Sunday, May 30, 2010

Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher

I have to start off by saying I LOVE Ralph Fletcher. I love his professional books, I love his picture books, I love his poetry books, and now I can add his novel Flying Solo to the list. The man is brilliant!

This is a pretty simple book- with a great concept. How many kids have ever imagined having a day where the teacher doesn't show up, and no supply teacher either. Fletcher describes a day such as this for one grade six class. The kids are left on their own to manage through the day.
The characters in this story are so real- I could easily see many of my students in these characters. I loved the story they told, the story of struggling to come together as a class to make it through one whole day without an adult telling them what to do. Throughout this day, we glimpse some very interesting characters. Rachel, a girl who stopped speaking six months earlier when a classmate passed away. Bastian, an 'army brat' who is celebrating his last day at this school and is gearing up to move away to Hawaii. Bastian is a tough kid who makes it through all of his moves by being the wise guy in class. Yet he is struggling with the fact that his puppy must be quarantined for a few months. Then there are the rest of the grade six students who range from typical girls who follow the rules, to boys who don't and those that fall somewhere in between.
I love how real this classroom was. I imagine Mr. Fabiano as the type of teacher who I would really like- reading and writing workshops are a given within his day. This is obvious when the students choose to write their thoughts, feelings and ideas as their 'free' day rolls by.
I only wish that my class would act like this if I was away for the day!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell

First off- this book is NOT for kids that I usually write for. There is lots of mature content in this book- it is best for high school students.

Second- I really liked this one. It took a while to get into it, but once in, I was hooked. I liked reading about Carrie in high school. I liked learning how she became the woman I know from the TV show and movies. I also really liked how Carrie has a definite view of what kind of girl she wants to be. There are some great messages in this book about standing up for what you believe in, being true to your friends and what to do about peer pressure.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

LIES by Michael Grant

This is the third book in the Gone series by Michael Grant. These books are really unique. The other two books set the stage for this one. What has happened is that in California, one day all the adults over the age of 16 just disappear. The kids that are left behind are responsible for everything. Some are trying to develop a community with laws and rules, while others are just living by their wits and courage. The FAYZ is a scary place to be for all kids. Not only do they have all the responsibilities of survival, but they must deal with the mutations that only some of the kids are developing.

In LIES, mutants are being pitted against non-mutants (or normal kids). Kids who were once dead, are now being spotted around Perdido Beach which totally freaks the kids out. Sam- the hero of the first two books has really had his confidence shaken. Things with him and Astrid are very strained. Astrid has one view of the future while Sam - the one who has to protect all the kids in Perdido Beach has another view.

Then there is Caine and his gang of very dangerous kids. Life at Coates Academy is horrific. Caine and Diana are literally starving to death and they are desperate for food. All of these kids must once again fight for survival.

I think this book was really a set up for the final few books. I enjoyed it, but I'm not sure where the series can go from here.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Borderline by Allan Stratton

Borderline is written by Allan Stratton- the author of Chandra's Secrets and Chandra's War. I am really impressed with how Stratton can create such different characters, that are so believable.

Sami Sabiri's main wish in life is to just fit in. He wants to be a typical American teenager. But this is very difficult because he is one of the few Muslims in his hometown and his father is very strict about following the religious principles.

Sami has the typical experiences of growing up, but it is made so much worse by the racism he is confronted with daily. All of this comes to a head when the FBI crashes into his house early one morning. They demand answers about his father- a man Sami has always been slightly fearful of, while at the same time wanting to make him proud. Just lately, Sami has begun to doubt his father is being totally honest with him. When the FBI start asking questions, Sami doesn't really know what the truth is anymore.

Things get out of hand when he and his family are presumed guilty- even when there isn't any evidence against his father. Luckily Sam has his two best friends who are there for him- showing him that it doesn't matter the colour of his skin, or his religion- it is who he is inside that matters.

This book would make a great read aloud- with lots of discussion.

Branded by Eric Walters

Branded is a high interest, low vocabulary book written by Eric Walters. I like these books, they are nice quick reads- that are always exciting to read.

This book deals with several students in high school who are learning about social justice issues. Ian, the main character is learning a lot about what is happening around the world. When his school principal announces that a new dress code will be implemented in a few weeks- Ian isn't sure how to react. On one hand, he doesn't really care- but then there is his friend who is against conformity and just following the rules. But when Ian starts researching the school uniforms he learns that there may be something worth fighting after all.

I like the whole idea of social justice issues being introduced in quick reads. I think many kids will like this book.