#IMWAYR Sept. 25/17

I am happy to be able to link up this post with Jen Vincent’s blog at teachmentortexts.com and Kellee and Ricki at unleashingreaders.com to see what everyone has been reading this week.

The Blackthorn Key (The Blackthorn Key, #1)Mark of the Plague (The Blackthorn Key, #2)The Assassin's Curse (The Blackthorn Key, #3)

I actually have not read these books this week, but I will be listening to Kevin Sands talk about them on Monday in my school’s library. We have Kevin visiting our district for three days. A great way to start the week. He will be talking about what it was like to be a child in the 17th century, and also about secret codes, which are both a big part of the book.

Books I finished this week:

The Great Art Caper

Ever since I read Rollergirl, I try to get everything by Victoria Jamieson. This series is obviously quite different though. This is the second, and follows The Great Pet Escape. Its a super cute, funny graphic novel about class pets that get into adventures at night when the school is empty. I think its a terrific series for early readers.

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Honestly, I could not immerse myself in this story as much as I did the first one. The first half of the book seemed to dawdle a little bit. I did enjoy the last half as the mystery started to ignite a little more. The Pine family runs Greenglass House as an inn for smugglers. The setting itself is creative, unique and almost the most intriguing character in the book. Young Milo Pine and a friend work to solve a mystery featuring a kooky set of suspects that mingle through the inn as Christmas approaches. There is a supernatural component to the mystery as well as heavy use of an RPG called Odd Trails that allows the young sleuths to have the abilities necessary to effectively tackle the mystery. The mix of fantasy and mystery worked really well in book one, Greenglass House, but not as much in book two for me.

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This is a very cute picture book about making new friends. There is also a lot about being brave here as well. It also has a lot of honesty to it. It seems like another huge Mo Willems hit. I had a teacher ask if we could do a Movember thing in November with Mo Willems books and the obvious answer was yes. I immediately moved to buy more of his books.

Long Way Down

Loved this book! Read most of it in one sitting, and would have but life happened. The last 50 or so pages are especially brilliant, but the last page… wow. This writer can do so much in just a few pages, just a few words. A vicious cycle of violence is brilliantly presented in a way that will stick with readers. Will’s brother is shot. He plans his revenge and the novel goes through a 60 second span in which he considers the decision. Long Way Down was just put on the list of contenders for the National Book Award, but if you have read anything by Jason Reynolds you didn’t need to know that to want to read this book. It does not disappoint.

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A graphic autobiography of a young girl’s journey through her school years with a focus on the ups and downs of forming and keeping friends. Its an honest and emotional read that I let out to a couple of my students in the first week of school. It was devoured by both within a couple of days. Students that are drawn to graphic novels or realistic fiction (mostly girls, I think but not only girls, I really liked it) will love this book.

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I read this with my seven year old. I found it funnier than the first in the series. If you are unfamiliar, a Venus Flytrap aspires to be the greatest detective in the world with the help of his assistant Nina, the goat who eats nearly everything. In this one, President Horse G Horse reminded me of a certain someone. See if you can guess:

When the President is asked to take down a large statue if himself in order to save the world he replies, “Nope you stupid plant. And I’m the President, so you can’t make me! So HA-HA! So find some other way to save the city, the country, and the world. I’ll be busy taking photos of myself holding my salt and pepper shakers next to my limo parked under the statue of me!”

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A really pleasantly illustrated book about perseverance and bravery. Lou has lots of fun with her friends but there is one thing that they like to do that she is not able to. She invents “SO MANY REASONS not to try” but in the end has the bravery to try. The ambiguous ending is actually refreshingly honest and worthy of discussion.

Currently Reading:

Stella by StarlightWonderHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5)Dory Fantasmagory: Dory Dory Black Sheep

I am reading and enjoying the second half of Stella by Starlight this evening, a great book that I should have read long ago. It portrays an important piece of American history, as blacks in North Carolina have the courage to seek the vote and defy the KKK. With my class, I am reading Wonder, and it is going really well. My family and I are in the home stretch of the fifth Harry Potter book. With my seven year old, we are reading the third Dory Fantasmagory book. Every time we start reading this, my ten year old sneaks close enough to listen taking a break from whatever Rick Riordan book she has right now. She would never have picked this book up herself, but can’t resist the brilliant humor of these characters.

