Friday, August 22, 2014

Counting to D by Kate Scott


Loved this read! The main character leads us through her teen life living with dyslexia, with a bunch of brilliant friends who come in and out of the picture in really interesting, engaging, authentic ways. I think what I loved most was how the main character and her new boyfriend seemed totally natural to me. I mean I could imagine two teenagers who are like, and my high-school teacher friends could talk about students who seemed like, these students. I also loved loved loved how the author unveils dyslexia. She actually has dyslexia (and figured out which font dyslexics can best read) (seriously!)(I have so much to learn!) and wrote using that lens very effectively.

Sam has some serious baggage that she is trying to cover up as a new student at a high school in Portland (hometown, baby!!) (oh, did I say I loved that too? I did.). Her schedule includes 5 AP classes--a seeming record for a sophomore. But as the story continues, we learn more about Sam and how those challenges twist and tense her life and those she is in relationship with. She hangs out with a crowd of brilliant students who call themselves the Brain Trust, an intimadating group to most, it seems. But the Brain Trust has its own fragile issues, and Sam gets to play a decent role in a key demise of the group. Greater, wicked-smart Sam unearths some of her own confusions and caps down on living life as herself rather than what she believes others want her to be like.

This would be a perfect read for teachers who want to know more about what it is like to have dyslexia, teens who want to read an authentic text with a primary storyline focused on dyslexia, or someone looking to learn more about teens who are struggling to find their foothold in growing up. Can't wait to read Kate Scott's new book, scheduled to come out this fall. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

nest by Jorey Hurley



Birds

trees

life cycle

seasons

simplicity

complexity

simple

beautiful.


Read this.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs



Combine summer, "geek camp," a teen who plans to leave the state after her senior year, and the twisting surprises of friendship and time, and you have a great book. Sarah Combs crafts a fabulous first novel in Breakfast Served Anytime--I LOVED IT!! Alysa has it now, at my nudging. Hope she reads it soon and gives us all some response. I am guessing she will sit in the same camp as I do on this book.

Rising senior Gloria heads off to "Geek Camp," a few weeks at a local university with other teens she has never met from around the state, all of whom Kentucky wants to dangle a carrot in front of hoping each of these brilliant top-of-their-class students will choose to attend college there. She and the few others in her writing class receive cryptic notes from their professor, initiating the first of many mysteries and explorations together. Through the practices of solving these mysteries and in turn figuring out what their teacher wants them to connect with, they find themselves and each other, unfolding answers to their life questions and creating solid friendships during the journey. The writing is superb, the storyline tremendously solid and unique, and if I were a teen, I would really want to read this book. I loved it. Seriously.

Find it. See what you think....I am guessing you will be like me and want Sarah Combs to keep writing! 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Another fabulous summer read!!!


Isn't that a lovely cover? Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague just rocketed my faves of the summer list last week, and the cover shot offers a sweet capturing of what readers are in for. I am not usually a big time-travel kind of gal, but this one sold me caught me off-guard and hooked me...at least how the authors told this story. This weaving of current day with the 1930's was a tall order, and twisting two seemingly separate storylines together encouraged me to imagine the authors plotting and scheming over morning cups of coffee. However they came up with their ideas, I enjoyed the read.

Short synopsis: teenage Margaret is confident her father is innocent, but she cannot figure out how to prove it. In time, she concocts the plan with the help of best friend Charlie, his grandfather, and a few other supportive characters. The time travel piece works, the seemlingly real ways the characters work together, and the visual images the write conjured for me all helped me really get into this book. I loved sitting in the sunshine, eating lunch and reading about Margaret, Charlie, and their attempts to unearth her father's freedom.

It has been rainy here in Portland these last couple of days, but the sun is trying to come out. Maybe this book and a lunchtime read are in your future.


Friday, July 25, 2014

2 more great summer reads!!!

My book cup continues to runneth over. Lots of books waiting for me to dive in....here are two recent reads that I really enjoyed.

Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes

Grimes is a brilliant author, and Words with Wings lies within that brilliant category. Written in verse, she captures the mental meanderings of one young middle-grade daydreamer. As is most often the case, the adults around her blame her for screwing around, not focusing, being lazy....until they see under their judgments. Kudos to Grimes for the multiple angles she crafts for us to spend intentional moments focusing into the world of daydreams.

The author brings quiet and introspection to the pages in this book. I read it in one sitting, unable to stop reading I was so engaged. Grimes does a masterful job of helping us think like her main character and further offers the reader occasional hints on how to daydream ourselves. She also documents again how young people will teach us, if we will only listen.


