Atlas of Remote Islands:Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will by Judith Schalansky

During Christmas break I noticed that Pamela Voelkel (one half of author due J&P Voelkel) tweeted about a book she received for Christmas-Atlas of Remote Islands. My goal in 2010 was to read more nonfiction and to find more nonfiction for my students.  I was intrigued by the title and added it to my Goodreads.  Plus, my husband is a cartographer and we have lots of atlases around the house. I figured it was about time to add one of my own.  Later that week I took a few Christmas gift cards and picked up a copy.

What a fun book!  Atlas of Remote Islands is an expose, an encyclopedia of sorts, of islands around the world that are still cut off from civilization.  The fact that these islands still exist fascinates me.  The book is divided into sections, like an atlas, based on geographic area. Each island receives a page dedicated to a cartographic representation of their location and the opposite page with a write-up of the history of the island.  The cartography is very basic and nothing to be excited about.  The colors are bizarre and actually make it hard to see the maps. But the information about island is what made me love the book. This isn’t a history book, but reads more like a narrative. It’s not Wikipedia- the islands aren’t explained in great detail.  Instead, a one-page anecdote is shared.  But I will admit I was intrigued by almost every page and found myself googling more information on all of the islands.

This is a great book to share with teens.  For those who don’t like to read non-fiction, this book isn’t intimidating and reads like a story.  Teens will find themselves wanting to know more about some of the islands and may go seek out more information about them.  What more can you ask for? The concept of the book is cool and kids will find themselves engrossed in the bizarre stories.

*definitely high school and up


What Every Teacher Wants to Hear

Today was my last class with my seniors (they spend 1 semester with me and then swap to another English teacher for the next semester).  We spent the last few minutes of class reflecting on what worked and what they would change for my next group. It was a productive conversation and they had some great ideas.

As we wrapped things up, I reminded them that they can always come borrow books and to email me if they want any recommendations or want to share books with me.  They started chatting amongst themselves as they packed up and one student stopped me as she got ready to leave the room. She said one simple sentence and continued on to her last period class.

“Thank you for reminding me that I love reading”.

Needless to say, I smiled for the rest of the day. 🙂


Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John was the YA winner for this year’s Scheider Award so I picked up a copy the last time I was at the bookstore.  It had pinged my radar a few times but the award pushed it to the top of my pile.  Thank goodness for the Schneider, because this a book that begs to be read!  So glad it won and more teens will get to read it!

Piper is on the fringe of high school society.  She prefers to be invisible, especially since her best friend moved away.  When Dumb, the latest band to emerge from her Seattle high school,  wins a Seattle music contest, she somehow ends up as their manager.  This wouldn’t be a big deal, except that Piper is deaf.  But while Piper’s deafness is a vital part of the story, this isn’t a book about being deaf.  It’s a book about music, about grunge, about being yourself.

If Dumb expects to get any farther than the high school auditorium, they need Piper’s help.  They are a mess- barely playing in time, constantly fighting, and not even sure of their sound. Piper needs money (her parents raided her college fund to pay for her baby sister’s cochlear implant) so she negotiates a contract- she gets Dumb a paying gig within a month and they share profits.  She only needs 3 weeks to score their first gig, but it doesn’t exactly work out as planned. So what if they are a hard rock band and she books them at the local college soft rock station?

I love Piper.  She is mature but real.  Teens will identify with her struggles to be noticed at to fade into the crowd (all at once, if possible). Her issues with her family are easy to understand and typical of many teens. While the issues might vary from teen to teen, the underlying feelings are the same.  And the music. Oh, the music. The nods to Nirvana, Hendrix, and classic rock are perfection. Piper doesn’t know a lot of rock and the journey she takes is one that the reader will be glad to take with her.

This is a book that will appeal to guys and girls alike.  I see no reason not to share it with mature 8th graders and high schoolers.  It’s a book about someone with a disability that doesn’t preach, doesn’t talk down to readers.  Instead, it’s a book that happens to star a character that is deaf.  It affects the plot but doesn’t drive it entirely. For that reason, lovers of realistic and contemporary fiction will adore this book. At the same time, those readers who love a book about “issues” will flock to it.

