Borders Takes Aim at Teens

If you’ve been reading my blog long then you know my list of woes when it comes to Borders (my local shop, at least).   From booksellers refusing to sell specific books to my students to the store not carrying highly popular books and never offering to special order them for customers.  Plus, I can NEVER find anything in that store because the middle grade books are divided into ridiculous categories.  However, I am excited to hear that the company is creating a new teen section.  

The Borders Ink shops, which will stock graphic novels, fantasy and young-adult titles together, are expected to be available in 80% to 90% of the 513 superstores Borders operates nationwide by the end of August. Some have already opened in Michigan.

There is a picture in the Wall Street Journal and it looks great!  Kids loving having a space of their own so I think this will be a big hit.  I don’t love the fact that they will be selling “toys”, too (reminds me of the Scholastic book clubs and their non-book items), but anything related to reading and making reading cool works for me!

I’ll be sure to check out the new section when my local store gets one.  What about you?

Keeping Me Busy!


Originally uploaded by thereadingzone

Dublin has been keeping me very, very busy this summer! Here are a few of his latest pictures (almost ten weeks old!)

I’m using fd’s Flickr Toys and loving it. Lots of great uses in the classroom, too!

2008-2009 Class Book Lists (Read-alouds)

Each year I keep track of the books my class reads together.  This year we read some great ones!  This year on my year-end survey I asked my students to tell me their favorite read-aloud.   Below is a list of the books we read and some of the students’ comments.



Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher- This was the first book we read together (in my homeroom). We read it aloud during the first week of school and it was one of our favorites for the year! A great way to start off the school year, with the story of a class that has no substitute when their teacher is home sick.


Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (Whole-class Novel)- A gorgeous story and well-known as the greatest children’s book ever written.  One of my favorites each year.


The Underneath by Kathi Appelt- This was the first book we read together as part of our unofficial mock Newbery. I first read The Underneath over the summer and I knew I had to read it to my class. It took a few days for them to get into the story, but within the first week they loved it! This is a difficult but beautiful story- my students needed scaffolding but it was worth it. Plus, Kathi is awesome and corresponded with my class over the course of the school year. They were THRILLED!


Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson- The second book we read for our mock Newbery, this was a huge hit. My students learned about the Revolutionary War in 5th grade, but Anderson presents a whole different perspective. The novel taught my students a lot and they enjoyed it. Most of them were begging for the sequel at the end of the year and are annoyed it’s not out yet!


Diamond Willow by Helen Frost- The final book we read as part of our mock Newbery. I read this aloud while presenting it on the document camera, which worked great. You can read more about this 21st-century read-aloud here.    For many of my students, this was their first verse novel and many of them turned to verse novels again and again for the rest of the year.


The Giver by Lois Lowry (Whole class Novel)- This is my favorite dystopian novel for young adults, and one of the first I remember reading in school.  Another book that takes some scaffolding, I love teaching it every year.


Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick- We read this as a companion to our Valentine’s Day charity work each year.  While gathering donations for the children’s cancer ward, this novel is the perfect companion.   Sonnenblick has crafted a gorgeous story of a young boy whose family is touched by cancer. It also made us laugh out loud a lot!  


The Journey That Saved Curious George : The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey by Louise Borden- This was a new book for me this year and the anchor of our non-fiction unit of study. I loved presenting a new side of the familiar Curious George tales my students know and love while growing up. And our read-aloud even inspired one student to further research H.A. Rey and his wife Margret for her National History Day presentation!  (It was also a great lead-in to our Holocaust unit).


The Devil’s Arithmetic  by Jane Yolen- This is the anchor of our Holocaust study and this year I read it aloud instead of as a whole class novel. This year’s class enjoyed the read aloud while working with other WWII novels/non-fiction in book clubs.  Yolen’s haunting story of a girl who does not want to remember is a powerful testament of the strength and courage of those who were persecuted during the Holocaust.


The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan- Definitely oneof my classes’ favorites! A great adventure story that infuses regular kid problems, Greek mythology, and tons of adventure! A must-read!  I’d say close to 25% of my students began reading the rest of the series before school ended for the year!



A few comments from my students:

“My favorite read-aloud this year was The Lightning Thief  because I found out that I like mythology.”

“My favorite read-aloud was Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie  because it was funny.”

“My favorite read-aloud was Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie  because I really felt for Jeffrey and Steven!”

“I loved The Devil’s Arithmetic .  It taught me a lot about the Holocaust that I didn’t know.”

Diamond Willow was my favorite because it was emotional and reminded me of my relationship with my own dog”.

“My favorite book this year was Chains because it told a great story.”

“My favorite was Chains because it leave a cliffhanger at the end.  It has lots of action.  It made me want Ms. M. to read more.”

“I really liked Flying Solo .  It was so funny.”

The Underneath was my favorite read-aloud this year.  I just loved it!”

There were many more comments- every book resonated with a specific student.  That’s why I make sure to share a variety of genres, authors, themes, and books with each class!

Cirque du Freak Movie News!

I had a handful of students who looked for updates on the Cirque du Freak movie on a weekly basis this past year.  I was thrilled when I read the following this morning:

Universal Picturs has announced that the film formerly titled Cirque du Freak has now been renamed The Vampire’s Assistant and will be released on October 23. Source


Finally!  A release date!  The last date my students were able to find had the movie pushed back to February 2010.  They will be thrilled to hear it is coming out in a few short months.  And it’s a perfect for Halloween.  Plus, the cast is awesome- John C. Reilly, Jane Krakowski, Michael Cerveris, Salma Hayek, and Patrick Fugit.  

