Eye of the Storm by Kate Messner

It’s appropriate that I am publishing this review today, as I watch severe weather warnings scroll across the bottom of my TV.  Kate Messner’s Eye of the Storm is a science novel (a term coined by Betsy Bird) about a dark future where storms have taken over the weather pattern and have pushed people out of their homes and into planned communities.

I loved this novel.  Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have a weak spot for the post-apocalyptic/dystopian genre.  But I am also a huge science geek.  I struggled to choose a major in college, because I loved biology and English.  I went to a pre-engineering academy for high school.  And even today, I still raise monarch butterflies and subscribe to too many science blogs to list.  I was excited when I read that Kate was writing a book heavily based on meteorological science and I begged an ARC off the publicist at NCTE.

Jaden’s dad is a meteorological engineer and he invites her to the middle of storm country to attend a camp for gifted and talented middle schoolers.  She is happy to spend time with her father and his family and as a science geek, she looks forward to camp.  But when she gets to Oklahoma, she realizes that everything is not as it seems.  Her father’s planned, engineered stormsafe community seems to be going above and beyond in order to keep the residents safe from harm. But by avoiding the storms, they may be putting those outside the community in danger.  Once Jaden starts camp, she befriends some of the farm kids from outside the community and they all begin to dig a bit deeper into the storms.

Eye of the Storm  is recommended for middle graders, but I think it will appeal to high school readers, too.  Jaden is a great heroine who is smart, geeky, and fun.  The science in the book is top-notch and Messner keeps you on the edge of your seat.  The teens/tweens read as real kids and as a teacher of gifted students, I recognized a lot of my own students in her characters.  One warning: Be sure to have some meteorology books on hand because when kids finish this one they are going to want to read a lot about storm systems!

Highly recommended for middle school and high school libraries.  A great read for upper elementary students, too!

*ARC courtesy of the publisher at NCTE

Hot Books in March

I apologize…I am a few days late with this month’s installment of Hot Books in my classroom. For my new readers, a quick explanation: Every month I publish a list of the 5-6 books that are currently the most popular reads in my 6th grade classroom. To see previous lists, please click on the Hot Books tag under keywords.

Allie Finkle’s Rules For Girls: Moving Day by Meg Cabot: I haven’t even had a chance to read this novel, Meg Cabot’s first foray into middle grade fiction. I received an ARC at ALA Midwinter and passed it on to one of my pickiest girls. She finished the book in one night and came in the next morning raving about it! She told me I needed to read it, but first she had a list of classmates to pass it on to. It’s been making it’s way around my classroom ever since and Cabot has been winning fans left and right. The same student also read my ARC of Airhead by Meg Cabot and passed it on to another friend (thankfully, I had time to read and review it first!

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt: I have loved “Wednesday Wars” since I first read and reviewed it back in December. I tried to handsell it to my students but rarely succeeded (historical fiction is always a hard sell to middle schoolers, I think). I finally succeeded when I used “The Wednesday Wars” as part of my historical fiction literature circles this past month. The lit circle who read “The Wednesday Wars” absolutely loved it and they have been recommending to their classmates. During conferences, one of their moms told me “I can’t believe my son. He sits down on the couch at night, pulls on a blanket, and opens that Wednesday book. All on his own! It’s amazing!” That some boy just finished it and told me it’s one of his favorite books of all time!

Marley: A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan: Our latest read-aloud is a huge hit. It’s the first time I have read a non-fiction novel aloud and my students are loving it. Marley is easy to relate to and my students are laughing and sharing their own stories throughout our shared reading time. Puppies and puppy stories are always fun and my students are relating to the Grogan family and Marley. Be careful, though…there are a few versions of Marley’s story. Marley: A Dog Like No Other is the middle grade version of the novel. Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog is the adult best-seller and deals with the Grogan family’s attempts to conceive, too. Just a caveat emptor. :)

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis: Another choice in our recent literature circles, this was not a popular choice on the first day.  To be honest, I blame the cover.  It doesn’t exactly scream “read me!” to middle schoolers.  However, at the first meeting, the originally unhappy literature circle group was singing the praises of Curtis.  They thought the novel was funny and touching, but “not too touching!” they told me.  Heaven forbid it was too sensitive. :)  Both boys and girls alike enjoyed the novel and they learned a lot about life in the south and the Sixteenth St. church burning in 1963.  Now if only the publishers would give it a better cover…..

These are only a few of the novels currently making a splash in my 6th grade class.  I have promised my classes that after spring break I will have many more books for them.  I will actually have a chance to read and review so I can bring them in a handful of ARCS and other books I have in my to-be-read pile.  I’m sure next month’s list will include many of those new titles.

Hot Books in February

As I am frantically trying to pack and prepare for my fellowship (I leave for Mexico on Saturday morning!), I realized I better get my Hot Books list posted before I leave. Without further ado, here are the most popular books in my classroom over the last month.

Avalon High: Coronation Volume 1: The Merlin Prophecy by Meg Cabot: This graphic novel has been a huge hit. Interestingly, the majority of readers are boys. The book has been passed from one boy to the next since it arrived from Scholastic a few weeks ago, and the buzz is slowly building.

Gathering Blue and Messenger by Lois Lowry: We recently finished our science-fiction unit of study. As a class, we studied Lois Lowry’s The Giver and my students loved it. They were very excited to learn that Lowry had written more books in the “trilogy” (I’m never sure what to call it….It’s not technically a trilogy if all 3 books can stand alone!) and that the books included answers. A few have finished “Gathering Blue” already and are moving on to “Messenger”. Every day someone comes up to my desk to share their excitement. “We finally know what happened to Jonas and Gabe!”. Kids like answers- they hate books that leave them hanging. At least my kids do! They are very happy to find out the answers and I am thrilled to see them reading more and more.

Lush by Natasha Friend: Realistic fiction is the most popular genre in my library and my students love to read books about other kids who struggle with realistic problems. “Lush” has been making the rounds through my girls and they are all raving about it. Also popular, Natasha Friend’s Perfect: A Novel and Bounce.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer:  Since my booktalk, this has not been on my shelf at all.  My students, especially my reluctant readers, are loving this book.  At least once per day a student comes up to me in the hall saying, “It can’t get any worse.  Can it?!”  The students who have finished the book definitely have a new appreciation for running water, heat, and air conditioning!

So, what books are popular in your classroom or library right now?

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