Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Godless by Pete Hautman

GodlessGodless by Pete Hautman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another authentic teen narrator. This was a very thought provoking story- challenging the religion and faith.

View all my reviews

Trapped by Michael Northrop

TrappedTrapped by Michael Northrop

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a rather intense read. I'm glad that I read it this spring and not back in February when it first came out and we were still getting big snow storms/nor'easters! The setting was realistic enough and the voice of Scotty, the narrator was very authentic.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Freefall by Mindi Scott

FreefallFreefall by Mindi Scott

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me a little bit to actually get into this book, but once I did, I ripped through it. While I wasn't crazy about the swearing, the drinking, partying, and teen-sex, I did really like the characters of Seth and Rosetta. The character development was excellent, and I really wanted to see Seth pull himself out from under the bad choices he and his friends were making. It was clear that he was maturing much faster than his friends and it was sad that his friends seemed to be trapped in their harmful ways and continued to be heading for an early demise.

There were so many things about the character of Seth that reminded me of Ponyboy in The Outsiders. I frequently found myself connecting the two stories. I enjoyed this book, and hope to see more from Mindi Scott in the future. I can't say that it is one that I will be purchasing for my classroom library, but I am glad that this book is out there available for teens. It in no way glorifies drinking, drugs, and partying; in fact, it clearly shows the consequences of such choices and how complicated life can become. If even one teen is inspired to make healthier choices regarding their behavior and their relationships after reading this book, it has more than earned it's place in YA fiction.

View all my reviews

Monday, April 18, 2011

Me & Jack by Danette Haworth

Me & JackMe & Jack by Danette Haworth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this one on the bus during our middle school trip to Washington, DC last week and immediately handed it off to one of my 7th graders on the trip. Me and Jack is a wonderful story. It has humor, adventure, bullies, history, a lovable rare dog, true friendship... so much packed artfully into this middle grade novel. (Slight spoiler alert!) I have to admit, I was a bit nervous that it was going to be another one of those books where you're rooting for the dog and it dies. I was so relieved that Jack doesn't die. I think that is one of the biggest complaints of my dog lovers- books too frequently end with the death of the dog that you've come to love. This is a book that I will be recommending to many students.

Advance Reader Copy courtesy of the author.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Break

Since completing the Slice of Life Challenge in March, I've been taking a little break. Mostly because I had report cards due last week and all my time was going into that. I'm extending that break for the next week as tomorrow morning I am boarding a coach bus with about 33 middle schoolers and 21 parents and teachers for a school trip to Washington, DC. I'm sure I'll have plenty of stories to share upon my return- of course, I have my writer's notebook with me so that I can record things along the way.

Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Instructions by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Charles Vess

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love all the allusions to fairy tales in this poem. I first heard this read by Mr. Gaiman. I'm not sure which way I prefer it: listening to him read it and creating my own images, or reading through it and looking at Charles Vess's illustrations. This will certainly be a good example to use when teaching allusion if the kids know their fairy tales.

The Cruisers by Walter Dean Myers

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Walter Dean Myers is an amazing author. I was intrigued by the cover and by the premise of this story. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. I had a hard time really getting into the story and it felt shallow. The topics that were being delt with were not shallow (racism and broken families). As the main character observes, these are complex issues, but I felt that Mr. Myers didn't go as deep into it as he could of, or as middle school readers can and want to. I'm constantly impressed by my students' ability to handle and wrestle with complex issues.

Another aspect that made it hard for me to connect with this story was the culture. It is set in Harlem and the main character is a black, 8th grade boy. I am a white woman from Maine. I understand some of the culture and dialect of this culture because I read. But I am aware that I don't really get it.

The story is well crafted, and Mr. Myers is an extremely talented author. But this book just wasn't for me.

Zebrafish by Peter H. Reynolds & Fablevision

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been trying to read more graphic novels and make them available to my students. I had passed by this one, but recently read a glowing review of it. I don't remember which blog, but one of the teacher blogs I follow mentioned how much their students loved Zebrafish. I got it from the library yesterday afternoon and had it finished by dinner. I love it. The art work is fabulous, the story is fun, funny, and heart warming. It is definitely one that middle school and high school students can enjoy and appreciate. Zebrafish needs to be added to my classroom library.

Write Beside Them by Penny Kittle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has gone to the top of my list of books that I will refer to again and again. While the focus is on high school writing, there is so much that I have already drawn on fore my middle school classes and I look forward to more fully implementing the things that I've learned next year in my high school classes. The book comes with a DVD that I have yet to dive into, but plan to soon. I read this book with pen in hand and writer's notebook within reach. Of the many things that I am taking away from this book are a renewed passion for teaching writing to adolescents, a better understanding to giving feedback as opposed to correcting errors, and an underscoring of the importance of writing for myself.

Thank you Penny!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Reflection on Slice of Life Story Challenge

I felt a great deal of accomplishment yesterday as I posted my 31 SOLS. It was a good experience that made me reflect on the experience my students go though. Some days I was eager to write, I felt I had a story to tell. Some days it felt like something I had to do (even though it was an assignment I gave myself). There were days that I was casting about looking for anything to write about and days that I felt I didn't have anything to say or that I'd be able to say it as well as other people were. There were days I just had to put my thoughts out there and not worry about it.

But most importantly, I wrote.