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Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Unfinished Angel

The Unfinished Angel is Sharon Creech’s most recent novel. Readers at my school are currently reading Hate That Cat (companion book to Love That Dog) also by Sharon Creech…it is on our middle school reading list this year. Everyone will find the narrator, an angel who has yet to find her calling, extremely entertaining. She doesn’t understand “peoples” and their ways. She has been at the top of a tower in the Swiss Alps for as long as she can remember. Things change when she meets an odd girl named Zola. Zola is different from anyone she has observed. Zola reaches out to the angel and asks her many inquisitive questions that make the angel a bit uncomfortable. Zola believes she is an unfinished angel and wants help from the angel. This story made me laugh out loud. I especially loved the personalities of the orphaned children who live in the village. Will Zola and the angel be able to save them? I listened to this story in audiobook format – the narrator was excellent. Click on the video below to hear Sharon Creech read an excerpt from her book.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

I have multiple copies of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger and they have been flying off my shelves. No sooner do I shelve a copy, an eager patron snatches it off the shelf. I had to place a hold for myself to be able to read this entertaining, humorous book over the holidays. It is told in multiple stories by middle schoolers who are asking advice from an Origami Yoda. The nerdiest kid at school, Dwight, has created a finger puppet, Origami Yoda, who answers questions in Yoda-like dialogue. At first, the students are skeptical…it has to be Dwight giving the advice. Things start to change when the students realize that there are just some things that Dwight couldn’t have known. The text is easy to read and the book has illustrations as well. Instructions for creating your own Origami Yoda are at the end of this quick read. This is a good book recommendation for those readers who have read Jeff Kinney’s entire Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and haven’t found another “great” book to read. The video below is the author showing you how to make your own Origami Yoda. In addition, this is on the Texas Bluebonnet Reading List 2011-12.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Girlfriend Material

Girlfriend Material, by Melissa Kantor, is a great recommendation for those readers looking for a book that presents teen relationships and romance. Katie is looking forward to hanging out with her best friend in her hometown, Salt Lake City, for the summer. Her parents are having problems in their marriage once again and this time it looks like it may be a bit more permanent. Her mom has decided that she and Katie will spend the summer in Cape Cod with family friends. Unfortunately, things only get worse when Katie is shunned by Sarah, the gorgeous teenage daughter of her mother’s friends. Katie loves Ernest Hemingway’s, The Sun Also Rises, and dreams of being as carefree as the main character, Lady Brett Ashley. She believes she is destined to be just ordinary. Things start looking up when she runs into Adam at the country club AND at the local library. Adam has the same interests as Katie. Could he be her first real boyfriend? Adam is keeping something from Katie. Will she turn out to be girlfriend material after all? Readers will also want to check out Melissa Kantor’s Confessions of a Not It Girl.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I listened to Incarceron by Catherine Fisher on audiobook with numerous interruptions. Therefore, I have a guest blogger giving her insight to this fantasy which is on the Texas Lone Star 2011-12 reading list. My guest blogger is an amazing 8th Grade Language Arts teacher who is working on her Masters degree in Library Science.
I really enjoyed this book and will probably read the next one to see where the story goes. Claudia lives in a world constrained by time. Her world is in the not too distant future, but the ruling class has imposed the Victorian era on everyone, so the people live with the fashions, technologies, and rules of that time. She is about to be married to the prince, who is cruel and stupid, but whose mother is cunning. Her father is the warden of Incarceron, a prison no one can escape. It's been hundreds years since Incarceron's creation, and generations have been born and died there. Finn is one of its inhabitants, but he believes he came from outside Incarceron; he just can't remember his previous life. Finn and Claudia each come into possession of a key that allows them to communicate with each other, and they try to puzzle out the mysteries of Incarceron together while Finn tries to escape his prison and Claudia tries to escape hers. Click on the book trailer video below.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Hunt for the Seventh

