On December 27th I will be heading to Ireland for a few days.  I have a few posts scheduled to pop up while I am gone, but I will be enjoying my vacation and staying away from the blog.  


Happy New Year!


One month!

In exactly one month, the Newbery award winners will be announced.  I still have a good number of books to read!    Thanks to Betsy Bird at Fuse #8 for putting together a tally of the mock Newbery lists so far!  I’ve read a good number of them so far:


I’m pretty impressed with the reading I have done so far!  Of course, I have a good deal left to do.  And everyday I read about another book that I just have to read before the awards are announced.  So here’s to lots of reading in the next few weeks!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa!

A blessed and happy holiday to all those who are celebrating!  I hope you open lots of new books today!

Awesome Christmas Gift!

Chris and I exchanged gifts tonight, as we will be busy traveling from my family to his family tomorrow.  After laughing because we bought each other tons of Rutgers stuff, I opened the gift he was most excited to give me.  

How to know you are a book geek extraordinaire- your boyfriend gives you a USB scanner, UPC labelmaker, and instructions to catalog your vast library!  After downloading Delicious Library, I have been playing with my USB scanner ever since.  It is so much fun!  And I can sync my library to my iPod!    SO COOL!


Here are the finished products! My students loved their personalized bookmarks and were very excited to use them over vacation.


Diamond Willow by Helen Frost.

Diamond Willow by Helen Frost is a short, concise story that packs a powerful punch. I finished it yesterday afternoon and it is still on my mind.  The action of the story takes place over the span of a few short days, but don’t make the mistake of assuming nothing happens.  Willow grows and changes more in those days than most middle-schoolers do in a lifetime.  

This is a gorgeous book, despite the fact that there are no illustrations. Instead, this verse novel is told in a series of diamond-shaped poems, based on the shape of the diamond willow. Within each poem, a few words are bolded and when from top to bottom, they form a poem-within-a-poem, the heart of the story.  Every single diamond is different, and the word choice in each poem is amazing.  I sometimes stopped on a new page just to look at shapes, which almost served as illustrations.

The story is simple and middle-grade students will easily connect with Willow and her family.  Willow is a 12-year-old part-Native Alaskan who lives in a very remote town, accessible by snowmobile, plane, and boat.  She is struggling with herself, with school, and with finding happiness. She begs her parents to mush the sled (with three of their six dogs) to her Grandparents house one weekend.  While they say no at first, she is determined to prove her maturity and they finally give in.  But on the way back there’s an accident. From there, it builds and to go on would spoil the rest of the story, so I will stop there.  but I will say you should pick this up immediately!

One of my favorite parts of the story was Willow’s connection to the past.  She struggles throughout the book, all the while unaware that the animals surrounding her carry the spirits of dead ancestors and friends who care for her.   I loved this aspect of the story, so simple and serene in it’s beauty.  It was comforting, and who hasn’t caught a glimpse of nature and felt the flicker of recognition, the momentary thought that someone or something is watching out for us?  I also loved the theme of respect and love of nature.  I seek out environmental themes in my books and this one did not disappoint.  

Diamond Willow is a must-have for middle school teachers, and I expect it may even get some Newbery love next month!

Intrigued?  Read the first few chapters here!

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

When I received a review copy of Cracked Up to Be, I wasn’t sure when I would have time to read it.  Between school reading, Cybils reading, and reading up on Dublin (for my trip next week!), I placed the ARC on a pile and planned to read it next year.  But a few weeks ago I needed a break from my “required reading” and picked up Cracked Up to Be.  I was not disappointed!   


When “Perfect” Parker Fadley starts drinking at school and failing her classes, all of St. Peter’s High goes on alert. How has the cheerleading captain, girlfriend of the most popular guy in school, consummate teacher’s pet, and future valedictorian fallen so far from grace?

Parker doesn’t want to talk about it. She’d just like to be left alone, to disappear, to be ignored. But her parents have placed her on suicide watch and her counselors are demanding the truth. Worse, there’s a nice guy falling in love with her and he’s making her feel things again when she’d really rather not be feeling anything at all.

Nobody would have guessed she’d turn out like this. But nobody knows the truth.

 Something horrible has happened, and it just might be her fault.

-Via Courtney Summer’s website


The story takes place a few months after a terrible event, something Parker never wants to talk about again but that haunts her every waking and sleeping moment.  What bothers her the most is the fact that everyone else seems to have gotten over what happened and acts like there isn’t a huge void in their lives and school.  But Parker feels guilty about what happens and blames herself.

I found that I couldn’t put this book down.  Parker wasn’t always likable (in fact, I wanted to smack her upside the head a lot of the time), but I was dying to know what the tragic event was.  I read this in one sitting because I just needed to know!  Parker is constantly reminded if that horrible night, but she pushes the memories away so quickly that we only get a brief hint of what might have happened.  I keep making guesses, trying to pinpoint the exact event, but I was wrong in all of my predictions.  Courtney Summers has written an important, emotional, powerful book that you won’t want to put down.

In some ways, this reminded me of Speak: 10th Anniversary Edition by Laurie Halse Anderson. I didn’t find it to be quite as powerful as the first time I read Speak, but I think it tells just as important a story. This should be required reading for teens!

Cracked Up to Be will be released on 12/23.