Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pay-It-Forward Give-away: The Sky is Everywhere

I'm taking part in a very cool contest that I just learned about over on Ginger Johnson's blog. She is giving away a copy of Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere, which I recently read on my Nook and very much enjoyed. I've got a short review of the book here.

If I win a copy of the book, I'll be giving away another copy of it, so keep watch!

What a great way to share great books!

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

Dash & Lily's Book of DaresDash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very fun read. I enjoyed the varying narration of Dash and Lily, as well as the development of their characters and their friendship.

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Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I FallBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very Ground Hog Day-esque, but I enjoyed it. It had the elements that you would expect from this type of story, but it did have wonderful character development. At first I really didn't like Sam that much, so it was good to see her character mature as she figured out what was going on and what she needed to do. I'll admit that I was hoping that the ending would be different, but it was still a some how appropriate ending.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Sky Is EverywhereThe Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've been hearing good things about this book and was not disappointed. It did take me a little while to feel like I was getting to know Lennie, the protagonist. It also felt like the author didn't really hit her stride until the middle of the book. I enjoyed the eccentricity of Lennie's family, and after I got used to it, the eccentricity of Lennie's narration. There were some parts that I felt the writing wasn't that great, and then suddenly there would be an amazing line. (One of the down sides of reading books on my Nook: it is hard for me to thumb back through to locate those passages that made me say, 'Cool sentence!' Maybe I should have written it down...)

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Some Thoughts on How I Evalutate Novels for My Classroom Library

More and more now I find myself evaluating YA books in terms of whether or not I could put it into my classroom library. It is harder to just enjoy a YA book. I teach a population of students where the majority are being raised with conservative Christian values. Their parents are very sensitive to drinking, smoking, sex, and vulgar language. When I choose books for my classroom, I have to be able to point to the level of writing, debate, or theme that significantly out-weighs the presence of any questionable values or behavior. I have to be able to defend my choice of the book and my decision to make it available to my students.

I don't believe this is censorship. I'm not telling the kids they can't read certain books. I work very hard to teach my students how to make those decisions themselves. I've been very proud of my 8th graders as they have tried books and made the decision that a particular book wasn't for them. But I do have to be sensitive to the parents and most of them are pretty open minded and they trust me. I appreciate that and I don't want to damage that.

There are some books that I have read and enjoyed, but know that I could never put in my library. There were some books that I have not been able to get into or not enjoyed because I was bothered by the way drinking, smoking, drugs, and sex are presented. I'm not so ignorant to think that teens aren't involved in those behaviors. I do believe, however, that it shouldn't be the norm. I don't believe it should be acceptable.

I applaud YA writers who are willing to deal with edgy topics. Some of my favorite books are ones that have been incredibly controversial (Speak and Wintergirls, to name two) and those are in my classroom library, though as of right now, very few kids have read them, and that is okay. There are other books that I enjoyed, but I don't feel I can put in my library. Then there are books that are in my library I didn't particularly care for but the kids love. It's all about the freedom to write, the freedom to read, and the freedom to make choices for ourselves. Oh, and the freedom to express our opinions and to disagree.

Warped by Maurissa Guibord

WarpedWarped by Maurissa Guibord

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a fun story. I enjoyed the setting: a used book store in Portland, Maine. I enjoyed the main character and the fantasy of a tapestry coming to life.

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Moon Over ManifestMoon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book completely deserves the Newbery Medal and a place on every bookshelf. I was quickly drawn into the world of Manifest, Kansas and the lives of the people living there. The story is beautifully crafted. When I read a book, especially a YA book, I'm looking at many different things. Among them are ways that I can use the book in my classroom to help my students understand life and the world around them. This book show not only a window in the history of our nation and the individuals that make up our nation and our history, but also the importance of story.

I'm looking forward to adding this to my collection.

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Duff by Kody Keplinger

The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend)The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The premise was interesting, as was the main message of believing in yourself and not allowing the judgment of others to define you. However, the major focus on teenage sex was disappointing. I was also disappointed by the amount of swearing. I don't agree with treating sex so casually, nor do I agree with portraying it so casually in young adult literature, as if its something that everyone is doing and is perfectly natural for 17 year olds to be having sex and using people sexually to escape their problems. I realize that yes, this does happen, but if I'm reading a book and considering if I'm going to recommend it to my students, I want a more positive message than this.

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Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers

Fall for AnythingFall for Anything by Courtney Summers

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was incredibly intrigued by the premise of this book, but disappointed in the story. I liked the mystery and kept reading, wanting to see the resolution to Eddie's search for the answer to why her father killed herself. Unfortunately there was never resolution. That wasn't my big disappointment with the story. The excessive use of the "f-word" I felt was unnecessary and added nothing to the story. I also felt Eddie's sexual fantasies of various characters was unnecessary as well. The main characters seems distant.

I am still interested in reading Courtney Summers' other novels, despite my disappointment with this one. The writing wasn't bad, I just didn't care for the sexual references and the swearing.

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Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Girl, StolenGirl, Stolen by April Henry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This definitely one that I can recommend to my students and look forward to purchasing for my classroom library. As my husband pointed out, some of the details of the initial crime might be hard to believe (leaving the keys in your Escalade with the door unlocked??) but I was willing to suspend belief. The characters were like-able and the two points of view lent depth to the story.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Across the Universe (Across the Universe, #1)Across the Universe by Beth Revis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to this. And, wow. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this book and maybe someday I'll get to teach it to students. It is an amazing story. I've already been thinking about what other books I can pair it with under the theme of "What does it take to be human"- The Adoration of Jenna Fox, The Giver... I think it could also be paired with The Chaos Walking series. There are so many issues to discuss with this book.

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