Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sun Dragon's Song #1

by Joyce Chng and Kim Miranda
Rosarium Publishing
Publication date: September 21, 2016

Ho Yi wants to be a sun dragon rider like his parents, but he uses a crutch to get around and he is often bullied by a larger pupil at his school. Still, he feels their song in his heart and he believes that despite his disability, he can become a rider. 

Set in a distant land, this origin story sets up a little of young Ho Yi's life. The reader sees a little of his grit personality. We learn a bit about his parents and the struggles that this young boy goes through. However, there is much left unanswered, which I think will keep young tweens invested in reading. For example, what is he gathering in the cave and why does he have to wash it down? What happened to his legs? Why does the bully hate him so much? And will the feisty young girl that his father released at the border play a part in the next installments?

If readers liked Avatar, they will like Sun Dragon's Song. 

An e-galley provided by Net Galley and the publishers for an honest review. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016


Publication date: October 1, 2016

From the Publishers:
August 9, 1945, began like any other day for six-year-old Sachiko. Her country was at war, she didn't have enough to eat. At 11:01 a.m., she was playing outdoors with four other children. Moments later, those children were all dead. An atomic bomb had exploded just half a mile away.
In the days and months that followed, Sachiko lost family members, her hair fell out, she woke screaming in the night. When she was finally well enough to start school, other children bullied her. Through it all, she sought to understand what had happened, finding strength in the writings of Helen Keller, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr.
Based on extensive interviews with Sachiko Yasui, Caren Stelson shares the true story of a young girl who survived the atomic bomb and chronicles her long journey to find peace. Sachiko offers readers a remarkable new perspective on the final moments of World War II—and their aftermath.

My Thoughts:

With the mix of poignant storytelling and sidebars of historical facts, this multi-genre novel will be a wonderful resource for middle level students to learn about World War II from the perspective of a Japanese atomic bomb survivor. It chronicles the moment right before the Nagasaki bomb as well as the devastating after effects that continues to be felt in Japan today. Sachiko's loss is devastating and unfathomable, and yet through it all, she continues to speak out for peace. Like the late Elie Wiesel, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, Sachiko has found her voice and continues to push for a peaceful world, lest we forget the atrocities of history. 

This is a well researched book and a good model for student research.

This advanced copy provided by Net Galley (dot)com and the publisher for an honest review. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Magic of Wish

Publication date: August 30, 2016

From the Publishers:
Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese has been making the same secret wish every day since fourth grade. She even has a list of all the ways there are to make the wish, such as cutting off the pointed end of a slice of pie and wishing on it as she takes the last bite. But when she is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to live with family she barely knows, it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is until she meets Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard, a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. Suddenly Charlie is in serious danger of discovering that what she thought she wanted may not be what she needs at all.
From award-winning author Barbara O'Connor comes a middle-grade novel about a girl who, with the help of a true-blue friend, a big-hearted aunt and uncle, and the dog of her dreams, unexpectedly learns the true meaning of family in the least likely of places.

My Thoughts:
Summers are made for just these types of books: funny and sweet, with a lovable character whose world reveals itself like the stars coming out after a long dusk.  Charlie Reese joins the ranks of strong girls who come from brokenness and just need a little time to see that when a door closes, look for an open window. I hope that everyone is having adventures this summer, whether it's in the backyard, or in the pages of a book like this. Summer is for loving a dog, understanding the expanded definition of family and a loyal friend in an up-down boy. 

An advanced copy provided by Net Galley (dot) com and the publisher for an honest review. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Gertie: Greatest 5th Grader

From the Publishers:
Gertie Reece Foy is 100% Not-From-Concentrate awesome. She has a daddy who works on an oil rig, a great-aunt who always finds the lowest prices at the Piggly Wiggly, and two loyal best friends. So when her absent mother decides to move away from their small town, Gertie sets out on her greatest mission yet: becoming the best fifth grader in the universe to show her mother exactly what she'll be leaving behind. There's just one problem: Seat-stealing new girl Mary Sue Spivey wants to be the best fifth grader, too. And there is simply not enough room at the top for the two of them.
From debut author Kate Beasley, and with illustrations by Caldecott Honor artist Jillian Tamaki, comes a classic tale of hope and homecoming that will empty your heart, then fill it back up again--one laugh at a time.

