It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/14/14

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a meme started by Book Journey. The folks over at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers have given it a children’s/YA spin. I thought it would be a fun way to recap last week’s reading and give a sneak peek of my TBR pile.

Last Week’s Book: 

Robert Lettrick FRENZY middle grade horror

Only one book finished again this week. I am finding I take longer to read e-books than print books. Too many distractions on the iPad, I think. Even though I charged my Nook, I still haven’t put it back into regular use. I think I’ll see if that helps.

The book I read was Frenzy by Robert Lettrick. I was intrigued by the Netgalley description of this horror novel for middle grade/YA readers, so I thought I would give it a try. The setting is a summer camp, where our protagonist, Heath, and friends (and enemies) are having a pretty typical experience until the animals start to exhibit rabies-like symptoms and to attack humans. One bite from an affected creature instantly kills the victim. This happens very much at the beginning of the novel, so the bulk of it is Heath and other campers fleeing to safety–and getting picked off in gruesome ways on their journey. Interestingly, the animals are deathly afraid of water, so much so that they die when doused with it. The campers learn that fact early, and it greatly assists in their escape efforts.

The horror scenes were very well done–with suspenseful build-up, narrow misses, and gory hits. However, there were a few things about the book that fell a little flat for me. Throughout the story there are hints that something is wrong with Heath, including a big one when another camper, Will, sees the OxyContin roll out of his bag. Heath asks Will not to tell, and says that the camp supervisors don’t know about it. Later on it is revealed that Heath’s cancer has moved out of remission and he is refusing treatment. I can’t suspend disbelief enough to think that Heath’s parents would send him to camp without disclosing such a serious medical condition to the adults in charge and giving such a strong pain medication directly to the nurse. I also find the fate of the antagonist, Will, somewhat problematic. Will is set up from the beginning as a brilliant but manipulative person. More than once Heath and Will discuss whether Will is orchestrating events to ensure his own survival, even if that means sacrificing others. At the climax of the book, Will seems to put himself in danger by leading the animals away while the others make it to a building. This seems out of character for him, so I expected something to come of it later, but at the end of the story Will is found dead from bat bites and no further explanation is given It seems like maybe his character just needed to be out of the way for the ending, which is a shame since the dichotomy between Heath and Will is so strong throughout the rest of the story.

This Week’s Books:


I am reading the anthology Friends, edited by Ann M. Martin and David Levithan to see if I want to use any of the stories in my intervention class. I have only one class this last quarter, so my time in the library is greatly increased!!! :-) :-) :-) I also plan to start Half Bad by Sally Green, which I got from Netgalley so long ago that now the book is published…sigh….

On Deck:

snicker of magic

Books and Bites: April Foolishness

Today, the local teen librarians and I welcomed 60+ middle school students to the library for a lunch filled with giggles, snorts, and bathroom humor. I admit I must take credit for sharing both the “poop” book and the “fart” book. I guess I’m working with the right age group :-)

Here are the funny books we shared:

“Every book has got a piece of me in it”: A Visit with Joan Bauer

On Monday, April 7th, 100 sixth graders, their teachers, and I were honored to spend an hour with Joan Bauer. How wonderful it was to be a stop on her “tour of Illinois,” celebrating two consecutive years of Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award nominations for Close to Famous (2014) and Almost Home (2015).

I had heard from many others that Joan is a wonderful speaker and a gracious guest–and, of course, I believed them. How could the author of books like Hope Was Here and Stand Tall be anything but? And then she arrived and I met her and I was just blown away by what a genuine, warm, and all-around lovely person she is.

IMG_7055Here is Joan shaking each students’ hand as they walk in the door–even before she had a chance to put down her bags :-)

What a lovely way to begin our visit!


When we got rolling, Joan not only gave us insight into her books and her writing process, but also shared so much of herself with us. And she drew so much deep thinking out of the students, too–creating a character “out of thin air” with them, asking them what it means to find yourself, asking them what courage is, and more.

IMG_7070Joan moved around the room, connecting with her audience and looking individuals in the eye to speak directly to them. She really cared about each and every one of us.

Joan said so many amazing things that I only got to write down a fraction of them. Here are some of my favorites:

I think I came out of the womb saying, ‘OK, where are the books?’ I was ready.”

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just have a spray for the mean people in life?”

“Poetry is like crystallized emotion, and it can help you say things you can’t say any other way.”

“Life is very much a series of choices. It’s who we decide we’re going to be.”

“The best advice I’ve ever received is to be myself and to spend time understanding what that means.”

About her characters: “I think of them as my kids. I think that I’m their mother.”

On writing: “You know more about writing than you think you do.” and “Write when you feel like it, and write when you don’t.”

I could go on and on (and on) because there really aren’t enough words to describe what a special experience it was for everyone in the room–one that I know the students, teachers, and I will cherish and think about for many years to come.

This morning a girl came in and asked me for Joan’s email address. She explained that she wanted to write her because of something she said. That sixth grader wants to maintain the connection we made with Joan that day.

Me, too.



It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/7/14

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a meme started by Book Journey. The folks over at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers have given it a children’s/YA spin. I thought it would be a fun way to recap last week’s reading and give a sneak peek of my TBR pile.

Last Week’s Books:

deathstruckyearA Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier is about the Spanish Influenza plague of 1918. I think the choice of Portland, Oregon as the setting is an interesting one, as it shows how many people believed the plague would never spread to where they live–and still it did. Cleo Berry, is a plucky teen who escapes the confines of her school, volunteers for the Red Cross, meets and loses a best friend and falls in love. A privileged youth, Cleo’s world is changed when she sees the suffering of others, as we would expect, and in helping others, she grows as a young adult, also as we would expect. I’m finding myself wishing for a bit  more character development at the beginning of the novel–we know that Cleo is rich and well taken care of; however, I think her growth would seem greater had readers known her better at the start. Still, it is a solid historical fiction offering for junior high and high school readers.

Hope Was HereAs I have been a librarian for 20 years there are some books I know I have read, but I can’t remember very much about them. There are also books I assume I must have read along the way somewhere because they are  award-winners, have appeared on best books list, etc. And so, I  really thought I had already read Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer, since it earned the Newbery Honor designation in 2001. When I picked it up last week to consider booktalking it to students in preparation for Joan Bauer’s visit to our school, I thought maybe I hadn’t. So I took it home to read it (again?), and then I knew there’s no way I had read it before–I would not have forgotten such a powerfully beautiful book about family. In fact, I don’t even want to tell you all too much about it because there is so much joy in seeing Hope’s story unfold that I would love for readers to experience it for themselves–if they haven’t already….

Currently Reading:

Robert Lettrick FRENZY middle grade horror