Monday, October 28, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 10-28-13

Visit our hosts Jen & Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for their reviews as well as links to all the other blogs participating in the book sharing fun!

Books I Read this Week:

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
Amulet Books, 2013
Historical Fantasy
392 pages
Recommended for grades 8+

I have been carrying this book around sneaking pages whenever I have time, reading a chapter or two before bed, while I eat my lunch, in short, it's been a close friend for a few weeks now.  With no desire to rush to a conclusion, I've savored this book for the slow unveiling of truths, picking up historical tidbits from 1918 woven throughout.
Set during WW1 and the epidemic of the Spanish Influenza sweeping through the west coast, and during a heighten period of spiritualism, when people wanted desperately to contact lost loves for some solace.  Where there is demand for something there will be people to take advantage, and in this story one such character is accused to be capitalizing on peoples' desire to contact loved ones through spiritual photography.  Cat Winters makes us wonder if there is more fact than fiction to the art contacting lost loves through one brave and determined young lady named Mary Shelley Black.

Stronger than Steel: Silk Spiders and the Quest for Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, and Parachute Rope by Bridget Heos
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013
Nonfiction Informational
Recommended for grades 4+

Stronger than Steel is part of the Scientists in the Field series, which features two other books that have made the Maine Student Book Award list in recent years: Saving the Ghost of the Mountain and The Mighty Mars Rover (on this year's list).
Filled with excellent photographs, this book takes readers deep into a subject they likely have very little background knowledge on: transgenics, and specifically, using spider genes in other animals!
Scientists know that spider silk is incredibly strong, but hard to harvest from spiders.  Putting spider genes into sheep and silkworms might be the answer to easier harvesting...maybe.  Some of what I read in here blew me away, and I think it will amaze many kids too.  
I say 4th grade and up for recommendation, knowing that it might be a bit tough for most 4th graders.  Those kids that eat up nonfiction might have a great time with this title though!

Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TeNnapel
Graphix, 2013
Graphic Novel: Fantasy
139 pages
Recommended for grades 4+

If you loved Bad Island and Cardboard for the beauty of the drawings, the depth of the stories and the sprinkles of humor, then you will find yourself enjoying Doug TeNnapel's latest story.  Beginning with the death of a beloved dog-I know, grab your tissues dog lovers-young Ely is sent to his grandfather's farm in hopes to take his mind of the loss of his dog.  
Remember slimy Marcus from Cardboard?  You'll find another despicable antagonist in this tale, drawn to bully perfection.  Though, like Marcus, you will discover that this meanie has hurts of his own that he is trying to hide.
So, the giant dino on the cover, can Ely really keep her as a pet?  

Currently Reading:

On Deck:


Thanks for stopping by!  Have a great reading week!

Monday, October 21, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 10-21-13

Visit our hosts Jen & Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for their reviews as well as links to all the other blogs participating in the book sharing fun!

Books I Read this Week:

Paperboy by Vince Vawter
Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2013
Historical Fiction/Touch of Memoir
240 pages
Recommended for grades 6+

There is nothing I can find wrong with this beautiful story.  I truly came to care for the protagonist, an 11 year old boy dealing with not only growing up (which is hard enough) but also with a severe stutter, questions around his father, and a summer that will change him for good.  A coming of age tale that reminds us of the power of the spoken word.

Dark Graphic Tales by Edgar Allan Poe: The Gold Bug, The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether, and The Fall of the House of Usher 
Adapted by Denise Despeyroux, Illustrated by Miquel Serratosa
Enslow Publishers, 2013
Graphic Novel
96 pages
Recommended for grades 5+

What fun, especially for lovers of the dark and gloomier types of stories!  These graphic adaptations will make Poe's tales accessible to younger readers, whereas older readers will still be just as captivated.  The artwork is as "off" as the characters being depicted, and I noticed that though I wouldn't say I like the art style, I like it here because it works so well. 

I'm Currently Reading:

On Deck:

Have a wonderful reading week!

Monday, October 14, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 10-14-13

Join the book sharing fun by visiting Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers!

Books I Read this Week:

Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013
Historical Fantasy
328 pages
Recommended for grades 6+

I think whenever there is a book written about a culture, besides the author's own, there is an opening for criticism.  If you run a search on Ghost Hawk you will come across such criticism, calling Cooper out for countless wrongs in her story.  I am no expert on Native Cultures, but I have read through some of the criticism.  Some of it is nitpicky, some might be accurate, but none of her  "wrongs" seems to be hurtful to the culture of the Pokanoket tribe.  If anything I felt that the Native Americans were portrayed beautifully, with the Englishman exposed for many of their despicable behaviors.  Again though, I am reading this book through my eyes and experiences.  

That being said, the book is told in two major sections, which I can't get into as I would like to, because it is a major spoiler alert!  I will say I was more engaged in the book after the major turn in the story.  An engaging read for both make and female readers, I say 6th grade to be safe due to content, pacing and length.

Stitch Head by Guy Bass
Capstone, 2013
Science Fiction
191 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

It took me a long time to finish this little book...It has its enduring moments, but I found that I wasn't connecting to any of the characters, and even wanted to smack little Stitch Head in the head to wake him up a bit.  I'm certainly going to share this with my students though, I'm sure some will find it entertaining.

Bluffton by Matt Phelan
Candlewick Press, 2013
Historical Fiction/Graphic Novel
227 pages
Recommended for grades 4-8

This beautiful graphic novel is set around a young boy, Henry, meeting and spending summers with young Buster Keaton and a traveling vaudeville troupe in Muskegon, Michigan.  Phelan tells of his own boyhood fascination with Buster Keaton's works, which led Phelan to learning about Keaton's happiest days spent summering in Michigan, which became the inspiration for this book.
Phelan's artwork conveys so much meaning.  All at once a picture can appear so simple, yet be telling so much of the story.  I will be happy to pass this on to my readers.

Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Little, Brown Books, 2013
Historical Fiction
288 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

A story of a free young African American girl, Sugar, working on a Sugar plantation along the Mississippi River.  Sugar and the other workers on the plantation are free, but Sugar certainly doesn't understand why freedom is so much work.  I think it is powerful to remind young students that when slavery ended, it isn't wasn't the kind of ending they might be envisioning.  Fictional Sugar, like many real people, were still tied to their plantations for survival, and working and living conditions were harsh.  In this story Sugar befriends the white son of the plantation owner, which leads to its own set of complications, and turns out a lot better than adult readers might expect.  The story builds in historical significance when Chinese workers are shipped in to the south to work alongside the African Americans.  The author's own interest in that piece of history is what led her to create Sugar, and I agree that this is history that should be shared with our young people.

I'm Currently Reading:




On Deck:

Happy reading to you!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Happy Book Birthday to A Question of Magic!

One of my students is a huge E.D. Baker fan, so naturally when I got the ARC of A Question of Magic I left it on her desk in the morning with a little note letting her know she was going to be one of the earliest readers of this special new book.  Below is the letter she wrote to the Maine Student Book Award Committee urging them to consider including A Question of Magic on the next MSBA list.  
Happy Book Birthday!