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Monday, January 31, 2011


Spaceheadz is a new series by Jon Scieszka written with Francesco Sedita and illustrated by Shane Prigmore. I was fortunate enough to hear Mr. Scieszka talk about his new series at the Jan Paris Book Festival (Sam Houston State University) in Corpus Christi in November. This zany new interactive series will appeal to reluctant readers – upper elementary to middle school. Michael K.’s first day of school couldn’t have been stranger. He meets two odd kids, Jennifer and Bob, who are also new to the school. They and their pet hamster claim to be Spaceheadz, aliens from another planet. The only phrases they know are the ones they have watched from advertisements from television broadcasts that have reached their planet. They have selected Michael K. to help them save Earth, because of his commercial – “When I eat my Super Crunchies, I can do anything!”. Read Spaceheadz to find out if Michael K. will help the aliens or turn them into Agent Umber from the Anti-Alien Agency. Readers can become even more involved by following facebook, youtube, blogs, and tweets related to the characters in the book. Watch the video below for more information.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Walk Two Moons

Just a few weeks ago, author Sharon Creech, commented on my blog in response to my review of her recent novel, The Unfinished Angel. To say that I was thrilled was an understatement. Authors to me are like rock stars to many of you! As soon as I read the comment, I screamed for the only audience I had - my 16-year-old and 19-year-old sons – to come read this. I couldn’t wait to get back to school to share this with my students. My sons and my students thought it was awesome. Consequently, my student Book Talk Club is reading her Newbery Medal (1995) winning book, Walk Two Moons, and will meet this Wednesday to discuss it. What a gift this sequence of events has been. This was my first time to read it…it is now on my top ten favorite books of all-time. At the beginning of the story, Sal (short for Salamanca) reflects on the day she and her father moved from their beloved country farm to a city in Ohio. She reluctantly meets her father’s lady friend, Mrs. Cadaver, and sees a girl’s face peering out of a window in the house next door. She would later meet and become close friends with the girl named Phoebe. Mysterious notes are showing up on Phoebe’s doorsteps. Shortly after the notes appear, Phoebe’s mom leaves her family with very little explanation. Could Mrs. Cadaver (the name says it all) have something to do with Phoebe’s mom’s disappearance? Sal doubts Phoebe’s mom will come back; after all, her mom hasn’t. Time has passed…Sal is going on a trip with her entertaining grandparents (on her father’s side) driving many miles to see her mother. She is determined that they get to their destination by her mother’s birthday – it is her last hope. Sal’s mother left her and her father when they lived in the country to sort things out. As they begin traveling, Sal tells her grandparents Phoebe’s story which intertwines with her story and her grandparents’ story. The three face numerous obstacles along the way – reliving someone else’s experiences. I don’t want to spoil anything for you if you haven’t read this, so I will just say that this is storytelling at its best. When you finish this book, you will treasure your relationships even more and you will listen to the stories of others a little more closely. I would recommend this to teachers looking for a class novel.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Matched, the debut novel by Ally Condie, is the first in a trilogy that takes place in a dystopian world. In a futuristic world where government controls everything, seventeen-year-old Cassia happily learns she is matched with her childhood friend, Xander. When she enters the informational card that reveals information about Xander, an error occurs and she sees another familiar face, Ky’s. Ky is brought from the Outer Provinces to live with his aunt and uncle who recently lost their son due to a government failure. He is considered to be an Aberration; consequently, he is to remain a Single. A government official explains to Cassia that it was a mistake. Ky’s face should not have appeared as her match. In the old world, society was over stimulated so they only kept the top one hundred of everything (poems, songs, etc.) and cursive writing is a lost art. While Cassia spends time with Ky in a newly created hiking class, she shares the illegal poems she knows and he teaches her how to write in cursive. Cassia’s feelings for Ky grow even though she knows their relationship is forbidden. What will be the consequences for their actions? There is a lot of buzz about this book. It is on the Texas Lone Star 2011-12 Reading List. Click on the book trailer below.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Crowfield Curse

