Sunday, July 26, 2015

A School for Unusual Girls

Boarding school novels are my favorite, so I was eager to check out this novel about girls with strange talents who are taken in by Headmisstress Stranje and taught how to use their talents for the good of the country. Our heroine is Georgiana Fitzwilliam: blessed with a scientific mind and (according to the novel) cursed with red hair and parents who don't care for her. Together with the other unusual girls, Georgie must prevent Napolean from taking power again (at least I think that was the goal).

I don't know anything about the Regency Era, but usually learn a lot of history through historical fiction. Unfortunately, this series seems to also be speculative fiction along the lines of, "What would have happened if Napolean came back into power?" It had me wondering how much of the history was true, so I didn't learn much.

This is the first in a series, so it starts with a newcomer to the school. Unfortunately, the other girls at the school seem far more interesting than Georgie. Add to that the slightly racist portrayal of Madame Cho, the school's disciplinarian, and I won't be sticking around to find out about the other students.

Monday, July 20, 2015

P.S. I Still Love You

Oh Jenny Han, you are the queen of teenage romance!

I finished P.S. I Still Love You while on a weekend boating trip to the Exumas for a family friend's 14th birthday. I made all the girls promise me they would read The Summer I Turned Pretty series and then this series.

Han is so spot-on in her depiction of teenage girls. I love that our heroine, Lara Jean, has decided that she is in charge of how far she goes sexually, boyfriend or not. And she decides not to do much, which will be reassuring to girls who feel like everyone else is more experienced than they are. I wished that Lara Jean had a better female friend than Chris, who rarely shows up in this book. On the other hand, she has two incredible sisters, particularly Kitty, who is fun and wise and hilarious.

I adore Han's descriptive writing. She uses a lot of similes, but they are so beautiful that I want to remember them as mentor sentences, rather than counting how many there are. You can't fight with sentences like, "I feel like a purse bulging with gold coins. I can't wait to spill." and "Her hair is long, and the ends dip into the hot tub like calligraphy brushes in ink. The boy runs his hands down her spine like she is a cello and he is playing her." I probably won't use that last one with my fifth graders, but there are plenty more to choose from!

Since I already told a boat-load of girls they have to read everything Han wrote, now I'm going to say the same to anyone reading this: get PS. I Still Love You now!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Double Cross

Spy novels are all the rage with my fifth graders. They love Loot, the Spy School series, the Alex Rider series, and when I read them the blurb for Jackson Pearce's The Double Cross, way back in April, they were gnashing their teeth to get their hands on it. Like me, they're really going to enjoy this book.

Hale Jordan has grown up in a family of spies, generations trained by the SRS to save the world. So maybe Hale is a bit chubbier and less athletic than the average spy. He has a lot of other valuable skills that will hopefully make him a junior agent. Until his parents go missing on a mission and his world turns upside down. Hale and his enthusiastic little sister, Kennedy, now have a mission of their own: to save their parents.

The female characters were particularly impressive in this novel.
Kennedy is a natural junior agent while her brother struggles, and a girl named Beatrix is a gifted hacker. Looks are never what they seem: Hale gets teased mercilessly about his weight, but in the field he thinks fast and works better than fitter agents. There are several positive sibling relationships, as well, which is what I see a lot with my students' families.

I appreciate getting to read this ARC from NetGalley and look forward to purchasing a hard copy for my classroom library.