Saturday, May 26, 2012

Divergent (Book 1 of Divergent Trilogy)

Author: Veronica Roth
Paperback: 576 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (February 2012)
Genre: YA dystopian fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5

In short:  from book description
In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

My thoughts:
Beatrice, or Tris as she's known once she makes her choice is actually a Divergent, someone who shows an affinity for several different factions, which for some reason makes her dangerous to all factions and must be hidden for as long as possible.

Like Katniss, this is another strong teen protagonist who is small but mighty, able to kick butt while learning a lot about themselves. As usual in YA books now, the adults are not to be trusted. Trust yourself only. Although it fits the formula of many other YA books, this is still a good ride.

2nd book: Insurgent 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Head Off & Split: Nikky Finney

Genre: Poety Author: Nikky Finney
Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: Triquarterly (February 2011)

In short:

The poems in this 2011 National Book Award for poetry winning collection span the historical with the personal. She is an African American poet writing about African American issues, but she is really writing  universal, colorless, humane themes that span space and time.

My thoughts:
This is not a YA read, but it is a powerful read. Finney's control of love and rage, her musicality with language, her passion ~ good writing is ageless.

Hope you enjoyed her acceptance speech.

Friday, May 4, 2012

King Dork

Author: Frank Portman
Audiobook: Read by Lincoln Hoppe (12 hours, 10 minutes)
Publisher of audiobook: Listening Library Audiobook
Rating: 3 out of 5

From the author:
Tom Henderson (a.k.a. King Dork, Chi-mo, Hender-fag, and Sheepie) is a typical American high school loser until he discovers the book, The Catcher in the Rye, that will change the world as he knows it. When Tom discovers his deceased father’s copy of the Salinger classic, he finds himself in the middle of several interlocking conspiracies and at least half a dozen mysteries involving dead people, naked people, fake people, ESP, blood, a secret code, guitars, monks, witchcraft, the Bible, girls, the Crusades, a devil head, and rock and roll. And it all looks like it’s just the tip of a very odd iceberg of clues that may very well unravel the puzzle of his father’s death and–oddly–reveal the secret to attracting semihot girls.
Being in a band could possibly be the secret to the girl thing–but good luck finding a drummer who can count to four. 
My thoughts:
Portman, aka Dr. Frank, is a singer/songwriter/guitarist of the East Bay punk band the Mr. T. Experience, so it's appropriate that in his first novel, his protagonist is a young musician and awkward teen. Tom (Chi-mo) reminded me of Arnold Spirit from Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, only not as funny or endearing.

I'm not sure why I didn't like Tom. He definitely is not as off putting to me as Holden Caulfield, but I didn't feel myself rooting for him at all and I was a little irritated that after 12 hours of listening, the whole mystery aspect didn't quite end in a neat little package. 12 hours and there are pieces dangling. Ugh.

The perk and the best part of the audiobook is Portman's original songs that follow the reading. It's one thing to talk about songs that the protagonist is writing, but to actually have the author create those songs and perform them - way cool! The songs on the audiobook are: King Dork - I Wanna Ramone You - Thinking of Suicide - I'm Still Not Done Loving You, Mama- Gooey Glasses.

Manga Friday: Baby's In Black

Title: Baby's in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and the Beatles
Author: Arne Bellstorf
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: First Second (May 8, 2012)

In short:
 The story of the Beatles in the early years as they were putting in their 10,000 hours in Hamburg, Germany. Before they were "The Beatles," there was Stuart Sutcliffe, their "fifth Beatle," who fell in love and was engaged to Astrid Kirchherr, a young photographer in Hamburg. This is her story.

My thoughts:
Mood factor - this graphic novel in black and white sets a wonderful tone. The simplicity of the lines makes it feel rich; not overdone.

Plot - I love graphic novel memoirs because the author/illustrator is constricted by the genre and must synthesize the messy parts of anyone's life into the absolute essentials. At its most essential, this is Astrid's story of love and loss and hope.