My Thoughts:
The main character, Gertie, is reminiscent of another spunky classic heroine: Claudia from E.L. Konigsburg's The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Gertie is just as stubborn, just as creative, and just as broken as Claudia, but spunk and loyalty, as well as a strong supportive friend in Junior as well as a loving great aunt and dad help Gertie to see that striving to be the best is really about being her best self. One of the best epilogues I have read in a while. 

Friday, July 1, 2016


From the publishers:
From the minds of Tom Angleberger, the New York Times bestselling author of the wildly popular Origami Yoda series, and Paul Dellinger, an adult science-fiction writer, comes a funny middle school story with a memorable robot title character. Reluctant readers and robot lovers in elementary and middle school will enjoy this fast-paced read that shows just how strange a place middle school can be, particularly when the new student is a state-of-the-art robot.

When Max—Maxine Zealster—befriends her new robot classmate Fuzzy, part of Vanguard One Middle School's new Robot Integration Program, she helps him learn everything he needs to know about surviving middle school—the good, the bad, and the really, really, ugly. Little do they know that surviving sixth grade is going to become a true matter of life and death, because Vanguard has an evil presence at its heart: a digital student evaluation system named BARBARA that might be taking its mission to shape the perfect student to extremes!

With a strong female main character who will appeal to all readers, Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger's new novel offers readers a fresh take on robots. Fuzzy will find its place in the emerging category of bestselling books featuring robots, including Jon Scieszka' s Frank Einstein series and James Patterson's House of Robots.

My thoughts:
This just screams of a great summer book - eases the boredom of long days with a fast-paced, funny adventure through middle school.  Vice Principal Barbara is determined to send Max to reform school and Fuzzy, her best friend is just as determined to save Max. It makes it even more exciting because Barbara and Fuzzy are both robots who can learn and adjust and react like humans with their own "fuzzy logic" or artificial intelligence. Can Max gain the trust of her parents again? Will she be able to save Fuzzy? Will she ever get through a whole week without flunking a test or getting detention?
Fun end for a fun book. Will there be more?

Publication date: August 16, 2016

Monday, June 13, 2016


From the Publishers:
It's like the apocalypse came, only instead of nuclear bombs and zombies, Mike gets school participation, gay thoughts, and mother-effin' cheerleaders.
Junior year is about to start. Here's what Mike Tate knows:
His friends are awesome and their crappy garage band is a great excuse to drink cheap beer. Rook Wallace is the devil. The Lemonheads rock. And his girlfriend Lisa is the coolest. Then Lisa breaks up with him, which makes Mike only a little sad, because they'll stay friends and he never knew what to do with her boobs anyway. But when Mike finds out why Lisa dumped him, it blows his mind. And worse—he gets elected to homecoming court.
With a standout voice, a hilariously honest view on sex and sexuality, and enough f-bombs to make your mom blush, this debut YA novel is a fresh, modern take on the coming-out story.

My Thoughts:
Sometimes I don't read the description before I read the book. After all, the title is whatever, so I just dove right in and was just as confused as the main character Mike. He wasn't sure he was gay and it starts with a friend/girlfriend Lisa so when he finds out that he was drunk making out with a guy, I was just as confused. It seems that everyone else but Mike had their gadar beeping away on him.  What I want to know is how can someone in their junior year in high school be so clueless about their sexual orientation? Perhaps he was not clueless, just not willing to look closely at himself. That happens all the time. 

This book is angst funny. Everyone is both wise ass and sweet and no one has it together. A great read for 8th graders and up. 

Access to this book was provided by Net Galley and the publisher. Publication date: August 2, 2016.

Patrick Griffin's Last Breakfast on Earth

From the Publishers:
When Patrick Griffin passes out after a chemistry experiment gone bad, he wakes up in a strange parallel world, where everyone has huge eyes and tiny ears, and is addicted to smartphones called "binkies." Patrick thinks it's all a weird dream, but he's about to wake up to an adventure beyond his wildest imagination.
Meanwhile, a huge rabbit-like creature named Mr. BunBun is roaming through Patrick's hometown, leaving a trail of chaos behind it. Its mission? To save Earth from imminent doom.
See what happens when the fate of three worlds lies in the hands of one boy and one gigantic bunny in this first book of a hilarious and mind-bending new adventure series.