The Hunt for the Seventh by Christine Morton-Shaw is a must read for those of you who love ghost stories and mysteries. This is another great read from the Texas Lone Star list 2010-11.Jim and Sally’s father is still grieving their mother’s death. Thinking that he will give his family a fresh start, he takes the position as head gardener of Minerva Hall. The family is allowed to live in a section of the castle-like grounds. The first sentence of the book is –“Somebody died here once”. Actually, six children have died over many years – all on the summer solstice every thirty years. The grounds hold the statues of these children. The ghost of a child tells Jim to find the seventh. The only person on the grounds that he can communicate with is the master’s autistic son, Henry. Henry speaks in riddles and makes very little eye contact. Jim keeps seeing frightening things and soon relives each child’s death. It is up to him to stop the prophecy that is destroying Minerva Hall. Readers who like The Hunt for the Seventh will want to read Morton-Shaw’s The Riddle of Epsilon. Click on the book trailer video below for more information.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

North of Beautiful

Justina Chen Headley’s novel, North of Beautiful, is a powerful read for many reasons. It is currently on the 2010-11 Texas Lone Star reading list. Terra describes herself as being perfect in every physical way except for one. She camouflages this one physical defect, a port wine stain birthmark on one side of her face, with a lot of heavy makeup. Terra has had numerous procedures to remove her birthmark in the past to no avail. Terra’s birthmark isn’t her biggest problem. Her father, a cartographer (a person who studies maps), is a bitter and controlling man due to his own insecurities. He constantly verbally abuses her mother who has gained so much weight the past couple of years. He also doesn’t support Terra’s dream of going to an art school. Terra and her mother literally crash into a teenager, Jacob, who was adopted when he was a little boy from China and his mother, Nora. Headley does a superb job of embedding all of the elements of a map into this story – strong symbolism. In fact, Terra and her mother join Jacob and Nora on a trip to China – the very country that brought upon Terra’s father’s failure as a cartographer. Terra will fall in love along the way and discover what beautiful really means. Justina Chen Headley also has a teen network website called readergirlz. Click on the book trailer below for more about the book.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Grimm Legacy

The Grimm Legacy, by Polly Shulman, reads like a movie. This adventure was highly recommended by a student who has read hundreds of books in my library. When Elizabeth’s mother passes away, her father remarries. She instantly has a new stepmother and stepsisters. Her father cannot pay for her ballet lessons or private school tuition, because he is paying for her stepsisters’ college tuition. Do you know a fairy tale like that? Elizabeth chooses to research the Grimm Brothers for a history project at her new public school. Her teacher recommends her for a new job as a page at the New-York Circulating Materials Repository – which houses the Grimm Collection. Patrons check out items rather than books at the Repository. The Grimm Collection contains magical items from each of the fairy tales. Things become strange! Items from the Collection are missing and others have been replaced by fakes. A large bird follows the pages once they leave work. Who is taking the items and why? How can Elizabeth prove she is not involved? What will happen when magic gets in the wrong hands? This book has the right combination of fantasy, romance, and fractured fairy tales to keep you reading! Readers may want to check out Shulman’s other book, Enthusiasm. Click on the book trailer below for more information.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town

My Book Talk Club just finished reading When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt. This book, which was published in 1999, received the prestigious National Book Award. The first line of the book is – “Nothing ever happens in Antler, Texas”. Things are about to change. Toby is missing his mother who left for Nashville to pursue her dream of becoming a famous country singer. An old car pulling a trailer comes into town. It’s a sideshow act…for just two dollars you can see “the fattest boy in the world”, Zachary Beaver. Toby and his best friend, Cal, become even more interested in Zachary when they realize that Paulie Rankin, the man collecting the money to see Zachary, has left town and doesn’t seem to be coming back anytime soon. What does Zachary Beaver do all day? What does he eat? Cal’s older brother, Wayne, is fighting in the Vietnam War. Toby looks up to Wayne and seems to miss him even more than Cal does. The boys’ friendship will be tested. Ultimately, they will join forces to make the impossible possible for Zachary Beaver. No one will be the same. Another book you may want to read by Kimberly Willis Holt is My Louisiana Sky.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

