Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Blogger Holiday Swap

Sarah from YA Librarian Tales was my Secret Santa for the Book Blogger Holiday Swap this year, and she was fabulous. I got the package in the mail yesterday while expecting guests and squealed in delight when I saw the box wedged in between my doors. Here's the before picture - isn't it nice that she wrapped each gift? I totally didn't think of that for mine...

And after! She got me two of my favorite books that I did not own:
A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
And some cute tech speak magnets and a Mockingjay bookmark. Woo! :) 



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

November Reading Recap

Oh, November, I'm so happy to see you go! But now December is here, and I get to wondering where in the world my year went. Is this really the last of 2011? How is that possible? I see all of those 2011 Challenges on my sidebar that I haven't updated in months, and I'm feeling like a bad blogger. Yes, my reading has suffered this year, but the rest of my life has been great, so I'll take that trade. Here's what I read in November:

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke --- A science fiction graphic novel with a girl protagonist? Woohoo! Zita and her best friend are outside one day when they discover this giant crater. Inside it is what looks like a remote control with just one big red button. Well, what are big red buttons for if not pushing, so Zita does just that and her friend, poof!, disappears. Zita goes after him and finds herself on another planet, galaxy even with all sorts of aliens and creatures. She slowly befriends a couple and begins her quest to find her friend. An absorbing read with illustrations that remind me a lot of Amulet - will definitely appeal to that crowd.

What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones --- I've read a Sones book every month for the past three months, and that makes me happy. That also means that she's going to have to start pumping out books a whole lot more frequently if this trend is to continue. Just saying. Ah, I don't think I've read this particular one before, and I, of course, enjoyed it almost as much as my favorite, What My Mother Doesn't Know. It picks up where Mother leaves off but is written mostly in Robin's voice (Sophie's new boyfriend) instead. I just love Sones' poetic prose!

Lost & Found by Shaun Tan --- This is a collection of Shaun Tan's early works; you know, before he became famous for the inventive and gorgeous sepia-toned wordless graphic novel The Arrival. The three stories in this book are admittedly odd and rather dark (I wouldn't buy it for my elementary school, that's for sure), but have a bit of hope and charm reflective of Tan's style. A quick read with few words and lots of quirkiness.

Mudkin by Stephen Gammell --- My review from Goodreads: The negative reviews of this book make me laugh - a book with few words? How dare he! (Pardon the sarcasm.) I generously appreciated this whimsical story of a girl playing outside after the rain on a muddy day. Her conversations with Mudkin were inspired - do we really need to know what he says? No; we can INFER! Inference is such a tricky skill to teach, but this book practically does it itself without needing much teacher direction. Love it. Will recommend to teachers, for sure.

Cloaked by Alex Flinn (review) --- I liked Beastly best (and I haven't even seen the movie yet), then Cloaked, and finally A Kiss in Time, when comparing the fractured fairy tales I've read by Flinn. Cloaked had a lot of unexpected twists and turns that I sometimes appreciated (other times I was just like, huh?), and I did enjoy the little love story too. As long as Flinn keeps writing these retold fairy tales, I'll keep reading them!

Igniting a Passion for Reading: Successful Strategies for Building Lifetime Readers by Steven Layne --- A must-read for anyone who works with children and young adults. Steven Layne is an educator and public speaker, so I was wary that he wouldn't address the librarian side of things, but I was pleasantly surprised to find how warmly and intelligently he speaks of librarians and what we do. He starts the book with a rationale for reading aloud (at all grade levels) and focuses each chapter on different ways to get students excited about reading. I found that I was already doing quite a few things right (I'd hope so!), but I also learned new strategies and tricks that I immediately implemented in my own practice. Simple things like a special bookshelf or display area of my favorite books, a sign or bookstand with what I'm currently reading, book talks, book passes, and much more. I'd be happy to lend it to anyone if you can't get ahold of a copy!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth
published May 2011 by HarperCollins
496 pages (hardcover), YA

Dystopian Chicago. Need I say more?

That's all I needed. Perhaps you require a little extra.

Beatrice is at that delicate, life-changing age, 16, when she needs to decide what to make of herself. Which of the five factions of the city (Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, Erudite) will she choose to dedicate her life to? She was brought up in Abnegation, with her selfless parents and brother, but she's never quite fit in. She's curious, asks too many questions, and doesn't always think of others before herself. So, at her choosing ceremony, Beatrice gives up her family ties and joins the daredevil Dauntless. But to prove herself to this new faction, Beatrice, now Tris, has to go through a series of trials that will truly test her strength, physically, emotionally, and mentally. Plus she has a BIG secret to hide. And a budding love interest with one of her trainers. And the possibility that she will die before she proves herself as a member of Dauntless. Woo!

I can't hide how much I loved this book. Picture this - a Thursday after school. No errands to run. No lesson plans to write. No new shows on the television. Time! Time to read! Curled up on the couch with my very own copy of Divergent (which I've had since the summer; yes, shame on me). I start reading and can't stop. A tweet, quick dinner, and six hours later, the book is finished, and I'm thoroughly sated. Time for bed! That, my friends, is what I call a luxurious evening at home. I haven't had one in a long while and was so happy to share it with this wonderful book.

Lots of people have compared Divergent to The Hunger Games, and okay, I guess I see that. They're both dystopias. They're both rather violent. But the world in Divergent appeals to me much more. Maybe because it's set in Chicago. Maybe more because although it's a dystopia, there's SO MUCH HOPE. I don't know how Veronica Roth made me feel so hopeful, especially in the depths of Dauntless (which is definitely not the faction I would choose :shudder:), but she did. Tris is one strong female, and I believe she can change the whole system. The factions were originally created to play on the good, to have people specialize in these ideal character traits so that they could rid society of all the bad. But over the years it has turned into a competition instead of collaboration, and what used to be good about each faction is now lost in the struggle to remain relevant and most of all, powerful. It's all so complex and political, and I love it.

I'm really late to the conversation about this book (hey, I was in Italy! and then work took over my life...), but if you honestly haven't read it yet, what are you waiting for? Easily one of the best books of the year. School Library Journal says so too.

Four purple crayons for a new dystopian trilogy that I can't wait to keep reading! Insurgent comes out in May 2012!

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