The Fortune of Carmen Navarro by Jen Bryant

The Fortune of Carmen Navarro by Jen Bryant is a retelling of Carmen, best know for its gorgeous opera adaptation.  I admit that my familiarity with the story is only surface-deep, so I was not sure what to expect when I picked this one up.  However, I was not disappointed!

Carmen Navarro is a high school dropout.  She works at a convenience store with her best friend and plays in a band at night.  But Carmen isn’t your typical “loser” dropout.  First of all, she is extremely talented in the musical department.  She writes songs, and her voice is like honey.  Her band, Gypsy Lovers, actually has a good chance of being discovered one of these days and she focuses all her energy on her music. Music is her passion.

Carmen is also gorgeous. As in, stops-traffic-guys-can’t-look-away-stunning beauty.  And her magnetic personality charms them even more.  Carmen doesn’t even have to try and every guy she meets is falling all over themselves to be her boyfriend.  But the relationships never last very long. They are minor dalliances on the road to fulfilling her musical passion.

When Ryan Sweeney, a cadet at the local military academy,  comes into the convenience one day for lunch with his friend Will, he is immediately smitten with Carmen. When she deigns to flirt with him, he is on cloud nine.  Suddenly, the perfect student and perfect cadet is thrown off-course.  He skips assignments, messes up his cadet squad leader duties. You know- all the symptoms of a guy in love and lust.

But this doesn’t work for Carmen.  While Ryan is cute and sweet, he starts interfering with her life.  The Gypsy Lovers have a chance at a record deal and Ryan is all.over.her. He constantly texts, calls, texts again, calls her best friend, and shows up at her job.  This is not how Carmen operates. So she tells Ryan it’s over. And that’s when the real problems start.

This is a fantastic retelling of a story that a lot of teens are not familiar with.  However, the story will seem familiar because Carmen describes a lot of over-the-top teenage whirlwind romances.  And the story is told in four viewpoints- brilliantly, I might add- so the reader doesn’t know who to support.  At the end of the book, I could agree with each character, even through I did not like the choices they might have made.  I especially love love love Carmen.  She is gutsy, not afraid to go after her dreams, and the ultimate feminist teenage girl (at least in my mind).  I know a few teen girls who would do well to emulate Carmen’s best traits!

Everything about this book is well-done.  And it’s a short book, which I love.  As a rabid reader, I love thick tomes. But they can be a turnoff for a lot of young readers.  Jen Bryant has masterfully recreated the magic of Carmen in a way that will attract middle school and high school readers.  I hope it will lead them to learn more about the classic novella and the opera, too.

Highly recommended.  (Middle school/YA)

*review copy courtesy of the publisher

ALA Awards


Jan. 10, 7:45 a.m. PST


It’s almost Newbery and Printz Award time!  Be sure to follow the awards live online, via Twitter or Facebook.  I’m compiling my list of Newbery and Printz hopefuls and will post it later this weekend.  In the meantime, what do you hope will take home a shiny sticker on Monday?


Twitter is Killing My Bookshelves

Oh Twitter, how you kill me.  Well, not me.  My bookshelves are collapsing because I am constantly getting book recommendations. Whether it’s a tweet that YA/children’s book are on deep discount at Amazon or a personal recommendation from an author or teaching friend, I am constantly adding to my TBR pile.  The latest addition? Atlas of Remote Islands. Right after Christmas, Pamela Voelkel (one of the authors of The Jaguar Stones, Book Two: The End of the World Club) tweeted about a gift she received and it was this book. We tweeted back and forth about it and I was hooked. I paged through it at my local Barnes and Noble and then came home to order it. It’s awesome!


Oh Twitter, you are going be my book downfall. :)

Words of Intent

On Sunday afternoon I sat down and started to sketch the upcoming weeks for my freshman class.  After having 10 days off, it was difficult to figure out what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go before midterms.  Plus, I knew that it would take a day or so to get back into the swing of things (for the kids! And maybe for me).  I started tweeting about my dilemma and then checked out the English Companion Ning.  I was inspired when I found Jo Hawke’s blog post about Words of Intent.  The more I read about it, the more I wanted to do it.  In the past I have done One Little Word with my middle schoolers, but I wanted to make it a bit more reflective for my advanced 9th graders.

On Monday I ended up having a double period with both of my classes and we spent about 25 minutes on our Words of Intent.  I started by having my kids do a quickwrite on New Year’s Resolutions.  I asked them to write whatever came to mind when they heard the phrase “New Year’s Resolutions” and then we shared some of our thoughts.  After discussing why we thought that people tended to “quit” on their resolutions, I introduced the idea of intentions.

