am about to start Dig by A.S. King, and I have some ARCs to get through including the next Rick Riordan Presents book by Tehlor Kay Mejia, an author I have not read before. I may also continue my book four mission. My youngest is flying through a series called The Brotherband Chronicles by John Flanagan and I stopped at the end of book three.Slaves of Socorro (Brotherband Chronicles, #4)Paola Santiago and the River of Tears

Thanks for reading my post, I hope to see what you have been reading this week as well.

Mid-year Monday, What are you Reading?

Midway through this crazy 2020, usually I am looking at the number of books I have read right about now, and thinking about how many I can read over the summer break, which started for me on Friday. This year, everything is so different, very few picture books for me and far more current year releases than usual.

I finished off the school year re-reading some of my District Battle of the Books title. We were not able to have our usual event, like a lot of other events it had to look different because having 100-150 readers in one space was not going to happen. We also found a lot of students didn’t stay with the online learning. That being said, I still wanted to have something for the readers who did, and I had a great Zoom call with about 10 of our readers, one amazing librarian in my district, and author Brad McLelland (co-author of Western fantasy series Legends of the Lost Causes). We had authors Jennifer Nielsen and Christina Collins send us a video greeting as well. Usually, it is a competitive event between teams of readers from different schools, but this time we just chatted about the nine books in this year’s event, I shared some of the book trivia that would have been in the event, and upcoming releases by the authors of the books we read. It was a good way to end the year.

Next week, I should start with my summer reading plans. Usually, I try to read the odd adult book, more YA, some older titles that I missed out on when they arrived and try to ensure that I read any ARCs I have before they are released. I also want to do some professional reading as well. Last year, I did very little, the year before I did lots. This year, my district cannot have our Summer Institute professional development days, so we are doing more self-directed PD, and I have several books I can read as part of that.

Happy to link my post up with other bloggers at Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts (thanks to our hosts), I hope I also do a better job of reading all the blogs compared to the last two weeks. Have a great week, everyone.

Books I Enjoyed This Week

The Nameless City (The Nameless City, #1)

This one was for our Battle of the Books, so a re-read for me. It is the first of a trilogy and the graphic novel depiction of a city that feels like it could be in medieval China. It is a city that is continually conquered by different nations because of its geographic location. Those born in the city are ruled by outsiders and at the core is a friendship between a girl, Rat, born in the city, and a boy, Kai, whose father works for the current government. I enjoyed this whole series last year.

Illegal

Another of our Battle of the Books titles this year, I re-read this story of two brothers making an extremely dangerous journey from Africa to Europe to find their sister. This is a really heartbreaking story based on interviews with refugees. Stories like this and this year’s, Where Stars are Scattered, are so important, particularly to share with kids who may not know much about these experiences. Most of my students don’t.

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster

Another Battle of the Books re-read, this novel is one of those stories that has lots of emotions and so many great lines and phrases that stick with you after. I found it to be a very unique and engaging story.

The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, #1)

This was another re-read for me. My family and I were reading this one aloud. It is the first in an engaging series full of real historical figures, mythological creatures and history. Typically, series like this have a lot of build up and character development and this one does too. We learn about Nicholas Flamel and his wife, and their battles with their arch nemesis, John Dee, a struggle for world domination with Dee and the Dark Elders, who once ruled the world, pitted against Flamel and others. Unexpectedly joining this battle are two twins who had never considered that magic could be real until they start seeing it before their eyes as their bosses start battling golems and the mysterious Dee. Flamel believes the twins could be the key to this centuries old battle.

Takedown

This is a book that I thought I was going to read as an ARC a couple of years ago, but it got lost in the mail on its way to me, and it took me a while to get my hands on another copy for my classroom. I haven’t really ever read a book about wrestling but it is the sport of choice of Lev and Mickey (aka Mikayla when she is not wrestling). I really enjoyed this book which has a lot of familiar elements of kids trying to discover who they are and who they want to be in a middle school environment. Gender plays a role in this and rules seem to change as to what is deemed acceptable. A girl joining a travel (more advanced) wrestling team is even more complicated. Mikayla has to deal with defying stereotypes and gender norms that are not fair. Lev has to deal with his own fear and prejudice and then his friend’s as well. Family dynamics are important as well. This is another sports book with a lot more in it, as is the case in books such as Ghost and a 2020 book I loved, Black Brother, Black Brother. I will be giving this one to fans of those books at my school.

