Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Review: Wringer not all birthdays are welcome

Wringer not all birthdays are welcomeWringer not all birthdays are welcome by Jerry Spinelli

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't know what I was expecting with Wringer, when I picked it up at Scholastic. I read Stargirl and enjoyed the story and thought I ought to read some more Spinelli.

Wringer is about the struggle between fitting in and maintaining self-identity. It's about peer pressure and "rites of passage" (that read a little more like hazing to me). And it's about finding the courage to stand up to the people you thought you wanted to be friends with.

While the protagonist is elementary-school aged, I found the themes to be appropriate for even my middle school readers. It will be easy for them to make connections between this text and the middle school life--that which they see in the hallways all the time.

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Review: The Beasties

The BeastiesThe Beasties by William Sleator

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book has been on my TBR list since the summer of 2006. I found it at the Scholastic Warehouse sale a few weeks ago, so I picked it up. I remember sitting in a discussion at an Advanced Placement seminar talking with language arts teachers from across New Mexico about this book. Specifically the activity that the teacher did with her sixth grade class--creating a new cover. I wondered about the cover of this novel, and it really doesn't make sense unless you read it all the way through. I can't help but wonder, having finished it, if Sleator had an environmental agenda, and if this agenda is promoted in any of his other titles.

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Review: The Sorceress

The Sorceress (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, #3)The Sorceress by Michael Scott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I know I frequently reference Gordy from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, but I have good reason for invoking the spirit of Gordy right now. I promise. The Immortal Secrets of Nicholas Flamel is a series I'm going to have to read those three times that Gordy suggests. Right now, I'm still reading for the story. This story takes its characters all over the world. Scott stays true to the history of the sites he pulls into (and sometimes destroys).

The Sorceress has fantastic pacing. The story cuts between what's happening with Flamel and the twins, Machiavelli, Billy the Kid and Dr. John Dee in such a way that you can't stop reading because you want to know what the continued action is with one character while reading about another.

I'm honestly not sure if I haven't skipped all the way to the results of the third reading (if you've read Part-time Indian, you know what I'm talking about).

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Review: The Roar

The RoarThe Roar by Emma Clayton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this one up at the Scholastic Book Fairs warehouse sale because I thought the cover looked both familiar and interesting. I thought, after reading the back, that it would be similar to the Hunger Games, except that the children involved were competing for prizes, not their lives and food for their districts. In that respect, the two stories are similar, however, the intensity of the Hunger Games is not replicated in The Roar.

The basic premise of the story is that Mika, one of the protagonists, is searching for his lost twin. Everyone, his parents included, think she is dead but Mika is holding out hope. His therapist-of-sorts tells him he must compete in an arcade tournament and that will help him find his sister. So he does. And eventually he finds her. I'm not going to give too much more of the plot away than that.

What I will say is this book is like Matilda by Roald Dahl meets the X-Men (some of the characters are mutants) meets The Last Star Fighter (check out this link to Wikipedia after you read the book. There are plenty of parallels.)

To my students: If you're a fan of dystopian fiction (click here for an explanation) and/or science fiction this might be a good read for you.

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Friday, December 3, 2010


Today, my principal stopped me in the hallway before school. She said she wanted to tell me about an administrative meeting she had with principals across the district and the superintendent. The meeting involved discussion of what successful schools in other areas are doing to make them successful. What the superintendent came up with was this: in the successful districts all teachers taught literacy/reading instead of relying solely on the elementary teachers or the intervention teachers.

My principal was happy to contribute to the meeting the efforts the Reading Committee is making here to build awareness about content area literacy and provide professional development that includes strategies to help students build their content area literacy. She also indicated that I may be getting calls to talk to other teachers in e district about what we're doing here. That would be cool.

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