My Thoughts:

This is a great summer read and is going to be a popular book for middle level readers. It has oddball situations, it has a typical middle child awkward boy left home alone and then alternative world teens who play by different social rules, big rabbits, rebellion, chaos, and Big Brother government types. Parents are as clueless and vague (what's new) and kids are the ones who really see what is going on. It reminds me of the humor in a classic Piers Anthony fantasy or a Narnia world.

Truth be told, I did not get to finish this book before my access was cancelled, but that just means I need to finish it when it comes out in August (Publication date: August 2, 2016).

An early copy made available from Net Galley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

100 Days

In short:
I can't say much about this book without giving too much away. Very early on, you will figure out where this book is going to end barring any surprises so I don't need to say too much about the plot. I think it is like driving to work or riding to school. You know the route right away. This is not a journey, it's the same route and you can take that route in your sleep, so just look out the window and enjoy the company. 

My thoughts:

I liked the cover until I finished the book and re-looked at the cover. I am not fond of the cover at all. With alternating perspective chapters of the three characters, I have a distinct vision of each character based on what they say, feel, experience, as well as what the remaining two characters feel and say about themselves and each other. This type of writing technique hones in on character and rounds each character out which is probably why the generic Leggo people look of the cover is now unacceptable. I would rather have an abstract cover.

Despite that major complaint, I did not hate the book. I thought it was fine, even if the end was obvious. The characters were likable, complex, teen angsty, easy to read, sweet, sentimental, sad. It has all the elements that my students will want. It should do well.

Publication date: August 23, 2016. Advanced copy provided by Net Galley dot com for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

What a little boy can teach the old

From the acclaimed author of When We Were the Kennedys and Any Bitter Thing, the incandescent story of a 104-year-old woman and the sweet, strange young boy assigned to help her around the house—a friendship with unexpected reverberations for the boy's unmoored family.

My thoughts:
This is a perfect book for the middle reader. Miss Ona Vitkus is a 104 year old hermit, but the local boy scout troop sends her boys to help around the house and she usually chases them away until one awkward boy with an obsession for lists, questions and Guiness World Records wedges himself into her life and changes the way she sees herself and her history. But then the boy is gone and his father, Quinn fulfills his sonʻs obligation and a new friendship is formed.

This book is about a boy who is invisible, bullied, misunderstood. It is about a quest. Most importantly it is about the lessons the 11-year old boy is able to teach Miss Ona and his father Quinn about life, and what it means to be truly living. 

The writing style took me a while to get used to, but I like that it does not resort to syrupy sweetness or clean redemption wrapped up in happily ever after. Finally, Wood writes one of the best last chapters I have read in a long time. I am glad that I kept reading because that last chapter was so unexpected and hauntingly divine. 

Advanced copy provided by Net Galley and the publisher for an honest review.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Faith: Volume 1 A Different Size of Hero

Text by Judy Houser
Art by Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage
      partial gallery provided by Net and Diamond Distributors for an honest review. 

Description from the publisher: Orphaned at a young age, Faith Herbert - a psionically gifted "psiot" discovered by the Harbinger Foundation - has always aspired to greatness. But now this once ordinary teenager is taking control of her destiny and becoming the hard-hitting hero she's always known she can be - complete with a mild-mannered secret identity, unsuspecting colleagues, and a day job as a reporter that routinely throws her into harms way! Well, at least she thought it would... When she's not typing up listicles about cat videos, Faith makes a secret transformation to patrol the night as the City of Angels' own leading superhero - the sky-soaring Zephyr! But flying solo is going to be tougher than she ever thought when Zephyr uncovers a deep-rooted alien conspiracy. Two-bit burglars and car thieves are one thing, but when the world needs a hero to stave off an full-blown extraterrestrial invasion, will Faith find herself in over her head... or ready for her biggest challenge yet? Rising star Jody Houser (Orphan Black) and explosive artists Francis Portela (Green Lantern) and Marguerite Sauvage (DC Comics Bombshells) pilot a new chapter for the high-flying hero that People Magazine calls "a superhero we can all admire." Collecting FAITH #1-4.

