May the Fourth Be With You (Through reading more books)

It’s Monday, May 4, so I get to use a cheesy Star Wars title. It was a slow reading week for me. I started reading a lot of my literature circle books online (five novels, so far, and we may add a 6th). Reading those online is going to take up a fair amount of my reading time (although one of the authors is currently reading it on Twitter and I have been able to use that one). The online teaching is certainly not as rewarding but it does take up more than its share of time.

I was able to read a few books this week, and am happy to link up this post with others at unleashingreaders.com and teachmentortexts.com, thanks to Kellee, Ricki, and Jen for hosting. Looking forward to seeing what others have read this week, and adding to my to-read piles.

Books I Enjoyed This Week

Shatter City (Impostors #2)

I am a big fan of this series, which is part of the Uglies quartet that Scott Westerfeld wrote in 2005. This is the second book of the second set of 4 that takes place well after the events of the first four. The world building is really good in this series, and it takes place in a future in which we are referred to as The Rusties, a group of humans that pretty much tried to wipe each other/ourselves out. In the high tech near future that these characters inhabit, they have to deal with a government that uses invasive tactics to restrict privacy and freedom in order to gain social control. There are a lot of family politics as well as high tech action.

The Best of Iggy

As the cover states, this is a newer book from the author of Ivy and Bean, it came out in January. It is slightly longer than her Ivy and Bean series, and the info on the cover of the ARC I got at Nerdcamp Bellingham suggests it is for grade 3-7, although it reads to me as being for kids at the young end of that group. Iggy is a boy that gets in a lot of trouble, and this book takes us through some of the events where he was okay with what but wishes he hadn’t have gotten caught, things that went too far, and things he truly wishes he had not done. It kind of reminded me of Roscoe Riley Rules series by Katherine Applegate, in both the subject and how it is an early chapter. There are some funny parts, and Iggy is remorseful for some of the things that he really should not have done. One part bugged me a little, minor thing really, but the character talks about playing computer games a few times, and I thought no grade four students I have talked to lately do that. It is X-box, or tablet or something like that. That part seemed a little dated, but this was a funny book about impulsive boys.

Double Trouble

This a quick, fun one for middle grade readers. It’s an Orca Currents book, which for me means it is a Hi/Lo book published in Canada (Orca is out of BC, where I live, and the Currents books are usually for tweens, or teens). These books are often quick reads for most of my students, but seem to engage some of my readers who are not quite so keen. In fact, the whole time I was reading this, I was thinking of one such student.
We have all likely watched a sitcom, or movie in which a character tells a little lie and it spirals into something bigger, right? Well, that is the plot here as Victoria is not so honest in her attempt to get her neighbour’s granddaughter Jazzy to like her. Jazzy seems drawn to dressed up Victoria (on her way home from the synagogue) but Jazzy doesn’t recognize Victoria when she sees her after Victoria has spent several hours gardening. Victoria’s solution is to pretend they are different people, twins, so that she can bring back glamourous “Vicki” (what Jazzy called her when they first met) once she cleans up from her gardening as “Tori.” (what her family usually calls her)
This causes Tori to scurry around to keep the lie hidden from her grandma, her father, and her neighbours who obviously know that she is not a twin. Her lie is silly, but it turns into fast-paced fun watching the attempts to cover it up until Tori learns to be herself.

Currently Reading

The Case of Windy Lake (A Mighty Muskrats, #1)Boys of Blur

I am reading The Case of Windy Lake, a #ownvoices mystery that involves a group of Indigenous tweens and teens who live on a reservation. These kids, who have the nickname The Mighty Muskrats (which is also the series title), work well together to learn more about important topics to their families. These are serious topics that readers should learn about too. I read the second Mighty Muskrats novel in which kids learn about a relative who was part of The Scoop, taken into foster care by the government and moved so far away relatives could not find her. This one has tackled land use issues in the first half. I started reading Boys of Blur with my family (a non-Rick Riordan choice for the first time in a while- this means my wife picked). For my two girls, reading about a football obsessed small town in Florida is far from their personal experience, and that is a good thing. It is a bit of a creepy mystery so far.

I am also reading these books outloud for students.

After ZeroSweep: The Story of a Girl and Her MonsterWords on FireLegends of the Lost CausesThe Mad Wolf's Daughter

 

On deck reading

There were a couple of books I was hoping to get to last week and did not. I will try again this week.

Echo MountainThe Good Thieves

Hope you have a great reading week, I look forward to visiting your posts soon!

 

It’s Monday, April 27, what are you reading?

Another week in this odd new world we find ourselves in. I am working away to try to get more students adapting to all these changes in ways that will work for them. Like everything else we do in schools, some are much more ready than others. However, I have to admit, I think I know my students fairly well. We are a very small school, I am their librarian before I become their grade 6/7 teacher. And yet, I am still surprised at times at how some adapt compared to how I thought it would go. Also, there are moments when we video conference (we tend to do very small group meetings more than whole class) when I see different sides of students as they speak from their own environments and on their own terms (as much as anything these days).

We don’t talk about books nearly as much as we used to, which is sad (and hopefully something that will slowly change), but also all the more reason to use this space to talk about books that I have read and see what others have enjoyed. Thanks to Kellee, Ricki and Jen for running link-ups for our blogs at unleashingreaders.com and teachmentortexts.com. Also, thanks to everyone for sharing their reading this week.

Books I Enjoyed This Week

Wink

This was a really great book with humour and heart. Ross is a kid who just wants to blend into the background at school, maybe get a little bit of attention from the girl he has a crush on that sits in front of him. However, the discovery of a rare form of cancer around one of his eyes not only scares him to his core, but also makes feeling normal and making it through school that much harder. Based on some of the author’s own experiences with cancer, this book tugs at your heart but also makes you laugh. I would highly recommend this one.

