Thursday, October 30, 2014

Double You by Shane Peacock

I ordered the sequels to the Seven Series at the first of the month and I have been trying to work my way through them. The only problem is I have to share the books with my class. This one, many of the kids said I had to read because something very shocking happens on page 41. I was dying to find out what, especially after going last week and hearing all of the authors speak in Port Hope. I still have a student reading my copy, but I borrowed this one from another student in my class. Double You is the story of Adam who is terribly upset that his grandfather might not be the wonderful man everyone thought he was. Adam learned a great deal from the adventure his grandfather sent him on in the first book. Now, he is trying to constantly be 'good' Adam, even when 'bad' Adam wants to keep appearing. Adam is trying to prove his grandfather was not a traitor, even when all evidence leads to the fact that he might be. Adam travels from Bermuda to New York City to Jamaica in search of the truth about his grandfather. Along the way he meets an intriguing girl named Angel Dahl and needs to escape from some very dangerous men. I enjoyed reading this book. I liked the adventures that Adam faced and I like what a good guy he really is. I felt that when I finished this book that there is more to Adam's story and I am really hoping there will be a third book written by Peacock. I also talked to several of the boys in my class today who are reading or who have read this book and they are loving it!

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Rule of Three by Eric Walters

I have two favourites when it comes to reading- I love reading any new dystopian or alternative reality books and I love reading anything by Eric Walters. When I saw this new book by Walters I was very surprised- my favourite author and my favourite genre! The Rule of Three isn't a typical Walters book, he tends to write more realistic fiction but boy did he hit it out of the park with this one. The Rule of Three is the story of a world where one afternoon, everything that runs on computers stops working. That includes electricity, cars and of course computers. Luckily for Adam, he drives an older model car so he is actually able to get home from school. What he thinks is going to be a short term inconvenience, turns out to be a global disaster. As days without computers turns to weeks, Adam, his family and his community must find a way to survive. Along the way, Adam has help from his mysterious next door neighbour who seems to have experienced all of this before. Adam, his neighbour Herb and his mother who is a police officer are suddenly thrown into positions of having to make decisions, not just for their own survival but for their whole community. This novel is fast paced and exciting. It had me question the amount of food I have in my house, to how I could survive something like this. I loved Adam- he had to adapt and change to a very strange situation and he did it so well. As with all Walters books, the characters are believable and likeable. It also reminds me a bit of Suzanne Weyn's novel Empty. I can't wait to share this book with students on Monday. If I can get them out of the Seven Series, they will love this one as well! I am hoping there will be a sequel to this, I feel like Adam's story is not quite over yet!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Coda by Ted Staunton

Coda is another book in the sequels to the Seven Series. After David McLean's grandsons discover a mysterious package at his cottage, most of the grandsons head out to discover whether their grandfather was a spy or not. But not Spencer, all he wants to do on Christmas vacation is keep his brother Bunny safe and hang out with the girl he likes - AmberLea who is visiting from Buffalo. But of course life is not that easy! When Spencer and Bunny go skating, things start to unravel very quickly. Bunny goes missing and now Spencer is trying to keep him from being thrown back in jail. All Spencer wants his his brother back, but he is thrown into the world of spies, kidnapping and terrorist plots. I enjoyed reading Spencer's story a great deal. There was always some crazy adventure and of course Spencer isn't really the hero type of guy. He bumbles around a bit in his curling sweater and admits to being afraid a great deal of the time. The other thing I really enjoyed about this story was all of the familiar places he went to. It is very interesting to be able to read about a place you have been, it makes visualizing the story much easier! A lot of the boys in my class have been really enjoying Coda- and I can see the appeal. Staunton has written an action novel that has a twist at every turn. I'm really looking forward to hearing all of the author's in Port Hope tonight!

Sleeper by Eric Walters

This is the first book that I picked up when the sequels to the Seven Series were published. My class had just finished reading Between Heaven and Earth, so I was ready to read more about D.J.'s adventures. When David McLean's grandsons head to the cottage just after Christmas, they discover that their grandfather might not be the man they thought he was. All the evidence leads the boys to believe that he was a spy. The boys decide they need to discover the truth about their grandfather and head out to follow the clues he has left behind. D.J. heads to England where his friend Doris who he met climbing Mount Killimanjaro lives. While there, D.J. finds himself wrapped up in an adventure very unlike his climbing adventure. He is suddenly involved with spies, espionage and trying to figure out how his grandfather fits into all of this. Of course there are one or two perks of being there- a vintage car and a beautiful girl. This book has not stayed on my book shelves since I bought two copies of it. My class whole class is waiting anxiously for the next person to finish the book so that they can read it. The boys are really enjoying the adventure and excitement in the story. While I enjoyed the adventure, to me it didn't feel like D.J. was the same character he was in Between Heaven and Earth. His first adventure was filled with lots of life lessons. Sleeper was much faster moving and action packed. All I know is that my kids are loving it- and that is all that matters!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

