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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/23/16

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:

The Dogs by Allan Stratton was an unsettling tale of Cameron, a teen who moves into an old farmhouse with his mother when she suspects her abusive ex-husband has found them again. Cameron is used to being the new kid, lying about his past, and being bullied. What he does not expect is that his bullies target him because of the farm he is staying at, where decades before a man was torn apart by his own guard dogs. He also doesn’t expect to meet Jacky, the ghost of a young boy who can’t seem to move on from the farm. This was definitely a creepy book (but not super-scary), and the mystery of what exactly happened so long ago is an intriguing one which the reader tries to solve along with Cameron. A solid selection for junior high and high school readers. This book counts toward my Horror Challenge 2016–I’m really catching up this month.


I was browsing previous “wish list” titles on my Overdrive account with my local public library when I ran across The Superstress Solution  by Roberta Lee, M.D. Since the end of the school year is particularly stressful, I decided to peruse the title and wound up reading the whole thing over the course of a night and early morning. It was helpful to try to identify my stress type and read about many steps one can take to reduce stress, but there was nothing really revolutionary here. I also do not find myself motivated to follow the four-week plan, particularly because I do like following rigid menu plans. Still, I am glad I read it.

Currently Reading/Listening To: 

On Deck:

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/16/16

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:

This is going to be somewhat of a drive-by post, as it is the last full week i.e. busiest week) of the school year. Glad I enjoyed a number of books last week to get me relaxed and ready for the long haul of this one….

Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton is a full of horror stories within a story.  Middle grade because the stories are fairly mild. 3 stars. This book counts for my Horror Challenge 2016.

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate is a story of a boy and his imaginary friend (a giant cat) who comes when he is needed most. 4 stars.

The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin is a beautiful realistic fiction book about a preteen dealing with the death of her (former) best friend. Don’t miss this one. 4 stars.

West of the Moon by Margi Preus blends the story of a young girl sold to a goat-herder with Norse folk tales. 3 stars.

Locke & Key, Vol. 1 by Joe Hill is a horror/dark fantasy graphic novel suitable for high school students and adults. 4 stars. This book counts for my Horror Challenge 2016. This book also counts for my Panels Challenge 2016 (category 3).

Currently Reading/Listening To:

On Deck:

SUMMER VACATION AND LOTS OF READING! SKY’S THE LIMIT!:-):-):-)

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2017 Rebecca Caudill Roundup: Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

nightbirdNightbird by Alice Hoffman is magical realism for middle graders at its finest.  Twig and her mother have moved from Brooklyn to small house her mother grew up in the small town of Sidwell, home of the notorious Sidwell Monster. Twig’s mom insists on keeping to themselves because they have been hiding a secret from the world for years–Twig’s older brother, James, who has wings, like all the cursed men in the family before him. And then a family moves into the house next door, and Twig can’t help but break the rules, make a friend, and investigate not only the family curse, but some mysterious graffiti that has appeared all over town. There’s also a light romance, as James begins sneaking out at night to meet up with Agate, the older girl next door.

I became absolutely enveloped in Hoffman’s warm, compelling tale, and even though I was able to predict some of the story’s events and elements, I enjoyed Hoffman’s wonderful words taking me there. Not all middle schoolers will make those same predictions, but those who do will be pleased that they did.

Here’s a video clip of Alice Hoffman speaking about children’s books, her own reading as a child, and a little bit about what inspired Nightbird.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/9/16

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 was not expecting to love Something Real by Heather Demetrios as much as I did. In fact, when it came up as my April Surprise Me! book, I barely remembered adding it. Thank goodness for kismet, fate, etc. because this is one of the nest realistic fiction books I have read this year. It chronicles the life of high school senior Chloe Baker who is FINALLY living like a normal teenager since her family’s reality show Baker’s Dozen was canceled four years ago. Chloe, who was then called Bonnie, and her twelve siblings and parents lied liek on-screen until the parents’ divorce and Bonnie’s “incident” resulted in the show’s cancellation. Imagine Chloe’s horror, when she arrives home from school early one day to see camera crews and producers swarming everywhere, as her mom has decided to restart the show with her new husband. All the normalcy Chloe has relished is about to come to an end, which could spell disaster for her friendships and budding romance with Patrick. Oh, how I loved the richness of Chloe’s character and her response to her struggles. Her relationship with her brother Benny, also a senior, was complex and interesting and important to her sanity. I loved to hate not only the producer, Chuck, but also Chloe’s mom (most of the time). I think that teens will find this look behind the scenes of a reality TV show an eye-opening one, and it might change the minds of those who have been dreaming of that kind of fame. This counts for my Surprise Me! Challenge 2016.



Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty is a wonderfully fresh and creepy middle grade novel with great characters and atmosphere. Serafins has always been different from other children, and not only because she secretly lives in the basement of the Biltmore with her pa. I listened to the audiobook and at the very beginning I kept getting the sense that all of Beatty’s descriptions of Serafina reminded me of a cat–and that makes perfect sense later in the book. Two important things happen at the beginning of this book to change Serafina’s life forever: she makes her first friend, Braeden, nephew of the Vanderbilts; and she sees a man in a black cloak envelope a young girl and make her disappear. Soon, other children go missing as well, and Serafina is determined to figure out the identity of the man and put an end to his attacks. Serafina gets herself into some pretty harrowing confrontations, and the man and the cloak itself are quite evil forces to be reckoned with. And while I guessed much of the ending, it was still fascinating to see how it all played out.This will be an exciting read for my junior high students. This book counts for my Horror Challenge 2016.

Currently Reading/Listening To:

Ghost Road Blues audio became available from library again. Hoping I can finish it before my loan period runs out again.

On Deck:

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2017 Rebecca Caudill Roundup: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

warthatsavedmylifeIt’s almost Mother’s Day, a time when we celebrate our moms and all they mean to us. There are lots of great mothers in middle grade fiction, and lots of terrible ones as well. The mother in this week’s Rebecca Caudill Roundup selection has got to rank right up there with the worst fictional mothers of all time.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley was chosen as a Newbery Honor Book for 2015. It’s the story 10-year-old Ada, who lives in a squalid flat in World War II London with her little brother, Jamie, and terribly abusive mother who keeps Ada hidden from the world because of her clubfoot. When Jamie is about to be evacuated to the English countryside, their mother keeps Ada behind, as she ashamed of her disability and is sure that no one would accept her into their home–and she tells Ada as much. When evacuation day comes, Ada runs away and joins Jamie on the journey. The siblings are sent to live with Susan, a sad and lonely woman who reluctantly accepts them despite not having much experience with children. With Susan’s help, Ada begins a long journey of moving about on her own, interacting with other people, learning to read and write, and, most importantly, gaining a sense of self-worth and confidence. Ada’s struggle to overcome her heinously abusive past is heart-wrenching and inspiring all at once. Also, adults readers (and astute child ones, too) will be moved by Susan’s journey to a motherhood she never expected to experience. There is a happy ending that almost-was-not, and readers leave the book feeling that Jamie, Ada, and Susan have become the family each one deserves. A beautifully written and powerful and thought-provoking book.