This World We Live In

This World We Live In, by Susan Pfeffer, is a conclusion of Life as We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone. Twelve months have passed since the collision of a meteor and the moon which resulted in disastrous changes to Earth’s stability. The survivors continue to face issues such as starvation and sanitation due to a shortage of resources. Miranda and her family are joined by Miranda’s father, stepmother, baby brother, and three other people. Two of the strangers are Alex and Julie from The Dead and the Gone. How will they be able to survive with more mouths to feed? Who will survive the deadly tornado that rips through the area? An underlying theme is that love is essential for hope and survival. I listened to the audiobook version. The narrator did not sound like I had imagined Miranda from reading Life as We Knew It. Because I had already established the characters in my mind from reading the first two books, I know that I would have enjoyed it even more if I had “read” it. These books are always checked out of my library. I warn my students to have a box of Kleenex available. Click on the trailer below for an introduction to the book.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


One of my dedicated readers encouraged me to read this book when I asked him for suggestions for next year’s reading list. Gone is the first book in a series by Michael Grant. In a split second, everyone who is fifteen years of age and older disappears. To make matters worse, all technological media has quit working…no television, no internet, and no telephones. The survivors must create some sort of order to take care of the younger children left behind. A lot of the kids look to Sam, who once saved a bus full of students, for direction. Sam has secret powers. He isn’t the only one. Other kids have special talents. Someone from Sam’s past wants to defeat him before he vanishes. What is the barrier that surrounds them? Why are animals mutating? How can the teens stop from disappearing on their fifteenth birthday? Read Gone to find out. The other books in the Gone series include Hunger and Lies. Click on the fan based book trailer below.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


SLOB, by Ellen Potter, is on the 2010-11Texas Lone Star Reading List. This realistic fiction is narrated by twelve-year-old Owen Birnbaum. Owen explains how difficult it is to be an overweight kid. He started putting on weight two years ago after he and his younger sister experienced a traumatic event. Owen is extremely intelligent, but is bullied on a daily basis because of his weight. In fact, someone is stealing the few precious Oreos that Owen allows himself to eat each day. Is it a coincidence that Mason Ragg, the guy with the horrible scar on the side of his face and switchblade in his sock, has Oreos at lunch? Could he be the thief? Owen is determined to teach the robber a lesson. Can Owen stop the biggest bully of all - his PE Coach, Mr. Wooly? Owen teams up with the unlikeliest character to put a stop to Mr. Wooly’s antics. Will Owen finally find closure from the fateful day that changed his life forever? Read SLOB to find out!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Heist Society

Ally Carter, author of the popular Gallagher Girls series (I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You), brings the secret world of skilled thieves to her readers in her newest book, Heist Society. Katarina Bishop has tried to break away from her criminal past by separating herself from her family. Although she successfully conned her way into a prestigious boarding school, a family friend, Hale, tells her that she is needed for the biggest heist of her life. Her father has been accused of stealing expensive art from a dangerous mobster named Arturo Taccone. Mr. Taccone gives Katarina a two week deadline to steal the art collection back or else. This book leads us on an adventure across the globe with just the right amount of mystery, history, and suspense. Click on the video below to hear the author tell you about her book.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Batboy

Mike Lupica’s, The Batboy, is a must read for all you baseball fans. Fourteen-year-old Brian Dudley has started his dream job - being the batboy for the Detroit Tigers. Brian’s father, a former major league pitcher, walked out on him and his mom two years before. Brian’s love for baseball stems from his relationship with his father. It was their connection. Brian plays baseball as well and aspires to be like his idol, Hank Bishop. Things seem to be looking up when the Tigers add Hank Bishop to their roster. Hank is just returning to the major leagues with a tarnished image from his use of steroids. Nevertheless, Brian has always believed in Hank’s accomplishments at the plate. What happens when the person you look up to most isn’t who you imagined him to be? How do you get yourself out of a hitting slump when everything you have tried fails? Although a predictable storyline, the characters (especially the minor ones) will make you glad that you read this one. Check out Mike Lupica’s other great books: Heat, Travel Team, Miracle on 49th Street, Summer Ball, The Big Field, and Million-Dollar Throw. Click on the book trailer below for an introduction to The Batboy.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Shadow Project