What I thought: What makes Faith Herbert different is not that she is a psiot or that she carries a secret identity a la Clark Kent and Superman, but that she is a physically imperfect hero. She is round and curvy not in a sexy way but in a chunky way. In her day persona, she has horrible hair and dresses much older than she really is. But when she is squeezed into her Zephyr costume and defying the laws of gravity by flying, she carries her confidence and sexiness in a whole new way. This is not the Barbie-proportioned, small-waisted Wonder Woman. Faith is not about body. She is about intentions and good heart. 

Publication date July 26, 2016

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Graphic Series: Beauty

The Beauty, volume 1
by Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley
Image Comics
Publication date: March 22, 2016

Description from the publisher:
Modern society is obsessed with outward beauty. What if there was a way to guarantee you could become more and more beautiful every day? What if it was a sexually transmitted disease? In the world of The Beauty, physical perfection is only one sexual encounter away. The vast majority of the population has taken advantage of it, but Detectives Vaughn and Foster will soon discover it comes at a terrible cost. Now, they'll have to find their way past corrupt poiticians, vengeful federal agents, and a terrifying mercenary out to collect the price on their heads. Collects the first six issues of the critically acclaimed, Pilot Season winning series by writer/artist JEREMY HAUN (Constantine, Batwoman) and co-writer JASON A. HURLEY. "...a high concept that is, frankly, genius..." - "This is absolutely a book to check out." - " of the strongest introductions to a series in a long time..."
My thoughts:

The hard part with the graphic series is that where we live, there are no bookstores, much less a comic store. Our town has a small bookstore that also sells maps, kitsch and CDs. Their books mostly consist of Hawaiiana books. It usually is not a problem except that now I got hooked into this series with no way to get future issues except through the Internet. I am so sick of teenage vampires and other immortals who stay young and beautiful, which is why this series is so fresh and out of the box! As a society, we are obsessed with beauty. Selfies using beauty apps are HUGE, so imagine a world where a sexually transmitted disease actually makes you beautiful and physically perfect after just one sexual encounter. The creators know exactly what would happen. We would have millions of people trying to get the disease. Add in a power hungry pharmaceutical company hiding a cure for the right monetary amount and the fabulous twist that after about 22 months with this disease,  like ebola with a short incubation period people suddenly explode out, and you have a hit! This story line is genius and of course I am left with a huge cliff hanger and two main characters who could explode at any moment, so Jeremy and Jason, get working!

Image Comic

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tween Answer to Game of Thrones

Publication date: April 12, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion

About: (from the publisher)
Thorn, an outlaw's son, wasn't supposed to be a slave. He never should have run away from home, leaving his mother and siblings to fend for themselves. Now he's been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they're headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire. Lilith Shadow wasn't supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But on the terrible day her father, mother, and brother were killed, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?
Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.
My take:
Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan is the tween answer to Martin's Game of Thrones. Some reviewers have likened it to Harry Potter, but the main character, Lily, reminds me of Arya Stark. Although she is orphaned and an unlikely ruler of her people, she accepts her enormous responsibilities and is fiercely loyal to her people. That does not keep her from being head strong and untamed, or taking risks that sometimes turn out badly for her or others, but readers can see her evolve and grow into the leader that she will become. She is more tomboy than girly, more fighter than princess. 

Tired of girl-heavy action heroines? Thorn is not a side kick hero, but a "batman" in his own right. He is fully formed with a backstory that pulls at your heart. It's almost as if he too is like Arya Stark. Similar personality, taken hostage (or bought) by Lily's executioner Tyburn (a more morally developed character than the Hound), and skilled in using his talents to his advantage. I must admit that I slowed my reading down to keep from getting to the end.

