Contest and The Questory of Root Karbunkulus by Kamilla Reid

When I first began reading Kamilla Reid’s The Questory of Root Karbunkulus: Item One: Miist I was immediately taken by the voice of the story. I found myself laughing out loud for the first few pages! Lately I have been reading a lot of new fantasy novels (everyone wants to be the new Harry Potter) and it seems that so many are clunky, difficult to get through, and dark. I find myself reluctant to recommend them to some of my readers, because fantasy is always a tough sell, and if the story is difficult it can be painful for 6th graders. Not so with The Questory of Root Karbunkulus: Item One: Miist!

Root is different. According to her cruel aunts (who reminded me of the evil stepfamily in Cinderella), her parents died and left her to them. She is raised to be a maid in their crazy “halfhouse”. She begins to withdraw from the world and become a shell of her former self until the day she receives a life-changing phone call on a magic phone only she can hear. It turns out to be a summons to join a magical treasure hunt. Root enthusiastically agrees and begins preparations to leave her cruel aunts behind, she must first solve riddle in order to enter the world of the contest. When she does solve the riddle, she is transported to the world of Dre’Amm, located a mere 3 feet above our world. Soon she is trudging her way toward a castle along with a line of other boys and girls, all of whom are buzzing about the competition they have been invited to join. In Dre’Amm, where magic exists in everyone and everything, Root finds herself at a disadvantage. She is a Dearth – a non-magicial being. Or so she thinks…

Once at the castle, the children are randomly put into teams that can include children native to Dre’Amm. Root becomes part of a team called the Valadors, which consists of herself and two boys – Lian, the bullied son of a nobleman in Dre’Amm, and Dwyn, a hot guy (who knows it) from Root’s world. They begin the first of 6 quests to find treasures of the Dre’Amm world. It’s a dangerous game and only 6 teams will move on to the next part of the quest. Six teams out of the hundreds that begin. So the competition is fierce!

Root’s team heads to a secret library, hoping to gain information that will put them ahead of the other teams. To their shock, another group has arrived first and the competition will remain neck-and-neck from this point on, as the teams scour the land for clues to Kalliope’s Miist. Along the way, Root will learn about the strange world of Dre’Amm – her birthplace – with its strange animals that include two-headed snakes, albino gorillas, and talking cats, ghosts, Sea Wraiths, Bulks, Bredins, and other strange inhabitants magic dirt that forms an interactive map, living alarm clocks, friendly wisteria vines. She will also learn about herself, for the first time ever.

I loved this book. It’s full of action, humor, friendship, and adventure. Kamilla Reid has developed a gorgeous and magical world in Dre’Amm (pronounced Drayam, not dream!) that invites you in and wraps you in its magic. Root is a likable character who wants nothing more than to know who she is. There are wizards, magicians, and magic beings. I think it is difficult in this day and age not to compare fantasy books to Harry Potter, but I think Reid has done a great job with the first book in her series. I am looking forward to reading the next in the series! And I look forward to recommending the first volume to my students.

Kamilla Reid has been kind enough to swing by the blog today to answer questions in the comments, so fire away! She has also donated a signed copy of the novel, complete with Dre’Amm dogtags! Interested in winning? Just leave a comment about why you want to read The Questory of Root Karbunkulus: Item One: Miist!

ETA:  The contest will run from now til Saturday!  I will choose a winner at random on Saturday night!  So be sure to leave a comment!


Summer Reading Update

Today I went into NYC to see “Hairspray” on Broadway with my friend’s day camp. A lot of my students from this past year were campers and we got to catch up a bit. Of course, I asked what they have been reading. What awesome language arts teacher wouldn’t? But I got a few recommendations from them, which made me happy. And we laughed because they are starting to see some of the ARCs we read earlier this year finally coming out in the bookstore. They love that they read the books and recommended them to friends before they were published.

