Although I have just finished summer school and am celebrating it up hardcore (can we say naps! cleaning the house! sleeping in! READING IN BED!!) I still can't help but think up the upcoming school year and all the new challenges it will present.
1) New school- check
2) New grade level (4 years below ALL previous experience)- check
3) Teaching in a portable- check
4) Teaching in a portable while pregnant- check
5) Teaching math for the first time- check
6) Having a longer work day- check
Yet, in spite of it all I am very excited. It's such a fresh start, and a new beginning. I just can't wait. If anything summer school has just reinforced my decision NOT to continue on teaching teenagers. One thing that will remain constant, however, is my participation in the school board review committee. We meet 3-4 times a year and review 5-10 books each (depending on the time of year) for inclusion in our school libraries. Our reviews are then passed on the librarians who are in charge of all the purchasing. I really didn't want to get behind on my reading and have to be struggling to finish right as the school year was starting so I raced through all my books last week (it certainly helped that I picked all relatively short YA and children's lit!). I was sad to say that for the first time in the 2 years that I have been on the committee, there were no excellents in my batch of books. A few cute stories, one I may even use as a read aloud but nothing that was WOW!
Here's what I read this time:
The Named by Marianne Curley
This is the beginning of a trilogy that grabbed my attention right away from the synopsis on the back- "Ethan has only ever known Isabel as his best friend's annoying little sister. But she's not so little anymore - and Ethan's about to notice more than just her sun-kissed blonde hair. As a member of the Named, Ethan is responsible for guarding time from the Order of Chaos - evildoers who alter the course of history. Now that he's mastered his own power, Ethan must train an apprentice: Isabel.
Before Ethan can begin Isabel's training, he needs to convince her that his power is real. But wowing her by moving objects with his eyes or walking through solid walls in broad daylight isn't exactly safe. And with trouble brewing back in time, Ethan and Isabel may have to jump straight into battle...ready or not."
It is an interesting twist on the usual fantasy theme and as an historical fiction lover I was looking forward to the "jumping back in time" part. I think this is a good trilogy for any YA lover looking for a new series to read, especially after just finishing something along the likes of Percy Jackson or Harry Potter. It's a short easy read, it won' tax the brain and would make for good summer reading. I am not sure if my opinion would change after reading the entire trilogy but as for right now it doesn't really stack up against others in the same genre. The writing is good, but the characters are predictable and the plot line doesn't really have too many surprises to keep the reader guessing.
Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder
This book I did really enjoy and am considering using it as the first read aloud in my Grade 4 classroom this fall (Grade 4!!!). It's a book of imagination, magic and adventure. The synopsis reads:
"If you had a magic wall that could take you to any place and any time, where would you go?
Would you want to visit castles and desert island? Would you want to meet famous wizards, terrible pirates, beautiful queens, and dastardly outlaws?
If so, then you are just like Henry, Emma, Roy, and Susan- and you will probably like this story a lot. In fact, you might wish something similar would happen to you!"
Sounds cute right? It's summer vacation and Henry, Emma, Roy and Susan are bored and looking for something to do when they come across a wall in the middle of a corn field. The wall has a lock and key and when they turn the key and wish to be someplace else they are magically transported there! This when the adventure begins!
What I liked best about this story was that it had a strong mix of male and female characters so I can see all my students being intrigued by the story of a magic wall that transports you anywhere in the world and in time! Imagine!! I can see a very cute assignment where the students could write about what would happen if they had this wall and where they would go and what they would see. I think young readers would enjoy this story and it would be enjoyed as a read aloud between a parent and child as well.
Side Effects by Amy Goldman Koss
Carrie is a young girl in Grade 8 who is diagnosed with lymphoma and has to undergo a year of chemo and cancer treatments. Of course, everyone at school including her best friend and the boy she has a crush on start treating her differently. Carrie just wants everything to be normal. I found that as a character Carrie is pretty true to form for most Grade 8 girls, she doesn't become a saint over night just because she has cancer. She still has her moments of brattiness and teenage angst. I liked this a lot about the book. Carrie does however, want her family and friends to just be normal. No crazy crying fits, no huge abnormal smiles, just normal.
This would be a great story for any young reader who is going through cancer or has a friend going through cancer. Many of the treatments are described in detail so that the reader can understand what is happening and why chemo makes cancer patients feels so sick. It is a real look at a life-threatening illness from a teenager's perspective.
Monster Squad: They Came from Planet Q
This book is just one in a cute series for readers who may be beginning to move onto chapter books and enjoy monster movies and the like. The synopsis reads:
"I'm Lindsey Gomez, and wherever I go, my camera goes, too. It sees monsters that can't be detected by the naked eye, which comes in very handy if you happen to be in the Monster Squad! A mysterious flying saucer was spotted hovering over Riddle and we used the camera to help us find its passengers. We already knew they came from Planet Q - but where did they go?
Follow Jesse, Damon, Stella, and Lindsey as they help famous director Oswald Leery hunt down the monsters he created before they wreak havoc on the poor town of Riddle."
This was an easy read and has illustrations sprinkled through out the book to help young readers develop a taste for longer style chapter books. The fact that it is one in a series is good too because if a reluctant reader could grab ahold of this series they could become a lover of reading!