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.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

In all the years of writing on this blog, in all the books I've read, and the multiple times I've read the Harry Potter Series, I have never written a review of one of the books. Although I did write an odd blog post on butterbeer cupcakes I made once.  I am not exactly sure where to start with this review.

I think the first thing I need to write is that I have been a huge huge huge fan of Harry Potter, the books, the movies etc.  I am the household champion of Harry Potter Scene it, my ringtone on my phone is the theme from Harry Potter and I have read the books and seen the movies so many times, but can never get enough of them.  So to say I was excited about this new book was an understatement.

I was away this weekend and didn't get to pick it up until last night.  When a teenage I was with this weekend mentioned it was a script I wasn't not impressed, however,  I started it last night about 8:30 and read until midnight to finish it.  IT WAS THAT GOOD!  I was a bit skeptical about reading a script, and was worried I would miss J.K. Rowling's hand in the writing of these books.  Once I got into the book, I didn't even notice the script style, although I do admit, I missed all the details that are usually found in her stories.  But the plot was just as exciting as you would expect.

This story starts out when Harry is 37 and his middle child Albus is heading off to Hogwarts.  Albus and Harry are struggling with their relationship and neither one of them knows how to fix the strain that is there.  When he goes off to school, he become an unlikely friend of Scorpius- Draco Malfoy's son.  This causes tension between Albus, his friends and his cousins (Ron and Hermione's children)
As the book progresses, Albus and Scorpius find themselves having adventures just like Harry, Ron and Hermione did when they were at school, with similar results.

What I loved about this book, besides the continuation of a story I love, is the jumps between past events- the Tri-wizard tournament plays a big role in this book.  I love reading a different version of that story. Getting a glimpse of Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny all grown up is also a thrill.

It was a quick read that is for sure, but well worth it.  I know other Potter fans will love it as much as I do.  I'd love to read what others thought of it.  Leave me a comment below!

Shooter by Caroline Pignat

This book came across my Twitter feed a while ago and I put it in my virtual cart at Chapters.  Last week when I went to order another book I saw it there.  I'm not sure why I waited so long to place my order (maybe waiting for free shipping?) because I am a huge fan of Caroline Pignat.  Many years ago I read and reviewed Egghead and I have since used it many times in my classroom as a read aloud.  I picked up Shooter yesterday and finished it in one sitting, it is as powerful as Egghead was, I've already texted a friend telling her she needs to read it to her grade 8 class this year.

Shooter deals with something many teachers and students experience often in our classrooms- the idea of lockdowns to practice just in case something happens.  In Shooter, the story opens with the beginning of a lockdown.  Four grade 12 students find themselves locked in the boys bathroom on the top floor.  The story is then told from each of their different perspectives.

  • Alice, who tries to stay hidden from sight and who is charged with looking after her autistic brother.  
  • Isabelle, the popular girl at school who lives a charmed and perfect life.  
  • Hogan, the ex-football player who walks around in a cloud of anger all the time after a family tragedy
  • Xander, the nerdy boy who takes brutally honest photographs as a way to explore what is happening around him. 
As the lockdown progresses, and as they learn more and more about the events that are happening in the hallways, the four locked in the bathroom realize that they have information that could change the outcome of the lockdown.  But they need to trust each other and in themselves.  

This story is incredible. As someone who has experienced both real and practice lockdowns, the characters that Pignat describes really hit home. The fear, the excitement, the boredom...all of those are emotions students (and teachers) go through during one of these events.  While I would be careful what age I read this book with, I think grade 7's and 8's could handle it.  Grade 8's for sure.  Pignat writes in such a careful way that even with such a serious topic, she handles it beautifully and allows the readers to see the pain that hides in everyone.  I love how she peels back the layers of each of her characters until you realize they are all hiding something. If you teach intermediate grades I would highly recommend picking this book up. 

Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines

Full disclosure, I picked this book up while I was in the middle of binge watching Friday Night Lights and was caught up in the whole high school football team story.  However, this book isn't much like Friday Night Lights (other than the football story), but the book is also so so good.

The main character in this story is Maggie who has just moved in with her aunt and uncle after watching her father murder her mother.  Maddie is the one who told the police what happened and the guilt she felt caused her to stop speaking to anyone.  She goes through life silently witnessing what is happening around her, but playing no role in her life.  When she moves in to her new family, her aunt and uncle ask her cousin Brady to show her around and make her feel part of the high school life.  Brady is part of the Lawton High football squad and he has told all of his friends that his cousin is off limits.   But, West Ashby, Brady's best friend is also hiding something from his friends.  The fact that his father is dying of cancer.  West hasn't let anyone in on this secret because he doesn't want to admit anything is wrong.  When Maddie and West are thrown together, West finds comfort in Maddie's silences. The fact that he can speak what is in his heart, and he knows his secrets are safe with her.  But as these two start sharing their secrets, they find what kept them apart from everyone else is what pulls them closer together.

I loved this story- so much so that I have preordered the next book in the series for my Kindle for later this month.  Both West and Maggie's pain is hard to read, but the way the support each other is beautiful.

This book has some mature bits in in, there is some talk about sex, but nothing graphic or over the top.  I would feel comfortable having this in my grade 7 classroom, but you may want to read it first.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

Last week a friend gave me this book to read because it was recommended by a student.  I haven't read many YA books lately, one of the drawbacks of not being in the classroom is that I don't have as much motivation to find new books for kids to read.