A new synopsis for the movie was also released:

The Vampire’s Assistant tells the frightening tale of a boy who unknowingly breaks a 200-year-old truce between two warring factions of vampires. Pulled into a fantastic life of misunderstood sideshow freaks and grotesque creatures of the night, one teen will vanish from
the safety of a boring existence and fulfill his destiny in a place drawn from nightmares.

14-year-old Darren (Chris Massoglia) was like most kids in his suburban neighborhood. He hung out with his best friend, got decent grades and usually stayed out of trouble. But when he and his buddy stumble upon a traveling freak show, things begin to change inside Darren. That’s the exact moment when a vampire named Larten Crepsley (John C. Reilly) turns him into something, well, blood thirsty.



Even More Movie News

Disney has acquired screen rights to the young adult novel “Wings” and will develop the Aprilynne Pike title as a film for Miley Cyrus.  Source

Not sure what I think about this.  I haven’t read Wings yet but I do plan to.  Anyone who read the book have thoughts on this?

Movie News!

  • It’s official! The Hunger Games movie is now in production and set for international release in 2011.  Woohoo!!
  • The first trailer for Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief has been released.  What do you think? It definitely has that superhero movie look, but I like it so far!

Book Blogger Appreciation Week!

Announcing the Second Annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week

September 14-18, 2009


I wanted to let you know about the announcement of this year’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week!  Somehow, I missed out on the celebration last year, but I promised myself I wouldn’t make that mistake again.

This year, the celebration will be held September 14th through the 18th. If you are a book blogger and want to register, you can do that on the website below:

Tomorrow they will be starting nominations for this year’s book blogger awards. 

Are you a book blogger?  Be sure to register by filling out the registration form! Registering ensures your inclusion in the BBAW 09 Database of Book Bloggers and enters you into the drawing for the BBAW 09 Grand Prize!

Inaugural Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award for Young Adult Fiction Launched

On behalf of the 2009 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Committee (sponsored by ALAN), I am happy to share the following press release:


Inaugural Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award for Young Adult Fiction Launched

The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is pleased and proud to announce the first annual Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award.

Established in 2008 to honor the wishes of young adult author, Amelia Elizabeth Walden, the award allows for the sum of $5,000 to be presented annually to the author of a young adult title selected by the ALAN Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Committee as demonstrating a positive approach to life, widespread teen appeal, and literary merit.

Amelia Elizabeth Walden was born in New York City on January 15, 1909. She graduated from Columbia University in 1934 and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. From 1935 to 1945, she taught English and Dramatics at Norwalk High School in Connecticut. Walden wrote over 40 novels for young adults. She passed away in 2002 in Westport, Connecticut.


Over the past year, the ALAN Award Committee members considered 232 young adult titles for this inaugural award. The finalists will be announced on Friday, July 17, 2009. The winning title will be revealed at the November 2009 ALAN Workshop in Philadelphia, PA. A reception will be held in honor of all finalists, each of whom will be invited to participate in a public reading.

For more information about the award, please contact the 2009 AEW Award Committee Chair, Wendy Glenn, at

Big News from Susan Beth Pfeffer!

Be sure to check out Susan Beth Pfeffer’s blog to see the recently-released cover of her newest novel, This World We Live In.  It is a follow-up to her NY Times best-selling books Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone.

Both books are always hot, hot, hot in my classroom so I can not wait to read This World We Live In. And the cover is AWESOME!

Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis

Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis sat on my bookshelf since I received it from the publisher a few weeks ago.  For some reason it never caught my eye, until I recently read Jen’s review.  I started reading the book while watching my puppy play in the grass and finished it the next day.  I can’t recommend it enough!  I am always on the lookout for WWII fiction and non-fiction for our Holocaust unit.  I especially keep my eye out for books that focus on parts of the war that aren’t always mentioned in the history books.  This past year some of my students read about the WASPs and ended up doing their National History Day project on Jackie Cochrane and the learned so much.  Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis is a new novel I can’t wait to add to my classroom library!

High school sophomore Octavia and her seventeen year-old sister, Tali, are being forced by their parents to go on a cross-country road trip with with their grandmother.  Now, maybe if their grandmother was a normal grandma this trip would be fun.  Instead, Mare (no using “Granny” here!), wears high heels, bright red lipstick, wigs, and drives like a bat out of hell.  But it’s during the course of the trip that the girls learn their grandmother was a member of the 6888th African American battalion of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II.  

While the long, meandering ride seems torturous at first, Octavia and Tali find themselves slowly drawn into the story their grandmother begins telling.  It turns out she’s lived a pretty amazing life- one that her granddaughters have never been aware of until this trip.  The story is told in alternating voices- Octavia “now” and Mare “then”.  Even though the narrator changes every few chapters, it rarely jarred me out of the story.  Octavia’s voice is so modern that there were never a doubt I was reading about the present.  Mare’s mid-century, Alabaman voice was pitch perfect for the “then” stories.  

This is different from many historical novels, which are usually a hard sell when it comes to my students.  The modern-day chapters add an interesting dimension to the book and I think that will be a turn-on for my students.  At the same time, Mare’s story is historical fiction at its best.  It’s the perfect mash-up for my readers.  

As Jen noted in her review, this is a novel that begs to be read aloud.  The voices are just so perfect that I could hear them in my head while I was reading.  Tanita Davis has done a great job and I can’t want to share this with my students.  

Personally, I loved this book because I love knowing “what happened” at all aspects of the story.  I want to really know the characters I am reading about and by telling the story through both Mare and Octavia’s voices I felt like I was truly getting the entire story.  I love that!


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