Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Fourth Dimension by Eric Walters

It's been a while since I've read anything by Eric Walters, I don't know why because he never fails to draw me into a really exciting story.  The Fourth Dimension is no exception. 

In The Fourth Dimension, Walters takes us back to the setting of The Rule of Three to the world without power and the fight for survival when life is turned on its head.  This story introduces us to how other people learn to survive in this new world.

In The Fourth Dimension, we meet 15 year old Emma, her brother Ethan and her ex-Marine mother Ellen.  They were just setting off on a camping trip when the power went out.  They decided that the best thing to do is to wait out the power outage at their campsite just off Toronto Island in Lake Ontario.  On their own, they are able to fish and learn to adapt to life without power while staying hidden from other people.  However, they know that they are not safe with just the three of them.  They soon meet up with another community living on the Island and together they learn to come together to protect one another from people who want to take their shelter, food and weapons. 

I loved the Rule of Three books- loved how Walters wrote about a setting so familiar to those of us who live in Southern Ontario and he has done the same thing with The Fourth Dimension.  I've spent time paddling around Toronto Island and could easily visualize where Emma and her family were waiting out the power outage. 

But what I also love most about this book, and upon reflecting on The Rule of Three, is how Walter's gives the power and leadership to women.  Because of Ellen's military training people look to her for protection and guidance.  But we also witness how Emma learns to adapt and find her own strength during these troubling times.  I love that women and young women are given such a position of authority and power in these books.

 I think these books will be enjoyed by both boys and girls and I can't wait to meet my new students in the fall to introduce them to these characters. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Lives of Desperate Girls by Mackenzie Common

This book was another one that I picked up a few weeks ago at Chapters.  It appealed to me because it is Canadian, set in Ontario and deals with racial issues found in our own backyard. 

In this story, the main character Jenny is dealing with a lot in her life.  A young girl was murdered in her home town and her best friend has been missing for three weeks.  Everyone assumes she knows what happened to her best friend Chloe, kids at school whisper behind her back, and the police interview her often.  When Helen, is found dead, Jenny is shocked that the police, and the rest of the community aren't as interested in investigating this crime- instead they are focusing on where Chloe has gone.  Jenny starts to realize that because Helen lives on the reservation, her murder is not as high a priority as Chloe's.  Jenny struggles to come to terms with this and starts to do her own investigation - both to help find Helen's killer and to avoid dealing with Chloe's disappearance. 

This story had so many themes and ideas: bullying, sexual assault, racism, sexism, life in small town Ontario to name a few.  It was also a great mystery as well- Jenny does quite a bit of digging into Helen's story and learns not only about Helen, but also what life is like for some people on the reservation who are confronted with racism every day. 

It was a great story- I really enjoyed Jenny's character- she was so real and troubled. While this book deals with many mature topics, I think it would be ok in an Intermediate class.  I would suggest reading it first though, there are some topics that would need further discussions. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

This book was on one of the shelves at Chapters the other day- and was a staff pick of the month, and on sale.  How could I not pick it up? 

Monday's Not Coming is the story of Claudia who has just returned from her summer away at her Grandma's to find her best friend Monday is missing.  Nobody seems to concerned- not the teachers, her parents, Monday's family or even the police.  But Claudia knows that Monday would never walk away from her, or stop talking to her.  As Claudia tries to figure out the mystery behind Monday's disappearance, she also has to confront issues in her own life- her lack of friends, her struggle with school and what high school she should attend. 

I really enjoyed this story.  Claudia is a great character and I really enjoyed the setting of the story.  The author chose to write this story not using a linear fashion - titles were "Before" and "After" and "1 Year before the After" which was a bit confusing, but made more sense at the end. 

I think this book is too mature for Intermediate students - I wouldn't put it out on the shelf for my students, but would give it to some students who I thought could handle it.  I would suggest reading it for yourself first. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Bent Not Broken by Lorna Schultz Nicholson

This morning I put out a call on Twitter asking for some suggestions for YA books to read and received this response:
 Funny thing was, Karen had already put one of the books on our list of books to read, so that was the first one I picked up.   I've found a new favourite Canadian author! 

Bent Not Broken is part of the One-2-One Series that features students in the Best Buddies club at a Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School.  The Best Buddies club is an organization at this fictional high school that pairs students with special needs with other students at the school to be friends, participate in social events and basically just to have a buddy at school. 

