The Brooklyn Nine: A Novel in Nine Innings by Alan Gratz

For a non-baseball fan, I sure do read a lot of baseball books.  The latest of these is Alan Gratz’s The Brooklyn Nine.  In 1845 Felix Schneider is a ten-year-old immigrant  from Germany.  While working to bring the rest of his family over from Germany, he cheers on the NY Knickerbockers.  Over 150 years later his great-great-great-great-great grandson, Snider Flint, tracks down the history of a strange baseball bat that belonged to one of Brooklyn’s greatest players.  Over the 150 years in between we meet nine generations of the Schneider/Snider family, all connected by their love of baseball.  The stories are a pleasant mix of history and sport, touching on historical moments like the Civil War, the 1920’s mob, the All-American Girls Baseball League, the Cold War, and more.  But regardless of the setting, this is a story about baseball and how it connects a family.

Each story stands alone as a single thread that is woven into the family story.  I loved every story and my only complaint is that I could read an entire novel about each character.  I wanted to know even more about them!  But Gratz does a great job of telling each individual’s story and pulling you into their life.  Baseball is a part of each character’s life whether they are a spectator or player.  I love that Gratz includes female fans and players as some of the main characters because I have a hard time finding sports books for girls sometimes.  I think that The Brooklyn Nine will appeal to boys and girls alike for this reason.

The Brooklyn Nine also appealed to the inner history buff in me. It was fascinating to view some of America’s major historical events through the eyes of the Schneider/Snider family. Even better was seeing everyday life through their eyes. I would love to have a whole book about Frankie, the numbers whiz who runs the numbers game in her Brooklyn neighborhood in 1928. She’s smart, funny, and a math whiz. A female math whiz in a book is a rare occurrence. Plus, she is the world’s biggest Dodgers fan. My female sports fans need a book with a spunky heroine like Frankie. And the setting, with NY’s mob bosses and underground gambling rings? Fascinating.

I am looking forward to booktalking this one to my class. It’s got everything- sports, history, humor, adventure, strong characters, and Brooklyn. I have a class this year that is full of Brooklyn pride, so this will definitely appeal to them. I have a feeling more than a few of them will be buying their own copy, so that they don’t have to wait to read mine.

If you haven’t read The Brooklyn Nine yet, be sure to pick it up in your local bookstore. It’s just that good!

Summer Blog Blast Tour

I have been slacking, I admit it.  But the Summer Blog Blast Tour is going on right now and there are some phenomenal interviews!

Here is the list of this week’s interviews, from Chasing Ray. Chasing Ray will be updating the post with direct links to the interviews each day!

Monday, May 18th
Andrew Mueller at Chasing Ray
Kekla Magoon at Fuse #8
Carrie Jones at Writing and Ruminating
Amber Benson at Bildungsroman
Greg van Eekhout at Shaken & Stirred
Tuesday, May 19th

Maya Ganesan at Miss Erin
Sherri Winston at Finding Wonderland
Amber Benson at lectitans
Carolyn Hennesy at Little Willow
Jo Knowles at Hip Writer Mama

Wednesday, May 20th

Barbara O’Conner at Mother Reader
James Kennedy at Fuse Number 8
Maggie Stiefvater at Writing & Ruminating
Rosemary Clement-Moore at Little Willow
Jo Knowles at lectitans
Melissa Wyatt at Chasing Ray

Thursday, May 21st

Siobhan Vivian at Miss Erin
Alma Alexander at Finding Wonderland
Laurel Snyder at Shaken & Stirred
Cindy Pon at The Ya Ya Yas
Thalia Chaltas at Little Willow

Friday May 22nd

Jenny Davidson at Chasing Ray
Rebecca Stead at Fuse Number 8
Ryan Mecum at Writing and Ruminating
Lauren Myracle at Little Willow
Kristin Cashore at Hip Writer Mama

 

Be sure to check it out!

Glee is My New Favorite Show!

Totally not kidlit related, but at least school related-  I love GLEE.  It is without a doubt, my new favorite show!