Art - There is something comforting about the elements that weave throughout this book: Astrid's cigarette smoke that chain smokes its way through the pages; the winter trees and black scarf that begin and end the book, and the lyrics from "Love me Tender" blowing on the breeze.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Noteworthy Numbers

saw this in the March ASCD Educational Leadership

66 The percentage of children ages 9-17 surveyed who say they will always want to read books printed on paper, even when e-books are available.

47 The percentage of children surveyed who cite "giving me time away from technology" as a reason they read books.

91 The percentage of children ages 6-17 who say they are more likely to finish a book they choose themselves.

Does what we know reflect in what we do in the classroom?

Source: Scholastic & Harrison Group (2010). 2010 kids and family reading report: Turning the page in the digital age. Retrieved from Scholastic at Based on a nationally representative sample of 1,045 children ages 6-17. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Maze Runner Series by James Dasher

Publisher: Random House Books
Publication dates:  10/6/09 (Maze); 10/12/10 (Scorch); 10/11/11 (Death)

Thomas wakes up in an elevator that takes him to a world he knows as the Glade filled with boys who are trying to find their way out of a maze. Although his memory has been wiped, something seems familiar to him, and when an unexpected girl shows up the next day, the routine of the Glade changes drastically and Thomas is in a race to figure out how to leave the maze before more people die.

The Scorch Trials and Death Cure follow Maze Runner through this dystopian world.

My thoughts:
I really shouldn't say this as a predominately YA reader, but I am so irritated by trilogies. The only thing worse than a trilogy is a series that goes longer than three books. It's predominately why although I have the hardcover of Maze Runner from 2009, I refused to read it.

This has nothing to do with the author. If you look at the publication dates, Dasher does a great job of pumping out his books on time. Still, this series is a horrible series if you actually had to wait for the books to be published (another reason why I took so long to start Hunger Games and Twilight).

These books will grab readers who are searching for the next Hunger Games. Dystopian, ecological ruin, action, young protagonists, evil adults. . .you know the formula - it works in this series too.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama

Author: Gail Tsukiyama
Paperback: 278 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis: from School Library Journal
When Pei Chung is eight years old, her father leaves her at the house of Auntie Yee so that she can work in the silk factory. Her grief at the unexplained abandonment is softened by the kindness of Yee and the other girls, and slowly she begins to thrive in her new independence. The friendship between Pei and Lin, who is the support of her once wealthy and powerful family, is forged with the lives of the silk workers who begin to demand better conditions. The China of 1919-1938, when the Japanese threat became a reality, is woven into the threads of factory life and that of families faced with ruin. 

My thoughts:
This historical non-fiction is a beautifully written piece that draws the reader into the lives of these girls/women. It's suitable for the YA audience, however, as far as for middle school readers, I think it's not the easiest sell for middle school because of the pacing of the book, however, with the right reader, the characters are very captivating and the historical events will inspire more research from young history buffs.

If you are buying this book, make sure you also buy the sequel, Language of Threads, or the ending of this book will leave you frustrated
If you are on the Big Island, Ms. Tsukiyama will be a part of the Big Island Reading Festival at the HPA campus on April 21, 2012 starting at 9:30. It's free and open to the public. She'll be doing a reading as well as three breakout sessions throughout the day.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Manga Friday: Freedom! (Miss Annie)

Creators: Frank Le Gall (author); Flore Balthazar (illustrator); Robin Doo (colorist)
Publisher: Graphic Universe (March 2012)
Paperback: 48 pages

In short:
Miss Annie may just be a few months old, but she is big enough for adventure and old enough to go outside. Besides, freedom is just beyond the window!

My thoughts:
Miss Annie is a precocious kitty who already understands the insider secrets of her family, like Sarah goes up to her room to "study," but really talks to her best friend Keshia about boys. Miss Annie feels like she's old enough and big enough to go outside, but her family doesn't let her, so when she finally sees an open window upstairs, she slips out and is mentored by neighborhood cats Zeno and Miss Rostropovna. In the end, the two cats teach Miss Annie a little bit about the outside, but in return, she is able to teach them about loyalty, friendship and acceptance.

Cute story, clean illustrations, nice morals. Look for it in stores in March.

Source: ARC courtesy of Net Galley(dot)com for an honest review.


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