Tag Archives: Illinois Reads 2016

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

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:

Oblivion by Sasha Dawn is an Illinois Reads 2016 selection for grades 9-12. It is the story of Callie, a teenage girl in foster care after she was found the previous year in an abandoned apartment scrawling “I killed him” all over the walls on the same night her father, a reverend, and a young girl disappeared. Although she has been seeing a therapist, Callie’s graphomania has continued to be a problem, and she must carry a notebook and red felt-tipped pens with her everywhere she goes. As she tries to navigate high school and relationships with her same-age foster sister, boyfriend, and classmate/new love interest, John, Callie is also trying to use her writing and regain her memories to solve the mystery of what happened that fateful night and what role, if any, she played in the disappearances. I found the mystery intriguing and enjoyed the twist at the end, but I think the story  got a little bogged down by the love quadrangle. However, I can see many high school students enjoying this suspenseful thriller.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/1/16

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 Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley was a poignant story about 16 year-old Maggie Lynch, whose flighty mother quickly marries and moves the family from Chicago to Ireland. There Maggie must adapt to a new way of life, first love, and the death of her beloved uncle. Set in 1993, with many references to the grunge scene, this book makes me ponder when we start calling books historical rather than contemporary fiction. Thoughts?  Note: this is a 2016 Illinois Reads book for grades 9-12.


The Good Braider by Terry Farish starts in the late 90s and is the story of Viola, a young woman from warn-torn Sudan. This haunting novel in verse first recounts the family’s struggles to live and then the devastating rape that Viola suffers at the hands of a local soldier. Her “bride price” ruined, Viola sees little hope for the future, even after she and her mother and brother bravely flee to Cairo, where the wait for being accepted as refugees in the U.S. seems endless. When their time finally comes, the adjustment to U.S. life is not easy, especially as Viola attempts to fit in with her American classmates while her mother tries to force her to follow traditional ways. Viola’s story will open many students eyes to how other teens must live in our world. This book counts for my Surprise Me! Challenge 2016.


Princeless, Vol. 3: The Pirate Princess is another fun entry by Jeremy Whitley. In it, Adrienne and Bedelia free Raven from the tower her jealous brothers locked her in as an attempt to take over for their father, the pirate king. Raven wants revenge, of course, and great adventures follow.

Currently Reading/Listening To:

Is anyone else reading Harry Potter? Or, rather, is anyone else NOT reading Harry Potter? 😉

On Deck:

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/18/16

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 said that I would savor Neil Gaiman’s latest and savor it I did. The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction is a whopping 500+ pages of articles, speeches, introductions to books, etc. Loosely divided into themed sections, these selections give readers a look into Gaiman’s views on comics, fantasy, music, film, the arts, and more. As an avid fan, I will always be fascinated by how Gaiman says what he says as well as what he is saying. As an avid reader, I found myself adding book upon book to my to-read list. Not only do I want to read many works he described, but I also want to go back and re-read the essays about them afterwards. This book counts for my Read Harder Challenge 2016 (category 3–a collection of essays).


In October, I will be moderating a panel at the Illinois Reading Council Annual Conference. The panel will be comprised of authors of Illinois Reads 2016 selections for grades 9-12. One of the authors/books is Tempest by Julie Cross. This first book in a series is about 19-year-old Jackson Meyer, who has recently learned he has the ability to travel back in time. He and good friend Adam devise a series of experiments to test how and whether he can control this power. Then one day, Jackson and his girlfriend Holly are attacked by a group of official-looking men and women. As Holly is shot, probably fatally, Jackson panics and feels himself “jumping” away. He then finds himself stuck in 2007, his only aim being to try to get back to Holly and prevent her death. When I first saw the cover of this book, I suspected it would be more romance novel than science fiction, but I was very pleased that that was not the case. I found it interesting that Cross chose for Jackson not to be able to change the future when he jumped to the past and that those he encountered would not remember any interaction with him. Of course, this is true to only to a point, and it will be interesting to see in following books how he will be able to save Holly from certain death.  I could see my 8th graders, as well as high school students, finding a lot to like about this book.

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

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 Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives is the memoir of two friends: Caitlin, an American middle schooler, and Martin, a young Zimbabwean student, who met through a school pen pal program. At first their letters are quite casual, but the two become close through sharing their lives and hopes for the future. At first Caitlin imagines Martin’s life is very similar to her own, but when she learns of the terrible poverty he and his family are suffering, she becomes determined to help them, especially in funding Martin’s education. This book will be quite eye-opening for middle schoolers, who will learn not only about the living conditions of children in other parts of the world but also about how one person can really make a difference. They will enjoy seeing the actual letters and photographs that the two friends exchanged over many years and will cheer when the two finally meet in person. An engaging and inspiring memoir.


Blind by Rachel DeWoskin is an Illinois Reads 2016 selection for students in grades 6-8.  The book opens as high school sophomore Emma Silver is preparing to start up at her local school after a year of absence. As the story unfolds, readers learn about the accident which led to her blindness and her year-long period of recovery in the hospital, at home, and at a school for the blind. At the same time, Emma is adjusting to life back with her peers, she and the community at large are reeling from the recent suicide of a popular high school girl. Struggling to understand this tragic event helps Emma to also confront her feelings about her blindness and relationships with her best friend, Logan, and her large family. I think this is best for the upper end of the 6-8 range.


Princeless, Vol. 1: Save Yourself is an amazing and fun graphic novel by Jeremy Whitley, who wanted to write a comic about a fierce and confident young woman that he would be proud to hand to his 2-year-old daughter one day. Sixteen-year-old Princess Adrienne has been imprisoned in a tower guarded by a dragon (just like her other sisters) because that’s how her parents intend to find princes for them to marry. One day, Adrienne decides she has had enough, and she and Sparky, the dragon who has become her close companion, secretly break out and go on a quest to save her youngest sister, Apple. It is not long before Adrienne meets a female teenage blacksmith who joins her (and who makes amazing armor for her). There is a great exchange between the two about why females need real armor instead of the skimpy costumes most female heroes wear.

Last school year, I purchased the first three volumes of this series, and my middle school girls, particularly 6th graders, couldn’t get enough of reading and recommending them to friends. I definitely see why, and between this series and Lumberjanes, I hope that comic companies will further recognize the need for more works like this, which feature not only independent and inspiring young women, but also young women of color. Oh, and I just grabbed volumes two and three from school so I can keep up with Adrienne’s adventures–she rocks! 🙂

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