Posted on December 31, 2008 by thereadingzone
Well, the year is almost over. That means it is time for wrap-up lists, one of my favorite parts of the year! What are your favorite books of the year?
Below are my favorite titles published this year:
- Tennyson by Lesley M.M. Blume- I read this way back in the beginning of the year and it still stays with me. An amazing, haunting gothic tale of the fall of the south, through a young girl’s eyes. I loved it and so did my students. In my review I said, “This is a novel that intelligent readers will love, because Blume does not condescend or speak down to her readers. In many ways, Tennyson reminded me of Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting. “
- Diamond Willow by Helen Frost- A more recent read, this verse novel is gorgeous. The theme of the diamond willow branch flows smoothly throughout the story and is accessible to readers of all ages. Helen Frost is a master storyteller and I can’t wait to share this with my students.
- Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass- I love Wendy Mass and I think this is one of her best. It is a beautiful story with a ton of kid appeal. Plus, it made me go out and look up more information on solar eclipses. Plus, I haven’t seen it since I put it in my class library. My kids absolutely love it, too!
- Six Inningsby James Preller- I don’t even like baseball and I loved this book! A great book to hand to boys and girls alike, it goes much deeper than just baseball and deals with life. The characters are realistic and easy to relate to. It’s just a great book all around!
- The 39 Clues (The Maze of Bones, Book 1) by Rick Riordan- Admittedly, I wasn’t a big fan of this series when the news first broke. Trading cards? Online games? It sounded like a lame ploy to get kids to read. But when I gave in and read the first book, at the insistence of my class, I was hooked! This is a great mystery series full of Rick Riordan’s trademark humor and realistic characters who have unrealistic lives. Needless to say, it is a huge hit in my classroom and we are all desperately awaiting the release of the third book in the series!
- Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson- Our current read-aloud, my class and I love Chains! Isabelle is a complex, multi-faceted character and her conflict with the American Revolution has made us all stop and think of our fight for independence in new ways. See my review here.
- My Father’s Son by Terri Fields- I am a bonafide crime addict. Well, reading about crime, at least. And watching many, many episodes of “Law and Order”. So when I had the opportunity to read and review Terri Fields’ My Father’s Son, I was very excited. And the book did not disappoint! Terri has crafted a fascinating story about a boy whose father is arrested and accused of being a serial killer. I couldn’t put it down.
- The Underneath by Kathi Appelt- From my review: “The Underneath is all at once tragic, consuming, passionate, full of love, hopeful, and alternately beautiful and ugly. Appelt does the almost-impossible, by threading 3 separate stories into one amazing climax that will renew your faith in goodness and love. It is an adventure, full of magic, myth, and mysticism, of sorrow, of family – of life. Woven together like an elaborate tapestry, the result is gorgeous and awe-inspiring. Our first read-aloud of the year, both of my classes absolutely loved this story.”
- the dead and the gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer- Susan Beth Pfeffer is single-handedly responsible for many of the voracious readers in my class. I am telling you- hand any reluctant reader a copy of the dead and the gone and they will be begging for more. The companion novel to her Life As We Knew It, takes place in NYC after a meteor has knocked the moon out of orbit. It’s absolutely terrifying, in a fantastic way!
- What I Saw And How I Lied by Judy Blundell- This sat on my TBR pile until it was nominated for the National Book Award (which it eventually won). The nomination moved it up on the pile, as I finally learned what it was about. (The ARC had no blurb or summary!). Judy Blundell has woven an intricate story, full of dark twists and turns down paths you can’t even imagine. There is murder, intrigue, a fascinating backdrop of World War II, racism, classism, and a classic (but dark) coming-of-age story. This is a gorgeous book and one I would love to see used in classrooms over the next few years!
I read about 150 books this year, as of December 26th. These are just a few of my favorites. Ask me again tomorrow, and you will probably get a different list! But I would to know what your favorite novels were this year.
