Category Archives: High School

Review: Something Strange and Deadly

Something Strange and Deadly
Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this new take on the zombie book, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series. After the initial zombie attack, it drags a little, but the last third of the book is action packed. I thought the revelation about Elijah at the end was somewhat predictable, but Dennard threw in a twist I wasn’t expecting. Eleanor is a fiesty, rebellious narrator. She is brash and it is somewhat unbelievable that she would behave as she does, but then again, how did women earn the vote or equal pay without unbelievably brash and rebellious individuals.

I always enjoy this time period and the accurate historical details about the Exhibition are a nice added touch. Blending the zombie and steam punk genres has given some new life to the zombie genre. I realize the book was originally published in 2012, but it is a new path in the well-traveled genre for fans of zombie books.

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Review: Press Play

Press Play
Press Play by Eric Devine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hazing is a real thing and as much as I didn’t want to believe it happened when I was warned of it in college, it is something of which all teachers and parents should be aware. Devine’s novel throws into harsh light the realities of hazing and bullying as well as the culture that protects and promotes such behavior. Greg is fighting an uphill battle with his weight and the bullying he must endure. It doesn’t get any easier when he tries to change himself as well as battle the jock royalty in his school. Devine tackles several difficult issues in this book with a directness that doesn’t attempt to soften the brutality of their affects on teens. Competitive parenting strategies, body-shaming, sport as religion, hierarchy of extracurricular interests (sport over film or band or drama), and multiple types of peer pressure that may not be at the forefront of such conversations are just some of the many reasons to read this book and look for anything else Devine writes.

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29 December 2014

Mon Reading Button PB to YAIt’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…who knows, you might discover that next “must read” book!
The lovelies at teachmentortexts.com thought this would be a fun meme to start up with a kidlit focus: anyone reading and reviewing books in children’s literature. It can be picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels – you name it in the world of kidlit and it’s in! I love being a part of this meme and hope you do, too! I encourage everyone participating to go and visit the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and to comment on as many posts as you can. We love talking books and believe in sharing and discussing what we’re reading. We hope you join us! Read more here: http://www.teachmentortexts.com/#ixzz2R9UNmFll
In the last week I’ve finished
This week, I’m reading and listening to

Review: Half Bad

Half Bad
Half Bad by Sally Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

[b:Half Bad|18079804|Half Bad (The Half Bad Trilogy, #1)|Sally Green|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1413889712s/18079804.jpg|24802827] I LOVED this book. Nathan is such a complex character and while I wanted him to be good, he is neither all one or the other, like most people. Nathan himself doesn’t even know whether he wants to be good or bad and readers see him struggle with this from the first pages of the book. Beginning with a description of Nathan’s eventual imprisonment, I was desperate to find out why he was there and whether or not his captor was really trying to help him, as she said, or not. Like any child who has been abandoned by his parents for one reason or another, Nathan’s desire to find Marcus, and his conflicted feelings about reuniting with a father who is not only the most evil dark wizard in the world, but also has abandoned Nathan and his mother, are heart-wrenchingly realistic.

As Nathan navigates the restrictions put on him by the council, the unfamiliarity with human school, and the intricacies of a budding but forbidden romance, readers’ emotions will rise and fall with his. Green has done a magnificent job with a plot packed full of complications and twists. The end of the first book is abrupt, and one is left just as confused as Nathan. I can’t wait to dive into the second book and Half Lies, an intermediate novella, as soon as I can.

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Day 1 NCTE 2014

K and I are in frigid Washington, D.C. for the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) annual convention. For the past five years this has been a tradition for us, and it has become a cornerstone of my teaching career. Kat’s mom asked both of us a few days ago what we get out of attending this conference ever year, aside from getting to see one another, of course. I dare not speak completely for Kat (she can be scary), but I know for me, my first NCTE was career-changing.

There is a camaraderie and inclusion within the organization that can only be likened to family. The passion that we all feel for our profession is palpable as one walks through the labyrinthine halls of the convention center. There is a sense, in almost every session, that it’s not about showing off what you can do, but sharing ideas with other teachers so that they too can experience the success you have experienced with that particular lesson or strategy. While Thursday is technically the first day of the convention, today was our first full day of attending sessions. Again this year, NCTE has not disappointed.

The first session I attended discussed using text and image together. As our students are more and more true digital natives, it’s important to remember that their lives have been full of constant text/image pairing. Most of them have never been alive during a time that a home computer and cell phone were not a integral part of their lives. My own son doesn’t recognize a camera with no view screen or a phone that doesn’t have a touch screen. If we don’t keep up with the technology students have at home and use it as part of their learning, we are truly failing them. The idea of blending the visual with the text makes perfect sense. They must be able to read written text, but written text alone may soon be a thing of the past.

The second session I attended was about teaching urban, or perhaps in my case “marginalized”, students to express themselves in writing. The most powerful thing I took away from this session was the idea that these students have so much to say, but don’t have the tools with which to say it. They have very little faith in themselves as learners and communicators. The ability to communicate one’s needs and desires should be a fundamental human skill. After all, one can’t succeed ORA fail if one doesn’t have the ability to comprehend and communicate the difference between the two. To quote my friend Erika, we have to teach them that the most important thing we do as humans is words.

My third session was on changing the way we question students in Language Arts classrooms. Students should be driving the inquiry in our classrooms. We need to make students think and really express what it is they want to know. Through books and writing, we can make the learning more meaningful and much more permanent if what they’re studying is what THEY are curious to know. Teacher as director of learning means that the students are learning what the teacher wants them to know. In my experience, students rarely want to know the same things as the adults in their lives. Changing the focus puts them in control and makes the teacher a resource rather than a regulator of knowledge.

Lunch and a stroll through the exhibit hall (holy crow Scholastic is MAJOR this year) led me to my final session. This one dovetailed nicely with the image session from this morning. The focus was using the selfie as a teaching tool and, while the presenters were all elementary teachers, the applications for any classroom are endless. I am already percolating ideas about selfies replacing traditional book reviews and traditional reading conferences. The possibilities are endless.

All in all, a marvelous first day here at D.C’s NCTE. My brain is full and my stomach is empty. Time to eat and recharge (me AND my electronics) for tomorrow’s infusion of awesome.

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