Of course, we eventually got around to the summer reading list. The kids I didn’t teach seem to be avoiding summer reading, with most of them saying they will start after camp. But my former students have all finished their summer reading! I was so impressed. And even better, they enjoyed their books! Interestingly, everyone I talked to today read Cynthia Voight’s Homecoming (The Tillerman Series #1). They not only enjoyed it- they even read the next Dicey book on their own!  How awesome is that?  I do find it interesting that the newest book on the list seems to be the most-read.  Yet it is also the longest book!  It just shows what a great book talk can do for a book.  Kids who would never choose a long book on their own chose it based on the summary I gave.  Summer reading lists need to be booktalked!

Oh, and I was so happy to hear that a good number of my students have started using the public library this summer.  In our town, the library is used to research projects and summer reading once the kids reach the middle grades.  To hear that they are going to the library, taking out books, and even getting on the waiting list for popular books absolutely made my heart sing.  (I know, I’m corny).  But it made me feel like I made a difference!

An award!

Stacey, over at TwoWritingTeachers (one of my favorite blogs) was kind enough to bestow an Arte y Pico Award on my blog!

Of course, I am honored!  And I want to bestow the same on some of my favorite blogs, too.

Essentially this award is like a Meme. There are rules for paying it forward after your blog gets recognized. They are as follows:

1) Select 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award, based on creativity, design, interesting material, and contribution to the blogger community. The blogs can be in any language.

2) Post a link to each blog so that others can visit.

3) Each award-winner has to show the award and link to the blogger that awarded it.

4) The award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show a link to Arte y Pico.

(I would love to post the image/logo, but it seems to be unavailable right now!)

Here are the five blogs I have chosen:

Abby (the) Librarian: I love getting an inside look at life in a children’s room at the library.  Abby periodically posts an hour-by-hour description of her life at the library and I love it!  Also, she reads some great books and her reviews always make me want to go out and buy the book.

Literate Lives:  Karen and Bill share blogging duties and review a wide variety of books.  Again, I always want to run out and buy whatever they review.  I especially love that they review a lot of non-fiction, because I don’t always know what the newest non-fiction titles are.  Plus, they run a great feature about books they read and plan to read aloud in “the pit”, the story area of the library.  It’s so much fun to imagine a big group of kids oohing and aahing along with them.

Miss Erin:  I want to be Miss Erin, if only I was still a teenager.  (I swear, it wasn’t that long ago!  My kids still think I look 13!)  But Erin reviews books, posts wonderful original poetry sometimes, and always has great author interviews.  Plus, she is a readergirlz diva!

My Breakfast Platter: Amy is a fellow 6th grade  teacher in Salt Lake City.  We have shared ideas and had some great conversations via email.  It’s so nice to connect with another teacher, even if they are on the other side of the country!  Plus, she shares my philosophy about the power of independent reading.

Shelf Elf:  Ok, I am shallow- I love the blog name.  How cute is shelf elf?  But she also posts great reviews and I usually want to run out and grab the books she posts about.  She also posts a lot of news and interesting tidbits from the kidlitosphere and children’s publishing.

Don’t despair if I didn’t choose you.  I had the hardest time picking just 5 blogs!  But keep in mind I have a whole lot of blogs in my Google Reader feed (an ungodly amount, I tell ya).  I read so many blogs and I really love them all!

Living a writerly life

During Writer’s Workshop, I am always telling my students to live a writerly life.  I share my own writing with them (and this was especially successful during our poetry unit), and I even share my fear of sharing with them.  I think it models that adults aren’t always perfect and that we have fears, too.

However, I realized last year that if I really want my students to value writing then I have to show them how much I value writing.  I need to prove to them that writing isn’t something I do just to model examples for them.  So, this summer I set a goal to work on getting something published.  Thus, last week I began sending out query letters to various magazines to promote an article I am writing about my trip to Michoacan, Mexico.  When I applied for the travel fellowship, I promised to promote the Monarch Teacher Network, and one idea I contributed was to get an article published about my experiences.  Well, we are off and running!  Now it is just a matter of sitting back and waiting to hear from the editors.  Wish me luck!

It’s funny, but now I have a new experience to share- the waiting game!  What is it like to send out a manuscript and just wait for an editor to make a decision?  Hopefully, this will encourage more of my students to be brave and attempt to get their own writing published.

