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Sunday, November 25, 2012


UnWholly is the highly anticipated sequel to Neal Shusterman’s action-packed Unwind. I was fortunate enough to get an autographed copy of the ARC last spring and it was the top prize my students wanted at our Biggest Reader Party in May. Shusterman’s Unwind was published in 2007 – it is still the talk of the library – I have seven copies, all are checked out and there is a hold list for it. Normally, second books in a trilogy are my least favorite…never seeming to add up to the first book. My students are correct, UnWholly is just as great as Unwind. In this dystopian world, adults are valued more than children. Parents can choose to have their children “uwound” until the age of seventeen. When a teen is unwound, their body parts are harvested so adults can live forever. Some teens are tithed to the government and believe that their lives serve a greater good in helping others. UnWholly begins right where Unwind ended. Some new players include a boy named Starkey, a stork (a baby left at someone’s doorstep – the family must raise them) who rebelled in the household he was raised in, escapes unwinding and is now determined to give all storks a voice and betray at the Graveyard; Cam, a modern-day Frankenstein created from the top parts of elite unwinds – a symbol of the future; and Miracolina, a tithe, who will stop at nothing to fulfill her destiny.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Almost Home

Joan Bauer’s Almost Home is also on the Texas Lone Star Reading List 2013-14. Joan Bauer is a master at creating characters that readers can relate to and remember long after they finish reading her books. Every so often I come across a book where I find so many quotes I want to highlight and share with others – this is one of those novels. This emotional story is about a little girl named Sugar who becomes homeless through a series of events that spiral out of control. She loses more than any child should including the school that has the best teacher who truly “gets” her strengths, the grandfather who was her only reliable father figure, the secure home she has grown up in, and ultimately the mother she has taken care of for so long. Don’t worry though – Sugar has the strength of a warrior and Bauer ensures that she has safety nets to catch her when things become unbearable. Everyone needs a dog to come home to, a teacher who never gives up on you, and genuinely good people who become family by choice. I absolutely loved this one! Language arts teachers will appreciate Sugar’s messages via letters and poems throughout the story. Other great stories by Joan Bauer include Close to Famous, Peeled, Squashed, Thwonk, Best Foot Forward, Stand Tall, Rules of the Road, Sticks, and Backwater.


Alex Flinn’s latest novel, Bewitching (Kendra Chronicles), is on the Texas Lone Star Reading List 2013-14. Readers of Flinn’s Beastly (made into a movie) will remember Kendra as the witch that placed a curse on arrogant Kyle Kingsbury. Kendra has returned in Bewitching and readers will be thrilled to learn her background story and her most recent spell-casting shenanigans. Flinn manages to successfully twist many fairy tales into this interwoven story. One of the main storylines involves a girl named Emma who has been raised by her stepfather from the age of three-years-old. Everything changes when her stepfather’s biological daughter, Lisette, comes to live with them. Lisette’s mother died recently and her father feels sorry for her. Is there an evil stepmother? You bet – Emma’s mother is awful to Lisette, but this isn’t your normal Cinderella story – maybe the stepsister isn’t all that bad. Twists and turns abound in this action-packed fantasy. As bewitching as Kendra is, some things don’t work out the way she had hoped. Fairy tale lovers will enjoy this one! Recommended for 8th grade and up. Other great books by Alex Flinn include Nothing to Lose, Fade to Black, Breathing Under Water, Cloaked, A Kiss in Time, and Breaking Point.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Templeton Twins Have an Idea

Author Ellis Weiner and illustrator Jeremy Holmes have created a witty interactive chapter book that keeps their readers engaged and entertained. The Templeton Twins Have an Idea is told by an amusing narrator that questions the reader at the end of each chapter. The story is about John and Abigail Templeton, twelve-year-old twins, who have recently lost their mother. Their father, a professor constantly trying to invent things, decides to move the family to a new university to get away from all of the sad reminders of their mom. Unfortunately, their father is being pursued by a crazy former student who declares the professor has stolen his idea of a flying helicopter stored in a knapsack. When the twins find themselves kidnapped by the madman and his very own twin brother, they must use their smarts to get away. The storytelling will definitely appeal to Lemony Snicket (Series of Unfortunate Events) fans. The best part is that readers will learn a thing or two without even realizing it. The format of the text and creative illustrations will appeal to many readers.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ways to Live Forever

Sally Nicholls' Ways to Live Forever was recommended to me by some of my 8th grade boys. One of them said, "That book is the best book I have ever read!". The story begins with a list written by the eleven-year-old British narrator, Sam. Number 4 on his list says "I have leukemia". Number 5 on his list says "by the time you read this, I will probably be dead". The story takes us through Sam's daily life battling cancer. Told in journal format with lists and illustrations - reluctant readers will stick with it. Sam describes his friendship with another cancer patient named Felix. The two boys are determined to make every minute of their lives count. This tear-jerker gives readers a glimpse of how an entire family is affected when a child is diagnosed with cancer. This reminded me of a middle school version of John Green's The Fault in our Stars. Great book with teachable moments! Just found out the movie will be coming to North America spring 2013.

Rumors from the Boys' Room

Rose Cooper's Rumors from the Boys' Room (part of her Blogtastic series) is another book that I cannot keep on my library shelf. The girls keep checking it out and asking me what other books I have by this author. What surprises me most is that it is just as popular with the 8th graders as it is with the 6th graders. This novel is written in the same format as Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Sofia writes all her notes in her preblogging notebook. Under a secret pen name, Sofia reveals the gossip of middle school on a blog. When she begins to get some of the information wrong, another secret blogger begins competing with her. Filled with middle school angst (mean girls, cute boys, crushes, and changing family dynamics) - readers will love the humorous cartoons that accompany the text. Other blogtastic novels by Cooper include Gossip from the Girls' Room and Secrets from the Sleeping Bag.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


I am a huge fan of Diana Lopez's Confetti Girl so I couldn't wait to read Choke. Windy and her bestfriend, Elena, are eighth graders who are constantly picked on by the two most popular girls at school. Windy wants so much to be part of the popular crowd. When a new girl named Nina stands up to the popular girls and is friendly towards Windy, all of the other "in-girls" start to want to be friends with her, too. Windy enjoys her new status so much, she begins to leave Elena out so she she can stay part of the popular group. Nina asks Windy to become her breath sister and even buys her a matching scarf. Windy decides to play the choking game with Nina despite all the warning signals in her head. Windy realizes that Nina has encouraged others to play this deadly game as well. Will Windy learn that Nina isn't who she seems to be before it is too late? This is a must read for anyone who has played or thought of playing the choking game. Lopez includes informative websites on this serious issue.