The combination of the school setting, show choir, amazing Broadway performers, and the send-up of the high school caste system is awesome.  I just can’t believe I have to wait until fall to watch more!  I foresee watching the pilot over and over on the Fox website this summer.  :)

Hot Books in My Classroom

Welcome to the latest installment of “Hot Books in My Classroom”.  For those of you who may be reading this for the first time, HBIMC is a feature I run every month or so, highlighting the books that are currently the most popular in my 6th grade classroom.  Every class is different, every year is different, and every month is different.  But one thing always stays the same- my students’ enthusiasm for reading!

We recently finished our Holocaust unit in Language Arts.  During the unit, my students worked in book clubs reading books about different aspects of WWII and the Holocaust.  One of the most popular choices was the verse novel T4 a novel by Ann Clare LeZotte.  Although we finished the unit, this one hasn’t been back on my shelf yet.  The combination of the subject matter (Hitler’s Action T4 program, which dictates that doctors euthanize the mentally ill and the disabled as “unfit to live.”) and the simple verse format attract my dormant and underground readers alike.  

For the last year I have been on the lookout for a novel similar to Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but with a female protagonist.  While the girls in my class read and love Diary of a Wimpy Kid they always ask for another book like it, but “with a girl!”  Well, this month I found not one, but two perfect read-alikes. Geek Chic: The Zoey Zone by Margie Palatini was an ARC I picked up at a publisher’s preview last year. One of my students found it on the bookshelf before spring break, read it over a few nights, and hasn’t stopped raving since. She passed it on to a friend, who did the same. Every day or so I see our classroom copy on someone else’s desk! And when they aren’t reading Geek Chic: The Zoey Zone they are laughing and giggling over Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell. Even more similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life is told in a journal format complete with illustrations and comics.  The girls in my class are already asking for a sequel.

Then there’s Patrick Carman’s Skeleton Creek. The fever surrounding Skeleton Creek reminds me a lot of the fever that surrounded Diary of a Wimpy Kid when the first book came out. My students are constantly discussing the book and videos. When any one student sits at the computer to watch a video I can see the other students in the room leaning back in their chairs and discretely watching behind their classmate’s head. The only problem? They inevitably scream and jump into the air when something scary happens. It makes me laugh every time!

And in the area of non-fiction, DK Eyewitness books are always popular in my classes. This year, many of my boys are very interested in WWI, WWII, and the armed forces. Right now, a few of my boys are reading Soldier.  They are experts on weapons, let me tell you!  

Finally, one of my more dormant readers can not put Nancy Werlin’s The Rules of Survival down. She begs for independent reading time each day and every morning brags to me about what page she is on. She is a realistic fiction fan but has a very hard time finding books that hook her. The Rules of Survival had her from the first page. Needless to say, I am thrilled. I’ve already bought Killer’s Cousin by Werlin for her to read next. I love when a student finds an author and book they love!

 

Those are some of the most popular books in my classroom.  What are your kids reading?

Being Nikki by Meg Cabot

Being Nikki (Airhead) is the second book in Meg Cabot’s Airhead series.  I read and reviewed Airhead last March and enjoyed it a lot, but it left me wanting to know more about Em and Nikki.  When I received an ARC of Being Nikki I put aside the book I was reading and started in right away.  I knew I had a few students salivating for this one so I didn’t want to hold on to it too long!

Being Nikki picks up right where Airhead left off.  I enjoyed the first book in the series because it was a great mix of smart girl heroine + fun fashion chick lit (not an easy combination to pull off).  However, the second book was nothing like I expected, in a good way!  Em is still working as the world’s most famous supermodel after having a *SPOILER ALERT!  STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN’T READ AIRHEAD YET!* a brain transplant.  Em is struggling to lead her own (old life) and her new life as Nikki.  She is going to school, trying to see her own family as much as possible, and still jet-setting around the world for photo shoots and commercials.  Of course, no matter what she does she isn’t a typical teen.  Most high schoolers don’t have to walk the runway wearing nothing but a bra and panties during the equivalent of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show.  