I highly recommend Five Flavors of Dumb for teen readers. It’s got a fresh voice, a kick-butt heroine, and humor galore. It’s pretty close to perfect!

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

I’ve been hearing about Beth Revis’ Across the Universe for months. No ARC came my way, so I ran out last weekend and bought a copy with a Barnes and Noble gift card I got for Christmas. Before I started reading, I posted the book trailer on our class Edmod0 (something new I have been trying) and immediately had a waiting list of students.  I knew I had to read it before school or risk not getting my hands on it again for a few weeks.  I sat down and read it. And read it. And read it. All in one sitting.  Across the Universe delivers everything it promises and more.  A genre-bending book, it combines science fiction, dystopian, romance, mystery, and action/adventure, blending it all into one fantastic story.

Seventeen-year old Amy has been cryogenically frozen, alongside her VIP parents, on the Godspeed.  She will awaken 300 years in the future, on a new planet.  But when she is awakened 50 years earlier than expected, she knows that nothing is the way it was supposed to be.  The spaceship has become a world unto itself, with new laws, norms, and expectations.  And when Amy realizes that someone unfroze her on purpose and has been trying to kill others in the cargo area, she begins to investigate.  Fearing that her parents will be murdered before she can find the person responsible, Amy risks her own life by standing up to the leaders of the Godspeed.

The story is told in alternating chapters by Amy and Elder, the next-in-line to lead the people of the Godspeed. The ship is massive- it contains a city built for thousands, pastures, farms, labs, and more secrets than anyone has imagined possible.  Elder  has never breathed fresh air, never seen the sun, the moon, or the stars.  He has no parents and is being raised/trained by Eldest, the current leader of the ship.  When he meets Amy, the only person his own age on the ship, his feelings start to confuse him. Why does Eldest seem to hate Amy? Why doesn’t Eldest trust him?

Amy and Elder band together to protect her parents and figure out who is trying to murder the cryos. In the process, they come to find out that that the “truth” that Eldest shares with the people of the Godspeed maybe isn’t so true after all.

This is a science fiction tale for sci-fi lovers and for those who are hesitant to read sci-fi.  The story contains just enough information about ship, and the science behind it, to satisfy the pickiest sci-fi fan. Yet the information isn’t overwhelming for those who tend to shy away from sci-fi.  It’s truly a genre-bender. The mystery will keep you on the edge of your seat and the science will cause you to question where humanity is headed.  Amy and Elder are both realistic characters that are easy to emphasize with, despite the almost 300 years between them.  The story builds slowy and by the midway point it’s like riding a roller coaster- your emotions are constantly twisting and turning, allegiances are changing, and the story becomes unpredictable.  While there is a budding romance between the two, it takes a backseat to the action of the story and should not scare off any anti-romance readers.

Revis raises some intriguing questions.  How does a person effectively rule a group of people on whom the fate of humanity depends? When their survival will ensure the survival of mankind, do the rules change? Is it right to sacrifice the life of the few to save the many? Should the truth always be shared with society at large, or should the rulers decide what is best? When we learn that the people on Godspeed have been taught that Hitler was an effective ruler, one to be emulated, what does that tell us about mankind’s future?

I loved loved loved this book.  I can not recommend it enough.  I’m impatiently awaiting the next book in the series and you will be, too!  Highly recommended for teen readers.

*Definitely a teen read.  There are mentions of sex and an assault scene. Nothing overly-graphic, but not for middle school readers.

Don’t forget, Random House has been kind enough to offer a signed copy of the paperback of Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me to one of my readers!  Enter below for your chance to win!

Click here to enter!


Entries close January 25th.

The Trouble with Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante

The Trouble with Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante is a great middle grade novel that is perfect for those tweens who want to read YA and but might not be ready for all that comes with a YA novel.

