Saturday, December 22, 2012

Testify by Valerie Sherrard

Testify is on the Red Maple list for this year. I have always loved Valerie Sherrard's books. It is so nice to read a Canadian author who sets her stories in the eastern part of Canada. Sherrard's characters always seem like real people, her female characters are not perfect, but they are very real. Testify is no different. The female characters in this story are pretty typical high school girls. They don't always do what their parents want them to do, but they are pretty good kids. The main character is Shana, she is a good kid who has a great group of girls she hangs around with. Her best friend is Carrie. When Carrie comes to her in trouble because she is afraid of her step father, Shana agrees to do something she knows is wrong for the greater good and Carrie is very grateful to her for helping her. But, just after this, Shana starts to realize that Carrie doesn't always tell the truth and suddenly Shana comes to understand that she may have been a pawn in Carrie's game to get rid of her stepfather. I really liked how in this story Shana has to grapple with not only her friends behaviour but also her own conscience. While this book deals with the issues of child abuse, it is handled in a very simple way that kids can understand. As I was reading this short book, I realized that this book would be great for girls who don't love to read. It dawned on me that while there are lots of books out there for reluctant boy readers (see any of the ORCA books), there aren't as many for girls. I believe this falls under that category. This book is easy to read, short, but has an exciting plot. I can think of many kids who would enjoy reading this book.

Friday, December 21, 2012

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

This is a new author to me, but checking out her website, it seems like I have a few more books to choose from! I really enjoyed reading this book. The two main characters, Jill and Mandy were just such interesting people, both with their own issues to deal with. They are like so many teenage girls, wanting to fit in, be their own person, but their life circumstances have made it very challenging for them. For Jill, she is struggling with the loss of her father. Every since he died, she has cut herself off from her friends, her boyfriend and even her mother. She doesn't know how to deal with her grief. Then, when her mom announces she is going to adopt a baby, Jill feels like she is being replaced. She worries about her mom getting hurt, but mostly Jill is hurt that her mom is just able to move on from the death of her father. Mandy has had a tough life, her mother made it quite clear from the start that Mandy was a mistake. Mandy's mother has some very interesting opinions on how a women needs to survive- mostly by finding a man to take care of her. When Mandy finds herself pregnant, she knows she can't raise a child the same way she was raised. When Mandy offers to give her child to Jill's mom, she comes to live with the family just before delivering her baby. Both Jill and Mandy need to deal with their loss, their opinions about the world and their future. I thought this story was just amazing. Jill and Mandy are such different people, but both of them just want to be loved and to be in a family. What they realize is that family can come in different shapes. This story does have some mature themes like teenage pregnancy, but it is handled in a very sensitive way that I wouldn't hesitate to have this in my intermediate classroom. I think it is a great read for girls!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Crush, Candy, Corpse by Sylvia McNicoll

This is one of the Red Maple Nominees for 2013 and a new author for me. Sunny is a high school student who must complete volunteer hours in order to graduate from high school. She doesn't really know where she wants to volunteer, but she isn't too thrilled with the idea of going into the Retirement home and working on the Alzheimer's floor. But Sunny's true nature comes out when she starts getting to know the people living on the floor, she really starts to care about them. Some of the nursing home staff give her a tough time because she doesn't always follow the rules, but it is just because she wants to treat the older people with dignity and respect. Then Sunny meets Cole,the grandson of one of the patients. He starts talking about how his grandmother didn't want to live a life where she couldn't remember her loved ones and was dependent on people. A year later, Sunny is on trial for the murder of his grandmother. This story is a quick read. Sunny and Cole are neat characters who show such compassion for older people living with Alzheimer's. The story goes back and forth between the past and the present as different witnesses come forward at Sunny's trial. This is a great book for girls in grade 7 and 8.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

I realized last week that I haven't been reading many YA books, so I took a quick trip to Chapters and stocked up on all the books I've been reading about and wanting to read. So, be prepared for some new posts here. The Fault in Our Stars has been getting a lot of buzz, even Oprah put it on her 'best books' list. I have mixed feelings about John Green, I didn't like Abundance of Katherines (didn't even finish it, which is really saying something), but enjoyed Will Grayson, Will Grayson So, when I heard about John Green's newest book, I was a bit skeptical, I wasn't prepared to like it to be honest. Well, there is nothing better than having yourself proven wrong, because I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book! I was hooked right from the start. The main character in this story is Hazel, a 17 year old girl living with terminal cancer. Hazel has known forever that she is going to die, she has made herself accept this and wants nothing more than to spend time with her parents and reading books. Her mother forces her to go to a Cancer Kids support group which Hazel finds incredibly depressing. But she goes because she knows her parents want her to be a normal, happy teenager, which is a pretty tall order when she is living with cancer. One day at the support group, Hazel meets a new boy named Augustus Waters and suddenly her life changes. She finds a small group of friends, and starts to have a bit of a social life. What Hazel discovers through her friendship with Augustus is friendship, love, courage and strength. Hazel and Augustus are teenagers I would love to hang around with. They are witty, smart and incredibly loyal. I loved reading their story. There are books that you read that stick with you for a long time, this is definitely one of them. I have been telling everyone that they have to read this book. It is a bit hard recommending this book because it is about childhood cancer and teenagers. However, I wouldn't hesitate to have this in my grade 7 classroom. I would direct kids to it for sure. There is one scene in the book that deals with mature content, but it was handled in a way that I believe Intermediate students could handle without any issues.
But, I would suggest teachers or adults read it first to make their own decision on that.