Sunday, May 30, 2010

Last Dragon Chronicles

Screenshot from Chris D'Lacy's website.
I have to get this one off my chest, only because it's been bugging me like crazy all day.  The American editors for Chris D'Lacy's Last Dragon Chronicles didn't do a fantastic job at making a seamless transition between the British version of the book and the American edition. Little things, like travelling from Scrubbley, Massachusetts to Scotland by train. Oh, and if you look at how much that ticket cost, I don't think we Americans have a p. as an abbreviation for money, at least not an amount of money that will afford us train fare.

What I can't figure out is why the setting had to be changed to begin with. This came up when I read the first novel in the series, The Fire Within. As I was reading, I pictured a small town in England. Then David, the main character, makes reference to the White House and I became thoroughly confused. If the publishers trusted readers with the Harry Potter series--the setting didn't change in those seven novels--why didn't they trust the readers with this series?

And if you like dragons, here are some cute clay dragons.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Adding to Summer Reading

Last night I created a page title "Summer Reading," listing the books I bought at the Scholastic warehouse that I planned on reading this summer. 

A few days ago, I happened across a blog about dystopian novels written by four (soon to be 5) dystopian authors called League of Extraordinary Writers.

Today, I read a post on League of Extraordinary Writers about Scott Westerfield's series Uglies. I've been thinking about reading (you know I mean buying) this series since a student last semester completed a Wordle project (I'll embed it when I'm on a computer from which I can access my blog) on it for her Language Arts class. It was something the author of the post "There's Nothing New Pretty Under the Sun" said that piqued my interest enough to move it closer to the top of my list of books to read. She says,

But in Westerfeld's story--which progresses through four volumes--the heroine becomes a true heroine fighting back against the establishment and the idea of being pretty.

"Fighting against the idea of being pretty." Wow. This is huge, with the media touting shows like The Biggest Loser and America's Next Top Model, all perpetuating the idea that people are supposed to look a certain way to be found attractive, or to have high self-esteem, to think that there might be a revolution against what pretty is.

I can't help but wonder, if that revolution ever came, if it would be televised. I mean, the mass-produced idea of what beautiful should be is everywhere--especially in the media. Not sure they'd want to change the perception they spent so much time building. 

I suppose we'll see.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Homeboyz by Alan Lawrence Sitomer

Homeboyz (Hoopster)

I wasn't sure about this one at first--trying to decide if Sitomer was going to go the Mark Twain route with writing dialect. As the read progressed, however, the story took over and it got better. Or I got past the language; I'm not sure which. 

I can't help but wonder, however, if there is background that readers would have had they read Sitomer's other novels, Hoopster and Hip-Hop High School first. I get the feeling that the characters first appear there, and this story is a continuation in the same universe. That also might explain the exposition at the beginning that I had a hard time getting through. 

I'm not sure if the ending is realistic either, but it is hopeful. 

I did have one student who started the novel last semester (before he lost it) and he was pretty into it. So much so that he decided he wanted to take it to his English class for SSR. I can appreciate that. 

If you've read and liked Homeboyz, you might also like Street Pharm by Allison van Diepen (link option is broken, so here's a link to a synopsis on Goodreads:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Scholastic Warehouse Trip

I mentioned in my twitter feed a few days ago (or possibly yesterday) that I took a trip to the Scholastic Warehouse in El Paso on Saturday. I am rather excited about my purchases, and feel like I got over like a fat rat. So I'd like to share my stack with you and see what you think. I'm sending this through my email, so I hope the picture I added comes up. But in case it doesn't and you get to this before I can fix it, some of the titles I picked up on my adventure are...

Home of the Brave by Katherine Alice Applegate
Murder at Midnight by Avi
Eleventh Grade Burns by Heather Brewer (this is the one I was talking about in my last post... I guess they got tired of waiting. Although I did find it amusing that the student got the book the same weekend I did)

Trackers #1 by Patrick Carman (so excited about this one after the big hit Skeleton Creek was)
Eternity Code by Eoin Colfer (which it turns out I already had)
The Fire Eternal by Chris d'Lacy (And in my infinite brilliance, I picked up the 3rd and 4th books, but didn't get the 2nd. So I'm stuck on this series until I get around to that.)