Thirteen-year old Dellie blames herself for her little brother’s death. Now, he mother cries all the time and her parents are in therapy. And because of what happened to her brother, Dellie is no longer allowed to play outside or do any of the things the rest of the kids in the building are allowed to do. Her mother needs to know she is safe and it doesn’t matter that Dellie’s friends are starting to leave her behind, or that there is a boy interested in her.

Dellie lives in a building that is slowly becoming more and more unsafe. The setting is almost like a character and Vigilante does a fantastic job of bringing it to life. When a new family moves into the housing project, Dellie befriends Corey, the five year old boy. He reminds Dellie of her brother and she starts sneaking him food and inviting him over when her parents are not around. But when Dellie discovers that Corey’s mother is abusing him, she isn’t sure what to do. Can she help him in a way she never could her own little brother? Can she save Corey? Or will helping him only put her in more danger?

This is an emotional story and you ride the roller coaster of emotions with Dellie. Her brother’s mysterious death is a cloud hanging over the whole family and Dellie struggles with her feelings. She feels awful about what happened but she also wants her life back. She wants to hang out with her friends, she wants to find out why her best friend is mad at her, and she wants to get to know the boy who likes her. Is it wrong for her to be angry at her mother for tethering her to their second-floor apartment? Can she spend the rest of her life watching the world from her window instead of participating in it? And more importantly- should she get involved in Corey’s life? He needs someone to help him, but should it be Dellie?

Dellie’s mother’s grief is heart-breaking. As an adult I can understand her grief and her desire to keep Dellie safe. But I also know that her grief is preventing Dellie from growing up. Tween readers will identify with Dellie’s desire for freedom and will love her for her selflessness.

Highly recommended for middle grade readers.

ALA Award Winners

On Monday I had the ALA Youth Media Awards Twitter account running in the background while eating lunch. I checked every few seconds while waiting for the awards to be announced.  Boy, was this a wildcard year for a few awards!  I was thrilled with some, surprised by others, and shocked by some more.  Here are the winners:

Newbery Medal-
Moon Over Manifest written by Clare Vanderpool- Well, I did not read this one before the announcement.  In fact, I did not even recognize the title!  However, upon coming home I did find a copy in my TBR pile. Needless to say, it has been moved to the top of the file!

Newbery Honor Books:

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm- My sister’s all-time favorite author. She was so excited when I called to tell her that Jennifer won another Newbery Honor.  Needless to say, my sister read “Turtle in Paradise” the day it was released and is anxiously awaiting Holm’s next book. 🙂  (read)

Heart of a Samurai written by Margi Preus

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night written by Joyce Sidman

One Crazy Summer written by Rita Williams-Garcia

Printz Award:
Ship Breaker written by Paolo Bacigalupi- I was actually in the middle of reading this one on Monday. So I am counting this as read!

Printz Honor Books:

Stolen by Lucy Christopher  (read)

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King (was on the TBR pile, reading now)

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

Nothing by Janne Teller- Woohoo!  This was my pick and I am so glad that it got recognized. My favorite book of the year, without a doubt.


And I was beyond thrilled when After Ever After won the Schneider Middle Grade Award. I love love love this book and somehow managed to leave it off my “hopeful” list. Needless to say, I am thrilled it picked up a shiny sticker!

Alex Awards (Best Adult Books for Teens)
“The Reapers Are the Angels: A Novel,” by Alden Bell,

“The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel,” by Aimee Bender

“The House of Tomorrow,” by Peter Bognanni

“Room: A Novel,” by Emma Donoghue (read this one!)

“The Vanishing of Katharina Linden: A Novel,” by Helen Grant

“The Radleys,” by Matt Haig

“The Lock Artist,” by Steve Hamilton

“Girl in Translation,” by Jean Kwok

“Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard,” by Liz Murray

“The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To,” by DC Pierson

Looking forward to adding all of these to my library.

See all of the award winners here!

On a more personal note, I was checking Facebook and saw that a high school friend posted a link to the ALA Notable Recordings list. Imagine my surprise when I learned that The Flannery Brothers, he and his brother’s band, made the list!  How cool is that?!  So if you are a children’s librarian, make sure you get a copy of The New Explorers Club into circulation!