Currently Reading

The RivermanA Royal Guide to Monster Slaying

I am re-reading The Riverman with my family, it was my oldest daughter’s choice. She has read it too, but it is such a puzzling and odd book she wanted to read it again and be able to talk about it with two more readers who haven’t experienced it yet. I just started A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying. I have the second one on my NetGalley account but I haven’t even read the first one yet, so I am trying to read both this week.

I have no clue what else I will try to get through this week, but I am hoping to finish the duology and get into some books that were tougher to access during the school year. Thanks for stopping by here this week, and I hope you have a great week of reading ahead of you.

It’s the last Monday of the school year (for me) what was I reading to prepare for this?

This week I come to the end of the strangest school year in my 20+ year career, and I know a lot of people feel the same way. I hope to still have a few students in this week. The classroom has less clean-up than ever, because we had to move so much stuff out of it to allow for distancing of students. I have a Battle of the Books Year End event planned with a few authors helping out. Of course, also a lot of meetings too. So, it is not all great stuff.

I managed to find time to read a few books this week, although I must say, as usual, I am looking forward to the summer reading time that I will be getting soon. Thanks to Jen, Kellee and Ricki for hosting our link-up this week at Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts. I am hoping to have more books to share in the coming weeks, but this week the quality was really good.

Books I Enjoyed This Week

Fighting Words

Thanks to Penguin for providing me with an ARC of this moving story, which comes out in August. This book brilliantly tackles extremely tough topics of abuse and trauma. This might not be one for all of your readers, especially to read on their own. I think you have to know your students. It isn’t something I would have sought out as a kid, but that is privilege on my part. I had heard a lot about this book before reading it and I really loved both of The War books that she had previously written. As an adult, I was ready for it and I knew this writer would write something unforgettable. As she did in The War That Saved My Life, and The War I Finally Won, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley wrote about girls that face tough times without making us pity them and without just feeling sad. I felt sad, but I felt a whole bunch of other things too.

Words on Fire

This is another really great historical novel by Jennifer Nielsen in the vein of A Night Divided and Resistance. In this book, Audra’s parents are taken away by Russian soldiers occupying Lithuania. Audra is sent out before they can grab her too, with a package and instructions for what to do with it. She knows her parents were up to something to garner the attention of the Russian soldiers but she is surprised to find out that it was smuggling books to help keep Lithuanian culture alive. Can she help the cause? Does she even want to? There is lots of danger no matter which path she chooses.

Rise of ZomBert

I got this ARC through Book Portage, the ARC sharing group I belong to, and thanks to Candlewick for allowing us to read this book, which comes out on July 14.
Mellie and her friend Danny don’t have a lot of other friends in school but that is okay to them. They like filming their own horror movies, science and reading, and they have each other. When Mellie finds a scraggly cat in a dumpster, she wants to help it, but this cat is not exactly what it seems and helping proves a little tougher than she thought. There are a lot of little details about looking after the cat, and about Mellie’s family life that I appreciated.
I enjoyed this, and I know it is the beginning of a series, but the ending was really abrupt. I hope, because it is for young readers that the next book is available somewhat soon. Not sure I would grab this until I had the second for a child. But I am interested in this series, for some of my grade 6 students, and for some kids that are younger.

Cub

Interesting graphic novel about a grade 7 girl who finds that everything in school is changing. Relationships, interests, and how people expect others to act are all part of the fairly normal coming of age issues that young Cindy deals with in this story. A teacher inspires her to work as a cub reporter with a mentor who writes for the local paper. Through this and spending time with other people instead of her friend since grade 1, she learns many ways to write her own story, literally and figuratively. Great for fans of the Sunny Side Up trilogy, and this one is set in the time that the author grew up in as well, I believe, its the Nixon era 1970s. Thanks to the organizers of Nerdcamp Bellingham for providing an ARC of this book.

Currently Reading

Legends of the Lost CausesSweep: The Story of a Girl and Her MonsterThe Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immor…

These are my current re-reads. The first two for our Battle of the Books this week, and the latter is our family read aloud. All three should wrap up this week. I really like all three of them and hope they give some kids I know summer reading ideas.

On Deck Reads

TakedownRise of the JumbiesLove, Ish

I thought I might get to one or two of these last week, but I have been doing a lot of re-reading. I am starting Takedown today.

Thanks for stopping to view what I have been reading, I hope to see more of what others have been enjoying later in the week!

It’s June 15th, what are you reading?

Summer is almost here, 2020 is almost half in the books, and my school year has just two weeks remaining. The oddity that is teaching in 2020 (probably not unlike other professions and life itself) continues. Reading is one of the things that is harder but also quite rewarding. I have a few students looking for summer books and it is nice to see even those that did not come back for our last month of in-class instruction (it was optional) pop in to pick up a pack of books I selected for them. Okay, to be honest, that was only one student, but maybe this week there will be more. Please, are you out there people…

Books I Enjoyed This Week

The Madre de Aguas of Cuba (The Unicorn Rescue Society Book 5)

Full confession here. This is the fifth book in this series and I have not read the fourth book yet. I don’t really think it matters. I don’t own the fourth, but I own the first three and have read them, so when an ARC of the fifth showed up at Nerdcamp Bellingham, I grabbed it. I enjoy this series. It is a short chapter book, but not really an early chapter book (it would be too challenging). The plot moves quick, and in the last three that I have read, the characters travel and learn about a foreign culture. This is partly why they are all now co-written. All feature creatures of legend and plenty of wit. This book came out on May 12.

After Zero

This was a re-read for a unit I am teaching. I really enjoyed the character driven story of a girl named Elise who starts school for the very first time in middle school. In the first few days she makes some social missteps by saying the wrong thing and then she decides not to speak at all, or at least as little as possible. Her selective mutism comes from a desire not to make more mistakes and mess things up socially, but of course it makes things even worse. She also uncovers part of the truth about why she is homeschooled and why her Mom keeps several secrets from her. The author has some experience with selective mutism so this is an own voices story dealing with anxiety and other issues as well.

The Weirn Books, Vol. 1: Be Wary of the Silent Woods

I think this is based on earlier works from the graphic novelist best known lately for the Awkward/Brave/Crush trilogy. She also has a lot of manga and comics including a series called Nightschool, which I have not read, but it seems inspired this new series that I read through NetGalley. Weirns are witches and they wake up at sunset to get to their Nightschool, which transforms from the school that humans use during the day. It is very much like other school stories with cliques and bullying except the students are witches, shifters and vampires. Allis and her friends stumble upon an old house with a mysterious past on their way to school and can’t resist taking a peak. Predictably, this sparks some action that sheds light on what really is happening in the house and also on Allis’s family’s past. It’s entertaining, there are some witty characters and have fans of Svetlana Chmakova’s earlier series will likely enjoy this one.

Prairie Lotus

I just finished this book as it is one of two that I will consider reading to my class next year for the Global Read Aloud. I need to decide between reading this and Indian No More, which was on my blog recently as well. They are both books that will spark a lot of conversation about race and the way white people have treated Indigenous peoples, and in Prairie Lotus, people of Asian ancestry. Hanna arrives in a small midWestern town having moved from California after the death of her Chinese mother. Her white father has tried to make it a businessman in other towns since leaving with little success but knowing the law in this town to be enforced by a “fair” man, they think they can make it work in LaForge. Hanna just wants to graduate and play a role in her father’s business, if the people of LaForge will give her a chance. The racism towards Chinese people in this new town of the 1880s makes that seem unlikely. This was a good story, and I enjoyed it as I have several of Linda Sue Park’s books.

