Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth

I just finished reading Emily M. Danforth's debut novel, and I think this book trailer, an official one by HarperTeen, does an excellent job of capturing the gist of the novel.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

An Outdoorsy Book

I have very little to do with the outdoors, unless it's finding a quiet, comfortable place to read. But I do know that I have many students who are passionate about the outdoors and struggle to find themselves in books that explore these issues. That's my one beef with realistic fiction--I haven't found many books within this genre that these adventurous students can connect with that isn't Hatchet.

That was until I found Ryan Gebhart's There Will Be Bears. Tyson, the main character, has his hopes set on elk hunting with his grandpa. Unfortunately, his grandfather's health is dwindling, and his parents' decision to move his grandfather to a nursing home makes it seem as if Tyson's dream will never come true.

Tyson is like so many students: He sees a disconnect in what he is expected to remember and regurgitate in school, is encountering changing friendships, and is trying to make his family happy while becoming an individual.

While the first half of the novel is leading up to a trip that Tyson begins to believe will never happen, the magic in Gebhart's storytelling really takes place in the second. When they are finally able to embark on their trip, Tyson learns that hunting and all that it entails is far more difficult--both emotionally and physically--and rewarding than he imagined.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What's Your Manifesto?

I just finished Francisco X. Stork's The Last Summer of the Death Warriors. I had previously read Marcelo in the Real World, and so I knew he was a trusted author.

This book is a story of an odd couple: Pancho is a strong, Mexican-American youth whose father and sister have recently died, and is bent on avenging his sister's untimely death. Daniel has a strong mind but weak body, as he is diagnosed with cancer and is not expected to live much longer.

They both meet at St. Anthony's, an orphanage for teenage boys. From the beginning, Daniel says that he was expecting Pancho's arrival so that he could also become a "Death Warrior." I know the idea of death warriors seems kind of childish, but I like where Daniel took the big idea. Death Warriors have a few priorities in life, and one of them is to live life to the fullest by cherishing every living moment that you have.

If you want a story that pairs two unlikely characters as friends or a story about two youth facing insurmountable odds, pick up this book. It reminded me a lot of George and Lennie from Of Mice and Men. You don't always get to control the cards you are dealt, but you can choose to make the best of the situation and to open your heart along the way.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

#WeNeedDiverseBooks Meets #NerdCampMI

On Monday and Tuesday, I spent the day with educators at #nErDcampMI. It was a great opportunity to talk books, writing, and literacy with educators from around the country. There were teachers there from North Carolina, Wisconsin, Florida, and even Texas!

One of the sessions (led by Cindy Minnich, one of the co-creators of #NerdyBookClub) allowed teachers to share a range of young-adult titles that would reach all of their students. We talked about how diversity in classroom libraries is so important, and we all walked away having added hundreds (seriously!) of titles to our to-read lists.

Check out the list of titles and topics here.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Personal Effects and PTSD

I recently read two books that I felt deserved to be written about together: E.M. Kokie's Personal Effects and Laurie Halse Anderson's The Impossible Knife of Memory.

I'd never heard of Personal Effects, but it caught my attention on the shelf of "What Teens Are Reading" at Barnes & Noble. I know that it's hard to find a book with a male protagonist, so I knew I had to get this for my students. The main character, Matt Foster, lives with his dad, and he can't quite seem to do the right things. He often gets into trouble at school, and his dad has these very strict ideas of masculinity: if someone hits you, you beat them up; you don't show your weaknesses; and you certainly never talk about your feelings.

This makes it difficult for Matt to deal with life, as his brother, T.J., was recently killed in Iraq. Matt's dad essentially shuts down any conversation about T.J., and he has also hidden all traces of T.J. in the hopes of preventing any conversation about him. This takes a toll on Matt because it seems like no one wants to talk about the pain that is so evident.

This book is a real page-turner. When Matt and his dad receive his brother's personal effects (I can admit that I did not know this term until this book!), Matt decides to go on an adventure to understand the missing aspects of T.J.'s life that he never knew.

I didn't know what The Impossible Knife of Memory was about before I bought it--I just trusted that Laurie Halse Anderson, one of my favorite young-adult authors,  produced yet another book that I would fall in love with. And I have to say that this is, by far, my favorite of her works.

The main character, Hayley, is sort of in a similar situation to Kokie's Matt Foster. She lives at home with her dad, an ex-trucker and veteran from the war in Iraq, and she, like Matt, is the emotional fulcrum. Her dad doesn't talk about his experiences, but Hayley often hears her father's nightmares in the middle of the night and has to cope with his, at times, erratic behavior during the day.

This story takes place during Hayley's senior year of high school, when she and her dad attempt a year of life off the road. But things get emotional and deep really quickly in this novel. Hayley endures and copes with her father's post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in ways that I could never imagine. She is brave, strong, and more mature than anyone her age should have to be as things worsen with her father's illness. Her lies to cover up his behavior and her frustrations at school all build up to make this story intense and one you won't want to put down.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Doing the Right Thing

As I sit at the Parsons Center in Lake Ann, Michigan, I just finished reading April Henry's The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die. It probably wasn't my best choice to read while I was in a cabin in the middle of the woods in the middle of the night. Needless to say, it was a spooky trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and I found myself constantly looking over my shoulder.

I bought this book during the school year for a student that was struggling to find something she wanted to read, and I'm proud that she was able to finish it on the very last day we had Sacred Reading Time. It's the second book that I've ready by April Henry, and if you want a good young-adult thriller, I encourage you to read this or The Night She Disappeared.

Cady, or Cadence, is the protagonist of this story. All you need to know is that the book begins and you find her captive in a cabin in the woods. There are two men about to kill her, and she manages to escape. The book moves quickly and, before you know it, she is searching for the rest of her family (her mom, dad, and little brother, Max), all while evading two men and an abundance of others trying to kill her for something that she can't remember.

This book is a good reminder that sometimes things are more sinister and complicated than they seem. It also offers a glimpse into contrasting motives of those around us. Will we do what is right, or will we do what best suits our interests?