The Crowfield Curse, by Pat Walsh, reads like a movie. I am having my guest blogger return with her review of the book...William is a fifteen year old orphan in early 14th century England. After his family died in a fire, the monks at Crowfield took him in when the people of his village shunned him as the only survivor of the fire that killed his family and destroyed their mill. Will's life is filled with hard labor, and his only friend is Brother Snail, the healer of the abbey who suffers from severe curviture of the spine. One cold winter day, William hears a voice pleading for help or death and he comes upon a creature that will change the way he sees the world. The hob, a fay creature, is caught in an iron trap. The sensitive Wiliam frees him and takes him to Brother Snail for healing. He discovers that he and Brother Snail have "the sight" which allows them to see fay creatures. Soon William's world becomes a much more frightening place as he is pursued by dark fay and forced to help an ancient and powerful fay and his leperous master to uncover an ancient secret that has cursed the brothers of the abbey for a century.

Click on the book trailer below to learn more about the book.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
, by E. Lockhart, is a book that I have been wanting to read for the past couple of years. It is evident why it won the esteemed Printz Honor Book Award and National Book Award Finalist. Frankie Landau-Banks has changed a lot physically over the past school year. She’s finally grown into a statuesque sophomore at the prestigious Alabaster Preparatory Academy. Frankie gets an invitation to go to a party with gorgeous senior Matthew Livingston. As their relationship develops, unbeknownst to him, she observes meetings of an all-male secret society lead by Matthew and his friend, Alpha. She uses her cleverness to secretly become the leader of various pranks performed by members of the society…they think that Alpha is the one directing them. Ultimately, she would like credit for being smarter than the boys involved in this elite society; hence, continues to increase the risks she takes. Click on the book trailer below to learn more about this book.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I want each of us to take a few minutes to reflect on the accomplishments he made in his short life. He had strong beliefs which he presented to the world in a peaceful manner. His legacy teaches us that one person CAN make a difference. Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a must read for this annual day of remembrance. This picture book is written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by the talented Bryan Collier. This poignant book is rich in life-like, beautiful illustrations and portrays Dr. King as a young boy. The background for his notable life is set in this story. Click on the video below for a preview of the book.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Turtle in Paradise

Turtle in Paradise, by Jennifer L. Holm, is a moving story set in 1935 in Key West, Florida. Readers will appreciate Holm’s writing style which is only enhanced by Turtle’s humorous narration and ability to handle even the most complex situations in life. Main character, Turtle, is raised by her single mother, who tells her very little about her father. Her mother works as a live-in maid, but jumps from job to job. Her most recent boss doesn’t want children living in her house; consequently, she sends Turtle to Key West to stay with her sister. Unfortunately, Turtle’s aunt was not expecting her. Her aunt already has a full house with three rambunctious boys and a dog. The storyline becomes even more interesting when Turtle volunteers to feed lunch to her cantankerous grandmother. While at her grandmother’s house, Turtle finds a map for Pirate Blacke Caesar’s treasure. Follow Turtle, her cousins, and their friends on their adventure to unearth the treasure. Will Turtle find other hidden gems on this journey? I hope you like this one as much as I did! This was just awarded a Newbery Honor Book award for 2011.

Alchemy and Meggy Swann

Karen Cushman is well known for her Newbery Medal winning book, The Midwife’s Apprentice. Her newest historical fiction novel, Alchemy and Meggy Swann, transports the reader to grungy, dark London during the Elizabethan age. Meggy Swann, a thirteen-year-old who walks with the aid of wooden crutches, is sent to live with her father, a man obsessed with his alchemy practice. Meggy is surprised to learn that he doesn’t want her there. He is focused on changing common metals into precious gold. Cushman’s powerful use of Elizabethan phrases adds authenticity to this story. Meggy befriends a boy named Roger who works for her father. He happens to be the first person who isn’t frightened by her handicap. He is an actor in the local troupe which exposes readers to entertainment in the days of Shakespeare. Meggy tries desperately to protect her father once his science gets him involved in a plot for murder. In the process, Meggy will gain things more valuable than gold. The audiobook version of this book produced by Listening Library won a 2011 Honor Audiobook award from the Odyssey Award . Click below to watch the author introduce her book and tell you about her writing process.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The House of Dead Maids