Currently Reading

Legends of the Lost CausesSweep: The Story of a Girl and Her MonsterThe Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immor…Words on FireFighting Words

I am re-reading the first four books here with my children or my students. I have really enjoyed all of them, and today I am starting Fighting Words. I was so happy that Penguin sent me this ARC after I attended a virtual conference. I really enjoyed the The War… books by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and this one has an important topic, not often covered in MG.

On Deck Reading

TakedownRise of ZomBertRise of the JumbiesLove, Ish

I was set to read an ARC of Takedown a while back and it got lost in the mail. I kind of forgot about it and then I saw a contest online for a paperback, which I won. I hope to read it this week. I have an ARC of Rise of Zombert from my friends at Book Portage. I have been really bad at finishing series lately, and I decided to get going on The Jumbies. I really enjoyed book one, but did not read either of the books that followed. Love, Ish is a book I had recommended by an ex-student, and I have enjoyed Karen Rivers other books.

Hope you have an excellent reading week and head over to Unleashing Readers or Teach Mentor Texts (thanks to our hosts Kellee, Ricki, and Jen) to see more blogs with books you can add to your to-read piles.

 

It’s June 8, What Are You Reading?

Another Monday is already here. This year is full of things are completely new, and things that seem to repeat themselves. I am repeating the completely new sensation of teaching after my province is cautiously optimistic about the flattening of the curve. I welcomed two groups of five students, one Tuesday and one Thursday, and I hope they all return this week. It is impossible to tell though, how students and their families will react and deal with our new reality. My principal joked that I might have students in week one of our re-opening, but I would likely be close to alone by the end of the month. I saw his point, but oddly one of my students asked if they could come both days instead of just the one that the government had suggested. That made me pretty happy.

We are also celebrating a birthday in the house for the second time in three weeks as my youngest turns 10. She decided she did not really want to return to school just yet, and I think part of the reason is that it would cut into her reading time, as she flew through John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series, and is now trying to get her hands on all the spin-off series. This is an Australian written series set in a made up medieval world where a group of law enforcement/espionage agents called Rangers keep the peace by serving the people and the royalty. They are written with lots of dry humor and action.

Like my daughter, I don’t really like things cutting into my reading time, but it is kind of nice to see students at school. We have a lot of new routines to put in place, and at times it feels a little odd, but the work is more purposeful than waiting for students to come online to us. Our numbers in that department have fallen each week. Here are the books I was able to finish this week between face to face and online learning sessions.

Books I Enjoyed This Week

Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC of this cute chapter book, the latest in the Deckawoo Drive series that is like a spin off of Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson. As is the case with all of the books in this series, it is rich in language and big ideas with a character or two undergoing a significant change in thinking. Stella learns what it means to live with curiosity and courage. Her classmate Horace learns that anything is possible. Another great addition to this series.

The Next Great Jane

This May release is a mix of a homage to Jane Austen, and a modern STEM novel for MG kids. The Next Great Jane is a well paced novel with likable characters. Jane, a bibliophile, lives with her scientist father in a sleepy Maine town. When one of the world’s great writers is speaking at the local library for reasons she cannot fathom, she knows she has to be there. However, she has to sneak in because the talk is adult only. In doing so, she meets a rude boy who appears to be related in some way to the author. From there on, their fates become entwined and Jane has to deal with him slagging the town she loves and their casual lifestyle. She also has to deal with her estranged mother coming back and trying to be part of her life. There are a lot of moving parts in the relationships but it is a fun, light read.

Catching a Storyfish

I read two novels in verse this week and here is the first one. This one has been out for a few years and is the story of a girl who moves from Alabama to the Chicago area and has trouble fitting in. Her new school mates think she talks funny and something that used to give her pleasure, and confidence, telling stories, becomes something that makes her sad. With the help of a new friend and her grandfather, she tries to regain her moxie. The writer uses a number of different poetic styles and includes some notes on them in the back of the book.

Indian No More

I didn’t quite catch up with this book when it first came out, but then when it was picked for Global Read Aloud I knew I had to read it. It will likely be tough for me to choose between reading this book, and Linda Sue Park’s Prairie Lotus, which I still need to read. This one was very, very good. It tells the story of a family of Umpqua people who live on a reserve in Oregon until they are displaced through the US government’s policy of termination. This is part of history I am vaguely familiar with, but I believe it is an attempt to take away these people’s self-government and force assimilation. This family is moved to Los Angeles, and while they are set up with a place to live and some essentials, they young girl and other members of the family feel out of place. The story is based loosely on Charlene WIlling McManis’s family experiences, although she was much younger than the protagonist in the story. Sadly, she passed before finishing the book due to cancer but asked Traci Sorell to help finish the edits and final version. There is a lot of information about how Traci Sorell and editors finished the book and did everything they could to make it authentic. It is a compelling story about the efforts to strip away the identity of Indigenous people with lots of back matter for students.

Closer to Nowhere

This was my second novel in verse of the week, and is an emotional story about a struggling boy named Cal, whose family life is in disarray. He has seen and experienced far too much. He lives with his aunt, his Mom’s twin and her family, although he doesn’t always feel particularly welcome. This is partly due to his behaviour, as he pranks his cousin and is prone to outbursts when he feels pressure. His cousin, her schoolmates, and his Uncle have trouble finding empathy and providing him with what he needs. It is a powerful story.

Currently Reading

Legends of the Lost CausesSweep: The Story of a Girl and Her MonsterAfter Zero

I continue to read these with my small groups of students. We are making slow progress, but that just seems to be the way of it. That is hard for me, because I loved reading all of these last summer. In hindsight, as much as I enjoy sharing these books, I might have pared my four groups to one that was going to move through their work at closer to the regular pace, and maybe tried something different with those that were less committed. I am also reading The Alchemyst by Michael Scott with my family, another re-read for me but the beginning of a great series that I am hoping someone in my family continues on with, as I have. I am still trying to choose what else to read next, and I have a lot to choose from, here are some titles:

The Weirn Books, Vol. 1: Be Wary of the Silent WoodsPrairie LotusThe Madre de Aguas of Cuba (The Unicorn Rescue Society Book 5)Fighting WordsRise of the Jumbies

I am hoping to find the time to read three or four of these, and also to check out what you have been reading if you are part of the link-up at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. Thanks to Jen, Kellee and Ricki for hosting, and thanks to you for stopping here to see what I have been reading. Have a great reading week!

 

It’s June 1 (Hard to believe)

Welcome to the first Monday of June. This week marks the first week of my province’s return to in-class instruction. We have had about 10 children of Essential Service Workers in our school but Tuesday we will have about 45 in our small school (8 classes). I have less than 10 students returning for one day of instruction per week, and in keeping with our government’s policies they are split over two different days to allow for distancing. Monday is scheduled as a day to focus on those sticking with the online learning that has been provided, so I have students coming Tuesday and then another group on Thursday. I am turning Wednesday and Friday into my more library focussed day, and I will catch up with some that are at home doing online learning (honestly, not that many are doing a lot of work at this point). It will be the strangest last month of the school year in my career.

I am hoping to get more literary activities going over the next month. Normally, my school Battle of the Books would have happened and then some teams would have advanced to our District event, and while neither will happen as usual, we have a smaller celebration of our year of reading planning for late in the month. I am still re-reading several of the books involved in that event, and I managed to squeeze in three new or soon to be published books that I will share this week. Thanks to Kellee, Ricki and Jen for hosting our link-up at Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts.

Books I Enjoyed This Week

When Stars Are Scattered

I had read so much about this book before starting it, and had it listed on my Must Read in 2020 list, so it had a lot to live up. It was what I had been waiting for and more. One phrase that kept repeating in my reading was that life is not fair. Omar thinks this many times and who could blame him. His father is gone, and his mother lost, he spends more than a decade in a refugee camp trying not only to survive himself but also look after the medical needs of his non-verbal brother. Like the characters in the YA book with similar themes that I read last week We Are Not From Here, Omar and his brother have their moments when they feel lost, hopeless and with no future, but they work through them and somehow manage to persevere. It’s an inspiring story, but one of the things I loved about this one is that there are the stories of many other refugees weaved in here and they are all so different and varied that students will see that it is so not just a case of persevere and all will be well. We could have discussions about the fate of many of the characters in this novel.

