Review: George

George by Alex Gino

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the most important book I’ve read this summer-maybe the most important book since Speak. George is certain of her identity but uncertain about all her family and friends’ reactions. With the help of her friend Kelly, she is able to navigate letting the world know that she is a girl. There are so many students who need this book and families who could benefit from the insight provided by the 1st person narrative. While George is a 4th grader, any age reader could read and appreciate this book, making it an excellent crossover novel and invaluable resource. George is lucky that her best friend is so understanding and the revelation provides clarity to her brother Scott’s confusion about George’s personality. George’s “village” is slower to understand, which is realistic, and as George’s mother says, there is a long road ahead of all of them. But what a powerful message to kids that owning your identity is ok and speaking out and making oneself heard is the best way to understanding those we live with. I can’t wait to offer this book to my students and POSSIBLY help them discuss and understand that no matter how differently we are all made, it is truly important to BE WHO YOU ARE.

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Review: Winger

Winger by Andrew Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent look into the mind of an adolescent boy in all his sexually charged, self-doubting glory. Ryan Dean is endearing and aggravating at the same time. The Annie plot-line is predictable but sprinkled with good banter. The conflict involving Joey builds subtly for the second half of the book while Smith does some superb distraction with JP. West’s eventual self-actualization is a bit far-fetched for a 14 year-old but the fallout from the climax hits home. Learned a bit about rugby and how little guys and girls really differ emotionally. Can’t wait to get my hands on Standoff.

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Review: Jane Steele

Jane Steele
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The references and parallels to Jane Eyre are clever. Jane is equal parts wretched and conniving. She suffers and loves in equal measure; the fault of herself and others. A great book to pair with the Bronte Classic. One could create a scavenger hunt for younger readers to find the similarities and have older students compare thematic and motific similarities. Excellent audio narration.

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Back in Books

I’ve been MIA…I know. I’ve been changing jobs (gifted education specialist) and taking classes and raising kids and updating a house and doing life. Don’t worry – I’ve been reading all this time, but writing reviews and sharing my book journeys with you all has had to take a back seat to my professional changes and development. But I’m back and, while I still want to make suggestions about how to connect YA books to more classic texts, our classrooms have come a long way since I started this adventure. YA is more accepted than ever before in our nation’s schools even if it is still the “black sheep” of the literary family. I know there are still books being challenged out there, but we’re making progress. I don’t think it’s as important as it used to be to link a YA novel to a classic in order to feel like we’re justified teaching it in our classrooms.

I will continue to review books, but I’m taking a bite-sized approach to my reviews. Who needs to read all my words anyway when there are so many books out there and so little time to read them? I’m still reviewing for authors, but I’m being picky. And I’m still teaching, planning, grading, mothering, wifing, and all the other roles that go into being me. Missed being here and excited to get back in the groove.

16 June 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 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:

Completed in the last several month: I finished reading Anne Ursu’s The Real Boy, A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King.  In my audio queue this month, I listened to Fool by Christopher Moore, listened to The Bitter Kingdom, the final book in the Girl of Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson, and began an epic re-listening to Cassandra Clare’s City of Fallen Angels and City of Lost Souls in preparation for the finale to the Mortal Instruments series.

Up Next: I would still like to read Charlaine Harris’s newest, Midnight Crossroad. I need a little Southern in my life. I am greatly anticipating the finale to the Mortal Instruments series, City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare. Then, I want to read The Lord of Opium, the sequel to Nancy Farmer’s House of the Scorpion.  After that, I expect an epic trip to the library will be in order.

Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga

569f9-6a016760e4a142970b016305153154970d-piPUBLISHER: HMH Books for Young Readers

LENGTH: 320 pages

SOURCE: library book

SUMMARY: Fanboy has never had it good, but lately his sophomore year is turning out to be its own special hell. The bullies have made him their favorite target, his best (and only) friend seems headed for the dark side (sports and popularity), and his pregnant mother and the step-fascist are eagerly awaiting the birth of the alien life form known as Fanboy’s new little brother or sister.

Fanboy, though, has a secret: a graphic novel he’s been working on without telling anyone, a graphic novel that he is convinced will lead to publication, fame, and—most important of all—a way out of the crappy little town he lives in and all the people that make it hell for him.

When Fanboy meets Kyra, a.k.a. Goth Girl, he finds an outrageous, cynical girl who shares his love of comics as well as his hatred for jocks and bullies. Fanboy can’t resist someone who actually seems to understand him, and soon he finds himself willing to heed her advice—to ignore or crush anyone who stands in his way.