After the Worst Thing Happens

I am grateful to have received an ARC of this book from the publisher, Holiday House, the book is scheduled to arrive on May 5. It’s an MG that packs a lot of deep things into a small package (not sure about you, but I must say I have read more that fit this description in 2020 than any other year I can remember). Army (in this family they tend to have unique names and there are stories behind them), is a fairly typical young girl, but as the story starts she experiences what feels like the worst thing that could happen. As the title suggests, the core of the book is about what happens after, and how Army survives this with the help of her family, her best friend, and some new friends. The strength of the book is how she finds out many people in her life are more than she first thought (there are great neighbours in this book), and her relationship with an autistic girl that moves in. Army finds her real purpose in helping others and that helps her move on in her life.

The Water Bears

I received an ARC of this book at Nerdcamp Bellingham. It came out on Tuesday. Newt lives on a wacky island in the Pacific Northwest. He is nearing a crossroads in his life. When this school year ends, he can choose to stay in the small school on the island where he does not really feel like he fits in, and where everyone remembers him as the boy who was attacked by a bear, or he can move to the mainland school. He is drawn to the mainland school which he thinks will have more amenities and less idiosyncrasies. His Latinx family, the only one on the island have some oddities but also show a lot of love as they try to help Newt overcome the trauma he still feels from his attack and his growing sense of not feeling like he belongs. The story is quirky and has elements of magical realism.

The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, #5)

Our family read aloud of The Heroes of Olympus series is complete. This was a re-read for me, I had read this one about five years ago, so it was fresh enough in my head. The series has a lot of action, humour and a little romance as well. This was a great conclusion to the quest of our heroes.

Siha Tooskin Knows the Gifts of His People

I also managed to squeeze in this e-ARC that I got from NetGalley. This is one of eight books featuring the teachings of a Nakota family (Indigenous peoples that live in Alberta, Canada) in the form of a short book (no chapters but not exactly a picture book either) with some illustrations. In this book, Siha’s father picks him up to walk home from school and Siha explains that he is to take a nutritious snack that is part of his culture when he heads to school the next day. He asks about taking bannock. This prompts a long discussion about whether bannock is traditional part of his people’s culture or not. Siha’s father tells him about some of the many things that people think of as being modern that are actually long held traditions of Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island such as forms of housing, agriculture, and medicine.

Currently Reading

After Zero

I am still re-reading this book as it is part of my district’s Battle of the Books and Literature Circle units. I was writing questions for our culminating event, a Reach for the Top or Jeopardy style quiz show. I am not sure that this will even happen, but I prepare just in case (we may find a new way of holding this event). I am actually likely to be reading all of the books (there are seven novels) this week as some of my students can’t access the copies that we have and I did not want to restrict their choice.

On Deck Reading

Shatter City (Impostors, #2)Echo MountainThe Good Thieves

I am likely to read two of these books this week. I have read a lot of realistic fiction (except when my kids pick- then it has been Rick Riordan all the way), so I am most likely to read Shatter City to mix it up for a while. Thanks for stopping by and checking out what I have been reading, I hope to see what you have read recently soon. Have a great reading week!

It’s Monday, What are you Reading? April 20, 2020

As me and my teaching colleagues continue to navigate the tricky waters of remote teaching from home I am reading a lot. But much of it is online for students that don’t have books. The engagement level of my students has never been lower. I think I underestimated how much their engagement was a product of us all being together. I had hoped I could duplicate our community online, I am teaching mostly the same stuff with the same technology, but there is something about in-person learning that isn’t the same.

The best online community I am a part of right now, is this group. I enjoy reading all of the blogs that are posted each week and seeing all the great 2020 releases and older books that people are reading. But most importantly, I enjoy seeing how people are handling these crazy times, and the way that what we are all dealing with influences the way we interpret what we are reading. There are some books that I will know I will forever associate with this time period, and their meaning, to me, is wrapped up in the events of the past months. Thanks to all of the people that have kept the routine of reading and writing about what you have read.

Books I Enjoyed This Week

City Spies

I am not a huge spy book guy, at least in kidlit. I struggle to read parts where kids best adults, but this was a fun book. I enjoyed the settings of New York, Scotland and Paris. The characters were a likable bunch, and the way they worked together (not always smoothly, but pulling together as they learned more about each other) was great too. Mysteries at the heart of the plot was interesting and I would probably read more of this, it seemed like a sequel is likely, although you could read this as a stand alone. I grabbed this book from a table of ARCs at Nerdcamp Bellingham (which seems like a million years ago, not 6 weeks ago. The book was released in March.

Notorious

This was another ARC I got at Nerdcamp Bellingham, which I feel very grateful to have successfully attended. Along with the Western Washington University Children’s Lit Conference, it is really the only large event I have ever attended. I grabbed this because the Masterminds series has brought a resurgence in the popularity of Gordon Korman books at my school. This wasn’t the page turner the Masterminds series was for me. It had a quirky setting of a small town of Centerlight, straddling the border between Michigan and Ontario. I couldn’t help but wonder how that work with the border being closed the way it is now. I don’t think there is a real town of this size on that island though. Keenan is the new kid in town, and is taken in by Zarabeth (alias Zeebee) a girl that doesn’t really fit in living on the Canadian side when all the kids her age live on the US side. When Keenan starts school, in the US, they drift apart until Keenan starts to unravel some of the mysteries that only Zarabeth believes exist- the mystery of what happened to the worst behaved dog in history (her’s) and what happened to the treasure of Prohibition era gangsters. I just found it a little slow (although it picked up at the end), and the way Korman switched perspectives in most chapters did not work as well for me when they were secondary characters. This book came out in February.