The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall
The third in a series, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette was a perfect summer read. It is placed in summer at a beach cottage with the ocean licking the coastal seawall just steps away. As usual, the Penderwicks are a tight-knit bunch, although oldest sister Rosalind is away with friends on her own vaca and recenlty-remarried father is away with new (and endearing) wife and newly-youngest son on their honeymoon.  Second-oldest sister Skye is in charge of Batty and Jane, and while stressed that she will never live up to Rosalind's competence, she gives it a good go. The girls are staying with their aunt, and good-friend-who-comes-with-serious-history Jeffrey becomes a houseguest as well. Some neighbors throw in a few twists and turns making for an exciting summer vacation for all involved. Count on moose sightings, a billion golf balls, piano playing, and one gigantic huge massive surprise in this read. I am serious: huge. Smart move by the author to tie this in, really smart and engaging!

Birdsall writes with a quiet calm in her Penderwick books. The first book in the series The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy would be a lovely read aloud. I really enjoyed meandering through a few days with the clan in that book. I have not read the second one The Penderwicks on Garam Street, but I would not be surprised if it offers a similar engaging calm that great summer reads offer. I may have to seek it out when I crawl out from under the pile I have gathered for myself this summer.

Evidently there will be five books when the series is complete. Her website states that she will not review screenplay possibilities until then. Ohh, might there be a Penderwicks movie in our future? What fun!!

Friday, July 18, 2014

2 Great Summer Picture Books!

Summer has finally arrived, and with it, came a wealth of fabulous reads....I can hardly keep up. Because of this plethora, the next few weeks' postings will feature a couple of great books each. ENJOY!! This week we are posting two really fun picture books.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
Spires wrote Small Saul and a graphic novel series with Binky the Space Cat, both of which I need to seek out. I recently used the most magnificent Thing as a stepping off point in my work with teachers. Interesting things happen when you start with the lurking possibility of failure! 

I will be honest: I expect if my mother read this book, she would see me in it. If you know me, you might even say that is me on the cover...except I would be wearing shorts and my hair would not be as neat. But, dear reader, do you see yourself in the book? 

The girl in the book creates. She always has her "trusty assistant" at her side. She is always gathering, imagining, scheming, and building. Until one day when her work doesn't work, when she can't make the thing she really wants to make. She gets ticked and blows her top. "It is not her finest moment." But how does she find her way out of her anger? What lies beyond her failures? 
You gotta read it to find out. Great artwork, phrasing is just right, and enterable for any age reader. Loved this one.


My Teacher is a Monster! by Peter Brown

Peter Brown is known for his masterful writing. I loved (and use in my classroom) The Curious Garden, and Mr Tiger Goes Wild has recieved numerous awards. Here we get his take on the nasty, mean teacher, yeah, the one who looks and sounds like a monster. As usual, his illustrations lead us into that dastardly world immediately!


Bobby obviously is the most perfect boy in his school. Mrs. Kirby yells, roars, stomps, and makes life in general ugly for said perfect boy. Life becomes really ugly one day at the park. There he sees.....the dreadful MRS. KIRBY!
But as is often true in picture books, some surprises occur...
Brown offers us a fun reflection on days in schools and the people whom we interact with. And, as a teacher transitioning into the kindergarten classroom, he gives me a terrific tool for a read aloud and an even-more solid message: look beneath the monster. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Juggling Fire by Joanne Bell


Orca Publishers, an independent Canadian children's book publisher, is into putting out high-interest, environmentally-conscious reads. They published the series Seven; I loved the book Devil's Pass by Sigmund Brouwer and reviewed it here: http://bookpeepwonders.blogspot.com/search?q=Devil%27s+PassJuggling Fire reads somewhat similiarly--teenager trying to figure out their way in life, who their allies are, and how they will deal with all the crap that comes flying at them. The storyline, the character development, and the writing all held me captive; the setting came alive right in front of me.

If I had had books filled with female teens moving through the Alaskan wilderness alone seeking to unearth life's mysteries, I believe my life's course might have been different. Not that I didn't do my fair share of exploring, but the high country always held a little more risk than I felt comfortable biting into by myself. Juggling Fire is set in Alaska in Yukon Territory. Rachel's dad has not returned from the much-needed nothern-Yukon alone time that he set off for a year prior. Rachel decides that since he didn't leave a suicide note at home, there is more to the mystery than him simply killing himself since struggling with depression. With her mother's support and a plan in place, she sets off for the family cabin, remotely placed into the wildnerness and more than a week's hike from their home nearer town. Rachel competently and comfortably hikes in with her dog, finding the route as a grizzly follows her. The self-discovery embedded in this book offer a sweet glimpse into some of the thinking one might experience as a solo hiker in some gorgeous country. The resolution of the story holds great merit, and I loved how the author wove purpose throughout her tale. Her writing reminds me of Will Hobb's work that I love so much.

Living in the bush seems to be something the author knows a little about. Evidently she spends as much time as she can at her cabin above Dawson, also in the Yukon. A couple of years ago, my family and I travelled up to Alaska, spending time fishing and exploring a bit. Vast space, that land, and well beyond much of my comfort level for exploration (read: what am I supposed to do if I come across a bear?!). I can imagine, had I come across this author earlier in life, I might have found my own way to figuring out life up North. For now though I will be content reading books like this one.