An advanced copy of this book was provided by and the publishers for an honest review.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Long is the Way and Hard

"Long is the way and hard, that out of hell leads up to light." Milton, Paradise Lost

Artists: James Stokoe, Bob Eggleton, Ulises Farinas, Erick Freitas, Brandon Seifert, Dave Wachter

Publisher: IDW Publishing (March 1, 2016)

In short: 
Godzilla meets his greatest adversary of all time-the impossible tortures of Hell! Each issue of this special miniseries will see Godzilla enter a new level of the underworld to do battle with the impossible by a variety of today's best writers and artists!
My thoughts:

There is always something very "Frankenstein"-ish about Japan's lizard king, Godzilla. Look beyond his disfigured, gargantuan body and he is a misunderstood, created monster. He is a creation of man's own greed and arrogance. He is not himself evil. Evil was done to him. Still, the reader must remember that he is still a reptile, so we cannot put the same expectations of humanity on him. Still, the artists in this series of miniseries all understand the loneliness and "humanity" of this monster. It shows in the art, in his actions, in his eyes. I am left wondering how he ended up in these realms of hell in the first place, but I understand that he is just a witness and visitor, not a resident of these hells.

The Buddha quote at the end and the picture of Godzilla walking up to the red torii in the sky is both a haunting and perfect end to this series:
It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you. Not by angels or demons, heaven or hell. -- Budha

Provided by NetGalley and Diamond Book Distributors for an  honest review.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Tween Tuesday: Hatchet

Author: Gary Paulsen
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 133
Published date: 1998
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Synopsis: From Amazon
When the pilot of a small, two-person plane has a heart attack and dies, Brian has to crash land in the forest of a Canadian wilderness. He has little time to realize how alone he is, because he is so busy just trying to survive. And learning to survive, to plan on food not just for a day but until and if he is rescued, only begins when he stops pitying himself and understands that no one can help him. He is on his own, without his divorced father, whom he was to visit, or his mother, whom Brian saw kissing another man before the divorce.
Review: This book is not the first book I read written by Gary Paulsen. I recommend this book to young teens ages 11-13. It's an enjoyable book.
Brian leaves on a sesna to see his father. Then he faces a horrible tragedy when it crashes and he is stranded in the Canadian wilderness. Thankfully before he left, his mom packed a hatchet in his bag. Brian uses it to help him survive.
One thing I like is how Brian uses his hatchet to catch his own food, get himself out of the sinking sesna, and other dangerous situations.
My favorite part was when Brian uses strategies from school to help him find food, shelter, and ways to use the hatchet. Also, he survived with all these strategies and got rescued.  If you like a survival story this a book for you to read. 
In a sentence...
A teen boy,with just a hatchet, survives in an unknown wilderness after a tragedy. 
Posted by: Gabby

Monday, February 29, 2016

Short, Fast and Furious Read: Life and Other

What it's about (from the publisher):
Libby Miller has always been an unwavering optimist—but when her husband drops a bomb on their marriage the same day a doctor delivers devastating news, she realizes her rose-colored glasses have actually been blinding her.
With nothing left to lose, she abandons her life in Chicago for the clear waters and bright beaches of the Caribbean for what might be her last hurrah. Despite her new sunny locale, her plans go awry when she finds that she can’t quite outrun the past or bring herself to face an unknowable future. Every day of tropical bliss may be an invitation to disaster, but with her twin brother on her trail and a new relationship on the horizon, Libby is determined to forget about fate. Will she risk it all to live—and love—a little longer?
From critically acclaimed author Camille Pagán comes a hilarious and hopeful story about a woman choosing between a “perfect” life and actually living.
 My take:

This is what adults call short chick lit, fast prose and furious circumstances. It is a formula, true, but the quick pace necessary for a short read makes it less formulaic somehow. You get to know Libby and want to root for her and everything happens fast enough that you don't get tired of her. She will seem familiar to the middle reader because especially in the beginning, she kind of acts like a middle schooler.

I guess I would call this a beach read, but I actually should create a different category. This is a plane read as long as you are able to create a translucent wall around yourself so that no one sees you crying (that is if you are a crying kind of person). I am not giving out a spoiler alert, so do not read too much into this comment. Still, at 250 Kindle pages, you can finish this book on a flight from Honolulu to Seattle.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Dystopian Sci-Fi: Transient City

Publisher: Bundoran Press Publishing (May 17, 2016)

What it's about from the publishers:
On a distant mining colony at the far reaches of a galactic empire, vast cities crawl across the surface of desolate planet looking for valuable minerals while their citizens struggle to survive. Victor Stromboli, a professional crime scene witness is nearly crippled by the brutal memories he can't control or forget. 

Now, he has to solve the mystery of a missing corporate executive. The only trouble is: the man is the husband of the love of his life. Stromboli has to overcome rogue miners, corporate intrigue and a pair of vicious psychopaths. Or die trying.