At the same time, Nikki’s body is starting to assert itself more.  Em finds herself melting for guys she despises, like Brandon Stark.  And she doesn’t fight it when she finds herself making out with Gabriel Luna.  But she is still completely in love with Christopher who thinks Em is dead and barely notices Nikki in school.

Everything changes when Em comes home to Nikki’s apartment and finds a strange man there.  It turns out Nikki has a brother.  A brother who can tell something is different about Nikki.  But more importantly, he tells Em that their (Steven and Nikki) mother is missing.  As Em begins to use her celebrity to investigate Nikki’s mother’s disappearance, more and more information about Stark starts coming to light.  Couple this with the fact that only Christopher can help them and he seems to have turned into an evil super villain and you have the makings of an edge-of-your-seat thriller.  

I was very surprised at how  much mystery and intrigue there was.  But I loved it!  Em continues to be a smart, strong heroine struggling to figure out who she is, like most teenagers.  Unlike most teenagers, her brain is one person and her body is another.  The twists and turns in the story kept me turning the pages and the cliffhanger at the end has me impatiently awaiting the third book the series, Runaway.  

 

 

*One of my former students, who read the ARC of Airhead in my class last year came back to visit me recently.  She told me she had just purchased Being Nikki  and, “It was amazing!  Better than the first one!”.  If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.  :)

Books I Can’t Wait to Read!

I am so excited about a few of the books I received this week!

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater- I can not wait to read this one! And I a group of students drooling over it, too. From Amazon: “For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf–her wolf–is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.  Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human–or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.”

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han- Jenny Han’s first novel, Shug, was very popular with my students last year. Her newest book has a gorgeous cover and sounds like the perfect summer read. From Amazon: “Some summers are just destined to be pretty.  Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer — they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one wonderful and terrible summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along. “

The Brooklyn Nine by Alan M. Gratz- Baseball books are always popular in my class, and this one intrigued me. I’m reading it right now and love it! From Amazon: “Gratz (Samurai Shortstop, 2006) builds this novel upon a clever enough conceit—nine stories (or innings), each following the successive generations in a single family, linked by baseball and Brooklyn—and executes it with polish and precision. In the opening stories, there is something Scorsese-like (albeit with the focus on players, not gangsters) in Gratz’s treatment of early New York: a fleet-footed German immigrant helps Alexander Cartwright (credited with creating modern baseball) during a massive 1845 factory fire; a young boy meets his hero, the great King Kelly, who by age 30 is a washed-up alcoholic scraping by as a vaudeville act,  talented young girl stars in the WW II–era All-American Girls Baseball League and a card-collecting boy lives in fear of the Russians, Sputnik, and the atomic bomb. In the last two stories,  a Little League pitcher’s shot at a perfect game told with breathtaking verve; and a neat stitching-together effort to close the book.”

That’s only a taste of the books currently on my TBR pile. I’m hoping to get through them all this week!

The Lightning Thief Movie News!

Right now, my classes are reading Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1). I love ending the year with this read-aloud because it is a great tie-in to social studies, where they study ancient cultures. We read various myths together and this year I am even holding a Mythology Bee as part of our annual Greek Olympics!

Needless to say, I am thrilled that The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) is being made into a movie. IMDB has the project categorized as “in production”, with a release date of February 2010. Check out some of this casting!

Rosario Dawson … Persephone

Uma Thurman … Medusa

Catherine Keener … Sally Jackson

Pierce Brosnan … Chiron

Kevin McKidd … Poseidon

Sean Bean … Zeus

Logan Lerman … Percy Jackson

Steve Coogan … Hades

Melina Kanakaredes … Athena

Alexandra Daddario … Annabeth Chase

Erica Cerra … Hera

Pretty star-studded, huh? I am definitely looking forward to this movie and I think the series will be a big movie hit, provided they come up with a good script. Riordan’s books are the perfect combination of fun, comedy, and adventure, which should translate great on the big screen. I can’t wait!

