Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Another Day

It's been three years since I've read Every Day. I've read many books since then, which helped me read Another Day with fresh eyes. In the first book, we met A, a soul who wakes up in a new body every day. A falls in love with Rhiannon and tries to find a way to make it work. David Levithan's newest novel tells the same love story from Rhiannon's perspective.

In the sequel, we get to see more of Rhiannon's life, which she has shrunk to suit her difficult boyfriend, Justin. Her best day with Justin was really when he was inhabited by A. While the story on A's side is fairly straightforward (must find Rhiannon, must declare love), Rhiannon has a life and entanglements that are more difficult than A can understand.

Although I vaguely remembered what happened, I wasn't able to put the book down. I spent the day reading, wondering where it would leave us and what would happen to the couple. The end was a combination of satisfying and desperation-inducing--I want more!

David Levithan is one of the best authors for YA readers, hands down. I love how these books challenge our idea of a typical romance and have me rooting for A and Rhiannon to find a way to make it work.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Circus Mirandus

I spend so much of the year thinking of which books I should add to the suggested summer reading list. When it's summertime and I find a book like Circus Mirandus, I have to decide whether it becomes a class read aloud or on the summer reading list. It's just so good!

Micah was raised by his Grandpa Ephraim's stories of the magical Circus Mirandus. Now Ephraim is sick and wants to call in the miracle he was promised as a child, but he needs Micah's help to be sure that it comes true. Along with his new friend Jenny Mendoza, Micah must use all his belief in magic to save the person he loves most.

I have found that many middle grade fantasy novels are bloated and intimidating to students who dislike huge tomes. Circus Mirandus is the perfect length for readers who want to take a dip in the fantasy pool without committing to months of reading. The best solution for my quandary? I'll read a chapter of the book aloud to hook everyone, then recommend they add it to their TBR piles!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell

My students love to write "their version" of their favorite books. It's not quite fan fiction because they create their own characters, it's more like them telling the same plot in their own way. Chris Colfer's The Land of Stories series is highly imitated in our class.

It's easy to see why. Colfer created a land where all the fairy tale characters live together, ready to be explored by twins Alex and Conner. My students are at an age where they are able to play with these familiar tales, so they appreciate how well Colfer does it. I loved that Snow White's Evil Stepmother got a backstory that explained her behavior. It's good for kids to see a more fleshed out character.

While I found the book overly long, I enjoyed it and have already been given the second in the series by a student. So it goes on my summer reading pile and I'll see what other adventures Colfer has written that are worthy of homage.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Space Case

I intentionally chose Space Case as the read aloud to end the year, as I knew we wouldn't have time to finish. That way they would already know the first book they wanted to read over the summer. Anything by Stuart Gibbs is a guaranteed winner for 5th graders.

Dashiell's scientist parents are recruited to live in the first colony on the moon, which seems like the most exciting prospect in the universe. The reality is not as thrilling: nothing to do, disgusting food, and sparse accommodations is what life is like for the "Moonies." Until a famous doctor dies in an unplanned moonwalk, the morning after Dash overhears him talking excitedly about a discovery. Dash is convinced it's a murder, but no one else seems to believe him, so he decides to investigate on his own.

Gibbs has mastered the modern middle grade mystery. The problems in his books are complex and have serious consequences, rather than the stolen lunch money in typical mysteries geared to this age group. The lack of condescension is refreshing and appreciated by my students.

Like all of Stuart Gibbs' books, I highly recommend Space Case.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Fuzzy Mud

After having written Holes, Louis Sachar  doesn't have to do anything for the rest of his life. Instead, he has written Fuzzy Mud, a middle grade biological thriller. Not the obvious choice, but a welcome book to my classroom library. I'd love to include it on the summer reading list, but the August publication date makes it late for my school. I received a copy to review through Net Galley and have been waiting for months to share.

When Tamaya throws some mud in the woods at bully Chad, she thinks she is just trying to protect her friend, Marshall. That's before her skin starts blistering and bleeding, and before Chad loses his vision. That's when the government gets involved, and things get really dangerous.

Between Fuzzy Mud and The Fourteenth Goldfish, I hope there is a trend of science-minded books for young readers. There are lots of discussion points here, from overpopulation to biological engineering. Another bonus is that it will appeal to boys and girls, who will be able to relate to one of the three main characters.

I plan to read this to my class as a treat, a sneak peak at a book before it is published. It will make a great read aloud.