One Year at Ellsmere

I enjoyed this MG graphic novel, I haven’t read many lately, I think I needed the change. I picked up an E-ARC from NetGalley. It was originally released as The War at Ellsmere, the book has a new look in its colouring and some of the pictures from the first published version 12 years ago. Author Faith Erin Hicks explains some of the differences at the back of the book and that will be interesting for art lovers. The story has two plot points that we see a fair bit. A clique of mean girls doing their mean things to a very likable girl, and also the girl who is not well understood and has no friends, finding her first. The two roomates at the center of this the bullied girl (Juniper), and the girl without friends (Cassie) are great characters and are good for each other. Fans of Raina Telgemeier likely missed the original version and I think will respond well to this new version from Faith Erin Hicks, whose The Nameless City trilogy is well loved in my library. This book is published in July.

Pippa Park Raises Her Game

This one is not so different from One Year at Ellsmere (a coincidence) as the main characters is starting school at an exclusive private school as a scholarship student. Being a scholarship student makes it challenging in both these books as characters deal with wanting to hide their backgrounds to some extent from their wealthy classmates. This is a huge focus for Pippa, who tries to hide her family business (a laundry service) and aspects of her culture as a Korean-American among other things. Pippa seemed happy before her move to private school, but nonetheless sees the switch as a chance to reinvent herself into the type of girl she sees on magazine covers. Through ups and downs, she learns how to judge what is really important. I obtained a copy of this book from Book Portage, thanks to all my book friends in that group, and to the publisher for this one, which has been out for a little over two months now.

Currently Reading

WinkAfter ZeroThe Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, #5)

I am about to start reading Wink, another book I picked up at the conference in Bellingham. I haven’t been reading After Zero quite as much, I think because I don’t think my District Battle of the Books will happen and that is one reason I am re-reading it. It’s a very good book though. My family is nearing the end of The Blood of Olympus. My kids still really enjoy these books as re-reads, only my wife is experiencing it for the first time. I think the pacing really appeals to them. I think we finish this week. They will likely pick another Rick Riordan book (my money is on Magnus Chase).

On deck reads

After the Worst Thing HappensThe Water BearsEcho MountainShatter City (Impostors, #2)

These are some ARCs I am considering next, but I have also read a lot of more realistic fiction lately and I might need to switch it up. That’s why I am eyeing up Shatter City, the sixth Uglies book, second in the newer quartet.

Thanks for stopping by to see what I have been reading, I hope to see how your reading week went soon.

It’s Monday, April 13, What are you Reading?

Usually, I write these posts on Sunday night, or not at all. But this being an Easter long weekend, I am a little out of routine. Instead I squeezed my laptop on to our table, which is nearly filled with a paused game of Catan (featuring the Traders & Barbarians expansion). It was a little bit of a thin reading week for me, but I did enjoy getting more of my students online where I could see how they were doing, how they were spending their time, and begin providing learning opportunities. My teaching partner and I still have several that are mostly offline right now though. We had a very good family weekend (at home, of course) and I managed to go to a couple of virtual book conference online (something I have never done).

I will share a few of the books that I did manage to read this week. Thanks to Jen V, Kellee and Ricki at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers respectively for continuing to host our link-up. Visit their sites for to see what many more people are reading this week.

Book I Enjoyed This Week

The Warrior's Curse (The Traitor's Game #3)

One of the authors I did get to see online at a Facebook live conference called Book Con was Jennifer Nielsen (reading from The False Prince, and speaking about the fourth book in that series, which comes in the fall). I had just finished the third of her series The Traitor’s Game. Of course, I can’t say much about the plot of a third book, but this series is her first published YA novel. It has much in common with the two MG fantasy series she wrote The Ascendance Series (TAS starts with The False Prince) and The Mark of the Thief.  Like TAS, The Traitor’s Game has a world with a lot of political details included that show old wars between states, and brave characters that take huge risks for what they believe is right. Like The Mark of the Thief magic plays a big role. This series has a lot of twists and turns and action, although I don’t think I enjoy it quite as much as The Ascendance Series, one of my favourites.

The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter

This is a wacky supernatural mystery. Rex Dexter has always wanted a pet, specifically a dog. He has been unable to convince his parents though. Small wonder considering it has been dangerous to be a pet of Rex Dexter’s. When a phenomenon that seemed ripped from the movie Big occurs (and to be fair, the book is straight up about the Big similarity), Rex has even more dead animals coming his way than he can handle. Only he can see and hear them. This self-absorbed tween is forced to solve a mystery of what happened to these animals, and learn why they stay with him on their way to an afterlife. Thanks to NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book, it is scheduled to come out on April 28.

Monsters 101

Thanks to NetGalley for the e-ARC of this one as well. Like Cale Atkinson’s earlier Unicorns 101, this is a hilarious non-fiction style picture book that reminds me of a very old encyclopedia set we had when I was very little. The book is filled with Atkinson’s trademark art filled with great colour and creatures/humans that make you think of only the best cartoons. I am sure that not every day will be a “wild rumpus” when studying fictional creatures but it will sure seem like it when you read this book. Like Unicorns 101, it is a little long for story time with some of your youngest groups in an elementary setting, but grades 3 and up will surely give the reader big laughs and I could even see this book being helpful in teaching young readers how to use text features (although it was hard to be sure due to the poor formatting that is the result of my older IPAD and this E-ARC). I really enjoy everything I have read from this writer, and this one did not disappoint at all. It is not scheduled for publication until August though.

Currently Reading

City SpiesThe Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, #5)After Zero

I am reading an ARC of City Spies that I got at Nerdcamp Bellingham. I feel very lucky to have attended that event just before I would have probably thought about cancelling my trip due to concerns with what we were then calling the Coronavirus. The book is good, and a fairly quick read. My family continues our read aloud of the tenth Percy Jackson book, The Blood of Olympus. Finally, I am re-reading After Zero for my literature circle unit. I also write questions for our District Battle of the Books, but that event is most likely cancelled. I prepare in case we find another way to make this happen. It is an excellent story of a girl who is selectively mute.

