Here are five more of the fifteen books that I really enjoyed in 2015. Most of the books on my list were published before 2015 though. I tend not to have a lot of really brand new books as I don’t really enjoy the feeling of hardcovers (I do make some exceptions) and I don’t get my hands of many ARCs. The first five titles that I shared were The Wishing Spell and Fuzzy Mud (a read aloud with my children and one with my students), The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian (a somewhat controversial YA that is kind of an old fave of mine), Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future (definite YA- I have a thing for long titles), and The One and Only Ivan.
Most of the rest of my list is full of books somewhat like The One and Only Ivan, books that I read just before or at the same time as students that I teach.
6. The Riverman by Aaron Starmer- This is a book that has kind of stayed with me and haunted me since I finished it. I would have gone straight to the library and got the hardcovered sequel, but we did not have it so I decided to wait and buy the trade paper when it comes out. After I finished this one I read a review on Goodreads by Betsy Bird (@FuseEight on Twitter). She said it best about this one: it is a book that makes you regret being the first or only person you know who has read it. It is the kind of book that needs to be discussed. Layers of mystery and wonder. Not knowing what is real and what is not real. If this appeals to your readers, this is a great book. A little dark, but my students that are into A Wrinkle in Time or When You Reach Me are going to eventually love this (I hope!- I still needs more people to talk to about this one).
7. The Nest by Kenneth Oppel- Full disclosure: I love all Kenneth Oppel books. I am running a Battle of the Books in my district this year and have this as one of our six titles. It was one of the books I was really excited to get my hands on this year. In some ways, I love it for reasons similar to The Riverman. There is lots of mystery, and unusual things happening. Our lead character is very confused by the events and we are puzzling along with him as to what should be done. Dated reference coming up! These last two books are kind of like The X-Files of middle school fiction and I loved that show. The Nest is creepy fun. There has been lots of hype about this book, but I think it is all deserved.
8. The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier- In my last post, I said this would be in no particular order but my brain decided otherwise and once I wrote about The Riverman and The Nest, it really wanted to put this one next. Another book I going to use with two classes at my school in a Battle of the Books (I will write about that another time- its very exciting to me), and another book that had a lot of well-deserved awards and hype. Also, it has a paranormal, X-file like quality as well. Jonathan Auxier writes about some really interesting themes in this book such as the power of immediate gratification, the power of stories, and the little lies that we tell people (even those we love). I am racing to read through Auxier’s earlier book (Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes) and that is likely responsible for the haste of this post.
9. The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands- Like the last two books, this was written by a Canadian and I am including it in my Battle of the Books. This was certainly one of my favourite new titles. Its a little like some of the Dan Brown titles that were popular a few years back (The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons) and the period in history reminded me of reading Neal Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle. While these are certainly not books I recommend for my students (yet), I have a number of students that will read and enjoy this title. It is a little dark and there is some description of victims of foul play that might not be great for all your younger readers, but there is a great mystery, and a very interesting setting (17th century England). I really enjoyed how Christopher Rowe had to use his intellect to solve puzzles and riddles to stay away from some seriously evil folks. The author used the setting very well, he did not dumb it down for readers (even the political aspects of what was going on) but the book is still accessible to those without the background knowledge. I could see students using it as a jumping off point to learning more about that era (with some support). A very exciting page turner.
10. Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix- This is one of those books I have had around for a while and have seen students reading and it was always in a pile “to be read soon”. It stayed in the pile for no good reason, but finally I read it. I loved this work of speculative fiction. I think it will be really good for students who are not quite ready/willing for the violence of The Hunger Games or Divergent but will appreciate the themes of social control. Even thought it was written a few years ago, the topic of overpopulation is very relevant and I had lots of great discussions with a student who read this a couple of months after I did. I plan to read future titles in this series soon, but way leading on to way…