Sunday, June 16, 2019


Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

The 90s are back and I am excited. 

Author Jennifer Mathieu is, too, with this perfect love letter to both 90s and current female rebellion.

I was in high school in the early 90s and always in awe of zine culture and bands like Bikini Kill. I'm glad that this book is introducing these ideas to young people. 

The writing is great, the plot is empowering, and it reminds me of a fun older sister to Celia Perez's The First Rule of Punk. I hope everyone reads it.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

A Few Recent Reads

The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

To be fair, Sachar writes in the prologue that this is a book about playing bridge. And that he knows almost none of his readers care about bridge. Still, he loves the game.


At least Sachar gives summary boxes that allow you to skip the card game play-by-plays and read the human story. I definitely took advantage of that option.


I liked the characters and the plot, but there isn't a single person I can think of that I would recommend it to.


So I'm just going to celebrate me because this was the third book I ever added to my Goodreads "To Read" list and it's been six years that I've been waiting!


The Big Dark by Rodman Philbrick

We end our year with a dystopian unit, which is fun for most students. Unfortunately, most of our dystopian titles are very long, which can leave our developing readers feeling daunted.


I was excited to find The Big Dark, which features all the things that growing readers enjoy: cliffhangers to keep them going, action scenes, and short chapters.


The story is enjoyable, too. After a solar flare knocks out the electricity around the country, people need to do what it takes to survive. This felt realistic, as it is something that could happen.


What I didn't like was the ending, which felt too easy and like Philbrick ran out of time or ideas. It feels a bit insulting to readers after the investment in reading it.


Still, I will be sharing it with my readers who need a successful dystopian experience. But I will be asking them how they think it could end instead.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Still a Work in Progress

Oh man, I love Jo Knowles. Her writing is just so inviting that it's like diving into a warm pool. I just want to hang out in her world. I asked my library to add Still a Work in Progress to the collection, as it's been on my To Read list since 2016 and I just knew it would be great. I was right. 

After many years of reading YA novels, I've seen my share of eating disorder books. But I've never come across a book from the perspective of a younger brother, who really can't relate to what his sister is experiencing, but is worried anyway. Totally unique conceit.

I thought that the family dynamics played out really well, but my favorite part of the book was the friendship between our protagonist, Noah, and his two best friends.

It was such an accurate portrayal of nice kids growing at different rates, loving each other deep down, but also getting frustrated and not knowing why. I see this constantly with my students, so it was great to have a book to share when I see someone struggling with it. 

It also nailed how often seventh graders talk about who is going out with whom.

I loved this book and am now going to request enough copies to use it for book clubs.

A Few Recent Reads

And Then There Were Four by Nancy Werlin

This is one of a list of books that I asked my school library to add to the collection. 
The writing?

Was the plot realistic?

Did I want to know what happened?

Jazz Owls by Margarita Engle

I'm glad the book exists, because I had never heard of the Zoot Suit Riots before.
Which should really be called the Sailor Riot
But that part of the book was so short that the book is mislabeled as being about the riot, when it's really just about the travails of a Mexican family in 1940s California.

Margarita Engle has become hit or miss for me. This one was mostly a miss, as I just couldn't get into it.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

A Few Recent Reads

The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz

This had some serious Princess Bride vibes in the best possible way. The writing is even similar in detail and style.
There's a lot about religion in the novel, but in a way that would make for great family conversations.
I can't wait until my son is old enough to read this together.

Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington

Did you like Savvy by Ingrid Law? You will like this book.
Did I like Savvy?
I did not like this book.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Scythe and Thunderhead

I've been doing a round-up of recent reads but Scythe and Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman deserve their own post because they are the best books I've read in awhile. All of my students are reading these books and we are waiting anxiously for the final book in the trilogy to be published in September. Until then, this is how we all feel about these books:


Sunday, May 12, 2019

A Few Recent Dystopian Reads

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien
I had a good time reading it, but there were a few moments that stood out to me and made me wonder if it was undercover pro-life propaganda:

I kept reading and it turned out it is a strange plot involving inbreeding and hemophilia:

So, I liked the first one but won't be reading the rest of the series unless my students do and tell me it's great.

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

I LOVED Neal Shusternman's Scythe series and Unwind series, so had high hopes for Dry. Unfortunately, I think his son Jarrod was behind the wheel a bit more with this one:

Set during a Californian drought that turns into end days, it had my stomach twisted in knots:
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If I was a Californian, I would not have been able to finish the book. Instead, I am going to buy some bottled water to hoard.

War Cross by Marie Lu

Hooray for Marie Lu and her creative brain!

 The Young Elites by Marie Lu

I was a bit slow on the uptake and didn't realize the protagonist in The Young Elites is the villain.
Once that clicked, I enjoyed it more, although I don't feel the need to read the rest of the series.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

A few recent reads

Contrary to what it looks like on this blog, I have been reading a lot. I printed out my Goodreads To Read list for my classroom wall, and have been steadily making progress. I am still unmotivated to review except in GIF format, but that's better than nothing. So here are a few thoughts:

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

This one was pretty engrossing. I really did want to know who was lying and it turns out, I was wrong! All my students are reading it and I had to check it out. I liked it, although 7th grade is the lowest age I would want reading it (and wouldn't recommend it to someone that young, but I will talk about it with them when they do anyway!)


Damage Done by Amanda Panitch

Gillian Flynn for 9th graders. Fans of fun trashy novels by Abigail Haas will like this. I knew pretty early on what the twist was, but I don't know if high school students will. So they can join me in making this face: 

Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy

I read this novel-in-verse for our poetry unit and will be recommending it to students next year. Based on the life of the author's family, it is told from the perspective of a young child. The story suffers from the narrator's lack of understanding in some parts, but it enhances it overall. And the end? Here's me:

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Audiobooks for the Youngest Listeners

Here are a few Eric Carle and Bill Martin Jr. audiobooks I enjoyed while my son was aged 17 - 21 months. As with everything related to toddlers, our feelings depended on hunger, how long the car ride was, the weather, and every other factor under the sun...your experience may vary!

Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle

This is the gold standard of audiobooks for us. I wonder if it's because it's the first one he listened to or if it's because he already loved the book, but whenever I put this on, my son would quiet himself and pay close attention.

Gwyneth Paltrow is the narrator, but it doesn't make a difference because her voice isn't distinctive. It is a warm and kind voice, though, and that makes listening fun. This one is worth buying.
Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? is a follow-up to the above. We hadn't read this one before listening, but my son loved it almost as much. It was nice to have some animals we hadn't encountered before, like the macaroni penguin and the water buffalo. Again, Paltrow's voice is soothing and friendly. Check this one out of the library.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The School for Dangerous Girls

I'm glad I read Eliot Schrefer's other novels before getting to The School for Dangerous Girls. I already knew he was a talented writer who could tell a story full of twists. With the Ape Quartet, Schrefer found his ideal genre and subjects. While his writing skills are still evident in this early novel, it's missing the spark of his other work, as well as his ease with crafting a plot.

Angela has been sent to Hidden Oaks, a last chance school for girls before they end up in prison or on the streets. She has to keep her guard up around the other dangerous girls and sadistic teachers, which she thought was the worst of her problems. The more she learns about her new school, the more trouble she realizes that she is in.

I stayed up late to finish the book, which says something good about it, but there was so much suspension of disbelief required.

SPOILERS: why did Mr. Derrian tow the line in order to pay for his son's college, only to run off with a student? And then his son didn't seem to care, or Schrefer didn't have time to write about it? What happens after the school is shut down? It doesn't seem like Angela or Carmen will be welcome at home, and Harrison's dad has run off. So do they all go live with Ingrid's family, as Carmen jokes? What's Juin's real story? I wonder if I will be brave enough to ask Schrefer any of these questions when he visits my class. END SPOILERS

I won't be recommending this book to my students. Instead, I'll hand them something from the Ape Quartet and let them see Schrefer at the top of his game.