Several years ago I read The Mockingbirds and The Rivals by Daisy Whitney and really loved them, so I was excited when I read about her newest book When You Were Here. When You Were Here is about a young man who has just lost his mother to cancer. Danny's mother has always promised that she was hanging on for his high school graduation, but when she dies just two months before this important date, Danny spins out of control. He feels that his life is without purpose and direction. When his high school sweetheart (who is also his mother's best friends daughter) comes home from college, Danny is drawn to her, but at the same time is very afraid she too will leave him again. Danny has some big decisions to be made- about the homes his mother owns, what to do with his time and his future. When Danny decides to return to Tokyo- a city that brings back wonderful memories of his mother, he finds clues to his mothers last days, and clues to how he can start carrying on after his loss. This book was difficult to read at times. I can't imagine how Danny must feel after the death of his mother. Many of his reactions seem completely normal and understandable, yet they are also very dangerous. As Danny learns more about how his mother chose to live out her last days, he also starts to find a strength to carry on. But reading this journey was very difficult as well. There were also some mature parts in here that means I won't have this in my grade 7 classroom- but for high school students, I would strongly suggest reading this book.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Some Boys by Patty Blount

I cannot believe how long it has taken me to blog about this book. I read it last weekend and absolutely loved it. I mean really loved it. I have been talking it up all week and have about 4 kids dying to read it, but I wanted to keep it to blog about first. I am a bit hesitant to have this in my grade 7 classroom because it deals with a very mature topic (sexual assault). But it was so beautifully written that I cannot keep it out of my classroom. I will however make sure that I notify parents if their child picks it up. Some Boys is a story about Grace. Grace is in grade 12 and has always had a great group of friends. Grace is a confident young woman who dresses as she wants and doesn't make excuses for who she is. But, when she is raped by Zac- the most popular boy in the school- she is the one who is shunned and blamed. Grace doesn't understand why people don't believe her, but also why they insist it was her fault. On the exterior, Grace is tough as nails, but this event has led to panic attacks and depression. When Grace is forced to spend time with Ian- one of Zac's best friends, she is afraid to be alone with him and afraid he too will shun her. But through their week together, Ian starts to see Grace in a new light, and Zac as well. He realizes that he may have misinterpreted many different events. This story needs to be read by not only girls, but boys as well. The events that take place in this book are events that I can see easily happening at any high school. Patty Blount brings up many issues that make this book the perfect book for literature circles. I can't wait for people to read it so I can discuss it. For my high school friends- you've got to go out and buy this book right now!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Forgotten by Cat Patrick

On the weekend, I finished Just Like Fate and wanted to read another book by Cat Patrick. I was out of town and so I ordered this one on my Kindle. I don't love doing that because then I can't share it with my students- but I couldn't imagine reading anything else, so I ordered it and read it in one night. Forgotten is about a 16 year old girl, London Lane who every night at 4:33 am forgets everything from her past. Her only memories are of what is going to happen in the future. So while she knows that she will always be close with her best friend, she can't remember what they did or talked about the day before. This means that London needs to leave herself notes each night before she falls asleep to allow her to have a normal life. Then, she meets a new boy to the school- Luke Henry- a boy who should be impossible to forget. But each morning she needs to remind herself of who he is and how close they are becoming. This book was so interesting- a typical teenage girl- who cannot remember her past. I can't even begin to imagine how challenging it would be to go through life like this. London tries to help people when she can see they are about to make a mistake, but she isn't able to help the people she loves the most. This book has a great plot as well as exploring issues that crop up in any relationship. I just wish I had a hard copy of it for my classroom!

Just Like Fate by Suzanne Young and Cat Patrick

Last week I read my first Cat Patrick book Revived and when I finished it, I quickly ran to Chapters to look for anything else she has written. The only one in stock was Just Like Fate and it was co-written by another author who I really like- Suzanne Young who wrote The Program This book was a great follow up to the first one I read. Cat Patrick writes a mean story that is for sure and adding in another amazing author only made the book that much better! Just Like Fate is a story about Caroline. Caroline is very close to her grandmother and when she suffers a stroke, Caroline is devastated. The whole family spends all of their time at the hospital waiting for something to happen. But one Friday night, Caroline has a decision to make, her best friend has invited her to a party and while she knows she should stay at the hospital, a big part of her needs the escape and wants to go. This is where the story really starts to take off- the remaining chapters are told in alternating perspectives. One chapter is what happens when Caroline goes to the party and the next chapter explores what happens when Caroline stays at the hospital. The authors continue to write the different chapters based on the two options and how the future is changed based on her choice that night. I loved Caroline's story- I like who she is, and how she responds to different situations. She is a typical high school girl with many different choices to make. She makes some bad decisions in one story, and some bad decisions in the other story- just like in life. I think there are many great lessons people can learn from this book. There is one scene that had me question if I should have it in my grade 7 classroom, but I have decided that how it was handled is appropriate and important for people to read, so I am going to be putting in my room this week. If you haven't read Cat Patrick's books, I would strongly suggest you check out her books. You can also check out her blog and Suzanne Young's blog here

