Tag Archives: Neal Shusterman

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/5/16

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:

 Neal Shusterman’s latest dive into science fiction is amazingly fresh and thought-provoking, which I expected, and a magnificently crafted work, which I also expected.

Shusterman examines a world in which technology has reached its pinnacle, to the point of government being all but obsolete and medicine conquering pain, illness, and even death itself. People may now choose to “turn the corner,” reset their lives, and be as young as 20 again–and they can presumably do it forever.

Because colonizing the moon and other planets has failed, the earth would be subject to overpopulation if not for the Scythedom. It’s guild of sorts that functions completely outside of the Thunderhead, the technological “cloud” that takes care of everything else. Scythes are charged with the task of “gleaning” a set number of people every year, answering only to the rest of the Scythedom. Different scythes adopt different methods of gleaning and choosing whom to glean. Main characters Citra and Rowan are selected as reluctant apprentices to Scythe Faraday. As they learn the commandments of the Scythedom and the art and skill of gleaning, they soon find themselves caught in the middle of a controversy over the old and news ways of being a Scythe and also in danger of losing their lives or their humanity.

Once again Shusterman has created a novel that will keep the reader thinking long after the last page has been turned. I was definitely struck by the idea that no matter how many other challenges, circumstances, and differences this future world took out of the equation, there were still individuals driven to do selfish, evil acts. And in turn, there are always individuals who will stand up to them. It is going to be a long wait for the next book in the series, but I will definitely be coming back to think on this one again and again.
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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/25/15

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:

UnSouled by Neal Shusterman was an excellent foray into the world he created in Unwind. The reader gets to see favorite characters split up, in new situations, and then united again (or at least some of them). In addition, Shusterman further extrapolations what the biotechnology of unwinding would bring to our world: putting prisoner’s parts to good use, an endless array of vanity surgeries, and attempts at living forever. It also makes quite a statement about politics and the manipulation of the public by government and corporations. Furthermore, Shusterman provides insight into the creators of unwind technology and their horror at the use of what was created in good faith. I certainly will be picking up UnDivided, the series-ending book, soon.


I was surprised to receive an ARC (book to be published in August) in my most recent purchase from Scholastic’s book club flyers. A note accompanied George by Alex Gino, soliciting feedback as the character “faces head-on a complex subject that is very much in the public discourse.” A website is provided so that educators can answer the following question, “What do you think of George and do you see a place for it in your classroom?” The “complex subject” is that George is a transgender child.

Geroge is a fourth grader who is in a boy’s body yet identifies as female. George lives in a loving home with her mother and older brother and has a best friend, Kelly, but she has not yet gathered up enough courage to share with them that she is a girl. When her teacher, Mrs. Udell reads Charlotte’s Web with the class, George is touched by the story and longs to capture the part of Charlotte in the upcoming play. Only girls may audition for Chalotte’s part, and George is crushed–not only because she has no chance of getting the role, but also because she feels that if her family and friends can see her as a girl spider onstage they will be more likely to see her as a girl in real life. Kelly is very instrumental in supporting George throughout the story and helping her be herself.

Very recently I read Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonskyand though I think that book was well-done, I think George is the stronger title. First, Polonsky includes an author note that explains her use of “he/his/him” when referring to Grayson because that is how others see him. Gino uses female pronouns immediately, with no explanation, and I think that helps the reader to see George as a girl from the very beginning, just as George does. Both Grayson and George hide belongings that would reveal their secrets–Grayson purchases girl’s clothing at a local thrift shop and begins to wear it under other clothing; George has had her collection of “girl” magazines for years and definitely seems more fearful of being found-out if they are discovered. In fact, while both young people are suffering from having to outwardly live as boys, George exhibits a more visceral reaction, hating the smells, sounds, and sights in the boys’ bathroom and not wanting to look at or think about “the thing between her legs.” George has also informed herself more about transgender people, even researching hormone and surgery options, deleting her search history afterward, of course. Altogether, although both books work towards not only George and Grayson’s self-acceptance and acceptance by others, the inclusion of more details in George makes it the better book.

I will be interested to see whether Scholastic shares the feedback it receives and whether it will be included in its upcoming fall book fairs. The ARC identifies this the grade level as 3-7, so it has the possibility of being included in both elementary and middle school fairs. I, for one, will not only purchase the book for my school libraries, but I hope to see it on those fairs as well. We need diverse books.

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Oh, there are so many…my summer vacation starts on 5/29 🙂
Almost done!!!

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.

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(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.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 3/23/15

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:

I finally tackled my DRC of Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep, which will be published on 4/16. I am ruminating over a full review of this genre-busting incredible work, of which Shusterman is most proud. And I still haven’t read the multiple starred reviews it has already received.


I picked up a 2-CD audiobook of The Taming of the Shrew at our public library’s book sale. It is a BBC production and was very well done. Although not as entertaining as watching the play, the verbal sparring made this an enjoyable one to listen to.


I still  can;t recall how Charles Frazier’s Nightwoods  made it to my to-read list, but I read it nonetheless. Here is the Goodreads description. It was an intense read, as the story is filled with broken people living bleak existences. Like in real life, there were a fair amount of unresolved issues, but there was a glimmer of hope at the end, too. Not sure I am ready for another one like this anytime soon–just not my type of book. Note: This counts for my Random Reads 2015 challenge.

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