Friday, October 18, 2013

The Fashion Disaster That Changed My Life

Lauren Myracle's are always realistic, even when parents don't want them to be. I decided to check out this book for a quick read today. Seventh grader Alli has always wanted to be popular and it seems like this might finally be her year to move up the social ranks. Unfortunately, that would mean leaving behind her old friends and ignoring that nagging feeling that popularity isn't as great as it seems.

Alli is insecure and awkward, basically, a totally normal seventh grader. At one point, she and her new friends go searching through a parent's bedside table and find condoms and a Playgirl. This is going to be a touchy scene with some parents. It's also something that probably happens all the time. I like that Myracle continues to write controversial books that feel totally authentic. It was worth the few hours it took to read.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

I'm a big Kate DiCamillo fan. 
Somehow I am slipping because I found out that she had another novel released, Flora & Ulysses. I looked forward to a  slightly sad story about friendship and hope. I suppose I got that, but it wasn't as satisfying as I wanted.

My major issue was the language used in the novel. I would go so far as to say this is a book that could only be read aloud to the intended audience. There is so much challenging vocabulary that there would need to be many pauses to explain. For example, one eleven-year-old says to another, "You, a self-professed cynic, are positing that the squirrel is a superhero." This one sentence would be enough to turn off the majority of my readers.

Instead of enjoying the book for its plot, I read it from the perspective of a teacher. There are some beautiful and complicated sentences in the text that could be used as mentor sentences. There is a lot of repetition of the challenging words,  which can help students remember their meanings and, ideally, incorporate them into their own writing. Still, these aren't the things I usually think about as I read; usually, the story engrosses me.

It's still worth adding the book to your library. There are some diehard Kate DiCamillo fans who will push through and enjoy the book. It does feature her trademark themes of hope and misfits who find each other. It just wasn't for me.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Recent Reads

The Demon of River Heights - My students are flying through Raina Telgemeier's graphic novels and I wanted to have more books to recommend to girls who are just diving into this genre. I wasn't that optimistic reading this first entry in the Nancy Drew: Girl Detective graphic novel series, but wanted to find out if this could be next in line for those readers. It won't be. The story was flimsy and the illustrations didn't grab me. While they updated the characters to be more modern, it didn't work for me as a series reboot. Pass.

Because I am Furniture - I've been trying to find Thalia Chaltas' novel in verse since last summer. While trying to hype up poetry reading in my classes, I found it in our school's library. It's definitely not for sixth graders, but I'm glad I finally read it. The main character, Anke, lives in a family paralyzed by her abusive father. He is physically abusive with her brother, sexually abusive with her sister, but Anke is ignored, leaving her to feel like she doesn't matter enough to mistreat. It was a really strange and interesting look at how the only member of a family that is not abused feels. A heavy read, but satisfying.

Peanut - This was another graphic novel I hoped to be able to pass along to my students. It skews just slightly too old for them, but will be perfect for some of my former students who still come back for recommendations. Imagine moving to a new school and deciding that the best way to distinguish yourself is faking a peanut allergy. A strange choice, but one that Sadie makes and has to continue to roll with, even when she learns that she doesn't need that crutch anymore. When the truth comes out, Sadie learns that something as small as a peanut can have huge consequences.