Have a great reading week everyone! Thanks for stopping to view this post.

 

 

 

 

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It’s Monday What are you Reading 9/18/17

I am once grateful for Jen at teachmentortexts.com and Kellee and Ricki at unleashingreaders.com for providing a place for readers to link up their review of kidlit reading over the past week.

Books I finished this week:

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It was mostly graphic novels this week for me, and I would never have believed that two years ago. I have been reading my novels through NetGalley on my IPAD this week and there are places that my IPAD should not be going, and when I have been in those places I have been carrying these graphic novels. This is a really popular series at my school amongst the grade 5-7s, particularly girls. Even after reading it, I am not totally sure why, I thought it was okay, kind of funny in parts. My best guess is that the characters in this book seem to feel free to act however they please, even if it is irreverent and a little kooky. So, if you have some free spirits that are looking for reading material, I think this series might work.

Zita the SpacegirlLegends of Zita the Spacegirl (Zita the Spacegirl #2)The Return of Zita the Spacegirl (Zita the Spacegirl, #3)

Recently, I finished Ben Hatke’s second Mighty Jack graphic novel, Mighty Jack and the Goblin King. I really love that series and the newest has spent almost no time on shelves since the school year started. It made me want to go back and read this series. If you are fan of the first Mighty Jack and are close to reading the second one, make sure you read these first. I think it will help you to enjoy MJATGK even more.

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The latest in Ryan Higgins’ books featuring the lovable, grumpy bear from Mother Bruce and Hotel Bruce sees Bruce decide that enough is enough and its time to escape his home. I don’t find this one quite as funny as the first two, but its still really good. My primary grade classes are clamouring for this one, which I pre-ordered and got a lot earlier than expected. The release date, according to Goodreads, is Sept. 26.

Currently Reading:

Ghosts of Greenglass House (Greenglass House, #2)Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5)WonderInspector Flytrap in The President's Mane Is Missing

Ghosts of Greenglass House is an ARC I am reading on my NetGalley account. The first half has not really grabbed me. I really liked the first one, but it seems to have taken me a while to get to where I am right now in the plot. I think it is just starting to get interesting as I reach the halfway point in the book. I think fans of the first will likely enjoy this one when it comes out on October 3, but might have to exercise some patience. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the type of family read aloud that has Dad cheating and reading a little extra the last few nights. We have less than 200 pages left and there is a lot of tension right now. Wonder is my class read aloud and I think almost everyone knows how great it is for grade 5/6s. One of my kids said that she likes it, but misses last year’s first read aloud, (she was in my class that year too) The Scourge by Jennifer Nielsen (more action, she says). The final book here is the second Inspector Flytrap book, a good early chapter reader. My seven year old thinks its hilarious that a plant can solve mysteries. I think her Mom might get a Venus Flytrap for her birthday, hopefully she won’t read this.

Happy Reading Everyone!

It’s Monday What are you Reading? 9/11/2017

I am happy to be able to link up this post with others at teachmentotexts.com and unleashingreaders.com in order to see what many kidlit bloggers have been up to.

The first week back should be a week in which maybe not quite so much reading is done. However, I did acquire two books this week that needed to read quickly so that I could get them out to students who were forming quite the mob at my desk. I also managed to finish the latest in a classic graphic novel series with my youngest.

Books I finished this week:

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About two years ago, I tried a new series called The Blackthorn Key and it has become one of my favourite MG series. I shared it with students and they also loved it, it was voted the Intermediate Book of the Year as part of my district’s Battle of the Books. The second book, Mark of the Plague, was also excellent and the third does not disappoint.

