Wish by Alexandra Bullen

I am very excited to be the second stop on Alexandra Bullen’s blog tour for her debut novel, Wish!  Tomorrow, Alexandra will be sharing a guest post about her numerous jobs and how they have influenced her writing.   (Be sure to check out her first stop at Pop Culture Junkie today!)

I loved Wish and can’t wait to pass it on to my students.  It’s being marketed as YA but I didn’t find anything in it that would prevent me from handing it to my older middle grade readers.  It’s got romance, family, drama, some tearjerking scenes, and a great “live life to the fullest” theme.

Olivia Larsen is the new girl in San Francisco.  Her mother is spending 23 hours a day at work and her father is completely focused on renovating the large house they inherited.  The three pass each other like ships in the night, never acknowledging the huge hole in their family.  You see, before the sudden move to the West Coast, Olivia’s twin sister drowned.  Olivia relied on Violet her entire life, for her friends, her social life, and the stability she provided.  Without Violet, Olivia feels invisible in her new school.

When her mother announces that the whole family absolutely must attend a welcome party in her honor at work, Olivia decides to wear Violet’s favorite dress.  She finds a small seamstress’s shop down the block and drops off the dress.  A few days later, a garment bag is delivered to the house, but when she opens it Violet finds a completely gorgeous gown.  A completely gorgeous gown that is definitely not her sister’s.

And then it turns out that the dress doesn’t just make her look ethereal and other-worldly…..it is other-worldy.  When Olivia makes an offhand comment wishing that her sister was back, a small monarch butterfly emerges from the folds of the dress, flitting off into the night.  (As a huge monarch enthusiast, you can imagine my excitement when I got to that part!)  Suddenly, Olivia has been given her dream come true and Violet is by her side again.

Together, the sisters discover that Olivia has two more wishes left.  What would you wish for if you were given the opportunity to make all of your dreams come true?

At the same time, there is the cute boy at school who just happens to be dating the most popular and gorgeous girl in school- the same sweet girl who has taken Olivia under her wing.  Does Olivia throw away her chance at true friendship for a guy?  And what about the “nice guy” who is too shy to make his feelings known?

What I loved about this book is that it is a low fantasy- Olivia gets her three wishes.  But she learns that magic can’t make everything better.  She has to learn to love, laugh, and LIVE.  And that can be harder than just fading into the background.

I really loved this book.  I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t expect much from it.  I loved the cover and figured it would be a cute romance.  But Alexandra Bullen really surprised me!  She weaves a fantastic story that is grounded in realistic fiction but has just enough fantasy to make a romantic’s heart flutter.  I think I will have a long waiting list for this one in our classroom library!

Wish book trailer:

Be sure to check in tomorrow when Alexandra Bullen will be posting a guest blog and Scholastic has generously donated a signed copy of Wish to give away with her post!


Passing on the Love (of Books!) Challenge

I’ve decided to set a goal for myself this year.  I love reading new children’s and YA lit, but I also want to pass on my love of older books.  You know, those books I read as a child and then reread, over and over.  It’s time for me to reread some of those classic favorites and

pass them on to my students.  So my goal for 2010  is to read at least 5 of those favorites and then share them with my students.  As long as their awesomeness stands the test of time, I will booktalk them to my classes after completing them.

The 5 books I plan to read are:

  1. Anne of Green Gables
  2. Where the Red Fern Grows
  3. Emily of New Moon (Emily Novels)
  4. A Ring of Endless Light: The Austin Family Chronicles, Book 4
  5. Lyddie

Care to join me in the challenge?  Post your own list and link to it in the comments!

Spreading the (Reading) Love

The latest issue of Choice Literacy has a great article about schoolwide literacy activities that is a must-read.  My personal favorite is the story of the middle school where students broadcast their current reads on their lockers.  I’ve spent a lot of time today trying to figure a simple way to do something similar with my own students.  I love the idea, but I know it would be very difficult to keep up with the covers that would need to be printed for the idea described in the article.  I’ve come up with a few ideas and will be experimenting tomorrow.

The idea I think will work best is laminating a sign for each student that will read “I am reading _____________” and they will fill in the title of their current book.  Most of my students have whiteboard inside their lockers so we will try to use Expo markers.  Needless to say, I will be playing around with the idea a lot tomorrow.

In the event this doesn’t work, does anyone else have any suggestions?  We have tall lockers that line both sides of the hallway.  Due to privacy/theft concerns, I am hesitant to have students place their names on the signs.  Also, we have a serious lack of printers (especially color printers!) so printing the book covers probably isn’t an option.  Any ideas?

