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

The Fortune of Carmen Navarro by Jen Bryant

The Fortune of Carmen Navarro by Jen Bryant is a retelling of Carmen, best know for its gorgeous opera adaptation.  I admit that my familiarity with the story is only surface-deep, so I was not sure what to expect when I picked this one up.  However, I was not disappointed!

Carmen Navarro is a high school dropout.  She works at a convenience store with her best friend and plays in a band at night.  But Carmen isn’t your typical “loser” dropout.  First of all, she is extremely talented in the musical department.  She writes songs, and her voice is like honey.  Her band, Gypsy Lovers, actually has a good chance of being discovered one of these days and she focuses all her energy on her music. Music is her passion.

Carmen is also gorgeous. As in, stops-traffic-guys-can’t-look-away-stunning beauty.  And her magnetic personality charms them even more.  Carmen doesn’t even have to try and every guy she meets is falling all over themselves to be her boyfriend.  But the relationships never last very long. They are minor dalliances on the road to fulfilling her musical passion.

When Ryan Sweeney, a cadet at the local military academy,  comes into the convenience one day for lunch with his friend Will, he is immediately smitten with Carmen. When she deigns to flirt with him, he is on cloud nine.  Suddenly, the perfect student and perfect cadet is thrown off-course.  He skips assignments, messes up his cadet squad leader duties. You know- all the symptoms of a guy in love and lust.

But this doesn’t work for Carmen.  While Ryan is cute and sweet, he starts interfering with her life.  The Gypsy Lovers have a chance at a record deal and Ryan is all.over.her. He constantly texts, calls, texts again, calls her best friend, and shows up at her job.  This is not how Carmen operates. So she tells Ryan it’s over. And that’s when the real problems start.

This is a fantastic retelling of a story that a lot of teens are not familiar with.  However, the story will seem familiar because Carmen describes a lot of over-the-top teenage whirlwind romances.  And the story is told in four viewpoints- brilliantly, I might add- so the reader doesn’t know who to support.  At the end of the book, I could agree with each character, even through I did not like the choices they might have made.  I especially love love love Carmen.  She is gutsy, not afraid to go after her dreams, and the ultimate feminist teenage girl (at least in my mind).  I know a few teen girls who would do well to emulate Carmen’s best traits!

Everything about this book is well-done.  And it’s a short book, which I love.  As a rabid reader, I love thick tomes. But they can be a turnoff for a lot of young readers.  Jen Bryant has masterfully recreated the magic of Carmen in a way that will attract middle school and high school readers.  I hope it will lead them to learn more about the classic novella and the opera, too.

Highly recommended.  (Middle school/YA)

*review copy courtesy of the publisher

ALA Awards


Jan. 10, 7:45 a.m. PST


It’s almost Newbery and Printz Award time!  Be sure to follow the awards live online, via Twitter or Facebook.  I’m compiling my list of Newbery and Printz hopefuls and will post it later this weekend.  In the meantime, what do you hope will take home a shiny sticker on Monday?


Twitter is Killing My Bookshelves

Oh Twitter, how you kill me.  Well, not me.  My bookshelves are collapsing because I am constantly getting book recommendations. Whether it’s a tweet that YA/children’s book are on deep discount at Amazon or a personal recommendation from an author or teaching friend, I am constantly adding to my TBR pile.  The latest addition? Atlas of Remote Islands. Right after Christmas, Pamela Voelkel (one of the authors of The Jaguar Stones, Book Two: The End of the World Club) tweeted about a gift she received and it was this book. We tweeted back and forth about it and I was hooked. I paged through it at my local Barnes and Noble and then came home to order it. It’s awesome!


Oh Twitter, you are going be my book downfall. 🙂

Words of Intent

On Sunday afternoon I sat down and started to sketch the upcoming weeks for my freshman class.  After having 10 days off, it was difficult to figure out what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go before midterms.  Plus, I knew that it would take a day or so to get back into the swing of things (for the kids! And maybe for me).  I started tweeting about my dilemma and then checked out the English Companion Ning.  I was inspired when I found Jo Hawke’s blog post about Words of Intent.  The more I read about it, the more I wanted to do it.  In the past I have done One Little Word with my middle schoolers, but I wanted to make it a bit more reflective for my advanced 9th graders.

On Monday I ended up having a double period with both of my classes and we spent about 25 minutes on our Words of Intent.  I started by having my kids do a quickwrite on New Year’s Resolutions.  I asked them to write whatever came to mind when they heard the phrase “New Year’s Resolutions” and then we shared some of our thoughts.  After discussing why we thought that people tended to “quit” on their resolutions, I introduced the idea of intentions.

After a bit more discussion, I projected a list of intention words on the document camera and asked the students to reflect on the words that stood out them on a personal level.  After they chose their word, they took an index card and wrote the word on the front.  I allowed them to write their name on the front or back, depending on their comfort level.  They also got to decorate the front of the card.  Om the back, I asked them to write 2-3 sentences explaining what the Word of Intent meant to them and what they hoped to accomplish in 2011.

It went really well!  Even the students who joked around while filling out the card ended up writing serious words of intent and explanations.  After class ended, I hung all the words on my closet door, forming a “Wall of Intent”.  I plan to keep them there all year, but give them back in June.  As I told me students, we will be halfway through 2011 when school ends, so that will be the perfect time to reflect on how we are doing.

And yes, I participated.  My Word of Intent for 2011 is Creativity. 🙂

Wall of Intent 2011