Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

A few weeks ago I came home to find an envelope from Scholastic on my porch. I opened it and let out a little yelp of joy, as a copy of Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver fell into my hands. I had just mentioned here how much I wanted to read it but figured I would have to wait until its publication in August.  First of all, the cover design is absolutely gorgeous- a stark design of blue and white.  And now that I have read Shiver, I can attest that Stiefvater’s writing is even more beautiful than the cover.  Lyrical, yet stark at appropriate times, her subtle characterizations will leave you in tears.

Sam lives a double life- one in the warmer months of summer and one in the winter.  During the warmer months of spring and summer  he’s human.  But when the cooler temperatures of winter begin to chill the earth, he shape shifts into a wolf for the winter.  Each year that he changes, his time as a human becomes shorter and shorter.  Sam knows that eventually he will remain a wolf forever, leaving behind all of his human emotions and attachments.  But through it all, human or wolf, he watches and loves Grace, the girl who sits on her swing and doesn’t shy away from his stare.

Grace loves the wolves that run through the woods behind her house; some people might even say she’s obsessed.  And this is despite the fact that she was attacked by the wolves as a young child, dragged into the woods and almost killed.  However, she was saved by a wolf with striking yellow eyes. She watches and loves him, never understand why she’s filled with such longing for what she sees as “her” yellow-eyed wolf. When she meets Sam, a boy with those same striking yellow eyes, she is immediately drawn to him.  As impossible as it seems, she knows he is her wolf.  Her savior.  And her obsession.

Soulmates, they know they are meant to be together.  But Sam knows that their time together will come to an end.  He knows this is his last summer.  What are they willing to do for the chance of more time together? 

Maggie Stiefvater may be one of the best writers I have ever read when it comes to creating chemistry between two characters.  The love between Grace and Sam is palpable between the pages of the book.  The story is told by both Grace and Sam, making it even more magical. Stolen glances, brushes against each other, and silent looks of longing create a love between a girl and werewolf that is completely believable.  In fact, Sam and Grace may surpass Bella and Edward when it comes to forbidden love!  But unlike Bella, Grace is a solid, strong heroine.  And Sam is human and flawed, though he sometimes may seem perfect to Grace.

This is a romance for the ages- poetic, lyrical, soft, bittersweet, and full of longing.  Stiefvater is a gifted writer and I fully admit that she had me sobbing at points during the story.  I can’t believe that I have to wait until 2010 for the next book in the series!  

 But the true sign of a book that will be a huge hit?  One of my girls was paging through the book when she saw it on my desk.  She begged me to loan it to her and I said I couldn’t, not until I finished reading it.  Today, I was reading the last 10 pages during our independent reading time, while she sat and stared at me, willing me to finish.  I handed my ARC over and within minutes she was gushing about how amazing the first 3 chapters are.  I fully expect her to come in tomorrow with the book finished, and I know she’ll be raving about it to all of her classmates!

What Do You Want to Know- Question #1

I’m so excited that my last post received so many comments!  I will be answering everyone’s questions over the next few days.

The first question is from Mary:

I teach 4th grade in a self-contained GATE class. I also teach Language Arts through a workshop format and I struggle to find enough time in the day to meet with each student at least once a week. How do you address this issue in your classroom? Right now, I meet with groups of students on a rotating basis and check their notebooks and chat about their books, but I’d love to hear other ideas!

I have to be honest here- conferencing is the weakest part of my workshop.  Right now, I teach two classes for 2 hrs each, but I have to cover reading, writing, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary in that time.  I combine as much as I can, but I still feel crunched for time.  (Don’t remind me that next year I will have 4 classes for 1 hr each!)  But I do conference with my students as much as possible.  I talk with my students about their reading constantly.  Some of these conversations are informal- on the lunch line, at the end of the day, during homeroom are just some examples.  But I do document anything I learn during these conversations.   A conference is a conference, right?

The best decision I ever made was to use letter-essays in my reading workshop.  About 3 months into the year, I teach a writing unit of study on literary essays.  Upon completing the unit, my students are assigned letter-essays.  Once a month, they write me a friendly letter about the novel they are reading or have just completed.  The letter-essays force them to think metacognitively about their reading and their book selection.  I have about 50 students this year, with about 10 letter essays due each week.  My morning class is due on Tuesdays and my afternoon class is due on Thursdays.  This allows me time to write back to each student without becoming overwhelmed.   I learn so much about their reading and thinking through these letters that it is well-worth the time I spend on them.  It does take a lot of training at the beginning, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  And the letter-essays are graded on a 4-point rubric.  This way, I have an assessment for my grade book, too.  

Before learning how to write letter-essays, my students fill out a brief reading log reflection after independent reading in class.  I do this in the beginning of the year while they are building their stamina and I am getting to know them as readers.  Plus, I can tie the mini-lesson into the reflection, which my administration prefers.  This way I have tangible evidence of learning during independent reading.  Once my students move to letter-essays, they can work on those during independent reading time- some of them use post-its, some write in the margins, some take notes.  It’s all a part of fostering their independence before moving to middle school.

As for writing workshop, I meet with students about once per week, unless they request to see me more.  My conferences are usually brief and I don’t always teach a skill/concept during this time.  But I do discuss their writing, how they are feeling about their writing piece, and any major revisions/edits I might see.  To be honest, I spend  a lot of my conference time helping kids through writer’s block and anxiety.  My students haven’t had a lot of workshop experience and by 6th grade they tend to hate writing.  I spend a good portion of the year building their confidence by complimenting what they are doing well in their writing.  So far, it’s working great for me!  Most of my students this year have improved by leaps and bounds.  It almost makes me wish I could loop with my kids to 7th grade.  Almost. 😉

I hope that answers your question, Mary!  I apologize for not being a better conferencer in my workshop!