Surprise Me Challenge: May ’16

In 2016, I am continuing to let random.org choose a book from my TBR list, to be read sometime during the month. I am just starting April’s book, but that didn’t stop May from coming…so…my randomly generated number is 327 (out of 384 in my TBR list). SURPRISE!, I will be reading Hell House by Richard Matheson, which is good because I am a little behind on my Horror Challenge. This is classic horror, published the year after I was born, so looking forward to some vintage creepiness.

hellhouseHere’s the Goodread’s description:

Can any soul survive?
Regarded as the Mount Everest of haunted houses, Belasco House has witnessed scenes of almost unimaginable horror and depravity. Two previous expeditions to investigate its secrets met with disaster, the participants destroyed by murder, suicide or insanity. Now a new investigation has been mounted – four strangers, each with his or her own reason for daring the unknown torments and temptations of the mansion…


2016 Challenges: April Progress

  • Goodreads goal of 130 books: 7 this month, 47 total
  • 2016 Horror Reading Challenge  goal of 16+ books: None this month, three total
  • Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge (24 specific categories of books): One this month, eight total – category 10
  • Panels’ 2016 Read Harder Challenge (26 specific categories of books): Zero this month, four total
  • Surprise Me goal of one book per month: One this month, three total

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/25/16

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:

Guys Read: Funny Business was a re-read for me, as I wanted to refresh myself on some of the stories before booktalking. Some are really funny, and some are mildly amusing–kind of a mixed bag like many short story collections. The panel of contributing authors is stellar, including Jeff Kinney, Christopher Paul Curtis, and Eoin Colfer.

Booked by Kwame Alexander is another thoroughly engaging novel in verse. Nick Hall is a middle school soccer player who is looking forward to a big tournament. Also on his mind is a linguist/author dad who forces him to read from a giant book of words and a crush he has on April, a girl at school and in the dance class his mom forces him to take. When Nick’s parents decide to separate and his mom moves away for a new job, Nick’s world is shattered, and he needs to find a way to deal with it all. This book has a little less sports action than The Crossover, but an excellent librarian character, Mr. Mac, who used to be a rapper and recommends some great current middle grade reads. There’s even an example of book spine poetry:-) As you might imagine, I have students lining up to read this book, and they are recommending it to their friends.

Currently Reading/Listening To:

On Deck:



2017 Rebecca Caudill Roundup: The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnston

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston (netgalley)Most years, I have a lot of trouble picking my favorite Caudill nominee…however…I have loved this book ever since reading the ARC before its publication date of 3/1/14. (lots of close seconds this time though)

I booktalk it often to students and adults; in fact, it is among the titles I will be sharing with teachers and librarians tonight at MID-State Reading Council’s Wine-A-Read event in Carlock, IL.

My review post for The Story of Owen is among my most popular posts of all time, and my stats show it still gets read once or twice every couple of weeks. Sometime I’ll need to track down whether people are finding it from Google or if there is a referring link somewhere.  Although I look at stats, I am not all that into the nitty gritty stuff.

Anyway, it seems like a good idea, then, to provide a brief excerpt and then just link to my original post–after saying that this nominee is great for older Caudill readers, although there is no content that gives me pause when considering advanced fourth graders might read it, too.

Review: The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston

Don’t you love it when a book comes along that makes you feel like it was written especially for you? Such is the case for me with E. K. Johnston’s debut novel, The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim which is set to hit shelves on March 1st. It is a mash-up of fantasy, origin story, dragons, music, strong female characters, hockey and other Canadian things, top-notch world building and epic story-telling style, among other things.           Continue reading here



It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/18/16

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:

I can say that I did not like the second installment of Batgirl (of Burnside) as much as the first. Volume two is called “Family Business,” and features stories where the Batman persona is “played” by Commissioner Gordon; Dick Grayson, Barbara’s former and presumed-dead boyfriend, shows up, and Batgirl even teams up with Batwoman. For me, figuring out all these relationships seemed to get in the way of fighting the bad guys. Still, I enjoy this Batgirl and plan to keep on reading.

E.K. Johnston’s Exit, Pursued by a Bear was a must-purchase when I saw it at Barnes and Noble. Johnston is a new-ish author whose excellent work I love to support. I purposefully did not read reviews of this book, and so went into it pretty blind. I think it is only fair, then, to say that there are major spoilers in this review.

Hermione Winters is a confident, motivated almost-senior who is co-captain of an elite cheerleading team. At the annual back-to-school cheer camp, she sets her sights on not only leading the best team at the camp, but creating a team that will once again be crowned champs at the end-of-year competition. And then at the camp dance someone drugs her drink, leads her away to the beach, and rapes her. Hermione’s friends find her down by the water, and when she wakes up as she enters the ambulance Hermione has no recollection of her attack or attacker. DNA tests do not reveal the identity of her rapist. Hermione returns home and misses the first week of school as she physically recovers and waits to take a pregnancy test that is necessary even though she was given emergency contraception. While she is absent, rumors fly about a box of condoms in her suitcase (put there by her fellow cheer team member and boyfriend, Leo) and her “flirting” with other guys at the camp. When her pregnancy test is positive, Hermione decides to get an abortion and further (inconclusive) tests are done on the fetus. Then Hermione does her best to get therapy, to return to her life as cheerleader captain, and to look ahead to the big competition and college.

Hermione is surrounded by very supportive parents; a ferocious best friend, Polly; an excellent therapist; and an understanding minister. This team helps her weather the storm of rumors, helps her avoid triggers as much as possible and deal with panic attacks when they happen, and tries to assist her in remembering the events of her rape so that she might identify her attacker. Obviously, not all raped teens have this kind of support, but even with it, Hermione must work hard to overcome her fears and deal with what happened to her. Her personal strength is admirable and important for teen girls to read about.

I am at a middle school with students in grades 6-8. I think it is important to offer this book to my readers, just as it is important to have Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak on my shelves. I will put a “T for Teen” sticker on the book, but I will not restrict checkout. A few reasons that I feel I can select the book for junior high students is that Hermione does not remember the details of her rape and that Hermione’s pregnancy and abortion are handled so well.  I think that a more graphically detailed book would be better suited for high school readers, but the issue of rape is one that we need to educate younger girls about, too, so I am glad this book exists.

Finally, I want to add that I am not impressed by this book only because it is an “issue book.” Hermione is a strong character, her friendship with Polly is especially well developed, and the story unfolds in an engaging manner. Readers will not only connect with Hermione as a rape survivor, but will also connect to Hermione as a talented and determined athlete. As Hermione does not want to be known as just “that raped girl,” so, too, Exit, Pursued by a Bear should not be known as just “that raped girl book.”

Currently Reading/Listening To:

On Deck:


2017 Rebecca Caudill Roundup: Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt

April is National Poetry Month and just like the 2016 list, the 2017 Rebeeca Caudill list features three novels in verse. Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt is one of them.

Kevin Jamison is a bully. And a vandal. And a poet.

A Poetry Bandit, to be precise.
Stealing pages ripped from books, revealing poems found within.
Posting on lockers and walls, targeting teachers and students.

A poetry notebook, lost and found.
Victim becomes the bully becomes the victim.

Will there be an intervener for this rhyme schemer?
Hint: #LibrariesTransform


For a more traditional description of this work, check out K.A. Holt’s Rhyme Schemer page.

For a good introduction to book page / found poems, check out this Prezi.

For a taste of what being a poet is like, go make a poem:-)