It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/27/15

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.

After quite a while of reading and listening to a lot of YA and adult titles, I was happily mucking about in middle grade books last week :-)

Last Week’s Books:

I had the great fortune of finding a Barnes and Noble gift card in my old fine box that still had a tidy sum on it! I took the opportunity to order a few books that have been rumbling around Twitter and blogs I read lately, and I read two of them this week!

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson has been called “the next Smile” by more than one person lately, and I whole-heartedly agree that fans of Telegemeir’s work will enjoy this great new graphic novel. In the summer before junior high, Astrid’s mother takes her and best friend, Nicole, to see a roller derby match. Astrid falls in love with the sport and decides to give junior camp a try, only to be crushed by Nicole’s choosing dance camp instead. Jamieson captures the essence of worrying about friendships, fitting in, and falling down (both literally and figuratively) in a way that will resonate soundly with middle grade readers. I consider it an absolute must-purchase for all middle school libraries, and I’ll bet Scholastic is trying to get those paperback rights for next year’s fall book fairs.


I have also been hearing great things about the comic, Lumberjanes, created by a cast of women writers and illustrators, headed up by Noelle Stevenson. I purchased the first trade paperback, Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy, which compiles comics #1 – 4. It tells the story of a group of five campers at Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp (for hard-core lady-types) who have become fast friends and boon companions. Their counselor, Jen, does her best to give them fulfilling experiences with nature and to help them work on their badges; however, all the magic happens at night while Jen is sleeping or when the campers get separated from her (accidentally on purpose). In this volume, the girls meet and battle, among other things, talking wolves, fierce statue guards, yetis, and zombified boy campers, and there is an underlying current that there must be a magical explanation that ties together why all these bizarre creatures are around the camp. The book is action-packed, and students will love these fierce girls who never back down from a challenge. This book counts for my 2015 Read Harder Challenge (written by someone under 25).


I reviewed Flying Cars for Andrew Glass for Library Media Connection, so I cannot yet share my full review. However, I must point out that this is the first information book I have seen about people’s attempts to combine cars and airplanes throughout history, and the author has certainly done his research on the subject.


It has been quite a while since I have read a professional book about the history and criticism of children’s literature rather than about its use in the library and classroom. Bird, Danielson, and Sieruta are all big names in this area of research and writing, and their essays treat readers to behind-the-scenes information about books and authors on such topics as censorship and banned books; celebrity authors; LGBT authors, illustrators, and works; and children’s literature pre- and post- Harry Potter. This is more of an entertaining than a scholarly read, but it still provided much food for thought.


Finally, early in the week I intended to skim a bit of Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep in order to write a review for its release on Tuesday. I wound up rereading the whole thing, as described in this post.

Currently Reading/Listening To:

On Deck:

(Sort of) Review of Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (pub date 4/21/15)

challengerdeepFor the record, I fully intended to write a more traditional review of Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep, which hits bookstores and shelves tomorrow. It has been a few weeks since I finished the digital review copy (DRC) that I specifically joined Eidelweiss to get after Shusterman visited my two junior high schools and read excerpts to us. And although I have often found myself thinking about the novel, I know that I am very bad on remembering things like names and spellings–the kinds of things you need to get right when writing a review.

Fortunately for me, as I sat down after dinner, I found that the DRC still exists and “plays” on my tablet. I began to read and to get sucked into this compelling story all over again. I began making connections–ones I don’t know that I fully made before–because I was now reading the beginning of the book when I already knew about what happens in the middle and at the end. I imagine that if I had an actual paper copy of the book (which I still prefer to an e-book), I would be flipping back and forth to check and double-check, to read and re-read–almost reconstructing the order of the book as I was reading it. But I don’t have that paper copy…yet. I am now 88 out of 365 pages in (e-books pages, anyway), and it looks like this book has staked a claim on the rest of my evening, and probably night, too. But before I go and read some more, just a few more words about Challenger Deep.

I saw a professional review that says Neal Shusterman “returns to realistic fiction” with this novel, and I would not say I find that entirely accurate. At the teacher workshop during his visit, Shusterman was asked about genre, and he said he considered himself a genre-buster. Challenger Deep is a genre-busting book. The reader “knows” that “real-world” Caden is spiraling down the path to mental illness…after a while. The beginning recounts Caden’s first encounters with the Captain, his ship, and his crew–the setting and situation which make up one of the intertwining parts of the book. To Caden it is all real; to the reader, it is a fantasy world where parrots and figureheads speak and there is something not quite right about the navigator and the crow’s nest cocktails. And then there is the terror of the white kitchen in Caden’s dreams, which also haunts him while he is awake. And then there is the Caden who leaves home for a medical facility, giving the reader a, yes, realistic view of what it might be like to be a teen grappling with mental illness. Genre-busting.

Challenger Deep features the most beautiful language of all of Shusterman’s books, indeed, some of the most beautiful I have read in a long time. The author says that he considers this to be “one of the most important books of [his] career” and the most personal. It is his son, Brendan, who inspired the book and allowed his drawings to become Caden’s. I could tell you a few of my favorite lines, this time around anyway, but I am not sure they would work out of context, nor am I sure that they would be the ones that would touch you the most. The Reader-Response-critic in me wants to let you experience it for yourself and to find your own meaning and your own beauty in it. In order to do that, of course, you will need to buy or borrow (as soon as possible, probably tomorrow) a copy of the book (I suggest a tangible one) and begin your own journey with Challenger Deep. As for me, I have 277 more (e-book) pages to finish tonight.