The King of Jam Sandwiches

I managed to get this book from my friends in Book Portage, and thank them and the publisher for letting our ARC sharing group have this copy, which had another request, so I had to gulp it down fairly quickly and move it to the next reader. I would have liked to take my time a little bit more. This book also has characters dealing with tough times. I have to admit that I am not in love with the title of this book, but I did fall for the characters. This is a great story of hope, of how some people are able to make it even though life, for them, just isn’t fair, and they are dealt a hand that is tougher than that of many others. I have a feeling this is one of Eric Walters’ more personal books, I wonder if he has a lot in common with Robbie, a goal driven, hard working young man who deals very well with the fact that he doesn’t have an adult in his life that takes care of him. Robbie finds another person in Harmony that really gets him, and they help each other through some rough times. I look forward to buying this when it comes out in September.

The Ship We Built

This was a deeply impactful, ownvoices story of a trans boy growing up in a world searching for someone to see them and let them belong while suffering all types of abuse. I am not sure the pacing and the 90’s cultural references will work for students, and was a little surprised by so many in an MG book. Rowan’s journey is told through letters that he writes to whomever might read them. He puts them in balloons and sends the balloons off into the sky. He has no one that he really feels like he can talk to about the issues in his life, and the transformations he wants to make from being known as Ellie to Rowan. The book is really about his struggle to not have to feel like he is sorry for being who he is. It’s a story of the importance of having one person who believes in you and accepting yourself. The ending, the afterword, and author’s note were particularly excellent.

Currently Reading

After ZeroSweep: The Story of a Girl and Her MonsterLegends of the Lost Causes

I am continuing to re-read these three and share them with students. Not quite at the pace that I would hope based on student involvement, but I really enjoy all three of them.

My family continues to read The Alchemyst by Michael Scott in the evenings. I am enjoying re-reading this one. I read most of the series several years ago.

On Deck Reading

If I can, I will try to read one from each of these pairs of books.

Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem: Tales from Deckawoo Drive, Volume FiveThe Weirn Books, Vol. 1: Be Wary of the Silent Woods I am sucker for the Mercy Watson books and the spin-off Deckawoo Drive series and my NetGalley account finally came through on this one the other day. I am also curious about the new graphic novel series from the author of the Awkward trilogy, always popular at my school.

Prairie LotusIndian No More These are two selections for next year’s Global Read Aloud. I plan to be involved for a fifth year, and want to read both of these in order to decide which to read to my class next fall. I plan to read at least one soon.

The Next Great JaneThe Madre de Aguas of Cuba (The Unicorn Rescue Society Book 5) These are two May releases that I got ARCs of at Nerdcamp Bellingham (I still have a hard time believing that I left the country for a conference about ten weeks ago- the world seems so changed) and I want to read one of them this week.

Closer to NowhereFighting Words These are two ARCs that I got from Penguin and I am seeing people start to read them and their reviews have really got my interest up. I might try one of these in the next week or so. Normally, I read closer to the release date but these two have been calling me. I feel like I need something a little lighter to try first though.

Thanks for stopping here to see what I have been reading, I hope to read about your recent reading week soon!

 

It’s Monday, May 25, 2020

 

The last Monday of May is the start of a busy week. I am working at school, while most of my students are working remotely. There are about eight students of essential service workers in our building. Next week, classes resume here in BC. It is optional for families to send kids, and so far about one quarter plan to do so in my classroom. I have to phone the rest of my families this week and start preparing for how to blend my online learning, with some students being here 1-2 days a week. As for the other half of my assignment, I have been given very little direction on the library except that the powers that be do not want me running regular groups through. We are open, but still limiting the use of shared spaces. As is the norm for 2020, some of the best things are cancelled.