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Revived by Cat Patrick

I normally start my reviews with why I picked this book and how I heard about it and save my review until the end. But this review is going to be backwards- because I have to start off saying how much I LOVED this book. I loved it so much that when I was almost finished it, I whipped up to Chapters to see if I could buy any of her other books. I am not even sure how I found this book- I think it was just on one of my wandering trips around the YA section- but boy am I glad I found it. Revived is the story of Daisy who is now 15. But when Daisy was 5, she entered a program that tested a new drug called revive. Basically revive brings people back from the dead. When people start to get suspicious of her, it means that she has to pack up and move her life, with a new city and a new name. When we meet Daisy, she has just moved to a new town and has decided she is going to make every effort to make friends. She quickly becomes friends with Audrey and her brother Matt. Daisy slips into a very comfortable life and she loves her new friends. But then Daisy starts questioning things about Revive, she wonders if it the people running it are making the right decisions. Daisy's questioning puts everyone she knows at risk. But this book is more than an adventure story. Daisy's friendship with Audrey has some very challenging moments and she learns a great deal about life through her friendship with Audrey. Her friendship with Matt blossoms into more than just friends, and this leads to some challenges for both her and Matt. This book is so well written on so many levels. I can't wait to recommend this book to my students. I can already think of some kids who will love it as much as I do. On the plus side- my trip to Chapters yielded another book by Patrick and Suzanne Young who wrote The Program...oh my!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Ann Brashares is the author of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants- I loved those books and I loved the movie, so when I saw this one, I knew I needed to pick it up. The Here and Now is unlike any of the other books Brashares has written. I'm labelling it Dystopian- but I am not sure it really fits in that category. It's set in the present, but the main character comes from the future, so she knows a great deal about what is going to happen. Preena is a 17 year old who has come to New York from far in the future, a future that includes many people dying of the plague. Preena and the people who came with her are hoping to discover what causes the plague and to save the future. But in order to do that, Preena must live by some very serious rules put in place by the leaders of their community. These leaders use anything they can to keep control of the immigrants. Surveillance, drugs, intimidation and even murder. But when Preena meets a native- Ethan- a boy who is from New York and this time period- she starts questioning everything she has ever been told. Preena needs to decide if what she is starting to think is true, and if it is worth risking everything to save the future. This book was exciting- as with any time travel books, it is sometimes hard to keep track of how things in the past affect the future and exactly what the results are when you change things. I really liked the two main characters. Preena had to overcome a great deal in her past, but she is fighting to have a future and Ethan does what is right and is a great friend to Preena. I am looking forward to sharing this book with kids in the fall and hear what they think about it.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Narc by Crissa-Jean Chappell

There is nothing better than the summer! I love being able to go to my 'to be read' pile and picking the first book I see and heading out to the pool and reading it in one sitting. Narc is the book I picked up this morning. I purchased this one at Chapter a few weeks ago when I went on a small (!) book buying binge. It's not my typical book, but I did enjoy it. Aaron is a high school senior who is just trying to make it through his last year of high school. He doesn't have any friends, and really struggles to know how to talk to people. But when his sister is busted for having a bag of weed, he takes the blame and the punishment. His only chance of avoiding jail is to turn into a narc- someone who will infiltrate the drug scene at his high school in order to find the person who is supplying all the drugs to the students. For Aaron, this task seems overwhelming since he has never run with that crowd. But as he starts getting to know the more popular kids and learning about their lives, he is very reluctant to turn them over to the police. He must choose between what he knows is right and what he wants to do. This was a pretty good story, I didn't love it, but I really felt for Aaron. He is a guy just trying to do his best to get through. I found the story a bit hard to follow, lots of characters and not a lot of depth to them. It was hard keeping track of their motivations. But I did enjoy the story and was eager to discover how Aaron would make out. Even though this book was written about a senior in high school and deals with drugs, there isn't anything that would stop me from putting it in my grade 7 classroom. I'm just not sure how many kids will pick it up.

Power Play by Eric Walters

I have always loved anything written by Eric Walters. The man can truly tell a story that kids enjoy. As a matter of fact, my first read aloud this year will be by Eric. Because I haven't been reading as many YA books, I haven't read anything by him in a while, but when I saw this book this other day, I knew I needed to read it. Power Play is about a young man who loves hockey. For him, hockey is an escape from his father and his life at home. Cody and his mother are very close, but his dad is an angry man who uses alcohol to forget about all of the disappointments his life has brought. Cody sees hockey as his way to escape, it is the only thing he is good at. So when a scout comes around looking for someone to play on his Junior A team, Cody is thrilled- he knows this is his stepping stone to one day playing in the NHL. Coach Conners gives Cody everything- he believes in him, seems to know everyone connected to hockey and has access to all the best equipment. But Coach requires a pretty steep payback for everything. Cody is sucked into a terrible situation when Coach Conners starts to abuse the power he has over Cody. Cody is forced to decide if he is willing to risk his future to end the suffering. This book has an afterward written by Sheldon Kennedy who acknowledges the abuse he faced at the hands of his coach. I think many boys will be drawn to this book because of the hockey, but the lesson learned from this book is very important. This will be a tough book to have in my classroom, but I want it there. I am just not sure what I will do when someone wants to read it. I feel that the situation was handled very sensitively, you know what was going on, without knowing the details. However, I am not sure how parents would react to this story. I feel that it would be important to have a conversation with a student after reading this book. I would love to hear how other's feel about kids reading this book from school.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Erased by Jennifer Rush

Erased is the sequel to Altered that I finished yesterday. If you haven't read Altered yet, you should do that first, otherwise you will be confused by this book. Erased continues where the story leaves off in Altered. Anna and the boys are on the run from the Branch. They aren't sure what memories are real and from what life. It is very challenging to learn to cope with these flashback, because they are very confusing. Anna really struggles to cope with these flashbacks and knowing who to trust. If she trusts the wrong person, it could end everything for her, Sam, Nick and Cas. Anna must try to uncover what her role is in the Branch and how she can go back to living a normal life. I was so excited when I finished reading Altered- it was a very action packed book. I couldn't wait for Erased to arrive, so I bought it for my kindle- and I never buy YA books for my kindle. It seemed like a much quicker read, but still full of action. I found it a bit of a challenge to keep everyone straight- who was telling the truth and who was feeding Anna lies- much like I imagine Anna felt as well. I liked this series because it wrapped up in two books- and both were great reads! I will be recommending both of these books in the fall.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Altered by Jennifer Rush