The Assassin’s Curse has all of the elements that have made this series successful. Great characters, mysteries and codes that have you thinking along with Christopher, an apprentice apothecary, and his faithful friend Tom, the son of a baker in 17th century England, and there are also terrific action scenes. The mix of history, science and math is rare and engaging for this age level. I think what I enjoy most is the relationship between Tom and Christopher. The loyalty and trust between them makes them admirable characters and the wit in their exchanges adds levity to some serious situations that they face.

This particular tale in the Blackthorn Adventures features the characters travelling more than in the past and I think they might face their toughest, most dangerous adversary yet. Fans of this series will love this book and I don’t really want to spoil anything but this might be my favourite ending of this series.

This book came out on Tuesday, September 5. There is a great giveaway of five signed copies on Goodreads right now. Kevin Sands is also touring to support the book, my school is hosting him on September 25 after his stop in Vancouver.

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This is the seventh book of the classic graphic novel series, Amulet. My children were so excited to get me to the latest book in this series so I could share their angst over the (to them) seemingly never-ending wait for the eighth book that is promised for 2018. Kazu Kibuishi, in addition to being a very talented artist and storyteller has infinite patience for the people asking him when the book will be ready on Twitter. I know I am not the only one with many readers waiting.

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I was fortunate to win an ARC of this book on Goodreads. This is another very sought after book at my school. I held a random draw to determine the reading order of the holds placed on The Assassin’s Curse library copy and there will be another one for the second copy that I will be keeping in my classroom. The draw for The War I Finally Won, also tomorrow, will have even more people in it. Almost all the girls that I taught last year are in. They are so invested in Ada, and with good reason. This book picks up shortly after The War that Saved My Life as World War II continues and the lives of Ada, Susan, and Jamie continue to evolve. It’s a roller coaster of belief, tragedy, hope and belonging that is every bit as wise as the first one. I remember thinking that the first one was so great that I really did not want a sequel but I was very wrong.

 

Currently Reading:

WonderHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5)Zita the SpacegirlGhosts of Greenglass House (Greenglass House, #2)

I am reading Wonder with my grade 5/6 class and it is great in the early stages. I can see so much thought from many of the students. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is our family book, we love the evilness of Delores Umbridge, I can’t wait to watch how that character is played on the screen (we never watch the movies until we have read the book). Zita and the Spacegirl is a recommendation from my daughter. After reading the second Mighty Jack graphic novel by Ben Hatke, I am compelled to read this whole series. Ghosts of Greenglass House is a book I have on NetGalley and I really enjoyed Greenglass House, so I can’t wait to start that in the next few days.

 

Must Read in 2017- End of Summer Update

I have been pleased to be a part of Carrie Gelson’s Must Read in 2017 challenge. I have a list of 66 books that I have been working on. Realistically, I know that I will not reach all of these books. I do not even have access to all of them right now. Some are not even published. I think I felt that if I got to 50 I would be content with that. I am probably on pace to do that. As was the case last year, I did much better before the first update. I had read 20 at that time. Now, I have read 34. Here is a list of the books that I have read since the last update starting with most recent.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson- fantastic YA classic that should be read by early teens for years to come. I wish it were not so necessary.

Stand Off by Andrew Smith- terrific sequel to Winger, another YA title, I get more of those done in the summer.

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell- a Catcher in the Rye ish main character from Britain struggles through adolscence.

School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani- I really wanted to like this but it did not quite come together for me. Lots of action though. Some MG readers will love it.

Worlds Collide by Chris Colfer- The sixth and final Land of Stories tale brought together many characters and plot lines that have beloved by my family for years.

Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon- I love this transitional chapter series. Such a funny take on the imagination of kids, and so perfectly accurate too. I actually read this one before the first update too, but this second read was with my seven year old.

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder- a thought provoking story about the journey through childhood that leaves you with much to ponder.

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel- An interesting spin on the tale of Viktor Frankenstein.

Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel- Not my favourite by Kenneth Oppel but a quicker lighter YA read that held my interest but I preferred This Dark Endeavor.

Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol- Very funny picture book!

Snow White by Matt Phelan- an imaginative take on the classic tale set in, I think 1920s New York City. Striking black and white visual images. Clever reinvention of the dwarves. Not an easy one for young readers though.

Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look- I have to say that I kind of liked this early chapter book when I was reading it (probably at the high end of that category) but it did not really stay with me.

The Case of the Stinky Stench by Josh Funk- I love this series. The rhyming and the word play are great with different lines working for different ages, and there are so many little details to discover in the pictures in each reading. Very funny! Like many schools, we love Josh Funk.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk- I found this one a little slow to build but a very interesting tale of perceptions and prejudices that benefits from discussion.

House Arrest by K.A. Holt- By contrast I raced through this novel in verse and so have several students I gave it to. So much feeling in this book, I kind of want to read it again, right now.

 

However, if I do it will further impair my ability to get to at least 50 books and hopefully closer to 66, which appears to be out of reach. I had hoped to be in the 40s but so be it. I am starting The War I Finally Won today, which made my list but after that I know I will be distracted by others that are not on the list. I think I am more distracted by the sheer volume and (I think) quality of books I have acquired recently than I thought possibly (Patina, Refugee, Ghosts of Greenglass House just in the last week or so).

Here are the books that are still on my list. Help! Please tell me which ones I need to ensure that I do not miss.

The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North AmericaThe Left-Handed FateThe Iron Trial (Magisterium, #1)The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co., #2)Me and Marvin GardensThe Mostly True Story of JackMaybe a FoxStill Life with TornadoWhere Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? (Tales from Deckawoo Drive)The Mighty Odds (The Odds Series #1)Seven Ways We LieThe Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, #2)Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard: A Peter Nimble AdventureFoxheartInto the Wild (Warriors, #1)The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King and a Pickpocket SquirrelFurthermoreChallenger DeepCartwheeling in ThunderstormsThe Shadow Thieves (The Cronus Chronicles, #1)The UnwantedsCinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)Princess Academy (Princess Academy, #1)Half BrotherGone (Gone, #1)Going OverRed Queen (Red Queen, #1)Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie (Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie, #1)The Man from Beijing

I also have Read the Books Lemmings, which I know I will read and The Fall by Neal Stephenson, a book I was excited to see on Goodreads, but now I am not even sure it will be out. Possibly, the listing was confused with The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Stephenson and Nicole Galland, which I did read. I might give myself that one and up my score to 35. Please let me know which of my books I should not miss out on this year, and thanks for reading. I look forward to seeing the progress of others.

It’s Monday- New Year’s Eve Edition

My family always considers the first day before a new school year the real New Year’s Eve, so if you are starting tomorrow with children as well, I wish you a Happy New Year. I am squeezing in some time today to share some great books I read this week that come out tomorrow as well. This post, as per usual, is linking up to the other great posts at unleashingreaders.com and teachmentortexts.com, great places to fill your To-Be-Read lists.

Books I finished this week:

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Alan Gratz is really on a roll with the success of Refugee, which I haven’t read as my copy is still on route from a Scholastic book order I placed, but this is also a really great book. As you can tell from the cover, it is about censorship and the banning of books in a school library. Thankfully, this is not something that I have experienced first hand, but Gratz has used the experiences of others to write an interesting tale of an introverted girl named Amy Anne who attempts to find her voice, speak up and take action (just like her favourite book characters do) against this problem and even in her own family. In the first thirty pages, I worried that this might be one of those books that your book lovers enjoy, but falls flat with others, but I got more involved with the characters, particularly the family dynamics and the growth that occurred. It would make a good read aloud from grades 4-6. I managed to get a copy through NetGalley, but I will be buying my own copy at some point so that others can root for Amy Anne.

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This is an excellent picture book with a great message and amazing colourful art that is a trademark of any Cale Atkinson book. I was able to view this on NetGalley, however I could not get a couple of the pictures and text to go together quite the way they are intended to on my IPAD, I think it is operator abuse as I am kind of new to Kindle and NetGalley. Inspite of the technical glitch, I loved the story, and I am eager to find the copy that I pre-ordered in my mailbox.