REVIEW: Strong, individual characters propel a familiar coming-of-age story. Fanboy is cynically sarcastic and his voice is familiar to those of us who have endured the persecution of bullies and felt that there was NO WAY our parents could understand the crap we had to put up with every day. Fanboy’s passivity is counteracted by Kyra’s ferocity. His defense mechanism is his imaginary List while Kyra goes straight for her attacker’s jugular with vitriolic condescension. Fanboy is taken aback by Kyra’s aggression but readers can sense his awe and envy at her ability to seemingly not care – about anything. With her encouragement, Fanboy begins to take action for himself instead of letting others take action around and against him.

While the characters are familiar and juxtaposed quite nicely, I felt that the pacing could have used a little better balance. The introduction of the characters and conflict seemed to take almost half the book. By the time they got to the mini-ComiCon, I had almost given up reading. But the last third of the book makes up for whatever lag in action there might be in the beginning.  The step-facist redeems himself, offering an olive branch to Fanboy and taking him to the comic book show. Fanboy responds in kind and one begins to think that their family might just make it through the hell of adolescence.

I enjoyed Lyga’s I Hunt Killers and initially felt that Fan Boy and Goth Girl was quite a bit different. However, while the topics are markedly different, stylistically they are quite similar. There is a honesty to the writing in Fanboy’s and Kyra’s assessments of their lots in life. Lyga does not flinch from telling the hard truths about what it’s like to grow up and find yourself labeled as OTHER. Fanboy and Goth Girl battle themselves as much as they do those who malign them and it is that stark reality that makes the tale grisly and gripping at the same time. And what makes readers long for the next chapter in their adventures.

Cover Reveal: Seeing Through Stones by Rajdeep Paulus

Seeing Through Stones - Rajdeep PaulusFrom Award-Winning, Young Adult author Rajdeep Paulus comes the sequel to Swimming Through Clouds, a powerful reminder that life is a battle you don’t fight alone. And sometimes the sweetest love story starts with a simple act of kindness.

SUMMARY: After a lifetime of abuse, the Vanderbilt siblings flee their home, finally free to pursue new dreams while running from yesterday’s nightmares.

 Once bed-ridden Jesse navigates the Chicago streets, concealing his identity and planning revenge. A chance encounter in the rain introduces a girl who offers Jesse a glimpse of a sunnier future, but how will he weather the growing storm inside himself?

 Separated from her Post-it note prince, Talia hides at a safe house for survivors of domestic violence while her father turns the city upside-down to find her. Surrounded by women fighting their own demons, Talia faces her past at every turn.

About the Author: Rajdeep Paulus studied English Literature at Northwestern University and AMC_8352lives in New York with her Sunshine and four princesses. The author of Swimming Through Clouds, is mommy to four princesses, wife of Sunshine, a coffee-addict and a chocoholic. As of this June 2013, she’s a Tough Mudder. To find out more, visit her website or connect with her via Facebook  TwitterPinterest, or Instagram .

Praise for Seeing Through Stones:

“Tough and touching, resilient and raw—Rajdeep Paulus has crafted a story of love and abuse with the deft touch of a master… Paulus never allows her characters to be anything less than real and she never averts her pen from the realities that face far too many women and children. “ ~ Tosca Lee, NY Times Bestselling Author of Havah and The Books of Mortals series with Ted Dekker

“In this follow-up to her debut, Rajdeep Paulus quickly pulls her readers back into a heartfelt story that challenges our notions of family loyalty. Seeing Through Stones continues Talia’s healing journey, but, even better, it gives readers the long-awaited story of her heroic brother, Jesse. There’s something here for everyone, and perhaps the best part is Paulus’s weaving of multicultural characters and traditions into a rhythm as unique as it is refreshing.”
~ Laura Anderson Kurk, Author of Glass Girl & Perfect Glass

“After reading Rajdeep Paulus’s debut novel, I was incredibly eager to get my hands on the sequel. The wait was worth it! With a lyrical voice, heart-tugging characters and skillful handling of sensitive subject matter, Paulus’s sophomore novel is a beautiful piece of storytelling. I can’t recommend it enough.” ~Melissa Tagg, Author of Made to Last and Here to Stay

“Seeing Through Stones both broke my heart and filled it with hope at the same time.Paulus’s writing simply soars as she paints her characters’ pains, fears, and hopes in a beautiful portrait of recovery and grace. With this book, Paulus has established herself as a powerful voice in Young Adult literature. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us next.”
~John W. Otte, Author of Numb and the Failstate series

“Brilliantly crafted, Rajdeep Paulus stitched what seems dark and broken into a tapestry of hope and love.”
~Jennifer Murgia, Author of Angel Star & Between These Lines