Almost there…

I can not believe that we are already nearing the end of July.  I will be back at school in a month!  That just seems unbelievable.  Needless to say, I have been planning and preparing already.  Today I spent a lot of time on my new class website.

For the past few years I have bounced around between different services.  Last year I used the new service provided by the district but I wasn’t thrilled with it.  It wasn’t user-friendly, it was a pain to update, and parents had a hard time keeping up with it.  When I sat down to figure out what I wanted to do next year, I kept coming back to this blog.  I love the ease of of blog and the interactive aspects of it.  WordPress’ software allows me to design separate pages, upload handouts, offer subscription by email, and so much more.  But of course, I want to keep this blog separate from school.  That is when I discovered Edublogs.  I love this site!  I set up a blog a few days ago and have been playing with it ever since.   I have been writing welcome posts, designing pages, and otherwise tweaking it to my preferences.  The best part is, I know I haven’t even begun to touch on the capabilities of the blog as offered by Edublogs.  So if you are looking for a great place to keep your class website or blog, definitely check out Edublogs.

The Rise of YA

Say what you will about the decline of pleasure reading among kids, but YA is alive and kicking. How do I know this? How about the fact that “Hundreds of teens camped overnight outside the San Diego Convention Center for a chance to see early footage of the film and get a glimpse at the cast of heartthrobs set to bring the teen-vampire tale to life.”.

What are they talking about? Apparently, Twilight has taken over Comic-Con this year. That’s right, teens who have read and loved a series are such huge fans that they are taking over one of the biggest conventions of the year. Insane! And I absolutely love it. 🙂

Even better? The article about Twilight fans at Comic-Con is on the front page of Yahoo. Hopefully, this will introduce more adults (and teens) to current YA books. Even if Meyers is not the world’s greatest writer, even if the Twilight saga is not exactly “literary”, even if the books are silly romances- they are getting teens to read! And they are getting adults into the YA section of the library or bookstore. Now we just need to keep both the teens and adults in there and reading!

A Fun Toy!

Thanks to Stacey over at TwoWritingTeachers for this great website! I am having way too much fun with it and I can already think of some fun ways to use it this school year.

S Alphabet Block a R A card letter h


Spell with Flickr!

Breaking Dawn Quote of the Day

Those of you like me, who are anxiously awaiting the the release of BREAKING DAWN, should be sure to check out Stephenie Meyer’s website. She is posting a quote from the book each day leading up to the release. She also did this with ECLIPSE and it’s a ton of fun to try and predict how the quotes are related to the book.

Quote of the Day

My favorite?

Renee: “Alice wouldn’t let us do anything else. Every time we tried, she all but ripped our throats out.”

This means Renee knows!  At least, I think it means that she knows Bella and Edward are a bit different…..

So what do you think?  What is your favorite quote?


Thanks to A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy for this link.

For those of who who did not click on the link (or only skimmed the article), Newsweek is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables.  I am a self-professed Anne aficionado.  I grew up reading everything from L.M. Montgomery that I could get my hands on.  Anne was one of my favorite heroines of classic literature, along with L.M. Montgomery’s Emily.  I read the books in each series over and over and over again.  One of my most prized possessions is a first-run copy of the Emily books that belonged to my grandmother.   I still read Anne and Emily’s stories when I want to relax and escape into a comfortable world away from my own.

No one recommended L.M. Montgomery’s books to me.  I found the Anne series on a bookshelf in one of my teacher’s classroom libraries in elementary school.  As I finished the first novel I searched for the second.  Then the third.  And the fourth.  I did the same with the Emily books.  I connected with both girls and their love of life, books, writing, imagination, family, and nature.  They were never extraordinarily popular with my generation, but occasionally I would find a kindred spirit among my peers.  In my own classroom, I recommend L.M. Montgomery’s books to a few of my students who I know will also connect with Anne and Emily.

The article does bring up a few good points.  Why isn’t Anne treated like other classic literature, i.e. the stories of Twain?  It’s most certainly an easier read than much of canon literature, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it on a suggested summer reading list.  Anne is fun, adventurous, and silly!  L.M. Montgomery succeeded in writing a timeless tale of growing up and growing older. The article also points out Anne’s similarities to women and well-known characters today- Carrie Bradshaw and Hilary Clinton, for example.  Another reason teens and adults today would enjoy reading her stories.  But she isn’t hugely popular.

However, one paragraph in the article made me absolutely furious.

That “Anne” has survived so long—and, with 50 million copies sold, so strong—is a small miracle considering the state of young-adult literature. It’s rare to find a best seller with a strong heroine anymore, in large part because, although girls will read books about boys, boys won’t go near a girl’s book, no matter how cool she is. Even in Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, the strong, grounded Bella is willing to chuck it all for the love of her vampire boyfriend. “The literary smart girl is still showing up in literature, but she’s often the sidekick,” says Trinna Frever, an “Anne of Green Gables” scholar. “It is a reflection of a culture that’s placing less value on intelligence, and also treating intelligence as a stigmatized quality.” As smart as Anne is, you aren’t likely to find her in a classroom, either. She has survived largely through mothers who pass the book on to their daughters.


First of all, what is with the recent YA bashing going on in the media?  I was unaware that there are no strong girl heroines in literature these days.  And by these days, I mean since 1908, when Anne was first published.  Really?  REALLY?!  There have been no strong female heroines since then?  I had no idea!  Honestly, someone better run out and tell Sarah Dessen, Laurie Halse Anderson, Ally Carter, Cornelia Funke, Marcus Zusak, Avi, Karen Cushman, Lois Lowry, Cynthia Voight, Jeanne Birdsall, Kate DiCamillo, Meg Cabot, Trenton Lee Stewart, Ann Brashares, Lauren Myracle, E.Lockhart, Libba Bray, Esther Friesner, Jerry Spinelli, Ann Rinaldi, et. al. that they are writing weak female characters!

Seriously?  Seriously?  SERIOUSLY??  Why is it that journalists are suddenly lamenting the lack of “fill in the blank” in modern YA literature?  It is more than obvious that these reporters and bloggers are not doing their research.  One only has to google strong female characters to get list upon list of recent books.  Hell, just to find books published in the last 50 years!  It seems to me that a terrible blight of “woe are we, nothing is like it used to be, what happened to the good old days of real kids books?” is running rampant through our society.  Please, I beg of you, talk to a bookseller or a librarian or a teacher before you publish these ignorant rants.  Even better, talk to a teen!  They can tell you what is out there now and more importantly what they want to read.

Like I said, Anne is a classic.  it doesn’t need to be taught in elementary, middle, or high school.  Sometimes that just takes all the fun out of it!  🙂  And don’t worry, some of us did discover her on our own, without someone recommending her to us.  And while we may recommend her to more kindred spirits, plenty of teens and kids will continue to find her on their own.  Anne should be read by those kindred spirits, not forced on everyone and anyone who is of a certain age.  Everyone needs to find their own kindred spirit in YA- whether it be Anne, Emily, Frankie Landau-Banks, Liesel, the Penderwicks, Dicey, Tibby, Gemma, or someone else.  Let’s let the kids find their own heroines!

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes Blog Tour

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes is a young author who published her first novel, In the Forests of the Night (Den of Shadows), in 1999 when she was just thirteen. I was only sixteen then, and I remember being amazed that someone so young was publishing novels. To date, she has published a new YA novel every year since then. Right now, she is participating in a blog tour, and I jumped at the chance to be involved. As a recent college graduate, who started writing her first novel in fifth grade, she is an inspiration to my 6th grade students. She will be interviewed here on August 5th!

For now, you can read more about her on the rest of her blog tour, which started today!

July 22nd: Bildungsroman
July 24th: Cheryl Rainfield
July 25th: BookLoons
July 28th: Mrs. Magoo Reads
July 30th: Teen Book Review
July 31st: Making Stuff Up for a Living
August 4th: Bookwyrm Chrysalis
August 5th: The Reading Zone