Fire Star by Chris d'Lacy
Cover-Up: Mystery at the Super Bowl by John Feinstein
Inside Delta Force by Eric Haney
The Stonekeeper's Curse by Kazu Kibushi
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look

The Giver by Lois Lowry (I don't know what happened to my copy of this book, but Gathering Blue and Messenger were missing it, so I figured it was as good a time as any to pick up a new one.)
Curse of the Campfire Weenies by David Lubar
The Big Field by Mike Lupica
Heat by Mike Lupica
Suck it Up by Brian Meehl

All Action Classics: Dracula by Michael Mucci, Ben Caldwell, Bill Halliar, Bram Stoker
Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Keeper by Mal Peet (on my wish list is the novel by Mal Peet that is a rewrite of Othello--Exposure. I was a little disappointed I didn't find it. I read Tamar and it was okay.)

Paperquake: A Puzzle by Katherine Reiss
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan (I bought two of these and am going to send one to my cousin, who got me into the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series in the first place.)

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith (Another book I heard about on ReadWriteThink's Text Messages that I happened to run into at the warehouse. Oh, happy day for me.)
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (One I've wanted to read for awhile and haven't gotten to it.
A Coming Evil by Vivian Vande Velde

Bad Girls in Love by Cynthia Voight and Barry David Marcus
Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson (I read If You Come Softly by Woodson earlier this year and loved it, then heard about this title on ReadWriteThink's Text Messages)
The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancy

Additionally, I bought Harry Potter and the Sorcerers' Stone and replaced my copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, as well as purchasing the entire series in paperback (it's Christmas for one of my kids... shhh!). This is my YA summer reading list. Or most of it. Add to this list Bruiser by Neal Shusterman, which I preordered and is released June 28, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, which is released August 24. 


At the beginning of the semester, most of my students come in and they're self-professed non-readers. Yesterday, one of my students came in with Eleventh Grade Burns by Heather Brewer and said he saw it at Wal-Mart, grabbed it and put in the cart. He and one other student were waiting for me to go get it, but because of the number of books I buy, I try to avoid buying hardcover books. 

Give a kid a book he likes and...

...that conversation was more validating than the Short Cycle Assessment scores that showed that my students made gains over the course of the year.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Horizontal Alignment--In Brief

Friday was an inservice day for teachers. The entire Language Arts department met at the high school to continue our vertical alignment initiative. What we rapidly figured out is that each grade level needed to have everything lined out before we could even think of discussing how to move from one grade level to another. 

I'm happy to say that the 8th grade Language Arts teachers had a productive Friday--deciding what skills would be taught in each grading period using what standards. Through the day of working, what I discovered about this section of my department is that they're open for collaboration. That is pretty exciting. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Books Read in April

We're now well into May and it was brought to my attention this morning that I haven't posted in a while. The best way to get back into things is to share the books I read in April. I think this list might be longer than usual.

The Five Ancestors Book 2: Monkey (The Five Ancestors) by Jeff StoneThis is the second book in Jeff Stone's Five Ancestors series. This one follows Malao, master of Monkey kung fu, as he is trying to find himself and help his brothers, and keep the one rogue brother who burned his home and killed the grandmaster, from keeping the Dragon scrolls he stole from the temple. 

Skeleton CreekGhost In The MachineSkeleton Creek and Ghost in the Machine by Patrick Carman are a different take on the thriller genre of storytelling. Ryan, the narrator, is laid up because of an accident. He and his friend do research in order to figure out what is going on in the town. Sarah, Ryan's best friend, takes video of different places/people in the town and secretly sends it to Ryan. The forward movement of the novel, and the fact that the videos that Sarah sends Ryan need to be viewed by the reader may get the reluctant reader interested enough in the story to read both novels. (Or it might be the same cliffhanger at the end of Skeleton Creek that made me go buy Ghost in the Machine the next weekend...)

Bone, Volume 1: Out From Bonev...Bone, Volume 2: The Great Cow... Jeff Smith's graphic novels, Bone Volume 1: Out from Boneville and Bone Volume 2: The Great Cow Race, I read because they're so popular in our school library (Out from Boneville has been checked out 37 times and The Great Cow Race has been checked out 47 times, which doesn't count the times that they've been lent to friends or read simultaneously by more than one reader. Completely unrelated, The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things has been checked out 34 times, but I haven't read it yet.) The Bone books are rather amusing, but, as I learned since I had the second and not the first initially, they don't stand alone. They're also quick reads, which may account for my impatience in regards to discovering the motivation of the antagonist in this series (I don't own Volume 3 yet).