I picked this one up at Chapters a few weeks ago- I had never read anything about it, but boy did I like it. I am not sure what to classify it as- it is sort of dystopian, but not really, it is sort of fantasy, but not really. Either way it is a great book. The main character is Anna, who lives her life on the outskirts of town with her dad, and the four boys he has kept in the lab below their farmhouse. Her dad works for a company called the Branch- and these four boys are in his care for monitoring and treatments, although Anna isn't sure for what. These four boys are part of Anna's family- she looks after them and goes out of her way to make their lives happier. She is closest with Sam, he is the one who holds her heart. One day, the boys escape and suddenly, Anna is being pushed to run away with them by her father. Now Anna and the boys are on the run from the Branch, who will stop at anything to get them back and under control. Anna and Sam learn a great deal about themselves when they are on the run with the other boys, but there are still many questions that are not answered. This book was full of action and interesting events. Anna is a great character. At first, she seems very meek and just wanting to make the boys (Sam) happy. But as the story progresses and Anna learns more about her life, she develops into this great character-both strong and determined. Anna is one of those characters that both boys and girls can relate to. The action in this story will make it appealing for both the boys and the girls. I can't wait to share this one with my class in September!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tease by Amanda Maciel

I know this book has been sitting in my "To be read" photo on this blog, and it isn't that I didn't want to read it- it is just that other books kept cropping up first! I do need to say right off that bat, that I think this book is too mature for Intermediate students. But my high school friends (Becky and Karen) - you guys need this book in your library! In many ways, Tease is like Thirteen Reasons Why. A young girl (Emma) has committed suicide and the book is dealing with how it happened. This book is told through the eyes of Sara- she is a classmate of Emma's and is being held accountable for her role in the suicide. Sara and her best friend admit they teased Emma, but they always felt she had it coming. Emma's actions demanded that Sara and her friends call her on it. As the story goes on, Sara really struggles to understand why she is being charged with bullying- she spends a great deal of time blaming Emma and keeping the blame off of herself. This is a great read! Really shows the power of words, and how hurtful they can be. It also shows how easily kids can push something off just by saying 'it's just a joke'. But most importantly, this story deals with how people can fall into behaviours, even when they know they are wrong and how these can have a strong impact on other people. I really would love to have this book in my classroom, but there are too many sexual references in it for my comfort. I think it would make for a great read, and a great literature circle book. This is one that demands to be talked about!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

I am not exactly sure how to label this book. It has tinges of fantasy, but also could be classified as dystopian. Whatever tag you want to put on this, Dorothy Must Die is a great read. We all know the story of The Wizard of Oz and how Dorothy went back to Kansas, but when another Kansas girl- Amy Gunn finds herself in Oz, she realizes that that was just the beginning of the story. The Oz Amy finds isn't anything like the Oz she grew up watching. In this Oz, wicked is good, good is evil, and Dorothy has all the power. Amy finds herself trying to understand what is happening in this world, and knowing who she can trust. It isn't easy when everything she knows has been turned upside down. It turns out that Amy can only depend on herself. I had resisted buying this book for a while because I thought it was more appropriate for older students, but it isn't. I will put it in my grade 7 classroom this fall. I enjoyed the references to the classic tale of The Wizard of Oz, but did get a bit lost in understanding all the different characters. That might have just been because of the timing of my week and how busy I was. I liked Amy- she is a tough character who isn't afraid to do what is necessary to help her friends. I am looking forward to the sequel to this one. There is a bit of swearing in this book, not much, and it is very appropriate to the plot. It won't stop me from suggesting it to my students in the fall.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Absolutely Almost by Linda Graff

This book has been getting lots of talk about it on Twitter. I read on one tweet that it was a good follow up from reading Wonder, and I can definitely see the similarities to Wonder. In this story, Albie is in grade 5. Up until this point he has always gone to a private school, but when a letter came in the spring, his parents suddenly decided it was time for him to go to public school. This is tough for Albie, since his best friend still goes to private school. But, Albie decided to make the best of it, and knows he can still visit his friend at home. At the same time Albie is starting in his new school, his parents hire him a new babysitter/ nanny. He spends a great deal of time with Calista and she introduces him to lots of new ideas. Life for Albie isn't easy, things at school don't come easy to him. He wants to do well, and studies hard, but there is just something that makes school difficult for him. He also realizes he isn't one of the 'cool' kids, but he is pretty content with the friends he has. As Albie goes through fifth grade, he is faced with some challenges and must decide what feels right for him. I enjoyed reading this book. Albie is a great character, and I loved the relationship he had with Calista. I can also see kids enjoying reading this after reading Wonder. I do think it might be a bit young for my grade 7 students- but I can see students in grades 5 and 6 really enjoying it.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab

This is another book that was on the sale rack at Chapters- I love that rack! I tend to find some great reads, and they are hardcovers too. The Opposite of Hallelujah was a really great read! Caro is 16 and likes her life just the way it is. She lives with her parents, and even though they are pretty strict, she has a good relationship with them and she recognizes that they only want what is best for her, she has two best friends and a boyfriend. Caro is a great student and basically has a great life. But she does have one secret, she has a sister who is 11 years older than her who has been a nun for the last 8 years. Caro has no relationship with her sister and doesn't miss her at all. But then her sister decides to come back home and leave the life she has always known. As Caro struggles to deal with a stranger in her house, her parents response and to decide what to tell her friends, her sister Hannah is struggling to cope in the outside world. I really loved this book. Caro is a great character- she isn't perfect, she is kind of mean to her parents, but she is a good kid at heart. Hannah is a strange character who is very withdrawn and is basically the opposite of Caro. Watching the two try to sort out their relationship is very interesting. I even found the religious references to be interesting. One of the characters is a priest and he isn't what you would tend to think of in a priest, he is someone that relates well to younger people and I liked that about him. I even liked watching Caro's parents try to sort it all out- they aren't absent characters which is so often the case in YA books- they are real and present and flawed. Since Caro is 16, there are some references to parties and drinking, but it is totally appropriate and not glorified at all. This book is definitely going into my classroom next year. I've never reading anything by Jarzab, but I have just ordered her first book- All Unquiet Things. You can check out her website here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wasteland by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan

I love the sale desk at Chapters. I am trying hard not to buy hardcover YA books anymore- they are just too expensive. But when they are in the sale rack for $5.99 I can't resist at all! I picked up Wasteland, along with several other books just before the summer and I am now working my way through them. It's my favourite genre of all- dystopian! Wasteland is set in the future, although you don't have any idea how far in the future it is, or where it is. Life is basically about survival. There is never enough food or water- any water you can find in the ground or falling from the sky is poisoned. Nobody lives past the age of 19. Ester wants nothing to do with how life is run in her community- she just wants to hang out with her best friend, even though she is a variant and is considered to be the enemy. The young man running the community is threatening to banish Ester if she doesn't start playing by the rules everyone else follows. But then a stranger comes into town and Ester realizes there might be hope for her, and her family. As Caleb and Ester learn more about the power struggle going on, they must risk everything to help their community. I didn't love this book, I found the plot a bit hard to follow and I didn't find that I understood all the different characters and their motivations. But, it is filled with action and adventure and I think many kids will enjoy it.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I know I say this a lot, but this book has been talked about a great deal on Twitter. I ordered it about a month ago but I was doing some adult reading so I gave it to my niece to read. I just got it back the other day and read it in one sitting- it is that good! We Were Liars is the story of a well off family who summer on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts. This family has everything they could ever want. On the island there are four homes- one for the grandparents and one for each of their daughters and their children. But all summer long, the children swim, eat, boat and hang out together. They live for their summers on the island. The 3 oldest children- Mirren, Cadence, Johnny, and his best friend Gat are inseparable each and every summer. They are called the Liars because they are always up to mischief. The 15th summer on the island starts out as normal, but then tragedy strikes and life for Cady is not what it once was. The remainder of the book is about Cady trying to get her memories back of the one night that changed everything she has ever known. I loved this story! Really, really loved it. I found it hard to keep all of the characters straight at the beginning of the novel, but as soon as I realized the story was about Cady, Johnny, Gat and Mirren, I didn't worry much about the other characters. I felt a very big connection to the grandfather in the story. He loved his family above all else and held them to a pretty high standard, there were many things about him that reminded me of my own relationship with my grandfather. The setting of this story is what every child would want out of a summer- swimming, beaches, barbecue suppers and lots of family. The mystery behind what happened in the fifteenth summer is unveiled slowly in the later part of the book and the ending totally shocked me. There is a bit of language in the book that some might not appreciate, but I wouldn't hesitate to have it in my grade 7 classroom at all. As a matter of fact I will be recommending it to lots of readers in the future!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher

This is a book I had heard about in the fall and I placed it on my wish list at Chapters. A few weeks ago, I was going through my wish list and decided I should probably order it. The Water Wars is about a time in North America after many wars have been fought over the ownership of water. Canada is painted in a pretty bad light, because we denied access to all of our clean water to other countries. I found this bit pretty interesting since I have a friend who has told me that the next war will be fought over water, and we have so much of it. This story is set in the Midwest where the struggle for water is a constant battle for families. The main character is Vera, she is a 15 year old girl who lives with her brother and her parents. One day, Vera meets a boy who seems to have a causal disregard for water, he seems to have an unlimited access to clean, fresh water with no explanation. As Vera and Kai grow closer, he still remains a mystery. Then one day, Kai goes missing and Vera and her brother realize he has been kidnapped. They start out on a journey to find Kai, but what they learn along the way makes them question everything they have ever been told about the world's lack of water. This book has many exciting parts. I liked the relationship between Vera and her brother, they are really close which was nice to read. The relationship between Vera and Kai was a bit stranger, he was so secretive and Vera seemed to just accept that. I really enjoyed the introduction to the way of life of the people who are struggling with limited access to water. Once Vera and her brother started on their adventure, things sped up really quickly. I like to read a bit more about the action, but this book seemed to skip right over the action. It seemed to me that there were too many characters introduced and too many situations that Vera faced that were easily resolved. So, while I enjoyed the read, I felt that I needed more details and description of what was happening. I can see kids who enjoy dystopian novels enjoying this story, as well as readers who enjoy a fast paced plot with lots of excitement. For me though, I just needed a bit more information.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

A new dystopian novel! Earth Girl is set on Earth in the very far future. Many planets have been explored and are now home to humans- interplanet travel is easily accessible and people are free to go from planet to planet. Except for a few handicapped people- when they are born on another planet, they have a matter of minutes before they will die, unless they make it to Earth. Earth is now home to all of these handicapped people-they are considered to be a inferior group of people and people on other planets poke fun at them and pity them. Jarra is a young girl who is very resentful of her lower status, when she is given the choice of post-secondary education, she choose one that will put her in direct contact with those who consider her less. She goes into the situation hoping to fool them all and then when she has proven her worth, she will let them all know how wrong they are. But as Jarra gets to know these people from other planets, she is surprised to discover that they are just like her, they have their doubts about their abilities and their life path. Soon Jarra must decide how to live the rest of her life, even when it goes against everything she has ever believed. There were many parts of this story that I really enjoyed. Trying to understand what was happening and the history of the future of earth (if that makes any sense) was very difficult and seemed unnecessary at times. Jarra is a great character- she is tough- like Katniss and Tris and she has something to prove. I love female characters like that! The story was hard to follow in some spots- it is really hard to visualize the work Jarra did, but at the same time, it was quite interesting as well. I will recommend this book- to both boys and girls- I can see both enjoying the story. I think one of the best parts about this book is that it ended within the book, that means I don't have to wait for a sequel and to try and remember what happened in the first book. And for that alone- it is a great read!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Slated by Teri Terry

Pulled this one off the pile of TBR that is sitting in my den yesterday. I love dystopian novels and sometimes it is hard to keep finding new ones to read. This story is set in the future- a world where if you don't agree with the government, or you are a criminal, and under the age of 16 you can be slated. This is basically a reboot- all of your memories are wiped clean. You are given a new name, new family and a device called a Levo that monitors your emotions. Any time you are too happy, too angry, too sad, your Levo sends reports to your doctor. If you get too low, you go into convulsions and can die. The idea is to just get along,not get involved and at all costs, stay out of trouble. We meet Kyla 9 months after she has been slated. She is going home to her new family, a mother, sister and father. She is trying her best to fit in and stay low. But then things start to happen around her that have her questioning her memories, her friends and new information she is learning. Kyla must decide how to react to these things. Should she do what is expected, or do what her heart and mind are telling her? As with any dystopian book, it takes a bit of time to understand the world that is being described. It is sometimes hard to figure it all out. It also seems to me that dystopian novels are now purposely being written to span three books, so I finished this one dying to know what is going to happen next. And now I have to wait until August- where I will have forgotten the plot of this one. I find that a bit frustrating. However, I did enjoy this book. There is excitement, drama, a bit of romance and teenage angst as well. All in all, a nice quick read with a good plot.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Maybe I Will by Laurie Gray

Maybe I Will is a powerful story about how one event can change a persons life and the courage and strength it takes to recover from something. The main character in this story is Sandy. Sandy has two very close friends and the three of them do everything together. But one night something happens to Sandy and suddenly, things have changed between these friends. The story is about how Sandy tries to move forward in life. I'm finding this review a bit challenging to write, because of information that is revealed on the last page, after the story has been told. I would highly recommend this book- but I'm not sure it is appropriate elementary students. High school students for sure. I would suggest adults read this book first before giving it to their students. I can see this book being used in a literature circle because the discussion would be incredibly rich and diverse. All I can say is that I enjoyed reading it as an adult, and know that I want someone else to read it so I can talk to them about it.

Monday, May 12, 2014

This is How I Find Her by Sara Polsky

I loved this book! It deals with some pretty heavy issues, but it handles it in such an honest, compelling way. The story starts with Sophie coming home from school and finding her mother lying on her bed with a bottle of pills beside her. The story then continues with the reader learning what life has been like for Sophie who has had the responsibility of taking care of her mother who struggles with mental health- being biopolar and depression. Sophie has isolated herself from her friends and has shouldered taking care of her mother- which isn't easy or fair. After her mother's overdose, Sophie has a glimpse of what life might be like without her mother. The range of emotions she goes through is incredible. She struggles to fit in and still try to understand how she can help her mother without losing herself. I found this book to be so moving. Sophie's maturity coupled with her insecurities makes her an incredible character to get to know. All I could think of as I was reading this book was how as teachers we don't always know what goes on in the homes of our students. It also reminded me to look beyond the hurtful words and lashing out to truly see what is behind a person's motives. This book is appropriate for kids grade 7 and up. I wouldn't hesitate to have it in my classroom, but it would also fit in a high school library as well.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Panic by Lauren Oliver

