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Showing posts from July, 2012

This Dark Endeavor

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel is a "prequel" to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It is going to be impossible for me to discuss the book independent of its source material, particularly as I just finished rereading and analyzing Frankenstein in preparation for teaching it this fall. It is certainly a testament to Oppel's work that I thoroughly enjoyed it right on the heels of the original novel.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
In this prequel to Mary Shelley’s gothic classic, Frankenstein, 16-year-old Victor Frankenstein begins a dark journey that will change his life forever. Victor’s twin, Konrad, has fallen ill, and no doctor is able to cure him. Unwilling to give up on his brother, Victor enlists his beautiful cousin Elizabeth and best friend Henry on a treacherous search for the ingredients to create the forbidden Elixir of Life. Impossible odds, dangerous alchemy and a bitter love triangle threaten their quest at every turn. Victor knows he must not fail. Bu…

Favorite YA Novels

When I did my Favorite Picture Books post and my Favorite Children's Novels post, I thought it would be an excellent idea to tackle Young Adult novels too, even if there was no poll being currently conducted for them. Then lo and behold NPR decided to conduct one Go here to vote on this poll. (Sounis-the ultimate meeting place for all Megan Whalen Turner fanatics-also conducted a more unofficial one.) There was a problem with these in that they limited the number of selections to five. Five? I had a hard time limiting my other two lists to 10. So, here where I make my own rules I am giving you my Top 10 (and a link to a bunch of others that didn't quite make the top 10).  

If one book from a series is here, you can count the whole series as being represented. Some of these book (ie Chime, Saving Francesca) SHOULD NOT be judged by their covers. In no particular order, here are my top 10:


Three of my favorites didn't make the NPR list so I had to vote for others in their pl…

Remarkable

Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley is a book about an entirely unremarkable girl. In fact, the full text on the cover of the book reads: Welcome to the Town of Remarkable Where Every Day in this Remarkable Place Filled with Remarkable People is Positively Remarkable for Absolutely Everyone Except Jane. A bit much? Some would say so are the contents of the book.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
In the mountain town of Remarkable, everyone is extraordinarily talented, extraordinarily gifted, or just plain extraordinary. Everyone, that is, except Jane Doe, the most average ten-year-old who ever lived. But everything changes when the mischievous, downright criminal Grimlet twins enroll in Jane's school and a strange pirate captain appears in town.
Thus begins a series of adventures that put some of Remarkable's most infamous inhabitants and their long-held secrets in danger. It's up to Jane, in her own modest style, to come to the rescue and prove that she is capable of some rathe…

Sorcery and Cecelia

Regular readers of my blog may find it astonishing that I had not readSorcery and Cecelliaby Patricia C. Wrede and Carolline Stervermer before now. I love Regency romance. I love magic. Any combination of these two things is enough to make me giddy. And it is an epistolary novel. I love those too.  So what on earth took me so long? My immediate thought upon hearing of the existence of this book was, "This has to be one of the best books ever!" It was closely followed by, "What if it's not?" I have been bouncing between a wild anticipation to read it and nervous fear that has kept me from it ever since. I finally decided enough was enough.

Turns out my first thought was right on the mark. The book consists of the correspondence between two cousins, Kate and Cecelia. Kate is in London for her debut into society. Cecelia has been left behind. Their aunts think they get into too much trouble together. Turns out they can get into quite a lot of trouble apart as well…

Jake and Lily

I'm always on the lookout for fun and new sibling stories which is why I snapped up Jake and Lily by Jerry Spinelli as soon as my library. Not only are Jake and Lily siblings, but twins, and the book switches between their perspectives.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
This is a story about me, Lily.
And me, Jake.
We're twins and we're exactly alike.
Not exactly!
Whatever. This is a book we wrote about the summer we turned eleven and Jake ditched me.
Please. I just started hanging out with some guys in the neighborhood.
Right. So anyway, this is a book about
goobers and supergors
bullies
clubhouses
true friends

things getting built and wrecked and rebuilt
and about figuring out who we are.
We wrote this together
(sort of)
so you'll get to see both sides of our story.
But you'll probably agree with my side.
You always have to have the last word, don't you?
Yes

Jake and Lily are different, whether Lily wants to do admit it or not. Jake is organized and doesn't like to get in trouble…

Dragonswood

Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey is a book about a kingdom in strife. With faeries. And dragons. OF COURSE I wanted to read it. I rather enjoyed it too.

Synopsis (From Book Jacket):
Wilde Island is in an uproar over the recent death of its king. The uneasy pact between dragons, fairies, and humans is fraying and the royal witch hunter begins a vengeful quest to hunt down girls with fire in their hearts and sparks in their soul.
Strong-willed Tess, a blacksmith’s daughter from a tiny hamlet near the mysterious Dragonswood, wants more for herself than a husband and a house to keep. But in times like these wanting more can be dangerous.
Accused of witchery, Tess and her two friends are forced to flee the violent witch hunter. The journey is bleaker than they ever imagined and they have no choice but to accept when an enigmatic huntsman offers them shelter in the dangerous Dragonswood. Staying with him poses risks of its own: Tess has no idea how to handle the attr…