Eighth Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

On the first day of  eighth grade, Reggie lived every student’s worst nightmare- he puked.  On stage.  Practically on the principal.  In front of everyone.  Now, his classmates only refer to him as Pukey.  Along with his out-of-work father, his annoying older sister (and her drama), and his issues at school, Reggie has a lot on his plate.  In other words, he is your typical young teen.  His greatest escape is his greatest creation- Nightman.  With his best friend, Joe C., drawing the illustrations and Reggie writing the story, his comic allows him to be the superhero he wishes he really was.

When his youth group gets involved at the local homeless shelter, Reggie’s eyes are opened to some of the problems in his own neighborhood.  His best friend, Ruthie, always looking globally and acting locally, is thrilled at the prospect of him taking on more of the world’s issues.  His other best friend, Joe C., is a little more uncomfortable with the whole thing.  Then Reggies learns that his “Little Buddy”, kindergartner Charlie, is a resident at the shelter.  But no one is more surprised than Reggie when he suddenly leaps on a table during lunch and declares his candidacy for 8th grade class president.

Really?  Can a kid everyone calls “Pukey” really become president?  And can anyone win a middle school election by talking about real issues, instead of running on a platform of popularity?

I was thrilled with this debut novel.  Longer than a typical middle grade novel, it fits that older-middle-grade niche perfectly.  I have a lot of 6th graders who are too old for many middle grade books but not really ready for YA.  Reggie is an eighth grader dealing with the day-to-day problems of being in middle school.  There are girl issues, family issues, popularity issues, faith issues,  and even global issues.  While it may sound like a kid volunteering at a homeless shelter is a little preachy (or unrealistic), Rhuday-Perkovich writes it perfectly.  Reggie is uncomfortable and unsure of himself for the first few visits, but he grows and develops as a person with each subsequent visit to the shelter.

Make no assumptions- Reggie isn’t perfect.  He isn’t a goody-two-shoes or unbelievable as a teen.  He struggles with making decisions and he doesn’t always make the right ones.  In fact, he makes the wrong decisions an awful lot.  Just like a real kid.

This is a don’t midd debut from an author I expect to hear great things from.  It wouldn’t surprise me to hear about Eighth-Grade Superzero come next year’s award season. This is a superbly written book about growing up in today’s world.

Poetry Friday

My new favorite poem is from Ellen Hopkins, written for Banned Book Week.

Manifesto by Ellen Hopkins

You say you’re afraid for children,

innocents ripe for corruption

by perversion or sorcery on the page.

But sticks and stones do break

bones, and ignorance is no armor.

You do not speak for me,

and will not deny my kids magic

in favor of miracles.

Read the rest here.

It’s Almost Newbery Time!

You can look forward to my Newbery predictions next week, but first a quick reminder:  you can watch the announcement live on the web!  I’m disappointed that we won’t be in school for the announcement (it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day), but I know I will be up bright and early to watch!  It will be a little lonely, seeing as I won’t be surrounded by 40 students shouting, hooting, hollering, clapping, and generally being on the edge of their seat.

If you are like me and you are not attending ALA Midwinter next week but you still want to watch the winners announced live you can go to the live webcast of the Newbery and other awards on 1/18 at 7:45 a.m. EST (the link can be found in the press release) .  I’ll be tweeting my reactions live, barring an unforeseen exhaustion, aka oversleeping.

Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491 by Charles C. Mann

As I mentioned this past summer, I am teaching an elective this year that focuses on the migration of the monarch butterfly and specifically on Meso-America and the Meso-American people.  I read Charles C. Mann’s adult nonfiction title, 1491, over the summer and loved it.  Needless to say, I was thrilled when I learned he had adapted the information for a kid’s nonfiction title!

Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491. Charles C. Mann sets the record straight with a fascinating look at the lives of ancient Meso-American people. For too long, American students have learned that “In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”, with little regard for the advanced cultures already thriving in the Americas before the arrival of Columbus and his fellow Europeans.  Mann focuses on three questions in the book and expands on the small amount of history most Americans know about the native people who populated this land.  He focuses on:

  • How old was the “New World?”
  • Why did the Europeans succeed?
  • Were the Americas really a wilderness?

In answering these questions, you are taken on fascinating and compelling  journey. Even though I have been studying the area (and visited central Mexico), I found myself learning new information.  The book includes stunning photographs, paintings, maps, and other non-fiction features that further supplement the text and bring the facts presented to life.  I’ve been sharing various passages with my enrichment class and everyday they leave talking about something we discussed.

Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491 is highly recommended for middle school and high school classrooms.  It is worthy of a place on the most selective bookshelves!