On Deck Reading

Pippa Park Raises Her GameNotorious

These are a couple more books that I have ARCs of, but the books are now out and I want to read them this week. I am hoping to get to these and maybe something older that I have been meaning to read for a while. Thanks for stopping by to see what I have been reading. Look forward to seeing what others have been up to.

It’s the first Monday of April, what are you reading?

Like most of you, I am trying to sort out my new normal. Without having my head stuck in the sand, I am trying to find ways to live life as much as I did before. I am a grade 6/7 teacher and so my students are old enough to make the transition to online learning, if they have the technology. We are working on getting that to them. I have been able to phone, and video conference all my parents and most of my students. The increasing amount of contact makes me feel better. As a librarian for thirty percent of the my teaching time, I am really missing seeing groups of primary students in particular. I feel primary teachers have the toughest job adapting to the distance learning teachers are required to do. I am able to help in some ways as the librarian to their students but it won’t be the same as before.

Personally, of course life is very different. We can’t get out to do a lot of the things we used to do and there is the tendency to engage in infomania. I have to constantly be on guard that I am not just scrolling through stats and Trump quotes. Reading is a far more productive way to spend time, and without watching so many hockey games on TV as I might normally be doing this time of year, I am able to get some good reading in while planning for the way my courses will now be taught. Here is a summary of my reading this week.

Books I Enjoyed This Week

What Stars Are Made of

I got this book from my bookish friends at Book Portage. It was released on March 31. This featured a charming and wise main character. Libby is a neat young lady learning about how to interact with the world in spite of some social awkwardness. She has Turner Syndrome which can bring a number of health concerns. Libby’s difficulty dealing with social situations could be related to her health issues as people with Turner Syndrome are said to have a higher probability of these sorts of issues. She is an adorable character and this proves to be a good coming of age novel in which Libby deals with changes in her family’s life (she is about to become an aunt) and in dealing with finding friends at school. In this story, we enjoy Libby’s journey in seeing what she is made of.

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This is another March 31 release by one of my favourite picture book authors. I had the chance to listen to this book being read by Ame Dyckman online and I really love it. It takes many expressions that we use to talk about life and twists them into some funny moments. I am looking forward to being able to buy and share this with kids next school year, and I may be able to share it digitally if some of my library storytime ideas work out.

Nico Bravo and the Hound of Hades

I haven’t been reading many graphic novels lately and figured I could grab some of the ones that have been in and out of the library if I had access to them and rectify this. I managed to find this one on my return cart when Spring Break was about to begin. This was a humourous diversion, and I end up reading a lot of mythological fiction with my kids. This one made me laugh out loud a few times.

The Night Diary

I am re-reading this because we selected it for our Battle of the Books this year. Realistically, we are not likely to have our culminating event this year, but I am still trying to run my literature circle unit online with my students. I hope some of them join this group and enjoy an excellent historical fiction book featuring the story of a family forced to move during the partitioning of India. This book got a Newbery Honor and the story is at turns, heartbreaking, exciting and hopeful.

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This was another picture book I got to listen to an author read. Mac Barnett does some hilarious daily read alouds on Instagram. This is a very funny book featuring a kid who uses the “magic word” to get everything he desires. Of course, it doesn’t really work out the way he thinks it will.

Mary Underwater

This book comes out tomorrow, Tuesday. I would call it an upper-MG, a phrase I started hearing more last summer to describe books for kids in the upper end of the MG level who aren’t quite ready for YA, yet. Mary has a lot to deal with in her life. Her father is in and out of jail, and is abusive to her family. I was pulled into Mary’s world right away because of her slightly edgy and quirky sense of humour. Mary is a divergent thinker and has a hard time negotiating keeping her family life private from her school and still maintaining a social life including a boy that might become more than a friend. The author’s note at the end has an excellent note on how some of the things that Mary does could have turned out differently. Thanks to my friends in Book Portage for obtaining this book for an early read. I really enjoyed it.

The Last Kids on Earth (Last Kids on Earth, #1)

I have been thinking about reading this for a while. It is a fairly popular series that hasn’t really taken off in my library, but I think I need to book talk it at some point. Some lines that resonated with me right now (like That’s Life, I think this is a good time to read this one:
” ‘I mean- look, it’s terrible,’ I say all serious now. ‘But I’m not gonna just give up. Some days are way scary, yeah. And sometimes things are pretty freaking sad. But I’m trying real, real hard here to keep on living and enjoying every moment. With friends.”

“life is better when you get a chance to laugh every now and then.”

Jack Sullivan escapes the worst part of a monster/zombie apocalypse and ends of hanging out in his tree house exploring the new world around him. He has never really had a family or a place he could call home, so things are not so bad for him in this new world. Eventually, he hopes to find his best friend and when he does, things become even better. Except for one exceedingly large and rude monster he names Blarg, who seems to have a vendetta against Jack. With the help of his friends, Jack tries to destroy his nemesis and create a small community of kids that survived the monster/zombie apocalypse. A funny and action filled series opener.

Currently Reading

The Warrior's Curse (The Traitor's Game #3)The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, #5)After Zero

I just started The Warrior’s Curse, the third book of The Traitor’s Game series tonight. It launches right into some action so I think it will be a good escapist kind of read for me, and I have been wanting to know how this series will end for a while. I already know how The Blood of Olympus ends, but my family is finishing our read aloud of Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series. This is a re-read for me, as is After Zero, another Battle of the Books/Lit Circle title about a girl with selective mutism who tries to avoid mistakes by not speaking. Zero words for her, could be a perfect day. I read this book when it came out about two years ago, and I remember being absorbed by a pretty dark story of this girl’s life.