My thoughts:

This book, coming out in May, is a page-turning detective mystery, taking place in the dystopian future. It took me a little bit of re-reading to get into this world. It feels like a combination of Water World and Mad Max. Like Mad Max, the main character, Victor Stromboli, is sometimes overshadowed by over the top villains (politically connected Blaze and psychopath Chill) as well as minor characters who play large parts in keeping the "hero" alive. Stromboli is not the typical hero. He is neither young, stunning or physically strong. He is forgettable and powerless for most of the book and is often the unwilling pawn. His underdog status, though, are what make him so cheer-worthy. This will be a great summer read.

An advanced reading copy provided by for an honest review.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Self-Help Non-Fiction: Keynote Mastery

I initially questioned whether this were appropriate for a middle school student, but reading through Patrick Schwerdtefeger's story made me realize that sometimes even before middle school, we have an inkling of what we want to do and this is a great book on a very specific topic that could appeal to those students who have thought about working for themselves and getting better at a job that is not a mainstream occupation.

I do not think you have to be committed to being a professional speaker in order to gain insight from this book. The online worksheets and even the rhythm of his speech is a great way to really critically analyze craft and reveal one person's process in order to help your own process. One of the things he talks about is a kind of "go for broke" attitude that does not let lack of experience, lack of expertise, lack of education, even lack of money inhibit a person from pursuing their dream. What it does take is confidence, discipline, faith and bravery. I also think that the realistic journey, most evident by his credit card balances, shows the up and down trajectory of this kind of life. 

I am not aspiring to be a keynote speaker, although as an assistant professor  (the lowest rung of professors), I do need to get my writing out there and present at conferences in order to get funding to travel. The steps for someone like me to be a keynote, though, would still be very similar - authorship and international conferences being two similarities. 

Finally, what I most enjoyed about this book is the ability of the author to look at his own flaws and not hide from them, but work through them. That in itself is a kind of bravery that should be honored.

This book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Yellow Crocus originally published in 2010 is a Kindle Unlimited option so I decided to read it again because I kind of just rushed through it the first time. 

From Amazon:
Moments after Lisbeth is born, she’s taken from her mother and handed over to an enslaved wet nurse, Mattie, a young mother separated from her own infant son in order to care for her tiny charge. Thus begins an intense relationship that will shape both of their lives for decades to come. Though Lisbeth leads a life of privilege, she finds nothing but loneliness in the company of her overwhelmed mother and her distant, slave-owning father. As she grows older, Mattie becomes more like family to Lisbeth than her own kin and the girl’s visits to the slaves’ quarters—and their lively and loving community—bring them closer together than ever. But can two women in such disparate circumstances form a bond like theirs without consequence? This deeply moving tale of unlikely love traces the journey of these very different women as each searches for freedom and dignity.

My take:
What struck me on reading this book again was that as a reader, I sometimes forget that I am living in a different reality and I try to judge the story and the actions of the characters by my own values living in these times. This time, I just let it unfold and I did not judge. Louise Rosenblatt, in the book Making Meaning with Texts, selected essays writes:
“The reader brings to the work personality traits, memories of past events, present needs and preoccupations, a particular mood of the moment and a particular physical condition. These and many other elements in a never-to-be-duplicated combination determine his response to the text.”  
I believe that is always true. I think re-reading the same book at a different time in my life gave me a different read of the book. I was not in the middle of working with my social studies colleague to create a slavery unit for our 8th graders. I am just reading a story to read a story, so the combination of memories, present needs, preoccupations and my mood at the moment created a different enough combination so that I could just enjoy the journey and look on as a fly in the wall as the story unfolded. I am happy to have met Mattie and Lisbeth.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tween Tuesday: Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 208
Publication date: April 25, 2006
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 5
Synopsis: from
The Alchemist presents a simple fable, based on simple truths and places it in a highly unique situation. And though we may sniff a bestselling formula, it is certainly not a new one: even the ancient tribal storytellers knew that this is the most successful method of entertaining an audience while slipping in a lesson or two. Brazilian storyteller Paulo Coelho introduces Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who one night dreams of a distant treasure in the Egyptian pyramids. And so he's off: leaving Spain to literally follow his dream.
ReviewThe Alchemist is a unique and extremely exhilarating tale about the lengths that man will go to to achieve a goal, no matter how far fetched it may seem, and how the path to realization can yield more than just wisdom. I have to say that this extraordinary book is, in fact, my favorite book so far in my life.
My favorite character is the Alchemist, an all-knowing, philosophical individual who believes in the "Soul of the World" and all that speak the "Language of the World." I think that men like the Alchemist have intriguing persona. I can't help but wonder what's going on inside his mind.
"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself," the alchemist replies. "And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity." - the Alchemist
I recommend that those with a more mature taste in books and who enjoy the more allegorical type of story to read this novel. I was, and am almost absolutely sure that others who read this book will be, touched by the story within this story of discovery.
In a sentence...
A story of true discovery and life altering realization.
Posted by: Pono 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Missing by Melanie Florence

