Category Archives: Reviews

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 11/14/16

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 Book:

 When Fast Break by Mike Lupica opens, 12 year-old Jayson is contemplating stealing a pair of new basketball shoes. It’s not his first theft–since his mother died a month or so ago and her latest boyfriend took off soon after, Jayson has been avoiding the authorities, stealing so he can eat, and pretending everything is OK at school and on the court. After the store manager catches Jayson in the act, he is put into the foster system and must not only live with a new family but also play on a new team. Jayson’s struggle to adapt to his new life and fear of his friends and teammates finding about his old one are well portrayed, and Lupica includes a satisfying amount of basketball action for fans of the sport. This is definitely a solid middle school read.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 11/7/16

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:

 Well, this was a super-engaging science fiction story that I amazed I had not read before, given the author. Partly told in narrative and partly told in court hearings, Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar recounts what happens when some middle graders stumble up on a weird substance in the woods…and the biological material that might be responsible for their ensuing illness. This is another light science fiction like The Fourteenth Goldfish to ease MG readers into the genre. Great  full-cast audiobook presentation as well.

 Lincoln’s Spymaster: Allan Pinkerton, America’s First Private Eye by Samantha Seiple is the kind of well-researched informational text we love to share with our students. Filled with loads of accompanying photographs, the book introduces readers to Pinkerton’s development of not only detective work as we know it, but the Secret Service as well. I will say that some of the cases started to blend together for me a bit in the middle, but things picked up again when Seiple recounted the Pinkerton Agency’s run-ins with the James-Younger gang. In all, I am pleased to have this book in my collections as a choice for middle grade readers.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 10/31/16

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:

Wow, does Ben Mikaelsen write the most obnoxious teenage boys ever?!? I remember how much I hated Cole Matthews in Touching Spirit Bear–so much so that I always remember his name, even though character names are usually tough for me.  In Jungle of Bones, we meet Dylan, who is not as cruel as Cole, but is still entitled and annoying and tiresome. After taking a junkyard car for a joyride, Dylan’s mother has had enough, and he will be spending the summer with Uncle Todd, who has planned an expedition to Papua New Guinea to search for a lost WWII bomber, that Dylan’s grandfather served aboard. Of course Dylan is reluctant, will not follow rules, and winds up alone, lost, and afraid in the middle of the jungle. The change in Dylan’s attitude is a little heavy-handed in this book, although some readers will benefit from having that spelled out for them. There are some harrowing as well as gross scenes that will keep reluctant readers glued to the book until its end.


Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead was immensely enjoyable to listen to, and it is a great junior high book. So many of my students like to read about high school characters facing high school problems, and I know that while some junior high experiences are similar, younger junior high students might not be facing them quite yet. Bridge, Tab, and Emily are seventh graders who have been friends for ever,and over the course of the year they branch out in separate ways a bit. Emily’s story line about sharing a photograph she shouldn’t and the ensuing consequences is a good cautionary tale that is subtly developed. Bridge’s friendship with Sherm is a great example of junior high almost-romance. The accompanying story of an unnamed high school girl skipping school over friendship drama is compelling and her identity-reveal was surprising. Great realistic fiction that I will be sharing with many students.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 10/24/16

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:

We have a new book club at one of my middle schools, and the students decided that everyone should read a dystopia for our upcoming November meeting. I had just purchased Everland by Wendy Spinale, and then saw it featured at our Scholastic Fair, so I figured it would be a good choice. The premise is that London has all but been destroyed by the German ruler’s son, Captain Hook, who bombed (among other things) a medical facility that housed a deadly virus. Now, nearly all adult and female children are dead, and the Lost Boys are eeking out survival in the presumed-destroyed London Underground. Meanwhile, Gwen is a teenager trying to take care of her little sister, Joanna, and her brother Mikey. On a late-night scavenge she meets Pete and Bella, and the three soon become entwined in a mission to save kidnapped Joanna and to discover if Gwen is truly The Immune with the potential to save humankind. Great premise; however, the execution falls just a bit flat. Other characters from Peter Pan are woven in, sometimes not as successfully, and Hook waivers too widely between a sympathetic character and a monster. Still, students who enjoy Peter Pan and devour retellings will be pleased.


Adult: Amber Fang: The Hunted by Arthur Slade is a fun romp for readers, especially librarians. I mean, how are those of us who like horror supposed to resist the tag line: “Librarian. Assassin. Vampire.”? After spending all her time pursuing her master’s degree in Library Sciences and researching her next meal (she eats ethically–murderers with no remorse only), Amber is recruited by the mysterious League as their newest assassin. Dermot, her “handler,” promises that “meals” will meet her standards so that everyone wins. As Amber embarks on her new career, readers will enjoy the fast pace, Amber’s quick wit and inside jokes for librarians, and the potential for romance.  Although Amber is a vampire and there is some unsettling talk of bloody meals, this series is shaping up to be more of the fun, thriller type, and I will definitely enjoy reading further installments. Note: There is nothing in here to preclude interested teens in reading this book; it is just aimed at a different audience.  Though not truly horrifying, this book counts for my Horror Reading Challenge 2016 because “vampire bloodlust rage.”

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Rebecca Caudill Roundup 2017: Turning 15 On The Road to Freedom

Turning Fifteen on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March by Lynda Blackmon Lowery is an engaging and accessible memoir. I knew that young people were involved starting very early on in the Civil Rights movement, but I was shocked to hear exactly to what degree. Teens put their beliefs out in in front and their lives on the line so that their parents could go to work and the marches could continue. In fact, Lowery was arrested nine times before the age of 15, and while her descriptions of the prison conditions are chilling, her perseverance is inspiring. This book is extremely accessible to all ages–from middle grade to adult readers, as Lowery’s writing style makes it seem as if one is sitting down to share a cup of tea with her and listening to her memories of those volatile times. Photographs and graphic-novel-style illustrations further add to the impact of the text, and the slim look and feel has the potential to draw in even the most reluctant of readers. This Sibert Medal Honor book has already touched the hearts and minds of many of my students and it is likely to have a lasting impact.

Interested in extending the conversation about this book?