Yesterday was a perfect day for laying by the pool and reading and this was the perfect book for it.
Everything Everything is a little like The Fault in Our Stars but different in many ways too.
Madeline Whitter is not like any other high school student you will ever meet.  She is 17 years old and never leaves her house, ever.  The only human contact she has is with her mom, her nurse Carla and occasionally one of her tutors.  Yet Madeline is happy.  She loves to read, and is passionate about architecture.  Although there are times when she wishes her life was different, her mom and nurse try to make her life as exciting and happy as possible.  One day when a new family moves in next door, Madeline can't help but be intrigued by the new boy in the family.  They seem to be about the same age, and Madeline finds herself drawn to him.  As the story goes on, Madeline and Olly become friends through electronic communication and Madeline begins to fall in love with him. Suddenly her tidy life isn't enough for her, she starts wishing for more.  But, she has to be brave enough to life life to the fullest, even if that comes at a high cost to herself.

I loved, loved, loved this book.  I could not put it down, and I actually finished it in one sitting.  There is one mature scene in the book, but it is handled so well that I wouldn't hesitate to have it in my grade 7 classroom. Anyone who loves John Green would love this book.  I can't wait to share it with some of my former students who are now in grade 9.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Transferral by Kate Blair

I found this book on Twitter and knew it was my type of book so I ordered it right away.

In this dystopian world, when someone gets an illness, they can have it transferred to a criminal.  Criminals are given sentences of illnesses based on the severity of the crime.  The bigger the crime, the more serious the illness they are given.
When we first meet Talia, the daughter of a Prime Ministerial candidate she is suffering from a cold and wants nothing more than to get rid of it. She is embarrassed to be seen coughing and wiping her nose, and her father needs to stay far away from her so he doesn't appear weak.  While at the hospital, Talia is confronted by a mad man and she risks her own life to help a young girl.
That action throws Talia into a world in which she knew nothing about.  The more she learns about this young girl and her family, the more she starts questioning everything she has ever believed in.  Her father doesn't understand what she is thinking, and tries to get her to see things his way.  But Talia does everything in her power to make him see reason.

This book was amazing!  Fast paced, interesting and exciting. Talia is a great character- strong, believable and convincing.  My only issue with this book was that the print was so small that it was hard to read.  But maybe that is just my age!

Anybody who loves reading dystopian novels will love this book.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Will to Survive by Eric Walters

I know I've said this many, many times, but I love ANYTHING written by Eric Walters- and this book was no exception.  I've been waiting for this book to come out for over a year- and I was so excited when it arrived this week.  I started it yesterday and finished it early this morning.
If you haven't read Rule of Three or Fight For Power you really need to read those first.

In this book, Adam, his friends and family are still trying to survive and thrive in a world where there is no electricity or power.  His neighbourhood has pulled together in order to survive. They have rules, routines and people to help make decisions.  Life inside their community is actually moving along pretty well.  But people on the outside want what they have, and are willing to stop at nothing to get it.  Adam at 16 needs to make some pretty serious decisions, but he is lucky to have his friend Herb there to guide him and direct him.   The big question is how far will Adam have to go to survive?

Will to Survive starts off where Fight for Power ends, and it is full of excitement, and adventure from the first page.  What I loved most about this book is that Adam is now in situations that are more typical of dystopian novels.  The people on the outside are dangerous and violent and Adam finds himself in situations that put not only his life, but the lives of his friends and family at risk.  Adam is a strong character with a great moral compass, but even he questions what he is going to have to do in order to keep his community safe.  Walters doesn't shy away from the means that people who are hungry for power will go to in order to take something they want.  Yet in true Walters fashion, it is done in a way that would be accessible for elementary aged students.

If you are a fan of Eric Walters, a fan of dystopian novels, or a fan of great stories- you need to read this book- well actually the whole series.  It was truly my favourite young adult series I've read in a very long time.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Don't ask me where I picked this book up because I have no idea.  It was in my TBR pile and last week when I was looking for a book to read, this is the one that stood out for me.  I LOVED this book- I loved that it was told through poetry, but also that it was a story of a grade 7 boy playing basketball told in poetry!

Crossover is the story of twin brothers, Josh and Jordan Bell. They are the children of a former basketball star and they have game. They are the star players on their school team and they eat, sleep and dream basketball.  That is  until a girl comes along and suddenly things start to change for the brothers.
As the boys adapt to new feelings and changes at home, they use basketball as a way to work through their thoughts and feelings.

The story is told from Josh's perspective and he is such an interesting character.  At the start it is all about basketball, but as the story goes on, you start to realize he has deeper feelings and his writing changes as the story progresses.  Both Josh and Jordan are dealing with both normal things all kids deal with, but with the added pressure of their father's dreams for them as well.

I can't wait to share this with some of the boys from my class last year.  The fact that the story is told through poetry opens up so many discussion opportunities as well making it a quick read, which is appealing to many boys.  

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Innocent by Eric Walters

Eric Walter's has done it again!  He has created the idea for a series of books where there are different characters connected by a common event.  Just like with the Seven series, the Secret series is written by different authors who each explore a different character.

After a fire at the orphanage where Betty has grown up, she is forced to start her new life outside the only home she has ever known quicker than expected.  When Betty ends up in Kingston, she finds herself working for the richest family in Kingston as a maid.  As she gets to know the other servants and family members, Betty is given glimpses of her life before the orphanage.  The more she learns about her past, the more confused she becomes.  When she learns that her father is serving time in jail for murder, it takes all of her strength to discover the truth.

As with all Eric Walter's books, I loved this character.  She was strong, determined and very clear in her beliefs.  I really liked the fact that this book was set in 1964 and in Kingston.  I could see many places Betty visited in my mind as I read through the book.  The gentle life style of the 1960's was really interesting and put a different twist on the story.  I like reading about kids dealing with situations who aren't quite as jaded or connected to social media as most books I read these days.

I think this series is destined to be another success for Eric Walters and the other authors.  I want to go out tomorrow and pick up more of the books.  I can really see girls in grade 5 or 6 enjoying these books.