Filed under: Best of 2008 | Tagged: 39 clues, best books of 2008, Best of 2008, cylin busby, helen frost, james preller, john busby, judy blundell, kathi appelt, kidlitosphere, laurie halse anderson, lesley m.m. blume, susan beth pfeffer, terri fields, the underneath, Wendy Mass | 4 Comments »
Posted on June 8, 2008 by thereadingzone
Lesley M.M. Blume is fast becoming one of my new favorite authors. Her books are all so different, but all amazing. I was excited to have Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters on my reading pile for the 48 Hour Book Challenge because I knew I just had to read it. I was not disappointed and it may well be my favorite book of the challenge so far!
Cornelia is a lonely little girl, the daughter of two famous concert pianists, whose father abandoned the family when she was a baby and whose mother spends all her time traveling the world and giving concerts. Cornelia spends all her time reading. Her favorite books are dictionaries and words are her first line of defense against her classmates, adults who want to use her to get to her mother, and her annoying housekeeper. However, everything changes when her elusive new neighbor moves in next door. Cornelia sees exotic belongings being moved in, items that are rarely seen in Greenwich Village apartments. When her new neighbor’s French bulldog escapes and Cornelia is able to coral him with Magnolia cupcakes, she is invited in and meets Virginia Somerset.
Virginia is the last of the Audacious Somerset sisters, the family of four who traveled the world in search of adventure. Cornelia quickly grows to love her and even Mr. Kinyatta, the crazy bulldog. Virginia shares her adventures with Cornelia, all while writing a secret book. This friendship with Virginia and her “butler”, Patel, helps Cornelia to open up and begin seeing her life in a new light.
This was a wonderful book, which I will highly recommend. I loved all of the characters, and Blume does a wonderful job of making the setting, Greenwich Village, into a character, it seems. I didn’t want to put this book down! It captures the bookish 11-year old girl perfectly (I should know, I was one!), and the adventures of the Somerset sisters had me laughing out loud! A beautiful book, and Blume is a new favorite of mine!
Filed under: books, kidlitosphere, reviews | Tagged: 48 hour book challenge, Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Si, lesley m.m. blume | 3 Comments »
Posted on May 22, 2008 by thereadingzone
Lesley M.M. Blume’s Tennyson is a stunning Southern gothic tale, haunting and lyrical. It’s 1932 and the Depression has hit the United States hard. Unaware, Tennyson and her little sister, Hattie, live a wild and carefree life in the backwoods of Mississippi. Their home, Innisfree, is a tiny cabin set back in the forest, inhabited by their parents, Emery and Sadie, and a wild dog named Jos. The girls live a life full of freedom until the day their mother leaves.
When Emery goes off in search of his wife, he leaves the girls with their Aunt Henrietta, at his childhood home, Aigredoux. Aigredoux is the ancestral Fontaine family home in Louisiana, that Emery and Sadie left far behind when they married. In ruins since the end of the Civil War, the family has lost all their money and their place in high society. Aigredoux itself has been overrun by vines, moss, and the weight of its own past. While there, Tennyson is haunted by dreams of her family’s past and the “blood money” that built Aigredoux, on the backs of slaves. The dreams horrify her and at the same time inspire her to write the tale of her family’s demise. She knows that if she can get the story published in the one magazine her mother always reads, Sadie will see it and come back home.
This is a novel that intelligent readers will love, because Blume does not condescend or speak down to her readers. In many ways, Tennyson reminded me of Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting. Both books treat children as intelligent human beings by handling realistic situations and stories. Yet they both embrace the magical realism that is all too often missing in children’s fiction. Both books also end rather abruptly, as life often does. Unlike Babbitt, Blume chose to chop her final two chapters from the original manuscript, which sound as if they would have served the same purpose as Babbitt’s Epilogue in the sense that it would have let the reader know exactly what happened to each character farther in the future. I applaud Blume’s bravery in removing the chapters and letting the reader decide for themselves.
Blume has crafted a haunting and poetic novel that will stay with you long after closing the book. She captures the spirit of the old South in ways that make you love and loathe it. Just like Tennyson says, “That’s what the Mississippi does. It tempts you in, and then it catches you. It loves you and doesn’t want to let you go. So it pulls you down to the bottom and keeps you there.”
Be sure to check out Blume’s great website, including links to many plantation houses.
Filed under: reviews | Tagged: lesley m.m. blume, tennyson, tuck everlasting read-alikes | 6 Comments »