As a teacher or librarian there is a lot that one could do with predicting and picture clues here just by looking at the cover, it really reveals much about what the story is really about. Oliver goes through a lot trying to force himself into a fit with different groups, and learns that there are much more satisfying ways to find a space that feels right for him. This will be a great addition to my library and it officially comes out tomorrow.

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I also really loved the second book in this series. I pre-ordered it because I had a horde of grade four and five boys wanting it after reading the first one, Mighty Jack. This one ended in a cliff hanger, and so when my copy I arrived far earlier than I expected I read it quite quickly and then passed it on to my seven year old. It was great! The story seemed to expand and get even more engaging. My child was able to explain some of the aspects of the world that Ben Hatke has created that I was missing not having read his earlier series Zita and the Space Girl. I have gone back and started to read that. Honestly, I still very much enjoy this book without knowing that stuff, but if you have Zita and the Space Girl and haven’t read it yet, it is a great series and so is this. Highly recommended for all intermediates, this book is also released Tuesday.

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This book has been out since May, and likely you have already heard of it, but my budget was shot in the library by the time this one came out, and my local public did not have it, so I only recently acquired this and got the chance to read it. It is exactly what I was hoping for when looking at the cover. It’s a very good tale of a boy conquering his fears to jump off the high board. Excellent illustrations with the perspectives of looking down from the board, up at the ladder and more. I really enjoyed the father as well. I will be reading this with library groups soon.

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This is also a book that is not new, a YA classic that I had just never quite found the time to read. I made some time recently, as it is on my Must-Read-in-2017 list, thanks to Carrie Gelson for organizing that. I really can’t say too much about this book without possibly spoiling it for others who have not read it, but its brilliant. A very important read for adolescents with much to say about depression, finding your voice, relationships, and sexual assault. I am curious what grade levels teachers and librarians have offered this book to. I don’t really want my grade five students (in my class reading this) but I can really see some grade sevens reading it before high school. If anyone has something to offer to answer that, I would really appreciate it.

Currently Reading:

The Assassin's Curse (The Blackthorn Key, #3) Another book that releases tomorrow that I got a kind store owner to sell me early. I started this last night and gulped down about 200 pages. I love this series and these characters. If you are familiar with this series, you will likely love it too. There is so much history in this one. If not, I highly recommend The Blackthorn Key.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5)Firelight (Amulet, #7)Zita the Spacegirl

These three I am reading with my whole family (Harry Potter) or with my seven year old. I am enjoying all three of these.

Happy Reading to everyone, and now back to prepping for the first day of school!

It’s Monday What are you Reading- The Summer is Over Edition! (worked today with adults- no students yet)

So, here, just barely, is my meager efforts to record last week’s reading. I had a good week of reading (lots of picture books, a graphic novel, and two interesting, original novels), but I almost failed to record it in this post. I got wrapped up in getting stuff ready for our first day of professional development, our district’s Summer Institute and as rewarding as that is it means the walls are closing in on days where I have a lot of reading time. I am linking up this post to the kind people at unleashingreaders.com and teachmentortexts.com who host the It’s Monday meme with the kidlit theme. Each week our TBR piles become more and more swollen and as a reader remarked this week, my TBR pile could use an extra reader or two.

Books I finished this week:

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This was one of several picture books that I read trying to whittle down my TBR list and scout out some books that I could possibly buy for my school library when I have access to a budget again (a budget that usually only lasts me a couple of months). I picked up these through interlibrary loans at my local public. My Mouth is a Volcano is a funny book designed to teach kids that interrupting is kind of rude and not something that you would appreciate if you were a speaker. Louis’ thoughts are so important to him that he can’t seem to prevent himself from having them erupt out of his mouth.

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This was probably my favourite picture book of the week. It has a powerful message about having the courage to speak up and defend one’s freedom. It also has a little fun while laying down a fairly heavy message.

Triangle

People seem to either love Triangle or are kind of like, “That was okay, but I like some of their other stuff better.” I am in the second group. I thought the end was interesting but I won’t discuss it here in case you haven’t read it. I will only say there are a couple ways to interpret it, and that might make for an interesting discussion. I can’t really say why I did not enjoy the events that happened before that ending.