IMWAYR

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/20/15

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 have been a fan of Chris Wooding ever since I first picked up The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray many years ago, and to this day it is one of my top-recommended horror novels. And so, of course, I had high hopes for Silver, especially after my 12-year-old son enjoyed it immensely. It turns out that this was, indeed, a great piece of horror for middle grade and early teen readers. Set in an English boarding school, Silver recounts what happens when students encounter some bizarre silver beetles which attack, causing people to change into zombie-like, circuited killing machines. There is great tension in this book, as readers root for Paul, Mr. Sutton, and a small group of uninfected students to get out or get help. There’s a ton of action and a fair amount of gross descriptions. Wooding provides a believable and terrifying scientific cause of this phenomenon and brings it about naturally through the narrative. Ultimately (most of) the heroes prevail…for now…as readers are left wondering what the world will be like outside the boarding schools’ gates. This book counts for my Horror Reading Challenge 2015.


I finished up listening to The Art of Asking; Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer. It was very interesting to hear about many aspects of Palmer’s life weaving throughout this book–she has been/is a living statue, indie singer/songwriter, crowd-funding pioneer, Twitter master, and wife of Neil Gaiman, among other things. I am glad that I listened to the audiobook and got to hear her songs as well as her voice. The theme of asking shines through, but I’m not quite sure she spent enough time on sharing how to ask, exactly. Or at least how the average person who doesn’t have a million Twitter followers might learn how to better ask for what he/she needs/wants. Perhaps I would have been more satisfied had the book been billed straight-up as a memoir, because she did so share much about many years of her adult life, and a bit before that, too.

Currently Reading:

wildthings

On a recent trip to the public library, I stumbled up Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Betsy Byrd, Julie Danielson, and Peter Sieruta. I can’t remember the last time I read a professional book that was the history/criticism of literature rather than its use in the library or classroom, so I am thoroughly relishing this read.

On Deck:

IMWAYR

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/13/1513/

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:

This week I read the four titles in the Great Moments in Media series in order to review it for Library Media Connection. Although I cannot reproduce my review before it is published, I will say that I would not purchase the books for my middle school library because I think they assume too much background knowledge.


Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron is a thoroughly entertaining piece of (mainly) science fiction. It tells the story of Boy, who is the created (by them) son of Frankenstein’s Monster and The Bride. They live and work in a New York theater with other mythical and fantastic creatures who put on “The Show” for none-the-wiser humans. When his father tells Boy of his plan to send Boy to the University of Geneva and to live with the Frankenstein family, Boy refuses to do so and runs away into the human world. His new life is first made better and then extremely more difficult by the artificially intelligent computer virus Boy created, let loose, and then lost track of. It seems that “Vi,” as “she” calls herself, not only is hunting Boy across the country but also figuring out to take over human bodies. Boy enlists the help of others, including Sophie/Claire, the granddaughters of Jekyll & Hyde, and even the Invisible Man. But this story is far from a wild road trip and chase. it has much to say about the responsibilities of creators for that which they create. I heartily recommend this book for high school libraries and public libraries’ YA collections.

Currently Reading/Listening To:

On Deck:

IMWAYR

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/6/15

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a meme started by Book Journey. The folks over atTeach 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:

Francine Prose’s modern-day retelling of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw sounded promisingly creepy. And it was creepy, at times. In this version, a teenage boy named Jack sets off for a remote island where he will spend the summer babysitting two children, without the help of TV, video games. or wi-fi. Once there, he is freaked out (as is the reader) by the strange behavior of the children and the tragic stories surrounding the island. Although the adult cook and caretaker, Linda, is at the house as well, she is little help as Jack falls prey to the two ghosts of clandestine lovers Norris and Lucy. Jack’s mind begins to unravel as he discovers the terrible influence Norris had over the children and Lucy and as he begins to fall in love with Lucy’s ghosts. This is a case in which I wished the execution was more successful. This is an epistolary novel; however, even at the beginning before he reaches the island, Jack’s voice is not that of a typical teenager and dialogue often hits a wrong note.  Still, as his letters to once-girlfriend Sophie get angrier and more bizarre, one can’t help but feel a shudder or two. This book counts for my Horror Reading Challenge 2015–it’s #2 so far.


And now for Andrew Smith’s The Alex Crow, which was a brilliantly written genre-buster of a book. Here and there I have seen Smith called the “Kurt Vonnegut of YA,” and this book puts me in mind of Slaughterhouse Five. It blends the story of Ariel, a war refugee recently adopted by an American family who is attending summer camp with “brother” Max; the Melting Man, who is driving across country with a bomb in his truck and Joseph Stalin’s voice in his head; and a failed arctic expedition from the late nineteenth-century. That is not all, of course, and it is first challenging to get a handle on this tale. However, Smith not only makes it all makes sense, but makes it all about finding humanity in the midst of inhumanity. This inhumanity is fiercely and often disturbingly described, but without such treatment, I think it would seem less horrifying and make less of an impact on the reader.

Currently Reading/Listening To:

On Deck: