Thursday, December 31, 2009

Icarus at the Edge of Time

Mary Ehrenworth read us the beginning of Icarus at the Edge of Time during the Writing Institute at Teachers College. All of the teachers in the auditorium were on the edges of our seats, waiting to hear what would happen at the end of the book. Four months later, I finally know.

It's hard to classify this book: it's printed on childish hard cardboard, it has a mythological history, it has an active storyline, and a sad moral. I'm excited to incorporate the story of this future Icarus into the eighth grade's mythology unit. There's nothing better than when students are able to make connections to other texts and to their lives.

The images in the book are outrageously gorgeous. I didn't realize until I reached the last page that they are all actual photos from outer space. I would love any of them as a screensaver!

I highly recommend this book as a fun addition to a lesson on mythology or physics. Bravo, Brian Greene!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Paper Towns

I've heard so many great things about Paper Towns and have been waiting to read it and see if it is appropriate for middle school students. I was so psyched to see that my parents' library had it in stock and spent much of Christmas reading it.

I love books that feature mysterious and captivating characters (see: the parents in If I Stay) and Margo Roth Spiegelman is the epitome of those traits. As the novel progresses and the protagonist, Quentin, tries to learn more about his missing and beguiling friend, the reader becomes increasingly invested in the story. Author John Green is gifted at crafting relatable and realistic characters and the novel was hard to put down, even to open presents!

While I loved Paper Towns, I won't be ordering it for our school library. It skew too mature for my students; they won't be able to relate to Quentin's pre-graduation angst and there is enough cursing to raise an eyebrow from our conservative parents. Still, I recommend it to high school students and adults who love YA books.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

If I Stay

Gayle Forman's novel If I Stay is absolutely beautiful. Written from the perspective of Mia, a comatose girl, the story focuses on whether she should try to live after a car accident or join her deceased family. The narrative switches from Mia's life before the accident to her time in the coma, painting a picture of the life that could possibly be lost.

The omniscient narrator is not as gorgeously written as in Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, but the many fans of that novel will enjoy If I Stay as well. Mia is a likable protagonist, but the most interesting characters are her parents. They are rockers-turned-parents and their excellence shows how difficult life would be for Mia without them, if she came out of the coma. I wonder if my fascination with the parents is because I am thirty years old, or if it is due to Forman's writing...probably a combination of both!

My students will be able to relate to Adam and Mia's love story; they are always fiending for stories of teenage love. Their relationship is tender and special, I wonder if other readers will be as teary as I was! This is the novel that inspired me to write this blog; I can't think of a higher endorsement than that.

What They Found: Love on 145th Street

I've read a lot of Walter Dean Myers books, from Slam to Monster and haven't enjoyed one yet. Well, that has all changed as of this morning. I read What They Found in three hours, not stopping for breakfast. This collection of short stories centers around the different kinds of love a Harlem neighborhood experiences. This love runs the gamut from a girl caring for her addict mother to a soldier finding love on the battlefield.

I always read with my students in mind--they will love the intertwining stories and realistic dialogue. While some of the stories are borderline risque, there's nothing I wouldn't feel comfortable discussing with middle school students. The stories all have a clear lesson, but are not preachy.

Myers' female characters are not entirely believable. Their emotions are simplistic and they seem like caricatures rather than real people. Still, this is a minor criticism for an engrossing and enjoyable page-turner