Monthly Archives: May 2014

If I Stay…or If I Go

Happy Friday everyone.  I hope that you have all had a successful work week and have a very relaxing and fun filled weekend planned.  I have a book review for you today.  Allow me to speak to you about If I Stay by Gayle Forman.

 

81UjVsGy5yL If I Stay was an amazing read.  And a fast one.  It tells the story of a teenager  Mia, who is an extremely talented cello player; has a rock solid relationship with her best friend; a family bond that any kid would dream of; and the love of a rocker boyfriend who sees only the best in her.  Mia’s life is full of ups and downs, but the worst is yet to come.  After suffering through a car accident, that leaves her parents and younger brother dead, Mia now clings to life.  However, she has been given the rare gift to choose, whether to stay or to go.   Mia is having an outer-body experience, witnessing the hospital staff, family and friends visits, and Adam her boyfriend, waiting by her bedside to see which way she chooses.  Told through flashbacks as well as actual time, Mia must decide should she stay with her family, or stay and experience life in a whole new way.

Please do not think that since it the character is having an outer-body experience that this is a supernatural like tale.  Mia is the teenager we all once were.  The one who questions her decisions.  The one who falls head over heels in love, only to be unsure if this is the one she wants.  The teenager who must decide what her future holds, and how she wants to live her dreams.  This is a story we can all relate to, on some level.

This is a must read.  Furthermore, the powers that be have decided that it would make a great feature film.  It comes out this August, please check out the trailer below.

 

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One of my Favorite Childhood Shows is Coming Back

By now you have probably heard the amazing, fantastic, great news that LaVar  Burton’s Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign has been fully funded. In less then 24 hours.  That is correct Mr. Burton was able to raise $1 million in one day.  That means Reading Rainbow lives.

The show originally ran from 1983 to 2006 with reruns happening until 2009.  This latest venture will be a new version of the series created for the web, a classroom version of the program for teachers, and a program that gives copies of Reading Rainbow to low-income schools for free.

This is my most favorite news in a long time and I can’t wait to see the amazing things LaVar will do with this.

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Review of the day (sorry it’s a day late)

Sorry I am a day late on this review but I was extremely busy yesterday and I ran out of time. So today here is my review. I did not, sadly, finish the YA book I was reading but I did finish the book The Love Affairs of Nathaniel PI have to say I was not overly impressed.

I found the main character to be a vain and shallow representation of every 20-30 something man who is looking for his next Mrs. Right Now. I understand that some men think this way but the way this character was presented I could not feel for him. I could not in a way root for him. I felt as though I was reading about a stereotypical Brooklyn hipster who is too cool for school. And to be honest I couldn’t feel for any of these characters. I just couldn’t get behind this book.

Again this is only my opinion so if you read it and feel a different way please let me know but I would definitely not be recommending this book.

Happy Memorial Day weekend! Now go grill something.

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It’s Harder then it Looks

As a librarian I read a lot.  When I worked in publishing I read a lot.  As a reviewer for a magazine I read a lot.  So I thought, how hard could it be to write a book.    I have a notebook that has a ton of ideas in them.  Some are just plot ideas. Some are characters.  Some are full chapters or scenes.  Some are picture books. And some are layouts for graphic novels.  So with all of these ideas,  I thought, hey this should be no problem to write a story.  Well let me tell you it is tough.

Moving the story along, using descriptive wording, having the voices sound realistic, all of these elements are hard to master.  I have tried my hand at writing only to face such terrible writers block that I abandon the story all together.  These stories soon find  a permanent place in a filing cabinet under the heading “Better Luck Next Time.”  I have had the opportunity to meet several authors over the years and to hear them speak about the writing process.  But it wasn’t until this year that it all really clicked for me.

I was able to have the incredibly talented Wendy Mass come to my school for an author visit.  While she was here she spoke about her process, and she even shared with us a form she uses to help her better create a character and develop a plot.  I thought, I have an idea, let me see how this form works. Well let me tell you, it worked great.  I was able to flush out my main character and several supporting characters. I came up with a plot and I broke down how I wanted each chapter to go to help with the flow of the story. I was going to be able to write now.

Not so fast.

It was great that I had all of this.  I felt like these filled in forms was success enough.  However, now I actually had to start writing.  And that is where it gets tricky.  So I just started writing.  A little free writing, just to see what might come out of my brain.  And low and behold, some good stuff did. Or at least I think it is good.  Now am I already on my fourth chapter.  It is no where near being the level I would like it to be at, but that is what editing is for.  I will have the chance to rework, and rewrite as much as I need to.

I thought writing a book would be easy.  Just put some words on a paper and make a story out of it. I can tell a story no problem, writing one should be just as easy.   Well I have learned that writing a story is difficult and not everyone succeeds.  But if you keep at it, you will have a product that you can be proud of.  So keep a look out, my goal is to see this published at some point (eBook or print form).  I hope to have the first draft done in the next week or so. Fingers crossed.  I will keep you posted on my progress.

Happy reading and happy writing.

PS I am currently in the middle of the book IF I STAY.  I hope to have it done by Friday for my review day.

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Friday Book Review

so I have mentioned before that I write reviews for an professional magazine (LMC or Library Media Connection).  Here are two titles that I have recently reviewed.

18656207The Meaning of Maggie
Maggie Mayfield is a pre-teen who feels has her life pretty much figured out. She is the product of a two loving parents, has two increasingly annoying older sisters, she is a straight A student, owns a small percentage of Coke stock and is working on her bid to run for president one day.  Every thing is planned accept for her father’s mysterious illness.  You see he can not longer walk and soon Maggie must visit him in the hospital.  And this is one event Maggie could not plan for.   Told from Maggie’s perspective in the form of a journal that is chronicling the past year of her life, Maggie learns that her father suffers from MS.  And it is her goal to help cure him.  This is a beautifully written inventive take on a coming of age story.  The author allows for the reader to discover along with Maggie what is causing her father’s illness.  Peppered with typical family drama, the story flows well and offers  very tender moments between daughter and parent.

MuddyMaxMech.inddMuddy Max and the Mystery if Marsh Creek
Getting dirty and muddy is part of being a kid right? So why does Max have to wear five layers of protective clothing when ever it rains?  Because for Max the mud doesn’t just stain his shoes and dirty him up, the mud gives him super powers.   Max discovers by accident that when ever he comes in contact with Mud he develops an array of super hero skills such as, super strength, speed, and invisibility.  But why did Max’s parent wish to keep this a secret.  It appears they knew about his condition all along and wanted to protect him.  However as Max learns more and more about his abilities with mud he soon learns about the family he never knew about. This was a faced paced graphic novel and is perfect for 3rd to 6th grade readers.

 

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Children Read but not often enough

A report recently came out that states that children are spending less time reading for pleasure than decades ago.  This is leading to large gaps in proficiency.  Here are some of the facts:

  • The percentage of 9-year-old children who read for pleasure once or more a week dropped from 81% in 1984 to 76% in 2013.
  • 1/3 of 13-year-olds and 1/2 of 17-year-olds read for pleasure less than twice a year.
  • About 1/3 of fourth grade students are “proficient” in reading and another 1/3 scored below “basic” reading skills.

Now the report is not taking into account stories that are read online or on social media, but still this is quite shocking.   The pace is growing faster every year with more and more students not reading for pleasure.  However when they are reading, they are reading for a long period of time, but  the fact that their reading for pleasure is dropping worries me.  I know students are reading more and more in school each year, but the they are reading there for information. The book is used for a reading log assignment they are reading more to answer the are being asked to identify for the book (ex. characters traits, central problem, resolution etc)  They are not reading simply because they want to read the story.

I have witnessed first hand the drop in pleasure reading for older students.  Most of my older students come looking for the most popular books (Fault in Our Stars, Maze Runner, Divergent) all of which are movies or becoming movies.  And I gather that they are choosing those books simply because they are the most popular.  A few students I have truly test me (daily).  I am always trying to find books to give them that I think they would like (one student I think might read every book I have in my library).  I have resorted to giving them books from my own personal collection.  These students (the voracious readers) are becoming an anomaly simply because they do read so much and all for pleasure.

I am not sure how to combat this issue. I have taken seminars and attended workshops and spoke with colleagues and read books on trying to reach those older YA readers.  And every trick I try I am not seeing the results I would like.  These students are generation where technology is king and computer games are way more interesting than a book.  This is a constant struggle for all language arts teachers and librarians.  How to get the students to read for pleasure. How to get them to see past the screen and to the page.  How to show them that reading for the 30 minutes each day will have a greater impact on their lives in general than staring at a computer screen for the same amount of time (unless they are reading on that screen than that is OK). But I hope that someday I will crack the code and find the answer to this problem.

To read the article go to:

http://news.msn.com/us-children-read-but-not-well-or-often-report

 

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Review Day!!!

I think I will make Friday my book review day.  I will be reading a lot once the summer comes and I can say so long to school and kids.  I love them I really do but they are draining some times.   So let me start this new weekly update with my first of two reviews.


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Slated by Teri Terry
I truly can not begin telling you how much I enjoyed this book.  This is not just another dystopian society book, this has heart and shows how the mind can do amazing things.  Kyla has been slated; meaning her memory has been wiped clean and she is being given a second chance.  When you are slated it means you have done something wrong in your past, something that could hurt the government. And the government, to make sure you won’t do anything like this again, monitors you through a bracelet that shocks you if you dip below 3.5.  But what if you didn’t do anything wrong? what if you were kidnapped, forced to do things against your will, and only after being caught did you get slated?  Kyla soon learns that this might be the case for her.  She is not like the other slated kids her age.  She remembers things, from her past.  With the help of a friend Kyla will have to learn about her past to save her future.  The first book in a trilogy this is a must read.  I loved every turn of the page. Yes it has a strong female lead, and yes it is a dystopian novel, but Kyla’s story is one that you will not be able to look away from.

 

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One + One = Blue by MJ Auch
I must begin by saying when I read about this book I was very excited. The main character is suffering from a condition called Synesthesia. This is when your senses for example hearing is simultaneously perceived as if by one or more additional senses such as sight. Another form of synesthesia joins objects such as letters, shapes, numbers or people’s names with a sensory perception such as smell, color or flavor. The word synesthesia comes from two Greek words, syn (together) and aisthesis (perception). Therefore, synesthesia literally means “joined perception.”  In this case the main character Basil Feeney associated colors with his numbers. Each number has a different color. Basil thinks he is all alone in the world until he meets Tenzie a new girl at school who has the same condition.  Now this really got me interested because I have never read a book where the characters have this type of condition.  However, suddenly we are learning about why Basil’s mother abandoned him with grandmother when he was 5 and now she wants back in his life.  He must come to terms with this but also try and help Tenzie realize that her home life is not as bad as she thinks.  The only time the mention of their condition is when they are on the road trying to remember a street address and phone number but their condition is having them mix up numbers.  This is a great coming of age story but the addition of the synesthesia angle is lacking. I would have like to have seen more with this.  Overall it is a good book but I felt it needed an extra umph.

 

Hope you enjoy these and I hope you find the reviews useful.

Keep reading my friends. Keep reading

 

 

 

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