Street PharmI think this is my second copy of Street Pharm by Allison van Diepen, the first having not been returned when I taught 9th grade. This one I read because three of my students read it at the beginning of the semester and said that I should. I have to admit that my expectations weren't that high; the last book I started that had anything to do with drugs was Smack by Melvin Burgess and I couldn't get into it. The language, and the African-American protagonist, drew me in. Street Pharm is a story of redemption, but not done in a way that's near as heavy-handed as novels like Go Ask Alice.

Perfect Chemistry  (Perfect Chemistry Trilogy, #1)In the NCTE/IRA podcast Text Messages in the episode "Connecting with the Classics," Jennifer Buehler talks about books that adolescents can read to make connections between the classics they're required to read, and the YA literature that they're more likely to read. Perfect Chemistry is another modern look at the Romeo & Juliet story along the lines of West Side Story but without all the singing and with significantly more angst. Perfect Chemistry is the first novel in a trilogy, but it's not one of those trilogies that I feel like I need to continue. Kind of like how The Prophet of Yonwood doesn't follow the characters from City of Ember and The People of Sparks, the second novel in the series, Rules of Attraction, follows one of the main character's brothers, not the characters I came to root for in Perfect Chemistry. More than likely, though, I'll get over my bias sooner or later.

EverwildI love Neal Shusterman, but I hate (and avoid most of the time) buying books in hardcover. So when Everwild was added to our school library, I was excited. Everwild is the second book in the Skinjacker Series, after Everlost and to be followed by Everfound. In this installment, Nick, the Chocolate Ogre, is being taken over by his chocolate, he and Mary are now going head-to-head, and Allie is still trying to find her way home. and for those who are the McGill fans, he makes a return. Not bad, but I'm really looking forward to the release of Bruiser at the end of June. (And yes, I preordered this one in hardcover.)

The PactThis read isn't in the YA lit category, but I read it because my friend read it. I don't have a lot to say about this one, but I like Jodi Piccoult. My reaction to The Pact was very different from my reaction to My Sister's Keeper. With the latter, there was a lot of crying. When I read The Pact, the reaction was primarily visceral, and I ended up being pretty angry. Anger does not a bad read make, however.

Her Sister's KeeperThe other non-YA lit book I read this month was Her Sister's Keeper. This one was given to me to read by my niece. It reminded me of the books I read in high school--closer to the John Grisham category. It was tough to get into at first because I'm so used to YA and because the stigma behind Harlequin novels. No skin in this one folks. For the record, there's only one review of this book on Goodreads (no, it's not mine) and it doesn't give a lot of insight into the novel, just like my comments here. 

That Was Then, This Is NowThis is the second novel I've read by S.E. Hinton, and I have to say I like it better than The Outsiders. A few of the characters from Hinton's first novel make cameos, which will help some readers make connections between the two novels. What I really liked about That Was Then, This Is Now is that the ending is real. It's not--all loose ends are sewn up nicely--it's the reality of some friendships and growing up.

Kissing KateKissing Kate was Lauren Myracle's debut novel, and because of the subject matter, I'm impressed. This is my LGBT read for the month--a coming of age story about a girl whose best friend gets drunk and kisses her, and then the drama that spills out from there--from ignoring that the event happened, to confrontation, to growing apart.

Last but definitely not least... My obsession with John Green continues...

An Abundance of KatherinesAn Abundance of Katherines by John Green. This is like Big Bang Theory in novel format. When I read my first two John Green novels Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns, I asked myself, "Does John Green write anything where the boy gets the girl?" With An Abundance of Katherines, I got my answer to that question. For the sake of spoilers, I won't tell you what that answer is. What I can say is that the footnotes really make this novel. And I was one of those readers who went to the end of the book first, only to be told in a note from John Green (written into the text) that I should go back and read the novel from front to back like normal. 

*All book covers from Goodreads (and they should link back there if I did this right).