Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 YA Favorites

I didn't read as much as I wanted to this year, but isn't that always the case?
Here are my favorite YA books of the year:

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Werewolf love story.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Dystopian bloodbath... love story.

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

Identity struggles in historical fiction.

Forest Born by Shannon Hale

The land of Bayern revisited.

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

Religious extremists and polygamy.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Dystopian visions of the undead.

Fade by Lisa McMann

Falling into others' dreams.

Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4) by Richelle Mead

Protecting vampires' lazy, elitist butts.

Envy (Luxe #3) by Anna Godbersen

High society New York a century ago.

City of Glass (Mortal Instruments #3) by Cassandra Clare

Action-packed incestual love story.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lion, Mouse, Ogre

The Lion and the Mouse
written and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Displayed above is a side-by-side view of the front and back covers of this book. Generally, I'm not fond of covers without title and author information, but I will make an exception for Mr. Pinkney. This wordless picture book of Aesop's fable "The Lion and the Mouse" is in fact exceptional, and there's nothing else for me to say about it. Go buy it. I think I will too.

And then there's Awful Ogre, who warms my heart in an entirely different way. I first read Awful Ogre's Awful Day written by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky about four years ago when I was student teaching in a third grade classroom. I read it aloud to my students, and they gobbled it up. They loved it so much that it inspired us to explore poetry for the next month or more. I recently shared it with my third grade students in the library, which received mixed responses. Nonetheless, I love this book of poetry and wanted to share my enthusiasm for it with a new group of students.

So, how excited was I to find that there's another Awful Ogre book that I have yet seen?! Pretty darn excited, let me tell you. I snatched it up from my free library's new books section and took it home to read aloud (because you have to read poetry aloud!). Awful Ogre Running Wild is indeed a companion book, written and illustrated by the same duo, and it is just as much fun as the first. In fact, there are many parallels between the two books, which makes them very useful for lessons on poetry in the classroom or library. Not having Awful Ogre's Awful Day in front of me, the most obvious correlations I could make were the following:

Running Wild
  • "Awful Ogre's Picnic" with his girlfriend
  • "Awful Ogre Enters a Cook-Off"
  • "Awful Ogre Pays a Visit" to his grandma
  • "Awful Ogre Stays at an Inn"
  • "Awful Ogre Has Insomnia"
Awful Day
  • AO writes a letter to his ogress girlfriend
  • AO wins a gardening contest
  • AO's great-grandnephew (or something of the sort) visits him
  • AO goes out to eat at a restaurant
  • AO dreams
The one problem I have with this new book, however, is that there are some poems that take up four pages instead of a two-page spread. I expected the poem to end, but then I turned the page and there was more! But that's not much to gripe about, eh?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Two middle grade novels with strong female protagonists

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur
Oh, how this book broke my heart. Over and over again. Aubrey is an eleven year-old girl who has just recently been in a devastating car accident. Her father and younger sister were both killed, while her mom and Aubrey both survived. But Aubrey doesn't consider herself a survivor, and she doesn't think of herself any differently than before. Even when her mom leaves home and doesn't come back. Not that night, not the next day, not even a week later. But after a week of living on her own, Aubrey is whisked away to live with her Gran, her mom's mom, for the summer, while the search is on for her mother. She makes a friend next door, and she writes letters that she never sends, all in the hopes of dealing with her grief and abandonment. Aubrey's voice is distinctly eleven years old - she's emotional yet pragmatic, sensitive and on the brink of a meltdown. But she finds ways to cope.

We received this as a new book a couple weeks ago, and I snatched it up before any students could check it out. I read it in one night and brought it back the next day for fifth grade students to have a chance to check it out. I did pass it on to one girl, warning her that it was a very emotional book dealing with some difficult subjects, but she decided that she still wanted to read it. She came back after Thanksgiving break and told me that she read it over the weekend and cried. She really liked the book, so much that she shared the story with her family - and they seemed to get a bit emotional over it too. I was so happy to hear back from her and especially to find that she had engaged her family in discussion over the book. It was definitely one of those moments that reminded me why I love my job.

Newsgirl by Liza Ketchum
I'm not generally a fan of historical fiction, but I'm always in the mood for girls taking charge of their lives and going out to make it on their own. This book is set in the late 1800s with a girl, her mom, and her mom's friend shipping out from Boston to San Francisco, a ridiculously long and complicated boat journey. They finally make it to the coast with hardly any money left and completely alien surroundings and customs.

I'm about halfway through this book, and I am loving it. Amelia, the 12 year-old girl, is a problem solver. She knows what needs to be done, so she goes out and does it. She sees injustice in the ways that women and girls are treated, and she will not stand for it, even if that means getting bopped in the head or worse. Although the girl disguising herself as a boy story has been played out in many ways, I'm still interested to see where this one goes.
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