Disclaimer – I had oral surgery this morning to extract a molar (remnants of a broken crown)…may not be as coherent as I would like. Advice to my students – brush, floss, read, repeat! I find it coincidental that a few of my students have been asking me for books about paranormal activity and I just finished this great book filled with it. The Shadow Project by Herbie Brennan is a spy thriller set in England. Danny, raised by his grandmother, is an intelligent boy involved in petty crimes. He happens to break into a house being occupied by The Shadow Project, a government espionage organization. The head of the institution sees that Danny has a natural gift for this project and bribes him to join forces with them. Opal, the beautiful daughter of the head official of MI6, has been training for these missions. Michael, a newcomer from Africa, has first-hand knowledge of the black magic they will face. The teens, using out of body telepathy, join forces to hunt down the notorious leader of a terrorist cell called the Sword of Wrath. They must face their biggest fears and evil djinns to be successful. This is a great recommendation for Alex Rider fans looking for another action-packed read. Click on the video below to hear from the author.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Three Rivers Rising

Jame Richards’ debut novel, Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood, has two of my favorite styles of writing…novel in verse and multiple points of view. Although the genre is historical fiction, the most powerful part of this book is each fictitious character’s narrative. They include an upper-class young girl who becomes disowned by her family for falling in love with the hired help, a nurse who has experienced her own personal tragedy before the flood ever occurs, and the loving wife of a heroic railroad conductor. The characters’ stories represent the voices of the victims of the fateful 1889 Johnstown flood, where 2,209 people lost their lives due to the failure of the poorly managed South Fork Dam. My students should pair this book with the nonfiction book, The Story of the Johnstown Flood by R. Conrad Stein (974.8 STE). Click here for more information about this tragedy. The video below depicts what happened on May 31, 1889.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Monster High

Monster High is the first book in Lisi Harrison’s newest series. She is also the author of the popular Clique series. The attractive book cover alone will have this one flying off the library shelf. Two students will be starting at Merston High for the first time. Melody Carver is a transplant from the 90210 area. Although she is the daughter of a plastic surgeon, she never placed emphasis on her looks. Her father deceptively operates on her and she is now beautiful. She would like to meet a boy who sees more than what she is on the outside. Frankie Stein is the other new student. She was created fifteen days before school by her scientist father. She is required to hide her green skin, scar-like seams, and metal bolts to fit in with the “normies” at Merston High. Their worlds will collide when they make friends and fall for guys at their new school. Things only escalate when the school creates a Monster Mash theme for their fall dance. It’s hard enough to fit in at high school as a “normie”, being a monster is just about impossible. Or is it? Click on the video below to see the Monster High fight song video.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins is the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy. I’ve just finished reading the last page of this book and I am in awe. My words cannot do justice to this trilogy. I think this book may be my favorite of the three. Readers must read the books in order. Katniss agrees to become the Mockingjay and help lead the rebellion against the Capitol. Her ultimate goal is to assassinate President Snow. I do not want to give any spoilers so I will just comment that this book is filled with surprises and never-ending action. There lies the problem – I wanted to savor this book (knowing it was the last one), but I kept reading on as quickly as possible to find out what happens next. One of my students told me that this book made him sad. A coworker told me that she couldn’t talk about the first book without crying. The symbolism and the love you have for the characters make this a very emotional read. This book will leave you wanting to talk to other Mockingjay readers. What great discussions you will have! I’m sad, too…sad that this astounding story is over. Click on the book trailer below for a preview of the book.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer is John Grisham’s first novel for young adults. I listened to this one on audiobook – the reader was actor, Richard Thomas. Theo is unlike any of the kids in his class. He spends most of his free time at the local courthouse following trials and learning about the judicial system. Although Theo is only thirteen-years-old, he knows every step of the legal process. Many of his friends come to him for advice about the legal system. Ultimately, Theo is thrust in the middle of a very important murder case. Through Theo’s experiences, readers will learn about the elements that make up a fair trial. Click on the video below for an introduction to the book.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Neal Shusterman is on my top 5 young adult author list. My students and I love all of his books. I couldn’t wait to read his newest book, Bruiser. I had a difficult time putting this book down even when I knew I needed to get some sleep. This book is narrated by four of the main characters. Sixteen-year-old Tennyson starts off by telling the readers that he isn’t happy with his twin sister’s choice in boyfriends. He is going to keep his eye on both of them. Brontë, Tennyson’s twin, explains why she is attracted to Brewster (nicknamed Bruiser) – it’s an underdog thing – she is determined to help improve his image. Along the way, she falls in love. Brewster, or Bruiser, is a large guy with a bad reputation and rough home life. He has a special gift that helps those he cares about…ultimately, it could destroy him. Cody, Bruiser’s eight-year-old brother, has been protected by his older brother his entire life. I love that each chapter starts off with a SAT-type vocabulary word…the twins’ parents are college professors, hence, their literary names. This book will make you reflect on mankind’s natural instinct for peace and wellbeing. Neal Shusterman’s works include Unwind, Antsy Does Time, Everlost, Everwild, The Schwa Was Here, and the Dark Fusion series. Click on the video below to learn more about Neal Shusterman.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems about Love