On a personal note, I become the parent of a teenager this week, when my oldest (who has felt like a teen in training for a few years) turns 13. She is hoping to make me the second tallest member of our house this week too. Birthday parades have been a big thing in our town, but my daughter would curl up in a ball if she had that much attention, so big gatherings being cancelled suits her. I am sure she would like to be able to have a few friends over, but understands things are just different this year. I am hoping to squeeze a few good reads in this week as well.

Books I Enjoyed This Week

Lift

This was one of my top must read picture books for this year because of how much I enjoyed books like After the Fall and Drawn Together. I think it is another picture book that fits perfectly for our crazy times. Who hasn’t had a couple of times when I feel like jumping in an elevator, and pushing a button to escape a little? This book is a little longer than most picture books, and several pages are wordless. I really loved those pages. I really cannot wait to be able to buy a copy for my school library.

The Egyptian Mirror

This is a middle grade mystery and as the cover suggests it has lots of references to Egyptian mythology. Simon has a pretty normal middle class with his parents and little sister. His Mom asks him to help look after an elderly neighbour across the street who took a fall off a ladder and has mobility issues. Simon doesn’t really know Mr. Hawkins, who was a friends of his grandfather’s, but his huge house is loaded with mirrors, particularly very old ones from Egypt. One of them seems to have an effect on Simon, and he becomes quite ill. With help from the girl Abbey, a girl that is new to the neighbourhood but very easy to talk to, Simon tries to unravel the secrets of the mirror and those of a mysterious woman who seems to want it. This book was not the most action packed compared to other MG books featuring mythology, save for a couple of scenes but for fans of the history involved in that sub genre it might be worth a look.

We Are Not From Here

This book did have a lot of action. It starts with life really being hard for several characters living in Guatemala. The teens all have loving people in their lives, but also things that make life unsafe. Where they are from, this is just the way life is, but it is also why many run. Everyone thinks about making a run through the border to Mexico, and riding a train system known as La Bestia to get across that country to the border with the US. At that point travelling on foot to cross into the US becomes another dangerous option. The journey is known to be incredibly dangerous but they feel it might be their only plan to a better life. Two events that happen on the same day cause three teens to come to the excruciating decision to leave their loved ones and run. The story of Pulga, Chico and Peequeña is filled with hope, a lot of fear, and danger, but mostly determination. This is quite an impactful read with some of the events based on what we were seeing much more of in the news before the pandemic about families attempting to enter the US. The author is not a native of Guatemala or Mexico but is the daughter of immigrant parents. She seems to base the story on research and some of the books she read were listed in the ARC that I got from the publisher.

Currently Reading

Legends of the Lost CausesSweep: The Story of a Girl and Her MonsterAfter Zero

I continue to re-read these three excellent books aloud to students as part of my class book clubs (lit circles).

My family is reading The Alchemyst, a re-read for me, and a series I really enjoyed. I am hoping one or all of us continue with this series.

The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #1)

On deck reading

I won’t start a new book until after work on Monday. My wife has a better library budget situation than I do so I will be raiding the books she recently purchased for her library including a book that is very high on my Must Read in 2020 list. I also have some ARCs I might try to get to and I bought the books for GRA 2020 that were appropriate for my grade level (grade 6). I hope to get through a few of these titles.

When Stars Are ScatteredThe Ship We BuiltThe King of Jam SandwichesPrairie LotusIndian No More

Thanks for stopping to see a bit of my reading week, I hope to view what you have been up to as well. Head to unleashingreaders.com or teachmentortexts.com to see a great link-up of Monday bloggers. Thanks to Kellee, Ricki and Jen for hosting. Have a great week.

It’s Monday, May 18th (a long weekend, I think, if I can remember what day it is)

 

This week is my first full week of working in school again, if a week that starts with a holiday can be called a full week. We don’t have very many students, only children of essential service workers (2), two other students that joined them because they benefited from seeing staff a few days a week, and now three students whose parents are in the education system. However, starting June 1 parents will have the choice to send their children. It will be only half time though for students in grades K-5, I guess so numbers will stay low and we can practice distancing. Like everything covid related, information is often changing. Grades 6 and up are only supposed to attend 20% of the time. All students will continue with online learning on days that they do not attend school.

There is lots of anxiety over this in my home province. Some think it is too early, some think it is too late and we need to get the economy going. It’s probably cut into most people’s productivity, and for me, also reading time. We spend our time so differently. Shopping is different. I am on my own and it takes longer to get up and down aisles. We probably play more games with our kids because they are not really playing with other kids. And, I have certainly spent more time packing up my class, installing it to a “home office” and now unpacking it and taking it back to school.

As far as reading goes, it has been a slow couple of weeks, but I started to request more picture books. First of all, I miss them. I haven’t had a library budget (I am the K-7 librarian in a small school of 140) since December, the public library here is not operating yet and I haven’t been able to browse bookstores. Second of all, shorter is probably better when you are in a bit of a reading slump. Here is what I was able to read this week.

Books I Enjoyed

Boys of Blur

This book is about six years old. It is kind of a supernatural thriller. It takes place in small town Florida in areas that are full of swamp, cane sugar, and football players. Charlie has just moved there with his Mom and step-dad. He meets a cousin, and finds out lots about his family that he did not know. He and his cousin Cotton also begin unravelling secrets that lead them to battle with ancient evils. This was our most recent family read aloud that my wife chose because she has really loved N.D. Wilson’s 100 Cupboards series. He captures the creepy atmosphere of things quite well in both cases.

Tornado Brain

Another small town book, but opposite side of America. This one takes place in Long Beach, Washington. The strength of this book is it’s neurodiverse main character Frankie, who lives with her twin sister, mom and step-dad running an inn by the sea. Frankie’s former best friend has gone missing and Frankie knows she is one of the last people to see here and has some ideas for how to find her. She wants to help but it is very challenging for her to manage her feelings and outbursts while dealing with the stress the situation puts on her and others. She gets distracted, doesn’t like changes in routines, doesn’t like people touching her, she has trouble with loud noises and sometimes she is so inside herself she can’t hear what others are trying to tell her. Trying to help find a person she knew better than most, and repair family relationships while dealing with changing friend relationships that tend to happen to most 13 year olds keeps Frankie on a roller coaster of emotions and readers of books like OCDaniel and The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl will enjoying seeing how she puzzles it all out.

When We Are Kind

I got this book from NetGalley, so thanks to them and to Orca Books for approving my reading of it. I look forward to purchasing this one, it will be a good story to read with young listeners. Our school talks with students a lot about building character and this story tells about how it feels to do kind things for others and to have kind things done to you as well. This includes being kind to yourself. The simple, short text will be effective and impactful to the youngest readers in my school. The illustrations were very eye-catching. The book is scheduled for release in September.

The Camping Trip

I really enjoyed this solid picture book as well, which I also need to thank NetGalley for allowing me to read. I really liked everything about it. I camp a fair bit with my wife and kids, and this story has a lot of the same experiences that we would love about our camping trips. I think my students would enjoy this and make a lot of connections to it. The camping life is not always easy for young Ernestine. Setting up is harder than she thought, swimming is more challenging in a lake than a pool, the food is not the same, and she has a hard time falling asleep (not to mention that she misses her Dad). But with help from her camp mates she is able to overcome and have a great time. The art is interesting to look at and pleasing to the eye. This book is a recent release (May 5).

Currently Reading

Legends of the Lost CausesSweep: The Story of a Girl and Her MonsterAfter Zero

I continue to read these with my lit circle groups in class. I really love these books, and it would be great to be reading them more, but my students have trouble connecting online.

The Egyptian MirrorThis is my current read aloud. It is a recent release I got from friends at Book Portage. I am just getting pulled into the mystery of this mirror.

The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, #1)This is our new family read aloud. I have already read this (and most of the series) but wanted to read it with my kids.

On Deck Reading

We Are Not From HereThe Weirn Books, Vol. 1: Be Wary of the Silent Woods

I still hope to read We Are Not From Here soon, I have an ARC from Penguin, and I just got a new graphic novel from the author of Awkward, a popular series at my school. Thanks for stopping by here and reading about my reading week. I hope to get over to view what others have been reading.