I've read a few books by Oliver and have enjoyed them all. This book is set in a poor town in New York. Kids have a real sense of hopelessness when they finish high school. The lack of money really impacts what the future has in store for them. But one graduating senior has a chance to make a great deal of money and have a future outside of the town. All they have to do is win at the game called Panic. Panic is a game that challenges your courage and your ability to overcome the panic you feel when faced with a scary situation. Every senior must pay the entrance fee, but not every senior has to compete, that choice is yours. Heather never had any intention of joining in the game. She had been watching for years, watching kids die or get in terrible accidents. But at the last minute, she finds herself declaring her entry into the game. Then there is Dodge, who has been waiting for the last several years to participate in the game. He is fearless and knows he has what it takes to win. WAs the stakes get higher and higher and the challenges get scarier and scarier, Heather and Dodge find themselves unlikely allies as they both strive to win at all costs. I enjoyed reading this book, although as a mother, the idea of teens competing in this type of game scared the heck out of me. Heather and Dodge are like so many young adults, trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in with the world. As the main characters are high school seniors, there is some content that is meant for older students. But having said that, there is nothing that would stop me from putting it in an intermediate classroom.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts

Now that I am heading back to the classroom for next year, I am starting to think it is time to get back into reading some of YA books that I have missed over the last two years. I've forgotten how much I love reading books meant for teens. At the beginning of the book, the story is told through Zac's perspective. He is a 17 year old boy who is in isolation as a result of bone marrow treatment. He cannot leave his hospital room and the only company he has besides the nurses is his mother. Zac is a typical teenage boy who wants/ needs privacy and normalcy. But of course that isn't possible when you are living with cancer. As Zac struggles to recover from his treatment, a new girl moves into the room beside him. He isn't able to talk to her face to face, but they strike up an odd friendship. Then the story switches to Mia's perspective, she has always been the popular, beautiful girl and when she is faced with cancer, she completely shuts down and shuts out everyone from her old life. Her tough attitude makes it difficult for anyone to get close to her. As their friendship develops, Zac and Mia learn to depend on each other and learn a great deal from each other. Their path isn't an easy one, being a teenager is challenging enough, but throwing in cancer makes their relationship quite challenging. I really enjoyed both of these characters. Zac is a down to earth kid, who I think any parent would love to have dating their daughter. Mia on the other hand is tough as nails and carrying a very large chip on her shoulder. She is hard to like, and yet there is something about her that makes you want to root for her. The story was also set in Australia, which is neat- I enjoyed reading about the country and it was very different from reading a book set in North America. Zac and Mia is very similar to The Fault in Our Stars so if you liked it, I think you will also enjoy this book. There is some mature content and quite a bit of swearing, but it is really a part of the story and isn't out of place at all. I quite enjoyed the story of these two teenagers. For my high school teaching friends- this is a great book for you. Elementary teachers, I would be a bit hesitant to put this in my classroom because of the content.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen

I picked up this book before Christmas because it was on the list of Red Maple books. It sounded great with the review, but to be honest, the cover didn't grab me, so it just sat on my book shelf. I needed something to read the other night, and I knew I needed to read this one, so I decided to give it a go. Am I ever glad I did! Don't be fooled by the cover, this book is complex and deals with very serious issues. Henry K. Larsen is a 13 year old boy who is learning to deal with a very traumatic event. It is hard to go into many details, because one of the beautiful things about this book is the clever way Nielsen reveals details about Henry's past. Henry finds himself in a small town starting over again. He wants to just fly under the radar, but he finds that very challenging to do. He becomes friends with the boy nobody wants to be friends with and joins a group at school with other misfits. Slowly, Henry starts to heal from the event in his past, but while he is healing, he is forced to make some decisions about how to move forward. Henry is a great character. He has a great sense of humour and honesty as he learns to cope with his new reality. I think he is one of those characters that will stay with me for a long time. There are some mature themes in this book, I would still have it in my classroom- it is on the Red Maple list- but I would suggest teachers read it first before having it on their bookshelves. I really think many boys would enjoy reading it.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Winger by Andrew Smith

There are a few things I need to say right off the bat: 1. I LOVED this book. 2. It is not meant for intermediate students- but if you are a high school teacher- you need to buy this book! On the surface, Winger is a book about a very smart boy who is 14 years old and in grade 11. His parents have sent him off to a prep school and because of a few issues in his past he finds himself living in 'O-Hall', the residence for boys who need more supervision and restrictions. Ryan Dean is a bit afraid of the people who live in 'O-hall', they are big, football players who have an intense dislike for the rugby team of which Ryan Dean is a part of. To make matters worse, Ryan Dean is only 14 and the rest of the students in O-hall are all 17-18 years old. But Ryan Dean has decided that this is his year, he is not going to be the little boy anymore. He is going to show people he is tough. Yet with all 14 year old boys, things happen that he can't control. Through it all, Ryan Dean deals with embarrassing, difficult and challenging situations with humour. There were many times when reading this book that I laughed out loud. Yet this book also deals with very serious issues such as friendship, peer pressure, relationships and sports. This book was so incredibly unforgettable. I think Ryan Dean will live inside my head for a long while. I just heard as well that there will be a sequel to this book. As I said right off the bat, this book has very mature content. Ryan Dean is a 14 year old boy dealing with girls and he is very free with the thoughts that run through his mind and for this reason alone I wouldn't have it in my Intermediate classroom. I am planning on sharing it with my own 14 year old- I think he will like the quirky, real life situations Ryan Dean finds himself in.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Wonder by R.J. Palacio with updates

After reading all summer about the Wonder of Wonder on Twitter, I finally got around to ordering it. I started it this morning and finished it this afternoon, it was that brilliant!
To any of my teacher friends reading this blog- you need to pick this book up RIGHT NOW! I would love to know what kids think of this book, I think it has potential as an amazing reading aloud- there are so many wonderful stopping points and places you could have really really deep discussions about many important topics and concepts throughout this novel. Wonder is the story of how August, a 10 year old boy with a severe facial deformity learns to deal with the harsh reality of middle school. But, it is also about how his peers, friends and family learn to deal with getting to know who someone really is outside of their appearances. This is Palacio's first novel and she has hit a homerun with it. Wonder is told mostly from August's perspective, but there are times when you hear from his sister, and a few of the other kids at school. It is really interesting to read how they all deal with his appearance and the pressure they feel by knowing him and even befriending him. This book teaches empathy, kindness and how to stand up for what you believe in. I just checked out Palacio's website and I really like the questions she has posted for discussion. This is an incredibly powerful story, I know August will live with me for a very long time. UPDATE- January Many classes have been reading and discussing Wonder. A friend of mine read it aloud to her class and then had her students create a blogpost about the book. She shared one amazing post with me, and I had to share it here. You can check out Mackenzie's thoughts about the book But you also need to see the Wonder video the class made- you can see that below. UPDATE- May I just found out today that R.J. Palacio has written a chapter from Julian's point of view. You can only buy it as an ebook, which of course I did. This chapter allows the reader to catch a glimpse of what motivates Julian. Here is a video that has R. J. discussing why she wanted to write this chapter. You can check it out here.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

So many people have talked about this book and for some reason I didn't pick it up. It wasn't until two friends told me they were reading it to their class that I decided I had better read it. I think what was stopping me was the fact that the target audience was a little younger than I usually read. However, now that I have read it, I can't see any reason why Intermediate students wouldn't want to read this book. Actually, now that I think about it, I can see kids of all ages enjoying this story. The One and Only Ivan is written from the perspective of Ivan- a silverback gorilla. And when I say it is written from his perspective, I really mean Ivan is the narrator of this story- the book is written as if he did the writing. As we learn Ivan's story, we learn that he has been in captivity for a very long time. He has some memories of his life in the jungle, but he tries his best to block those out. Ivan lives at the mall, and at one point he was the main attraction. He lives with a collection of other animals and they have all been friends for a really long time. When Ruby, a new elephant joins the gang, Ivan comes to realizes that being held in captivity isn't right and he decides to take a stand for his new friend. Of course being a gorilla, his options are a bit limited, but Ivan is an incredibly resourceful gorilla and he is determined to make a better life for Ruby. I am so glad I read this book. In many ways Ivan reminds me of Charlotte in Charlotte's Web, but the unique writing style allows the reader a glimpse into the world of being an animal in captivity. I think what is most remarkable, is that this book is actually based on a true story. No matter what age you teach, you should really read this book!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Last summer, I read the book Eleanor and Park by this same author and fell in love with her writing style. I have been reading a great deal about Fangirl and didn't realize it was written by the same author, or I would have picked it up sooner. I am so glad I read it this weekend. I started it Saturday morning and could not put it down until I finished it Saturday afternoon. What a great way to spend a Saturday! Fangirl is written for students in high school, although I think I would put this one in an intermediate classroom, there is a bit of swearing, but not much else. The main character Cath is just starting her first year at university. She is nervous about going because she doesn't like meeting new people, and her twin sister declared that she doesn't want to share rooms when they are away. Cath struggles to really find her place at school. What keeps her going is her obsession with Simon Snow (a character from a book/movie) and her ability to write fan fiction online for her followers. But what Cath doesn't realize is that there are people out there who are going to pull her into the land of the living, regardless of how she feels about it. Cath is a really interesting character. I can relate to her complete obsession over a character. Reading about how she learns to navigate life, school and relationships was very rewarding and I can see that many readers would identify with her challenges and struggles. I will admit that at first, the similarities between Simon Snow and Harry Potter put me off the book, however, once I got over that, I found that the way Rowell wove in Cath's fan fiction, the author of Simon Snow's story and Cath's story was really fascinating. I don't usually tend to read or look for meaning in quotes/poems etc. that are shared in fictional novels, but I found myself looking for links between the different stories. This was a fabulous book, but I would warn anyone teaching grade 7 & 8 to read it first before giving it to students. I wouldn't hesitate to give it to students, but I would want you to make that decision yourself. Regardless, it is a great read!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Counting by 7's by Holly Goldbery Sloan

Counting by 7's was a quirky little book. I have been reading many reviews of it on blogs and Twitter, so I decided I had better see what all the buzz was about. Counting by 7's is the story of a young odd girl named Willow. Willow doesn't have many friends, but is happy in her own world. She loves reading, gardening and learning. Early on in the book, tragedy happens and the rest of the story deals with how Willow copes with the situation she finds herself in. As I was reading this book, I was reminded of other books I have read like Stargirl and Wonder. Like Stargirl, Willow has a profound affect on everyone she meets. Once Willow enters a person's life, she has the ability to change their life for the better. Willow doesn't set out to change people, it is just that once people get to know her, she inspires them to make changes that they didn't even know were needed. I like that about this book- watching the impact Willow had on the people around her. Counting by 7's is a really nice book- I can see kids who like Stargirl enjoying it, but also kids who enjoy reading about a character who doesn't really fit in at first glance, but when other's look past what they see on the outside, they discover a person who they need to be in contact with. I am wondering if it would be a good choice for a read aloud- perhaps for a younger grade- maybe grade 6. I'd love to hear what other's think about this book.