After a bit more discussion, I projected a list of intention words on the document camera and asked the students to reflect on the words that stood out them on a personal level.  After they chose their word, they took an index card and wrote the word on the front.  I allowed them to write their name on the front or back, depending on their comfort level.  They also got to decorate the front of the card.  Om the back, I asked them to write 2-3 sentences explaining what the Word of Intent meant to them and what they hoped to accomplish in 2011.

It went really well!  Even the students who joked around while filling out the card ended up writing serious words of intent and explanations.  After class ended, I hung all the words on my closet door, forming a “Wall of Intent”.  I plan to keep them there all year, but give them back in June.  As I told me students, we will be halfway through 2011 when school ends, so that will be the perfect time to reflect on how we are doing.

And yes, I participated.  My Word of Intent for 2011 is Creativity. :)

Wall of Intent 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue

Room: A Novel has been on my must-read list for a few months. I finally got a chance to sit down and read it over Christmas break and all I can say is, “WOW!” Highly, highly recommended for teens and adults.

Published for the adult market, Room: A Novel is a riveting novel. I was unable to put it down and read it straight through in a single sitting. The story is told by five year old Jack. Jack and his mother live in “Room”, and everything in his life is named by its common noun. So the bed is Bed, the chair is Chair, and so on. I feel like the less you know about the plot the more you will enjoy the book, so I am having a tough time deciding how much to say here. Just know that Jack is an extraordinary child in an extraordinary situation. Imagine a precocious, above-average child raised in the most bizarre and horrifying of situations. What is “normal”? Can the abnormal become the norm for those who do not have a choice?

Room: A Novel is an engrossing read and I recommend it highly. It’s not for middle grade readers, but teens and adults are missing out if they have not read it yet.



*purchased by me

#Bookaday Over Christmas Break

I am happy to report that I succeeded in my quest to read a #bookaday over winter break.  Expect reviews in the coming weeks (and months, for some of these ARCs!), but here is a list of  the books I read:
Here’s the Situation: A Guide to Creeping on Chicks, Avoiding Grenades, and Getting in Your GTL on the Jersey Shore by Mike Sorrentino and Chris Millis- Yes, seriously. Jersey Shore is my guilty pleasure and I got this book for Christmas.  It is hysterical!

Monsters of Men: Chaos Walking: Book Three by Patrick Ness- Fantastic! Fantastic! Fantastic!

Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue- I actually made time to read an adult book, and it was well-worth it.

The Fortune of Carmen Navarro by Jen Bryant- I loved this take on the opera, Carmen.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver- You know I love a good dystopian, and this is the first in what promises to be a great series.

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan- This was an ARC I received from the publisher, and it did not disappoint. It takes a look at fate, coincidence, love, abuse, and the power of a single person on another’s life.

Father of Lies by Ann Turner- A historical fiction about the Salem Witch Trials.

The New World by Patrick Ness- A novella prequel to the Chaos Walking trilogy. Just as fantastic as the rest of the series!

Bumped by Megan McCafferty- I love Megan McCafferty. Her Jessica Darling series is on my list of all-time favorites. Bumped is her first official foray into YA, and it’s a dystopian! Absolutely wonderful!

The Trouble with Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante- My first 2011 debut! A great middle grade read.

And I am currently in the middle of reading Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. Expect to hear lots more about this one!

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 250,000 times in 2010. If it were an exhibit at The Louvre Museum, it would take 11 days for that many people to see it.


In 2010, there were 211 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 1048 posts. There were 29 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 48mb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was August 22nd with 1 views. The most popular post that day was The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,, Google Reader, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for diary of a wimpy kid 5, chains by laurie halse anderson, the hunger games summary, diary of a wimpy kid rodrick rules read online, and the chosen one by carol lynch williams.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins May 2008


Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson October 2008


Found (The Missing Book 1) by Margaret Peterson Haddix May 2008


My Middle School Language Arts Classroom… July 2008
24 comments and 1 Like on,


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules January 2008

2011 Debut Author Challenge

Today, after finishing a 2011 debut, I decided to join in the 2011 Debut Author Challenge (hosted by The Story Siren).  The goal of the Debut Author Challenge is to read at least 12 books by debut middle-grade or YA authors in 2011.  I hope to read at least 20 debuts this year, but right now I will be starting with just twelve. :)

The Cybils are Here! The Cybils are Here!

Quick!  Go check them out!  The shortlists for each category were posted this morning.   I am so proud of our MG/YA Nonfiction shortlist- it is full of amazing books.


Cybils Shortlists


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