 

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This was a super cute rhyming picture book that I read with my seven year old. Kind of a spoiler alert coming up but I want to share what my seven year old said when she read the first page and if a seven year old can see this you probably can to, “It’s just because she has no arms, Dad.” Yes, that is pretty much why, but even though you know this, it is still really cute watching Slug go through a bunch of steps to make himself more hugable. I think my students at school will have a similar reaction.

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I read The Snurtch before reading this one and I really loved that book. This one is good, but really did not do it for me as much as The Snurtch. I liked the facial expressions of the boy in particular as he struggled with accepting the feelings he still had for his stuffie, but I did not find the story quite as compelling.

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My seven year old is determined to make sure that she gets me through the entire Amulet series by the start of the school year and we will make it. She is doing most of the reading, and I stare at Kazu Kibishi’s fabulous landscapes, cityscapes, and characters. Its a great series and both my daughter’s are chortling that I will soon be hanging off of the cliff with them, waiting for book 8 (sometime in 2018).

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This novel is part of a three book series called Monster Blood Tattoo, which is the title of book one in some editions, although mine is Foundling. It is an extremely inventive series, published over a decade ago, set on the world of The Half Continent, a land filled with dry landscapes, small cities, and rural areas that are filled with monsters. Innocent young Rossamund is a foundling who finally gets the call to leave his home at Madam Opera’s (a house for orphans) and journey far away to accept a job as a Lamplighter, keeping the way lit for travelers in order to make it safer from really freaky creatures. The author loves drawing and I think that was his entry into writing this, but really its a coming of age story about young Rossamund who does not know much about the ways of the world and is far too trusting to head out on such a journey. It’s also about a really interesting world in which some of the monsters are not so monstrous and lots of the humans are (including the most fascinating character, a woman named Europe). This is a MG/YA novel, although it would be a challenging read for some MG readers. I am not sure if this is steampunk or an author taking artistic license with the Victorian era but the setting is also interesting. Credit to my wife for recommending this one to me.

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Just as Foundling is an older book with more than one title, so is this book which was published in Ireland as The Wordsmith a few years ago, and now it comes to North America with a new title and cover. The List is a very thought provoking, post-apocalyptic tale that will draw comparison to many classic dystopian tales such as The Giver and 1984. In Ark, a new society rises out of a period of chaos that began with The Melting, which rendered much of the world an inhospitable mess. The leader/co-creator of Ark is John Noa, and he and others identified language as one of the things that brought about the downfall of the world. As we all reside in a world of fake news, alternate facts, and a lot of really poor discourse on public policy, this premise may not ever have been as relevant as it is today.

In Patricia Forde’s created world, a young girl named Letta is trying to figure out how to deal with working for of John Noa and doing what she believes is right. Letta works as an apprentice to the Wordsmith, a man charged by Noa with the task of creating lists of words that are acceptable for the general population to use and separate lists for specialists to use. This is an attempt to control the thoughts and actions of the human race and prevent some of the mistakes that brought about The Melting. Letta has always followed the teachings of Noa, but is also intrigued by what she sees outside of Ark, where there is more freedom to use language, and enjoy art, and music. As Letta tries to puzzle out what kind of world she wants to live in, she continues to get pushed in many directions as she learns more about the past that led to the development of Ark, and sees how it is run from the inside.

The List has a little of everything with some great action scenes including a gripping scene near the conclusion. Its strength, however, is that as you are traveling through the world of Ark with Letta as she figures out what she must do, it will leave you thinking about our own world. How is the partisan, political rhetoric that we hear so much today contributing to issues that we may have in our future?

Currently Reading:

Ban This Book: A NovelHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5)Firelight (Amulet, #7)

I am reading Ban This Book on my Kindle, the fifth Harry Potter with my family (we are about 400 pages into our bedtime story) and Amulet with my youngest. I will probably start a hard copy of a book myself tonight.