Test Prep as a Genre

This year, for the first time, I taught test reading and test writing as genres.  We did brief two-week units of study for each.  I hate test prep and think it takes away from valuable real-life learning, but you gotta do what you gotta do.  A few months back, I read Better Answers after seeing Stacey mention it on her blog.  I used many of the ideas and suggestions in the book to put together a unit on test-reading as a genre and test-writing as a genre.  

This week is our standardized testing.  While walking around (bored out of my mind….) I was thrilled to see my students putting many of the strategies  we had learned into practice.  I saw them using the “hamburger” method of answering open-ended questions, the R-U-P-R method of reading and planning responses to writing prompts, and a few other strategies.  I walked around the room with a stupid grin on my face all morning.  

Even better?  Kids who came to me this year as non-writers WROTE.  And wrote well!  I am so very proud of them!

I also noticed that my non-readers who have grown into readers this year were much more relaxed during testing this year.  They have confidence in their abilities now and even told me that today’s reading selections were “easy”!  Of course they weren’t easy- my students just had confidence in themselves as readers and their ability to correctly answer the questions put before them.  

So while I despise focusing on the test for an entire unit, I know that it’s necessary.  This year it served as a great reinforcement of the reading and writing they have done all year.  Standardized testing is a part of this generation’s life- the least we can do is give them the tools and strategies to succeed.  But without devoting too much time to “teaching to the test”.  It’s a fine line.

And now- the language arts portion of the test is over.  WOOOOOHOOO!

Shiver Contest

I rarely enter contests, but I want in on this one!

Someone out there in internet-land bought on an ARC of Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater on eBay for $71.00

$71.00!

Seeing as not all of us can afford to (illegally) purchase the ARC on eBay, Maggie is running an awesome contest.   You should all go and enter! 

Make sure to blog about this contest and then comment on this post and tell her I sent you!Because the $51 ARC has inspired me to do a contest thingy. Here’s the deal. It’s running from May 8-15th. The idea is to convince as many of your LJ or blogger or wordpress friends to post about Shiver (you don’t have to pay them, although it might help). Winner is whoever manages to get as many of their friends to post and comment back here by 8 p.m. EST on the 15th.

And the reward? Okay. Here it is. First of all, you have to get at least 5 friends to blog about it to be eligible. Winner gets:

- a signed ARC of SHIVER
– 4 signed copies of LAMENT
– and for each of the friends that you got to comment, a critique of the first 5 pages of any of their manuscripts

 

And if any single person manages to get over 50 friends to comment, I’ll make it 3 ARCs of SHIVER and 8 copies of LAMENT. 

What is Shiver about?

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf–her wolf–is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human–or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

Pre-order this one now…..because I think it’s going to be huge. I already have a group of girls in my class clamoring to read it!  And once they start reading it I can foresee copy after copy being passed around.  :)

 

So go!  And tell Maggie I sent you on this post.  

Megan McCafferty News!

Megan McCafferty’s “Jessica Darling” series (Sloppy Firsts: A Novel is the first book in the series) is one of my favorites. I was so sad when the final book came out last month, even though I loved, loved, loved the resolution to the series. I was mostly sad that I didn’t have anything else to look forward to from McCafferty. And then I read this announcement from HarperCollins:

Alessandra Balzer at Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins Children’s Books acquired World English rights to New York Times bestselling author Megan McCafferty’s new novel in a two-book deal from Heather Schroder at ICM. Bumped is a sharply funny and provocative dystopian novel set in a world where only teens are able to have babies, and are contracted by adults to carry them to term. Megan is best known for her Jessica Darling series, which started with Sloppy Firsts and most recently ended with Perfect Fifths.

YAY YAY YAY!!!!  I literally did a little happy-dance when I read the announcement.  Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that dystopian fiction is my favorite genre.  So dystopian fiction, written by one of my favorite authors?  Where do I sign up?! 

The only downside?  I apparently have to wait awhile to read it!  :)

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