Leap Day by Wendy Mass

February 29th, Leap Day, has been a big part of my life for a while.  My youngest brother was born on Leap Day when I was 9 year old, so we’ve been teasing him…pretty much ever since.  When I saw Wendy Mass’s Leap Day pop up on Amazon’s bargain books, I grabbed it. It sounded like a fun title and my students can’t get enough of Mass’s books. I didn’t realize how much I was going to enjoy it, too!

Josie Taylor is a “leaper”, one of the few people in the world fortunate to be born on Leap Day. As she tells the reader, there is a 1 in 365 chance of being born any other day of the year, but only a 1 in 1461 chance of being born on Leap Day. It’s the day of her 16th birthday, and her fourth “real” birthday. She has a day of celebrations to look forward to, like her free pizza from Dominos (do they really give away free pizza for life to leapers?). What I love about the book is that you don’t just experience the day from Josie’s point of view. You experience it from the point-of-view of all different characters in her life. From her parents, to her best friends, her brother, to random kids in class at school- you get to be in all of their heads!

I’m a natural eavesdropper. I’m nosy, what can I say? So this book was perfect for me! In so many stories I am always wondering what the other characters are thinking and feeling. Wendy Mass has created my dream book. ;)

This is more of a YA novel (though I wouldn’t hesitate to include it in my 8th grade classroom). There is some mention of hooking up and other teenagerly activities. I do think my girls are going to love this, and I know it will garner more fans for Mass!

Hot Books in My Classroom

I haven’t done a Hot Books post in a while. But I’m back with a great list.  I was out for the past two days with an awful cold, and when I came back today I had kids begging to talk to me about their books.  Here are some of the books they chatted about today!

The Luxe series is being passed from one girl to another in my morning class. Every morning one of them runs into school just bursting to talk about what she read the night before. And we have to whisper, because there are five girls behind her who haven’t read as far into the series as she has!  It’s awesome.

And of course, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw hasn’t been seen since I first handed it to a student last month. Other than bursts of hysterical laughter during independent reading.

Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and The Graveyard Book have been gaining a lot of fans lately. In fact, when I came back to school today one of my reluctant readers told me he had finished The Graveyard Book and it was an awesome book, “maybe even better than the dead and the gone!"

Two of my more reluctant girl readers have been struggling to find books they enjoy. But just this past month I think we may have found it! One of them is reading Wendy Mass’ Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall and loving it. The intriguing plot, combined with the ease of the verse novel set-up, has really hooked her. And her friend can not put down Frances O’Roark Dowell’s The Kind of Friends We Used to Be, the sequel to The Secret Language of Girls.  I am thrilled that they are both finding their niche!

These are just a few of the most popular books in my classroom right now!

2008 Favorites

Well, the year is almost over.  That means it is time for wrap-up lists, one of my favorite parts of the year!  What are your favorite books of the year?  

Below are my favorite titles published this year:

 

  • Tennyson by Lesley M.M. Blume- I read this way back in the beginning of the year and it still stays with me. An amazing, haunting gothic tale of the fall of the south, through a young girl’s eyes. I loved it and so did my students.  In my review I said, “This is a novel that intelligent readers will love, because Blume does not condescend or speak down to her readers. In many ways, Tennyson reminded me of Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting. “

 

  • Diamond Willow by Helen Frost- A more recent read, this verse novel is gorgeous. The theme of the diamond willow branch flows smoothly throughout the story and is accessible to readers of all ages. Helen Frost is a master storyteller and I can’t wait to share this with my students.

 

  •  Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass- I love Wendy Mass and I think this is one of her best.  It is a beautiful story with a ton of kid appeal.  Plus, it made me go out and look up more information on solar eclipses.  Plus, I haven’t seen it since I put it in my class library.  My kids absolutely love it, too!

 

  • Six Inningsby James Preller- I don’t even like baseball and I loved this book!  A great book to hand to boys and girls alike, it goes much deeper than just baseball and deals with life. The characters are realistic and easy to relate to. It’s just a great book all around!

 

  • The 39 Clues (The Maze of Bones, Book 1) by Rick Riordan- Admittedly, I wasn’t a big fan of this series when the news first broke. Trading cards? Online games? It sounded like a lame ploy to get kids to read. But when I gave in and read the first book, at the insistence of my class, I was hooked! This is a great mystery series full of Rick Riordan’s trademark humor and realistic characters who have unrealistic lives. Needless to say, it is a huge hit in my classroom and we are all desperately awaiting the release of the third book in the series!

 

  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson- Our current read-aloud, my class and I love Chains! Isabelle is a complex, multi-faceted character and her conflict with the American Revolution has made us all stop and think of our fight for independence in new ways.  See my review here.

 

  • My Father’s Son by Terri Fields- I am a bonafide crime addict. Well, reading about crime, at least. And watching many, many episodes of “Law and Order”. So when I had the opportunity to read and review Terri Fields’ My Father’s Son, I was very excited. And the book did not disappoint! Terri has crafted a fascinating story about a boy whose father is arrested and accused of being a serial killer. I couldn’t put it down.

 

  • The Underneath by Kathi Appelt- From my review: “The Underneath is all at once tragic, consuming, passionate, full of love, hopeful, and alternately beautiful and ugly. Appelt does the almost-impossible, by threading 3 separate stories into one amazing climax that will renew your faith in goodness and love. It is an adventure, full of magic, myth, and mysticism, of sorrow, of family – of life. Woven together like an elaborate tapestry, the result is gorgeous and awe-inspiring. Our first read-aloud of the year, both of my classes absolutely loved this story.”

 

 

  • the dead and the gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer- Susan Beth Pfeffer is single-handedly responsible for many of the voracious readers in my class. I am telling you- hand any reluctant reader a copy of the dead and the gone and they will be begging for more. The companion novel to her Life As We Knew It, takes place in NYC after a meteor has knocked the moon out of orbit. It’s absolutely terrifying, in a fantastic way!

 

  • What I Saw And How I Lied by Judy Blundell- This sat on my TBR pile until it was nominated for the National Book Award (which it eventually won). The nomination moved it up on the pile, as I finally learned what it was about. (The ARC had no blurb or summary!). Judy Blundell has woven an intricate story, full of dark twists and turns down paths you can’t even imagine. There is murder, intrigue, a fascinating backdrop of World War II, racism, classism, and a classic (but dark) coming-of-age story. This is a gorgeous book and one I would love to see used in classrooms over the next few years!

 

I read about 150 books this year, as of December 26th.  These are just a few of my favorites.  Ask me again tomorrow, and you will probably get a different list!  But I would to know what your favorite novels were this year.

Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass

I have been a huge fan of Wendy Mass since I first read A Mango-Shaped Space a few years ago.  When I saw that Mass’ newest middle grade novel was nominated for a Cybil, I was looking forward to reading it.  While November is always a hectic month as a teacher (convention, report cards, Thanksgiving, conferences, Election Day, and too many days off), I made sure that Cybil reading didn’t fall by the wayside.  Boy am I glad I picked this one up!

Every Soul A Star is about three very different tweens.  Ally, Bree, and Jack are brought together by one of nature’s most phenomenal acts- a total solar eclipse.  RIght off the bat, I love that Mass has written this story from three different points of view in first person.  More importantly, she succeeded in making each kid’s voice distinct and realistic – a tall order for any author!

The three main characters are very different but realistic.  I felt like I knew all three, like that could be in my class.  Ally has lived at the Moon Shadow campground for almost her whole life and is a science geek (and proud of it!).  She is passionate about nature and space, but her life at Moon Shadow is sheltered and she is naive in the ways of the tween world. Bree is beautiful, popular,  and wants to be a model when she grows up. She reminded me a bit of the main characters in the oh-so-popular The Clique novels.   Jack is a bit overweight, a loner, and loves drawing and reading science fiction, when he isn’t practicing lucid dreaming as an escape from his life. The book alternates between these three points-of-view.  I loved having the chance to view a gorgeous location like the Moon Shadow through three completely different sets of eyes, each with their own bias and perspective.  And Mass’ descriptions of the campground and the eclipse are stunning and breathtaking.

This is a book that will make kids think, but without being preachy or heavy-handed.  I think every kid will identify in some way with one of the three main characters and will enjoy the transformation each one goes through.  And if anyone can read this book without becoming fascinated by solar eclipses, I would love to meet them!  What a fascinating topic that very few tweens ever have a chance to think about and even fewer get to experience!  I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Mass has turned more than a few reluctant citizen scientists into amateur astronomers!

Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite books of the year.  I can’t wait to booktalk this and see how my kids react. Mass has crafted a fascinating story that will resonate with tweens.  

 

*This review reflects my opinion and not those of the Cybils Middle Grade panel as a whole.

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass

I had been meaning to read this book for a while. Somehow, it came up in discussion at school last week, and one of my students immediately responded with, “My aunt wrote that book!” I’m going to get more info this week, because Wendy Mass is semi-local and I would love to try and get her to visit our school!

I was completely fascinated by this book. The main character, Mia, has synesthesia. (I keep wanting to say “the disease” or “disorder” synesthesia, when that isn’t true at all. As one of the characters says, synesthesia is a gift!) Like me, you may be asking what the heck synesthesia is. According to Wikipedia, synesthesia is a neurologically based phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. Mia has a type of synesthesia in which letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored.

In 8th grade now, Mia has been hiding her gift since 3rd grade, when she realized everyone else around her did not see colors associated with letters and numbers. Because of this, she is failing math. She is struggling with her gift until she meets others who share her gift. The book explores her journey as she learns who she is and if she wants to be “cured”.

I had never heard of synesthesia before this. While I have a very hard time visualizing something like Mia’s perceptions, I am fascinated by it. And more than a little jealous!! I would love to see life that way that she and others do!

This was a great, quick read. I enjoyed Wendy Mass’ style and have begun reading “Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life”, another book she wrote. Hopefully, I will have a review soon!

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