As a middle level reading specialist, I am often on the lookout for Hi/Lo YA (high interest/low reading level young adult) books that will appeal to the students and not be childish or look like something that is embarrassing for them to carry around.

This is by Lorimer Books out of Canada and they focus on books for reluctant readers. What caught my interest was the title. Right away I know it is going to be about someone that is missing, so a mystery, and the picture is the missing girl. The potential reader has to make inferences, that is what makes it mysterious. The other reason I want to read this is because this is an Indigenous or First Nation or Aboriginal girl that is missing. I am gathering that from the inset picture, but also the girl looking for her is named Feather. A little heavy handed, but it's a beautiful name.  Right there in just the cover, the publishers provide enough information for even the reluctant reader to "read" enough to make a decision on the book. Reluctant readers do not read the synopsis on the back, but they do "read" the cover, so they did a good job on just the cover. I'm hooked.

Description from the Publisher
Will Feather find Mia . . . alive?After a girl she knows from school goes missing and is found dead in the Red River, Feather is shocked when the police write it off as a suicide. Then, it’s Feather’s best friend, Mia, who vanishes — but Mia’s mom and abusive stepfather paint Mia as a frequent runaway, so the authorities won’t investigate her disappearance either. Everyone knows that Native girls are disappearing and being killed, but no one is connecting the dots.
When Feather’s brother Kiowa is arrested under suspicion of Mia’s abduction, Feather knows she has to clear his name. What Feather doesn’t know is that the young serial killer who has taken Mia has become obsessed with Feather, and her investigation is leading her into terrible danger. 

My thoughts:

This book delivers on the promise without reverting to unrealistic sap. It is definitely a "stay up all night even if you have to wake up early the next morning" kind of read. Mia as the main character is brave, but not heroic. She is still scared and unsure. She is still a teenager, and that makes this story even more compelling. As a teacher, what I like is how easily this book can transition to an I-search project on Indigenous issues with young people. 

Publication date: September 1, 2016

NetGalley and the publisher provided an ePub copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Tween Tuesday: Eddie Would Go

The Eddie Aikau big wave tournament is supposed to be a go tomorrow at Waimea Bay on Oahu, Wednesday 2/11/16. The contest has not been held since 2009 because in order for it to be an Eddie, the waves need to be 25 feet according to Hawaiʻi standards, so 30 plus feet as they measure it now,   and the waves need to peak during daytime hours, so the moon, the tides, the waves need to align perfectly for at least 8 hours of competition.  Whether the contest happens tomorrow or not, Eddie Aikau's story is a great one to read.