On Deck Reads

Pippa Park Raises Her GameCity SpiesThe Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter

I have some ARCs that I would love to read soon, two of them are already out, and the latter is out at the end of the month. Thanks for stopping by and checking out what I read this week. Hope you have a great reading week!

It’s Monday, March 30, what are you reading?

Today, is supposed to mark the first day back from Spring Break at my school and I am supposed to happily reopen my library to books that were read or found over Spring Break and bring my grade 6/7 class down during my teaching time. However, little is as it should be right now, and I am grateful for the amount of normalcy I am blessed to have. Among the normal things that I am able to do is be healthy, exercise and read lots. So, I am happy to be able to post last week’s reading and link up with other bloggers at teachmentortexts.com and unleashingreaders.com. Thanks to our hosts as always (Jen V, Kellee and Ricki).

Books I Enjoyed Last Week

Sara and the Search for Normal

I loved this book! I am grateful to have had the chance to read and review through NetGalley. Admittedly, I was huge fan of Wesley King’s OCDaniel. I shared it widely in my class, school and district and several students and teachers I know have been talking about this book’s arrival for about a year (even through a title change). It was everything we have been waiting for and more. If you haven’t read OCDaniel, of course I recommend it, but I think you could enjoy this book without reading OCDaniel.

This book is the backstory of one of the characters in OCDaniel, so it is a prequel. Both books contain multiple characters that deal with mental illness and readers will see and experience a little of that with them. Wesley King uses some of his own experiences growing up and dealing with mental health issues to show young people dealing with issues that they are not alone, and they should ask for help. Sara and the Search for Normal has this in common with OCDaniel but in this book there is a lot more about dealing with one’s inner voice, and understanding and accepting yourself.

I had high expectations for this one, but I feel like a lot of the questions I (and my students) had about Sara were answered here and there are other parts of the plot where Sara has to show bravery and courage that are amazing as well. This is a great book for those that enjoyed OCDaniel, or have enjoyed other books in which young characters deal with mental health. It works as a stand alone but even better as a companion to OCDaniel. Highly recommended, it will bring up a lot of discussion of very serious and important issues.

Goodbye Days

One would be justified in thinking I am a little crazy to be reading a book in which a young man loses his three best friends to a car accident right now(this happens early and is on the back cover- no spoiler, I promise). You might be right, but I really loved The Serpent King and I have waited too long to read more Jeff Zentner. I am way late to the party. His writing is so good, and the characters are always so interesting. This book did not disappoint at all, and as the blurb by Nicola Yoon suggests, it is not just “heart breaking”, but has a lot of other feels as well. Choosing this book at this particular time keeps in my pattern of reading more YA when I am off school time.

The Copycat

I enjoyed this recently released MG book. Ali navigates school relationships and changes in her family while dealing with her body’s changes as she becomes a Copycat, a person that can impersonate practically anything. Her family constantly moves from town to town and Ali has a hard time making friends. She is always trying to figure out what other people want her to be. When her family moves to Saint John she finds out many of the family’s secrets regarding relationships between her father and his estranged extended family. Despite some of the serious sounding plot points, this book was fun magical realism, and likely the first book I have ever read that is set in the province of New Brunswick.

A Wish in the Dark

I got this book from my bookish friends at Book Portage, our Canadian ARC sharing group. I read the back and went, oops, I can’t read a book inspired by Les Miserables, I really don’t have an idea what its about. (Later, I read two reviews that claimed the same thing- what a relief). However, this book is sensational on its own. Christina Soontornvat has created a world inspired by Thailand but all her own. It’s a book about social control, protest, and standing up for one’s rights.

In this story, two nine year old boys grow up in a prison near Chattana, because that is where their mother’s were when they were born. In Chattana, the Governor creates all light and energy, creating a world that has light out of one that was dark. He is considered a great man for performing this feat of magic and saving the city. However, many still have to go without and in desperate times, they commit crimes that keep them under the control of those with privilege. As the book progresses, many characters on the wrong side of the bridge, and the right side of the bridge, begin to question the legitimacy and motives of the Governor. I really enjoyed the pacing and the characters that were created here.

What About Worms!? (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!, #7)

Ryan Higgins’ Bruce books are so popular at my school it is hard to imagine combining his talent with Elephant and Piggie and the result not being a hit. No worries there, this book is super funny. We start with a tiger who seems petrified of worms and is constantly letting his fear spoil everything. Then, we get the perspectives of worms that show up later and see how much they love our friend Tiger. Kids will giggle at the different views on the same events, and adults might see humour in how tiger blames worms for things that are in his head.

Currently Reading

What Stars Are Made ofThe Night DiaryThe Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, #5)

I just started What Stars are Made of, which comes out tomorrow. I am enjoying the main character and getting The Miscalculation of Lightning Girl kind of vibes. I am still reading a chapter or two a day of The Night Diary, for my class project that may not happen (but why not read the excellent books for it anyway and plan for the best), and The Blood of Olympus (a family read aloud).

On Deck Reading

I still have a few ARCs (One Year at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks, Mary Underwater by Shannon Doleski) I would love to get through and then I promised my daughter I would read The Young Elites by Marie Lu (is it for a girl in grade 7? I wonder, so I am reading it first) and I also have The Last Kids on Earth to read too (a book that is so often signed out that I have never actually read it yet).

Have a great reading week, and hope you and yours stay healthy!

It’s Monday, March 23, what are you reading!

Nothing is normal right now. But if anything you enjoy can continue safely, I think you should relish it. So, I continue to keep my reading routines as normal as possible. I try to catch myself lingering on the news of the moment through social media, and I also have really been looking forward to writing this blog and reading what others have been reading this week. I am blessed to be healthy and able to take part in this amazing Monday community. Thanks to Jen V, Kellee and Ricki for hosting our link up again this week.

Books I Enjoyed This Week

No Fixed Address

I just re-read this book because we have been using it for our school district’s Battle of the Books this year. My class was scheduled to get our book club/lit circle sets after Spring Break. Of course, that is up in the air right now (not likely, if I am honest with myself), but I may find some ways to use the books through distance learning. I have loads of ideas if I can get the books to my students. At any rate, this is such a good book I was more than happy to re-read it. I also just found out that the author is reading the first chapter today (Monday) on her Twitter account at 10 am Pacific time, 1 pm Eastern. The book itself is an excellent read dealing with poverty as the main character and his mother end up living in the van on the cover. They are essential homeless and the novel shows how a grade 7 student would have much to deal with under these circumstances.

The Stone of Sorrow (Runecaster, #1)

Thanks to Net Galley for the ARC of this book, the first of a young adult (but early young adult) series featuring Icelandic mythology. Written by another BC author (Susin Nielsen lives in BC as well) and publishing on April 7 via Orca Books, this series features a lot of magic, a few love stories (not graphic, thus the early young adult comment) and a quest featuring different beings such as Valkyries and Elves.

Runa feels like she always been in the shadow of her powerful sister Syr, the keeper of the powerful moonstone that she uses to keep her clan safe and healthy until the powerful witch Katla arrives to take over the island and the power of the moonstone. After Katla takes Syr, Runa is left without the security that her sister provides, and needing to accept the larger part in her family’s role as caretaker’s of the clan that she never wanted or felt able to do.

Runa has many obstacles to overcome, both physical and magical, but most of all her lack of belief in herself. This was a promising opening to a series, the characters are likable and readers will enjoy seeing their growth, probably from book to book as well. This book is a shorter read for this genre and might work well with early high school readers that I know that seem to be put off by the length of many mythology/speculative fiction series

Mañanaland

This is a book that has a really timeless feel, and the location is also a little vague. I felt this was intentional, so that a reader could feel that it was anywhere and could happen to anyone. It was only after I read the Dear Reader, part of this ARC (thanks to the publisher and bookish friends in my ARC sharing group Book Portage for the copy) that I learned how intentional.

I have read a few books lately that I think our perfectly written for our times, and this is another one. “You will witness the best and the worst in people. Embrace the best and dismiss the worst.” This is a novel that champions the notion that one should never have to struggle alone, and encourages people to lift each other out of darkness and into light. Another really important idea was uncertainty, something that a lot of people today struggle to embrace. Ryan writes, “unanswered questions don’t always mean a closed door,” but should spark something and causes us to think, hope and dream. This book is out now, and I highly recommend it.

The Hunt for the Mad Wolf's Daughter (Mad Wolf's Daughter #2)

When I read The Mad Wolf’s Daughter it was still in hardcover and there was no companion piece, when this book came out I was a little bogged down in other books I wanted to/had to read, so I left this one for a while. Recently, I re-read the first book (again for my Battle of the Books) and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to read this one. Like the first it was filled with adventure and also the idea that stories and people are not always what they seem depending on someone’s vantage point. This was another clever thrill ride.

Currently Reading

The Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, #5)Sara and the Search for NormalThe Night Diary

My family and I continue our read aloud of The Blood of Olympus, the final installment of The Heroes of Olympus series (and some say the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series). I am very excited to be reading an ARC of Sara and the Search for Normal by Wesley King (thanks to NetGalley). I was a big fan of OCDaniel and its portrayal of Daniel, a seemingly normal middle schooler who lives with mental illness. This book is a prequel and the story of one of the other characters, Sara. Sara is not a seemingly “normal” middle school student. Her arrival in OCDaniel changes everything, and part of it is that she understands Daniel the way no other character in the book can. Because she also lives with mental illness. The Night Diary is another re-read for my lit circle/book club unit and our Battle of the Books. I pick away at these, reading a couple of chapters or 20 or so pages a day.

On Deck Books

Goodbye DaysWhat Stars Are Made ofMary UnderwaterThe Barren Grounds (The Misewa Saga, #1)

I can never tell exactly what I am going to be reading in a week but I have been wanting to start Goodbye Days for a while. I have these three ARCs as well (2 from Book Portage, and the latter from Net Galley). I will likely read at least two of these next week. Give me your ideas! Thanks for stopping here to see my reading week.

It’s Monday, March 16, 2020

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It’s the first Monday of what I hope is my two week Spring Break. I have seen that a lot of schools are planning to be out for longer. My district has asked me questions about my travel plans (I have none) in order to see if we will be operational in two weeks. No one really knows what will happen. Not entirely. However, a book I recently read (see below, try to guess the quote) said that “routine lessens risk” so I will keep a routine going and write this blog post reviewing my reading for last week, and I should have time to read all of the other blogs (I hope there are lots) and see what others have been reading. I have seen a lot on Twitter about how hard it is going to be for authors to get their releases promoted without book events happening. Hopefully, all of us that blog can be a very small help. Spread the word about new releases that people can order online from their favourite source and enjoy while they are at home. Head to teachmentortexts.com or unleashingreaders.com to hear about more great books (mostly new, but not always).

Books I Enjoyed This Week

The Key of Skeleton Peak (Legends of the Lost Causes, #3)

I was fortunate to have a chance to read an early copy of this book, which comes out tomorrow. I enjoyed this third book in the Legends of the Lost Causes series. I thought it was the third of a four book series, but it seems like it could be the conclusion of a trilogy (plans do change). It is hard to write a review of a third book without spoiling books 1 and 2. This is a series set in the mid-19th century, but isn’t historical fiction per se, it reads more like a fantasy series, with a lot of (dark) magic. There is a diverse cast of characters and the author’s note at the end describe the work the authors did to research and get help from native speakers of French, Spanish, and members of the Osage Nation to give their characters a more authentic feel.