Pat Mora’s Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems about Love is a must have in a middle school library collection. The Hispanic author does a fantastic job of explaining the different types of poems in this collection. The fifty poems in this book model the many different types of relationships in which we experience love in our lives. Her poetry expresses all stages of love as well. Pat Mora’s other works include two award-winning picture books: Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart and Tomás and the Library Lady.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

One of the Survivors

One of the Survivors is the latest realistic fiction book from Susan Shaw. Fourteen-year-old Joey Campbell has been through a lot in his short life. There was a deadly fire at his high school. Joey and his best friend, Maureen, were the only survivors from his class. Now everyone believes that he and Maureen must have started the fire, because they knew to leave the classroom. A year and half before the school fire, Joey’s mother perished in a house fire trying to save their family cat. He wishes he could have stopped her. Joey constantly thinks about his friends from class, their unique personalities, and their lifeless bodies as they were carried out of the school by the firemen. Could it be worse to be one of the survivors? His father asks him to write in a journal to help him handle all of it. This is a quick read that alternates between journal entries and Joey’s recollections. Other great reads by Susan Shaw include Safe, The Boy from the Basement, and Black-eyed Susie.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Beautiful Dead: Jonas

Eden Maguire’s Beautiful Dead: Jonas is a great recommendation for Twilight fans although there are no vampires in this story. Four teenagers from one high school have died in different accidents in one year. The most recent death has left Darina mourning the loss of the love of her life, Phoenix. She soon discovers that these teens’ souls are in limbo somewhere between heaven and earth for one year’s time. Jonas’s death was the first and his soul will be trapped unless Darina can find out exactly what caused his fatal accident before the one year anniversary of his death. Darina’s only hope is Zoey, Jonas’s girlfriend. Zoey survived the tragic accident, but is left unable to walk and has no memory of the accident itself. This novel is filled with romance and suspense. The series will continue with book #2 – Beautiful Dead: Arizona – which comes out on October 5th.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Demon King

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima is a fantasy of epic proportions rich in characters and setting. It is on the Texas Lone Star reading list 2010. Chima’s earlier works include the popular Heir series (Warrior Heir, Wizard Heir, and Dragon Heir). The Seven Realms are in turmoil with war and hunger. Han Alister, a young man from the wrong side of the tracks, has had to fight for everything his family has. When he and a friend come upon wizards in the forests who have set fire to the lands, he takes a powerful amulet from them. He doesn’t realize the amulet once belonged to the legendary Demon King. Princess Raisa ana’Marianna is a strong-willed royalty who is being wooed by one of the wizards, Micah Bayar. Although she is reluctant, she will soon have to choose someone to marry. The tale bounces between these two characters’ dramatic stories. The beginning of this book takes some time to set the foundation as there are many characters and lands in the Seven Realms. The ending left me ready for book #2 (The Exiled Queen) which comes out on September 28, 2010.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet

Erin Dionne, author of Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies, entertains us once again in The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet. What could be worse than having your mom walk into your school on the first day of your eighth grade year dressed up like a character from William Shakespeare’s plays? Try having your genius seven-year-old sister taking classes at your middle school while you struggle with pre-algebra. How about having your best friend, Tyler, start liking you? Consequently, you act so weird anytime he is around. Everything is a tragedy for Hamlet (given this name by parents who live and breathe Shakespeare). This book has the right amount of humor, family issues, and teen angst to keep readers wanting to see what happens next. Readers who have felt second best to a “perfect” sibling will be able to relate to Hamlet’s situation.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

They Never Came Back

They Never Came Back by Caroline B. Cooney is realistic fiction that alternates between two identities of the same girl. Fifteen-year-old Cathy Ferris has spent the last five years creating a new life for herself. One that is very different from the extravagant life she led as Murielle Lyman. Five years ago, her parents fled the country to avoid embezzlement charges. Murielle was left behind. Now in high school, she is suddenly recognized by her cousin, Tommy, at summer school. Will she act as bait to help the FBI capture her parents? Will she let everyone know who she really is? Caroline B. Cooney’s other exciting reads include Code Orange, The Face on the Milk Carton, and Driver’s Ed.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Street Love

Walter Dean Myers is on my top five list of favorite young adult authors. Street Love is a novel told in verse resembling rapping poetry. Normally I would say a novel in verse is great for a reluctant reader, but this story has such complex symbolism. For that reason, I would recommend this book for 8th grade and above. This romance is told from multiple points of view. The main characters, Damien and Junice, are two African American teens living in Harlem that come from total opposite family lives. Damien’s family has always encouraged him and wants him to attend college. Junice’s mother has just been sentenced to prison for selling drugs. Junice doesn’t know how she can take care of herself and her younger sister. She only wants what is best for the both of them…to rise above the destiny of women in her family. Sadly, I know there are students who can relate to Junice’s home life. Will the love they have for each other conquer all the odds they have against them? Personally, I would’ve liked a better resolution in the end.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dying to Meet You: 43 Cemetery Road

Dying to Meet You: 43 Old Cemetery Road by sisters, Kate and M. Sarah Klise, is on this year’s Texas Bluebonnet reading list. This chapter book recommended for upper elementary readers is told in epistolary form – using letters and newspaper articles – which will appeal to reluctant readers. The characters have pun(ny) names such as the real estate agent, Anita Sale, and book publisher, Paige Turner. This is a humorous story that expresses multiple points of view. A grumpy author, who has had writer’s block for twenty years, rents an old house. The house is occupied by a young boy, the boy’s cat, and a mischievous ghost. The ghost, formerly an unsuccessful writer, refuses to leave the house until one of her works is published. This endearing story’s conclusion will have readers seeking the second book in the series, Over My Dead Body: 43 Old Cemetery Road. Click on the video below to hear from the author and illustrator.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Cosmic by British author, Frank Cottrell Boyce, has been on many recommended lists. The author’s name may sound familiar…he is the author of Millions, which became a popular movie in 2004. Liam Digby has two major physical issues that cause him great angst. He is extremely tall for his age and has had facial hair for some time. In fact, he is mistaken for a teacher on his first day at Waterloo High. When his Dad doesn’t jump at the chance to participate in a Greatest Dad Ever contest held at a new amusement park in China, Liam decides to use his physical attributes to his advantage. He coaxes his friend, Florida, into pretending to be his daughter. This is when this fun(ny) story becomes reminiscent of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Dads must compete to earn a place to travel with the children into space. I loved that Liam takes his role as a father so seriously that he refers to a book, Talk to Your Teen, throughout the story. The children find themselves lost in space and must problem solve to find their way back. Readers who enjoyed The Gollywhopper Games will love this one!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Prophecy of the Sisters

I listened to Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink on audiobook and the reader, Eliza Dushku (Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer), does a fabulous job. At the beginning of this haunting story, Lia and her twin sister, Alice, are at their father’s funeral. The year is 1890. His death has left the girls and their younger brother orphans since their mother died in a mysterious accident ten years ago. Lia decides to search for answers as to why a strange mark appeared on her wrist the day her father died. Although she has always loved her father’s library, it is the secluded Dark Room in their house that may hold the answer. She finds Alice there performing some type of ritual. The mark on Lia’s wrist begins to change. Soon Lia finds out that her father had a special book hidden in his library. This Book of Chaos states that there exist two sisters: “one the Guardian and one the Gate”. The myth continues to state that the Lost Souls, trapped in the Otherworlds, are waiting to be let back into our world – the apocalypse. Lia is determined to find out what this has to do with her and Alice. Book two, Guardian of the Gate, was released on August 1st. Click on the author's name to go to her website. She has a book trailer for both books on her site.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

South of Broad

Although I am a middle school librarian, I do take the time to savor adult books every now and then. I love Pat Conroy. I have loved Pat Conroy from the moment I read his first novel, The Great Santini. Once again, he didn’t disappoint me. Finishing the last page of South of Broad, I am moved beyond words at this intricate story of heartache, family, and friendship set in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina. At the beginning of the story, we are introduced to eighteen-year-old Leo King, our narrator, who has experienced more than any child should due to the tragic death of his favored, older brother and his own recovery in mental hospitals. Once home, he looks across his historic city and vows that he will make himself a worthy citizen of this beloved place. His life completely changes when he meets the twins who have moved into the house across the street, two orphans who are runaways from Atlanta, and the first African-American football coach at his high school – the year is 1969. This story is told over a span of twenty-one years with suspenseful twists and turns. The powerful message is that “family” doesn’t only consist of the ones we are related to by blood; our dearest friends will rescue and embrace us during our most dire times in life. My oldest son, who usually has to be prompted to take time to read a book, picked up this book and couldn’t put it down. When he was finished, he told me that it was the best book he’d ever read. Although he is only eighteen years old, I am so happy to know that Pat Conroy had the same effect on him as he did me all those years ago. Guess what my son is now reading? You guessed it – The Great Santini!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

I listened to the audiobook of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (read by Natalie Ross). This is one of the best books I’ve listened to/read all year. I am so sad that the cover of this book will turn off boy readers, because there is so much they would enjoy about this book. The setting is 1899 in a small town called Fentress in Texas, between San Antonio and Austin. Narrator, Calpurnia Tate, is the only girl in a large family of boys. She spends her days exploring different species and recording her findings in a notebook. She, with the help of her knowledgeable grandfather, makes observations and identifies various species of plants and animals. This naturalist is way ahead of her time; consequently, she faces the challenges of coming into womanhood at a time when women were expected to marry and run the domestic side of the household. I enjoyed her grandfather’s stories of war, the scientific process, and the geography of Texas. I treasured being a part of Calpurnia’s evolution. Girls (AND BOYS) – you have to read this book!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Big Nate: In a Class by Himself

Big Nate: In a Class by Himself by Lincoln Peirce will make you laugh out loud. The author, Lincoln Peirce, bases his first novel on his comic strip, Big Nate. Nate, a sixth-grade boy, opens a fortune cookie to find the message: Today you will surpass all others. Maybe today his fortune will actually come true. As the day goes on, things are not happening as Nate would have planned. This quick read is told with cartoon illustrations like Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid. This one would be great for reluctant readers or anyone who enjoys humorous stories.

Monday, July 26, 2010


At the end of the school year, one of my avid readers kept asking me, “Have you read it yet?” There was no way I was going back to school without having read Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith. Let me give you a little disclaimer about myself – I usually don't read scary books. I enjoy sleeping at night too much. All of my students know this about me and they often tease me because of it. Horror books are one of the most popular genres in middle school. Kids like to be scared! I’m so happy that this book was repeatedly recommended to me. I couldn’t put it down! Every relatively short chapter leaves you wanting to read what happens next. Alex Sawyer has been framed for the murder of his best friend. He is given life in prison at Furnace Penitentiary. This place is your worst nightmare. If the bad boys of the prison, the Skulls, don’t get you; most assuredly the dark creatures of the night will mark your cell and turn you into a horrific beast of destruction. Alex and his roommate, Donovan, have one goal…to escape. Did I mention that I didn’t sleep last night? Oh, but it was so worth it. Darren Shan, author of the Cirque du Freak and Demonata series, gives his endorsement – enough said!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

One Crazy Summer

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia takes us to a volatile time in our history - the Civil Rights Movement. Eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters are sent from Brooklyn to spend a month with the mother she hardly remembers in Oakland, California. Delphine's mother, Cecile, left the girls and her father several years ago shortly after her youngest sister, Fern, was born. The memories Delphine has of her mother are not good ones and it doesn't help that her grandmother, Big Ma, has nothing nice to say about Cecile. When the sisters reach Oakland, Delphine must continue her role as the care-giver of the family as Cecile, who calls herself Nzila, wants the girls to stay out of her way. Cecile makes the girls go daily to the People's Center, run by the Black Panthers, where the girls learn about revolutionary ways they can help bring about change. Who are the strange men with their black berets who come to Cecile's house at night? What could Cecile possibly be doing with her poetic words and why is she insistent that the girls stay out of her kitchen? Readers will find themselves cheering on Delphine and her sisters as they try to gain Cecile's love and approval during their crazy summer of 1968.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Web 2.0 Tools Discussion

Ning communities are beneficial to those wanting a networking platform for a specific purpose. I can see students feeling comfortable using nings because they are familiar with adding photos & videos and discussing topics in that type of format. My own sons, one is headed to college and the other will be a sophomore, said they preferred using facebook. They liked when teachers created specific group pages. What I am wondering is - Does that mean the creator of the group (the teacher) can then see all of the students FB information/updates? If so, students would most likely want to use a ning for privacy issues. The ning's value is having one location to share and discuss pertinent information as a select community.

File conversions - I will admit that I have successfully converted files through trial and error. Many errors before success - to the point of tears and frustration when things did not work. I see the same frustrations in my students when they bring files from home on their flash drive only to find that it will not open at school. The last few years, I used Real Player to capture and convert Youtube videos to play at school. I am so excited to say that my school district has lifted the firewall on Youtube - to say that it has taken classroom lessons and promoting reading with book trailers to another level would be an understatement. I learned something new today - Blinkx. I didn't know there was another popular video streaming site. It is essential that students know how to find, convert, and embed video files in today's multi-media world. Many assignments given at the middle school level implement the use of technology in various ways. Some of my students do not have the luxury of having a computer at home...if they do, they don't always have someone at home that understands how to use the computer and newest software programs. It's up to teachers and library media specialists to educate them.

Digital-Age Publishing

I've been asked to reflect on what I've learned about RSS readers and how they may benefit my school community. I created an account through Google Reader and initially went crazy adding subscription bundles for my personal interests. Let's just say, I went a little bit overboard. It was information overload. Today I started over. I love that the information comes to me - I don't have to take the time to see who has updated their blog or website. I chose blogs and websites that I already had listed in my favorites on AOL. Professionally, some of my favorites are The Goddess of YA Literature, YA Books and More,, and Welcome to NCS-Tech! . For my personal life, my favorites include My Cozy Book Nook, Book Club Girl, Whole Fish, and The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Can you tell that I love to eat as much as I like to read? I can see how the subscriptions I have added to my Google Reader page can help me stay up-to-date with what others are saying about literature and the current technology available. I will be a better library media specialist by utilizing this information and sharing it with my patrons. It is vital that our students are exposed to the best resources available to them and that they learn how to use it to their advantage.

Can't Wait to Share my Love of Reading

People who know me will say, "What took you so long?". I've comfortably shared information about the books I am currently reading through Having a blog is definitely a big leap for me. The purpose of my blog is to let you know about the books I'm reading. Most of the books will be for upper elementary and middle school readers. I am currently listening to Maze Runner by James Dashner. It is on the 2010-11 Texas Lone Star Reading list. This is a book that was brought to my attention because my multiple copies in the library were always checked out by my students. I am only half way through and I can see why - it has mystery, suspense, and dystopia. The main character, Thomas, awakens in a new world called The Glade only to find that he cannot remember anything about his past.There are only boys living there. A new boy comes every 30 days just as Thomas did. The only means of escape is to find their way through a maze that surrounds The Glade and houses horrifying creatures called Grievers. Things become even more mysterious when a girl arrives in a comatose state the day after Thomas arrives. This book will appeal to readers who liked The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.