The House of Dead Maids, by Clare B. Dunkle, is a must read for anyone who likes scary books. This quick read is an introduction to the classic Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Although I usually don’t like to read scary books, I could not put this book down. The intriguing storyline told with rich vocabulary and interesting characters had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. At the beginning of the story, the reader is introduced to Tabby Aykroyd who has been taken from a knitting school to work as a young maid at Seldom House in a small, odd village. The first night she spends there, she knows another young maid was sleeping in the bed with her. The next morning no one will answer her questions about who that person was. She quickly realizes that this is no person, but the ghost of the previous young maid trying to communicate with her. Shortly after, she is introduced to the old master, Jack Ketch, and the little boy he has paid money to bring home as well. The little boy doesn’t have a Christian name and has no manners or understanding of the appropriate way to behave. Nonetheless, Tabby works to take care of the little boy and tries to teach him how to become a better person. He can see many ghosts – the dead in the village do not rest. Tabby soon realizes the horrifying purpose that she and the boy are to serve at Seldom House. This haunting tale will take you to another period of history in Yorkshire, England and make you eager to read Wuthering Heights. Watch the trailer below – be ready to be scared!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Cruisers

The Cruisers is the first book in Walter Dean Myers’ newest series. Although it is a quick read, this novel will make you stop and reflect on your own perspectives. Four students – Zander, LaShonda, Kambui, and Bobbi – call themselves the Cruisers. The eighth graders attend a gifted and talented academy called Da Vinci in Harlem. The Cruisers created an alternative newspaper for their school and are in hot water for the last article that they published and their low grades. As a consequence, against the assistant principal’s wishes, the principal of the school gives them one more chance. The eighth grade class is divided into the North (Union) and South (Confederacy) to study the Civil War. The Cruisers’ assignment is to make both sides compromise to prevent war. The Cruisers are pushed to the breaking point when some students from the Confederate side publish a demeaning article about slaves in support of seceding from the Union. This novel made me think about my own understanding of the Civil War and how we can make light of serious situations rather than take responsibility for our behaviors. Some of our 8th graders are currently reading The Glory Field by Walter Dean Myers. His other works include Street Love, Monster, Slam, Fallen Angels, and Sunrise Over Fallujah.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Payback Time

I think most people can name an author who made a difference in his or her “reading life”. For my oldest son that would be Carl Deuker. My son was a good, but slow reader who turned into a reluctant middle school reader. The book that changed that was High Heat by Carl Deuker. My son loved baseball and could totally connect to the story. He then wanted to read other books by Mr. Deuker. Interestingly enough, I was able to correspond with Mr. Deuker when I created an author study of him for my Library Science Young Adult Literature class. His advice to new librarians was to help students find the right book for them. Carl Deuker’s latest book, Payback Time, is on the Texas Lone Star 2011-12 reading list. It is as much about football as it is about journalism. The narrator of the story is talented high school reporter, Daniel “Mitch” True, who aspires to attend Columbia University when he graduates from high school. Mitch struggles with self esteem issues, because he is overweight and has been ridiculed in the past. After being passed over for the school newspaper’s editor position, Mitch becomes the sports reporter. One perk that comes with the new position is working with the school photographer – beautiful, smart Kimi Yon. While reporting about the high school football team, the pair’s inquisitive nature produces a lead story that will put them and others in grave danger. Who is the talented new football player named Angel Marichal? Why doesn’t Coach McNulty, who wants an undefeated season, play the best player on his team? Why does Angel look older than his age and where are his school records from the past? This quick page-turner will prompt readers to create their own theories as to what Angel’s past means right up until the very end. Other great books by Mr. Deuker include Gym Candy, Runner, High Heat, Heart of a Champion, and Night Hoops.