The series is filled with action and there are many twists and turns to keep the reader (and the characters) guessing. The third book has even more of these attributes than the first two as the gang of Lost Causes, a group of orphans who found each other, not coincidentally, in earlier books in the series, battle to save their world from the evil Reverend Rose and his associates. There are some colourful characters that are more prominent in this book, but Keech and Duck still shine the most for their ingenuity and ability to think on their feet. The gang of Lost Causes continually work as a team to make their world a better place. A message that rings true given what we are seeing all around us right now.

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks

Okay, the quote above was from this book. Page 72. “Routine lessens risk.” Not sure how true that is, but I think routine lessens anxiety, and we seem to have a lot of reason for that right now. I believe that if people can keep routines that still work given what is happening, or come up with new ones that will work, that we will be better off. For me, that will include exercise and reading. This book, kind of reminded me of that just a little. It is as the cover says, “a tale told in ten blocks,” meaning that we see a lot of people’s stories and the ways they weave in and out of each other, the way we are all interconnected. In this neighbourhood, nothing changes, at least nothing major. Which is why, I think, Jason Reynolds was able to use stories from his upbringing and bring them to us in a way that still felt fresh and new. Some of these characters really take in the world around them, really observe it (the way a writer would, you know, to write a story about a neighbourhood). This is another book that should work for MG readers who like Jason Reynolds other books for many reasons: they feel authentic, they are short and they get to a point worth getting to. It’s a slice of life, or slices (ten in this case) and I could see some wanting more closure in a book, but I can imagine asking students to write the new chapter for the character they really need to hear more from.

Currently Reading

No Fixed Address49245102

No Fixed Address is a re-read of a book I am hoping to be using with my class in two weeks. I really loved it! The boy on the top of the van is homeless and lives with his mother, Astrid, a nice person, who hasn’t been so great at parenting lately. The story gets into how messy it is for an elementary school child to try to live as normally as possible while living in a van darting around Vancouver. The Stone of Sorrow is the first of a trilogy, it is released in April. I am reading an ARC from NetGalley, but haven’t made much progress yet. The series is called Runecaster and the story has Icelandic mythology, but the length is shorter than most books that have mythology as part of the plot. That might appeal to some high school readers who don’t make time for long books.

On deck

MañanalandSara and the Search for Normal

I really have no idea what the coming days will hold, and how much my mind will focus on things I enjoy, but I am hoping to read at least one of these books, maybe both. I will finish No Fixed Address, and probably read another of the books that I am planning to use for my literature circle unit in April. It might be The Night Diary, After Zero, Sweep or Words on Fire. I have ARCs of the above titles, but Mananaland is already out and I really want to read it, so it is likely the next book I start.

 

I sincerely wish the best of health for everyone and hope that you are able to enjoy some time with your families and reading as well. Thanks for stopping by here to check out my reading week!

It’s Monday, what are you reading 3/9/20

For me this begins the last week of school before Spring Break. With my trip to the Western Washington Children’s Lit Conference and report cards, I have been behind on so many things that the reading time has taken a bit of a back seat. The break will be a welcome chance to catch up on reading and other things. Here are reviews of the three books I finished this week, and I put a dent in a couple more. The absence of any budget for books at my school for the last two and half months has meant very few picture books coming my way but like many of you I have lots of novels to read, including more ARCs than I have ever had. Head over to teachmentortexts.com to see more of this week’s blogs (and probably unleashingreaders.com too, but I haven’t had any luck seeing links there as of now- however a great pic/post of Kellee’s author visit with Neal Shusterman).

Thanks to Portage and Main for sending me this book as part of a prize package on a Twitter contest for I Read Canadian Day. I really enjoy the pictures and the facts in this series. I noticed a woman waving at an eagle in one of the pictures and it reminded me of what a former student who lived close to the area in which the book takes place. He said that waving at an eagle is always good luck.

 

The Eagle Mother

Thanks to Portage and Main for sending me an ARC of this book as part of a prize package I won on a Twitter contest for I Read Canadian Day. I really enjoy the pictures and the facts in the Mothers of Xsan series. The previous two volumes The Sockeye Mother and The Grizzly Mother began the format of telling the reader some of the key facts that make these animals such an important part of the lives of the Gitxsan people of Northwestern British Columbia. This is the third and as the others do it features facts within telling the story of the life cycle of these animals. There are also beautiful illustrations. In one, I noticed a woman waving at an eagle and it reminded me of the words of a former student who lived close to the area in which the book takes place. He said that waving at an eagle is always good luck. This isn’t really mentioned in the book as the focus is more on the animals and their place in the ecosystem. I hadn’t been seeking an ARC of this books as I knew I would be buying it for my library (first chance I get). It is released on April 28. 

The House of Hades (The Heroes of Olympus, #4)

I would characterize this as a popcorn book. My children love Rick Riordan and have for several years. They have both read this book (as had I) but chose it for my family’s read aloud so that my wife would enjoy it. It is the fourth in the Heroes of Olympus series, sometimes called the ninth in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. In this book, the seven demigods that are on a quest, are split in taking on parts of a mission to open the doors of death. Some have to travel through Tartarus and the House of Hades. The book races along with action scenes and Rick Riordan’s trademark wit. We rotate who chooses our family read aloud. This was my oldest child’s pick and it’s my youngest child’s pick next. See if you can guess what she has chosen (answer below).