A Tale of Time City

I will write it again: Diana Wynne Jones is a genius. Really was there any limitation on what she could write? Her ability to bring to life all manner of ideas from her most amazing mind leaves me awestruck. A Tale of Time City, I confess, is not my favorite of her books. Still. Saying one of her books doesn't live up to its fellows still puts it above almost everything else out there.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Time City is built on a patch of time and space outside history. It is full of wonders and haunted by "time ghosts," but it is nearly worn out and doomed to destruction.
In September 1939, Vivian Smith is on a train, being evacuated from London, when she is kidnapped by two boys from Time City, Jonathan and Sam. They mistakenly think she is the mysterious Time Lady disguised as a child. Only the Time Lady can wake the founder of the city, Faber John, from his age-long sleep, and only he can save the city.
Vivian wants to get home; Jonathan and Sam want her t…

This Year's School Books

Yes, it is time for me to turn my focus to school.  Many of you may have stopped reading already, too busy enjoying your summers to want to read about, hear about, or think about school. Here in my house it is inescapable. Our school year begins on Monday. Yep. I said it. Monday. One of the lovely things about homeschooling is that, for the most part, you make your own schedule. The kids get a good 6-7 weeks off in the summer, but we always start up again by mid-July. It is only a month before the public schools here go back and it is too hot to actually do much outside during July and August. We prefer to save our time off for the fall and spring when the weather is more conducive to fun.

I thought I would share a little preview, because I'm EXCITED about what I get to teach this year.

Bit will be in third grade. This year her history curriculum focuses on Ancient Greece and Rome and includes a host of excellent non-fiction. Many of her literature units also follow this focus. H…

No Crystal Stair

No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the  Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson won this year's Horn Book Award for Children's Fiction. I can understand why. It is a unique and original book in so many ways. Format. Content. Genre. It is also a fascinating story.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
"You can't walk straight on a crooked line. You do you'll break your leg. How can you walk straight in a crooked system?"
Lewis Michaux was born to do things his own way. When a white banker told him to sell fried chicken, not books, because "Negroes don’t read," Lewis took five books and one hundred dollars and built a bookstore. It soon became the intellectual center of Harlem, a refuge for everyone from Muhammad Ali to Malcolm X.
In No Crystal Stair, Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson combines meticulous research with a storyteller's flair to document the life and times of her great-…

Above World

I was a little hesitant to pick up Above Worldby Jenn Reese despite the numerous glowing reviews and comments for it I had read. It sounded dystopian, and I don't like dystopian. Finally all the praise had me curious enough to pick it up. (Also it has a beautiful cover.) Yes, it does have some shades of dystopian, but this is a book that is so much more than that. Reese sets her story in a futuristic world that is so foreign that it could be another world entirely. Into this she added myths and legends for the peoples she created. All of these elements combined with engaging characters to make an adventurous tale of bravery, loyalty, and friendship.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Thirteen-year-old Aluna has lived her entire life under the ocean with the Coral Kampii in the City of Shifting Tides. But after centuries spent hidden from the Above World, her colony’s survival is in doubt. The Kampii’s breathing necklaces are failing, but the elders are unwilling to venture above water…

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Featuring Bit, age 8

Bit was pretty much counting down the days until summer vacation because I had told her we could start reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling. Forget about swimming, beach trips, and no school. Harry Potter is what it's all about. I made her wait until break because I knew she would want to stay up late reading more chapters at a time.
The Story
Harry is having strange dreams, waking him up with his scar hurting. But who has time to think about that when there's the Quidditch World Cup to look forward to? Then strange and scary things happen at the Cup. Who conjured the Dark Mark that has everyone terrified? Soon though Harry, Ron, and Hermione are back at Hogwarts and caught up in the excitement of the Triwizard Tournament being hosted at Hogwarts. Until Harry is chosen to compete that is. He suddenly goes from a fourth year navigating his first crush to a competitor in a deadly competition against students older and experienced than h…

Dragon Castle

It's a week of dragon books! It was accidental, but it works.

The two words in the title were all the encouragement I needed to read Dragon Castle by Joseph Bruchac.  Where there are dragons and castles I shall go. I was taken by surprise by how greatly entertained I was in reading this. It was the perfect mix of light and dark, peril and humor.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Young Prince Rashko is frustrated with his family - no one does any thinking but him! The kingdom and castle seem to be in the hands of fools. So when Rashko's parents mysteriously disappear and the evil Baron Temny parks his army outside the castle walls, it is up to the young prince to save the day. But there is more to this castle and its history than meets the eye, and Rashko will have to embrace his ancestry, harness a dragon, and use his sword-fighting skills to stop the baron and save the kingdom. Along the way, he realizes that his family is not quite as stupid as he always thought.

Rashko is a…

The Top Ten SLJ's 100 Children's Novels Poll

Betsy Bird revealed the top 10 books slowly, drawing out the anticipation. They are finally all revealed. And I two days after #1 was revealed have finally gotten around to  posting this. There is not a lot I have to say about these books that hasn't been said by thousands of readers already, but I can't leave this unfinished. Also, I used almost every single one in my classroom when I had one.  So here they are, links as always to Fuse 8's original posts.
School Library Journal is generously creating PDF forms of both 100 lists, chapter book and picture book. For information on how you can register for these go here

10. The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
I have mixed feelings on this one. I loved this book as a child. I loved it when I reread it in my children's literature course in college. Teaching it changed that somewhat as I watched four years worth of fifth graders have lukewarm reactions to it at best. It is a wonderfully crafted novel (and short…

Seraphina

All I knew when I went into Seraphinaby Rachel Hartman was that it was a book with dragons. Imagine my delight when I began reading and discovered that the book had plenty of other elements to love. Mystery. Political Intrigue. Awesome Heroine. Yes, this book has all of that. Plus the dragons.  I haven't read a high fantasy I enjoyed this much in a looooong time.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.
Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the capt…