On deck:

I have several books on the night table: Princess Academy, Me and Marvin Gardens and The Girl Who Could Fly, but I have someone pushing me to read either Stella by Starlight or the second in the Monster Blood Tattoo series, Lamplighter. Decisions, decisions. I will probably go off the board.

Thanks for reading and I hope everyone has a great reading week!

It’s Monday What are you Reading 8/14//17

My its Monday post today links up through the good people at teachmentortexts and unleashingreaders who play host of other bloggers recommending great books to read each Monday. I have a small list of books that I really enjoyed this week.

Books finished this week:

Black Swan Green

This is a coming of age tale of a adolescent growing up in Britain in the early 1980s. Jason has a tough time with speech issues, navigating a rigid clique/social structure that includes some nasty bullies, dealing with his parents’ marital issues and a host of other issues that young people endure in finding their place. It’s strongly written, introspective and powerful, although the language makes me not recommend it to kids I teach. It’s more of a YA/Adult read from an author that typically writes for an adult audience (his novel Cloud Atlas was made into a fairly successful movie).

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This book had some of the same issues as Black Swan Green in that there was bullying and people finding their place in a cliquey high school. This one had a bit of a gimmicky twist though in that the main character Chase was a football playing bully until he bonks his head in an accident and wakes up with amnesia, a changed guy. Chase feels the pull of his old life and to go back to his old ways, but is also making friends with a new crowd that includes some kids that he had formerly terrorized. This makes for some interesting choices that Chase needs to make about who he was, who he wants to be and how best to get there. Its a quick read and an interesting plot but I sometimes found that characters a little too stereotypical.

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street

I was fortunate enough to get an early copy from Net Galley, and from the author. I actually don’t read a lot of books that have the label spooky. I was never drawn to books like Goosebumps, although I have them in my library and classroom. I think this would be classified as a moderately spooky book for middle grade readers, but like The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, which was so popular in my room two years ago, this book has a lot of other things going for it.

Like the other books I have for this week, this one features a plot in which a character needs to figure out where they fit, in this case after a move from Florida to Chicago, and the main character, Tessa manages to stumble her way to some really good friends in her first few days in Chicago. The book has the spooky elements such as suspected ghosts, a walk in a cemetery and a spooky old house full of noises and mystery that I think students will find engaging, but I also enjoyed the way friends and family were shown to support characters at some point and not so much at other points. The writer was able to show how that support created hope, and bravery and also the impact that the absence of such support had. I look forward to purchasing this book for my school when it releases on October 10.

The Terrible Two (The Terrible Two, #1)

Another book about the new kid in town. In this book Miles Murphy wants to recreate his reputation as the town’s prankster in his new locale. However, his plans are turned on their head by a more sophisticated and covert boy operating in that capacity. Its a fairly short, quick paced romp that is packaged for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans. There are some funny moments and some caricature, particularly of the principal. Although I didn’t like this as much as Wimpy Kid, it was a fun read that I think some early intermediate students will enjoy.

Currently Reading

Escape from Lucien (Amulet, #6)Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5)Stand-Off (Winger, #2)

My youngest continues to read the sixth in the Amulet series to me. There are a couple of subplots at this point and some are less enjoyable but the overall story and artwork are great. Easy to see why so many kids love this series. Our family is working through the fifth Harry Potter book and enjoying it. There’s a lot more politics in this one, which is my youngest is just okay with but there are also some evil teachers and the prospect of a Quidditch match soon so all is well. Sunday I started Stand Off, Andrew Smith’s sequel to Winger, very much a YA title. It was quite easy to fall back into the world of Ryan Dean, a rugby playing, 15 year old senior at Pine Mountain Academy, a west coast prep school. He is a hilarious character, and Smith’s writing is one of a kind. Its a little on the raunchy side, so this one does not make it to my elementary school.

On deck:

I still have some of the same books at my night table as last week (Princess Academy and Minrs 2), but I decided for a YA/Adult break which I typically have before school starts. I also have Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America that I might start. Most of these books are on my #MustReadin2017 list of which Stand Off represents the 33rd book (of the 66 on my list) that I will complete. Happy reading everyone!