Every Missing Piece

Last week I cheated and posted a book that I thought I was about to finish, but I really did race to finish this one Sunday because I was enjoying it so much. Thanks to the publisher and to my bookish friends at Book Portage (ARC sharing group) for allowing me to read this May 2020 release. This book is so many things. Maddy is trying to put together the pieces of a new life with her Mom and stepdad Stan while keeping alive the pieces missing from her old life since the death of her father. Then, she discovers a mystery that her brain just can’t let go of, even if events in her past tell her she should. As all of these pieces come together, she also tries to reconcile how the changing relationships of early adolescence will fit together as she feuds with an old friend, and then her best friend.
In the long awaited second novel from Melanie Conklin we find the very likable Maddy tilting pieces of her life, having them tilt on her, and needing others to tilt them to show her the way. It’s a story with a warm heart, filled with genuine characters. A great addition to an MG library.

Currently Reading
No Fixed AddressThe Key of Skeleton Peak: Legends of the Lost CausesThe Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, #5)
I made good progress reading two of these books this week as well. No Fixed Address is a re-read for me as I will have students reading it after our two week Spring Break (which starts next week) as part of our literature circle unit. We are using it for our district’s Battle of the Books as well. The Key of Skeleton Peak is the third in the Legends of the Lost Causes series. It comes out on the 17th. I am reading an ARC on my computer, which is usually really slow for me, but the story is exciting so I am persevering. And finally, we have our new family read aloud that we started on the weekend, The Blood of Olympus, the final book in the Heroes of Olympus series.
Thanks for stopping by to see what I have read. Hope you have a great week!

It’s a Monday in March, what have you been reading?

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I missed blogging last week, but I had report cards that were due, and I also had to get ready for a road trip. I spent the weekend at the Western Washington University Children’s Literature Conference (WWUCLC) (featuring Jason Chin, Mac Barnett, Ruta Sepetys and LeUyen Pham) and Nerdcamp Bellingham. Both events were awesome and I learned from many great authors (local to Bellingham and the guests I mentioned) as well as educators.

Now that I am back and unpacked and our kids are asleep, I do have time to briefly (I hope) review what I was able to read over the last two weeks (spoiler alert- some of it was read to me by the authors listed above). Thanks to the great people at unleashingreaders.com and teachmentortexts.com for hosting our link-up.

Books I Enjoyed This Week

Run Wild

This book would be great for visualizing and retelling a summer day. David Covell used an interesting font and pictures conveying the mood and motion. Most of these picture books were borrowed out of a bag of books my wife bought (having a wife that is a librarian is saving me since my library budget was frozen about two months ago).

A Unicorn Named Sparkle (A Unicorn Named Sparkle #1)

Girl wants unicorn, girl orders unicorn, girl gets goat!?!?! It was a deal too good to be true. But, she learns to accept and love her new friend. This one will get some laughs to be sure.

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I wish I could read this again. I think I will soon if I can borrow it again. This is a real gray character picture books. I was thinking these little guys would be nice. They weren’t. These guys used strength in numbers for evil and then something happens. There is a fair bit you could discuss here. If you were looking for a cute little story, this isn’t really it, but I liked it.

Music for Tigers

Thanks very much to Pajama Press and my friends at my ARC sharing group, Book Portage for a copy of this new book from Michelle Kadarusman, whose Girl of the Southern Sea I really enjoyed (It was also nominated for the Governor General award in Canada). This story takes place in Tasmania. Louisa is a Canadian but is sent to Tasmania to stay with relatives and discovers what appears to be an animal who is thought to be extinct. Her explorations of the wild and discoveries of things inside nature and inside herself made this a thought provoking book. Her relatives run a wildlife preserve that is threatened by development but this is not a book about saving the wildlife. It is really a book about great characters. Louisa has goals in life and plenty that gets in her way. She meets a friend, Colin, who is neuro diverse and also a very interesting, realistic character. I would love to purchase this book as I know several kids who would read it (next year for me) and it comes out on April 28.

Just BecauseThe Skunk: A Picture Book (Ala Notable Children's Books. Younger Readers (Awards))Hi, Jack!

Well, you might be able to guess where I read these books. At my conference this weekend. Actually, Mac Barnett read them to me and a few hundred other people. He is a very funny speaker. Honestly, I had read one of these books before and did not really like it. But, I think he has won me over. His characters are often not great people. They make mistakes, and they don’t learn from them, at times. Some, have no interest in learning their lessons as we see so often in books. Mac Barnett is not interested in those kind of books. He knows kids won’t want to read them. Hi, Jack! is a great example of that. He feels if we are handing a kid an early reader book, one they can read themselves for the very first time, it had better be very entertaining first and foremost. Just Because is a terrific story about how parents just don’t always have the answers for the great questions kids will have. In this case, the parent makes up some great lies to fill in the holes. Eventually, I will need to buy these books, I will be reminded of how Mac Barnett believes these morally ambiguous characters are great and kids can figure them out just fine without a didactic lesson.

Between Shades of Gray

I am cheating. I will be finished this in half an hour or so. It is a really great historical fiction novel from another WWUCLC author/speaker. Sepetys tries to find what she calls the hidden histories, the stories that most people do not know about. In this case, it is people (mainly Lithuanians in the book, as this is the author’s family heritage) fleeing Stalin during the WWII. She writes heartbreaking scenes, with great characters, and the pacing is really good. Hers are books you just want to keep reading. This book actually has a new title and cover (Ashes in the Snow), and that might be related to the fact that Ruta had the misfortune to have her debut book have almost the same title as a piece of erotic fiction that came out at nearly the same time with great popularity. She shared that the editors decided to plow on with the title as it was but once the movie development started it was finally time for a new title. Hearing this at the end of WWUCLC’s panel discussion, Mac Barnett told the audience he was writing his first adult novel, an erotic novel called Ashes in the Snow. That was really funny, but in all seriousness this is a very good book about people in a desperate and fearful situation.

This week’s reading

I have so many books to read after this weekend. Hopefully, I will write about them next week. Thanks for stopping by here, and hope you have a great reading week!