Finally, I am not happy to learn that the Today show did not invite the winners of the ALA Awards onto their show this year.  I love seeing the books and authors get more exposure and it’s always a great segment.  This year, they turned down ALA’s proposal and their literacy time was devoted to Snooki and her book instead.  Jersey Shore is a guilty pleasure of mine (I admit it…), but it should NOT be bumping actual authors promoting great children’s literature from major media promotion.  Ridiculous.

Win a signed copy of When You Reach Me!

It’s Newbery week, which is perfect timing for the release of Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me in paperback.  If you read my blog at all last year, you know how much I love love love this book.  It was my top pick last year and my classes chose it as their mock Newbery winner.  Now, Random House has been kind enough to offer a signed copy of the paperback to one of my readers!  Enter below for your chance to win!

Click here to enter!



Entries close January 25, 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Anyone who deals with teen/tween girls knows the symptoms of a crush- staring into space, making bad decisions, glazed over eyes, sometimes a whole new look. The sweet girl you thought you knew suddenly stands in front of you a completely different person. Over the span of a single school year, they can ride emotions like a roller coaster, from euphoric to despondent, over and over again.  I admit- there have been times in my teaching life when i have cursed teen/tween love.

Delirium is a dystopian novel is set in Portland, Maine.  But unlike many other YA dystopian novels, it isn’t set in the future.  Instead, it takes place in an alternate present.  In many ways, this makes the premise even more frightening.  The government has found a cure amor deliria nervosa. Mankind understands that love is the downfall of man, a disease that causes nothing but rot and ruin for those infected.

At age 18, teens undergo a surgical procedure to “cure” them of amor deliria nervosa.  They also sit through an extensive testing process in order for the government to decide upon their occupation and mate.  Lena is about to turn 18, counting down the days until she is cured.  Her life has always been in some sort of upheaval, ever since her infected mother’s suicide.  The surgery will be the final stamp on Lena’s life, ensuring that she is normal.

But nothing goes as planned. On the day of her evaluation she meets a boy. Assuming he is cured, due to the tell-tale scar on his neck, she hesitantly befriends him, spending time with him outside of home and school. But then Lena finds herself changing.  Is this fate? Or is she destined to walk the same dangerous path that her mother did?

Meeting Alex forever alters Lena’s life. Is her life a lie? Is her life any sort of life if she continues to live the way she is supposed to?

Lauren Oliver is a masterful writer.  I could not put Delirium down and I know my Hunger Games fans are going to devour it.  I also have this idea of pairing it with Romeo and Juliet. I am brainstorming here…

Oliver’s story starts out slow, so consider yourself warned.  However, it builds to a magnificent crescendo.  Oliver’s writing slowly gets under your skin and her setting, characterization, and everything else about the book seeps into your mind.  You can smell the salt air, your heart races alongside Lena’s, and you fall for Alex just as hard as she does. But the action builds and builds, and the twist at the end…oh my god!  I kept looking for another page after the last one, hoping I would suddenly find another chapter.  Or, ya know, the next book. Sadly, it appears that we have to wait for the next book in the series.  But I am sure it will be well worth the wait.

Delirium is a brilliant, fascinating look at what our world could be like. It is thought-provoking and heartbreaking and will leave you aching for more when you reach the conclusion. It will be released on February 1, 2011 and you should get to your local Indie store immediately to pre-order a copy!

*ARC from BEA

My ALA Awards Predictions!

By late Monday morning, the wait will be over!  We will know the 2011 ALA Award winners.  But before they are announced from San Diego, here are my predictions.

Newbery 2011:
(In no particular order, as I would be happy to see any of these as the medal winner or honor books.)
Keeper by Kathi Appelt

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz

Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

Countdown by Deborah Wiles

As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynn Rae Perkins


Printz Award:
Nothing by Janne Teller

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner


Sibert Award:
The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe (Scientists in the Field Series) by Loree Griffin Burns

They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti