Saturday, June 11, 2011

Not yet released-reading advance copies rather than tackling report cards...

I was quite sad I wasn't able to go to the International Reading Association conference in Orlando this year and I have to admit one reason I love to go to these conferences is due to the books.  I always have to bring a large empty suitcase because I always come home with literally pounds of books.  I love those free advance copies.  There have been times I have felt a bit overwhelmed by all those books but I love reading books that are new and free!

Since I couldn't go my friend, Donna collected, and her husband transported the books that she thought my students might like.  Now since I am supposed to be working on report cards and I have a reading addiction I managed to read four of these books this week!  So stay tuned for some short reviews! 

The first book I read was Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson and Chris Tibbetts and illustrated by Laura Parks.  Patterson, a very popular adult writer, also enjoys writing for children.  He actually has a rather neat website as well dedicated to making kids readers for life, so you have to like that, even though I swore at one point I wasn't reading any more of his adult suspense novels-too gritty for me.  I think kids will like this partly due to the great comic illustrations supposingly done by Rafe, the hero's best silent friend, Leo.  Leo begins a new middle school as a sixth grader and decides to break a few rules.  Although it is humorous, it also is poignant.  It reminded me of one of the boys in my class so that he was the first person to whom I lent the book.

Flawless by Lara Chapman was my next read.  This is a YA version of the famous Cyrano  Bergerac story.  I can not help but think of movies such as Roxanne and The Truth about Cats and Dogs that also picked up this theme.  Anyway Sarah's mom is a news anchorwoman who had a nose job and thinks her daughter should have one too.  Sarah is resistant but is rather haunted by her large nose.  She and her perfect best friend meet the new boy in their senior class.  Both are attracted to him but Kristen calls it first and Sarah doesn't think he can possibly be interested in her so doesn't tell Kristen her feelings.  Before she knows it, Kristen convinces Sarah to help her message him for her etc.  Kristen's beautiful but isn't very intellectual.  It's a book with of course a good moral  and I know that it will definitely appeal to my girls. 

Now for a total change of pace I moved on to Now is the Time for Running by South African writer, Michael Williams.  I loved this book!  It takes us into the world of Deo and his older brain damaged brother, Innocent.  They live in a village in Zimbabwe with their mother and grandfather, their father having disappeared long ago to a job in South Africa.  Deo loves soccer and despite tough living conditions has a happy life until Robert Mugabe's soldiers come and basically murder anyone in the village they can find and Deo and Innocent flee.  Their odyssey teachers the reader much about conditions in Zimbabwe and the lives of refugees.  In Johannesburg, things really take a tragic turn.  But like the best books for young adults this one has hope as after he flees once again and feels suicidal, eventually Deo's skills are discovered and he finds himself on the South African street soccer national team. 

I feel as a teacher of middle school students, it is so important that they learn about the world, and books like this really give them a picture.  The fact that the main character has such a love of soccer just as many of them do, really gives them a connection.  I also really love, as will other readers, his brother, Innocent.  A must read!!!

Well, once again, there seem to be many YA books dwelling with the supernatural.  I don't think Vampires are quite as popular as they once were but...  Last year I ended up learning about Pixies from writer, Carrie Jones in her book, Need.  I really did enjoy that story  set in Maine.  This time she has a new book, After Obsession, co-written with Steven Wedel.  Again in this book, two teenagers, Aimee and her friend, Courtney's cousin Alan (who has just moved to town from Oklahoma) battle a demon who is trying to take over Courtenay.  Aimee is haunted by dreams and the spirit of her dead mom but has a healing touch.  Alan brings his interest in and knowledge of Native American spiritualism to the cause.  Carrie Jones has a light touch and this book is more engaging than you might think.  I also like how she and Wedel have written the book with Carrie being the voice of Aimee and Wedel, the voice of Alan. 

Now back to thinking about report cards...

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