Author: Stuart Holmes Coleman
Publisher: Bess Press
Pages: 227
Publication Date: 2002
Genre: Autobiography/Biography
Rating: 5
Synopsis: From
Eddie Would Go is the only biography of one of Hawaii’s greatest heroes. A shy and humble man by nature, Eddie Aikau became larger than life in the ocean. As a surfer, he rode the biggest waves in the world; as a lifeguard, he saved hundreds of lives from the North Shore’s treacherous waters; and as a proud Hawaiian, he sacrificed his life to save his fellow sailors aboard the voyaging canoe Hokule'a. But more than a biography of a courageous waterman, Stuart Coleman’s Eddie Would Go also tells the story of modern Hawaii and Eddie’s role in the Hawaiian Renaissance during the 1970’s. The book is based on numerous interviews with his family, friends and many of Hawaii’s leading watermen and scholars. Coleman weaves together their memories in an exciting and informative story. By exploring his legendary life and legacy, this book will show why Eddie has become such an enduring icon in Hawaii and the surfing world.
Review: Eddie would go is a very adventurous book that inspires people. This book is about a young man who never gave up on his dream.
The characters are real people who actually lived way back then and lived that old Hawaiian life style. Eddie, the main focus, is a person who is so nice and down to Earth like his loving family.
The most exciting part is the big wave surfing contest. This part gives me an adrenaline rush and makes me get pumped up about surfing. It's so exciting, and it's a page-turner.
So this is a great book for surfers and people who are just starting. This book will really inspire those people and also teach them the history of a great Hawaiian surfer and his legacy.
In a sentence...
Eddie is a man who became larger than life in the ocean and an enduring icon.
Posted by: Aukai

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tween Tuesday: Knights of the Lunch Table

This is a new series, but I have a bunch of book reviews by my former 6th graders that need a place to be useful to others so I am giving them Tuesday on this blog. Hope you enjoy. I gave them a format (because I am a teacher after all) but the editing is very light on my part. Enjoy their books in their words. 

Author: Frank Cammuso
Publisher: GRAPHIX
Pages: 144
Publication Date: 2008
Genre: Graphic novel
Rating: 4
Synopsis: from
“Artie King’s first day at his new middle school is terrible: his nasty older sister ensures he misses the bus; a couple of geeky kids are friendly, but the school bullies smell a new victim; and the principal is a horror who hands out detentions and dire warnings as she peers out from behind her horn-rimmed glasses. Artie has muddied the waters a bit himself by boasting that he’s a dodgeball pro—when he’s really not.”
This book was the kind of book that made me want to keep reading. It had a mysterious and funny side to it. It showed how Artie really wanted to fit in. But this kid, Artie took it too far. He told a lie that gets him in big trouble. I find this funny because he goes through a lot to make things right again.
Artie is not exactly athletic material. At his new school he is faced with dodgeball problems while dodgeball is taken very seriously. Even the principal thinks so, so then she makes dodgeball everyone’s first priority. I think that the principal is the cause of why the school is so messed up. If it wasn’t for her the school would be fun. But she makes the story more interesting.
What I did not like about this book is that it did not end like I wanted it to. I was hoping that Artie would solve his problems in a different way. I wanted Artie to get special powers before he faced his worst nightmare. It would have made the story more surprising then it was to other readers.
The characters I don’t like is the Hordes. They are the bullies of the school. They are mean and take dodgeball very seriously. They then learn their lesson at the end of the story when a big surprise heads their way. Another character I don’t like is the principal. She does nothing when the Hordes do something bad. She is also very strict and unfair to the other students.
What then rewards Artie is very mysterious and helpful in his later challenges. He finds a way to get back at the Hordes at school and humiliate them. This was my favorite part of the book.
In a sentence. . .
For Artie telling a lie may be okay at first, until trouble kicks in and you find out how it affects everyone around you.
Posted by: Lexie

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Trail of Broken Wings

This blog was started because when I was in the middle school classroom, I filled my room with thousands of books. I tried to do a book talk at least every week and then I had YaYa. YaYa was a girl who devoured books. Who was almost desperate in the need for me to give her a new one. She always read books that took place somewhere else, whether it was in the future, the past or in a faraway land. She never went for the teen realism books like Speak. I started this blog to try and get more books into my memory. To be able to pull books when I came across students like YaYa. 

But middle school is a tricky thing. Students come to us in all states of maturity. Like all students, they come to us with large differences in their experiences, their upbringing. I have never found a book that fits all students. It is why I am against a common reading of a novel unless I have other content and skills I am trying to achieve with the book. I never think that one story will unite them all.

This book is definitely not for tweens. It is not even a young adult book, but someone needs to hear this story and be immersed in it. This story is full of family secrets and lies. It is about the lives of adult daughters and their mother who have come together because their father (and husband) is now in a coma. Even in his silence he is a major character in their lives and his effect spans generations, even to the only grandchild, 15 year-old Gia. YaYa would not have read this. And it would not be my place to suggest it. But someone needs to read this. 


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