In this story, we meet Maddie, a 14 year old who has had a traumatic brain injury after a bike accident and Justin who is in his final year of high school.  Both Maddie and Justin have challenges at home.  Maddie's identical twin sister is growing up and growing away from the family, and Justin lost his sister the year before and it seems that his family is falling apart as well.  I love how Justin is with Maddie- I think we don't often think of teenage boys as being empathetic and understanding, but Justin is just that.  As a mom of two teen-age boys, they often experience more emotions than they let on.  It was nice to see that side of Justin.  I also liked reading about Maddie and her struggles to get her brain to work the way she wants it to.  It was a good reminder that what we see on the surface of someone isn't everything that is going on inside them.  I need to keep this in mind when I meet the new students in the fall. 

Even though this morning I picked up 6 new books at Chapters, I am heading back shortly to get the other books in this series.  It's a winner for sure. 

I wouldn't hesitate to put this book in my Intermediate classroom- even though it is set at a high school. There isn't anything that would give me pause. 

Check out Lorna Schultz Nicholson's website here: 

Dread Nation 'Rise Up' by Justina Ireland

I'm not a big fan of zombie books- as a matter of fact, I don't think I've read any of them because they just don't appeal to me.  However, this one was getting some buzz on twitter, and I liked the historical aspect of it. 

Dread Nation 'Rise Up' is set just after the American Civil War when after the Gettysburg Battle, the dead started rising and devouring the soldiers.  Fast-forward 14 years and the story begins with Jane McKeene and her schooling at Miss Preston's School of Combat for Negro Girls.  At this school, black children learn to fight the undead. They learn how to handle weapons and learn proper etiquette so they can be Attendants to the upper class in the South.  Jane struggles to follow the rules, she likes to explore, find as much information as she can and do things her own way. This gets her into a great deal of trouble at times, and she worries she will never make a good Attendant.  However, when Jane and another young woman Katherine, who always plays by the rules, get thrown together, they have to learn  how to survive and save the people around them from becoming one of the shamblers

I found this book to be interesting to read on a few levels.  The plot of the story was fun to read.  Jane is quite the adventurer- I like how inquisitive she is -even when it gets her in trouble.  She is my kind of main character.  She's tough, strong, smart and sassy.  I liked how Katherine had a lot of the same traits, but went about her life somewhat differently than Jane.   I also found it really interesting to read about life in the South, after the war that was supposed to end slavery and how things didn't really change.  The fact that rich, white men held all the power in this book rings true to some of what we see in society today.  I couldn't help but draw parallels to many current events.  There was even talk about residential schools for First Nations - although that wasn't a big part of the novel. 

I think this is probably just the first book in a series of books.  I'm not sure I would pick up the next one right away, but the story of Jane and her quest to not only save the world from shamblers, but also to find her family is compelling.  I do have some lingering questions about where she will go next and what will happen to her and her friends, which means I will probably order the next book. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Exciting News!!

As many of you know, I've not been in a school for the last three years.  But in September I am heading back to a school as a Vice Principal.  Even better- it is at an Intermediate School...which means one thing for sure- I get to read and talk to kids about books again.

Even more exciting news, my friend Karen has decided we need to read books together and talk about them. Then she said she wanted to contribute to this blog- which is great news for so many reasons.  So stay tuned- once the summer officially starts, this blog is starting back up again!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Jungle Land by Eric Walters

If you've been reading this blog for a while you will know two things- one- I love Eric Walter's books and two- I love the Seven Series  So I was pretty excited when I read on twitter a few weeks ago that the authors' of the Seven Series have published prequels to the books.  I couldn't wait to read DJ's story and to learn more about Grandpa.

In Jungle Land, Grandpa takes DJ with him on an adventure to Central America.  DJ is thrilled to be able to spend a whole week with his Grandpa alone.  He is less than thrilled when he meets the granddaughter of the man they are meeting.  The two teenagers are thrown together, and have to try and get along.
One night when they are alone in the house, a kidnapping attempt makes them flee into the jungle.  There they must rely on each other to keep safe from wild animals, the people chasing them and make their way to safety.

This was an exciting story.  It was neat to read about DJ before he grew up and went to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.  As a 13 year old boy, you catch glimpses of the man he will become and you can certainly see the influence his grandfather had on him.
I'm always amazed when I read books in this series how there are no spoilers and how everything seems to fit together- all seven of these authors are amazing writers!  I can't wait to give this to a grade 6 teacher tomorrow- I think grade 6 is the perfect target audience for this story.